newsId: 629F8BAB-5056-AF26-BEC3767F134E03F2
Title: 2015 Communication Commencement Student Speakers Announced
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Abstract: Richard Field and Mark Lieberman will share the stage with entrepreneur and philanthropist Sheila C. Johnson at the 2015 SOC commencement.
Topic: Achievements
Publication Date: 03/26/2015
Content:

The School of Communication has announced its graduate and undergraduate student commencement speakers for 2015. Film & Electronic Media graduate student Richard Fields (SOC/MFA ’15) is an independent filmmaker who has racked up an impressive record of festival screenings and professional portfolio. Mark Lieberman (SOC/BA ’15) is a journalism major with a minor in cinema studies. Among other achievements, both students were selected for SOC’s prestigious Dean’s Internship program, which places our students in positions at world-class partners where they do meaningful, real-world assignments that provide recognition and future pathways to jobs. 

“Mark and Richard have both been wonderful ambassadors for SOC at some of the nation’s most prominent media organizations, and I am proud to have them speak at SOC’s commencement," says SOC Dean Jeff Rutenbeck. "Their mastery of multi-platform storytelling and desire to learn through professional experience is representative of many of our students.”

Richard Fields

Richard Fields

Richard Fields is an independent filmmaker and graduate student in his final year of the MFA in Film and Electronic Media program. He is a recent graduate of the FAMU study abroad film program in Prague, Czech Republic, and spent his summer filming documentaries in both Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Both his fiction and documentary films have screened at numerous festivals, including the acclaimed DC Shorts Film Festival, and he has most recently won the award for Best Documentary Film at the Washington PA Film Festival.

This spring, Richard returns to USA Today with the College team with plans of bringing video and a multitude of fresh ideas to this section of the company. In fall 2014, Fields worked with USA Today’s video production department, while continuing his motion time-lapse, video, and photography work with District 7 media. After graduation he plans to move to Los Angeles to pursue a career in film and television. You can connect with Fields on Twitter/Instagram @richardtfields.

Mark Lieberman

Mark Lieberman

Mark Lieberman is a Metro desk intern at The Washington Post this spring. He is a senior studying journalism with a minor in cinema studies. In the summer of 2014, he interned at USA Today, where he wrote two cover stories for USA Weekend Magazine and four articles for the national USA Today print edition, among other duties. He previously interned for Allied Integrated Marketing and served as a Collegiate Correspondent for USA Today. After graduation, he hopes to pursue a career in news or arts and entertainment journalism as an editor, reporter or critic. You can connect with Lieberman on Twitter/Instagram @markalieberman.


SOC Commencement 2015

Philanthropist and entrepreneur Sheila C. Johnson will give the address at the 2015 School of Communication commencement ceremony Saturday, May 9, at 2 p.m. at American University. Johnson will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree.

Tags: School of Communication,Intern,Internships,Internship,Journalism,Journalism (SOC),Film and Media Arts,Film Production,Film,Communication,Communication (HR),Commencement
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Title: Princeton Review Ranks American University's New Game Design Program in Top 25
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Abstract: “For a program that is less than one year old, this is a major recognition and an affirmation of what we are doing here,” says Game Lab director Lindsay Grace.
Topic: Achievements
Publication Date: 03/24/2015
Content:

American University is one of the top schools to study video game design for 2015, according to new international rankings from The Princeton Review.

In its first year of existence, AU’s game design master’s program is ranked 21st in the world. AU’s program is offered through a partnership between the AU School of Communication and the College of Arts and Sciences.

“For a program that is less than one year old, this is a major recognition and an affirmation of what we are doing here,” says Game Lab director Lindsay Grace. It’s justified by the accomplishments of AU Game Lab faculty and students.

Some of these include:

  • Central participation in the White House Educational Game Jam; USA Today featured AU’s game.

  • Launch of JoLT initiative in game design and disruptive media leadership, through a $250,000 Knight Foundation philanthropic grant.

  • Collaboration with the Smithsonian American Art Museum for a pop-up arcade event attracting more than 4,000 visitors in a single day.

  • Partnered and sponsored events with the Games for Change Festival and the Global Game Jam.

  • Professor Grace gave two talks, and two Game Lab students presented at the Game Developer's Conference (GDC) this March, which drew over 24,000 people.

  • Faculty and students published more than 15 articles, showed creative work more than 20 times, and participated in more than 25 talks and panels around the world.    

  • American University has invested significant resources in the development of the Game Lab as part of a university-wide commitment to multidisciplinary, team-based, high-impact research.

The Princeton Review, one of the nation’s best known educational services companies, partnered with PC Gamer magazine to produce the “Best Schools for Gaming 2015.” The sixth-annual list is published in the May issue of PC Gamer.

“For students aspiring to work in the burgeoning field of game design, these are truly the ‘cream of the crop’ institutions from which to launch a career,” said Robert Franek, The Princeton Review's Senior VP-Publisher. To make its selections, The Princeton Review weighed more than 60 data points. Criteria focused on four areas: curriculum, facilities, technology, and career services.

AU’s program is atypical in several ways. First, it is underpinned by a focus on persuasive play, which aims to employ the power of play to create socially responsible games that enrich people’s lives.

Students who pursue the master’s degree at AU develop skills beyond traditional game design and development by learning to tailor play design to meet specific goals in player impact. During the second year of the degree program, students intern at the AU Game Lab Studio and build a professional portfolio by working on real world projects for external clients.

AU’s location in the nation’s capital allows for unique partnerships and collaborations with cultural institutions and governmental agencies that have national impact.

The demographic makeup of the student cohort is also unique.  Compared to an industry that is 89 percent male, the AU cohort includes five female and seven male students. Students come from across the United States, and Africa and South America. In October 2014, AU hosted nearly 100 participants at its second annual Game Diversity summit to promote wider accessibility and participation in game making.

