newsId: 7BA394DC-5056-AF26-BEDCE772AE68FCBE
Title: Research with a Purpose: How an AU Student is Addressing Mental Health on College Campuses
Author: Gregg Sangillo
Subtitle:
Abstract: Junior Mary-Margaret Koch will present her findings at a conference in March.
Topic: Research
Publication Date: 11/17/2016
Content:

Discussing academic research at conferences seems like the province of professors and graduate students, but Mary-Margaret Koch is ahead of the curve. Though still an undergraduate, Koch will be presenting a poster with her research findings at the University of Michigan’s Depression on College Campuses Conference in March. Better still, her research is pertinent to her classmates at American University and millions of college students nationwide.

Koch focuses on mental health on college campuses, and she’s eager to reach new audiences at the conference.

“I’m definitely excited to be able to go,” says the AU junior. “I’ve presented at local and national conferences before, but they’ve been with other college students. And this one will have counseling center directors from across the country.”

What the Research Reveals

At the conference, Koch will share the results of her secondary analysis of the National College Health Assessment. Over the summer, Koch got access to national data from 2008-2014, and she concentrated on first-semester freshmen. She found that first-year students at all colleges—small or large, public or private—were utilizing mental health services.

“It’s evaluating how effective counseling centers are at making sure students know that these resources exist the moment they arrive on campus,” she says.

Though she wasn’t able to draw conclusions based on race, she discovered that female students were more likely than their male counterparts to seek out mental health resources.

As part of the Community-Based Research Scholars program, Koch explored many of these issues for her Capstone. In recent years, she says, more students are reporting instances of stress and anxiety, but they’re also more likely to visit counselors.

The Importance of Seeking Help

A recent Atlantic article called mental health centers the most popular offices on campus. If this seems extremely disconcerting, Koch says there’s a silver lining in that surge.

“We see a huge increase in the number of students who are using the mental health services at their university. And in a lot of ways, that’s fantastic. It means that students are seeking help. It shows that these services exist, and students are taking advantage of them,” Koch says.

Yet many of these institutions have staff shortages, and funding is always an issue for universities. “It’s creating new challenges. A lot of centers where you used to be able to get a same-day appointment have a waiting list for two weeks,” she explains.

On Campus

Koch previously served as executive director of mental health advocacy for AU Student Government. Some students criticized the AU Counseling Center in recent years, and Koch says her role was to help strengthen relations between the center and AUSG. To address urgent care needs, the Counseling Center now offers drop-in hours from 2:00-4:00 pm, Monday-Friday, she notes.

She also credits the Counseling Center for its outreach efforts to students, including presentations at every freshman orientation session. “I think, compared to centers on other campuses, they do a really good job of being visible,” she says.

Koch has promoted mental health in other venues on campus. In conjunction with the Kennedy Political Union, she helped bring Frank Warren, founder of the PostSecret community project, to AU for an event. She got involved in a campus version, where students could submit postcards—venting personal emotions and frustrations—displayed in the SIS Founders Room.

Searching for Answers

After growing up in the Chicago suburbs, Koch came to AU to study political science. Now she’s a double major in poli sci in the School of Public Affairs and communication studies at the School of Communication. She’s currently a research intern for the reproductive rights group, EMILY’s List.

Yet Koch doesn’t believe her political background is antithetical to her interest in mental health. She sees a challenge, and she’s examining data and public policy to understand it.

“You apply different techniques for things like voter turnout, and how you get people to the polls,” she says. “Here it’s, ‘How do you get college students to know that mental health services exist?’”

“There really isn’t a lot of research out there about this subject. And so I kind of got down this little rabbit hole of collegiate mental health,” she adds. “There weren’t many answers, and I kind of wanted to know why.”

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Title: Students at the Heart of 2016 Election Coverage
Author: Mirchaye Woldeleoul
Subtitle:
Abstract: Journalism students contribute to Beltway News, the Washington Post, USA Today, NBC News
Topic: Communications
Publication Date: 11/17/2016
Content:

It's a great time to be studying journalism in Washington, DC! 

American University School of Communication’s Media Innovation Lab was transformed into a newsroom for 48 hours of live election coverage last week. Graduate students from the COMM 621 - Online News Production course, as well as undergraduates from other classes, teamed up to cover Election Day and the fallout the day after. 

All stories produced by students, whether text or multimedia content, has been published on www.beltwaynews.org, a creation of the journalism graduates, with photos, stories, videos and additional vignettes filed from an undergrad reporting class working in teams. 

Students were sent out to polling stations in Washington, DC, Northern Virginia, Maryland and the White House early in the morning on Election Day to conduct interviews with voters and tourists. Meanwhile, some students remained back in the MIL working as producers and editors to make sure their reporters turned in their stories according to the deadline. 

Some students work with professional news organizations, including USA TODAY, NBC4, The Washington Post and WTOP. “We had 47 students traversing Tuesday across the District, Maryland and Virginia - by bus, car, Metro and on foot - to polling places to talk to voters, take stock of lines, turnout and problems,” said Lynne Perri, journalism professor at AU.

Perri and Amy Eisman, also journalism professor at AU, took the lead in arranging the professional partnerships. Graduate students received contributing lines and bylines on the stories published by these media organizations. AU SOC has developed similar partnerships every election since 2008, and  this year the demand for AU students increased. 

Faculty, including Jeremiah Patterson, Andrew Lih, Amy Eisman, Jill Olmsted, Lynne Perri, Chris Lawrence and Rose Ann Robertson, managed and oversaw students work from early morning to late night shifts. 

Coverage continued all day Wednesday after Election Day, where most students worked on election results reaction. 

