newsId: 666EF623-B1EC-ABF6-87209C8EA2780DA4
Title: Passion & Politics: A Q&A with Molly O'Rourke
Author: Domanique Jordan
Subtitle:
Abstract: SOC’s new political communication co-director discusses her background, upcoming midterm elections.
Topic: Communications
Publication Date: 10/23/2014
Content:

Molly O'Rourke is the new co-director of American University's Political Communication MA program, a joint degree offered through the School of Communication and School of Public Affairs. 

O'Rourke will share her insights on voter turnout for the 2014 midterms at the October 28 SOC Faculty Research and Project Forum. She will be discussing research around "drop off" voters and the results, challenging some of the conventional wisdom that has long governed voter turnout operations by both parties.

SOC graduate student Domanique Jordan had the opportunity to talk to O'Rourke about her background and the importance of "non-traditional" voters. 

DJ: After 15 years of experience in the field of public opinion research, what brings you to AU School of Communication?

MO: I've always enjoyed teaching and mentoring college students and have been fortunate to be able to do some guest lecturing and serve at an Adjunct (at Johns Hopkins University). Dotty Lynch, my predecessor, invited me to guest lecture for one of her courses and I really enjoyed the students and was impressed by the curriculum of the MA in Political Communication program. I was honored to come to AU.

DJ: Both your undergraduate and graduate degrees are in Political Science, what drives your interest in politics? 

MO: I've loved politics for as long as I can remember. Even when I was in elementary school, I used to watch Meet the Press instead of cartoons on Sunday mornings. Politics is a mix of public policy, psychology and (particularly when it comes to campaigns) marketing. Our politics and our policies are an expression of our values and priorities and I can't think of anything more important.

DJ: As the new co-director of the MA Political Communication program, what do you hope to bring to the students in the program?

MO: While I definitely hope I can teach the students in the program about communication and public opinion research, I really hope that I can also encourage them and inspire them to pursue their interests. I've been so impressed with the students' passion and focus -- they are really committed to larger goals around policy issues like education reform and voting rights and I want to help give them the tools they need to have an impact. Of the many contributions that Dotty Lynch (my predecessor) made to the program, I think the level of personal investment and engagement she had with her students is an incredible legacy. 

DJ: In your opinion, what draws students to this program? 

MO: Students are eager to affect change and, to their credit, they want to do that in a more sophisticated and meaningful way. Understanding how to advance an issue or a cause or a campaign is a valuable skill and is personally rewarding.

DJ: Your faculty research and project forum title is Turnout: The Scramble to Election Day. How important is it for young adults to vote not only during presidential elections but midterm elections as well?

MO: For so many reasons, the turnout of young voters has enormous implications. Not only do their votes make the difference in determining the outcome of close races, but their participation and their voice changes the focus and the tone of what is being debated and prioritized during elections. I used to do work for Rock the Vote and that was one of my favorite projects because the mission is so important.

DJ: In both the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections,, there was a surge of "non-traditional" voters that changed the structure of the American electorate. Can you define what a "non-traditional" voter is and what the significance is? 

MO: I think of "non-traditional" voters as those who are more likely to have sporadic or inconsistent vote history. They're voters who are not habitually going to turn out. They may not have much information about politics, they may be very mobile and don't have an established voting routine, they may be feel disaffected because we haven't done a very good job making politics and campaigns relevant to things they're struggling with and concerned about. 

DJ: What do you hope students take away from the Forum? 

MO: I want students to see how campaigns have learned from social science about effectively communicating with certain groups of voters, in this case "drop off" voters. One of the many ways in which campaigns have changed in recent years is that there is a lot more emphasis on measuring and demonstrating what works and what doesn't. So "best practices" get established and need to be constantly updated. It's not like it used to be when most voter turnout programs were based on campaign lore—there is a real role for good social science research now.

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newsId: 36B71E9D-AD0C-9FF0-EB5F827EC7B15367
Title: #MyMidTermFix with Chris Cillizza
Author: Jordan-Marie Smith
Subtitle:
Abstract: SOC, KPU organize conversation around American Forum on the topic of midterm elections and the issues that matter.
Topic: Journalism
Publication Date: 10/22/2014
Content:

American University students took to the quad to share their thoughts on issues they think Congress should pay attention to this mid-term season.

