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SOJ students to study media in West Africa

West Africa

West Virginia University journalism professor Dr. Steve Urbanski says something about Africa “gets into your soul.”

“That’s the best way to put it,” said Urbanski. “When I leave – as soon as the plane lifts off, I start missing it [Africa] passionately.”

Urbanski, the director of graduate studies and assistant professor at the WVU P.I. Reed School of Journalism, will share his passion with eight School of Journalism students this summer. The study abroad trip, including graduate and undergraduate students, will examine media in West Africa—a topic with which Urbanski is familiar. The dissertation he wrote in 2003 focused on the resilient, dissident print media of Benin and how it informed the concept of freedom through the republic’s history.

“Benin has only been a democracy since around 1990,” said Urbanski. “Prior to that, it was a Marxist regime for 17 years. The one constant was a resilient press that kept the people informed.”

During the Spring 2010 semester, Urbanski taught a special topics course, International Media: West Africa. Throughout the semester, students studied the media practices, culture and history of West Africa, particularly Ghana, Benin and Burkina Faso. This summer, they’ll have the chance to take what they learned in the classroom and apply it in the field.

Public relations senior and Morgantown native, Erin Graziani is part of the group traveling to Africa. She said the opportunity to study abroad is invaluable.

“How many times do you get to go to Africa?” said Graziani. “Combine that with the fact that I’ll be learning more about journalism and international media. The knowledge I gain over there will help me if I ever want to work in a PR firm with international offices.”

This will be Graziani’s second study abroad trip this year. She traveled to Jordan and Dubai, India, for spring break. Graziani said experiencing other cultures promotes understanding both abroad and within the University community.

“We have many international students here,” said Graziani. “It [travel abroad] helps us to understand where they are coming from a little more because we are in their place when we travel abroad.”

The group leaves May 31 and will spend nearly three weeks visiting media outlets in Accra, Ghana, and Cotonou, Benin; touring the University of Ghana; and taking several sight-seeing expeditions.

Students will blog about their experiences before returning on June 19. Follow their adventure at http://westafricasoj.wvu.edu/.

Read this story and more on WVU Today.