newsId: 83954B43-5056-AF26-BEE301CA6FA57845
Title: Readying Students to Win in the Workforce
Author: Ericka Floyd
Subtitle: School of Communication student builds his future with innovative work study opportunities.
Abstract: School of Communication student builds his future with innovative work study opportunities.
Topic: Communications
Publication Date: 01/16/2015
Content:

The disruptive nature of technology has rapidly changed the way news is reported and consumed. For students interested in journalism as a career, one must be able to command multiple technologies and share news with readers in new and exciting ways. 

Through the full embrace of technology, American University's School of Communication (SOC) continues to equip and prepare future leaders in the media industry at a pivotal transformative time. School of Communication senior, Geet Jeswani (SOC/BA '15), is a prime example of a highly prepared SOC student who has trained on the latest communication and production technology during his tenure at AU.

Jeswani began his AU career as a political science major, but "quickly fell in love with communications"—specifically journalism—deciding in his junior year to earn a BA in Film and Media Arts to accompany his political science studies. "SOC is going to give me the best skills possible to succeed in the digital world and prepare me to reach my dream of becoming a news producer, and one day managing my own online news bureau," he added. Through this, he hopes to explore ways that the Internet, video, and graphics can be leveraged to provide in-depth analysis and focus on topics that are usually not covered by the mainstream media.

Seizing Opportunities 

Jeswani seized opportunities to grow as a student and as a rising multimedia journalist by applying for AU work study positions, as well as internships to sharpen his knowledge and technical skills. He currently works as a projectionist and production assistant at AU's Malsi Doyle and Michael Forman Theater where he gains experience using a Sony 4K digital cinema projection system and a Denon surround sound system that powers the 145-seat theater. 

Jeswani also works as a camera operator and floor director in the control room of SOC's Media Innovation Lab. There he has hands-on exposure with many components of the production process and is involved in hosting live broadcasts. "I am pretty much taking another college course in this job because I get to work alongside producers, directors, audio engineers and camera operators," says Jeswani. 

Taking ATV to New Heights

Jeswani, who has been working at the student led AU TV station ATV since his freshman year, has taken the station to new heights. ATV is a volunteer driven organization that provides opportunities for its members to gain access to premier after-effects, hands-on work with cameras, and real studio experience in producing 20-minute news segments for the station. During his sophomore year, Jeswani introduced the idea to register ATV with the White House Correspondents Association, to have the opportunity for ATV reporters to cover the White House and related events in the future. He became a White House Correspondent at age 20 and provided the opportunity for his fellow ATV reporters and camera operators to cover breaking news from the White House Briefing Room.

"The whole experience is just mind-blowing," Jeswani recalls. "We were in the presence of a lot of great journalists. Arguably the best in the business such as John King, Ed Henry, and Wolf Blitzer." Jeswani credits SOC with his technical skills in film and television production, including his audio-visual skills and post-production knowledge. "Because of SOC, I have learned professional techniques for filming and editing a news package, which was essential to working on a project at this prestigious level." 

Jeswani is in his second year serving as the general manager of ATV. Last year he organized and managed a multiyear equipment renovation for the station. Nearly $40,000 was raised to replace legacy equipment from the studio's control room and server room. The technology upgrade allowed ATV to transition from broadcasting in standard definition to high definition, and enables the use of 4K cameras. Jeswani leveraged hands-on training and knowledge gained from his Film and Media arts classes, SOC professors, and technical AU staff members to personally test and select the equipment for purchase, ultimately preparing the organization for the next 30 years of film/television production. 

Internships, Internships, Internships

Jeswani also held multiple internships, including a semester working for the BBC World News as a 2012 election coverage assistant, interning for WTOP, serving as a production assistant at WAMU, and lastly, supporting National Geographic as a broadcast operations intern. 

Technology uniquely positions journalism schools to offer invaluable hands-on training to prepare students for the careers that lie ahead. AU is blazing the trail by producing multifaceted students like Geet Jeswani that represent the future of journalism, film, and media arts.

