newsId: 2F9F592F-FFAB-2DBC-6B5CFE38D7E4FF64
Title: New Moves
Author: Carolyn Supinka
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Abstract: AU Dance Program partners with American Dance Institute.
Topic: Arts
Publication Date: 09/12/2014
Content:

American University’s Dance Program is setting things in motion with an exciting new partnership with the American Dance Institute (ADI). ADI is a Rockville-based performance venue for internationally renowned dance companies and choreographers, as well as a dance school. The Washington Post described it as “fast becoming one of the area’s leading presenters of choice experimental dance.” 

The partnership will offer free master classes for AU students, as well as opportunities to watch rehearsals and interact with ADI’s visiting dancers and choreographers. Melanie George, director of the American University Dance Program, will present pre-performance talks at ADI, and ADI will provide a venue for the AU Dance Program’s annual fundraiser. 

A Natural Partnership  

“An important part of being a student of dance is that you need to see multiple and varied dance performances. Dance is an art form that exists in the moment, and it never happens the same way twice, so seeing it live is critical for your understanding of the form,” said George. “The variety of artists they (the students) are exposed to will help them to cultivate diverse perspectives about dance. The palette from which they build their own aesthetic will be much wider because of that.”  

Steven Skerritt-Davis, director of institutional relations at ADI, said that his organization is thrilled to be partnering with American University. 

“When we had the idea to add an educational component to the incubator program, we thought the best way to do that was through a partnership with a university, and AU was a great pick,” he said. “AU is one of the premier institutions in the D.C. area, and we’re thrilled to be embarking on this partnership that aims to benefit dance students throughout the region.”  

As for what the partnership would bring in the future, Skerritt-Davis said, “We’re hoping it will give something to both dance students and the visiting artists. ADI is always evolving, so this is part of that…It’s a great synthesis of coursework and practical experience. We’re excited and we hope it continues and grows.” 

The partnership has three components: the Inside the Incubator series, master classes, and the Dr. Naima Prevots Guest Artist Fund.  

Inside The Incubator Series 

The Incubator at ADI is a unique dance residency program that gives visiting choreographers the time and space necessary to develop their work at ADI’s facilities. 

The AU partnership adds an educational component to the residency, giving AU dance students the opportunity to observe rehearsals and talk with the artists and choreographers. At the end of each residency, the choreographers will perform their work for the public, and Melanie George will present pre-show talks. AU students can receive a discount for all of the performances offered at ADI.

Master Classes  

As part of the partnership, AU will host a series of master classes taught by ADI’s visiting choreographers and dancers. Each of three master classes offered this fall will have room for about 25 students to attend. They will be taught by award-winning choreographers Vicky Shick and Aszure Barson, and by the Vertigo Dance Company. ADI will offer these classes on AU’s campus. They are open to students and the general public.  

Dr. Naima Prevots Guest Artist Fund 

ADI will provide the venue for the annual benefit performance of the American University Dance Program for the Dr. Naima Prevots Guest Artist Fund, in honor of Dr. Naima Prevots, the founder of the AU Dance Program. All proceeds go to bringing emerging and veteran artists to AU’s Dance Program. 

For More Information 

To read more about the upcoming performances at ADI, visit the ADI website.

To register for master classes, contact Melanie George at mgeorge@american.edu.

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Title: A Wonder Material
Author:
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Abstract: Ben Derby researched graphene during his NIST summer fellowship.
Topic: Science
Publication Date: 09/11/2014
Content:

Senior Ben Derby, a physics major minoring in economics, spent the summer in Boulder, CO, on a National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF). 

Derby, who also won an honorable mention for a Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, worked with graphene at NIST. Graphene is a newly discovered "wonder material" that is expected to revolutionize the next generation of electronic devices. 


Why did you choose to study physics and economics?

I came to AU as a communications, legal institutions, economics, and government major hoping to someday serve in public office. Professor Ivy Broder's Principle's of Macroeconomics course introduced me to two subjects I would learn to love: math and economics. I would not find my academic home, however, until taking Professor Harshman's Principles of Physics course. I knew right away that this subject would not only challenge me intellectually, but it would allow me to use my hands in an experimental sense. 


How did you decide to apply for the fellowship?

I had not been introduced to experimental physics research until 2013 where I worked at the Rochester Institute of Technology's Surface and X-ray Science laboratory. I was able to work with gold nanostructures and characterize thin films using X-ray diffraction. Being able to understand and then manipulate materials left me in amazement. 

I started reading the literature in condensed matter physics and become fixated on this seemingly revolutionary material known as graphene. I kept reading about all its potential uses that could transform many industries. I knew then that I wanted to work in a graphene lab over the following summer. I had looked at the research NIST Boulder was completing and was very happy to see that they were looking for a SURF fellow for the summer in the graphene lab. 

 

What was the most rewarding part of the fellowship?

Not only did I further my understanding of graphene, magnetics, and spintronics, but I gained experience on laboratory equipment not many undergraduates get to play with. Being able to conduct experiments on my own by the end of my time at NIST truly enlightened the budding experimentalist inside me. 

In addition I was able to connect with NIST scientists who have global impact and very unique expertise. Learning from them and discussing my future goals with them, especially with my mentor, helped me define my career path. My mentor allowed me to connect with researchers at the NIST Gaithersburg who experiment with graphene, and it is my intention to join a graphene project during my senior year here at AU. 

And who could forget all that I was able to experience in Boulder, Colorado!


What are your plans for the future?

