newsId: 712C6CDD-5056-AF26-BE9B9882872E7682
Title: Carmel Institute Honors Librarian of Congress and Groundbreaking Book
Author: Colin Casey
Subtitle: Event celebrates 50th anniversary of James Billington’s The Icon and the Axe
Abstract: Carmel Institute celebrates 50th anniversary of James Billington’s The Icon and the Axe.
Topic: International
Publication Date: 11/22/2016
Content:

The Carmel Institute of Russian Culture and History paid homage to legendary American scholar James Billington last week at a packed symposium held at the Washington College of Law. The event brought together many of Billington's colleagues and contemporaries, as well as former senators and current representatives from the Embassy of the Russian Federation to the United States of America, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Billington's groundbreaking book, The Icon and the Axe

The book, first published in 1966 by Alfred A. Knoft is still in print today. It has been described by Library Journal as "a rich and readable introduction to the whole sweep of Russian cultural and intellectual history from Kievan times to the post-Khruschev era."

 

James Billington speaks to the crowd

James Billington speaks to the crowd.


The Carmel Institute of Russian Culture and History

Carmel Institute Founder and Chair Susan Carmel opened the event with thoughtful insight into one of Billington's lessons. "I believe that we should follow his example to first unlock the love that is in our hearts, and then begin to read," she said. "As Dr. Billington has taught me, real change must come from the heart, and cultural understanding must include our hearts as well as our minds."

Institute Director Anton Fedyashin noted that "it must have taken courage to publish a book with two such un-modern words as 'icon' and 'axe' in its title during the secularizing 1960s that witnessed the great social turn in academia." He added that "great books, like wine do not grow sour with time."


James Billington and Anton Fedyashin discuss The Icon and the Axe.

James Billington (left) and Anton Fedyashin (right) discuss The Icon and the Axe.


The Icon and the Axe

Billington wrote The Icon and the Axe as a way to increase cultural understanding. Even as a young man, he was fascinated by Russia, and his inspiration for writing The Icon and the Axe came from reading War and Peace as a child. It also drove him deep into academia and eventually to the Library of Congress in 1987, where he was deeply involved with President Ronald Reagan's trips to the then-USSR in the waning years of his presidency. Throughout his career, Billington always focused on Russian history, culture, and politics—as a professor of history at Princeton University, as a former Rhodes Scholar, as a guest lecturer on Russian history at the University of Leningrad, and as an exchange research professor at the University of Moscow.

Billington touched the lives of all the event's speakers, in both personal and professional ways. Carmel said, "Billington's work has been an inspiration to me." Other speakers recalled the kindness and generosity of the man they had known for several decades. One such attendee was former United States Ambassador to the Russian Federation John Beyrle, who praised how Billington digitized nearly 2,000 Russian literary works, media, and photographs so that citizens of the United States and Russia could access them free of charge through the UNESCO World Digital Library.

In the closing question-and-answer session, Billington spoke about his education, youth, and the current state of Russian-American relations. He ended the event by describing what has inspired him for all these years. "History is about people and the stories they tell you," he said. "They get inside you and affect you."





Tags: Carmel Institute of Russian Culture & History,College of Arts and Sciences,History Dept
Publication:
Photos: 0
Contact Name:
Contact Phone:
Contact Email:
News Photos: 71797C9E-5056-AF26-BE36EF374704345E
Profile:
Media:
newMediaIDList:
newsId: 70BC99A0-5056-AF26-BE1CC64BBB266154
Title: Dr. Paul Farmer Speaks at NIH
Author:
Subtitle:
Abstract: Dr. Paul Farmer on "Against Balkanization: Research + Training + Care = Global Health Equity" at the National Institutes of Health.
Topic: Social Sciences
Publication Date: 11/18/2016
Content:

Dr. Paul Farmer spoke to a standing room only crowd at the National Institutes of Health's annual David E. Barmes Lecture on Global Health on November 16, 2016. During his lecture, "Against Balkanization: Research + Training + Care = Global Health Equity," Dr. Farmer spoke about the power of collaboration and the need for a Global Equity Plan to connect health care with those it aims to serve. He charged public health professionals with "adding the word equity" to their agendas. 

An MD and PhD in Medical Anthropology, Dr. Farmer has been influential in public health interventions regarding tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, and Ebola with a particular focus on human rights and the consequences of social inequality. His most recent book is In the Company of the Poor: Conversations with Dr. Paul Farmer. He is a recognized expert for the global health movement and co-founded Partners in Health, which operates in 10 countries. Previously, he served as Professor and chair of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School. 

Many Public Health Scholars were fortunate to be in attendance, sit among NIH researchers and physicians, and listen to opening remarks from NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins. "Having the opportunity to hear the visionary Dr. Paul Farmer speak at the prestigious NIH solidified the DC college experience for me," said Kendell Lincoln, Public Health Scholar. "A personal hero and inspiration, I was beyond excited when I heard that Dr. Farmer would be at the NIH. This is an example of what DC has to offer students, no matter their passions." Additionally, AU Public Health Scholar alumni Wyatt Bensken offered a tour of the Clinical Center on NIH's beautiful Bethesda campus.