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Title: Pathway to Success: AU Alum Erin Finicane
Author: Domanique Jordan
Subtitle:
Abstract: Finicane credits her success at the National Park Service to the opportunities she received at SOC.
Topic: Communications
Publication Date: 01/15/2015
Content:

Alumna Erin Finicane is an Audiovisual Production Specialist & Film Producer working with the National Parks Service. SOC graduate student Domanique Jordan had the opportunity to talk to Finicane about her work and how American University provided an essential platform for her job with the National Park Service.



DJ: Can you tell me about the America's Wilderness web series, and how you became involved with the project?

EF: The web series, America's Wilderness, celebrates the beauty and value of National Park Service (NPS) wilderness through mini stories that showcase the richness and range of wilderness experiences available in this country. Wilderness is the highest level of land protection in this country, and yet some of our most iconic national parks - Yellowstone, Smoky Mountains, Grand Canyon, etc. -- do not have the added level of protection granted by that wilderness designation. The goal of this series is to reintroduce the public to the idea of wilderness so that we can build a support base for future wilderness designation and ensure that these natural landscapes are protected for generations to come.I personally became involved with the project when I became an SOC film fellow with the NPS Harpers Ferry Center. Along with my colleague and fellow SOC alum, Sarah Gulick, I have been able to produce, direct, shoot and edit many of the films in the series. Together, with input from the Harpers Ferry Center and the Wilderness Stewardship Division, Sarah and I have developed a vision and direction for the series that we believe will resonate with viewers and will strengthen the bond these people form with their surrounding landscapes.

DJ: What SOC connections helped make the project possible?  

EF: The series was launched as a collaboration between American University's Center for Environmental Filmmaking, the National Park Service's Harpers Ferry Center, and the NPS Wilderness Stewardship Division to help celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. As we began research for the series, talking with both people in the field and average folks, we realized that people value wilderness for a variety of different reasons. Athletes, scientists, families, artists - they all have their own emotional connections to these wilderness areas that are dependent on the unique experiences, memories, and personal associations they attribute to these natural places. So with these videos, we wanted to highlight that range and diversity. We want to explore the relevance these wild places have to communities and interest groups beyond the typical outdoors audience, because in order to expand that support base for future wilderness designations, we need to engage groups that are not already engaged on the issue.

DJ: What is the format? Is it a weekly production? Or did the pieces make up a larger film?

EF: The videos were released as "webisodes", every other week on what we called "Wilderness Wednesday."Each video is a stand-alone piece, tailored to a particular interest group (musicians, runners, parents, vets, etc.) and is designed to pull those communities into the wilderness messaging through stories that they personally can relate to. We try not to be too preachy or advocacy-driven with these videos. We are simply trying to paint an experience of these places that might appeal to someone within a particular social niche. We want to provide a digital wilderness experience to people who have either never had the opportunity to visit a wilderness site before or have simply lacked the interest in doing so. And by presenting them with a story they can relate to, we hope that they begin to understand how wilderness might be of value to them and are inspired to explore that even further.

DJ: What challenges did you endure working in 115 degree heat in the Sonoran Desert?

EF: It was crazy hot while we were filming in the Sonoran Desert! At one point it was so hot my camera flashed a thermometer at me and shut down for an hour. I didn't even know it could do that! So we had to be pretty careful about the heat while filming our Saguaro shows. In addition to keeping hydrated, we simply tried to avoid filming in the heat of the day. We would wake up super early (sometimes as early as 3:45AM) to catch sunrise and the early golden hour light. We would nap in the middle of the day and then go out again when it got cooler and to catch sunset (5PM - 10PM).

DJ: As an alum, how do you feel American University prepared you for your internship - which became your job?

