Danka Ninković Slavnić speaking with Grady students.

Serbian Graduate Student Joins Cox Center
To Learn about Journalism Teaching in U.S.

Serbian graduate student Danka Ninković Slavnić spent a month at the University of Georgia starting in October learning how the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication teaches students about visual communication, new media and other related areas.

Slavnić, a student at the University of Belgrade, was participating in an exchange that is a part of a three-year project funded by a grant to the University of Georgia from the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State. She plans to continue her graduate studies when she returns to Serbia and prepare for a career as a journalism teacher and scholar.

Slavnić joined a number of undergraduate and graduate classes in the Grady College and met with faculty and students.

“It was a very enriching experience for me,” she said. “I learned about American culture, about American life, about American student life here. All those thing were very interesting.”

During her time in Georgia, Slavnić also visited Clark Atlanta University, a historically black institution located in downtown Atlanta. The Department of Mass Media Arts at Clark Atlanta is a partner in the project.

The project has been initiated and coordinated by the James M. Cox Jr. Center for International Mass Communication Training and Research, a unit of the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia.

The project has included faculty exchanges in each of the three years of its life as well as a workshop in Serbia on journalism education or media practice each year.

Before becoming a graduate student, Slavnić worked for seven years as a professional photojournalist for Serbian daily newspapers and magazines. She presented samples of her work as a photojournalist in Mark Johnson’s photojournalism class in the Grady College.

She also was interviewed by students in another Grady class on media credibility taught by John Greenman. She described the challenges that Serbia has faced while the country was under president Slobodan Milošević’s dictatorship and during the transition from that regime towards democracy.

Slavnić also participated in newsroom meetings and the broadcast program of the Telecommunications Department, under the coordination of David Hazinski and Michael Castangera.

During the visit to Clark Atlanta University, she visited public relations classes, toured the university radio stations, and had meetings with Clark Atlanta professors Brenda Wright and James McJunkins. Professors Wright and McJunkins participated in previous workshops in Belgrade under the auspices of this collaborative program.

“Radio is still an important news medium in Serbia,” Ms. Slavnić said during the visit at Clark Atlanta. “It was hard for me at the beginning to understand why there are no radio journalism classes in the Grady College.”

The Grady College dropped instruction in radio because there was little demand on the part of students and relatively few jobs in the field. The medium remains more important in the African-American community in the U.S.

While being in Atlanta, the Serbian graduate student visited CNN, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and the Dr. Martin Luther King’s Memorial.

“I have learned a lot of things while being at the University of Georgia, but the most interesting to me has been how different the teaching strategies and styles were from one class to another and from one professor to another,” said Ms. Slavnić at the end of the program. “In Serbia, there is little variability in this respect and most of the courses are taught as lectures. Here, in the Grady College, there’s a lot of dialog, project-oriented classes, courses almost entirely skills-oriented or, on the contrary, focusing on research.”

“I attended as many different classes as possible,” she said. “ It think it is so that in every class there is a different approach to teaching. This was very useful for me. I saw more than 15 different professors doing their jobs. How they motivate students. How they make contact with them. How they teach them. How they stretch their knowledge. It was really great for me.”

Slavnić was the last of 10 visitors from the University of Belgrade who spent time at the Grady College as part of the program. Eight faculty from Clarke Atlanta and the University of Georgia visited the University of Belgrade, as did two working journalists.

“From our point of view, this has been a wonderful experience,” Dr. Lee B. Becker, director of the Cox Center, said. “We were extremely satisfied with Danka’s involvement in the program, with her enthusiasm and willingness to learn and share. She has had a very positive impact on our students and faculty.”