Tags: Health,Health Care,Public Health
Publication:
Photos: 0
Contact Name:
Contact Phone:
Contact Email:
News Photos: 7A073C43-5056-AF26-BEAB7F545493BDE1
Profile:
Media:
newMediaIDList:
newsId: B5659348-5056-AF26-BE6A1CF6DE12D581
Title: Partnership to Improve Science Education in DC Schools
Author: By Melissa H. Turner, Program Evaluator, School of Education
Subtitle:
Abstract: AU science and education faculty and students are working with middle school science teachers across DC to develop and implement student-centered, investigative science curriculum for their classrooms.
Topic: Education
Publication Date: 11/18/2016
Content:

American University science and education faculty and students are working with middle school science teachers across DC to develop and implement student-centered, investigative science curriculum for their classrooms. This work includes developing an intensive professional development relationship with one school in particular, Ideal Academy Public Charter School. The program, named the Learning and Teaching Science with Scientists Institute, is funded by a Mathematics and Science Partnerships Grant through the DC Office of the State Superintendent for Education (OSSE).

Over the summer, 14 teachers participated in a training institute at American University, focusing on laboratory approaches to learning biology, chemistry, physics, and environmental sciences, as well as pedagogy, or how to use student-centered experimentation as a best practice for teaching and learning science. For example, if a teacher walks into a classroom and lectures on electricity to 7th graders, they will get a very different reaction than if they have the students work on building their own snap circuits. Of the 14 teachers, 4 work at Ideal, and 10 work at other schools across DC. During the summer, teachers developed and tested lesson plans to teach the science approaches learned in the institute, using the experiential strategies taught in the pedagogy course. While the summer institute is over, work on the project continues.

During the fall semester, four AU science students went to the schools across DC to observe teachers implementing lesson plans in their science courses. These lesson plans were developed using the best practices taught this summer, including the “5Es” of science instruction: Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate and Evaluate. AU’s science students used an observation protocol to help determine whether teachers were using their new skills, and whether these skills were helping students learn.

In addition, three AU science students, Nikita Srivastava, Kirk Blackmoore, and Rachel Zayas have been going to Ideal weekly to help 8th grade students with their science fair projects. The school's science fair was held last winter, and Blackmoore and Zayas are evaluating the 8th grade projects. After the school-based fair, AU science students and faculty continue to support the Ideal students whose projects will represent Ideal at a DC-wide middle school science fair.

The grant also allowed AU to purchase materials for Ideal, including a weather station and snap circuits. Fifth grade students at Ideal are monitoring the temperature, wind speed and direction, rain, and barometric pressure digitally in their classroom. Some students have used the data for their science fair projects. Jonathan Newport, AU physics lab director, and Srivastana have been working with the 6th and 7th grade students on using the snap circuits. According to Srivastana, students are learning about “basic circuits, resistance, and capacitance. It's been really fun for everyone!”

When reflecting on his experiences at Ideal, Blackmoore said, “Working with the budding scientists at Ideal has forced me to improve personally, academically, and socially every single time. The kids are very high-energy and observant, so I need to be ready to help them discover new things and nurture their interests. I have really seen growth in them through the questions they now ask and the way they carry themselves, which is very encouraging. The future is bright in the scientific world.“ The project is allowing AU students and faculty to build strong relationships with staff at Ideal, ultimately helping the school to build and enhance its science curriculum, which should lead to increased student engagement and achievement.

“One of the most gratifying moments of the LTSS grant project was when the Ideal Public Charter School teachers told me they had created lab time in their science classes for student centered experiments,” said Nancy Zeller, AU’s recently retired coordinator of science teaching labs and one of the grant managers for the institute. “Students getting excited about snap circuits and observing how bean seeds can germinate on filter paper are the best ways to engage budding young scientists."

The project’s funding expires at the end of this school year, but AU hopes to continue its relationship with Ideal in the future.

Tags: CAS Catalyst,College of Arts and Sciences,Education,Science
Publication: DCA2314C-B6E6-B7CE-220C6D93CE54135A
Photos: 0
Contact Name:
Contact Phone:
Contact Email:
News Photos: B5B9C3EC-5056-AF26-BE06DBB456D618E6
Profile:
Media:
newMediaIDList:
newsId: DEE67DA5-5056-AF26-BE8D115CC459F193
Title: SOC Offers Backpack Documentary Class in Spanish
Author: Gregg Sangillo
Subtitle:
Abstract: Prof Bill Gentile helps students find their human voice.
Topic: Journalism
Publication Date: 11/09/2016
Content:

If you’re reporting from a foreign country, you can’t just rely on a translator. Bill Gentile spent many years as a correspondent and photographer in Latin America, and he stresses the need to speak Spanish fluently.

“You can’t get under the skin of a culture, or a people, or a country, if you don’t speak their language. You can communicate with them. You can exchange information with them. But you can’t really discern how they think,” says Gentile, a professor and journalist in residence at American University’s School of Communication.

This semester, Gentile is teaching a new course, Backpack Documentary en Español. That’s exactly what it sounds like: a video journalism course taught entirely in Spanish. It’s the first of its kind in SOC, and its benefits extend beyond the aforementioned work of foreign correspondents.

