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Title: AU Newsmaker: Naomi Baron
Author: Patty Housman
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Abstract: Professor interviewed about future of reading.
Topic: Humanities
Publication Date: 02/23/2015
Content:

Author, researcher, and AU professor of linguistics Naomi Baron was interviewed by PW Radio, the weekly radio program of Publisher's Weekly, the international news website of book publishing - nicknamed the "bible of the book business." 

Baron has written extensively about the differences between reading online and in print. Her latest book, Words Onscreen: The Fate of Reading in a Digital World (Oxford University Press, 2015), presents findings from her research, including the surprising statistic that 92 percent of  university students prefer reading in print. The book examines how new developments in technology have changed the definition of reading, and analyzes what the future might bring.

 

Listen Here

Listen here to Baron talk about how economic pressures are driving the shift to digital reading.

 

Read More

Wall Street Journal Book Review

Huffington Post Blog Post

New Republic Interview

Slate Article

Washington Post Interview

Washington Post Blog Post

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Title: Book Reveals New Details About the Founding of Israel
Author: Rebecca Basu and Patty Housman
Subtitle: History professor co-edits new book about first US ambassador to Israel
Abstract: A new book co-edited by AU history Professor Richard Breitman has unearthed critical documents—created in the wake of the Holocaust—that shed new light on the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.
Topic: Research
Publication Date: 02/23/2015
Content:

A new book co-edited by AU history Professor Richard Breitman has unearthed critical documents—created in the wake of the Holocaust—that shed new light on the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.

To the Gates of Jerusalem: The Diaries and Papers of James G. McDonald, 1945-1947 (University of Indiana Press, in association with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 2014) is the third in a series of books featuring the diary of foreign policy expert James G. McDonald, the first U.S. ambassador to Israel. Breitman coedited the book with three colleagues, Norman J.W. Goda, Barbara McDonald Stewart, and Severin Hochberg. The book examines McDonald's papers during several critical years: 1945 through 1947, when the United Nations partitioned Palestine. 

A View from the Inside

In December 1945, McDonald was appointed to the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry, a 12-member committee tasked with finding solutions to the problem of European Jewish refugees and the growing frictions between Jews and Arabs in Palestine. McDonald's diaries and papers present a highly personal account of the committee and the politics surrounding it. 

"McDonald was a prolific diarist," Breitman said. "His writings offer an insider's view and the most graphic and reliable account of how and why President Harry S. Truman broke with the British government on Palestine, and why Britain gave up its mandate in 1947."

According to McDonald's papers, he and Truman engaged in a heated discussion over Palestine, with McDonald supporting the establishment of a homeland for Jews. "When Truman accepted McDonald's view, he overrode his own State Department and effectively put strong pressure on Britain to give up its mandate," Breitman explained. 

McDonald's papers discuss the strong personalities represented in the committee, dramatic political maneuvers, and how the U.S. system of checks-and-balances was tested. They reveal that McDonald was instrumental in the committee's recommendation that 100,000 Jewish refugees should be admitted to Palestine, and that he fought to win the president's trust to ensure the report's recommendations were followed.

New Revelations

In McDonald's papers, Breitman and his coeditors also identified new information that impacts our understanding of the historical underpinnings of the creation of Israel. In the book, they present the following conclusions:   

* Contemporary Arab discourse concerning Israel primarily started in 1946 by minimizing the Holocaust and dressing Arab anti-Semitism in the anti-colonialist language of anti-Zionism.?   

* Zionist discourse in 1946 was not, as some scholars have argued, chauvinistic or aimed at the "takeover of Palestine." On the contrary, McDonald's writings show that in 1946, Jewish leaders all testified that Jews and Arabs could live together peacefully in Palestine and that development there would benefit the entire Middle East.   

* White House politics concerning Jewish immigration to Palestine were not manipulated by American Jewish leaders. Rather, they developed from the conviction of Truman's non-Jewish committee appointees, and the President himself, that Europe's Jews needed to end their state of homelessness following the Holocaust.

"This book connects the Holocaust and the re-creation of a Jewish state like no other," said Breitman. 

Early reviewers agree. "This collection is a must-see for students and scholars researching the origins of Israeli statehood, the Arab-Israeli conflict, the decolonization of the Middle East, and other important topics," wrote Peter L. Hahn, from the Ohio State University. 

