newsId: 3BA0C66A-5056-AF26-BE4A277276E770C3
Title: AU 2017 Global Health Competition Winners Announced
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Subtitle: Winning team develops innovative approaches to preventing drug abuse
Abstract: What would you do if you ran a public health nonprofit organization and just received a $400,000 grant to address critical drug abuse issues in our nation, including the opiate addiction crisis, alcohol abuse, and synthetic drug abuse throughout the US?
Topic: Achievements
Publication Date: 03/20/2017
Content:

What would you do if you ran a public health nonprofit organization and just received a $400,000 grant to address critical drug abuse issues in our nation, including the opiate addiction crisis, alcohol abuse, and synthetic drug abuse throughout the US?

This was the question confronting seven competing teams of AU students on March 1 in AU’s 2017 Intramural Public Health Case Competition, sponsored by the Department of Health Studies and the College of Arts and Sciences. Each team was given the “case” details two weeks before the competition. They had to research the issues, develop strategies, and prepare an action plan.

The teams then presented their plans to four judges: Eric Chapman, prevention services manager for the District of Columbia’s Department of Behavioral Health and National Prevention Network representative for the District of Columbia; Bruce Points, community engagement manager for Substance Use Disorders in the DC Department of Behavioral Health; Beth Kane Davidson, director of the Johns Hopkins Medicine/Suburban Hospital Addiction Treatment Center, and; J. R. Denson, a health policy advisor for the American Council for an Energy Efficacy Economy and a graduate of AU’s Health Promotion Management Master of Science Program.

“The event was a great success,” said Jolynn Gardner, director of AU’s Public Health Program. “All seven interdisciplinary teams presented very innovative, well-researched strategies to address the case. The judges commented on how impressed they were with all of the presentations.”

The Winning Team
The winners, the Taking Strides Initiative team, won a $1,000 prize. Members included: Katie Lu Clougherty (BA sociology ’17)
Rain Freeman (BA justice & law ’17)
Shyheim Snead (BA political science ’18)
Kara Suvada (BS public health ’17)
Morgan Taylor (BS public health ’17)
Liliana Zigo (BS psychology ’18)

The team created the Taking Strides Initiative, with the following mission: “To reduce the burden of disease related to substance use in sex worker populations in Atlanta, GA, through a five-pronged approach.”

The five-pronged approach would utilize community mobilization, peer support and mentorship, a resource map for participants, and the evidence-based practice of brief intervention to treat substance use in order to promote a healthy and empowered community. The team based its strategies in social cognitive theory and recommended partnering with existing organizations already working with the target population in Atlanta.

“The winning team's solution stood out: they presented a sustainability plan and evaluated strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. They prepared a logic model, and thoroughly researched a feasible and practical strategy to address the issues of the case,” said Gardner. “Additionally, they based their approach on solid theory. They created a very thorough evaluation plan, which directly reflected the desired outcomes. The winning strategy also reflected the reality of the need to engage the local community in assessment of needs and development and delivery of interventions.”

The Runner-Ups

Gardner praised the work done by all the teams. “The second- and third-place teams also based their strategies on sound theory and feasible goals,” she said. “They presented very creative ideas and expertly utilized logic models to support their approaches. All of the presentations were impressive: the judges actually had a hard time making their final decisions!”

Second Place Team: Opiate Addiction in Vermont ($500 Prize)
Corina Chao (BA public health ’18)
Monica Emma (BA international studies ’17)
Katherine Hurley (BA Asian studies ’17)
Lucia Jimenez (BA foreign language and communication media ’18)

Third Place Team: Devoted Doulas ($300 prize)
Sumire Maki (BS public health ’19)
Julia Snegg (BA public health ’19)
Bayadir Mohamed-Osman (BS public health ’18)
Asia Cutforth (BA public health ’19)
Stephanie Black (BA WGSS & communications studies ’19)

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newsId: 3E06A60D-5056-AF26-BE0841BEA3091276
Title: Filmmaker Stanley Nelson Delivers Braithwaite Lecture
Author: Helen Dodson
Subtitle:
Abstract: Documentarian and writer Stanley Nelson delivers the Gary Braithwaite Memorial Lecture.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 03/20/2017
Content:

It was standing room only in the McKinley Doyle-Forman Theater on the evening of March 7. Students, faculty, university administrators, and AU friends and neighbors gathered to hear award-winning writer and filmmaker Stanley Nelson talk about his long and distinguished career producing documentary films about the experiences of African Americans.

Nelson was the featured speaker at the second annual Gary Braithwaite Memorial Lecture, sponsored by the College of Arts and Sciences Department of History, the School of Communication, and the Center for Diversity and Inclusion, and underwritten through the generous support of AU alumnus Michael Schwartz.

Some of Nelson's notable films include Freedom Summer (2014), Freedom Riders (2010), Wounded Knee (2009), Jonestown: The Life & Death of Peoples Temple (2006), and The Murder of Emmett Till (2003). His latest film is The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution (2016).

Nelson told the audience how he came to be a filmmaker. He grew up in New York City in the 1950s and 60s, when he says there were no black people in the movies or on TV. He discovered film in college, and knew he wanted to make a life in it. He was always interested in going beyond the superficial to document times and places through the lives of the people who lived through them.

"One of the things I always wanted to do from the very beginning," Nelson says, was "tell stories from the inside out." He produced his film about the Freedom Riders through the lens of those who were part of it. "It became this mass movement. It was not just one person's story." He adds, "I think it's really important that people tell stories about what they know about, and from the cultures that they come from."

