Notre Dame University-Louaize’s (NDU) Dr. Caroline Akhras, Associate Professor at the Faculty of Law and Political Science (FLPS), and Dr. Jessica El Khoury, Associate Professor at the Faculty of Humanities (FH) recently collaborated in a joint research effort with the Universidad del Valle de Atemajac (UNIVA), Mexico. The endeavor fell under the Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) courses, hosted by UNIVA across its nine campuses, allowing international students to participate in a global experience at their home institutions.
The COIL research projects, fulfilled by the partnership of NDU and UNIVA students, were aimed at advancing the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as well as capturing the latest technological trends, namely artificial intelligence (AI), and the societal implications therein. NDU MA student of Media Studies, Christina Issa, and her UNIVA group won best project at the Zamora campus, titled “Promoting Peaceful Discourse and Unbiased Reporting.” The presentation involved developing effective communication strategies in newsroom management and visual design. Issa’s project, which focused on SDG 16 (Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions), aimed to cultivate a culture of respect for human rights and peaceful communication within and outside the newsroom, emphasizing the importance of unbiased reporting.
Her presentation shed light on hate crimes targeting minorities and diverse racial and national groups, attributing them to the influence of media propaganda. Specifically, the aim was to raise awareness about the Gaza conflict, as well as to address and counteract hate speech. Issa stated: “One of the most crucial aspects was the opportunity to raise awareness about Palestine and address the media propaganda we are witnessing today in front of a wide audience.” Two visuals were created and designed by Issa and her teammates, Areli Sierra Gutiérrez, Angélica Ramírez Ochoa, and Lourdes Angélica Mata Gaitán. The first was a poster inviting staff to a training session about how newsrooms can unknowingly contribute to hate speech and half-truths, which can harm the working environment and undermine the mission of promoting credible news. The second visual, a 2D animation video, targeted community members and highlighted examples of biased reporting, inspiring a demand for unbiased truth and justice for all. The video raised awareness about hate speech, racism, and potential conflicts, asking audience members to develop a critical eye when consuming the news and to consider fuller and nuanced narratives.
Another NDU-UNIVA team, led by NDU’s International Business student, James Mardini, won best project at the Guadalajara campus for their research proposal, “Artificial Intelligence Technology for Humanity: Perspectives for Lebanon and Mexico.” The four-chapter paper traced the history of artificial intelligence (AI) to the 1940s and its rapid development in the 21st century with machine learning, in addition to addressing the widespread debate of humanity vs. machine and the implications therein. The proposal expertly explained the necessity of integrating rather than rejecting AI tech into existing and future knowledge systems, emphasizing the need for business leaders to effectively leverage all emerging technologies and utilize digital transformation for growth. Mardini summarized his thoughts on the collaboration as follows: “Working together has been an amazing experience, seamlessly connecting Mexico and various countries to create a global synergy that has enriched our academic endeavors.”
Of their experiences, Akhras stated that the highlight of her “teaching/learning experience cross culturally was really being part of a vibrant global community. My students and I thank UNIVA for our enriching virtual opportunity.” El Khoury added, “Our students gained a valuable experience that helped build and strengthen their cross-cultural interpersonal communication, time management, teamwork, and understanding of other individuals and cultures.”