Communicator, Fall2017

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VR ... Penn State! From classrooms to Capitol Hill, faculty experts put Bellisario College on cutting edge of communications

Dean’s Message One of my favorite quotes, from management guru and author Peter Drucker, is taped to a computer monitor in my office. It says, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” In a media landscape where disruption is constant, Drucker’s words remind me that we can – and should – seize the opportunity to chart our own path. There is no crystal ball. There is no way of knowing exactly which digital platforms or innovations will last and which ones, for one reason or another, won’t. (Remember 3-D television? Or, more recently, Google Glass?) So we don’t blindly invest in every new technology or “toy” out there. Instead, we consult with our alumni, who can help us think about what’s next and how we can best move forward. We also stay current through our relationships with organizations and leaders in news, entertainment, advertising and public relations. And our expert faculty experiment with new applications as they consider how to move them into the classroom. Recently, I was at an Adobe workshop in New York City about virtual reality in higher education. I was thrilled to see that one of the speakers was David Leopold, a Bellisario College graduate who leads a creative team at Viacom. His insights on storytelling in VR, AR, and MR (augmented and mixed realities) were valuable for everyone there. He told us that now is the time to test, play, dream, fail, learn, teach, collaborate, and, ultimately, lead. “This is your opportunity to write the language, make

the rules, develop the skills and imagine the possibilities that will shape the future of immersive storytelling,” he said. He is right, and that is what we are doing. We are not always the first to redesign our curriculum with every new innovation, but when we do, we’re confident that we’re doing it in a way that builds on a foundation of strong writing, visual literacy, ethics and critical thinking. We know that those are the essentials, whether our students are telling stories that will appear on mobile devices, video players or headsets, social media platforms, or even in print. (Yes! It still exists.). You can read more about what we’re doing to prepare our students for careers that will involve everything from iPhone storytelling to drones, analytics and immersive technologies on page 12 of this issue. We do it online and in residence, meeting learners where they are. As noted in the story, our Media Effects Research Lab plays a large role in what we do in that area as well. I think you’ll also be impressed with our faculty expertise and research on the thorny issues that the “digital revolution” has wrought. When it comes to issues of digital access the impact of technologies on individuals and the public, our faculty often are leading the conversation. I think you’ll like reading about the work of our Institute for Information Policy (page 16), and our new Don Davis Professor of Ethics, Patrick Plaisance (page 46). With this team of faculty, I’m confident about the future we are helping to create for our students, our community, the professions, and society. Thank you for your support as we continue to chart our path as the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications. I hope to hear from you soon.

Dean Marie Hardin

Communicator the

The Communicator magazine is published twice a year for alumni, students, faculty and friends of the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications.

DEAN Marie Hardin EDITOR Steve Sampsell (’90) ASSISTANT EDITORS Trey Miller (’12) Jonathan McVerry (’05) CONTRIBUTING EDITOR Mike Poorman (’82) All items relating to the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications and its faculty, staff, students and alumni will be considered for publication. Opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by the University, College or editorial staff.


Miss Pennsylvania Katie Schreckengast, a broadcast journalism major and saxophone player in the Blue Band, spends some time with members of the band during a campus visit. (Photo by Annemarie Mountz)

12 VR ... Penn State

From classroom to Capitol Hill, Bellisario College is a hotbed of expertise

18 Progress toward possibilities CORRESPONDENCE The Communicator Penn State Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications 302 James Building University Park, PA 16802 Email: Twitter: @PSUBellisario Web:

Celebration and selection of architect follow Bellisario Gift

20 Proudly Pennsylvanian

Miss Pennsylvania Katie Schreckengast embraces her role

24 A higher(-ed) calling

Skills make alumni key contributors at many colleges and universities

32 Diversity drives student’s work This publication is available in alternative media on request. Penn State is an equal opportunity, affirmative action employer, and is committed to providing employment opportunities to minorities, women, veterans, individuals with disabilities, and other protected groups. Nondiscrimination: http://guru. U.Ed. COM 18-55

Erica Hilton examines what’s happening in public relations

DEPARTMENTS ON THE COVER Virtual reality goggles are just one storytelling tool students can utilize in the Bellisario College. Story on page 12. (Photo by Will Yurman)

2 Dean’s Message 4 Starting Shots 42 Alumni Notes

The Communicator | Fall 2017



Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications

Don and Vivienne Bellisario pose for a photo before official dedication ceremonies of the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications. More info, pages 18-19. (Photo by John Beale)

The Communicator | Fall 2017



Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications

Photojournalism students were assigned to take one-hour shifts during Homecoming weekend to photograph and interview people who visited the Lion Shrine. The result was more than 250 photos that John Beale, an assistant teaching professor in the Department of Journalism, combined into a mosaic.

The Communicator | Fall 2017



Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications

The Nittany Lion greets amped up Penn State students as they wait to enter Beaver Stadium before the team’s Sept. 30 game against Indiana. (Photo by Stephanie Kovacs, ’18)

The Communicator | Fall 2017



Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications

The Communicator | Fall 2015


News and Notes Interdisciplinary grant Colleen Connolly-Ahern, an associate professor in the Department of Advertising/Public Relations, is part of a team that earned a grant from Penn State Global Programs to investigate communications regarding possible liquifaction zones around Lima, Peru. The team also includes experts in hydrology and seismology. Successful sneak peek “The Turn Out,” the first fiction film produced by Pearl Gluck, drew a large crowd for a sneak peek screening and related panel discussion about the film’s focus, sex trafficking, during a special event in mid-November at the State Theatre in State College. Gluck’s film is a fictionalized narrative about a trucker who must decide if he will stand up against trafficking. Gluck is an assistant professor in the Department of Film-Video and Media Studies. Quarter century of excellence Rob Frieden, the Pioneers Chair and professor of telecommunications and law, reached 25 years of service with the University on Aug. 16, 2017. Along with teaching, he has written several books and more than 100 articles in academic journals. Daily Collegian change The Daily Collegian, which recently celebrated its 130th anniversary, announced it would print only two days a week (Mondays and Thursdays) beginning in the spring.







Lives in: Pittsburgh Job: Pirates/MLB Beat Reporter, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review In this issue: Writes about alumni working in higher education (page 24) Now reading: “The Immense Journey” by Loren Eiseley My go-to cure for writer’s block: I get up and walk around, and I must have a glass of water within reach when I write, especially on deadline Three things always in my fridge: Sourdough bagels, grated Parmesan, craft beer My TV/viewing guilty pleasure: Re-runs of the 1970s version of “Match Game” Favorite kind of cookie: Chocolate chip Best advice I ever received: You’ve got to have a plan

TOP THREE ARTISTS ON YOUR PLAYLIST: The Indigo Girls, New Order, Prince

Penn State College of Communications




Lives in: Bellefonte, Pennsylvania

Lives in: Lemont, Pennsylvania

Job: Strategic Communications Coordinator and Lecturer, Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications

Job: Director of Communications, Penn State College of Education

In this issue: Writes about alumna Erin Weidemann, who beat cancer five times and now devotes her life to helping others (page 36) Big break: My first fulltime job with Rutgers Athletics. It got me out of my comfort zone and gave me a different perspective Favorite kind of cookie: Peanut butter with Hershey’s Kisses in the middle Three things always in my fridge: Hot sauce, Coke, water Top three artists on your playlist: Eric Church, Luke Combs, Chris Young Best advice I ever received: Say thank you

IT’S A GOOD DAY WHEN: I get to spend it in the woods

In this issue: Photos of Miss Pennsylvania Katie Schreckengast Now reading: Anything related to my dissertation Favorite photo subject(s): Sunsets and the Blue Band Top three artists on my playlist: Marcus Printup, Billy Joel, Miss Melanie and the Valley Rats Favorite kind of cookie: Pignolia (pine nut) Best advice I ever received: Use your resources

ADVICE TO PENN STATE STUDENTS: Paraphrasing former Blue Band director O. Richard Bundy, Your time here is short and will end more quickly than you can imagine. Soak it all in and “Carpe the heck out of the Diem!”

The Communicator | Fall 2017


VR .

