Page 1

Do your senses talk to one another? p. 18

Magazine of American Universiy

W hat so Proudly we The War of 1812 and a new American identity p. 22

Going green to the grave p. 28

A collaboration across centuries p. 30

university magazine December 2012

An AU insider’s perspective on next page

Cover illustration by Darrow Montgomery, Maria Jackson Previous page: photo by rich iwasaki

Caroline Brantley walks through the atrium of the East Building of the National Gallery of Art every morning on the way to her office. As a corporate relations associate, she secures and manages corporate sponsorships at the iconic Washington gallery. “I love its openness, the natural light, its dramatic triangular forms, and how the colors in the Calder mobile and Ellsworth Kelly’s panels enhance the neutral interior. The trapezoidal shape and sharp edges make the building unique. Being in that space before it is open to the public is a rare treat.”


22 Pioneering synesthesia study by neurologist Richard Cytowic, CAS ’11

28 Jason Vaughan, SPA ’97, on America’s second war of independence

30 Student Academy Award for documentary maker Ellen Tripler, SOC ’12

How poet and CAS professor David Keplinger met his great-great-grandfather

AmericaN American University magazine Vol. 63, No. 2 Vice President, Communications Teresa Flannery Assistant Vice President, creative services Kevin Grasty Editor in Chief Linda McHugh

Anatomy of Your American

Senior Editor Adrienne Frank, SPA/MS ’08

It took a village to create our new American. To keep pace with this world of 24/7 media, we’ve made the magazine over to bring you a more personal, pluggedin, and visually exciting immersion in AU. Our broader and bolder use of photography reflects AU’s focus on the world beyond campus and its commitment to excellence in communications.

Features Editor Ali Kahn Associate Editors Suzanne Bechamps, Mariel Davis, Mike Unger Writers Ali Kahn, David Reich, Charles Spencer, Mike Unger Art Director Maria Jackson Photographer Jeffrey Watts research Nadia Trowers, SOC/BA ’07 Class Notes Traci Crockett

Caroline Brantley CAS/MA ’10

The new format spotlights the AU that you know: a community of smart people who fully embrace the Washington experience and learn from leaders how to engage and change the world. See for yourself. Here’s a brief tour:

• First up is POV, an unconventional image of iconic Washington from an AU insider’s point of view.

• 4400 Mass Ave culls fresh perspectives on AU through savvy new departments, cameos, and news.

American is published three times a year by American University. With a circulation of 118,000, American is sent to alumni and other members of the university community. Copyright©2012.

• Metrocentered turns the camera lens on the

An equal opportunity, affirmative action university. UP 13-001

• AU’s Stake In . . . underscores your presence and

Metro-connected neighborhoods where you live, work, and play.

• Features delve into the doings of AU alumni, faculty, and students. impact in cities and regions across the country.

• Your American features bigger and better class notes, nostalgic Eagle Tales, and Teamwork (replacing Class Notables)—profiles of people who’ve connected through AU.

• Members of the AU community reveal secrets in My Favorites and Unpacked.

• A Final Exam on the back cover rewards the winner with a very D.C. prize. We hope you’ll enjoy your new American. Please tell us what you think.


16 Metrocentered

4 4400 Mass Ave

34 Your American Connect, engage, reminisce

Ideas, people, perspectives

Linda McHugh Editor in chief Send suggestions for POV, Metrocentered, Teamwork, features, or departments to or


American Studies 341 Foodways 2.0: Social Media, Food Trucks, and Underground Food The District is swarming with gourmet food trucks offering everything from lobster rolls to Brie and fig empanadas to freshly baked apple pie—and now they’re serving up academic food for thought. This fall course taught by Baylen Linnekin, CAS/BA ’97, WCL/JD ’09, explores how Twitter and other social media tools foster urban mobile eateries in cities where they were once illegal. These trendy restaurants-on-wheels have fueled foodies’ cravings for pop-up and underground establishments. Tastebuds tickled? You’ll have to wait in line. Foodways—part of a six-course Washington-centric series in American studies—filled up faster during preregistration than D.C.’s Curbside Cupcakes sells out of its rich red velvets.

Next Course International Service 419 Breakfast in the Americas A look at the commodities on our breakfast table—coffee, sugar, and bananas—from economic, political, environmental, and social perspectives. Communication 196 Video Games and Communication Learn the theory and design behind one of the most exciting and fastest growing media sectors.

4 American Magazine  december 2012


3 minutes on . . . The Electoral College James Thurber Distinguished Professor, Department of Government, and director, Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies

major compromise at the It began as a

In presidential elections,

The House of

voters vote for a


slate of

proportional representation in a

drafting of the

electors, who meet in the

passed a change that would

all of the states.


state capitals the Monday after the

correct the

I think that then the election

Some people wanted to elect the

second Wednesday in December to

between the popular vote and

would not depend primarily on

president by popular vote. Other

cast their votes on separate ballots

the electoral vote, but the

a handful of states, which is

people, mainly from smaller states,

for president and vice president.

proposal failed in the Senate.

where the

didn’t want a president elected by

Their votes are sent

It’s never come up since.

time. With proportional

popular vote because the large

by registered mail to

I did an analysis of the close

representation, the candidates

states would dominate.

the U.S. Senate, which

and contested 2000 election.

also would have

The Constitutional Convention

certifies them.

Bush would have won if electoral

to campaign

approved the Electoral College on

votes had been counted by

vigorously in

proportional representation.

populous states.

After 2000, however,

I would not

September 6, 1787.

It’s arcane; it needs

to be changed. I used to work for

The term Electoral College was not written into federal law until

1845. The number of electors


battle was this

Hubert Humphrey.

outrage petered out

He came within

quickly, I

vote because then the

think because

campaign would only be in three

people realized it was

or four states. We have many

change it to a


equals the number of each state’s

1 percent of winning the

representatives plus its two

1968 election, but the outcome of

senators. Since 1964 we’ve had

the election went overwhelmingly

hopeless to change

538 electors.

for Nixon in terms of the Electoral

the Constitution.

large states, so a

Two states, Maine and


Practically, we’re not going

popular vote

to amend the Constitution—

approach would

Humphrey got 191. You need 270

If I had the power, I certainly

because of what

to win. But Humphrey lost by

would change it. My solution, to

happened at the

proportional representation.

511,000 popular votes, which was

make it more reflective of the

Constitutional Convention where

Whoever wins the congressional

less than 1 percent of the total.

views of more Americans, is to

the small states didn’t allow it.

district wins the electoral vote.

This led to an

make it more like Maine and

The more things change . . .

Nebraska, have


got 301




that was proposed to change the

it’s too hard.

more small states than we do

never pass

Nebraska. I would change it to

Electoral College.

Let’s talk #americanmag  5

“Please use your liberty to promote ours.” The words of Burmese democracy champion Daw Aung San Suu Kyi remain as poignant and powerful today as they were in 1997, when they were read by her late husband as he accepted an honorary degree on her behalf from American University. The Nobel Peace Prize winner visited the United States in September for the first time since being released from 15 years of house arrest in 2010. A day after

meeting with President Obama and receiving the Congressional Gold Medal, she came to AU to speak to Burmese Americans and accept her honorary degree for herself. “I would like to thank this university for the great honor,” she said. “It was one of the very first universities to recognize our efforts at democracy. The message that I sent to this university, to use your liberty to promote ours, resounded throughout the world. I had not expected that this message would [travel] from this university to so many countries all over the globe. That became a motto for many who wanted to help us.”

Drug addiction, depression, obesity—all are disorders of the brain on some level. At AU’s new Center for Behavioral Neuroscience, an interdisciplinary group of psychologists, chemists, biologists, and neuroscientists is conducting research and training the next generation of scholars in hopes of eradicating these debilitating problems. “Neuroscience is the study of the relationship between the brain and behavior,” says Terry Davidson, the center’s inaugural director. “We’re all working on the basic question: how does the brain impact our behavior?” Davidson recently published new research that indicates diets that lead to obesity—diets

high in saturated fat and refined sugar—may cause changes to the brains of obese people that in turn may fuel overconsumption of those same foods and make weight loss more challenging. His vision is to foster an environment in which students, faculty, and other research professionals across disciplines work collaboratively to generate new ideas, methods, and concepts. “By creating an integrative and collaborative environment across diverse areas of scientific endeavor, we hope members of the center will increase basic and applied knowledge to improve the quality of lives,” he says.

Fall into the arts

SIS launches women’s council

CAS’s Fall for the Arts fund raiser ended with a bang (of the gavel) as AU Art Museum director Jack Rasmussen auctioned off works by 15 artists. The September event also featured acting, dance, and music workshops.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced in September that AU and the U.S. Department of State are cofounding a U.S.-Pakistan Women’s Council. Housed at AU, it will be cochaired by AU president Neil Kerwin and ambassador at large for global women’s issues Melanne Verveer. The council will support financially viable prospects for women and collaborate with other organizations.

6 American Magazine  december 2012


Propelled by the energy and imagination of new deans, the School of Communication, School of Public Affairs, and School of Professional and Extended Studies are primed to expand their already groundbreaking teaching and research. Jeffrey Rutenbeck came to SOC from Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont, where he was the founding dean of the Division of Communication and Creative Media. Among Rutenbeck’s scholarly interests is persuasive gaming. “Dr. Rutenbeck is an innovator with an abiding respect for tradition who represents the future of communication,” Provost Scott Bass says.

Barbara Romzek brings to SPA a wealth of administrative experience in higher education. She most recently served as interim senior vice provost for academic affairs at the University of Kansas. Her academic research focuses on government reform, contracting, and network service delivery. “Dr. Romzek’s record and standing within the academic community is a welcome asset that will build upon an impressive SPA foundation,” Bass says. Carola Weil at the School of Professional and Extended Studies (which includes Washington Semester) has a different challenge: transforming an entire program. “To remain relevant and a core pillar of human progress and society, higher education must reach out to new audiences and embrace innovative learning and teaching methods,” Weil says.

A $1.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Justice will enable the Justice Programs Office (JPO) in the School of Public Affairs to continue its Adult Drug Court Training and Technical Assistance Project. The project offers research support, on-site training, and technical assistance for about 350 courts around the country that are planning, running, or expanding programs of judicially supervised treatment for nonviolent, substance-abusing offenders. “We help courts operate more fairly, efficiently, and economically,” says Joseph Trotter, JPO’s director. “It’s helping in the administration of justice.” To date, JPO has spearheaded more than 1,500 evaluation projects for local and state governments and federal and international agencies.

When McDowell Hall opened in 1962, it housed 555 women entirely in triples. Each floor included a pajama lounge, kitchenette, laundry room, bathrooms, and a typing room to keep typewriter noise away from sleeping quarters. “You look at the building, and it doesn’t look much different on the outside, but you realize that the succession of people who have lived under this roof have lived very different lives,” Gail Hanson, vice president of campus life, said September 10 at the building’s 50th birthday party. “They looked different, dressed differently, lived under different rules, and did some very funny things at times.”

Named for William Fraser McDowell, one of AU’s intellectual founders, McDowell Hall has had many functions beyond its role as a residence: • In 1972, McDowell was briefly a European-style hostel for students visiting Washington. • In 1999, the building opened its doors as a safe Halloween destination for trick-ortreaters from AU’s DC Reads program. • In 2005, former President Jimmy Carter held his Commission on Election Reform in the formal lounge. —Patrick Bradley

MBA on your schedule

Career Center names new director

This fall Kogod welcomed the first cohort of students to its new Professional MBA program, aimed at working professionals. Students will meet one night a week for seven consecutive semesters. Learn more at

A former practicing lawyer, Gihan Fernando is the Career Center’s new executive director. He joined AU after two decades in career and student services at Cornell, NYU, and Georgetown. Alumni have access to many of the Career Center’s services, including advising. Visit

Let’s talk #americanmag  7


Winning a Boren Scholarship—which funds research and study in less commonly taught languages and areas critical to American interests—was so important to Emma Giloth that the School of International Service student did something most seniors would find unimaginable: she deferred graduation. Giloth made the sacrifice to retain scholarship eligibility, allowing her to travel to Senegal this fall to study economic development and the Wolof language.