Participants shared their messages and photos via social media in advance of the American Forum with Chris Cillizza, reporter and founder of The Fix.

The forum, a joint effort between the School of Communication, AU's Kennedy Political Union, and the Washington Post, encourages students to join the conversation using hashtag #mymidtermfix.

Human rights, same sex marriage and gender equality are a few of the issues students have identified as their mid-term fix. SOC professor Jane Hall and Cillizza will continue the discussion Thursday at 8:15 p.m. in McKinley's Forman theater. The event will also be live streamed.


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Title: Five Facts about the BA in Public Relations & Strategic Communication
Author: Paola Chavez
Subtitle:
Abstract: Newly revised BA in Public Relations & Strategic Communication degree allows for increased flexibility and learning opportunities.
Topic: Communications
Publication Date: 10/21/2014
Content:

The School of Communication is pleased to announce the BA in Public Communication has been renamed the BA in Public Relations & Strategic Communication. 

Public Communication division director Pallavi Kumar sees a huge advantage for students with this new degree option. "The newly revised degree offering will allow students the opportunity to further explore the major, with more flexibility for experiential learning and the ability to gain expertise in a specific concentration," said Kumar.

5 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE REVISED DEGREE

WHAT:
The new BA is 48 credit hours compared with 40 credit hours for the BA in Public Communication. This allows students to take more communication electives and create concentrations around areas of interest.

How does it work?

Students may choose to unofficially concentrate their studies in one of six areas, ideally to develop an area of expertise.

  • Concentrations include: Political Communication; Health, Science & Environmental Communication; Corporate Communication; Social Change & Advocacy Communication; Lifestyle &Culture Communication and Digital Strategies. Full list of concentrations
  • These concentrations will not be listed on diplomas, transcripts or degree audits, but are a way for students to further brand themselves via LinkedIn and through online portfolios.

Why did SOC decide to make changes to this degree?

The newly revised BA in Public Relations & Strategic Communication degree allows students to take more electives, receive an additional three credits for internships (up to six total) and gives students a chance to concentrate in particular areas of interest.

When do I have to decide?

It is preferable students make the decision prior to the start of spring registration (11/3/14). SOC's academic advisors will work with students to complete a form confirming their choice.

Frequently Asked Questions

Answers to frequently asked questions can be found here. Should you have any additional questions, please schedule an appointment with an SOC academic advisor.

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Title: Team USA dominates AU News Games
Author: Domanique Jordan
Subtitle:
Abstract: AU celebrates National News Engagement Day with first-ever News Games competition.
Topic: Journalism
Publication Date: 10/21/2014
Content:

On October 7, four teams came on stage and matched each other question for question over two rounds for a trophy that epitomized news knowledge dominance. 

The event, the first-ever American University News Games were held in celebration of National News Engagement Day.

SOC Dean Rutenbeck opened the games. 

"We are proud to host this campus wide challenge to honor National News Engagement Day. The news games will be an annual event at SOC. Through a little healthy competition we hope to spark a tradition of using news and journalism as mechanisms to bring the AU campus together," said Rutenbeck. "May the news be ever in your favor."

Professor John Watson, director of the News Games cited statistics how students who drift after college, not finding jobs or settling down, are also those least engaged with news.

"The book Adrift' After College: How Graduates Fail published by the University of Chicago Press, was reviewed in The Chronicle of Higher Education last week. It highlighted five basic characteristics of 2009 graduates still found to be adrift. One of them is: They rarely kept up with the news or current events: About one-third read newspapers online or in print on a daily basis. Only 16 percent discussed politics and public affairs with a family member or friend's daily."

The News Games structure resembled the popular American television game show Jeopardy!, where contestants chose questions from a game board covering different news topics, worth different point values.

Participants were presented with general knowledge clues, and delivered a reply in a short answer, as opposed to a Jeopardy-like question. No points were deducted for wrong answers.

