newsId: E4A033B2-5056-AF26-BED89212F50B13BA
Title: American University Announces Spring 2017 Commencement Speakers
Author: Kelly Alexander
Subtitle:
Abstract: Ceremonies will take place in American University’s Bender Arena and feature an impressive roster of commencement speakers.
Topic: On Campus
Publication Date: 05/02/2017
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American University will hold to tradition and host its 133rd commencement ceremonies on Mother’s Day weekend. The ceremonies will take place in AU’s Bender Arena and feature an impressive roster of commencement speakers who will offer advice and congratulations to roughly 3,500 graduates. AU’s 2017 commencement speakers demonstrate compassion, integrity, and unwavering commitment to public service. Individual school ceremonies will be held on May 13 and 14, followed by a ceremony for the Washington College of Law graduates on May 21.

The Honorable Patricia Harrison, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), will address the graduates of the School of Public Affairs at 9 a.m., Saturday, May 13. Honored for her commitment to diversity, Harrison established the first Diversity and Innovation Fund for public media—radio, television, online and mobile. Under her leadership, CPB launched American Graduate: Let's Make It Happen, a nationwide public media initiative to help communities across the country identify and implement solutions to the high school dropout crisis, and has been named to the Forbes list of “Women Changing the World in Media” for her efforts to empower women and girls globally.

Ms. Harrison has served as Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs and Acting Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, and she is the author of two books, A Seat At The Table: An Insider's Guide for America's New Women Leaders and America's New Women Entrepreneurs. The Honorable Patricia Harrison, an alumna of American University’s College of Arts and Sciences, will receive an honorary Doctor of Public Service degree.

Sir Howard Stringer, former President of CBS and former CEO of the Sony Corporation, will address the graduates of the School of Communication at 1:30 p.m., Saturday, May 13. As long-time journalist, news producer, and head of CBS News, Stringer may be best-known for bringing David Letterman to CBS.

Mr. Stringer has been a recipient of the First Amendment Leadership Award from the Radio & Television News Directors Foundation and the Visionary Award for Innovative Leadership in Media and Entertainment from the Paley Center for Media. He is a member of the Broadcasting and Cable Hall of Fame. Sir Howard Stringer will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree.

Patricia Q. Stonesifer, Volunteer President and CEO of Martha’s Table and Lead Director of the corporate board of Amazon.com, will address the graduates of the College of Arts and Sciences, at 6 p.m., Saturday, May 13. After more than twenty years as a leader in the technology industry and the next twelve years building the world’s largest foundation, Ms. Stonesifer joined Martha’s Table in 2013 to help America’s neediest youth and their family members.

Ms. Stonesifer has been a leader in the philanthropic world since 1997. As founding CEO of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, she distributed more than $2 billion annually to public-private partnerships working to improve the health and welfare of vulnerable populations in the United States and abroad. She serves on the board of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, and, in 2010, was appointed by President Barack Obama to serve as the Chair of the White House Council for Community Solutions. She served as a member of the U.S. delegation to the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS. Ms. Stonesifer will receive an honorary Doctor of Public Service degree.

Carlos Carrazana, Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President of Save the Children Federation, Incorporated, will address the graduates of the Kogod School of Business, at 10 a.m., Sunday, May 14. Prior to joining Save the Children, Carrazana served as a Vice President of the International Health Division at Abt Associates Inc., a global human development organization, and spent more than 20 years in the commercial banking sector and in international health.

Mr. Carrazana served as the Director of the Summa Foundation at Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu's emerging markets division, as a Director of the NIH-funded National Initiatives on Cancer Project at the University of Miami School of Medicine, and as a Director of the CDC-funded M-Powerment project, an HIV/AIDS prevention and voluntary counseling and testing program. Mr. Carazzana is an alumnus of American University's Kogod School of Business and he will receive an honorary Doctorate of Laws degree.

Lakhdar Brahimi, former United Nations Special Adviser to the Secretary General, will address the graduates of the School of International Service, at 2:30 p.m., Sunday, May 14. A former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Algeria from 1991 to 1993, Brahimi is one of that country’s most prominent diplomats and negotiators.

Mr. Brahimi served as the U.N. Special Adviser to the Secretary General in 2004-2005. He was Algeria’s Ambassador to Egypt and the United Kingdom, and helped to negotiate the end of the Lebanese civil war as an Arab League official. He also oversaw the U.N. Observer Mission during the 1994 election in South Africa, helped to end Yemen’s civil war that same year, and has led the U.N. initiatives in Haiti, Afghanistan, Iraq, and across Africa. He is a member of The Elders, a group of retired Statesmen created by the late South African President Nelson Mandela, and a member of the Global Leadership Foundation, founded and chaired by F.W. De Klerk. Mr. Lakhdar Brahimi will receive an honorary Doctor of International Affairs degree.

Bryan Stevenson, Founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), will address graduates of the Washington College of Law at 1 p.m., Sunday, May 21. Mr. Stevenson, a member of the New York University School of Law faculty, has spent more than three decades representing capital-case and death-row prisoners across the American South.

His work has won him national acclaim, including the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship Award Prize in 1995, the ACLU National Medal of Liberty in 1991, and the Olaf Palme Prize for international human rights in 2000. In 1996, the National Association of Public Interest Lawyers named him the Public Interest Lawyer of the Year. He is the author of the New York Times bestseller Just Mercy, which won the 2015 Carnegie Medal for Best Non-Fiction, the NAACP Image Award for Best Non-Fiction, and was named by Time Magazine as one of the 10 Best Books of Nonfiction for 2014. Bryan Stevenson will receive an honorary Doctor of Laws Degree.