The Studio is part of the AU Game Lab, which serves as a hub for professional education, persuasive play research, and practice. The Studio provides contract work for external clients in need of game development that will engage and influence around a campaign, a concept, or a brand.

The MA in Game Design was developed under AU’s Persuasive Play initiative, which aims to employ the power of play to create socially responsible games that enrich people’s lives. In persuasive play, game design is created in a way meant to transform players’ interests, activities, or opinions into meaningful action. For example, in the field of K-12 education, persuasive play games are helping educators find more effective ways to engage with broader and more diverse students. AU’s Persuasive Play Initiative is led by game designer and researcher Lindsay Grace who is also the director of the AU Game Lab.

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Title: The Renaissance of Television
Author: Melanie Salemno
Subtitle:
Abstract: Join SOC for a conversation with alumnus Jason Gold, AMC Director of Production.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 03/19/2015
Content:

After earning his degree in 2005 from American University's School of Communication, Jason Gold (SOC/BA '05) moved to Los Angeles with little more than summer internship experience. He landed impressive first jobs as an assistant at Kaplan Stahler Gumer Braun Agency, DreamWorks SKG and as a literary coordinator at Artist International Management. With hard work, determination, and good networking he quickly progressed in the entertainment field.

Gold moved to New York in 2008 to advance his career with AMC Television as the production department coordinator. His resume reads like a list of TV's hottest series: Mad Men, Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, The Killing, Better Call Saul, among others. Today, Gold serves as the production executive covering AMC's scripted series including multiple Emmy and Golden Globe winning TV shows. He will be returning to AU's campus next week for an engaging discussion with SOC Dean Jeff Rutenbeck about the renaissance of television. The event will take place Thursday, March 26 in the Media Innovation Lab, located inside the McKinley building from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. RSVP now

Gold will share his experiences working in the entertainment field and then take questions from audience members. Light refreshments will be served at a reception beginning at 6:30 p.m. The event is great opportunity to gain a better understanding of television, production, and networking with others in the field.

"SOC laid the foundation for my career and really gave me the knowledge base I needed to succeed in entertainment," said Gold. "I can't say enough about how important it is to learn from professors with experience in the business." He credits SOC and specifically the Summer in LA program with giving him a head start on his career and helping him start a professional network that he is still building on.

To students who want to work in the entertainment industry, Jason advises, "Get out there and don't be afraid of anything. Create a network of peers to lean on. Stick to your goals, grow some thick skin and stay on the path." 

"I would have taken more business classes at AU. Other than the standard macro or micro economics, I never took a single business class. I learned everything about the business of my business just from working in it. I would have certainly had a leg up if I was more well versed in business basics."

"Most importantly, be persistent, but don't be annoying."

This event is sure to offer substantial material for those involved in the entertainment field and pique interest in production for those still unsure of which career path to follow. Gold has already built a remarkable foundation for a lasting legacy as an AU alumnus and in the production trade. Dedicated alumni like Gold who volunteer to come back to campus and share their experience provide an extraordinary service to the AU community.

Tags: Achievements,Alumni,Film,Film Production,Film and Media Arts,Television and Film,Summer in L.A. Program,Summer @ School of Communication
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Title: Inspire and Give Back
Author: Gregg Sangillo
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Abstract: The Frederick Douglass Distinguished Scholars program is training the next generation of leaders.
Topic: Student Life
Publication Date: 03/16/2015
Content:

Abolitionist. Author and orator. Supporter of women's suffrage. Frederick Douglass was a remarkable individual, someone deeply immersed in the issues of his day and committed to a brighter future for his country.

A group of outstanding American University students draws inspiration from Douglass's momentous, far-reaching legacy. Envisioned by AU Provost Scott Bass, the Frederick Douglass Distinguished Scholars (FDDS) program covers full tuition, fees, books, room and board for students dedicated to helping struggling communities. FDDS Director Larry Thomas sees the program training the next generation of leaders. "It's really about preparing them for a lifetime of giving back to underserved and under-resourced populations around the world," he says.

FDDS is enjoying its fifth anniversary this year. It was recently recognized as the 2015 recipient of the Voice of Inclusion award from the ACPA-College Student Educators International. The Voice of Inclusion medallion recognizes university-based programs that help make their campus communities a welcoming and inclusive environment.

Finding Top-Tier Talent

In selecting new scholars for the FDDS program, Thomas says special attention is given to geographic diversity, first generation college students, and individuals who aim to strengthen communities of color. Thomas says the program looks for "students with the ability to inspire and motivate other people and themselves." A community of faculty and AU leaders provides academic oversight of the FDDS program. Department of Literature professor Keith Leonard currently chairs the committee. Under faculty guidance, the program developed significant bridge courses, one of which will take the Frederick Douglass Distinguished Scholars to Cuba this summer.

Larry Thomas (center, right) and Keith Leonard (center, left) accept the ACPA award on behalf of FDDS.

"In almost all of these cases, we are fortunate that these students don't pick the Ivies, because their GPAs are all in the stratosphere," says School of Communication professor Russell Williams, a former chair of the FDDS committee. "They're here because they're the best of the best. And American was generally their first choice, mainly because of our reputation of service."

Five years after the FDDS inaugural launch, Thomas is continually excited about the talent. "You're looking at someone now as a freshman or a sophomore and thinking, '10, 20 years from now, this person could be on television or on The New York Times Best Seller list,'" he says.

The Student Experience

Stephanie Vela is a junior sociology major. She comes from a working class, mostly Hispanic immigrant community in Coachella Valley, California. She's first generation in her family to attend college and first generation born in the U.S.

