newsId: 7A39BA44-F2C1-0E18-3824686BF85D0B90
Title: Decoding Aquarius
Author: Gregg Sangillo
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Abstract: School of Communication professor contributes to CNN Series on the 1960s.
Topic: Communications
Publication Date: 07/21/2014
Content:

Towards the end of the rain-soaked Woodstock Festival in August 1969, Jimi Hendrix took his Fender Stratocaster and made music history. He lit into a rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner" that was sublime and exultant. Yet it was also cacophonous and—like so much else from this time period—controversial. That expression of beauty and chaos, unity and discord, may have been the perfect metaphor for the 1960s.

Was Hendrix channeling the turbulence of the times? Interpretations vary. But just like the national anthem, historians are still trying to untangle everything that happened in the Age of Aquarius. American University School of Communication professor Leonard Steinhorn has intensely studied the era, and now he's providing expertise to CNN's documentary series, The Sixties. He taped commentary for three upcoming episodes, which deal with social movements, 1968, and the counterculture, respectively. The episode on 1968 is scheduled to air on July 31. The CNN series is presented in collaboration with several veteran film producers, including actor Tom Hanks.

Steinhorn is also an affiliate professor in the History Department, where he teaches a course on the 1960s.

Got a Revolution, Got to Revolution

What ignited such massive social upheaval? In an interview, Steinhorn provides some answers. Steinhorn discusses how a segregated, Jim Crow society was increasingly captured on television. "You had the brutal bombing of the church in Birmingham, the brutalization of Freedom Riders, the fire hoses and the German shepherds attacking people who were peacefully seeking their rights and dignities," he says.

School of Communication professor Leonard Steinhorn teaching

He also describes children growing up in the nuclear age, with accompanying air raid shelters and sirens terrifying them about the future. "They had the sense of either having to pull us back from the brink, or if the world's going to end, we've got to be able to do something about it now," he explains.

Music and alternative publications helped shape a rapidly developing youth culture. You had Mad magazine satirizing middle class conformity. You had rock 'n' roll, which kids increasingly listened to in their cars and out of earshot of their parents. Soul music brought people of all colors onto the same dance floors, he adds.

During the economic boom of the 1950s, the U.S. had a rising need for managers and thinkers to direct the economy. "And how do you get them? You go to universities, which had for years been places of social privilege," Steinhorn says. "You had this growing number of young people who were in universities, and who were there to learn, to ask questions, to see the world, to think critically."

Then, of course, you had the Vietnam War. "That hit everybody in their homes. Either when they were watching it on television, their kids were being drafted and fighting it, or their kids were protesting it," he says.

Sound of Marching, Charging Feet

Steinhorn lectures on 1968 as part of the One Day University program. The totality of what occurred that year was astonishing: Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy assassinated; the Tet Offensive in Vietnam; President Lyndon Johnson decided not to run for re-election; rioting at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago; Columbia University shut down.

"It was not just the rain clouds gathering. It was an electric storm that hot-wired everything at that moment in time," he says. Yet Steinhorn believes the country proved resilient. In 1969, he points out, the U.S. put a man on the moon.

Change Was Gonna Come

Steinhorn believes the countercultural forces of that decade had an overwhelmingly positive impact on American life. He deals with this in his 2006 book, The Greater Generation: In Defense of the Baby Boom Legacy. Many of the ideas forged by early Boomers during the 1960s ushered in today's more inclusive society. Racial bigotry has become taboo, and gender equality is a widely shared goal. Businesses are less hierarchical and more participatory, he says.

"We may look back on the counterculture as a quaint relic of the Sixties, but the values that animated it—express yourself, experiment with the new, find your own God, don't take anything for granted, appreciate nonconformity, feel comfortable in your skin, do your own thing—have permeated American institutions, families, and lives," he writes in his book. 

"The 1960s was a profound cultural shift. It was a shift in the norms of our society. And once the norms of society shift, once the culture begins to shift, the politics will have to follow," he says.

A Little Better, All the Time

Religious Right leaders blame the 1960s for creating a host of social ills, but Steinhorn emphasizes the repressive nature of the oft-romanticized 1950s. To give just one example, he's examined 1950s help wanted ads (which were separated by gender) in venerable newspapers like The New York Times and The Washington Post. "It was, 'Wanted: woman, 5-foot-5 to 5-foot-7 in heels;attractive.' I mean, we are living in a different universe," he says.

Even some 1960s era progressives have deemed the activist movement a failure, or at least a lost opportunity.

"We were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave," wrote Hunter S. Thompson in his early 1970s classic Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. "Now…you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark—that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back."

Yet Steinhorn takes the long view of history. It took decades before Baby Boomers began holding senior positions in business, government, and nonprofits, and changes are starting to reflect that now. "This country has moved in the direction of greater dignity, respect, equality, and freedom. We're not where we need to be, but we're far better than where we were." 