Stanley Nelson is a fellow of the American Film Institute, the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Washington DC Commission for the Arts, and a Revson Fellow at Columbia University. He has won a MacArthur "Genius" Fellowship, and an individual Peabody for his body of work. Other honors include five Primetime Emmy Awards and the 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. In 2013, he received the National Humanities Medal from President Obama.

"One of the things that has driven me throughout my career," he said, "is knowing that these stories are really precious, and that they might not be told again ever, or for years and years and years, and I have to tell them right." He adds, "It's a real honor to have been able to tell these stories."

The lecture series is named for AU alumnus Gary Braithwaite, who passed away in 2008. He received his bachelor's degree in history and American Studies in 1975, and a master's degree in history in 1977, both from AU. His career focused on helping students win federal Pell Grants, to enable them to attend college.

One of Braithwaite's professors and mentors was CAS University Professor of History Alan Kraut, who hosted the evening and co-teaches a course called Producing the Historical Documentary with School of Communication Associate Professor of Film and Media Arts Maggie Stogner.

Braithwaite, Schwartz, and Lonnie Bunch—founding director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture—were all students of Kraut when he joined the AU history department in 1974, and Braithwaite's widow, Melissa Kirkpatrick, became his doctoral advisee.

"They were all talented, enthusiastic, and memorable," Kraut says. "Gary's interest in engaging the past through film made the selection of documentary filmmaker Stanley Nelson as this year's Braithwaite lecturer a great fit, as did Nelson's work with Lonnie on a film for the magnificent National Museum of African American History and Culture that Lonnie created."

Kraut adds, "Being together with Melissa, Michael and Lonnie to honor Gary's memory made the evening one I will always warmly recall."

Please see also Video of the Gary Braithwaite lecture by Stanley Nelson

Stanley Nelson at podium. Stanley Nelson and audience. Photo: Jeff Watts.

Maggie Stogner, Stanley Nelson, Alan Kraut, and Michael Schwartz. Professor Maggie Stogner, filmmaker Stanley Nelson, Professor Alan Kraut, Braithwaite lecture underwriter Michael Schwartz. Photo: Jeff Watts.

Stanley Nelson and Lonnie Bunch. Stanley Nelson and Lonnie Bunch, AU Alumnus and Founding Director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. Photo: Jeff Watts.

Peter Starr and Lonnie Bunch. College of Arts and Sciences Dean Peter Starr and Lonnie Bunch. Photo: Jeff Watts.

Michael Schwartz, Alan Kraut, Dr. Melissa Kirkpatrick (widow of Gary Braithwaite), and Lonnie Bunch.

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Title: A Prideful and Painful Past
Author: Mike Unger and Adrienne Frank
Subtitle:
Abstract: Lonnie Bunch Museum of African American History and Culture
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 03/20/2017
Content:

Perhaps it's not surprising that Washington's cherry blossoms had not yet bloomed before the one millionth visitor walked through the doors of the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC). Free tickets to the Smithsonian's 19th museum have been hotter than Hamilton since it opened on September 24, but the true measure of the museum's impact can be found in how long those lucky enough to have gone have spent in the 400,000-square-foot facility, which features 11 inaugural exhibitions showcasing 3,000 objects. Dwell time—the length of time a visitor stays—is unparalleled at the NMAAHC, averaging 6 hours or more on weekends, compared to 75 to 120 minutes for most museums.

More than any other single person, founding director Lonnie Bunch, CAS/BA '74, CAS/MA '76, is responsible for that success. For a decade he traveled the globe in search of artifacts, raised money, and readied the museum for its debut. On the penultimate day of Black History Month we sat down with him to discuss his journey in a conference room on the top floor of the museum that offers breathtaking views of the Washington Monument. The bright room is lined with accolades he's accumulated throughout his nearly 35-year career as a museum curator and director. Two weeks earlier he'd added another to the collection: the NAACP President's Award.

"I knew early on that I needed to be the face of the museum, but I have to be honest, I've been overwhelmed by the visibility," he says. "After I got back somebody sent me a YouTube [video of the awards ceremony] and I could see that the audience stood up. Here is Hollywood, a place that's really focused on itself, giving a standing ovation to a museum. That reminded me of the power of what we've been doing."

Have things slowed down at all for you since September?

The excitement about the museum, the number of people that are visiting, the interest, globally, means that I'm on the road just as much now as I was before. There are new exhibit projects that we're doing with the Netherlands and the UK. I was in Davos at the World Economic Forum, so I got to talk about the museum there. It's a combination of goodwill, repaying donors, building new partnerships, and a little hint of a victory lap.

At what point did this project in your mind transform from the abstract and start to feel like a museum?

That was part of my strategy from day one. When I left [the Chicago Historical Society] Mayor Daley said something that stayed with me: "Why would you want to go back and run a project?" I realized projects may not happen, but if the museum existed from day [one], that would really help us move this along. So that's what we did. We hired scholars and educators, we did exhibitions here at the Smithsonian, we did traveling exhibitions, we did educational programs. That was part of an overarching strategy of saying that people support real things—not "projects."

What's surprised you about the way in which the museum has been received?

I'm surprised that it exceeded my expectations. You hope that the museum is important, that the museum is visited, and that the museum matters to people. All of that has been proven true.