When she first considered applying for FDDS, the scholarship money and one-on-one mentoring were major selling points. And the program has exceeded her expectations. "It's been the center of my college experience," Vela says. "The program has opened up all of these avenues of success that I can have."

Vela is interning at the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, housed at the Department of Education. She's previously interned with Voto Latino and in the office of her hometown congressman, Rep. Raul Ruiz, D-Calif. She's hoping to work in education policy, and she eventually plans to assist people in Coachella Valley. "I was brought up there. So it's my responsibility, in a sense, to help."

Isobel Araujo is a freshman, planning to double major in environmental studies and film and media arts. "I've already been able to do so many things that I never would have been able to do otherwise," she says. Before school even started, she took part in the FDDS summer bridge trip to study in Rome.

A Chicago native, Araujo's long-term goal is to attend graduate school for urban planning. "I feel particularly passionate about this because I grew up in an urban area. My neighborhood is rapidly becoming gentrified, and a lot of community dialogue needs to happen," she says. Araujo is focused on the intersection of urban planning and sustainability. "A lot of environmental problems, like air pollution, happen in marginalized communities."

Some recent FDDS alums are already building successful careers. For instance, Falon Dominguez is now working for Google in Silicon Valley.

Recent grad Alan Arturo Day García will start a San Francisco-based job in investment banking this July. As a high school student in Albuquerque, New Mexico, he already showed a commitment to service and tutored some Hispanic students struggling with English. And he donated money to several foundations during his FDDS years. When he relocates, he'd like to support Bay Area Hispanics. "If I can maybe help people with their immigration status, or keep families together, that would be of interest to me," he says.

Access to Power

Through FDDS, students get plugged into the D.C. networking pipeline. They also have the opportunity to speak with national leaders and other accomplished professionals. In recent years, students have met everyone from former Secretary of State Colin Powell to cast members of Scandal and Orange is the New Black.

A highlight for Stephanie Vela was meeting Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor this year. "It shows me that, 'Ok, these are people who look like me, who've gone through similar situations, and they're in these places of power.' It's a validating experience."

Alan Arturo Day García was impressed with then-Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. "He was probably one of the most powerful people in the world," he recalls, "but he was also a very grounded person."

Thriving Together

Students have to prove their mettle, they are part of the rigorous AU Honors Program and need to maintain a 3.2 GPA to keep the scholarship. In a living-learning community—freshmen and sophomores live together in Hughes Hall—this gives students in FDDS and AU Honors a shared mission. "They can simply take the elevator or walk downstairs to a reading room, which provides a safe space for them to be high-achieving scholars," Thomas says. "They're in the two most difficult programs on campus, so they have to survive together. And they're not just surviving, they're thriving."

"We really go to each other for advice, or if we're feeling overwhelmed," Vela says. Araujo adds, "They're basically my family."

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Title: New Book Calls for Honest Wildlife Filmmaking and Indicts Television Networks for Unethical Practices
Author: Ericka Floyd
Subtitle:
Abstract: Palmer's tell-all book exposes misgivings and deception in the wildlife filmmaking industry.
Topic: Environment
Publication Date: 03/10/2015
Content:

 

Washington, D.C., March 10, 2015 -- American University's School of Communication professor Chris Palmer's new book, Confessions of a Wildlife Filmmaker: The Challenges of Staying Honest in an Industry Where Ratings Are King, is part memoir, part confession, and part indictment of the cable and television networks for unethical practices. The book calls for broadcasters like Discovery and Animal Planet to value conservation, education, and animal welfare above their pursuit of top ratings and profits.

Wildlife films play a major role in raising awareness about the natural world. But, according to Palmer's new book, often times the footage has been obtained at the expense of significantly disturbing and even harming the animals being filmed. Confessions provides a behind-the- scenes look at the making of nature shows and reveals how animals are put in harm's way simply to get the shot. As an industry insider, Palmer wrote his book as a call to viewers and filmmakers to demand change.

Palmer shares the mistakes he has made while struggling to advance in the wildlife filmmaking industry. "I am writing this book to try to change the industry by being open about my own challenges and failings as a human being and as a filmmaker," said Palmer. "I want to show the complexities of making wildlife films in an ethical manner. It is not easy to pull back the curtain on the industry's failures—and even harder to reveal my own—but I believe the time has come for wildlife filmmaking to move in a healthier direction."

According to the book, wildlife filmmaking has become corrupted as broadcasters compete for ratings in a time of decreased budgets. Palmer explains that the state of the wildlife filmmaking industry deteriorates every year and says that much worse things are being done in this highly competitive field since his first book in this topic Shooting in the Wild (2010). Broadcasters such as Animal Planet, Discovery, National Geographic, and the History Channel are guilty of using staged scenes, camera tricks and animal harassment.

The book holds television network broadcasters responsible claiming that it is their obsession with earnings and ratings that encourages unethical wildlife filmmaking practices. Palmer criticizes the race for continual higher ratings because it results in further corruption of the quality of these programs. "It's a fiercely competitive industry. National Geographic, Discovery, Animal Planet, the History Channel and other networks all vie for viewers," said Palmer. "Therefore, the broadcasters fear losing their jobs if they if they do not achieve high ratings."

Understanding the need for change from the top-down in the profession, Palmer calls for stringent ethical standards that will move the wildlife filmmaking profession into a new era. Additionally, with an aware public demanding higher standards of ethical behavior and condemning films that were made possible by harassing animals and by deception, the public can help move the industry in the right direction. 

About the Author

Chris Palmer has spearheaded the production of more than 300 hours of original programming for prime-time television and the giant screen IMAX industry, including the Disney Channel, TBS, Animal Planet, Travel Channel, and PBS. The President of One World One Ocean Foundation and the MacGillivray Freeman Films Educational Foundation, Palmer and his colleagues have won numerous awards, including two Emmys, an Oscar nomination, and a Lifetime Achievement Award for the Media at the International Wildlife Film Festival. He founded the Center for Environmental Filmmaking at American University in 2005, a year after joining AU's full-time faculty as Distinguished Film Producer in Residence.

