newsId: DEE1A301-ADB7-815F-9CC5F7D1F59DCBC9
Title: Dean's Picks: A Legacy of Leaders
Abstract: In this issue of Dean's Picks, SOC showcases top achievements of 2014.
Topic: Communications
Publication Date: 09/23/2014

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.

FOLLOW SOC Facebook Twitter YouTube

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

Tags: School of Communication,Center for Environmental Filmmaking,Center for Social Media,Film and Media Arts,Journalism (SOC),Office of the Dean (SOC),Public Communication
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newsId: CF35C86F-E7C5-09F2-2B6201A01F6EBFF2
Title: National Gallery of Art Partners with American University to Host International Cinema Series on AU Campus
Author: Ericka Floyd
Abstract: The National Gallery of Art partners with SOC for multiyear film series.
Topic: Communications
Publication Date: 09/22/2014

American University’s (AU) School of Communication (SOC) and the National Gallery of Art launch a multiyear program to provide cultural and educational programs to the Washington-area community through the art of film. The two institutions will jointly host an International Cinema Series, held on AU’s campus in the School of Communication’s new Malsi Doyle and Michael Forman Theater, inside the recently renovated McKinley Building. Film screenings are free of charge; seating is limited to a first-come, first-seated basis.

The International Cinema Series includes classic and contemporary films from Italy, China, the Czech Republic, Greece, Denmark, Brazil, and other countries around the world. Through coordination with embassy cultural programs, some screenings will include moderated discussion by filmmakers, scholars, and content experts. The International Cinema Series program is part of a two-year partnership and venue collaboration between the Gallery and American University during the renovation of the Gallery’s East Building through 2016.

“We are very pleased to work with the National Gallery of Art to enrich the greater AU community with ongoing weekend presentations of classic and contemporary cinema and documentary films,” said Jeffrey Rutenbeck, dean, American University School of Communication.
The cinema series begins this month, featuring Italian films cohosted by SOC, the National Gallery of Art, and the Italian Embassy Cultural Institute. For full descriptions of film programs, as well as dates and screening times, visit 

The AU Malsi Doyle and Michael Forman Theater is located on the second floor of the McKinley Building (4400 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC, 20016-8017). The 145-seat exhibition space is equipped with a Sony 4K digital cinema projection system and 7.1-surround sound audio. The space greatly enhances AU’s ability to host events for students and the greater public, such as national conferences, symposia, lectures, film festivals, awards ceremonies, and master classes with distinguished alumni. 

The AU School of Communication is one of the top communication schools in the country; it inspires leaders through excellence in teaching, research, creativity and unique real-world opportunities at the intersection of culture and technology.

About American University
American University is a leader in global education, enrolling a diverse student body from throughout the United States and nearly 140 countries. Located in Washington, D.C., the university provides opportunities for academic excellence, public service, and internships in the nation’s capital and around the world.

About the National Gallery of Art
The National Gallery of Art is one of the world’s preeminent art museums. Masterworks by European and American artists and temporary exhibitions spanning the world and the history of art await visitors to the Gallery. A wide range of Gallery tours, lectures, concerts, family programs, and films are offered throughout the week free of charge. Visit for more information. For additional information about National Gallery of Art film programs, visit

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newsId: 92086D23-D00B-8CF5-AB547AF5BAEF9A03
Title: Jamming at the White House
Author: Patty Housman
Abstract: AU professors invited to first White House Educational Game Jam.
Topic: Science
Publication Date: 09/19/2014

Earlier this month, three American University professors spent an intense weekend at the White House showing off their video game skills.  

It was all part of the first White House Educational Game Jam, a 48-hour challenge to develop prototypes of cutting-edge educational video games for children. Computer science professors Mike Treanor and Josh McCoy were invited to participate, along with AU Game Designer in Residence Chris Totten. They were part of a group of 102 developers and game designers representing Disney, Sony, Ubisoft, and other leaders in game development.  

“It was great to be invited to this event along with such well-established industry professionals,” said Treanor. “Josh and Chris are the newest members of the AU Game Lab, and it was a lot of fun to work as a team with them and create something together over a weekend. We look forward to putting some finishing touches on the game and releasing it in a few months.” 

Engaging Students in Learning 

The jam, organized by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the U.S. Department of Education, was developed in response to President Barack Obama’s 2011 call for investments in “educational software that’s as compelling as the best video game.”  

Treanor said that the White House’s sponsorship of the event illustrated the potential of video games as valuable education tools for teaching academic subjects and building critical problem-solving skills.

“In case people still had doubts, having the White House sponsor a game jam proves that games are no longer seen as distractions for children,” he said. “This event is symbolic of games being recognized as an important cultural form with huge educational potential.”

The Challenge 

The challenge was to develop an educational video game that met academic standards for grades K-12. The 23 teams had until 7 p.m. on Sunday night to develop a game prototype and create a two-minute video. 

The AU team created Function Force 4, an action-packed math game. Users fly on a spaceship and transform mathematic functions to aim and fire a laser cannon. This allows them to defeat enemies, collect items, and activate switches. 

“Our goal was simply to make a fun educational game. Changing the frequency of a sine wave looks cool and is fun. There’s no reason why it shouldn’t be taught that way,” said Treanor. “We tried to make a game that didn’t feel like it was trying to force you to learn.”  

