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Wake Forest program builds connections between American and European youth

June 18, 2007

To strengthen connections between American and European youth, Wake Forest University will host a U.S. Department of State-sponsored program that will bring high school students from 36 countries to campus June 30 to July 31.

Named in honor of America’s first diplomat, the “Benjamin Franklin Transatlantic Fellows Initiative: Summer Institute for Youth” (BFTFI) is the first youth-oriented program funded by the U.S. Department of State to focus exclusively on U.S.-European relations and to involve youth from all regions of Europe and Eurasia.

Wake Forest also hosted the program when it began in the summer of 2006.

Approximately 70 high school students, representing countries from Norway to Uzbekistan and 20 U.S. high school students from across the nation, will live together in residence halls, participate in workshops addressing diplomacy-related topics, complete a community service project and visit Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

"This program’s aim is to empower the younger generation of Americans, Europeans and Eurasians to face global challenges with an understanding of perspectives beyond their own region,” said Allan Louden, director of the BFTFI and associate professor of communication at Wake Forest.  “Last year’s inaugural program was dynamic and challenging, illustrating how ordinary citizens become part of the political process. We expect this year’s program to excite, train and explore how the media and Internet are shaping our political cultures.”

According to the state department’s welcome letter to participants, the Benjamin Franklin Transatlantic Fellows Initiative aims to foster relationships among the younger generation of Europeans and Americans in order to advance the global freedom agenda, to build strong links and awareness of shared values, and to enable youth to face together the challenges of global circumstances in the 21st century.

The program has been expanded this year to include two groups of students.  The first will arrive on campus June 30.   The second group will arrive July 7. 

Classes will be led by Wake Forest faculty.  John Dinan, associate professor of political science, will teach “Comparative Constitutionalism.”  Students will examine the ways in which constitutions and political systems are designed in the United States and in European and Eurasian countries.  Tom Brister, visiting assistant professor of political science, will teach a course titled “Globalization.”  The course will explore the effects of globalization on political and economic systems, on media presentation of issues, on environmental debates, on cultural issues and in areas such as sports and music.  Ross K. Smith, debate coach and instructor at Wake Forest, will teach the class “Media Criticism in the Age of the Internet.”  His course will focus on how the Internet is creating new opportunities for citizen expression and extending the horizon of civic dialogue across national borders.  Another class, “Invisible Borders:  Citizens and Conflict in Regions and Nations,” will be taught by Alessandra Beasley, assistant professor of communication.

The students will also participate in a series of debate workshops led by faculty from other universities.  The students will hone their argument and presentational skills and then conclude by participating in a series of Internet debates using live streaming video and a public debate at a local venue.  The students will stay with local host families during one week of the program.

For more information on the BFTFI, including a schedule and list of countries represented, go to

Press Contacts:

Cheryl Walker
(336) 758-5237

Kevin Cox
(336) 758-5237

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