My Makerere-Fulbright story: Fond Memories at the Department of Journalism and Communication.

“Ten years after my assignment, I continue to hold Makerere’s faculty, and their students, in the highest regard.” Prof. Paul Voakes notes.

Congratulations to Makerere University on its 100th anniversary!

I was a Fulbright Specialist for the Department of Journalism and Communication in the Spring of 2012.  In a formal sense, I was a guest lecturer and a consultant on graduate curriculum, but honestly, it was I who learned volumes. 

Ten years after my assignment, I continue to hold Makerere’s faculty, and their students, in the highest regard.” Prof. Paul Voakes notes.

Philosophically, I learned another conceptual framework from which to teach mass communication: Communication for development.  In the United States we begin our journalism education with the assumption that economic and social development are self-generating in the private sector, and our focus is more on harnessing development than on nurturing it. 

Prof. Paul Voakes playing a Saxophone

In journalistic terms, this means fostering journalism that will serve as a “watchdog” on development interests.  In Uganda, I learned, development can be a goal shared by an entire culture.  In the media world, this means fostering journalism that will help a nation to become stronger economically and in the realms of health, education, crime prevention and, quite often, reconciliation.  

This is a fundamentally different framework from what we teach in the United States, and I would love for more American students to understand “development communication” as well as “watchdog” communication.

I learned too of the resilience and creativity of Makerere’s faculty and students. Resources, both human and material, were limited.  Yet every day I was impressed by the energy my colleagues devoted to conducting original research and bringing relevant instruction to their classrooms.

Prof. Paul Voakes & Aaron Mushengyezi

Furthermore, the students I encountered never seemed to lose their eagerness for the learning opportunities they had (especially compared to their American counterparts!).  Together, the faculty and students seemed motivated to do whatever it took to make higher education succeed.

“I will never forget the hospitality I experienced. Beginning with department head Aaron Mushengyezi and extending throughout the faculty, I was made to feel at home from my first day to the last.” Prof. Paul Recalls

The University Guest House did indeed offer, as its sign proclaimed, dignified and comfortable accommodation. I have fond memories of pleasant evenings on the front lawn, chatting with colleagues and other visitors, and of exploring Kampala — on foot, by matatu, or, when I felt particularly adventurous, on bodaboda.

“In the course of its century-long enterprise, Makerere University has become a source of great national pride for Uganda.” Prof Paul Reiterates

I only hope that during my brief assignment there, I was able to make some small contribution to that success.

My best wishes for the next 100 years!


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