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University News

Grant funds media projects abroad, online

Senior Staff Writer
Monday, April 19, 2010

This summer, 11 students will travel to nine countries on a new fellowship funded by a $100,000 AT&T grant awarded last fall to the Watson Institute for International Studies. The grant, given by the AT&T Foundation and AT&T Corporation to fund new media projects, is meant to create new forms of communication at the University and expand its presence internationally.

The grant was awarded to “facilitate international dialogue on social action issues,” said Laura Sanford, president of the AT&T Foundation.

The grant includes two parts, one focused on supporting global student work integrating new media and another focused on creating an online portal within the Brown community called “The Global Conversation.”

“It was an idea that Brown brought to us,” Sanford said. “We thought it was great to get college students more deeply involved in the issues concerning corporate citizenship perspectives. It’s not uncommon that students are looking at social action issues.”

This summer’s AT&T New Media Fellows will travel to Croatia, Mexico, India, Rwanda, El Salvador, Georgia, Ireland, Vietnam and Mali “armed with video cameras, audio recorders and laptops to explore important issues related to health, identity, politics, education, youth, conflict and language,” wrote Geoffrey Kirkman ’91, deputy director of the Watson Institute, in an e-mail to The Herald.

One of these students, Steven Ellis ‘10.5, will travel to Croatia to produce a documentary examining the European Union’s accession process — the process of joining the EU — and its impacts on Croatia’s young democracy. 

“My project will study underrepresented Croatian voters against the EU accession and explore that as an impact of globalization in Croatia,” Ellis said.

Ellis said he found out about the fellowship through Brown Morning Mail, adding that he has been to Croatia before and had been trying to find a way to go back ever since.
Ellis said the interaction of faculty, staff and alums is important for Brown to establish itself as an open community, emphasizing the University’s need to have a better presence on the Internet.

According to the AT&T New Media Fellows press release, Ellis and the other fellows will conduct research that will lay the foundation for “The Global Conversation” online portal by sharing their comments and posting their media projects, such as documentaries, podcasts and blogs for the University community to view.

Though he is working on a documentary, Ellis said he will use a Flip camera for video blogging to talk to people about the Croatian experience.

“People can get a better sense of a place through media,” Ellis said.

The grant will incorporate new media into academics, Sanford said, adding that the new generation consumes information by means of film, Web and sound.

“If you continue to rely on the traditional communication channel, you’re not going to reach all audiences,” Sanford said.

The grant’s second component, “The Global Conversation,” will “host video, audio, blogs and other media produced by Brown students, faculty and alumni that relates to major global challenges,” Kirkman wrote in an e-mail.

Though many Brown students have already produced audio and video projects for classes, research projects, internships or semesters abroad, there has not been a shared place to post the creations, he wrote.

“We hope that ‘The Global Conversation’ Web site will become the ‘go to’ place for serious media projects that tackle global issues,” Kirkman wrote.

Kirkman wrote that media is a powerful tool for shaping perceptions.

“The old saying that ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ has a lot of truth — audio and video can amplify messages in important ways,” he wrote.

Kirkman hopes “The Global Conversation” will become a central place where the Brown community can come together to interact about the most pressing challenges faced by the globe today, he wrote.

With thousands of alumni all over the world, one-third of the junior class studying abroad and the international work of faculty, there are limitations to bringing parts of the University together, Kirkman wrote. But, he wrote, by considering the Web, audio and video media content that Brown students, faculty and alumni are producing, “we can try to create a vibrant space for conversation that brings the global nature of Brown to the forefront.”

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