In the short term I would like to pursue a master's degree in materials science in Germany. The institutions in Germany, specifically RWTH Aachen and Technishe Universitat Munchen, are world renowned for their materials science and condensed matter physics programs. I am also very excited about their research in the area of using graphene for renewable energy harvest. I would like to be a part of this research because I think graphene could help divert our current energy crisis for the long term. Also being a dual-citizen with the country, I have always wanted to spend time there to connect with my family and bolster my working knowledge of the language. 

After this, I plan on pursuing a PhD in materials science and engineering in order to be able to conduct research at an academic institution or in the industrial setting.


What are your other interests? 

I served as the director of the Community Service Coalition during my sophomore year and have maintained an active role since. I believe service is the life-blood of any community, and it is very important to me. I am also a member of the Leadership Program here at AU. It has provided me immense training in how to be an effective leader in any setting I choose later in life. 

I have also been granted the opportunity to work at the National Air and Space Museum since my freshman year. This gives me an amazing experience sharing my love with science to a younger audience. 

Outside of AU, I am very excited to be currently pursuing a private pilot's license. Last summer I had the amazing experience of soloing a Piper J-5 aircraft.

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Title: Loving Your Figure, Thick or Thin
Author: Gregg Sangillo
Subtitle:
Abstract: American University graduate research and campus services help students with body image concerns.
Topic: Research
Publication Date: 09/08/2014
Content:

Let's say you're standing in the checkout line at the supermarket buying a package of Double Stuf Oreo cookies. You glance at the glossy magazines, and see Kate Upton, Beyoncé, and Channing Tatum represented. You might feel like you can't possibly live up to these superhuman physical specimens. You look down again at those Oreos, and suddenly guilt and defeat engulf you.

Oh, and when the world's most beautiful celebrities tell People magazine about how they overcame their chubby childhood and teenage acne? That doesn't make you feel any better.

Millions of people are insecure about their body shapes and sizes. At American University, both researchers and campus services have addressed problems created by body image. It's one way in which AU scholarship and programming have coincided to tackle an issue that concerns many students.

Research with a Purpose

Over the summer, Sarah Godoy finished up her Ph.D. in clinical psychology at AU. Her dissertation is titled, "Exploration of a Dissonance-Based Body Dissatisfaction Intervention." In conducting her research, she set up a group-based intervention for female students (ages 18 through 30, from AU and other universities), most of whom currently struggle with body image or previously grappled with these issues. In a sense, Godoy was doing innovative research and helping young women in the process.

"Body dissatisfaction generally means when people are dissatisfied with their body weights or their body shapes. And for women, it tends to mean that they wish that they were thinner or smaller, and that idea is referred to as the 'thin ideal,'" Godoy says.

She developed workshop-style groups, based on three specific conditions. One was called the "healthy weight condition" and dealt with balancing nutritional eating and exercise. It emphasized health over thinness.

Two other group conditions revolved around cognitive dissonance (thin ideal dissonance and values-based dissonance). Godoy explains how your brain can't really hold two notions—thin is ideal, thin is not essential—together at the same time. "So we just talked about the pros and cons of pursuing the thin ideal, and we started considering, 'What are the alternatives? What are really the risks of pursuing this? What might be a better way of living?'" she says.

In talking about values and identities, students considered how aiming for the thin ideal can be disruptive and unwise. Some women explored this through their religious beliefs. "'They might say, 'My spirituality is very important to me. If I try to change the body, or if I try to devalue the body God gave me, that's not compatible with what I actually value," Godoy recounts. Women also discussed how striving to be skinny is time-consuming and could ultimately take a toll on friendships.

At the completion of the project, Godoy was pleased with the results. "We saw improved body image, improved self-esteem, and decreased internalization of the thin ideal."

Societal Pressures

Convincing students to be content with their bodies is no easy feat. There is an inordinate amount of pressure to be thin and attractive in an image-driven society. The Hollywood celebrity factory puts a high premium on a certain type of physical—and arguably unattainable—appearance. Facebook and Instagram openly invite people to judge what old acquaintances look like these days.

Godoy says that young female college students are at a particularly vulnerable age. "It's really hard when you're going through a time of transition," she says. "You're exploring your own identity, and trying to figure out who you are. And you're away from home;it stirs up a lot of insecurity."

As much pressure as there is on young women, Godoy says many men deal with similar body image issues. Again, this can emanate from media images. Men may want to look more muscular, which is sometimes referred to as a mesomorphic ideal.

Amanda Rahimi is assistant director for outreach and consultation in the AU Counseling Center. She did her Ph.D. in clinical psychology at George Mason University, and she did research on how women of color deal with eating disorders and body image concerns. She found that some African-American women were less enamored with the thin ideal. "They may think it's good to have a curvy body, it's good to have hips, it's good to have breasts. And when someone doesn't have those characteristics, they may experience some body image dissatisfaction as a result of that."

But Rahimi stresses that each person is different, and Godoy adds that the thin ideal is spreading beyond the province of white women.

AU Assistance

Godoy, who is now doing post-doctoral research at the University of Michigan, first took interest in body image issues and eating disorders during her undergraduate years at Vassar College. She was influenced by Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia by Marya Hornbacher—herself an AU alumna. At AU, Godoy was part of the Body Image Research Group, a clinical research laboratory directed by psychology professor James Gray.

Other AU faculty members have done research in this general area. For instance, history professor Katharina Vester has examined the power relations inherent in discussions surrounding body ideals.