Students reporting for local and national outlets:

Taylor Hartz, Josephine Peterson and Shaun Courtney: Washington Post, "Long lines reported across D.C. region as area voters decide, Clinton or Trump"

Teaganne Finn, Sara Wise, Natalie Hutchinson and Amaya Turner: NBC-4 Washington, "Polls Close in DC, Maryland, Virginia"

Natalie Hutchinson: NBC-4 Washington, "#WhyIVoted"

Mandy McLaren (byline), Matt Hanan, Jerrel Floyd and Patricia Torres (contributed): USA Today, "For many voters, election's end brings relief"

Jerrel Floyd and Patricia Torres: USA Today, "America voting: long lines, glitches, patience, thankfulness"

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Title: Live from the District: SOC Election Coverage Recap
Author: Jack Stringer
Subtitle:
Abstract: A look back at how SOC students and faculty got involved in the 2016 election.
Topic: Communications
Publication Date: 11/10/2016
Content:

In what was an exceptionally tumultuous election cycle for journalists, strategists, pollsters and other media experts around the country, School of Communication (SOC) students and faculty at American University had the opportunity to play a role in the coverage, the meta-coverage and the resulting discourse.   

#Campaign2016U

A class of students drawn from across several AU schools and colleges met once a week with a camera crew from the local CBS affiliate and public communication professor Lenny Steinhorn to weigh in on the important issues and analyze the twists and turns of the presidential election. Presidential Campaign 2016: Inside the War Room and the Newsroom, gave students a chance to act as pundits, with several members of the class appearing on WUSA-9’s evening news show to discuss the election. Stay tuned for more from this class as they react to Trump’s victory then dissect the next steps for both parties, mass media and the American people.

Jane Hall: professor, political pundit

Journalism and media studies professor Jane Hall has an extensive background reporting for The Los Angeles Times and Fox News. She has leveraged her experience to help student journalists immerse themselves in election coverage. During this election cycle, Hall appeared on CNN’s “Reliable Sources,” wrote an op-ed for The New York Times on Roger Ailes, and was quoted in articles from The Washington Post and PBS News Hour

On the scene and in the newsroom

SOC was represented at The Washington Post, NBC-4, USA Today and WTOP among other publications on election day. Professors Andrew Lih, Jeremiah Patterson, Amy Eisman, Jill Omsted and Lynne Perri were involved in running a newsroom of journalism students at SOC. 

Beltway News



The day before the election, graduate journalism students launched Beltway News, an online blog/publication that posted a frenzy of election stories before, during and after Nov. 8. Undergraduate students reported back to the newsroom in SOC’s Media Innovation Lab with interviews and short vignettes from polling places in Virginia, Maryland and D.C. Several professors were on hand to oversee the process as Beltway News editors published stories on the future of election coverage, Trump’s surprise win, Millennials’ reaction/protests and the effect race had on the results

#AUElectionMap

Check out the students, faculty and alumni from around the country that were involved in the election. Whether their contribution was large or small or came from D.C., North Dakota, San Francisco or Vermont, it put them on the map. 

Lenny Steinhorn: professor, political pundit

Other than his Campaign2016U class, professor Steinhorn contributed to election coverage as a frequent political expert for CBS News on WUSA-9 and was quoted in many articles throughout the election, including stories by the BBC and The Washington Post. Steinhorn also held a faculty forum called, “President Trump?”

On campus events


Podcasters, CNN contributors and distinguished journalists were all welcomed on campus this semester to offer insight into the election from a variety of perspectives. 

  • Two CNN political contributors and presidential strategists sat down with professor Hall, to discuss the 2016 presidential campaign with AU student. Ana Navarro, a GOP strategist strongly against Trump, and Patti Solis Doyle, a former Clinton campaign manager, spoke candidly about Trump, Hillary, the hispanic vote and political advertising
  • Kristen Soltis Anderson and Margie Omero, hosts of the popular political podcast, “The Pollsters” came to AU a week before the election to meet with students and discuss the Millennial factor. 
  • Students were invited to see former executive editor of The Washington Post, Leonard Downie Jr. and professor Charles Lewis break down the evolution of journalism, “from Cronkite to Trump.”
  • Dean Rutenbeck sat down with students for an informal, “Coffee and Conversation,” discussing the evolving role of media in this election and the future of SOC within this realm. 

Debate watch parties were held on campus for all four debates leading up to the election. Students also witnessed the results come in on Nov. 8 from multiple events around campus that were covered by AU Student Media as well as international news organizations. 

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Title: Full-Time Students, Part-Time Pundits
Author: Jack Stringer
Subtitle:
Abstract: AU students are trying their hand as live analysts of the 2016 presidential election.
Topic: Announcement
Publication Date: 11/10/2016
Content:

American University students are taking on the role of political pundits every Thursday morning at 10 a.m., live on WUSA-9 as part of Professor Lenny Steinhorn’s class, Presidential Campaign 2016: Inside the War Room and the Newsroom.

Students involved in the course will have the opportunity to share their analysis on election issues, campaign tactics, and nuances within the campaigns' strategies on camera each week. 

CBS reporter, Bruce Johnson, and his camera crew are streaming the full class live online every week leading up to the election. Watch the news on the same channel later in the day to see Johnson recap the class’ discussion.  

Add your opinion into the mix and let the class know what you want to hear them talk about by using #Campaign2016U on Twitter and Facebook. 

UPDATES

UDPATE: 11/10/16
In case you missed it: Donald Trump was officially declared the president elect of the United States early on Nov. 9. The next day, alongside the rest of the country, professor Steinhorn's class reacted, postulated and tried to explain how he came out on top. 