Treanor explains that video games like Function Force 4 let students learn by doing. “I believe that the power of educational games lies in making the educational subject the object of play,” he said. “In Function Force 4, the player controls the shape of their blast by modifying math functions. While these topics are taught in high school, I don’t think people really get it until much later (and many people never do). Personally, while I could pass tests with questions about this topic, I never truly understood it until I programmed using it—until I was able to play with it.” 

Function Force 4 was featured in a USA TODAY article and on gaming review site said it had the potential to make the top math game list this year. 

The AU Game Lab 

Treanor, McCoy, and Totten all work together at AU’s Game Lab, part of AU’s new game design and persuasive play program jointly run by the College and the School of Communication. The American University Game Lab serves as a hub for experiential education, persuasive play research, and innovative production in the fields of games for change and rhetorical play. The Game Lab is working to develop a new generation of leaders in social impact gaming. The program offers a master’s degree in game design, and its studio works with clients to produce socially responsible games.

Tags: College of Arts and Sciences,Computer Science Dept,Gamelab,School of Communication,Featured News
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newsId: 28864629-B8CE-E05A-5AE905246DFADE41
Title: Focus on Military Families at VIP Screening
Author: Domanique Jordan
Abstract: 'Fort Bliss' event drew star Michelle Monaghan and Colonel Parker of the White House’s Joining Forces initiative.
Topic: Television & Film
Publication Date: 09/18/2014

Senior active duty and retired military joined high-level public officials September 16 at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial in Arlington, VA, for an invitation-only VIP screening of Fort Bliss, written and directed by Claudia Myers, a School of Communication professor at American University.

The film, which premieres in theaters September 19 in New York and LA, casts a light on the sacrifices borne by families of the women and men who serve in the military.

Fort Bliss is a supporter of the White House's Joining Forces initiative, which was represented at the event by Executive Director, United States Army Colonel Steve Parker. Major General Donna Barbisch moderated the Q&A with director, producers and cast. The VIP event also drew high level public officers from veterans’ service organizations, as well as civilian educators and mental health professionals.

The event was coordinated by Mike Hardy, an associate producer on the film. Hardy, an Army veteran who did two tours in Afghanistan, earned his master’s degree from AU in film production and video in 2012.

Also in attendance was Michelle Monaghan (Source Code, True Detective) along with cast members Emmanuelle Chriqui (Entourage, The Mentalist), Pablo Schreiber (The Manchurian Candidate, Orange is the New Black) and Gbenga Akinnagbe (24, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3).

Monaghan plays the central role of a decorated U.S. Army medic and single mother who returns from an extended deployment to Afghanistan to find she must rebuild her relationship with her five year-old son.

Myers praised Monaghan’s portrayal.

“I’m proud of the look and the level of authenticity we were able to achieve [in Fort Bliss] but I think above all, I’m proud of the performances. Michelle Monaghan is incredible as Staff Sergeant Maggie Swann. She delivers such a nuanced performance.”

Myers said that the seed for the film was sown while she was researching at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas for an Army training film in 2007.

“I had met an infantry sergeant who was a single dad and had deployed twice to Iraq. Because the mother was not around, he told me he had made arraignments to leave his son with the neighbors during his two deployments,” said Myers.

“As a mother myself, I became interested in the stories of female soldiers and single mothers and how they tried to balance the demands of two very different worlds.”

While Fort Bliss is a work of fiction, the film bridges the civilian-military divide by raising awareness in the general public and encouraging dialogue about the current challenges facing our veterans and their families.

Fort Bliss debuts in theaters and On Demand September 19, 2014

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newsId: 32830049-DBCE-AA1E-79033D51F6DFE9FB
Title: Building the Knowledge Network
Author: Gregg Sangillo
Abstract: Meet American University’s 23 new tenured and tenure track faculty members.
Topic: Research
Publication Date: 09/17/2014

American University has amassed a talented crop of 23 new tenured and tenure track professors for the upcoming year. As part of the AU 2030 project, the university has invested significant resources in key subject areas that cut across departments. The new faculty will help foster an environment of academic excellence.

College of Arts and Sciences

Though the substance of his work delves into indecision, Mark Laubach has a clear idea about the research that animates him. "I like trying to figure out decision-making. How does the brain resolve a decision?" Laubach poses. "And how do you learn from one occasion to the next to do something better next time?"

Laubach is a new associate professor of biology in the College of Arts and Sciences. Along with other professors, Laubach hopes to collaborate with Terry Davidson, director of the Center for Behavioral Neuroscience.

Laubach has been working with a National Science Foundation grant to understand brain circuits for executive control. Through Klarman Family Foundation support, he's been conducting research to comprehend neuronal circuits that control food-seeking behavior.

Originally from Bergen County, New Jersey, Laubach did his undergraduate work at Lafayette College in Pennsylvania. He was initially inclined towards marine biology, and one summer in Oregon he did a research project on crabs and their claws. He refocused his attention to neuroscience and neurobiology, eventually earning his Ph.D. from Wake Forest University.

American Univeristy associate professor of biology Mark Laubach.

Most recently, Laubach was an associate professor of neurobiology at Yale School of Medicine. He's made the move to Washington with his wife, Bernadette—a chemist and a preschool teacher—and their daughter and son. True to his North Jersey roots, Laubach is still loyal to the New York Mets and the New York Giants. But he's open to some of the local teams, and he's already started going to games with his sports-fanatic son.

Given his academic field, does he think about the neurons in his brain while he's fulfilling routine chores? "No, when I do my own decision-making, I do not think about my brain's role in it. But when I drive my car home, I end up having my best work-related ideas."