“SOC Alisyn Camerota, CNN news anchor and notable AU alumna, asked one of the many video questions during the event.

A highlight of the Games were video questions from notable AU community members including alumni and nationally prominent journalists, including CNN's Alisyn Camerota. 

The overall theme of the event was centered on the popular book and movie series The Hunger Games. Even the graphic logo mimicked the Mocking Jay symbol from the books and movies, although instead of mocking jay and a flaming arrow, the News Games used an American Eagle carrying a pencil. 

That trophy is won by showing that one team knew the news better than their competition. 

In the first round, Great White Shark (Mariam Baksh and Pietro Lombardi) competed against SamSquared (Sam Mendelson and Samantha Hogan) tackled questions on U.S. politics, pop culture, world news, business and health and science. After the final question was answered, team Great White Shark beat their opponents by 70 points. 

In the second round, Team USA (Drew Bailey and Justin Parker) beat News2Share by a close 10 points on topics of education, "no he didn't," science, business and the LGBT community. 

In the final round, it was team USA that took the trophy, wiping out team Great White Shark by 110 points. 

If you're interested in playing in next year's News Games, Drew Bailey, member on team USA says the best way to prepare is to be a news consumer. 

"Read the headlines. Always keep up to date with the news in whatever form of communication you use. If Twitter your main source of news, stay on it," said Bailey. 

Anyone interested in next year's News Games should keep their eyes open for team registrations on the SOC website.

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Title: Ready to Launch
Author: Gregg Sangillo
Subtitle:
Abstract: American University is a place for budding entrepreneurs.
Topic: On Campus
Publication Date: 10/15/2014
Content:

The Kogod School of Business recently launched a new Sustainable Entrepreneurship and Innovation Initiative. It’s a way to cultivate entrepreneurial minds and ventures dedicated to economic, environmental, and social progress. A key component of this initiative is the new Entrepreneurship Incubator in Mary Graydon Center. To celebrate the Incubator’s official launch, there was a ribbon cutting in late September with AU President Neil Kerwin, Provost Scott Bass, Kogod Dean Erran Carmel, and AU alum Mark Bucher, a restaurateur who helped finance the remodeling of the Incubator space.

American University has a variety of great programs for budding entrepreneurs, and this new initiative reflects a campus-wide commitment to innovation.

Kogod and the New Initiative

In an interview, Kogod Professor Stevan Holmberg details the evolution of entrepreneurship education at AU. The business school had its first entrepreneurship course in 1987, with many more courses added in the decades since. By 2012, the School of Communication and Kogod forged a partnership with a master’s program in media entrepreneurship. In 2013, AU schools (Kogod, SIS, and SOC) announced a strategic partnership with 1776, a startup hub in downtown D.C. Kogod offers an entrepreneurship MBA concentration, and it recently added a minor in entrepreneurship for non-business majors.

AU’s curriculum on entrepreneurship is already experiential, with students practicing business pitches. But there was room to do more through this new initiative.

Holmberg_Ribbon_Cutting_NOID

“We were looking to expand the student learning experience by moving even further down the road towards having students actually live entrepreneurship and create new ventures,” says Holmberg, director of the Sustainable Entrepreneurship and Innovation Initiative. He also says that AU students—typically passionate, with the desire to enact change—gravitate towards entrepreneurship. “It can be a business venture, or it can be entrepreneurship in terms of a nonprofit or social venture,” he explains.

Kogod’s Tommy White and Bill Bellows are co-directors of the nascent Incubator. Student teams trying to devise their own startups submit applications for an initial review, and White and Bellows will provide feedback for all applicants. Teams with more fully developed startup proposals will then present to a larger panel. Selected teams would have access to working space, a faculty coach, an outside mentor, and legal assistance. Through an entrepreneurship fund, AU faculty and business advisers will help students explore opportunities for seed capital and other sources of revenue.

“It’s great that we are getting a mix of applications from all the different schools, since the purpose is to make the Incubator an American University initiative,” says White.