Native Chat

8 American Magazine  december 2012

Photo by Mathilde Gouin-Bonenfant

Giloth considers learning Wolof, which is spoken in Senegal, the Gambia, and Mauritania, crucial to working in West Africa. “Wolof is a very simple but profound language,” Giloth says. “To give you an idea, when you meet someone you say, ‘nanga def,’ which is the equivalent to ‘How are you?’ “The response is always ‘mangi fii’ or ‘mangi fii rekk,’ which means ‘I am here’ or ‘I am only here.’ They don’t feel the need to say if they are happy or sad, but that they are grateful that they are there and nothing else really matters.” While in Senegal, Giloth is volunteering with an after-school program for girls and with the human rights organization Tostan (which means breakthrough in Wolof). She has previously interned at the organization’s D.C. and Paris offices. Other AU Boren scholars are studying in Egypt, China, and Brazil.



Clocked 38 hours of preschool dance classes.

Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers: The Story of Success offers a formula for success—being born at the right place and time and investing at least 10,000 hours in pursuit of your goal. It’s about being well-placed and driven, and following a dream. Meet one of AU’s outliers: dance wonk Melanie George, CAS/MA ’03 .


Started afterschool classes in ballet, jazz, and acrobatics.

Melanie George, AU dance program director

1980 Debut of TV series Solid Gold. “If you wanted to see dance, it was easily accessible.” Realized dance was something she could do.

1982 Began studio dance classes. Debut of TV series Fame. “I would get into costume and watch.”


Parents docked dance classes when grades dropped. Grades improved. Logged 510 hours.


Born in Detroit. No first memory of dance. “There hasn’t been a time that I haven’t been doing this.”

1984–85 Earned a spot in a studio performing company. Logged 360 hours in classes and rehearsals.

1983 Auditioned for but not accepted into studio dance company. She cried, devastated.


Worked office jobs 9 to 5, taught dance evenings and weekends. Danced for 5,616 hours with a community company.

Saw Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Began imagining full-length shows.

1996–99 1993–94

“You have to want it because there are days when it sucks.” Breakthrough: “got” how to move her pelvis.


Graduated from college. Snagged two job offers by cold-calling numbers from a phone book.


Considered quitting dance when she didn’t land roles at Western Michigan University. Photo for 2008 by Tracy J. Brooks


Taught dance at two schools and one studio. Danced 19,520 hours.


Joined Dance Nonce company.


Started AU graduate program.

2002 Hired as AU adjunct dance instructor.


Named assistant professor of dance at Kent State University. Spent 6,080 hours performing and choreographing.

2008 Named dance program director at AU. Let’s talk #americanmag  9


Student-athletes often dive into a wide world of sports before settling on their favorite. Junior Shelly Montgomery’s athletic career started early. “I think I was tumbling out of the womb,” the 20-year-old Fairfax, Virginia, native says. Her poor mom. Gymnastics, lacrosse, and soccer were among the sports Montgomery played—with varying levels of success—before she flipped for field hockey. “I also love horseback riding,” she says. “I stopped competing because it’s expensive, and I loved hanging out with the horses more than I did the actual competition. I still remember my horse’s name was Strawberry Swirl.” No matter which sport she played, Montgomery played it hard. That’s serving her quite well now. “She’s able to take the lessons she learned in other sports and apply them,” AU field hockey coach Steve Jennings says. “She’s a very aggressive, physical player who has a tremendous amount of skill but at the same time is happy to run through a brick wall to get the job done.”

Just don’t ask her to swim through one. “I stopped swimming after I was eight,” she says. “I would always get in the water and pretend to be a mermaid and be flopping around everywhere. I didn’t want to race anybody.” Montgomery began playing field hockey in high school and was immediately hooked. “Hands down, field hockey is at the top of my list,” she says. It’s no wonder why. In 2011 the health promotion major was named to the NFHCA All-Mid-Atlantic Region and All-Patriot League second teams. She scored the winning goals against Princeton and Georgetown and was named to the Patriot League Academic Honor Roll and NFHCA Division I Academic Squad. “Shelly’s a leader both in the way that she plays and in her spirit,” Jennings says. “She’s an emotional player and has great insights into all the different topics that keep the team loose and having a good time.”

Pope for a day

Adult Swim

Forward Stephen Lumpkins has returned to the men’s basketball team for his final season. He sat out last year while playing minor league baseball. The 2011 All-Patriot League Second Team selection is AU’s fourth all-time leading shot blocker.

Men’s cross-country posted four top-six finishes to earn its first title of the season at the Leopard Invitational on October 13. Mark Allen and John Pope led the Eagles with second and third place finishes, respectively.

The swimming and diving team kicked off its season by winning the Potomac Relay Invitational at the Reeves Aquatic Center. It hopes to end the season with a Patriot League Championship win, February 21–23.

10 American Magazine  december 2012

AU photos courtesy of athletics

He’s Baaaack


This image was captured at a religious procession in Nicaragua by SOC journalist in residence Bill Gentile, who has opened his photo archives to the center.

Nationwide, Latino children lag behind their Caucasian counterparts in academic performance. In the Washington area, many Latino entrepreneurs are constrained in planning their businesses because, for them, entrepreneurship is not a road to building a firm but rather a response to unemployment. Researchers at AU’s Center for Latin American and Latino Studies want to know what’s causing these discrepancies, and how they can be corrected. The center is home to 75 faculty, as well as dedicated researchers and fellows. Funded by more than $1 million in grants, it’s sponsoring more than 20 projects. The goal, says director

Eric Hershberg, is to develop “high-quality investigations that help [influence] how the world thinks about Latin America and about Latinos in the United States.” The center is working with the Kogod School of Business, including professor Barbara Bird, and the Latino Economic Development Corporation (LEDC) to study decisionmaking patterns among Latino entrepreneurs. In another project, it’s teaming with CentroNia, a community service organization in Washington’s Columbia Heights neighborhood, to look at an arts-based afterschool program. Other projects include • New Institutions of Participatory Democracy in

photo by Bill Gentile

SOC lands nsf grant SOC professors Lauren Feldman and Sol Hart are working on a National Science Foundation project that examines the impacts of different approaches to communicating about climate change. The three-year, $219,292 award is SOC’s first NSF grant and its largest government grant.

Latin America: Voice and Consequence, a book funded by a Ford Foundation grant that examines the emergence of institutions that provide building blocks for more participatory democracy in eight Latin American nations • a study, funded by the Luce Foundation, on how religions and religious actors responded to human rights abuses in Latin American countries during periods of dictatorships, and how they respond today to violence in countries that now are democratic • a multiyear project, funded by the Ford Foundation, on the composition, transformation, and role of elites in Central America

Imagine a computer lab without walls, desks, or even computers. Imagine no more. AU is building a virtual computer lab, allowing students and faculty to use some of its applications without being near campus. The lab is changing the way professors teach and students learn, says Naomi Baron, executive director, Center for Teaching, Research, and Learning. Students who take one course a week won’t have to commute back to campus to use expensive software not on their personal machine. Statistical programs SPSS and Stata are available through the lab. Six more applications are being tested. “Students can now do their homework, do research from anywhere in the world instead of having to go to a particular machine in a particular place,” Baron says. “We know that as higher education is evolving, it is increasingly important for us to meet students literally wherever they are. Now that students are able to access the university’s computer software virtually, they have more opportunity to take courses they couldn’t have taken or do research they otherwise couldn’t have done.”

alumni Reconnect

WCL dean honored

Alumni Relations will host a series of “how-to” events, focusing on working with AU experts to learn a new skill, while reconnecting with friends and faculty. Learn more at

WCL dean Claudio Grossman was awarded the Hispanic National Bar Foundation Lifetime Leadership Award. The honor recognizes the outstanding contributions of Latino leaders in the legal community. Let’s talk #americanmag  11

WAMU 4401 Connecticut Avenue start: Fall 2012 cost: $22 million sq ft: 96,000 The big DeaL: New home for WAMU 88.5 will have a glass-enclosed, street-level studio for observers. also relocating are university communications and marketing and executive education programs.

illustration by Luc Herbots

Washington College of Law-Tenley Campus Tenley Campus-Wisconsin Avenue and Yuma Street start: Summer 2013 cost: $130 million sq ft: 312,000 The big DeaL: Historic Capital Hall will be flanked and set off by two new buildings, expanding WCL space by more than 50 percent.

East Campus Nebraska and New Mexico avenues

Nebraska Hall

start: summer 2014 cost: $99 million

4200 Nebraska Avenue

sq ft: 410,000

start: Summer 2012

The big DeaL: Sixbuilding complex will hold three residence halls, two academic and office buildings, and the new Welcome Center, with parking for about 500 cars.

cost: $15 million sq ft: 53,000 The big DeaL: an addition provides apartment-style units for 150 students.

By Mike Unger

McKinleY Hall North Hall North Main campus start: spring 2012 cost: $33 million sq ft: 122,000 The big DeaL: the eightstory building will provide Suites for 360 students and an 8,000-square-foot fitness center.

main campus start: spring 2012 cost: $26 million sq ft: 30,000 The big DeaL: a renovated mckinley will house the School of communication, with additional classroom and office space, plus state-of-the-art theatre and studios.


irt began flying in May, when the first shovel broke ground. Cranes

and cement trucks followed—and they won’t be leaving any time soon. AU is embarking on several major construction projects that will transform the institution. Approval of the campus plan by the District of Columbia Zoning Commission in early 2012 cleared the way for this unprecedented expansion. The first three projects, including the renovation of McKinley Hall, future home of the School of Communication, are underway. “Though we’re demolishing the center core area, we’re going to salvage the marble that’s on the skin and some of the architectural features that are in stone and reuse them,” said Jorge Abud, assistant vice president for facilities development and real estate. “The balance of the exterior will be maintained.”

"We will develop as much space in new facilities during the next five years as we have in the last 25 years, and the results will be truly transformational." -Don Myers

The final phase, construction of East Campus, is scheduled for completion by 2016. It’s a dizzying amount of work. To ensure that time lines are met, each construction team has been assigned a project manager to oversee the process. “This exciting expansion of the university’s facilities,” says CFO, vice president and treasurer Don Myers, “will help to advance our academic mission and the goals in the strategic plan.” Let’s talk #americanmag  13


Kris Stith grew up in a washington worlds away from AU. Very early in his childhood in Anacostia, however, Stith discovered a bridge between the two: DC Reads. The program is a city-wide collaboration between several universities, their students, DC Public Schools, and a number of community-based organizations. Beginning in fourth grade and continuing until he graduated from Duke Ellington School of the Arts, Stith was tutored by AU students as part of DC Reads. “I got to experience something other than living in the inner city,” he says.

Full Circle

14 American Magazine  december 2012

photo by bill petros

Stith was part of an AU-founded program called Facilitating Leadership in Youth (FLY), through which he visited AU’s campus several summers while growing up. “I saw different types of people from all parts of life,” he says. “Different social classes, economic classes. I knew I needed to get an education if I wanted to change my environment. AU was always one of the schools I was thinking of applying to.” So he did—and he got in. As a freshman Stith became one of AU’s roughly 175 volunteer DC Reads tutors. This year he’s working in the office, helping with graphic design. He expects to graduate in May with a degree in studio art and a minor in marketing. “I feel like [DC Reads] helped me become the person I am today.”



Tell us something you know for certain (that is, if we can know anything for certain).


