Giving Students a Global Perspective


Former AP correspondent and hostage Terry Anderson brings his world of knowledge to UK.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 25, 2009) - Internationalization is a top priority at the University of Kentucky, with a growing emphasis on providing all students with international opportunities during their college career. As part of this ongoing effort, UK has gained someone who has not only spent his life living and working around the globe, but has experienced a darker side of it as well. 

Terry Anderson, a former chief Middle East correspondent for the Associated Press, spent nearly seven years as a hostage in Lebanon from 1985 to 1991. Anderson came to UK this past January to teach a course in the UK School of Journalism and Telecommunications within the College of Communications and Information Studies, and has brought his lifetime of experience, the good and the bad, along with him.

"In this world today, it is absolutely essential that young people have a global perspective," Anderson says. "If you don't understand other people, other cultures, other points of view, then you're going to be left behind."

Anderson began his career in journalism in 1965 right after high school by joining the U.S. Marines and eventually became a combat correspondent in Vietnam. He later attended college at Iowa State University, and after obtaining a degree in broadcast journalism, he began working with the Associated Press in Detroit, later moving to Louisville and New York City. He then became a foreign correspondent in Asia and Africa and in 1982 volunteered to help out in Beirut in the Middle East. He found the area fascinating and soon became a chief correspondent for the AP.

In March of 1985, Anderson was on assignment in Beirut when pro-Iranian terrorists pulled him out of his car at gunpoint. He was held captive for almost seven years with several other U.S. citizens. On Dec. 4, 1991, his kidnappers finally released him, allowing him to reconnect with his family, and meet his daughter for the first time, who was born three months after his abduction.

[IMAGE3]After his release, Anderson became highly involved in freedom of the press issues. He has taught courses at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism and Ohio University, and in 1994, wrote a book titled "Den of Lions," which was a national best-selling memoir recounting his experiences in Lebanon. In 1999, Anderson helped create the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism's foreign internship program at Ohio University by establishing a connection between students and news outlets in the Middle East.

Now at UK, Anderson's wealth of experience is enhancing UK's global reach by encouraging more students to study abroad, as well as encouraging more international students to come to UK.

While Anderson has former teaching experience, he has spent the majority of his career working as a journalist, and draws from his experiences to use in his teaching. While he brings a vast knowledge of the world to his students, he says they give back just as much.

"I really enjoy teaching. I enjoy talking to and listening to my students. I've found that I end up learning just as much from them as they learn from me. "

Anderson teaches a journalism course called Mass Media and Diversity. The course explores gender, religion and minority issues and their presentation in the media. While often difficult subjects for students to talk about, Anderson says, it's important they learn to understand and face these issues in today's world. 

"Students must learn how to deal with people who are different than they are, because most of the world is. We must learn to know and respect other cultures, and the only way you can do that is by learning about them."

In addition to teaching, Anderson works on projects within the UK Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues and the UK Scripps Howard First Amendment Center, both housed in the UK School of Journalism and Telecommunications. He also works with the Education Abroad office, drawing on his connections around the world to find more international experiences for students.

Recently, Anderson received a $100,000 grant to start a work study program in Beirut. Starting next summer, he plans to take around six students from the School of Journalism and Telecommunications to the Middle East for a five-week study program. The grant will allow him to take a group of students every summer for the next three years, where they will study Middle Eastern issues. Anderson's overall goal is to see more journalism students studying abroad at least once during their time at UK.

"There is no experience that is more broadening or educational then going to work in a newsroom outside of the U.S.," Anderson says. "I think we really need to make those kinds of experiences available to students."

When asked what his students think about having a former hostage as an instructor, Anderson made it clear his teaching does not center around his experience in Lebanon.

"I teach journalism, not how to be a hostage," Anderson laughs. "I do refer to my experiences in the Middle East, Asia and Africa and the things I've learned that I can apply to issues of diversity, but I don't make my personal experience the focus.

I believe very strongly in the value of journalism. We cannot have a free society without a free press, and I have seen that firsthand. There are journalists around the world who don't know if they are going to be alive at the end of the day. It's a very dangerous profession. But they do it because they know it's important."