School of Media and Public Affairs professors study abroad

From the war-torn streets of Afghanistan to the flourishing culture of Brazil, studying abroad is not just for students.

Silvio Waisbord, director of graduate studies at the School of Media and Public Affairs, was invited to spend a week in Brazil by the country’s National Association of Newspapers to speak to students and journalists across five cities.

While he was only abroad for one week, Waisbord – who teaches a class on comparative media systems – said he always appreciates studying and lecturing abroad because it gives him a perspective on the similarities and differences between the U.S. and other countries.

Speaking to practicing journalists, Waisbord said, was very different from his usual job teaching students.

“Inevitably, what one teaches is affected by students’ interests and what’s going in society and politics,” he said.

Professor Sean Aday, recently abroad in Afghanistan for the third time, pursued research in several areas, including the role of women in female engagement teams – small units of female soldiers that accompany male soldiers on patrols – the civilian-military relationship and the role of media and government communication in country stabilization efforts.

“It was great to meet all the courageous people working and living in Kabul, Westerners and Afghans alike.” Aday said.

With much of his travel sponsored by the U.S. State Department and the Canadian Foreign Ministry, Aday also took classes while in the desert. One course delved into contemporary counterinsurgency theory, known as COIN.

His 150 classmates were mostly members of the military and included a one-star general. Aday said the class held in the old bombed-out Queen’s Palace was “one of the best parts of the COIN training.”

From his perspective, Aday said he recognizes that Afghanistan still has a ways to go before total peace can be accomplished.

“Conversations I had with various people from different backgrounds in Kabul [convinced me] there are certainly some positive signs here and there, but there are at least as many reasons for continued concern,” he said.

Aday, also the director for the Institute for Public Diplomacy and Global Communication, said he remains optimistic that Americans have a role to play in rebuilding Afghanistan. He also hopes that SMPA and the Institute for Public Diplomacy can help re-establish competency and communication in the region.

“Obviously it’s not as if anything I, my institute, or GW does will in and of itself secure a lasting and stable peace in Afghanistan,” Aday said. “But at the same time I believe strongly that we have a role to play in helping Afghans rebuild their country.”

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