newsId: 7D7B463C-5056-AF26-BE2DD4346396EA2C
Title: AU 2030: Benjamin Stokes
Author: Gregg Sangillo
Subtitle:
Abstract: Incoming SOC professor looks for civic engagement through games.
Topic: Research
Publication Date: 12/17/2014
Content:

*This is part of an ongoing series that focuses on the AU 2030 project. American University has invested significant resources in key subject areas that cut across schools and departments. This includes two subjects covered below: persuasive gaming and urban studies.

People often talk about how technology is an isolating force in modern life. Why sit in a crowded multiplex theater with other people when you can stream the movie alone on your iPad at home? But through his research, incoming American University School of Communication professor Benjamin Stokes has found ways that new technology and civic engagement can feed off each other. In fact, mobile technology and games can strengthen communities and play an integral role in urban revitalization.

"The intersection around civic media that is partly online and partly face-to-face is really exciting," Stokes said in an interview earlier this year.

The Human Side

If you're going to meet a friend at a neighborhood restaurant, you could obviously use Google Maps on your phone to locate the address. Yet with new kinds of games, community engagement through technology can become even more sophisticated and beneficial. And Stokes has found that the intersection of digital and human worlds often breeds the most productivity.

"The technology makes it possible with phones. We're bringing the Internet back into the physical world. And it's not just 'anywhere, anytime,' which was kind of the early model of mobile media," he explained. "I think actually the most powerful stuff with civics is resisting that, and saying it's 'somewhere, sometime.'"

Games can be effectively designed to incorporate real-life experiences, he said. "The current moment with games is that increasingly the design is shifting toward the human side, and the hard challenge is thinking about how it works with people in their everyday lives," he said.

Faculty Forum

In November, Stokes expanded on some of these ideas in a Faculty Research and Projects Forum at the School of Communication. It's critically important to focus on the distinct needs of certain local economies, he said. Yet digital games launched online are often universal, failing to address specific neighborhood challenges.

He singled out a game called Macon Money, which took place during a fixed time period in 2010-2011 in Macon, Georgia. The game involved bonds that were worth real money at local businesses. "They wanted to target businesses that were in the community that had been there for a while," he said.

Each participant got half a bond and had to find a matching person who possessed the other half. "[It] was very strategic in deliberately giving some of the bonds to one zip code, and giving a different set of the matching bonds to another [zip code], so therefore encouraging a cross-pollination across some of those socio-economic lines," he said, which included college students and residents who lived downtown.

"Sixty-three percent of the people who matched said they were very unlikely to have met the person otherwise. Even though Macon isn't a huge city, it's still bringing people together who wouldn't have otherwise connected," Stokes said.

Macon Money promotional video:

He added that during the game, some interactions moved from a physical space to an online Facebook forum. "There's an ecology that brings people together that's not purely digital or purely physical. And in fact it's the ability to go back and forth across these spaces that makes for a successful game and project."

Marching to His Own Beat

A theme surfaces when listening to Stokes. These days, we're not strictly online or offline most of the time. With mobile technology, we reside somewhere in between.

Stokes's background also defies easy characterization. He was born in Montana and grew up in Ashland, Oregon. To some extent, he was a traditional gamer like his friends. But he also took an interest in design around learning systems, and in high school he built online virtual field trips for kids. "I worked with an elementary school to have them map their neighborhood," he recalled.

He earned his undergraduate degree in physics from Haverford College. But he also dabbled in music: While studying abroad in Senegal, he played the djembe drum—and he remains a big fan of West African music today.

Before getting into academia, he co-founded Games for Change and served as a program officer at the MacArthur Foundation. He eventually earned his Ph.D. from University of Southern California, and he's now working on a post-doc at University of California, Berkeley.

He'll start at AU's School of Communication in the fall of 2015. He's a civic media research fellow in the Center for Media & Social Impact, and he'll be part of the AU Game Lab. Similar to other faculty members with the Game Lab, he believes in the power of games to enact meaningful change.

When people donate money or volunteer, they frequently don't see the results of their efforts, he said. "Games are all about giving people pretty immediate feedback about how their actions had an impact."

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newsId: 7FC33110-5056-AF26-BE1BA9FCA89B1B16
Title: Three JoLT Fellows Named at American University
Author:
Subtitle:
Abstract: AU Game Lab students will help define and develop disruptive leadership in media and journalism.
Topic: Communications
Publication Date: 12/15/2014
Content:

Exploring Game Design and Systems Thinking as a Path to Disruptive Media Leadership

Three fellows have been named to the inaugural JoLT program cohort at the American University School of Communication, bringing a range of digital, journalism and academic skills to the innovative initiative.

In announcing the fellows, Dean Jeff Rutenbeck pointed to their unique mix of creative, entrepreneurial and broadcast backgrounds, which he called ideal for the program funded with a $250,000 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

The JoLT initiative, launching in January 2015, is aimed at defining disruptive leadership in media and journalism as graduate students study the fields through the lens of game design theory and systems thinking.

The collaboration builds on the university’s new Master’s of Game Design, kicked off in 2014 as a joint program of the SOC and the College of Arts and Sciences.

The fellows, Kelli Dunlap a Psy.D with a focus on mental health and game research, Joyce Rice, an interactive illustrator and storyteller, and Cherisse Datu, most recently of Al Jazeera English, have been awarded full fellowships to the MA in Game Design while they explore journalism and media leadership.

AU Game Lab Director Lindsay Grace says he was thrilled “by the high caliber, deep curiosity and broad diversity of all the applicants. The fact that the three selected fellows are women is wonderful. It continues to demonstrate the momentum of our programming. The fellows reflect the character of the American University Game Lab - interdisciplinary, creative, socially engaged and well-versed in games.“

Meet the Fellows

Kelli Dunlap, who holds a doctorate in clinical psychology with a focus on technology and mental health, is active in the gamer community. JoLT leadership was impressed with her commitment to explore psychological and social change through games, and with her academic roots in the persuasive play community. She has been published in the Games for Health journal for her work at the Washington, D.C., Veterans Affairs hospital and was awarded a $10,000 scholarship for her work in gaming and mental health.

In her role as lead video editor for Al Jazeera English’s social media program, The Stream, Cherisse Datu has seen traditional broadcast news change and innovate within the span of a few years. Datu’s industry perspective and experience working across media platforms earned her a spot in the final three. She was attracted to JoLT by her life-long love of games and desire to use media to drive change and engage users.

Joyce Rice is an expert illustrator and interactive designer who specializes in sequential storytelling, interactive content, and publication design. She's the cofounder and Creative Director of Symbolia, a media organization that crafts intriguing narratives that merge illustration and interactivity with top-notch journalism. In addition to publishing a bimonthly digital magazine, Symbolia works with a variety of media partners including American Public Media and the L.A. News Group. Rice’s passion for experimental storytelling and desire to explore the intersection of games and news media made her a top pick of academic leaders.

Rutenbeck says he believes the mix of professional backgrounds will benefit the program. “Each is impressive in her own right, and as a group, they will act as a catalyst to both shape and advance the goals of JoLT.”

The three funded Fellows simultaneously will earn a Master’s of Art in Game Design while working to reorganize the way media are communicated, analyzed and produced from a leadership perspective. This includes participating in two D.C.- based summits, the American University Game Lab and a host of forward-thinking iterations on leading change in media engagement.

