newsId: 343E77EC-5056-AF26-BEE4F3B6C8734723
Title: Late Spring Exhibits Open at AU Museum
Author: Rebecca Basu
Subtitle:
Abstract: Sy Gresser’s sculpture, ancient Chinese stone rubbings, and a cultural exchange with Vilnius, Lithuania, on display
Topic: Arts
Publication Date: 04/24/2015
Content:

Late spring exhibits at the American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center include sculpture from the estate of area artist and poet Sy Gresser and a brief, not-to-be-missed showing of stone rubbings dating from the Han Period (206 B.C.-220 A.D.).

Cultural Treasures from Shandong province: Ancient Chinese Pictorial Stone Rubbings contains more than 60 kinds of rubbings of stone inscriptions taken during the Qin and Han Dynasties. The Chinese used a method of stone rubbing with paper and ink and made multiple copies of these inscriptions. The rubbings (also known as inked squeezes) preserved the inscriptions better than the stone itself. The rubbings were taken from stone inscriptions in the Shandong province of eastern China and reveal scenes of everyday life. An opening reception takes place 6 p.m. Tues. May 19. The exhibit opens May 19 and closes May 31.

AU Museum presents Sy Gresser's powerful and poetic legacy of stone carvings from April 25 through August 16 in Stone, Silence, and Speech: Sculptures by Sy Gresser. Gresser absorbed and re-articulated diverse visual vocabularies into his own, unique style. He balanced figurative and abstract technique to conceive sculptures that evoke memories of family and friends as well as literary and historic narrative. The blend of finished, smoothed surfaces and rough texture call upon the viewers' hands as well as eyes. A reception takes place from 6 to 9 p.m. on opening day, and Gresser's longtime curator Ori Z. Soltes will give a gallery talk 6 p.m. Thurs. May 7. 

Lost and Found: Young Art from Lithuania, open from April 25 through May 24, is the product of an educational and artistic exchange between AU and the Vilnius Academy of Arts. Curatorial practice students from both universities are developing their skills in the management as well as the presentation of the art of their fellow students through this international exchange of exhibitions. 

Young Lithuanian artists exhibiting in Lost and Found are working in a wide range of media varying from traditional craftsmanship to unique technological solutions. They demonstrate the varied influence of the Vilnius Academy of Arts on the creativity of its students. In return, Director Jack Rasmussen's Curatorial Practice Students will curate a show of AU students and recent alumni that will be exhibited at the Vilnius Academy of Arts in October 2015.

BLUEPRINT, opening April 25 and closing May 10, features the thesis exhibition of students who will graduate this spring with Master's of Fine Arts degrees. The students are Nathan Mullins, Ayad Almissouri, Angelina Samudre, Jenny Wu, Mandy Cooper, Michael Holt, Robert Yi, and Tim Hoyt. The exhibition showcases a range of techniques, including painting, sculpture, collage and material studies, photography and new media. A gallery talk will be held from 5 to 6 p.m., Sat. April 25.

Early spring exhibits are also continuing. To find out more, visit http://www.american.edu/media/news/20150401-Early-Spring-Exhibits.cfm

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newsId: 6562EF34-5056-AF26-BE5A9F14DA5E65EE
Title: Student Research Award Winners Announced
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Abstract: Twenty-fifth annual Robyn Rafferty Mathias Student Research Conference winners announced.
Topic: Research
Publication Date: 04/20/2015
Content:

On March 28, 2015, the College of Arts and Sciences celebrated its 25th annual Robyn Rafferty Mathias Student Research Conference, funded in part by a generous grant from AU trustee and alumna Robyn Rafferty Mathias.

Undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral students presented original scholarly and creative works in front of their colleagues, faculty members, and friends. 

The winning presentations earned cash prizes, and winning graduate students also received a conference travel award.

The 2015 winners are as follows:

 

Best Oral Presentation in the Arts and Humanities by a Graduate Student

Catherine Vassaux (MA art history)

Powerful Flesh: Lucretius and the Body of Venus in Bronzino’s An Allegory with Venus and Cupid

 

Best Oral Presentation in the Arts and Humanities by a Junior or Senior

Sarah Palazzolo (BA Spanish: Latin American studies) 

Narrating the Journey: A Collective Testimonial Account of Central American Youth Migration

 

Best Oral Presentation in the Arts and Humanities by a Freshman or Sophomore

Taryn Daniels (BA public communications) 

Sports, PR, and the Media: How Much We Really Know about Our Favorite Athletes

 

Best Oral Presentation in the Performing Arts by a Graduate Student

Jessica Ferey (MA arts management)

Are We There Yet? Gender Equality in Arts Leadership

 

Best Oral Presentation in the Performing Arts by a Junior or Senior

Darren Rabinowitz (BA interdisciplinary studies)

Dirty Conscience: A Major, an Identity, a Performance

 

Best Oral Presentation in the Sciences by a Graduate Student

Anne Ballard (MS biology)

Investigating the Fitness Effects of Synonymous Mutations in Escherichia coli: A Test of the Local and Global Translational Selection Hypotheses

 

Best Oral Presentation in the Sciences by a Junior or Senior

David D’Auria (BA mathematics and economics)

What is a Matrix? (and How Can it Predict the Weather?)

