newsId: AF032EB0-5056-AF26-BE1A8C59199C8364
Title: AU Team Wins Prize from National Academy of Medicine
Abstract: Annual DC Public Health Case Challenge
Topic: Social Sciences
Publication Date: 10/19/2016

This week, a team of AU public health students won the Harrison C. Spencer Interprofessional Prize in the annual National Academy of Medicine’s DC Public Health Case Challenge.

The winning team, led by AU Health Program Director Jolynn Gardener, included the following students:

Kara Suvada (BS, public health ‘17)
Rain Freeman (BS public health and BS justice and law ’17)
Morgan Taylor (BS public health ’17)
Lili Zigo (BS public health and BS psychology’18)
Michael DeJesus (BS economics ‘17)

The event aims to promote interdisciplinary, problem-based learning around a public health issue that faces the local DC community. Teams are given a case that provides background information on the public health problem. They must devise a comprehensive intervention, which they present to an expert panel of judges.

This year, American University competed against six other area universities: Georgetown University, George Washington University, George Mason University, the University of Maryland, Uniformed Services University, and Howard University. American University was the only team composed solely of undergraduate students.

The Challenge

The topic of this year's case was "Urban Change and Impact on Chronic Disease of Vulnerable Populations in DC."

Each team was presented with a 50-page case that explored the impact of urbanization on chronic disease in vulnerable populations in the District of Columbia. Teams were then given two weeks to devise case solutions with a hypothetical grant of $2 million over five years. Each team presented their solution to a panel of six professional judges at the National Academy of Medicine.

A panel of local judges evaluated the teams on the following criteria: analysis of problem, appropriateness/justification of solution, acceptability of solution, implementation considerations, potential for sustainability, creativity/innovation, interdisciplinary/multisectoral, and presentation delivery.

The Solution

The AU team proposed the Imagine Initiative, which focused on primary prevention. It featured a mobile farmer's market, an afterschool and summer peer mentoring program, and advocacy for community and policy change. The Imagine Initiative was located in DC’s Wards 7 and 8 and formed partnerships between existing high schools and elementary schools.

“Our students’ case solution preparations were incredible. They researched the issue extensively, utilizing every resource they could access in the two-week time frame,” said Gardner. “They were all passionate about not only the competition, but also the issues the case presented. The strategies they recommended were comprehensive, feasible, sustainable, and thoughtful. I was honored to be their team advisor!”

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Title: New & Noteworthy: Faculty Publications
Abstract: From the authors: The purpose of our study was to explore the barriers preventing Sierra Leoneans from trusting and using the Ebola response system during the height of the outbreak.
Topic: Research
Publication Date: 10/18/2016

Kudos to SIS Profs. Nina Yamanis and Susan Shepler for their groundbreaking article "Fears and Misperceptions of the Ebola Response System during the 2014-2015 Outbreak in Sierra Leone," in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases! Find the full article here!

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Title: Carmel Institute Offering $10,000 Award to Study in Moscow
Author: Patty Housman
Subtitle: Grant to study Russian language, culture, and international relations.
Abstract: The Carmel Institute of Russian Culture and History invites applications for the James Symington Award for the study of Russian language, culture, and international relations. 
Topic: International
Publication Date: 10/14/2016

The Carmel Institute of Russian Culture and History invites applications for the James Symington Award for the study of Russian language, culture, and international relations. 

This award honors the career of James Symington, former Congressman (D-MO) and active proponent of better US-Russian relations. The award provides for tuition and travel expenses to attend the interdisciplinary summer program in Russian language, culture, and international relations at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO University), June through August 2017.

The award recipient will be officially presented with the award at the annual gala dinner hosted by the American-Russian Cultural Cooperation Foundation on December 6, 2016, at the Cosmos Club in downtown DC.

How to Apply

The award is open to AU students only. 

Applications will be judged based on the student's academic record (unofficial transcripts are fine) and two short essays of no more than 150 words each.

Please complete the application form and send your essays as an Adobe Acrobat file with your last name in both file names.

Applications and transcripts are due by 5 pm on November 8, 2016. Please send application materials to and

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Title: The Numbers Game: Math and Stats Department Tackles the 2016 Election
Author: Gregg Sangillo
Abstract: AU professors and students are researching voter ID and strategic voting.
Topic: Research
Publication Date: 10/13/2016

Despite all the angry barbs and hot takes, the 2016 election will be decided by numbers. In the critical battleground states, will Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump turnout more voters?

Polling has never been more obsessed over and analyzed. But though we all may think we’re Nate Silver, experts are needed to dissect complex electoral data. That’s where the American University Mathematics and Statistics Department can help us sift through the madness.

This election season, AU professors and students are doing invaluable research. For AU statistics professor Mary Gray, this underlines the significance of their field of study.

“Students need to know why statistics are useful,” Gray says. “And there’s civic engagement involved. Having students see how they can do something, and how statistics are meaningful, is also very important.”

Voter ID

Voter ID laws have been extremely controversial, particularly in states like North Carolina and Texas. Many Republicans have favored these measures to combat voter fraud, but Democrats and some public interest groups counter that voter fraud is quite rare. Critics charge that voter ID laws are a thinly veiled GOP attempt to suppress votes in minority—and mostly Democratic—communities.

Gray will help lead a voter ID project with many AU students—in both the math and stats department and beyond. On election day, AU students will disperse to Northern Virginia polling stations in Arlington, Fairfax, and Loudoun counties to assess the number of people unable to vote because they lack voter identification (such as a driver’s license or passport).

Gray says they’re hoping to recruit up to 100 students, with the goal of covering about 50 precincts. Through systematic sampling, they’ll interview one in five people, or one in 10 (depending on crowd size), as they leave polling stations. Mostly math and stats people analyze the data afterwards, but politically-inclined AU students from all departments are invited to participate as election day questioners.

In Virginia, AU collected similar voter ID data in the gubernatorial year of 2013 and for congressional midterms in 2014. For those two elections, they found that roughly 2 percent of people interviewed were prevented from voting because of insufficient voter ID. People turned away were “minorities, and they were all in low-income districts,” says Gray.

In many instances, people don’t even know about the voter ID laws until they show up at the polls. In 2015, AU conducted surveys primarily in pharmacies and grocery stores, and discovered that while most people had IDs, fewer than 50 percent of interviewees were aware of voter ID laws.

Though 2 percent of would-be voters might not sound like much, it could make a difference in a close election. More importantly, Gray says, it disenfranchises those individual voters.

“The right to vote is fundamental. All of the other rights fall apart if you don’t have the right to vote,” she says.

Strategic Voting and How to Win

Kenneth Ward, a professorial lecturer in the Mathematics and Statistics Department, is also working on the voter ID project. In addition, he’s utilized fascinating strategic voting models to better understand candidate and voter behavior.

Though formulated in 2003, these models sound strikingly prescient in 2016.

A synopsis of one model reads: “Opportunistic candidates can strategize by revealing little information.” Many media outlets have ridiculed Trump for being light on policy details.

As a result, Ward says, it can benefit the other candidate (e.g., Hillary Clinton) to attack the opportunistic candidate. “It’s in the best interest of the other candidate to give a significant amount of negative information about the candidate who withholds information about his or her policies,” he says.

With the election less than a month away, Ward says Clinton’s most effective strategy would be to highlight “provably negative information” about Trump.

“One candidate might only say, ‘Well, my opponent is corrupt in general,’ but not really point towards anything. But the other candidate can give definite stories where people say, ‘I lost everything because of my business dealings with him,’” he says. “The models predict that if she does that, there’s a high probability that she will win.”

Another synopsis states: “Newer models say that voters’ knowledge of each other can matter more than knowledge of the candidates.”

This is the essence of Ward’s research findings, as voters behave quite strategically. They make their candidate selections based on their expectations of what other voters will do.

“Any strategic voter who does vote must believe, in some sense, that this decision should be conditioned upon the possibility that his or her vote is the deciding vote in the election,” Ward explains.

Part of this is derived from game theory. Ward was friends with the late John Nash, a game theory pioneer and subject of the Oscar-winning biopic A Beautiful Mind. Based on what’s known as “Nash equilibrium,” people behave in their own best interests in a system that is stable. The way to make it stable for voters, Ward adds, is by providing them with information.

If the Clinton and Trump campaigns have internal polling numbers, Ward says they have reasons for keeping their findings private. Clinton’s internal polling numbers may be really strong, but her campaign might not want to divulge that over fears that her supporters will stay home. Conversely, even if Trump’s internals are weak, he’d want his voters to feel like their views are consistent with a sizable portion of the population.

“The candidate might want voters to have misconceptions about what others believe,” he explains.

Polling, Accuracy, and Seeing Through the Fog

Having said that, Ward notes the potential pitfalls of an abundance of data. A voter might not know what to believe. “There’s not a lot of modeling of, ‘What happens when voters receive too much information?’ And that’s a big issue,” he says. “Part of the goal here, on both sides, is to give individuals information that they remember. Now will they factor in 1,000 polls? How do they choose between all of those?”

Gray is skeptical about some political polls. Various polling outlets use panels, essentially a database of people who answer surveys online. Gray notes that those kinds of surveys—which only measure a certain type of voter—are what failed to predict the United Kingdom Brexit vote to leave the European Union.