Tags: College of Arts and Sciences,Featured News,Media Relations,Public Communication,School of Communication,History Dept
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Title: Student Media Leader: Julia Reinstein
Author: Jordan-Marie Smith
Subtitle:
Abstract: A lesson in storytelling and real-world experience.
Topic: Journalism
Publication Date: 07/16/2014
Content:

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

Organization: Her Campus & American Word
Major: Print Journalism
Internship: New York Magazine




In what capacity have you worked with AU student media organizations?

I'm currently a contributing writer for HerCampus and copy editor/sex columnist for AmWord.

What is your year and major?
Rising senior, print journalism major with a minor in philosophy.

How does your major support your roles in student media?
I love that I can take what I learn in my journalism classes and then practice those skills in HerCampus and AmWord. My classes help me to be more successful in student media, and student media helps me to be more successful in the classroom.

What SOC classes have been relevant to your role in student media?
For student media to succeed, it has to be on the cutting edge of technology and social media. Amy Eisman's Writing and Editing for Convergent Media class taught me so much about journalism on the web. Rodger Streitmatter's reporting class also taught me a lot. I didn't just learn how to report, write and edit in his class—I learned what makes a story truly great and how I can emulate that.

How have your internships played a role in your student media success?
I'm currently the digital editorial intern at New York Magazine. One of the biggest benefits of writing for student media is building a portfolio of writing samples, many of which I used when applying to New York Magazine. College is the time to start figuring out what you like to write about, and student media gives you an outlet to experiment.

What are your plans post graduation?
After graduation, I'd like to go into feature writing for a magazine or online publication.



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Title: Learning the Ropes at the Washington Post
Author: Hoai-Tran Bui
Subtitle:
Abstract: Dean’s Intern Hoai-Tran Bui describes her challenging but satisfying experience.
Topic: Journalism
Publication Date: 07/01/2014
Content:

Below is a first person account from SOC graduate journalism student Hoai-Tran Bui on her Dean's Internship at the Washington Post.

Sink or swim.

That’s what it’s like to be a Dean’s Intern at The Washington Post. It’s thrilling, terrifying and satisfying all at the same time—a roller coaster of emotions I never thought I would experience at a 9-to-5 job.

Unlike many of my previous internships, the Post requires interns to be at the same level as any of their entry-level reporters. There are no “easy” stories or “intern jobs” that we get assigned. It’s be a great reporter, or don’t. Sink or swim.

I chose swim.

To be honest, I floundered a bit the first few weeks on the job. I bounced from section to section, grasping for stories and waiting for work. I got my fair share of bylines writing obituaries and chasing down crime stories, which helped me grow my confidence as a reporter. But I didn’t feel like I was living up to my title as Dean’s Intern.

I was looking at my fellow Dean’s Interns, who were getting 8-inch stories in the print paper, or getting their bylines on A1 of their newspapers. I could feel my insecurities piling up each week.

But then I realized it wasn’t about the number of stories you got printed or whether you got a byline or not. It was about whether I felt like I had accomplished something meaningful.

A few weeks ago I came into the office as usual, and started working on a first-person piece about religion one of my editors had assigned me. It was an evergreen piece that I had been working for a couple weeks about coming from a family practicing two religions, and I was going to send it in that day.

About an hour in, I was approached by the crime editor to help a reporter with a story about a Howard County gang indictment. As the eager intern, I accepted right away, although I wasn’t finished with my religion story yet. Not even two hours later, another local editor asked me if I could go out to a neighborhood that had seen a series of mysterious tree carvings. I said yes again.

With three stories to work on and about half of my day already gone, I panicked. But I found myself finishing my religion piece in about half an hour, finishing the research on the gang indictment soon after and heading in a taxi to that Northeast neighborhood. When I came back to the office and handed in my notes and pictures, I was exhausted but incredibly content. I had a good day.

At no other internship would I have a day as thrilling, anxiety-inducing and fulfilling as a good day at the Post.

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Title: Lying a Major Part of the American Experience
Author: Ericka Floyd
Subtitle:
Abstract: AU prof’s new book exposes hundreds of government and corporate lies amplified by news media.
Topic: Journalism
Publication Date: 06/19/2014
Content:

A government "of the people, by the people, for the people" assumes some sort of informed citizenry, but U.S. citizens are often not accurately informed and sometimes are purposely kept in the dark.

While distinguishing fact from fiction has always been a formidable challenge—often with life-and-death consequences—it is now even more difficult and confusing than ever as the line between truth and spin continues to blur dramatically.

Charles Lewis, professor and journalist at American University's School of Communication, examines the consequences of decades of deception from the government and from corporations in his new book 935 LIES: The Future of Truth and the Decline of America's Moral Integrity (June 24, 2014).

A Tragic Period in American History

In the book, published by PublicAffairs, Lewis addresses hot-button issues about the control, manipulation, and misuse of information. He provides examples ranging from the countless lies administrations of both parties have used to justify dubious wars, to the successful decades-long corporate suppression of the truth about tobacco and other products.