We too often speak of knowledge as something we produce. When we do that, we obscure the experiences of wondering and puzzling that generate some of our most satisfying pleasures. The uniqueness of wondering lies in its unrestricted orientation; we can and do ask about most everything. Witness the ceaseless “but why’s” that tumble out of the mouths of children. It’s this sort of openness that unfolds in the many activities of knowing—the investigating, collecting, supposing, affirming, denying, revising—that are “made” within a university. So the most important product of a university is not knowledge but knowers, who through the process of education, are encouraged to discover and cultivate their own unrestricted well of questions. This is the way that a university distinguishes itself, keeping alight that tension of inquiry that makes us human and makes us knowers. AU adopted “wonk” in 2010 to emphasize the “know” factor of our community. Learn more about other AU wonks in-the-know at

Lauren Weis

Epistemologist and ethicist, Department of Philosophy and Religion

When we think, question, or puzzle over our experiences, we’re trying to resolve an underlying tension. This experience— the tension of inquiry— generates the activity we call knowing. Let’s talk #americanmag  15

Work- Barak Sky, Kogod/BS ’08

Sells real estate in Gallery Place with the Sky Group

PLAY- Audrey Vorhees, SIS/BA ’14

Works out at Krav Maga D.C. on H Street

Learn- Shefali Kapadla, SOC/BA ’13 Interned at AARP on E Street

An urban playground. A laboratory for learning. A professional hub. A vibrant collection of neighborhoods—and neighbors. Washington’s got it all. And for our alumni, students, and faculty, Metro is their ticket to ride, connect, and explore AU’s backyard. Which Metro stop is the center of your world? Share your story:

let’s talk #AMERICANMAG  17

illustration by Michael Woloschinow

Michael Watson returned from the kitchen of his North Carolina loft and informed his guests that dinner would be delayed. The chicken, he reported, was too “rounded”— it needed more “points.” Points? Watson’s guests, well into their cocktails and conversation, reacted with bewilderment. The stage-lighting designer then described how, for him, tactile sensations always accompanied the taste of food. “The feeling sweeps down my arm into my hand,” he said, “and I feel shape, weight, texture, and temperature, as if I’m actually grasping something.”

Let’s talk #americanmag  19

Nearly everyone laughed at

Watson’s disclosure that night in 1979. Everyone except a young medical resident, Richard Cytowic, CAS/MFA creative writing ’11, who barely knew Watson at the time. Cytowic had just read The Mind of a Mnemonist: A Little Book about a Vast Memory by Russian neuropsychologist A. R. Luria. The book presented the case of a man who had, along with eidetic (photographic) memory, a harmless but unusual neural condition known as synesthesia, whereby one sense perception triggers a second, usually in a different sense. Luria’s subject, Solomon Shereshevsky, experienced synesthesia across multiple senses. When a bell was rung, for instance, Shereshevsky not only heard it but also tasted saltwater, saw “a small, round object” rolling in his field of vision, and felt “something rough like a rope” with his fingers.

Watson, though a synesthete,

had never heard of synesthesia. (“You mean there’s a name for it?” he said, with mixed astonishment and relief. “People have always said I’m just crazy.”) Nor, it turned out, had Cytowic’s fellow medical residents heard of the condition. When told about Watson, they suspected a brain injury or malformation. And when Cytowic expressed a research interest in synesthesia, they advised him to avoid the topic. It was too impressionistic, too dicey, they warned. It would ruin his career. At the time, B. F. Skinner’s behaviorism dominated psychology and associated fields, and for a behaviorist, synesthetes’ perceptions would have held no interest, being unverifiable in the lab and maybe even faked in a grab for attention. As a result, synesthesia had largely been forgotten; any literature on the subject, aside from Luria’s book and a few obscure papers, dated back a century or more. Yet despite his colleagues’ admonishments and the overall lack of professional interest in synesthesia, Cytowic found it utterly compelling and ultimately made it his life’s work. The intellectual contrariness behind this decision has roots in his personal story, he says. He grew up in the straitlaced 1950s, the son of a Trenton, New Jersey, doctor who had sidelines in magic tricks and hypnotism. 20 American Magazine  december 2012

By age 10, Cytowic had realized that he was gay and learned from religious authorities that such people as he were headed for eternal fires. Like mesmerism, magic, and homosexuality, synesthesia was a forbidden topic, he says, and he’d always gravitated to the forbidden. “Anything,” says the neurologist and author, “where people tell me, ‘This is not supposed to be,’ that’s something I am drawn to.”

Ten years after

that dinner in Michael Watson’s loft, Cytowic published Synesthesia: A Union of the Senses (1989). Now considered a classic text, the book featured research conducted on 42 synesthetes, Watson among them. It mapped which kinds of sense perceptions could trigger which synesthetic responses, established criteria for diagnosis, and undertook early brain-imaging studies with the primitive equipment then available. After the publication of Synesthesia, Cytowic heard from more synesthetes. By now, he has communicated with a thousand of them and tested several hundred, some of whose stories appear in a more recent book, Wednesday Is Indigo Blue (2009). Coauthored by Cytowic and neuropsychologist David Eagleman, this updated account of synesthesia benefits from 20 additional years of research by the authors and some two dozen colleagues who have entered the field since Cytowic’s first book. Wednesday catalogues and illustrates some of the numerous varieties of synesthesia: a woman for whom music evokes tactile sensations (a “dull throbbing at the back of her neck for trombones,” violins breathing in her face, and so on); a man for whom food tastes trigger color sensations (he’s “especially fond of foods that taste blue, such as milk, cheese, all citrus fruits, vanilla”); and many synesthetes for whom units of time (the days of the week, the months of the year) evoke responses that include location in space (“November hangs above me to the left”) and color, as in the perception that gave the book its title. The book also summarizes research that proves the authenticity of synesthesia—that synesthetes are emphatically not “faking it.” Over the years, Cytowic and others developed a regime of tests and retests of synesthetes’ responses to certain triggers—the colors evoked in them by a given set of numbers or letters, for instance. The results show

consistency—in some cases over many years— that would have been impossible to fake. Other tests, using a technique called Stroop interference, show synesthetic responses to be automatic rather than voluntary. For any remaining skeptics, evidence from MRI brain scans establishes conclusively that synesthesia really happens.

Okay, but why and how?

Cytowic and Eagleman theorize that synesthesia results from elevated levels of communication, or so-called cross talk, between brain areas that specialize in different modes of perception—the area for musical pitch and the area for color vision, for instance. Cross talk plays a crucial role in everyday mental functioning, allowing us to integrate the diverse and disconnected sense perceptions (colors, shapes, movements, spatial locations, pressures, sounds, temperatures, textures, and smells) involved in one event into a unified picture of what’s happening right now in our immediate vicinity. In synesthetes, the cross talk is simply louder, possibly because their neural networks, the biological circuitry used by cross talk, have somehow been “disinhibited.” Some people who take LSD experience this kind of disinhibition, along with temporary synesthesia. Which chemical substance performs the same function as LSD in the brains of natural synesthetes, says Cytowic, is a topic for future research.

In keeping with the idea that neural cross talk

happens in everybody’s brain, Cytowic has hypothesized that we all may be synesthetes to a degree, an idea reinforced by the near universal tendency to move in time with music. That response may not be genuine synesthesia, he acknowledges, because the movements don’t take a consistent form from one episode to the next, but it does show that different brain areas are hardwired together in everyone. It’s another subject for further research, but Cytowic guesses that nonsynesthetes are really synesthetes whose synesthetic perceptions remain below the level of consciousness. This view gains support from studies of experienced meditators showing that they are more disposed to synesthetic perceptions

during meditation than their less experienced counterparts, not to mention the average nonmeditator. “If you ratchet down all the external noise,” explains Cytowic, “then what’s obscure, what’s hidden, can be unmasked.” The authors of Wednesday Is Indigo Blue report that synesthesia runs in families. As an inherited trait, does it perform what evolutionary biologists call an adaptive function? Cytowic thinks it does, but it also can come with notable disadvantages. A small minority of synesthetes, for instance, have to live cloistered lives to avoid the sensory overload they would face in a noisy, brightly lit urban space. Synesthetes, more than the average person, also tend to suffer from a poor sense of direction. They also may have trouble reading maps and telling left from right, and many do poorly at arithmetic.

On the other hand, Cytowic

says, many synesthetes benefit from remarkable memory, using their perceptions as mnemonics—synesthetic colors to help them remember names and telephone numbers, for example. Not surprisingly, Shereshevsky, the subject of A. R. Luria’s study of eidetic memory, also belonged to this subgroup of memory champions. Another member of the group, a synesthetic librarian of Cytowic’s acquaintance, says she has a hard time understanding why people need to use the card catalog. She has her library’s collection memorized; why can’t others do the same? (Many synesthetes grow up thinking that everyone perceives the way they do and possesses the same unusual abilities.) Synesthetes also display a talent for finding connections among dissimilar things, a trait that comes in handy for artists. The list of synesthetes among famous artists runs from Vladimir Nabokov, author of Lolita and Pale Fire, to rockers Stevie Wonder and Eddie Van Halen and classical composers Liszt and Rimsky-Korsakov, who, according to Wednesday Is Indigo Blue, “are said to have disagreed with each other over the color of musical keys.” French composer Olivier Messiaen put his sound-to-color synesthesia at the center of his work, inventing a method of composition intended to “paint the visible world in sound,” while jazz pianist Marian McPartland (whom Cyotowic has spoken with but never tested) described for him the pinkness of A-natural.

Visual artist David Hockney, whom Cytowic did test, paints stage sets for ballets and operas while listening to recordings of the works to be performed. For Hockney, music triggers visual perceptions, such as colors and shapes. “I know visually when the color or the lines [of a set] fit the music,” Hockney told Cytowic. “We went through 27 versions of The Rite of Spring sets before they fit the music. . . . Most of the problem there, however, was getting the color right, rather than the lines.”

Forty percent

of the online Synesthesia List’s members (a nonrandom sample, Cytowic admits) make their living in an artistic field. Of course, the universe of synesthete artists includes Michael Watson, the theatrical lighting specialist who helped launch Cytowic’s research. Like most synesthetes, Watson, who died in 1992, valued his condition. Though he didn’t talk about it much, in hopes of avoiding ridicule, he saw it as something that deepened his experience of the world. “The first bite I take of a new course [in a meal] is an urge for me to look in a new direction,” he once told Cytowic. “These new experiences are frequently very sensual, although sometimes they are erogenous as well.”

A gifted amateur cook,

Watson used his synesthesia instead of recipes. “He guides himself,” write Cytowic and Eagleman, “by a rough idea of what he wants the final dish to feel like, adjusting the ingredients and seasonings by trial and error— for example, altering the flavor’s shape to make it ‘rounder,’ giving it more ‘inclination,’ ‘sharpening up the corners’ to give the vertical lines more heft, or adding ‘a couple of points’ to the overall shape. . . . When a dish’s shape eventually matches his starting idea, a ‘eureka’ feeling comes over him.” The process sounds remarkably similar to David Hockney’s procedure for painting stage sets. As for the chicken that Watson found insufficiently pointy that evening back in 1979, Cytowic explains that, for Watson, the perception of points—“like running my hand over a bed of nails,” as he described it—was triggered by “lemony, sour-y” flavors. So how did the chicken taste after Michael Watson added points? “It was great,” Cytowic says enthusiastically. Let’s talk #americanmag  21

22 American Magazine  december 2012

W hat so Proudly we The War of 1812 began 200 years ago. By the time it was over, America had created a new identity and showed the world who we were— a fitting metaphor for American’s own reinvention By Mike Unger


ason Vaughan, SPA/BA ’97, leans on an iron cannon, its

muzzle pointed seaward. Two centuries earlier, the sky above had been reddened by rockets’ glare. It’s a blazing hot July day at Baltimore’s Fort McHenry, and just a month after America marked the bicentennial of one of its least heralded and most overlooked conflicts, Vaughan marvels at the significance of the events that unfolded right where he’s standing.

