February 20, 2014

Jessica Pope
Communications and Media Relations Coordinator

Professor’s Fulbright Grant Leads to Partnership Between VSU, Lithuania

VALDOSTA — Valdosta State University now offers a study abroad program in the largest of the three Baltic states, the Republic of Lithuania, a country in Northern Europe. Frank Barnas and Marie Elliott plan to take the first group of Mass Media Program students to the country in June 2015.

“In addition to touring the region,” said Barnas, a professor of mass media at VSU, “we will produce a documentary concerning the outdoor sculptures in this area.”

The study abroad program developed from Barnas’s semester teaching two courses — one in news writing for undergraduate students, the other in American media for graduate students — at Lithuania’s Klaipeda University, an opportunity funded by a Core Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program grant. In addition to providing instruction to his Lithuanian students, he became a student himself, learning how the barely 20-year-old institution had developed its even younger Journalism Program — a program he described as being “incredibly innovative with their news courses.”

Over the course of his semester abroad, Barnas noted that he and Daiva Janaviciene, head of the Journalism Program at Klaipeda University, discussed several initiatives that could potentially be pursued to the benefit of students and faculty in both South Georgia and Lithuania. Discussions continued when Elliott, an assistant professor of mass media and head of the Mass Media Program at VSU, arrived in Lithuania in December, he said.

Elliott offered information about online initiatives that could be shared between the two universities. She also completed a site survey for a study abroad program that would make the Bachelor of Fine Arts offered by VSU’s Mass Media Program a more global experience.

Having received additional support from representatives of the U.S. Embassy in Lithuania, Barnas and Elliott returned to Valdosta State in January, eager to pursue university approval for a partnership between the two institutions.

Dr. Ray Young, interim head of VSU’s Department of Communication Arts, agreed to Barnas teaching an online graduate course in American media during the upcoming fall semester for Klaipeda University students.

Dr. Ivan Nikolov, director of VSU’s Center for International Programs, affirmed the proposed study abroad program in Lithuania for Mass Media Program students.

“We would like,” Barnas said, “to develop a cross-certification project for Klaipeda University students in which they successfully complete three VSU online courses. This would lead to the students receiving a certificate of completion from VSU. Due to a current directive from the Lithuanian Ministry of Education, all graduate students must complete 25 percent of their courses outside of Lithuania’s borders. The dean of Klaipeda University is seeking clarification that online courses qualify for this policy.”

The cross-certificate is still a work in progress, but both sides are optimistic, Elliott added.

Each year, the Core Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program selects roughly 800 American scholars and professionals to lecture and/or conduct research in a wide variety of academic and professional fields in approximately 130 countries. Participants are chosen on the basis of their academic and/or professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership in their fields.

The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. It was established in 1946 to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.

In 2004, Barnas participated in a Fulbright German Studies Seminar, Visual Culture in Germany.

Barnas said that Nina Murray, cultural attaché, and Rasa Baukuviene, academic affairs specialist, both with the U.S. Embassy in Vilnius, Lithuania, encouraged him to pursue a Fulbright Senior Specialist Program grant, which may fund his return to the country for shorter periods of time — two to six weeks — to facilitate education initiatives between Klaipeda University and VSU. 

Contact Frank Barnas at (229) 333-7099 or fbarnas@valdosta.edu or Marie Elliott at (229) 249-4876 or mmelliott@valdosta.edu to learn more.

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Valdosta State University’s 2013-2019 Strategic Plan represents a renewal of energy and commitment to the foundational principles for comprehensive institutions.

Implementation of the plan’s five goals, along with their accompanying objectives and strategies, supports VSU’s institutional mission and the University System of Georgia’s mission for comprehensive universities.

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