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.

 

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Title: Student Media Leader: Eleanor Greene
Author: Jordan-Marie Smith
Subtitle:
Abstract: New York publishing dreams and editing for senior Eleanor Greene.
Topic: Communications
Publication Date: 03/02/2015
Content:

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

Eleanor Greene
Organization: AWOL Magazine
Major: Journalism (minor in creative writing)
Internship/Job: WAMU digital media intern by day, AU Writing Center Consultant by night
Favorite Course: In SOC, Advanced Reporting but I also love LIT 401 Poetry workshop

Jordan-Marie: How did you get involved with AWOL? Why did you want to be an editor?

Eleanor Greene: I got involved with AWOL in the winter of my freshman year, because I was a journalism major and had never written an article in my life. I knew that was a problem and that reporting classes didn't come until sophomore or junior year. I read all of the student publications, and liked the look of AWOL, so I went to a general interest meeting and it clicked. I wanted to be an editor because I grew up reading books and magazines, and that's what I always wanted to be involved with. The book that inspired me most was A School Story, by Andrew Clements, which I read in fourth grade, and is about a young author and her editor mother. I wanted to make it my job to read books, and editing seemed like the way. As I got more into magazines, I read a lot of mastheads (still do), and knew that if I wanted to be involved with magazines, editing was also the way. I love reading, and I always have opinions, so I feel like an editor as much as a writer.

JM: What's been challenging for you as AWOL's editor-in-chief?

EG: As a writer, I've been trained and conditioned to work alone, most of the time. Reporting is alone, writing is often alone, save for a few class projects. I trust myself. But as EIC, I've had to find a way to delegate to other editors and trust them to get work done. It has been challenging, but luckily I work with an excellent editorial board who understands how I work, and also how to do their work.

JM: You're interning at WAMU this semester. What kinds of skills are you learning on the job that translate to AWOL, and vice versa?

EG: My internship at WAMU is just gearing up. I struggle with finding stories to pitch at both places, but I think with practice, I'll get better, so that's one thing. Also just seeing the different leadership styles of different editors at WAMU is interesting. There's room to manage and be managed by different kinds of people, but it's all about what you respond to as a writer, and as an editor, what your staff responds to.

JM: What are some of the things you have learned as an SOC student that have helped you through your internships and student media position?

EG: I actually think that my student media experience has influenced my SOC experience a lot. I feel like I learned how to write an article and be heard by my editors as a writer in AWOL, and I've learned how to speak up and take leadership roles. All of this gave me confidence when I was actually in writing classes in SOC. In class, professors give more critical advice, which is helpful as I strive to be a better writer. I've also had to try to get over my inherent fear of reporting, which is not easy, but is getting better.

JM: What would be your dream job after you graduate in May?

EG: As for my dream job when I graduate, I most dream of working in publishing in New York. Magazines or books are still what I'm most passionate about reading, editing, and writing, but we'll see. I have a lot of interests, and I want to keep my mind open to different places and paths.

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Title: Student Media Leader: Mark Lieberman
Author: Jordan-Marie Smith
Subtitle:
Abstract: From the Washington Post to USA Today, senior Mark Lieberman is translating his skills to AU's student newspaper, The Eagle.
Topic: Communications
Publication Date: 02/27/2015
Content:

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


Organization: The Eagle and Social Media Club
Major: Journalism
Internship: The Washington Post - Spring 2015 Metro Intern
Favorite course: Reporting with Margot Susca

Jordan-Marie: What has working with The Eagle been like for you? How did you get involved?

Mark Lieberman: I got involved almost immediately after I got to AU. I showed up to one of the early Scene pitch meetings expecting to meet a few people and maybe get my foot in the door. I walked out with a movie review assignment. I didn't enjoy the movie, but I enjoyed the experience immensely.

JM: What has been challenging for you as The Eagle's managing editor of The Scene?

ML: The two biggest challenges are keeping track of all of the stories that come in and stopping myself from wanting to write more than I do. My job is to edit the stories that come in, not to dominate the section, but as a writer I'm always itching to jump in and contribute. As for the workload, I edit stories in each of four sections, and we have as many as twenty stories per week. That's a lot of editing! But I love my job and I'm thrilled with how it's turned out.

JM: You're interning at The Washington Post this semester. What kind of skills are you learning on the job that translate to The Eagle, and vice versa?

ML: In my first two weeks at the Post, I've learned about pitching stories, condensing my occasional verbose writing style and conducting thoughtful long-form interviews. All of those skills will be useful to me during my final semester at The Eagle. And of course my experience at The Eagle has been enormously influential in every aspect of my professional life, and even some aspects of my personal life. Nearly all of the writing and editing skills that I have come from my experience working at The Eagle, either developing them myself or watching others around me develop them.

JM: What are some of the things you have learned as an SOC student that have helped you through your internships and student media position?

ML: My SOC classes have taught me about the rigors of deadline pressure and the importance of critical thinking. My ability to come up with story ideas and maintain a consistent identity for The Scene come partially from learning about what it takes to put together a newspaper and be a reporter, skills I learned in my SOC classes. Professor Susca's Reporting class was my favorite because I emerged feeling comfortable covering news, which I hadn't before. The combination of in-class discussions and off-campus experiences reinforced and enhanced my skills. Also, Professor Susca cracks great jokes.

JM: What would be your dream job after you graduate in May?

ML:
I'd love to cover arts & entertainment for The New York Times or The New Yorker. I love reporting and criticism equally, so I'll be happy with a career in either of those fields.