Businesses need those online databases for consumer and marketing research, but politics is a whole different animal. “It’s fine if you’re trying to sell toothpaste. But to put that forward as an accurate reflection of public opinion on important issues is harmful,” she says.

And Gray won’t venture to predict what will happen this election. “I try to keep politics out of this, but this election is so crazy, all bets are off.”

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Title: Faculty Member Talks 2016 Nobel Literature Prize Winner Bob Dylan
Author: Gregg Sangillo
Abstract: AU's Michelle Engert has written and lectured about Dylan's cultural impact. Dylan won the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature.
Topic: Humanities
Publication Date: 10/13/2016

Editor's note: On October 13, 2016, it was announced that Bob Dylan won the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature. Below, AU scholar in residence Michelle Engert discusses Dylan's cutlural impact. Engert has written and lectured about Dylan's legacy. The story below, originally titled "Shakespeare in the Alley," was published on November 24, 2014.

Keep on Keepin' On

"Sometimes my burden seems more than I can bear. It's not dark yet, but it's getting there." That was Bob Dylan, on his celebrated 1997 comeback album Time Out of Mind. But despite his own ominous lyrics, rumors of Dylan's demise are often premature. More than 52 years since his self-titled debut, he's still touring and producing albums. On November 25, he returned to Washington, D.C. for a concert at DAR Constitution Hall.

Michelle Engert has written and lectured about the cultural impact of Dylan. In an interview, she offered some thoughts on the musician's legacy and longevity. "I suppose if he was still playing the acoustic guitar and the harmonica, and stuck with those themes of the early 1960s, it wouldn't last. It would be dated. But he changed," says Engert, an American University scholar in residence at the School of Public Affairs.

Engert characterizes Dylan's career as one of constant reinvention. "He went from his early days when no one knew him as a Woody Guthrie imitator, to writing his own songs in the folk tradition, to using an electric guitar and leaving the folk tradition, to entering rock 'n' roll with really interesting music. Then we had the country music phase, so then we had the Americana phase. And this was all before 1970," she explains.

The Many Sides of Bob Dylan

1970 probably marked a turning point, as the consensus surrounding Dylan's brilliance started to unravel. After reeling off a string of classic albums that included Bringing it All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited, Blonde on Blonde, and John Wesley Harding, Dylan released the critically-reviled Self Portrait. Dylan expert and supporter Greil Marcus used an expletive to describe it in Rolling Stone. (The comment was tame by today's Internet standards, but it's still one of the most memorable album reviews ever written.)

Aside from masterpieces like 1975's Blood on the Tracks, Dylan's 1970s and 1980s recordings were often polarizing. But Engert says this part of Dylan's catalog—which included synthesizers, saxophones, gospel-oriented female vocals, and the controversial "Christian" period—should be embraced. She mentions Street-Legal (1978) and Oh Mercy (1989) as particularly underrated albums.

"Even when he's made us angry by being different, it's a really diverse, important, ingenious body of work," Engert says.

This is related to how people first experienced Dylan in the 1960s. With protest songs like "Blowin' in the Wind," "The Times They Are a-Changin'," and "Chimes of Freedom," Dylan was dubbed a generational spokesperson for the growing counterculture. But he's spent much of his career running away from that label, and most of his songs are not especially political.

"We all go through these phases of what might be important to us at a given time. But when Dylan wanted to move out of that phase, the others didn't want to let him. They tried to hold him in that box," Engert says. "And had he listened, can you imagine all of the songs that the world wouldn't have been able to hear?"

His lyrics delve into love and relationships, God and the Bible, and the entire human experience, she adds.

Dylan is still on his Never Ending Tour that began in 1988. Though he's less experimental these days, Dylan is known for speeding up his ballads and slowing down his up-tempo tracks. In concert, even the most die-hard Dylaniacs can have trouble singing along with him.

"I think the re-arrangements for him were to keep it fresh," says Engert, who has written about his live performances. "He had multiple interpretations of the songs." She says you can see those songs re-imagined in his paintings, another art form he's explored.

Early Influences

In the 1980s, Engert was a teenager living in the Chicago suburbs. Around that time, Dylan had hit the MTV generation, with the video for "Sweetheart Like You" from Infidels running on the network's regular rotation. With the rise of compact discs, people were trading in their vinyl records—making them suddenly more affordable for Engert. "I went to a used record store with $20 and came out with half the catalog," she recalls. "So I got this huge volume of material, and I would just sit in my room and listen to it on vinyl."

A lifelong passion was born. Among other activities, she taught a class on Dylan in Munich, Germany.

Artist of the Century

Compared to other art forms, popular music is still a relatively young medium. Thus, Dylan's name might get excluded from the traditional pantheon of creative geniuses. Yet Engert considers Dylan the artist of the 20th century.

"I think that in universities people will look at Dylan's work, as a whole, on the level that they do Walt Whitman, on the level that they do Shakespeare," she says.

His voluminous and varied contributions, she says, set him apart from his contemporaries. "[Academics] are not going to study Neil Young. They're not going to study Van Morrison. With Dylan, we've got the books, we've got the films, we've got the paintings, we've got the sculptures. It's this whole creative output of more than 50 years, and it tells the story of America."

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Title: Alumni Spotlight: Sydney Baldwin
Subtitle: Dance Minor, Class of 2016
Abstract: Alumni Spotlight on Dance Program
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 10/10/2016
Content: What was special to you about AU dance?

The AU Dance Program allowed me to continue practicing my art in an inclusive, fostering environment. It gave me meaningful opportunities—from being cast in my first-ever hip hop piece, to choreographing and executing my own work, to performing at The Kennedy Center. The dance program allowed me to explore all roles as a dancer and artist.

Sydney Bladwin headshot

What did it mean for you to be a dance minor?
It afforded me the opportunity to explore dance at an educational level, beyond what I would've received in a recreational club or organization. Not only was I developing my technical skills, but my physical studies were being supplemented by the rich history, science, and culture of dance. 


What's one thing that you especially appreciated about the program?
While I became friendly with classmates in my academic classes, the dance studio was a place for family. Maybe it was the amount of time spent in the studio, or the very intimate and personal experiences we had dancing with one another, but my dance department peers were some of my best friends through college and beyond. There is nothing greater than finding a group of friends and faculty that share the same passion for something as you do. I can thank the dance department for giving me some of the best experiences and friends.

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Title: Remembering Shimon Peres
Subtitle: Israeli leader, who inaugurated AU’s Center for Israel Studies, devoted his life to peace.
Abstract: Israeli leader, who inaugurated AU’s Center for Israel Studies, devoted his life to peace.
Topic: In Remembrance
Publication Date: 10/07/2016

American University mourns the passing of Shimon Peres, senior statesman and the last active member of Israel’s founding generation. Peres was known for a lifetime of searching for peace with Israel’s Arab neighbors. As architect of the Oslo Accords he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994, along with then prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat. In his lifetime of public service for Israel he served as president and prime minister, as well as minister of defense, foreign affairs, finance, and transportation. 

President Peres held a special place in our hearts here at AU. His devotion to peace, cooperation, and human dignity around the world served as an inspiration to our entire campus community, and his 1998 commencement speech inaugurated our Center for Israel Studies. Since his historic visit, the Center, the first of its kind in the United States, has enabled students from all over the world to explore Israel's diverse culture and society by bringing together Israeli and American scholars, writers, artists, and scientists to share their knowledge and face the challenges of the new global era.
For more on the legacy of Shimon Peres:

AU Professor Guy Ziv speaks to Bloomberg News

Professor Ziv’s book, Why Hawks Become Doves:
Shimon Peres and Foreign Policy Change in Israel

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Title: Fear of Law Enforcement High Among D.C.-Area Blacks and Latinos
Author: Rebecca Basu
Subtitle: American University surveys D.C.-area residents
Abstract: “Diversity in the D.C. Area: Findings from the 2016 D.C. Area Study,” shows results from the first comprehensive survey on quality-of-life issues of residents living in racially diverse and predominantly Latino neighborhoods.
Topic: Research
Publication Date: 10/03/2016

With concerns about policing a national issue, a new survey shows that fear of the police affects the daily lives of more than half of black and Latino residents in the most racially diverse neighborhoods in the Washington metropolitan area. 

American University has released a report that provides the survey results from 1,200 households and includes policy recommendations for lawmakers and community groups.

As diversity in Washington suburbs continues to grow, AU researchers sought residents’ views on policing, crime, health, ethnic relations, trust in local government and business, and neighborhood perceptions. Residents in racially diverse and predominantly Latino neighborhoods were surveyed in both Spanish and English. Survey respondents came from D.C., Montgomery, Price George’s, Arlington, and Fairfax counties, and the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax City and Falls Church.  

“Residents of all races are satisfied living in diverse neighborhoods and generally agree about many aspects of life. But the fear of questioning or arrest by the police affects the lives of blacks and Latinos far more than it does the lives of whites or Asians,” said Michael Bader, principal survey investigator and assistant professor of sociology at AU. 