“As soon as the British w ere l e avi n g, [the Americans] brought t h e stor m f l ag down, a n d a s t he weath er wa s c l e a r i n g, th ey put u p t he hu ge star-spangled banner.” —Jason Vaughan

24 American Magazine  december 2012

“They call the War of 1812 the second war of independence, but it’s really the war [during which] we decided to create our identity,” he says. “It made us realize that if we’re going to survive, we’re going to have to do it as a unified nation. It was chapter two, essentially, after the Revolutionary War.” He glances out at the choppy water, today devoid of boats save for a few pleasure craft and fishing skiffs. Nearly 200 years ago, this section of the Patapsco River was filled with British vessels and at least one small American ship, which was kept under armed guard. From the deck of that ship, Francis Scott Key witnessed the bombardment of the fort, an American victory that inspired him to write the “Star-Spangled Banner.”

Oh, say, can you see In June, tall ships from around the world sailed through those same waters into Baltimore’s Inner Harbor for a weeklong celebration that drew hundreds of thousands to the city and focused the nation’s attention, however fleetingly, on the “forgotten war.”

History was a hobby for Vaughan before it became his trade. He’s director of historic preservation and interpretation for the Baltimore National Heritage Area, a nonprofit organization closely affiliated with the National Park Service. It’s one of only a handful of the nation’s 49 heritage areas in 32 states located in an urban environment. He also worked as a writer for the recently released Anthem, a documentary about the “Star-Spangled Banner” and other music of the era. Vaughan hopes the film will be another vehicle through which the public will learn about a remarkable period of time.

On this summer afternoon the wind is whipping off the water, and a 17-by-20-foot version of the 15-star, 15-stripe American flag crackles in the air above the fort, just as another banner did on September 14, 1814. In rough weather smaller flags are flown—then as now—to prevent tearing. (Like freedom, flags aren’t free.) The actual flag that inspired Key is on display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington. Originally it measured 30-by-42 feet, though it’s now 30-by-34, after nearly 8 feet were snipped off for souvenirs in the nineteenth century. “It’s stunning,” Vaughan says of that famous flag, a gleam in his eye. “As soon as the British were leaving, [the Americans] brought the storm flag down, and as the weather was clearing, they put up the huge star-spangled banner.”

photos by Darrow Montgomery


few miles north of the fort, Vaughan leads a tour of Fells Point. Once Baltimore’s busiest maritime neighborhood, the bustling center of trade and sin played a vital role in the War of 1812. Sandwiched between the Cat’s Eye Pub and another of Fells Point’s seemingly endless parade of bars is a narrow sally port through which he walks into a quiet courtyard. It sits behind the Fell’s Point Visitor Center, one of the first stops on a walking tour that Vaughan helped develop for the heritage area. “Fells Point has about 70 buildings that date from the War of 1812 or earlier,” he says, directing attention to one, a brick row house

built in the 1760s. Vaughan is from Texas, yet there’s not a hint of twang in his voice. He came from one capital, Austin, to another to major in political science at American University. “I was very much into the political thing at AU,” he says. “After college I worked at a couple of associations in D.C., doing international trade. But I was always interested in historic preservation. I was watching a documentary on Frank Lloyd Wright, and I remember thinking, I want to be able to dive into history.” After earning a master’s in historic preservation from the University of Maryland, he landed at the Baltimore National Heritage Area in 2010. “A wonderful thing about Fells Point is, you can walk down these little side streets and still see buildings from the 1800s,” he says. Strolling along Lancaster Street, he points to a small row house that was the home of Thomas Kemp. “He was a shipbuilder—a young guy, 24—when he moved to Fells Point,” Vaughan says. “He built the Chasseur, captained by Thomas Boyle, perhaps the best known of the privateers during the War of 1812.” Privateers were armed merchant vessels authorized by the United States Congress to attack foreign ships during times of war. In the War of 1812, many privateers were schooners—very fast, easily maneuverable boats with at least two masts.

Whose broad stripes and bright stars The U.S. saw privateering as a crucial weapon against Britain, which at the time had the most fearsome naval fleet in the world. At the dawn of the nineteenth century, the entire U.S. navy consisted of fewer than 20 ships. By comparison, a single British squadron had more than 50. “Privateering was a way to fight below the belt,” says AU history professor Gautham Rao. “They’d disrupt the British supply lines and slow down what the British were able to achieve militarily. [The Americans were] outgunned in terms of technology and military stockpiles, so the longer they could drag it out, the better.”

In the first decade

of the nineteenth century, a young America found itself ensnarled in a conflict between two world powers. “The United States had been locked in a trade struggle against Napoleon’s France and Great Britain,” AU history professor Gautham Rao says. “England and France were fighting each other, and the U.S. was caught in the middle. Presidents Jefferson and Madison were more suspicious toward Great Britain because of unresolved ideological disagreements from the time of the American Revolution. This suspicion was not unfounded. “England was punishing American commerce with France by commandeering American sailors. President Jefferson attempted several times to use nonmilitary means to alleviate

the problem, but ultimately President Madison decided that the only thing left was war.” Fighting began in the Great Lakes region and later spread to the Chesapeake, a key shipping channel. After the British made their way up the Patuxent River and eventually torched Washington, they were stymied at the Battle of Baltimore. The Treaty of Ghent was signed on December 24, 1814, but it wasn’t ratified until after Andrew Jackson famously defeated the British in New Orleans two weeks later. “The most important thing we see coming out of this is, after the war the United States, as a nation, is a coherent entity in the way we understand nations to be in our time.”

Let’s talk #americanmag  25

Baltimore was the heart of the shipbuilding effort during the war, Vaughan says while walking east. He arrives near the water’s edge, where a spit of land that once housed the shipyards now contains a storage facility for the National Aquarium. “All the fastest schooners were built here,” he says, the scene obviously playing in his head. “You get steeped in this stuff.”

Through the perilous fight


ust a mile east of Fells Point is Patterson Park, an expansive urban oasis that contains one of the highest natural points in the city. It was here that Baltimoreans assembled to defend their city in 1814, and it’s here that Vaughan recounts the story so vividly you can almost hear the muskets firing. “The British land their troops [in Benedict, Maryland] in August 1814 and make their way up to the District,” he says. Bladensburg, Maryland, on the banks of the Anacostia River just outside Washington, was the site of the Americans’ last defense of their capital. “The Americans move their forces to the other side of the Anacostia,” Vaughan says. “They have a bunch of militia there, too, [who] are really just farmers with guns. You’re a farmer with a gun, you’re getting bad commands from the generals, who are pretty much all senile Revolutionary War guys, and then you start seeing these redcoats coming. They have really nice weapons. “The militia falls apart, and they just turn tail and run. That’s why it’s called the Bladensburg Races, because . . . they were all trying to get away as fast as possible.” As the British made their way through Washington, torching federal buildings including the White House and the Capitol, but sparing private residences, Baltimore prepared for a fight. “People in Baltimore supposedly could see the glow on the horizon,” Vaughan says, looking south toward Washington. “Baltimore was a major center of commerce. They knew they were going to be a lot worse to Baltimore than they were to D.C. They did some renovations at Fort McHenry to make it a more defensive fort, and they built a series of earthworks to defend the eastern part of the city. They started here in Patterson

26 American Magazine  december 2012

Park and extended to where Johns Hopkins Hospital is today. “The big thing about this is, everyone in the city turned out,” he says, sounding prideful. “This was all hands on deck—doesn’t matter who you are, we have got to make sure the British don’t destroy the city.” The British launched a two-pronged attack on Baltimore, sending land troops from the east and a naval fleet to attack Fort McHenry. Early in the offensive, British general Robert Ross was killed by a sniper, sending the redcoats into disarray, Vaughan says. “They thought it was going to be easy,” he says. “Baltimore had pretty much every ablebodied person—free, enslaved, male, female, black, white, everybody—helping. [The Brits] had the largest fleet, the best-trained army in the world, and they couldn’t take Baltimore.” This was the backdrop for a 35-year-old lawyer who watched the famous flag raised high above Fort McHenry on September 14, 1814.

Our flag was still there


any a myth surrounds Francis Scott Key’s penning of our national anthem. Mark Hildebrand decided three years ago to set the record straight, and he asked Jason Vaughan to help make Anthem. “He has a background in that period in history,” says Hildebrand, a filmmaker who met Vaughan through community theatre in Annapolis. “He had done a project for the National Park Service on the Battle of Bladensburg and studied a lot of the architecture of the buildings and the period. It was a no-brainer to bring him in.” Vaughan did a little of everything on the documentary, from writing grant proposals to helping with fund-raising. He even designed the film’s logo. In the process, he became well versed on the song and the man who wrote it. “When the British were coming up to Bladensburg, there were skirmishes and fighting,” he says. “Some British soldiers got injured, and an American doctor took care of them. [Dr. William Beanes] happened to be a friend of Francis Scott Key. Eventually this doctor was taken under arrest by the British. Key was going to the British to ask for the release of his friend. That’s why Francis Scott Key was out [on the water] that night.”

At Fort McHenry in Baltimore, one way the story of the War of 1812 is told is through the use of miniatures. Ships, sailors, and soldiers are maneuvered by National Park Service rangers or park guides and guests around an in-ground map that is 27.8 feet in diameter and made of laser-cut stone. Located just outside the visitor center, the popular interactive program is offered frequently throughout the year and every day (weather permitting) from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Throughout Baltimore’s diverse neighborhoods, Jason Vaughan points out history.

That starspangled banner yet wave Folklore holds that Key’s lyrics were a poem. Not true, according to Vaughan. “He wrote lyrics to a melody that was quite famous,” he says. “‘To Anacreon in Heaven’ was a song of a gentleman’s club. Another song called ‘Adams and Liberty’ was quite popular at the time—same tune. Francis Scott Key had written a song about the Barbary War, when American ships were taking on pirates, and set it to ‘To Anacreon in Heaven.’ So when he was writing the ‘Star-Spangled Banner,’ he had the melody in his head.” Pairing new lyrics with existing melodies was common practice at the time. When Key was released by the British, he took his notes, supposedly on the back of a piece of paper, to the Indian Queen Tavern in Baltimore, where he finalized the song. “It caught on like wildfire,” Vaughan says. “It was printed on broadsides. People in their homes would know the melody, and they would play it on their violins or their fiddles or a small piano.”

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave

In 1931 it became the national anthem. Nearly two decades earlier, thousands gathered in Patterson Park to mark the centennial of the War of 1812. When Americans gather again, in 2112, 2212, and 2312, to commemorate the war, Vaughan’s work will be a footnote. Jason Vaughan will be a part of history.

Let’s talk #americanmag  27

By Charles Spencer

We don’t know how to handle death. Most Americans fool themselves into believing their loved ones are being preserved like entombed pharaohs, when in fact their embalmed bodies begin disintegrating within weeks, leaking formaldehyde into the ground. Somehow, what once was a natural part of life has warped into an emotionally remote, usually toxic ritual. Billy Campbell, a South Carolina physician and the main character in a School of Communication alum’s award-winning documentary, wants to change that. Dying Green, produced and directed by Ellen Tripler, SOC/MFA ’12, winner of a Student Academy Award silver medal, follows Campbell and his British-born wife, Kimberley, on their mission to make burials in their small South Carolina town more environmentally friendly. Campbell established the nation’s first green cemetery about 14 years ago on 33 wooded acres in Westminster, South Carolina, in the foothills of the Appalachians. At Ramsey Creek Preserve, embalmed bodies, concrete grave markers, and metal coffins are forbidden. Only cremated remains, or bodies shrouded in cloth or placed in simple, biodegradable wooden coffins, are allowed. With its winding path and meandering creek, the wooded site has none of the wellmanicured somberness of a typical park-lawn bone yard. It’s a peaceful nature preserve that happens to recycle bodies back into the earth.