Deborah E. Lipstadt, Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies at Emory University wrote, "For anyone interested in the history of the Middle East and how things came to be as they are, To the Gates of Jerusalem is indispensable reading. But it is also far more than just that. It provides an insight into the rarefied world of the international diplomat as it was in the wake of World War II. One sees how both international considerations and idiosyncratic personalities played a role in the decisions that were made."

For more information, visit: http://www.iupress.indiana.edu/product_info.php?products_id=807389

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Title: Professor Develops Tool to Speed Data Collection
Author: Rebecca Basu
Subtitle: App harnesses Google Street View technology
Abstract: Sociology Prof. Michael Bader and colleagues created a web application that speeds up researchers' data collection.
Topic: Research
Publication Date: 02/20/2015
Content:

By 2030, one in five Americans will be age 65 or older. To understand the role neighborhoods play in seniors' ability to 'age in place'—living safely and independently in one's home of choice rather than a healthcare facility—sociology Prof. Michael Bader and colleagues created a web application that speeds up researchers' data collection.

In a new paper in the journal Health & Place, Bader and colleagues demonstrate how the app works. Researchers used the app to rate 150 different features of neighborhoods in major metropolitan cities across the United States. They found that the app, called Computer Assisted Neighborhood Visual Assessment System, eliminated the costly and time-consuming aspects of conducting research. The app harnesses Google Street View technology, the street recognition program that links together images to create panoramic views of cities and rural areas. 

"Before Google Street View, sociologists had to cover hundreds of square miles in neighborhoods and painstakingly record visual details to answer research questions about gentrification, elders and healthy aging, and more," Bader said. "CANVAS takes Google Street View a step further by marrying its image data collection with Django software, providing a reliable, efficient and comprehensive tool for conducting sociological research on a large scale."

Graffiti and parks

Since the 1970s, sociologists have rated neighborhoods for factors that affect people's quality of life and health. In any given rating, researchers must take note of hundreds of details involving land use, aesthetics, traffic design and amenities, a neighborhood's proximity to parks, and sidewalk types. 

"Neighborhoods affect how healthy people are, how they interact, and how safe they feel. Factors like broken sidewalks, curbs without cut-outs, and a lack of cross-walks are associated with negative health outcomes," Bader explained. 

In the case of studying health of elders, ratings identify risk factors, such as broken sidewalks, that could lead elders to experience unhealthy outcomes. For example, if elders have to walk on broken sidewalks, that could make them less mobile and less likely to interact with peers. The data is used to predict the likelihood of elders aging in place, which in turn gets provided to policy makers. 

National Institute for Child Health and Human Development provided a $247,888 grant for the creation of the application. The study in Health & Place is believed to be the first one of its scope to examine the reliability of Google Street View in rating U.S. neighborhoods. Bader and his colleagues at Columbia University hope to secure funding to develop the app into a product that sociologists everywhere can use.

Aging in place in D.C. 

Getting at the heart of why elders leave communities in which they live, and what prevents them from aging in place, is a question Bader aims to answer. He's now conducting research in the Washington, D.C. region, where the population of those 65 and older will increase to 15.3 percent in 2030, according to policy think tank The Urban Institute.

AU graduate students are using CANVAS to rate features on streets in elderly neighborhoods in D.C., Montgomery County, Prince George's County, Fairfax County and Arlington County. Students are rating features related to physical disorder (litter, boarded-up buildings, graffiti), walkability (curb cuts, cross-walks, crossing signals), and land-use (types of buildings on streets).

After the students finish rating streets, they will use geostatistical computation to create a "surface" of each measure -- the "surface" looks like a heat map showing where physical disorder is high or low. Bader and his colleagues will use the maps to determine neighborhood conditions associated with health outcomes among elders. In addition, the computer maps provide a useful visual aid for policy makers. 

"This will help us know what challenges elders face in D.C. and how feasible it is for elders to successfully age in place without facing major physical obstacles," Bader said.