"My career in journalism over the past five decades has coincided with a tragic period in American history," Lewis said. "One in which falsehood has increasingly come to dominate our public discourse, and in which the bedrock values of honesty, transparency, accountability, and integrity we once took for granted have been steadily eroded."

935 LIES reveals the many ways in which truth can be distorted by groups and individuals wielding power, proving how the value of truth is diminished the longer it takes to reach the public. And the book provides several examples of news media organizations deliberately choosing not to report about certain sensitive subjects.

Hope for the Future

Lewis also describes new media trends, such as the rise of nonprofit investigative journalism, giving reason to be hopeful about the future of truth.

"With the rise of nonprofit news organizations and reporters, the truth might have a chance to be told," Lewis said.

The book concludes by urging the public to not only be aware of the dichotomy between actual truths and publicly made false statements and media censorship, but also to boldly demand accountability from our leaders.

Deeply Researched Exploration of Lying

Lewis and his researchers systematically tracked every "false and erroneous statement" leading up to the U.S. war in Iraq, a study called "Iraq: The War Card," which was released and covered around the world by the news media in early 2008.

The next phase of his research examined what Lewis calls important "moments of truth" in contemporary U.S. history since 1950 and the most respected journalists behind them; he interviewed 25 of them for an online multimedia presentation called Investigating Power, released at the National Press Club in April 2012.

Lies Presidents Tell

The book discusses numerous highly recognizable lies, including those stated by current and former U.S. presidents.

"If you like the [health care] plan you have, you can keep it." -President Barack Obama, November 6, 2009 (similarly stated numerous times)

"We found the weapons of mass destruction [in Iraq]. We found biological laboratories." -President George W. Bush, May 29, 2003

"In spite of the wildly speculative and false stories of arms for hostages and alleged ransom payments, we did not, repeat, did not, trade weapons or anything else for hostages. Nor will we." -President Ronald Reagan (national address), November 13, 1986

"I can say categorically that…no one in the White House staff, no one in this Administration, presently employed, was involved in this very bizarre incident." -President Richard Nixon, discussing the Watergate burglary, press conference, August 29, 1972

"We are not about to send American boys nine or ten thousand miles away from home to do what Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves." -President Lyndon Johnson, October 1964 

Tags: Featured News,Investigative Reporting Workshop,Media Issues,Media Relations,School of Communication,Journalism,Journalism (SOC)
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Title: 2014 an Outstanding Year for National Scholarship Success at AU
Author: Devin Symons
Subtitle:
Abstract: American University students’ passion and persistence pay off in competitive awards.
Topic: Achievements
Publication Date: 06/18/2014
Content:

Fulbright. Boren. Udall. Pickering. Truman. What do these names have in common? Two things: they’re all prestigious national scholarships and fellowships, and American University (AU) students and alumni earned all of them in 2014.

This was a banner year for AU students and alumni, who were named recipients, alternates, and finalists for nationally competitive scholarships in more than 100 instances. Those recognized represent a variety of programs and majors at AU, highlighting the strength of the university’s academic diversity and the support provided by faculty and staff.

“When a student wins a national scholarship, it is a tribute to his or her vision, time management skills, and willingness to make sacrifices in pursuit of a potentially life-changing opportunity that may or may not come through,” says Paula Warrick, director of the Office of Merit Awards. “The variety of interests our recipients have attests to the broad range of academic departments at AU that are providing great instruction and mentoring.”

Record-Breakers

A record 23 AU students were awarded Boren Scholarships and Fellowships this year. Twelve undergraduates received Boren Scholarships and 11 graduate students received Boren Fellowships, making the university number one in the nation in combined Boren recipients for the second consecutive year.

Boren recipients receive funds to study and conduct research in languages and areas of the world that are deemed critical to U.S. interests. These regions include Africa, Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East.

Continued Success

Last year AU was named a Top-Producing Fulbright Institution, with 11 recipients and three alternates. Fifteen AU students have been awarded Fulbright Grants through the U.S. Student Scholars program. In addition, an alumna has been named an alternate for the Fulbright Clinton Fellowship.

The Fulbright Program offers participants—chosen for their academic merit and ambassadorial qualities—the opportunity to study, teach, or conduct research around the world. Previous AU Fulbright recipients have traveled to such diverse places as Spain, Venezuela, South Korea, Indonesia, Mexico, Brazil, India, New Zealand, and Ethiopia.

One AU, Many Schools

The recipients of these nationally competitive scholarships are representative of the diverse range of schools and programs at AU and of the student body as a whole.

Eric Rodriguez, from the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS), and Caroline Brazill, from the School of International Service (SIS), became AU’s 10th and 11th Truman Scholars in 10 years. AU is one of only five institutions with multiple Truman Scholars this year. The Harry S. Truman Scholarship is a federal scholarship awarded to outstanding college juniors with a commitment to public service and demonstrated leadership potential. Truman Scholars receive significant funding for graduate school and attend a leadership program.

