JMC Week: Interview with Elena Skochilo

JMC Week: Interview with Elena Skochilo

October 21, 2013

Tell us about your professional background and education.

I went to the Kyrgyz-American Department of Computer Technologies Institute for Integration of International Educational Programs at the Kyrgyz National University, where I earned a degree in automated systems information processing.   I still don’t completely know what it means, but my education in computers helps me in my life.  After that I won a Muskie Scholarship and studied journalism and mass communications at Middle Tennessee State University.

I have worked as a contributor for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR), and I was the editor of IWPR’s project News Briefing Central Asia (NBCA) in Kyrgyzstan.  I have also worked for and  I have contributed to, the Associated Press, and a number of local newspapers (“Delo №”, “Litsa” etc) as a photojournalist.


Why did you decide to work at AUCA?

The scholarship I received stipulated that I had to return and work in Kyrgyzstan.  I didn’t want to work in an office, and freelancing was difficult for me at that time. Then I received an invitation to work as a teacher. I accepted this offer right away, because, firstly, it would be a very interesting experience for me. Secondly, I guessed that my adaptation upon returning to my home country would be easier (two years in the USA drastically changes one’s world view and habits), especially if I were to teach at a university in which the education is primarily in English, and where there is a culture that is similar to one found in universities in America. I have never regretted my decision.


Which courses do you teach? What methods of teaching do you follow?

At the moment I teach photography and a senior thesis seminar. I like interactive methods of teaching.   It seems to me this approach is rewarding for both students and the teachers. I like to argue with students and provoke them to discuss and express their own opinions. I am for students’ self-dependency.


How should a professional teacher act?

I think that a professional teacher must be well-informed about the latest innovations and trends in his area. He must be open to all new things and always strive to upgrade his professional skills. For instance, there are new names and new methods of photography. I am obliged to be informed about the latest trends and to discuss them with my students. In addition, a teacher must be a good psychologist, because each student requires an individual approach. A professional teacher should respect a student’s independence, and should utilize his authority not to force a student to do something, but to guide him or her in the right direction.


Who are AUCA students? How do they differ from students of other universities?

I like that AUCA students have their own opinions and that they can stand up for their rights. I think AUCA succeeded in creating a unique atmosphere and gathering really talented, open and responsive youth.


Why is the Department of Journalism interesting?

Due to the energies of the previous dean, Gulnura Toralieva, and President Andrew Wachtel, we finally have our own media-center and modern equipment. Now the Department of Journalism has all the conditions to support our students’ projects and to provide serious, professional practice in journalism. We have a professional faculty which has an impressive amount of experience and which aims to provide not only the theoretical approach to journalism, but to encourage students to obtain practical experience by creating their own projects and working as interns for local media organizations. For example, last year several students of the department of journalism won an USAID grant and they are currently working on creating a documentary about environmental problems in Kyrgyzstan. A recent photo of an AUCA student was considered one of the best in the “Kyrgyzstan faces” competition and was represented at an exhibition in Brussels.  Another student received the Ground Report Recognition Award 2012.

Our students are also actively involved in AUCA TV, and every Friday one can watch news made by our students at the university. Now we have all the conditions to promote serious journalistic practice.  We only ask one thing of our students—desire—and we will always support it.  


What advice can you give to potential students of the Department of Journalism? How can they successfully apply to the department?

University entrants must pass the mathematics exam and TOEFL, and they must also write a composition in English on a given subject.

A journalist is responsible to society for reporting on urgent information in a timely manner. If you are a journalist, you are at the head of society, and you are responsible for what you say and print. Please, think about it.  Are you ready for this personal responsibility? Weigh your desires and opportunities. In addition, I want to advise university applicants that they should study English seriously.  For example, you can go to English courses or hire a private tutor. AUCA gives students an excellent opportunity to take high quality education, but the university requires strong feedback and involvement from its students. Not all students are ready for this.


Please tell us a little about yourself. How do you spend your free time? Do you have any hobbies?

I like running. I have a dream to run a half-marathon distance, but at the moment my normal jogging length is 15 km. I am keen on yoga.  Last year I taught yoga courses at “Atma” center, but this year, unfortunately, I have no opportunities to resume my lessons. Also, I like reading biographies of famous people. On the whole I like reading (I am so grateful to those people who invented the Kindle and electronic libraries!)

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