"It's not just the White working class. I think he put anxiety within a lot of the people who supported him that stems from a fear of 'the other'," Michael Holloman said. Holloman argued that Trump won partly by telling voters, "'the other' is taking things away from you. In order to restore that order and make america great again, you have to vote for me." 

WUSA-9 reporter, Bruce Johnson, got involved in this week's discussion and invited Steinhorn into the studio for a one-on-one interview breaking down how Trump won, and how Clinton lost. Check out this week's video here

UDPATE: 11/3/16
The election is upon us and students gave their last word on what has been an unpredictable past few months. The class conducted their own voting on who they thought would win a few key swing states such as Florida and Pennsylvania, eventually making the tentative collective prediction that Hillary Clinton would be announced the winner on Tuesday. Check out the full WUSA-9 segment, here

UDPATE: 10/27/16
With only one more class before the election, students are diving into the nitty gritty of it and Steinhorn is asking the difficult questions. The wall, the future of Trump supporters, WikiLeaks and more here

UDPATE: 10/20/16
Students reacted to the third and final presidential debate, focusing on Trump's comments insinuating that he might not accept the results of the election. After discussing these headline-grabbing comments, professor Steinhorn asked his students what else from the debate deserved more attention and added the question: has the media been biased towards the Clinton campaign? No, not really, said most students. Watch all the footage from today's class here

UDPATE: 10/13/16
#Campaign2016U students, Dan Lagnado and Molly Gormley, joined professor Steinhorn and Bruce Johnson in the WUSA-9 studio following the town-hall presidential debate to voice their opinions on who won and how the evening's events will effect voter turnout among other facets of the election. Check out their conversation here

Can Trump recover from yet another scandal? The class reacts to the leaked tapes of Trump's comments insinuating sexual assault and what he could possibly do to sway undecided voters. Watch clips from this week, here

UDPATE: 10/6/16
The class met just after the Vice Presidential debate and before the second Presidential debate to reflect on their takeaways of how Gov. Mike Pence and Sen. Tim Kaine approached their debate while looking forward to strategies for Clinton and Trump leading up to their town-hall style debate. 

"This isn't a factual, knowledge based campaign it's all about performance and who we can relate to...who we can 'go and get a beer with.' It's all about entertainment," one student said. 

Perception vs. reality; performance vs. truth; and more from this week's class here

UDPATE: 9/29/16
WUSA-9 invited Steinhorn and #Campaign2016U students, Aryn Fields and Michael Holloman, into the studio to discuss the first debate and how millennials will react to each candidates performance monday evening. Watch the full clip here

For more on how the class as a whole reacted to the first debate, check out the videos here

UDPATE: 9/22/16
Students started discussing the lead-up to the first Presidential debate and how each of the candidates can succeed when they meet on Sep. 26. Steinhorn also guided the class through discussions on foreign policy, specifically terrorism and conflict in Syria. To close out their meeting this week, Campaign2016U students weighed in on the Trump campaign's recent statement on the Obama "birther" controversy. 

"Obviously this narrative that he's been creating is false but I think it's far from the most obscene or outlandish thing that he's said. he's a candidate that's been all about pushing the envelope and seeing what he can get away with saying. It resonates with people," one student said. Watch all of this week's videos here

UPDATE: 9/15/16
Steinhorn led his class through discussions on political correctness, the impact of campaign ads, Gary Johnson’s candidacy and more. Check out some of these discussions, here

Students involved in the course will have the opportunity to share their analysis on election issues, campaign tactics, and nuances within the campaigns' strategies on camera each week. CBS reporter, Bruce Johnson, and his camera crew are streaming the full class live online every week leading up to the election. Watch the news on the same channel later in the day to see Johnson recap the class' discussion.

Add your opinion into the mix and let the class know what you want to hear them talk about by using #Campaign2016U on Twitter and Facebook.

Tags: Communication,Political Science,Politics,Print Journalism,Public Communication,School of Communication
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Title: SOC Offers Backpack Documentary Class in Spanish
Author: Gregg Sangillo
Subtitle:
Abstract: Prof Bill Gentile helps students find their human voice.
Topic: Journalism
Publication Date: 11/09/2016
Content:

If you’re reporting from a foreign country, you can’t just rely on a translator. Bill Gentile spent many years as a correspondent and photographer in Latin America, and he stresses the need to speak Spanish fluently.

“You can’t get under the skin of a culture, or a people, or a country, if you don’t speak their language. You can communicate with them. You can exchange information with them. But you can’t really discern how they think,” says Gentile, a professor and journalist in residence at American University’s School of Communication.

This semester, Gentile is teaching a new course, Backpack Documentary en Español. That’s exactly what it sounds like: a video journalism course taught entirely in Spanish. It’s the first of its kind in SOC, and its benefits extend beyond the aforementioned work of foreign correspondents.

“Backpack documentary” emphasizes that journalists can tell powerful, intimate stories with hand-held, digital cameras.

Connecting with Communities

Gentile’s course includes both Hispanic and non-Hispanic students. The SOC course is also cross-listed with the World Languages and Cultures Department in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Especially if you’re not a native Spanish speaker, this class can help you stay conversant in the language of a significant and growing demographic in the U.S., Gentile says.

“Whether you’re in journalism, law enforcement, business, or any field, if you speak this language— which is the second most spoken in the country—you’ve got an advantage over people who don’t,” he explains.

Through their film projects, students can also connect with Central American and other Hispanic communities in the D.C. area. For instance, one student is working on a film about the Rumba Café, an Adams Morgan bar and restaurant popular with Latinos. AU World Languages and Cultures Professorial Lecturer Ludy Grandas, also a student in Gentile’s class, is making a short documentary about Antonio de la Cruz, an 89-year-old barber in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood.