EF: I would never have had the opportunity to work on this series or later have a job with the National Park Service, had I not been an AU SOC student. AU provided the foundations on which my career is being built. It was there that I learned the filmmaking skills and storytelling skills that have made this series such a success and that ultimately led to my current position in the park service. Traveling to different parks, filming stories that matter is my dream job, and I would never have gotten here without AU.

DJ: Do you have any advice for future environmental reporters/filmmakers?

EF: Environmental communication is such an interesting field to be in right now because there's so much opportunity to expand and innovate here. How do we get the public so interested and so engaged that they actually care enough to take action? That's the challenge facing all environmental communicators today. And of course with challenge comes opportunity.I think that the conservation movement hasn't quite figured out how to utilize some of the technology or platforms or strategies that have proven successful in other spaces. But moving forward, precisely because of that deficit, I think that there will be a lot of demand for people who have developed an expertise in environmental outreach, communication and marketing. So my advice would be to start developing those skills and start thinking outside the box. We can't just stop at making a film or writing an article anymore. We have to work across multiple platforms. We have to continue thinking up creative and interactive ways to engage the public, utilizing the new and robust communication tools that are at our disposal. If you can become an expert in this kind of cross platform communication/outreach, you will be such an asset to your team and immensely valuable to your cause. 

Center Scholars for 2014/2015 are Vanina Harel, Jamey Warner, and Nick Zachar. They will each receive $2,000. For more information on CEF's Center Scholar program, visit here.

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Title: Media Innovators Join JoLT as Professional Fellows
Author:
Subtitle:
Abstract: Exploring game design and systems thinking as a path to disruptive media leadership.
Topic: Communications
Publication Date: 01/12/2015
Content:

Five professional fellows have joined the inaugural JoLT cohort at the American University School of Communication, bringing a wealth of expertise in digital communication, user experience, game design, and entrepreneurial instinct to the initiative.

The JoLT initiative is aimed at defining disruptive leadership in media and journalism. Funded with a $250,000 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, JoLT builds on AU’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, media leaders themselves, will collaborate with three Student Fellows in game design to rethink journalism leadership and news today. Fellows will bring their own experiences to the project and participate in JoLT leadership development events.

The fellows are: Maggie Farley, an award-winning foreign correspondent at the LA Times, who created a game to teach Chinese to children; Mitch Gelman, Vice President for Product, Gannett; Tory Hargro, Design Manager, USA TODAY; Matt Thompson, Deputy Editor at Atlantic Media; Bob Hone, freelance UX Designer, Lecturer and former Creative Director at Red Hill Studios.

They will work 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.

The professional fellows will play a key role in shaping the process while working to drive change within their media organizations. Additionally, they will bring projects to the JoLT team to develop.

Through the JoLT programming, “ideally we want to figure out how to create a culture of sustained disruption in media businesses today,” said SOC Dean Jeff Rutenbeck. “I cannot think of a better group of forward-thinking professionals to lead the way.”

Meet the Professional Fellows

Maggie Farley spent 14 years as an award-winning foreign correspondent and reporter for the Los Angeles Times. She was based in Hong Kong and Shanghai, covering Southeast Asia and then China before returning to New York to head the U.N. Bureau. Farley hopped to new media from old media in 2009, as a partner of Lucky G Media, creating educational content for the web and the iPhone. Lucky Grasshopper, an animated app for learning Chinese characters, hit the App Store’s top ten in educational apps in 2010. After Lucky G was acquired in 2011, Farley has been designing digital education projects for Pearson Foundation, bgC3, and the News Literacy Project.

As Vice President, Product for Gannett Digital, Mitch Gelman oversees engineering, design and operations for the company’s media properties, including 46 broadcast television and 81 newspapers. In 2014, he led the company’s work in experiential storytelling, applying virtual reality, gaming interaction and 360-degree 3D video to news coverage. Previously, he has served at CNN.com as Senior Vice President and Executive Producer, Executive Editor of SI.com, and editor-in-chief of ESPN.com

Tory Hargro is the design manager at USA TODAY. With over 10 years of experience at the intersections of design, technology and news, Tory leads a talented team of developers, producers and designers in the creation of new visual storytelling forms. Based in McLean, VA he is also a part of USA TODAY’s Network national News desk, a team charged with creating engaging digital stories and applications for over 100 news properties. A recipient of the 2012 Gannett Digital Excellence Award, he has received multiple Society for News Design Awards throughout his career.