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Title: Love Games
Author: Jordan-Marie Smith
Subtitle:
Abstract: Professor Lindsay Grace gives an inside look into affection games ahead of his talk at GDC.
Topic: Communications
Publication Date: 02/26/2015
Content:

American University Professor Lindsay Grace, a thought leader in the persuasive play and game community, is giving two talks at the prestigious Game Developer's Conference this March, which will draw over 24,000 people. The first talk is on affection games, the second on educational games. As director of AU's Game Lab, and a professor at the School of Communication, Grace is changing the way we think about games, and about the enormous potential of play to inspire, educate and persuade. In the following Q and A, Grace gives an overview of what he'll be discussing at GDC and his hope for the future of games.

Jordan-Marie Smith: In what capacity are affection games used? Where do you see them being played?

Lindsay Grace: For the most part, they're actually being played as conventional entertainment. The first places they became popular was actually on the web as small casual games. So, people were playing them--mainly they were being offered to preteen or teenage girls. 

But now they are being distributed on a mobile base, and there are far more of these games being distributed. And what's most interesting about them is that they're kind of the antithesis of what many people think about when they think about games and digital play. A lot of times if you say "games" [people] think of board games, they think of violent play, et cetera. So, I actually talk about affection games to "a love not war" paradigm. These games are about kissing and hugging and all the sort of ways that can sort of solve the problem in a game.

Virtual Dinner Grace's game "Big Huggin" at an event at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Credit: Bruce Guthrie, 2014.

JM: Why preteen girls?

LG: Well, I think what happened was there is a population that's basically called clearinghouses for web games and the folks have been creating games that are targeted towards young women. So, they were dress-up games. They were doll games. They were games that are a cliche of what you see in the girls' section of a toy store. So, pinks and purples and that sort of stuff. And that's the early history of these games. 

What I'm noticing is that they're like any genre: diversifying. So, you're getting a wider audience playing them because the mobile space isn't as gendered. So anyone can find these games easily; I think that's kind of the difference. You know, I sometimes talk about this in my class. Harrods' toy stores experimented with a non-gendered toy store and in doing so they found that girls want to drive Jeeps, too, and maybe boys wanted to play dress-up or whatever. 

I think the stores Google Play and iTunes have done, basically, a good job of breaking down some of those gender barriers and that's really important because my view is that in studying all these games, I've recorded about five hundred different affections. And what I've found is the affection games tend to have a very strong rhetoric about the way affection is expressed, why we can express affection, et cetera. And what I'm seeing is that more of these affections games are starting to change that rhetoric. So, I released a game that was not heteronormative. 

The vast majority of games in the affection space are about opposite-sex affection, even when it's non-sexual affection. So, hugs that are just sort of asexual are still sort of strongly gendered, female-to-female. You know, there's always opportunity and this is why I think it's interesting to talk about affection games. People talk about diversity in games, they talk about other ways to play this space. And it's sort of slowly growing and really does sort of offer a lot of fodder for analysis and for critical thinking about how we solve problems in the community.

JM: When it comes to the people at AU who are creating games and the gamer community, who makes up that group? What backgrounds do those people come from? Where do you see the gender lines or the class lines or the race lines?

LG: Our particular group of graduate students is atypical, I think, of many across the nation. Right now to give you a standard stat, I just gave a talk on diversity yesterday. About 89 percent of the designers and developers in the gaming industry are male. 

Eighty-nine percent and that's specific. That is collected every year--when they do a salary survey. Now, if you  compare that to our students, we have five female and seven male. We have one person from Africa and we have one person from South America.  And then we've got folks from all over the country, which I think is an important way to view it, too. The world of gaming doesn't need to be dominated by one or two key demographics. I think in the long term it can't be, if it's going to be mainstream.

JM: What kinds of diversity do you want to see?

LG: My answer is one that almost sounds redundant, but it really is about everyone. So, I want to make sure that we have as few hurdles--as few economic hurdles as we can. And also I want to see people who don't necessarily consider themselves as  game players, joining in the conversation. Because, there's a reason they don't consider themselves gamemakers and maybe they aren't gamers, maybe because they just don't know about all the other opportunities in games and maybe they just haven't experienced it. And so I'm really about just telling everybody that 'You know, come on in. The pool is warm.' We're very welcoming and we're very much about new ideas.

JM: Can people from different educational backgrounds become game designers?

LG: Just looking at our students in the graduate program, you'll see that no one has a degree in gaming and that's a relatively new thing. Ten to 15 years ago, no one could get a degree in gaming. What we've come to learn and one of the things that's essential in the design of our curriculum is this idea that games are really kind of case studies to help us build a much broader set of problems. So how do we keep someone interested for a long period of time? How do we get their foot in the door?

JM: Is there a difference between who decides to be a player and who decides to be a developer? Are there different backgrounds that go into that?

LG: The digital creative industries suffer from some challenges in diversity and part of that is the way the jobs are structured. You know, if you're going to start an indie (independent games) studio, which is one of the easiest ways to get yourself involved, basically the same activities [happen] in creating a startup. In terms of socioeconomics one of the things you're going to need is enough money to live on or a place to live on your own. If your family is struggling to pay their bills, it's not any easier to turn to them and say "Hey, I'm going to live with you for the next year and a half."

Of course, getting past the socioeconomics, the other issue -- more true in the triple A industry and the big console games
, than it has been in the space of indie games -- is that a lot of times you need a friend to let you in the industry. Someone has to tell you about a job and then you get in. And so one of the things that has been a challenge to improve the diversity is just that-- that it's a little bit of a closed network. And so, opening up that network's really important. That's one of the reasons I champion independent game making, in particular. The analogy is independent film and the benefit there is that independent filmmakers are very excited for new voices. They're not asking questions about financial viability. They're asking questions about experience. So, what's really great is you get folks designing from totally different perspectives than the average game player [or] maker.

