Pitt-Bradford Students hold Video Discussion with Students in Cairo

BRADFORD, Pa. – Students from the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford’s Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences had the chance to meet with their counterparts in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday in a video dialogue.

The designated topic for the hour-long discussion with students from American University in Cairo was whether U.S. foreign policy favors Israel over Arab countries. First, however, the American students had a chance to ask questions about the ongoing revolution in Egypt that ousted its autocratic president, Hosni Mubarak.

“I was really impressed with their candor,” said Jude Harter, a social studies education major from Clarendon. “We’re reading the headlines; they’re living the headlines.”

Harter found the Egyptian students very willing to discuss the situation and clearly used to doing so.

“This is the air they breathe,” he said.

Students in Bradford began by asking questions about the role of social media in the eruption of the Egyptian revolution.

Students in Cairo responded that although it played a role in helping people meet up, it played a greater role in spreading news. They noted that most Egyptians don’t have Internet access.

Pitt-Bradford students asked if the students in Cairo had any concerns about the revolution moving forward and discovered they had many.

AUC students were concerned that because of a high illiteracy rate, much of the population could be easily influenced by fundamentalist leaders.

Other topics of conversation included how a new political makeup in parliament following elections could affect Egypt’s relationship with Israel. Mubarak carried out a peace agreement with Israel reached by then-president Anwar Sadat.

Any new president will have to reconsider Egypt’s relationship with Israel, one of the Egyptian students answered, saying, “Very few Egyptians are content right now considering Israel and the Middle East.”

Some of the Pitt-Bradford students’ questions were simple, highlighting the differences between the two cultures.

“Why is there such tension now between Israel and Egypt?” one asked.

There are no new tensions, the Egyptian students answered, just the means now to do something about the old ones.

Ken Berkopec, a history-political science major from Bradford was excited by the conversation.

“This ties in with everything we’re talking about in our foreign policy class,” he said, looking at his professor, Dr. Sooh-Rhee Ryu, assistant professor of political science.

Berkopec and the other students will have a second chance to talk with the students in Egypt next week when the two sides meet via video dialogue to further discuss the Egyptian political revolution.

Dr. Tony Gaskew, assistant professor of criminal justice, set up the dialogue with the help of the Consortium for Educational Resources on Islamic Studies. Gaskew is a Fulbright-Hays Fellow, FDD Terrorism Fellow and Human Dignity and Humiliation Studies Research Fellow who has traveled the Middle East studying terrorism.

“Building interdisciplinary relationships is the key,” Gaskew said. “The video dialogues provide a unique opportunity to use our technological resources at Pitt-Bradford to expand the level of global scholarship and cultural awareness of our students. I hope to expand this platform in the future with guest lecturers who specialize in a variety of topics focusing on the Middle East.”

Technical help for the dialogue was provided at Pitt-Bradford by Bernie Picklo, academic technology integrator, and Greg Miller, coordinator of residential network services.

Hosting the dialogue in Cairo was Dr. Riham Bahi, a visiting assistant professor at AUC and an assistant professor at Cairo University. She earned her doctoral degree at Northeastern University in Boston and conducts several projects to increase understanding between the U.S. and the Muslim world.


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