In addition, the School of Communication will soon name three professional fellows who will take part while working to drive change within their organizations. Those fellows are expected to be named in the near future.

About the American University School of Communication

The School of Communication at AU is among the nation’s top communication schools, with researchers, students and programs focusing on the intersection of media, technology and society. Located in the nation’s capital, American University is a leader in global education, enrolling a diverse student body from throughout the United States and 140 countries.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. The foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.

Tags: School of Communication,Journalism,Journalism (SOC),Gamelab,Gamers
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Title: AU Game Lab Presents Pop-Up Video Game Arcade at Smithsonian
Author: Patty Housman
Subtitle:
Abstract: More than 4,000 people attend pop-up indie event.
Topic: In the Community
Publication Date: 12/15/2014
Content:

There was something for everyone at Indies in the Middle at the Smithsonian American Art Museum on December 7. The event transformed the museum’s atrium into a one-day pop-up indie arcade, filled with video games of all kinds. 

More than 4,000 people of all ages stopped by to play new indie games, classic arcade games, educational games, shoot ’em up games, games for social change, virtual board games, and even meditative Zen games. 

“Visitors learned that games are more than Super Mario Brothers, Halo, and Call of Duty,” said Lindsay Grace, director of the AU Game Lab and Studio and associate professor at the School of Communications. “They experienced games that experiment with emotion, affection, storytelling, history, politics, and more. The indie games we selected helped to open people’s eyes to the wide variety of games being made today.”  

 

The Indies in the Middle and the AU Game Lab and Studio 

Four organizations worked together to produce the indie arcade: the American University Game Lab, a joint venture between the College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Communication; the International Game Developer's Association (IGDA); gaming festival organizer MAGFest; and the Smithsonian American Art Museum.  

AU’s prominent role in the event demonstrates the strong growth of the AU Game Lab, said Grace. “In just 15 months, the Game Lab went from an idea on paper to a key collaborator in one of the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s most successful games events. Thanks to AU’s institutional support, the Game Lab has become a central resource in developing the games community in the DC metro area and beyond.”  

The arcade focused primarily on video games created in the mid-Atlantic area. Independent game developers from DC, Baltimore, and Philadelphia brought some of the most cutting-edge examples of their newest and most exciting work. Participants got to meet the developers, play lots of games, and even learn how to create their own games. 

"We wanted to bring attention to indie games in our region and give the public an opportunity to meet game developers in person," said Chris Totten, AU Game Lab's artist-in-residence and chair of the Washington, DC, IGDA chapter. 

“When I was growing up, games seemed to be made by mystery guys who lived far away,” Totten explained. “This is no longer true, and we want the general public to meet real, local people just like them who make games. We want them to know that they can make games too—and that they can express themselves through games they create.”  

 

Old Games, New Games, and Classes 

One of the surprises of the pop-up arcade was the wide diversity of the games created in the mid-Atlantic region. Highlights included Alum, a point-and click narrative adventure game; Dr. SpaceZoo, which lets players save animals from aliens; Lord and Ladies, an indie-produced virtual board game; Let There Be Life, a meditative game with hand-painted watercolor artwork; and, Flutterbombs, which gives users a virtual reality helmet and lets them shoot through the sky as a butterfly.  

The AU Game Lab presented several games of their own. Totten shared Dead Man’s Trail, described by gaming review website VGW as “a truly innovative approach to the zombie apocalypse by combining Oregon Trail-inspired travel gameplay with Diablo-style dungeon crawling.” Arcade participants also lined up to play Grace’s Big Huggin’ game, which challenged users to hug a giant teddy bear to help the on-screen bear get past various obstacles. 

Totten and Grace said that the arcade showed the public that video games aren’t just for entertainment anymore. Many are educational, and they can change the way people think about social and political movements and events. “Participants played social impact games, designed to change the way we understand topics as diverse as immigration or the culture of native Alaskans,” said Grace.  

At the same time, participants could play plenty of classic arcade games like Asteroids, Pac-Man, Tron, Star Wars, Donkey Kong, Nintendo’s Duck Hunt, and more. Also throughout the day, the Hirshhorn Museum’s ArtLab+ presented workshops for children and adults on making their own simple video games and 3D characters.

 

Video Games: A Growing Part of American Culture 

This is not the first time that video games have been featured at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. The indie arcade follows the success of the museum’s 2012 Art of Video Games exhibition. The exhibit, which celebrated video games as an art form, broke attendance records and is still traveling to other museums across the nation.  

The Smithsonian first approached Totten and the AU Game Lab to help in developing educational programming for its current Watch This! New Directions in the Art of the Moving Image exhibition, which features multimedia digital art. From there, the idea for a pop-up arcade grew into reality, as Totten worked to get the mid-Atlantic IGDA chapters involved. 

“The support by the Smithsonian American Art Museum demonstrates an institutional acceptance of the creative efforts in game-making as art,” said Grace. “Games are being recognized as more than mere entertainment, but as an expressive, culturally relevant medium. Games, in all their forms, are overcoming the same hurdles as other popular forms of media. Like various forms of music (e.g. rock, rap, or techno), games are emerging from the niche of geek culture to integral elements of everyday life.” 

 

The Future: More Pop-Ups, More Collaboration 

Totten said that the arcade’s success laid the groundwork for future collaborations with the Smithsonian and other museums. Grace added that the Game Lab is already thinking about planning a similar event for 2015. “Visitors can expect more of what made this year great, and some new elements that provide a national perspective on the creative efforts of game makers across the nation.”

Tags: College of Arts and Sciences,School of Communication,Gamelab,Gamers
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Title: Five Continents in the Classroom
Author: Domanique Jordan
Subtitle:
Abstract: When not in the classroom, Bill Gentile is criss-crossing the world to practice his craft.
Topic: Communications
Publication Date: 12/08/2014
Content:

The School of Communication is known to bring in professors with expansive professional backgrounds who are still practicing their field, and Gentile exemplifies this with his extensive global correspondence experience, which continues to grow. 

"I've been at American University since 2003. Since then, I've created three courses. Photojournalism, Foreign Correspondence and Backpack Journalism," said Gentile. "The classes bounce off of what I've been doing for almost 40 years. The information and contacts I establish overseas and bring back to my students is invaluable." 

Of the three courses he has created, Gentile takes most pride in his Backpack Journalism course, which provides a strong sense of realities to the changing world of journalism.  

He is mapping the landscape of emerging techniques and technologies for visual storytellers and educating the next generation of video journalists in the spirit and tradition of photojournalism and documentary filmmaking. 

Gentile's career spans five continents. He has conducted workshops and video journalism presentations in the United States, El Salvador, Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama, Uruguay, Venezuela, the former Soviet Republic of Georgia and Cuba. 

For his latest film, he followed a team of female Kabul University law students from Afghanistan to Hong Kong in their journey to compete in the Vis Moot, one of the world's most prestigious international arbitration contests. This will be the first female team from Afghanistan to compete in the competition.

He's teaching the same skills to professionals in the field that he is sharing with his students in the classroom. 

"In the former Soviet Republic of Georgia, I worked with journalists who would take their Samsung smartphones into the field and perform the entire journalistic task by themselves," said Gentile as he described how he came up with the concept of the course. "They were shooting video with their phones, recording interviews for print stories, taking photos for multimedia and calling in their stories from the field." 

As the notion of a camera crew falls by the wayside in field reporting, the Backpack Journalism course focuses on reporters acting as one-man-bands by using handheld devices and the internet to communicate globally. 