JM: What are you looking forward to the most at GDC?

LG: GDC is a great forum for combining industry observations, real world experience with some theories some fresh ideas. Everybody goes to GDC every year and it's both an intellectually and experientially inspiring conference. New technologies, some new solutions. What's really great about the community is that we do something called post-mortem where people talk about their experience making a game after the game has been published or released - sharing the things you learned from it. The standard is three things you did well, three things you didn't do well. So people are willing to share their failures. They think it's very much part of gaming. We're usually okay failing in games and so that culture permeates to GDC. People are happy to talk about what they did poorly, which is atypical for a lot of industry conferences. And, I'm honestly looking forward to talking. It's my first talk at GDC and it's the creme de la creme of game conferences.


JM: Where does the gaming community meet up, other than conferences, to share ideas?

LG: Basically we have two spaces here. We have game consumers and we have gamemakers, which are basically designers and developers. So, the designers are the people that creatively check out the game and the developers are the folks who make it. Within that we have artists, all variety of programmers and for analog games we still have a variety of graphics, art, et cetera. Part of the answer to that question is about what portion of game making they're most excited about or most engaged in socially. So on the game making side we have lots of people who have, basically, meet-up communities. I run a meet-up of about 150 people, 150 members. And they're all interested in the gaming arts and design. Then we have something called the IGDA which is an international organization. It's the International Game Developer's Association. And that's a community of people in the industry and people looking to get into the industry who are really checking out their, they're just talking about everything from employment standards and how do we make money in this space and how do we negotiate contracts to things like offering unemployed folks in the industry insurance. So, we have an IGDA chapter here in D.C., probably about 300 members or so. There's probably a conference, an academic conference, once a month. Of course there's the Game Developer's Conference, GDC. Which is the ultimate, I think, meeting of the minds. Basically it's more than 20 years-old and  everyone from everywhere around the world comes to  participate in the event. So, there are guest speakers and there are events. The expo floor, as it will, is where a lot of major companies premiere new software. So, the comparable in the general space is comparable to something like the computer electronics show. It's a combination of  a big show, a bunch of academic talks and then a variety  of other activities including my talk.


JM: What are the least understood parts of games and game design?

LG: The way that I describe games in a way that might help most people understand the power and potential of games is to think of them as a set of design experiences. So, what I do as a game designer is I create problems for you to solve in games and I tell you how you're going to solve those problems and by doing so I am making what we consider a rhetorical decision and that rhetorical decision is if you have this problem this is how you solve it. If there's someone in your way, you shoot them. If you're amin a maze, you must adhere to the maze's rules these are what we call procedural rhetoric. I'm not the only person to describe this. But, the real power in games is that we are asking people to practice that procedural rhetoric that solution finding over and over and over again and by doing so it's a kind of practice instruction and the framing we provide in games, et cetera, that's the power of affection games-- that we can get more people to employ that, to help understand that really--when we're doing that--what we're doing is training people, then we can help solve some really complicated problems. The other thing that's misunderstood about games is that they're being open-ended by nature or by design. More people solving problems that they wouldn't normally solve outside the game. When people adopt a playful mindset one of the things they do is they're willing to take risks. They're interested in experimentation. They use their own heuristics, or lessons learned and then they apply them. So what's great about that is if we get people in a playful mentality, they sort of adopt that playful mindset, then they solve problems they wouldn't be able to solve outside of the game.

JM: How can games solve those problems?

LG: They do this in two ways. One is the crowdsource approach. So, what we do is we have people solve a problem and lots of people have had the same problem, so we know we have millions of players with successful games. What if we had millions of people trying to contribute to the Human Genome Project, millions of people trying to solve the best possible design for new urban plants? So, what we do is wrap that problem in something playful in a game and that helps them train the problem and be engaged in finding a solution.

JM: What news organizations or other organizations have you seen achieve that goal?

LG: There's a couple of solutions, one that's always studied in this space, is sort of the ultimate example is a game called Foldit which was founded by Professor David Baker of the University of Washington, who I've cited several times in some of my own published work, and basically they've made a game around understanding how proteins are folded. 

So, people are playing a game that is about protein folding but really what they're doing is they're contributing to this database of possible solutions and then the sort of ultimate solutions are then analyzed [through] visual data and they've been able to kind of derive medicinal Solutions, medicines, from this data. Other examples: a lot of times people don't realize a lot of the data we use on a daily basis is Big Data stuff so things like using Pandora, which has about 20 different factors on each song so that it can match to our own likes. What they've essentially done is they've made games around tagging music or tagging images. And so doing that they've created much more data, much more reliable data, much more rich data that we can use for applications like Pandora.

An example that's really sort of common and it's not much of a game, but it is, technically, sort game a game is Google licensed from Stanford the rights to use the image tagger and--the way that images in Google, when you use Google Image Search it shows you whatever you've looked for--what it really is is human work. So, people have sat down and said this image is a "blah" and they continue to tag it. So they wrap that in the competition of people going back and forth and in going back and forth they're basically competing with each other to tag images.

It helps us with tedious things. I don't necessarily want to stand in front of a computer for hours tagging images, but if you make it a game--wow, right? And we've known that since everybody who's ever played with a five year-old knows  that one way to get them to clean up is to turn it into a game. There's a lot of that kind of activity.

