ALBANY, Ga. – The Mass Communication program of study at Albany State University has evolved into something of a mini-United Nations.
Not only do ASU’s future journalists receive instruction in the latest concepts, methods and technology of their chosen field, they’re given insight into the global experiences of professors from such disparate locations as China, the Netherlands and El Salvador.
Jianchuan Zhou, Judith Rosenbaum and Alfonso Moises, all Ph.D.s and all with journalistic experience in their respective home nations, offer practical evidence of the ever-shrinking world community to students from a section of this country not traditionally known for its diversity.
Zhou draws from his experience as a reporter/editor for an English-language newspaper in his hometown in China’s Sichuan Province to teach future print journalists. Moises utilizes his background as, among other things, a documentary-maker in his Central American home in El Salvador and in Mexico to instruct students drawn to radio, television and film studies. Rosenbaum’s duties as a researcher/instructor/editorial manager in The Netherlands fit perfectly with her theory and methods classes.
“That’s one of the good things about my class load: The theories and methods of journalism are the same all over the world,” Rosenbaum said. “Some of the textbooks I use here are the same ones I used in Holland.”
Zhou, meanwhile, says his experiences chasing and editing news stories provide a valuable supplement to materials offered in the classroom setting.
“I think it has to be a combination,” he said. “It’s difficult to separate personal experience from what is learned in the classroom. A journalist takes what he has learned and applies it in the field.”
When Moises tells his classes that they must be willing to adapt to a given set of circumstances in their field, he might as well be talking about his career.
“In general, the procedures are the same,” he said. “But the successful journalists are the ones who can adapt to each new set of circumstances. For me, education is education, no matter where you are in the world. But in this field you must be able to adapt.”
Zhou (his adopted English name is “Henry”) attended college in Beijing, but his goal was always to come to the United States. He was the top student in his English foreign language class in high school for two years running, and he realized his dream of a lifetime when he was awarded a stipend to attend the University of Texas’ master’s program.
Zhou then applied for and was accepted into the University of Georgia’s Ph.D. program. There he met his future wife, Desiree, and the couple came to Albany when Zhou was hired to teach in Albany State’s Mass Communication program.
He said the emergence of new technology, the Internet and social networking sites have many claiming that tried and true journalistic methods are “dinosaurs,” but he said he teaches a combination of the traditional and the new.
“You must stay current, keep up with the new and improved, but there are traditional methods that are still vital to the process,” he said. “I think there must be a convergence of methods.”
Zhou’s students say they’ve learned to appreciate the value of such an approach.
“I’ve picked up skills I can use in any type of media career,” junior Matt Philmon of Early County said. “I’ve learned basic newswriting and reporting skills in this class, for instance, that will be crucial to whatever career path I take. The research skills are also important.
“One of the things that this department has provided is a wide range of skills to prepare us for possible media careers.”
Rosenbaum moved frequently during her childhood thanks to her father’s career, but a four-year stint at an American school in France from ages 12 to 16 put the United States in her future plans.
She spent a year in Maine as an exchange student when she was 18 and was awarded a grant to attend the University of Texas in Austin after earning her master’s degree in Communication Science at The Netherlands’ University of Nijmegen.
“I loved it in Texas, but I wanted to get my Ph.D., and I was offered a paid research/teaching position (at Radboud University) in The Netherlands,” she said. “It was a big honor; they only hire a few each year.”
Rosenbaum met her American husband, who was stationed at the U.S. Air Force base in Ramstein, Germany, and the couple were married in Holland. When her husband was transferred to Robins AFB in Warner Robins, Ga., in 2007, she came with him. She applied for a position at ASU and was hired a short while later.
“Moving to the South—and to a historically Black college—was an adjustment, but any move is an adjustment,” Rosenbaum said. “There has been a learning curve, but fortunately I feel I fit in immediately. The students here are very accepting.
“The roles of the media are changing, and I encourage my students to embrace those changes and how they affect them. This younger generation is so different, but I think it is important that traditional journalistic methods and theories remain viable to them. They must find a way to connect with those methods and the new media they’ve embraced.”
Moises, who came to ASU at the same time as Rosenbaum, said “building a Mass Communication program from scratch” at ASU was made easier by his experiences.
Raised in San Salvador, El Salvador, Moises learned English at the University of Minnesota. He earned the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree at the Jesuit University in El Salvador, a master’s degree in Communication Arts from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles and his Ph.D. at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.
He’s worked as a theater director in El Salvador; a teacher/producer in Mexico City; a professor at Northwestern, at California State University, Chico, at the University of Arizona and at the University of Don Bosco in El Salvador; and as a communications officer with UNICEF.
In addition to having a number of papers published in worldwide periodicals, Moises also has created short film and documentary projects that have been well-received.
His students utilize the skills he brings to the classroom to create video features.
“When they begin their projects, I try and instill in my students the importance of audience,” Moises said. “In general, the procedures are going to be the same. But the audience must be considered.
“I feel that my experiences allow me to take a more hands-on approach when working with my students. I am able to give them basic fundamentals and help them expand those fundamentals in a way that enhances their creativity.”