Gentile said that he feels like it's his responsibility to make sure that his students are experiencing in class what the future of the field will be. 

"I not only have a professional responsibility but I feel like I have a profound moral responsibility to do everything that I can for my students," said Gentile.

To find more information about the Backpack Journalism course, visit http://www.american.edu/soc/backpack/index.cfm

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newsId: EA231AA3-E564-8E56-FA055BDCE2A4CF87
Title: From Newsroom to Classroom and Back Again
Author:
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Abstract: Victoria St. Martin shares why she left a job at the Star-Ledger for SOC's journalism MA program and talks about her new beat at the Washington Post.
Topic: Journalism
Publication Date: 11/25/2014
Content:

While earning her MA in Journalism at American University, Victoria St. Martin, a former reporter for The Star-Ledger and The Times-Picayune, compiled an impressive record of success, including a prominent fellowship with the Washington Post, contributions to SOC's Water Project and The Hungry DC.

St. Martin, who recently joined the Post's Metro staff full time and will be reporting from the Post bureau in Manassas, recently shared how her experience in the program helped prepare her for this exciting and challenging role.

Q: As a practicing professional, why did you decide to get a Master's degree in journalism?
A: For me, ultimately, the decision was that I felt like I needed these skills and I felt like I needed to move my career to the next level. It wasn't going to happen in a two-hour training. I needed time out from the newsroom with someone who could teach me these skills. There's just not enough time in the newsroom to do that. And for me it was about not only advancing my career, but I felt like I needed a refresher course. Before the program I felt behind. Now, I don't. And at the end of the day the industry is constantly changing—and we need to change with it. 

Q: What types of projects or initiatives have you worked on in your time at SOC?
A: The one that sticks out to me the most is Hungry DC with professor [Amy] Eisman's class. We created a newsroom and reported on hunger in the DC area. I was the photography editor for the project and also worked on a story about suburban hunger in Maryland. It was really amazing because—I'm a print reporter, I only write and that's it, and when I came to the program that was all I did. So, taking on the role of photo editor was a huge task, but I think I learned so much about my eye and just this idea that I'm a creative person—and that it doesn't matter whether I'm writing, taking photos, shooting video or audio, but that I can do it because all of these things work together to tell the story.

Shooting in the Wild Q: What is your most memorable experience as a Washington Post fellow, and also as part of professor John Sullivan's investigative reporting practicum with the Post.
A: I'd been in the business for 10 years before starting the program, and had been either general assignment or a beat reporter and never really had the chance to delve into things the way I wanted to.

Sullivan's class was key because I got to see the behind the scenes of how these things [investigative stories] go on. It wasn't just me by myself. It was learning how an investigative piece really comes together—an opportunity a lot of beat reporters never get to see their whole career. And not only see it be done, but know that it's attainable, it's possible and that you're not limited.

Q: How did your SOC experience prepare you for your new role with the Post?
A: I would learn things in class and then literally be able to test them out immediately. I got to cut video in professor Andrew Lih's class on Tuesday and on Thursday cut video at the Post. And sometimes they used my videos and sometimes they didn't—but it was so valuable to be able to put to use right away what I learned.

In professor Angie Chuang's class we covered Congress and it was something I had never done. I think, coming to Washington, that's something that can be really overwhelming. But learning how to do that in a classroom setting was so key because now when I'm thrown out to do it for the Post I'm not freaked out, I know I can do it.

Victoria St. MartinQ: What is your biggest takeaway from your experience at SOC?
A: Journalism doesn't have to be difficult. You don't always need the big camera, and tripod. Sometimes you just need your brain and an iphone.

Q: What advice do you have for current and prospective students?
A: Take it all in. For me, I'm a person first, and a journalist second. And I think it's important to remember to step back and just let the story tell itself. And as a graduate student I really wanted to soak up every minute and focus in on this experience. I was so hungry to learn these skills—and would do it again in a heart beat. The Vicky before the program, and the Vicky now are totally different people, and a totally different journalist.

Q: Why was it such an advantage to be in Washington, D.C.?
A:
Washington, D.C. is your playground, the nation's capital. It's so key, and one of the reasons I choose the program. Like professor Chuang and Eisman say, "If you can report here, you can report anywhere." And it's totally true. You have everything here—the small local government, the big-time government, the surrounding communities. No matter what you want to cover—it's all here.

Tags: Communication,Graduate Students,Graduate Studies,Journalism (SOC),Journalism,Alumni,School of Communication
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Title: Covering the Elections: SOC Edition
Author: Paola Chavez
Subtitle:
Abstract: What classroom? Graduate sudent Paola Chavez spent Nov. 4 covering the elections for major news outlets.
Topic: Journalism
Publication Date: 11/24/2014
Content:

As I finish my first semester of American University's journalism MA program, I'd rate covering the midterm elections as one of the best experiences yet. It gave me a chance to test out some of the skills I'd acquired in the classroom in real time, on deadline, for real news outlets. And I learned a thing or two along the way.    

On Tuesday, November 4, the polls opened at 6 a.m. Soon thereafter, I tightened up my coffee thermos and I was off to cover the 10th District race (Barbara Comstock v. John Foust) in my hometown of Northern Virginia.    

I started my day at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Vienna, Virginia where the flow of voters was slow but steady. My classmates were doing similar work at polls throughout the region.

My job was not only to talk to voters and find out why they were voting in the midterm elections, but also to observe voting trends, whether it be political party affiliations or the range of age groups participating. What I thought would be a challenge ended up being a lot easier than anticipated, because voters were willing to share.   

For my classmate and aspiring sports reporter, Brieon Paige, the experience made her realize just how much she has grown as a reporter, gaining the skills necessary to tell a compelling and accurate story. 

"I've learned the importance of using different platforms of social media efficiently," said Paige. "Campaign coverage gives people the chance to voice their opinions, sharing their hopes for future leaders, and as a reporter we serve as the middle-man."    

One of the greatest opportunities that day was the chance to work for major news outlets- The Washington Post, WTOP and WAMU- throughout the day.   

Co-web design editor for our class website, Beltway Ballots, Merissa Thomas covered the Maryland gubernatorial election, and was published by WAMU.

"I familiarized myself with the major issues brought up during the MD gubernatorial campaigns and arrived at the polls as early as I could. During the interviews I conducted with voters I made sure to ask what in particular they supported this election coverage," said Thomas. "I soon realized how bored Marylanders were by the candidates but how passionate they felt towards the controversial tax hikes in the state. I knew with that peg, my story for WAMU would write itself."   

Despite covering different areas in DC, Maryland and Virginia, as a class we shared similar experiences, including insight into how the MA program is preparing us.   

After a very long and busy day, I ended the night in Barbara Comstock's hometown of McLean, Virginia. There, I had an opportunity to speak to the Republican candidate herself, as well as a former candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates, Kathleen Murphy.   

After a 12-hour workday, four…maybe five cups of coffee later, we met our deadlines and survived. Read Paola Chavez's Election Survival Guide

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Title: Gaining Real World Experience through NABJ
Author: Brianna Williams
Subtitle:
Abstract: National Association of Black Journalists training a game-changer for one student.
Topic: Communications
Publication Date: 11/20/2014
Content: Below is a first person account from SOC undergraduate journalism student Brianna Williams on her experience at a training hosted by the National Association of Black Journalists at Florida A&M University.