“Backpack documentary” emphasizes that journalists can tell powerful, intimate stories with hand-held, digital cameras.

Connecting with Communities

Gentile’s course includes both Hispanic and non-Hispanic students. The SOC course is also cross-listed with the World Languages and Cultures Department in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Especially if you’re not a native Spanish speaker, this class can help you stay conversant in the language of a significant and growing demographic in the U.S., Gentile says.

“Whether you’re in journalism, law enforcement, business, or any field, if you speak this language— which is the second most spoken in the country—you’ve got an advantage over people who don’t,” he explains.

Through their film projects, students can also connect with Central American and other Hispanic communities in the D.C. area. For instance, one student is working on a film about the Rumba Café, an Adams Morgan bar and restaurant popular with Latinos. AU World Languages and Cultures Professorial Lecturer Ludy Grandas, also a student in Gentile’s class, is making a short documentary about Antonio de la Cruz, an 89-year-old barber in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood.

Inclusion and Belonging

Gentile is a member and former co-chair of the SOC’s Diversity Committee. By establishing a welcoming environment for Hispanic and Latina/Latino students, he hopes the course will help improve the racial climate on campus.

“I want to be inclusive. And I want there to be a safe space for students who speak the language,” he says. “And it’s not just a safe space, but a space where students feel that they belong.”

Lifelong Learning

As pretty much every AU professor will insist, you never stop learning. Profs talk about stumbling upon the unexpected during a lecture, or how a student’s question forced them to reexamine old assumptions.

While taking Gentile’s class, Grandas is discovering the art of filmmaking. Originally from Colombia, she teaches topics courses in Spanish in CAS. But she had no previous background producing film.

“Making a film is very difficult. Even if it’s just a three-minute documentary, it requires a lot of time,” she says.

Yet Gentile is helping her—and all of his students—throughout the process. He frequently accompanies his students on their film shoots, and Grandas exalts that level of commitment.

“He comes with us to film. He accommodates our schedule. And that is something that is very hard to find in an instructor or a professor,” she says.

She initially wanted to film day laborers at Home Depot in Northeast, D.C. It never came to fruition, though, as they shied away from the camera. So she switched her project to the barber in Mount Pleasant.

She already sees how this course will help with her own teaching, since she’s planning to teach a new class on Latin American cinema.

“It’s very humbling to know that you don’t know so many things,” she says. “It’s learning a new kind of language. It’s a visual language.”

The Universal Language: Visual Storytelling

Ultimately, Gentile says, “visual language” is the key to understanding this course. It’s not a Spanish class and he’s not a Spanish teacher. And comprehending the technology is only a small part of the equation.

“I’m trying to convey to students that they have a voice,” he says. “It’s not about gears, it’s not about equipment, it’s not about any of that stuff. It’s about learning to speak the visual storytelling language.”

When students finish their films, they can put them on YouTube, Vimeo, or other multimedia outlets. Then, of course, almost anybody can watch and draw inspiration.

“For the first time in the history of mankind, we can communicate instantly, globally, and in a language that everybody can understand.”

Tags: College of Arts and Sciences,Featured News,Journalism,School of Communication,World Languages and Cultures
Publication:
Photos: 0
Contact Name:
Contact Phone:
Contact Email:
News Photos: E1C9F58E-5056-AF26-BE012D79D458C3F5
Profile:
Media:
newMediaIDList:
newsId: B37A9E25-5056-AF26-BE1C5C8E50D12FB7
Title: Harnessing the Power of One of Nature's Most Abundant Materials
Author: Rebecca Basu
Subtitle:
Abstract: American University chemistry professor Douglas M. Fox develops method to improve performance of cellulose nanocrystals in medicine and green manufacturing.
Topic: Research
Publication Date: 11/08/2016
Content:

What if you could take one of the most abundant natural materials on earth and harness its strength to lighten the heaviest of objects, to replace synthetic materials, or use it in scaffolding to grow bone, in a fast-growing area of science in oral health care? 

This all might be possible with cellulose nanocrystals, the molecular matter of all plant life. As industrial filler material, they can be blended with plastics and other synthetics. They are as strong as steel, tough as glass, lightweight, and green. 

“Plastics are currently reinforced with fillers made of steel, carbon, Kevlar, or glass. There is an increasing demand in manufacturing for sustainable materials that are lightweight and strong to replace these fillers,” said Douglas M. Fox, associate professor of chemistry at American University. “Cellulose nanocrystals are an environmentally friendly filler. If there comes a time that they’re used widely in manufacturing, cellulose nanocrystals will lessen the weight of materials, which will reduce energy.”

Fox has submitted a patent for his work with cellulose nanocrystals, which involves a simple, scalable method to improve their performance. Published results of his method can be found in the chemistry journal ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces. Fox’s method could be used as a biomaterial and for applications in transportation, infrastructure and wind turbines.

The power of cellulose

Cellulose gives stems, leaves and other organic material in the natural world their strength. That strength already has been harnessed for use in many commercial materials. At the nano-level, cellulose fibers can be broken down into tiny crystals, particles smaller than ten millionths of a meter. Deriving cellulose from natural sources such as wood, tunicate (ocean-dwelling sea cucumbers) and certain kinds of bacteria, researchers prepare crystals of different sizes and strengths. 

