After three intensive weeks of study and cultural activities, the University said goodbye Aug. 7 to students and faculty from Algeria and Tunisia. United by a common concern for the environment and the need to communicate about it to their respective countries, the students were at BGSU for a workshop offered by the School of Media and Communication.
Students in the environmental journalism workshop on a trip to Michigan to visit the Arab-American Museum in Dearborn
Funded by a three-year grant from the U.S. State Department’s Bureau for Educational and Cultural Affairs under the Fulbright-Hayes Act, the workshop was the third in a series of cross-cultural visits uniting BGSU with faculty and master’s students from the University of Manouba in Tunis and University of Algiers. Several BGSU students from China also participated, further expanding the cultural exchange.
“All the experiences were amazing,” said Hager Barouni, a graduate student in the Institute for Press and Information Sciences (IPSI) at Manouba. “We exchanged our experiences in environmental communication with the Algerian, American and Chinese students. Each week, we worked together in mixed groups on several issues. We learned a lot in terms of how to get expertise in the field, how to work as an environmental journalist. The field is still ‘under construction,’ so to speak, and we talked about what skills are needed.”
Abir Beldi, a journalist and IPSI student, noted, “We followed water everywhere. We visited Bowling Green’s wastewater treatment plant and the drinking water treatment plant. We went to Stone Lab (on South Bass Island) to study biodiversity and ecology.”
At Stone Lab, “we discovered the beauty of the country. Normally we see the metropolitan areas, but this opened a window on another face, which is no less important,” observed Barouni.
The workshop was led by Drs. Catherine Cassara and Nancy Brendlinger, journalism and public relations, with the participation of other school faculty. Cassara and Dr. Lara Lengel, communication, have been involved with IPSI since 2004 when the school received a grant from the State Department’s Middle East Partnership Initiative.
“One of the big things we’ve found is that we have a different approach to pedagogy here,” Cassara said. “We do a lot of working and investigating questions together, which is something new to the North African students.”
“This has been a totally new experience,” concurred Algerian Bacha Djamel. “We have enjoyed the new way of thinking about how to work together, how to study and think about how to cope with environmental problems.
The Algerians feel a special urgency, said Mohammed Kherifi, because the country has so far escaped much of the pollution confronting other areas. Innovative communication is needed to raise awareness and change people’s daily practices to avoid environmental degradation, he said. “People can be bored hearing the same things over again. It is for us to find different ways to communicate.”