Gulchin Seyidova serves as liaison to CSJMM

Gulchin Seyidova; copyright Keith Kenney, 2012

Victoria Sloan, the Public Affairs Officer (PAO) at the US Embassy in Azerbaijan, recently assigned Gulchin Seyidova to supervise the collaboration between the embassy and the CSJMM. Gulchin is a Media Information Specialist at the embassy. She has degrees in translation and interpretation from an Azerbaijan university and a master’s degree in professional communication from the University of Alaska-Fairbanks. Gulchin has also worked as a training coordinator and manager for Internews for three years, and she was the focal point for media relations for a United Nations refugee agency.

Gulchin spent this week observing classes, meeting faculty members at CSJMM, and talking with Azeri students. The US embassy in Azerbaijan is sponsoring six Azeri students in the MA-Journalism program this year, and it sponsored four students last year. The U.S. embassies in both Azerbaijan and Armenia sponsor students to take classes and live in Tbilisi for one year of the two-year MA-Journalism program. Gulchin asked “her” students if they were experiencing any difficulties, and, fortunately, their answers were “no, except” they are having problems with some bureaucratic red tape. From CSJMM’s perspective, the only challenge is to increase Azeri students’ ability to speak English.

Guchin is particularly interested in CSJMM’s curriculum revision for two reasons. First, depending upon which courses CSJMM offers in Fall 2012, the embassy in Azerbaijan will need to a) find qualified instructors for those courses in Baku; b) receive the courses via distance education; or c) pay for Azeri students to live in Tbilisi and take the courses from CSJMM. Gulchin is also interested in the revision of CSJMM’s MA-Journalism program because the embassy would like to develop a similar Western-style professional journalism MA program in Baku.

Creating such a program will be challenging, said Gulchin. It is difficult to hire Azeri journalism instructors who either have experience at Western news organizations or who have a Western news mindset. Another challenge is developing a curriculum. In Azerbaijan, ALL universities offering an MA-Journalism program use the same curriculum. The OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe) Baku Office and Baku Slavic University are developing recommendations for revising the current standards and curriculum, which the Azerbaijani Ministry of Education would then consider for approval. The US embassy in Baku is also contributing ideas to revise the curriculum.

The best news, in my mind, is that Victoria and Gulchin are trying to get all six of the key players communicating together. The Public Affairs Officers at the US embassies in Armenia and Azerbaijan are key players because they each sponsor students at CSJMM. The US embassy in Georgia plays an important role because it helped launch CSJMM and it currently supervises the “Journalism School Partnership Program” between the University of South Carolina and CSJMM. Faculty members at Baku Slavic University and an Armenian university are key players because they instruct Azeri and Armenian students for the first and last semesters of CSJMM’s MA-Journalism program. And, of course, CSJMM is a key player.

I’m glad that Victoria and Gulchin are serving as catalysts to improve collaboration among the key players.

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About keithrkenney
Keith Kenney is a professor of visual communication at the University of South Carolina. He is living in Tbilisi, Georgia, for a year. This blog is about several topics. "CSJMM-Journalism" is about the students, faculty and staff members of the Caucasus School of Journalism and Media Management in Tbilisi, Georgia. "USC-Journalism" is about the students, faculty and staff members of the School of Journalism and Mass Communications (SJMC) at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, SC. CSJMM and SJMC are recipients of a "Journalism School Partnership" program grant from the US Department of State. The purpose of this $750,000 grant is to improve CSJMM and ensure its sustainability. "Tbilisi, Georgia" is about Susanna Melo and my experiences in Tbilisi. "Columbia, SC" will be about our experiences in our home town--Columbia--when we return home. "Georgia" is about Susanna and my experiences when we travel in Georgia outside of Tbilisi. "United States" is about our experiences traveling in the US. "Films and Photography" is about two documentary films I'm working on in Georgia. One story follows how Adishi handles the rapid tourism that is being developed in Svaneti. The other story follows Tamaz Jalagania, who is a craftsman of swords and guns, an opera singer, and an extraordinary storyteller. "Scholarship" is about my current books, articles, reviews, and grants.

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