Rachael Somerville, CAS/SIS/BA '15, was named AU’s 13th Udall Scholar since 2007. AU remains second in the U.S. in the number of Udall Scholars over the past eight years. The Udall Scholarship provides support for sophomores and juniors committed to careers related to the environment, tribal public policy, or Native American health care. Rodriguez, one of this year’s Truman Scholars, was AU’s Udall Scholar in 2013.

Ian Gansler, SPA/BA '17, and Matt Waskiewicz, CAS/SPA/BA '16, were both named Fulbright UK Summer Institute Recipients. The US-UK Fulbright Commission provides opportunities for undergraduates to travel to the UK for an academic and cultural summer program.  

Jalita Moore, SIS/BA '14, became AU’s 12th Pickering Fellow since 2004. The Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship provides support and preparation for outstanding candidates to enter the U.S. Department of State Foreign Service, with a special emphasis on students traditionally underrepresented in the U.S. Foreign Service.

This year’s four National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Ernest F. Hollings Scholarship recipients represent a wide range of majors: Billie Case, CAS/BA '16, is an environmental studies major; Jennifer Makanani Bell, CAS/BA '16, is an anthropology major; Valerie Rennoll, CAS/BA '16, is an audio technology major; and Lindsay Wylie, SIS/CAS/BA '16, is a double major in international studies and mathematics. The NOAA-Hollings Scholarship Program is intended to increase undergraduate training in environmental science and technology and encourage careers in public service and science education. The program provides successful undergraduate applicants with awards that include academic assistance and a hands-on practical internship.

Faculty Support

Students often credit AU faculty with giving them the best possible preparation needed to win competitive awards. Many faculty members volunteer their time and expertise, going beyond their normal academic duties and making themselves available for advising and practice interviews.

“More than 200 faculty and staff mentors assisted candidates in various ways this past year, overseeing students' preparation of proposals, preparing students for interviews, or helping them sharpen drafts of their applications,” says Warrick. “That is an impressive statement of the value our community attaches to student development. Their support is indispensable, because it gives our office a reach it would not have otherwise."

Congratulations to all of this year’s scholarship recipients, finalists, and alternates.

If you are a current AU student or AU alum and you are interested in learning more about award opportunities, please visit the Office of Merit Awards website.

Tags: Alumni,Career Center,College of Arts and Sciences,Kogod School of Business,Office of Merit Awards,Office of the Provost,Scholarship,School of Communication,School of International Service,School of Public Affairs,University Honors Program,Washington College of Law,Study Abroad
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Title: Personal Attention and a Mix of ‘Big Picture and Hands-on’
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Abstract: Seven students graduated from our new master’s in Media Entrepreneurship (MAME) in 2014. Here's what they thought of the program.
Topic: Communications
Publication Date: 06/17/2014
Content:

Seven students graduated from our new master’s in Media Entrepreneurship (MAME) at American University in 2014. I could tell you about the program, but it’s better to hear from them

- Amy Eisman, Director, MA in Media Entrepreneurship & MA in Interactive Journalism programs




The startup

In fall of 2012, we gathered the first, brave students of the new master’s in Media Entrepreneurship program, gifted them with copies of entrepreneurship texts, book bags and breakfast, and started an adventure together. It was as entrepreneurial an effort for faculty as it was for the students.

About 20 months later, after all-day, rotating Saturday classes in the School of Communication and business courses one night a week in the Kogod School of Business, the students pitched their business ideas to an expert panel in our newly renovated McKinley Building. Judges included a digital veteran and entrepreneur; a startup founder who had worked at Google and Living Social; and a business co-founder who received $250,000 on TV’s entrepreneurship venture, Shark Tank, one week later.

Dena Levitz, MA in Media Entrepreneurship alumna
Dena Levitz

The students presented projects and business plans on a cooking site designed specifically for an Indonesian audience; an online venture called DeafTV; a portal for the growing class of freelancers; a GasBuddy-like app for grocery shopping; and other social media, news and information and entertainment businesses.

It was a good ending for this first cohort.

The journey there included targeted DC Startup Forums, a speaker series that drew speakers from Jim Bankoff, chairman and CEO of Vox Media to former Etsy CEO Maria Thomas; sessions and receptions at 1776, the celebrated downtown D.C. accelerator, incubator and shared workspace; and dozens of classroom speakers, from conference call disruptor Speek to media startups.

But what did the students think?

Want to be part of media’s future

Dena Levitz, a freelancer who was digital strategies manager for a news association when she joined the program, was drawn to the adventure, among other things.

MA in Media Entrepreneurship students at 1776
Jesse Bickford, right, talks with fellow MAME students at a networking reception held for students at 1776.

“The fact that MAME was new actually excited me,” she says. “I like that fact that we could help craft the program and, in a sense, be entrepreneurs as we studied how true entrepreneurship and innovation works.”

As several students echoed, Levitz wanted the business/media combo. She didn’t know if eventually she wanted to launch a startup or become a publisher in an existing media company.

“All I knew was that it didn’t feel sufficient to just write and edit stories. I wanted to be part of a changing future for media,” she says.