 

Best Oral Presentation in the Social Sciences by a Graduate Student

Siobhan McGuirk (PhD anthropology)

Defining the “Exceptionally Vulnerable”: NGOs' Role in Categorizing Deserving Immigrants

 

Best Oral Presentation in the Social Sciences by a Junior or Senior

Ta Lynn Mitchell (BA sociology)

Elements of Mentor Programming that Add and Distract from the Development of African American Girls

 

Best Oral Presentation in the Social Sciences by a Freshman or Sophomore

Sarah Hendricks (BA print journalism and computer science)

Missing Girls: Gender Inequality and Gendercide in China and India

 

Best Poster Presentation in the Sciences by a Graduate Student 

Linda Amarante (PhD behavior, cognition, and neuroscience)

The Neuroscience of Subjective Value and Behavioral Choice

 

Best Poster Presentation in the Sciences by a Junior or Senior

Sarah Bieniek (BA biology and physics)

Relating Dust Composition to Light Extinction Curves

 

Best Poster Presentation in the Sciences by a Freshman or Sophomore (Shared Prize)

Anya Pforzheimer (BA undeclared), Faith Bruton (BA public health), and Alexandra Parry (BA undeclared)

Mental Health and Gender Stigmas Through the Media

 

Best Poster Presentation in the Social Sciences by a Graduate Student (Shared Prize)

Leah Rothschild (PhD clinical psychology), Kelly MacDonald (MA psychology), Emma Woodward (MA psychology), Kat Allen (MA psychology), and Cara Goerlich (BA psychology)

Parental Reactions to their Children's Upset

 

Best Poster Presentation in the Social Sciences by a Junior or Senior

Wyatt Bensken (BA public health)

Assessment of the Health Status of the Seme Community, Kisumu County, Western Kenya

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newsId: A432941C-5056-AF26-BE9853970FE89A75
Title: Inaugural Event for Carmel Institute of Russian Culture and History
Author: Patty Housman
Subtitle:
Abstract: New Institute promotes US-Russian relations through history and culture
Topic: International
Publication Date: 04/17/2015
Content:

Saturday was a big day for cultural diplomacy at AU, as hundreds of people gathered at the Katzen Arts Center for the official kick-off event of the Carmel Institute of Russian Culture and History (CIRCH). 

The day began with a symposium, The Strength of Cooperation: Lessons from the Grand Alliance, 1941–1945. Panelists included Frank Costigliola, professor of history at the University of Connecticut; Iskander Magadeev from the Moscow State Institute of International Relations; Susan B. Eisenhower, president of The Eisenhower Group; and John R. Beyrle, US Ambassador to Russia, 2008–12. The symposium was followed by a reception and the official announcement of the new institute, which will reside in the College of Arts and Sciences and be dedicated to enhancing US-Russian relations.

 

The Carmel Institute of Russian Culture and History

International philanthropist and businesswoman Susan Carmel Lehrman established and endowed the Carmel Institute of Russian Culture and History in honor of her late husband, Robert Carmel. It will expand the former Initiative for Russian Culture (IRC), and fund its operations in perpetuity. 

“We are grateful to Ms. Lehrman for her exceptional vision and commitment to furthering cultural diplomacy between the US and Russia for the past four years,” said Peter Starr, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “We are looking forward to offering students new study abroad programs, expanded cultural events and symposia, and even more opportunities to develop a deeper understanding of Russian culture and history.”

 

The Making of an Institute

At the reception, Lehrman spoke about a pivotal meeting that took place 27 years ago. It brought together a remarkable group of people and ultimately helped lead to the creation of the Carmel Institute of Russian Culture and History. 

In 1988, when Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev visited New York City to address the United Nations, Lehrman and her late husband, Robert Carmel, were invited to meet him. “Robert was of Jewish-Russian descent, and was invited to a special dinner because of his help for Soviet Jews,” she said. “Robert was a great believer of the power of philanthropy to change the world, and the institute’s name is my way of honoring his commitment to the great American tradition of generosity for the sake of the world.”

Also present that day was a journalist named Andre Fedyashin, who was working for the Russian news agency TASS. In 20 years, his son Anton Fedyashin, an American University history professor, would become the director of the Carmel Institute. 

Another guest was Sergey Kislyak, currently the ambassador of the Russian Federation to the US. Carmel said she had no idea that their paths would cross again many years later, or that they would end up working together to make the Carmel Institute a reality. The institute, said Lehrman, first grew from Ambassador Kislak’s vision of having “young people coming to film screenings at the embassy to learn about Russia through Russian eyes, and to get to know Russia as Russians see it.” 

 

Building on a Rich History

Since its inception, the IRC has promoted a greater understanding of Russian culture among all students in the Washington area's Consortium of Universities—leading to deep and lasting connections between young Americans and Russians. To date, more than 14,000 students and guests have participated in 22 IRC film screenings at the Russian Embassy, as well as panel discussions and cultural experiences across the DC area.

Lehrman announced that the Carmel Institute of Russian Culture and History will establish all of these programs in perpetuity, and expand to include more cultural offerings and events, including new courses on cultural diplomacy and Russia's relationship with the West. 

The institute will also offer exciting new student and professorial exchanges between the United States and Russia. “The Carmel Institute has already facilitated the establishment of a direct student exchange program with Moscow State Institute of International Relations and the Higher School of Economics (HSE) in Moscow,” said Anton Fedyashin. “Two AU students will go to the HSE for a full academic year this coming August. And ten students will travel with me to Russia this summer to explore literary Russia by reading nine short stories by nine Russian writers, ranging from Pushkin to Solzhenitsyn. We will visit Moscow, Petersburg, Yasnaya Polyana, and Staraya Russa.”

 

Moving Forward

“The Carmel Institute will encourage American students to explore Russia for themselves and to interact with Russians to hear their point of view on their history, their culture, and the world,” said Fedyahsin. “American University justifiably takes pride in the level of its students engagement with the world, but it also believes that changing it for the better is more effective after learning about its subtleties and complexities. Exposing American students to the depth and richness of Russian culture is precisely what the Carmel Institute aims to do.”