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Title: CAS’s First Africanist Historian Publishes New Book
Author: Caitlin Friess
Subtitle:
Abstract: Elke Stockreiter’s book explores Islamic law, gender, and social relations in colonial Zanzibar.
Topic: Humanities
Publication Date: 02/16/2015
Content:

Assistant professor of history Elke Stockreiter recently completed her first book, Islamic Law, Gender, and Social Change in Post-Abolition Zanzibar (Cambridge University Press, 2015). The book examines Zanzibari society (East Africa) from 1890 to 1963, at a time when the island was under British colonial rule.

In her research for the book, Stockreiter studied historical Islamic court records in Arabic, which revealed how Muslim judges helped advance the rights of women, ex-slaves, and other marginalized groups. The book’s findings reassess how historians and students of history see gender relations and the roles of Islamic courts in colonial East Africa and beyond. 

“In the courts, women, former slaves, and the poor frequently filed claims—and often won,” Stockreiter said. “These claims demonstrate that men accepted women as economic actors, such as by selling property to them.”

Stockreiter also found evidence that divorce was very common in colonial Zanzibar—and that it was initiated by both men and women. “Women in colonial Zanzibar mostly had to buy their divorce, meaning they had to materially compensate the husband,” she said. “To many readers, this will seem surprising, as they think the most common type of divorce in the Muslim world, past and present, is the one in which the husband arbitrarily repudiates the wife.”

 

African History: A New Area of Study for the College

Stockreiter, who joined the College of Arts and Sciences in fall 2013, has already become an indispensable member of the history faculty, in just three short semesters, according to Professor Pamela Nadell, chair of the Department of History. 

“Teaching African history is extremely demanding. The field ranges from the foundations of man to the present, covers an entire continent, studies peoples of different ethnicities and religions, and requires knowledge of multiple languages. We are fortunate to have a scholar of Professor Stockreiter’s stature introducing this subject to our students.” 

Stockreiter said she’s honored to be the first Africanist in the History Department at the College of Arts and Sciences. “I enjoy the challenges of bringing this new field to AU’s students,” she said. “Contemporary events capture students' attention first, but I'm keen to build on their interest by adding historical depth and diversity. As Africans tend to be misrepresented and misunderstood, studying their history helps considerably to contextualize what is going on in the world today.”

 

In the Classroom

Stockreiter is teaching two courses this semester. The first, a general education course titled Modern Africa, explores African experiences under European colonialism, the growth of African nationalism and independence, and the economic, political, and social challenges in post-colonial Africa. 

Her second course, Africa Through Foreign Eyes, studies perceptions of African societies through first- and second-hand accounts, ranging from medieval travelers to present-day journalists. Stockreiter and her students examine how these accounts provide meaningful insights into African cultures, and how outsiders’ views informed our views of Africa today. Stockreiter says she enjoys sharing her expertise in the classroom. “I would like to encourage AU students to join me in exploring the long and rich history of Africans. It's a challenging journey yet rewarding and full of surprises.” 

 

For More Information

Visit the Cambridge University Press website.

 

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Title: AU 2030: Karen Knee
Author: Gregg Sangillo
Subtitle:
Abstract: CAS professor confronts pressing environmental problems.
Topic: Research
Publication Date: 02/13/2015
Content:

*This is part of an ongoing series focusing on the AU 2030 project. American University has invested significant resources in key subject areas that cut across schools and departments. AU professor Karen Knee conducts research in the field of environmental science.

In work and in life, Karen Knee has embraced variety. That's one reason why her chosen field, environmental science, has been such a good fit. Among other disciplines, it incorporates chemistry, biology, geology, physics, and public policy. And for Knee, in some ways, it is science with a social conscience. "What I like about environmental science is the fact that it is science that directly relates to real and pressing problems that we have as a species," she says.

At American University, Knee is an assistant professor of environmental science in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Marcellus Shale

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a controversial form of oil and natural gas extraction. Environmentalists have linked fracking to air, water, and land pollution, while industry groups have charged that these claims are overblown. Like any good scientist, Knee has been gathering her own evidence out in the field.

Knee has examined Marcellus Shale, where there's been a fracking boom in Pennsylvania and West Virginia in recent years. Yet in Maryland there's been a fracking moratorium, providing her with a solid testing opportunity. With the help of undergraduate research assistants Alex Hitchens, Alexa Bolden, and Rebecca Wolf, she assessed the impacts on surface water quality in streams in fracking areas in Pennsylvania and non-fracking areas in Maryland. "We measured the basic water quality, things like temperature and flow rate, and we also looked at the concentrations of different dissolved metals, as well as radon and radium," she explains.