The other thing that surprised me was . . . that people would say, "Well, this musician isn't in, does that means he's not important?" People began to push their favorites. I'm an old jock so it reminded me of the Baseball Hall of Fame: who got in and who didn't, and who almost made it. It surprised me that there would be that level of conversation.

What's struck you about how visitors are interacting with the museum?

The amount of intergenerational learning that's going on. We see grandparents sharing not just their take on the history, but how they were involved or how it shaped their lives. To see that sense of being able to educate in an informal yet meaningful way is gratifying.

I'm also struck by the respectful way people are using the museum. We've got huge lines—people sometimes have to wait an hour, an hour and a half. We've never had anybody complaining. There's really been this sense of almost a pilgrimage, that you want to take whatever time you need to be able to engage the pilgrimage and if you have to wait a little longer for it to begin, then so be it. As somebody said to me: "We've waited for 100 years, I can wait another hour and a half."

Do you have a favorite corner of the museum where you like to go and reflect?

Because of the work it took to get, I'm really taken by the remnants of the slave ship São José. I like to watch people look at that and reflect. I always stop in the contemplative court where the water is flowing; I've overheard amazing conversations there.

Have you had the chance to watch a person who donated an item see it on display for the first time?

What you see often is people who have donated something standing near it. They don't say anything, they just want to hear what other people say. The [instance] I remember the most was a woman who was taking her son through the museum. They were at the civil rights piece and she was talking about Medgar Evers. There was a woman standing there and at the end of the conversation she goes over and thanks the woman and says, "You know, you did a really good job explaining that story to your son because Medgar Evers was my father." You see the kind of personal exchange and ownership happening. You hope for it to happen but you couldn't plan for it.

Was there a particularly emotional moment for you during the opening festivities or in the months since?

Sitting on the stage when we opened in September, to have President and Mrs. Obama, President and Mrs. Bush, to have the chief justice sitting across from me and John Lewis sitting next to me, that was very moving.

But then what really did it was when I made myself look out and see the crowd. I was so focused on giving the speech and not screwing up, but when I looked out and saw the people by the Washington Monument, I suddenly realized this was much bigger than any of us ever could've imagined.

I found myself getting very emotional thinking about not only who was there, but about all the people who began this journey with us who weren't there anymore—my dad and others. I really felt that all those people who went before, whose stories didn't get told, suddenly they were alive in this museum. And I felt a kind of continuity and a connection between the past and the present that was hidden and embedded in the walls and the glass and the artifacts.

You gave a personal tour to President Trump last month. What was that experience like?

It's always humbling when you get to talk to the president of the United States. To be able to engage him on issues of race and optimism and spirituality . . . I think the word he used was "amazing." I've walked a lot of presidents through exhibitions, but [Trump] really gave it the respect and attention it deserved.

Are you continuing to amass artifacts?

We will continue to collect as long as there is a museum. We have the opportunity to look back and collect things we don't have. But maybe the most important thing is every quarter saying, "What would a curator 50 years from now want to have about today?" So, it's really both looking back and looking ahead. Right now we have 35,000 to 40,000 artifacts stored out in Landover, Maryland, in a storage facility we share with other Smithsonian museums.

How often will the exhibits change?

We have rotating spaces for photography and fine art so you'll see a lot of that. We also framed the exhibitions so that a lot of things can be changed via the technology. But I think that, like any major Smithsonian museum, you want to make sure that the core of what you have stays because it becomes a touchstone for families. They'll say, "I saw the railroad car when I was in eighth grade and now I'm taking my kids."

Have you had a chance to stop and exhale yet?

No, it's not my nature. And there's been so much going on, whether it's trying to figure out: How does the building work? How do you handle the array of acclaim, how do you handle the criticism? When I go away and spend several months writing a book about how you open a national museum, that's probably when I'll relax.

There's no doubt that this took a toll on all of us, because, while it took 11, 12 years, that still was warp speed for the federal government. As I've always said, this was like going on the cruise at the same time you're building the ship. So part of the challenge and the stress was, you've got to raise a lot of money, but you don't even have your whole staff. You've got to think about the kind of exhibitions, but you don't know what your collections are. I'm unbelievably proud of the staff's ability to collect amazing artifacts, and to put them together in exhibitions that are interesting and technologically sound.

We take great sustenance from having been able to craft an institution that in some ways changes the feel of the National Mall and in some ways alters the national discourse. [The museum] has helped to move history back to the top of conversations and at a time of change, it's also a place that can help people grapple with the things that divided us. We always felt that building a good museum wasn't enough. We needed to build an institution that made a country better, that helped a country live up to its ideals, and that ultimately helped everybody recognize that this is a story of us all.

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newsId: 68E0D076-5056-AF26-BEFC7040C55D6EF3
Title: The Things We Carry
Author: Gregg Sangillo
Subtitle:
Abstract: Arielle Bernstein's book will examine how we love and loathe material things.
Topic: Literature
Publication Date: 03/16/2017
Content:

While moving into a new home, you’ve probably run into this dilemma: Should I pack everything, or throw some of my old stuff away? You have a box of tchotchkes that you don’t really need, but inexplicably still want. Downsizing might simplify your life, but those items were once an integral part of your life. Discarded items feel like discarded memories.

Most people have opinions about their stuff, and American University Professorial Lecturer Arielle Bernstein is hoping to continue that conversation in her upcoming book, Chasing Empty: How the Desire for a Minimalist World Is Making Our Emotional Lives Smaller. Bernstein’s book will include interviews, research, pop culture analysis, and personal memoir to tell a story about what we carry and what we leave behind.

