United Nations Of Journalism Professors Arrives In Athens

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E.W. Scripps Professor Mary Rogus steps onto the elevator at Court Yard Apartments in Athens carrying a load of supplies to one of four apartments upstairs.

She's been washing towels and sheets all morning preparing for the arrival of a group of Journalism Professors from 16 different countries.

The scholars are part of a State Department program called "The Study of the United States Institute," which has invited the educators to the campus for the past three years to learn – and teach – about journalism education.

Rogus, one of the most energetic and effective professors at OU, is the Academic Director for the SUSI program here.

The next six weeks will be a whirlwind of travel and teaching but for now, for Rogus, it's about getting things ready for the scholars.

"Quite frankly some of the biggest work is the logistics work of the care and feeding of 16 scholars from all over the world," she said just after positioning stacks of towels in drawers.

"So we have apartments here in Athens and we have to stock those apartments with sheets and towels and dishes and hangers and toilet paper, all those things for the scholars so they don't have to buy a lot of stuff."

For Rogus the days before the group's arrival have been spent at Big Lots.

"It's kind of fun to go shopping and buy all the stuff, but then you've got to set up all the apartments and you've got to make 16 beds, and put up eight shower curtains so it's quite a process to get everything unloaded and into the apartments and get the apartments all set up," she said. 

For Rogus, it's a labor of love.

"I'll tell you it's so worth it when you see the faces of the folks who have no idea what kind of accommodations they're going to be facing and they come in and they see these nice apartments and everything they need to have a temporary home for a few weeks," she beams. 

"But that's kind of part of then process that people just don't think about."

While Rogus, two other faculty members and six grad assistants are homemaking, the scholars are making their way to America.

Some travel for two days, some spend more than 20 hours in the air but find their way to Baker Center where they are officially greeted by the Scripps team.

"I challenge each one of you to make the most of this amazing opportinity," says E.W. Scripps Journalism School Director Bob Stewart during the welcoming dinner.

"Look around this room, get to know one another, assume your fellow scholars have much to teach you and you have much to teach all of us,"

The opportunity is viewed with near reverence by the visiting scholars as evidenced by remarks from Dr. Sharon Wilson of Malaysia.

"It was like walking on holy ground because everybody in that feel, in that vibe of churning out ideas, research and collaboration, I think it was like walking on holy ground; education and knowledge and ideas and creativity and it's exciting."

"We've left our families, our children, husbands, wives, mothers, fathers but just for six weeks you've allowed us to be single again – and you've allowed us to be students again."

Rogus, who's been a main actor in SUSI since the beginning, sees the program as pivotal for America's image abroad.

"Without question whatever impressions or ideas the participants have about America and Americans when they arrive, they go home with an entirely differerent view and that's something that we hear over and over and over again from the scholars." she said.

Beyond molding a more positive image of America, Rogus believes the program does much to promote a free press worldwide.

"They really don't believe that journalism in America is as free as in fact it is and they hear that over and over again from the different media professionals that they visit as well as the scholars that this is a free and open press and it makes a difference."

But perhaps the most positive result is how these scholars come to regard their nearer international neighbors.

"Two years ago we had a scholar from India and a scholar from the Pakistan and you know everybody got along and learned about each other," she recalls.

"It's amazing how all the barriers they face at home all kind of melt away when they're here and they can talk about issues and go home with a better understanding, and these are the people who are teaching the next generation in their country."

The scholars will spend the next three weeks in Athens learning about journalism education in America and teaching about that in their respective countries. 

After that they'll be visiting cultural sites and businesses engaged in journalism throughout the country. 

Those stops will include everything from "The Budget," America's Amish newspaper based in Ohio, to San Fransisco to visit Google, an Atlanta visit to CNN, and a Washington, D.C. trip to NPR, The Voice of America and the Capitol.

The SUSI program at Ohio University has been funded for the next three years.

Photos by Robert Hardin