By Tobias Burns
EVANSTON, Ill. --- Students and faculty from the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications welcomed a delegation this summer from the Young African Leaders Initiative, a wide-ranging diplomatic program run jointly by the White House, U.S. State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development.
The delegates have been studying at Northwestern in recent weeks part of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, which allows 500 young African leaders to receive training in business and public-sector management at 20 of America’s top universities.
The delegation consisted of media entrepreneurs and documentary filmmakers, who discussed the role of the media in fostering social change in sub-Saharan Africa. They showed samples of their work and answered questions at Medill’s McCormick Tribune Center in late July.
South African delegate Khanyisile Magubane, whose six-part documentary series about violence in South Africa was broadcast there in 2012, said that her experiences studying in the U.S. were “about finding universal issues.”
“In South Africa, the laws and policies are there, but the implementation is not,” Magubane said. “People need to become more aware, and this is where the media comes in.”
Magubane’s films explore the historical and psychological roots of many of South Africa’s social problems, including violence against women and homosexuals, civic unrest, xenophobia and racism.
Magubane spoke July 24 on a range of issues, from technical points about audience engagement and sensational imagery to broad historical questions about colonialism and geopolitics. “I want people in South Africa to know that they are not poor by coincidence,” she said. “There were factors that shaped this.”
Medill associate professor Douglas Foster helped bring the delegation to Medill and acted as an occasional moderator.
“We want to be increasingly global,” he said. “Not just sending U.S. students out but bringing international voices in.”
Foster has written extensively on South Africa. His most recent book is “After Mandela: The Struggle for Freedom in Post-Apartheid South Africa,” which looks at civil rights and emerging political structures in contemporary South Africa.
Delegate Paul Victor Oloo, who heads a production company in Nairobi, Kenya, exhibited his short film “Deceit” and talked about covering sensitive subjects like domestic violence and violence against women. For his films, Oloo has interviewed both the victims and the perpetrators of sexual violence.
“You have to have the strength for unpleasant things,” he said.
The delegates’ educational ventures at Northwestern have centered on management and entrepreneurship. “This fellowship is really about the business of leadership,” Khanyisile Magubane said. “I’m learning how to be a good manager, how to run a business day-to-day, how to diversify streams of income — everything it takes.”
The Washington Fellows have visited several major corporations as part of their training, including IBM, PricewaterhouseCoopers and McDonalds. They also toured the trading floor of the Chicago Stock Exchange.
Medill masters students also recently dined with MIT researcher and political scientist Jonathan Caverley in downtown Chicago. The dinner was an informal opportunity for students specializing in national security to learn about new areas of policy research. The dinner was held at the Berghoff, one of Chicago's oldest restaurants.
Caverley, who has held posts at Northwestern and the RAND Corporation, studies U.S. foreign policy and the defense industry. His most recent book, “Democratic Militarism: Voting, Wealth, and War,” takes a broad statistical approach to a range of issues affecting militaries, both modern and historical.
Though Caverley came prepared to deliver a formal lecture on the status of the U.S. military after Iraq and Afghanistan, the casual setting and convivial atmosphere of the restaurant enabled more of a back-and-forth with students. He spoke at length about prevalent research techniques within political science, trends in military strategy and the current conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.
“Informal social contact between students and professors,” Caverley said, “is essential for the two-way transmission of ideas and interests.”