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University of Iowa News Release


July 19, 2007

UI First U.S. School To Sign Agreement With Beijing Olympics Committee

University of Iowa students will have the opportunity to work as media volunteers at the 2008 Summer Olympics and Paralympics, thanks to a Memorandum of Understanding recently signed by the UI and a partner school in Beijing, Tsinghua University, making the UI the first university outside of China to sign such an agreement.

The two institutions reached an agreement with the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad (BOCOG) for training at least 26 UI students to work as media volunteers at the 2008 Summer Olympics and Paralympics.

Under the agreement signed by the two universities and BOCOG, up to two dozen Iowa students will play behind-the-scenes roles at the 2008 Olympic Games in August, and some will stay on as volunteers for the Paralympics in September.

The students will serve as reporters and writers on the front lines of the Olympic News Service, which provides continual coverage of all events for use by the international media, with English as the primary language. French will be the second official language and Chinese the third.

"It's pretty exciting to be the pacesetter," said Judy Polumbaum, professor in the UI School of Journalism and Mass Communication of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, who organized and obtained support for "The Iowa Olympic Ambassadors Project."

"The agreement came about through concerted efforts of many people at Iowa and in Beijing," Polumbaum said. "It represents a commitment to cooperate at a very basic level to make a global event a success. More important, it's a fantastic opportunity for our students to broaden their cultural horizons while sharing their energies in common cause with other young people from all over the world."

So far, 26 students, most majoring in journalism, international studies and/or health and sport studies, have signed up.  Many have been preparing for the Beijing experience for the past year or more through their studies and extra-curricular work, Polumbaum said. Five of them, selected as representatives by the entire group, will make advance visits to Beijing for training later this year.

Nathan Cooper, a journalism and American studies major from Glenville, Minn., Marcus Schulz, a journalism and international studies major from Yorkville, Ill., and Michael Stout, a journalism and English major from Perry, Iowa, and a member of the men's cross country team, will travel to Beijing for 10 days in August as part of a Beijing Olympics "test event" organized around the Junior World Wrestling Championships. Emily Doolittle of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Elizabeth Tuttle of Excelsior, Minn., both journalism and international studies majors, will work at another trial event in October in conjunction with an international tennis competition.

The entire group of Iowa student volunteers is due in Beijing in late June 2008 to begin orientation and training. Most will stay through the regular Summer Games, August 8-24, and up to a third may continue at the Paralympics, September 6-17.

Leading up to the departure of the group, Polumbaum is organizing a conference on the Olympics and global journalism, to be held on the UI campus March 7-9, 2008. The conference will focus on the role of the 21st century media in the modern Olympics, sports journalism in social and global perspective, and media and communication needs and strategies for the 2008 games, and will include public talks, panel discussions and workshops.

"Even though the Beijing Olympics will last for a limited amount of time, the benefits of this agreement should continue to accrue for many years to come," said Diana Davies, director of International Programs. "The agreement represents a model for future, multi-party collaborations between UI, other academic institutions and non-academic organizations, and the linkage with Tsinghua opens up opportunities for collaboration in many fields."

Major funding for student travel to the test events and for the conference comes from UI International Programs, with additional commitments from the UI Center for Asian and Pacific Studies, the UI School of Journalism and Mass Communication, the Daily Iowan, the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS) and the CLAS Dewey Stuit Fund, and the UI Honors Program. For the Olympics period, students must raise funds to pay for their own international travel, while Tsinghua University will provide local accommodations and transportation.

University of Iowa International Programs enables UI students, faculty, staff and the public to learn from and about the world. Its offices, degree programs and events provide life-changing opportunities on campus and abroad, heighten intellectual and cultural diversity and give all university constituents access to vital international knowledge. For more information, visit or call 319-353-2700. International Programs is part of the UI Office of the Provost.

Editor's Note: If you would like to interview a UI student volunteering for the Olympics, contact Kelli Andresen, International Programs, at 319-335-2026 or Lois Gray, University News Services, at 319-384-0077.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

PROGRAM CONTACT: Judy Polumbaum, 319-335-3389,

MEDIA CONTACT: Kelli Andresen, 319-335-2026,