The fear of police doesn’t equal distrust in local police, Bader said. The vast majority of blacks and Latinos think that police officers are keeping them safe in their neighborhoods, and blacks and Latinos were as likely as whites and Asians to endorse that view. Still, blacks were six to seven more times likely than whites to report that their daily lives were affected “somewhat” or “a lot” by the fear that they or their loved ones would be arrested or questioned by the police, the survey shows. 

Nearly a quarter of Latinos reported that the fear of police affected their lives “a lot.” Latinos living in predominantly Latino neighborhoods, in particular, reported a strong fear of crime, as well as a fear of deportation. Survey questions did not ask residents about the fear related to specific law enforcement agencies.  

Other key conclusions of the survey: 

•  Regardless of economic status or racial background, residents are generally satisfied with their neighborhoods, which gives hope these neighborhoods maintain their racial diversity over the long-term.

•  Residents have high levels of trust in nonprofit organizations; however, low-income residents with children feel that nonprofit services are not available to serve their needs.

•  Residents view local government positively overall; yet they have lower levels of trust in their local government than they have in businesses or nonprofits.

Among the recommendations the report makes to improve policing strategies are that policymakers consider reducing routine surveillance and enforcement of minor violations; and create racially diverse groups to observe police policies, protocols, and actions. To reduce the fears among Latinos, municipalities could adopt a practice already in place in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties and D.C.: refusal to enforce detaining orders issued by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The report also discusses the ways to address a perceived lack of nonprofit services and suggests that nonprofit organizations should expand their outreach to diverse D.C-area neighborhoods, particularly those in the suburbs where the problems associated with poverty receive less attention. 

“This survey is the first of its kind in the D.C. area, and it provides a detailed snapshot of the social realities and inequalities that exist within the region’s most diverse communities,” said Derek Hyra, director of the School of Public Affairs’ Metropolitan Policy Center. “We hope this information helps to stimulate policy efforts aimed at creating more equitable neighborhood environments that better meet the needs of all residents.”

The School of Public Affairs’ Metropolitan Policy Center convened a group of 12 scholars from across American University to create “Diversity in the D.C. Area: Findings from the 2016 D.C. Area Study.” In addition to the School of Public Affairs, support for the project came from AU’s Office of the Provost, Center for Latin American and Latino Studies, Kogod School of Business, and the Center for Health, Risk and Society. 

The report is available for download here:

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Title: Chilean President Dedicates New Mural at AU Museum
Author: Colin Casey
Subtitle: President Michelle Bachelet visits Todas Las Manos Exhibition
Abstract: Mural revisits painful events in Chilean history — events that reached all the way to AU.
Topic: Arts
Publication Date: 10/03/2016

On September 22, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet paid a visit to the American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center to dedicate a mural that symbolized painful events in Chilean history — events that reached all the way to American University.

The mural, Todas Las Manos, was unveiled by Chilean artist Francisco Letelier in the museum’s sculpture garden and depicts experiences from his own life with the Augusto Pinochet regime of Chile. One particular panel holds special reverence for him: it depicts a memorial for his father Ambassador Orlando Letelier.

Ambassador Letelier
Ambassador Letelier was killed in a car bomb in Sheridan Circle in 1976. The bomb was planted by the Pinochet regime because Letelier had spoken out against the regime’s brutal tactics. The death also affected the American University family as Letelier served on the AU faculty while he lived in Washington. “I was working in Washington at the time and I remember the assassination vividly,” said Katzen Museum Director Jack Rasmussen. “It’s just a powerful thing to be able to bring Todas Las Manos here.”

The ambassador’s son is no stranger to delving into controversial art topics. He has previously created works related to the Palestinian, Northern Irish, and other Latin American conflicts. For this particular mural, Letelier partnered with students at the Latin American Youth Center, a charity supported by his father while living in Washington.

Chilean President in front of mural with audience at AU Museum

President Bachelet
Katzen’s sculpture garden was filled with 200 VIPs, including representatives of the Chilean Embassy and staff from the Latin American Youth Center. President Bachelet’s comments recalled the troubled past of her nation while embracing the future, especially amongst those who have been underrepresented in the past. Bachelet herself has a connection to the troubled past — both her parents were political prisoners of the Pinochet regime.

For More Information
Todas Las Manos will be on display at American University until October 23. For more information visit American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center.

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Title: Introducing the New Faculty
Author: Gregg Sangillo
Abstract: AU has hired 28 tenure-line professors.
Topic: Research
Publication Date: 09/28/2016

American University has hired 28 new tenure-line (tenure-track or tenured) professors. The new faculty bring not only vast reservoirs of knowledge, but diverse life experiences. What follows is an overview of their research passions and personal stories.

College of Arts and Sciences

Jessica Young, Health Studies

Jessica Young may be starting a new job, but she’s returning to a familiar place. Young, a new assistant professor in the Health Studies Department, is also an AU alum. She initially earned her master’s degree from AU in health promotion management, and she was excited by the prospect of teaching here.

AU was “very supportive in developing me as a whole person. So it wasn’t just about academics. It was also about career readiness,” Young says. “I got connected to so many mentors and people who just wanted to see me succeed. And I wanted to have the opportunity to do that for students, too.”

Young’s dedication to her work is evident. She went straight through to earn her bachelor’s (University of Maryland, Baltimore County), master’s (AU), and Ph.D. (Johns Hopkins University) without a break. But along the way, her experience as a personal trainer and weight lifting instructor—which she did at AU—factored into her scholarly pursuits.

“While I was here, working as a trainer, I could see the impact that I was having on people one-by-one. But I started thinking, ‘Well, how can I impact more than one person at a time, besides having a group fitness class?’ And that’s how I got into the policy part,” she explains.

Her research focus is health equity. Having recently worked at the Annie E. Casey Foundation, she also studies how philanthropy addresses critical social issues, such as health, child welfare, and juvenile justice.

Young pondered health issues while growing up in Southern Maryland. She was active in soccer, as well as ballet, tap, and jazz dance. In addition, Young’s mother worked in the health care industry.

Though she’s given up soccer, Young is still a hiker and a gym rat. She’s also a video gamer in her spare time.

Yet her most rewarding connections are still in the classroom. “Seeing students get something is like the best feeling in the world. Or, when they ask a brilliant question,” she says. “Asking a brilliant question shows that you’re listening, that you’re thinking critically about the issue, and that you’re curious.”

Malgorzata Rymsza-Pawlowska, History

For many people, history is something you read about in a book. Or a subject you major in at college. But for Malgorzata Rymsza-Pawlowska, history is so much broader than that. And importantly, she wants to convey that deep, immersive, interdisciplinary approach to her students.

“I am really interested in how we both understand history, and make meaning from it,” says Rymsza-Pawlowska. “Outside of formal history, like classes, or even museums, history is all around us. How do we draw meaning from film and television? And, in turn, how does what we learn change within larger cultural contexts?”

A Caucasian woman with dark hair.

Malgorzata Rymsza-Pawlowska

Rymsza-Pawlowska is just starting as an assistant professor in the History Department, and she’s associate director in the graduate program in public history. Her expansive view of how we interpret history includes documentaries, TV dramas, public art, and living history museums like Colonial Williamsburg.

Her published papers have included analyses of everything from the PBS reality show Frontier House to Roots. The latter was included in a paper she published called “Broadcasting the Past: History Television, ‘Nostalgia Culture,’ and the Emergence of the Miniseries in the 1970s United States.”

“I went and looked at the letters that people were writing to the producers of Roots, and it was all in terms of impact. ‘This made me feel this way.’ ‘This made me understand on the level of feelings and empathy.’ And that was all, at that moment in the 1970s, brand new,” she says.

Rymsza-Pawlowska will expand on these ideas in her forthcoming book, History Comes Alive. “It will look at what I call the emergence of an immersive or affective relationship with the past,” she says. “In the 1970s, Americans are wanting to know how people from the past felt. Rather than thinking about the past as something that’s sort of distant.”

She’ll examine how people grappled with the 1976 Bicentennial Celebration amidst intense national strife following Watergate and the Vietnam War.

She comes to AU after three years in the history department of Eastern Illinois University. It’s a homecoming of sorts, as she grew up in the Brookland area of Washington, D.C. Her mother still works as a librarian at Catholic University, and Rymsza-Pawlowska is happy to connect with family, friends, and—of course—plenty of D.C. museums.

“I was looking for a way to get closer to the East Coast. I didn’t know I would be able to get this close. But I’ve long been an admirer of this AU program in particular, because of the way that it combines historical work with public history work,” she says. “So it’s a good place for me to be.”

Kogod School of Business

Siri Terjesen, Management

If AU and Kogod School of Business administrators were looking to bolster their already strong entrepreneurship program, they went to the right place. Siri Terjesen was a professor at Indiana University, widely viewed as one of the top entrepreneurship schools in the world. And Terjesen herself is a frequently cited scholar with an engaging personality.

Terjesen is an associate professor at Kogod, and she’s the new research director of the AU Center for Innovation in the Capital.

In an interview, she speaks with enthusiasm about her chosen subject. “I think entrepreneurs are some of the most fascinating people. They get to work on whatever they want to work on, and study after study shows that they’re happier,” she says. Studies also show that “new, high-potential innovation-focused firms start the greatest number of jobs.”