A History of Death Tripler’s documentary weaves Campbell’s story, and the stories of families who choose natural burials, with historical background on how—in just over a century—we came to our current expensive and chemically laden form of internment. Through a Ken Burns–like montage of period photos laid over a folksy acoustic soundtrack, Tripler shows that, until the Civil War, Americans considered embalming a bizarre, even pagan, practice. It began to be widely used to preserve the corpses of Union soldiers, which would then be transported to the North by rail for burial. But it was the assassination of Abraham Lincoln that moved embalming into the mainstream of American society. Lincoln’s embalmed body was briefly placed on public display in Washington. And then, during a dozen stops on a 1,600-mile funeral train journey from D.C. to Springfield, Illinois, as many as a million Americans viewed the late president’s preserved remains. “[Lincoln’s] very public embalming and his very public funeral, I think more than any single event, helped sell embalming to a population that had been wary of it,” says environmental journalist Mark Harris, author of Grave Matters: A Journey through the Modern Funeral Industry to a Natural Way of Burial, in one of the film’s interviews. Years earlier, a friend in Milwaukee had recommended Grave Matters to Tripler, and the book inspired her to make her film.

Walking the Talk Billy Campbell began his fixation with natural burial when an eighth-grade teacher announced on Earth Day that he intended to be buried in a burlap bag and have a tree planted above him. Campbell pronounced that the coolest idea he’d ever heard and vowed to do the same. But it took his father’s death to spur him to finally do something about an idea that had been brewing inside him for years. “My dad’s death was the thing that made it real,” Campbell says in the film. “It was like, I really need to do something about this. It was gnawing at me. And then eventually Kimberley said, ‘Either quit talking about it or do it. You can’t keep talking about it. You’re scaring away all of our friends.’” Like Campbell, Tripler had her own putup-or-shut-up moment. For her, it came in the

course of a somewhat complicated personal history. She studied film as an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee. Then, following a personal tragedy, she sought solace on a trip to Europe—and ended up staying in Germany for 15 years. There she met her husband, Carsten; managed an alternative therapy and meditation center in Cologne; and co-owned a bookstore in Munich.

Every year U.S. cemeteries bury enough steel to build another Golden Gate Bridge and enough concrete to build a two-lane highway from New York to Detroit.

—from Dying Green

About the time she sold her interest in the bookstore, she gave birth to her second son. Suddenly, she was a stay-at-home mom. And it wasn’t working for her. She kept dreaming of making documentaries. So she and her family moved to Milwaukee, where she finished her undergraduate degree. She knew she needed graduate study to get where she wanted to be as a filmmaker. But she wasn’t sure about taking that step. “My husband [said], you’re either going to do it now or you’re never going to do it,” Tripler recalls. “I said I want to go to D.C. So we packed up the family and moved them again.”

Telling Stories Grad school for a mother of two children whose husband travels frequently turned out to be rougher than she had imagined. The first semester, surrounded by much younger, and more confident, students, she had to be talked off the ledge by her advisor and mentor, SOC film professor Maggie Burnette Stogner. But she hung in there. Before she finished work on her thesis film at AU, the family decided to move back to Germany. Tripler thought she could

complete her work there, but once she’d left D.C. she realized her AU network—friends and professors who could critique her work, give her guidance, point her in the right direction— was vital. The kids weren’t happy living in Europe, and Carsten, who conducts much of his consulting business online, could work anywhere. So once again the family packed up and returned to Bethesda. The move paid off. “Her film has all the elements of a successful documentary,” says Chris Palmer, one of Tripler’s advisors and director of SOC’s Center for Environmental Filmmaking. Another common element of documentary filmmaking is chaos. Tripler traveled to South Carolina expecting to do a story on the controversy raised by Ramsey Creek, only to find that, by then, the preserve had become an accepted part of the community. “Welcome to Documentary Filmmaking 101,” Stogner says. “You can count on one hand the times everything goes right.” So Tripler, who describes herself as a character-driven storyteller, ended up playing to her strengths: making a character-driven film, focusing on Campbell.

After Oscar Even before the Oscars, Tripler’s film had created a good deal of buzz. But winning a student Oscar is a big deal. After all, out of some 550 entries, only three films won awards. That makes her part of an elite group that includes three other SOC film grads in the past four years. (While at NYU, an SOC alum also won an award for her MFA film.) Beyond the pomp of the awards ceremony at the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills, winning a student Oscar can be a huge boost to a budding filmmaker’s career. Just ask Laura Waters Hinson, SOC/MFA ’07, who won a gold for As We Forgive, a documentary about reconciliation efforts in Rwanda. “[It] opened innumerable doors for my film to gain distribution on public television and in film festivals around the world,” Hinson says. In this business, winning awards is no guarantee of success. But Tripler seems ready to move on to the next stage of her career. After all, moving is something she’s good at.

Let’s talk #americanmag  29

By Ali Kahn

“The following tells the story, as faithfully as it can, of Isaac P. Anderson’s life in the war and of my life at the time I discovered several artifacts that began my journey toward him. It is less a literal transcription than a translation, told in the new language of our encounter and collaboration. And if it is a ghost story . . . it is the story of two ghosts who lived at separate points on a continuous thread in time.” —David Keplinger, from Inventing Isaac P. Anderson (forthcoming). Keplinger directs the creative writing program in the College of Arts and Sciences.


t was 1851, early winter. Phoenixville, Pennsylvania. Someone gave a copybook to a 12-year-old boy. The boy filled it with algebra and poems and song lyrics and sketches. He practiced his penmanship and calligraphy, and he wrote his name, over and over, in many styles, from looping script to 3-D blocks: Isaac P. Anderson. For 34 years, the boy and then the man returned to the leather-bound book, filling pages through the years of war and work and marriage, up until 1885, three years before his death, tuberculosis the likely cause. It was 1997, early summer. Harleysville, Pennsylvania. David Keplinger’s aunt gave him a box. Its contents had sat in the attic of her aunt (they had been passed down by another aunt, Isaac’s daughter, and by his widow before that). She gave the box of items, tendered by all the aunts for a hundred years, to the poet. And that was how David Keplinger came to meet his great-great-grandfather, Isaac P. Anderson, artist and actor and poet and painter of signs.

Let’s talk #americanmag  31

saac P. Anderson did not exist in family lore. “There was no story about him whatsoever,” says the great-great-grandson. “Everything that he was was in that little box, and there was no story outside the box. He was locked in there.” The great-great-grandson of Isaac P. Anderson opened it a crack, he closed it, then he opened it wide. And inside the box were amazing things: his ancestor’s obituary, a posthumous pension document for his service in the Civil War, a stack of new envelopes containing old and yellowed papers, the copybook, and a veterinary handbook on whose blank back pages he had made pencil drawings and practiced sign copy and deep within had pressed oak and beech leaves, still paper flat and perfect. A pair of black wire-rim glasses rested in a leather-covered wooden case, unmarred by time and wear, preserved as perfectly as the pressed leaves. For whatever reason (were they ordinary or were they iconic?), the man, Isaac P. Anderson, or perhaps the boy, had found them an intriguing subject for a study in pencil on a page in the copybook, titled simply “No[.] 3.” “Their bended arms shaped to a face that didn’t exist anymore,” writes Keplinger. “They were small. The face that wore them would have been about five feet five inches tall, or smaller. It was like they existed in both places at once, briefly, instantaneously, as [I] held the glasses in [my] hands, gently opening and closing the arms. In empty space there on the page and in repose, they served nothing and no one. The drawn glasses floated in their own time, as these glasses floated in theirs. The actual glasses were here, but the drawing in the notebook created the suggestion that they were still back there, somehow.” The one man holds the glasses here, now; the other sketches the glasses there, then. Object and likeness occupy different dimensions in space, linking poet and kin across dimensions in time, beyond life and death. In the box, too, was a single black and white photograph of a group of men, tucked in an envelope probably by one of the aunts, 32 American Magazine  december 2012

The great-great-grandson of Isaac P. Anderson opened [the box] a crack, he closed it, then he opened it wide. who had also written his name, “Isaac Anderson,” along the leg of one man so that his descendants might know his face among the men pictured. The face on which the little black wire glasses had sat. The six men, all Union soldiers from Company E of the 88th Regiment of Pennsylvania, are dressed variously but appear unanimously young and sturdy and hopeful, documented by an anonymous traveling photographer at the outset of “the war of 1861–’65,” as the obituary said, before history claimed it as the Civil War. It was probably late summer, writes Keplinger, “before any of them had seen action. Their clothes were comfortable and unsoiled. And so are the faces.” The men had existed. The man had existed. “Not the whitewash of the film,” writes Keplinger, “or even the living’s tendency to warp the stories of the dead, until what happened was forgotten, could deny it.”


saac P. Anderson loved faces. He sketched them and their features and sometimes whole figures on the pages of the two books. Who were they? He drew his father, lovingly, rear view and front, with long beard and long hair center-parted and sporting the same black wire glasses. And he sketched his father’s nose in profile. One face in particular, a black soldier pierced by an arrow from an Indian’s bow, prompts the poet to speculate. “Wherever he’s drawing faces . . . it’s the same face over and over again, but with a slightly different expression each time. What was he thinking when he drew that? Who was that face? What was his relationship to that face?”


saac P. Anderson’s great-great-grandson received the box of old things, puzzle pieces of a life passed down by the aunts, in 1997. “But,” he writes, “[I] knew that [I] could not take in very much of it, not yet. It was a discovery of that caliber that would have to crouch a long time before pouncing. [I] literally did not speak the language of the thing.” In fact it took about 12 years. Eventually he did revisit the box. He read and reread the poems on the pages of the copybook, and many, he discovered, were not poems but lyrics. Some of them were songs by other people, he says, and some were songs written by Isaac. That’s when the collaboration began. The collaboration with the dead. Keplinger sat at his desk and thought, what would it be like to sing this song, maybe for the first time—ever? “So I picked up my guitar and started to play, and lo and behold a song came out, and then another one and another one, and I had written a great number of them before I showed them to anybody.” And then began the first part of this project, which was writing the CD. He called it By and By.

Of the songs that he pulled from the pages of Isaac’s copybook, two were traditional, popular in the 1800s: “Katie Lee and Willie Gray” and “I’ll Remember You, Love, in My Prayers,” an Irish tune that included this chorus: Go where you will by the land or the sea, I’ll bear all your troubles and cares. And tonight when I kneel by my bed, I’ll remember you, love, in my prayers. The great-great-grandson didn’t recognize the lyrics and he hadn’t heard the music. So he composed a different kind of tune to accompany those lyrics, thinking they were Isaac’s own. “I was glad that I didn’t know,” he says, “because my interpretation came solely out of my encounter with him in the book. What I tried to do in that song was create a mood that was the soundtrack of his life. This was a song that he transcribed into his book the last year of his life. He knew he was dying.” And so Keplinger’s song is less fiery than the other versions, much slower and more contemplative. “I wanted it to be my contribution to the collaboration,” he says. It is sacred, he says, to touch old things that bear mystery with their stories. A thing “locked away and forgotten, and suddenly touched . . . and sung about and written about, begins to take on its own life in your imagination. . . . It’s hard to explain what happen[s]. But I have a sense that when a name is spoken or when an object is touched or when a story is being told about that object, something stirs in the world. I don’t know what that is—and certainly I have had no visits from his ghost. But something stirs.”


nd that, he says, is how his collaboration with Isaac P. Anderson eventually evolved into a novel. “It’s called Inventing Isaac P. Anderson, because most of what I tell about him is an invention. But at the same time,” he says, “it’s about me inventing myself.” You learn a lot about someone by the details they bring to the story, he says. The words they use to describe the landscape or how the light comes through a window. In a way, like a selfportrait. “So as I’m inventing Isaac P. Anderson, I’m ultimately inventing myself and finding out who I am as a writer,” he says, “which is a question that I explore in the manuscript.”