Inclusion and Belonging

Gentile is a member and former co-chair of the SOC’s Diversity Committee. By establishing a welcoming environment for Hispanic and Latina/Latino students, he hopes the course will help improve the racial climate on campus.

“I want to be inclusive. And I want there to be a safe space for students who speak the language,” he says. “And it’s not just a safe space, but a space where students feel that they belong.”

Lifelong Learning

As pretty much every AU professor will insist, you never stop learning. Profs talk about stumbling upon the unexpected during a lecture, or how a student’s question forced them to reexamine old assumptions.

While taking Gentile’s class, Grandas is discovering the art of filmmaking. Originally from Colombia, she teaches topics courses in Spanish in CAS. But she had no previous background producing film.

“Making a film is very difficult. Even if it’s just a three-minute documentary, it requires a lot of time,” she says.

Yet Gentile is helping her—and all of his students—throughout the process. He frequently accompanies his students on their film shoots, and Grandas exalts that level of commitment.

“He comes with us to film. He accommodates our schedule. And that is something that is very hard to find in an instructor or a professor,” she says.

She initially wanted to film day laborers at Home Depot in Northeast, D.C. It never came to fruition, though, as they shied away from the camera. So she switched her project to the barber in Mount Pleasant.

She already sees how this course will help with her own teaching, since she’s planning to teach a new class on Latin American cinema.

“It’s very humbling to know that you don’t know so many things,” she says. “It’s learning a new kind of language. It’s a visual language.”

The Universal Language: Visual Storytelling

Ultimately, Gentile says, “visual language” is the key to understanding this course. It’s not a Spanish class and he’s not a Spanish teacher. And comprehending the technology is only a small part of the equation.

“I’m trying to convey to students that they have a voice,” he says. “It’s not about gears, it’s not about equipment, it’s not about any of that stuff. It’s about learning to speak the visual storytelling language.”

When students finish their films, they can put them on YouTube, Vimeo, or other multimedia outlets. Then, of course, almost anybody can watch and draw inspiration.

“For the first time in the history of mankind, we can communicate instantly, globally, and in a language that everybody can understand.”

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Title: Students Partner with Local and National Outlets for Election Day
Author: Mirchae Woldeleoul
Subtitle:
Abstract: Journalism students cover election day, live from our nation's capital.
Topic: Communications
Publication Date: 11/07/2016
Content:

It’s an exciting time for journalism students to be at American University (AU). With Election Day finally here, AU School of Communication students are fanning out across the DC Metro region to conduct exit polling, cover election events, and talk to voters on both sides of the aisle. Small teams will be reporting for WTOP, The Washington Post, USA Today and the NBC4 website All the stories will be posted on BeltwayNews.org.

AU gives its students hands-on training to set them apart from the competition when they apply for jobs.

COMM 621 - Online News Production class instructed by Jeremiah Patterson and Andrew Lih, has been preparing and planning for over a month to make sure all the students get the full experience. 

Students are going to be sent out to polling stations in Washington, DC, Northern Virginia, Maryland as well as the White House. They’ll each conduct interviews with voters and will be submitting their stories according to their assigned deadlines to be collected and posted on BeltwayNews.org

To keep things smooth - they will be submitting their video files and articles to Trello, a website that allows one to organize projects. The class will be divided in four shifts throughout the day; where students will divide responsibilities. When some will be out reporting from outside, others will stay in the AU Media Innovation Lab, editing and publishing the stories as they come in.  

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Title: DC Arts-Grant Awarded to American University Adjuncts, Alumni
Author:
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Abstract: DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities presents AU artists with $25,000 in grants.
Topic: Announcement
Publication Date: 11/03/2016
Content:

The DC government Commission on the Arts and Humanities awarded $25,000 in artist grants to American University School of Communication alumni and adjunct faculty. 

Two alumni of the graduate film program, Yi Chen and Emiliano Ruprah, were recipients of the fellowship grant for Media.

Recipients of the Visual Arts grant include adjunct professorial lecturers Alexandra Silverthorne, Terri Weifenbach and Nancy Daly. 

The Arts and Humanities Fellowship Program (AHFP) offers fellowships to individual  artists whose artistic excellence significantly contributes to the District of Columbia as a world class cultural capital. AHFP recognizes the impact of individual artists within the District of Columbia and supports the vitality that those artists bring to the local community.

Check out a trailer for Yi Chen's film (and a playlist of all her Chinatown films):

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Title: Changing the Election Game
Author: Jessica Harris
Subtitle:
Abstract: Games can be a powerful tool in an activist's toolbox.
Topic: Communications
Publication Date: 11/02/2016
Content:

"Games are often talked about in terms of the entertainment they provide or the cutting-edge technology they feature, but they can be much more than bits of code and shiny graphics," says American University student Kelli Dunlap. "Games create a space where players can push boundaries, devise clever solutions, and play with information in a purposeful way."

For Dunlap, games are a great tool to get different audiences involved. She is the social media and community manager for Swing Voter Go, a game created for MoveOn.org by renowned game designer Jane McGonigal. The goal is for players to nudge swing voters into Hillary Clinton's camp, although technically the game can be played by anyone to either candidate's benefit. 

Dunlap's current job, which includes playtesting, refining game flow, and social media management, may surprise some, given that she received her doctorate in clinical psychology. But it's her passion for psychology that actually led her to American University's game design master's program.

"When you bring people together from markedly different backgrounds, you set yourself up to create something unique, innovative, and potentially world-changing, Dunlap explains."These kinds of pairings are the norm in games as games are inherently multidisciplinary. To create a game, you need coders, artists, musicians, organizers, task-masters, and UX/UI designers. Today's larger game companies also employ psychologists, economists, architects, and persons from other unexpected professions," she says.