Particularly when examining the metals, they discovered potentially harmful consequences of fracking. "Every single metal that we measured was higher in concentration in the Pennsylvania streams than in the Maryland streams. And many of the differences were significant," Knee says. The field work for that study was conducted in 2013, and she's planning additional fracking research this summer.

Other Research

Knee focuses on how human activities affect water quality, as well as how pollutants are transported. She's currently analyzing how groundwater carries nitrogen pollution into streams, and eventually, the Chesapeake Bay.

She is also planning a new project with fellow AU environmental science professor Kiho Kim, focusing on ecosystem services in coastal areas of Guam. "In most coastal areas, and especially on isolated tropical islands, human society depends a lot on what nature does for us," she says.

Knee provides some examples: Nature allows fish populations to thrive, and the fish can be eaten for human sustenance;water transports the waste away;coral reefs protect the land from giant waves. "We're trying to develop a model of those services, how human activities affect them, and how they affect the human population and economy," she says.

Her Own Path

Knee mostly grew up in Charleston, South Carolina, where her affinity for water and the environment was nurtured on that southern city's beaches. After earning her bachelor's degree from Brown University, she took time off from school and moved to Austin, Texas.

Without a car, she tried to make ends meet with three part-time jobs. She worked as a lab assistant, a cook at a Japanese restaurant, and a freelance journalist for a local newspaper—"I actually became the paper's church reporter, even though I'm Jewish," she says with a laugh—before deciding to move on. "I thought, 'This is not good. I'm just as broke as I was eight months ago.'"

Knee took a job in New Jersey on a historic schooner. In that role, she was a mix of environmental educator, deck hand, and ship's cook. She eventually attended graduate school, earning her Ph.D. in geological and environmental sciences from Stanford University.

Along the way, Knee also interned as a science writer for The Philadelphia Inquirer. Knee's favorite research spot is Ecuador, where she got a Fulbright grant to study land use and water quality in a cloud forest in the Andes Mountains.

American University professor Karen Knee.

She has plenty of other interests, such as foreign languages (she's fluent in Spanish and proficient in Hebrew), reading fiction, cooking, and visual arts. And she maintains a love for the outdoors, biking to work and occasionally hiking in Rock Creek Park with her toddler and dog.

Looking back, Knee believes the circuitous route she took to academia provided her with a healthy perspective. "I feel like you just have to follow whatever your own path is, and make the most of it," she says. "My path was maybe not as much of a straight arrow as some other people. But I think you just have to embrace the kind of person you are."

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Title: Professor Joins The Journal of Neuroscience Editorial Board
Author: Patty Housman
Subtitle:
Abstract: Mark Laubach will join the leading publication in field of neuroscience.
Topic: Science
Publication Date: 02/09/2015
Content:

Mark Laubach, associate professor of biology, has been named to the editorial board of The Journal of Neuroscience.

The Journal of Neuroscience is a weekly peer-reviewed scientific journal published by the Society for Neuroscience. Covering empirical research on all aspects of neuroscience, it is widely considered the world’s leading publication for the rapidly growing field. 

In his work for the journal, Laubach will work with senior editors to identify appropriate reviewers and review manuscripts. He will focus on the journal’s Systems/Circuits section. It features papers reporting new findings about how groups of neurons work together to process information, and how the neurons are "wired" to carry out their functions. His appointment follows his previously winning an award as “Top Reviewer” for the Journal.


Neuroscience Research

Laubach joined AU’s Department of Biology and the Center for Behavioral Neuroscience in the fall of 2014. As a neurobiologist, he is interested in brain circuits that enable executive control and decision-making. 

Laubach recently received an award from the National Science Foundation to support research on neural circuits that allow for executive control over action. He also won an award from The Klarman Family Foundation to research neuronal circuits that control food-seeking behavior and may underlie eating disorders.