Pairing the nonfiction and the fiction, he says, “we go back and forth in time. And we have that experience, where I’m living my life here in my time and he’s living his life there in his time. And his life is elsewhere, it’s not a dead life. . . . But there are two lives that are lived consecutively, simultaneously.” It sounds like the idea of parallel universes in string theory. But it’s something else, says the poet. You could call it thread theory. “What I’m more interested in is this thread, which is the story of our lives. It’s one story: he’s here on this part of the thread, I’m there on this part of the thread. We’re all part of the same thread, we’re all contributing to this ultimate story that’s not yet finished being told.” And that, he says, is the beauty of storytelling. The thread “lengthens and lengthens, and what becomes more important is the story, not the individual life of the teller, who just carries the story for a moment. The thread is the story that passes through my life and continues on.”


or a century, the pieces of the life contained in the box waited for light, waited for the meeting of poet and kin. The boy in the box and then the man copied his name, over and over: Isaac P. Anderson. Was he asking, “Who am I? Who am I?” Who knows. But the poet picks up the thread of the story and echoes the question, “Who am I?” “And I know that all of the questions that I ask are more about my life than they are about his,” he says. “His story inspired me to write prose for the first time, and so his story changed me . . . he opened a door for me.” He also taught his great-great-grandson a lesson: never think you know the whole story. To think you know the whole story, the poet says, would be a curse. “How boring life would be if you knew the whole story. It’s the making up of those stories, it’s not knowing the stories, that makes life interesting and curious and fascinating, and makes you feel again like you’re a part of that bigger thing.” Part of the thread.

David Keplinger will present his story in words and music at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, February 9 at 3 p.m. See

Let’s talk #americanmag  33

1940s Grant Hallock, Kogod/BS ’49, is a freelance writer.

1960s William E. Butler, SIS/BA ’61, was awarded the LLD honoris causa by the Kiev University of Law of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine for his contributions to international and comparative law. Sanford Schlitt, Kogod/ABA, SPA/BA ’66, is chairman of the board of directors of the Air Force Association and a member of the Civil Air Patrol Board of Governors, a joint appointee by the secretary of the air force and the commander of the Civil Air Patrol.

Top tune “Stranger on the Shore,” Acker Bilk Top grossing flick Lawrence of Arabia In the news Cuban Missile Crisis, John Glenn becomes first American to orbit the Earth From the AU archives Alpha Phi Omega hosts its annual Ugly Man Contest to benefit the World University Service Development Fund.

Susan Fox Hirschmann, CAS/ BA ’68, received two recognition awards for artwork in the 14th annual Faces, a juried online international art exhibition, hosted by Upstream People Gallery.

1970s Deborah Weinstein, CAS/BA ’70, is president of the Weinstein Firm and served as planning chair and panelist for an ALIABA program titled “Employee Manuals 101: Drafting for Success.” The program covered such topics as steps to take for constructing an effective, legally compliant employee handbook and legal factors and considerations for compliance and risk control. Jeffrey Citron, Kogod/BSBA ’72, was named partner of his New York City law firm, Davidoff Malito and Hutcher, which has been renamed Davidoff Hutcher and Citron. Rex Felton, Kogod/BSBA ’73, was promoted to general in June 2012 at the annual meeting of the Confederate Stamp Alliance and Honorary Generals. Noah Hanft, SPA/BA ’73, received the General Counsel of the Year Award at the 2012 Global Counsel Awards, given by the International Law Office in association with the Association of Corporate Counsel.

Accidental Birds of the Carolinas. The honor comes with a fellowship for a one-month residency at Ucross Ranch in Wyoming.

Writing satisfies my mind like nothing else.” —Marjorie Hudson, CAS/BA ’76, recipient of PEN/Hemingway Honorable Mention for Distinguished First Fiction Andy Harp, SPA/BA ’73, author of the Will Parker thriller series, A Northern Thunder and soon-to-bereleased Retribution, was invited to the Persian Gulf by the USO and International Thriller Writers as part of the 2010 inaugural tour of thriller authors. Harp has also been invited to participate in Operation Thriller III later this year.

Roy Saltman, SPA/MPA ’76, published a new book, Sacred Humanism without Miracles: Responding to the New Atheists, for which he was interviewed by Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, for the radio program “Culture Shocks.”

Jennifer Lohrke Christensen, CAS/BA ’77, is director of strategic marketing and communications at the Forman School in Litchfield, Conn. She is responsible for the strategic positioning of the school, development of marketing programs in print and electronic media, and public relations oversight. Prior your friends in Ross to joining the Schriftman, the loop. Send Forman School, SPA/BA ’74, your updates to Christensen wrote a book classnotes@ was director of about his mother, communications My Million Dollar at New Canaan Mom. Country School. She Bassey Essien, SOC/BA and her family live in ’75, wrote the book Voice from South Salem, N.Y. the Mangrove Swamps, which Mitchell Shore, SIS/BA ’77, documents his life story from the received a Pennsylvania Super mangrove swamps of Nigeria to Lawyers Award as top state his arrival in D.C. and beyond. attorney in 2012. This Thomson Marjorie Hudson, CAS/BS Reuters rating includes no more ’76, was awarded a 2012 PEN/ than 5 percent of the state’s Hemingway Honorable Mention attorneys in its annual listing for Distinguished First Fiction of lawyers from more than 50 for her short story collection, practice areas. Shore, a partner at

KEEP  35

class notes

Kolsby Gordon Robin Shore and Bezar, has practiced with the firm since graduating from law school. Claudia Jaccarino, CAS/MA ’78, was elected president of the United Nations Association USA, Greater Chicago Chapter. Jaccarino has worked as an independent intercultural communications consultant since 1989, after 10 years of round-theworld adventure when employed by Pan American World Airways.

2012 Faculty Excellence Award for Advising. At DSU since 1989, Hoff earned his sixth Faculty Excellence Award overall, the only faculty member to receive the award in all four categories (teaching, research, service, and advising). He was recognized for founding the DSU Law Studies Program, leading it to have the largest enrollment of any program minor at the university, and for his previous directorship of the graduate program in historic preservation, which earned membership in the National Council for Preservation Education. Jay Spiegel, CAS/BA ’83, was promoted to financial officer at Penn State–Harrisburg.

Top tune “Tonight’s the Night (Gonna Be Alright),” Rod Stewart Top grossing flick Star Wars In the news Serial killer Son of Sam arrested in New York City, Elvis Presley dies From the AU archives Two students evicted from Leonard Hall after spearheading a 1 a.m. “concert,” during which residents blocked stairways, opened windows, and blasted stereos.

1980s Samuel Hoff, SPA/MA ’81, George Washington Distinguished Professor of history, political science, and philosophy, and law studies director at Delaware State University, received the

Susan Shelby, SIS/BA ’88, is founder and principal of Rhino Public Relations and was named Entrepreneur of the Year by New England Women in Real Estate. Top tune “Walk Like an Egyptian,” The Bangles Top grossing flick Three Men and a Baby In the news Dow drops 508 points on Black Monday, Sen. Gary Hart (D-CO) sex scandal erupts At the helm Cindy Christy, Kogod, who today works as president of Americas, Asurion Insurance Services

He lives in North Bethesda, Md., John Patrick Thomas, Kogod/ with his wife and daughter. MBA ’85, published his first book, A Call to Faith: The Journey of Eric Ellman, SPA/BS ’88, was a Cancer Survivor, a true elevated to senior vice story that Thomas president for public believes will offer policy and legal comfort and hope affairs at the to anyone or any Consumer family battling Data Industry Go to AU’s online cancer or other Association in community: life-threatening Washington, alumniassociation. illnesses. The D.C. Ellman, with book is set in CDIA since 1998, the low country, was also appointed its of Charleston, S.C. corporate secretary. He

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David Bloch, CAS/BA ’86, is director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency Office of Inspector General’s Division of Mortgage, Investments, and Risk Analysis, where he oversees a multidisciplinary team focused on the capital markets businesses of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

connect alumniassociation.

36 American Magazine  december 2012

serves on the board of directors of Congregation B’nai Tzedek and lives in North Bethesda, Md. Scott Schwartz, SPA/BA ’88, Kogod/MBA ’93, joined Dansko as the company’s first general counsel.

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Michael Freeling, SPA/BA ’89, was awarded the Daniel R. Ginsberg Leadership Award from the Anti-Defamation League, which recognizes exemplary leadership in the fight against anti-Semitism, racism, and other forms of prejudice. Freeling, a partner in the law firm of Bloom and Freeling, received the award at the ADL’s April 2012 national leadership conference in Washington, D.C. A member of the ADL’s Florida regional board, Professional Advisory Committee, he served as chair of the Statewide Committee on Law Enforcement and was former chair of the ADL Shana Glass Leadership Institute. In November 2011, he received the Next Generation Award from the ADL’s Florida regional office.

1990s Carla Hanzal, CAS/MA ’90, curator of modern and contemporary art at the Mint Museum in Charlotte, N.C., was recognized by the State Department Art in Embassies program. Richard Berk, Kogod/BSBA ’92, reunited with several AU alumni and ZBT fraternity brothers in New York City this year. Some traveled from as far away as California, Texas, Chicago, North Carolina, Boston, and Maryland. View AmericanUAlum

thank you

portrait by Joseph Adolphe

A deeper understanding of Russian culture permeates American University, thanks to the generosity of Susan Lehrman. In 2011 she established and is advisory chair of the Initiative for Russian Culture (IRC), from which schools of the Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area benefit. In 2012, she created the Susan E. Lehrman Chair in Russian History and Culture in the College of Arts and Sciences. Inaugural chair, Eric Lohr, says “the IRC ensures that the great contributions of Russian literature, film, and the arts will be a part of the broad liberal arts education of our students.” Lehrman is internationally recognized for her work and vision. She received the 2012 AU President’s Award for the philanthropy. She also

received the rank of Chevalier in France’s Legion d’Honneur and the Medal for Contributions to International Cooperation from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation. Lehrman serves on the boards of the Washington National Opera, the James Madison Council of the Library of Congress, and the Mariinsky Foundation. “Thanks to Susan Lehrman’s vision and generosity, the IRC, in its first year, has partnered with the Russian Embassy and the Library of Congress to introduce almost 5,000 attendees to the beauty of Russian culture. This has stimulated the creation of a Russian Culture Club at AU, while our newly expanded course selection is fulfilling the exploding interest in all things Russian on campus,” says Anton Fedyashin, IRC executive director. AU thanks Susan Lehrman for invigorating the studies of a new generation of Russian scholars.