Other new CAS faculty:

Nicole Angotti is a new assistant professor in the Sociology Department. She's also a faculty affiliate at AU's Center on Health, Risk, and Society.

Michael Baron, who previously taught at the University of Texas at Dallas, is now a professor in the Mathematics and Statistics Department. Also teaching math and stats is assistant professor Kristina Crona.

John Bracht is now an assistant professor in the Biology Department. His research interests include genomics and cell biology.

Catherine Anne Claus is a new assistant professor in the Anthropology Department. Her teaching interests have included ocean studies and political ecology.

Joshua McCoy is an assistant professor in the Computer Science Department. He's focused on new video game experiences through game technology, design, social science, and artificial intelligence.

Ying-Chen Peng is a new assistant professor in the Art Department. She's researched late imperial and modern Chinese art history, globalization in art, and Asian material culture.

Jennifer Steele is an associate professor in the School of Education, Teaching, and Health (SETH). She's an urban education policy researcher and she formerly worked at the RAND Corporation. Also joining SETH is assistant professor and nutritional neuroscientist Kathleen Holton.

Kogod School of Business

Andrew Schnackenberg, a new assistant professor of management at the Kogod School of Business, is not one to accept received wisdom. He's explored areas of the informal economy, discovering that industry consensus sometimes obscures a much more complicated reality.

He observed a dramatic shift in the discourse surrounding medical marijuana, and a certain amount of industry myth making. "[The industry has] repositioned the product as being less a threat to public well-being and more of a benefit to public health," Schnackenberg says. "There's evidence that marijuana is good for your health, but there's also a lot of evidence that it's not so good for your health."

He's also studied payday lending, an industry that he says is increasingly stigmatized. Much of his earlier research was on corporate transparency.

Schnackenberg was born and raised in Japan. He was heavily influenced by the experience, and it's even reflected in his research choices. "I've been interested in this idea of transparency because in Japan things were very nontransparent," he says. "With these controversial issues I've studied, there's a tremendous amount of symbolism and myth making that goes on. And this is something that I think happens all the time in Japan."

He did his undergraduate studies at University of Nevada, Las Vegas and started working at a private equity firm. He then went back overseas to complete his MBA in Australia. Upon returning to the U.S., he says he wasn't "satisfied with the answers to the compelling questions that business professionals have around these kinds of issues." He subsequently entered academia and earned his Ph.D. from Case Western Reserve University this year.

Other new Kogod faculty:

Shuai Ma is a new assistant professor in the Accounting Department. He's delved into issues such as tax reporting and corporate governance.

School of Communication

Benjamin Stokes is an incoming professor at AU's School of Communication. Stokes is currently doing his postdoctoral work at University of California, Berkeley, and he'll start at AU as a full-time faculty member in the fall of 2015. He's listed as a civic media research fellow at AU's Center for Media & Social Impact, and he'll be part of the AU Game Lab with SOC professor Lindsay Grace and others. His research and teaching revolve around civic learning and technology.

Incoming American University School of Communication Benjamin Stokes.

Stokes was born in Montana, but grew up in Ashland, Oregon. Even in high school, he was building online virtual field trips for kids. He got his bachelor's degree in physics from Haverford College. While living abroad, he studied West African drumming in Senegal.

Before launching a full-time academic career, Stokes worked in the nonprofit world. This included online education work on global poverty. "Increasingly, I got pulled into games," he says. While dealing with global interdependence and global citizenship, the biggest challenge was getting people engaged. "We discovered that games were a powerful way to build some of that cause and effect learning." He later joined with colleagues in launching a nonprofit, Games for Change, which facilitates gaming for social impact.

In designing games—particularly for mobile devices—he emphasizes the human component and game interactivity with everyday life. It's not just about advanced technology and coding, he says.

"The intersection around media that is partly online and partly face-to-face is really exciting. And it's a really good time for this right now. The technology makes it possible with phones. We're bringing the Internet back into the physical world."

School of International Service

Miles Kahler has been teaching on the West Coast since 1986. So moving across the country to take a new job at AU's School of International Service is certainly a big life change. Yet Kahler is no stranger to the area: He grew up near Baltimore, Maryland, and he spent time in Washington in the 1980s. In 2012-2013, he was on sabbatical and serving as a fellow at the D.C.-based Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Among other activities, he attended conferences at AU and met with SIS Dean James Goldgeier. "I was just very impressed with the trajectory of the institution," Kahler says.

Kahler will serve as a distinguished professor at SIS as well as a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. He's an expert on international politics and international political economy, with a focus on global governance and international monetary cooperation. He previously taught at University of California, San Diego.

During the Vietnam War era, Kahler became curious about international conflict. "It did get me interested in the question of imperialism, and why great powers or superpowers get involved in wars with much weaker powers," he recalls. When he eventually prepared his doctoral dissertation at Harvard, he focused on decolonization in Great Britain and France.

Kahler maintains many other intellectual passions, and he has an enduring connection to China. He was part of an early academic delegation there in 1979, around the time the U.S. formally recognized the rising nation. In 1980, he undertook his first teaching stint in Shanghai. "China was just opening again to the international economy and to the world," he says. "And meeting the students—who in many ways had their entire lives set back by the Cultural Revolution—was really quite an important experience for me." Kahler would return to Shanghai to teach in 2009.

In conjunction with his latest research, Kahler will teach an undergraduate senior seminar this spring on emerging economies, including Brazil, China, and India, and global governance. SIS has developed impressive faculty expertise to address issues related to governance at all levels, Kahler adds.