Bob Hone has had distinguished, award-winning careers in engineering, journalism, interactive design, and videogame production. He was one of the producers of the Peabody award-winning PBS television series on the history of the computer, The Machine that Changed the World. As Creative Director of Red Hill Studios, Bob directed the design and production of educational iPad apps, online educational games, health games, museum exhibitions, educational game research, and broadcast television documentaries. He was the lead designer of the acclaimed Painting with Time: Climate Change (Yale Forum Top Climate Change App 2012) and BeThere: San Francisco (an innovative virtual presence app).

Matt Thompson just started this January as the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com. Previously, as Director of Vertical Initiatives (and Mischief) at NPR, he worked with teams across the company to guide the development of topic-focused verticals covering race, ethnicity and culture; education; and global health and development. He also taught media and technology management in American University’s MA in Media Entrepreneurship program. He currently serves as the vice-chairman of the board of the Center for Public Integrity, an investigative journalism nonprofit. He's also the co-founder of an organization called Spark Camp, which convenes diverse groups of leaders from a variety of industries.

“All I can say is ‘wow,’” says AU Game Lab Director Lindsay Grace. “Our discussions with these fellows already have been enlightening and we haven’t even started yet.”

The professional fellows join three student fellows, named earlier by the School of Communication. They bring a range of digital, journalism and academic skills to the innovative initiative.

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.

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Title: Student Media Leader: Sydney Gore
Author: Jordan-Marie Smith
Subtitle:
Abstract: "Taking a breather" for this student means writing for several blogs, working for multiple AU media organizations, and, of course, keeping up her vast social media footprint.
Topic: Communications
Publication Date: 01/08/2015
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 Marketing

Position: Freelance writing for several major blogs

SOC: You're not doing a traditional internship this semester. What are you doing outside of your classes?

SG: While I think that internships are an important part of gaining experience before entering the "real world" of whatever your career is, there's this overwhelming sense of pressure that is placed upon students to constantly intern while also attending school. After this summer, I felt completely burnt out-- I have interned every semester since the summer before my sophomore year. I decided that this semester I should focus more on my academics and my writing since this is my last year of college. A few of my mentors recommended trusting my instincts and taking a breather, and I'm so glad that I listened to them.

I've always been really into blogging since high school-- that's actually what I wrote my college essay about for all of my applications. I have one Wordpress account and four different Tumblr accounts because I have all of these ideas for projects that I start working on, don't usually finish, but come back to when the creative juices are flowing.

Outside of AU, I work part-time for Pigeons & Planes (pigeonsandplanes.com), All Things Go (allthingsgomusic.com), The Toast (the-toast.net) and The 405 (thefourohfive.com).

SOC: What do you do specifically in each role?

SG: For Pigeons & Planes, I primarily freelance music feature pieces which can be anything from interviews with artists to news posts, think-pieces and listicles. I usually write album reviews for The 405 and single reviews for All Things Go. When I pitch ideas to The Toast, they typically revolve around trends that I notice in pop culture and society.

SOC: How did you get involved?

SG: This summer, I interned at Pigeons & Planes (P&P). It kind of happened by chance-- I was already interning at Seventeen, and then P&P posted on Facebook about how they were looking for interns. They're my favorite music blog so I didn't hesitate to apply. I was upfront about already having an internship in my email, but I basically gushed about how much I loved P&P and how it would be an honor to work for them in any capacity. I didn't hear back from (P&P writer) Confusion for a few weeks and got worried, so I sent a subtle follow-up email and then he got back to me within the same day and asked if I could come in for an interview. I went the next day. It was super chill, and the next morning, I had an offer sitting in my inbox. After the internship ended, I got promoted!