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Title: College Writing Students Donate Books
Author: John Hyman
Subtitle:
Abstract: Students in the college writing program donated their books at the end of the semester.
Topic: Literature
Publication Date: 02/09/2015
Content:

 To set the stage for their studies at American, all first-year students are asked to read a community text for our Writer as Witness Program. Students then have the opportunity to hear the author speak and take their questions at a colloquium early in the term. In Fall 2014, students heard Brooke Gladstone describe what she learned in writing The Influencing Machine, her incisive analysis of mediated information.

In all College Writing classes, students discussed the book and considered Gladstone’s arguments. The College Writing Program, further, sponsored an essay contest in the Fall to recognize student work inspired by the text.  

In most academic years, the story of the Writer as Witness Program ends there: Students complete their classes and they put the book on a shelf. This year, however, we are delighted to report that the story continues long after the fall semester and far beyond our campus.  

Jennifer Coleman taught as an adjunct faculty member in the College Writing Program while she was completing her work for an MFA in 2011, so she was well familiar with the Writer as Witness program. She began teaching English this year at Long Beach High School in Long Beach, Mississippi. She reports that her school district is still recovering from the effects of Hurricane Katrina; there are simply not enough resources for the students. So Jennifer had an idea. Here’s how she put it:

 

Since leaving the D.C. area, I’ve stayed connected to several of my colleagues in the Literature Department, and I follow news of the College Writing Program. I was following news of this year’s Writers as Witness text with much interest and a tad of envy. I couldn’t help but dream about the lessons and activities that would be possible with such a versatile and relevant text. I knew my high school students would be invigorated and engaged with a book like The Influencing Machine. And that’s when I had this idea: What if AU freshmen were asked to donate their copy of their Writer as Witness text after they were finished using it?

 

So we asked our students. And hundreds of them donated their books, insuring that the books would have a second life in the hands of students in Jennifer’s school. For the first time, Jennifer reports, she can offer some fresh choices of reading for her students – not to mention the fact that she can provide whole class sets of books to her crowded classrooms. Jennifer explains: “This partnership is just the latest affirmation of many positive experiences I’ve had since joining the AU family in 2008. The entire Long Beach community thanks you, AU.”  

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Title: Adventures in Iberia
Author: Gregg Sangillo
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Abstract: AU junior Charlotte Bergmann is the inaugural recipient of a new scholarship to study in Spain.
Topic: International
Publication Date: 02/06/2015
Content:

Living Her Dream

American University junior Charlotte Bergmann is not just studying abroad. She's living out her dream, one that germinated during childhood. Bergmann has had a longtime fascination with Spain, and now she's spending this semester in Madrid.

"I actually knew I wanted to study abroad in Spain in Madrid in sixth grade. And I was one of those kids, the second I started taking Spanish lessons in kindergarten, I knew that that was my language," she recalls.

So far, the country has completely lived up to her expectations. "It totally blew me away. Everybody is so friendly, so accommodating, and very curious," she says. "That feeling of trying something new is incredible, and I wish that for everybody. I'm so lucky that I have the opportunity to do this."

Bergmann is the inaugural recipient of the Dr. Maria del Carmen Caballero Scholarship for Study Abroad in Spain. As part of her program, she'll travel throughout Spain, as well as take a trip to neighboring Portugal.

No Pasa Nada

When reached for a Skype interview in January, Bergmann was just getting acclimated to the rhythms of everyday Spanish life. Of course, people really do eat dinner at 9:45 or 10:00 p.m. Spaniards have their own version of after Christmas sales, when people flood the streets and make shopping a fraternal, social activity. Siesta is as popular as advertised, with stores closing and people enjoying Sangria or coffee in the middle of the day.

"In the States, everything is 'go, go, go,' and here it's definitely not. They have a saying—it's called no pasa nada, or 'don't worry about it,'" she says.

Improvement and Immersion

At AU, Bergmann is majoring in public relations and strategic communication, with a minor in Spanish language. She's working towards her certificate in Spanish translation.

Bergmann is originally from Norwalk, Connecticut. She grew up in a musical family, is a member of American University Chamber Singers, and now plans to explore the rich music traditions of Spain. "The music history is definitely intertwined with the Spanish history as a whole," she says.

Despite the no pasa nada environment, she'll be quite busy. Her classes include a six-credit seminar, where she'll be steeped in Spanish politics, economics, and history. She's also taking courses in public speaking and women's studies. She's interning at the marketing agency Hibooboo.

