By Diane Guerrazzi, Associate Professor of Journalism and Mass Communications
(Editor’s Note: Professor Guerrazzi sent the following from the Middle East, where she is helping establish college journalism programs. Her work is funded by the U.S. State Department.)
SJSU sweated it out in Dubai this July, organizing a two-week Journalism Skills Academy for professors from five different universities in Afghanistan: Kabul, Shaikh Zayed, Nangarhar, Balkh and Herat. Their homeland is too unpredictable for conducting training, as I saw first hand when I was abruptly evacuated from Herat last year, following coordinated suicide attacks.
Albeit hot, Dubai is orderly, with easy airport and Metro access for journalists to practice reporting. As part of their work in the academy, Afghan professors created television news stories. The topics ranged from the burgeoning Indian population in Dubai to the technology behind the fountains near the “tallest man-made structure in the world,” the Burj Khalifa. One of the most challenging aspects of the academy was teaching non-linear editing in just a couple of days. Adobe donated copies of its new Creative Suite 6 to help our efforts, and Dubai’s Higher College of Technology donated its classroom space.
The weeks were long, Afghan-style. In keeping with the school schedule in Afghanistan, our only days off were Fridays. We managed to squeeze in a quick tour of Dubai and a “Desert Safari.” SJSU organized the academy and sent four representatives to teach and assist.
SJSU has two $1 million State Department grants to modernize journalism education at Afghan Universities; one of our grants is for Balkh University in the north, and the other is Herat, in western Afghanistan. We invited the other U.S. universities with grants to join us and help teach the Academy and they all took us up on the offer: Ball State, University of Arizona and University of Nebraska, Omaha.
Our colleagues from Herat and Balkh Universities are scheduled to visit SJSU for 11 weeks each in the coming months. The first group will arrive in October. Having spent two weeks with them this summer, and seeing them on previous visits to Afghanistan, we’ll be introducing old friends to campus. The welcome will be warm, and the San Jose weather will be welcome, after the summer in Dubai.