Lehrman urged the young people in the audience to get involved in the institute’s programming and events. “I believe that your generation, and the generations that follow, will need to find a better way to understand and accept different cultures and backgrounds,” she said. “Real change must come from the heart, and I sincerely believe that the greatest tool for understanding people and reaching their hearts and minds is through their culture. Greater cultural understanding will help you to achieve an open mind, rather than resorting to stereotypes, and will help you to find a common ground that is necessary to be able to work together and to interact with mutual respect. By continuing to emphasize the importance of culture and common cultural bonds, I believe the institute will be making an investment in future generations that will be paid back ten-fold over time.” 

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Title: Creative Connections
Author: Carolyn Supinka
Subtitle:
Abstract: The 8th Annual Emerging Arts Leaders Symposium
Topic: Arts
Publication Date: 04/16/2015
Content:

For the 8th annual Emerging Arts Leaders Symposium (EALS), 200 students, arts leaders, and young professionals from across the country converged at the Katzen Arts Center for an opportunity to meet some of today’s most innovative leaders in the field of arts management.

The Emerging Arts Leaders Symposium connects young professionals with experienced arts professionals for a day of learning, networking, and reflection. The symposium traditionally kicks off Arts Advocacy Day, a nationwide event that highlights the importance of arts in America.

 

Movers and Shakers  

This year’s keynote speakers were Jane Chu, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, and Howard Herring, president and CEO of New World Symphony.  

Chu called upon the audience to “provide a creative way of leading that synthesizes different perspectives” in their careers, and Herring shared videos of the innovative blending of music and interaction that New World Symphony creates for its audiences. 

This year’s speakers represented major arts institutions including Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, the Smithsonian Institution, OPERA America, Springboard for the Arts, and Washington Performing Arts.  

Robert L. Lynch, president and CEO of Americans for the Arts, offered closing remarks that sent the audience out of the symposium ready to jump into Arts Advocacy Day.  

 

Relevant and Redefining  

Through speeches, panel discussions, and networking events, arts leaders impart knowledge to students and young professionals who are preparing to enter the arts management field themselves.  

The theme of this year’s EALS Symposium was ArtREDEFINED, exploring the ways that arts organizations have adapted to address the issues facing them today. Panel topics included “Back to Black: Achieving and Maintaining Financial Stability,” “Arts In Post-Crisis Areas,” “Outreach Outcomes: Engagement that Matters,” and “Founder’s Stories: Entrepreneurship and Arts Startups.”  

“It was incredible how we had really influential arts leaders from prominent arts organizations all in one place at one time,” said Laura London (MA arts management ’15), a member of the EALS planning committee.  

 

For Emerging Leaders, By Emerging Leaders  

The symposium was originally proposed in 2008 by Michelle Grove (MA arts management ’08), and has since grown to an annual event that draws participants from all across the country. This year, participants included students from Columbia University, Savannah College of Art and Design, Drexel University, George Mason University, George Washington University, Carnegie Mellon University, and other universities. 

The event is organized by a committee of nine students in AU’s Arts Management Program. Throughout the year, they work to produce the symposium, by conducting fundraisers and developing relevant and timely panel discussions.  

Participants say that the event is a valuable opportunity for students and arts professionals at any stage in their careers. “EALS is unique because no other gathering for arts managers offers such an intimate setting for young leaders to dig into the hard questions with the leading voices in our field,” said Erin Quinlan (MA arts management ’15), who served as this year’s committee chair. “On top of the typical conference experience, EALS also offers time for networking and camaraderie with the up-and-coming leaders of the art world who will be your colleagues for years to come.”  

 

Lasting Impressions  

"This was my third EALS in a row, and it was honestly the best EALS yet. And I say that even though I served on the EALS committee last year,” said Jessica Ferey (MA arts management ’15). “It was really nice to sit back as an audience member this year and soak in all the knowledge from a truly incredible roster of speakers.”  

“It was thrilling to see the concepts and ideas we learn about in the classroom being discussed by professional arts managers with such passion,” said Jared Chamoff (MA arts management ’16). “It was also great to feel a sense of community after spending time alongside emerging arts leaders from so many different programs.”

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newsId: 3B322260-5056-AF26-BE144617405A2779
Title: AU Loves Women in Science
Author: Patty Housman
Subtitle: Dr. Jo Handelsman discusses White House efforts to increase women scientists
Abstract: Jo Handelsman discusses White House efforts to increase numbers of women scientists.
Topic: Science
Publication Date: 04/09/2015
Content:

Gender equality leads to better science. Yet over and over again, in study after study, women scientists still face significant gender bias in the United States, according to Jo Handelsman, associate director for science at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Handelsman visited AU last Friday and spoke to a crowd of more than 100 students about the state of women in science today and the White House’s efforts to increase the numbers of women and minorities working in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. 

“We are delighted that Dr. Handelsman accepted our invitation to speak at AU,” said Peter Starr, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “Although it is important to recognize gender bias wherever we find it, it is especially critical to recognize it in science if our nation is to remain a world leader in the scientific disciplines. As our Women in Science group both recognizes and practices, we must have more women and minorities in science, and in positions of scientific leadership.”

 

The State of Women in Science

Handelsman praised the sciences at American University, where 69 percent of STEM undergraduates and 61 percent of STEM graduate students are women. However, across the nation, many university science programs look very different from AU. Handelsman described walking into one physics graduate program where every single student in the classroom was male. Faculty members said it was the norm.