More information on the speakers is available on AU’s commencement website. Students, alumni friends, and family will be tweeting using the hashtag #2017AUGrad. Those who cannot attend the ceremonies will be able to watch a live stream of each ceremony on AU’s commencement website.

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Title: AU Students Win Prestigious Chemistry Award
Author: Jordan Bissell
Subtitle: Sarah Burkhard and Cassidy Hart honored by the Chemical Society of Washington
Abstract: Seniors Sarah Burkhard and Cassidy Hart have been chosen for the College Chemistry Achievement Award by the Chemical Society of Washington. The award annually recognizes outstanding scientists in the District’s universities.
Topic: Science
Publication Date: 04/24/2017
Content:

Women have been making huge strides in the science world for centuries, and American University women are no exception. Seniors Sarah Burkhard and Cassidy Hart have been chosen for the College Chemistry Achievement Award by the Chemical Society of Washington. The award annually recognizes outstanding scientists in the District's universities, and Burkhard and Hart were selected from among hundreds of students to receive this honor.

AU's Department of Chemistry is characterized by one-on-one faculty-student relationships, working toward the goal of equipping students to conduct independent research and discovery. Burkhard and Hart have done just that, says Shouzhong Zou, department chair. Burkhard has been interning at the Institute for Science and International Security, and Hart has already published a paper in the Journal of Inorganic Biochemistry. She has several other papers in the works.

"Like many of our high achieving students, Sarah [Burkhard] and Cassidy [Hart] transformed from knowledge receivers to knowledge producers," said Zou. "They are both persistent, proactive, and self-driven."

What stands out about Burkhard and Hart is not only their knowledge of chemistry, but also their passion for the field. Both women understand chemistry's meaning beyond that of the scientific world. Burkhard sees the art in it. "I love that chemistry is creative destruction in the most natural, purest form," she says. "In that respect, chemistry can teach you a lot about life—both scientifically and philosophically." 

Hart says she is inspired by the process of laboratory work. "I love the puzzle of chemistry and the creativity that is used in the lab. Chemistry is about solving problems using the tools you've learned in classes, but it's also about using these tools in new and different ways."

Both students acknowledge the lack of gender diversity in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields and the importance of fostering the education of young women in these fields. "Diversity is just as important in the sciences as it is in any other field," Burkhard said. "With Marie Curie leading the way as the first female Nobel Prize winner more than a hundred years ago, before women were even granted the right to vote, science was one of the first fields to acknowledge that only talent and devotion truly matter; nothing else."

Hart adds that being a woman in science means being a role model for younger women. "I hope to continue to see women joining STEM fields," she says, "and I think one of the best ways to do that is to provide opportunities for them to learn about science when young."

Both women credit the Department of Chemistry for encouraging young scientists like themselves. Hart says, "I appreciate the size of the department because it has allowed me to get to know many professors and students. I believe this camaraderie is incredibly important in science, because science often involves collaboration and teamwork."

Burkhard also appreciates her relationships with department members as an integral part of her development as a scientist. She says, "What I appreciate the most is the faculty and staff. Professors Fox, Costanzi, Hartings, Zou, and Girard guided me through quantum physics, spectroscopy, and beyond."

With such an engaged Department of Chemistry and such talented female scientists at AU, more discoveries and awards are surely in the near future.

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Title: AU Historians Weigh in on the First 100 Days, Past and Present
Author:
Subtitle: From Lincoln to Trump, historians share their opinions on first 100 days
Abstract: As President Donald J. Trump hits the hundred-day mark, we asked historians in the College of Arts and Sciences to weigh in on what they believe past presidents actually accomplished (or didn’t accomplish) during this period.
Topic: Government & Politics
Publication Date: 04/24/2017
Content:

The first 100 days of a White House administration are often considered a yardstick to measure a new administration's effectiveness in fulfilling its campaign promises. They are also considered a bellwether of a president's success or failure over the next four years. This measurement of a chief executive's accomplishments goes back to the first term of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who entered office during the Great Depression. 


As President Donald J. Trump hits the hundred-day mark, we asked historians in the College of Arts and Sciences to weigh in on what they believe past presidents actually accomplished (or didn't accomplish) during this period. Here, Professor Max Paul Friedman discusses FDR's whirlwind first 100 days; Professor Alan Kraut explains how Abraham Lincoln's plans were nearly subsumed by one of our greatest national crises; and Professor Peter Kuznick analyzes Harry Truman's decision to drop atomic bombs on Japan. Finally, Professor Allan Lichtman shares his views on Donald J. Trump in the context of his newly released book The Case for Impeachment. (Opinions expressed are those of the writers.)

 

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt
By Professor of History Max Paul Friedman

All US presidents since 1945 have been measured against the arbitrary benchmark set by Franklin D. Roosevelt's whirlwind efforts in his first 100 days in office to tackle the Great Depression. Shepherding 15 major pieces of legislation through Congress, the Roosevelt administration saved the banking system through federally-supervised reorganization, regulated the stock market, and spent tax dollars to support the devastated farm sector.

Faced with unemployment estimated at 25 percent, FDR did not order a freeze on federal hiring, but instead did the opposite. A quarter-million young people employed in the Civilian Conservation Corps built some of the national park infrastructure still in use today. Larger public works programs hired yet more Americans to build roads, bridges, schools, and airports, or to bring electrification and irrigation to impoverished states in the South. Roosevelt saw the federal government as a powerful tool to address the nation's problems, which was proven over the next decade, as yet more ambitious New Deal programs cut the unemployment rate in half, and massive federal spending on World War II—a New Deal on steroids—created full employment.