“People who are interested in talking about their relationship to objects are kind of cast off as being shallow, or being materialistic. And one of the main points of my project is that I think it goes a lot deeper than that,” says Bernstein, who teaches in the Literature Department. “These are big existential questions.”

Bernstein is also an AU alumna who earned her MFA in creative writing here in 2009. She recently talked about her book in the Humanities Lab, and she provided additional insights in an interview with University Communications.

Clutter and Culture

In Chasing Empty, Bernstein will explore people’s relationships with their possessions. She’s noticed how the average person often gets pigeonholed into a “pro-clutter” or “anti-clutter” camp, a guest on Hoarders or Tiny House Nation. But she believes most people fall somewhere in the middle.

“I think we do have to make incredibly deep choices about possessions. Those choices are often less guided by consumer trends than about other complicated issues, like how we connect to our culture and how we connect to our personal identity,” she explains.

She also questions why certain items are deemed essential, while others are written off as wasteful. A married woman, for example, is often expected to keep her wedding dress. High-status possessions, she says, tend to be more valued than cheap products—even if those inexpensive items conjure up similar feelings of nostalgia.

Arielle Bernstein

Arielle Bernstein gave a talk about "The Energy of Objects" in the CAS Humanities Lab.

“I’m particularly interested in who has the authority, and who has the power, to say that an object is meaningful and worth keeping. And who can malign an object and say, ‘Oh, that’s just clutter. We shouldn’t keep this.’”

People remember their grandmothers keeping items in old jars and cookie tins, she says. “We tend to see this and say, ‘OK, that’s Old World. That’s not necessarily important.’ But I think those kinds of objects can actually inspire a lot of meaning.”

Minimalism and the Pursuit of Happiness

For people exhausted from 1980s conspicuous consumption and 1990s new tech mania, Tyler Durden must have been a breath of fresh air. He’d say things like “the things you own end up owning you,” and he eschewed possessions that weren’t necessary for our “hunter-gatherer” survival. He’s not actually a real person, but the main character’s alter ego in the book and movie Fight Club.

Some real-life minimalists—individuals who drastically downsize their living spaces, and advocate for others to do this as well—consider Tyler Durden a spiritual role model.

In her book, Bernstein will examine this upstart minimalist movement. Last year, she published an article in The Atlantic about minimalists and Japanese organizing guru Marie Kondo. She noted that while Kondo advises people to go small, giving up material possessions is a privilege not enjoyed by most immigrants and refugees.

“Kondo is really interested in this idea that we just choose objects that give us joy, and let go of everything else. And if we do that, we’ll have more fulfilling lives. But I think, in translating that into America’s consumer culture, a lot is lost with that particular message,” Bernstein says in the interview. “Joy is not something that is static, and we’re constantly pursuing happiness.”

Bernstein argues that minimalists may be chasing the same level of status that they’re proclaiming to resist. In an obsession with perfection, some minimalists devise the sparsest Instagram posts possible, she says.

Yet Chasing Empty is not an anti-minimalist treatise, and Bernstein personally sees the allure of limiting possessions. “I love the empty space of a clean yoga studio with nothing there. I find that really comforting,” she says.

Messy Homes and Memories

Yet her family experiences have also shaped her perspective on these issues. Her grandfather fled Poland circa World War II, and much of his family was killed in the Holocaust. Her grandmother left Poland in the years leading up to the genocide. They both met in Cuba, and life under Fidel Castro led to their eventual migration to the United States in the late 1960s.

They came here, like so many immigrants, with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Years later, when Arielle Bernstein was planning her Jewish wedding, she realized she had no pictures from the Cuba period. Those intergenerational objects that bind families together were missing.

But while living in the U.S., her grandparents saved all kinds of books and collectibles. “Their house was super messy. They had lots and lots of things. Every time I went there, there was something new to go through,” Bernstein recalls.

In her Atlantic article, Bernstein described why refugees—who may have lost so much—tend to treat their objects differently. “Everything they manage to hold onto matters deeply. Everything is confirmation they survived,” she wrote.

The Digital Space

The nature of the object is changing in the 21st century. If you want to learn about minimalism, there’s a documentary about it on Netflix. Even that format seems significant, as it’s streamed to your iPad or TV. You don’t own it, unlike the DVDs and VHS tapes that used to pile up in living rooms and dormitories. Bernstein notes the centrality of the iCloud in people’s lives, with photos, videos, music, and books all in one portable, digital space.

“There’s something really primitive and important about just physically being able to hold an object,” she says. “For a newer generation that doesn’t have that experience, they might be less emotionally invested.”

Even digitally, people keep items long after they’re needed. How many email inboxes are replete with undeleted messages?

“I guess I like being able to find someone’s name, and have some sort of chronicle of information,” she says. “I will never get to email zero.”

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Title: Carmel Institute Celebrates Work of Soviet Filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky
Author: Alix Mammina
Subtitle:
Abstract: Kicking off a spring semester filled with art, music, and cultural dialogue, AU's Carmel Institute of Russian Culture and History hosted a screening of the 1966 Soviet Russian film Andrei Rublev at the Embassy of the Russian Federation on February 28.
Topic: Department Spotlight
Publication Date: 03/13/2017
Content:

Kicking off a spring semester filled with art, music, and cultural dialogue, AU's Carmel Institute of Russian Culture and History hosted a screening of the 1966 Soviet Russian film Andrei Rublev at the Embassy of the Russian Federation on February 28.