Most scientists believe in the concept of meritocracy—if you are better, you will get ahead. Yet this is a flawed concept when it comes to women and minorities in science, said Handelsman. “And as long as we predicate scientific endeavor on a fundamentally flawed concept, we are never going to advance to the levels we need to advance to.” 

Handelsman presented a wide range of studies and data indicating the ways that science is not objective or fair. Women faculty members earn significantly lower salaries. In fact, women across the country in all fields are paid less than their male counterparts. Women scientists are less likely to get mentored. They are less likely to get hired. They are even less likely to get a response to an email sent to a faculty member. And this occurs across universities, departments, and geography—and in both public and private institutions.

 

Explicit and Implicit Bias against Women Scientists

Handelsman was the lead author of a well-known 2012 Yale University study that asked 127 scientists to review the same job application, which was randomly assigned a male or female name. The study revealed that faculty members consistently scored the male candidate higher and were more likely to hire the man. In addition, both male and female faculty members came to these same conclusions: women were just as likely as men to be biased against other women. 

The study’s results mirrored those of similar studies over the past forty years, said Handelsman. “Even though explicit, or conscious, bias has diminished [in society], implicit, or unintended bias has stayed exactly the same. We still give the advantage to men over women.”

 

Why We Should Care

The United States needs more scientists to keep us competitive with other nations, said Handelsman. In addition, we need more scientists to keep up with the growth of sectors of the economy that depend on STEM scientists and engineers. To this end, the Obama Administration launched an initiative in 2012 to increase the number of students who receive undergraduate degrees in STEM fields by one million over the next decade. “That’s one-third more STEM graduates than we would otherwise have,” she said.

We also need more women scientists and more diversity in science to provide more intellectual vigor, Handelsman said. “Science will be better if we diversity the scientific community.” Not only are diverse groups more innovative, but they come up with more effective solutions, and they can defend their solutions better. Handelsman pointed to a study that analyzed two groups: one that produced top level publications in the fields of economics and science, and one that generated hit plays on Broadway. The two highly successful groups had one thing in common: diversity. 

 

The Future

The White House is working to achieve equity in STEM fields by changing classroom teaching, addressing bias by training and discussion, and promoting positive images of science and scientists. Other strategies include blind reviews of articles for science journals, which has showed promise: the proportion of papers published by women goes up by one-third in blind reviews. Training for faculty and students—and tying the training to federal funding—is also in the works. 

 

“Handelsman

Twitter Town Hall

Handelsman’s talk was organized by Women in Science at AU, and was followed by a Twitter Town Hall meeting. Panelists included Handelsman and professors Katie DeCicco-Skinner (biology), Matthew Hartings (chemistry), and Nathan Harshman (physics). They answered questions from the audience and twitter followers, focusing on the role of professors in mentoring and building self-confidence in science students. 

Handelsman ended her day at AU by visiting the physics lab of professor Teresa Larkin and spending time talking informally with students. 

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Title: At American University, Chemistry Majors Take Charge
Author: Rebecca Basu
Subtitle:
Abstract: First-of-a-kind program gives students control over research for multiple years.
Topic: Science
Publication Date: 04/08/2015
Content:

A new laboratory curriculum for biochemistry and chemistry majors at American University gives students greater autonomy and lets them control research projects during their junior and senior years. It's a first-of-a-kind chemistry laboratory program at the university level based on faculty-guided free inquiry and in which students' research evolves from one year to the next. Subsequent groups of upper-level majors pick up where the last groups left off and further develop the research.

"Junior- and senior-level chemistry and biochemistry majors are given ownership of the research goals, and students are responsible for the direction the project goes in from year to year," said Matthew Hartings, assistant professor of chemistry. "In this way, American University's is a novel and natural approach and gives students real and lasting autonomy. We're putting education directly into the hands of our students and achieving better educational outcomes than any lecture or traditional laboratory could do."

Essentially, students inherit projects, and research continually grows according to student decisions. In the first semester of each sequence, a faculty instructor leads students through a set of previously performed experiments and students learn about a research project, lab techniques, and instrumentation. In the second semester, students build upon the first semester's work. In the next academic year, the research project becomes the introductory experiments for a new set of students. 

'I feel that I've grown'

Upper-level laboratory courses are often the first opportunity for biochemistry and chemistry majors to acquire and develop skills they'll need as professionals. Free inquiry-based laboratory courses are growing in university curricula, but AU's approach is the first where student decisions guide a project from year to year. 

While there are practical reasons for the new program, such as maintaining accreditation by the American Chemical Society, the goals of the new program are to improve student engagement, self-motivated problem solving, and critical thinking. Response to the new program has been overwhelmingly positive, according to roughly 60 student surveys. 

"They perceive that they are learning more and are more satisfied with the new laboratory curriculum than were the students in earlier years," Hartings said. "Taken all together, the data seems to say that our students both value and feel that they learn more in environments where they have more autonomy." 

Statements provided by students corroborate this conclusion. Some examples include: "You taught me a lot in regards to independent working in lab and more;this is the only lab that I feel that I've grown the most in," and "Enabled students to think critically," and "Engages students to problem solve what they need to do to learn information about the materials being tested."

Other outcomes include a published research article in a peer-reviewed academic journal; faculty submitted research grants based on, and intended to support, the students' work; and a $25,000 grant from NASA for promoting Science, Technology, Engineering and Math education.

'Thoughtful conversation'

Professors in AU's Department of Chemistry have learned to take on a new role and engage students as advisors rather than lecturers. 

"One of the most difficult roles for the faculty advisor is to help the students see a reasonable pathway from where the previous semester ended to the societal or research problem they are interested in addressing," Hartings said. 

