Mass Comm Receives First Ever Fulbright Specialist

By: Robert Serge Junior Saint-Pé (Student writer)

In March 2019, the Mass Communication Department of the University of Liberia wrote a proposal to the Fulbright Specialist Program (FSP) seeking assistance from a specialist to help revise, strengthen, and modernize the department’s curriculum. The proposal, written by the department’s chairperson, Euriahs M. Togar, came after the the university’s VPAA, Dr. William E. Allen informed departments across the university about the opportunity and the possibility of getting a specialist to come and assist with specific needs .

The Fulbright Specialist Program is a U.S. State Department initiative that sends highly qualified American academics and professionals around the globe to share their expertise, strengthen institutional linkages, and provide a short-term, on-demand resources to international host institutions.

In collaboration with the American embassy in Liberia, four academics were shortlisted and interviewed by a panel consisting of Dr. Allen, Chairman Togar, and two faculty members of the department. Two representatives of the US embassy also assisted in the interview. Dr. Gregory Pitts was selected as the specialist to be assigned to the Mass Communication Department.

Dr. Pitts earned his bachelor and master’s degrees in Communication and Journalism at the Auburn University, Alabama, USA and graduated with a PhD in Communication and Journalism from the University of Tennessee, USA. He serves as a professor and director in the School of Journalism and Strategic Media at Middle Tennessee State University, and is responsible for administrative functions in an accredited academic unit with 24 full-time and 14 part-time faculty and approximately 500 majors.

Prior to visiting Liberia, Dr. Pitts worked as a Fulbright Scholar in Zambia (1997-1998), Fulbright Specialist in Ukraine (2001-2002) and later 2003-2004, and Fulbright Scholar in Montenegro (2005-2006).

The University of Liberia welcomed Dr. Pitts in early March 2020, and during his visit he worked with the department to revise its curriculum, an initiative that will pave the way for the change from a journalism-dominated program to a full school of communication offering more career paths to students in both communication and media. In addition to the work on the curriculum, the Fulbright Specialist held a workshop and one-on-one coaching on contemporary pedagogy training, for teachers to become better classroom facilitators as opposed to traditional approach to teaching.

Dr. Pitts also donated over two-dozen books to the department of mass communication, and held a joint Liberia Media Survey research project which will hopefully be published in an international journal.

The Fullbright Specialist’s visit had to end rather abruptly due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Dr. Pitts left Liberia nearly two weeks earlier than was scheduled and continues to communicate with the department. He has expressed his desire to return to Liberia to assist the department further and engage in other research projects.

Following the visit of the Fulbright Specialist, the Communication Department would hope to benefit regular opportunities for ongoing academic cooperation and consultancies.