Upon assuming office, FDR surrounded himself with the most talented public servants available, while reassuring Americans that they had nothing to fear from one another "but fear itself." That calm and confident voice against prejudice and conspiratorial thinking was the most important service President Roosevelt provided immediately after his inauguration. 

 

Abraham Lincoln
By Professor of History Alan Kraut

During their first 100 days, many presidents find their own plans subsumed by national events. President Abraham Lincoln, an adroit Whig politician from Illinois, had his eye on westward expansion as key to American prosperity. He favored a role for the federal government in the nation's economic development and opposed slavery's reaching into states being carved from western territories.

The crisis of the union caused by disputes over slavery and states rights immediately demanded Lincoln's attention. Still, his response was consistent with his opposition to slavery, his veneration of the Union, and his belief in an activist government, including the use of executive power in time of crisis.

Lincoln's crisis began a month after his November 1860 election, when South Carolina seceded from the Union. Six more followed before his March inauguration, four after. On April 12, 1861, Fort Sumter fell to the South Carolina state militia. Lincoln requested that Congress convene, but also used executive authority to quell the insurrection.

He called for 75,000 volunteers for 90 days. He proclaimed a blockade on all Southern ports from Virginia to Texas. He suspended the writ of habeas corpus in states along the railroad line from Philadelphia to Washington. He acted to prevent the secession of border states, including Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri. As commander in chief, he ordered the supply and preparation of the military, vainly hoping to prevent further chaos as the nation tumbled into Civil War. 

Perhaps ironically, Lincoln exercised broad executive privilege not to circumvent Congress or to ram through his own agenda, but because he was desperate to save the Union. He feared secession would destroy the world's only democracy and prove that government by the people was not viable. Also ironically, though Lincoln didn't live to see it, the defeat of the South in the Civil War made possible westward expansion as he had envisioned. 

 

Harry Truman
By Professor of History Peter Kuznick

Harry Truman left office with approval ratings so low that only George W. Bush has come close since. But he is now, strangely, remembered as a near-great president. That judgment is bipartisan. In 1999, Condoleezza Rice named him "Man of the Century" for Time magazine.

I profoundly disagree with that judgment. In fact, Truman would be near the bottom of my list. But his first 120 days were certainly momentous.

Truman had been a party functionary—a loyal member of the corrupt Pendergast Machine that ran Kansas City—prior to running for the Senate.  When a reporter asked boss Tom Pendergast why he had chosen Truman to run, Pendergast replied, "I wanted to demonstrate that a well-oiled machine could send an office boy to the senate." Democratic Party bosses gave about as much thought to Truman's qualifications when they chose him to replace the progressive Henry Wallace as vice president on the 1944 ticket. On the eve of the party convention, Gallup asked potential Democratic voters who they wanted as vice president. Sixty-five percent chose Wallace. Two percent preferred Truman. But the bosses controlled the convention and put Truman in over the far more qualified and popular Wallace.

Truman was only in office 82 days before Franklin Roosevelt died. During that time, Roosevelt had only spoken to him twice, about nothing of significance. Nor did anyone else in that administration hold Truman in high regard. In fact, amazingly, no one had even bothered to tell Truman that the US was building the atomic bomb until after he was sworn in.

Once in office, Truman told visitors that the whole thing was a mistake and that he wasn't qualified for the job. He was right. It would only take him 10 days before he had undermined Roosevelt and Wallace's vision for postwar collaboration with the Soviet Union. Roosevelt's last cable to Churchill had explicitly downplayed differences with Russia and urged continued friendship. Truman's meeting with Soviet Foreign Minister Molotov on April 23 was a disaster. Truman berated the Soviet diplomat and accused the Soviets of having broken their Yalta agreements. He then bragged to underlings how he had given Molotov "one-two to the jaw." Relations between the two countries would go pretty steadily downhill after that, despite the efforts of Wallace, Stimson, Davies, and others to right the ship and uphold Roosevelt's vision for postwar peace.

Equally calamitous, both morally and militarily, was Truman's decision to drop atomic bombs on what his chief of staff Admiral William Leahy referred to as "an already thoroughly defeated Japan." Truman knew the Japanese were desperate to end the war and that the long-sought and now imminent Soviet intervention would do the trick. He also knew that he was beginning a process that could end life on the planet. Seven of America's eight five-star admirals and generals in 1945 have said that the atomic bombs were either morally reprehensible or militarily unnecessary or both.

Whatever good things Truman did as president will always be overshadowed by his role in precipitating the Cold War and his dropping of atomic bombs. The world needed a man of vision in 1945. The challenges were overwhelming. Had Roosevelt lived or Wallace gotten reelected and taken office, there would likely have been no atomic bombings and no Cold War. Instead, Harry Truman helped plunge us into a 70-plus-year nightmare from which we've yet to fully emerge.

 

Donald J. Trump
By Professor of History Allan Lichtman

In my book, The Case for Impeachment, I argue that Donald Trump entered the White House more vulnerable to impeachment than any other first-term president. The book explores eight potential grounds for Trump's impeachment. The Trump presidency can still move in a positive direction to avoid impeachment, but events of his first 100 days have only strengthened the case.

President Trump failed to divest himself of his business interests. He says his children are running the business and that they don't discuss it with him, but the reality is that he can still profit from every venture. And companies that do business with the Trump organization can profit directly and indirectly from ties to the president. His far-flung enterprises abroad may already have put him in violation of the Constitution's emoluments clause, which specifies that a president cannot receive anything of value from foreign governments. For example, the president received nearly 40 potentially lucrative trademarks from China, shortly after he seemed to walk away from this possible two-China policy and failed to declare China a currency manipulator as he promised to do on day one of his presidency.

