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Forging one’s own path & embracing what makes you nervous

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Irene Magafan
Irene Magafan, Video Archive Production Specialist and Editor, World Wildlife Fund

AU's School of Communication, is known for attracting storytellers, and Irene Magafan, SOC/BA '02, SOC/MFA '12, is one of them. 

Originally from Bethesda, MD, Irene began her college career with a dream of studying in New York, spending her first two years at Marymount Manhattan College. Although a positive experience she discovered the school and setting weren't quite the right fit. Irene wanted to continue focusing on the arts but sought a setting that was more well-rounded, ultimately leading her to American University.

"AU really gave me the tools I needed to focus on a specific industry, to start my internships, job searches. It was a great decision to transfer to AU," Irene explained.

As an AU transfer student studying visual media Irene was presented with new and exciting opportunities, including, diversity of course offerings, internships and tools, along with access to a quintessential campus where she was welcomed to the Eagle community.

Passionate about the arts and wildlife advocacy, Irene's talent for storytelling began to flourish while at AU. As a student, Irene worked on the documentary Eco Views: The Chesapeake Bay, which not only won an Emmy award, but was an experience that helped her realize this was a career path she wanted to pursue.

For her graduate thesis, Irene produced and wrote, The Bonobo Connection, an award winning documentary narrated by Ashley Judd. If you haven't heard of the bonobo before, don't worry, neither had Irene before embarking on this project. Having always had a love for the great apes, a friend recommended Irene consider telling the story of the bonobo - one of our closest living relatives. Upon researching this endangered species, she became fascinated and her decision was made. The Bonobo Connection is currently being used in many schools and universities as part of the curriculum, and continues the film festival circuit. In 2017, Irene even gave a TED Talk on bonobos. Next up, she hopes to get the documentary on PBS and would love to see it on Netflix or Amazon Prime.

Today, Irene is an award-winning natural history documentary filmmaker and continues to tell stories from the natural world as a video archive production specialist and editor with the World Wildlife Fund.

For Irene, her job is about finding innovative ways to reach people, that get them to think and discuss new ideas, while also providing a voice to animals who do not have their own.

"I can actually say I'm in a field that I love and I've really put both my bachelor's degree and my master's degree to work. Both of those degrees have helped me get to where I am today."

In forging your own path, Irene says it's important to "Think about what you want to do, whatever makes you nervous, makes you tick, follow that, pay attention to that. You are essentially starting a fire under you and you're about to embark on something incredibly rewarding and exciting."

Most importantly, she reminds us to, "Go for it. Do not let anyone tell you that you cannot do something. No one knows you better than you know yourself."