Students from American University, Georgetown University, George Washington University, the University of Maryland, and other DC Consortium schools mingled with members of the DC community at the embassy throughout the night. Guests enjoyed a buffet dinner of traditional Russian food and desserts before filling the auditorium for the film screening.

 

AU and the Carmel Institute 

In 2015, international philanthropist and businesswoman Susan Carmel Lehrman established and endowed the Carmel Institute in honor of her late husband, Robert Carmel. Since then, the Institute has introduced different aspects of Russia’s rich cultural history to DC students and community members through concerts, galas, symposiums, and a variety of other events.

Sophomores Aaron Rose and Erin Rains, both students in the Russian program at AU, said that they make an effort to attend every event hosted by the Carmel Institute. “There’s a very wide range of different types of cultural events, so we learn a lot about history and art and music,” said Rose. Rains agreed, adding, “I’m in an SIS research class on ethnography this semester, so I’m hoping to use this screening as a part of my research project for the course.”

Guests at the event also included several AU alumni. Since his graduation from AU in 2015, alumnus Timothy Young has continued to attend events at the Carmel Institute. “I’ve been going to these events for several years,” Young said. “I have always had a great cultural affinity for Russia, and this is a way for me to continue my cultural education and learn how [the Russians] interpret themselves through film.”

Senior Rhys Leahy noted that the events serve both to enhance the educational experience of students in the Russian program and to create an enthusiasm for Russian culture among students outside of the program.

“I spent the year in Russia on a State Department exchange, so these events are a great opportunity to continue practicing the language, learning about the culture, and connecting with the Russian community,” Leahy said. “The initiatives are great for people-to-people connections rather than people-to-government connections, and they have definitely helped me understand Russian cinema and how cinema connects to life in Russia.”

Young observed that the Carmel Institute’s film screenings provide an interesting way to gain an understanding Russian culture and history. “You’re able to learn history through film,” Young said. “The films are not always truthful about history, but they show us the perspectives of those who made them.”

 

Andrei Rublev: The Film 

Clocking in at three and a half hours long, Andrei Rublev is widely regarded as an epic cinematic masterpiece. Renowned Soviet Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky loosely based the movie on the life of Andrei Rublev, a 15th century Russian icon painter.

Before the screening, Carmel Institute Director Anton Fedyashin delivered remarks on the film’s historical context. “The remarkable thing is that we don’t know much about Andrei Rublev, so the film is more about his time,” said Fedyashin. “The early 15th century was a time when Russian national consciousness was coming into being, and Russia was affected both by Mongol presence and by spirituality.”

Fedyashin also noted the paradoxical creation of the overtly religious Andrei Rublev in the atheistic society of Soviet Russia. “In the 1960s there was a genuine revival of interest in medieval history,” said Fedyashin. “There was an interest in icons both in the West, which made smuggling them very profitable, but also in the Soviet Union as symbols of culture.”

Despite this revived interest, the spiritual tones and political commentary of Andrei Rublev led to controversy over its release. After a single screening in Moscow following the film’s completion in 1966, the movie was not commercially released until 1973. Since then, Andrei Rublev has received widespread acclaim as one of Tarkovsky’s finest works, and is considered a striking portrayal of a defining moment in Russian history.

 

Spring Events at the Institute 

The Carmel Institute will continue its spring events this semester with a symposium at the Hillwood Estate & Museum on March 30 and a screening of The White Sun of the Desert at the Russian Embassy on April 11.

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Title: American Diet: Prof Looks at the Eating Habits of Immigrants and Children
Author: Gregg Sangillo
Subtitle:
Abstract: Sociology professor Molly Dondero is researching Mexican-American diet patterns.
Topic: Research
Publication Date: 03/09/2017
Content:

It’s a narrative almost hardwired into our country’s DNA. “Immigrants come to the United States seeking a better life,” people often say. But what if becoming an American is actually bad for your health? That’s a question American University Assistant Professor Molly Dondero and her colleagues are probing in their latest research project.

With support from the National Institutes of Health, Dondero is working with fellow researchers from Pennsylvania State University—where Dondero did her post-doc—to study the obesity and diet patterns of children of Mexican immigrants. They’ve already published research on this subject, and they’re eventually planning to incorporate their work into a book.

Their research findings, both counterintuitive and revealing, could give us a greater understanding of American health and immigration

“Children of Mexican immigrants are among the fastest-growing segments of the youth population in the U.S. So, their health matters for the long-term vitality of our country,” says Dondero, a sociology professor in the College of Arts and Sciences. “And this really has implications for the U.S. population in general. It can start to unpack what it is about the U.S. food environment, or the U.S. health environment, that can affect people’s health in negative ways.”

Generational Divide

This research is driven by a surprising disconnect. Mexican immigrant adults tend to be healthy, and they bring positive dietary practices with them to the United States. Their children, however, are eating a much less healthy diet.

Dondero is trying to uncover why good eating habits are not passed onto the next generation. The first thought might be that, like other American children, they live in communities inundated with Big Macs, Whoppers, and sugary beverages.

“The U.S. does not have the best reputation for its healthy food environments. In general, it’s a pretty obesogenic environment with lots of processed foods and fast foods,” Dondero says. But she’s discovering a phenomenon that’s a bit more complex, with kids adopting eating habits in a variety of venues and settings.