AU is an ideal setting for cross-unit collaboration on a multifaceted subject like entrepreneurship. “It allows you to tap into multiple skill sets around the university,” Holmberg says. “So if we have a team doing a technology app, they could go to somebody in computer science for help with coding. Or they could go to somebody in film who might be doing video clips or documentaries.”

AU Pipeline

Young student entrepreneurs have received crucial guidance from professors in the past. While earning his MBA here, Tommy White took an entrepreneurship course on managing small and growing businesses taught by Kogod Professor Barbara Bird. “I just loved it, and it was exactly what I needed. I was in the middle of my startup, called the Institute for Public-Private Partnerships,” he says. The business succeeded and was sold to the infrastructure services firm Tetra Tech in 2008. Now he’s a full-time AU faculty member in Kogod’s Management Department.

Media Entrepreneurship

At the School of Communication, Amy Eisman discusses her role as director of the MA program in media entrepreneurship. “It is the intersection of media and business,” she says. “This is media defined broadly—it can be entertainment, sports; it can be an app.”

American University School of Communication Professor Amy Eisman

Since media companies are struggling mightily to navigate the current economic landscape, the startup culture in Washington, D.C. has exploded, she says. This makes the program attractive to mid-career professionals, who take classes in both SOC and Kogod.

“What we learned is that a lot of entrepreneurs are actually serial entrepreneurs. So they really like the game. They like to try new things,” she says. The projects in this program have run the gamut, with one student establishing an Indonesian cooking website and another student creating DeafTV.com.

Eisman explains the philosophy faculty members convey to students. “Let’s try, rather than think it’s not going to work. And let’s be able to change up if something is not working,” she says. “We’re perfectly fine if somebody discards an idea. That means the student has learned something.”

Social Enterprise

Robert Tomasko heads the social enterprise MA program at the School of International Service. Started in 2011, the program merges management with the study of social change and innovation. He says about half the students in the program have business backgrounds, while the other half are liberal arts-oriented. “Each of them comes to the program wanting to know what the other side knows. And there’s a lot of sharing.”

At the beginning of the SIS program, student pairs take a “plunge” by getting assigned to help a D.C.-based nonprofit or social enterprise. They’re tasked with helping this organization solve a pressing problem. Some organizations keep coming back each year to work with SIS students, he says.

Social enterprise is now an emerging sector of the economy. Tomasko says frustration with both the public and private sectors led to greater interest in the nonprofit world. “But there are issues with nonprofits, too. Many people flee to that sector because they don’t want anything to do with money. But if you talk to people who work at nonprofits, they spend all their time raising money,” he says. “With those three areas of discontent, I think social enterprise is offering students a way to pick some of the best from each of the sectors to try to remedy the problems.”

The Entrepreneurial Spirit

If you’ve plowed through the Steve Jobs biography or watched re-runs of Shark Tank, you might get an itch to start a business. But what makes somebody go the extra mile to actually do it?

Barbara Bird has studied entrepreneurial behavior, and she identifies certain attributes most entrepreneurs possess. “You can’t start a business if you don’t have high energy level, and if you don’t have a certain tolerance for risk. And it really isn’t even necessarily just tolerance of risk, it’s tolerance of ambiguity.”

Barbara Bird ID

Thomas Kohn argues that while the risk is undeniable, it’s a personal investment worth making. “I’ve mentioned to students that, in my opinion, there’s not as much risk associated with startups as some of them think there is. Right out of school, you can make almost as much in salary as you can with a big company,” says Kohn, an executive-in-residence in the Management Department. “Once you are an owner of a company—even if it’s just stock options—you feel totally different. You have a lot more incentive to work hard and to care.”

White adds that while entrepreneurship may not be innate to some students, it can certainly be taught. “Someone may really be a good idea person. But you might need someone to help shape that, manage that, and execute that,” he says.

And the goal of making money is within reach. “I do believe that entrepreneurship is one of the most likely pathways to wealth,” Bird says. “True ability to rise above the social and economic status you were born into is likely to come from starting a business.”