For her living arrangements, Bergmann is staying with a host mom. A language professor, she's been quick to correct some of Bergmann's grammatical mistakes. Yet Bergmann, eager to have an immersive experience and master the Spanish language, welcomes this. "For me, it's perfect because I want to be corrected. I want to improve," she says.

An Educator's Legacy

Maria del Carmen Caballero died of cancer in April 2014. Following her death, AU Abroad established this scholarship in her name. She was a Fulbright Scholarship winner who earned her Ph.D. in 18th century Spanish literature. MariCarmen—as she was affectionately known—was director of AU's study abroad programs in Madrid for 18 years. When AU Abroad established the AU Center in Madrid in 2007, MariCarmen became the inaugural director.

Brita Doyle is an assistant director in the AU Abroad office and her portfolio includes the Spanish-speaking world. Doyle was a student and later a colleague of MariCarmen. After Doyle became program manager for Spain, she interacted with her frequently. "She was always there to talk on the phone, and to chat about work or personal life or career advice," Doyle says.

Earlier, while Doyle was an AU undergraduate studying abroad in Madrid, she witnessed an engaging, generous teacher. "I'd never been so inspired by someone in the classroom in my life. MariCarmen was such an intelligent woman, and so passionate about introducing students to Spain," Doyle recalls. "I learned so much—not just about the Mediterranean region and history, but just about being a positive person."

Doyle explains the special connection MariCarmen had with her students. "She had this great way of making everyone feel that we were her priority. And, indeed, I think her students really were her priority," Doyle says. "You could just see how much she was in love with her country of Spain, and she wanted students to experience that as well."

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Title: A Road to Realization
Author: Gregg Sangillo
Subtitle:
Abstract: In a time of racial discord, AU students learn about white privilege.
Topic: Social Sciences
Publication Date: 02/04/2015
Content:

After a year marked by racial turmoil, many white people are now active participants in the Black Lives Matter movement. Yet, if we understand the concept of white privilege, even supportive whites may occupy a complicated position in the fight for racial justice. White activists often admit that they benefit from the same racist system that they're trying to destroy.

But academics studying white privilege say that acknowledging racial hierarchies is a solid first step towards eradicating them. American University has a sociology course, "White Privilege and Social Justice," that can help students sort through some of these thorny issues. Students of all races and ethnicities—black, white, Hispanic, Asian, and others—can learn more about racial identity, privilege, and unequal opportunity in American society.

The Course in Context

"There's an enormous field of white privilege studies that has been in existence since the early 1990s," says Celine-Marie Pascale, a sociology professor who started the course at AU in 2004.

Nationwide, white privilege courses have not been universally accepted. At the University of Notre Dame, a student publicly criticized a white privilege course and ended up doing an interview on Fox News. But aside from some complaints in the first year, Pascale says the class has been well-received at AU.

Last semester, the course was taught by Wanda Parham-Payne, an adjunct professorial lecturer. "I always reiterated that this is a safe space, and I'm not here to judge you," Parham-Payne says. "If students wanted to disagree with something other students said, that was up to them. I feel like those types of conversations are crucial in order to improve race relations."

After Parham-Payne's lectures, students would break into group discussions for about 20-25 minutes. Students also wrote personal, reflective papers on how race, class, and gender have influenced their lives.

AU alum Katie Beran says Pascale's course had a profound impact on her, and she even wrote about the experience in her law school admissions personal statement. "The class entirely re-conceptualized how I thought about race and how I experienced race relations on a daily basis," says Beran, who is white. "The course taught me that if I wasn't really fighting to change the current power structure, I was inadvertently supporting it."

Beran, who was an Honors student and a sociology major, describes the course as a journey of self-realization. "I came out on the other end feeling really committed to using my privilege to try to impact societal change," she says.

After graduating from AU, she went on to law school at University of Pennsylvania and co-founded the Civil Rights Law Project there. She's now a law clerk for a federal judge in Philadelphia.

White Privilege, Unearned Advantage

Pascale describes white privilege as a "social benefit that gives you unearned advantage." White people are afforded certain opportunities simply because of their privilege, and "whiteness" has been socially constructed as the norm, experts say.