Working with other researchers, Terjesen devised a global data set to compare entrepreneurship across 62 countries. They’ve already found that young Americans are particularly energized about starting social ventures, not just commercial enterprises. Though there’s generally a higher number of male entrepreneurs, female participation increases—and the gender gap decreases—in the area of social entrepreneurship.

Terjesen earned her bachelor’s degree from University of Richmond, and as a Fulbright scholar, she got her master’s from the Norwegian School of Economics and Business Administration. She completed her Ph.D. at Cranfield University in the United Kingdom.

Hailing from Akron, Ohio, sports run in the family. Her grandfather, Irving Terjesen, played in the National Basketball League (a precursor to the modern NBA), and her father, Barry Terjesen, has been an accomplished golfer who won state tournaments.

As a kid, Siri suffered from scoliosis, but she didn’t let it interfere with her own athletic pursuits. “I wore this brace all the time, but my doctor never said, ‘Oh, don’t do this. You’ll hurt yourself.’ No one said that.”

She became a prolific runner, and while earning her doctorate at Cranfield, she competed for England. Her specialty race was 100 kilometers, which—if you’re measuring—surpasses the length of two marathons. Amidst a vigorous doctoral program, what motivates a human being to do this?

A Caucasian woman with blonde hair.

Siri Terjesen

“You needed a break because you were so stressed out from the work and reading,” she says. “Running was like the release for me. And the more you run, generally the better you get at it.”

Continued back problems, and life itself, forced the end of her running career. “With three children, I don’t have any time to run. I just run after them,” she jokes. Nowadays, she’s taking in the new D.C. sites with her family.

A top priority on campus, she says, is enticing all kinds of students to consider the entrepreneurship program.

“It’s not just, ‘How can Kogod kids start their own business?’ It’s, ‘Oh, I majored in physics, and I’ve been working on this project, and I think that there’s a commercial application,’” she explains. “We want this to be a university-wide center.”

Nandini Lahiri, Management

Nandini Lahiri was perfectly happy in her previous position at Temple University. Yet discussions with Kogod School of Business leaders made a job at AU look better and better. Lahiri has specialized in research on semiconductor companies, and the policy and trade groups associated with that industry are located in the nation’s capital.

“I think there is going to be an advantage to being located in D.C. Much of my family is in D.C. So I didn’t need much convincing,” she says.

Lahiri, a new associate professor of management, is also excited about the direction AU is headed. The school’s commitment to being a top-flight research institution should comport with her own interests.

An Indian woman with short hair.

Nandini Lahiri 

Beyond her industry focus, some of her research findings tell a larger story about language and business reasoning. While math is often seen as the one universal language, Lahiri’s scholarship paints a mixed picture. In a paper she co-authored, she found that language differences—between, say, a German company and an American company—can fracture R&D alliances working on mathematical problems and engineering designs.

“It’s these underlying differences in the structure of native languages that determine how firms make strategic choices, such as choosing alliance partners,” she says.

Lahiri was born and raised in Calcutta, India. She earned her undergraduate degree in chemical engineering and later worked for Tata Steel. But she eventually came to the U.S. to get her Ph.D. in corporate strategy and international business from University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.

Before teaching at Temple, Lahiri was an assistant professor at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Fun fact: In one business section at UNC, she taught Tyler Zeller, a first-round NBA draft choice who now plays for the Boston Celtics. “Tyler would play, and would be in class the next morning. The other kids in the class who would watch the game on TV would be too tired to come to class,” she jokes.

In her classrooms, Lahiri uses the Socratic method. “As a student growing up in India at that time, the culture was that you rarely asked questions. But that’s the exact opposite of what I’ve adopted in my classes,” she says.

While this is not always popular at first, she hopes students appreciate her methods by the end of the semester. “It’s a challenging approach that I take, but I think it works.”

School of International Service

Audrey Kurth Cronin, International Relations

Audrey Kurth Cronin is a new professor at AU’s School of International Service. And if her previous scholarship is any indication, she won’t be afraid to challenge conventional wisdom. For instance, she persuasively argued in a 2015 Foreign Affairs essay that ISIS is not a terrorist group, but a larger, pseudo-state.

Yet Cronin doesn’t view her work as needlessly polemic. She’s just trying to offer solutions.

“I try to find ways to solve problems that are difficult,” she says. “I’m driven by the desire to make a difference, and I don’t always take the safe road.”

She’s arrived at some conclusions through her academic and government experience. During the 1990s, Cronin followed Osama Bin Laden’s terrorist activities and the Mujahideen in Afghanistan. After the September 11 attacks, she was one of the few Americans with expertise on the subject, and she gave policy advice while working at the Congressional Research Service.

A Caucasian woman with short curly blonde hair participates in a panel discussion.

Audrey Kurth Cronin

“We went from nothing being related to counterterrorism in the 90s—which was a little frustrating for me—to everything being within the framework of terrorism. And I think that’s an enormous problem.”

ISIS has morphed into a stronger and altogether different threat, she says. “I’m afraid that if we just keep thinking of everything as being terrorism, we’re going to completely miss the best ways to counter ISIS.”

A common theme in her research is about how conflicts end, and she explored the demise of terrorist campaigns in a 2011 book.

A Jacksonville, Florida native, Cronin is from a Navy family and moved often. “It’s really ironic that I ended up in academics because when I was a kid I hated school. I was always the new kid with the wrong accent, and the wrong clothes,” she recalls.

In the 1970s, her father was the Naval attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. During that time, she had a strange moment that sounds tailor-made for an episode of The Americans. While Cronin was a teenager working in the embassy, a woman in her thirties befriended her. She turned out to be an American spy with the CIA, and she was one day picked up by the KGB.

“I think she was probably hanging out with me as cover. Or maybe keeping an eye on me. I don’t know,” Cronin says now. This woman, Marty Peterson, was later featured at the International Spy Museum in Washington.

Cronin’s time in the Soviet Union heightened her interest in national security. “This was during the Cold War, and I thought, ‘Well, I need to contribute to making sure that we don’t end up in a nuclear war.’ So I ended up going into security studies and international relations,” she says.

She completed her undergraduate degree at Princeton, and she later got a Marshall Scholarship to earn her M.Phil and D.Phil at University of Oxford.

Naturally, her international affairs work has enabled extensive traveling to many countries. Now, all of those experiences contribute to her scholarship and teaching at AU.

“I feel very fortunate,” she says. “I’m having an extremely interesting life.”

Elizabeth Thompson, Mohamed Said Farsi Chair in Islamic Peace

In joining the SIS faculty in D.C., professor Elizabeth Thompson is hoping to engage in the public debate. And with expertise in Syria—one of the world’s war-torn hot spots—her voice could add depth to a contentious issue in U.S. foreign policy circles.

Thompson says that to comprehend the present, you need to examine the past. “There’s something in the public conversation that we’re missing, without a historical perspective,” she says.

Some people look at the Middle East and just think “violence,” but there’s a lot more to the story, she says. Her work is oriented towards Syria’s World War I era creation, and she’s writing a book called After Lawrence: Woodrow Wilson and the Brief Promise of Arab Liberalism.

Around this time, President Wilson’s rhetoric emphasized self-determination and democracy. As Arabs convened in Damascus, they ratified an extremely democratic constitution to show their capacity for independence. “Two weeks after they ratified their constitution, the French tanks rolled in,” she says.

A Caucasian woman with shoulder-length wavy hair.

Elizabeth Thompson

“People in the Arab world had thought they were finally going to be included as full humans in humanity,” she explains. “It is the experience of having been let in, and then shut out—exclusion—that creates conditions where rejectionism gains traction politically.”

Born in New Jersey, Thompson later moved to Michigan. In the post-1967 riots period, she went to a predominately African-American high school in Detroit. “It had an impact on me, in terms of understanding the basic injustices that are embedded not only in our system, but—soon I would discover—in the global system,” she says.

After her undergraduate years at Harvard, she got an internship in Cairo. It was a formative experience for her, shattering misconceptions about the region. “The people were so nice. And it just didn’t fit well with the image of Arabs on TV, and I think that got me interested.”

She later went to grad school, earning a master’s and Ph.D. from Columbia University. She was most recently a history professor at University of Virginia.

School of Public Affairs

Nathan Favero, Public Administration and Policy

Like a lot of young students, Nathan Favero’s academic path was shaped by a professor. Yet it just so happened that work done by his mentor, Kenneth Meier at Texas A&M University, also appealed to Favero. “I originally gravitated towards the questions that were more applied, and Ken was the one doing those,” he recalls.

And so Favero studied government and bureaucracies, with a focus on internal management, performance, and race/ethnicity. He’s now an assistant professor at AU’s School of Public Affairs. Meier remains at Texas A&M, but he’s scheduled to come to AU as a visiting scholar in the spring.

Favero earned his bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M, before staying on to finish his doctorate there in 2016. His new position at AU caps an unusual journey.

He was brought up by conservative Christian parents outside of Denver, Colorado. Family practice and religious beliefs led them to homeschool Favero, and all of his friends were homeschooled as well. Though he describes it as somewhat isolating, he made a healthy transition at Texas A&M.