Students can use a variety of storytelling tools and techniques, including VR goggles, in the Bellisario College. Pictured are (from left): Shamelle Price-Wheeler, Kelly McNeice, Bryan Dougherty, Erik Arroyo, Will Price and Julie Hunter. (Photo by Will Yurman) 12

Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications

... Penn State Tech-savvy faculty members put Bellisario College on cutting edge


hen John Beale addresses Penn State undergraduates about using a smartphone, he knows they’re familiar with the device. He’s also certain many students have barely tapped the full functionality of the ubiquitous technology they have in their pockets. Most 18- to early 20-somethings use a smartphone an average of three hours a day, or 86 hours a month. Beale, a balding, 50-something assistant teaching professor in the Department of Journalism with an award-winning photojournalism background who remembers the days of rotary phones and party lines in residential homes, holds the keys to unlocking the potential of those smartphones. An award-winning teacher, Beale is determined and quite talented at helping students realize both their potential, and the potential of the technology they hold in their hands. He’s not alone. From campus classrooms to Capitol Hill, faculty members in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications are tapping technology to help students strengthen their storytelling skills or helping provide perspective for what communications-related technology means for society. They’re also conducting research to help better understand how technology is impacting people and processes in a largely media-driven communications landscape. Several Bellisario College faculty members are go-to experts about technology related issues for government officials and the media. Distinguished Professor S. Shyam Sundar, co-director of the Media Effects Laboratory housed in the Bellisario College of Communications and editor of “The Handbook of the Psychology of Communication Technology,” focuses his research on the medium involved in communications. He wants to know what happens when certain aspects of the technology itself are altered. He started the Media Effects Lab when he arrived at the University nearly two decades ago and it has grown, thanks to a core group of communications faculty and collaborators across Penn State, into one of the leading facilities of its kind in higher education. Support for research in the lab has come from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the MacArthur Foundation, and Lockheed Martin Information Systems and Global Services, among others. Sundar enjoys the process of working with a lab group, formulating a hypothesis and testing to confirm. “It’s normal science. It’s not random or just intuition, and that opportunity to test hypotheses and create knowledge or formulate a better understanding of something is exciting,” Sundar said. “We’re in a great position at Penn State, with willing collaborators across campus in a variety of disciplines. Plus, our Ph.D. program and the support within our college is strong. There’s certainly a value placed on what we do.” Sundar and a colleague from the College of Information Sciences and Technology recently earned a $300,000 NSF grant to train machines to help detect fake news. Officially titled “Training Computers and Humans to Detect Misinformation by Combining Computational and Theoretical Analysis,” the proposed research by Sundar and IST associate professor Dongwon Lee grew from a seed grant provided by the Penn State Institute for CyberScience to study fake news. Sundar’s active research agenda, bolstered by the lab group he leads in the The Communicator | Fall 2017


Bellisario College, recently produced findings about the use of virtual reality in journalism. Again, focusing on the technology itself, they found a correlation between the use of virtual reality and credibility with their results that were reported in the Journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking. “What really makes people trust VR more is that it creates a greater sense of realism compared to text, and that creates the trustworthiness,” said Sundar, who holds appointments in the Department of Advertising/Public Relations and the Department of FilmVideo and Media Studies. “But, if it doesn’t give that sense of realism, it can affect credibility. If developers try to gamify it or make it more fantasy-like, for example, people may begin to wonder about the credibility of what they’re seeing.” Not surprisingly, with the Bellisario College’s long-valued Distinguished Professor S. Shyam Sundar, co-director of the Media Effects Lab, studies what happens when certain aspects of a technology are altered. (Photo by Patrick Mansell) grounding in ethics as well as its tradition of strong teaching devices — ­­ and continually stressing the core importance of across majors, faculty members have made maintaining good storytelling — remains vital. credibility and utilizing technology a point of emphasis in the “We’re teaching them to use tools in a meaningful manner. classroom. It’s all connected,” Yurman said. “Because we’re not teaching Will Yurman, an assistant teaching professor in the them to be technicians. What they do with a device is Department of Journalism, has been exploring ways to bring complemented by thoughtful preparation and proven skills.” virtual reality and augmented reality (AR) to the classroom. Alumni play a vital role in that process as well. In recent He’ll teach the Bellisario College’s first course exclusively years, a Short Doc Workshop has brought together alumni focused on those topics next fall. and students majoring in advertising/public relations, filmLike Beale, his background is in photojournalism, and he video, journalism and telecommunications for an intense knows how to tell a good story. He also knows the changing three-day session on campus. Yurman helped create the media landscape means the next generation of storytellers event when alumni return to campus and volunteer their needs a comfort level and proficiency with different time to work side-by-side with students to put together approaches. “We’re always challenging students and providing short documentaries during the workshop. The high quality opportunities. A couple of years ago it was GoPro cameras. of work that emerges is a result of talented people tapping We’re trying VR and AR, and we’ve been working with state-of-the-art technology. Often, that technology can be podcasting, drones and data visualization,” Yurman said. “It something that’s familiar to workshop participants — such as does provide a challenge for faculty to stay up to speed, and a smartphone. That’s why Beale believes the emphasis on smartphones that’s a good opportunity for us to keep our skills sharp or is vital. He conducts weeklong “inserts” in each section of adapt them to different technologies.” Different approaches do not mean the faculty members the 400-level reporting methods course every semester. need to be experts on every device or every piece of software. He also teaches a freshmen seminar titled “Introduction to Helping students appreciate the potential of approaches and Multimedia with a Smartphone.” 14

Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications

The Communicator | Fall 2015


“We’re seeing job opportunities where a familiarity with 360 video or drones is part of the posting. And it’s in every field. The more tools you can use, the more you can implement technology in an effective manner, the more likely you are to make an impact.” — John Beale Through those interactions, he hopes to help students realize they have an effective storytelling tool in their hands as a means to build approaches and improve the quality of their work on the way to a career in any communications-related field. “Opportunities with only one skill set are diminished. You have to have two skills, and one of those has to be visual,” Beale said. So, Beale compares images from a smartphone with those taken by a higher-end digital single lens reflex camera. He also works on traditional photojournalism rules, focusing on composition and lighting, for example, and stresses the flexibility a smartphone offers to shoot audio and video as well. “There are some things a smartphone cannot do well, but there’s a lot it can do,” Beale said. “A strong communicator can find a variety of ways to tap that potential. When you see the light go on for a student, when they understand what they have at their fingertips, that’s a good feeling.” Beale is also a FCC-certified drone pilot. The Bellisario College owns two drones, and he believes that’s another area of opportunity — a way to give Penn State students an edge when it’s time to compete for jobs against students from other colleges and universities. “We’re seeing job opportunities where a familiarity with 360 video or drones is part of the posting,” Beale said. “And it’s in

John Beale watches as a student uses an iPhone to take a picture. (Photo by Will Yurman)

every field. Whenever and wherever you’re telling a story, the more tools you can use, the more you can implement technology in an effective manner, the more likely you are to make an impact.” Yurman led an innovative online photojournalism course during the fall semester that enabled students to rent equipment from Penn State or complete their course work with their own cameras. Half of the class used the rented equipment and half had their own cameras. While there were some challenges with the online approach, Yurman was pleased with the results. Students, many of whom were adult learners, were a mix of people trying to complement their skillset to bolster their career and others interested in photojournalism who found the class a good fit for their schedules. Yurman was happy with the approach, which provided another testament to the Bellisario College’s determination to serve students in the best way possible. That includes the recent creation of another World Campus offering — a degree in digital multimedia design, available through the World Campus as part of a partnership with the College of Arts and Architecture, and the College of Information Sciences and Technology. For students on the University Park campus, a digital media trends and analytics minor was launched in the fall semester. Lee Ahern, an associate professor in the Department of Advertising/Public Relations, helped create that program. The minor is designed to provide students with a valuable understanding of practices and trends in advertising, digital media, marketing and public relations. Completion of the minor will help prepare students to pass a number of leading industry certification tests related to analytics, digital media sales, marketing, media sales, search engine marketing, and social media. As people in a variety of fields and industries create content, Bellisario College faculty members also possess the expertise to contextualize how the information gets to media consumers. They’re helping drive discussion about the capabilities of communications-related technologies and serving as regular resources for government and the media regarding those topics. Sascha Meinrath, the Palmer Chair in The Communicator | Fall 2017


Two decades of pioneering research Since 1997, the IIP has conducted innovative research and promoted programs that examine the social effects of information technology. The institute is co-housed in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications and the College of Information Sciences and Technology (IST) at Penn State. Its co-directors are Amit Schejter, Bellisario College and Ben Gurion University of the Negev; Krishna Jayakar, Bellisario College; and Carleen Maitland, IST. To recognize two decades of improving “democratic discourse, social responsibility and the quality of life” through research of information technology, here are 20 facts about the IIP, its people and its many innovative research initiatives:

1. $2.3 million and growing

The IIP is mostly funded through gifts and grants. Since 1997, it has received more than $2.3 million in external support, not including support from the Bellisario College, IST and in-kind contributions.

2. Major funders lead the way

Over the years, funders have included AT&T, the Ford Foundation, Verizon, Google, The Media Democracy Fund and the National Science Foundation.