I became a contributing writer for All Things Go after interning there last year, a pretty simple process.

The 405 happened randomly-- one of the editors followed me on Twitter, I clicked on the site because I had never heard of it since it was based in the UK, liked what I saw, and then I applied as a contributing writer before I went abroad to London.

As for The Toast - this is a funny story. My friend was talking about Mallory Ortberg one day while we were in the Billboard office. I went on Ortberg’s Twitter account and saw that she was talking about High School Musical and the secret underlying love relationship between Lucas Grabeel and Corbin Bleu's characters. Having thought the same thing for years, I tweeted to her about it. We engaged in a passionate conversation for about an hour, and then she followed me back. Before the end of the day, she sent me an email about my writing and how talented she thought I was and how she wanted me to write for her site, The Toast. Nearly a year later, I finally pitched her something and it got published.

Twitter is my greatest resource, basically.

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

SG: Digital Skills with Professor Lynne Perri changed my life. Learning how to code and use HTML has given me a huge advantage over so many other interns that I have worked with. During my internship at Billboard in 2013, I worked with the online editorial team and knowing HTML was crucial for my internship. I wrote posts every day and if I hadn't understood how to format them, the editors would have probably hated giving me assignments because they would have to take the time to teach me how to do everything.

SOC: Describe another time SOC has helped you in your professional life.

SG: My internship at Pigeons & Planes also required me to be familiar with using the Wordpress template and HTML codes for posts. On a different note, when I was at Seventeen this summer, I was the only journalism major in the Features department! Sometimes, I had to teach the other interns the basics of journalism. Because of my background, the editors trusted me with a lot of the more important tasks because I understood how to work on deadline, where to find solid research, and how to format documents in the Seventeen style. 

Find out about Gore's work with AU campus media organizations, favorite study place and top profs in the full text of interview

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Title: New Book Examines 1995, the Year the Future Began
Author: Ericka Floyd
Subtitle:
Abstract: Twenty years later, 1995 still reverberates says communication professor.
Topic: Communications
Publication Date: 01/06/2015
Content:

American University's School of Communication professor W. Joseph Campbell's new book, 1995: The Year the Future Began, examines a pivotal year in recent American history that was defined by significant developments in new media, domestic terrorism, crime and justice, international diplomacy, and political scandal. The book offers fresh insights into five decisive moments of 1995 and discusses how each has exerted lasting influence on American society, policy and culture.

The chapters of Campbell's 1995 book examine the emergence of the Internet and the World Wide Web in mainstream American life;the deadly Oklahoma City Bombing;the sensational O.J. Simpson murder trial;the U.S.-brokered negotiations at Dayton, Ohio that ended the Bosnian War;and the first furtive encounters at the White House between Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky.

"Nineteen ninety-five was a year of extraordinary events, a watershed at the turn of the millennium," Campbell points out. "Given the milestones, it is not surprising that 1995 extends a long reach and is really the year that marked the close of one century and the dawning of another."

The Rise of the Internet

The Internet and the World Wide Web reached a critical mass in 1995 and entered mainstream consciousness. Several now-familiar mainstays of the digital world such as Amazon.com, eBay, Craigslist, and Match.com all established a presence online during 1995, which suggests the year was a digitally fertile time, Campbell says. The initial public offering (IPO) in August 1995 of the shares of Netscape Communications, the maker of a very popular Web browser, was a dramatic moment that illuminated the Web for millions of people. And it fueled the dot.com boom of the second half of the 1990s. Nearly everyone from Wall Street brokers to college kids soon realized the Web was a place where fortunes could be made.

Campbell says 1995 marked the time when the Web was making "the transition from vague and distant curiosity to a popular fascination —a phenomenon that would change the way people work, shop, learn, communicate, and interact."