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newsId: 2B290A83-5056-AF26-BE49DBA01D2FC078
Title: David Donald wins Philip Meyer Award
Author: Domanique Jordan
Subtitle:
Abstract: American University professor David Donald and a team at the Center for Public Integrity received the first-place 2014 Philip Meyer Journalism Award from the National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting
Topic: Communications
Publication Date: 02/23/2015
Content:

American University professor David Donald and a team at the Center for Public Integrity received the first-place 2014 Philip Meyer Journalism Award from the National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting for the series "Medicare Advantage Money Grab," .The series exposed how the medical industry raised the risk scores for elderly patients to overbill the Medicare Advantage program tens of billions of dollars. 

The judges noted that the Center won first-place because "despite the challenges of dealing with complex and voluminous government data, they aptly dissected the shocking shortcomings of a program that was meant to stabilize costs, but instead has allowed the industry to harvest huge sums by saying patients were sicker than they were." 

"That the award is named after Philip Meyer is quite meaningful. I read his seminal book Precision Journalism very early in my career, and much that he wrote about has directed my development and work through the years. So winning the award twice in the past three years is its own confirmation of my fulfilling what I set out to accomplish as inspired by Meyer's work," said Donald.

Meyer is professor emeritus and former Knight Chair of Journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

This is the second time Donald has taken the top Meyer award. In 2010, he took second place, with the Center for Public Integrity for the series on "Sexual Assault on Campus: A Frustrating Search for Justice." 

"It's no surprise therefore that in the past year, many of the world's leading news organizations in New York and London were interested in hiring David away from the Center for Public Integrity," said SOC Professor Chuck Lewis, Executive Editor of SOC's Investigative Reporting Workshop. "So imagine our delight when he decided to come to American University."

Donald, brought his talents to AU through a joint appointment as the SOC data journalist in residence and as a data editor at the Workshop.

"I've had two strands to my professional career. I've practiced data journalism for many years, most recently as data editor at the Center for Public Integrity. I've also been actively involved with journalism education, especially my five years as Investigative Reporter and Editor's training director prior to my work at CPI," said Donald.

"Professor Charles Lewis approached me with the idea that I could combine the two at American University. I could teach data journalism, which was needed here, and I could continue to practice data journalism through the Investigative Reporting Workshop that he directs within the School of Communication. When SOC Dean Jeffrey Rutenbeck not only supported the idea but also convinced me that we could innovate around data journalism here at American, it seemed like the perfect fit."

The Workshop is a non-profit, professional newsroom in SOC. The Workshop publishes in-depth stories about government and corporate accountability, ranging from the environment and health to national security and the economy.  

The award will be presented on March 7 at the 2015 Computer-Assisted Reporting Conference in Atlanta.

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Title: Reducing Risk When Telling Truth to Power
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Abstract: The Center for Media & Social Impact's latest report helps filmmakers fell more secure while engaging powerful interests.
Topic: Television & Film
Publication Date: 02/22/2015
Content:

The Center for Media & Social Impact's latest report, “Dangerous Documentaries: Reducing Risk when Telling Truth to Power” is both a valuable resource for filmmakers and a revealing look at the challenges filmmakers face when they tackle deep-pocketed, powerful subjects. The report, funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, also describes the forms of support available and necessary next steps to further lower risk and reduce chilling effects.

“Documentaries that tell truth to power are important in a media ecology that can sustain and nurture democratic discourse,” said Prof. Patricia Aufderheide, Principal Investigator of the report. “Understanding the current environment for production is crucial to understanding what makers need and can do to lower risk.” The report finds that although serious legal trouble is rare, risks are real and can create a chilling effect on works exploring important social issues. The most common areas of concern include personal security, data security, publicity attacks (smear campaigns), insurance issues, and litigation.

The report notes that makers who identify either as journalists or filmmakers face the same problems, but often do not share the same body of information or networks—and should. "It is so important to highlight the lack of a true, centralized resource and training hub for documentary filmmakers in the US. There is much to be done outside of advocacy and exhibition," said Deirdre Haj, Executive Director of the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival.

“‘Dangerous Documentaries’ lays out the challenges and risks that journalists and documentary filmmakers encounter every day, even though their missions differ,” said American University Professor of Journalism Lynne Perri. “This new report offers advice, best practices and wish-lists, including a legal-defense fund. The study also provides a wealth of resources that will aid those new to the field, and reminds those who routinely take on the powerful that many organizations are able to lend guidance and support.”

One area that the report notes is particularly weak in resources is safety and security, both of makers and their subjects. "This is an important work on filmmaker security issues that fills a void in the field," said Director/Producer Katy Chevigny of Big Mouth Productions. Her most recent work, The E-Team, sent production personnel into conflict situations as they followed first-responders in the human rights community.

The report was built on 53 interviews of makers of non-fiction films and TV programs, programmers, funders, lawyers, and insurers, as well as a wide search of literature and participation in public events. The report synthesizes suggestions from the interviewees to improve the environment. These include: reduce cultural differences and share resources between journalism and filmmaking; make more and better training and resources available; increase organizational support for such work; and centralize knowledge in community forums and best practices. The report highlights the importance of membership organizations in supporting filmmakers and journalists who do this sometimes-dangerous work. International Documentary Association Board President Marjan Safinia said, “This report is packed full of information, and gives lots of food for thought for how organizations like IDA can meet the need in the field.”

The report was previewed at the IDA conference “Getting Real,” where journalists and filmmakers held a working group to discuss its interim results. The final version was previewed at the Sundance Film Festival in January. After the February 19 full paper release at Media That Matters, the report will also be presented at the conference “Based on a True Story” at the University of Missouri’s Journalism School and at Full Frame Documentary Festival, as well as at academic conferences.

About the Researchers

American University Professor and Center for Media & Social Impact Director Patricia Aufderheide was principal investigator. Center for Media & Social Impact Associate Director Angelica Das was project manager. Graduate fellows Stephanie Brown and Olga Khrustaleva assisted with research. Consultant Deborah Goldman contributed legal research. Legal fellow Anuj Gupta assisted Ms. Goldman with legal research. Graduate fellows Daniela Pérez Frías and Daniel Ball-Farber contributed to production.