3. Early days of information

A precursor to the IIP was the Catalyst Center for Information Technology (1993-1996), which was funded by AT&T. The Catalyst Center was started by Richard Taylor, professor emeritus of telecommunications.

4. Building the information super highway

Including “information” in the Institute’s name was a rare thing in the late ’90s. Most related programs used “communications” or “media” in their names.

5. A first for the Bellisario College

The IIP was the first faculty-driven research center in the Bellisario College of Communications. Today, there are nine research-driven centers or programs in the Bellisario College.

6. Verizon gets it all started

The IIP initially got sustained funding from Verizon to conduct research on universal telephone service. 16

Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications

7. Continued support

Other support includes grants from the Rainbow Coalition (1999), the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (2000), the Media Democracy Fund (2008-09), the Ford Foundation (2010) and many more.

8. Bridging the ‘digital divide’

While early research examined access to telephone service both domestically and internationally, the Institute has evolved to studying the “digital divide,” which refers to the gap between people with access to high-speed internet and people without it.

9. Semi-annual IIP workshops

The IIP has hosted 15 semi-annual workshops covering a variety of topics. The events are invitation-only and involve anywhere from 30 to 80 scholars from the field. Typically, the workshops are conducted in conjunction with leading NGOs and academic institutions, among them the New America Foundation, the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, the Center for Tele-Information at Columbia University and the School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University.

10. Workshops are global

Spring workshops are held in different locations. Past events have been held in London, Philadelphia, San Juan, San Diego and New York. Fall workshops are held annually in Washington, D.C., every year.

11. FCC welcomes IIP

The Institute held one of its workshops in the Federal Communications Commission building, the first academic institution ever to do so.

12. The U.S. updates its communications

In 1999, the institute hosted a conference on the landmark Telecommunications Policy Act of 1996, specifically covering the act’s impact on Pennsylvania businesses and consumers. It was the first time telecommunications law in the United States was updated since 1934.

13. A conference all about video games

In 2008, the IIP hosted a conference on the video game industry. Sponsored by Verizon and called “Playing to Win,” the conference attracted an audience interested in the business of video games, including corporate executives, lawyers, child health professionals and scholars.

14. A research journal is born

The Journal of Information Policy, the Institute’s online, open access, peer-reviewed scholarly journal, was started in 2010 thanks to a $380,000 initiation grant from the Ford Foundation. Today, it is one of the top research journals in the field. In 2015, Penn State University Press began publishing the journal. It is the first online open access journal published by the Press.

15. Hot off the presses

The Journal of Information Policy’s purpose is to provide high quality, peer-reviewed research in a timely manner to legislators, policy-makers and scholars. Before the journal’s first publication, research could take more than a year to be published, making it difficult for research to keep up with technology. The journal’s publishing process takes research from author to reader in as little as six weeks.

16. The journal’s growing readership

Between January 2015 and January 2017, the journal’s monthly PDF downloads more than doubled from around 1,300 to 3,150. Research from the journal has been cited more than 1,000 times in other peer publications.

17. ‘Communications for All’

In 2007-08, the IIP collaborated with 16 top scholars from 11 institutions across the country on the “Communications for All” project. The initiative served as a blueprint for President Barack Obama’s transition team, and its launch was broadcast live on C-SPAN the week of President Obama’s inauguration. The IIP’s work was the only academic source not commissioned by the FCC to be cited in the FCC’s National Broadband Plan.

18. On Capitol Hill

IIP faculty members collaborated with several nongovernmental organizations, which led to a briefing by IIP researchers and fellows on Capitol Hill to Congressional staff members on “universal service.”

19. NSF funds broadband research

The National Science Foundation (NSF) identified the IIP to initiate dialogue on a “National Research Agenda for Broadband.” In response, the IIP organized a workshop with leading experts in academia and government in June 2017 at the NSF Building in Arlington, Virginia. The final report of the workshop is available online.

20. Collaborations abound

In addition to IST, the Institute has also collaborated with the Penn State Law School, Smeal College of Business and other institutes and centers on campus, such as the Center for Global Studies.

Sascha Meinrath, one of Time Magazine’s “Tech 40,” believes rules from a mechanized era remain the standard during a digital age, and that’s a problem. (Photo by Patrick Mansell) Telecommunications, and Rob Frieden, the Pioneers Chair and professor of telecommunications and law, rank as two of the nation’s foremost experts on net neutrality. As the Federal Communications Commission moved this fall to roll back rules that would prevent internet service providers from blocking or slowing content online, Meinrath and Frieden were regularly asked to offer their insights. Additionally, Meinrath, who has been named to the Time Magazine “Tech 40” as one of the most influential figures in technology, offered a bold technology agenda for the White House. He also serves as director of the Washington, D.C.-based X-Lab, an innovative think tank focusing on the intersection of vanguard technologies and public policy. Along with its work in the nation’s capital, the X-Lab (and Meinrath) has been integral in the creation of a TV White Space effort involving Schlow Centre Region Library in State College. Like Sundar, Meinrath has found ample opportunity for collaboration in the Bellisario College and at Penn State. Especially in regard to tech-related topics, he believes many challenges and opportunities will present themselves in the near future. “What we do now will impact what’s going to happen three or five years down the road. The digital divide is actually growing, and in terms of policy making we have a gulf of ignorance in Washington, D.C. Policy makers are far behind the media reality, and that’s a huge problem,” Meinrath said. “Laws are not keeping up and the technology is just getting more complex.” l The Communicator | Fall 2017


A Special Celebration An official dedication of the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications and a Celebration Dinner honoring donors were part of eventful weekend


tudents, faculty and staff lined the Pattee Mall on the University Park campus in a receiving line several people deep on each side of the sidewalk. It was a sunny fall Friday afternoon and they were waiting for the guests of honor for the official dedication of the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications. While the transformational support from Donald P. and Vivienne Bellisario was announced in April, and the University’s Board of Trustees took immediate action to rename the college, the official dedication was held until fall. It was a big deal, and everyone knew it. Late Friday afternoons can be quiet on campus, with most classes complete and many people 18 18

Penn State College of Communications Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications

awaiting the weekend. That was not the case Oct. 20 as faculty from every major in the Bellisario College and dozens of students pushed in from the edges of the sidewalk and created a cozy, supportive receiving line for the Bellisarios and their guests as they arrived at Carnegie Building for the official dedication. It was a big deal for the Bellisarios as well. They brought some five dozen family members and friends to town for a weekend full of events, which included the dedication, the white out football game vs. Michigan (when the Bellisarios were honored on the field at halftime), and the annual celebration dinner for all alumni and friends who support communications faculty, programs and students.

TIMELINE Donald P. Bellisario Media Center

Don and Vivienne greet faculty, staff and students on the way to Carnegie Building (left), and scholarship recipient Taylor Gunderson greets the family (center) during dedication ceremonies in a packed Carnegie Cinema on Oct. 20. A day later, the Bellisarios were recognized at Beaver Stadium during halftime of the Michigan whiteout game.

Design firm selected to create state-of-the-art Bellisario Media Center The Penn State Board of Trustees approved Studios Architecture of Washington,


APRIL 21, 2017 Gift announced to support students and programs, and to establish state-ofthe-art media center.


SUMMER 2017 University groundwork and approvals.



D.C., as the architect for the state-of-the-art Donald P. Bellisario Media Center. As the Bellisario College takes the next steps to enhance facilities and programs for students preparing for careers in digital storytelling and media, Studios Architecture emerged from a group of more than 30 firms from across the country that offered proposals for design of the media center that will be created on the ground and first floors of historic Willard Building on the University Park campus. The media center will be designed to prepare students across


disciplines for careers based on the five majors offered by the Bellisario College of Communications: advertising/public relations; film-video; journalism; media studies; and telecommunications. Studios Architecture has abundant experience with media companies and working in historic buildings. The firm has completed several similar projects, including a studio at Time Inc. headquarters and at Mashable’s East Coast headquarters, both in New York City. “I’ve seen some early renderings, and the possibilities are transformative,” said Dean Marie Hardin of the Bellisario College. “It’ll be open, collaborative, modern and technology-driven — the kind of facility that encourages the entrepreneurial mindset that will shape the future of the media industries.” A team from the firm visited campus in late October to begin its on-site work. During subsequent meetings in early December, representatives from the firm continued their interactions with Bellisario College administrators, faculty, staff and students — as well as officials from the University’s Office of the Physical

l l l

AUGUST 2017 Benchmarking as faculty and staff tour facilities across the country to help shape the design process of the Bellisario Media Center. SEPT. 15, 2017 Studios Architecture approved as architect after review of proposals from more than 30 firms. SUMMER 2018 Construction approvals, hiring contractor. DECEMBER 2018 Construction begins. MAY 2020 Construction complete FALL 2020 Full academic year begins with classes in Bellisario Media Center.