Games are not just child's play anymore.  They are changing the way we receive information and process ourselves. Dunlap knows the power that the gaming industry is starting to harness.

"Games are not magic. They are not going to solve every problem or single-handedly bring about world peace. That said, well-designed games can be incredibly powerful at prompting behavioral change. There's an entire game genre known as 'social impact games' or 'games for change' trying to make the world a better place one game at a time," she explains.

Games can help in more ways than one, whether you are trying to build memory capacity, learn a language or lose weight, games and innovative technology are changing our daily lives. Dunlap agrees.

"For example, games have been shown to increase treatment adherence in pediatric cancer patients, reduce depression and anxiety, increase healthy behaviors, and reduce falling accidents in the elderly," she adds.

You can follow Dunlap on twitter @KelliNDunlap.

Get more information about the AU game design program.

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Title: “The Pollsters” Talk About the Countdown to Election 2016
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Abstract: The hosts of popular podcast, The Pollsters, came to AU for an event co-hosted by the School of Public Affairs and the School of Communication.
Topic: On Campus
Publication Date: 11/02/2016
Content:

Kristen Soltis Anderson and Margie Omero started their November 1 just before 7 a.m. on MSNBC’s Morning Joe and ended it at American University 12 hours later, giving their bipartisan take on the election.

The hosts of popular podcast, The Pollsters, came to AU for an event co-hosted by the School of Public Affairs and the School of Communication. Anderson, a Republican pollster and co-founder of Echelon Insights, joined Omero, a Democratic pollster and executive vice president of public affairs at PSB Research.

With help from School of Public Affairs Executive in Residence Betsy Fischer Martin and School of Communication Executive in Residence Molly O’Rourke, they answered questions about, polling, the upcoming election, and the millennial vote. One of the more critical questions for The Pollsters is about voter turnout.

“If younger voters do stay home in mass, that could be a problem for the Democrats,” said Anderson, author of The Selfie Vote: Where Millennials Are Leading America (And How Republicans Can Keep Up).

Omera said getting young people to vote has long been a difficult because many don’t have roots in their communities and don’t hear the candidates talking about issues that matter to them. What’s the secret to motivate young voters? “Show what’s in it for them,” said Omera.

To those interested in a career in polling, the guests said it’s important to know the numbers, but also be able to reach out and listen.

“You need to be open minded about voters,” said Omera. “If you find yourself not meeting folks from different walks of life. That will affect how open you are to hearing what’s on voters’ minds.”

“The best pollsters do not think of it as entirely math or entirely verbal,” said Anderson. “It’s also about being able to craft a message that is compelling and talk to people in a focus group for 90 minutes. Psychology and rhetoric also matter.”

SPA Dean Barbara Romzek said she liked how the speakers discussed their profession. “They brought tremendous expertise and insight to the complicated issue of polling,” she said. “I particularly liked the advice to students that they need to be facile in the statistical data analysis as well as be able to read people.”

Katie Putman, SOC/MA ’17, said she liked the cordial, bipartisan conversation between the speakers and information about how to interpret polls. “It’s nice to know you can take everything with a grain of salt and not let it sway your individual perceptions,” she said.

Jonathan Gonzales, SPA/BA ’18, a double major in political science and economics said, “It’s great to be at AU in an election year because you get so many different viewpoints.”

When asked about whether or not polls matter during an election, both pollsters agreed that it matters more for the policy issues, but most of the attention goes to “the horse race.”

“Be a poll skeptic – No two polls are exactly alike,” said Anderson. “Look at poll aggregators rather than letting one poll throw you off.”

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Title: Top Documentary Filmmakers and American University Students
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Abstract: MFA students Jamey Warner and Nick Zachar worked as cinematographers on “National Parks Adventure”
Topic: Announcement
Publication Date: 10/31/2016
Content:

Last year, two MFA grad students, Jamey Warner and Nick Zachar, worked as cinematographers on the IMAX film, “National Parks Adventure.”

After premiering in February, the film has gone on to become the highest grossing documentary of 2016 and won a slew of prizes at the Giant Screen Cinema Association’s Achievement Awards. It is now playing across the country, in 12 nations around the world and in DC at the Smithsonian’s Samuel C. Johnson IMAX Theater

Narrated by Robert Redford, “National Parks Adventure,” sets out to make people fall in love again with the national parks and to recognize the importance of preserving these untamed wildernesses for generations to come. It was filmed in over 30 national parks, including Yosemite, Yellowstone, Arches, and Glacier. 

This is not the first time AU SOC students have helped film and promote the National Parks and likely not the last. Warner has since gone on to work regularly with the production company behind the film, MacGillivray Freeman Films.  

Tags: Center for Environmental Filmmaking,Film,Film and Media Arts,Film Production,School of Communication
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Title: Non-stop News and A Heart for Helping
Author: Penelope Buchter, SIS/BA '16
Subtitle:
Abstract: Janell Lewis, SOC/MA ’06, has a passion for information and a desire to see others succeed.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 02/10/2016
Content:

Janell Lewis, SOC/MA ‘06, is an alumna whose passion and drive are evidenced by her impressive honors. Her energy and ambition have earned her the titles “Top 5 Under 40 Citizen,” and “Young Professional on the Move” as well as winning an award for dedication and service to the community from the local Courier Eco-Latino newspaper in her former home, Columbus, GA. She has even been nominated for an Emmy. She is currently in Lawton, OK, assisting in the KSWO Channel 7 News transition into a Raycom Media company.

Janell’s work in the news and media industry stems from an unquenchable desire to be informed on issues and know what is going on around her first. But more than just wanting information for herself, Janell wants to be part of informing others about what is going on in their community and their world. It is that get-up-and-go attitude which has yielded her such great success in her field.

