July 31, 2014  

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Mass Communication Graduate Student Recipient of Open Society Fellowship

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Bahtiyar Kurambaev

A University of Southern Mississippi graduate student is the recipient of a fellowship from the Open Society Foundations, an organization dedicated to social justice around the world.

Bahtiyar Kurambaev, a third-year doctoral student in mass communication, will use the fellowship to build global relationships with other social science scholars and researchers to contribute to a body of knowledge in their respective disciplines.

The Open Society Fellowship was founded in 2008 to support individuals pursuing innovative and unconventional approaches to fundamental open society challenges. The fellowship funds work enriching public understanding of those challenges and stimulating far-reaching and probing conversations within the Open Society Foundations and in the world.

Kurambaev’s research area includes new media, social media, audience research, globalization and Central Asia. He is currently working on his doctoral dissertation, which examines civic engagement among social media users.

“The fellowship provides a great opportunity to network with scholars from the around world, share research ideas and explore potential collaboration internationally,” Kurambaev said. During the spring 2014 semester, he attended an Open Society conference in New York City for scholars from the former Soviet Union and Central Asia.
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The Open Society Foundations stated mission includes the commitment “to work to build vibrant and tolerant societies whose governments are accountable and open to the participation of all people.” It leverages the expertise and resources of individuals and organizations around the world in addressing a variety of issues, particularly those connected with protecting and improving the lives of people in marginalized communities. 

Fellowship projects may identify a problem that has not previously been recognized, develop new policy ideas to address familiar problems, or offer a new advocacy strategy. Project themes should include at least two areas of interest to the Open Society Foundations, which are human rights, government transparency, access to information and to justice and the promotion of civil society and social inclusion.

Open Society Fellows are encouraged to take advantage of the foundations' expansive reach and work to bring new people and fresh ideas into the organization’s ambit. Successful projects should push the boundaries of current thinking and carry lessons that can be applied to a variety of settings. Fellows may produce a variety of work products, including publications such as books, reports, or blogs; innovative public-education projects; or the launch of new campaigns or organizations. They may also engage in activities such as hosting panel discussions, traveling to conferences, participating in policy debates, and aggressively promoting their ideas in public venues.

Kurambaev teaches Introduction to Mass Communications and Theories of Mass Communications in the university’s School of Mass Communication and Journalism. During the spring 2014 semester, he received the school’s Top Graduate Student Teacher Award. 

Dr. Mary Lou Sheffer, associate professor in the school, serves as Kurambaev’s dissertation adviser. “He’s a very hard working and diligent graduate student,” Sheffer said of Kurambaev. “I've had the pleasure of having him in several of my graduate courses, and he has shown himself to be a very sagacious and thoughtful student.”

For more information about Open Society Foundations, visit http://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/. For information about the Southern Miss School of Mass Communication and Journalism, visit www.usm.edu/mcj.