That motivation was not unique. Shannan Bowen, who entered the program while working for Atlantic Media Strategies – the company’s in-house consultancy in Washington, D.C. -- had earlier been a North Carolina newspaper reporter, working toward a career in investigative and data journalism.

“But I also saw something wrong at the business level of news organizations: funding.” She searched a year for a degree, and was about to turn to an MBA, when she saw MAME. “The program combined my two goals of learning more about business while broadening my perspective of digital media,” Bowen says.

Serving audience needs

It is no surprise Bowen focused her capstone project on a women’s news site that focused on reinventing how to encourage civil conversation in comments. This fit with what she calls the “most valuable” lesson from all her classes: “The importance of knowing and listening to your audience.”

Vena Dilianasari, MA in Media Entrepreneurship alum
Vena Dilianasari

Vena Dilianasari, a senior broadcaster and producer at Voice of America who is developing the cooking website, had similar goals in mind when she enrolled.

“I have been in the field of media for 20 years, and part of it as an entrepreneur in Indonesia,” she says. “I plan to pursue my passion again in entrepreneurship. I realized that I need to equip myself better with the latest tools in the business.”

Dilianasari says she learned about the state of the media business, the best tools and web applications, and best practices for startups. She called the program, in which she enrolled “in a heartbeat,” a good fit for her needs.

For others, the program’s attraction was a creative freedom “combined with a stellar course lineup,” says Jesse Bickford, who has his own IT consulting business. He was particularly grateful for the financial and marketing courses that “have proven immediately useful in my business environment.”

Chris Lewis, director of digital media for NPR affiliate, WAMU, calls “invaluable” the “exposure to professors who were also working professionals at the top of their industries.”

Personal attention

“We learned media law from a lead counsel at one of the largest media companies in the country, “ Lewis says. “You don’t get that in your average MBA program or communications school. The professors were fantastic and the level of personal attention went way beyond what you would expect.”

Chris Lewis, MA in Media Entrepreneurship alumnus
Chris Lewis

As director, I also learned a few things along the way. I had expected, for example, that students would stick to the same project throughout. Only two did. Others dropped ideas after each class, which is a sign of putting your education to use. I also tweaked some of the curriculum.

As Levitz sums up, the master’s in media entrepreneurship was “a combination of big-picture and hands-on.”

She says she appreciated sessions on management tactics, incorporation, presentation, design thinking, financial statements. She feels that by the end, she could prepare prototypes, create a business plan and carry through on projects.

Meanwhile Bowen says she put her new degree to work almost immediately.

By summer, Bowen started a new job as Director of Audience Engagement for The Hill on Capitol Hill in Washington. D.C., where she leads social media efforts across the newsroom and business departments.

Bowen says she knows “I will use the skills and ideas I’ve gained” from MAME, “because the program has already prepared me for this job.”

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Title: Building an NABJ Chapter at AU
Author: Jordan-Marie Smith
Subtitle:
Abstract: Students gain official chapter recognition.
Topic: Journalism
Publication Date: 06/03/2014
Content:

Update 6/6/14: NABJ has officially approved the American University NABJ chapter application.

American University will have a new National Association of Black Journalists chapter next semester, if students have their way. School of Communication professor John Watson is the faculty advisor for the precursor to a chapter—currently called the AU Association of Black Journalists.

“A student [NABJ] chapter at American University is long overdue,” said Professor Watson. “NABJ has existed for nearly four decades without a face on this campus, even though the School of Communication, particularly the journalism division, has been supportive of its mission and diversity goals.”

Watson sees it as a great opportunity for up-and-coming journalists who want to give themselves an extra professional boost.

“An NABJ student chapter would enhance the skills and ethics preparation for aspiring journalists and provide them with proven connections nationwide with potential employers,” Watson said.

SOC sophomore, Brianna Williams is one of the club's founding members and president. According to Williams, NABJ at AU could help African-American students hone in on their journalism and networking skills by attending panels, seminars, and workshops that feature professionals in the field of journalism.

Williams started the club after feeling a lack of multicultural support when it came to career planning. “I feel like there can never be too much community,” Williams said. “I see NABJ as a way of bringing together a different type of community.”

Williams hopes the club will become an official chapter of the NABJ by the Fall 2014 semester. She and other executive board members have received positive feedback and more than 25 students have shown interest since their mid-February informational meeting.

Watson joined AU’s Association of Black Journalists as an advisor after being approached by students.

“They have convinced me they have the drive and determination to make the chapter a reality. I have signed on to be the chapter's adviser and I have written to the national office of NABJ urging formal approval for a student chapter at AU. I have known there was a need for the chapter, but now I am optimistic there are enough students ready to establish and maintain it,” Watson said.

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Title: AU Student Filmmaker Scholar Program Receives $12,500 Grant from the Academy
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Abstract: To provide 10 Washington D.C. area high school students with scholarships to filmmaking course.
Topic: Television & Film
Publication Date: 06/03/2014
Content:

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will provide ten Washington D.C. area high school students with scholarships to attend a four-week hands-on workshop that includes all aspects of filmmaking from script to screen through a $12,500 grant supporting the Student Filmmaker Scholars Program. The priority of the program is to identify minority and female budding filmmakers.