The administration's response to the investigations of possible collusion between his associates and Russia's attack on our democracy has the hallmarks of a Nixonian cover-up: conceal, deceive, deflect. The Trump administration, when confronted, has claimed that all contacts with Russians were innocuous—just as the Nixon administration insisted that Watergate was a "third-rate burglary." Trump has also mirrored Nixon by claiming absolute presidential power and attacking the courts in his defense of his first travel ban.

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Title: Professor's New Book Explores Presidential Impeachment
Author: Rebecca Basu
Subtitle:
Abstract: Distinguished History Prof. Allan Lichtman predicted Donald Trump's victory. Now he has a new forecast about the American presidency.
Topic: Government & Politics
Publication Date: 04/19/2017
Content:

Distinguished History Prof. Allan Lichtman, who countered the conventional wisdom to predict that Donald Trump would win the 2016 presidential election, has a new forecast about the American presidency.

In "The Case for Impeachment" (Dey Street Books), his fifth solo-authored book, Lichtman analyzes President Trump's past business dealings and public statements, alongside the history of politics and impeachment in the U.S., to explain how Trump's presidency could end prematurely.

Lichtman also uses constitutional analysis to show how Trump is uniquely vulnerable to impeachment in eight key categories, including conflicts of interest, dealings with Russia, and Trump's views on climate change. In a unique twist on impeachment law outlined in the book, Lichtman outlines how Trump could be impeached under a "crimes against humanity" scenario if he deliberately fails to protect humanity from the dangerous effects of climate change.

Lichtman has correctly predicted every presidential election since 1984. His formula, based on the idea that presidential elections are a referendum on the party that holds the White House, is explained in his book, "Predicting the Next President: The Keys to the White House."

The formula consists of 13 true/false statements, or keys, that can be turned for either the party in power or the challenger. If eight or more keys are true for the incumbent party, its candidate will win the election, but if fewer than eight are true, the challenger will win. Using this formula, which does not involve polling data, Lichtman correctly predicted that Trump would beat Hillary Clinton last year.

Read more about the new book:

Book excerpt published in USA TODAY

Washington Post Book Review

Discussion on NPR's 1A


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Title: The Age of Consequences: Eye-Opening Documentary Screened at AU
Author: Alix Mammina
Subtitle: Focuses on how climate change will be predominant force shaping 21st century.
Abstract: The College of Arts and Sciences brought together the fields of environmentalism, international relations, and security studies with a screening of the groundbreaking new documentary The Age of Consequences on April 5.
Topic: On Campus
Publication Date: 04/17/2017
Content:

The College of Arts and Sciences brought together the fields of environmentalism, international relations, and security studies with a screening of the groundbreaking new documentary The Age of Consequences on April 5.

Released in January 2017, The Age of Consequences explores climate change as a threat to national security. Through interviews with military experts and analysis of the impact of climate change on resource scarcity, mass migration, and global conflict, the film introduces a perspective rarely discussed in the realm of environmentalism.

Students, faculty, and staff members from across AU’s schools gathered for hors d'oeuvres and refreshments before the film. Following the screening, Hoover Institution Research Fellow Alice Hill moderated a panel discussion featuring School of International Service Professor Paul Wapner, Department of Environmental Science Professor Kiho Kim, and Francesco Femia, the president and co-founder of the Center for Climate and Security.

Topics covered during the discussion included the consequences of climate change, the difficulty of communicating environmental risks, and the future of climate issues under the Trump administration. Kim and Femia both noted the importance of seeking solutions from multiple sources, as well as the need to avoid relying too much on technological solutions.

“Climate change is too important to be left just to the environmentalists,” Femia explained. “Climate change is certainly an environmental issue at its core, but as the film describes, it touches on so many different issues that we can’t look to purely environmental solutions. We need to have a broader conversation.”

While the speakers expressed concerns about the future of climate change policies, Wapner and Kim agreed that they find hope in the optimism and determination of their students.

“There is a different kind of attitude that is alive right now, at least among students,” Wapner said. “When the Trump administration got voted in, we talked in class about when would be the most meaningful time to be an environmentalist. And, across the board, our students said now. Now is the moment.”

During the last half hour of the event, speakers answered questions from the audience. Students raised questions about water security, funding cuts to environmental NGOs, and the effect of nationalism on future responses to migration issues.

At the close of the event, Hill thanked audience members for their attendance and encouraged them to keep up the conversation about climate change.

“Until we get a collective voice that signals that this is important to us, and we care about it, and we want to leave a safer place for ourselves and our children, I think it’s going to be difficult to build the kind of clamor that we need to move forward,” Hill said.

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Title: Celebrate Jazz History Month at AU’s Jazz Concert Featuring Local Legends
Author:
Subtitle: JAZZ: Concert and Conversation, April 22 at Katzen
Abstract: On Saturday, April 22, the College of Arts and Sciences hosts its annual spring concert featuring the American University Jazz Orchestra and special guest band, The Sax Summit, with Peter Fraize, Antonio Parker, and Elijah Jamal Balbed.
Topic: Arts
Publication Date: 04/17/2017
Content:

On Saturday, April 22, the College of Arts and Sciences hosts its annual spring concert featuring the American University Jazz Orchestra and special guest band, The Sax Summit, with Peter Fraize, Antonio Parker, and Elijah Jamal Balbed.

