The primary purpose of my specialist assignment at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda, in April-May of 2012, was to work with the chair and faculty of the Mass Communication Department to evaluate the current strength of the Department’s graduate program and think strategically about its sustainability. I think it worked out pretty well. I was one of the leaders of the two-day faculty retreat (May 9-10) in which we achieved consensus on the structure and content of the new MA curriculum. I constructed the 10,000-word document (in the format required by the university) that would enable approval of the new curriculum. I was told several times that this effort had been stalled for three years, until my contribution to the effort. I also researched Ph.D. programs in Mass Communication in Africa and then assessed the graduate-teaching resources in the department. The result was a 5,000-word report and recommendation, which I submitted to the chair on May 23.
The secondary purposes of the assignment were to (a) develop possible partnerships (for training, exchanges or research collaborations for faculty or students) between the University of Colorado and Makerere University, and (b) lead class sessions at both the undergraduate and master’s levels, as requested. I drafted a Memorandum of Understanding between the University of Colorado and Makerere University, which would accommodate development of collaborations and exchanges of faculty and students. The document has the approval of the legal offices at both universities, but budget constraints at Makerere have hindered the implementation of physical exchanges. In terms of my teaching, I delivered 12 guest lectures over my six-week stay, on topics ranging from public relations ethics and communication for development to investigative reporting techniques and feature-writing tips.
I also enjoyed a few meetings with the larger Ugandan journalism community. I gave a talk to the “U.S. Press Corps,” an organization of Ugandan journalists sponsored by the U.S. Embassy in Kampala. I also represented Makerere at The Kampala Dialogue, a day-long regional conference to observe UNESCO’s World Press Freedom Day. I gave a 30-minute talk and participated in the Q&A panel at the end of the day.
Most rewarding, as I now look back, are the personal relationships I was able forge with colleagues at Makerere. One example: The University of Colorado Boulder is particularly known for Environmental Science, and we are also home to one of the world’s few centers for Environmental Journalism. In the fall of 2013, 18 months after my assignment, our center hosted an international conference on the communication of climate change. I encouraged one of my faculty colleagues at Makerere to submit a paper, which was accepted. Travel funding, however, is a constant hindrance for our Ugandan colleagues as they attempt to develop their scholarly careers. Because of our Fulbright-enabled connection, I was happy to host the Ugandan colleague in our home and get her conference registration fee waived. Thus airfare was her only major expense for the conference. She presented the paper in Boulder and later got it published in an international journal on environmental communication. In Boulder she was also able to forge new relationships with scholars globally in this field.