For instance, one group of students wanted to move the research towards developing new ways to detect cancer -- an ambitious project for the most experienced of researchers. To help students focus their idea into something manageable, advisors ask questions to have a "thoughtful conversation."

Through this process, the students worked towards figuring out the best, and most reasonable, first step to making a new cancer diagnostic. They determined that they should develop protocols for attaching proteins to the material they had been studying. The project scope became appropriate for a semester's worth of experiments, and in later academic years, new sets of students have carried this research forward. Although results from experiments changed the goal of making a cancer diagnostic, the research has opened up new and exciting directions, such as studying processes related to how silk and bone are produced. 

Hartings and his colleagues at AU recently published a paper in the Journal of Chemical Education chronicling the results of the new program. Complete with grading rubrics and sample schedules, the paper shows peer institutions of similar size (and the authors recommend, larger ones, making appropriate adjustments) how they can do it, too.  

AU faculty members involved in this work feel that giving lasting research decisions to students can have profound effects on STEM education. This approach, which lets science students do science, also creates fascinating, new research that students get to share through publications and presentations.

 

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Title: AU's College of Arts and Sciences Is #6 in Social Sciences
Author:
Subtitle: AU makes USA Today's list of top colleges for a major in the social sciences.
Abstract: CAS makes list of top colleges for a major in the social sciences.
Topic: Social Sciences
Publication Date: 04/07/2015
Content:

USA Today has named AU's College of Arts and Sciences as the sixth best school in the country for the study of social sciences. 

“Students in the College of Arts and Sciences are given the opportunity to take classes in diverse topics to help broaden their understanding of the world,” according to USA Today. “The multi-disciplinary nature of an American University education ensures students are prepared to enter any social science field with an open mind and knowledge of differing perspectives.”

The USA Today list takes into account the strength of all social sciences programs offered throughout the university. 

For More Information

Visit USA Today’s Lowdown from College Factual.

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Title: Light It Up Blue at AU
Author:
Subtitle: Katzen lit up in blue for autism awareness.
Abstract: Katzen lit up in blue for autism awareness.
Topic: On Campus
Publication Date: 04/07/2015
Content:

On Thursday, April 2, the Katzen Arts Center went blue for World Autism Awareness Day (WAAD). 

The Katzen joined more than 16,000 buildings across the world that were lit up in blue to help shine a light on autism, including The Empire State Building, One World Trade Center, The Great Sphinx and Great Pyramids of Giza, The Old Parliament Building, and the Taipei 101 Tower.

At AU, the effort was coordinated by the Iota Phi chapter of the Alpha Xi Delta sorority in partnership with Autism Speaks, the world's largest autism advocacy organization.

Autism

Autism is a complex brain disorder that inhibits a person's ability to communicate and develop social relationships, and is often accompanied by behavioral challenges. Autism spectrum disorders are diagnosed in 1-in-68 children in the United States, affecting four times as many boys as girls. The prevalence of autism has increased tenfold in the last decade. 

World Autism Awareness Day

World Autism Awareness Day, celebrated each year on April 2, was adopted by the United Nations in 2007 to shine a bright light on autism as a growing global health crisis. Autism is one of only three health issues to be recognized with its own day by the United Nations. WAAD activities increase world knowledge of autism and impart information about the importance of early diagnosis and early intervention. 

For More Information

For more information visit Autism Speaks

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Title: Early Spring Exhibits: Collage, International Art, Installations and More
Author: Rebecca Basu
Subtitle:
Abstract: Spring exhibits at the American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center offer visitors an eclectic mix, from surrealist collage to drawings that depict sound.
Topic: Arts
Publication Date: 04/03/2015
Content:

Spring exhibits at the American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center offer visitors an eclectic mix, from surrealist collage to drawings that depict sound.

Exhibits from April 4 through May 24

Collage comes to AU Museum with YES! Glue: A Half-Century of Collage by Bruce and Jean Conner.The Conners sustained separate but related explorations within the tradition of surrealist collage. Jean began to create her wry combinations of images from popular magazines in the mid-1950s. Bruce embraced and then abandoned complex expressionist assemblages in the early 1960s in favor of witty, often grotesque, and sometimes spiritual compositions built from 19th-century engravings. Collage found fertile ground in the San Francisco Beat scene of the late 1950s. It was into this milieu that Bruce and Jean Conner moved from Lincoln, Nebraska, after their marriage in 1957, and it is here their art flourished.

AU Museum Curator and Director Jack Rasmussen said: "Bruce Conner is one of the most important artists of the 20th century. We are so fortunate to have this show at American University Museum before his retrospective next year at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the New York Museum of Modern Art. Our title 'YES! Glue: A Half-Century of Collage by Bruce and Jean Conner' refers to the brand of glue favored by the Conners for their collages. Obsessive about every detail of his art, Bruce Conner advanced the medium of collage, long favored by the Avant-Garde from Synthetic Cubism, Dadaism, and Surrealism right up through the San Francisco Beat Generation to today. The mostly unknown collage work by Jean Conner appears in this exhibition as a revelation."

Transcription of Blue: Guy Goldstein is a mixed-media exhibit in which Goldstein, both a visual artist and musician, investigated "colors of noise" by converting graphite drawings into sounds and then converting them back into printed images using a mid-century Russian ANS synthesizer. To convert from drawing to sound and vice versa, Goldstein utilizes software based on an old cumbersome machine from 1940s Russia, which made it possible to obtain a visible image of a sound wave, and the reverse (the sound of a visual image). The exhibition is sponsored by the Outset Contemporary Art Fund and the Embassy of Israel.