Plant. l

The Communicator | Fall 2017


Embracing Opp As Miss Pennsylvania, a Blue Band member and standout student, Katie Schreckengast enjoys empowering experiences



atie Schreckengast was in her element of glamour and glory — hair blown out to perfection, makeup pageant-ready. It was June 2017, and the 21-year-old was standing on the stage at the Hillman Center for Performing Arts in Pittsburgh, beaming in a sweeping red gown as a sparkly tiara was placed on her head. The Palmyra native had just been crowned Miss Pennsylvania, a title that offered her $8,500 in scholarship money and the opportunity to travel across the state to champion her chosen platform, Building Families Through Adoption, while also raising money for the Children’s Miracle Network Hospital. Watching her then, it was hard to imagine that just a year earlier, she was a typical Penn State broadcast journalism student, studying for finals in blue-and-white sweats, going to practice as a saxophone player for the Blue Band, and indulging in two-for-$5 tacos with friends at Yallah Taco on McAllister Street in downtown State College. Schreckengast was a Penn Stater long before she was a pageant queen. Some of her earliest memories are attending football games as a toddler with her father, Randy Schreckengast, a Penn State alumnus. So, while Miss Pennsylvania is her main gig right now, she is still proud of her title of Penn Stater, and will return to University Park to complete her senior year in fall 2018. For Schreckengast, the road to her Miss Pennsylvania title began nearly 7,000 miles away. At just 6 months old, she was adopted from Korea by her parents, Randy and Lori. As a toddler she knew she would follow in her father’s footsteps and one day


Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications

Katie Schreckengast steps off with Blue Band drum major Jimmy Frisbie as the ban


he band marches toward Beaver Stadium. (Photo by Annemarie Mountz) The Communicator | Fall 2017


become a Nittany Lion. “I visited other colleges, and applied to nine, but there was nothing like opening that Penn State acceptance letter,” Schreckengast says. “Both Penn State and the Miss America organization have given me so many incredible opportunities. People think Miss America is like a stereotypical, old school pageant, but it’s the most empowering system I have ever been a part of — it’s one of the leading providers of scholarships for women in the entire country. Instead of breaking me down, it’s lifted me up and inspired me.” What came as more of a surprise to Schreckengast was her original foray into the world of pageants. When she was 13, Jim Deimler, a family friend and longtime volunteer for the Miss America Organization, suggested Schreckengast try out for the local sister pageant for teens, the Miss America Outstanding Teen Pageant. Schreckengast’s parents weren’t initially thrilled at the idea, but Deimler was also a local hairdresser and he offered to help her with her hair, makeup and wardrobe. That year, she competed for the first time in the Miss America Outstanding Teen Pageant, and in 2013 at the age of 17, she was crowned Miss Pennsylvania’s Outstanding Teen. “Jim is more like family — I call him Uncle Jim — and he was the reason I fell in love with my very first pageant,” Schreckengast says. “The entire world was so different than I expected. The girls I met were very empowering, and for the next four years I was competing until I won Outstanding Teen.” A week after she gave up her crown, she started summer session at Penn State. She took a break from pageants for the next three years to focus on school and extracurricular activities on campus. A rising star in the competitive pageant world, it would have been easy for Schreckengast to arrive to Penn State and focus on broadcast journalism in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications as a full-blown diva. But one of her favorite faculty members, Kathy Kile, a lecturer in the College of the Liberal Arts, says Schreckengast was the complete opposite as a student in Kile’s public speaking class. “Katie was so poised and experienced to begin with, because she has a lot of talent and experience. She was never 22

Katie Schreckengast did not plan to try out for the Blue Band, but once she earned a spot as a saxophone player she became a leader in the band. (Photo by Annemarie Mountz) conceited about it at all,” Kile remembers. “She always took the time out to say nice things to the other students after they spoke, and was very encouraging and humble. All of her speeches were civically-minded, about topics like helping the homeless and the hungry. Everyone in the class loved her because you could always count on her — and her smile!” Although Schreckengast played the alto saxophone for years — a hobby she

Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications

learned by picking up her dad’s sax at home as a child — she didn’t arrive at Penn State with visions of playing in the Blue Band. In fact, her freshman year she went with a friend to cheer him on during his audition, with no intentions of trying out herself. But after visiting the Blue Band Building and receiving some encouragement from her peers, she decided to give it a try.

She earned a spot in the band playing the sax and, in time, she became the band’s head of public relations. “Before I even heard her play, I knew her personality and energy would be a great fit for the Blue Band,” says David Cree, a volunteer assistant staff member for the Blue Band. “She’s a really talented saxophone player. She’s also been so instrumental in getting the Blue Band publicity as well as increasing our presence on social media. Katie is positive and outgoing and a hard worker, so it’s easy to see how she landed Miss Pennsylvania title. She’ll go far one day.” Schreckengast represented Pennsylvania in the Miss America pageant in September 2017, and played the saxophone in the talent portion of the program. She was eliminated after making it to the Top 10, but with her signature positivity, she found a silver lining in her loss. “I was honored to make the Top 10 of course, because it was always a goal of mine and an incredible achievement,” she says. “But it was kind of a relief, because win or lose, after Miss America, I knew I would start a new journey. So now, I’m looking forward to what’s next: My senior year at Penn State and focusing on broadcast journalism. I want to be the anchor on a major network one day!” Before she gets there, Schreckengast will be fulfilling her duties as Miss Pennsylvania for the next year. She will continue to tour the state for speaking engagements, including a few on behalf of Adoption for America. She has been passionate about spreading awareness through the story of her own adoption since her freshman year at Penn State. “My younger brother and I were both adopted from Korea, and we had a normal childhood like any other,” she says. “My family loved me immensely and they raised me to understand my adoption story, even by reading books to us about adopted animals or choosing the Korean version of the Cinderella story. “But throughout my life I’ve always gotten a lot of really insensitive questions, like ‘Is your brother your real brother?’ or ‘Did your real family abandon you?’ I realized that was not intentionally meant to be offensive. It was just ignorance, because adoption isn’t something that’s talked about as much as it should be. Miss America gave a shiny microphone to help this 21 year old’s story to be heard!”

Katie Schreckengast said her pageant involvement has provided opportunities for her to grow as a person and to share her personal message about the importance of adoption. Next fall, Schreckengast will make her return to Happy Valley to begin her senior year living in an apartment downtown. She’s focused on that broadcast journalism opportunity, and admits to weaknesses for baking macarons and watching “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” as her time-off guilty pleasures. She also hopes to return to the Blue Band and continue writing and blogging about adoption awareness, as well as spending some quality time with her roommate and best friend, Gabby. It is a lengthy to-do list, to be sure. And near the top, admits the pageant queen, is a guilty pleasure she has missed ... those two-for-$5 tacos. l The Communicator | Fall 2017



Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications


Ben Rupp (inset), who works at Millersville University (above), enjoys the energy and feel in higher education. hen Ben Rupp was a journalism student at Penn State, he imagined an exciting career as a sports writer. And there he was, barely a year after his graduation, working on the field with the Reading Phillies minor league baseball team. Yet, instead of carrying a notepad or tape recorder, Rupp brandished an enormous toothbrush and wore a tutu, a glittery halo and fairy wings. “I’ve had a strange career path,” Rupp said with a laugh. Before his senior year, Rupp (’02 Journ) realized he wanted to work for a university, not a newspaper. His first job was as a sales rep for the Reading Phillies, which included moonlighting as the tooth fairy for in-game skits. He later became director of annual giving at Gettysburg College. Earlier this year, Rupp was hired as a senior major gift officer for Millersville University. Rupp is one of many undergraduate alumni from the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications who have veered away from traditional media jobs and forged careers in higher education. Pamela DiSalvo Lepley (’77 Journ), Paul Kovach (’90 Journ) and Tysen Kendig (’95 Journ) are university public relations executives. Justin Catanoso (’82 Journ), a longtime business journal editor, is a now a professor who satisfies his itch to write