“Children of immigrants, like any children in the U.S., are embedded in multiple types of environments. So they’re in their homes, they’re in their schools with peers, they’re in neighborhoods. They’re getting exposed to different types of food environments, and different social norms surrounding food,” she explains.

Peer Pressure and Assimilation

Dondero cautions against attributing obesity prevalence to behavioral decisions, and she notes the societal and peer pressures children may face.

Assimilation, or a desire to assert American identity, might have an impact on food intake. Dondero says that when Mexican immigrants’ children live in neighborhoods that have higher concentrations of fellow immigrants, they’re more likely to eat as healthily as their mothers do.

“That suggests that there might be some social pressures when they’re outside of those types of neighborhoods to consume less healthy diets,” she says. “When looking at schools, homes, restaurants, and other types of settings, children tend to eat the most Americanized and least healthy meals in places outside the home. That, again, points to maybe a pressure to fit in socially.”

Non-immigrant parents are also often frustrated by their kids’ exposure to junk food. But Dondero says, “There seem to be particular challenges that are unique to Mexican immigrant mothers, because they might be wanting to uphold their own culinary traditions.”

Dondero and her colleagues are conducting their research in two stages. They’re utilizing large-scale national surveys, and they’re also conducting interviews with Mexican immigrant mothers in Texas.

Frameworks and Borders

Dondero joined the AU faculty in 2016 and she’s currently teaching a course called “Power, Privilege, and Inequality.” A Spanish major during her undergraduate years, she initially hoped to be a journalist focused on U.S.-Latin American relations. Yet realizing how complicated some of these issues were, she went to graduate school for social science courses and a conceptual framework. She earned her master’s degree in Latin American studies and later her doctorate in sociology.

Especially as it relates to health and well-being, she found immigration a fascinating subject for further study. “I think it’s such a useful way to understand the world, seeing how people’s lives change when they’re coming across borders.”

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Title: Israel and the West in a Changing Middle East
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Abstract: On March 6, just two days after announcing his intention to run for Prime Minister of Israel, Moshe “Bogie” Ya’alon delivered a guest lecture at AU.
Topic: On Campus
Publication Date: 03/08/2017
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On March 6, just two days after announcing his intention to run for Prime Minister of Israel, Moshe “Bogie” Ya’alon delivered a guest lecture at American University, painting an optimistic, yet realistic picture of the future for the Middle East.

There is no “instant solution” to tension in the region, but States must work in their own interests to manage it, he said.

Ya’alon delivered the Amos Perlmutter Lecture, an annual event named for the AU School of Public Affairs professor of 30 years who also served as a longtime political advisor to the Israeli government. The event was hosted by SPA and the Center for Israel Studies.

After a career of military leadership, Ya’alon became a politician in 2009 and served as Israeli Minister of Strategic Affairs and Minister of Defense. In his resignation, last year, he voiced concern about the future of Israeli society and warned that extreme elements had taken over the country and the Likud party. On March 4, he announced he was running for prime minister.

Aaron David Miller, distinguished scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, moderated Ya’alon’s lecture and spoke about the need to find a balance between hope and when facing the challenges of Middle East.

“If you want to change the world, you first have to understand it,” said Miller. “That means looking the world the way it is, not just the way you want it to be.”

Miller asked Ya’alon that if he had five minutes with the U.S. President, what would he say to him about Israel. “I’d start by talking with him about the mistakes that have been done,” said Ya’alon. “I’d tell him there is no clear solution. You are not going to solve the problem thisterm, even you serve for eight years. You have to make decisions about your country’s interests and to manage the situation.”

The first, second, and third challenge is Iran, said Ya’alon, followed then by ISIS. He said stopping Iran’s nuclear program should be a priority, the Iran nuclear deal should be kept, but the country should be accountable for violations.

The next generation needs not only to defend Israel, but to develop it.

“It’s not just about military might,” he said. “Efforts should continue to focus on sophisticated agriculture in the desert and using technology to provide drinking water to the region. Knowledge is the inspiration for the future. This secret should be cultivated by education. Hopefully, we will have better leadership everywhere.”

Kat Parsons, SPA/PHD ’20, is studying criminology and came to the lecture not knowing what to expect.

“I thought it was a really good speech,” said Parsons. “He raised points that hadn’t occurred to me and also reiterated some that I feel very strongly about myself, especially regarding artificial states. Ya’alon had to tread lightly to an extent talking about the Trump administration.”

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Title: Race in America: Past, Present, and Future
Author: Patty Housman
Subtitle: Jelani Cobb Speaks at American University
Abstract: On February 23, students and faculty from American University and surrounding universities came together at AU’s Katzen Arts Center to hear Jelani Cobb speak
Topic: In the Community
Publication Date: 03/06/2017
Content:

On February 23, students and faculty from AU and surrounding universities came together at the Katzen Arts Center to hear Jelani Cobb speak about race, the history of the civil rights movement, and what he describes as a pattern in US history of racial progress followed by powerful backlash and countermovement.

Cobb is a nationally known author, contributor to The New Yorker, and Columbia University professor of journalism, who writes primarily about racial injustice, its roots in American history, and its continuing, powerful influence. His most recent book is The Substance of Hope: Barack Obama and the Paradox of Progress. He won the 2015 Sidney Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism for his columns on race, politics, and injustice—including “The Anger in Ferguson,” “The Matter of Black Lives,” and “What We Talk About When We Talk About Reparations.”