Remembrances of Voices Past features paintings by Indian artist V. Ramesh, for whom an act of devotion, or Bhakti, seems not only an apt social response to existential tragedies, but also a quest for freedom. Painting primarily with oils on large-scale canvas, his oeuvre reveals a preoccupation with meditative terrain, incorporating voices from medieval poetry and images culled from mythology to explore the relationship between states of transcendence and the realities of culture and personal experience. The exhibition is sponsored by the Institute by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations and Threshold Gallery. 

Drawings: Walter Kravitz features a large installation and smaller works by Chicago-bred artist Walter Kravitz. His work has evolved into an exploration of the way events happen in the natural world. His lines become edges, continuously organizing and shaping the air into solids, then dissolving them again into unpredictability.  

Exhibits from April 25 through May 25

Lost and Found: Young Art from Lithuania is the product of an educational and artistic exchange between American University and the Vilnius Academy of Arts. Curatorial practice students from both universities are developing their skills in the management of art as well as promotion of the artistic ambitions of their fellow students through this international exchange of exhibitions. Young Lithuanian artists exhibiting are working in a wide range of media varying from traditional craftsmanship to unique technological solutions, and demonstrate the varied influence of the Vilnius Academy of Arts on the creativity of its students. In return, AU Museum Director Jack Rasmussen's curatorial practice students will curate a show of AU students and recent alumni at the Vilnius Academy of Arts in October 2015.

Exhibit from April 4 through April 19

AU's Department of Art presents the work of current Master's of Fine Arts candidates from their first year in the Studio Arts program in an exhibition titled [Insert non-pretentious title here]. Collectively the group represents research, experimentation, and reflection, while simultaneously offering a window into each artist's individual practice. Artists are: Sara Caporaletti, Sarah Dale, Carey Francis, Jihee Kang, Jean Kim, Zack McGhin, Calli Moore, Joumana Mourkarim, Samantha Sethi, Katelyn Wood.

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newsId: 96774D30-5056-AF26-BEB061F9A7AC36DD
Title: American Enterprise
Author: Gregg Sangillo
Subtitle:
Abstract: CAS professor speaks at Mad Men event in advance of new Smithsonian exhibition on history of business.
Topic: Research
Publication Date: 04/01/2015
Content:

While watching the AMC series Mad Men, TV viewers gained a greater appreciation for the art and commerce of advertising. But with the show soon airing its final episodes, the public can now learn much more about the story of American business. Kathleen Franz, an American University associate professor in the History Department, is working with other curators on American Enterprise, a permanent exhibition set to open on July 1 at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History. Franz is curating exhibit sections related to the history of advertising and consumer culture after World War II.

On March 27, Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner and several cast members were in attendance at a special ceremony donating artifacts from the show to the National Museum of American History. Jon Hamm—the indelible Don Draper—was there, along with Christina Hendricks (who plays Joan Harris) and John Slattery (Roger Sterling).

AU's own Franz spoke at the star-studded event and praised the landmark TV series. "Mad Men has invited viewers into the business of advertising in the 1960s. You've pulled back the curtain, and shown us the hard, creative work of advertising," Franz said.

American University history professor Kathleen Franz recently talked about a forthcoming Smithsonian exhibition about the history of American business at a

She then expanded on the upcoming exhibition at the museum: "Where Mad Men used objects to evoke the time period and flesh out the characters, we use material culture to engage visitors in the drama of American business history." While the Mad Men objects will not appear in American Enterprise, that exhibit has an extended history of the advertising industry.

A Different Kind of Exhibit

American Enterprise will occupy about 8,000 square feet and is part of the renovation of the museum's west wing. The exhibition—which includes sections on invention and innovation—will cover the history of American business from 1770 to the present. "It's the whole sweep of U.S. history, and the idea is that since the nation's founding, business has been woven into American society," Franz says in an interview.

This is represented through four marketplaces: the early merchant economy; the corporate marketplace, with the rise of big businesses like Singer; the consumer marketplace of post-World War II America; and the global marketplace, covering the 1980s through the present.

"We're doing this in a very different way than people might expect. Business history used to be the history of big firms, but we're thinking about it in a new way as the dynamic interplay between producers and consumers. So it's where producers, sellers, workers, and consumers come together," she explains.

Characters and Branding

Franz focuses heavily on the advertising section, which starts with Benjamin Franklin in the 1750s. This part of the exhibit includes beautiful print ads and signage, while spotlighting the key people behind the brands. The archivists and curators at the National Museum of American History have built one of the nation's best advertising history collections.

Franz added a few new artifacts to the collection, such as a 1920s outdoor advertising figure of Mr. Peanut, thanks to a donation from Kraft Foods, and the original drawings for the advertising icon that came through a donation from Robert Slade. Slade donated the original Mr. Peanut sketches drawn by his granduncle, Antonio Gentile, in the 1916 contest that created this spokescharacter.

Franz says spokescharacters are a component of branding practices that date to the late 19th century. Around this time, manufacturers started mass producing packaged goods and selling them nationally, and they wanted to make brands distinctive through branding and packaging. "If they created characters, they could have a friendly face for the brand and the business, and this would be an emotional attachment for people," she explains.

Public History

Franz directs AU's graduate program in public history, which focuses on museums and historic sites. She has an extensive museum background, and she earned a PhD from Brown University in American civilization.

Many AU graduate students worked on American Enterprise, and AU associate economics professor Mary Hansen has served as a consultant on the project. 

As the opening of the exhibit nears, Franz offers reasons why this history should be accessible and engaging. "I think most Americans have some sort of entrepreneurial spirit, and we're certainly all workers and consumers. So this takes a look at American history through the prism of business," she says. "In a more scholarly sense, it grapples with this idea that America has long had a definable tension between the pursuit of individual opportunity and the common good." She hopes everyone will come to see the show when it opens this summer.

