This semester, the communications department of Elizabethtown College is proud to welcome Egyptian Fulbright scholar Dr. Magda Bagnied. The department of communications is fortunate to have such an opportunity, as Bagnied is among Etown’s first Fulbright Scholars. Bagnied will give multiple guest lectures during the semester and is the instructor of the course Mass Media in the Middle East. Bagnied also joins the faculty of Etown at a crucial turning point in Arab history.
The Arab Awakening, or Arab Spring, began in December of 2010 with the violent and powerful revolution of Tunisian citizens. Through international inspiration via social media, revolution has since spread to Egypt, then to Libya, later reaching throughout the Arab world and even influencing the Occupy movement of the United States.
Having witnessed the Awakening and other important events in the Middle East from Egyptian soil, Bagnied has made invaluable observations, which would otherwise be missed by most Etown students. She also brings with her a vast educational background and multiple years of communications and journalism experience.
While the Egyptian and Israeli governments were carrying out an Israeli-Egyptian peace initiative in the late 1970s, Bagnied had a first-hand view of the proceedings. Bagnied recounted her experience: “I witnessed this in the office, and I participated in some of the stories. By this, I worked with the late Peter Jennings, an ABC anchorman. And I met Barbara Walters, and I met all of the top level people with the news business, both ABC and NBC.”
Bagnied obtained her doctorate from Cairo University in 1983. Bagnied stated that she considers her doctorate degree to be “just by name [from] Cairo University.” She added, “But the actual work was here in the United States.” She achieved this degree with first honors, but according to Bagnied, she was not even thinking of a doctorate degree before she managed to obtain such a high level of honors. She explained, “You know, a Ph.D. was not in my mind … you take things as they come along.”
Bagnied’s doctoral thesis topic was the United States’ broadcast coverage of the peace initiative, and so she came to the U.S. for two years with a Walter Williams fellowship from the Missouri School of Journalism. While she was here, Bagnied was able to research her topic in the U.S. National Archives and the Vanderbilt University archives. She was very pleased with her studies for these two years. Bagnied stated, “I had many people helping me here. It was so good.”
Because the majority of the work Bagnied completed for her doctorate took place in the U.S., she is well acquainted with both Arab and American perspectives. Upon completing her doctorate program with Cairo University, Bagnied was offered a job as a professor at the American University in Cairo (AUC). She accepted this job, and worked there until the spring of 2008.
While she was on the faculty at the AUC and while she was a student, she hosted various radio shows; wrote for the Cairo University magazine, “Caravan;” authored a book related to her doctoral topic; and contributed prolifically to the Egyptian and American media. Bagnied called it “having one foot in the media and one foot in academia.”
She did not yet have many observations to offer, regarding the differences between the Egyptian students taught in the past and the American students she is currently teaching at Etown. She did, however, note that “students are students,” and she does know of the similarities between the Egyptian people and those of the U.S., namely, that the social interactions are far more informal than those of other cultures.
Bagnied stated, “In America, you deal more easily with the people. You don’t have to have an official introduction … When you meet somebody, like British people, and you talk to them like the Americans … the British would stop and say, ‘Have we been officially introduced?’ I mean, come on, Egyptians are like you guys.” She later stressed the importance of acknowledging how we all come from different backgrounds but are unified by the titles “American” or “Egyptian.”
Bagnied will be presenting the first of her six guest lectures to the Introduction to International Business class on Feb. 16. She will also be presenting a lecture, which is open to the student body, at 11 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 29.