For all of the industry potential, hurdles abound. As nanocellulose disperses within plastic, scientists must find the sweet spot: the right amount of nanoparticle-matrix interaction that yields the strongest, lightest property. 

Fox overcame four main barriers by altering the surface chemistry of nanocrystals with a simple process of ion exchange. Ion exchange reduces water absorption (cellulose composites lose their strength if they absorb water); increases the temperature at which the nanocrystals decompose (needed to blend with plastics); reduces clumping; and improves re-dispersal after the crystals dry.  

Cell growth

Cellulose nanocrystals as a biomaterial is yet another commercial prospect. In dental regenerative medicine, restoring sufficient bone volume is needed to support a patient’s teeth or dental implants. Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, through an agreement with the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research of the National Institutes of Health, are looking for an improved clinical approach that would regrow a patient’s bone.  

When researchers experimented with Fox’s modified nanocrystals, they were able to disperse the nanocrystals in scaffolds for dental regenerative medicine purposes.  

“When we cultivated cells on the cellulose nanocrystal-based scaffolds, preliminary results showed remarkable potential of the scaffolds for both their mechanical properties and the biological response. This suggests that scaffolds with appropriate cellulose nanocrystal concentrations are a promising approach for bone regeneration,” said Martin Chiang, team leader for NIST’s Biomaterials for Oral Health Project.

Another collaboration Fox has is with Georgia Institute of Technology and Owens Corning, a company specializing in fiberglass insulation and composites, to research the benefits to replace glass-reinforced plastic used in airplanes, cars and wind turbines. He also is working with Vireo Advisors and NIST to characterize the health and safety of cellulose nanocrystals and nanofibers.

“As we continue to show these nanomaterials are safe, and make it easier to disperse them into a variety of materials, we get closer to utilizing nature’s chemically resistant, strong, and most abundant polymer in everyday products,” Fox said.

Tags: Chemistry Dept,College of Arts and Sciences,Media Relations
Publication:
Photos: 0
Contact Name:
Contact Phone:
Contact Email:
News Photos: B39D95FC-5056-AF26-BE22624095131F7B
Profile:
Media:
newMediaIDList:
newsId: 7D56BFE3-5056-AF26-BE2A20A0D6118AC4
Title: Changing the Brain and Watching it Happen
Author: Anila D’Mello, PhD Student, Behavior, Cognition and Neuroscience (BCAN)
Subtitle:
Abstract: Recent advances in neuroscience have made it possible to modulate brain activity.
Topic: Science
Publication Date: 11/07/2016
Content:

For almost two decades, neuroscientists have been able to examine patterns of activity in the brain using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). This technique uses the magnetic signature of oxygen in blood as a proxy for neuronal activity in the brain. FMRI allows us to see activation in the brain as a result of a task constructed in the lab, and to discern which areas of the brain “do” certain things.

Until this point, few people have been able to change brain activity in healthy participants. However, recent advances in neuroscience have made it possible to modulate brain activity. Research in Catherine Stoodley’s developmental neuroscience lab at American University is using this technique to modulate specific regions in the brain and examine how activity in whole-brain networks changes as a result. As a doctoral student in Dr. Stoodley’s lab, I have used neuromodulation techniques to transiently alter neuronal activity in the brain and measure changes in brain activity using fMRI. Combining brain modulation with brain imaging is a novel approach to investigating brain function. In particular, our lab uses transcranial direct current stimulation, or tDCS, a non-invasive neuromodulation technique, which involves running very low levels of electric current through the brain via an electrode placed on the scalp.

Our lab is interested in the effects of tDCS on the cerebellum—a part of the brain involved in both motor and cognitive aspects of behavior. When these two techniques (fMRI and tDCS) are combined, we are able to not only modulate brain activity, but also measure how brain activity changes as a result of modulation. We are one of the first labs in the world to combine these two methods to study the role of the cerebellum in cognition.

In one current study, we are examining the effects of tDCS to the cerebellum on the organization and connectivity of language networks in the brain. The cerebellum is especially important for predictive language processing—taking in language input and predicting what might come next. Being able to accurately form predictions and change behavior based on feedback is necessary for language-learning early in life and even carrying on conversations. It is thought that without the ability to predict “what comes next” when someone is speaking, language processing would be significantly slower and less efficient. In fact, damage to the cerebellum can result in language disturbances including mutism and trouble forming grammatical sentences. Increased cerebellar volumes have been related to better language skills and improved second- language learning abilities.

