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JMC Hosts 10 International Students for ‘Prague in Kent’ Exchange Program

Posted Jan. 23, 2014

Ten students from Anglo-American University (AAU) in the Czech Republic are serving as foreign correspondents for the next two weeks, reporting out of JMC. 

The students are in Kent as the result of a highly successful partnership between Kent State University, Group DiscussionAAU and the Prague Freedom Foundation (PFF). The AAU students, who represent nine countries including the United States, are part of an exchange program that began last summer when 10 College of Communication & Information (CCI) students, three of them from JMC, studied at AAU.

The 20 Kent State and AAU students are the first Prague Freedom Foundation Scholars and the first to take part in the new Modern Media and Democracy course. The course and exchange program are made possible with the support of the PFF, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization committed to protecting and promoting freedom of speech in the United States, the Czech Republic and other parts of the world. PFF is represented by Larry Armstrong, a Kent State alumnus who is also chair of Kent State’s Foundation Board.

PFF scholars immerse themselves in the history, government, culture and society of the host country and then report on their research, using blogs and other forms of storytelling. For the next two weeks, AAU students will research and report on topics as wide-ranging as gun violence in American schools, Vietnamese and Yugoslavian immigrants in Ohio, the differences between American and European basketball, the use of medical marijuana and how Americans view “American exceptionalism.” Their research and information-gathering will be assisted by their Kent State counterparts, by JMC faculty and student media leaders. 

Their immersion in Northeast Ohio culture will take them to the Amish community of Middleburg, Ohio; the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and West Side Market in Cleveland; the Akron Beacon Journal newsroom and WKSU studios and the Aurora Farms outlet stores, in addition to the Kent State campus.

Despite the frigid winter temperatures, their experience began with a warm reception and dinner at the Kent State University Hotel and Conference Center, where JMC Director Thor Wasbotten recalled the origins of the exchange program.  “The partnership between Kent State and AAU began a year ago with a conversation between Larry Armstrong, [CCI Dean] Stan Wearden, and me. Larry described an opportunity in Prague for our students to learn more about freedom of the press and democracy. Stan and I immediately saw the potential,” Wasbotten said.  “A great deal has happened in the past year, thanks to deeply determined faculty members and especially the remarkable support of the Prague Freedom Foundation.”

Armstrong emphasized PFF’s strong commitment to the Kent State-AAU partnership. “This is a first step. We want to continue and expand the program.” He added that the Kent State and AAU PFF scholars are “terrific representatives to help us move the partnership forward into the future.”

Wearden told the group, “Study abroad and globalization are important to me for all the conventional reasons, like our global economy, but also for two personal reasons. I did a study abroad when I was 10 years old, moving with my family to Birmingham, England. I was transformed by the experience and had bigger dreams for myself as a result.  And I also believe when we meet and develop empathy for and friendships with people from other cultures, we are more likely to use words rather than weapons to resolve disputes.”

PFF generously supports CCI's Modern Media and Democracy course and the student exchange program between Kent State University and Anglo-American University in the Czech Republic.
The nonpartisan Prague Freedom Foundation (PFF), has produced this thought-provoking video featuring former Senator Richard Lugar, Ambassador Kurt Volker, KSU Foundation President Larry Armstrong and JMC's Director Thor Wasbotten.

Wasbotten noted that the “heart and soul” of the program were the three CCI faculty members – Professors Candace Perkins Bowen, Cat Goodall and John Bowen – who have nurtured the concept from idea to reality. 

“It truly is a labor of love,” Perkins Bowen told the students. “We believe in the value of global education here at Kent State. While we can’t offer the castles of Prague, we do have the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Amish country.” 

(Photos courtesy of John Bowen)