Brave New World

Advances in technology have made becoming an entrepreneur much easier. You don’t need to make huge capital investments and, say, open up a factory. You can run a profitable company with one laptop.

“I wish I had these tools 25 years ago when I was starting my company. It was expensive to start companies then,” White says. Now, he says, you have many different modes of communication, analytics, and social media tools to understand the marketplace and identify potential customers.

But as several professors warn, lower barriers to entry equals a lot more competition. “There are a lot of companies that won’t make it,” Kohn says. “But fortunately in this country having a failure—or two or three—under your belt is almost a badge of honor. It’s not a negative. And you learn a lot.”

Tags: Entrepreneurship,Kogod School of Business,Media Relations,School of Communication,School of International Service,Featured News
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Title: Dean's Picks: Shaping the Future of Media Innovation
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Abstract: SOC debuts JoLT Disruptive Leadership Initiative with the Knight Foundation,
Topic: Communications
Publication Date: 10/15/2014
Content:

Latest Stories


Katie Couric

AU Unveils Disruptive Leadership Initiative

With $250,000 from the Knight Foundation, collaboration looks to game design practices and process to shape media leadership innovation. Read more.



Katie Couric
 
Want Diversity in Docs? Look to Public TV

A new study from Professor Pat Aufderheide and the Center for Media & Social Impact shows public television remains the leading source of programming that represents diverse creators and characters. Learn more.

 

Katie Couric

McKinley Milestone

AU community celebrates SOC's new home in the McKinley Building. Learn more.




In the News

DREAM Act Exemplars, Stereotypical Selection, and American Otherness
Journalism professor Angie Chuang co-authors "Beyond the positive-negative paradigm of Latino/Latina news-media representations: DREAM Act exemplars, stereotypical selection, and American Otherness." Read more.

Hong Kong Protesters in Cyberwar
Journalism professor Andrew Lih's Quartz op-ed was quoted on CNN.com to describe the sophisticated use of technology by the activist of Hong Kong's Occupy Central Movement, aka the Umbrella Revolution.

Fort Bliss Is a Favorite with Military Audiences and Deserving of Wider Success
The Washington Post featured a glowing review of School of Communication Film and Media Arts professor Claudia Myers' new film "Fort Bliss", a drama about the impact deployment has on military families. Read more.

Go-Pro Shark Photo Goes Viral
Public & strategic communication professor Scott Talan spoke to the BBC.com about what makes a picture go viral on the Internet and analyzed the trending image of a great white shark off the coast of South Africa.

 

Awards & Achievements

SOC professor and award-winning filmmaker Carolyn Brown will host the California premiere of The Salinas Project documentary film at The Carmel International Film Festival on Saturday, October 18. The documentary follows the lives for four young Latinos from immigrant farm working families as they face social, political and economic obstacles. Read more.

The Mama Sherpas, a feature documentary produced by SOC professor Brigid Maher, selected to screen rough cut at Docs in Progress at the Utopia Film Festival. Read more.

MA in Media Entrepreneurship alum Dena Levitz named 1776 Challenge Cup reporting fellow. Read more.

 

Upcoming Events


Human Rights Film Festival—The Supreme Price Screening and Q&A
October 15, 7:00 p.m. Learn More.

International Cinema Series—Viewing China
October 17-24 Learn More.

Coffee & Conversation with Dean Rutenbeck
October 21 3:00-4:30 p.m.
Learn More.

Moving Beyond the Obituaries: From Doom and Gloom to #Oceanoptimism
October 21 7:00 p.m.
Learn More.

ONA DC Meetup, with Vox.com
October 23 6:00 p.m.
Learn More.

American Forum — #MyMidTermFix
October 23 8:15 p.m.
Join SOC, Kennedy Political Union, and the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza, founder of "The Fix," for a discussion on mid-term elections, the media, and issues of interest to youth voters in 2014.
Learn more.




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Please send your suggestions for Dean's Picks to Dani Rizzo.