Oklahoma City Bombing 

The bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995 is the deadliest act of homegrown terrorism in U.S. history. The attack marked a turning point in domestic security precautions, says Campbell. His book describes how the bombing in the heartland stunned Americans and deepened a national preoccupation with terrorism, helping to mold a now-familiar, hyper-cautious, security-first mindset. 

Within weeks of the Oklahoma City bombing, a two-block portion of Pennsylvania Avenue (often called America's "Main Street") was abruptly closed to vehicular traffic near the White House, signaling the rise of security-related restrictions intended to thwart terrorist threats. Such restrictions, Campbell writes, "have since become more common, more intrusive, more stringent, and perhaps even more accepted."

"Trial of the Century"

The O.J. Simpson trial was the first high-profile U.S. criminal trial where forensic DNA testing was a crucial component —and was on public display as never before. While Simpson was found not guilty, the trial helped settle disputes about the value and validity of DNA evidence, Campbell writes. It also anticipated popular interest in DNA testing, as suggested by the CSI-type programs developed not many years after the Simpson trial.

Simpson's trial attracted extensive, even exhaustive, live media coverage and was commonly called the "Trial of the Century." While that characterization was overstated, the Simpson trial remains a standard against which other high-profile murder cases are measured —and found wanting, according to Campbell. 

The Simpson trial also illuminated divisions of race and class in America. Simpson, a black former football star, was accused of killing his former wife and her friend, both of whom were white. Many African Americans cheered Simpson's acquittal, which was announced on October 3, 1995, and broadcast live;while many white Americans were crestfallen. But Campbell also indicates that it is important to remember how anomalous the Simpson trial was. Few murder defendants have the resources to assemble the legal talent that Simpson recruited to his defense team. Multimillion dollar wealth allowed Simpson to put on a defense the likes of which few murder defendants can ever hope to mount, Campbell says. 

Clinton-Lewinsky Scandal

The Clinton-Lewinsky affair began during the partial shutdown of the federal government in mid-November 1995, and burst into a full-blown scandal in 1998 that led to Clinton's impeachment, trial, and acquittal on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice. He was accused of lying under oath about his relationship with Lewinsky, an unpaid White House intern. And it was the first time an elected U.S. president had been impeached.

The votes in the House of Representatives to impeach the president and in the Senate to acquit him fell largely along party lines: Republicans were mostly in favor;Democrats, mostly opposed. Those votes, Campbell says, "signaled a sharp partisan divide that has intensified in the years since. Both major political parties have become more ideologically unified," he points out, adding that the impeachment battles contributed to the polarization that characterizes the contemporary political landscape. 

Campbell further explains that "Clinton survived the spectacle of his impeachment by the House of Representatives, but paid a price for his mendacity in fines and the surrender for five years of his license to practice law in Arkansas. Those penalties tend not to be frequently recalled," says Campbell.

The book suggests that Lewinsky would never have had the opportunity to get close to Clinton if not for the government shutdown of November 1995. "Most White House staffers were furloughed during the shutdown, which meant the unpaid interns were assigned tasks to help keep the White House running. And that placed some of them in proximity to high-level officials. Lewinsky during the shutdown was assigned to the chief of staff's office, not far from the Oval Office," Campbell adds.

Peace in Bosnia

The U.S- brokered Dayton peace accords were reached on Nov. 21, 1995, and brought an end to a vicious war that claimed 100,000 lives in Bosnia. The leaders of Bosnia, Croatia, and Serbia met for three weeks of intense and complex negotiations in near-seclusion at the Wright-Patterson Air Force base near Dayton, Ohio. 

The Dayton accords represented a major foreign policy success of Clinton's presidency. They had the effect of emboldening U.S. foreign policy and boosting the country's ambitions abroad. 

Campbell writes that Bosnia was the first in a succession of increasingly ambitious military operations overseas, which gave rise to what has been called a "hubris bubble" that expanded as military success encouraged even more ambitious undertakings. "The "hubris bubble" finally burst in the aftermath of the invasion of Iraq. After taking Baghdad and toppling Saddam Hussein's Baathist regime, the United States was thoroughly unprepared for the bloody insurgency that followed. The puncturing of the post-Dayton "hubris bubble" led to a decided retrenchment of U.S. ambitions abroad," Campbell says.