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newsId: 94AD979B-5056-AF26-BE4FE6B4B62B2F3B
Title: CAS Alumna Returns to AU for Alumni in the KNOW: Women in Leadership
Author: Nina Cooperman, SPA/MPA '15
Subtitle:
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
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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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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
Content:

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.

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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
Content:

"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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Title: Alumni Board Member Uses Family Business Experience to Assist Others
Author: Patricia Rabb
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Abstract: Lee Tannenbaum actively supports family-owned business
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 11/12/2014
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"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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Title: Brett Smock, CAS/BA ’92: From Dancer to Producing Artistic Director
Author: Patricia C. Rabb
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Abstract: AU alumnus is Producing Artistic Director of The Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival
Topic: Alumni Profile
Publication Date: 09/09/2014
Content:

"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."

Trained as an Olympic 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 the youth theater and the programming and operation of the festival's musicals at Merry-Go-Round Playhouse at Emerson Park, Auburn Public Theater, and The Pitch at Theater Mack in Auburn, N.Y. 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 for the Olympics by swimming in the pool 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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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
Content:

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

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.

Tags: Alumni,Alumni Newsletter,Alumni Relations,Alumni Update,College of Arts and Sciences
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newsId: C4C2C1BD-B0C1-206B-F6A5151137FE3300
Title: Alumnus Daniel Maree wins Do Something Award for Creating Social Change
Author: Rebecca Vander Linde
Subtitle:
Abstract: When Daniel Maree, SOC-CAS/BA ’08, heard about the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin, he took action.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 09/12/2013
Content:

When Daniel Maree, SOC-CAS/BA ’08, heard about the fatal shooting of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, he knew he had to take action. “I lived in Gainesville, Florida for two years, and I’ve been in positions like [Trayvon was in]. I’ve been stopped in predominantly white neighborhoods in Florida by police or [citizens] just because I was an African American male. … Trayvon could have easily been me or my little sister, and I knew immediately I had to do something about it.”

Daniel definitely did “do something.” He launched the Million Hoodies Movement for Justice movement, and because of its success, on July 31, 2013, he won the Do Something Award, broadcast on VH1, which includes a grand prize of $100,000.

Trayvon was wearing a hooded sweatshirt the night he was killed, so Daniel recorded a YouTube video to launch Million Hoodies Movement for Justice. “We were calling on people around the world to show solidarity for Trayvon’s family with one act – simply by putting on a hoodie and sharing a picture of themselves in the hoodie,” Daniel says.

This sparked a social media firestorm, the fastest-growing petition in the history of the internet, as well as more than 50,000 people participating in more than a dozen protests in different cities across the United States, including 5,000 people in New York City’s Union Square.

Daniel credits American University for giving him the opportunity to create his own interdisciplinary major in history, philosophy, and film so he could study how social change occurs and how to use media to create change. He says some of his mentors are Professors Russell Williams, SOC/BA ’74, Peter Kuznick, and Gemma Puglisi.

“I had the privilege of being taught by some of the best professors. … I look back every day, and I see how their coursework and the conversations I had with them, not only in the classroom but during office hours, helped establish my foundation in critical thinking and exploring issues beyond the surface,” he says, “The School of Communication provided a great basis for my training in interactive media and film, which has been a huge part of the Million Hoodies movement. We leverage media and entertainment every day to galvanize people to the cause.”

When asked how he will spend the prize money to continue his activism, Daniel says, “Trayvon Martin is just the tip of the iceberg. … We want to prevent [incidents like this] from ever happening again, so we really have to attack to root causes: racial discrimination and structural violence against young people of color – black, Latino, Hispanic, Asian American, the list goes on. It’s not just African Americans.”

Daniel hopes to accomplish this by educating young people and engaging them in conversations on race and gun violence at an early age. He is in talks now with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to create a digital study guide for classrooms to start these discussions. He also hopes to start local conversations about racial profiling and common sense gun legislation because, he says, change must come from the local level.

“We are calling on college students to start Million Hoodies chapters on their campuses, and we will give them the resources they need to have an impact on their local communities. And I want American University to be the first Million Hoodies college chapter. All it takes is one student,” says Daniel.

Tags: Alumni,Alumni Newsletter,Alumni Relations,Alumni Update,College of Arts and Sciences,School of Communication
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newsId: 528D56DD-EB88-65D2-CC4833E8E6916E04
Title: Nicole Zangara, CAS/BA ’06, Has New Book Analyzing Female Friendships
Author: Patricia Rabb
Subtitle:
Abstract: The book is an analysis of how to find and keep female friendships in the age of new technology and social media.
Topic: Alumni Profile
Publication Date: 07/17/2013
Content:

“I truly hope that after reading this book, a student or alumna walks away with validation and adopts the ‘it’s not just me’ mentality when finding/managing her friendships.”

So says alumna Nicole Zangara, CAS/BA ’06, about her book, Surviving Female Friendships: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly, an analysis of how to find and keep female friendships in the age of new technology and social media. Nicole is a licensed clinical social worker and provides psychotherapy in Arizona, where she moved to be closer to family.

Nicole decided to write the book because she felt that “there wasn’t enough information out there for women who have experienced complicated friendships – from how we meet and make friends to the long-lasting friendship that ends without any explanation, to having to let go of an unhealthy friendship.”