Despite all of her success in news, Janell says that she is most proud of her work as a mentor, especially with young people. She started a local non-profit chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) in Georgia and has worked with several other organizations, including the NAACP and Big Brothers, Big Sisters. Through these organizations, she has had the chance to talk to students in elementary school through college and had the opportunity “to inspire, empower, and encourage, to give people someone to look up to and to show them that they can be successful.” With the NABJ she has been able to mentor students through college and sometimes even into their first journalism jobs. She says that getting into journalism, especially in places like DC can be incredibly difficult, but Janell loves to encourage people and see them succeed in getting these tough positions.

When Janell came to AU, she says that she maintained good relationships with her professors, made sure they knew her career aspirations, and allowed them to help her achieve those goals. This is the same advice she has for students hoping to pursue a media career, “have good relationships with your professors and do internships.” She says that “The best way to figure out what you want to do is to do it.”

It’s easy to see that Janell has been running full speed ahead, and she doesn’t plan on slowing down anytime soon. Right now, Janell is looking into starting her own business for event planning, and hopes to do media consulting.

Tags: Alumni,Journalism,Media,National Association for the Advancement of Colored People,School of Communication
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Title: SOC Alumna Gets a Running Start
Author: Megan Olson and Nicole Mularz ’14
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Abstract: Anne Mahlum, SOC/MA ’03, shares her passion for entrepreneurism, fitness, and strengthening communities.
Topic: Alumni Profile
Publication Date: 11/18/2015
Content:

Whether it is going for a mid-day run or teaching a class at Solidcore, working up a sweat has led to success for Anne Mahlum, SOC/MA '03. As founder of Solidcore boutique fitness studios, Back on My Feet, a national nonprofit serving the homeless community, as well as noted motivational speaker, Anne is nothing if not entrepreneurial.

A native of Bismarck, North Dakota, Anne was drawn to graduate school in Washington, DC for its politics, and to American University for its reputation. As a student in AU's one year Master of Public Communication program, Anne was very diligent and took advantage of all of the opportunities available to her on and off campus. While taking a full course load, she balanced work as an intern at Widmeyer Communications and as a server at a local restaurant. 

In November 2013, Anne followed her passion for health, fitness, and its community to launch Solidcore. Today, she serves as the company's founder and chief motivational officer, empowering a community of more than 10,000 members. Just a few miles from American University's campus, Solidcore offers rigorous classes that encourage participants to push themselves to be their best physically. Anne says, "Solidcore is not just a workout. We are on a serious mission to help you create the strongest version of yourself inside and out."

As Anne continues to push others to be their best selves, her own success seems to have only just begun. Anne plans to make Solidcore a national brand with hopes of inspiring individuals across the country. In addition to Washington, DC, Solidcore has locations in Virginia, Maryland, and Minneapolis.

Prior to opening Solidcore in 2007 at 26 years old, Anne's commitment to service led her to start a non-profit, Back on My Feet. With a mission of serving those facing homelessness, her vision was to help as many people as possible and empower them to redefine themselves so they could redefine their lives. Anne found that by using running as a tool, participants could gain the endurance to meet and exceed their goals as well as promote a healthy lifestyle both mentally and physically. Under Anne's leadership, Back on My Feet has enabled 1,942 members to obtain employment and 1,350 to obtain housing. 

For American University students looking to get a running start like Anne, she encourages them to take big risks, ask themselves what the worst thing that can happen is, and to not be afraid to try something different.

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Title: SOC Alumna Kelsey Marsh Experiences Success at Cannes Film Festival
Author: Melissa Bevins ’02
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Abstract: SOC Alumna Kelsey Marsh experienced success at the Cannes Film Festival with her film, NonCritical.
Topic: Alumni Profile
Publication Date: 09/04/2015
Content:

When she was in the Kingdom of Lesotho serving as a Peace Corps volunteer, Kelsey Marsh, SOC/MFA '15, knew that her next career move would be to head to graduate school and study documentary filmmaking. Kelsey spent her days working as a community health and economic development volunteer and a primary resource teacher, but she had her sights set on American University and was thrilled to learn of her acceptance while still in Lesotho. 

As a student at AU, Kelsey says she was constantly busy. She made it a point during her tenure to avoid saying no to opportunities. In fact, she held three different jobs one semester (as a fellow at Center for Media and Social Impact, intern at Voice of America, and student worker at the Academic Support and Access Center), all in addition to being a full-time graduate student. 

As a result of her reputation for working hard and getting the job done, Kelsey had the opportunity to work with Professor Brigid Maher on a film she was producing and directing, The Mama Sherpas. Kelsey credits this opportunity to AU's culture of blending theory with practicality and encouraging students to work in the field. In the case of The Mama Sherpas, Kelsey's involvement and responsibilities continued to grow, and she earned credit as an associate producer on the film. 

Kelsey made every effort to emulate the experience she had working with Professor Maher as she produced and edited her own thesis film, NonCritical. The film, a short documentary about America's ambivalence toward finding missing black adults, earned Kelsey an invitation to the Diversity in Cannes Short Film Showcase, where she won the Jury Choice Award. As Kelsey said, "The majority of filmmakers participating were from USC's famed film school, and my success proved to me that AU students are on the same level and do belong in international filmmaking competitions."

Kelsey now works full-time at Maryland Public Television as an associate producer. She loves the excitement of the position and the fact that every day is a little different. Currently, Kelsey serves on the arts and culture team and works on two half hour shows, Chesapeake Collectibles and Artworks

Kelsey also continues to freelance on many projects. She is currently producing a film called Women with Balls, about the D.C. Divas professional female, full-contact football team. The Divas had an undefeated season this year and just won their league's championship. Since the final game was played in Los Angeles, Kelsey was able to engage with three other American University alumni to help her with shooting the championship game.