A Caucasian man with dark hair pulled back from his face and a beard.

Nathan Favero

Favero partly chose Texas A&M for its conservative student campus, but he now speaks about his political evolution to more liberal inclinations.

“It was a really gradual thing for me, kind of deconstructing a lot of things that I believed,” he says. “I’m still a Christian and go to church and everything like that. But a lot of my worldview has changed.”

One research project he’s working on examines “performance funding,” an increasingly popular idea to reward already high-performing schools. Think tanks, from the conservative American Enterprise Institute to the left-leaning Brookings Institution, have promoted this strategy. But Favero and an academic colleague’s early findings indicate that weaker public universities will struggle even more under these policies.

For someone who just finished graduate school, Favero has already published quite a bit of research. But once he started working with Meier, he just kept going. “I’m fascinated by the world,” he says. “So whatever I’m around, I kind of get fascinated by.”

Carla Flink, Public Administration and Policy

Government budget battles can seem frustrating and impenetrable to the average American. Yet for Carla Flink, the budgeting process became a window into political influence. And the decision-making, she says, is about so much more than simple accounting.

“What I love about budgets is that a lot of people just think they’re numbers on a page. But for me, it’s not really studies of numbers. It’s studies of power. If you can get more money, and you can influence how funds are spent, then that’s a major part of controlling the political process,” says Flink, a new assistant professor in the School of Public Affairs.

That’s not to say that Flink is averse to numbers, as she earned her bachelor’s degree in mathematics. But that subject matter was not just a major, but a gateway. “I love math, and a lot of my work is extremely quantitative. But I always wanted to use my math as a tool to become a better researcher and writer,” she explains.

A Caucasian woman with sandy, shoulder-length hair.

Carla Flink

Flink eventually earned her Ph.D. in political science from Texas A&M University, and she specializes in public administration, public policy, and public budgeting.

She got an early exposure to politics growing up in San Antonio, Texas. Her father is an elections judge, and she’d help set up signs and join him at polling stations. To her consternation, her parents made her attend Girls State, a mock state government program run for Texas youth. “But I ended up enjoying it, and then wanting to be more involved in learning the political system,” she recalls.

Flink was also a bit of a jock, and she went to University of the Incarnate Word on a volleyball scholarship. “I played volleyball all four years, and got the surgeries afterwards,” she says.

Most recently, Flink was an assistant professor at University of Texas at San Antonio. In her new job in SPA, she’s joined by a good friend and fellow Aggie Nathan Favero (see above). She says AU has been welcoming, and she’s already impressed with her students.

“They’ve been very motivated, and they make intelligent comments in class,” she says. And the budgeting process—the complexity, the number of players—is an all-consuming discipline. “The best part of teaching is that I learn so much, too.”

Here is a rundown of the other new tenure-line professors.


Nathalie Japkowicz is a new professor of computer science. Japkowicz’s research interests include big data and artificial intelligence.

Michael Alonzo will be an assistant professor of environmental science. He’s been a postdoctoral program fellow at NASA.

Braxton Boren will start in the Department of Performing Arts in 2017-18.

Nicole Caporino, an assistant professor of psychology, has done research into child and adolescent anxiety disorders.

Julia Chifman, a new math and statistics professor, earned her Ph.D. from the University of Kentucky.

Elizabeth Cotter, previously a professorial lecturer at AU, is now an assistant professor of health studies.

Andrew Demshuk is an assistant professor of history. His research specialties include Germany and Central Europe.

Molly Dondero, assistant professor of sociology, was a national child health and human development post-doc fellow at Pennsylvania State University’s Population Research Institute.

Dustin Friedman, an assistant literature professor, previously taught in Singapore.

Ignacio Gonzalez Garcia, who studies inequality and financial macroeconomics, will join the Economics Department in 2017-18.

Ethan Mereish, an assistant professor of health studies, did a post-doc at the Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies at Brown University.

Paul Sullivan, new to the Economics Department, has been a research economist at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Perry Zurn is an assistant professor of philosophy. Zurn will start next year, as he’s currently doing a post-doc with the Center for Curiosity at University of Pennsylvania.


Michael Mowchan is a new assistant professor of accounting and taxation. He was previously an instructor at Arizona State University.


Susanna Campbell will start this spring as an assistant professor at SIS. She’s been a post-doc researcher at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva.

Megan Stewart will come to SIS in 2017-18. She has researched the intersection of civil war and state formation.

Yang Zhang, a new assistant professor, earned a Ph.D. in sociology from University of Chicago.

American University Washington College of Law

Susan Franck is a new professor of law. Her research interests include contracts, international investment, and law and psychology.

Rebecca Hamilton, an assistant professor of law, has been deputy director of a human rights institute at New York University School of Law.

Anita Sinha, also an assistant law professor, was a practitioner-in-residence at AUWCL’s Immigrant Justice Clinic.

Editor’s note: While most of the new professors started in 2016-17, a few are scheduled to join AU this spring or in the next academic year.

Three New Deans

Camille A. Nelson is the new dean of the Washington College of Law. You can read more about her here.

John T. Delaney is now the dean of the Kogod School of Business. He has a research background in dispute resolution and labor-management relations.

Cheryl Holcomb-McCoy is a professor and the new dean of the School of Education. She was formerly vice provost, faculty affairs at Johns Hopkins University.

Tags: College of Arts and Sciences,Featured News,Kogod School of Business,Provost,Research,School of International Service,School of Public Affairs,Washington College of Law
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newsId: 7D0805F6-5056-AF26-BE692EF5BF10F529
Title: Alumna Betsy Thomason Says “Just Breathe Out”
Author: EmilyAnn Walrath
Abstract: Betsy Thomason, CAS/BA ’66, talks about her journey to becoming a respiratory therapist and author of Just Breathe Out.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 10/13/2016

Betsy Thomason, CAS/BA ’66, is driven by many passions in her life, including teaching, writing, sharing the outdoors, and studying respiratory therapy. Over the years, her passions have influenced her various missions in life. These missions have changed and morphed, presenting new and exciting adventures for her to undertake. Perhaps the most challenging – and the most exciting – is her newest mission of sharing her research on the impact of the out-breath on health and well-being. 

Betsy credits AU with providing the initial push that propelled her forward and gave her a “wondering, questioning mind.” AU also fostered her passions of teaching and writing and her love of the outdoors. She pursued her first mission of teaching writing immediately following her graduation from the university. After many years of teaching, she decided to take time to raise her family, at which point she began to rekindle her love of the outdoors.

This rekindled love led her to a degree in respiratory therapy from Bergen Community College in New Jersey. She says that respiratory therapy “has been a challenge and stressful, but it has given [her] a mission; a service to the world.” Although taxing, Betsy says that her respiratory therapy degree played a huge role in her study of the out-breath and her newest mission of sharing the BreatheOutDynamic system (BODs) with the world.

She now is bringing together her many interests and sharing her knowledge of BODs through her new book, Just Breathe Out: Using Your Breath to Create a New Healthier You, which will be available in mid-November. Through the book, Betsy hopes to teach others about the out-breath as a powerful instrument for well-being and to inspire others to further the study of BODs.

Throughout her career, Betsy says that she remained most secure with an insecurity about where she will go next, stating that insecurity “leads you to some place you never thought you’d go.” But she is secure in her love of American University and is excited to celebrate her induction as a Golden Eagle at this year’s All-American Weekend.

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newsId: 0E523E61-5056-AF26-BEF496A448F6CBBA
Title: Getting Out and Giving Back
Author: Kristena Stotts and Penelope Buchter SIS/BA ‘16
Abstract: Alumna Kristen Eastlick shares how AU prepared her for her career, and why she wants to give back to the university community.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 03/11/2016

Kristen Eastlick, CAS/BA ’95, SPA/MA ’96, is a highly successful and motivated alumna who currently serves as the Chief Administrative Officer of Berman and Company, a public affairs advocacy firm. She manages one of the firm’s largest trade association accounts, and for the past 10 years has been responsible for recruitment and staffing. She also serves as the management director for two professional development groups.

In her time as a student, Kristen gleaned countless examples of experiences that helped shape her for the professional world. As a literature major, Kristen enjoyed reading some of the greatest works of literature. Reading helped her hone her writing skills, and learn to use text based evidence to make arguments. “Given how much writing I've had to do in my career, both of those specific skills have been put to great use” she says.  

Kristen affectionately claims “AU is like a vocational education school for civil servants and policy wonks. I think AU students are prepared on day one because of the hands-on education, the focus on internships, the lecturers or speakers who come directly from their offices to share what the 'real world' is like in their chosen fields, and the many ways the university takes advantage of all the resources Washington, DC has to offer.”

A few years after graduation, Kristen gradually began seeing more and more references to AU in her daily life. She saw advertisements at Nationals Stadium, as well as professors quoted in the news, featured as panelists, or referenced in research publications. “With each reference," she says, "I was reminded of how much I valued my time at AU, and I soon realized I should step up and do my part to promote the University and the great work I see.” Kristen now serves as a member of the Alumni Board, and has been active in the Honors Alumni Network.

