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Journalism professor returns to Rwanda on Fulbright grant

While many families were getting ready for a festive holiday season in December, Steven Pasternack was getting ready to return to his home away from home.

Steve Pasternack, a journalism professor at NMSU, traveled to Rwanda under a Fulbright Senior Specialists grant during the holiday season.

The journalism professor at New Mexico State University was awarded a Fulbright Senior Specialists grant in communications and journalism, which sent him to the National University of Rwanda to continue work he had previously begun.

The program offers two- to six-week grants to leading U.S. academics and professionals to support curricular and faculty development and institutional planning at academic institutions in 140 countries around the world.

Rwanda "has become in some way my adopted second homeland," Pasternack said in an e-mail while in Rwanda. "I have made many friends here -- professionally and personally -- and have come to appreciate the place, its culture and its people."

During his time in the African country, Pasternack taught a course in international press law, conducted an assessment study on the needs of the school for the United Nations and met with government officials and others regarding the establishment of private radio. He also worked one week at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda, assisting the Department of Communication with curricular development and, just for fun, he climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania - 19,340 feet above sea level - during the holidays.

Pasternack, who has been featured in the Council for International Exchange of Scholars (CIES) 2001 annual report and on the Fulbright Senior Specialists Program brochure, was in Rwanda from Dec. 15, 2002, to Jan. 21, 2003, his 11th time since 1998.

He said he is fortunate to have spent so much time in the "beautiful, but troubled place" that is Rwanda. In 1994, an estimated 800,000 Rwandans were massacred in a period of three months by extremists from the Hutu majority who instigated a hate campaign against minority Tutsis and Hutu moderates.

The troubles that plague the country are not enough to keep Pasternack away.

"I hope to continue visiting Rwanda as well as other countries, to continue this type of work in the future," he said. "For me, it is highly gratifying work and I hope those I work with find my work and visits helpful. If their showing of appreciation is any indication, these have been very successful visits."

Pasternack will return to Rwanda in late March to do an assessment of journalism for UNESCO, and in June to teach at the university again.

The Senior Specialist Program aims to increase the number of faculty and professionals who go abroad on Fulbrights. It was created to complement the traditional Fulbright Scholar Program.

The purpose of the Fulbright program is to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. It's sponsored by the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and managed by the CIES.