by freelancing. Lara Steiner (’95 Adv) directs web and creative services at Carnegie Mellon University. Sarah Hernandez (’07 Journ) is director of alumni relations at the University of California-Berkeley. In 2001, Charles Bierbauer (’66 Journ) walked away from an acclaimed career at CNN to become the J-school dean at the University of South Carolina. After covering the White House and Supreme Court for two decades, Bierbauer wanted to find out where else his reporting skills could take him — and he discovered he was not alone. “If I walk two blocks up the street to our university communications office, I know six, eight, 10 people in there who have worked in journalism in various ways, mostly at local newspapers or The Associated Press,” said Bierbauer from his campus office in Columbia, South Carolina. “It’s not particularly unusual.” After high school, Rupp did not plan to work in higher education. At Penn State, he excelled in his reporting classes and bonded with several of his instructors. After his junior year, Rupp landed an internship with his hometown paper, The Intelligencer Journal in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. “I did really well, I really enjoyed it. And, at the end of the summer, I was 100 percent convinced I did not want to do that for a career,” Rupp said. “That internship taught me that this was going to involve a lot of evening work, especially in sports journalism, and crazy schedules. I realized that with the things I wanted to do, like (raise a) family, that might not be the best The Communicator | Fall 2017


direction.” Upon graduation, Rupp took the job with the Phillies, figuring it would hone his sales and marketing skills. As a representative of the Gettysburg and Millersville university communities, he has always felt comfortable meeting potential donors. It’s a lesson Rupp learned in a journalism class at Penn State in 2001, when he approached strangers lined up to donate blood after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and Tysen Kendig, University of Connecticut interviewed them for a class assignment. the pipeline from journalism to higher ed. “Any time we have “Calling somebody on the phone to see if they are inter- an opening on our staff, I would say 40 to 60 percent of the ested in (donating to) me is pretty easy when I think back to applicants are from local media outlets,” Kendig said. “On how nervous I was to do that as a student,” Rupp said. my staff, I have a Pulitzer Prize winner and two former AP Making the jump to a career in academia seemed like a reporters.” natural progression. “I like the feel and energy of higher Even large universities are facing tough economic times education,” Rupp said. “My goal was, let’s get in and then that force them to do more with less. That makes people figure it out. That’s what I’ve done.” with journalism training valuable. “You really need to hire

Benching a career in sports

Like Rupp, the odd hours and weekend work that comes with being a sports reporter also led Kendig to rethink his career direction. While working in the sports department at The Trentonian in New Jersey, Kendig was turned off by the job’s often frenetic lifestyle. Through a friend, he heard Rider University was searching for a public relations assistant. Kendig got the job and worked at Rider until 1999, when he returned to Penn State to manage the university’s news bureau. Kendig’s decision to shift careers was also influenced by the newspaper industry’s downturn, with its attendant budget and staffing cuts, which began in the mid 1990s. “I think about some of the people I worked with at The Trentonian,” Kendig said. “It was probably a lot of luck, but I definitely do look back and say it was definitely the right decision to move on to what I have done.” After time at his alma mater, Kendig also had stops at the universities of Arkansas and Iowa. He was lured to the University of Connecticut in January 2013 to become vice president of communications. Like Bierbauer, he has noticed

people who have a versatile, broad skill set,” he said. “We need people who have a little bit of experience in everything who can develop in whatever role they’re asked to do.”

“You really need to hire people who have a versatile, broad skill set. We need people who have a little bit of experience in everything who can develop in whatever role they’re asked to do .” — Tysen Kendig


Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications

Building a foundation

Every journalism student in the Bellisario College of Communications takes both COMM 160 Basic News Writing Skills and COMM 260W News Writing and Reporting. The skills honed in those foundational courses can produce a Huffington Post blogger, a New York Times reporter or a “SportsCenter” anchor. They also transfer well to careers in higher ed. A key component is storytelling. “Ultimately, whether you’re a journalist or a public relations practitioner, we’re telling stories,” said Kovach, who handles publicity for the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering. “And to me, one of the greatest gifts anybody could ever have is the ability to tell a story.” Kovach deals with a lot of thorny and often tedious science in his job, but his reporter’s training gave him the ability to unearth interesting items in unlikely places. In October, he emailed a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter and pitched an

Strong alumni presence for Penn State communicators

Among the many communications professionals at Penn State, more than five dozen earned their degrees from the University. Here’s a look at some alumni from the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications in communications-related positions at Penn State.

Justin Catanoso, Wake Forest University idea about concrete — “Probably the most mundane thing you can think of,” Kovach said — that became a front-page centerpiece story. “It’s about being able to strip away the hard science, find the story that’s lying underneath and translate that into something the average reader can understand,” Kovach said.

Forever a reporter

For Catanoso, getting a start in journalism at Penn State wasn’t the easiest of endeavors. He didn’t make it past The Daily Collegian’s candidate test in the fall of his freshman year, but he was undaunted. “Journalism has been in my blood since I was a teenager,” he said. “It’s the only job I ever really wanted.” Catanoso eventually made it onto the Collegian’s staff and later shifted from gown to town, to write for the Centre Daily Times in State College. In 1987, he moved to Tennessee and wrote for the Greensboro News & Record. The newspaper had a tuition reimbursement program, which Catanoso used to get a master’s degree in liberal studies from Wake Forest. For 17 years, in addition to working as a reporter, Catanoso was a part-time lecturer at Wake Forest. In 2011, he was hired as the lead journalism instructor and director of the program. “A lot of this was luck and making your own luck,” Catanoso said. “I think a lot about the changes my former paper has gone through. In some ways, it’s all about clicks now and driving traffic to the website by whatever means possible. I get it. I need to teach that, but I don’t necessarily have to do it.” To stay active as a writer, Catanoso does a lot of freelance reporting for, an environmental science and conservation news and information website. He has covered the past four United Nations climate summits, including the most recent in November in Bonn, Germany. He’s also filed stories from Belize, Morocco, Peru, France and Italy. “In my 50s at a university with a big international vision, I have an opportunity to fulfill a dream that I nurtured at

Nicole Beraldi Connell (’97), Penn State Abington Susan Bedsworth (’08), Office of the Physical Plant Michelle Bixby (’08), University Marketing Amy Caputo (’86), Penn State Alumni Association Erin Cassidy Hendrick (’10), College of Information Sciences and Technology Curtis Chan (’94), News and Media Relations Samantha (Julings) Chavanic (’12), College of Engineering Kevin Conaway (’95), Penn State World Campus Kalisha DeVan (’01), Penn State Harrisburg Wyatt DuBois (’00), Penn State Law and School of International Affairs Andy Elder (’87), Smeal College of Business Diane Espy (’97), Penn State Alumni Association Jordan Ford (’07), College of Information Sciences and Technology Reidar Jensen (’05), News and Media Relations Ryan Jones (’95), Penn Stater Magazine Megan Lakatos (’10), College of Engineering Danica Laub (’01), College of Engineering Carley LaVelle (’04), Eberly College of Science Jennifer (Swales) Matthews (’13), College of Engineering Justin McDaniel (’05), News and Media Relations Amy Milgrub Marshall (’96), College of Arts and Architecture Annemarie Mountz (’84), College of Education Kate Myers (’00), College of Engineering Kristina Nauman (’16), Intercollegiate Athletics Jennifer Neal (’07), Smeal College of Business David Pacchioli (’81), Director of Research Communications Curtis Parker (’87), News and Media Relations John Patishnock (’05), Penn State Alumni Association Maddy Pryor (’13), News and Media Relations John Mark Rafacz (’83), Center for the Performing Arts BJ Reyes (’95), Penn Stater Magazine Joan Scholton (’88), Assistant Director of Institutional Identity Kevin Sliman (’01), Institutes of Energy and the Environment Jenna Spinelle (’08), College of the Liberal Arts Matthew Swayne (’05), Research Communications Kathy Swidwa (’13), College of the Liberal Arts Goldie Van Horn (’03), Penn State World Campus Pamela (Krewson) Wertz (’00), College of Engineering

The Communicator | Fall 2017


Penn State, which was to be a foreign correspondent,” he said. “I love teaching and while I know my full-time gig is as a college professor, I am still a working journalist at heart. I don’t know if I would be as effective in the classes that I teach if I weren’t.”

‘Like running a newsroom’

Lepley, now at Virginia Commonwealth University, also started her career in journalism. One week after her graduation, Lepley took a job as a general assignment reporter with WJAC-TV in Johnstown. She didn’t have to wait long for a big story to break, either. In July 1977, the Conemaugh Valley was flooded by 12 inches of rain over a 24-hour period. “Later, Gov. Milton Shapp gave us an award because we really did end up saving lives with our reporting,” Lepley said. “Talk about community service. That’s when I started to think, ‘Geez, it’s great to go to a (national) network, but it is honorable to be a really good local journalist, too.’” Lepley rose to assistant news director, then moved to Harrisburg in 1987 when her husband, who also was in TV news, got a new job. She was working as a freelancer for WJAC in the state capitol when a friend asked if she’d like to become a press secretary in Gov. Robert Casey’s administration. That position led to a private-sector public relations job in Richmond, Virginia, and eventually to the news services department at Virginia Commonwealth University. Along with sending out press releases touting VCU, Lepley’s group pitched and wrote stories, and handled Freedom of Information Act requests. “It was like running a newsroom,” she said. In 2014, Lepley was promoted to vice president of university relations. Several of her colleagues also have Penn State degrees. “When you go in offices here, you’ll see we’ve got black and gold (for VCU), but we’ve got a lot of blue and white, too,” she said. “The best part is VCU doesn’t have a football team, so we don’t have to worry about not being loyal.”