I went in print journalism minded, and came out with a whole new perspective. 

In September, I had the opportunity to attend the Florida A&M University Multimedia Short Course on behalf of the National Association of Black Journalists. NABJ is an organization that I've been a part of for a little over a year now and I couldn't have made a better decision than this one. 

The organization offers two multimedia short courses during the year, one in the fall and one in the spring. Short courses are three or four day intensive journalism boot camps that prepare journalism students for the field that lies ahead.

I was the only print journalism student among 19 other broadcast journalism and mass communication students. I decided to not let that faze me, learn as much as I could and gain great skills and contacts from the program. It only made me more motivated to show that I could do the same tasks as those students, and maybe even do them better. 

Throughout my time at the short course, I really got to see what it's like to be a real, working journalist. Journalism and communications is not a 9-5 job; it's a 24-7 job, it never ends. Although my colleagues and I ran on little sleep, our drive and excitement were results of our work.

I was able to go out into the city of Tallahassee and cover real stories. While I was there, I helped to cover two stories: one on the StarMetro veterans program and the Wine and Cheese celebration for the inauguration of FAMU's first female president. Covering these stories allowed me to experience and practice broadcast journalism in shooting footage, doing standups and editing the film.

By the end of the short course, my fellows and I were able to produce a newscast that was written, produced, shot and edited completely by us. Individually, I edited almost a whole newscast worth of video, wrote some VO/SOT (voiceover/sound on tape), and reported, shot and edited an entire package which I can now use to show my versatility.

At the end of the mostly broadcast based program, I learned a lot about broadcast journalism and production, more than I had ever considered. My mentors were also surprised with how much I soaked up, and accomplished. Doing the short course allowed me to see that I truly want to pursue broadcast journalism and digital platforms as career pathways. It helped me to solidify my career goal of being a multimedia journalist.

 

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Title: Student Media Leader: Sean Meehan
Author: Jordan-Marie Smith
Subtitle:
Abstract: Current Dean's Intern and The Eagle's web editor shares some of his most rewarding experiences at SOC.
Topic: Communications
Publication Date: 11/11/2014
Content:

American University student media leaders share their experiences and lessons learned working at various AU media outlets, and discuss how SOC has contributed to their success.

Year: 2015
Major: Print Journalism and Literature
Internship: Current Newspaper


Where are you interning/working?

I'm the Web Editor at The Eagle and a Dean's Intern at Current newspaper which covers public and nonprofit media.

What do you do, specifically?

At The Eagle, I make sure that the website stays up and running and troubleshoot any problems on the site. I also help copy edit. At Current, I write articles about public radio and TV professionals and new projects in the field.

How did you get involved with The Eagle and Current?

I got my internship at Current by applying to the Dean's Internship program. I got involved with The Eagle during Welcome Week of my freshman year. I contacted the editor-in-chief and said that I had some experience with web management on my high school newspaper and that I was interested in helping out with the web staff of The Eagle. I was then told that the Web Editor was planning to leave in a few weeks for an internship, and so I became the new Web Editor and learned the job as I went with a lot of help from upperclassmen on The Eagle.

Have any SOC classes helped you with your internship/job? What specific skills/classes?

Any SOC class that has you actually write articles is going to help immensely if only because you so rarely get someone to read your writing so critically and attentively. Editors will tell you where you messed up, but they won't give you the kind of in-depth feedback that SOC professors do.

What else has SOC helped you with?

I've met a lot of faculty who have not only taught me how to be a better reporter and writer, but how to think like one all the time.

What's the most rewarding part of your internship at Current?

The most rewarding part of any journalism job to me is being able to talk to people and hear their stories and spread them to a wider audience, and this really applies to any field of writing I think. Covering public media, it's rewarding to know that you're recognizing people for their hard work and helping spread best practices around the industry. I also hope to work in non-profit or public media after graduation, so it's been really cool to cover the whole industry and get a better understanding of how it all works.

Fun Qs:

What do you like to listen to when you work?

If I'm doing research I like to listen to whatever is playing on WVAU. If I need a pick-me-up I listen to dancier synth things like Erasure and New Order. If I need to write really quickly - and I acknowledge that this is cheesy - I put on either Meatloaf or some really hardcore stuff like Leftover Crack or Body Count, anything that's too fast and loud for it's own good.

Best place to study in McKinley?

On the rooftop and anybody who says otherwise is lying to you.

Best SOC Professor?

This is a question that is designed to get me in trouble. I don't like to pick favorites, but some that have made a big difference for me are Jane Hall, Roger Streitmatter, Lynne Perri and Charles Lewis.

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Title: War in the Reel World
Author: Gregg Sangillo
Subtitle:
Abstract: Army veteran and AU alum Mike Hardy put his experience to work on critically-acclaimed movie.
Topic: Television & Film
Publication Date: 11/11/2014
Content:

A Script to Believe In

While attending American University's School of Communication for graduate school, Mike Hardy took a course on screenwriting. Yet this educational experience extended far beyond the boundaries of one classroom. Before he knew it, he was dealing with Hollywood actors and working on a critically-acclaimed motion picture.

So, how did this happen? Hardy's professor, Claudia Myers, was preparing to direct a film about an Army medic returning from Afghanistan and reconnecting with her son. This was familiar subject matter to Hardy, who had a long military career. He approached Myers, and she would later recruit him to work on her movie, Fort Bliss.

Hardy had a number of responsibilities on the film. He read through parts of the script to make sure it accurately depicted the military. He helped Myers gain access to military equipment and filming locations by working with the Army's liaison office in Hollywood. Hardy, who had previously dealt with that office, remembers calling to make his pitch. "I said, 'Here's a script. And I'm not giving it to you just because,'" he recalls. "'I'm giving it to you because I believe in it. It's a great script. You guys need to look at it.'"

Hardy also got heavily involved in fundraising for the film. And while on location, he was a driver for the movie's star, Michelle Monaghan. He later took part in some of the opening festivities when the movie ran at the West End Cinema in Washington, D.C. At one of those screenings, he met the evening's surprise guest, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel.

An Army Life

Fort Bliss explores the human side of war for military service members and their families. Hardy could certainly relate, as the U.S. Army has influenced almost every aspect of his life. His Vietnam vet-father was a career Army sergeant, with Mike Hardy living the military brat life in California, Japan, Germany, and other places. He has an early, harrowing memory of coming home from school one day to see a hearse—which he feared was for his father—parked outside his house. (It turned out to be a false alarm, and he says a neighbor was using it.)

Hardy eventually enlisted, serving 24 years in the Army and rising to the level of lieutenant colonel. He's served in a number of conflict areas: Somalia, the Balkans, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

On overseas assignments, he's seen how societies get all too accustomed to violence and death. During one potential standoff in Mogadishu, with Americans on one side and the enemy facing them, a man appeared out of nowhere in beach clothes. "In between us walks this super tall Somali, wearing a scuba mask and flip- flops, and just kind of like whistling. He was so oblivious to the fact that he's walking in between this thing," Hardy recounts.

Yet back in the U.S., civilians are less acquainted with wartime atrocities. This makes getting re-acclimated to American life an arduous process for many veterans. "When you first get back, for most of my peers, it's alien to be here. To be able to walk into a store and get coffee and not have the idea that, 'Let me see who around here is wearing a suicide vest.' And the fact that life goes on," he says. Hardy says that, over time, it's gotten easier for him to return from war zones. "The first time I went to combat, when I came back to the U.S., any noise I had to react to and I had to watch just to make sure it wasn't a threat," he says. "This time coming back I wasn't so hyper-alert. It was just strange to be in a society that's not necessarily paying attention to the war."

