Afghan Journalism Professors in San Jose

What better way to gain media skills and knowledge than hands-on learning? What better way to find out about another culture than immersing yourself in it?

Three professors from Afghanistan completed such an opportunity during Fall 2012: an 11-week stay in San Jose while studying at one of the top journalism schools in the United States. Their classrooms went beyond four walls, including media tours of NBC Bay Area, San Jose Mercury News and KLIV 1590 with Vanita Cillo, a senior account manager with LAMAR Transit Advertising.

The whole Bay Area experience was something that Professors Yahya Alazin, Hamid Safwat and Ahmad Zia Ferozpur can literally take home with them – and pass on to their own students.

With two $1 million U.S. State Department grants, SJSU is leading efforts to enhance college-level journalism education in the Afghan provinces of Balkh and Herat. Diane Guerrazzi, an associate professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communications, organizes journalism academies in the Middle East.

During the 2012-2013 academic year, Afghan journalism professors, including a new group arriving this spring semester, learn closely from SJSU professors, who prepared detailed lesson plans focused in areas such as beginning reporting, information gathering and media law. SJSU professors meet with the Afghan professors regularly to go over the lessons in hour-long sessions. Using Cisco’s WebEx video conferencing program, these sessions are recorded and the videos are made available for other professors in Afghanistan.

Beyond academics, visiting professors have a social life with their assigned Bay Area ambassadors consisting of local professors, university students and members of the Rotary Club. This initial trio also met and interacted with President Qayoumi and his wife Najia Karim, both Afghan natives.

“The community has really rolled out the red carpet,” Guerrazzi said. “President Qayoumi has been supportive.”

Reflecting upon the past 11 weeks, Ferozpur wrote in a personal essay, “Education is the most important key to change! I believe in learning, hope, compassion and forgiveness. My last word is that education is one of the most important elements that can bring peace, security, development and stability in a country like Afghanistan.”