We have applied tDCS to areas of the cerebellum implicated in language. These regions of the cerebellum connect to other language areas in the brain, including those important for speech production, comprehension, and reading. Healthy young adults relaxed in the fMRI scanner while we collected resting-state fMRI data. Resting-state fMRI allows us to tap into what the brain looks like at rest, when no tasks are being performed. This gives us insight into the intrinsic activity of the brain and how regions in the brain work in concert to form networks. Based on patterns of correlated activity between multiple brain regions, we can measure the degree of connectivity between different regions of the brain. Abnormal patterns of connectivity in resting-state networks are implicated in a variety of disorders, including autism, Alzheimer’s disease, and drug addiction. In this study, we compared resting-state network connectivity in participants who received tDCS with those who did not receive tDCS. We found that neuromodulation of language areas in the cerebellum resulted in increased connectivity in a widespread network of language regions, suggesting enhanced communication between these areas. In particular, we found increased connectivity between language regions important for motor control of speech. These regions are important for producing the movements necessary to speak effectively, and are altered in patients with language disorders.

Techniques like tDCS are non-invasive, portable, and relatively inexpensive. Therefore, there is great interest in the potential use of tDCS to improve quality of life in clinical populations. Research into the effects of language network modulation could help people with disturbances of language, or aphasias, which can be caused by stroke or damage to language regions of the brain. Almost 250,000 new people each year in the United States suffer from aphasia, and in two-thirds of these cases, recovery is incomplete. Currently, treatment options are limited to speech therapy.

In fact, Dr. Stoodley and the developmental neuroscience lab have recently been awarded a National Institutes of Health grant to study the effects of cerebellar tDCS in aphasia. Our findings that tDCS can modulate language networks will inform future clinical applications of tDCS, and, hopefully in the future, a clinical trial of tDCS for aphasia.

Tags: Behavior, Cognition and Neuroscience,CAS Catalyst,College of Arts and Sciences,Psychology,Psychology Dept,Science
Publication: DCA2314C-B6E6-B7CE-220C6D93CE54135A
Photos: 0
Contact Name:
Contact Phone:
Contact Email:
News Photos: 7EAE6990-5056-AF26-BEC391E239DA3797
Profile:
Media:
newMediaIDList:
newsId: 7F156172-5056-AF26-BE96DCC018BAE265
Title: At the Intersection of Business and Biology
Author: Pragati Chengappa, MS Student, Biotechnology
Subtitle:
Abstract: The Professional Science Master’s of Biotechnology at American University is unique because it includes business classes and internship requirements, in addition to core science courses.
Topic: Science
Publication Date: 11/07/2016
Content:

Biotechnology is one of the fastest growing industries globally. Biotechnology translates the fields of plant science, microbiology, genetics, genomics, and biomedical engineering into practical application. The Professional Science Master’s of Biotechnology at American University is unique because it includes business classes and internship requirements, in addition to core science courses. This is imperative because the exposure to management, finance, and business, as well as industry experience, puts graduates in a position of success in industry and government agencies. A new and exciting opportunity avail- able to biotechnology and other students is the American University Incubator Program, through the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Initiative.

The Incubator is a space that promotes creativity and innovation. It was created by AU’s Kogod School of Business. The Incubator gives those with a business idea a platform to further develop their project. It also helps them network and find potential investors. The Incubator is codirected by Kogod Executives in Residence Bill Bellows and Tommy White, with whom students conduct an informational meeting before officially applying. This meeting is generally informal and simply to judge the viability of a product or idea. Afterwards, there is a Proof of Idea form that needs to be filled out, which can be accessed through the American University website. If the idea presented is approved, then the group or individual will present the idea in front of a board, after which a decision will be made within two weeks as to whether or not it is accepted into the Incubator.

Megan Nelson, a second year biotechnology graduate student had this to say about her Incubator application process: “Professors Bellows and White have been extremely welcoming during the American Incubator application process. I look forward to working with them and other students within the Incubator to develop my business.”

Nelson hopes to launch her business, which involves the use of genetic testing for the rapid diagnosis of diseases through the AU Incubator program. In fact, several biotechnology and biology students like Nelson are already in the process of pitching their ideas to the Incubator. A great thing about the program is that it is open to AU students up to five years after they graduate. So students can potentially work on their ideas and apply to the Incubator any time between their years here, or five years after they have left.

Assistant Biology Professor John Bracht said about the Incubator, “American University biotechnology students can pair their technical knowledge with the tremendous entrepreneurship expertise available through the Incubator. The potent combination of technical and business knowledge allows them to explore many exciting career opportunities.”

The Biotechnology 489/689 course is another great resource for students, as it encompasses a lot of important ideals about the nature of the industry, with a focus on technical skills such as how to write and file for a patent, and how to pitch your business ideas to a board. These are great skills for someone at the intersection of biology and business to have, because they could mean the difference between being able to successfully launch your business, or falling flat.

The class is essentially a series of guest lectures from people across the spectrum of the biological umbrella, from bioethics lawyers, to academic professors, to FDA or other government-employed scientists. Hearing the diverse backgrounds and paths that all of these professionals have taken to get to their current status is inspiring and intriguing, because it makes one realize that there is a huge array of opportunity in biotechnology, and there are countless ways to succeed in the field.

Almost all graduate students in the PSM Biotechnology Program are currently working on ideas that they want to eventually pitch to the Incubator. The Incubator has done a truly great thing for innovative students: it has made a pipeline dream seem attainable. It will be great to witness what the wonderful partnership students of the Kogod School of Business and the College of Arts and Sciences can create.