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Title: AU Alumna Recalls Powerful Katrina Experience
Author: Ann Royse, SIS/MA '14
Subtitle:
Abstract: This month, AU is honoring the anniversary by remembering and sharing the firsthand experiences of alumna Rebecca Callahan, SOC/MA ’91, an American Red Cross public affairs liaison.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 08/11/2015
Content:

The news today is filled with images of treacherous weather patterns all across the country—from raging wildfires in the west to blizzards, floods, and storms in the east. Ten years ago, however, it was a single, violent storm covering the news outlets, a storm now infamously referred to as Hurricane Katrina. Whether you watched the horror unfold on television, responded to the national call for help, or actually lived amidst the chaos, the devastation Katrina caused will forever remain etched within the nation’s memory. This month, AU is honoring the anniversary by remembering and sharing the firsthand experiences of alumna Rebecca Callahan, SOC/MA ’91, an American Red Cross public affairs liaison.

As a communications student in both her undergraduate studies at Virginia Commonwealth University and graduate studies at AU, Rebecca’s venture at the Red Cross began with a simple volunteer role updating the organization’s database. However, due to her strong communications background, she found herself at a disaster relief call center the week of August 23, 2005, warning anxious Gulf Coast residents to immediately head inland. As the date of the hurricane’s landfall drew closer so did the intensity of calls and questions from residents frantically wondering where to go, what to do, and how to leave—even as many said, their instinct was to remain in their own homes.

While Rebecca worked with a range of people on the ground—from parents to children to soldiers and reporters—her skills were truly put to the test. However, she soon found herself particularly concerned with the psychological trauma and effects on the younger children, specifically the six- to 12-year-olds.

One young girl’s struggle to process the unfolding events inspired Rebecca to communicate and connect. Rebecca provided the girl with a job, instructing the 10-year-old to stand at one of the Baton Rouge River Center's entrances with a large bottle of medical grade sanitizer, ensuring that everyone entering or exiting was thoroughly disinfected. The job soon became too large for one person so, under Rebecca’s direction, the young girl led a team of purpose-seeking children to help guard and sanitize multiple entrances of the Center. As Rebecca explained, “People need that sense of empowerment…if you have all of your control taken away, one of the most therapeutic things is to give them a sense of control over something, even if it’s in the smallest, most unexpected ways. For kids, that was easy. For everyone else, that was hard.”

This story is only a sampling of the profound experiences Rebecca endured during her time volunteering with the Red Cross in New Orleans. From assisting in the search for family members, to counseling children, to being thrust in front of the cameras on behalf of the Red Cross, it is apparent how vital Rebecca’s communications skills were to her survival and success in such treacherous environments.

Today, Rebecca continues her passion for public and strategic communications as a public affairs strategist at Booz Allen Hamilton. She also continues work with the Red Cross as a public affairs liaison for the National Capital and Greater New York regions. Her time at AU prepared her for a much greater purpose, and she says that purpose lives on in the memory of those she aided during one of the most tumultuous disasters in recent American history.

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Title: Alumni Board Member Shares Passion for Giving Back
Author: Patricia Rabb
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Abstract: Amy Lampert is an AU Alumni Board member and active volunteer
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 05/19/2015
Content:

 "I fell in love with the campus when I visited. What an exciting place to live and study," says Amy Lampert, SOC/BA '94, about her first visit to AU during her senior year of high school. "As soon as I saw the campus, I knew that I wanted to be there. There's nothing quite like Washington, DC," she adds. 

After arriving on campus, Amy was involved with the American University Resident Hall Association (serving as vice president during her junior year), worked at the Anderson/Centennial Hall front desk for three years and participated in many leadership development opportunities on campus. She also worked on the yearbook and The Eagle newspaper and was active with "AU Students for Choice."  

Her most memorable AU experience occurred during her junior year when President Bill Clinton came to campus. "I was able to sit in the second row and shake his hand," says Amy. Not long before that, she stood along the inaugural parade route while the Clintons walked past. "That's not something you get to do anywhere else in the world. It has to be one of the coolest things I've ever done," she adds.

During her time at AU, Amy secured internships at locations as varied as the House Majority Leader's office, the Jewish Federation of St. Louis, US Weekly magazine in New York City, and the Make-A-Wish Foundation. "My internships gave me invaluable work experience that I know contributed to being able to get a job right out of college," Amy adds. 

Amy's first job was in the development office at Sidwell Friends School where she worked on publications. "I was able to immediately put my journalism degree to work," reports Amy. "My ability to write and edit as well as multi-task have been essential in everything I've done since graduation whether it's been professionally or in graduate school," says Amy. 

Born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, Amy earned two masters of arts degrees since leaving AU. One degree is in writing and publishing from Emerson College and the other is a business management degree from Webster University. Amy is currently vice president at Time Square, Inc., a family business where she works in real estate and investment management. She manages investments as well as a wide-ranging portfolio of residential and commercial properties. Amy is pleased this position provides her with the flexibility to spend time with her 10-year-old son, describing herself as "a very hands-on mother." She continues to reside with her family in St. Louis and also spends time at a second home in Florida.

An active volunteer, Amy is enthusiastic about giving her time to AU as well as to her local community. She can be found volunteering at her temple, at the Jewish Federation of St. Louis, and in many other activities in her region. As an alumna, she enjoys giving back as a member of the AU Alumni Board and as an Alumni Admissions Volunteer. As an AAV member, Amy enjoys welcoming incoming freshmen and their families to the AU community by hosting summer send-off events at her homes in both Missouri and Florida. "I've really enjoyed meeting prospective students and their families over the years and sharing my passion for such an exciting place with people who are as excited about AU as I still am," she adds.