“April is Jazz History Month—as good a time as any to present in a grand fashion an art form that is uniquely America's classical music,” said Joshua Bayer, AU musician in residence and director of the AU Jazz Orchestra. “This program will allow those in attendance to not only experience an exciting jazz performance, but to connect with jazz artists—perhaps we will be able to remove the mystery!”

Panel

The event begins at 6 p.m. at the American University Museum with a panel discussion moderated by Bayer. “This event follows AU's tradition in bringing people together on campus to experience, discuss, and participate,” Bayer says. Panelists will discuss the business of jazz, as well as jazz education and performance.

Panelists include Rusty Hassan, longtime jazz host at DC community radio station WPFW 89.3 FM; DeAndrey Howard, musician and director of the Jazz and Cultural Society; saxophonist and composer Elijah Jamal Balbed; and legendary performer and educator Antonio Parker.

The panel is free and open to the public, but RSVPs are required.

JAZZ: The Concert

Following the panel is a reception at 7 p.m., and the jazz concert begins at 8 p.m. in the Abramson Family Recital Hall. The concert begins with a performance by The Sax Summit, a group of highly respected musicians and performers. Bayer will join in, playing the guitar. For the concert’s second half, Bayer will lead the AU Jazz Orchestra as it performs a variety of jazz works.

Concert tickets are $5-10 and can be purchased in advance.

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Title: Service with Compassion: Two AU Students Named Truman Scholars
Author: Gregg Sangillo
Subtitle:
Abstract: Lexi Ivers and Shyheim Snead will get scholarship money for graduate education.
Topic: Achievements
Publication Date: 04/14/2017
Content:

Every year, the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation honors a select group of students for their leadership, academic achievement, and commitment to public service. American University recently learned that not one, but two, of its students earned this distinction. Lexi Ivers and Shyheim Snead, both juniors in AU’s School of Public Affairs, are 2017 Truman scholars. As the student awards are designated by state, Ivers is representing her home of Delaware and Snead was selected for his native Connecticut.

“It was [Truman’s] vision to promote young people to enter careers in public service, broadly defined. The criteria are academic excellence, outstanding leadership potential, and the desire to be a change agent,” says Paula Warrick, the director of the AU Office of Merit Awards. “I think these are qualities that AU aspires to see in the members of its student body, because we have such a strong public service ethos.”

Each Truman scholar receives up to $30,000 to use towards graduate study. The students will partake in a week of activities at the Truman presidential library in Independence, Mo., and they’ll also have access to career and graduate school counseling. Next year, they’ll get a summer-long internship opportunity in Washington, D.C.

Warrick effusively praises both Ivers and Snead. “Compassion is a trait they have in common, and a commitment to something beyond themselves,” she says.

Lexi Ivers

When Lexi Ivers got the call about her scholarship, she was in the Ward Circle Building. Elated over the call, she told one of her mentors, associate dean and professor Saul Newman. He hugged her, and Ivers then shared the great news with SPA Senior Associate Dean Vicky Wilkins and SPA Dean Barbara Romzek. “The whole SPA office was so supportive. It was great to be there when I found out,” she recalls.

Lexi Ivers.

Lexi Ivers.

It was an apropos way to celebrate her achievement, as Ivers knows the value of people who care. It all starts with her family.

Born in Philadelphia, Ivers was in foster care until she was two and a half years old. Her parents then adopted her, and she mostly grew up in southwest Philly and the Old City neighborhood. “My parents were the best parents you could ever have. They’re so loving and so supportive,” she says. “I know my life would have been so different had I not been adopted.”

That question—“What if I had stayed in foster care?”—would stick with Ivers throughout her life. And she is now devoting her energy to ensuring that other children find caring families.

During her Philadelphia high school years—her family has since relocated to Wilmington, Delaware—she worked with at-risk children in foster care. While at AU, she started her own organization, Junior Youth Action, D.C., that provides mentorship, professional development, and mental health services for local foster care kids.

“Having stable, loving parents—that’s a privilege, and not everyone has it. Unfortunately, some children were born into really terrible circumstances, and that can set the trajectory for their life. So we try to combat that, and we try to provide a family structure,” she explains.

She’s enlisted other AU students as Junior Youth Action mentors. Since foster children are sadly accustomed to disappointment, Ivers scrupulously chooses mentors who are fully committed to the job.

Ivers is a law and society major with a public administration and policy minor. With her scholarship money, she’s hoping to attend to Harvard Law School—which has a child welfare clinic—and use the law to assist foster children. Again, this decision is partly drawn from personal experience. “Adoption law literally transplanted me from poverty to a really incredible family,” she says.

In her current academic pursuits, she’s working with Douglas Klusmeyer on an independent study on the legal history of the slave trade. Even as she’s currently mentoring young minds, she’s grateful for the tutelage of professors such as Klusmeyer and Newman.

“I’ve had lots of professors who have pushed me beyond just memorizing,” she says. “I’ve really been pushed to think.”

Shyheim Snead

Prior to this announcement, Shyheim Snead already had some impressive achievements at AU. He’s in the prestigious Frederick Douglass Distinguished Scholars program. As student trustee, he introduced incoming AU President Sylvia Mathews Burwell to the AU community in January.

Shyheim Snead.

Shyheim Snead.

Still, he was shocked about being named a Truman scholar, one of 62 students out of 768 university-nominated candidates. “I felt all the emotions of my family. I thought of being a first-generation college student, and coming from a fairly low-income family. I felt the weight of all that they had sacrificed for me,” he explains. “It was amazing.”

Snead grew up in Bridgeport, Conn. The area has been beset by economic distress, crime, and struggling schools, he notes. “Statistically, I’m not supposed to be sitting here,” he says about discussing his Truman scholarship.

