Commencement Weekend May 15-17, 2009 - International Women’s Media Foundation
The Conferring of Honorary Degrees
International Women’s Media Foundation
Citation Presented by Kristine Mitchell, Assistant Professor of Political Science and International Studies
Conferring of the degree by William G. Durden, President
We recognize the International Women’s Media Foundation today as an outstanding advocate and invaluable resource for women in international media.
Two weeks ago I sat at a table of political science seniors at our annual department dinner when the conversation turned spontaneously to how much the students were looking forward to this year’s graduation speaker, Christiane Amanpour.
When I asked why, several praised her professional commitment and her courage. After all, this is a woman who, in the name of journalistic service, has reported from some of the most fractious regions of the world—the Balkans, Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel, Pakistan, Somalia and Rwanda—in order to illuminate crises and conflicts for those of us who are safely out of harm’s way. And this is an era when reporters face grave personal risks in the line of work.
One student noted that Ms. Amanpour lives her life the way Dickinson exhorts us all to do: engaging the world. She crisscrosses the globe, opening our eyes and connecting us with distant but important events. As Elizabeth Jensen wrote in the NY Times in 2007, “In her 25 years at CNN, Christiane Amanpour has hopscotched the world, the very model of a foreign correspondent, turning up at seemingly every war, genocide, famine and natural disaster, slipping through previously closed borders and interviewing even the most recalcitrant of foreign leaders.”
Americans have a long history of insularity, a tendency to look inward. But as the links among peoples and countries have made isolationism a virtual impossibility, in recent decades more than ever, we must all work to understand the world around us. Fortunately we have guides like Ms. Amanpour to help us navigate the complexities of international politics and the conflicts they too frequently generate.
And although it wasn’t mentioned by any of the seniors at the dinner table, there’s another reason—a more prosaic one—that Ms. Amanpour makes for an impressive role model—especially for the members of our 2009 graduating class who leave Dickinson with big ambitions. And that is her phenomenal—and fast—rise to prominence within her profession.
Many college grads begin their careers in entry-level positions, and Ms. Amanpour is no exception. But she didn’t stay on the bottom rung for long. Only a few years out of college, she was reporting from Eastern Europe as communism crumbled. And within seven years of her
graduation day she was earning accolades for her work as a CNN foreign correspondent in the Middle East during the 1990 Gulf War.
That same year, the International Women’s Media Foundation was established with the mission of connecting women in news media around the globe, recognizing their achievements, and supporting their advancement. In 1994 the Foundation honored Ms. Amanpour’s reporting on the Balkans with its Courage in Journalism Award, and in 2007, named her to its board of directors.
The International Women’s Media Foundation celebrates the important achievements of women in news media around the world. But it also recognizes that, with women representing fewer than 1/3 of news media executives, there is significant work to be done before gender equality becomes a reality—in newsrooms as elsewhere.
Ms. Amanpour, we recognize you today both for your individual achievements and as a representative of the International Women’s Media Foundation, whose emphasis on working collaboratively, internationally and for positive change serves as an emblem of what the Dickinson community values most.
Christiane Amanpour, upon the recommendation of the Faculty to the Board of Trustees, and by its mandamus, I confer the Degree of Doctor of Journalism, honoris causa, with all the rights, privileges, and distinction thereunto appertaining, in token of which I present you on behalf of the International Women’s Media Foundation with the hood of Dickinson College appropriate to the degree.
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