The Counseling Center helps students through individual and group sessions. Rahimi and others do presentations and workshops on campus related to eating concerns and body image matters. And the center also offers educational materials on its website and has an in-house self-help library. Outside the Counseling Center, students can get assistance from Jo-Ann Jolly, a registered dietitian for AU Dining.

Advice in dealing with this problem varies on a case-by-case basis. "In general, we try to help students understand the roots of their body image concerns, and the experiences that might have contributed to this," Rahimi says. "But ultimately, we try to help students work towards self-acceptance."

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Title: American University Museum Early Fall Exhibits

Author: Rebecca Basu
Subtitle:
Abstract: Six new exhibitions open starting September 6.
Topic: Arts
Publication Date: 09/05/2014
Content:

Starting Saturday, September 6, six exhibitions open at the American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center—including works specially selected from the estate of the late gallerist H. Marc Moyens to be auctioned during American University's annual Fall for the Arts event.

From Russia with Love

Memorial Modeling, an installation exhibit, was made possible with support from AU's Initiative for Russian Culture. Artists Peter Belyi and Petr Shvetsov, two of the most important and original artists working in Russia today, encountered the collapse of the Soviet empire in their youth. As a result, they acquired a certain unifying view where they are suspicious of any new doctrine, instinctively sensing its instability and ephemerality. On display through Sunday, October 19.

Celebrating Marcel Duchamp

Readymade@100 is a juried exhibition of submissions by contemporary artists of "new" readymades that significantly expand upon Duchamp's original idea. The exhibition will be juried by Corcoran College of Art and Design Professor Mark Cameron Boyd. Readymades are ordinary, constructed items modified slightly, or joined with another item. Duchamp started the concept with his choice of commercially available objects for exhibit, such as "Bottle Rack" and his infamous "Fountain" urinal. It was Duchamp's location of these objects within the "art context" that began a century of debate about the definitions of art and established his influence on contemporary art. On display through Sunday, October 19.

Cuba Libre?

Bridging the Past, Present, and Future: Recent Works by Sandra Ramos showcases prints, video, collage, and installations by Cuban artist Sandra Ramos. Ramos reflects on the conflicting experiences of living in her beloved homeland with all of its many challenges. Viewers will be given a look at Cuban life today and some aspects of the impact and interaction of that country with the United States as seen through the sensitive eyes of one of its top creators. On display through Sunday, October 19.

Dangerous and Intriguing

Steel Sculpture: Anxiety and Hope, a sculpture exhibition by Sam Noto, is both serious and playful. In his large steel constructions, largely made of found materials, Noto allows his materials to generate form and occupy space in a dynamic way. Noto creates pieces of welded steel that are sometimes literally dangerous as well as formally intriguing.On display through March 15, 2015.

Photography by Washington Artists

Some Uses of Photography: Four Washington Artists continues AU Museum's fine tradition of showcasing Washington artists. The work of four artists—Jenn De Palma, Ding Ren, Siobhan Rigg, and Sandra Rottman—represents an ongoing dialog about craft, authenticity, the role of the artist, and other concerns that embody today's definition of photography. The exhibition curator Phyllis Rosenzweig was formerly curator of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. On display through Sunday, December 14.

Surrealist Art from the Estate of H. Marc Moyens

Estate Art of H. Marc Moyens is an exhibition and auction of items specially selected from the estate of the late gallerist H. Marc Moyens. Moyens and his partner, Komei Wachi, ran a gallery that bucked trends. When pieces of their collection exhibited at Corcoran Gallery of Art in 1969, one reviewer described the show as "creepy and menacing." It was not until 2006 that items from the collection were shown again at the AU Museum. By this time, the tone of critics had changed, and they embraced the provocative content. On display through Saturday, September 20—the date of the auction.

Tags: AU Museum,College of Arts and Sciences,Fall,Featured News,Katzen Arts Center,Media Relations
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Title: Real-World Practice Makes Perfect for MS Marketing Graduates
Author: Laura Herring and Alexa Marie Kelly
Subtitle:
Abstract: Members of the first MS Marketing cohort land jobs in the area right after graduating from Kogod’s newest graduate program.
Topic: Business
Publication Date: 09/05/2014
Content:

The first cohort of Kogod's MS Marketing (MSMKTG) degree program graduated in May. An intensive, one-year degree based on experiential learning, the MSMKTG program prepares students from all backgrounds to enter the workforce with a leg up on the competition.

Changing Gears

As a studio artist, Carolyn Becker, BA/CAS '13/MSMKTG '14, dabbled in more than paint. She also explored courses outside her major and fell in love with Kogod classes.

"My marketing professors were really hands-on and really cared about the students," Becker said. "They [pushed me] and [helped me] think outside the box."

Becker transitioned from her art background to marketing as a member of the first cohort of the MSMKTG program, working with the same engaging and experienced professors as a graduate student.

She now works for RP3 Agency in downtown Bethesda, Maryland, guiding the agency's artists and writers to meet client needs. Becker started her new job in August, just two months after graduation.

A cornerstone of the program is the Applied Client Project. Students worked on teams for real-world clients, including GEICO and FIJI Water, through a partnership with area firm RedPeg Marketing.

The team campaigns gave Becker the opportunity to not only apply the skills she learned in the program but to learn to work effectively as a member of a cohesive team.

"I'm in it until the job is done," Becker said. "Not everybody works like me, and I have to be more flexible."

Becker also credits the program's site visits with jump-starting her career. After touring local advertising agency Meredith Xcelerated Marketing, she landed her first industry internship.

"Without Kogod, I wouldn't have gotten the internship, and I would never have gotten the job [I have now]."