Tags: Biology,Biology Dept,Biotechnology,Business,CAS Catalyst,College of Arts and Sciences,Entrepreneurship,Kogod School of Business,Science
Publication: DCA2314C-B6E6-B7CE-220C6D93CE54135A
Photos: 0
Contact Name:
Contact Phone:
Contact Email:
News Photos: 7F8F9431-5056-AF26-BE2B5A5AABBA156D
Profile:
Media:
newMediaIDList:
newsId: 7CE9D1B0-5056-AF26-BE9F382FE1C05D44
Title: Sequential Analysis: Uncovering New Statistical Methods to Solve Some of the World's Biggest Challenges
Author: Laurel MacMillan, MS Student, Statistics
Subtitle:
Abstract: Professor Michael Baron's research on sequential analysis and multiple hypothesis testing.
Topic: Mathematics
Publication Date: 11/07/2016
Content:

Treating cancer and protecting the world against new terrorist threats might seem like a lot to tackle for the average person. But for Professor Michael Baron, a recent addition to American University’s Department of Mathematics and Statistics, these priorities are just a part of his everyday research on sequential analysis and multiple hypothesis testing.

Consider the cost of a clinical trial. Currently, clinical trials are expensive, time consuming, and often require testing a large number of subjects in order to be sure that a drug is ready for human consumption. Lowering the number of subjects needed in a trial could save valuable time and resources. More importantly, it could save participants from unknown risks. In order to be sure that a drug will not have an adverse effect on humans, certain statistical standards must be met in the drug’s clinical trials. Such standards are determined (and limited) by currently available statistical methods. But new, more efficient methods that push the boundaries of modern statistics could allow clinicians to determine with statistical certainty, based on fewer subjects, that a drug is safe. In the long term, this would mean more efficient use of resources and potentially life-saving reductions in the amount of time needed to establish a drug’s safety. Lowering the cost of clinical trials may lead to lower cost of treatments, thus reducing the overall cost of health care.

Professor Baron’s research is rooted in two statistical techniques: sequential analysis and multiple hypothesis testing. Sequential analysis is the concept of statistical estimation or deci- sion-making in real time as data is collected, as opposed to retrospectively on a fixed sample size, as is typically done. Multiple hypothesis testing is testing for significance across multiple tests concurrently. While fairly straightforward in isolation, these two methods applied together might decrease the average number of data points needed to make decisions or detect changes while intelligently controlling the allowed error rate. By combining these methods, Baron is working on novel statistical approaches to detect significant changes, with huge implications across a range of fields.

Baron joined the American University community in the fall of 2014, but has been working on sequential analysis and related applications since the beginning of his career. He began researching change-point analysis, which studies when a significant change has occurred in a dataset, while pursuing his PhD at the University of Maryland before connecting this topic to sequential analysis. While consulting on clinical trials, Baron realized that sequential analysis without a way to handle multiple tests concurrently would never be clinically useful. In 2009, while attending a workshop on multiple comparison problems, Baron first questioned how multiple testing was studied in relation to sequentially collected data and discovered a diverse range of problems yet to be solved.

Seeking solutions to problems of this nature, Baron has drawn on the theories of some of his- tory’s most famed statisticians: Carlo Bonferroni and Sture Holm, who advanced multiple testing theory; as well as Albert Shiryaev, Abraham Wald, and Jacob Wolfowitz, who are considered the fathers of sequential analysis. The history of sequential analysis dates back to the middle of the 20th century, when intelligence analysts began to modify existing statistical theories to solve difficult problems during World War II. Much of this statistical theory focused on the accuracy and speed of machine gun fire and rocket propellants and was classified until after the war. The impact of sequential analysis on clinical trial research and threat detection was realized decades later.

Baron’s current theoretical research at AU has expanded upon Abraham Wald’s work on the sequential probability ratio test (SPRT), while taking into account both Bonferroni and Holm’s theories on correcting for error across multiple hypothesis tests. While it seems like an obvious choice—testing sequentially can control error rates and potentially detect differences sooner than traditional sampling— sequential methods can introduce additional biases into parameter estimation. Implementing sequential methods might also be difficult in practice because they rely on a stopping rule rather than a specific sample size, which could create more uncertainty for clinicians budgeting and planning for clinical trials. One of Baron’s contributions may be showing that these methods are both theoretically sound and clinically practical.

But clinical trials are just the tip of the ice- berg. Baron also hopes to find ways to analyze data and detect terrorist or biological threats as they are happening, rather than after the fact. A National Science Foundation grant allows Baron to study the application of sequential analysis and multiple hypothesis testing to cyber security. These novel statistical methods will allow computer scientists to pool online data sources concurrently with the goal of detecting significant changes, which may indicate a threat. Biological threat detection is another aim of this impressive body of research; it could facilitate more efficient analysis of online health or epidemiology data to allow for earlier detection of public health crises.

Fortunately, Baron is more than capable of handling the gravity of his contributions in serious application areas. With an obvious enthusiasm for statistical theory and an eye for the subtle elegance of these two statistical methods, Baron is helping move the needle to address a diverse and complex range of global challenges.

