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Scientists, authors, artists, musicians, journalists and government leaders were among Ohio University's guests this academic year. They included oceanographer Robert Ballard, who located the Titanic's wreckage; Bruce Babbitt, former secretary of the interior; Malaysian journalist and activist Marina Mahathir; Kenji Kawano, the Navajo Code Talkers Association photographer; CNN correspondent Maria Hinojosa; and October Sky author Homer Hickam. Ted Koppel of ABC's "Nightline" was to speak during Communication Week, but the war in Iraq altered his plans.

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Extra, Extra!

A special commencement edition of Outlook celebrating the class of 2003 and this year's outstanding faculty and staff will hit the streets on June 13. Included will be a message from President Robert Glidden, the year's top stories and profiles of several notable students. Commencement ceremonies will be June 7 (Osteopathic Medicine), June 13 (graduate) and June 14 (undergraduate).

 

June 2, 2003
Visiting professors enrich student experience
By Sara Schonhardt

The following article first appeared in the Spring 2003 Ohio Today

This year, students could learn about the Cold War from a former Soviet diplomat, take a writing course led by an award-winning South African novelist or create their own TV shows under the direction of a public television producer.

That's if their teachers were among nearly 100 prominent professionals who put their careers on hold each year to take on the role of visiting professor. The University selects these individuals based on career accomplishments and with the knowledge that their experience will benefit students and faculty alike.

Oleg Grinevsky, a former security adviser with the Soviet Ministry for Foreign Affairs, is one of this year's visiting profs. He advised the Khrushchev, Brezhnev, Andropov and Gorbachev governments and directed the ministry's Middle East department, where he met - among many foreign leaders - Saddam Hussein. Grinevsky's book, Scenario for World War III, includes a picture of him meeting with the former Iraqi leader.

"I had the impression that I was talking with a snake," Grinevsky says. "He was very suspicious."

Grinevsky draws from such experiences in teaching his Cold War history course and presenting lectures for the University's Contemporary History Institute. Students, he says, benefit from the firsthand accounts.

"When you see it and manage to know the details," he says, "it is more useful."

The Soviet perspective that Grinevsky can shed on historical events is valuable to people accustomed to viewing the world through American eyes. And it gives him, after more than 40 years as a diplomat, a chance to step back and consider his experiences in an analytical way.

"It's important to understand the mechanism and to analyze how things are done," he says.

A spirit of understanding is a staple of Zakes Mda's creative writing class. A charismatic novelist, playwright, beekeeper and all-around Renaissance man, Mda brings his love for writing into every English class he teaches.

"My main interest is to work with young writers," he says, "to equip them with the skills they need."

Mda received his master's degree in theater from Ohio University in 1984 and taught in the United States and Africa before becoming a full-time writer. His novel Ways of Dying won the M. Net Book Prize in 1997, and another, The Heart of Redness, captured the 2001 Commonwealth Writers Prize for Africa.

"He responds differently to a story because he's a storyteller himself," says John Kachuba, a graduate student in Mda's advanced creative writing class. "His comments are insightful."

The creative writing course is an open forum in which Mda's students read and critique each other's writing. They're also asked to react to their teacher's work.

"It nurtures me," Mda says of students' feedback. "As a writer, you're always putting in. But now I'm taking out, too."

Jennifer Lawson, a visiting professor on campus last fall, also valued that interaction. The former head of national programming at PBS co-produced "AFRICA," an eight-part 2001 series that examined contemporary cultures throughout the continent.

Her School of Telecommunications course, The Executive Producer, required students to create their own TV series.

"We answered questions and shared stories based not on theory but on real-life application and experience," Lawson says. "I designed a course that would be a transferal of real-life experience and allow for dialogue."

Her students valued her counsel, says Jessica Street, who is pursuing a master's in interpersonal communications.

"It was amazing the wealth of knowledge she offered to her class and anyone who asked for her advice," Street says. "She was armed with knowledge that only someone in the field would have."

Lawson is now back at Magic Box Mediaworks, the production company she established in 1995, researching a documentary on women in the civil rights movement. But she hasn't forgotten her time at Ohio University.

"It was inspiring to see the sense of hunger for information that people have," she says. "It was rewarding to show excerpts of my television series to students and faculty and feel that I was truly communicating with them."

Sara Schonhardt is a student writer with University Communications and Marketing

 

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