Timely Reappraisal

Campbell shows us how the year 1995 was a time of innovation and converging trendlines. Looking back to 1995 reveals, he says, "how far we've come in two decades —and how long-lasting some of our preoccupations have been."

The book closes with a call for a broad reassessment of the 1990s. The decade was not, Campbell writes, a "honeymoon from history" as it has been caricatured. Rather, he says, the 1990s "were a searching time, rich in promise and in disappointment." And right in the middle of that fascinating decade, he says, was its most decisive and memorable year.

 

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Title: SOC's Top Achievements of 2014
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Abstract: 2014 was a big year for the AU School of Communication.
Topic: Achievements
Publication Date: 12/23/2014
Content:

2014 started off strong for American University's School of Communication with its move to the beautifully restored and renovated McKinley Building. SOC's new Media Innovation Lab and the Malsi Doyle and Michael Forman Theater opened in March, and in May we welcomed Katie Couric as commencement speaker. 

SOC started the fall semester by welcoming three outstanding individuals at the top of their professions to the faculty. This fall also marked the start of the International Cinema Series, part of a multiyear partnership with the National Gallery of Art. SOC celebrated National News Engagement Day with the inaugural News Games competition in October, and in November partnered with the Washington Post's Chris Cilliza to tackle the tough topics of the mid-term elections. In December we announced a new partnership with the Pulizter Center on Crisis Reporting.

As we reflect on our first year in the McKinley building, we celebrate some of the other SOC faculty and program successes from 2014:

American University Game Lab web site

• American University launches new Master of Arts in Game Design degree and Game Lab Studio. The program, offered through a partnership between the School of Communication and the College of Arts and Sciences, focuses on game design, play theory and game engagement strategies.


• Professor Charles Lewis releases latest book, 935 Lies: The Future of Truth and Decline of America's Moral Integrity, which made both the Amazon and Barnes & Noble Top 100 lists within a week of publication.

Shooting in the Wild

• American University unveils new JoLT disruptive leadership initiative for media innovators with $250,000 from the Knight Foundation. In conjunction, SOC names three JoLT fellows to explore game design and systems thinking as a path to disruptive media leadership.



• Professor Laura DeNardis won international appointment as the Director of Research for the Global Commission on Internet Governance. Domestically, she was appointed as a member of the U.S. Department of State's Advisory Committee on International Communications and Information Policy (ACICIP).

 

Shooting in the Wild

• SOC's Public Communication BA program listed among finalists, for the second year in a row, for PRWeek's Best PR Education Program of the year category. SOC's MA in Strategic Communication received the same award at the 2013 awards.


 

• Assistant Professor Claudia Myers' film, Fort Bliss, won Best Narrative Feature at the 2014 GI Film Festival, the Audience Award at the 2014 Champs Elysees Film Festival and "Festival Honors" at the 2014 Newport Beach Film Festival.

 

Shooting in the Wild

• SOC's Investigative Reporting Workshop's Showtime collaboration The Years of Living Dangerously wins Emmy Award for outstanding documentary.

 



W. Joseph Campbell received a top alumni award from his alma mater, Ohio Wesleyan University. The award was given in part because of his scholarly work and teaching at AU. Campbell was also honored with CTRL's 2014 Teaching with Research Award.

• Distinguished Film Producer in Residence Chris Palmer received the American University Award Outstanding Teaching in a Term Appointment.

• Assistant Professor Carolyn Brown won the 2014 Associated Press / Robert R. Eunson Distinguished Lecturer Award

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Title: Fellowships to Flow from Pulitzer Center Partnership
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Abstract: SOC has joined forces with the Pulitzer Center to provide students with international investigative opportunities.
Topic: Journalism
Publication Date: 12/22/2014
Content:

The School of Communication at American University has joined forces with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting to become a member of the Center’s Campus Consortium. The Campus Consortium initiative is a core component of the Pulitzer Center’s effort to create awareness campaigns around the global systemic issues that affect us all.