Amy observes that much has changed at AU since she attended in the 1990s. She finds herself wishing she could go back to AU and take advantage of all it has to offer. "As beautiful as I thought AU was back in the 1990s, it's even more beautiful now," she adds. She also remarks upon what she sees as an evolution of the student body. "Everyone was active and passionate when I was there, but today the students are more impressive than ever. They all are so driven, ambitious, devoted, and passionate about everything in life. They have lofty goals that I know they will achieve," she says.

Although she is undoubtedly busy with both work and family, it is clear that Amy is passionate about volunteering in both her hometown as well as for the alma mater with which she fell in love 25 years ago. "I want to do whatever I can to help AU continue to grow and thrive," she exclaims.

Tags: Alumni,Alumni Board,Alumni Update,Office of Development & Alumni Relations,School of Communication
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Title: Ron Nessen, Press Secretary for President Ford, Gives Back to AU
Author: Megan Patterson, SIS/BA '11
Subtitle: Ron Nessen reflects on his career in politics and broadcasting, and still loves to come back to his alma mater.
Abstract: Ron Nessen, Press Secretary for President Ford, reflects on his career in politics and broadcasting, and still loves to come back to his alma mater.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 04/09/2015
Content:

"I love American University. I wanted to stay and get my degree. No matter what I was doing, I always arranged it so I would have time to go to AU." 

Even from the way Ronald H. Nessen, CAS/BA '59, speaks as we sit in an alcove of SOC's McKinley Building, it is evident that he loves his alma mater. Ron has had a distinguished career in broadcasting and journalism –going from a radio journalist in Arlington, Va. to television news correspondent in Vietnam, to Press Secretary for President Gerald Ford. 

Ron put himself through American University by working part time and going to school in the evenings. He knew more than anything that he wanted to get a degree from AU. He graduated in 1959 with a bachelor's in history.

After a several years of news, writing, and reporting, Ron became a television news correspondent for NBC News. He served as the White House correspondent from 1962 to 1965, and then spent time as foreign news correspondent, including five tours covering the Vietnam War. "In war," he says, "you see terrible things that you will never forget." 

After getting seriously wounded by a grenade in July 1966, Ron recuperated and chose to go back to Vietnam and finish his assignment. In 1974, White House Press Secretary Jerald terHorst resigned after President Gerald Ford gave Richard Nixon a presidential pardon. President Ford asked Ron to join the administration as Press Secretary. Ron served as White House Press Secretary until the end of the Ford Administration in 1977. He went on to be a writer, lecturer, and public affairs specialist in Washington. His book, It Sure Looks Different on the Inside, speaks of his time in the White House. 

Reflecting on his career path, Ron says, "Nobody really knows where they are going to go in life. Things have unfolded in a way that I never expected." In one of many interesting twists in his career, Ron was Larry King's boss at Mutual Radio Broadcasting Network, where ran the news department for many years. 

Throughout his career, Ron always had a special place in his heart for AU. He currently gives back as a volunteer for the SOC Mentoring Program, and he enjoys seeing his old stomping grounds. His favorite memory of his time in college, though, is uniquely AU: "When Willard [Scott, NBC News's "Today" weather-person], Eddie [Walker, radio personality and first blind student at American University] and I worked at WAMU. We all wanted to go into broadcasting, and we all ended up in broadcasting."

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Title: SOC Alumna Reports Breaking News for ABC
Author: Nicole Mularz, SPA/BA ’14, and Megan Olson
Subtitle:
Abstract: Cecilia Vega, SOC/BA ’99, discusses her career in journalism and shares advice with students.
Topic: Alumni Profile
Publication Date: 04/09/2015
Content:

As anchor of "World News Tonight" Saturday and senior national correspondent for ABC News, Cecilia Vega's, SOC/BA '99, office is wherever the news takes her. Although she spends much of her time traveling back and forth from Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area to New York, Cecilia says her time in Washington, DC and at American University gave her a start in the journalism field and provided the foundation for her success.

For Cecilia, there is no routine day in the office. Breaking news takes her all over the world. She could start her day in one city and be on her way to another continent by evening. Cecilia has reported from the bottom of the Arctic in a submarine and in London's Olympic Village. She has also covered midterm elections, interviewed Heads of State, and more recently reported on cases of Ebola in the United States. Regardless of where an assignment leads her, Cecilia says that her work gives her a sense of fulfillment as she shares information with the public to ensure they make better decisions as citizens.

After growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, Cecilia moved to the nation's capital to attend American University's School of Communication, where she earned a degree in French and print journalism. Her busy schedule today is reflective of her experience as a student. Cecilia remembers balancing studying, working, and interning during her time on campus. Though all of these commitments were hectic at times, Cecilia says that her hard work at AU paid off.

Cecilia's job in broadcast journalism came as a total accident. She started her career as a newspaper reporter and worked for publications including the San Francisco Chronicle. When the opportunity to move from print to broadcast at KGO-TV ABC7 in San Francisco presented itself, Cecilia jumped at the chance. Though she had no formal broadcast journalism training, she quickly learned the ropes. Six years later, Cecilia is an Emmy-winning broadcaster and has appeared on ABC's "Good Morning America," "Nightline," and "20/20."

Reminiscing about her time at American University, Cecilia shared advice for students today saying, "Utilize what you have at your disposal. Being in Washington, DC, you have so much at your fingertips. Your professors are in the newsroom in the morning and teaching classes at night –it is an invaluable education. The ability to capitalize on these opportunities separates AU students from other students."

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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
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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."

Tags: Alumni,Media,Public Communication,School of Communication
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