Lara Steiner, Carnegie Mellon University

‘A different culture’

A Penn State connection helped Steiner launch her advertising career more than 20 years ago. A native of Long Island, New York, her first gig out of college was an externship with a small firm that had a Penn State grad as a vice president. “They saw on my resume that I was a Penn State alum and gave me a call,” she said. “So, there is something to be said, certainly, for the Penn State network.” By the early 2000s, Steiner was working in Pittsburgh and had a large fast-food chain among her clients. “It was at that point,” she recalled, “that I realized, ‘Really? Is this what I want to be doing with my life, pushing two-for-$4 hamburgers?’ It didn’t seem as fulfilling as I thought it could be.” As she pondered her next career move, Steiner took a consultant job at Carnegie Mellon in 2004. Later that year, the university hired her as a director of marketing. In her current role, she manages an online strategy team, a photo/

“There’s something about a college campus that’s fascinating and inspiring. It’s alive. There’s energy, there’s culture, there’s access. It’s where change happens, where lives are transformed.” — Sarah Hernandez, University of California-Berkeley


Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications

video team and a creative services team. “The advertising agency world is a boot camp of training,” she said. However, there is a different culture in higher ed. In the corporate model, the woman or man at the top issues orders and expects them to be fulfilled without debate. At CMU, Steiner pointed out, projects constantly morph as she and her team collaborate with several schools and departments. “It’s a different kind of vibe in energy and atmosphere,” Steiner said. “We make sure we’re representing all the voices, but we still come out with a nice, neat product.”

Boxing out

In 2005, Hernandez was among the early wave of students of the College’s John Curley Center for Sports Journalism. While jostling and jockeying for position in post-game interview scrums at Beaver Stadium, she decided reporting was not her thing. “My personality didn’t fit that work style, where you have to be really aggressive and louder than everybody else in the room,” Hernandez said. “But I stuck with journalism because I knew I was going to get the skill set that would propel me into whatever I really wanted to do.” Aided by a career coach at Penn State, Hernandez landed an alumni relations post at Muhlenberg College, near Allentown. She moved to California nine years ago. At the University of California-Berkeley, a typical work day for Hernandez involves a good deal of writing, along with producing web content and email marketing campaigns, and communicating and organizing volunteers. “There’s something about a college campus that’s fascinating and inspiring,” she said. “It’s alive. There’s energy, there’s culture, there’s access. It’s where change happens, where lives are transformed.” l

Ben Rupp’s “strange career path” has taken him from minor league baseball and on-field promotions (above) to his current position as a senior major gift officer.

Bellisario College Ph.D.s lead classes across country

The impact of a Penn State communications degree stretches across the country thanks to recent doctoral program graduates who have earned faculty appointments at colleges and universities from coast to coast. Here’s a look at some recent appointments. Dunja Antunovic, Bradley University Alyssa Appelman, University of Northern Kentucky Janelle Applequist, University of South Florida Erin Ash, Clemson University Erica Bailey, Angelo State University Steve Bien-Aime, Louisiana State University Pamela Brubaker, Brigham Young University Kalen Churcher, Wilkes University Thomas Corrigan, California State-San Bernadino Lauren DeCarvalho, University of Arkansas Patrick Farabaugh, St. Francis University Melanie Formentin, Towson University Nathaniel Frederick, Winthrop University Jason Genovese, Bloomsburg University Michael Horning, Virginia Tech Jennifer Hoewe, University of Alabama Yan Huang, Southern Methodist University Haiyan Jang, Lehigh University Sriram Kalyanaraman, University of Florida David Kaszuba, Susquehanna University Maja Krakowiak, University of Colorado Chenjerai Kumanyika, Rutgers University Ruobing Li, Louisiana State University Anthony Limperos, University of Kentucky Ryan Lizardi, SUNY-Institute of Technology Cristina Mislan, University of Missouri Anne Oeldorf-Hirsch, University of Connecticut Ruobing Li, Louisiana State University Jeeyun Oh, University of Texas Holly Ott, University of South Carolina Jennifer Proffitt, Florida State University Meghan Sanders, Louisiana State University Brett Sherrick, University of Alabama Carrie Sipes, Shippensburg University Daniel Tamul, Virginia Tech Yong Tang, Western Illinois University Douglas Tewksbury, Niagara University Mina Tsay-Vogel, Boston University Michail Vafeiadis, Auburn University Frank Waddell, University of Florida Justin Walden, University of North Dakota Weirui Wang, Florida International University Erin Whiteside, University of Tennessee Julia Woolley, California Polytechnic State University Sarah Worley, Juniata College Qian Xu, Elon University Chun Yang, Louisiana State University Nan Yu, University of Central Florida

The Communicator | Fall 2017


Through Sofia’s Eyes Editor’s Note: Photojournalism student Georgianna DeCarmine produced a photo story about Sofia Allen for a class assignment.


ofia Allen, 8, of Port Matilda, Pennsylvania, was diagnosed at the age of 3 with Autosomal Dominant Optic Atrophy, an inherited disease that affects the optic nerves. It causes reduced visual acuity and is a contributing factor in blindness, impairment and vision

loss beginning in childhood. The condition affects each person differently and there is no cure. At Sofia’s initial exam, her eyesight was 20/150. Six months to a year after that, her eyesight dropped to 20/400, and she is legally blind. Sofia attends Gray’s Woods Elementary School in the State College Area School District. She is learning how to read Braille and ways to advocate for herself to prepare for the future. Her younger sister is Mila, 5.


Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications

The Communicator | Fall 2017


Diversity drives Bellisario College graduate student’s research



t a young age, Erica Hilton was destined for a career in communications. She worked behind-the-scenes for a number of school organizations. She predicted her “job in public relations” in her high school yearbook. And today, as a doctoral candidate at Penn State, she is aiming a critical eye at the communication industry’s grasp of social issues. Hilton’s research interests are based on media representation and diversity in public relations. All of her research has had a racial/ethnic or gender component. After working for nearly three years as the online activism manager for the Laborer’s International Union of North America (LiUNA), a union group consisting of more than a half million construction workers, Hilton found new ways to incorporate her research with issues in the public relations industry. “I’ve always been in the digital part of communications and PR,” Hilton said. “At LiUNA, I organized digital media trainings and managed the website and social media. I loved it.” Research-wise, Hilton initially targeted media representation — examining reality TV and news on how certain groups of people were represented. While she continues that work, her focus changed after working at LiUNA. “I had the opportunity to participate in social movements when I worked for the labor union,” she said. That experience opened doors to new research ideas. Hilton has studied media representation on television and YouTube, diversity in public relations, and diversity in corporate social responsibility at companies. While her research areas cover a lot of ground, they all circle back to public relations’ understanding and ability to effectively communicate those issues. Originally from Fayetteville, North Carolina, Hilton graduated from Johnson C. Smith University and earned her master’s degree from American University. She began her doctoral candidacy at the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications in 2015, positioning herself to graduate in 2018 with the skills to research and work in the industry, as well as teach. “I always knew I wanted to be a teacher, and some of my favorite professors very clearly placed value on both industry experience and education — so I hope to do both,” she said. “It’s important in this field to have both so you’re able to introduce students to real-life experiences, but also real-life people and opportunities in the industry.” This semester, Hilton is teaching COMM 471: Public Relations Media and Methods. Her experiences with LiUNA, as well


Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications

as graduate internships with the Department of Veterans Affairs and other organizations, offer rich anecdotes to classroom discussions. She said her students are passionate about creating effective public relations campaigns and use what they learn in developing their own campaigns throughout the semester. “Erica is interested in this area of ‘critical PR,’ which includes being critical of PR,” said Michelle Rodino-Colocino, associate professor of film-video and media studies and Hilton’s adviser. “How diverse is the industry? How can we make it more diverse? By the way she teaches public relations, I feel she has the answer.” For example, communications students are familiar with getting quizzed on Associated Press editorial style (for example, where does the comma go or when do you spell out a number?). In Hilton’s COMM 471 class, she puts a twist on these tests. By pulling press releases regarding social issues from the web, she asks her students to mark mistakes that go beyond simple punctuation issues. “She uses real-world examples that were relevant to college students,” Rodino-Colocino said. “She included a release from the Obama Administration’s ‘It’s On Us’ campaign, which combatted sexual assault, as well as press releases on LGBT issues.” A popular topic in the COMM 471 course is “campaigns that have gone horribly wrong.” She is able to tie those all-too-common gaffes to her research on social justice issues. She believes campaigns like Pepsi’s Kendall Jenner advertisement and Krispy Kreme’s “KKK (Krispy Kreme Klub) Day” are due to a company’s unfamiliarity with social issues and social movements. “PR is not just avoiding crisis,” Hilton said. “It’s also gaining a better understanding of the way the world works and how different people live their lives. When you put it all together in a public relations campaign, people from all sides benefit.” As Hilton turns her attention to her dissertation, she is looking to pull from previous research on diversity in public relations and examine natural-hair video-bloggers (vloggers), who cover the beauty industry and discuss the needs and styles of natural African-American hair. Hilton hopes to study the reach of the online publications, the work that goes into producing the vlogs and the advertising revenue that comes with it. Within this budding industry is a number of areas that fit into Hilton’s “critical PR” mindset. The range of videos include all levels of quality and the vloggers themselves are a group ranging from hobbyists to skilled experts. Issues like pay gaps, exploitation and free labor exist and need to be addressed, according to Hilton. “The natural-hair movement is a billion dollar industry right now,” she said. “It’s based on identity, and I think it would be interesting to come from the perspective of advertising and labor discrimination.” After graduation, Hilton hopes to continue working in the industry in some facet, but she knows research and teaching will come first. She hopes to identify programs that emphasize culture in communications, where she can continue her work building an understanding of how digital media can help or hinder social movements. l

Alana Fiero

A ‘capstone’ experience Alana Fiero packed her three and a half years at Penn State with countless experiences and opportunities to help prepare herself for the future. In December, she added student marshal to that list. Fiero graduated with a degree in media studies with minors in environmental inquiry and entrepreneurship and innovation. She represented the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications during fall commencement ceremonies at the Bryce Jordan Center. “Penn State has treated me extremely well,” said Fiero. “I really have enjoyed being here. It’s great to be student marshal because it feels like the capstone to a really great experience here.” Fiero knew she wanted to be involved in communications from the time she attended Clayton A. Bouton High School. Her school offered tech programs and technology-related classes, which were always her favorites. A self-described curious person, Fiero found that media studies was the perfect fit. The Albany, New York, native is also interested in the environment, hence the first of her minors. Then, last year, when she had her own kitchen for the first time, she discovered additional interests. She started to find her love for cooking and her love for food. Countless Netflix documentaries and hours of reading later, she’s looking to combine her passions for the environment and food into a career path. Fiero recently accepted a position in the C&S Wholesale Grocers Leadership Development Program beginning in July. C&S Wholesale Grocers is a leading supply chain company in the food industry, and the largest wholesale grocery supply company in the U.S. When she’s not cooking or reading for class, Fiero may be found playing her ukulele, which she initially bought at a garage sale. She always wanted to learn to play guitar, but thought a four-string ukulele might be easier than a six-string guitar. At Penn State, she was co-president of the Ukulele Club. After graduation, Fiero plans to study abroad for a semester in the Czech Republic. l

The Communicator | Fall 2017


Two big problems with American voting that have nothing to do with Russian hacking Editor’s Note: Palmer Chair in Telecommunications Sascha Meinrath wrote this piece for The Conversation (, an independent source for analysis and commentary with content by the academic and research community edited by journalists for the general public. The Conversation has partnerships with media organizations all over the world, including The Associated Press. This piece was picked up by more than a dozen outlets and read by people in 10 countries.


ver the past year, the public discussion on election security and integrity has focused on concerns about foreign meddling in U.S. elections. The evidence is still coming in about which countries did what to influence both the public and the election itself. The American people have been left with a vague sense of disquiet – that something untoward was likely attempted, the results of which are unknown. I first started studying election security during the lead-up to the 2004 presidential election, when researchers revealed serious security flaws in voting machines – and found out how hard their manufacturer would work to keep the problems secret. Most of the efforts to protect elections have focused on technical cybersecurity to thwart hackers. But as someone who researches technical innovations, it’s clear to me that the 2016 presidential election results were most affected by social and political forces, not technological shortcomings.


Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications

These problems with America’s voting system did not materialize out of the blue, and certainly were not orchestrated by foreign powers. Rather, the election results were skewed by two longstanding, systematic, often racially motivated, well-resourced efforts: election district gerrymandering and voter disenfranchisement. To ensure that all Americans can trust the accuracy and integrity of the 2018 election results, officials and communities nationwide must guard against foreign tampering, to be sure. But more importantly, they must prevent misuse of political power to mute citizens’ voices at the ballot box in anti-democratic ways.

Fixing the elections, district by district

Political campaigns collect more and more digital data about Americans and their communities. They analyze political trends and people’s voting tendencies. Using this knowledge, politicians have systematically drawn voting districts in ways that dilute the power of their opponent’s party. The result has been custom-designed voting districts dominated by either Democratic or Republican voters. This division ensures that American democracy is far less representative than it could be. Both parties have engaged in this type of behavior, but current political maps were overwhelmingly drawn by Republicans to benefit their party. When the Associated Press analyzed the 2016 congressional election results,

it found that gerrymandering gave Republicans “as many as 22 additional U.S. House seats” more than they would have won in a fairer election system. In fact, the AP concluded, “even if Democrats had turned out in larger numbers, their chances of substantial legislative gains were limited by gerrymandering.” That’s just not the way a representative democracy should work.

Stopping individuals from voting

Another threat to voting fairness comes from limits on who is even allowed to vote. People’s right to vote differs by state, and many states have chosen to systematically disenfranchise poor, minority and overwhelmingly Democratic-leaning constituencies. Many of today’s voting laws have similar effects as those in the South before the Civil War or in the Jim Crow era. For example, individuals with a felony conviction on their criminal record, but who have served their time and been released from prison, can vote in some states but not others. The ACLU has found that this hodgepodge of state laws has resulted in 5.85 million Americans being disenfranchised – 2 percent of the U.S. voting population. This barrier disproportionately blocks black men: 13 percent of them can’t vote. In addition, laws requiring people to present official identification when registering to vote, or when voting, are much more likely to prevent legitimate voters from casting ballots. Voter ID rules are often justified as efforts to prevent election fraud, which study after study has found doesn’t happen in any significant way. Not only do these strict voter ID laws reduce overall voter turnout, but studies have shown they do so in unfair ways, specifically lowering “African-American turnout and … Democratic vote share.” A study from the University of California, San Diego found: “Democratic turnout drops by an estimated 7.7 percentage points in general elections when strict photo identification laws are in place. By comparison, the predicted drop for Republicans is only 4.6 points. … The skew for political ideology is even more severe. For strong liberals the estimated drop in turnout

in strict photo identification states is an alarming 10.7 percentage points. By contrast, the drop for strong conservatives is estimated to be only 2.8 points.” Other restrictions, such as reducing early voting and preventing people from registering to vote on Election Day, also limit how many people can vote. Again, these rules disproportionately affect lower-income Americans and people of color. And then there are the millions of Americans living in Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories who can’t vote for president at all – and have no voting members of Congress.