"'What is the most efficient, just means of governing an interconnected world?' is one of the critical questions that we face in the coming decade," he says.

Other new SIS faculty:

Adam Auerbach, a new assistant professor, recently received the 2014 Best Dissertation Award from the urban politics section of the American Political Science Association.

Austin Hart is now an assistant professor. He specializes in political campaigns and public opinion, with a focus on Latin America.

Sarah Snyder, also an assistant professor, is a historian of the Cold War and U.S. human rights policy.

School of Public Affairs

Derek Hyra is an associate professor in the School of Public Affairs and he will serve as the director of SPA's new Metropolitan Policy Center. "One of the missions of the center is to do interdisciplinary, collaborative research, but also to show and highlight AU's engagement in Washington, D.C.," says Hyra.

Hyra was first drawn to urban studies not in the classroom, but on the basketball court. Hyra grew up in Somers, N.Y., which he describes as a mostly white, middle-to-upper income suburb. Yet he played competitive basketball through an Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) team based out of West Harlem. "I saw Harlem in the late 80s and early 90s, when it was still coming off the crack epidemic. And there were a lot of abandoned buildings and vacant lots," he recalls. "A lot of what I learned through developing relationships with my teammates, who were mostly African-American kids from Harlem and the Bronx, really taught me about race in America." Hyra notes the overall value of this experience. "I didn't know it at the time, but it had a very dramatic impact on what I eventually did as a career."

Hyra ended up going to Colgate University, where he played Patriot League basketball for four years. He also discovered the writings of sociologist William Julius Wilson and learned about the historic conditions creating urban blight.

He's had a rich and varied career since that time, working at both the Housing and Urban Development Department and the Treasury Department. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. Earlier this year, he ran in the Democratic primary for a U.S. House seat in the Northern Virginia-based 8th District. Though he lost, Hyra feels like he elevated the discussion on affordable housing.

"I try to look at how you can bring redevelopment to a low-income area, but do it in a way that's equitable," Hyra says of his research. He's examined gentrification and economic transformation in Harlem in New York and Bronzeville on Chicago's South Side.

For a forthcoming book, he completed a five-year ethnographic study of the redevelopment of the Shaw-U Street neighborhood in D.C. Outside of work, Hyra is a fan of jazz—one of the great cultural traditions of this Shaw-U Street area.

Other new SPA faculty:

Ryan Moore is a new assistant professor and his research interests include the politics of health, pensions, and welfare.

Elizabeth Suhay is an assistant professor of government. Her specialties have included political psychology and public understanding of science.

Erdal Tekin, a new professor, is an expert on health economics and policy. He comes over from Georgia State University.

Vicky Wilkins is a professor in the Department of Public Administration & Policy and an associate dean for academic affairs.

Thomas Zeitzoff is a new assistant professor. He's conducted research on political violence and political psychology.

American University Washington College of Law

AUWCL has several new faculty leadership appointments. Lia Epperson, an expert on constitutional law and civil rights, is now associate dean for faculty and academic affairs. Jenny M. Roberts has been appointed associate dean for scholarship. A former public defender and law clerk, she's done research on issues of right to counsel and indigent defense. Amanda Frost is the new director of the Doctor of Judicial Science (S.J.D.) Program. Frost has published widely and has been a frequent contributor to SCOTUSblog.

Tags: Biology Dept,College of Arts and Sciences,Featured News,Gamelab,Management Dept,Media Relations,School of Communication,School of International Service,School of Public Affairs,Provost,Public Administration & Policy
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newsId: 89643B7A-0922-3369-06B719D64B1BED5F
Title: When AU Comes to Natstown
Author: Gregg Sangillo
Abstract: American University had a sparkling night at Nationals Park.
Topic: In the Community
Publication Date: 08/25/2014

Pregame Hoopla

Baseball is often thought of as an intellectual's game. Historians and literary figures get misty-eyed when talking about the hypnotic power of America's pastime. Statheads devour copies of The Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract in their spare time. So AU Night at Nationals Park is a natural draw for the cerebral and passionate individuals who comprise the American University community. Students, alumni, faculty, and staff turned out in force on Friday, August 22 to watch the hometown Washington Nationals take on the San Francisco Giants.

This is the third season of the successful partnership between AU and the Washington Nationals. The AU WONK campaign is represented in signage on scoreboards throughout the stadium during home games. WONK trivia challenges appear during the season and tap into the expertise of AU faculty. Launched in 2010, the WONK campaign celebrates those same smart, focused, and engaged Eagles in attendance on Friday.

View photos from AU Nats Night 2014

Plenty of AU students were at the game, and close to 400 tickets were set aside at a special discount rate for freshmen. Tickets were offered at three recent Welcome Week functions, and at one event, 180 tickets were sold in just an hour.

On Friday, students started off with a Nats-themed barbeque on campus, filled with popcorn and hot dogs. At the park beforehand, there was the highly anticipated special alumni picnic—sold out for the third year in a row. The first 25,000 fans at the stadium got free AU-Nats t-shirts. Accompanied by Nationals manager Matt Williams, AU President Neil Kerwin took part in the lineup card exchange with the umpire and the visiting Giants.

Sports journalist David Aldridge, an AU alumnus and Washington native, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. "My only goal was for it to be better than 50 Cent. I think I did that," he joked, in reference to the rapper's awful sideways pitch at a Mets game.

Aldridge (SOC /BA '87) felt gratitude towards his alma mater. "I'm so thrilled AU asked me to do this. It was a lot of fun," he said.