"Until we can look at and dismantle those systematic and generally unsought advantages, we can't begin to dismantle the effects of the marginalization. So if we have 10 apples, and I'm consuming nine of them, we can look at how sad life is for you with only one apple. But until we address the fact that I've got nine, it's not going to change for you," Pascale says.

Academics offer empirical evidence to support this. "Studies have shown that if you send résumés to different employers that are identical in all aspects except name (Susan Smith in one and Tekisha Green in the other), the person with the name readily identifiable as 'white' gets the interview most of the time. Here you can see how racial privilege operates in ways that have nothing to do with whether or not the applicant is racist," Pascale explains.

In her class, Parham-Payne utilized Devah Pager's "The Mark of a Criminal Record," a widely read article in the field of sociology. When comparing white and African-American job applicants with comparable résumés in Milwaukee, Pager found that the white job applicant was more likely to get a callback for an interview. Even whites with criminal records were more likely to get job callbacks than African-Americans without criminal records.

Starting Small, Thinking Big

In addition to this course, AU has hosted forums on racial understanding and white privilege. The Center for Diversity & Inclusion holds workshops on "Unmasking Your Privilege." On January 24, a number of campus organizations were involved in a Teach-In for Justice, which included a session on white privilege led by Pascale.

Assistant Vice President of Campus Life Fanta Aw helped with curriculum design and faculty recruitment for the Teach-In. "The feedback we've gotten from students and participants who attended the white privilege [session] has been overwhelmingly positive. Many said it was really an eye-opener for them," Aw says. The whole event was a success, she adds, drawing from a diverse cross-section of students, faculty, staff, and administrators.

In wrestling with issues of privilege, Aw hopes these courses and programs will provide students with a sense of agency. She wants people to feel empowered to discuss race with friends and family.

"What I think is most challenging for students, and rightfully so because of their age group, is 'So, what can we do about it? We're seeing these high levels of injustice. But what can I as one person do about that?' And what we're saying to them is, 'You can [make a difference].' But the way you can is you start with your community, you start with your inner circle. And you build out."

Breaking Down Barriers

A frequent complaint about these kinds of courses and discussions is that they're preaching to the converted. People in attendance, the thinking goes, are probably already vocal opponents of bigotry. But Aw insists that anyone who attends can still learn new techniques in confronting racism.

And it's hard to pigeonhole some of the white students participating. Sophomore Becca Lamb is a Christian conservative who is pro-life. But she didn't view the deaths of unarmed black men in Ferguson, Missouri and Staten Island, New York along conventional left-right, ideological lines. "It did feel like there was no political side to this," says Lamb, a student in the School of International Service. "I can look at Michael Brown's parents and the people of Ferguson and say, 'We need to be showing compassion.'"

She's taken courses related to gender and power, where the privilege issue has been discussed extensively. Her international affairs-focused sorority, Delta Phi Epsilon, was a co-sponsor of the recent Teach-In.

In response to a question about students and social media, Lamb says, "We don't learn to deal with conflict well. We can just block, we can just delete, we can just erase. And so, when you're forced to sit in a room with someone you care about, and talk it out and get to common ground, that can be really good. And it's really good for us to go through that."

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newsId: F264584F-5056-AF26-BE584D0F8D5FA40C
Title: AU Hosts 22nd Lavender Languages Conference on Study of Queer Language
Author: Rebecca Basu
Subtitle:
Abstract: Language and sexuality scholars will gather Feb. 13 through 15 for Lavender Languages, North America’s longest-running academic conference on language use in lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer life.
Topic: Social Sciences
Publication Date: 02/02/2015
Content:

There are gay families on TV sitcoms, such as “Modern Family.” There is the transgendered character Sophia Burset on “Orange is the New Black.” Now there is the hit Amazon show “Transparent,” with a storyline revolving around the coming out and transition to female of a retired professor and father of three adult children. 

The popular shows point to how queer language has increasingly entered mainstream life and culture. To examine this trend and more, students and scholars of language and sexuality will gather Feb. 13-15 at American University for Lavender Languages, North America’s longest-running academic conference on language use in lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer life. 

