The Study of the US Institute (SUSI) on Journalism and Media has called Athens, Ohio its home base for the last five years. Offered in the summer, this program brings 18 scholars from 18 different countries to the United States to experience journalism, media and culture. From visiting media outlets in Atlanta, Georgia the District of Columbia and San Francisco, to seeing a unique sector of American culture by visiting the Amish in Holmes County, Ohio, last summer’s SUSI scholars had a full schedule of travel and experiences – not to mention lectures and workshops designed to share journalistic practices and perspectives cross-culturally.
An annual federal grant from the US Department of State’s Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs totaling more than $280,000 makes it all possible. For the SUSI Journalism and Media program, this cost covers all travel, study tours, lodging, meals and incidentals and entertainment for the scholars, and allows a “book allowance” of several hundred dollars so that scholars can take educational material back to their countries.
Not every school is handed this grant, however. The Institute for International Journalism (IIJ) at Ohio University applied for the opportunity to host scholars and organize the program. Once received, if everything ran smoothly the first year, the IIJ has renewed the grant for two three-year cycles, Associate Professor, Mary Rogus said. After the first three years, OU reapplied and received the grant again, which was automatically allotted to the school for three years.
There are a total of nine different SUSI programs, which according to the State Department’s website, “promote a better understanding of the people, institutions, and culture of the United States among foreign students, teachers, and scholars.”
Rogus has been the Academic Director for the SUSI Journalism and Media program since Ohio University originally received the prestigious ECA grant five years ago. Her job entails putting together programming for the scholars, including everything that happens on OU’s campus, setting up trips to Cleveland and Amish country, and traveling with the scholars while they are stateside.
“The goal is to kind of build a global community of scholars,” she said. “That’s really what it’s all about, to expose them to America but also to share on a global scale knowledge and understanding. These people (are) educators, people who are going to be influencing the next generations in their countries.”
And build a global community it does.
“There are two very beneficial aspects to the SUSI experience,” Radu Meza, a 2014 SUSI scholar from Romania, said in an email. “The first would be the opportunity to visit US media institutions (both big and small) and the other is the wonderful experience of meeting with journalism educators from all over the world, establishing connections that may lead to future collaborations.”
After the SUSI program, Meza spent some time teaching in a graduate summer school in France through a partnership with his university, Paris 8 University, Westminster University and Pompeu Fabra University.
“Both in the lectures that I taught in the international graduate summer school in France and also in some of my courses which I’m teaching this semester, I’ve incorporated some of the content from the SUSI program,” he said. “More specifically, other than my direct experience with US media institutions, I’ve added some more information about the US media system (as delivered by prof. Mary Rogus) and also about media economics (as delivered by prof. Hugh Martin).”
Other SUSI scholars have also been utilizing their experiences in the program back home.
Aruna Lokuliyana, a 2014 scholar from Sri Lanka, has used some of the cultural experiences to describe and compare cultural similarities in the United States with those in Sri Lanka.
“(The) SUSI program has created a great environment to share and develop our mutual experiences related to our own country media and academic experiences with each other, and it was a very rare opportunity to me,” he said.
Though the semester started almost immediately after Lorna Chacón-Martínez’s return to Costa Rica, where she is currently teaching two courses and doing research for a new documentary.
She also coordinated with the US Embassy to arrange for her students to participate in two press conferences for the embassy.
“I was honored to be selected,” Seyf Mohamed, a scholar from Tunisia, said. “Now I have friends from around the globe with whom I am currently getting in touch on a regular basis working on various projects. Also, having new friends and meeting distinguished people was highly important to me as a scholar and a media practitioner.”
Since last summer’s program, Med has been working on a new curriculum to be taught next semester and a research article.
Lionel Brossi, a professor at the University of Chile, has been using his experiences and connections from the 2014 SUSI program a lot since returning to his country.
“I have modified the syllabus of my course of Intercultural Communication,” he wrote in an email. “Thanks to my research collaborator Dr. Yea Wen Chen, I could access to new bibliography and the syllabus of her course, from which I took some great ideas to implement.”
Among the handful of SUSI scholars from last summer who responded to email requests for information, a common idea was that, outside of lectures, the cultural tours were some of the best experiences for the scholars.
Surprisingly, though some of the bigger stops on the trip were also mentioned, the most talked about visit wasn’t to the District of Columbia or San Francisco, but to Holmes County, OH.
“What I find most interesting is to watch the scholars in Amish country,” Rogus said. “It’s so different from any of their impressions about America and Americans. It’s just this wonderful, pleasant surprise. I don’t know if it’s just that it’s totally not what they expect to find in America, but it’s just something that they really like and appreciate.”
Though media and cultural exposure and experiences were very important to the scholars, personal interactions and networking were equally, if not more, important for last year’s scholars.
“The most beneficial part of the program was meeting the faculties from OU and I hope the academic communication will continue in the future,” Shashwati Goswami, a scholar from India, said. “And the next best was to meet the other scholars from various parts of the world which enriched my knowledge of their socio-economic situation as well as the situation of media in their countries. The experience would not have been possible without SUSI.”