Treble in Paradise

Singing the national anthem at a sporting event is extremely difficult. We've witnessed Grammy-winning artists completely bungle the song. But all-female, all-AU student a cappella group Treble in Paradise was up for the challenge. "We're like sisters in the group, and so it gets really comfortable. And we usually can just laugh through any of the nerves," said Hayley Travers, a senior musical theatre major. "I think a lot of the time what trips the person up is the lyrics. And for us, since we're all singing together, the chance that we're all going to mess up is narrowed."

They certainly didn't mess up, as their beautiful rendition brought about rapturous applause from AU and non-AU spectators alike.

Hannah Johnson, a junior psychology major and the singing group's president, had her entire family come down for the game. "Without AU, we would never have had this chance," she said.

Play Ball

Throughout the game, AU's presence was everywhere. Just before the third inning, a WONK trivia challenge featured Anita McBride, executive-in-residence at the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies in the School of Public Affairs. Amidst the baseball, we could learn that President Abraham Lincoln was partial to the poetry of Walt Whitman.

On Twitter, students were encouraged to use #AUNatsNight throughout the evening to share their experiences and show their AU spirit. Clawed Z. Eagle energized the crowd, with first-year students flocking to get their pictures taken with the beloved AU mascot. And as anyone who's ever been to a Nats game can attest, the Presidents' Race is the moment of truth. Clawed was holding the finish line while George Washington was victorious.

Jennifer Vinciguerra, who just earned her master's degree in organization development, marveled at seeing the AU signs in sparkling colors on the scoreboards. "It's awesome. When we came in and it said AU everywhere, on all of the screens, it was very cool," she says. "And it's nice to come back and see other alums. It's good to realize, 'Oh, there's a community here."

Welcome Week Ends With a Bang

Much to the chagrin of the hometown crowd, Giants rookie Joe Panik had a monster game, going 4-for-5 and hitting his first major league home run. But it was an all-around banner night for other freshmen. First-year students said Night at Nationals Park instilled a sense of AU pride, while integrating them into their new city.

"Sports are a big part of any city. So now, after finally moving to D.C., this adds more attachment to being here," said Benjamin Zook, a freshman CLEG major in the School of Public Affairs.

And it's fun to watch a little baseball. Zook is from nearby Loudoun County, Virginia and he was already a Nats fan. There's a time-honored tradition of baseball facilitating father-son relationships, and you can set your DVR to Field of Dreams and The Natural for fictional inspirations of this. Zook and his father also bonded over the game. "Every time I come to a baseball game without him, he always watches on TV," he said.

Rebecca Malone is a freshman in the School of International Service and she's part of the three-year Global Scholars Program. "After Welcome Week, we thought this was kind of a good way to settle into the city," she says.

Katie Low happens to be a huge San Francisco Giants fan, but she relished live baseball in Washington. "Baseball is something I watch at home with my family. It's really cool that I'm watching it here with all of these AU kids. So it's like a second family over here," she said. "Tonight is awesome. And it really makes me feel like this is kind of my home now." Low hails from San Joaquin County, California and she's also a freshman in the CLEG program.

Freshman Samantha White, a political science major, is originally from the Cleveland metropolitan area. She's an Indians fan, but she's also adopted the Nats. "I definitely love baseball. And I'm really excited that being at American University we can get these discounted tickets," she said. "I'll probably be here all the time."

The Giants won 10-3, putting a halt to the Nationals remarkable 10-game winning streak. But AU kept its own streak alive. For the third straight year, AU celebrated its intelligent, jovial, tight-knit community through baseball. New, current, and former students had a good time. And the school may be recruiting a few future stars. While Clawed was heading towards the field before the game, a young boy in a Nationals jersey recognized the mascot. "That's American University!" he blurted out.

Tags: Alumni,Media Relations,New Students,Office of Campus Life,President,School of Communication,School of International Service,School of Public Affairs
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Title: Changing the Face of Media with the T. Howard Foundation
Author: Devin Symons
Abstract: Student diversity thrives in a national media and entertainment internship program.
Topic: Internships
Publication Date: 08/20/2014

Want to hang out with Peter Dinklage, the actor who portrays the roguish Tyrion Lannister on HBO's hit series Game of Thrones? For Edeny Tran, SOC/BA '14, that was a day on the job, thanks to her internship at HBO. 

"The producer managing the Game of Thrones DVD releases invited me to go along to an audio commentary session," says Tran. It was at this session that she met Dinklage. "He was really nice, and actually initiated conversation with me, which caught me by surprise." She laughs. "He asked if I was an intern for HBO, what school I go to—small talk stuff."

Tran found her internship through the T. Howard Foundation, an organization dedicated to increasing diversity in the media and entertainment industry. It helps self-identified minority students find internships with media companies across the country, and has been doing so for 20 years. This year, the Foundation saw its biggest summer class ever, with 97 interns working at 35 different companies.

"The media industry is changing, and we want to make sure we capture different voices throughout different business functions," says Karla Morrison, senior internship program manager for the T. Howard Foundation. 

American University and the T. Howard Foundation have long had a positive relationship. This year 11 AU students made it through the application and interview stages into the final talent pool, meaning they were eligible for selection by companies looking for interns.

"AU students are both academically well-prepared and have an experience of diversity," says Morrison. "It's a very diverse school, and being located in D.C. gives students many advantages as well."

Tran learned about the T. Howard Foundation from a friend at AU who interned the previous year.

