How to Absorb an Experience from ASU and the USA

A mural with abstract designs and the lettering YOU ARE AMAZING

Day to day, as we are approaching the end of this jam-packed program, we are thinking more and more about questions of how to make our unique opportunity as SUSI Scholars useful for our work and micro society we live in our countries.

We want so much, but…

Day to day we are experiencing meetings with people who are true specialists in their profession and who are sharing with us their experiences and opinions about media, communication, new technologies or modern research. At the same time, every day we are facing our internal questions: How can we apply as much as possible from the best practices we are learning here? What is possible and what is not in our working conditions and living circumstances at home?

To help readers from the U.S. understand what we are are thinking about, I will rely on the words of my colleague Elastus from Zambia. He expressed it aptly in his blog:

Compared to [our reality at home], this experience feels like I am plugged into a virtual reality space, and I am an avatar that in just a few more weeks will have to leave this metaverse of innovation.

Elastus Mambwe (Zambia)

FOTO: Scholars in the House of representative of Arizona. Mr. Dan Barr (in the middle) introduced SUSI`s practical sides of US journalism connected to top politics, self-government and courts. Foto: Mr. Robbie Sherwood

The scholars pose for a group shot in the Arizona House chamber, around the official state seal
Scholars in the Arizona House of Representatives. Mr. Dan Barr (center) introduced the SUSI Scholars to the practical sides of US journalism related to top politics, self-government and courts.
(Photo credit: Mr. Robbie Sherwood)

What we would like to take away

“I would like to take home my new knowledge especially in the teaching hospital model of education at ASU, new technologies with AI/VR, programs for creating news games,” Mariana Kitsa (Ukraine) told me when I asked this morning what she would like to take from her ASU experience back to Ukraine and her home University in Lviv.

“If I scream loud enough, engage enough especially online and spread information, even if it’s not correct or full of bias, it gains me followers and I make an impact on my community.” This is devastating, right? So, that is my motivation to contribute to democracy, moral stability and ethics in my country. We need more standards based on ethics and also access to more technology, methodologies and networks,” Angela van der Kooye (Suriname) wrote me. Her goal here is to figure out how to deal with misinformation and disinformation in Suriname.

“ASU facilities, including a variety of student laboratories, technologies approached as part of lessons learned and how plenty resources (lecturers, professors, book references) literally indulge those scholars who are willing to gain knowledge and enhance their ability and education,” observed Firly Annisa, a senior university lecturer in Indonesia.

Yes, this is our thinking, our wishes, our goals, but how to do it? Especially if we need to think about having enough functional computers in the classroom, lack of academic colleagues to collaborate with, the government’s neglect of educational issues, or the need to have a second job to earn a decent income.

A bus stop is labeled Mars, but a nearby bus indicates it is directed toward Jupiter North
We are often amazed by the quality of the equipment, the rigor of the research, and the progress of the developments we see at ASU and in Phoenix. But sometimes we are also confused, as in this case: so does this connection go to Mars or to Jupiter? 😊 (Photo credit: Peter Kravcak)

We do not want to stay in digital poverty

Our efforts to achieve are not imaginary and all of us feel it as a real mission. We are not blind and deaf. We see where the world is heading in media, communication and AI development and we are really concerned, because do not want to have to leave our countries stay on top of this progress. We do not want to leave our society threatened by those who probably just need more time to understand that life and the world is developing, and that the pace of media evolution has shifted from a walk to a run. 

The last time this happened was during the industrial revolution at the turn of the 20th century. We know now what was the result in 1914 and 1939 of the widening gap between countries where some of them began to defend themselves against reality by spreading negative propaganda, hateful and disinformation narratives, victimizing other races and cultures by flexing their muscles and pointing guns at other nations. Can you see similarities in the current world? Best not to look.   

Digital poverty, where current media, communication and of course AI development could be pushing us, can quickly cause mental and social poverty and open that imaginary societal gap even more than it is now.    

Joshua Garland in front of a collage of recent AI-generated images used in disinformation campaigns
Dr. Joshua Garland presented to the SUSI scholars on research activity by the Center for Narrative, Disinformation and Strategic Influence at ASU’s Global Security Initiative. (Photo: Peter Kravcak)

Takeaways: What we can do

Within this whole context, suddenly we find ourselves here, immersed in a unique opportunity. With all the positive things from ASU, Phoenix and the US in our minds, (we’ll set aside the less positive things for now): we cannot compare the resources of ASU with our universities, or even the operation of Phoenix with our cities or development of our countries with the USA. 

However, we can stay motivated. We can do our work properly to the best of our capabilities. Go step by step and piece by piece: think primarily about the future, change syllabi and lectures, prepare honest research reflecting new challenges even in our home conditions, prepare articles (maybe even books) enriched by our ASU experience, be ambassadors of examples of good practice from here, stay in touch and cooperate. In short, take everything from our remarkable experience at ASU and in the USA that can be useful and helpful for our surroundings. Starting with us: emotionally, rationally, diligently, collaboratively. 

In this case we should follow the statement I read from the famous actor Ryan Gosling: “It is better to overestimate yourself than not to try something you think is beyond your power.”

It is better to overestimate yourself than not to try something you think is beyond your power.

Ryan Gosling
Sunset over Phoenix
Sunset over Phoenix (Photo credit: Peter Kravcak)

What would other Scholars would like to take home with them?

Eman: I would like to take that engagement atmosphere, and knowledge sharing. Here we are all sharing and exchanging our information, we are learning from each other’s. That is how scientific community should be.

Elira: “I would like to take my impressions, memories and positive energy from the nature and people here, also to make new local friends and friendships.” 

Hassan: “The takeaway from this program for me is communication and change. In other words, it is to create a network of people from 18 different countries (learning about new ideas and concepts) in addition to learning more about ASU media, journalism, and communications departments and trying to apply these back home.”

Alejandro: “Besides the kindness of Dawn and Amy, I will have a bag full of information, data and a huge network from 17 countries where I already have not colleagues, but great friends.”

Elastus: “I think I want to go back with a better understanding of the US media landscape and with knowledge and skills that will help me in my work. So far, there have been many lessons learned that will help me achieve this.”

Sokhen: “I would like to say this is an amazing experience for me. I am particularly interested in teaching hospital method in the journalism degree. I will try to apply this as much as I can when I go back to teaching in my home country.” 

Myat: “Environmentally friendly facts like using recycled products a lot.”

Carmem: “The SUSI Program has been one the most eye-opening experiences that I have ever had in my professional life. Here I met so different people and I could interact with these incredible people and colleagues from the US. There is also the cultural aspect. I would say that the trip to the Grand Canyon and visiting to the Musical Instrumental Museum were unforgettable.”