By Crystal Bedoya
A UA journalism professor recently embarked on a trip to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to form part of a Fulbright specialist mission with the U.N. Economic Commission to Africa, aiding in the development of a think tank for the African Union.
Shahira Fahmy, a tenured journalism faculty member, spent two weeks assessing strategic communication skills through a U.N. and Fulbright Scholarship partnership. Her latest published academic work, “Visual Communication Theory and Research: A Mass Communication Perspective,” was granted an award for the most outstanding book in visual communication for this year’s National Communication Association meeting in Chicago, according to a press of release from the School of Journalism.
“She is a prolific researcher and is well-known for her research on how the media visually portrays [people around the world],” said David Cuillier, director of the School of Journalism. “She represents the university well [through] her research.”
While Fahmy was in Ethiopia, she conducted interviews and focus groups to get a better understanding of the African Union’s situation.
Journalism professor Shahira Fahmy visited Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, with the U.N. to aid in the development of a think tank. Fahmy spent her two weeks in Africa assessing strategic
communication skills with the U.N..
One factor that Fahmy said she noticed was a longing to become more active through social media, which was difficult due to age differences. The lack of knowledge on social media was something Fahmy particularly focused on improving.
Although the trip was diplomatic, Fahmy faced several problems while in Ethiopia.
There were threats by al-Shabaab, a terrorist group that pledged allegiance to al-Qaida, which limited Fahmy and others visiting the area to a tight-but-safe schedule.
“I received a note from the university that there was a terrorist threat directed to the U.S. Embassy where Westerners go to,” Fahmy said. “They decided to … continue life as normal, but avoid any crowded areas.”
Because of its geographical location, Ethiopia was not considered to be a possible location for an Ebola outbreak; however, measures taken to ensure the population’s safety.
“I got to the airport [and there were two Ebola checkpoints and] as soon as I got there, I had people getting my temperature,” Fahmy said.
According to the School of Journalism’s press release, Fahmy also had the opportunity to attend a fact-gathering conference on command by the U.S. Department of State public diplomacy program. While attending the conference, Fahmy said she realized the members’ need to develop better presentation, persuasion and networking skills. It was crucial for them to learn how to speak to the media when trying to pitch ideas as well as discussing any topics with policy makers, Fahmy said.
Another important goal was educating the people of Ethiopia’s African Union to present themselves as the group’s spokespeople and hopefully develop a think tank for the country, Fahmy added.
“Every single person that I met there had an amazing story and everyone there spoke different languages,” she said. “I suddenly felt right at home.”