When asked what advice she would give to students and young alums, she said, “Your membership in AU's Alumni Association starts the second you step off the stage at graduation, and it's important to take advantage of that membership.” She encourages students and alumni alike to leverage the networking opportunities AU offers and adds, “There's an AU graduate with the job title you want or working for an organization you love.” She also says that being a part of the Alumni Association means giving back however you can. “That may mean financially, but it could also mean giving your time to volunteer with an office or organization on campus,” she says.

“And one last thing: When you have your perfect job or are established in that career that's right for you, you may get calls from AU students looking for advice. Being a part of the Alumni Association means that you'll definitely call them back!”

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Title: Two Alumnae Mix Business with Conscience
Author: Rebecca Vander Linde
Abstract: Glen’s Garden Market and Peeled Snacks want to bring you delicious, sustainable food and products.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 07/10/2015

Students buying coffee at Starbucks on campus (and across the nation) can also find a healthy option to munch on between classes: Peeled Snacks. Started by alumna Noha Waibsnaider, CAS/BA ’96, Peeled Snacks offers organic dried fruit, trail mix, and other tasty treats. In Dupont Circle, Glen’s Garden Market, owned by alumna Danielle Vogel, WCL/JD ’07, also sells Peeled Snacks along with a bevy of other organic food and locally-sourced sustainable products.

Noha Waibsnaider found the inspiration to start Peeled Snacks during the anti-globalization protests against the World Trade Organization in 1999. “Seeing the protests on the news, I realized we need people on the inside of business to make a difference,” she says.

Noha went to Columbia Business School and landed a job in brand management at a large food company. “Working there, I learned about how horribly processed all of our food is,” she says. “Food companies add lots of preservatives, chemicals, and sugar. I realized people deserved better and thought I could make something better.”

Thus, Peeled Snacks was born.

Inspired by her childhood in Israel, where people have been eating dried fruit and nuts for thousands of years to make the fruit last longer after harvest, Noha started Peeled Snacks in 2005 with dried mangos. She works closely with the farmers in Mexico to ensure they use sustainable practices and that the local economy benefits from the business. Peeled Snacks is a certified B Corp, meaning it focuses on benefiting all stakeholders and is held to rigorous standards regarding the social and environmental impact of its business decisions. Peeled Snacks are sold nationwide at Starbucks, Hudson News, Giant, Whole Foods, and locally at Glen’s Garden Market.

Danielle Vogel focused on environmental law while completing her degree at the Washington College of Law. She went on to work in the Senate on climate change legislation, but when the political climate proved that legislative progress was at an impasse, she decided to create her own change by opening Glen’s Garden Market. “We call it progress one bite at a time,” Danielle says. “We have created a space where our neighbors can only make good choices for the environment.”

All products sold at Glen’s are locally-sourced from the six states in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, and the building is constructed with sustainable and reclaimed materials. But Danielle is not only committed to the environment, she also helps fellow green entrepreneurs by launching their brands in the store.

“We grow small businesses along with our own... That is how we expand this movement beyond our four walls. We help grow, incubate, and accelerate small food brands that treat their land, animals, and ingredients with respect,” Danielle says.

In its first two years, Glen’s Garden Market has launched more than 35 other small businesses by providing them with a first opportunity to sell their product in a grocery store. Danielle is also focused on a second location in Shaw at the intersection of 8th and U streets, slated to open in November 2015.

Both Danielle and Noha say their AU education has been immensely helpful in starting and running their businesses. Noha says her major in Spanish and Latin American studies helps her establish relationships with Mexican farmers and understand their culture as well as the issues they face. Danielle says her degree from the Washington College of Law has given her the knowledge to negotiate contracts and the confidence to succeed in a male-dominated industry.

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Title: CAS Alumna Returns to AU for Alumni in the KNOW: Women in Leadership
Author: Nina Cooperman, SPA/MPA '15
Abstract: Virginia Louloudes, CAS/MA ’84, reflects on an AU experience that set the stage for her success.
Topic: Alumni Profile
Publication Date: 03/12/2015

Virginia Louloudes, CAS/MA '84, received her degree at AU when the arts management program was just beginning. Since then, she has gone on to become a prominent leader in the arts management world, serving as the executive director at Alliance of Resident Theatres in New York (A.R.T./New York). Louloudes was a panelist at this month's Alumni in the KNOW: Women in Leadership event, where she shared her thoughts on the career landscape for women in the arts and gave advice to current students. 

Louloudes has been in her role at A.R.T. New York for more than 20 years. The organization is devoted to assisting 300 member theatres in managing their organizations. A.R.T New York does everything from offering shared office and rehearsal spaces, to serving as the nation's only revolving loan fund for real estate, to providing technical assistance programs for emerging theatres. According to its website, "A.R.T./New York supports nonprofit theatre companies in New York City by providing four core programs: Funding, Training, Space, and Connections." 

In 2010, A.R.T./New York received Tony Honors for Excellence, and Louloudes had the opportunity to attend a luncheon for honorees in New York City. About the experience, she said, "I never felt so special in my life." 

When Louloudes was an arts management student at AU, she worked part-time at organizations like Arena Stage and the National Endowment for the Humanities. According to Louloudes, the course material in the arts management program challenged her to "use a different part of my brain, and talk about the quality of life that the arts brings to the United States." 

According to Louloudes, one of the benefits of attending AU is the proximity to "the wealth of arts that exist in Washington. Being in Washington, DC was great. Having access to the Smithsonian, the Kennedy Center, and Arena Stage was such a resource. Being in a city where the arts are vibrant is really amazing. It's something that is special about AU." 

Before she came to campus for Alumni in the KNOW: Women in Leadership, Louloudes said she was "looking forward to seeing how much campus has changed, meeting students and the other panelists." The one piece of advice she hopes sticks with students is to become comfortable with being yourself. After the event, students seemed to connect with her message and were actively engaged.

When asked about how the arts management program has evolved since she was a student, Louloudes says the industry has changed. "It has become much more specialized, and it's wonderful to hear that the program has become a great one," she says.

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newsId: 59CDADC4-5056-AF26-BEF34466B4C19301
Title: Emerging as a Young Leader in the Arts
Author: Megan Patterson, SIS/BA '11
Subtitle: Adam Natale, CAS/BA '03, leveraged his interdisciplinary studies at AU to become an emerging player in the arts as SVA Theatre's Director.
Abstract: Adam Natale, CAS/BA '03, leveraged his interdisciplinary studies at AU to become an emerging player in the arts as the Director of the SVA Theatre.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 01/15/2015

As the director of the School of Visual Arts' SVA Theatre in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York, Adam Natale, CAS/BA '03, has had some incredible opportunities – from hosting events featuring Oprah and Beyonce in 2013, to moderating a Q&A with actor David Duchovny in 2014, and finishing the year with a special 25th anniversary screening of Batman

Adam's path to being SVA Theatre's director started while he was a student at American University. At AU, he created his own interdisciplinary major – a bachelor's in directing for theatre and film – by combining the fields of visual media, psychology, and theatre. He credits his "three terrific advisors" for helping him reach his potential: Caleen Jennings, professor of performing arts; Leonard Steinhorn, professor of communication; and Anthony Ahrens, professor of psychology. "I was able to take many other classes; I wasn't strictly confined to theatre and film. I was incorporating other courses from a wide range of programs, all of which I feel like gave me a really well-rounded experience," he says. "I think that is really important in this line of work."

Adam remembers a particularly seminal experience as a member of AU's performing arts group. "My first semester on campus I got to stage-manage and assistant direct a production, which was the unheard of for a freshman," he recalls. This unique opportunity reinforced a passion for directing. "I was always interested in this line of work. I performed as an actor in high school, but I didn't want to live the life of an actor. Then I realized that there are also starving directors." 

In his final year at American, Adam interned at the National Endowment of the Arts, leading him into what would become his first job in the field of arts administration. He says, "Without the internship, I wouldn't be on the path that I am on now. I wouldn't have been able to interact with all the different professionals in the field." His success prompted an invitation to come back to AU to speak at the Emerging Arts Leaders Symposium in 2009, on a panel called "Challenges of Being a Young Leader." He also served in a leadership role for Americans for the Arts, a national arts advocacy organization, which connects him to the AU and D.C. arts scene. 

Adam works with groups both inside and outside the community to bring a variety of productions to SVA Theatre's stage. He organizes everything from lectures and conferences to student events and film screenings. He especially loves the ability to bring some artistic programming to the theatre, like the inaugural alumni film and animation festival called "After School Special," which he launched in September.

Adam hopes to continue his success as SVA Theatre's director by "becoming a player in the New York art scene" and continuing to have diverse programmatic events that attract people from all walks of life. To see what is next on his schedule, check out SVA Theatre's calendar.

Tags: Alumni,Alumni Update,College of Arts and Sciences,Performing Arts
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newsId: 79AD04BF-E6B0-3D37-42620014133494E9
Title: Alumni Board Member Uses Family Business Experience to Assist Others
Author: Patricia Rabb
Abstract: Lee Tannenbaum actively supports family-owned business
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 11/12/2014

"I guess you can say that I came to AU in 1976 and never left," says Lee Tannenbaum, CAS/BA '80, about his ties to AU. "A college counselor told me how beautiful the campus was and felt that I would be at home there since I had grown up in the suburbs," he adds.