"She told me how the internship program focuses on promoting diversity in the media, which is a cause that I'm pretty passionate about," says Tran. She applied and was accepted as a finalist in this year's talent pool. "Two months later, I got an email from the internship manager of HBO asking if I was available for a phone interview. I had the phone interview and a few days later, they offered me a position."

Interns who make it to the final stages of the process are not only eligible for internships with a variety of media and entertainment companies, but also receive opportunities for professional development. Students are paired with a professional mentor at a media company or in the student's field of interest, and receive regular webinars, resume and interview advice, and a two-and-a-half day orientation at the Foundation's headquarters in Maryland, with travel and lodging provided. 

"We have industry professionals and executives speak to them about networking, business communication, and meeting etiquette, about how to make the most of the hiring process, how to interact with a manager or supervisor, how to present yourself," says Morrison. "Even after they finish their internships, we help them achieve their career goals."

"The T. Howard Foundation team really care about our development and success, which is evident from the programming they do before we start our internship and after we finish," says Tran.

Internships aren't limited to students in academic fields traditionally associated with media or entertainment.

"Often when we think about media, we think about communications and journalism," says Morrison. "But just like other corporations, media companies have a lot of departments, so they're looking for students in accounting and finance, in marketing, in sales, students who are familiar with technology and social media, graphic design students, students in IT, and more."

Chizorom Wosu, KSB/BA '14, joined the Foundation's internship program for two summers, first interning at Comcast's corporate headquarters, and the second time at Paramount Pictures in Los Angeles.

"I majored in accounting and the organization was able to find accounting opportunities within the industry that perfectly fit my career goals," she says. 

Outside of her work responsibilities, Wosu was also able to attend a Paramount Pictures movie premier, attend a taping of Jimmy Kimmel Live, and have a Q&A session with Kimmel himself.

Among other projects at HBO, Tran worked quality control for an upcoming Blu-Ray release of "True Detective," and along with other interns presented brand recommendations to executives across all departments. She says the experience has been both educational and rewarding.

"I wanted to learn about a different side of the industry that was beyond what I learned in class as a film major, and my internship experience definitely fulfilled that goal," says Tran. "I've learned so much, and enjoyed every second of it."

Wosu agrees.

"I had a wonderful experience with T. Howard," says Wosu. "The organization not only focuses on finding opportunities for students, but they also provide students with career development opportunities, numerous networking opportunities, and a chance to make new friends."


Applications for the T. Howard Foundation summer internship program are open during the fall to self-identified minority students with at least a 2.8 cumulative GPA, who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents. T. Howard Foundation representatives will be on campus to meet with students on Wednesday, October 1, from 5:00 to 6:00 p.m.

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Title: Political and Journalism Pros Bring Expertise to AU Faculty
Abstract: New School of Communication faculty appointments augment core strength in data journalism, political and polling analysis.
Topic: Communications
Publication Date: 08/15/2014

The School of Communication welcomes three outstanding individuals at the top of their professions to faculty this fall. David Donald, an award-winning data journalist at the Center for Public Integrity will join SOC and its Investigative Reporting Workshop; Molly O'Rourke, a partner at Hart Research, brings a high level of experience in political polling as Executive in Residence and Director of the Political Communication program; while Ron Elving, Senior Washington Editor at NPR, joins SOC as a Visiting Distinguished Journalist.

"It is exciting to bring three high-profile professionals into our classrooms, "says Dean Jeffrey Rutenbeck. "Their expertise builds on our core strengths in political communication, data-driven journalism and political journalism."

Molly O'Rourke joins AU as co-director of the MA in Political Communication and Executive-in-Residence. Molly brings high-level professional experience as well as teaching experience to the position. Her impressive 18-year career in public opinion research and communications includes 12 years at the prestigious Hart Research firm where she has held a number of senior level positions including most recently as partner. She has worked with a diverse portfolio of high profile, national clients such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, League of Conservation Voters, NBC News, Prevention Magazine and MTV's Choose or Lose Campaign.

She is a well-respected expert within the field of political communication and has co-written a column for The Hill newspaper and has appeared as a polling expert on a number of television programs including NBC Nightly News, Hardball with Chris Matthews, and WRC-TV DC's local NBC station.

Molly also has proven teaching experience. She has served as an adjunct instructor at Johns Hopkins where she taught both in person and online Polling for Strategic Communication and Research and Writing Methods.

David Donald Courtesy /The Center for Public Integrity

David Donald joins us from the Center for Public Integrity where he has served as the Data Editor since 2008. He is a revered leader in his field and brings more than two decades of experience in investigative reporting, data journalism, and statistical analysis. David's recent accolades include the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award for his May 2011 report "Sexual Assault on Campus," and the Philip Meyer Award in 2013 for the best examples of use of social science methods in journalism for "Cracking the Codes." He has taught as an adjunct at Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism as well as Savannah State University and has extensive experience training thousands of journalists through his work with the nonprofit Investigative Reporters and Editors. David received an M.A. in English from Cleveland State University and an M.A. in Journalism from Kent State University.

Ron Elving Doby Photography /NPR

Ron Elving, Senior Washington Editor at National Public Radio, will be a Visiting Distinguished Journalist in an expanded adjunct appointment. Elving, who has nearly 40 years of experience specializing in political affairs, has been at NPR since 1999, managing a full-time staff of 15 journalists who cover the White House, Congress, Federal Judiciary, Executive Branch, and national politics. He provides frequent on-air analysis and commentary. He has also worked at USAToday, Congressional Quarterly, and the Milwaukee Journal. He is the author of Conflict and Compromise: How Congress Makes the Law and has contributed a number of book chapters, including some for publications edited by SPA's Jim Thurber. He received a BA in English from Stanford University, an MA in English Language and Literature from the University of Chicago, and a MJ from the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley.