Cobb spoke at AU as part of the Bishop C. C. McCabe lecture series, sponsored by the College of Arts and Sciences.

Cobb, On Race Today

Cobb began his discussion with the trial of Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof, which he covered for The New Yorker. After the trial ended, Cobb flew across the country to San Francisco, hoping to take a break from the heartbreak and tragedy. But the very first person he met in California was a hotel bellman. This man told Cobb that he lost someone dear to him in the church shooting—his childhood librarian, Cynthia Hurd.

Cobb was shaken. “I flew almost as far as I could fly without leaving the intercontinental United States,” he explained. “And the first person I interacted with had been directly impacted by the situation that I had foolishly thought I could leave behind in Charleston, South Carolina. And so it reminds me yet again that our issue of race is not one that is geographic or local, or one that can be confined to a particular locale. It is one that contours to the borders of our nation, perfectly.”

We’ve Always Been Here

“How did we get here?” Cobb asked. “Well, in some ways, we’ve always been here.”

Though it may seem unbelievable to some people that an atrocity like this could occur in a nation that recently elected (and re-elected) its first African American president, it comes as no surprise to Cobb. Roof was not an aberration, Cobb said, and his actions did not happen in a bubble.

Racial progress in the United States has always been followed by waves of backlash, he said, fueled by a culture of paranoia and victimhood by people who feel threatened by it. We only have to look back to the lynchings in the south, he said, and the rise of the KKK during Reconstruction, or the housing segregation in northern cities during the Great Migration.

These reactions are not just a thing of the past, Cobb reminded the audience. He pointed to how Obama’s 2008 election was followed by the 2013 Supreme Court decision to strike down the heart of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. He also described the new populist political force rising in this country, based on what Cobb describes as “the contrary idea that White people are the most disadvantaged group in American society.”

Where Do We Go?

So what do we do now, Cobb asked, and how do we keep moving forward during these difficult times?

Cobb looks back at history for guidance. “I think there is cause for optimism, a kind of hard won optimism, when we look at the fact that each time when we have found ourselves in the depths of despair, it summons people of conscience and good will to the cause of reasserting democracy and freedom.”

After all, Cobb said, many heroes in American history were only able to do great things because of the size of the opposition against them. Against all evidence to the contrary, they believed that slavery should end, that women should have the right to vote, that our country can develop a humane immigration policy, that we can create protections for workers.

Cobb ended on a note of hope. “What I do believe in is the capacity of people with conscience to move the world forward,” he said. “Progress happens. It does take a long time, but it happens.”

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Title: Poet Ada Limón at AU: A Balance of Softness and Strength
Author: Jordan Bissell
Subtitle: Award-winning poet latest in Department of Literature’s Visiting Writer’s Series
Abstract: At American University’s latest Visiting Writer’s Series event on March 1, award-winning poet Ada Limón softly removed the barriers between herself and her audience as she shared her poetry with them.
Topic: Department Spotlight
Publication Date: 03/06/2017
Content:

At American University’s latest Visiting Writer’s Series event on March 1, award-winning poet Ada Limón softly removed the barriers between herself and her audience as she shared her poetry with them.

The Visiting Writer’s Series, sponsored by the Department of Literature, gives students and opportunity to come face to face with the writers they’ve been studying in their classes or reading in their free time—to ask questions and to learn insights about process and intent that can otherwise only be guessed about.

Limón’s latest book, Bright Dead Things (Milkweed Editions 2015), was a finalist for the 2015 National Book Award and was named a New York Times Top Ten Book of Poetry. Regardless of her national acclaim and celebrity status among the literature community, Limón didn’t take herself too seriously during her reading. Her voice was clear and soothing, welcoming the audience to experience the poems with her rather than watch her perform them. “I’ll try to give you some sense of safety,” she assured as soon as Program Director Kyle Dargan introduced her. She announced her intent to read no more and no less than ten poems. Her perfect number.

Limón began her reading with “How to Triumph Like a Girl” from her latest book, Bright Dead Things, leaning forward to the audience and grinning, “This one is for the ladies.” With each poem, she reiterated that same idea—that these poems were for the people who came to hear her read. When asked after the reading about her construction of form in her writing, Limón said, “[the reader] means a lot to me. I’m thinking about them as I’m writing.”

Limón’s joy as she was reading was palpable—often a rarity for a poetry reading. From the time she walked to the front of the room, she was cracking jokes, mentioning that she might need to start carrying a box to all her readings so that she could reach the microphone. Each poem was read with a smile, one arm often outstretched beside her as if she was flying, voice lilting with song.

As the reading progressed and Limón found herself in the second section of Bright Dead Things, she paused. “I rarely read from section two,” she admitted. This section, focusing on the passing of her stepmother, received the most pre-poem explanation. Limón took the time to tell the story of “The Riveter” before she read it, explaining how it had felt to discover her need to write this poem and what she described as its inspiration: “[My stepmother] had the hardest job to do [when dying].”

Unlike her other poems, “The Riveter” was read without a smile, without an outstretched arm. Through teary eyes, Limón stared directly at her audience: “I’m going to find myself a recovery poem in here.”

As the reading drew to a close, Limón chose one of her new poems, “A New National Anthem,” in response to what she described as a demand for art to address the current political climate. The poem, available on BuzzFeed, is full of reverence for nature, a call for unification, and—of course—her characteristic simultaneous strength and tenderness.

Limón ended her reading with an impartation of encouragement to her audience of writers, saying, “I don’t think any of us walk freely in the world, but we can write freely in the world.”