In this book, Nicole not only recalls her own experiences but also includes stories from women ranging in age from 20 to over 60. “Regardless of age, every woman has a story,” she says. “Another reason for the book is that, as women grow older, we tend to focus on our family and career, and sometimes friendships take a backseat in our lives; it’s not good or bad, it simply is, and I want to acknowledge the shifts that so often happen in female friendships.”

The book examines what Nicole calls a popular myth about female friendships —that they will last. “Friendships take work. They take both parties putting in time and effort to keep the friendship going. Oftentimes, friendships lose steam if both people are not reaching out in some way,” she says.

The longest friendship that Nicole herself has consistently maintained has lasted seven years (and counting). “This friendship has lasted so long because we both put in time and effort to make it last. And the kicker is that we don’t live in the same state, so it takes even more time and effort – calls , emails, and text messages to maintain the friendship,” she says.

According to Nicole, one of the best parts of writing the book was “asking various women for their incredible stories, thoughts, and experiences and being able to give them a voice.” She says also enjoyed the “journey” of making a book.

Nicole also maintains a blog.

When sharing aspects of her AU experience that have stuck with her since graduation, Nicole says, “I learned a great deal about friendships during my time at AU and even write about some of these experiences in the book. College allowed me to grow as a person, yet also provided insight into how friendships can change.”

Tags: Alumni,Alumni Author,Alumni Newsletter,Alumni Relations,Alumni Update,College of Arts and Sciences
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newsId: A26FABE8-9FE8-486F-05097B28A77CFD3E
Title: AU Students and Alumni Build Skills in the Office and at the Movies
Author: Roxana Hadadi
Subtitle:
Abstract: AU students and graduates make up the ranks at entertainment marketing firm Allied-THA, creating a community that encourages creative thinking and research.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 06/14/2013
Content:

In his three years at the entertainment marketing firm Allied-THA, publicist David Lieberson, CAS/SOC/BA '10, has seen more movies than he can remember. He’s met celebrities like Angelina Jolie and Jesse Eisenberg. And, during a career that has already included two promotions, Lieberson continues to be surrounded by other AU students and alumni. One third of Allied-THA’s D.C. staff is made up of former Eagles, and current AU students consistently dominate the office's intern pool.


Working in film promotion has its celebrity-focused perks, but the firm’s numerous opportunities for creativity and development coupled with the opportunity to work alongside fellow Eagles is appealing enough on its own, Lieberson says.


“It’s been kind of nice to learn different positions coming right out of college,” says Lieberson, who worked on AU’s WONK campaign before joining Allied-THA full time. “And when you’re working with other AU alumni, everyone knows what we’re talking about.”


That connection to AU came in handy not only when Lieberson started at Allied-THA as an intern—he learned about the position from one of his fraternity brother’s friends, who was working there at the time—but when, after working his way up the ranks to junior publicist, he took over the Allied-THA intern program with another AU alumna. For more than a year, Lieberson and his co-worker drew on friends, acquaintances, and other AU students to staff the intern program. Internship responsibilities range from clipping articles and sending out packages to distributing screening passes for films and working on specific releases. 


“In terms of what attracts AU students, it’s a good intersection of communications, entertainment, and film, but we’re also a large PR firm,” explains Lieberson. “We have over 200 employees; we have 15 or 20 offices. It’s not like a little boutique firm. … The only thing we do day to day is clips; other than that, everything is different.”


Now as a full publicist with seven clients including Universal Pictures, Summit Entertainment, and Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Lieberson spends more of his day planning press tours and events. Time management is key, says coordinator Jenna Irish, SOC/BA '11, whose responsibilities include working public film screenings, helping prepare reports for studios that include audience feedback, and pitching story ideas to press members. 


“When I was an intern, the things I was concerned about getting done and my responsibilities were nothing compared to here,” Irish says. “The amount of stuff you’re working on is intense.”


But the intern program is engaging because it provides chances for students to come up with their own kind of promotional ideas, Lieberson and Irish both say. If an intern comes up with an idea for a partnership with a local business to promote an upcoming film, they’re encouraged to pursue it—“you get out how much you put in,” Lieberson notes—and that kind of leadership and dedication to a project will look good on a resume. 


And so far Raakkel Sims, SIS/BA '13, has put in a lot. Although her previous internships have been more directly related to her academic focus on international relations—including her internships with the White House in summer 2012 and Finland’s Foreign Ministry while she studied abroad in Brussels, Belgium, in fall 2012—her internship with Allied-THA has provided her more insight into marketing methods and targeted writing. Those skills may come in handy during her internship with the Department of State this fall, Sims says, and for her eventual career goal of joining the Foreign Service.


“It’s really broadened my capacity to think outside of the box,” says Sims, who has worked on campaigns for films like “The Big Wedding,” “Safe Haven,” and “The Purge,” of her internship. “I know I can apply marketing to different SIS aspects; if I’m writing a report, I know how to word it in a certain way so the person reading remains interested.”


The large contingent of AU interns have helped bring a sense of familiarity and comfort to her experience with Allied-THA, Sims says, and she would encourage any student—movie obsessed or not—to consider an internship with the firm for the chance to improve and develop creative thinking, public speaking, and research skills. You may even be small enough for Sims’ favorite part of the job.


“I’ve done a lot for the movie ‘Despicable Me 2,’ and there have been a lot of appearances of the Minion costumes, which I am fortunate enough to be short enough to fit into,” Sims says with a laugh. “So when I think of Allied, I think of the Minion costume. I always volunteer to do it because that’s a fun thing to do. Everyone can be creative—you don’t have to just be a marketing major or minor to be here.”

Tags: College of Arts and Sciences,Film,Film and Media Arts,School of Communication,School of International Service,Career Center,Career Development
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