Practical Application

Becker isn't the only MSMKTG student to hit the ground running after graduation.

Elizabeth Pittman, MSMKTG '14, recently began a job as an account coordinator at W2 Communications, a Fairfax, Virginia-based PR agency for technology clients.

"I actually got the job through an internship [with Tigercomm] I had thanks to Kogod," Pittman said.

Pittman earned her BS in business administration from Christopher Newport University, and she appreciated the real-client experiences Kogod offered.

"It's all about deadline," according to Pittman. "It's all about constantly editing and trying to impress the client."

For these group projects, students "pitch to high level executives," Pittman said.

"[The executives] gave us tips on how to stand, how to communicate."

Pittman now looks forward to applying these skills when presenting to clients and the media as a professional.

"Everything that I learned was of value to me in the long run," Pittman said.

Working the Network

The MSMKTG site visits provided Chen Vaisburd, BSBA '13/MSMKTG '14 more than an internship—he recently began work as an account coordinator at digital agency AKQA after touring the location with his cohort.

"With my financial background I was interested in online advertising so AKQA's work in web apps and mobile analytics was a good fit," he said.

A native Israeli, Vaisburd knew he would need to leverage his network to find full-time employment after graduation.

"As an international worker, it can be hard to find a company willing to take you on," he said. "But our site visit to AKQA allowed me to get to know real people there and let them get to know me. Without that, I wouldn't have my job."

Vaisburd also believes having the Applied Client Project on his resume made him standout as a job candidate.

"Working with a client like GEICO like we did was exactly that: work," he said. "It was practical work experience, not just educational experience and that makes a difference."

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Title: Meet New Art History Professor Ying-Chen Peng
Author:
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Abstract: Ying-Chen Peng is a new assistant professor in the Department of Art.
Topic: Arts
Publication Date: 09/04/2014
Content:

Ying-Chen Peng is a new assistant professor in the Department of Art.

Degrees
PhD art history, University of California—Los Angeles
MA art history, Graduate Institute of Art History, National Taiwan University
BA Japanese language and literature, National Taiwan University

 

Areas of research
Late imperial and modern Chinese art history, globalization in art, gender studies, Asian material culture


What initially sparked your interest in art history?
"An image or object does not only offer visual pleasure to the viewer. It also gives clues to a world significantly different from what we know from written words. My interest in art history germinated from my desire to decipher intriguing visual and material clues."


What honed your interest to your specific areas of research?
"Globalization has largely reshaped the cultural, national, and ethnic boundaries of art since the fifteenth century. I am deeply interested in how China interacted with other cultural traditions in this world phenomenon. As a woman, I am also enthusiastic about gaining a better understanding of women's role in art in the past and present."

 

What brought you to AU?
"A strong focus on feminist art history in the art history program and the open, supportive environment for both faculty and students at AU brought me to this exciting university."


What are you hoping to accomplish at AU?
"My goal as a teacher is to enrich our students' visual literacy in reading art and to broaden their understanding of Asian cultures to prepare them for a globalized world. As a researcher, I wish to help strengthen East Asian art research for AU as a hub of feminist art history. "

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Title: Meet New Sociology Professor Nicole Angotti
Author:
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Abstract: Nicole Angotti is a new assistant professor in the Department of Sociology.
Topic: Social Sciences
Publication Date: 08/28/2014
Content:

Nicole Angotti is a new assistant professor in the Department of Sociology.

Degrees
PhD sociology, University of Texas at Austin
MA international educational development, Columbia University, Teachers College
BA sociology, University of California, San Diego 

 

Areas of Research
Social dimensions of HIV/AIDS, local experiences with global change, gender and sexuality, field research methods, Sub-Saharan Africa  


What initially sparked your interest in sociology?
“The introduction to sociology course I took as an undergrad. Among other great studies, we read Jay MacLeod’s, Ain’t No Making It, a sociological classic about how social inequality is created and maintained. The book, and the course more generally, piqued my interest in sociology and its unique contribution to understanding pressing social issues of our time.”  

 

What honed your interest to your specific areas of research?
“My interest in studying the social dimensions of AIDS was inspired by my work as an HIV counselor in New York City, and by working with communities experiencing the AIDS epidemic first hand. An opportunity to work on related issues in Malawi as a graduate student research assistant, and later in South Africa as a postdoctoral fellow, led to my regional interest in sub-Saharan Africa (a part of the world where HIV prevalence is disproportionately high) and to specific research questions about how local communities experience global HIV health interventions. AIDS is both a social disease and a biomedical one, and the tools of social science are suited uniquely to enhance efforts aimed at prevention and treatment. This drives the passion I have for my work.” 

 

What brought you to AU?
“I was drawn to AU’s international reach, its student-centered approach to learning, its politically engaged students and faculty, and the research and teaching interests in the Sociology Department and the Center on Health, Risk and Society (CHRS), with which I am affiliated.”  

 

What are you hoping to accomplish at AU?
“I hope I can create for students the same draw to sociology that captured my early interest, and arm them with theoretical and methodological tools to ask and answer research questions about which they are passionate and that matter for people’s lives. I also hope to contribute meaningful, health-focused social science research that keeps me in active dialogue with government entities, international organizations, funders, and biomedical researchers.”

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Title: A Passport to the Arts
Author: Allison Byers
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Abstract: This fall’s arts season is filled with international art, theatre, music, and dance.
Topic: Arts
Publication Date: 08/28/2014
Content:

There's no need to pack your bags for an expensive international trip this fall. Instead, let American University Arts bring art from around the globe to you. This season's Passport to the Arts calendar is packed with vibrant performances, thought-provoking exhibitions, and exciting events that celebrate, interrogate, and illuminate our relationship with the world. The events showcase the talent of our students, faculty, and esteemed guest artists, performers, and speakers. 

 

Art Exhibitions

Our season begins with a celebration of the Bicentenary of Adolphe Sax, Belgium's Illustrious Inventor of the Saxophone. The exhibit, created by the Embassy of Belgium and on view from August 19–September 11, gives insight into the life and work of this groundbreaking Belgian musician. The AU Museum Artists' Reception on September 6 will feature a performance by Noah Getz, AU musician in residence. Other exhibitions exploring our international theme include Memorial Modeling: Peter Belyi and Petr Shvetsov, heavily influenced by the artists' shared experience of the collapse of the Soviet Union during their youth, and Bridging the Past, Present and Future: Recent Works by Sandra Ramos, in which the Cuban artist reflects on the conflicting experiences of living in her beloved homeland. Both exhibitions open at the American University Museum on September 6. 

 

Theatre and Musical Theatre

The Theatre and Musical Theatre Programs begin their international programming with Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, a new musical adaptation of Pedro Almodóvar's beloved film. The musical dramatizes the rich tradition of Spanish melodrama, music, and romance, while exploring universal themes of family, identity, and desire. It runs from October 16–25. 

Next up is The Rez Sisters, a play by Cree Canadian writer Tomson Highway, which focuses on seven adventurous women on a Native American Reserve. It runs from November 13–15.

The programming also offers the NO BOUNDARIES series of new works and readings by faculty and guest artists. 

 

Music Performances

The Music Program will present a wide range of performances from across the globe. Internationally acclaimed concert pianist Yuliya Gorenman will perform some of the great works by French master composers Franck, Ravel, and Debussy for The Gorenman Piano Project: French Edition on October 18.

The AU Chamber Singers will prepare for their spring 2015 international tour by exploring music from the Balkans, European Renaissance, Romantic, contemporary, and spiritual choral spheres in Voices Heard from Abroad on November 1 and 2. Other musical performances include the AU Symphony Orchestra on October 25 and 26, the Symphonic Band on November 7, the AU Chorus on November 15 and 16, the Jazz Orchestra on November 21, and the AU Workshop: 50 Years In C on November 14. 

 

Dance Performances

Dance performances include Choreolab 2014: Ph(r)ases on November 12, the culmination of a two-month mentored creative process, and the Friends and Family Benefit Dance Concert at the American Dance Institute on November 8, which will support the Dr. Naima Prevots Guest Artist Fund at AU. 

 

Art History and Arts Management

The Art History Program is proud to present the Fifth Annual Feminist Art History Conference October 30-Novemebr 2, which builds upon AU's legacy of feminist art-historical scholarship and pedagogy. The program will also host the AU/GW Graduate Art History Symposium on September 20.

This fall marks the 40th anniversary of AU's Arts Management program, which will be celebrated in October. 

 

Fall for the Arts Celebration

Finally, AU Arts and the AU Museum welcome local residents and neighbors, the AU community, and other arts lovers to an afternoon of fun and merriment on September 20 for Fall for the Arts. The event will feature lectures, hands-on workshops, and classes, and will be capped off with a cocktail reception and live and silent auction. 

 

Tickets and More Information

For more information and tickets to these performances, please visit www.american.tix.com.

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Title: “We Need World-Changers”
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Abstract: CAS history professor Max Paul Friedman sends important message to the Class of 2018.
Topic: On Campus
Publication Date: 08/28/2014
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"We need world-changers," Max Paul Friedman told the Class of 2018 at American University's opening convocation on August 23. "But before setting out to change the world, try letting the world change you."

Friedman, professor of history and recipient of the 2014 American University Scholar/Teacher of the Year Award, the university's highest faculty award, offered students words of wisdom for their years at AU and beyond. 

His speech was greeted with great enthusiasm by the students in the audience and on social media. Corina Chao (BA international studies '18) said, "After that speech, I know I chose the right school." Zakiya Jacob (BA psychology '18) tweeted, "Professor Friedman just gave the best speech I've ever heard."

See what advice professor Friedman offered the Class of 2018.


I asked a young man starting his first year at a school down the hill from here, "What would you like to know from someone like me on your first day?" I thought he might say something like, "Professor, how can I change the world?" Instead, summoning all the earnestness of youth, he held my gaze and replied, "Where can I get a fake I.D.?"

A fair question. A fake I.D. promises not only libations but access to places that seem irresistibly exciting. And since nobody knows you here, you could become anyone. You could shave your head. College is the perfect place for you to think about a new identity, or to think anew about identity. You'll hear professors talk about the difference between sex and gender. Sex is what parts you've got. Gender is what part you play, in a performance with strict rules and penalties for breaking them. You'll learn that race is invented; it isn't the shade of your skin, it's what the culture says that shade says about you. The news from Ferguson or Iraq shows that whether you survive your next encounter with a man in uniform may well depend on how others read your identity. That's what's at stake. Race and gender are a fake I.D. You've already got one. The question is, can we learn to stop checking them? 

Having fulfilled my professorial duty by answering a simple question with a complex non-answer, I know that AU students do want to change the world. The sixties activist Abbie Hoffman complained before he died that the nation's universities had become "hotbeds of rest." But our students have made this the most activist campus in the country. They've worked with youth groups in DC and Nairobi, helped farmworkers and adjuncts organize for better pay, got the sweatshops out of their sweats, and made their campus green. What could a historian tell people like that?

Well, one thing we study is how change happens. Children learn that Lincoln freed the slaves. But the small print of the Emancipation Proclamation says it applies only in the Confederacy. It exempts the Border States and the parts of the South under Union control. It orders the end of slavery where Lincoln couldn't end it, and didn't end it where he could. He wanted stability, and a labor force. Instead, the enslaved freed themselves by throwing down their tools and marching by the hundreds of thousands toward Union lines to volunteer, creating a new reality Lincoln had to accept. Change doesn't happen because Great Men do Great Things. It happens when ordinary people do extraordinary things. 

What historians do is to ask questions of the dead. Because the dead know things we don't know. They know things about you that you haven't found out yet.

So I asked George Fullerton Evans, who wrote The College Freshman's Don't Book in 1910, what to tell you today. He offered these words: "Don't pawn your watch during your first year" and "Don't buy cigars in wholesale quantities from mysterious-looking foreigners." Beyond student loans and substance abuse, he also had advice about studying. 

"Don't try to fool the College Doctor into believing that you can't go to lectures, or are going to die, because you've sprained your left thumb.... Take notes in lectures; if this serve no other purpose, 'twill keep you awake." 

Finally he added: "Don't hesitate to hear other people's opinions. The World did not begin, nor will it end, with you." 

You see, the dead are not so different from you and me. College students a century ago may have carried hats and kid gloves and said things like, "let's take the hayburner to the juice joint to get ducky," but they were just making plans for Friday night, in their own hip language carefully crafted to exclude their parents. 

It's not that people in the past were so different, but their circumstances were. Looking out at the class of 2018, I think back to Europe's class of 1918. They, too, assembled with excitement on a warm August day a century ago, but with a very different four years ahead of them. When the guns of August started firing, they marched off to World War One with bands playing and flags flying, the French soldiers dressed in brilliant uniforms of red and blue. Kaiser Wilhelm told his troops: "You will be home before the leaves have fallen from the trees." 

(Note to my fellow Californians: he meant October. You'll get used to what they call "seasons," including one called "winter," when cold white flakes of crystalized water appear suddenly out of the sky. Don't be alarmed;this is normal, and when those flakes accumulate on the ground, they make possible special sports and games, and they also shut down the government of the most powerful country on Earth. And your university. Welcome to Washington.)

There would be no homecoming for ten million young people. And when the war was over, Woodrow Wilson put on his top hat and joined other leaders in Paris to change the world. We know what this did to fuel hatreds in Europe. We forget that when a young Vietnamese student named Ho Chi Minh showed up to ask Wilson whether self-determination applied to his country, he couldn't get in. He didn't have the right I.D. He took his disappointment to Moscow and his next hero, Lenin, and would lead his country in the Vietnam War. Meanwhile the top hats in Paris carved the map of the Middle East into new states that replaced overlapping ethnic identities with cleanly-drawn lines, marking Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq. Mission accomplished.

This isn't an indictment of idealism. We need idealists. The problem was the notion that we alone know how to change the world, and we don't have to listen to the people who live in the part we're changing, whether it's a faraway jungle, a desert, or downtown. We need world-changers. But before setting out to change the world, try letting the world change you.

AU students are well-placed to do this. You'll learn in your classes, which are engaged with the burning issues and questions of our time. Maybe you'll study abroad, where you'll discover that they have their own answers, and they want to know yours. Maybe you'll escape the American disease of monolingualism, and learn to speak another language.

We'll also ask you to read a lot, but not because reading is good for you, like fiber. We ask because printed words are a distillation of all the wisdom of all the people who have come before. And they were young once, and now they're gone, and they want to tell you what happened in between. The "annihilation of distance" through social media means you can keep up with people you already know. Some of you are doing it right now! But try putting down your phone and look around. Some of your lifelong friends are sitting in this hall and you haven't even met them yet. Maybe you'll meet someone from DC, who can explain to you that taxation without representation isn't over. Or someone from Colorado, and you can explain to them that you're from a state where a plant is still illegal. Most importantly, you'll meet people who grew up differently, with different ideas. That's good. Listen. Argue. You're going to learn as much from one another as you ever will from us. 

So let the world change you, but then please do change the world. We need your help. We need you to build an economy that values work as much as capital. We need you to fix Congress, and get more women into it, which may be the same thing. We need you to find a better way to deal with America's troubled neighbors than by deporting children. We need you to learn to produce things and move them around without using the same old Industrial Revolution-era fuels that are destroying the only planet we've got. Lincoln called America "the last best hope of Earth." Your generation may well be the Earth's last best hope.

So, no pressure. You are here to enjoy yourselves too, and to enjoy figuring out who you are. Try new things, take classes outside your comfort zone, engage in discovery, work hard at things that are hard. It won't get you a fake I.D. But by the end of your time here you'll have a real one that takes you to places that are truly exciting. The world has been waiting for you, and we're so glad you're here.

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newsId: 22C54D8D-A212-5A40-30111C3B4629B238
Title: Meet New Computer Science Professor Joshua McCoy
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Abstract: Joshua McCoy is a new assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science.
Topic: Science
Publication Date: 08/28/2014
Content:

Joshua McCoy is a new assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science.


Degrees
PhD and MS computer science, University of California—Santa Cruz
BA computer science and sociology/anthropology, Earlham College

Areas of research
New video game experiences through game technology, social science, artificial intelligence, and design

 

What initially sparked your interest in computer science/gaming?
"A life-long attraction to playable experiences ranging from video games to live action role playing left me with the curiosity to answer the question of 'what's next?' in video games. My interest in computer science and artificial intelligence is in how they offer expressive ways to author technology that uncovers new game experiences."

 

What honed your interest to your specific areas of research?
"Through experiencing the relatively weak ways in which areas like story-telling and social interactions are represented in video games, my research became focused in making those aspects of games more deeply playable. Consistent with my interests, this focus requires multi-disciplinary research and the creation of new technologies."

 

What brought you to AU?
"AU is a great school that is displaying real commitment to gaming as a discipline in its own right. As gaming is a new field, being faculty in gaming at AU affords the opportunity to be in a field as it is forming. This opportunity to be part of setting the agenda for gaming at AU while contributing to computer science is an exciting position!"

 

What are you hoping to accomplish at AU?
"I hope to help to turn AU into a leader in gaming, conduct interesting collaborative research, and create compelling playable experiences while providing an impactful education experience."

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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
Content:

"I remember getting out of the car and walking across the quad and immediately having this sense that things felt right." So says alumnus Brett Smock, CAS/BA '92, about his first impression of AU.

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

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

Brett now oversees a budget of roughly $5 million and a staff of approximately 20 that grows to a company of over 250 at the height of the season. This includes the youth theater and the programming and operation of the festival's musicals at Merry-Go-Round Playhouse at Emerson Park, Auburn Public Theater, and The Pitch at Theater Mack in Auburn, N.Y. Auburn, located in central New York on one of the Finger Lakes, is an historic city where Harriet Tubman and William H. Seward lived while helping lead slaves to freedom on the Underground Railroad.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

********

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

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

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

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

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

**********

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

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

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

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

**********

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

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

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

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

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

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

***********

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Tags: College of Arts and Sciences,Giving,Library,School of Education, Teaching and Health,Donor
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Title: SIRIUSXM Executive Gives Back as Mentor to Current Students
Author: Megan Olson
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Abstract: Steve Leeds, CAS/BA ’72, began a career in music while a student at AU.
Topic: Alumni Profile
Publication Date: 03/12/2014
Content:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nicole also maintains a blog.

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

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

Tags: College of Arts and Sciences,Film,Film and Media Arts,School of Communication,School of International Service,Career Center,Career Development
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newsId: 4247EC8B-A7D0-E9A7-2D5BA65F399FC37F
Title: Alumnus Captures the Power of Storytelling
Author: Rebecca Vander Linde
Subtitle:
Abstract: Paul Costello, CAS/MFA ’97, believes: “If you want to change the world, you have to change the story.”
Topic: Alumni Profile
Publication Date: 06/12/2013
Content:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Title: AU Experiences Assist Pennsylvania Communications Specialist In Influencing The Political Process
Author: Milt Jackson
Subtitle:
Abstract: Alumna’s position in Pennsylvania politics enhanced by AU education.
Topic: Alumni Profile
Publication Date: 06/07/2013
Content:

To say that Nicole Reigelman, CAS/BA ’01, communications specialist for Pennsylvania’s House Democratic Policy Committee, keeps busy is an understatement. The Doylestown, Pa. native not only manages all aspects of communication for the very busy political office, she also proudly serves her country as an officer in the Pennsylvania Air National Guard.

As the daughter of two military parents – and as a competitive figure skater - Nicole had discipline and significant travel experiences under her belt early in life. When the time came to choose a university, she was initially drawn to AU because of its location and international studies foci. However, when she arrived on campus as a student, she found AU compelling for other reasons as well. “AU not only taught me the mechanics of government, it also enhanced my perspective on viewing relationships with others. I better understand where people are coming from,” she says.
 
Part of learning the mechanics of government included being educated by world-class faculty and a studying abroad stint in Brussels, Belgium. While in Brussels, Nicole saw the European Union Parliament in action, and this experience, among others, eventually helped inform her decision to become a political communications professional.

After completing her studies at AU, Nicole attended the University of Chicago where she earned an MA in social science. There, she took part in a class which featured then-Illinois State Senator Barack Obama as a speaker. Additionally, her social science horizons were expanded when noted Freakonomics author and economist Steven Levitt agreed to serve as her thesis advisor. These personal experiences, in conjunction with an internship at a Chicago nonprofit, helped cement Nicole’s path and led her back to her native Pennsylvania.

Nicole says her career path was greatly enhanced in 2002 when she joined the Pennsylvania Air National Guard. Commissioned in 2006 as an officer, she eventually was assigned the position of directorate chief in Horsham Air Guard Station’s Public Affairs Section, her current position. As the supervising officer, Nicole manages other community relations staff and supports their professional development efforts, in addition to advising and counseling rising military personnel and producing a newsletter.

Nicole’s return to her home state also allowed her to fine-tune her skills in the political waters of Harrisburg. Initially taking a position as a media specialist in the capitol, she managed communications and constituent outreach for multiple state lawmakers. Her dedication and professionalism soon earned her a communications specialist position serving the House Democratic Policy Committee. In this, her current position, she plans and executes holistic communications strategies directed at constituents, advocacy groups, and the media.

Her hard work hasn’t gone unnoticed. Rep. Mike Sturla (D-Lancaster, House Democratic Policy Committee Chairman) says, “Communicating with the public and the media are essential responsibilities in my role as a lawmaker. Nicole has helped me successfully keep my constituents in the loop by using every tool in her arsenal to spearhead my messaging in a dynamic communications environment.”

Despite these significant responsibilities, Nicole also finds time to serve AU’s Central Pennsylvania alumni as a chapter leader. In this capacity, she and other Keystone State alumni assist their alma mater by planning, executing, and participating in events, from cultural activities to networking gatherings, structured to raise visibility and awareness of AU – and to strengthen the ties between its valued constituents.

When asked about the benefits of her AU education, Nicole said, “AU opened my eyes to the world and that personal experience can influence [political] policy. Whether it was studying abroad or visiting the Library of Congress, there hasn’t been a day that has gone by that I don’t feel fortunate.”

Tags: Alumni,Alumni Relations,Alumni Update,College of Arts and Sciences,Communication,Government
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newsId: 958227C0-C038-4A6F-650CF77DF42165BF
Title: A Passion for Reading, from Literature to MRIs
Author: Phil Recchio
Subtitle:
Abstract: Dr. Laurie Cutting, BA/CAS ’93, is a leader in new field of “educational neuroscience.”
Topic: Alumni Profile
Publication Date: 05/10/2013
Content:

As a Northwest D.C. native, Dr. Laurie Cutting brought her voracious love of reading to AU's library even before she was enrolled as a college student. Recalling her high school memories of studying in Bender Library, Laurie returned to AU as a student. While she always knew that she wanted to work with children somehow, she, like many students early in their careers, was unsure of how to get there. Laurie excelled in her literature degree program while also taking some pre-med classes and graduated cum laude in 1993. 

From D.C. to Chicago, Laurie went on to receive her doctorate in communication sciences and disorders from Northwestern University. While there, she completed an internship with top-notch childhood development learning centers, such as Johns Hopkins Kennedy Krieger Institute, Yale University School of Medicine's Center for Learning and Attention, and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

Coupling her understanding of literature with her learning in cognitive development, Laurie conducted research for 12 years, first as a postdoctoral fellow and then as a member of the faculty, at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine/Kennedy Krieger Institute. She tested how learning disabilities manifest themselves in early childhood and how the neural structure and function of the brain can begin to inform educational practices.

Currently, Laurie holds multiple faculty positions at Vanderbilt University, including an endowed chair with appointments in both Vanderbilt's Peabody College of Education and Vanderbilt's Medical School. She is also the faculty director of Vanderbilt Kennedy Center Reading Clinic, and part of the Vanderbilt Brain Institute. Her diverse research is part of a new discipline known as educational neuroscience, which integrates previously isolated bodies of knowledge to form new exciting connections. Laurie embodies a new age of scientists whose backgrounds in the arts serve to inform their passion and dedication to social causes.

Laurie excitedly admits that while her educational path was non-traditional, in retrospect, she wouldn't have it any other way. "I would not be where I am today without my time at AU," she said. She remains very close with several of her friends from AU, including her best friend. Their sons were born two weeks apart, and the families regularly hear stories from their time on campus.

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Title: Sara Nieves-Grafals: Psychologist, World Traveler, Alumni Board Member
Author: Rebecca Vander Linde
Subtitle:
Abstract: Three-time AU alumna Sara Nieves-Grafals , who is coauthor of a cookbook, recently joined the AU Alumni Board.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 04/11/2013
Content:

Dr. Sara Nieves-Grafals, CAS/BS ’75, CAS/MA ’79, CAS/PhD ’80, practiced clinical psychology for 32 years, has traveled the world, co-authored a travel cookbook called Mystical Places and Marvelous Meals with her husband, and speaks five languages fluently. She is also one of the newest members of the American University Alumni Board.

While growing up in Puerto Rico, Sara says, “I had a life-changing experience that influenced my desire to celebrate life everyday and to keep learning for the rest of my life. When I was 18 years old, I contracted viral encephalitis from a mosquito bite. I was in a coma for a week.

“Physicians told my parents that if I survived, I should forget about ever going to college because I would likely have brain damage. I fully recovered. Yet it was not until I took a battery of neuropsychology tests while training as a doctoral student that I breathed a sigh of relief.”

Despite her doctors’ predictions, Sara began her undergraduate degree at another institution, and eventually transferred to AU for its more challenging academics. She completed her bachelor’s in psychology, then decided to pursue her doctorate in psychology at AU as well.

“The [psychology] professors were excited about the field and helped guide students. … The whole experience was such a privilege. It was a very collaborative environment and conducive to learning,” she says. She especially admires psychology professors Dr. Jim Gray and Dr. Tony Riley – now the department’s chair.

Sara decided to become more involved with AU after receiving two free men’s basketball tickets in the mail. “Why not get in touch with your inner Eagle?” asked her husband, whom she says is “an Eagle by marriage.”

“Now that I am retired, I have more time, and AU was so helpful to me,” she says. Sara has taken advantage of all AU has to offer while volunteering her time and expertise to help the university.

In addition to joining the Alumni Board, Sara is auditing an art history course through the alumni audit program. “I love being able to go back to school to see the technology and how people learn now. I have my first exam on Friday. I’m excited!” she says.

She is helping plan a psychology reunion to honor current department chair Dr. Tony Riley, who has been at AU for 35 years. Since she lives near the university, she enjoys coming to alumni events and interacting with current students. “I was at a multicultural alumni event the other day, and it was like an AU family. Alumni can guide and mentor students now in a way that wasn’t available to us as students,” she says.

Tags: Alumni Board,Alumni Newsletter,Alumni Relations,Alumni Update,Psychology,Psychology Dept,Clinical Psychology,College of Arts and Sciences
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