For the occasion of Veterans Day this week, Americans will honor men and women for their military service. Yet for a country with no draft and a noticeable civilian-soldier divide, does clapping at a sporting event during "God Bless America" really suffice? Hardy definitely appreciates the support from the broader public. "When someone says, 'Thank you for your service,' in my mind I hear, 'Thank you for your sacrifice.'"

Building His Portfolio

Hardy's involvement with Fort Bliss should help his career. Claudia Myers's movie has garnered rave reviews and currently holds an 80% favorability rating on the website Rotten Tomatoes. The Washington Post wrote that "Fort Bliss joins Coming Home and The Best Years of Our Lives as a movie deeply in sync, not just with the military characters it depicts, but also with the civilian world that awaits them with such confoundingly mixed messages." The Philadelphia Inquirer gave it 3 ½ out of 4 stars, writing that it "addresses big issues, in ways that are never simplistic or dogmatic." The Los Angeles Times described it as an "unflinching and complex character study" and a "vividly drawn psychological profile."

Over the weekend, Fort Bliss won the Peer Gold-Independent Feature award and the Best of D.C. award from the Television, Internet & Video Association of D.C.

Hardy got invaluable experience on this movie and was credited as associate producer. Hardy earned his master's degree in producing film and video from AU in 2012. Earlier in his career, he did film production at the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pa. Hardy was recently spotlighted by the District of Columbia Office of Motion Picture and Television Development as October Filmmaker of the Month. These days, he's picking up freelance video projects and hoping to build up his portfolio. What's the ultimate goal? Make his own Hollywood military movie someday.

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Title: Kill Screen Founder Inspires Students
Author: Domanique Jordan
Subtitle:
Abstract: Jamin Warren argues that video games are the new research and development for future-facing brands.
Topic: Communications
Publication Date: 11/10/2014
Content:

Nearly 100 students from American University and visiting colleges filled the Forman Theater on Saturday, October 25, for the second annual Games for Good, Games for All summit, "Launching your Career in Games and Gaming."

The free event brought out gamers and graphic designers with different levels of experience to learn more about the trade through lectures, workshops and invaluable tips from keynote speaker Jamin Warren.

Warren, founder of video game arts and culture company Kill Screen and former culture reporter for the Wall Street Journal, coached the attendees on how to inject game design into national conversation. 

He asserted that video games are the new research and development for future-facing brands. 

"The future of games isn't technology, it's culture," said Warren. "Games are desire-based use cases for technology. If you watch what's happening in games, you'll see future trends." 

Warren said that gaming involves more than just enjoying them in their free time, it's about uniting diverse people.

"People like video games because of the rules of the game," said Warren. "Rules create a sense of community for everyone playing."

For graphic designers, Warren pointed out how many games are developed based on how people view the world. 

For those students who were more interested in the technical part of game development, Warren offered two suggestions for what needs to be done for games in the future:

1.   When you develop games, "look at them from the outside in. Meaning, look at other conversations that are happening in other mediums outside from your own." Then, think of ways to make your games "applicable to your everyday job whether you work for a university or a law firm," said Warren. 

2.   Future game developers need to make it their job to make "the invisible, visible." Games play an important role in "building bridges to islands and lay the stones for the foundation of gaming," said Warren. 

The event was coordinated by American University School of Communication in collaboration with Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications at Hampton University.

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newsId: 4D9FB6D6-5056-AF26-BECD1B3F2095E040
Title: Nate Beeler Draws The News
Author: Rebecca Vander Linde
Subtitle:
Abstract: Alumnus Nate Beeler is an award-winning editorial cartoonist.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 12/11/2014
Content:

“There is something primal about a hand-drawn image that goes back to people painting on caves. We’ve always had cartoons, and editorial cartooning has a very rich history in the United States. It’s a powerful way to have a voice in the national conversation,” says Nate Beeler, SOC/BA ’02, an award-winning editorial cartoonist for the Columbus Dispatch.

By now, Beeler’s cartoons are certainly part of the national dialogue. His depiction of the Statue of Liberty and Lady Justice embracing following the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) won the 2014 John Fischetti Editorial Cartoon Competition.

When the news of DOMA broke, Nate says he struggled for inspiration at first, but once he knew what he wanted to portray: the joy of same-sex couples as well as the scope and historical significance of the ruling, he says, “It seemed a natural fit to put Lady Justice and Lady Liberty together because this decision affirmed freedom and also righted an injustice.”

Nate draws five editorial cartoons each week for the Columbus Dispatch and his cartoons are also syndicated internationally to more than 800 other publications. “When you’re an editorial cartoonist, your work is basically a visual column, and you fall into the natural rhythm of the news,” he says.

Nate uses the newspaper and Twitter to track the national news conversation and search for topics that will resonate with his audience. Once he chooses a topic, he does extensive reading to determine how he feels about the topic, which guides his editorial approach.

His first foray into creating a cartoon tied to a national news story was for the edition of The Eagle published after September 11, 2001. Nate drew an image of the Twin Towers with angel wings, and the original drawing still hangs in The Eagle offices today. In fact, the The Eagle was Nate’s first stop when he arrived on campus, and he still stays in touch with his former Eagle colleagues and fellow alumni, including Brett Zongker, Scott Rosenberg, and Andrew Noyes.

American University’s strong journalism program and location in Washington, D.C. motivated Nate, a Columbus native, to attend AU. During his time in college, he was an editorial cartoonist for The Eagle and created two comic strips: Undergrad and Lawn Darts from God. His work with The Eagle earned him the prestigious Charles M. Schulz Award for best college cartoonist as well as the John Locher Award.

Since then, he has won more recognition, including the 2009 Thomas Nast Award from the Overseas Press Club and the 2008 Berryman Award from the National Press Foundation.

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Title: SOC Alumna Lands Media Spot with Oprah
Author: Kristena Wright and Penelope Butcher
Subtitle:
Abstract: SOC Alumna Lands Media Spot with Oprah
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 12/09/2014
Content:

Nicole Howard, SOC/BA '10, who works as the communications coordinator for AU's School of Professional and Extended Studies, says she came to AU to study sports communication and journalism.

"I'm not sure what is was, but I knew I had to come to D.C. for the exposure I wanted. After taking a few classes, public communication became my major," says Nicole. Writing became an integral part of her life, but she wanted to think of ways of make it match up with her career aspirations. Little did she know she would develop the details and skills to one day work for Oprah Winfrey.

After graduation, Nicole began contributing to forcoloredgurls.com, a blog inspiring and empowering women readers to reach their dreams, as a writer. Her first piece, "Blessing in the Storm," was about dealing with being laid off. Her other contributions included a series titled "My Almost Quarter-Life Crisis" and a story covering a National Council for Negro Women event. The founder of forcoloredgurls.com asked Nicole to write a book review for the site, but Nicole knew she needed her own blog in order to really get her writing where it could be noticed.

In December 2013 Nicole started her blog, shininlight.com, using Wordpress. The blog led to writing for adult fiction novelist Danielle Allen's Back to Reality book tour hosted by Carter's Books, and Nicole began reviewing memoirs and books about relationships. This led her to meet Mandy Hale, author of Single Woman. In Hale's book, she talks about her experience traveling as blogger as a part of Oprah's Lifeclass series on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), and it stuck with Howard.

