UMass Amherst Professor Jan Servaes Named UNESCO Chair in Communication

September 8, 2011

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AMHERST, Mass. - Jan E. Servaes, professor of communication and director of the Center for Communication for Sustainable Social Change (CSSC) at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, has been named a United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Chair in Communication. The position is one of 19 UNESCO chairs in the U.S. and one of only three in communication.

Servaes holds the first UNESCO chair in communication proper; the other two are in international journalism. Globally, he joins an elite group of 29 UNESCO chairs in communication, all coordinated by ORBICOM, an international network that links communications leaders from academic, media, corporate and government circles for information exchange and the development of shared projects.

To recognize this achievement, the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences (SBS) and the department of communication will host a lecture by Servaes on Monday, Oct. 3 at 4 p.m. in the Campus Center, Amherst Room, 10th floor. Titled "Communication for Sustainable Social Change: Back to the Basics," it will be followed by a question-and-answer period and reception.

Robert S. Feldman, dean of SBS, says, "We are delighted by Jan’s appointment to this position. While he already has an extraordinary international reputation, this recognition adds depth to his vision for the center as an international resource base and focal point for broad interdisciplinary studies. The objectives of CSSC align perfectly with the goals of UNESCO."

One of UNESCO’s major roles in the U.N. system is to build capacity in developing countries and regions emerging from conflict through flagship initiatives, such as Education for All, the Literacy Initiative for Empowerment, and the International Program for the Development of Communication. Since 1992, UNESCO has worked to strengthen higher education in the developing world through the UNITWIN (university twinning and networking) and UNESCO chairs programs. These programs encourage higher education systems in the industrial world to build relationships and share research and expertise with institutions in developing countries as well as regions in transition. Each year, UNESCO designates approximately 30 new UNITWIN networks and UNESCO chairs in total throughout the world; a majority is awarded to universities.

Servaes, who has written extensively on issues related to communication for development and social change and is internationally recognized for his theoretical contributions, will work closely with UNESCO to help achieve its goals. He will promote an integrated system of research, training, information and documentation in communication for sustainable social change. He will also encourage collaboration between high-level, internationally recognized researchers and teaching staff at UMass Amherst and other institutions throughout the U.S. and around the world.

Specifically, Servaes will provide impetus internationally and nationally to the study and practice of development communication and social change and encourage a greater understanding of the role communication plays in poverty reduction and the promotion of human rights, gender equality, social justice, security and good governance.

As UNESCO chair, Servaes, who has been president of the European Consortium for Communications Research (ECCR), vice president of the International Association for Media and Communication Research (IAMCR), and an international consultant to intergovernmental and non-governmental agencies, will advise national and international aid administrators, policymakers and other stakeholders on policies and planning matters in the field of communication for sustainable social change. He also will work to raise their awareness of innovative applied communication and technology processes for development.

Through the establishment of an online clearinghouse for documentation, publications, and other relevant development communication materials and information, Servaes will also provide a global focal point and base for research and theoretical work in the field. In addition, he will be promoting the role of critical and informed journalism for sustainable development and the achievement of UNESCO’s Millennium Development Goals. By promoting wider public understanding of cultural diversity and dialogue, the intent is to strengthen international cooperation and peace.

Lisa Henderson, chair of the department of communication, says, "Jan is bringing his multinational, multilingual practice in development communication into undergraduate and graduate classrooms, engaging a new generation of communication students to practice development communication. This past August, he hosted a very successful conference on campus about U.S./Chinese media and public diplomacy with participants from Hong Kong, the People’s Republic of China, Thailand, Macao, Brazil and North America. The UNESCO chair is a bright honor that will support the work of the CSSC, as the center supports the work of UNESCO. We are delighted by the confirmation."