Tags: Faculty,Investigative Reporting Workshop,Journalism (SOC),New,Politics,School of Communication,Public Communication
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Title: Dotty Lynch Leaves Legacy of Political Communication
Abstract: The SOC community is mourning Lynch, a journalist and pollster who infused students with a love of politics and the political process.
Topic: Communications
Publication Date: 08/12/2014

The School of Communication and American University are mourning the loss of Dotty Lynch, a journalist and pollster who infused students with a love of politics and the political process. Professor Lynch died Aug. 10, 2014, after a year-long battle with melanoma.

Lynch joined SOC as an Executive in Residence after a two-decade long career with CBS News.

SOC Dean Jeffrey Rutenbeck called Lynch “a giant in her field. We will miss the energy she brought to each endeavor, and the generosity with which she shared her considerable knowledge and network with both students and colleagues."

Former students and a legion of prominent media strategists, pollsters and journalists took to social media to share their shock and sadness upon hearing the news.

“Remembering Professor Lynch as the vibrant, caring, and dedicated woman we all knew,” Allison Terry, a former student, posted on Facebook.

Lynch Campaigns A small sampling of the many elections Lynch worked on, including the press pass covering her very first election in 1968 for NBC, presented as a retirement gift in May 2014.

Lynch’s professional contacts were legion, ranging from Hillary Clinton to Dan Rather to Mike Wallace, and she often used those contacts to help students understand the ins and outs of politics.

Lynch was a driving force in creating a class with other SOC faculty that offered students the opportunity to examine the 2008 and 2012 presidential campaign. As part of the class, students and faculty traveled to New Hampshire in the January cold to cover that state’s all-important primary. Lynch leveraged her extensive network to get students front-row access to debates and connect them with professional reporters and politicos on the ground.

Lynch recalled that in 2008 New York Times’ reporters were staying in the same hotel as the AU group, with a newsroom set up just like the students were using, “except ours was bigger,” Lynch said, laughing as she recalled the scene.

The experience, and Lynch herself, were influential for many students. “She continued to support, sass, and educate me well after the NH class was over,” said Meagan Shamberger.

Lynch had decided to retire at the end of the 2013-14 academic year, and she talked before her recent illness about how she got into the business of politics and how she incorporated her experiences into the classroom.

Virtual Dinner AU students at the filing center in St. Anselm's College covering the 2012 New Hampshire primary.

Lynch, who taught research methods and polling in the Public Communication Division, began her fascination with politics while watching President John F. Kennedy deliver his landmark 1963 speech calling for a nuclear test ban. Ironically, that speech was given at commencement ceremonies at American University, which became Professor Lynch’s home in 2006.

Lynch began her career in 1968, working as a researcher for the Election Unit at NBC. In 1972, she joined Cambridge Survey Research, becoming a vice president in 1976. At Cambridge, she worked on the presidential campaigns of George McGovern and Jimmy Carter as well as a number of congressional and gubernatorial campaigns.

Chris Matthews Chris Matthews, host of NBC's Hardball, was part of the speechwriting panel that kicked-off AU's 50th anniversary celebration of JFK's speech on nuclear proliferation.

It was as Director of Survey Research for the Democratic National Committee in the early 1980s that Lynch first developed the concept of a “gender gap,” showing the disparity in political behavior between men and women. She began her own firm in 1983 and was the first woman pollster in a presidential campaign. She joined CBS News as Political Editor, later being named Senior Political Editor, and worked with reporters including Lesley Stahl, Bob Schieffer, Ed Bradley, and Diane Sawyer.

Even after joining AU, Lynch remained a political consultant for CBS News doing on-air radio analysis and serving as a member of the CBS News Election Decision Desk. She said having one foot in both the academic and professional worlds made a difference in the classroom.

“I was always up to date, minute to minute,” she reflected just before her retirement, noting that while she was discussing election exit polls, her students were in the field, actually doing exit polling.

The 2012 election marked her 22nd election cycle in congressional and presidential campaigns as a professional journalist and pollster.

Lynch Clinton Lynch and her husband pose with President Bill Clinton, who received AU's inaugural Wonk of the Year award in 2012.

Lynch worked with Professor Lenny Steinhorn in SOC as well as faculty from AU’s School of Public Affairs to help launch the new master’s degree in Political Communication in 2010.

“It grew from the ground up: Communication students wanted more politics and SPA students wanted more communication,” said Lynch, who served as the program co-director with Professor Candy Nelson in SPA.

Speakers in Professor Lynch’s classes included political consultants, pollsters, media advisors and communication directors. Students heard from former Bill Clinton press secretary Mike McCurry, Mandy Grunwald, who directed media relations for Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign, and Obama advisor Jim Margolis.

Lynch said that she had two criteria when deciding whom to invite to class: “They need to be experts, the best in their field. And they must be ethical and have good values. Democrat, Republican – that doesn’t matter. I want people who care about more than money.”

Lynch said she wanted to let students experience what people have to say about the challenges of doing the job, for example, how to handle a crisis. Not just war stories, but educational – principles that can be applied from school board to the presidency.

“So much of American politics today is built on two essential pillars: knowing how the political system works, and appreciating the subtleties and strategies of political communication,” Lynch said.

