GSMC Day One

I am pleased to announce that I today take up the role of dean of the Graduate School of Media and Communications (GSMC) at Aga Khan University (AKU) in Nairobi.
The goal is to help the young program grow from the solid foundation built by my predecessor, former Newsweek editor Michael Meyer, and broaden its footprint across East Africa and beyond. While this is an extremely challenging time for universities and journalism organizations around the world, I firmly believe the crisis also opens opportunities for new ways of thinking about what we do.
I will be dividing my time between Kenya and the UK, two of the six countries where AKU has campuses.
For those of you not familiar with Aga Khan University, it is a multi-national institution that operates on three continents, employing more than 15,000 faculty and staff, with medical schools in East Africa and Pakistan.
AKU was founded in 1983 by His Highness the Aga Khan, spiritual leader of the world’s Isma’ili Muslims and chancellor of the university. It is designed as “a unique hybrid: an institution of academic excellence that is also an agent for social development.” AKU is part of the Aga Khan Development Network, one of the world’s largest philanthropies, with an annual budget of $1 billion.
Journalism is extremely important to the Aga Khan, who also founded Kenya’s dominant media group, The Nation. His Highness was responsible for creating the GSMC, which offers an MA in Journalism and Digital Media and conducts a range of professional training and research activities. The model is similar to that of the Adham Center for Digital Journalism at the American University of Cairo, of which I was director in the years leading up to the Arab Spring, and the Centre for Excellence in Journalism in Karachi, which I have advised since its inception.
The move to AKU is a logical progression in a career that has been focused on international journalism. No aspect of that career has been more satisfying than playing a small part in helping guide the careers of reporters and editors in places like the Middle East, South Asia and the Caucasus who daily tackle challenges their counterparts in the West cannot even imagine (even in an age when the U.S. president has labeled American journalists enemies of the people).
At GSMC/AKU, I will be able to continue that work within an organization whose core mission is that of empowering the people of the developing world and that, in the current crisis, is literally saving lives through its hospitals in East Africa and South Asia.
There is also a certain symmetry to the move. Kenya was the place I filed my first story as an eager young foreign correspondent fresh out of university decades ago. I went on to report from 18 African countries, 15 Arab nations and dozens of other countries in South Asia, Southeast Asia and Europe. But Kenya has always held a special place in my journalistic heart.

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