Student Reporting Fellowships

As part of Campus Consortium Membership, AU and the Pulitzer Center will select two students for international reporting projects of their choice involving an underreported systemic issue. One student will be selected from SOC, with a second student to be selected from the university at large. Each student fellow will be awarded $2,500.00 to help pay for the reporting project. Pulitzer Center staff and journalists act as mentors for students throughout the fellowship, with final products featured on the Pulitzer Center website. Fellows also work with the Pulitzer Center in efforts to further disseminate the work through media partners.

AU’s Center for Latin American and Latino Studies (CLALS) is a contributing partner to this initiative. One of the fellows will focus on subject matter related to the Center's work on religion and Latin American affairs.

Campus Visits
Beginning in February 2015, SOC will host a series of campus visits in which Pulitzer Center journalists will share experience and research. These events will be open to students and the public at large.

To develop the visits and related programming, the Pulitzer Center relies on a network of more than 300 journalists worldwide who have received Pulitzer Center grants, as well as on partner institutions, to foster broader discussions and more nuanced analysis of concerns that span disciplines, from journalism and business to law, religion and public health. This interdisciplinary approach receives support from the diverse topics Pulitzer Center grantees report on, from HIV/AIDS and maternal health to the human impact of commodities production.

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Title: Julie Drizin Named First Executive Director of Current
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Abstract: The public media journalist, producer, and critic will lead the newspaper and website as it expands its coverage and impact in U.S. public and nonprofit media spaces.
Topic: Communications
Publication Date: 12/19/2014
Content:

The American University School of Communication has hired public media journalist, producer, and critic Julie Drizin for the new position of Executive Director of Current, as the newspaper and website seeks to expand its coverage and impact in U.S. public and nonprofit media spaces.

"I am thrilled to be coming home to public media as the Executive Director of Current," says Drizin.

She comes to Current from the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism, where she directed the Journalism Center on Children and Families, taught undergraduate journalism majors, and convened a December 2014 Aspen Institute Forum on Race, Journalism and Society. Drizin has been an award-winning producer of news, public affairs and talk programming at WXPN-FM in Philadelphia, Democracy Now!, NPR’s Justice Talking and WETA-FM in Washington, D.C.

Drizin adds, "Current has always been my favorite source for what’s going on in the public media world and I’m eager to work with the dedicated staff, American University, the Wyncote Foundation and new partners to ensure that Current thrives in this ever-changing digital landscape."

Drizin has served as an editor, trainer, strategist, grant evaluator, awards judge and advisor on engagement, citizen journalism and innovation for a variety of public media organizations, including the Association of Independents in Radio (AIR), National Center on Media Engagement (NCME), National Federation of Community Broadcasters (NFCB), World Channel, American Film Institute (AFI) SilverDocs, Public Radio Exchange (PRX), and J-Lab.

"We are excited to have such an experienced, skilled and passionate public media leader and innovator taking Current to the next level," says SOC Dean Jeff Rutenbeck.

Current is an editorially independent service of American University’s School of Communication, supported in part by a grant from the Wyncote Foundation.

About Current
Current, a nonprofit news service reporting on the evolving field of public media and nonprofit news, publishes digital-first and biweekly print coverage. Under SOC’s stewardship, its newsroom has expanded to include five editors and reporters and a corps of freelance contributors. Current’s coverage continues to expand beyond traditional public broadcasting to include non-profit news organizations, podcasting, and innovations in digital news, media distribution strategies and more.

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.

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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
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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.

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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
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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
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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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newsId: 8B4B6663-0F1B-49C7-FA19296835529E49
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.”



Tags: Alumni Author,Alumni Update,Civil Rights,School of Communication
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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.

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