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newsId: 38223B11-F363-05E4-A18B35D4ADDC449C
Title: PR Pros Share Insights at NYC@AU2
Author: Jordan-Marie Smith
Subtitle:
Abstract: Alums say tenacity and networking are key to building a career in public relations.
Topic: Communications
Publication Date: 10/07/2014
Content:

A host of public relations professionals and aspirants filled the Malsi Doyle and Michael Forman Theater in late September, drawn by the AU Public Relations Student Society of America's second annual NYC at AU event. 

NYC@AU2 is a student-run event that brings alumni who are now working in New York City to campus to speak to students eager to learn the ropes. This year's event focused on just that.

"I think the most important takeaway was that if you work hard, keep a positive attitude, and follow your dreams, you can make it happen," AUPRSSA president Jenna Mosley said.

Panelists David F. Caruso, Michael Menacham and Hillarie Viener shared their expertise in freelance journalism, branding and advertising in the Big Apple, but were also generous with practical advice when comes working in the city.

"There's just a different energy there," Viener, executive vice president for The Value Engineers, said.

The panel was moderated by fellow alumnus and SOC professor, two-time Oscar winner Russell Williams.

Caruso, chief operations officer at United Entertainment Group, said that people who want to work in the public relations business have to be tenacious go-getters.

"Our panel really stressed that the most important thing to have is a great attitude. [T]hey can teach you skills but they can't teach you how to stay positive and how to deal with the stress that can come with these professions," Mosley said. 

Menacham, a branding professional, also mentioned that making connections wherever they go will help give students a chance to succeed.

Making sure students had the opportunity to hear from PR professionals this fall took months of preparation.

Over the summer, SOC's development office helped PRSSA to connect with alumni.

"It was a huge help in finding amazing panelists," Mosley said.

PRSSA's academic advisor, Professor Gemma Puglisi, also recognized the importance of collaborating with the development office, but underscored that the student input from the club helped the idea come to life.

“They worked so hard to put this together in less than a month of being back in class,” Professor Puglisi said. “There’s a lot of work that goes into this.”

AU PRSSA will make an even bigger splash this weekend as it co-hosts the national PRSSA conference: Intersections, The Meeting Place of Communications and Culture.

Tags: Achievements,Public Communication,Public Relations,Public Relations Student Society of America,School of Communication,Communication
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Title: Want Diversity in Docs? Look to Public TV
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Abstract: A new study from the Center for Media & Social Impact shows public television remains the leading source of programming
that represents diverse creators and characters.
Topic: Communications
Publication Date: 09/30/2014
Content:

Although social-issue documentaries are increasingly being shown on cable networks, public television remains the leading source of programming that represents diverse creators and characters, according to a new study conducted by the Center for Media & Social Impact at American University’s School of Communication.

The findings of the study will be announced by Patricia Aufderheide, Center director and University Professor, at the International Documentary Association’s 2014 Getting Real Documentary Film Conference.

"Despite burgeoning slots for documentary, public TV is still the go-to venue for documentarians telling stories that feature – in both makers and subjects – the great diversity of this country,” said Aufderheide.

The study found that documentaries shown on public television last year featured more creators from racial minorities, minority characters, and female characters than documentaries shown on cable channels.

The research team included Aufderheide, Caty Borum Chattoo, an Executive in Residence at SOC and Creative Director of the CMSi; and Tijana Milosevic, an SOC doctoral candidate.

The study compared 61 documentaries from four television series in 2013, including 23 from the public television series Independent Lens, 23 from HBO Documentaries, 6 from CNN Docs, and 9 from ESPN’s 30 for 30 series. For each outlet, researchers examined the racial and gender diversity of directors, producers, lead characters, and subject matter.

Independent Lens led in racial diversity. Thirty percent of Independent Lens documentaries had at least one minority director, compared with 13 percent of HBO documentaries and no CNN or ESPN documentaries. Twenty-six percent of Independent Lens documentaries had at least one minority producer, compared with 17 percent for CNN, 11 percent for ESPN, and 9 percent for HBO. Eighty-three percent of Independent Lens productions had at least one minority character, compared to 67 percent for ESPN, 26 percent for HBO, and 17 percent for CNN. The record was less clear on gender diversity. Only 35 percent of Independent Lens productions had at least one female director, compared to 52 percent for HBO and 50 percent for CNN. But 87 percent of Independent Lens documentaries featured at least one female producer, compared to 83 percent for HBO and CNN and 11 percent for ESPN. Seventy-four percent of Independent Lens productions had at least one female character, compared to 65 percent for HBO, 50 percent for CNN, and none for ESPN.