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Title: Student Media Leader: Jessica Wombles
Author: Jordan-Marie Smith
Abstract: A lesson in hard work and dedication to social justice.
Topic: Communications
Publication Date: 08/07/2014

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.


Major: Journalism

Rising Sophomore Jessica Wombles is Copy Editor and Twitter contributor for AU's American Way of Life Magazine (AWOL). In this first person essay, she explains her decision to transfer to SOC from the College of Arts and Sciences. 

I have always had a passion for writing. I knew at a young age I was a good writer, but it wasn't until my junior year of high school that I discovered how far I still had to go. During that school year I both loved and hated writing. I hated it because I took AP English Language and had the hardest teacher I think I have ever had. I now know that she was tough on all of her students to force them to excel. It was because of her that I got a 5 on my AP exam. 

I can still hear her preaching to the class,“‘about how’ is grammatically incorrect!” I learned so much from her because I had to if I wanted my GPA to stay afloat, and though at times her class made me want to pull my hair out, I know I am so much better off because of her.

I originally came to [American University] as a prospective Lit major, but what really turned my thinking around, was the incredibly high level of social activism constantly in effect on the AU campus. It wasn't long before I starting taking part in massive protests like Take Back the Night, and advocating for issues such as world hunger and privilege awareness. Pretty soon I started thinking, I want to do more for these causes. I want to tell people all about these issues and I want to really affect change in a big way. I want to do more than march around shouting and holding up signs. I want an audience.

Long story short, I'm transferring into the School of Communication because I want to be an advocate for important social issues and see the waves that I'm making. [In the long term] [a]s a journalism and SIS double major, I would really love to start out as a freelancer, then navigate my way into a position as a foreign correspondent for a major newswire.

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

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 She went on to become an online news editor for WAMU, an editor and producer for, 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,, 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
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

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
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

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
Abstract: Brian Levin SOC/MA '04 is writer/producer for Flock of Dudes
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 11/13/2013

"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
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

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
Abstract: So many devices, so little time! Alumni couple simplifies cross-platform file transfers, untangles cloud computing.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 07/31/2013

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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newsId: 497D2FA6-03C5-429A-0EF284473D7DFBE0
Title: AU Alumnus Sees Success at SXSW Film Festival
Author: Tyne Darke, SOC/BA ’13
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

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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newsId: E695C3AB-0B4C-33C8-BCF5FE3ECB42B0DA
Title: From AU to Cannes: Alumna Sonya Dunn Thrives Behind the Camera
Author: Rebecca Vander Linde
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

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.

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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
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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tags: College of Arts and Sciences,Film,Film and Media Arts,School of Communication,School of International Service,Career Center,Career Development
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newsId: F37A2650-C05D-EE24-A7D70875E682A89F
Title: How One Alum Turned a Social Spotlight on “The Invisible War”
Author: Liz Preuss
Abstract: SOC alum Megan Ackerman played a key role in the documentary The Invisible War, which received a Oscar nomination.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 04/12/2013

When Megan Ackerman (SOC/BA '11), graduated from American University, she left knowing that working for something she believed in was essential.  Her job as Digital Media Strategist at FitzGibbon Media allowed her to bring national attention to the documentary The Invisible War and the issue of sexual assault in the military.  By playing a key role in building the film's impressively high profile for a documentary, she likely played a role in helping it receive an Oscar nomination. Ackerman was happy to have been able to work on the campaign – it's a cause she supports, and it is the kind of film she aspires to make one day – hard hitting and eye opening.

SOC Sat down with Ackerman to talk about her work with the film.

SOC: What does a digital media strategist do? What was your role in the The Invisible War project?

Ackerman: As a digital media strategist for [FitzGibbon Media], I was creating social media strategy plans for our clients and their campaigns. This involved posting articles on Facebook, tweeting relevant information and more. The Invisible War was also on Instagram, so I was taking pictures of survivors and supporters and posting them.

SOC: How did you get involved with FitzGibbon Media and the film?

Ackerman: The movie came before the company, and it all goes back to American. At AU, I met one of my best friends, Rachel. She ended up hired by FitzGibbon. The company got involved with the film, and they were looking for somebody with social media skills. Rachel knew I had them as well as a background in entertainment, and recommended me. I was then hired to work for the company.

SOC: Did you think that this documentary would be Oscar-worthy?

Ackerman: When I first saw it, I knew it needed to be nominated. I was hesitant to think it would happen because it's a heavy subject. While it's disappointing that it didn't win, the nomination gave a lot of attention to the issue that it wouldn't have otherwise gotten. It was a huge accomplishment.

SOC: What was your previous knowledge of sexual assault in the military?

Ackerman: I had a hint of the problem of military sexual assault, but I didn't realize how big it was. I didn't realize the cover-up involved, nor that men were raped as well. I personally have no attachment to military, but I know people who do.

SOC: Why is it important to expose this problem and what impact did the film have?

Ackerman: Regardless of your opinions, I feel like you should always support your fellow Americans. You have volunteers devoting their lives to fighting for our country, but these are also people that are being raped. It's deemed an occupational hazard by the Military's judicial system, and it's awful. You need to get the message out to civilians. They can stand up and say something. Congressmen need to be held accountable for making change happen.

Now there are so many members of Congress speaking out. More survivors than ever are coming out and talking about it – to their families, friends and news media. I had people contact me and say they were bringing family with them to see film because they didn't know how else to tell relatives.

Tags: Achievements,Alumni,Communication,Faculty,Film,Media,School of Communication,Staff,Students,War,Women's Issues
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