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., Lee has lived in Rockland County, N.Y., since 1960. Upon graduation from high school, Lee knew he wanted to attend college in Washington, D.C., since he was fascinated with politics and its effect on business.  

After arriving on campus as a freshman, he immediately went to Capitol Hill and was hired as an intern in the office of his Congressman, Benjamin Gilman, who served as a U.S. Representative for New York for 30 years. Thus began Lee's "love affair" with Washington, D.C.   

During his time at AU, Lee wrote for the university newspaper, played intramural sports, and made several life-long friendships. "My best friend at AU is still my best friend today," says Lee. His favorite memory is attending concerts and writing music stories for The Eagle. Lee was able to meet several artists whose music inspires him to this day. He recalls meeting Dennis DeYoung, founding member of the rock band, Styx. Lee says the rocker called out to him, saying, "Get over here and ask me some questions, kid."  

Since graduating, Lee has been the president and owner of Mill Supply Division, wholesale fabricators of Hunter Douglas blinds. He runs the company with his brother, Ross, and the two have been working together there for more than 33 years. Their father started the company in 1969 and Lee joined him upon graduation from AU. Over the years, he's helped grow the business from $4 million in revenue in 1994 to $23 million in 2013. Lee says that the most rewarding part of operating this company came from the example his father set. "I got to work with my dad and brother. We were always there for each other," says Lee. 

Lee is now a business development manager for a growing family business, Designs by Town & Country, a full-service window treatment company in Greenwich, Conn. Lee is helping the owners build their family business by enhancing their brand and improving their networking with interior designers, architects, and home automation integrators. In this role, Lee helps the father and son team use lessons he learned while running his own family business.

Lee says that volunteering his time to AU has been very rewarding. "The fact that I can still help my alma mater makes me feel valued," he says. In addition to being a member of the Alumni Board, Lee serves as an Alumni Admissions Volunteer. At a recent college fair in New York, Lee says he was impressed by the quality of the prospective students. "Just seeing the types of young men and women being accepted by our university makes me feel good about our future," he says.

Lee notes that much has changed at AU since he attended in the late '70s. He recalls the time, before Bender Arena was built, when students had to ride a bus to the Fort Myer gym in Virginia to attend basketball games. "All the new academic buildings on campus demonstrate that this indeed is a new AU. There is a new attitude and it is infectious," he says.

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newsId: 6C04E0D9-DABA-87E8-31492CF8D9E60F06
Title: "Braven" The Odds
Author: Megan Patterson, SIS/BA '11
Subtitle: Marshall Thompson, CAS/BA ’03, opens Braven Brewing Company in New York City
Abstract: Marshall Thompson, CAS/BA ’03, opens Braven Brewing Company in New York City
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 11/12/2014

"Perseverance, patience, persistence and pride" –that is the mantra of Marshall Thompson, CAS/BA '03. Marshall is owner and CEO of Braven Brewing Company in Brooklyn, New York, and the journey to get to this point has taken several turns. 

Marshall came to American University with an interest in business. He enrolled as a freshman in Kogod, but transferred to the College of Arts and Sciences to complete his bachelor's degree in anthropology. Marshall says that he was attracted to the program because of his interest in people and culture. As an entrepreneur, he says one of the best parts of his work is meeting new people.

Appropriately, people have been a large part of Marshall's success. He credits AU for bringing together people who are "really driven, smart, and creative." Marshall's sophomore year roommate, Dan McAvoy, introduced Marshall to his now-business partner, Eric Feldman, who is a friend of Dan's from high school. 

Marshall surrounded himself with talented and creative friends during his time at AU, and most of them have stayed connected more than 10 years later. Marshall emphasized his strong support network of AU friends and family members who he says continue to encourage him to pursue his dreams. 

After graduating from AU, Marshall's first venture into entrepreneurialism was District Line, a clothing store that carried brands which were popular in the United Kingdom but hard to find stateside. Envisioned after his study abroad program in London, the store saw great success online, getting orders from all over the world. District Line closed in 2008 (during the recession), but Marshall learned from this great experience, saying "It taught me that I need to believe in what I am doing, that it needs to be authentic and real." 

Now, continuing to live by his mantra, Marshall has persevered through challenging setbacks, was patient with slow-moving bureaucracy, and persisted to fulfill his dream of opening a brewery. Braven Brewing Company, located in the historic Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn, will be open to the public in the spring of 2015. You don't have to wait to try their beers though –restaurants and bars all around Brooklyn will be getting Braven beers on tap by the end of this year. 

Keep an eye on the New York Young Alumni Chapter events calendar –soon Braven will be on it!

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newsId: 92A036D3-D3B8-7ED8-1D1FF5C18BA9706B
Title: Brett Smock, CAS/BA ’92: From Dancer to Producing Artistic Director
Author: Patricia C. Rabb
Abstract: AU alumnus is Producing Artistic Director of The Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival
Topic: Alumni Profile
Publication Date: 09/09/2014

"I remember getting out of the car and walking across the quad and immediately having this sense that things felt right." So says alumnus Brett Smock, CAS/BA '92, about his first impression of AU.

As the son of a diplomat, born in Hawaii but raised predominantly overseas, Brett enjoyed living in countries such as Libya, Pakistan, Israel, and France. During his junior year in high school in Singapore, he took a two-month tour of select U.S. universities – starting at UCLA and ending at NYU. His second to last stop was American University. "I am someone who listens closely to my gut reaction, and it has never let me down. I went back to Singapore with AU on the brain; and well, the rest is history."

Training with hopes to be a professional swimmer, graduating from AU as a theatre major, and then becoming a dancer, Brett realized that he also enjoyed the business side of theatrical companies. In June 2014, he assumed the role of producing artistic director for The Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival, a three-venue operation, after working with the company for almost 30 years. 

Brett now oversees a budget of roughly $5 million and a staff of approximately 20 that grows to a company of over 250 at the height of the season. This includes overseeing all of the Festival’s artistic and business components at its location in Auburn, NY. Auburn, located in central New York on one of the Finger Lakes, is an historic city where Harriet Tubman and William H. Seward lived while helping lead slaves to freedom on the Underground Railroad.  

Much has changed since the time when Brett first started at this playhouse. He recalls actors brushing their teeth in a spigot in the yard. Now, alongside a renovated 500-seat, state-of-the-art facility, two more venues have been added. In line with his organization's mission, Brett says, "When the arts flourish, so do local communities. That's exactly what we've seen happen. Auburn is thriving. [It's] certainly not entirely as a result of the arts, but we're a driving force."

In terms of his goals for the coming years, Brett is focused on growing the festival's audience, developing the next generation of theatre-goers, introducing important works of musical theatre, and developing musical theatre writers. The company operates on three stages and plays to audiences of more than 65,000 each season. "We're an arts organization and our sole task is to create terrific theatre. That is my mantra and my light in the storm. If we do that and we provide theatrical excellence, the rest will organically follow," says Brett.  

Brett has returned to AU many times since graduating more than 20 years ago. He has served as a guest director and as a choreographer several times – beginning almost immediately upon his graduation and continuing to the present. Brett has gratitude for his time at AU and likes to support other AU alumni whenever possible. "I am a product of that investment – not only by the faculty but by the institution itself. AU has given me a lot and I feel, as a leader in the arts today, an incredible responsibility to pay that forward as well as pay that back to AU in every way," he says. 

Brett splits his time between homes in New York City and Auburn. He spends more time in Auburn as a result of this position but gets back to the city whenever possible. He admits to being a workaholic and recalls training heavily in his youth with hopes of being an Olympic swimmer by swimming daily, both at 5 a.m. and immediately following school. He brings a lot of passion to his work in theatre. "If you don't get out of bed and run to work, what are you doing?" he asks.

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newsId: CD6E4DA2-DCB6-68C6-7A58566F30E408CB
Title: Family Values Worth Cherishing
Author: Mike Rowan
Subtitle: To keep Larissa Gerstel’s legacy alive, her relatives are inspiring future generations at AU to follow in her footsteps.
Abstract: To keep Larissa Gerstel’s legacy alive, her relatives are inspiring future generations at AU to follow in her footsteps.
Topic: Education & Teaching
Publication Date: 03/25/2014

Take a family member of Robin Berk Seitz, SIS/MA ’95, or her husband, Richard (Bob) Seitz, and chances are pretty good that person is an educator. Counted among their relatives are principals, classroom teachers, reading specialists, community college instructors, instructional design specialists, and trainers who have worked with diverse populations spanning young children, college students, adults, medical professionals, ESL students, and the deaf and blind. There is a passion that is palpable, illustrated in one case by Bob’s mother, who directed a reading clinic open to people of all ages into her eighties

So when their daughter Larissa Gerstel, née Rozek, CAS/BA ’00—fittingly, an elementary school teacher on her way to graduate school in Denver to become a bilingual reading specialist—had her life cut short by a sudden illness just after her 26th birthday, their response was only natural. Within months, Robin and Bob set in motion a vision to honor Larissa’s life by inspiring students and future educators, bringing all of their extended family together in an effort that is still growing after almost a decade.