The study results are limited given small sample sizes, but the research team believes the results are significant enough to merit replication on a larger scale.

Further results from this study, including findings from the subject matter analysis, will be published at cmsimpact.org/future-public-media

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Title: McKinley Milestone
Author: Domanique Jordan
Subtitle:
Abstract: AU community celebrates SOC's new home in the McKinley Building.
Topic: Achievements
Publication Date: 09/29/2014
Content:

American University held a grand opening celebration for the School of Communication's new home, the McKinley Building, on Friday, Sep. 19. Renovations of the historic McKinley building began in 2012, and it opened for classes the beginning of the spring 2014 semester.

Hosts greeted more than 300 guests with hors d'oeuvres, mocktails and an array of treats near the Malsi Doyle and Michael Forman Theater. 

There was also a scavenger hunt that sent participants looking for clues throughout McKinley, a building tour, photo booth and a mix and mingle on the rooftop terrace with donors, alumni, faculty and students. 

SOC Dean Jeff Rutenbeck began the ceremony by expressing his appreciation of the building and its ability to magnify the excellence of the SOC students.  

"This is our everything space. There are amazing things going on in this building every day. SOC attracts an amazing group of students. And we define our success through the success of our students," said Rutenbeck.

The state-of-the-art facility more than triples SOC's old space in the Mary Graydon Center and has created a sense of pride for the entire SOC community.

Fun facts about the McKinley Building:
  • President Theodore Roosevelt laid the cornerstone in 1902.
  • Legend has it that a plaque signed by President Woodrow Wilson exists in the old façade.
  • It is the second oldest edifice on campus, Husrt Hall is the oldest.
  • It stands four stories tall, contains 50,000 square feet and is pending LEED Gold certification.
  • The Media Innovation Lab features LED Lighting, multi-camera capability, separate control room, audio booth, flash studio, newsroom-viewing-teaching lab, and a 9-screen video display wall.
  • The Sony 4K projector in the 145-seat Malsi Doyle and Michael Forman Theater weighs 367 pounds. It took 4 men and an electric winch to raise it onto a specially constructed platform in the control booth.

“Building “Photo Booth
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Title: Dean's Picks: A Legacy of Leaders
Author:
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Abstract: In this issue of Dean's Picks, SOC showcases top achievements of 2014.
Topic: Communications
Publication Date: 09/23/2014
Content:

Latest Stories


Katie Couric

Focus on Military Families at VIP Screening

'Fort Bliss' event drew star Michelle Monaghan and Colonel Parker of the White House's Joining Forces initiative. Read more.
Screening starts Friday, Sept. 26 at West End Cinema.


Katie Couric


SOC's Top Achievements of 2014

2014 is shaping up to be a big year for the AU School of Communication. Read more.

 

Katie Couric

Jamming at the White House

AU professors invited to first White House Educational Game Jam. Read more.




In the News

Under New Ownership, WJLA-TV Takes a Slight Turn to the Right
School of Communication professor Charles Lewis spoke to the Washington Post about WJLA-TV's change in ownership and how the new owner's viewpoints differ from the previous owner. Learn more.

Hollywood's Medical Storylines Vetted by Those Who Know
School of Communication professor Kathryn Montgomery spoke to Kaiser Health News about the nature of political, social and health messaging in entertainment television. Montgomery specifically noted the ethical concerns on whether the public should be made aware of the influences. Learn more.

AU Wonks on Ferguson, Missouri, Police Shooting and Protests
Amidst the turmoil following the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, SOC professors Talan and Steinhorn discuss social media's role and the White House reaction.  


Macworld to End Its Print Edition and Lay Off Many of Its Employees
Associate Journalism professor Andrew Lih spoke to the New York Times about the monthly print edition of Macworld's demise because of its failure to keep up with other technology sources like CNET. Read More.

