In December 2021, three faculty from the Illinois State University School of Communication—Director of Convergent Media Dr. Nathan Carpenter, TV-10 News Director Laura Trendle Polus, and School of Communication Executive Director Dr. Steve Hunt—traveled across the world to the Republic of Georgia. During their two-week trip to Georgia, they gave presentations, worked one-on-one with professors from all over the country, and traveled to different cities.  

This opportunity was made possible by the Media Education Program which is funded by the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi. School of Communication Alumni Advisory Board Member Denise Mattson has been organizing the Media Education Program for several years and played a vital role in fostering relationships between American and Georgian faculty. In fact, this trip in December followed up on a week-long program in August of education events designed to bolster journalism education and democracy for a group of journalists from Georgia that traveled to Chicago and to Illinois State. 

The goal of this program with the Republic of Georgia is to bring professionals to different universities in the country and work with the professors at those universities in media and journalism programs. Trendle Polus said, “The U.S. State Department-funded program is designed to help democracy in the country of Georgia, with the idea that democracy is stronger and better if the journalism is stronger and better. It is helping the professional journalists in their craft as well as helping those that are teaching journalism in their universities.”  

Journalism in the country of Georgia is polarized, and it is difficult for students to navigate when the country’s media outlets are politically allegiant. Along with that, they have a funding issue as well as their own language and alphabet that makes it difficult to find textbooks and technology in their language. This program allows the professors to learn how to better teach journalism and work around the barriers they face while teaching.  

“Our ability to take our civic engagement work to another country to recognize its value and to recognize the needs globally is incredibly valuable, and because of our commitment to civic engagement we have a lot to learn from other countries,” said Carpenter, when asked about the importance of the trip. Not only is civic engagement important to Carpenter, but it is also important to ISU’s School of Communication and is something the school committed to in 2009.

“It was just beautiful in Georgia, and we had a couple of dinners there that blew my mind,” Hunt said. “You are at a table with a group, and they just start bringing food and they never stop. Those dinners, that food and just having time to chat with the faculty that would come out to dinner with us was awesome. It was so cool to learn new stuff about a different culture and how they do things.” 

The School of Communication looks forward to welcoming new journalists and professors to Chicago and Normal in the future. Participants say the connections and friendships made will be long-lasting and they plan to stay in contact in-between visits.