The program is offered by Discover the World of Communication (DWC), an American University School of Communication initiative, which offers high school students an extraordinary summer opportunity to explore the field of communication in a dynamic university setting.

DWC Director Sarah Menke-Fish is thrilled that the Academy has chosen to support the program for the second year in a row. “This funding allows us to reach students who have not traditionally been able to participate in DWC.” She says that the Scholars reap a range of benefits from the program. “It’s not only an outlet for their creative passion, but also professional development. Students make a real product for a real audience. It can and frequently does serve as a portfolio piece for the student’s college application.”
 
Menke-Fish, a professor of Film and Media Arts, created and launched DWC, which has turned out over 3,400 alumni over the past 19 years. She also directs AU’s University College, a premier living, learning and laboratory experience for first-year college students and serves as associate director for the Center for Environmental Filmmaking.

The Scholars Program, which is taught by working professionals including feature film director, producer and screenwriter Claudia Myers, whose latest film, "Fort Bliss" starring Michelle Monaghan and Ron Livingston will be released later this year, and Steven Holloway, a well-known producer/director, cinematographer, director of photography and editor with more than 25 years of experience. Classes also receive visits by Oscar- and Emmy-winning guest lecturers. Participants begin by developing story ideas into scripts, covering topics such as basics of story craft, creating characters, and formatting a screenplay.

Next, the students transition to film production, learning the basic principles of 16mm production, lighting concepts, dual system sound recording, and pre-production planning. They rotate through different roles on set to get the most hands-on experience. This includes director, assistant director, cinematographer, script supervisor, grip, sound mixer, and more.

Finally, post-production topics including editing on Final Cut Pro, sound design and film marketing and promotion are covered. Students present their final projects at a screening attended by peers, instructors, and community members.

During class and after hours, students explore Washington, D.C. and the communication field from a variety of angles. Students view live television and radio broadcasts at local studios such as NBC 4, WTTG Fox 5, NPR and ESPN Radio, cover a Nationals baseball game or WNBA game from a press seat, and tour local attractions including the National Zoo, Newseum, National Cathedral, Georgetown and the Smithsonian museums.

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Title: Academy Award Winner Yu Brings 'Oasis' to Campus
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Abstract: Jessica Yu visited AU as a guest of the Center for Media & Social Impact Visiting Filmmaker Series.
Topic: Television & Film
Publication Date: 05/23/2014
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American University recently hosted Academy Award-winning filmmaker Jessica Yu who taught a Master’s Class to School of Communication MFA students and screened her documentary Last Call at the Oasis in the School’s new Forman Theater. Yu was on campus as a guest of SOC's Center for Media & Social Impact Visiting Filmmaker Series. For more than ten years, CMSI has brought leading documentary filmmakers to AU to interact with students and present their work for the local community.

Yu works across documentary and fiction and film and television. Her film Breathing Lessons won an Oscar for best documentary short. In addition to documentaries, she has directed for popular television series, including Grey’s Anatomy and The West Wing.

Yu was selected in part because her film served as a touchstone for SOC’s Water Project, launched this year to take on the toughest issues of water safety and scarcity across communication professions and academic disciplines. More than 20 professors have included water related assignments in their courses this year involving hundreds of students in projects with partner organizations.

Yu was introduced by former SOC dean Larry Kirkman, who directs the Water Project, and underscored the importance of Last Call and its connection to the school.

“It is a rare social documentary – compelling, beautiful, informative, and motivating. It puts a human face on public policy, frames the debate and points the way.”

“Jessica Yu and this marvelous film reflect the School of Communication’s focus on public affairs and public purpose media and embody the missions of the sponsoring organizations,” he said.

Last Call at the Oasis is a production of Participant Media, the company that produced An Inconvenient Truth. Participant Media is known for producing films committed to social action and advocacy. Yu has just finished another feature social documentary for Participant Media on population, Misconception, which she will screen at SOC this fall.

Yu was also interviewed for Pull Focus, an ongoing online discussion from CMSI that explores the practice and purpose of documentary filmmaking. 

Angelica Das, Associate Director, CMSI, explains, "Pull Focus is a valuable resource for students and the community at large on the subject of social documentary, and Yu's voice adds another perspective, a unique kind of expertise to the conversation."

CMSI is dedicated to promoting media as a tool for public knowledge and action, and hosts online podcasts and transcripts of the Pull Focus interviews with filmmakers, which focus on the technical, ethical and public engagement challenges confronting experienced and emerging filmmakers CMSI.

Yu’s visit was sponsored in part by an Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences program to bring Academy Award-winners to universities.