Tags: CAS Catalyst,College of Arts and Sciences,Mathematics,Mathematics and Statistics,Mathematics and Statistics Dept
Publication: DCA2314C-B6E6-B7CE-220C6D93CE54135A
Photos: 0
Contact Name:
Contact Phone:
Contact Email:
News Photos: 7E9BAABA-5056-AF26-BE25F663C6E6493D
Profile: 73E2AF3E-CB46-5DBD-580F6FB5E06B6371
Media:
newMediaIDList:
newsId: 7DB26DB3-5056-AF26-BE10BB83AA82C660
Title: Cuba: From Ridge to Reef
Author: By Mackenzie Kelley, BS Student, Biochemistry
Subtitle:
Abstract: Over the 2016 spring break, a group of American University students in their first year of the AU Scholars program travelled from Washington, DC, to Havana, Cuba.
Topic: Science
Publication Date: 11/07/2016
Content:

Over the 2016 spring break, a group of American University students in their first year of the AU Scholars program travelled from Washington, DC, to Havana, Cuba, with two professors. Their trip was focused on research- ing the environmental problems facing Cuba as it undergoes major changes in its foreign policy. In preparation for the trip, the class spent the spring semester studying social, political, and environmental structures in Cuba and creating research projects focusing on various environmental issues. The class hosted guest speakers from the US Department of State and the university’s School of International Service to gain perspective of Cuba’s current political and environmental standing.

The research focused on Cuba’s agricultural practices and the country’s position in the global food trade market. The food produced in Cuba comes from small-scale farms called “organopónicos.” The students visited both urban and rural organopónicos and talked to managers and farmers. Through student-conducted interviews, the group gained firsthand insight into the way that the United States-Cuban embargo has resulted in Cuban farmers exclusively using organic practices—because fertilizers and modern US agricultural technology are not accessible to them. However, as the demand for food increases, and the relations between the two countries improve, these organic methods will most certainly be affected.

The group also traveled to several areas of Cuba including the coasts of Varadero, Las Terrazas, and Las Viñales. In each location, students conducted and filmed interviews with Cubans, asking questions related to their specific research projects. Kiho Kim, professor of environmental science, guided the students in the details of their research, while Larry Engel, associate professor in the AU School of Communications, offered expertise in documenting the research through film. The students presented their research projects at the end of the semester at the AU Scholars research symposium. Final projects included documentaries, an eBook, and a series of short films.

If you are interested in the final projects produced by the class, you can visit this website: https://ridgetoreefblog.wordpress.com

Tags: AU Scholars,Biochemistry,CAS Catalyst,College of Arts and Sciences,Environment,Science
Publication: DCA2314C-B6E6-B7CE-220C6D93CE54135A
Photos: 0
Contact Name:
Contact Phone:
Contact Email:
News Photos: 7ED086B1-5056-AF26-BEB2D49D96D0F0C2
Profile:
Media:
newMediaIDList:
newsId: 7FEC3A9C-5056-AF26-BEF8515094455F54
Title: AU: The Stem Cell of Pre-Med Programs
Author: Cassidy Hart, President Phi Delta Epsilon, BS Student, Biochemistry
Subtitle:
Abstract: American University’s premedical program, though small, has had great success.
Topic: Science
Publication Date: 11/07/2016
Content:

American University’s premedical program, though small, has had great success. One example is Duaa AbdelHameid, an AU alum who graduated in May 2015 as a biology major. Duaa currently attends Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine. During her time at American University, Duaa made many lasting impacts, including helping to found the DC Beta chapter of Phi Delta Epsilon (PhiDE), an international medical fraternity with pre-medical chapters at undergraduate universities around the world. PhiDE helps foster an environment where pre-med students can learn and help each other with the goal of creating physicians of integrity.

Duaa is one such of these future physicians, and as a first year medical student, she is now on her way to becoming a doctor. When asked about how she was enjoying medical school, Duaa said, “Medical school is probably the most exhilarating, tiring, amazing, and stressful experience of my life so far. It is incredible how much I’m learning and how much I love being here, pursuing what I’ve dreamt about for so long.”

I know many of us in the premedical program share this dream. However, the question often floats in our minds: Is this worth it? The countless hours studying, the sleepless nights, the weekends spent with our books?

Duaa says, “It is such a rigorous process— you are essentially learning everything you need to know to heal a person after speaking to them for 15 minutes and running a few tests,” and that it is “an intense task, and the academic road to such a position reflects that.” The path ahead may be hard, but Duaa says she “wouldn’t trade this for anything.”

Still, for some of us, medical school itself is years off. So how can American University help us with the premedical process? Duaa says, “The location of AU, coupled with the opportunity to create my own path, really benefited me in the long run.” She offers a scientifically appropriate analogy: “AU is like a stem cell—it can literally ‘grow up’ to be anything—you can make what you want of it.”

