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African Adventure

Park scholars have an immersion experience in Ethiopian media.

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counterclockwise from top right: program director Matt Fee (back left) listens in on a class; Park scholars Kate Sheppard '06, Anna Uhls '07, author Kate Levinson '07, and Lindsey Knox '07 with friends from Addis Ababa University journalism school; rural home; scholars watch Educational Media Agency program; traditional coffee ceremony.

The week after classes ended in May, nine Park scholars and program director Matt Fee shuffled off a plane into an amazing country that, 10 days later, we would not want to leave.

Last year Fee and Park School dean Dianne Lynch decided to challenge the scholars with a media-cum-service experience in a developing country. “Media in much of the developing world,” Fee points out, “take on a service role by default.” John Keshishog­lou, found­ing dean of the Park School and semiretired television-radio professor, connected Fee with colleagues in Ethiopia.

Mountains of paperwork later, we were there.

We split into groups to work with media organizations in the capital, Addis Ababa. The Educational Media Agency addresses Ethiopia’s shortage of teachers by creating educational television programs for schools; the Population Media Center educates about health and social issues through radio dramas; and the Ethiopian Mass Media Training Institute at Addis Ababa University School of Journalism and Communication trains students to be effective journalists despite limited resources and a less-than-media-friendly government. We also met with the Ethiopian minister of education.

Three others and I were assigned to the journalism school, a maze of green buildings. It became instantly clear that we were students, not teachers. “I was learning from the [Ethiopian] students,” says Lindsey Knox ’07, “just as much as I was sharing my experiences.”

Our extensive interaction with students was, by far, my trip highlight. They were so engaged in their courses and the media, passionate about journalists’ role in society, and determined to pos­itive­ly affect their country through their work. We attended classes, participated in discussions and critiques of their newspaper, Haleta, and the Ithacan, and soaked up as much of our hosts’ wisdom as possible over seemingly endless cups of tea. I felt recharged—reminded why journalism is so vital and why I’ve thrown myself into it.

We all came back more aware of the world and, I think, of ourselves and how we fit in it. “The trip opened my eyes to issues I never knew existed,” says Jeremy Levine ’06, who had helped create a promotional video for the EMA. “I never thought much about foreign aid, or development—and it’s always different when the issues are staring you in the face.” Fee pronounced the trip “an amazing educational experience”—so amazing that he is planning to take another group of Park scholars to Ethiopia next year, political climate and government approval permitting.

On our last day, we—and our Ethiopian friends—were not ready for us to leave. Tenaw Terefe, the school’s deputy director, offered me 100 birr an hour (just under $12—a fortune when the average Ethiopian makes about $100 a year) to join the faculty as a lecturer. I laughed and hugged him goodbye.

As the minibus bumped out the compound gate and I watched the attendant swing the door shut behind us, I thought . . . maybe one day I’ll take Terefe up on his offer.

— Kate Levinson ’07

Senior Kate Levinson, a journalism major/culture and communication minor, also spent a semester in Uganda and Rwanda during her sophomore year. This semester she is an ICQ writing intern.

Not everyone can afford to send students to Ethiopia like the Park Scholars Program, but you can certainly help faculty and staff create unforgettable learning programs for Ithaca College students—close to home and far away—by supporting the academic innovation campaign priority today.

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Sticks and Strings
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Remembering the College's Fifth President