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AUC Students Lend Voices to Award-Winning Website on Arab Youth
AUC Students Lend Voices to Award-Winning Website on Arab Youth
Giving voice to the youth of Egypt’s revolution, political science graduate students from AUC and communication seniors from Cabrini College in Pennsylvania have collaborated to produce a multimedia website, YouthVoicesRise.com, which received the 2012 Pinnacle Award for Best Multimedia Feature Presentation from the College Media Association, a group affiliated with and supporting more than 800 colleges and universities with their students’ media output. Cabrini students also compiled a free e-book, Arab Awakening: A View from the Inside, available on iTunes, based on their interviews with AUC’s political science graduate students, as well as journalists and youth involved in the Arab Spring.

“We had no idea this would win an award,” said Pandeli Glavanis, professor of practice, associate director of the Center for Learning and Teaching and course instructor for the AUC students. “This prize is good recognition for the University because the Cabrini students were keen on giving us credit for our role in helping this project take shape.”

Students from AUC and Cabrini College worked collaboratively on the project. After preliminary exchanges of information, the students began a regular correspondence via phone, email and Skype. “They had the technical skills and we had the knowledge and information they needed,” said Glavanis. “The two groups worked harmoniously on very different tasks. We did research on the ground here and explained it to them, and they presented it in an engaging multimedia form.”

The result was a series of 18 videos at YouthVoicesRise.com, focusing on job insecurity, women’s rights, political corruption, new voting processes, censorship fears, and the dreams and aspirations of Middle Eastern youth. A news story accompanies each video, providing a description and the process of how and why the Cabrini students produced them.

Working together on the project was of mutual benefit to both AUC and Cabrini students, who chose the Arab Spring as the main theme in their capstone project as a way of highlighting social justice in the region. “We wanted people our age in the United States to understand what it’s like to be a young adult during a time of such upheaval,” said Elizabeth Krupka, a Cabrini student who worked on the project.

AUC students benefitted from the task of making their world comprehensible across the cultural divide. Sarah Tonsy, a graduate student at AUC studying comparative politics, was among those interviewed for the project. She observed that working with the Cabrini students highlighted the difficulties of getting accurate information in the United States about what is happening in Egypt. “The collaboration showed how deceptive the media can be in misrepresenting other parts of the world where everything is in a different order,” she said. “I felt during the interviews that they already knew that this was happening. They told me that the U.S. media portrays things in Egypt to be ‘dandy’ after the January 25 Revolution, when it was clear from our exchange of information that this is not the case.”

Tonsy also found that understanding increased in both directions through the project. “I learned that dialogue is an important part of crossing cultural barriers and finding out more about the other,” she said. “In fact, explaining our lives here made it seem like Egypt is not that far from the United States after all.”

Cathy Yungmann, associate professor of communications at Cabrini and faculty adviser for the project, noted that main benefit for students was that the learning experience extended beyond the classroom, offering them a unique opportunity to learn about themselves, as well as people from other parts of the world. “My students and I are so grateful to Dr. Glavanis and his graduate political science class who shared a glimpse of their lives and experiences with us,” said “For American students with limited knowledge of life in the Middle East, communicating directly with AUC students was an eye-opening and life-changing experience. Our students grew in their understanding of Egypt, Islam, journalism and technology, as well as their understanding of the importance of stepping out of their comfort zones. They now feel a personal connection to the region, the issues and the possibilities.”

Yungmann emphasized the importance of finding a solid base for her students’ work at AUC. “I feel strongly that the personal contact with AUC students in Egypt – talking with them about their families and experiences – has made an incredible difference in the depth of learning for our students,” she said. 

Echoing the same sentiment, Glavanis noted, “The Cabrini students were quite new to the subjects at hand, so they asked really good, basic questions that we didn’t expect. This led to far more rigorous academic work on our end, as we had to really substantiate and give evidence for our claims. So my class learned to conduct and present its research such that it could communicate complex topics to total beginners.”