“Queer characters and queer language on prime time TV is exciting, but it is also concerning, because many of these shows create an image of LGBTQ people as affluent, employed, well fed, and well housed,” said William Leap, an anthropology professor and Lavender Languages founder and organizer. “Not everyone in LGBTQ America enjoys such benefits. Outside of the United States, many LGBTQ people don’t enjoy these benefits at all. Lavender Languages has always been about social realities, and this year’s conference will spend a lot of time looking at queer language that reflects a wide variety of experiences.” 

As such, there will be panels about Islam and French culture, homophobia, the trans experience, political dissidence, and language and queer ecology, where environmental crises and sexual marginality converge. Presenters, who hail from Hong Kong, France, England, and other parts of the globe, will break down the language use connected to topics as diverse as backstage talk by drag queens, the language of redemption and gay Jews, gay identity in postcolonial Ghana, and identity of the deaf gay male community in England. 

For the first time, the conference will host an LGBTQ artists' salon. Filmmakers, musicians, and visual artists will showcase their work with a discussion to follow. Some themes to be addressed in this year’s presentations include bridging the gap between lesbian and bisexual women, coming to terms with being gay and one’s self-determination, and being a "fashionable butch." 

The event’s “no attitude” policy means the conference addresses issues important to queer people in their daily lives, and people come to the conference to be part of that discussion, Leap says. The conference is also an opportunity for undergraduate and graduate scholars to network with national and international experts in anthropology and linguistics. 

Lavender Languages elevates the study and scholarly exploration of queer thought and languages, and has played a strong role in expanding the field of queer linguistics. Edited collections and books emerge from the conference’s interplay of scholars and are created in response to the event’s proceedings. 

For more information or to register to attend, visit the Lavender Languages website or Facebook page here.

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

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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
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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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newsId: 4247EC8B-A7D0-E9A7-2D5BA65F399FC37F
Title: Alumnus Captures the Power of Storytelling
Author: Rebecca Vander Linde
Subtitle:
Abstract: Paul Costello, CAS/MFA ’97, believes: “If you want to change the world, you have to change the story.”
Topic: Alumni Profile
Publication Date: 06/12/2013
Content:

“If you want to change the world, you have to change the story,” says Paul Costello, CAS/MFA ’97.

He should know. For the past 20 years, Paul has been bringing young people from areas of conflict around the world to D.C. for the summer. His most recent venture, New Story Leadership, unites college students from Israel and Palestine.

“Understanding that Middle East is old-style leadership stuck in old stories, we have to find new leaders. We have to create new experiences that will spark them to write a new story,” Paul says.

The students live with host families, learn the art of narrative storytelling, and immerse themselves in American culture – visiting the Library of Congress while learning about Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech and experiencing the Fourth of July festivities in the nation’s capital. They also intern at prestigious institutions like Congressional offices and the World Bank.

“The power of the United States is the power of its stories, and D.C. is the perfect platform for these students to learn,” Paul says.

Students work together to craft their stories and understand one another and then share those narratives with people who wouldn’t otherwise hear them. Students have told their stories in Congress, embassies, and international conferences.

This is important, Paul says, because, “In Washington, the story of Israel and Palestine is largely told by politicians and government. We get these students a seat at the table by telling stories of hope. We are not trying to change the Middle East; we are trying to change Washington.”

The bonds these students form are long-lasting and transcend cultural barriers. Paul recalls the story of a Palestinian student, Dia, who made the dangerous, day-long journey through multiple military checkpoints from Amman, Jordan to Palestine and then Tel Aviv, Israel, to surprise an Israeli friend, with whom he shared a host family in D.C., for her birthday.

In the past, Paul has worked with people from Northern Ireland and South Africa to open a dialogue and foster understanding. Paul credits much of his success to AU and the people he met here.

Kathie Hepler, CAS/MA ’95, whom he met while studying at AU, worked with Paul for years. He also says Professors Henry Taylor, Myla Sklarew, Kermit Moyer, Richard McCann, and Jo Radner were inspiring. Jim Gray, an AU psychology professor, opens his home and hosts students for New Story Leadership.

“I have AU interns working with me all the time, and I just hired Elliot Jeffords, [SOC/BA ’13], to be my summer program manager. … I don’t feel I’ve ever left AU. I still get books from the library. I don’t know where I’d be without AU. It’s a backstop and an inspiration. I’m a huge booster. AU is in this work very deeply,” Paul says.

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