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Fact Sheet:
Area of Study: Arabic, International Studies, Mass Communications, Political Science Minimum GPA Required: 2.5
Language of Instruction: English Class Status: Junior, Senior, Sophomore, Undergraduate
Recommended Program: Yes
Program Description:

Lebanon: Media, Politics and Culture

Beirut, Lebanon
6-7 credits in POLI, MASC, INTL, or ARAB
May 28 - June 22, 2018
$3,300 (tuition included) + airfare
Program Director
Mayda Topoushian, PhD

Registration deadline: 15 April 2018
The Global Education Office at Virginia Commonwealth University as well as the Lebanese American University (LAU) are pleased to offer Lebanon: Media, Politics and Culture summer program. The program is offered on the campus of the Lebanese American University (LAU) located in Beirut, Lebanon.  LAU has a second campus in the ancient seaport of Byblos overlooking the beautiful Mediterranean Sea.  The students will be integrated with LAU students and local communities and will experience authentic traditions, food and pop culture. This study abroad program is based on the importance of engaging VCU students and faculty with the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). This endeavor is a step in the right direction to increase our mutual understanding and respect in an extremely volatile and negative political and cultural landscape. It makes sense for us to build educational and cultural bridges between the VCU Community and the MENA learning communities by means of educational and cultural exchange that assist in the development of peaceful relations.
The program propels VCU students to:
  • Become world leaders by learning, discussing and thinking globally
  • Become inter-culturally competent global citizens. 
  • Opportunity to gain a genuine understanding and empathy to see the world from other peoples’ perspective
  • Explore topics related to media, politics and culture
  • Explore issues of social justice, refugees and IDPs
  • Gain experience in activism, power and empowerment
  • Experiential/Service Learning and Volunteering with NGOs, Civil Societies and Refugees camps.
  • Develop skills for a 21st century job market
  • Speak a foreign language
Course and credit optionsd

POLI 351/INTL 351 Politics and Governments of the Middle East, 3 credits
MASC/INTL 351 International Media Coverage of the Middle East, 3 credits

Arabic Language courses available and are optional at no additional cost for 1 credit.

All students will receive transfer credit from Lebanese American University (LAU) 

Course descriptions
POLI 351/INTL 351 Politics and Governments of the Middle East, 3 credits:
Governments & Politics of the Middle East is a course that offers a comparative analysis of political systems in the Middle East.  In this class we will examine the kinds of modern states that have emerged in the region, and the struggles that these nations had to endure in order for its people to gain political freedoms and economic viability.  We will examine the prevalent political struggles, political oppression, and the constant threat of violence and war. The course will pay particular attention to understanding the political economy of oil, the distribution of wealth, and the role of political Islam. Students will survey modern Middle East governments and politics; historical, ideological, and economic and social influences on their domestic and foreign policies; will analyze the most recent political upheavals and the part played by the United States and other outside powers.
Course Learning Outcomes
  • Compare political systems in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA)
  • Describe the political transition from traditional to modernism
  • Articulate the development of the political economy of oil
  • Develop a heightened awareness and sensitivity to religious, ethnic and identity politics
  • Cultivate respect and understanding of the MENA peoples and cultures
  • Identify and challenge existing stereotypes and negative perceptions
MASC/INTL 351 International Media Coverage of the Middle East, 3 credits: This seminar critically examines the International and U.S. media coverage of the Middle East and North Africa MENA.  Students discuss the Western-centric media perceptions of the Arab world as well as the Pan- Arab-centric counter narratives used in social media. Through case studies and comparative analyses of public diplomacy, soft power and propaganda, the course highlights different approaches to the study of U.S. media in the MENA region, and examines these approaches while grounding the analysis in the geopolitical realities of the new media landscapes that shifted from macro regional-identity to local and national identities.
Course Learning Outcomes
  • Critically evaluate the theoretical and methodological approaches that challenge the Western-centric approaches of media portrayals of the MENA region
  • Explain and assess the role of US public diplomacy, soft power and propaganda in the winning of hearts and minds campaigns 
  • Demonstrate advanced awareness of the relationship between political activism, social media and government surveillance 
  • Develop strategic communication skills that improve competence in digital  communication 
  • Increase understanding of the relationship of U.S. public diplomacy and the use of soft power  in the MENA
  • Apply this critical understanding of the emerging realities of the non-Western new media discourses in the MENA towards the successful completion of their coursework
Arabic language courses for 1 additional credit are available from beginner to advanced levels and are optional. Students wishing to take Arabic language courses will be placed in the course of their appropriate language level at no additional cost. 

