COMM doctoral student awarded International Dissertation Semester Research Fellowship

Mehnaz Gul
Mehnaz Gul

Florida State University School of Communication doctoral student Mehnaz Gul has received an International Dissertation Semester Research Fellowship (IDSR) from the university’s Graduate School, which is awarded to select students to facilitate research and timely completion of the doctoral degree that requires extended research time abroad.

In the Fall 2014, Gul will receive a $7,000 stipend for the semester and a three-hour tuition waiver for each semester.

Gul’s study aims to contribute to the public diplomacy literature by analyzing the manifestation of public diplomacy and exploring its shortcomings that may end up portraying it as propaganda efforts. She will be traveling to her native land of Pakistan to study the Voice of America Pasto language service (Deewa) for tribal areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“Mehnaz’s research on the role of Voice of America radio broadcasts as U.S. public diplomacy in the tribal areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan is incredibly timely and globally important,” Art Raney, professor and Director of Doctoral Studies at the School of Communication, said. “The IDSR fellowship is an excellent investment on the part of our Graduate School in one of our brightest students.”

Deewa was started in 2006 to contain Taliban’s propaganda against the United States and allied forces in Afghanistan. The mission of this service is to counter Taliban’s propaganda and to promote U.S. interests by inculcating trust through dialogue.

The case provides an ideal setting to understand the public diplomacy efforts through mass media in an environment that is filled with suspicion over the role of the U.S. in that region as Taliban exploits the drone attacks that sometimes result in civilian casualties.

Gul will be based in Peshawar, a border town in Pakistan, as tribal agencies and various cities of Afghanistan are accessible from there.  She will be doing focus groups and interviews with the local people for the study.

“I believe that if the instruments of public diplomacy are used properly, it can help the government communicate with the people and it can also be used for conflict resolution and in the development of those people who do not have good living conditions,” Gul said.