Yet his mother and grandmother stressed the importance of education, and he received guidance from teachers along the way. “I think it was the combination of my faith and my family that really propelled me here,” he says.

Snead arrived on the AU campus in 2014, which turned out to be fortuitous timing. The D.C. mayoral race was underway, and he was inspired by candidate Muriel Bowser’s inclusive message. He volunteered on her campaign, worked on her transition team, and later joined the Mayor’s Office of Community Relations and Services.

He also feels indebted to his fellow students in FDDS. “That program has provided me with the space to bounce ideas off of people, and be challenged, and to challenge myself,” he says.

Snead is a political science major, with a minor in education studies. In a transformative experience, he led an Alternative Break in New Orleans—specifically looking at access to education in a post-Hurricane Katrina environment.

Through that passion for education, he’s grappling with how life outside the classroom can influence student achievement. After graduation, he plans to earn his master’s in public policy, with an interdisciplinary focus on urban communities.

Long term, he’s considering nonprofit work on poverty and educational access issues. And while hoping to help other cities, he’d like to return to Bridgeport.

“At what point are we going to attack these problems when cities like this are left out of the national conversation? I see a void in that space, and I think I could play a role in the community.”

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Title: US Premiere of The Spacewalker
Author: Kimberley Heatherington
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Abstract: AU's Carmel Institute co-hosts screening of new Russian film to mark International Day of Cosmonautics.
Topic: International
Publication Date: 04/14/2017
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American University's Carmel Institute of Russian Culture & History co-hosts screening of new Russian Film to mark International Day of Cosmonautics.

With our planet beneath him and the infinite universe all around, cosmonaut Alexei Leonov—the first man to walk in space—was struck by the fragility and isolation of it all. "The earth was small, light blue, and so touchingly alone," he later reflected.

Leonov’s own vulnerability in the harsh environment of space was to become terrifyingly clear within minutes of exiting the Voskhod II spacecraft, when his spacesuit unexpectedly inflated and began to fill with his own sweat. Rendered nearly immobile as he floated by a seventeen-foot tether, Leonov quickly realized that his ballooned and inflexible suit would no longer fit back inside the airlock connected to Voskhod II. Faced with rapidly declining oxygen and certain death, he opened a valve, depressurized his spacesuit, and somehow scrambled to the relative safety of the capsule.

The historic and harrowing ordeal—and a host of other brushes with death that followed during the same mission—are now a pulse-pounding new Russian action movie, The Spacewalker. On April 12—the International Day of Cosmonautics—the US premiere was screened for a capacity crowd at the Russian Embassy's Tunlaw Theater.

Hundreds of Carmel Institute of Russian Culture & History students joined fellow scholars from local universities, diplomats, and representatives from NASA, the European Space Agency, and Roscosmos.

A pre-screening gathering offered Russian delicacies, and the reception area was decorated with posters featuring Alexei Leonov’s space-themed artwork. Leonov—a talented artist who initially considered pursing that profession before he instead became a pilot—even sketched in space.

As guests took their seats in the Tunlaw Theater, thanks were offered to Carmel Institute founder Susan Carmel Lehrman. The screening was not the first time the Carmel Institute has focused its attention upon US-Russian cooperation in space. The Institute’s Fifth Annual Symposium, “Partners in Orbit”—held at the National Air in Space Museum one year ago—also explored the topic.

Press attaché Nikolay Lakhonin shared a greeting from Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. “This day back in 1961, the first human, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, traveled into space,” Ambassador Kislyak said. “We are very happy that people all over the world celebrate this commemorative date with us. Interaction between the Russian space agency Roscosmos and NASA is a positive example of fruitful cooperation. We hope you enjoy the movie, and we wish every success to our cosmonauts and astronauts who support the traditions of remarkable cooperation between our nations.”

In his introductory comments, Carmel Institute Director Anton Fedyashin recounted the historical background of the Voskhod II flight. Congratulating the representatives of the international space agencies for their efforts, he drew everyone's attention to international cooperation in space as a model of what nations can achieve through educational programs and combined intellectual effort.

During the two-and-a-half hour cinematic adventure, the audience witnessed Leonov’s journey from daredevil military test pilot to a member of the first class of cosmonauts. “That man is crazy, I swear,” his commanding officer declares, after watching Leonov barely land his fighter jet following an engine flame-out. “Crazy is exactly what we need,” observes Soviet Air Forces General Nikolai Kamanin, who directed cosmonaut training for the USSR from 1960-1971.

The so-called “space race” became a feverish scientific sprint as both the US and Russia competed to be the first to break various spaceflight milestones. The Voskhod mission time frame was itself compressed by two years, and the resulting strain—and risks—are dramatically depicted in The Space Walker.

With space travel now an accepted routine, it is easy to overlook that it was—and remains—incredibly dangerous.

Leonov’s twelve-and-a-half-minute spacewalk is stunning to behold, but the tranquility is shattered by his life-threatening spacesuit malfunction. Once he safely returned to the Voskhod II capsule, Leonov’s unplanned spacesuit depressurization resulted in the equivalent of the “bends” a diver experiences when surfacing too quickly. The ejection of the airlock that followed sent Voskhod II into a spin, and equipment failure caused oxygen levels to climb to such a rate that a single spark threatened to incinerate the spacecraft. A faulty re-entry trajectory and the failed separation of the orbital and landing modules veered Leonov and his fellow cosmonaut Pavel Belyayev wildly off course for an landing in the northern wilderness compounded by a blizzard that threatens to kill them.