This program is open to non-VCU students. Student will need to submit a letter of recommendation. 
Accommodations and meals
Students housing is two minutes’ walk from campus and students in the program will share double occupancy rooms with a kitchenette and a bathroom for each room.  Meals are readily available and cheap around campus.
Program director
The program is directed by Mayda Topoushian, PhD. Dr. Mayda Topoushian is a scholar of Communication and International Studies.  Dr. Topoushian is the Coordinator of the International Studies Program at Virginia Commonwealth University. She was born and raised in Beirut, Lebanon. She is passionate about the Middle East and and is multilingual.  Her research and teaching focus is on the role of globalization and mass media in the Middle East and the Arab world.  In particular, she holds interest in the role of new media in shaping Arab cultural/digital identity of women. Her research investigates new media in the Arab world and the effects on language, politics, identity, diversity and citizenship. She hopes that this innovative program will offer VCU students incredible prospects at participating in global public diplomacy efforts and to ride the tide of global citizenship, social justice and civic societies that are igniting throughout the MENA region. 

During her time at VCU, she has developed and instructed many courses in international studies, intercultural communication, comparative media and politics, globalization, and courses on the Middle East. Dr. Topoushian is always looking for effective ways to incorporate media and technology into her teaching, as well as to include intensive discussion of primary and secondary readings and to engage students on a number of levels. 

A valid passport is required to leave the US. If a student does not already have a passport, they are advised to begin the application process as soon as they are accepted into the program. The processing time for new passport applicants can be as long as 8 weeks. For students who already have passports, they will need to verify that the passport’s validity dates extend 6 months past their return date. For more information about passports and the application/renewal process, please consult the State Department's website.
Payment of fees
In order to complete the application, students are required to submit a $250 registration fee and deposit. This $250 registration fee and deposit is refundable in two cases: if the program is cancelled, or if a student is rejected by the faculty member based on their qualifications to participate in the program. Reasons for rejection could include, but are not limited to, GPA, lack of a pre-requisite, unacceptable or inappropriate statement of interest, etc. and are at the discretion of the faculty program director. However, if a student pays the fee and is not given final acceptance to the program based on failing to complete application requirements, as determined by the Education Abroad office or faculty director, the $250 is non-refundable.
Students will receive two separate charges to their student accounts for this program: one charge will reflect the balance of the program fee (minus the $250 deposit and application fee) and the other charge is for VCU tuition costs (based on the number and type of credits being taken by the student). These bills will be charged through VCU Student Accounting and should appear by May.
Please note: While these charges may post to the student’s account simultaneously or separately, it is the student’s responsibility to make sure the account balance is paid before the billing due date.
Withdrawal procedures and financial commitment policy
All withdrawals must be made formally in writing and submitted to the Director of Education Abroad. Otherwise, the program fee will not be refunded. After committing to the program, students deciding to withdraw will be held accountable for a portion of or the entire program fee based on the following schedule:
  • Formal withdrawal submitted later than 30 days before the first day of the program abroad: 100% of the program fee will be charged
  • Formal withdrawal submitted within 30-60 days before the first day of the program abroad: 75% of the program fee will be charged
  • Formal withdrawal submitted within 60-90 days before the first day of the program abroad: 50% of the program fee will be charged
In the event an unexpected emergency occurs within 30 days before the first day of the program abroad, students must provide a physician’s certification that his/her condition prohibits participation. In this case, refunds will be limited to only those funds VCU is able to recover or that have not already been spent on behalf of the student.
See above for refund policy on $250 registration fee and deposit.
Travel health
Students should schedule an appointment with their physician or at a travel clinic (such as VCU Student Health) at least 4 to 8 weeks before the program to inquire about recommended and/or required vaccines/immunizations. It is the responsibility of the student to ensure that all routine and travel immunizations are up-to-date.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information on recommended and required immunizations for travelers. To view the health risks and requirements for the country to which you will be traveling, please visit the CDC's website.
Health Alert:  Zika Virus
The CDC has issued a travel alert for countries where the Zika virus is prevalent.  Check the CDC’s travel notices regularly as new countries are being added to this list.  Check VCU Student Health to stay updated as well.

VCU Student Health offers in-depth pre-travel consultation with a health care provider as well as most of the vaccines recommended for safe travel. Prescriptions for recommended medicines are also available. Please visit their website for full details.


Every effort is made to provide updated and accurate information at the time of publication. The sponsors reserve the right to make necessary changes to the programs and costs. The university reserves the right to revise or alter all fees, regulations pertaining to student fees, and fee collection procedures at any time.

Dates / Deadlines:
Dates / Deadlines:
Term Year Registration Deadline Decision Date Start Date End Date
Summer 2019 05/15/2019 05/15/2019 TBA TBA