For information on giving visit  37

I spend a significant amount of time on the road interacting with alumni,

Make a gift

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parents, families, and friends of AU, hoping to engage them in the life of the university. This fall we have much exciting news to share with alumni. The building of a better American University includes a new residence hall and a renovated Nebraska Hall, projects that are happening right now. The construction of the new law school campus, which will be spectacular, is just around the corner. Our building projects also include an essential redevelopment of the McKinley Building, the new home for the School of Communication. We know that the School of Communication already provides impressive and innovative opportunities in multidisciplinary communication education. We hear that from peers in the field. The new SOC will offer high-tech, flexible classrooms and student-centered laboratories to push communication education to new places, some of which are unimaginable today. Now, under the leadership of new dean Jeffrey Rutenbeck, the broad scope of opportunity for SOC is just beginning to take shape. The McKinley project is the last in a series of renovations that have reshaped—and in some cases repurposed—each building on our quad. We’re raising McKinley to the new standards of American University facilities. That’s essential for our faculty and staff, as well as for our students and alumni. Wherever I go, I hear praise for the academic leadership of the university as they move us toward cutting edge spaces empowering amazing faculty to deliver state-of-the-art education to our students. With every group or individual I meet, I emphasize that we can’t do all this without you. Bringing your family to a game, auditing a class, volunteering for an admissions event, or making a gift are just some of the ways you can reconnect with AU. And your engagement is vital to us. We want to be a partner in your life. Your support is the foundation that helps us build a better American University. Sincerely,

Thomas J. Minar, PhD Vice President of Development and Alumni Relations

38 American Magazine  december 2012


The Campaign for SOC is providing vital resources to

illustrations by Joseph Adolphe

build a new home for AU’s School of Communication. The restoration of the historic McKinley Building and the new construction will preserve a 100-year-old campus icon, while transforming it into a modern facility, with anticipated LEED certification. SOC’s innovative faculty, students, and alumni include winners of Pulitzer Prizes, Academy Awards, Emmy Awards, and PR News’ PR Agency Professional of the Year. The time is now to give them a facility that will further distinguish SOC as a global leader in communication education. Visit for updates.  39

class notes

Janelle Ott Long, CAS/MA ’96, gave birth to her second child, Stella Audrey, on March 17, 2011. She also has a son, Tyler William, age 4. Top tune “End of the Road,” Boyz II Men Top grossing flick Aladdin In the news North American Free Trade Agreement enacted, LAPD officers acquitted in Rodney King beating From the AU archives Alt-rockers Red Hot Chili Peppers, Smashing Pumpkins, and Pearl Jam play before a sold-out crowd at Bender Arena.

Brian O’Donnell, Kogod/BSBA ’93, and wife, Veronica, welcomed their daughter Ariana Riley on May 7, 2012. She joins Colin, 2, and Marina, 16. Shepard Harris, SPA/BA ’94, was elected mayor of Golden Valley, Minn., in November 2011. In his spare time, he works as a senior government relations specialist at the law firm of Fredrikson and Byron in Minneapolis.

Marisa Pascucci, CAS/BA ’96, was appointed curator of twentieth-century and contemporary art at the Boca Raton Museum of Art. Baylen Linnekin, CAS/BA ’97, WCL/JD ’09, teaches Foodways at AU (p. 4).

Kevin Hagan, SIS/MA ’97, was named president and CEO of Feed the Children. Jason Vaughan, SPA/BA ’97, discusses the War of 1812 and his film Anthem (p. 22).

Lacrecia Cade, SPA/BA ’99, is the recipient of the Louisiana Diversity Council’s 2012 Multicultural Leadership Award.


Neale Smith, SOC/BA ’94, and Erin McClintock were married on September 24, 2011, at Westminster Hall in Baltimore, Md., where they met during orientation for their master’s degrees in social work.

Camisha Russell, SOC/BA ’00, was selected by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation as a Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellow for 2012. Russell is now a doctoral candidate in philosophy at Pennsylvania State University. Her dissertation, The Assisted Reproduction of Race: Thinking through Race as a Reproductive Technology, explores the complex relationship between race and assisted reproductive technologies.

Michele Hammer Spiewak, SPA/BA ’94, has been promoted to account director of Rhino Public Relations, a specialty public relations and marketing agency founded by AU alumna and principal Susan Riley Shelby, SIS/BA ’88.

Elizabeth Schroeder Buonsante, SPA/BA ’00—mother of four-year-old twins, chief of staff to New Jersey state senator Jim Whelan, and treasurer for the Mullica Township Public Schools PTA—has been named the New Jersey representative to

40 American Magazine  december 2012

. . . I was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time. Obama called out my name in his speech . . . that was quite an honor.” —Shepard Harris, SPA/BA ’94, recounting his first six months as mayor of Golden Valley, Minn. Parenting magazine’s third annual Mom Congress on Education and Learning. Ken Biberaj, SPA/BA ’02, is running for city council in the sixth district of New York City. Greg Goodman, Kogod/BSBA ’02, is documenting his travels— through photography, storytelling, and multimedia—on his website, Boone Jackson, SOC/MA ’02, was promoted to director of operations for the Las Vegas office of Rhino Staging, a national production company providing technical crews for concerts and conventions. He has been a member of the Rhino family for 10 years.

Carlos Lopez, welcomed their second daughter, Maria Martha, on March 2, 2012. They have another daughter, Paloma Rhett, born in 2005. Toby McChesney, SPA/BA ’02, now teaches undergraduate business communication as an adjunct faculty member at Georgia State University, in addition to serving as assistant dean of graduate recruiting and student services. Kerwin Speight, SOC/BA ’02, is news executive producer at WRAL-TV in Raleigh, N.C. He was formerly executive producer at WTAE-TV in Pittsburgh, Pa. Follow dance wonk Melanie George’s, CAS/MA ’03, path to mastery (p. 9).

Nicole Lopez-Pruitt, SIS/MA Louis Jim, SPA/BA ’04, SPA/ ’02, received tenure with the MPA ’05, has joined Bond, Department of State in June 2012. Schoeneck and King in their Lopez-Pruitt has been a special Rochester office, where agent for the Diplomatic he will focus on Security Service, litigation. the International Security and Law Lawrence Enforcement Meehan, SPA/ Bureau of MPP ’04, baltimore—Nov. 29 the State assumed the San Francisco—Dec. 9 Department, duties and New York City—Dec. 15 since 2008. She is responsibilities Chicago—Jan. 5 currently serving of commanding at the U.S. Consulate officer, Helicopter Sea General in Hermosillo, Combat Squadron Eight Mexico, as chief investigator (HSC-8), Naval Air Station North and assistant director of security. Island, San Diego. Lopez-Pruitt and her husband,

gather with alumni


Run, CENTRO’S SURVIVoRS, RUN Top row (left to right): Kate Lilley ’08 + Zaia (Wharton) Ellerhorst ’05 and ’07 + Catie (Poppe) Skibo ’05 + Meg (Simpson) Gayman ’05 and ’07 Bottom row (left to right): Leah Heinecke-Krumhus ’04 + Megan Neary ’08 + Meghan Mason ’08 + Jen Baclawski ’04 + Cathleen Ford ’08 + Kaitlyn Lavendar ’06 + Whitney McNees ’05

Photo by Mati Gershater

Philosophy: Run, don’t walk Race: Hood to Coast Relay in Oregon, August 25–26. Distance: 201 miles. It’s the largest relay race of its kind in the world. “This started as a way for me and some of my former AU teammates to get together, because we all met through the track and field program,” says Gayman, who organized the Centro’s Survivors team. The 11 AU alums each ran about 18 miles. Gayman chose the name to honor their former coach, AU track and cross-country head honcho, Matt Centrowitz. “It was great having Coach as someone who helped steer us and kept us dedicated, not only to running but also to our studies,” she says. Time: 25:21:11 Rank: 82nd out of 1,060 teams “It brought us back to our roots,” Gayman says. “We spent so much time together in buses and vans while we were in college, just going from one meet to the next; it was kind of bringing us back to who we used to be. It was also really great to see old friends. Just coming together for this epic race was really special to us.”  41

class notes

I’m helping secure my country, working closely with foreign police to prevent crimes involving U.S. passports and visas before they even arrive at our borders.” —Nicole Lopez-Pruitt, SIS/MA ’02, on her responsibilities at a U.S. Consulate General in Mexico Ambre Kelly, CAS/MFA ’06, has a creative consultancy firm, the They Co., which launched an alternative art fair called SPRING/BREAK during Armory Arts Week. Organizers invited local curators to develop individual projects surrounding the exhibition’s overall theme, Apocalist: A Brief History of the End. Mollye Miller, CAS/BA ’06, won the 2012 Maureen Egen Writers Exchange Award. The prestigious award, which provides promising writers a network for professional advancement, has helped to launch the careers of Sandra Beasley, CAS/MFA ’04 (Don’t Kill the Birthday Girl), Sue Monk Kidd (The Secret Life of Bees), and others. Shay de Silva, Kogod/MBA ’06, founded Fast Fitness to Go, a program that delivers three new, 25-minute workout videos via email each month. sdesilva@

Nicole Zangara, CAS/BA ’06, is author of the newly published book Surviving Female Friendships: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Annie Gardner, CAS/BA ’07, has been living in Cairo, Egypt, since 2009. Tara Shlimowitz Shubbuck, SOC/BA ’07, met her husband, Mike, in the photo lab at AU, and after six years together, they married in D.C. in March. The couple is traveling the world for more than a year, exploring the people, places, and cultures they studied at AU and chronicling their journey at Laura Waters Hinson, SOC/MFA ’07, wins a gold medal for her film on Rwanda (p. 29).

Phil McHugh, SPA/BA ’08, SPA/MS ’09, has been working for the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department for five years and was recognized by the mayor and chief of police as Officer of the Year.

Alfred Gross, Kogod/BS ’50, February 10, 2012, Silver Spring, Md.

Daren Flitcroft, CAS/ BA ’58, March 26, 2012, Washington, D.C.

Frank Pearl, CAS/BA ’67, WCL/JD ’69, May 4, 2012, Baltimore, Md.

Walter Eckbreth, CAS/ BA ’55, May 1, 2012, Arlington, Va.

David Silberman, SPA/ BA ’63, February 8, 2012, Potomac, Md.

Bill Rowe, Kogod/PhD ’73, May 16, 2012, Fairfax, Va.

Edward Wilber, Kogod/ BS ’57, May 19, 2012, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

Laura Dubin Marsh, CAS/ BA ’69, February 12, 2011, Alexandria, Va.

42 American Magazine  december 2012

Eileen Simon, Kogod/ BS ’74, May 15, 2011, Brookline, Mass.

James Valvo, SPA/BA ’09, WCL/ JD ’13, works as director of policy at the Americans for Prosperity Foundation.

In the news Virginia Tech shooting rampage, war in Iraq From the AU archives Condom machines installed in “discreet locations” throughout residence halls At the helm Ashley Mushnick, SPA, who today works as communications director for Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL)

Mary Loraine Kessler, SIS/BA ’09, married Daniel Kessler on October 15, 2011, at the Wilder Mansion in Elmhurst, Ill. Kessler met her husband while studying at AU, and he at UDC. Attendants included Sarah Caudill, SIS/BA ’09; Stephanie Lashley, Kogod/ BA ’09; and Michael Kimmel, SIS/BA ’09. Many other AU alumni also were in attendance. Emily Oxenford, SIS/BA ’09, is a contributing author to a collection of research on operational risk entitled Reflections on Risk: Volume One, published by the Annie Searle and Associates Institute for Risk and Innovation.

Barbara Kelly, SOC/MS ’80, July 19, 2011, Arlington, Va. Todd Epsten, SPA/BA ’82, May 26, 2012, St. Louis, Mo. Laura Smith, CAS/ BA ’83, March 8, 2012, Gainesville, Va.

2010s Richard Cytowic, CAS/MFA ’11, unravels synesthesia (p. 18).

Nicole Davies, SOC/BA ’11, represented Team USA in April as a competitor at the 2012 ISU World Synchronized Skating Championships in Goteborg, Sweden. Brianna Payton, CAS/BS ’11, completed U.S. Navy basic training at Recruit Training Command, Great Lakes, Ill. Ellen Tripler, SOC/MFA ’12, discusses her documentary film Dying Green (p. 28).

To update your address Email Visit Write Office of Alumni Relations American University 4400 Massachusetts Ave., NW Washington, D.C. 20016-8002

Fabrizio Golino, CAS/BS ’84, CAS/MS ’85, November 30, 2011, Darnestown, Md.

Lynne Maginnis, SPA/ MPA ’84, June 14, 2012, Oswego, Ore.

John Kennette, SPA/MS ’84, April 10, 2012, Ocean Grove, N.J.

