October 27, 2010
Scholarships Help Student Attain Goals
Steven Jango-Cohen, right, and friend Blanca, center,
making friends in Cusco, Peru.
“During junior year I faced a complicated set of circumstances,” says Steven Jango-Cohen ’11 (communication/
Spanish). “I really wanted to study abroad and do an internship before graduation. Money was definitely an issue. If I went abroad, then I wouldn’t have time to do a senior-year internship because I’d have to work to cover the debt incurred from living abroad.”
Three things happened that really helped Jango-Cohen. He received an SBS Study Abroad Scholarship, funded by Jeffrey Katz ’69 (economics), to help defray costs for the spring semester in Argentina, and American Airlines gave him a scholarship to cover costs to and from his destination. And then, in May, Jango-Cohen won the William M. Bluestein Memorial Scholarship that helps students who are interested in economics, technology or public policy and want to do an unpaid internship but can’t afford to not work for the semester.”
First, let’s review Jango-Cohen’s experience in Argentina. “I wanted to go to a place that would be fascinating and fun, but one that wouldn’t be so international that everyone would be able to speak English,” he says. “I also really wanted to improve my Spanish skills, and had thought that Sevilla, Spain was going to end up being the choice. At the Study Abroad Fair on campus though, I kept hearing that Buenos Aires was perfect for me. A professor, who had lived in both, voted for Argentina.”
Jango-Cohen is thrilled with his choice. “At UMass I learned about how the language you speak may determine how you think of the world, so I wanted to experience this firsthand. Being in Latin America, immersed in its culture and language, traveling within the country—and not from a tourist perspective—was amazing, a totally new realm for me. I knew little of the region and its history, its poverty and politics. That’s changed now. Probably the best part was traveling to indigenous mountain villages without electricity, all the while hiking and joking with people so far from me in terms of the vast distance created by geography, language and culture.”
This fall Jango-Cohen is participating in an internship with Free Press, a national, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization working to reform the media. Through education, organizing and advocacy, Free Press promotes diverse and independent media ownership, strong public media, quality journalism, and universal access to communications. The idea, explains Jango-Cohen, is to eliminate media’s dubious links with corporate America and develop news that is aggressive and relevant.
Reforming news caught Jango-Cohen’s attention during his introductory communication class with Professor Lynn Phillips. “Since then, with every newspaper I read or news program I watch, my gut tells me something has to change. Reforming our media is an efficient, all-encompassing way of helping to alleviate problems in our society. If we can find a way to ensure that news is independent from advertisers’ pockets and owners’ ideologies, and that it focuses on issues rather than political fallout surrounding an issue, then our world could experience an unbelievably positive impact.”
Asked to be more explicit, Jango-Cohen shares an example. “Everyday, without fail, I’ve read an article ‘analyzing’ a new poll that reveals American attitudes toward the economy. One recent piece was replete with informative images of bears and bulls colliding in an apparent struggle to determine the economic fortunes of a nation. It displayed three giant smiley faces with percentages listed underneath, scientifically depicting whether the participants in the poll believed that our economy would improve, stay the same, or worsen in the next year. When this graph or its various reincarnations appears on television, it’s bound to be followed by a segment analyzing what these smiley faces mean for the Obama administration going into mid-term elections.
“When this all comes to a conclusion,” Jango-Cohen continues, “Americans go to bed thinking they’ve just educated themselves by watching the news, when they really haven’t been taught anything about why the economy is acting as it is, or how we can improve it through new legislation or individual action. All we know is that about one third of Americans think the economy will get better, a third think it will get worse, and a third don’t have any opinion at all but still bothered to respond to the poll.”
Jango-Cohen thinks we can do better. “There’s really something wrong when our citizens angrily explain what’s wrong with our society based on talk show tirades, which then leads to discussions of death panels and Ground Zero mosques. Our citizens need to be better informed. Meanwhile, multi-national corporations that determine if we go to war, if we will continue to ravage our environment, and how our children will be educated are affecting policies as favors for campaign contributions.
“Instead of allowing this to happen, our media should be working to improve the lives of our people by making these issues lucid and topics of national debate. That’s why I appreciate the Bluestein Scholarship so much. If it hadn’t come my way, I honestly wouldn’t have been able to participate in the Free Press internship. That would have been horrible, considering how much I care about the topic and that the office is right here in nearby Florence.”