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Towson hosts Serbians for program

23 October 2013 By Brandi Bottalico, News Editor No Comments
U.S. Department of State sponsors the exchange
Sarah Hugel/ The Towerlight

Sarah Hugel/ The Towerlight

The Department of Mass Communication and the Hussman Center for Adults with Autism welcomed three Serbian representatives for disabilities on Oct. 19.

The representatives are one of 19 different partnerships in the United States. Their partnership with Towson is planning a media advocacy project for those with disabilities. The program, Professional Fellows EMPOWER Program, is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State.

“We are a media partnership whose main goal is to empower persons with disabilities for self representation and self advocacy,” Jelena Jovovic, one of the visiting Serbians from the Novi Sad Journalism School, said. “We realized if you want a greater impact on general public we have to educate the journalists on how to report on disabilities issues but we have to educate disabled people on how to communicate with media and how to bypass the media and how to give their messages to the general public directly.”

While at Towson they have been meeting with different media organizations, have sat in on a journalism class, visiting the Hussman Center and have even been featured on a radio program, Mass Communication and Communication studies professor Beth Haller said.

Haller is Towson’s representative for the program and has more than 20 years of research experience with media and disabilities.

“It’s a really unique program,” Haller said. “We’re the only one dealing with media because all the other projects are all about disability rights issues and I feel like ours is about a disability rights issue but it’s also a way to get information out about disability rights because we’re going to be putting together a project where people are going to be trained to advocate…and get their stories out there…Our team is really about all the issues and getting the general public to understand us.”

One plan for their return is to host a television cooking show, Haller said. They will film the pilot of this show in the Hussman Center ADA accessible kitchen on Thursday, Oct. 24.
Two months ago Director of the Hussman Center for Adults with Autism Rhonda Greenhaw went to Serbia for the first part of the exchange.

“It’s interesting to come here to exchange experiences,” Jovovic said. “It’s not like we were supposed to come here to learn about social media, we could do that online. What’s interesting is to hear from the media department and from other organizations what worked for them. You can find so many manuals and so many things printed or on the Internet but when you are speaking with a person who had the same problem and has an experience in solving it. It is always reliable and better than reading some manual or something like that.”

Milica Mima Ruzicic-Novkovic, president of Centre Living Upright, said that one of the most important parts of the program was to witness what each country was doing and the similarities and differences.

“I can say that I’m proud of us because we had great communication online and a wonderful experience when Rhonda was with us and I think that our center’s team accepted her as a part of it so she’s now a part of the family in a way and also here I am feeling myself as at home,” she said.

All of the 19 different groups are coming together for a conference in D.C. from Oct. 31 to Nov. 2 where they will all present their projects to be implemented upon their return home.

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