Not long after reading Single Woman, Nicole discovered Oprah was coming to D.C. for her "The Life You Want" tour and needed media personnel. Nicole reached out to Hale for advice and was inspired to apply to be part of the Oprah Tour team. One week before the tour came to town, Nicole received word that she had been chosen to work on the team. She immediately started a page on her blog, as well as a Pinterest page, specifically devoted to the Oprah tour.  

"The Oprah tour taught me to not be afraid to go big, to turn an experience into usable, share-able content" she says. She also explains how the tour really helped her with branding and credibility. "The tour was a leap of faith, the live tweeting and taking pictures for the tour gave me the confidence and skills I needed to expand my blog," she says. Although it has concluded, Nicole continues to interact with the tour through social media. It helps her gain followers, and she now has contacts at OWN. 

In her spare time, Nicole works as an advocate for mental health issues and awareness. She also volunteers at American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Keeping her writing in the forefront, she writes self-love posts on her blog, and also writes for Mind of a Diva, a blog featuring real life experiences as told through the thoughts of a women in her twenties. 

During her time at AU, Nicole was a part of the Summer Transition Enrichment Program, the gospel choir, and the Federal Work Study program. Nicole's advice to aspiring writers is very direct: "Get as much experience writing as you can. Get published if you can. Write for the school or local newspaper. Learn your voice. Pay attention to little grammar details. Stay in the writing center. Try different areas to find your niche, and then focus on your niche."

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Title: Alisyn Camerota, SOC/BA ’88, joins CNN
Author: Traci Crockett
Subtitle:
Abstract: After 16 years at FOX News Channel, Alisyn Camerota recently began as an anchor at CNN.
Topic: Alumni Profile
Publication Date: 10/02/2014
Content:

Alisyn Camerota, SOC/BA '88, says she arrived on American University's campus "with a vision of someday, somehow becoming a TV news reporter." And, that's just what she's done. After 16 years at FOX News Channel, she recently began work at CNN, anchoring both morning and primetime programs and covering special stories for the cable news giant.  

"I am loving my new job," Alisyn says. "There's been breaking news on a global scale for months now." In her short time at CNN, she's worked with a variety of co-anchors and producers on both New Day and CNN Tonight. "It's been pretty thrilling. It's been a whirlwind getting to know my new colleagues and getting to know how CNN operates," she says. 

Alisyn is settling in to a new routine –on some level. "Regular hours are not synonymous with news casting," she says with a laugh. She went from being on-air regularly in the early morning hours to anchoring the 10 p.m. newscast along with Don Lemon throughout the month of September. "I feel really fortunate to have this new opportunity," she says. 

Alisyn credits internships and hands-on experience while a student with launching her career. "Because of AU, I was able to achieve what I set out to do," she says. "I got a great internship and it connected me to all sorts of power players in the news business, and that was my launching pad." 

Because of her own experience as a student, Alisyn has remained actively involved with the School of Communication as an alumni mentor, a member of the SOC Dean's Council, and a host for students on site visits in New York. "I'm so grateful that I had a great academic and pre-professional experience at AU that I want to make sure other students have the same," she says. "I know of the goldmine of graduates that American has…And, I just know that if the current students can tap into that resource, then their future is that much easier." 

Alisyn has also made a lasting mark on McKinley, the new home of the School of Communication. Thanks to her generosity, it is also home to the brand new Alisyn Camerota Inspiration Lounge, which Alisyn describes as a one-of-a-kind space where the historic portion of the building meets the with the newly constructed areas –a vantage point showcasing both the past and the present. She's proud to say that the lounge bearing her name is "the bridge between the past American University building and the new School of Communication and all that will be accomplished there in the future."

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Title: Keosha Varela: Journey Through Digital Space
Author: Kristena Wright
Subtitle:
Abstract: Alumni Board Member Koesha Varela makes her mark in the digital world.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 08/15/2014
Content:

Keosha Varela, SOC/BA '07, SOC/MA '08, currently serves as the digital producer at The Aspen Institute in Washington, D.C. But working in digital production was not originally her career aspiration. "I knew I was going to be a lawyer and later on a politician," Keosha says. "AU was always my first choice school and I couldn't wait to get there. Early on, I realized that rather than campaign to spend a short amount of time on the issue of the day, I could raise more awareness by telling the story and following its development," she explains. Keosha decided to go into journalism, saying that she loves reading and writing. "I still wanted to contribute to society in a meaningful way so I decided to tell people's stories. I wanted to be someone who alerted the world on unjust stories so that we could make a change."

Keosha says she was determined to get as much experience as possible to be able to land a job after graduation. "I used the AU career center and Google religiously" she exclaims, which landed her internships with WAMU 88.5, BBC News, and AARP. Her persistence paid off and led her to the highly competitive NBC Universal News Associates Program in New York City. There she helped to produce segments for the The Today Show, MSNBC, and Dateline. She also worked on the launch team of the African American NBC News website theGrio.com. She went on to become an online news editor for WAMU, an editor and producer for WBUR.org, and the social media strategist for the American Clean Skies Foundation. 

When asked what she enjoys most about her career today, she says, "It's such a multi-faceted position. I'm not doing the same thing every day. I enjoy a little bit of everything versus sticking to one task on a daily basis." Keosha's experience has also opened doors for her to delve into her love of writing and interviewing people. As a freelance writer, her work has been published in Sister 2 Sister magazine, The Grio, AARP's The Bulletin newspaper, msnbc.com, and other media outlets. 

Through her success, Keosha admits she had to adjust to a few things that come with the job. "There's a good chance of getting good paying job, but you quickly learn digital news is 24-7. Jobs are typically 9-5 but if breaking information needs to be released, you're expected to do so no matter what time it is." She sums up her advice to students into three points. 

  1. Get as many internships as you can.
  2. Take initiative during internships. A degree doesn't automatically mean a job. Be sure to suggest positive changes at your internship
  3. Never give up. It's not as easy as it may seem. But those who are successful never gave up.

While at AU, Keosha was involved in a multitude of groups and organizations. She was a proud member of the alto section of the gospel choir and an active member of Alpha Kappa Alpha, Lambda Zeta Chapter. She also served as a resident assistant on the second floor of Letts Hall and in the summers, she was an RA on Tenley campus. 

Keosha moved back to the area from New York with a goal of reigniting school spirit in friends and the AU community. Her first step toward this goal begins with her service as a current Alumni Board member. Keosha hopes to continue in digital space and eventually wants to oversee digital and editorial content and strategy. She has loved AU since her freshman year of high school and has her sights set on someday teaching at the college level.

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Title: Building Upon a Family History
Author: Mike Rowan
Subtitle:
Abstract: After her valuable AU experience—and now her daughter’s—Mary McCarthy Hayford and her family are helping lay the groundwork for the university’s next generation.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 03/27/2014
Content:

Stroll along the west side of the quad, passing Frisbees floating across the grass and cheerful student organizations camped outside of Mary Graydon, and at either end of campus you will find a building that has been transformed within the last five years. Across the street from the Katzen Arts Center, the Kogod School of Business opened a 20,000-square-foot expansion in 2008. A few hundred yards down, next to Bender Library, stands the newly reopened McKinley building, the state-of-the-art new home of the School of Communication. Though housing separate schools, and situated on opposite ends of campus, there’s a strong thread connecting the two of them—the Hayford family.