The audience greeted the film’s joyful conclusion—both Leonov and Belyayev were rescued, and hailed as heroes—with applause, and adjourned to the lobby for desserts.

Many viewers were unfamiliar with Leonov’s chapter of spaceflight history. Ten years after Voskhod II, Leonov commanded the Soviet half of the 1975 Apollo-Soyuz Test Project mission. Apollo-Soyuz was the first international cooperative flight between the US and the USSR, and is often remembered by the iconic photo of Leonov and US astronaut Tom Stafford shaking hands after the two spacecraft docked in orbit. Leonov commanded the cosmonaut team from 1976 to 1982, and was also deputy director of the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center, where he supervised the preparation of crews. He retired in 1992.

“The thing that was most amazing to me is that I’m an American, I was raised in the Midwest, and all they taught in the textbooks is the moon landing—the moon landing was amazing; we won the space race; so on and so forth,” said Sakari Ishetiar (AU ’16), who also attended the Carmel Institute’s 2016 “Partners in Orbit” symposium. “I had no idea—as just a world citizen—that the story of this spaceflight was so amazing,” Mr. Ishetiar shared. “It’s every bit as compelling as the moon story. So I think from a global perspective, this was amazing, the symposium was amazing, just to see that everybody has played their part in getting us into space.”

“I actually didn’t know very much about this,” said Antara Kshettry, an AU freshman and guest of Mr. Ishetiar. While both have attended previous Carmel Institute movie screenings, Mr. Ishetiar said “it’s always interesting to see the newer ones—something that’s fresh out of the cinema…I certainly think it stood up compared to any space film that we would see here.”

The premiere of The Space Walker marked the thirty-first Russian film presented by the Carmel Institute of Russian Culture & History, which has hosted over 25,000 guests at its various events.

Anton Smaliak—who studies Global Business at Georgetown and is also pursuing a Certificate in Russian/Eurasian/East European Studies—brought the perspective of a native Russian speaker. Originally from Belarus, Mr. Smaliak praised the film as “phenomenal; I thought it was very good. But one thing that I feel might have been missed by American audiences…I think there was a lot of subtle humor that is oftentimes lost in translation; that happens a lot when you have foreign films translated to English,” he observed.

Matt Ellison, a junior at the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service, also enjoyed The Space Walker. “It was very impressive. But I also thought the story was really moving, as well.” Referencing the pre-screening comments of Dr. Fedyashin, Mr. Ellison said, “I liked how he tied together US and Russian relations in space, which, for someone who’s studying international politics and aspires one day maybe to go into foreign service or American foreign policy, focusing on this area of cooperation, I think, is really important…as a model for building these bridges between the US and Russia.”

“For the whole space program, it just emphasizes the point of how hard space is— whether it was back in the 60s; whether it was our program; anybody’s—to get out of earth’s gravity; to survive,” said Jim Kirkpatrick, Executive Director of the American Astronautical Society. “At the time, the Soviet Union didn’t put out a lot of details—and they would never have made a movie like this, probably then—but it’s so wonderful they can do it now, so we can know what they went through.”

Desserts followed the film, and guests departed with rocket-shaped cookies to mark the occasion.

Photos from the film screening can be viewed on the Carmel Institute of Russian Culture & History Facebook page.

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Title: American University Announces Online Launch of Three Innovative Graduate Education Degree Programs
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Abstract: With teacher shortage looming, AU’s School of Education online programs will help to prepare the next generation of effective teachers and education policy leaders.
Topic: Education
Publication Date: 04/13/2017
Content:

The market for new teachers is on the rebound, and there is a critical need for education leaders and policy makers—both nationally and globally. To help meet this demand, American University (AU)'s School of Education today announced the launch of three online graduate programs in education. These innovative online programs will provide future teachers and education leaders access to world-class educator preparation and outstanding faculty regardless of where they live.

Unless there are major changes in teacher supply and demand projections, annual teacher shortages could increase to as much as 112,000 teachers by 2018 and stay close to that level in subsequent years, according to a report by nonprofit education research group Learning Policy Institute. Existing teacher shortages in the United States are already having impacts on education, including affecting key subject areas like mathematics, science and special education, the report also notes.

In an effort to address this need, AU's School of Education has launched three programs online, with technical assistance from Noodle Partners. Classes start August 2017. The programs are:

″  Master of Arts in Teaching

″  Master of Arts in Special Education

″   Master of Education in Education Policy and Leadership

"The teaching profession is in need of teachers who are ready on day one. American University is offering top-notch online teacher preparation to help fill the teacher pipeline," said Dr. Cheryl Holcomb-McCoy, dean of AU's School of Education. "It is more important than ever to make graduate education programs accessible to students online so we can prepare the next wave of teachers, policymakers, and leaders."

"We are thrilled to partner with American University to increase its suite of outstanding online programs," said John Katzman, founder and CEO of Noodle Partners. "This new partnership will expand access, which is crucial to educating future educators."

The content and curricula of the three new online programs replicate the on-campus degree programs that have successfully launched the careers of hundreds of teachers, special education experts, and education policy leaders.

The Master of Arts in Teaching prepares novice K-12 teachers for the realities of teaching in all types of classrooms and provides them the knowledge and pedagogical skills needed to ensure classroom and student success.

The Master of Education in Education Policy and Leadership prepares education professionals for policy and leadership challenges in changing times. Students work with faculty and education leaders to develop knowledge and skills in leadership, policy, law, economics, and the research needed to effectively administer education programs and policies at all levels.

