Three UT professors, all from the College of Communication and Information, have been accepted to the US Department of State’s Diplomacy Lab for spring 2018—Stuart Brotman, Devendra Dilip Potnis, and Sam Swan.
UT’s Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy has been a partner in the Diplomacy Lab since fall 2015. Students and faculty have the opportunity to contribute directly to the policy-making process by engaging with the State Department through videos and teleconferences.
The project allows students to establish partnerships with policy makers, explore real-world challenges, and present their research to State Department officials.
JEM Professor Brotman, the inaugural Herb Howard Distinguished Endowed Professor of Media Management and Law and Beaman Professor of Communication and Information, has taught two previous Diplomacy Lab seminars. He will lead a team of students that will focus on how select countries around the world are limiting global internet freedom in a project called Identifying and Assisting “Tipping Point Countries” for Internet Freedom Globally.
“Having taught two other Diplomacy Lab seminars since joining the UT faculty in 2016, I know firsthand what an extraordinary learning experience it is for students to develop real-world research, analysis, and recommendations for the US Department of State,” said Brotman. “I welcome both undergraduates with junior standing and graduate students—from a range of majors—for this truly unique course.”
Potnis, an associate professor in the School of Information Sciences, has also taught two previous Diplomacy Lab seminars. His project, Digital Literacy and Good Governance, works with the US Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, to develop a “citizen-centric digital literacy index” for understanding, explaining, and predicting the willingness and capability of citizens to detect and alleviate corruption. His students will seek answers to specific research topics by drawing from interdisciplinary literature on public administration and policy, information science, communication, education, and psychology.
Swan, professor of journalism and electronic media and director of internationalization and outreach for the College of Communication and Information, will lead a group of students in a project titled Social Media Wars: The Battle for Influence in Bulgaria. In this course, students will monitor social media posts from the embassies of the US, Russia, and China, in Bulgaria and compare information being disseminated about the US and world affairs. This is the first Diplomacy Lab seminar taught by Swan.
“I am excited about working with the US Embassy and leading media companies in Bulgaria to explore the use of social media,” said Swan, who has worked for 17 years training journalists in Bulgaria. “This is now a great opportunity to do exciting research about social media use there.”