Mary McCarthy Hayford, Kogod/MBA ’78, did her graduate work at AU’s business school, but when she attended, it did not yet bear the Kogod name. It was simply called the School of Business Administration. Classes were housed in the Ward Circle Building, and offices were in the cozy quarters of the Hamilton Building (known then as Hamilton Hall).

“I remember picking AU based on my perception that the administrators and faculty were more accessible,” McCarthy Hayford shares as she recalls her AU experience. “I look back not only on the great full-time professors in subjects which appeal to me, but also on several adjunct professors who imparted real world experiences. For me, that exposure to professionals working in industry was essential to seeing how the theoretical was applied in the real world, and to envisioning the type of career I would want to pursue.”

When the Kogod School of Business announced plans for its expansion campaign, Mary and her husband, Warren, signed on to help by making a major contribution to the building. Their generosity is marked by a plaque adorning one of the new classrooms inside, which displays their names.

Then, three years later, when the effort to renovate McKinley began, the Hayfords were there again, eager to give back once more, naming the facility’s new audio editing suite.

Why jump in to support another major project, especially when the family had so significantly dedicated themselves to an effort close to their hearts just a few years earlier? One reason is that their daughter, Margaret, SOC/BA ’13, just finished a very positive undergraduate career in the School of Communication.

“We feel strongly that SOC and AU provided Margaret with the experience she needs to pursue her career goals,” McCarthy Hayford articulates. “AU was one of few schools where she could study film and graphic design while still broadening her education in history, science and social science. She capped off her SOC experience with a semester in the film school in Prague where she worked with a small group to create a professional-quality film.”

In addition to Margaret, the Hayfords are parents to Amanda, a 2006 alumna of Oberlin College, and Warren, who graduated from George Washington University in 2012. Ms. McCarthy Hayford’s husband, Warren John Hayford, is the president and managing director of the software company RatioServices, and is a director of the Warren J. and Marylou Hayford Family Foundation, which his parents founded. The foundation has been instrumental in the Hayfords’ gifts to American University.

Though she has graduated—as have her children—McCarthy Hayford remains an avid learner. While embarking on a path toward starting a new career, she has been steadily auditing courses at the university. “Wherever that takes me, I hope to keep close ties to AU.”

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Title: Alumnus Michael O'Brien's Book Details Symbolic Civil Rights Movement
Author: Ann Royse
Subtitle:
Abstract: Alumnus Michael O'Brien writes an enthralling and historic account of the famous sit-in protest at Woolworth's in Jackson, Mississippi during the height of the civil rights era.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 02/17/2014
Content:

If, during this Black History month, you find yourself searching for a new and enriching story of the civil rights era, look no further than a book by AU alumnus and successful author, Michael (M.J.) O’Brien, SOC/BA ’84. He is the writer of a new and highly popular book titled We Shall Not Be Moved: The Jackson Woolworth’s Sit-In and the Movement It Inspired, a story accounting the infamous and nonviolent protest in Jackson, Mississippi, during the turbulent American civil rights era. The book has received multiple accolades, and, according to Julian Bond, distinguished adjunct professor at AU and former NAACP Chairman, “Michael O’Brien has written a detailed history and fascinating study of one of the iconic moments of the modern civil rights movement and the powerful effect it had.”

The spark that ignited the passion and growth of this book begins with a single photograph found in the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta, Georgia. While Michael was visiting the center, he came upon the photograph, which features three young people conducting a “sit-in” protest at the counter of Woolworth’s, surrounded by a violent and angry mob of Mississippi citizens. Shockingly, one of the iconic faces staring back at him was that of an old and very dear friend named Joan (Trumpauer) Mulholland. Joan had humbly omitted ever mentioning her historic involvement with the civil rights movement in Jackson to Michael.

With this new knowledge, he set out on a mission to uncover and tell the story behind the faces in this photograph and the grassroots civil rights movement surrounding the iconic protest. In essence, he used this image as the central organizing feature to tell a much larger story regarding one of the most tumultuous times in American history.

When discussing his book, Michael is quick to recognize American University as a major contributor to his success in writing. He specifically attributes his own growth in confidence to the education he received at AU in the School of Communication, saying it was “the best training I’ve ever had.” Michael fondly recalls former faculty member Joe Tinkelman as a primary guide and mentor during his time at AU. Professor Tinkelman encouraged and nurtured Michael’s passion for writing and telling stories about social change and justice, a passion he continues to embrace today.

Michael first met Joan while he was a working as a camp counselor with Joan’s five boys, and the friendship grew from there. Then, on the day he discovered her photograph, he decided to dedicate his work to telling her story and the larger social movement of that time. Indeed, Michael O’Brien’s life and career took an unexpected yet valuable turn after befriending Joan. In fact, AU students should heed this insightful advice of Michael: “Keep your eyes open. You never know who will have a significant impact on your life.” Whether it is a confidant and inspiring professor or a lifelong friend and civil rights activist you meet in the park, Michael says it is clear that certain people and events have the ability to change the course of one’s life and career.

Currently, Michael lives in Virginia with his wife and three adopted children and looks forward to continuing a career of writing about his various passions. He reflects fondly on time at AU, saying, “my education [there] essentially launched my career.”



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Title: AU Alumnus Prepares to Release Film in 2014
Author: Penelope Buchter
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Abstract: Brian Levin SOC/MA '04 is writer/producer for Flock of Dudes
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 11/13/2013
Content:

"I've learned a lot in a short amount of time. I've been lost in the realities of film," Brian Levin, SOC/MA '04, says of his first film, Flock of Dudes, which is set to release in early 2014. This is his first feature-length film, and he says that the process has been an opportunity to put everything he has learned into one work. It has also taken more time than any past project. From the initial idea to make this film until now, Brian reveals that over five years have passed.

The inspiration for the film came from a lot of personal experiences, and Brian thinks they are experiences to which many people will be able to relate. He says, "There's something about the experiences people go through in that time of life; it's a funny and emotional time."  

Now that the film is in post-production, Brian is looking forward to his next projects, some of which he hopes to bring to Washington, D.C. Having grown up in Maryland, Brian has spent a lot of time around the area; he says that there is a special look and feel to D.C. that he hopes to capture on camera. To add to the effect, he hopes to find a cast from around Washington for his next project, which he reveals will be a throwback comedy in the vein of films like The Naked Gun. He expounds, "I'm excited to be making these movies and bringing them back to the area."

However, Brian wasn't always sure that he wanted to go into film. He entered college at Towson University as a mass communications and advertising major interested in commercials. He always loved movies, but film had been merely a hobby for him until he got to college, when he realized that film was where he wanted to make a career.  

There are many aspects of filming, but Brian explains, "I felt pulled more and more toward screen writing as a specialization, then toward producing." To current students, he gives the advice that to succeed you need "persistence, seeing it through to advance in whatever you're doing." And, as it relates to film, he says, "try to be creative every day."

Brian encourages students, saying "take advantage of the fact that you have all this time and these resources." He adds, "AU was a great place for me, to have the tools, teachers, and flexibility to discover what I wanted to do professionally."