Tags: Alumni,Faculty,Staff,Students,School,School of Communication,Center for Environmental Filmmaking,Center for Social Media,Film and Media Arts,Activism,Arts and Entertainment,Communication,Environment,Film,Film Production,Global,Green,International,Television and Film
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Title: The Other Side of War
Author: Gregg Sangillo
Subtitle:
Abstract: School of Communication professor Claudia Myers releases her powerful new film, Fort Bliss.
Topic: Television & Film
Publication Date: 05/19/2014
Content:

An Idea is Born

A filmmaker can derive inspiration from many sources. For Claudia Myers, an American University School of Communication professor, it came from a soldier’s story. As her new film, Fort Bliss, is set for its East Coast premiere, she explains how the project got started. While working on an interactive training film for the U.S. Army, she talked with soldiers and combat veterans. One sergeant she dealt with was a single father who did two tours in Iraq.

“I asked him what he did with his son while he was deployed, and he said he had to leave him with the neighbors,” recalls Myers, who was startled by this information. “It just felt like there was a whole side of the war that I had never really thought about, which is the burden on the families.”

With the U.S. fighting two major wars since 2001, she was curious about the impact the conflicts have had on soldiers and their children. Myers can also relate to this struggle on a personal level. “When I’m on a project, I’m away from my children,” she says. “I feel that tension between wanting to pursue a career and also being a good parent.”

Inside Fort Bliss

Myers wrote and directed Fort Bliss, a story about an Army medic and single mother coming home from Afghanistan and reconnecting with her young son. The film stars Michelle Monaghan, who has appeared in Gone Baby Gone and the acclaimed HBO series True Detective; and Ron Livingston, best known as the lovable anti-hero in the cult favorite Office Space. The cast includes other notable actors, such as Freddy Rodríguez (of HBO’s Six Feet Under) and seasoned pro John Savage. At the Newport Beach Film Festival in April, Savage compared Fort Bliss to one of his earlier movies, a 1978 Vietnam War classic. “Fort Bliss is the best movie I have seen on the subject of returning veterans since The Deer Hunter,” he said.

Myers also used a number of active duty soldiers in Fort Bliss, which was shot at the El Paso, Texas-based military installation for which it is named. For production purposes, Myers’ script first had to be vetted by Army public affairs and other military staffers reaching all the way up to the Pentagon. Myers credits the military for supporting the film, particularly because it delves into sensitive issues facing soldiers and veterans, such as post-traumatic stress disorder and sexual assault.

“I think it presents a very realistic portrait,” Myers says. “Their hope in supporting it was that it would help raise awareness about some of the challenges that soldiers face when they come home.”

Her movie-making has only deepened her appreciation for military families. “I became really interested in these stories, and these personal experiences that soldiers had lived through that were so intense and so complicated,” she says.

In addition to involving military brass in the filmmaking process, Myers integrated input from the AU community. Myers gave an opportunity to a veteran in her screenwriting class, Mike Hardy. He started out reading the screenplay to ensure that it genuinely reflected the military experience. Hardy was impressed with the story, and in the end, took part in nearly every phase of the project. “I started out as a gopher, and my title now is associate producer. So for Hollywood standards, it’s a pretty significant title,” he says. “It was amazing. I had a chance to work on a major independent film as a film student.”

Hardy, an Army veteran who did two tours in Afghanistan, earned his master’s degree from AU in film production and video in 2012.

Telling Stories

Myers is American but spent much of her childhood living in France. Her initial passion wasn’t film, but storytelling. She came to the United States in hopes of becoming a writer, and she earned her bachelor’s degree in comparative literature from Yale University. She later worked for a small film production company, which sparked her interest in movies. In the late 1990s, Myers had a formative experience working in development on The Thin Red Line, a World War II drama by auteur Terrence Malick.

One of her short films, Buddy & Grace, was screened at the Sundance Film Festival in 2002, and she earned her MFA in writing-directing from Columbia University. In 2006, she wrote and directed the movie Kettle of Fish.  

Myers has continued her film career while teaching classes at AU—thousands of miles from Hollywood. “One of the things I love about AU is that the school encourages us as teacher-scholars to develop our own work,” says Myers, a professor of film and media arts.

As a filmmaker, her influences are numerous. Among her many inspirations for Fort Bliss, Myers mentions The Hurt Locker, Winter’s Bone, and Blue Valentine. Her visual style was also informed by talented photojournalists, such as Damon Winter, Craig Walker, Peter van Agtmael, and Adam Dean. “I felt like the front lines work that Army medics do is not all that well known in the mainstream media. And I wanted the film to feel as real as possible,” she says.

For the Audience

Fort Bliss will make its East Coast premiere on Sunday, May 25, in Alexandria, Va. at the GI Film Festival. Monaghan is expected to be on hand for the 6:30 p.m. screening at the Old Town Theater. The film will serve as the centerpiece of the festival’s salute to women in the military. The festival is touted as the “first in the nation to exclusively celebrate the successes and sacrifices of the service member through the medium of film.”

Myers hopes Fort Bliss will resonate with both civilian and military viewers, and she has kept in touch with military personnel who worked on the film. “We want them to feel that they’re a part of the process through the end,” she says. “And the hope is that this film will ring true to them.”

A North American distribution deal was recently announced with Phase 4 Films, enabling a wider release in the fall.