“This is important to all of us,” Robin confides.


As an AU student, Larissa Gerstel quickly stood out as a passionate force against injustice. While studying to become a teacher, she became an outspoken advocate of critical literacy, an instructional approach that emphasizes active analysis and questioning on the part of the reader to uncover underlying messages of power, inequality, and injustice in human relationships. Together with one of her mentors—Dr. Vivian Vasquez, a professor of education in the School of Education, Teaching, and Health, (SETH)—Larissa helped found an organization called Educators for Critical Literacy, and reached out to local communities in an urgent effort to make literacy a central component of children’s lives. It was the discovery of a calling that would become her life’s work. When it came time to enter her field professionally, she took action on her ideals.

“Larissa had been offered a teaching position in a wealthy area near her home in Port Orange, Florida,” Robin remembers. “And she chose instead to drive 60 miles each way to teach migrant workers’ children.”

Dubbed “the fern capital of the world,” the town of Pierson, Florida relies heavily on agriculture to support their local economy. Around 60 percent of the population is Latino, as classified by census figures, and one-third live below the poverty line, including 40 percent of children under 18. After a year teaching in Montgomery County, Larissa moved to central Florida, teaching at Pierson Elementary School. Shaped by her own childhood as a second-language learner growing up in Switzerland and Italy, as well as her influential experience as a Spanish tutor in high school, she found a fundamental connection with the community.

“Larissa really knew herself. Kids were really important to her, especially kids who were disadvantaged, and who came from immigrant backgrounds learning English as a second language,” says Robin. She also notes that her daughter also worked hard to involve parents, and encouraged them to be active and informed participants in their children’s education. “We really were grateful to Pierson because Larissa really found her voice as a teacher there, and really loved her students and colleagues. It was a very important place to her.”

Today, Pierson is home to the Larissa Gerstel Parenting Center, where parents join their children in reading and other literacy events.


AU became home for Larissa before she even began the college application process, as a high school student while Robin was working toward her master’s in the School of International Service.

“I often took her with me to AU, to the library. Larissa became very familiar and very comfortable being there,” Robin explains. “She was always ready to grow up fast. After her sophomore year [of high school], she was ready to move on. Really the only place she wanted to go was AU.

“She really wanted to apply early decision, but you normally can’t apply two and half years through high school!” Fortunately, after meeting with the family, the administration at McLean High School wrote a statement in support of Larissa and explained her circumstances, and AU accepted her application, to Robin's delight. “She was just thrilled.”

The mother-daughter trips to AU, which set the stage for a college experience that nurtured Larissa’s passion for her chosen career and close friendships, remain special to Robin. “I’ve really been putting a lot of my efforts and energy over the last nine years into the library. It's very meaningful to me and to us as a family, because that’s where Larissa developed her passion for AU... It is still that way for me when I visit campus; I feel like I am coming home, this is where I belong.”


After Larissa’s passing, an outpouring of support from her professors and mentors at AU quickly followed. As Robin recalls, “I talked to Vivian and to Sarah [Irvine-Belson, dean of SETH, another professor who knew her well] to tell them what happened. Immediately they said they needed to do something to honor Larissa’s life’s work and memory.” The Larissa Gerstel Critical Literacy Collection was born, initially funded with $10,000 from SETH, plus other donations. After a pre-opening ceremony in 2006, the collection officially opened in 2007. “They [Vivian and Sarah] really helped this process a lot by initiating the vision. In fact, they both came to Larissa’s memorial service [two months later] and brought flyers about the collection to our church.”

The collection was to be housed in the Curriculum Materials Center within the AU Library, and as discussions of the concept progressed, AU librarians and development staff worked increasingly closely with SETH and the Seitz family. “It was a partnership,” Robin emphasizes. “It really evolved over time.” The scope of the effort grew to include an annual event, the Larissa Gerstel Critical Literacy Symposium.

“I remember putting together the first symposium,” Robin reflects. “From the very beginning, we set up the fund so that 75 percent would go to the books and curriculum materials and 25 percent would go to a symposium. We knew early on that we wanted it to be both something living—in terms of an event—and also long-lasting, which would be the books, and the teaching of teachers through the curriculum materials.”

“The spreading of the importance of child literacy issues has really taken off,” Bob adds. “We are very happy to have this as a remembrance for Larissa, but the other goal is genuinely helping students and professors at AU communicate about child literacy issues. [The symposium] has done very good work for all the potential teachers that come out of SETH, and others who attend out of sheer interest. You get different perspectives, and a continually higher level of discussion every year.”

In the Curriculum Materials Center, among the many multicultural books for students, children, and parents to learn about issues of social justice and equity in a safe, comfortable space, there hangs a plaque with a quote from Larissa’s graduate school application essay:

“The look of understanding that comes over a child’s face when she or he finally understands a concept that before was baffling and yet now seems simple is the greatest joy I have had as a teacher.”


As momentum surrounding the collection and symposium continued to build, the conversation of sustaining Larissa’s presence on campus expanded. “Over time, we gradually began discussions about establishing the Larissa Gerstel Critical Literacy Endowment,” Robin stated. With the support of the extended family, the AU Library and SETH, after years of difficult but uplifting work, the endowment became fully funded this fiscal year.

“Why an endowment? It evolved into that. This is really going to be an ongoing legacy that will build—and hopefully exponentially over time—and continue to give to the school and the students, and really have an impact. We’re grateful to have the opportunity to have Larissa remembered in this way, as a living legacy.

“I think what’s really unique about this is the partnership between the school (CAS) and the Library. It’s not easy to work across departments at a university. The fact that this is such a fantastic success story, and that it’s ongoing, it’s external as well as internal—outreach to the community as well as students and teachers makes this really special. There are a lot great things about that for everybody, including the library.”

Not least among these benefits of the endowment is preserving the memories of Larissa for future generations of her family. Says her fourteen-year-old sister Loree, “AU has helped keep Larissa’s spirit and ambitions alive, and this has been an experience I will never forget. Over the past nine years, I’ve felt like the AU community has been like family to me.”

“It’s really an enduring legacy and an annual legacy,” Robin imparts. “We have the best of both. On Larissa’s birthday, we want to come on campus and be with Larissa there, and we feel the same way about the symposium during Alumni Weekend in October. This is a way of keeping Larissa’s spirit alive; that’s the value to us as a family.”


The Seitz family wishes to communicate special thanks to all current and former AU community members who played important roles in making the Larissa Gerstel Critical Literacy Endowment a reality: Sarah Irvine-Belson, Vivian Vasquez, and Danielle Sodani of SETH; Alex Hodges, Bill Mayer, and Nancy Davenport of the AU Library; and Jenny McMillan, Sarah Papazoglakis, and Nicole Weaver of the Office of Development.

Tags: College of Arts and Sciences,Donor,Giving,Library,School of Education, Teaching and Health
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newsId: 23A354A3-08DC-6AA5-D4C948B8A867E86A
Title: SIRIUSXM Executive Gives Back as Mentor to Current Students
Author: Megan Olson
Abstract: Steve Leeds, CAS/BA ’72, began a career in music while a student at AU.
Topic: Alumni Profile
Publication Date: 03/12/2014

Today the students of American University listen to WVAU, the Internet based student-run radio station. For American University alumnus Steve Leeds, CAS/BA ’72, the campus radio station, then WAMU AM, was a second home for him during his formative years while studying at AU in the early ’70s and just the beginning of his successful career in the music industry.

Steve reminisces warmly about his time at AU – many life experiences, putting service first, and living in Washington, D.C. during the Nixon administration. He remembers fondly the house he lived in on Wisconsin Avenue his senior year as well as his experiences during the war protests in Ward Circle – even broadcasting live while wearing a gas mask. An avid music fan, Steve proudly shares that The Allman Brothers’ Band recorded an album live in the American University gym on December 13, 1970.

Steve, who is now vice president of talent and industry affairs at SIRIUSXM, is an active AU alumnus. In his current role, Steve is part of the department responsible for providing talent for all of the channels at SIRIUSXM. At the office, no two days are ever the same for Steve. His responsibilities range from maintaining relationships with promoters, publicists, and record labels to coordinating times and talent from New York to Nashville, Los Angeles, Cleveland, and Washington, D.C.

Even though Steve’s job can be demanding, he continues to serve as a dedicated alumni volunteer and mentor to numerous SOC students. He is passionate about giving his time freely in an effort to provide students with access to candid career advice. He says he enjoys “sharing insights with students and helping them to see the forest through the trees while they are trying to navigate what to do next after AU.”

Steve’s involvement reaches beyond personally advising students. He also invites students to his office at SIRIUSXM in New York during the annual SOC site visit trip. SIRIUSXM is always a favorite site for students to attend, and Steve asks his colleagues at various levels in the company to provide them with stories about how they got started in the industry.

Steve continues to pay it forward, acknowledging how instrumental a mentor can be in shaping someone’s future. He recalls that his faculty advisor at AU was vital helping him figure out how to turn his passion into a career, including assisting him in creating an interdisciplinary degree track, which is known today as the BA in American Studies, as well as encouraging him to continue on to graduate school at Syracuse University, where he received an MS in television and radio.

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