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American Magazine

8. Engage Alumni in the Life of the University, On and Off Campus

Photo: Michael Cascio

(Photo: Jeff Watts)

“Alumni mitigate some of the academic observations in formal literature; they leaven it; they bring their experience to it; and they question it. Alumni want to give. They bring their wisdom and knowledge, from failures as well as successes, to our students and our faculty. Our students learn about careers, and they also build networks.” — James Thurber, distinguished professor, SPA; director, Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies; and a Scholar-Teacher of the Year


Michael Cascio calls AU “the best kept secret in the industry.”

The industry is filmmaking, and Cascio, SOC/MA ’73, knows it well. He’s a senior vice president at the National Geographic Channel, was a top executive at Animal Planet, created major shows for A&E, and helped launch the History Channel.

“Washington has become the capital of nonfiction production in the country,” Cascio says. “It’s a media town, and AU is already in the center of that. In the future, we need to be even more central.”

He’s helping that happen by making time for students. Cascio, left, speaks regularly at a class taught by two-time Oscar winner Russell Williams, SOC/BA ’74, and at Center for Environmental Filmmaking events.

On the SOC Dean’s Advisory Counsel, his insider’s view of his fast-changing field helps keep the school on the cutting edge. He also mentors a student each semester, meeting one-on-one, looking at film footage, and helping them make contacts.

This spring he’s paired with Aditi Desai. “I’ve asked him a million questions,” says the graduate film student.

Alumni involvement was key to her decision to come to AU. “That was a huge thing for me,” she says. “I thought, ‘Wow, there’s not only a great program, but also all these connections.’”