The Master of Arts in Special Education: Learning Disabilities provides teachers with specialized training for teaching students with disabilities. AU's School of Education maintains a unique partnership with The Lab School of Washington, a pioneering, arts-based scholastic day school for students with severe learning disabilities. MA Special Education students receive training and supervision from The Lab School teachers.


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Title: Denise Saunders Thompson Awarded $500,000 Mellon Grant
Author: Alix Mammina
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Abstract: Professorial lecturer Denise Saunders Thompson awarded $500,000 Mellon Grant.
Topic: Achievements
Publication Date: 04/11/2017
Content:

Denise Saunders Thompson has dedicated her life's work to supporting Black dancers and companies—and now, with the help of a $500,000 Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant, she's ready to create change on a grand scale.

Thompson balances her work as an AU arts management professorial lecturer with her role as president and CEO of the International Association of Blacks in Dance (IABD), which received a grant this year from the Mellon Foundation's recently established Comprehensive Organizational Health Initiative. This highly selective initiative seeks to help arts institutions flourish by enhancing their financial sustainability and capacity building.

Thompson hopes that the Mellon Foundation grant will help IABD address the financial inequities that have historically challenged the Black dance community. "For decades, Black dance companies have been marginalized by an arts funding paradigm that was not accessible," Thompson says. "The financial challenges these organizations have faced to keep their doors open continue to be significant, and now IABD is uniquely positioned to change the course of the tide."

Established in 1991, the IABD operates with the goal of preserving and promoting dance by people of African descent. Over the past 26 years, IABD has hosted annual conferences for Black dance professionals, created an emergency fund for IABD artists and companies, and launched a coalition for scholars of the African Diaspora. In addition to directly supporting the community, IABD establishes archives of Black dance history in museums across the country.

Denise Saunders ThompsonAfter serving as chairperson and executive director of IABD for seven years, Thompson was appointed as its president and CEO in January 2017. During her time at IABD, Thompson has spearheaded several initiatives designed to promote Black dancers, including a multi-company audition for ballerinas of color. The audition provided an opportunity to "diversify the landscape of the ballet world" and foster a collaborative relationship between dancers and artistic directors, Thompson told the New York Times in a 2016 interview.

"As an African American woman in the field of arts administration/management with a robust career in the performing arts and at an institution of higher education, I remain committed to promoting systemic change in post-secondary institutions and nonprofit arts organizations," Thompson said.

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Title: AU Launches Crowdfunding Platform
Author: Joanna Platt
Subtitle:
Abstract: UFUND is a platform the AU community can use to directly fund projects and initiatives.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 12/15/2016
Content:

American University's Office of Development and Alumni Relations recently launched UFUND, a crowdfunding platform just for the AU community. This is a new way for alumni, parents, faculty, staff, and friends of the university to directly fund the projects and initiatives they care about most.

AU faculty, staff, and students are planning ventures to shape the future of the community, nation, and world. By making a gift, donors support the development and success of these projects.

Currently, UFUND features five initiatives – The Eagle Innovation Fund, the DC-Area High School Ethics Bowl, an Alternative Break in Cuba, the Skills for Success Career Seminar, and production of the documentary In The Executioner's Shadow.

Members of the AU community are invited to submit new projects to be featured on UFUND.


 

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Title: Alumna Betsy Thomason Says “Just Breathe Out”
Author: EmilyAnn Walrath
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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
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Betsy Thomason, RRT, CAS/BA ’66, and American University Golden Eagle inductee, has been driven by one passion: her love for the outdoors. “AU fostered out-of-the-box thinking and helped me develop a wondering, questioning mind,” Betsy says. She recalls that while attending the College of Arts and Sciences, majoring in elementary education, she created a social studies lesson plan focusing on people living in Viet Nam. When some classmates objected to learning about the very people the US was bombing, Betsy received full support from her professor. 


After graduating from AU, Betsy fulfilled a life-long dream—learning to paddle a canoe in white water. Over the years, her wilderness activities influenced her life, leading her from teaching in the classroom to teaching in the wilderness and then becoming a breathing trainer. The metaphor of a white-water stream, with rapids and eddies, helps Betsy feel comfortable with life’s uncertainties. “I learned to be most secure with insecurity, which has been the guiding principle in my life,” she says. When the baby boom of the 1960s evaporated, and teaching jobs as well, she reengineered her life.

In 1992, Betsy’s love of learning led her to Bergen Community College in Paramus, N.J. for an associate’s degree in respiratory therapy. Now, 50 years after graduating from AU, Betsy has published JUST BREATHE OUT—Using Your Breathe to Create a New, Healthier You, a how-to-breathe guidebook that revolutionizes the definition of breathing. JUST BREATHE OUT helps the reader learn and use the active, spine-stretching outbreath for relaxation, strength, and pain and stress management. She says, “AU’s fostering of creative thinking has led me on the path of life-long learning, starting with canoeing. My life continues to unfold. I’m excited to be inducted as a Golden Eagle at the 2016 All-American Weekend.”

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Title: Getting Out and Giving Back
Author: Kristena Stotts and Penelope Buchter SIS/BA ‘16
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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
Content:

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
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Abstract: Glen’s Garden Market and Peeled Snacks want to bring you delicious, sustainable food and products.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 07/10/2015
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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
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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: 79AD04BF-E6B0-3D37-42620014133494E9
Title: Alumni Board Member Uses Family Business Experience to Assist Others
Author: Patricia Rabb
Subtitle:
Abstract: Lee Tannenbaum actively supports family-owned business
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 11/12/2014
Content:

"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
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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newsId: 92A036D3-D3B8-7ED8-1D1FF5C18BA9706B
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
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"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
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,Donor,Giving,Library,School of Education, Teaching and Health
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