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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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newsId: FD7C3446-F8FF-04B2-E9CA6934BDCB7361
Title: A Profile in Compatibility
Author: Rick Horowitz
Subtitle:
Abstract: So many devices, so little time! Alumni couple simplifies cross-platform file transfers, untangles cloud computing.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 07/31/2013
Content:

You have a document on your iPad you need to edit on your Android phone. Or a video on your flash drive you need to send to someone else’s PC. Or a music file over here that absolutely has to be over there.

Welcome to Tech World. And consider the story of two American University grads who continue to bring some much-needed order to this digital jungle while inspiring other young entrepreneurs.

For Donald and Claire Hykes Leka, their four AU degrees—two apiece—are a source of pride. You could also say they’re a source of Glide.

Glide: TransMedia’s computer operating system that seeks to tame the multi-platform, multi-format world of file sharing—moving documents, pictures, videos and music seamlessly across technical borders. And Glide: the subject of a new book the Lekas have co-written to recount the birth and growth and increasing impact of an entrepreneurial techie’s vision, rendered with a storyteller’s eye for detail.

Say the word “Glide” and you think “smooth.” You think “hassle-free.” However, that wasn’t the state of tech world when Donald Leka first started looking at it as an AU grad and Kogod-trained MBA in the late 1990s.

It was quite a different time.

“There was no Dropbox, no SkyDrive, no Google Drive,” Donald Leka recalls. “Ninety-five percent of people had their files on a PC. There was a lot less to connect.”

And now, when seemingly everyone has an assortment of devices and when gigabytes of data reside instantly available in “the cloud”—how does all the data and information move around? And how can you deal with it when it gets where it’s going?

Glide OS is how. When “everything is everywhere,” in Donald’s words, Glide lets “everywhere” talk to, send to, and receive from “everywhere else.” Donald refers to it as “cross-platform compatibility.”

You might apply that same phrase to the Lekas.




Donald, the founder, chairman, and CEO of TransMedia Corporation, had a wide-ranging curiosity and interest in technology from a young age. He recalls learning about the world by watching Walter Cronkite.

Claire meanwhile was several years younger; her own inspiration came from watching Cronkite’s successor, Dan Rather.

That’s what “planted the seeds,” she recalls—the first stirrings of a journalist’s career. When the time came to apply to college, she visited AU and “fell in love with it.” The size of the place—“not too big”—was an attraction. So were the School of Communication’s well-known, well-respected programs in communication and journalism. She could hardly have picked a more eventful time to learn her craft at SOC.

LiveShot 'En Serio'

“A lot of major world events were happening my sophomore year at AU, in 1989— including the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Tiananmen Square massacre. Those events really influenced me and inspired me to seek the truth and report it.”

There was experience to be gained closer to home, too.

“Since AU is based in the ‘Journalism Capital of the World,’” she recalls, “I was able to attend Capitol Hill hearings, Supreme Court arguments, events at The National Press Club…”

She graduated with a major in communication, but soon returned to SOC for a Master’s in broadcast journalism. Her first job was as a part-timer in Hagerstown, Md., covering Rotary Club meetings and house fires. Other jobs soon followed—as a business reporter, business anchor, and correspondent—for Reuters and CNN, NBC News, and CBS News—covering everything from the stock market crash and the Great Recession to the Virginia Tech massacre to the 2012 presidential race. In that time Claire has remained an active member of the SOC Alumni Mentoring Program, building on the impact of her SOC degrees.

Donald’s AU degree, in international relations, also had an impact—as did his Albanian roots. Albania was, in 1990, just emerging from decades as a closed society when Donald was invited by the Ministry of Health to help supply the beleaguered nation with Hepatitis B vaccine, and then a computer and phone system for the ministry. These were among the first commercial transactions between the two long-estranged countries. With the end of the Cold War, Donald co-founded a foundation, funded in part by George Soros and by the U.S. Agency for International Development, to bring additional technical assistance to Albania and other Eastern European nations.

Meanwhile, his appetite for all things tech was growing. And, he says, he “really started to understand format and bit rate issues…really started to understand issues of compatibility.” In this still largely dialup world, getting information from one device to another was “a real headache.”

Donald thought, “If we could build an engine that could just do it…”




Paul Barrett 'CloudComputing'

Now, more than a decade and several updates later Glide has garnered more than 3,000,000 users around the world.

The timing is right for a big step forward, Donald believes—so many different kinds of files, so many different kinds of devices. Most people, he says “don’t care” which platforms they’re on at any given time. They simply want them to work together.

“We’re at a real ‘pain point’ for most users. Before, we were solving a mostly theoretical problem. Now, it solves a real ‘pain point’ for most people. It’s the difference between ‘This is interesting’ and ‘I need this!’”

And with public concern increasing over the secret collection of personal data—by the government, or even by online companies—Donald sees people wanting greater control of their own data, all their own data, with “one login, one search box, one system to manage all your devices and services.” He thinks Glide is positioned just far enough ahead of the demand curve, and ready to ride the wave.

If he’s right, Claire will have had a key role, too. She signed on with TransMedia in 2010 to guide the company’s public-relations efforts and its expanding presence on social media. And the couple has collaborated on a book, Cloud Computing: The Glide OS Story, targeted to other young entrepreneurs, and to anyone interested in cross-platform and cloud computing.

Teaming two strong-willed people on a complicated writing project took work, they both concede: some deep breathing, some counting from one to 10—even, says Claire, that old kindergarten standby, “Take your turn.” Donald sees the contrasting styles—he the techie, she the humanizer, the storyteller—as a definite plus: “There’s good resistance there.”

Or, you could say, compatibility.

 

Tags: Alumni,Faculty,Students,School,School of Communication,Communication,Communication Technology,Information Technology
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Title: AU Alumnus Sees Success at SXSW Film Festival
Author: Tyne Darke, SOC/BA ’13
Subtitle:
Abstract: Producer Chris Leggett, SOC/BA ’08, wins the SXSW Film Festival’s Audience Award for The Short Game.
Topic: Alumni Profile
Publication Date: 07/12/2013
Content:

You could say things have been going pretty well for AU alumnus Chris Leggett, SOC/BA ’08. In March, he won the Audience Award at the South by Southwest Film Festival as a producer for The Short Game, a documentary following eight seven-year-old golfers vying for the top spot at the World Championships of the Junior Golf tournament in North Carolina. The film received a second Audience Award at the Maui Film Festival this June.

But before he was an award-winning producer, Chris was a student in visual media at American University. Chris was attracted to AU for many reasons including the inviting community, the experienced professors, and the connection he developed with the university’s swim team.

Chris acknowledges the influence his time as a competitive swimmer at AU has had on his career, specifically his work ethic. He says, “I may not be the best producer yet, but I definitely work the hardest. It’s all about pushing yourself to the limit, and that’s what you do in athletics. The word ‘no’ should not be in your vocabulary; it should be ‘how.’”

That work ethic shows itself not just in the recent success of The Short Game, but also in the other projects with which Chris keeps himself busy. He covered the 2010 and 2012 Olympics and produced a Webby Award-winning music video for the song “Fjögur píanó” by Icelandic band Sigur Rós. Even though juggling multiple projects often means scheduling “too many meetings, overlapping meetings,” Chris says this makes being a producer “probably the most exciting job in the world.”


For those who are looking to get into the field, Chris’s advice is to “make your own rules” and constantly learn. “The film industry is evolving every day but you’re never doing the same thing twice. Just embrace that,” he says.

The Short Game will be in theaters at the end of the summer. Watch the trailer and learn more about the film.

Tags: Alumni,Alumni Update,School of Communication
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