When Wildlife Documentaries Jump the Shark
Center for Environmental Filmmaking director Chris Palmer spoke to NPR about conscious filmmaking and discussed how the line between authentic documentaries and "docufiction" is often blurred by deceptive editing and staged animal interactions. Palmer discussed his own experience using animals in filmmaking. Learn More.

 

Upcoming Events


SOC Faculty Forum

September 23 11:00 a.m.
935 Lies: The Future of Truth and the Decline of America's Moral Integrity with professor Charles Lewis. Use #SOCFacultyForum to participate in the conversation.
Learn More.

CEF Film Series—Nat Geo Goes Wild!
September, 23 7:00 p.m.
Learn more.

International Cinema Series: Italian Film Series
Starting September 26
Co-hosted by SOC, the National Gallery of Art, and the Italian Embassy Cultural Institute. Learn More.

Coffee & Conversation with Dean Rutenbeck
September 26 3:00-4:30 p.m.
Learn More.

Human Rights Film Festival
Beginning October 1
Learn More.

Photo Night @ SOC—Powered by PechaKucha
October, 3 6:00-8:00 p.m.
Learn more.



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Please send your suggestions for Dean's Picks to Dani Rizzo.

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newsId: 3A241ADB-C3DC-7F26-99974584FA8EB00B
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
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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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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.

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Title: A Profile in Compatibility
Author: Rick Horowitz
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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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newsId: E695C3AB-0B4C-33C8-BCF5FE3ECB42B0DA
Title: From AU to Cannes: Alumna Sonya Dunn Thrives Behind the Camera
Author: Rebecca Vander Linde
Subtitle:
Abstract: Sonya Dunn produced The Bedroom while at AU. It is the first AU student film to screen at Cannes.
Topic: Alumni Profile
Publication Date: 07/05/2013
Content:

Sonya Dunn, SOC/MA ’13, just returned from the Cannes Film Festival where her short film, The Bedroom, was screened. It is the first AU student film to be screened at the prestigious event.

“It was a once in a lifetime opportunity. I learned so much from the experience, and I was able to network with other production companies and discuss possible collaborations,” she says.

The Bedroom chronicles a marital relationship and how couples struggle to stay connected. “It’s a tragic drama about everlasting love and overcoming obstacles and tragedy. Everybody’s in love and miserable at the same time.”

Filmmaking has been a lifelong fascination for Sonya. “Ever since I was little, I’ve always had the desire to be either in front of the camera or behind the camera. In college [at the University of Central Oklahoma], I learned about production and post-production. I fell in love with being behind the camera and have been there ever since,” she says.

Sonya spent a number of years in the film industry and even started her own production company, JEMH Productions, before pursuing her master’s degree in producing for film and video.

She chose AU because, she says, “I wanted to take my career to the next level. I felt American University was a good fit for me to advance my education in the field of media production. I’d always been on the creative side, and I hadn’t delved into the business side. [Going to AU] allowed me to attend school and continue working on projects. … [AU has] a gold mine of instructors in our field who give us knowledge to expand on our experiences.”

Professor Russell Williams – a two-time Oscar winner – was instrumental, Sonya says, in her education and helped with the post-production of The Bedroom. “With him, I was able to take my [post-production] skills to another level and understand the true collaboration of editing and sound in film. That alone was a priceless lesson for me to learn.”

“Being at AU has been a godsend. I’ve learned so much about the business side of producing. As a filmmaker, we sometimes get caught up in making the film and don’t pay much attention to the strategy of marketing the film once it’s done. … American University has taught me about the whole collaboration from pre-production to distribution and everything in between,” Sonya says.

The Bedroom has an accompanying book that will be released in September, shortly before the film is released. Although Sonya can’t talk about her current and future projects in detail, it’s clear from her success thus far, she is well on her way to becoming a media mogul.

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

Tags: College of Arts and Sciences,Film,Film and Media Arts,School of Communication,School of International Service,Career Center,Career Development
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