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Title: Reproductive Justice and Cupcakes
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Abstract: Public Health Scholar Esha Dholia organized and hosted a "Reproductive Justice 101" training at American University.
Topic: Announcement
Publication Date: 03/03/2017
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As an intern with URGE: Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity, senior Public Health Scholar Esha Dholia organized and hosted a "Reproductive Justice 101" training at American University in November 2016 that was attended by over 45 high school and college students across DC. 

The training, funded in part by a 2016 Eagle Endowment Grant awarded by the Center for Community Engagement and Service at American University, involved discussions on the fundamentals of the reproductive movement as it applies to LGBTQ, immigrant, and nonwhite communities, as well as a panel of experts from Naral: Pro-Choice America and carafe. "URGE is an organization that is committed to advocating for reproductive justice and access to equitable health services," said Melissa Hawkins, director of AU's Public Health Scholars Program. "Esha did an outstanding job organizing this panel session and bringing together students and community members to the conversation."

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Title: AU Launches Crowdfunding Platform
Author: Joanna Platt
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Abstract: UFUND is a platform the AU community can use to directly fund projects and initiatives.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 12/15/2016
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American University's Office of Development and Alumni Relations recently launched UFUND, a crowdfunding platform just for the AU community. This is a new way for alumni, parents, faculty, staff, and friends of the university to directly fund the projects and initiatives they care about most.

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

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

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


 

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Title: Alumna Betsy Thomason Says “Just Breathe Out”
Author: EmilyAnn Walrath
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Abstract: Betsy Thomason, CAS/BA ’66, talks about her journey to becoming a respiratory therapist and author of Just Breathe Out.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 10/13/2016
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Betsy Thomason, RRT, CAS/BA ’66, and American University Golden Eagle inductee, has been driven by one passion: her love for the outdoors. “AU fostered out-of-the-box thinking and helped me develop a wondering, questioning mind,” Betsy says. She recalls that while attending the College of Arts and Sciences, majoring in elementary education, she created a social studies lesson plan focusing on people living in Viet Nam. When some classmates objected to learning about the very people the US was bombing, Betsy received full support from her professor. 


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

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

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Title: Getting Out and Giving Back
Author: Kristena Stotts and Penelope Buchter SIS/BA ‘16
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Abstract: Alumna Kristen Eastlick shares how AU prepared her for her career, and why she wants to give back to the university community.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 03/11/2016
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Kristen Eastlick, CAS/BA ’95, SPA/MA ’96, is a highly successful and motivated alumna who currently serves as the Chief Administrative Officer of Berman and Company, a public affairs advocacy firm. She manages one of the firm’s largest trade association accounts, and for the past 10 years has been responsible for recruitment and staffing. She also serves as the management director for two professional development groups.

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

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

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

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

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

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Title: Two Alumnae Mix Business with Conscience
Author: Rebecca Vander Linde
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Abstract: Glen’s Garden Market and Peeled Snacks want to bring you delicious, sustainable food and products.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 07/10/2015
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Students buying coffee at Starbucks on campus (and across the nation) can also find a healthy option to munch on between classes: Peeled Snacks. Started by alumna Noha Waibsnaider, CAS/BA ’96, Peeled Snacks offers organic dried fruit, trail mix, and other tasty treats. In Dupont Circle, Glen’s Garden Market, owned by alumna Danielle Vogel, WCL/JD ’07, also sells Peeled Snacks along with a bevy of other organic food and locally-sourced sustainable products.

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

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

Thus, Peeled Snacks was born.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Title: CAS Alumna Returns to AU for Alumni in the KNOW: Women in Leadership
Author: Nina Cooperman, SPA/MPA '15
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Abstract: Virginia Louloudes, CAS/MA ’84, reflects on an AU experience that set the stage for her success.
Topic: Alumni Profile
Publication Date: 03/12/2015
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Virginia Louloudes, CAS/MA '84, received her degree at AU when the arts management program was just beginning. Since then, she has gone on to become a prominent leader in the arts management world, serving as the executive director at Alliance of Resident Theatres in New York (A.R.T./New York). Louloudes was a panelist at this month's Alumni in the KNOW: Women in Leadership event, where she shared her thoughts on the career landscape for women in the arts and gave advice to current students. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Title: Alumni Board Member Uses Family Business Experience to Assist Others
Author: Patricia Rabb
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Abstract: Lee Tannenbaum actively supports family-owned business
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 11/12/2014
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"I guess you can say that I came to AU in 1976 and never left," says Lee Tannenbaum, CAS/BA '80, about his ties to AU. "A college counselor told me how beautiful the campus was and felt that I would be at home there since I had grown up in the suburbs," he adds.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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newsId: 92A036D3-D3B8-7ED8-1D1FF5C18BA9706B
Title: Brett Smock, CAS/BA ’92: From Dancer to Producing Artistic Director
Author: Patricia C. Rabb
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Abstract: AU alumnus is Producing Artistic Director of The Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival
Topic: Alumni Profile
Publication Date: 09/09/2014
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"I remember getting out of the car and walking across the quad and immediately having this sense that things felt right." So says alumnus Brett Smock, CAS/BA '92, about his first impression of AU.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

********

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

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

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

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

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

**********

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

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

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

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

**********

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

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

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

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

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

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

***********

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Tags: College of Arts and Sciences,Donor,Giving,Library,School of Education, Teaching and Health
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