LA ROCHE PROFESSOR TEACHES IN KOSOVO AS PART OF SUMMER YOUTH PROGRAM
Pittsburgh, August 16—Jeff Ritter, Ph.D., chair of the Communication, Media and Technology Department at La Roche College, enjoyed a unique teaching experience this summer. Ritter spent July 17-28 teaching in the Mitrovica Youth Program, a summer program based in Mitrovica, Kosovo. His course, titled “Media and Democracy,” was modeled after his class of the same name at La Roche.
Ritter shared his teaching duties with a professor from Belgrade and two professors from Mitrovica while in Kosovo. Together, they worked to help their students view media and democracy as a fluid, connected system with a variety of channels, possibilities and perspectives and also as an accessible and participatory system.
The Mitrovica Youth Program is run by ATA, an independent, not-for-profit foundation based at the University of Amsterdam that supports the ongoing processes of transition and reconstruction in post-conflict societies. Ritter lived and taught on the northern (Serbian) side of Mitrovica, which is divided by a bridge from the southern (Albanian) side. Most of the students in Ritter’s course were Serbian. They are college students receiving college credit for taking classes in the summer program. ATA advertised for students with flyers and radio ads throughout Mitrovica. Ritter first heard about the program from a La Roche graduate from Kosovo. He submitted a proposal detailing his "Media and Democracy" class and was selected to teach.
The class met six hours a day for 10 days and focused on reading, discussion, movies, group work and presentations. This type of cooperative learning was different from what most of the Serbian students had ever experienced, noted Ritter. The students were used to professors teaching in the European style, in which the instructor gives a lecture and then leaves the room directly afterward. Ritter’s class, however, allowed the students to interact with him.
“Students in the United States and at La Roche, specifically, are used to having back-and-forth discussions with their teachers,” Ritter said. “It’s a given that their instructors will be there for them, but the students in my Kosovo classes had never experienced this sharing of information before. They really seemed to respond to the fact that I cared about them and was willing to talk to them and listen to their opinions.”
A member of the La Roche faculty since 1996, Ritter teaches classes focused on Communication, Media and Technology, and works closely with students to run the La Roche Web Radio station, “The Electric Bean.” He also wrote and directed “Abantu N'Umuco” (People and Culture), a documentary film about Rwandan students attending college in the United States. It was shown at multiple film festivals and conferences throughout 2004 - 2005. Ritter’s travels have included South Africa and Rwanda.