Communication Studies Professor Brings Transnational Perspective to Students
Introducing new perspectives can help students learn about unique cultures and explore similarities and differences.
Ikram Toumi, an assistant professor in the School of Communication Studies, has brought that possibility to Kent State University with her global education initiatives. Originally from Tunisia, Toumi is tri-lingual, speaking Arabic, English and French, which fuels her interest in multicultural and socially diverse dimensions of global media and communication.
She also works on social change, social movements, media literacy, globalization, immigration, acculturation and identity.
In an effort to bring a global perspective to Kent State students, Toumi developed a collaboration with the Ghana Institute of Journalism in Accra, Ghana, bringing those students to social media courses at Kent State.
One of the social media courses Toumi instructs is Social Media and Globalization, a class that transcends the borders and geography of the United States perspective. In each class session, American and Ghanaian students collaborate and attend lectures through virtual video conferencing, where they discuss social media and work on group projects.
“They have social media interviews with each other and work on a couple of assignments,” Toumi said. “That’s what we do in these collaborations, and I’m hoping to develop a new one with the University of Rwanda.”
In addition to connecting Kent State and Rwandan students, Toumi wants to help students develop a new understanding of other cultures and the way they communicate.
“We're very ethnocentric in the way we look at the world and what we do,” Toumi said. “So, these collaborations and discussing issues, theories and concepts that we learn in class with people from another part of the world expand their worldview.”
An opportunity like this could be comparable to a study abroad experience without the financial and travel burden, Toumi said. It gives students a chance to expand their horizons by exploring social media and communication practices from another culture.
Toumi also has connected her undergraduate alma mater, the Institute of Press and Information Sciences in Tunisia, with Kent State by merging Intercultural Communication classes from the two universities via video conferencing.
The program is currently on hold, but she has worked with her colleagues to create a meaningful and diverse learning experience for students with the help of the Center for African Studies. One such project culminated with the students' work — those from Tunisia and Kent State — being displayed as part of the annual Communication in Action event in Taylor Hall.
“We chose topics and themes, and we had students from Tunisia and students from here discuss those themes based on what they learned in the classes,” Toumi said.
Students also have the opportunity to have hands-on collaboration while reading about theories that include diverse backgrounds and experiences.
Perhaps the most rewarding aspect of Toumi’s job is sharing her knowledge with students in lectures and seeing them connect and interact with one another.
“We can bring two countries together and see them exchange anecdotes, life stories and their favorite social media platforms,” Toumi said. “Those things really make me happy, and it makes me feel that this is all worth it. We also did an infographic project at the end of the semester, and some of the groups presented together. I had my students standing there and the Ghanaian students on Google Meet, and they were taking turns presenting their parts of the project.”