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Title: Producer-Director Adam Friedman Discusses Documentary Featuring Meryl Streep
Author: Traci Crockett
Subtitle:
Abstract: Friedman is wrapping up work on a film called “Shout Gladi Gladi,” which Streep narrates.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 03/12/2015
Content:

"I like to say it was like painting the Mona Lisa without the smile." That's how producer-director Adam Friedman, SOC/BA '79, describes his latest film –before Meryl Streep signed on. "For four months, I had a movie I couldn't proceed on too much because I didn't have my narrator in place," Friedman says. 

In February, Friedman says, he got very lucky when his sister, a New York newscaster, somehow got a rough cut of the movie in front of Streep. "I got an email from Meryl's assistant saying 'hey, Meryl would love to do your movie. She thinks it's great,'" he says. And, the rest, as they say, is history.  

Friedman, owner of production company Vertical Ascent, is wrapping up work on the documentary called "Shout Gladi Gladi." It's a film about one woman's drive to help save African mothers suffering from fistula. That woman, Scottish philanthropist Ann Gloag, a former nurse turned businesswoman, now runs medical facilities in three African countries.

"We recorded her at nine o'clock in the morning on Saturday, the day before the Oscars," Friedman says of Streep. "That's how cool she was." Having booked a studio for six hours to do the voiceover, Friedman says, "she was in and out of there in 56 minutes…She was amazing." 

Not everything went so quickly, of course. The project began with a visit to Scotland to discuss it with Gloag. Then came trips to Malawi, Kenya, and Sierra Leone, where Friedman and his crews filmed what he calls an "immense" amount of footage. Friedman says they visited some "horrific" slums during their time in Sierra Leone, and he believes his was the last crew filming in the country before the Ebola outbreak. 

A lot of time was spent working on the film before the first cut was finished in September. Still, one key piece was missing. Enter Meryl Streep. "Obviously she changes the movie completely because of the way she reads. We were all just blown away," Friedman says. "Before we had a movie about fistula…a subject that most people will turn away from." But, he says, with Streep on board, he thinks the movie will reach "an incredibly large and wide swath of humanity." 

Friedman says he wouldn't be where he is today without AU. "I'm in this business because of AU and particularly because of my mentor, Larry Kirkman…I think differently than most producer-directors, and it's all because of what I learned at AU," he says.

Friedman tells a story about "lying his way into ABC" during his time as a student and working on an Emmy-nominated documentary. "But I didn't want to do documentaries then," he says. "There was a new thing happening at the time called music videos." Music video interested Friedman, so he wrote one for Darryl Hall and John Oates. They liked it and hired him to do more. He continued working in the industry, producing videos for the Rolling Stones and other musical acts. 

Since then, Friedman has gone on to do lots of different kinds of work, including a recent television show about the CIA for National Geographic. "AU gave me a lot of opportunities to play with a lot of toys, and you need that," he says. 

Friedman remains involved with AU, serving as a mentor for the School of Communication and as a volunteer leader with the Entertainment and Media Alumni Alliance. "What AU taught me was a really strong notion that there's nothing you can't do if you really want to," he says. "I met the best people in the world there." 

Friedman says he thinks what's happening with film online is going to change everything about his business so that's where he will turn his focus next. 

And, he says, "Obviously we're aiming for the Oscars next year."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Title: Keosha Varela: Journey Through Digital Space
Author: Kristena Wright
Subtitle:
Abstract: Alumni Board Member Koesha Varela makes her mark in the digital world.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 08/15/2014
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Keosha Varela, SOC/BA '07, SOC/MA '08, currently serves as the digital producer at The Aspen Institute in Washington, D.C. But working in digital production was not originally her career aspiration. "I knew I was going to be a lawyer and later on a politician," Keosha says. "AU was always my first choice school and I couldn't wait to get there. Early on, I realized that rather than campaign to spend a short amount of time on the issue of the day, I could raise more awareness by telling the story and following its development," she explains. Keosha decided to go into journalism, saying that she loves reading and writing. "I still wanted to contribute to society in a meaningful way so I decided to tell people's stories. I wanted to be someone who alerted the world on unjust stories so that we could make a change."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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newsId: 8B4B6663-0F1B-49C7-FA19296835529E49
Title: Alumnus Michael O'Brien's Book Details Symbolic Civil Rights Movement
Author: Ann Royse
Subtitle:
Abstract: Alumnus Michael O'Brien writes an enthralling and historic account of the famous sit-in protest at Woolworth's in Jackson, Mississippi during the height of the civil rights era.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 02/17/2014
Content:

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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newsId: C4C2C1BD-B0C1-206B-F6A5151137FE3300
Title: Alumnus Daniel Maree wins Do Something Award for Creating Social Change
Author: Rebecca Vander Linde
Subtitle:
Abstract: When Daniel Maree, SOC-CAS/BA ’08, heard about the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin, he took action.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 09/12/2013
Content:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tags: Alumni,Alumni Newsletter,Alumni Relations,Alumni Update,College of Arts and Sciences,School of Communication
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Title: A Profile in Compatibility
Author: Rick Horowitz
Subtitle:
Abstract: So many devices, so little time! Alumni couple simplifies cross-platform file transfers, untangles cloud computing.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 07/31/2013
Content:

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

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

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

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

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

It was quite a different time.

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

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

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

You might apply that same phrase to the Lekas.




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

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

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

LiveShot 'En Serio'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




Paul Barrett 'CloudComputing'

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or, you could say, compatibility.

 

Tags: Alumni,Faculty,Students,School,School of Communication,Communication,Communication Technology,Information Technology
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