Friday, October 14, 2011

My Days at Ohio University

-Yam Bahadur Dura

This year, I had a chance to visit the USA, the 'dreamland' of many people. The purpose of my visit was to attend a six-week-long exchange program, which was offered by the U.S. Department of State. The title of the program was Study of the United States Institute (SUSI) on Journalism and Media. The local host of the SUSI Program was Ohio University (E.W. Scripps School of Journalism), which is one of the top ten universities in journalism education in the USA.

 As mentioned on the schedule, I landed in O’Hare International Airport on 4 July 2011ending 36 hours long of transnational air travel to get to the USA. Then, I took another plane to get to Columbus, the capital city of the state of Ohio, which was my final air destination. After one more hour of air travel, I got there. Yusuf Kalyango, the Director of SUSI Program, was already there to welcome participants including myself. The participants of SUSI Program were media educators of 17 different countries. We were simply known as SUSI Scholars.
SUSI Scholars 2011

After being welcomed at the airport, we were taken to a well-decorated room of a nearby hotel. We were provided with fruits, sweets and some soft drinks along with a warm welcome. This is called a hospitality suite.  The dictionary meaning of hospitality suite is 'a room or suite especially in a hotel set aside as a place for socializing especially for business purposes.'  The hospitality suite not only gave me a welcoming environment but also provided me with a new vocabulary phrase.

Following the hospitality suite, we were driven to Athens, Ohio and the University Courtyard apartments where we were supposed to live. I was amazed with the well-designed, wide and beautiful roads. There was no blowing of horns, no traffic jam and no reckless driving.  People drove well-disciplined.

After a-1.5-hour drive, we got to Athens where Ohio University (and the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism) is located. The University Courtyard was some five minutes drive away from Ohio University.

Most of the important moments of our visit were captured in a digital camera. The camera was pointed at us as if we were celebrities. The job of capturing those moments belonged to Ms. Rebecca Miller who was the photographer of the SUSI Program.

The academic environment of Ohio University was awesome. The library was spacious with ample books and other facilities. The pattern of the library was the mixture of conventional and digital technology with audio/video facilities. We were given orientation on how to use library facilities.

I found the staff and professors at Ohio University to be well mannered, helpful and professional. Let me recall an incident. I was supposed to order books from Due to my little mistake, I had missed the deadline to do that.  Ms. Sarah Richmond and Prof. Yusuf Kalyango took my situation into consideration and ordered books for me even though it was after the deadline. Eventually, I was able to order my books and collect them on time. There was a chance of not getting books on time because my date of returning home was coming closer. Thank God! They managed the crisis perfectly.

The professors at the Ohio University were helpful and enthusiastic. Most importantly, I found them to be open-minded. They seemed to be eager to gain and impart knowledge regardless of their subject of interest and age. They wanted to know more about Nepal. I made two presentations about Nepal. I felt that they were paying attention to what I said about Nepal.

I observed a trend among the American professors that I found to be helpful for the extension of knowledge. They love donating books, especially at the time of retirement.  They hand out their books to the people who want to read books. Dr. Ann Cooper Chen was one of the professors who dished out her books to us. She gave books by inviting us (SUSI scholars) in her own home. Professor Bojinka Bishop was another intellectual who also gave us Public Relations related books by keeping her office open for us. Unfortunately, because she had already retired, I could not meet her. Anyway, I thank them from the depth of my heart.

Having said this, I would like to sketch character of some of the professors and other scholars whom I met at Ohio University.

Mary Rogus is an associate professor, who spent 20 years as a broadcast journalist and she has been teaching media for the last 12 years. Her way of knowledge delivery was very much impressive. She can speak for hours on broadcast related subject matters. I was impressed with her higher level of dedication and capacity to handle people of different temperaments.

Dr. Yusuf Kalyango, the Director of SUSI Program, is a forward-looking person. He is also assistant professor and Director of Institute for International Journalism (IIJ). He left no stone unturned to make SUSI Program a grand success. He is an example of how one can explore his/her potential in the USA, the land of opportunities. Actually, he is from Africa and now he is well established in the USA. I think, his positive thinking and higher level of dedication are the secrets that lead him to a better future.

Aimee Edmondson, assistant professor, taught us Computer Assisted Reporting (CAR). This brilliant lady with a great sense of humor shed light on different aspects of CAR. Her class was one that I enjoyed a lot, learning about the intensity and importance of CAR in journalism. After joining CAR class, I thought that I would be able to inject some important ideas related to CAR to my students in my home country.

Bill reader, associate professor, taught us different aspects of  journalism including community journalism. I was extremely fascinated with his smart of teaching. I came to know that he was one of the popular professors among the students.

Hans Meyer, assistant professor, teaches News Writing and Editing and Online Journalism. He shared his ideas with us regarding online journalism, which was really and truly insightful. He did not mind to teach us even about how to open 'twitters account'. I found him to be 'a man of few words' with a deep sense of responsibility.

Sally Ann Cruikshank, a Ph.D. student at the same university, drove us to and from different locations many times. She taught us video editing. She is very much frank and sharing. She is a good orator as well. Her way of speaking is coherent and melodious. Actually, she is a good storyteller.  Sally Ann was a television program producer and she is now addicted to teaching.

Ed Simson and Ashley Furrow, both of them are Ph.D., are unforgettable scholars who made lots of efforts to make our visit pleasant and fruitful.

At end of our academic session, Bob Stewart, the Director of the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism awarded us certificates and a whole bunch of gifts. This includes his music album. Before awarding with those things, he delivered a heartfelt speech, which was something more than formality. His speech gave me deeper sense of the family atmosphere of the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism that it was providing us. My affection for the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism family is similar to that of my family.

The other thing I observed in the USA was that many Chinese professors and students are engaged in the teaching-learning environment in American Universities. Ohio University (E.W. Scripps School of Journalism), was not exception. Ms. Ying was one of the Chinese students who was studying for her masters degree in Journalism.  Besides her study, she was assigned to drive us to and from university courtyard and campus, and sometimes to and from long distances. After seeing my Mongolian face, her first reaction was: "You look like a Chinese." She is quite brilliant and helpful. She guided me a lot to become familiar with the new environment.

I, along with other SUSI scholars, visited many  places like the farmers' market, theaters, local and transnational TV stations including Cable News Network (CNN) and Voice of American (VOA), the Newseum (an interactive museum of media and journalism), the Martin Luther Memorial, the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum, newspapers offices, and so on. Most importantly, I got a chance to attend the annual conference of Association of Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) in St. Louis, which, I think, was fruitful in many ways. One important thing regarding the conference is that it has given me a platform to explore my academic potential. The ball is now in my court.

In a nutshell, the aforementioned shifting scenes that I went through during my US visit  have given me an opportunity to observe the much talked-about American society, the U.S. mass media system, many aspects of journalism and media, the American academic atmosphere, and American lifestyle as well.

In addition, it has helped me  learn about American society beyond Washington D.C. and Hollywood. My understanding about American society was based on films (HBO and Cinemax, etc.), and some descriptions from people who visited the USA. This time, I got to see the American society through a lattice widow. I feel that my understanding about the USA is quadruple what it was before my visit. Now, I can talk authoritatively about the USA, the most powerful country in the world. Thanks to the 2011 SUSI Program. 

[Courtesy: (13 October 2011). Its revised version is also  published in Media Newsletter (November, 2011]

[Updated : January 31, 2012; April 20, 2012; November 22, 2012]

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