Herbert Stewart Murphy, CAS/MA ’98, April 24, 2012, Portland, Ore. Derric Johnson, SIS/BA ’10, San Francisco, Calif.


Excerpts from the Eagle archives at


Republican Herbert Hoover may not have won a second term, but he emerged victorious in a campus straw poll. The incumbent garnered 145 votes, while Socialist Norman Thomas and Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt “tied for booby prizes with 45 votes apiece,” according to the Eagle. The vote couldn’t have been less prophetic: Roosevelt won with 472 electoral votes to Hoover’s 59. (Thomas got the real booby prize: no electoral votes.)


“Vote for the American spirit . . . for the freedom to worship and the right to criticize. Vote for the principles of the man in the White House and the man in the street.” In a fall editorial, the Eagle urged students to rock the vote. Among the issues of the day: labor unions, segregation, and military service. Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower handily won the election over Democrat Adlai Stevenson.



recognize this stalwart supporter? Reveal his identity: email afrank@

About 100 students joined the McGovern campaign in his run against Republican Richard Nixon. Campus volunteer coordinator Beth Fuchs supported the Democrat’s stance on Vietnam. “And,” she added presciently, “he’s a far more honest politician than Nixon.” A survey that year of 200 professors found that 66 percent also backed the challenger—who would be trampled the following month by Nixon.


On election night, AU College Democrats gathered at watering hole Winston’s, where applause broke out when Tom Brokaw declared Bill Clinton the president. In an Eagle editorial, Laura Corvo, president of AU College Dems, said students were “the voices of change” in the campaign. Turns out, college kids have been saying “yes we can” long before Barack Obama came on the scene.

Did you rally for Reagan in the ’80s or campaign for Kennedy in 1960? Email your favorite election memories to or share them at  43

There are More than 4,500 AU alums

who call the City of Brotherly Love home. They work and play at some of the city’s iconic institutions, from QVC (the world’s leading electronic retailer) to Merck (one of Philly’s largest employers) to the Barnes Foundation (which just took up residence on Benjamin Franklin Parkway). What besides a beloved hometown do these Eagles share? The insider’s knowledge of Washington, D.C., gained while studying at AU. AU will be in Philly, March 7, when President Neil Kerwin hosts a reception for the university’s newest deans, Barbara Romzek of the School of Public Affairs and Jeffrey Rutenbeck of the School of Communication. Will you be there? For more information, visit

Mark Mills, SOC/BA, CAS/BA ’97, MFA/CAS ’06 Senior Director of External Affairs, Barnes Foundation Philadelphia, Pa. Nowhere in the world can you marvel at more masterpieces by Renoir or Cézanne than at the Barnes Foundation. “It’s a premier collection of impressionist and early modern art that was one man’s vision,” Mark Mills says. Born in 1872, Albert Barnes grew up in Philadelphia. He went on to become a doctor and develop Argyrol, an antiseptic silver compound used in the prevention of infant blindness. An avid art devotee,

he established the Barnes Foundation in 1922 to promote “the advancement of education and the appreciation of the fine arts.” The foundation is run like a museum, with the public purchasing tickets to view the stunning collection of more than 800 works valued at $25 to $30 billion. In May the collection moved from Merion in the suburbs to the city’s cultural hub on Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

Merck: Richard Clark, Kogod/MBA ’70, chairman. The former CEO and president has worked at the global health care company—one of Philly’s biggest employers—for nearly four decades. 44 American Magazine  december 2012

Mills oversees individual giving, visitor services, retail operations, and public programs. “I make sure that, whether you’re a visitor, member, or donor, you have a seamless experience.”

QVC: Madeline Tomchick, Kogod/BSBA ‘09, guest ambassador. Tomchick handles everything from microphones to host cards for the West Chester–based QVC, the world’s leading electronic retailer.

where we are

Christina Chagin, SPA/BA ’01 Director of Board Relations, National Constitution Center

Two blocks from the iconic Liberty Bell and historic Independence Hall, where two centuries ago America’s founding fathers wrote the document that forms the bedrock of our democracy, sits the gleaming modern National Constitution Center. Its mission: to reinforce that document’s relevancy today. “It’s the oldest, shortest national constitution in the world, and it’s got the most powerful vision of freedom ever expressed,” Christina Chagin says. “Every day the center embraces the famous phrase ‘We the people.’ At the heart of the center, whether it’s onsite or online, we talk about this document that made America possible.” Chagin came to the center in 2007, and in 2010 she became its director of board relations. She’s responsible for fostering the center’s relationship with its 37 trustees, including its chair, former president Bill Clinton. “The cost of freedom and democracy in America didn’t end when the Constitution was created,” Chagin says. “It requires ‘We the people’ to remain fully engaged in our system of government. In order to keep that freedom going, all of us—every single generation—are required to sustain that. It’s a huge responsibility.”

Famous 4th Street Cookie Company: David Auspitz, Kogod/BS ‘69, owner. Available in a dozen delectable flavors, cookies are served up at Reading Terminal Market and online at

Central Books: Jessica Hohmann, SIS/BA ’90, owner. This charming used bookstore occupies two floors of a Victorian building in suburban Doylestown.

Eyewitness News CBS 3: Stephanie Stahl, SOC/ BA ’79, medical reporter. The Emmy Award–winning journalist was recently inducted into the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia’s Hall of Fame.  45

Mills, Chagin, and CBS photos by Amanda Stevenson Lupke

Philadelphia, Pa.

vision + planning = legacy

Monica Cunningham, WCL/JD ’73 A first-generation college graduate, Monica Dixson Cunningham received financial help in both college and law school from endowed scholarships established through the generosity of others. When Cunningham came to the Washington College of Law, she had a passion for international issues and government and knew that Washington, D.C., a city that never stopped, was the center of policy making. At WCL and through a student work position at the State Department’s Office of International Training, Cunningham experienced firsthand the breadth of knowledge to be learned in Washington, D.C. Her education has informed her career, which includes extensive service in county and city government in El Paso, Texas. Through her experiences, Cunningham, an attorney at Kemp Smith in Austin, Texas, learned the importance of increasing access to higher education, and she applauds AU’s strategic priority of enhancing need-based scholarships. She includes annual donations to American University Washington College of Law in her personal philanthropy and has taken steps to include WCL as a beneficiary of her estate plan. This support will provide need-based scholarships to future students and build a legacy that she says “opens educational opportunities to everyone regardless of means.”

46 American Magazine  december 2012

Photo by eric doggett

For information on how your vision and charitable estate planning can create a legacy at American University, contact Seth Speyer, director of planned giving, at 202-885-5914 or, or visit

top picks

1. Detective Andy Sipowicz, NYPD My favorite fictional cop ever—a raw, tough guy, flawed to the core, yet always growing. NYPD Blue was a great cop drama, and I hated to see it go off the air.

Sipowicz: New York Daily News Archive/New York Daily News/Getty Images Hodges: Courtesy of MGM Media Licensing Callahan: Cat’s Collection/Corbis Foley: Bureau L.A. Collection/Corbis reagan: CBS Photo Archive/CBS/Getty Images Malloy: NBC/NBCUniversal/Getty images Fife: Silver Screen Collection/Moviepix/Getty images

2. Officer Bob Hodges, LAPD In the movie Colors, Hodges (Robert Duvall) is a grizzled, wise, old cop trying to teach the young, impetuous rookie (Sean Penn). Duvall nails the role.

Ed Maguire thought he would be a crime fighter. The nephew of a beat cop, he worked part time as a police officer in college; ultimately, though, his love of writing seemed a better fit with academia. A criminologist and chair of the Department of Justice, Law and Society in the School of Public Affairs, Maguire has trained his sights on policing and violent crime. Funded by a grant from the National Institute of Justice, his latest project is a team endeavor to evaluate the effectiveness of ATF’s National Integrated Ballistic Information Network, which contains more than 1.6 million pieces of ballistic evidence. Maguire is working alongside police officers at 10 departments across the country. “We follow the journey of ballistics evidence from crime scene to courtroom,” he says.

Maguire’s top-10 favorite fictional cops:

1 6

3. Officer Bumper Morgan, LAPD Bumper Morgan is the main character in one of Joseph Waumbaugh’s early novels, The Blue Knight. He’s the quintessential beat cop. 4. Inspector “Dirty” Harry Callahan, San Francisco PD This classic cop played by Clint Eastwood needs no introduction. “Go ahead, make my day.”




5. Axel Foley, Detroit PD Foley (Eddie Murphy) brings a very different style of policing to the Beverly Hills Police Department in Beverly Hills Cop. 6. Commissioner Frank Reagan, NYPD I love the new police drama Blue Bloods, the story of a family of NYPD cops, including Commissioner Frank Reagan (Tom Selleck). He portrays a thoughtful and very human police administrator.


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7. Officer Pete Malloy, LAPD I grew up watching reruns of Pete Malloy (Martin Milner) and Jim Reed (Kent McCord) ably handling their business on Adam-12.


8. Dudley Do-Right, Royal Canadian Mounted Police He always rescued the damsel in distress! 9. Deputy Barney Fife, Mayberry Sheriff’s Office How can you not love this icon of smalltown policing played by Don Knotts?


10. Officer Jim Malone, Chicago PD Sean Connery plays this tough, old IrishAmerican beat cop in The Untouchables.  47

must haves

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8 6


1 3 7 2



*Kogod/MBA ’08, regulatory analyst, market regulation, Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) in Rockville, Md. 1. Next June I’ll sit for level two (of three) of the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) exam. There are six 3,000-page books for each level. It’s my PhD in finance. 2. I write about 200 note cards for each level of the CFA with formulas and concepts. In the month before the exam, I drill them constantly. 3. Post-it flags are my favorite study tool. 4. Some of the spreadsheets at work have one million rows of data. To sort and analyze them, I need absolute quiet.

5. I have 18 of the Little Books—a series of quick reads about finance and the economy. I just finished Hilary Kramer’s Little Book of Big Profits from Small Stocks, which gave me lots of new investment ideas. 6. I’m an old-school, No. 2 kinda guy. 7. On the Metro ride home, I like to decompress with my iPod. Pearl Jam and Led Zeppelin are my all-time favorites.

48 American Magazine  december 2012

8. I didn’t start drinking coffee until grad school—now I need my Starbucks fix every morning.

11. I try to keep up with my personal investments. I’m the nerd who reads annual reports, cover to cover.

9. My trusty Texas Instruments financial calculator has seen me through undergrad, three years on a trading desk, my MBA, and two levels of the CFA.

12. I read the Wall Street Journal every morning on my Metro ride to Shady Grove. It beats sitting in traffic on the Beltway.

10. My current Kindle read: Be Prepared: A Practical Handbook for New Dads. My wife and I welcomed our son Owen in June.

13. When I’m really focused on a reading or task, I find myself clicking the lids of my highlighters. It drives my wife crazy.











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The challenge

Almost all of Joshua Lansky and Chris Mitchell’s math students aced the following question, which appeared on a 500-level exam in 2012. How does your knowledge of logic compare to these whiz kids?

The question

Three individuals—Albert, Brian, and Courtney—have been arrested for committing an egregious felony. Under interrogation, they make the following statements: • Albert: “Brian is guilty, but Courtney is innocent.” • Brian: “If Albert is guilty, then Courtney is, too.” • Courtney: “I’m innocent, but at least one of the other two is guilty.” Assuming the innocent told the truth and the guilty lied, which of the three individuals are guilty and why?

The details Go fact to fact

against AU’s people in the know at

Be the first to submit the correct answer to and win a six-month subscription to Politics and Prose’s book-a-month club. The winner will be announced in the next issue of American.

American magazine  

The flagship publication of American University. The new magazine offers a lively look at what AU was and is, and where it's going. It's a...

American magazine  

The flagship publication of American University. The new magazine offers a lively look at what AU was and is, and where it's going. It's a...