When asked if she had any advice for us pre-meds, Duaa said we needed to trust the process. It’s a saying we have all heard multiple times, but Duaa says, “The application process is crazy and stressful, but trust it and trust your- self—you will get to where you are meant to be.” She also stresses that we should all enjoy the process. “The most important thing is to make sure you’re enjoying this: pre-med, MCAT, medical school. Enjoy all of it,” she says. “You have to get yourself into a state where these stages are rewarding and fun for you. If you don’t get satisfaction out of learning something amazing about the human body, then reflect on those feelings. This is a long, hard road—if you don’t get satisfaction out of learning and getting closer to your goal, this will be miserable for you. I know it’s hard to wrap your head around the concept of enjoying organic chemistry (does anyone remember what nucleophiles are after leaving O chem?) but try and find the cool facts that make you go ‘Ahhhhhh’ and remind yourself of why you’re here. Have faith in yourself—everyone around you is smart in undergrad and in medical school but so are you—be confident and enjoy the ride.”

And with that, I’ll leave you with two memorable quotes by Duaa about medical school:

“Warning: there are lots of sacrificed hours of sleep, weekends, and Netflix sessions.”

“People say medical school is like trying to drink out of a fire hose, and that is the truest thing I’ve heard all year.”

Tags: CAS Catalyst,College of Arts and Sciences,Pre-medical and Health Professional,Science
Publication: DCA2314C-B6E6-B7CE-220C6D93CE54135A
Photos: 0
Contact Name:
Contact Phone:
Contact Email:
News Photos: 803FA019-5056-AF26-BE6992629E347A18
Profile:
Media:
newMediaIDList:
 
newsId: 7D0805F6-5056-AF26-BE692EF5BF10F529
Title: Alumna Betsy Thomason Says “Just Breathe Out”
Author: EmilyAnn Walrath
Subtitle:
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
Content:

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.”

Tags: Alumni,College of Arts and Sciences,Education
Suggested Home Page:
Profile:
Photos: 0
Success Story Photos: 7D27F3FF-5056-AF26-BE89BAA38410BB5F
Media:
newsId: 0E523E61-5056-AF26-BEF496A448F6CBBA
Title: Getting Out and Giving Back
Author: Kristena Stotts and Penelope Buchter SIS/BA ‘16
Subtitle:
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!”

Tags: Alumni,Alumni Board,College of Arts and Sciences
Suggested Home Page: Alumni Success Stories
Profile:
Photos: 0
Success Story Photos: 9BD26C56-5056-AF26-BE25BD059D36D5EC
Media:
newsId: C102DB5D-5056-AF26-BEDEEF3B7B98054B
Title: Two Alumnae Mix Business with Conscience
Author: Rebecca Vander Linde
Subtitle:
Abstract: Glen’s Garden Market and Peeled Snacks want to bring you delicious, sustainable food and products.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 07/10/2015
Content:

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.

Tags: Alumni,Alumni Newsletter,Alumni Relations,Alumni Update,College of Arts and Sciences,Washington College of Law
Suggested Home Page:
Profile:
Photos: 0
Success Story Photos: C13EC0D4-5056-AF26-BE2981136CB88D84
Media:
newsId: 94AD979B-5056-AF26-BE4FE6B4B62B2F3B
Title: CAS Alumna Returns to AU for Alumni in the KNOW: Women in Leadership
Author: Nina Cooperman, SPA/MPA '15
Subtitle:
Abstract: Virginia Louloudes, CAS/MA ’84, reflects on an AU experience that set the stage for her success.
Topic: Alumni Profile
Publication Date: 03/12/2015
Content:

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.

Tags: Alumni,Alumni Newsletter,Alumni Update,Arts Management,College of Arts and Sciences
Suggested Home Page:
Profile:
Photos: 0
Success Story Photos: 94C491B1-5056-AF26-BEDA5BE7E3FEFAD1
Media:
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.

Tags: Alumni,Alumni Update,College of Arts and Sciences,Performing Arts
Suggested Home Page:
Profile:
Photos: 0
Success Story Photos: 5AEA84EF-5056-AF26-BED4CE0F8B2FCCDC
Media:
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.

Tags: College of Arts and Sciences
Suggested Home Page:
Profile:
Photos: 0
Success Story Photos: 79FCD840-D297-105C-E7B79498FFE0E78E
Media:
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!

Tags: Alumni,Alumni Update,College of Arts and Sciences
Suggested Home Page:
Profile:
Photos: 0
Success Story Photos: 6C167028-0640-FF34-59383DBE845ECA16
Media:
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."

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.

Tags: College of Arts and Sciences
Suggested Home Page:
Profile:
Photos: 0
Success Story Photos: 95AC5D09-F202-A2AA-47EFF1A41C2806BD
Media:
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
Suggested Home Page:
Profile:
Photos: 0
Success Story Photos: CDEEB218-C162-9140-5480A6C29D550EA3
Media:
newsId: 23A354A3-08DC-6AA5-D4C948B8A867E86A
Title: SIRIUSXM Executive Gives Back as Mentor to Current Students
Author: Megan Olson
Subtitle:
Abstract: Steve Leeds, CAS/BA ’72, began a career in music while a student at AU.
Topic: Alumni Profile
Publication Date: 03/12/2014
Content:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tags: Alumni,Alumni Newsletter,Alumni Relations,Alumni Update,College of Arts and Sciences
Suggested Home Page:
Profile:
Photos: 0
Success Story Photos: 23CD7162-D9E7-CAE3-DED4DFD1FE2D8BB6
Media: