newsId: D06A6469-F1D1-E5EE-7C88A145064B8EB6
Title: Strathmore President Receives AU Alumni Achievement Award
Author: Carolyn Supinka
Subtitle:
Abstract: Monica Jeffries Hazangeles returns to AU as Alumni in the KNOW speaker on October 25.
Topic: Arts
Publication Date: 10/20/2014
Content:

Monica Jeffries Hazangeles is leading the way for arts and cultural leaders. 

She received the American University Alumni Achievement Award on September 10, 2014, for her accomplishments as a forefront leader in the arts. She will be returning to campus on October 25 as a speaker for the Alumni in the KNOW Distinguished Alumni Speaker Series. This event will be presented as part of the Arts Management Program 40th Anniversary ceremonies. 

A Leader in the Arts 

Just this year, Jeffries Hazangeles was appointed president of Strathmore, the renowned arts organization in Bethesda, Md., where she has worked for the past 17 years. Strathmore offers a wide variety of arts programming and educational experiences, ranging from art exhibitions to musical and theater performances. 

“As president, in service to Strathmore’s mission, my goals are to see what others don’t, to say what others won’t, to boldly explore future possibilities, to fearlessly drive Strathmore where it’s not always comfortable to go, to influence and inspire, and to enable the success of each and every member of my team,” said Jeffries Hazangeles about her new role. 

In 2011, Jeffries Hazangeles was named one of Washington’s 100 Most Powerful Women by Washingtonian magazine for her work managing Strathmore’s performances and education programs. 

“She runs one of the most important arts organizations in the greater DC region, and really embodies a lot of the principles our program is funded on,” said Arts Management Program Director Ximena Varela. “Strathmore is deeply committed to cultivating cross-cultural understanding, and to promoting diversity in its audiences and programming.”

Back To Class 

Jeffries Hazangeles, who graduated from AU’s Arts Management Program in 1996, credits the program for providing her with the skills that helped her to pursue her passion for the arts. 

“The program helped me understand the breadth of the arts management field and the vast opportunities open to those wanting a career in arts management,” said Jeffries Hazangeles. “I was immediately connected to individuals with deep knowledge and experience, and organizations where I could gain hands-on skills.” 

AU’s Arts Management Program stood out from the rest to Jeffries Hazangeles when she was looking for a place to begin her studies and career as a leader in the arts. 

“It is the only program of its kind that includes an internship, comprehensive exams, and a thesis,” she said. “This academic rigor, combined with the program’s connections to arts institutions of all types, in the nation’s capital, distinguished the program from its peers.” 

She has maintained close ties with faculty and the AU campus, inviting current AU students to tour behind the scenes at Strathmore, and has acted as a guest speaker for several classes. 

“She is generous with her time, sharing her expertise both through her advisory council work with us, but also through workshops and serving on a number of important arts boards. She has served on our advisory council for several years,” said Varela.

Alumni In the KNOW, October 25 

Jeffries Hazangeles will share insights from her experiences at Strathmore as a distinguished alumni speaker for AU’s upcoming Alumni in the KNOW series. 

Her speech will take place on Saturday, October 25, at noon in the Katzen Arts Center Rotunda, as part of the 40th anniversary celebration for the Arts Management Program. 

Jeffries Hazangeles is looking forward to sharing perspectives from her career with students. Her advice applies to aspiring arts managers as well as students interested in pursuing a leadership position in any organization. 

“Say yes, more often than no,” she said. “Pursue joyful exhaustion in your work, and look for leadership that happens from within.” 

For more information, visit the Alumni in the KNOW series website or the anniversary website.

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Title: Two “Nifty Fifties” at AU
Author: Caitlin Friess
Subtitle:
Abstract: Professors Arthur Shapiro and Matthew Hartings hit the road to spread their love of science.
Topic: Science
Publication Date: 10/20/2014
Content:

Over the next two academic years, 200 of the country's most inspiring scientists and engineers will be traveling to middle and high schools in DC, Maryland, and Virginia to share their passion and expertise with young students. They are known as the "Nifty Fifty (times 4)," and among this collection of Nobel Laureates, chief scientists, and top experts in their fields, will be two American University professors—Arthur Shapiro and Matthew Hartings.

Nifty Fifty Inspiring a New Generation  

The Nifty Fifty (times 4) speakers work in STEM fields—science, technology, engineering, and math. Nominated by their peers and chosen by the USA Science and Engineering Festival, they are called upon to help re-invigorate the interest of K-12 students in STEM careers. Nifty Fifty Speakers talk about three things: their field of science or engineering, their career paths (including the rewards and stumbling blocks), and where they see opportunities for young students in the sciences.  

Visual Sciences and Illusions Make Science Come Alive 

For Psychology Professor Art Shapiro, those opportunities are in the visual realm. Shapiro is a vision scientist and a creator of visual illusions that challenge the brain at the intersection of art, psychology, and computer science. His internationally acclaimed illusions have won awards in the Best Visual Illusion of the Year contest held by the Neural Correlate Society. 

"What an honor," Shapiro said of his nomination, "What more can you say, when you're invited to participate with a group of people like this?" 

For Shapiro, the study of visual sciences and illusions resides at an interdisciplinary crossroads. In helping us understand the brain and the visual system, illusions prove to be an engaging way to involve students in STEM—or STEAM—related activities (STEAM includes the arts). "I've given talks at high schools, junior high, elementary schools," he said. "And students are always very engaged in discussions of what illusions are and how you make a phenomenon that tricks you, and pulls you out of your comfort zone." 

Using Chemistry to Understand the World Around Us  

Chemistry professor Matthew Hartings, who teaches a popular chemistry of cooking class at AU, will use food to introduce challenging chemistry concepts to the students. 

"Chemistry is one of those subjects that many people shy away from. I have found that food is one of the best platforms for discussing some really complex chemistry with people who would otherwise be turned off by the subject," he said. "This is true for the students who take my chemistry of cooking course at AU. And, I am sure it will be true of the young students I interact with through the Fifty Nifty program. The depth with which you can engage in complex science is only limited by someone's fascination or interest in the topics you discuss."  

Harting's ultimate goal is to make science fun for young people. "With the Fifty Nifty program, I am not actively trying to proselytize that people become scientists. What I'm hoping to share is a contagious enthusiasm for using science to understand the world around us. And, if that enthusiasm is paired with a sampling of caramel sauce, then all the better!"  

USA Science and Engineering Festival   

The Nifty Fifty is a signature program of the USA Science and Engineering Festival, the nation's largest celebration of STEM. The festival, held in DC, was founded by entrepreneur Larry Bock and Ray O. Johnson, senior vice president and chief technology officer of Lockheed Martin. It features more than 3,000 exhibits and 150 stage shows focusing on science and engineering. AU is an exhibitor at the biannual festival. 

The next festival takes place on April 16 and 17, 2016.

 

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Title: U.S. College Students Fare Better than U.K. Students on Key Health Measures
Author: Rebecca Basu
Subtitle:
Abstract: U.S. college students do better than their counterparts in the United Kingdom when it comes to physical activity, a healthy diet and less smoking, according to new research. 
Topic: Research
Publication Date: 10/16/2014
Content:

U.S. college students do better than their counterparts in the United Kingdom when it comes to physical activity, a healthy diet and less smoking, according to new research published in the latest issue of the journal Education and Health.

“Among U.S. students, we see greater consumption of fruits and vegetables, more participation in organized sports, and less smoking,” said American University Prof. Stacey Snelling, a lead study author. “Participation in organized sports and exercise could reflect the more formal focus on physical activity at the college level that we have in the U.S. The study shows that certain policies and laws in the U.S. are making an impact, particularly with regard to smoke-free campuses.”

More than twice as many college students in the U.K. identified as smokers -- 39 percent compared with 16 percent in the U.S. Tobacco- and smoke-free campuses are a growing trend in the U.S. There are 1,478 smoke-free campuses, according to the group American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation. Of these, 976 are 100 percent tobacco-free, and 292 prohibit the use of e-cigarettes anywhere on campus.

Snelling and her colleagues examined data from a sample of self-reported health behaviors of university students in the U.S. and U.K. Data came from the American College Health Association, which collects survey information on student health behaviors, such as tobacco use, weight, nutrition and exercise, campus safety, and mental and physical health. Data was gathered in the U.K., using a survey with slight word changes in British English. Survey respondents were 23 or younger and mostly women. Snelling's colleagues included health economics Prof. Heather Gage and Peter Williams, a statistics consultant, of the University of Surrey, England.

Health education on campus

The health of college students is a growing concern in both countries. Increasing numbers of American students are reporting psychological problems to student counseling services. In the U.K., 29 percent of students have psychological distress that meets standards for clinical diagnosis.

An important takeaway from the study for both countries, Snelling said, is how to improve health education and wellness on college campuses.

“Health education programs on college campuses need to catch the attention of young folks. In the U.S. we have creative ways of reaching students through social marketing and peer-to-peer education, among other methods,” Snelling said. “But the study results raise the question of where we can improve, also in the U.S., on how colleges and universities can have more coordinated programming to address the whole student.”

Regarding fruit and vegetable consumption, college dorm policies in the U.S. are having an impact, the study found. Residence hall policies encourage nutritionally balanced meals, healthy eating and meal plans, for example. In contrast, students in England are more likely to prepare their own food, making eating healthy less convenient or more costly. U.K. students ate 1.5 fruits or vegetables per day compared with U.S. students who ate 3.5, the study found.

Both groups of students reported undertaking a breast self-exam at the same rate, but preventive care appointments, such as gynecological and dental, were greater for U.S. students.

Alcohol consumption and weight concerns

The sampling revealed similar findings for the numbers of students who consume alcohol and those with concerns about weight. More than half of students in both countries said they had exercised to lose weight in the last 30 days.

“Alcohol consumption remains a challenge for colleges and universities in both countries and continues to need addressing,” Snelling said. “The focus on weight is a reminder of the challenge in educating students that health is about fitness and nutrition and less about a number on a scale.”

In both countries, more students are entering higher education, with participation rates approaching 50 percent. Many students face financial pressures and concerns about succeeding in a competitive global job market. Struggle to follow health-enhancing behaviors affect the risk of chronic conditions in adulthood, as college is often the time in life where habits form that will continue through a lifespan.

“U.S. students in general reported better health, healthier lifestyles and more access to preventive services. This could reflect a difference in how the two countries approach health care,” Snelling said. “Regardless, academic achievement and health are highly related and healthier individuals are better learners. Universities need to work to create a culture that supports intellectual growth and promotes health.”

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Title: Alumnus Making DC History Come Alive
Author: Caitlin Friess
Subtitle:
Abstract: John Suau appointed executive director of the DC Historical Society.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 10/16/2014
Content:

John Suau was unanimously approved to become executive director of the Historical Society of Washington, D.C., in March 2014, following a six-month search by the Society's board of trustees. 

Suau, who received his MA in arts management from AU, brings his range of international and domestic experience to a Society with a 120-year history of collecting, interpreting, and sharing the history of Washington, DC.

"John's innovative and problem-solving approaches embody the ethos of the AU Arts Management Program, where students learn to develop creative solutions to complex problems in all areas of the arts," said Ximena Varela, director of the Arts Management Program. "John's leadership in the Society heralds a new era in community engagement and exciting program development."

Suau says it seems fitting that he is back in Washington. "I am happy to return to DC, where I came in 1995 to complete my graduate studies at American University in arts management," said Suau. "While I have always benefited from my experiences in our nation's capital, it's of particular significance that my education and skills are being used to help rebuild one of the city's most important treasures, that of it's own history." 

 

A Career in Arts Management

Suau has served as executive director of the Mid-Atlantic Association of Museums, and as manager of meetings, professional education, and diversity for the American Alliance of Museums. His work has included the coordination of conferences on cultural tourism and sustainable communities;work with art galleries and publications;and the marketing of technology companies that assist museum, libraries, and archives with the shift to digital platforms. 

Suau is also the creator of two popular web publications of his own: Museum of the Day, which features global cultural institutions, and John the Museum Guy, which highlights visitor experiences. 

 

Looking Back, Moving Forward

Suau's work with the Society includes the redevelopment of the Society's headquarters in the Carnegie Library on Mt. Vernon Square—once closed due to expenses—thanks to a partnership with Events DC and the International Spy Museum. Plans are now in the works to transform the Society's former building into the new International Spy Museum, featuring new additions to the building as well as a visitor's center. Suau is also currently working with other partner organizations to make the Society more associated with the community, rather than a single building. 

"I am honored to have the opportunity to give back to the city that has always given me so much professionally," he said. "And I am pleased to report that the society is now working with AU's Kogod School of Business Administration to help it celebrate its 60th anniversary with a mural retrospective of businesses in Washington, DC."

 

The Historical Society of Washington, D.C.

The Historical Society of Washington, D.C., is a community‐supported educational and research organization that collects, interprets, and shares the history of our nation's capital. Founded in 1894, the Society serves a diverse audience through its collections, public programs, exhibitions, and publications.

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Title: Q&A with Literature Professor Kyle Dargan
Author:
Subtitle:
Abstract: The poet muses on his work, his process, and teaching.
Topic: Humanities
Publication Date: 10/16/2014
Content:

Kyle G. Dargan is a professor of creative writing in the Department of Literature. He is the author of three collections of poetry published by the University of Georgia Press, most recently Logorrhea Dementia: A Self-Diagnosis (2010). His debut work, The Listening (2004), won the Cave Canem Prize, and his second, Bouquet of Hungers (2007), won the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for poetry. Dargan’s work has appeared in Callaloo, Denver Quarterly, jubilat, Newark’s Star-Ledger, Ploughshares, Shenandoah, and theroot.com. He is the founding editor of Post No Ills magazine and postnoills.com and recently served as managing editor of Callaloo

In addition to writing and teaching at AU, Dargan has partnered with the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities to produce poetry programming at the White House and Library of Congress. He runs poetry workshops for DC high school students in conjunction with 826DC, a nonprofit organization that supports young writers ages 6 to 18 and their teachers. He recently returned from a two-month trip to China as a guest of the Chinese Writers Association. 

 

Are you working on any new projects? 

My new poetry collection [Honest Engine] will be published in [March 2015], and I am working on another book-length project, Panzer Herz, which is a personal exploration and deconstruction of contemporary masculinity. I’m also editing an anthology with Wondaland [Arts Society] producer Chuck Lightning [Charles Joseph II] titled I Have a Scream: An Imagination Proclamation, which we envision to be a post-Obama snapshot of the cultural and sociopolitical zeitgeist.

 

Can you tell us a little about your writing process?

I jokingly tell people that being a poet means I notice stuff for a living. To write is to first see or hear some element of the world and then attempt to render it with language, be that in a realist or fantastical manner. So the most important aspect of my writing process is the seeing; after that, there’s just a lot of tinkering and questioning what, aesthetically, the piece of writing needs in relation to its subject. 

 

Do you think DC is a good place for poets and poetry?

Any place is a good place for poetry—especially the places where free voices are repressed. These are the places where poetry’s disregard for the status quo is needed. DC has a great poetry infrastructure—the Library of Congress and the poet laureate, the Folger Shakespeare Library, etc.—but it is important that we do not allow those major institutions to overshadow all the ground-level poetry activity that (in the best sense) agitates this town. 

 

What is the best part of teaching creative writing? 

Creative writing is a pedagogically pleasing discipline. In a creative writing class, we are all studying the ideas and experiences students bring to the class as well as their ability to frame and communicate them creatively, so being privy to that self-discovery and artistic evolution is always rewarding. Every student is different, and they all can’t be pushed with the same intensity. It is a delicate dynamic.

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Title: "How Jewish is the Jewish State? Religion and Society in Israel"
Author:
Subtitle: All-Day Conference, Tuesday, October 28, in SIS Founders Room
Abstract: Center for Israel Studies hosts international conference, October 28.
Topic: International
Publication Date: 10/14/2014
Content:

Israel was established in 1948 as a Jewish state, a fact that is not only stated in its Declaration of Independence, but one that has also been confirmed by every single government since its founding.

According to the former President of the Israeli Supreme Court, Justice Aharon Barak, "A Jewish state is a state whose history is bound up with the history of the Jewish people, whose principal language is Hebrew, and whose main holidays reflect its national mission." Yet, Barak insists that "the values of the State of Israel as a Jewish State cannot be identified with Jewish Law." Many Orthodox Israelis disagree. What is the meaning of a Jewish state and what place do Judaism and other religions play in such a state? Is there separation of state and religion in Israel?

To explore these questions and more, on Tuesday, October 28, American University's Center for Israel Studies (CIS) and Jewish Studies Program will host an all-day academic conference "How Jewish is the Jewish State? Religion and Society in Israel."

Religion and Society in Israel

With panelists invited from Israel, Europe, and the United States, the conference explores the separation of state and religion in Israel, and looks at the treatment and the internal structure of Israel's other religious and ethnic groups, as well as the question of religious pluralism in the Jewish state.

The conference culminates with an evening keynote address by the distinguished philosopher and scholar Moshe Halbertal, the John and Golda Cohen Professor of Jewish Philosophy at Jerusalem's Hebrew University and New York University's Gruss Professor of Law. Professor Halbertal will speak on "Israel: At the Crossroads of Democracy, Nationalism, and Religion." Professor Halbertal "is one of the leading public intellectuals of Israel and one of the key scholars when it comes to defining the place of religion in public life," says Michael Brenner, director of AU's Center for Israel Studies.

Legal Treatment of Religion

History Department Chair Pamela Nadell will moderate the conference's opening session. Panelists will address "New Frontiers in the Struggle between Religion and State," "Religion and State: Law in the Books versus Law in Action," and "Orthodox Monopolies: A Trojan Horse?"

Nadell reflects: "Since 1947, when David Ben Gurion, the founding prime minister of Israel, ceded to the Orthodox that Shabbat would be the nation's day of rest and that rabbinical courts would retain jurisdiction over Jewish marriage and divorce, there has been an ongoing struggle between religion and the state. Our panelists consider the ramifications of this policy on the contemporary scene." The panel includes Haifa University Law Professor Eli Salzberger, the founder of the Center for Crime, Law and Society and a former dean of Haifa University's School of Law; Yedidia Stern, the vice-president of research at the Israel Democracy Institute and a law professor at Bar Ilan University; and Kimmy Caplan, one of the world's leading specialists on Orthodox Judaism.

Non-Jews in Israel

Sociologist Calvin Goldscheider, scholar in residence at the Center for Israel Studies, chairs the afternoon panel on non-Jews in Israel. Speakers include Hebrew University Professor Ahmad Natour ("Islam and Muslims in the State of the Jews") and Amal el-Sana Alh'jooj, an award-winning Bedouin woman scholar and activist, who has advanced the cause of Shared Society between Jews and Arabs as well as promoting community development amongst Bedouin women. Professor Natour served as a kadi (judge) from1985-2013 and then President of Israel's Sharia Court of Appeals (1994-2013). In this capacity he made a significant contribution to the development of Sharia law in Israel and to its liberalization, especially in relation to the protection of the rights of women.

Jewish Pluralism

This last panel examines the viability of the extremely broad spectrum of religious attitudes among Israeli Jews, ranging from the ultra-Orthodox and the settler movement to the Reform movement and secular Jewish identities. What are their attitudes towards Israeli statehood and towards the separation of state and religion?

Panelists include AU Professor Gershon Greenberg, an expert on the Israeli ultra-Orthodox (haredim); the leading historian of Reform Judaism, Michael A. Meyer; Oxford University's Sara Hirschhorn, an expert on the settler movement; and one of the most powerful voices in the Israeli discourse on Jewish culture, religion, and secular identity, historian and writer Fania Oz-Salzberger.

For Registration and More Information

The conference is supported by the Knapp Family Foundation. For a full program description and to RSVP for any of the conference sessions, see http://www.american.edu/cas/israelstudies/rsvp/rsvp2.cfm

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Title: From BA to PhD: Former Eagle Receives Full Education at AU
Author: Devin Symons
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Abstract: At American University, Nick Reksten, CAS/BA ’07/PhD ’15, went from freshman to mentor to professor.
Topic: Education
Publication Date: 10/13/2014
Content:

When Nick Reksten, CAS/BA '07/PhD '15, arrived at the American University (AU) as a freshman, he didn't expect that he would be leaving ten years later with a PhD in Economics, four years of advising experience, and a two-year teaching position at Sarah Lawrence College. But that is where his time at AU led him.

"I had a really good experience as an undergrad at AU," says Reksten. "The great thing about AU's faculty is that they're so open-minded, engaged, and a joy to work with."

After graduating from AU with a bachelor's degree in international studies and economics, Reksten started a job in downtown D.C. researching and reporting on renewable energy and climate change policy. 

"It quickly became clear that in order to be a serious voice on policy issues, that I would need to pursue a PhD," he says. He debated the merits of several doctoral programs, and ultimately chose to return to his alma mater. 

At AU, Reksten took full advantage of the opportunities available to him as a graduate student. Besides pursuing his coursework and teaching as an adjunct professor, he co-authored a book chapter with Jon Wisman, one of his professors, and presented their work at a conference in Montreal.

He also applied for funding through a part-time advising position with the Office of Merit Awards (OMA). This turned out to be a great move, opening up unexpected doors. 

"I knew he aspired to a teaching-oriented career, and I saw his graduate assistantship as an important opportunity to mentor him," says Paula Warrick, director of the Office of Merit Awards. "Nick had been an outstanding undergraduate student at American University, and as an advisor in our office, he was insightful and also extraordinarily patient, affirming, and steady in his interactions with his advisees.

Because of his demonstrated aptitude for working with students, Reksten was hired to stay on over summer and winter breaks, and entrusted with the management of several competitions. He mentored and co-mentored dozens of students, many of whom became finalists and recipients of national scholarships, including the Fulbright, Boren, Marshall, and Rhodes. 

"Seeing students become finalists or recipients was very fulfilling," says Reksten. "Like when a student I advised found out she won a Fulbright. It's a great feeling to know that your work really made a difference for someone."

At AU, Reksten was able to experience both sides of that kind of mentorship, with clear benefits. 

"I received a great deal of mentorship both from my department and from the OMA staff," says Reksten. "My dissertation advisor, Maria Floro, has been wonderful, teaching me a great deal about research and providing practical advice about academic jobs. OMA director Paula Warrick has been absolutely invaluable over the years. She has had an unfaltering belief in my abilities as an advisor and as an intellectual." 

Reksten believes his work with the Office of Merit Awards made a real difference when applying for teaching positions as well. 

"I think my experience advising students one-on-one was what really sold them on me," he says. This fall he started work as a guest faculty member at Sarah Lawrence College, where he teaches two courses in economics—and loves his job. 

"This job is what I went to grad school to do," says Reksten. "I'm already where I want to be." 

His advice for students entering doctoral programs at AU?

"Be strategic in how you plan and spend your time. Make connections with faculty in your department and explore opportunities in your field," he says. "It really is about presenting the whole package, about becoming well-rounded."

In making the most of his years at AU, Nick Reksten certainly seems to have followed his own advice.

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Title: Finding Wales
Author: Patty Housman
Subtitle:
Abstract: Matt Waskiewicz ’16 researches economics in Wales on a Fulbright Summer Institute grant.
Topic: Social Sciences
Publication Date: 10/09/2014
Content:

What do the country of Wales and western Massachusetts have in common? 

Matt Waskiewicz; BS economics, BA political science ’16; spent six weeks in Wales exploring the answer to this question on a Fulbright Summer Institute grant. 

He began his trip at Cardiff University, located in the Welsh capital on the south coast, studying how shipping and mining have shaped the country’s economy. He then traveled north to Bangor to learn about traditional Welsh culture and how the local tourism industry is working to create jobs and preserve the region’s cultural heritage. Waskiewicz ended his trip at Aberystwyth University in Mid Wales, an agricultural area known for its wind farming industry, where he looked at sustainable energy practices. 

“My Fulbright gave me the opportunity to examine a post-industrial society similar to the United States and its ability to adapt to the twentyfirst century realities of globalization and climate change,” he says. “The United States is grappling with many of the same challenges as contemporary Wales.” 

Common Ground

It was a photograph on the Fulbright website that first got Waskiewicz thinking about Wales. The image of the country’s rural north reminded him of home. “The rolling hills and picturesque farms looked very similar to those of my small hometown of Hadley in western Massachusetts,” he says.

He discovered that the two places have more in common than their landscapes. Like western Massachusetts, Wales has a large Polish population. Between 1945 and 1950, the United Kingdom opened its doors to refugees from Poland seeking to escape Soviet oppression behind the Iron Curtain, and a wave of immigrants poured into tiny Wales. A second wave of Polish immigrants has been arriving over the past decade, and Polish-born residents now outnumber all other immigrant populations. 

“I was fascinated because I am half Polish,” says Waskiewicz. “Polish culture is very strong in the tiny community where I grew up. We went to polka concerts, celebrated Polish holidays, and made pierogi together at church. Wherever you go in western Massachusetts, you’ll find Polish music and food and culture.” 

The Fulbright gave him an opportunity to compare Polish immigrant culture in Wales and the United States. During his second week in Cardiff, he visited a family owned Polish restaurant. “It made me think of my ancestors and other Polish families who came to the United States to create better lives. And in both Wales and in western Massachusetts, it was through hard work and determination that the dream of a good life became a reality.” 

Over the course of six weeks, Waskiewicz found other connections between Wales and western Massachusetts. Both places, he observed, face the challenge of providing a future that is both economically and environmentally sustainable. Both had been dominated at one time by industry and supported by agriculture. Though they thrived on different industries—coal in Wales and textiles in western Massachusetts—they share the challenge of regenerating their economies after the shuttering of their dominant industry. 

Bringing It Back Home

Waskiewicz hopes to apply what he learned in Wales toward a career in politics and public service. He’s already tested the political waters with two internships on Capitol Hill.

At AU, he has been a member of the AU Honors Program, a resident assistant, a trumpeter in AU’s jazz band, and the president of the Student Honors Board. Eventually Waskiewicz plans to go to law school, but in the interim he wants to take time off from his studies to do political work in DC or Massachusetts. 

“Studying in Wales was an incredible experience,” he says. “The Fulbright program gave me an opportunity to see how we all impact each other economically, culturally, and environmentally, even across rivers and oceans. By studying the transformations in Wales, I better understand how similar changes might happen in the United States. Someday I want to help make changes like this happen.”

Tags: College of Arts and Sciences,Economics,Economics Dept,Research,Students,School of Public Affairs
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newsId: 997BC24D-99DC-9914-8AEA23B395690814
Title: Noted Neurobiologist Joins AU Faculty
Author:
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Abstract: Mark Laubach researches how our brains enable us to act flexibly.
Topic: Science
Publication Date: 10/09/2014
Content:

Neurobiologist Mark Laubach has devoted his career to learning how our brains work and how they allow us to change our plans when something unexpected happens or when things go wrong. 

“I grew up during the computer revolution when many people thought that brain function could be explained using principles from computer science,” Laubach says. “I have never been convinced of that.” And so he’s concentrated his research on how our brains enable us to act flexibly—something that computers are not very good at doing. 

Laubach joined AU’s Department of Biology and the Center for Behavioral Neuroscience this fall. Formerly an associate professor of neurobiology at Yale School of Medicine and an associate fellow at the John B. Pierce Laboratory in New Haven, Connecticut, Laubach will be teaching undergraduate and graduate students and conducting research through the center. 

“Professor Laubach is an outstanding, internationally known scientist who is eager to share his knowledge and skills to help others achieve their research goals,” says Terry Davidson, professor of psychology and center director. “That makes him a great fit with the mission of the center and with the philosophy of American University.” 

Laubach’s research focuses on understanding the neuronal circuit basis of decision making, motivation, and self-control. He is especially interested in how decisions are adjusted when outcomes do not match expectations. His laboratory uses multi-electrode recordings, optogenetics, and computational methods to record brain cell activity and analyze the resulting data. 

“I am thrilled to be at AU, and I am delighted to take part in Professor Davidson’s new Center for Behavioral Neuroscience. The center offers an exciting new way for neuroscience researchers at AU to work together to solve problems of common interest,” says Laubach. 

This fall he is teaching a course based on President Obama’s BRAIN (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies) Initiative, which aims to develop methods for understanding brain function. In the spring, he will teach a course for the new neuroscience major that will focus on the cellular basis of brain function. 

Laubach is excited to be back in the classroom. “I have been at a medical school for the past 13 years and had limited interaction with undergraduate students,” he says. “I am very much looking forward to teaching courses for the new neuroscience major and hosting students for research in my lab. I can’t wait to see the first neuroscience majors graduate in a few years and go on to productive careers in science and medicine.”

Tags: Biology Dept,Center for Behavioral Neuroscience,College of Arts and Sciences,Faculty,Research,Neuroscience,Neuroscience Program
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newsId: 9865A197-D30C-0E93-50C8AD8B7F83271B
Title: Arts Management Program Celebrates 40th Anniversary
Author: Jamie McCrary
Subtitle:
Abstract: AU and alumni mark the anniversary with events on October 24 and 25.
Topic: Arts
Publication Date: 10/09/2014
Content:

The Arts Management Program at American University is celebrating 40 years of training students to become successful arts and cultural managers in all areas of the visual and performing arts. AU will mark the program’s anniversary with a two-day celebration on October 24 and 25. 

On Friday, October 24, participants will explore the DC arts scene by visiting local theaters and art galleries. On Saturday, October 25, they will be greeted with a speech by alumna Monica Hazangeles, the president of Strathmore. The day continues with speed networking sessions, an interactive theater presentation, a tour of the AU Museum, and a cocktail party.  

For more information about this chance to connect, create, and celebrate the program’s 40 years of producing extraordinary arts managers, visit the event website.

Arts Management at AU 

The program offers a master’s degree and graduate certificate in arts management, as well as graduate certificates in international arts management and technology in arts management. Students benefit from collaborations with the likes of Sotheby’s in London, the U.S. State Department, major foundations, and executive education programs around the world. Closer to home, the program prepares students for internships and jobs at many of DC’s leading cultural institutions.

Arts management students take classes in marketing, fundraising, financial management, and cultural policy. “The reason programs like ours were founded is because people wanted to make sure arts organizations were being run effectively,” says director Ximena Varela. “It is not just about getting a degree in management. From the beginning, our program’s mission has been to serve the broader community.” 

Producing Extraordinary Leaders 

What best showcases the program’s strength, however, is the success of its alumni: nearly 100 percent of graduates find work within six months of graduation. With more than 450 alumni arts managers, AU has had a broad impact on the arts across the nonprofit, public, and private sectors and a presence in such organizations as the National Endowment for the Arts, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Strathmore, and IMG Artists. In the last seven years, six of AU’s arts management graduates received Fulbright scholarships, making the program a top Fulbright contender. “One of the things that attracted me to the program was that our students and alumni are driven,” says Varela. “They’re problem solvers and make ideas happen in the field— they are out there doing things.”

Art Management's Growth 

The program emerged out of a series of meetings between performing arts professor Valerie Morris and National Endowment for the Arts staff about the need for management training programs for nonprofit arts leaders. Morris directed AU’s program from 1974 until 1998, during which time it grew to nearly 80 students.

Though the program has experienced much growth and change over its four decades, one thing has remained constant: its commitment to innovation. “The curriculum and the program have adapted through time,” Varela says. “We are focused on innovation, which means we anticipate what will happen in the field and make sure the program is aligned and ready for these changes.” 

Innovation

One such innovation was a complete restructuring of the curriculum in 2010, resulting in more international arts management perspectives in the classroom and a new study-abroad program with Sotheby’s Institute of Art in London. Participants take classes at the institute for a semester and receive a diploma from Sotheby’s in addition to a master’s in arts management from AU. This offers students the opportunity to develop an understanding of the nonprofit arts world outside the United States and in different cultural settings.

“The program has grown tremendously over the last 40 years in size, scope, and reputation,” says arts management senior professorial lecturer Sherburne Laughlin. “I look forward to its growth over the next 40 years.”

Tags: College of Arts and Sciences,Performing Arts,Performing Arts Dept,Art Dept,Arts Management,Arts Management Pgm
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newsId: 92A036D3-D3B8-7ED8-1D1FF5C18BA9706B
Title: Brett Smock, CAS/BA ’92: From Dancer to Producing Artistic Director
Author: Patricia C. Rabb
Subtitle:
Abstract: AU alumnus is Producing Artistic Director of The Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival
Topic: Alumni Profile
Publication Date: 09/09/2014
Content:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

********

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

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

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

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

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

**********

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

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

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

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

**********

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

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

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

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

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

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

***********

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Title: Alumnus Daniel Maree wins Do Something Award for Creating Social Change
Author: Rebecca Vander Linde
Subtitle:
Abstract: When Daniel Maree, SOC-CAS/BA ’08, heard about the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin, he took action.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 09/12/2013
Content:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tags: Alumni,Alumni Newsletter,Alumni Relations,Alumni Update,College of Arts and Sciences,School of Communication
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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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Title: AU Students and Alumni Build Skills in the Office and at the Movies
Author: Roxana Hadadi
Subtitle:
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.

Tags: Alumni,Alumni Newsletter,Alumni Update,College of Arts and Sciences
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newsId: 3886D2A2-BDA9-0F95-35E4AA4F609FD671
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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newsId: C0ADB7D3-ABF4-3582-C2DEC7E2634B4247
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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