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newsId: 3831F1B2-EEBA-1613-3AF966FAECEFF341
Title: Building Upon a Family History
Author: Mike Rowan
Subtitle:
Abstract: After her valuable AU experience—and now her daughter’s—Mary McCarthy Hayford and her family are helping lay the groundwork for the university’s next generation.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 03/27/2014
Content:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Title: A Profile in Compatibility
Author: Rick Horowitz
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Abstract: So many devices, so little time! Alumni couple simplifies cross-platform file transfers, untangles cloud computing.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 07/31/2013
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You have a document on your iPad you need to edit on your Android phone. Or a video on your flash drive you need to send to someone else’s PC. Or a music file over here that absolutely has to be over there.

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

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

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

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

It was quite a different time.

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

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

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

You might apply that same phrase to the Lekas.




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

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

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

LiveShot 'En Serio'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




Paul Barrett 'CloudComputing'

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or, you could say, compatibility.

 

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Tags: Alumni,Alumni Update,School of Communication
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Title: From AU to Cannes: Alumna Sonya Dunn Thrives Behind the Camera
Author: Rebecca Vander Linde
Subtitle:
Abstract: Sonya Dunn produced The Bedroom while at AU. It is the first AU student film to screen at Cannes.
Topic: Alumni Profile
Publication Date: 07/05/2013
Content:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tags: Alumni,Alumni Newsletter,Alumni Relations,Alumni Update,School of Communication
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Title: AU Students and Alumni Build Skills in the Office and at the Movies
Author: Roxana Hadadi
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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
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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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Title: How One Alum Turned a Social Spotlight on “The Invisible War”
Author: Liz Preuss
Subtitle:
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
Content:

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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Title: Meet the AU Alumni Behind Ke$ha's Upcoming MTV Series
Author: Ania Skinner
Subtitle:
Abstract: When Lagan Sebert began to document his sister Ke$ha’s rise to fame in 2010, he had no idea it would become a series on MTV.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 04/12/2013
Content:

When American University alumnus (SOC/MA ’08) Lagan Sebert began to document his sister Ke$ha’s rise to fame in 2010, he had no idea that his inside look at his sister’s career and life would become a highly anticipated series on MTV.

“Every day you struggle to come up with a new story. I came to the realization that the best story I was aware of was happening right in front of me in my family,” says Sebert, who was working as a video journalist for the Financial Times when he started the project.

With just an idea and a video camera, Sebert began to film his sister and her life on and off the stage. He also enlisted some old friends to help with the filming process, including Ted Roach, another successful SOC alumnus. With the additional help of Steven Greenstreet and Sebert’s wife, Sandra Sampayo, the small crew began single-handedly dealing with filming, sound and technical skills, as well as determining what to do with the finished product. Both Sebert and Roach strongly agree that without the skills they developed through SOC, their current projects would not have been possible.

“I use the skills that I developed at AU every day, from camera, sound and technical skills to documentary theory and story structure,” says Roach. “I compare the work that I did before coming to AU to the work I've produced since, and I feel the SOC professors, curriculum and course work are the biggest reasons that I have developed to the point I'm at today.”

Sebert agrees.

“One of the greatest things about the SOC program is that there are so many opportunities outside of the classroom –cameras whenever I wanted and access to facilities for post-production,”Sebert says. “I wanted to come to AU because of its partnership of journalism and film. I really wanted to tell stories visually through documentary with journalistic integrity,” he adds.

With the Ke$ha project, Sebert realized that documenting his sister gave him a new journalistic insight, one that would create a unique experience for the viewer unlike what any other producer could do.

“When you are documenting someone, your goal is to be an objective viewer and not interfere with reality,” explains Sebert. “But when you are documenting your sister, that unique barrier between the audience and camera is totally broken.”

Over 1,000 hours of film will be broken down into six, 30-minute episodes that will premiere on MTV on April 23 under the title “My Crazy Beautiful Life.” Sebert and his team capture Ke$ha behind the scenes of her concert tour, but also the moments that only a brother would be a part of, which range from serious to borderline ridiculous.

As with every star that exposes their personal life for public audiences, the question of a motive for publicity is always raised. However Ted Roach explains that there is much more to this series than a PR boost.

“I believe that one key factor in Ke$ha agreeing to let us film the series was that she wanted her brother to be around during this critical point in her career. People around you change when you become a star, and if I was in her shoes, I would look back to the people I knew before to keep me grounded. So I've always felt one big incentive was having Lagan there to support her, and he really is a great guy to have around,” Roach says.

After over two years of working on documenting his sister’s journey through fame, Sebert still considers his sister to be one of the biggest stories of his career.

“To me, it is a simple story: a story about a girl who realizes her dream to write and sing her songs to people all over the world and then struggles to hold onto her dream," he says. “The story is so good it shouldn't matter if she is famous or not."”

 

Tags: Alumni,DC Community,Faculty,Film,Film and Media Arts,Film Production,Staff,Students,Television and Film,Journalism (SOC)
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