Averting future disaster

A last line of protection for election integrity is the ability to recount votes. However, as mechanical voting equipment from the 20th century is increasingly replaced by software-driven electronic voting machines, recounts of paper ballots are no longer guaranteed. In my view as a technologist, any modernization of voting equipment should include verifiable paper receipts provided to voters and election officials alike. That way, voters can be sure their votes were cast as they intended, and any concerns or disputes can be easily resolved via an objective, verifiable review process. Concerns about foreign meddling might be getting more attention than these American-made pitfalls – but ensuring the integrity of national, state and local elections requires paying attention, first and foremost, to the inherent fairness of our democratic processes. Worries about outside tampering shouldn’t be ignored, but rather, they should be kept in perspective. Contemporary election integrity is being undermined far more effectively by domestic threats than by foreign adversaries. The country stands at a critical crossroads. One path leads toward ever-worsening, data-driven discrimination and disenfranchisement – processes that already affect millions of Americans. The other focuses on ensuring electoral fairness – bolstering the underpinnings of representative democracy and maximally enfranchising a 21st-century body politic. l

Jose Lugaro

Lugaro named director of development A Penn State alumnus with experience leading multimillion-dollar fundraising efforts across the world has joined the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications as director of development. Jose Lugaro is an alumnus of the Smeal College of Business at Penn State and got his start in development while a student working at the University’s Lion Line from 1996 to 1998. Since graduating, he has had front-line fundraising and senior management positions as well as consultancies both inside and outside higher education. He has worked with Michigan State University, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the LGBT Community Center of New York. Lugaro was most recently the vice president for development at the Fund for Global Human Rights, a grant-making institution with 350 grantees in 22 countries around the world. He was responsible for the organization’s $15 million annual fundraising efforts and directed a staff of 10 in the U.S. and U.K. l

The Communicator | Fall 2017




By TREY MILLER (‘12) Penn State sports fans and journalism professors remember Erin Weidemann as Erin Norton. As in Erin Norton, one busy yet happy and healthy college student-athlete. As a student at Penn State in the early 2000s, Weidemann was pursuing degrees in both journalism and Spanish. She was also a standout first baseman on the Nittany Lion softball team, hitting at a clip that would eventually land her in the record books. In her junior year, Weidemann felt a small lump on the left side of her neck, but had no other symptoms. Although she was traveling the country playing a 50-game schedule and juggling classes, she made time to have the lump checked by a doctor — who gave her a clean bill of health. Life had not thrown her a curveball, after all. Or so she thought. With a busy schedule, it fell off Weidemann’s radar. After graduation in 2003, Weidemann returned home to her native California and went into a career in finance. She worked on mortgages for a while and was having some monetary success. But the lump was still there. She visited the doctor again, this time her mother Judy went along. That’s when, at the age of 26, her whole life changed almost instantly. “The doctor, without a test even, did a quick physical exam,” she recalled, “and then just looked right into my eyes and said, ‘You have cancer. It has metastasized. I think it might be lymphoma or Hodgkin’s Disease, but it’s really bad. We have to a surgery tomorrow to confirm it.’ “It was the shock of a lifetime for me. It was really scary.” She was diagnosed with metastatic thyroid cancer. The cancer had spread into her chest cavity, both sides of her neck and up into her brain stem. Over the next few months, Weidemann had multiple surgeries, including one that lasted nine hours. Months of physical therapy followed. Weidemann moved back in with her parents in Orange County, California. “At 26, after being successful, it’s a very humbling experience,” said Weidemann.


Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications

She was essentially paralyzed from the chest up following the surgery, so it took time and grueling physical therapy to regain motion in her arms and neck. She couldn’t do simple, everyday things like getting dressed, eating and driving. She had to re-learn it all. For the athletic Weidemann, one of the hardest parts was not being able to do the simple things. At Penn State, she ranks third in all-time hits with 226, and at this time she could hardly lift her arm. “Going from softball pitching and playing first base and being so involved in sports, to not being able to move, that was hard,” said Weidemann. “It’s just a testament, too, to what physical therapy can do in terms of offering patients what they need to work themselves back. You have to be willing to work at it. I went four days a week for months and months until I regained all the movement in my arms.” She got a clean bill of health about nine months later. But, after the first diagnosis, the cancer came back four more times over the next five years. It was a grueling and difficult time in Weidemann’s life. Until that point, Weidemann took pride in her independence. But now, she had to lean on others. “I always tried to do things on my own,” she said. “That was really a period for me where I had to lean so heavily on the people around me, my mom and dad and sister.” There was a silver lining: “I met Brent for the first time when I was right in the middle of all the treatment and new diagnosis.” Countless surgeries, scans, therapy hours and radiation treatments followed. They finally ended five years ago. Weidemann has been completely clear of cancer since the end of 2012. The entire experience changed Weidemann and pointed her life in a new direction. Since then, Weidemann and Brent have married, they have had a daughter and she has embarked a career that is far from the financial world. Erin and Brent, also a Penn State graduate with a degree in history, have devoted their lives to helping young girls through their Bible Belles book series, which is geared toward showing girls that real beauty is not what the world says it is. Weidemann got back

Erin Weidemann (right) with her husband, Brent, and daughter, Rooney. (Photo by Resolusean) to her writing roots with the first series, “The Adventures of Rooney Cruz,” which highlights five “superhero women” of the Bible. Their 3-year-old daughter, Rooney Cruz Weidemann, is named after the main character in the books. In addition, Weidemann conducts speaking engagements and hosts a podcast to inspire girls around the world. That cancer curveball? She hit it out of the park. After leaving Penn State, she spent a semester in Spain and to finish her Spanish degree and then moved back to California begin her career in finance. When she got sick, she decided she wanted to quit her job and go back to school to become a teacher. She also decided she wanted to volunteer more. So, she joined the Orange County Chapter of the Penn State Alumni Association. Brent, a 2007 graduate, was already a member of the chapter. He lived in San Diego at the time, and would drive the

almost 90 miles up to Orange County to participate in the chapter’s events. The two met during a Penn State football viewing party. “I instantly knew that I liked her,” said Brent. “I instantly knew this, and I’m not that kind of person. We had a really strong connection.” At the time, Erin was still going through treatments and didn’t know what her future held. Brent recalled the first time he told Erin he loved her, which was at the Gingerbread Man during a trip back to State College. “She kind of was dragging her feet into this because as our relationship got serious she went, ‘I’m going to die. You’re wasting your time dating me. I can’t have kids. I’m going to die soon. You deserve someone better.’ “That’s silly. I have other plans,” Brent said he told Erin at the time. As he explains now: “Everyone has baggage and crap they bring to a relationship, and I just

didn’t care. I really kind of took ownership of when she got sick. I was like, ‘We are sick and we’re going to get through this together.’” The relationship grew from there, and, eventually, the two married in 2010. In 2012, the idea for Bible Belles came about. Their niece, Hannah, was 5 years old at the time and was obsessed with Disney princesses. Erin asked her niece who her favorite woman in the Bible was. The little girl said she couldn’t name any. That planted the seed for an idea. “Could we create something that would point girls to real heroes, real women who historically were used in some sort of a powerful way but it had nothing to do with their physical appearance and everything to do with their character?” Erin wondered. “Could we present those women in a way that would engage children, would entertain them, but the parents could use as a quality resource The Communicator | Fall 2017


as they are guiding their kids toward this character that they want them to develop?” She had the answer to all those questions. Initially, the Weidemanns saw it as a fun side project. But, the more time went on, the more she and Brent realized it could be something bigger and they really had the opportunity to help girls. Brent left a marketing position in 2015 to focus on Bible Belles full time. A year later, Erin Weidemann left her job as a teacher to do the same. Brent serves as the “COO,” while Erin does the speaking and writing. What separates the work that the Weidemanns do from others in the field? Everything is high quality. Instead of books that were 6 by 9 inches, they made them a full 8-1/2 by 11. The paper they use is thicker than most, with the books having a yearbook feel to them. They hired a former Disney animator to illustrate their series. “I really wanted to create an incredibly high-quality product,” said Brent. “That is the driving component for me. We get feedback all the time from moms and girls about how much they love it and how meaningful it is. We also want this tool for our daughter, so that’s a selfish reason as well.” The family keeps busy with business travel and speaking engagements. Despite the craziness, they have a family

For his marriage proposal to Erin, Brent got some help from the Nittany Lion mascot. rule of not working on Saturdays. Even with the hectic schedule, they find time to get back to Penn State at least once a year for a football game. Penn State holds a special place in their hearts. Brent’s dad, Craig, is the former Penn State vice president of Outreach and vice provost for Online Education. Without Penn State and that viewing party, the two probably wouldn’t have met. Even their engagement story includes the help of the Nittany Lion.

“Time is always something that’s on my mind. I try to live in the moment because we aren’t promised a future.” — Erin Weidemann


Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications

This year, the Weidemanns returned back to campus multiple times. In June, Erin spoke at the Coaches vs. Cancer golf tournament. In November, she was a keynote speaker during Penn State’s Global Entrepreneurship Week. She talked about the challenges of starting and running a business, and being able to persevere. While the two keep busy, Erin is always thankful for the time she has, and the opportunity to help people in the process. “We don’t know how much time we have. When I got sick, I thought my time was over,” she said. “Time is always something that’s on my mind. I try to live in the moment because we aren’t promised a future. If we woke up today, it means God has got work for us to do, so we’re going to do that work with whatever time we have.” l

Author profiles female cryptanalyst By JONATHAN McVERRY (’05)


uthor Jason Fagone was deep in the National Archives reading once-classified, secret messages from Nazi spies. They were there because decades ago a revolutionary woman not only saved the correspondences, she decoded them. Fagone (’01 Journ) spent three years uncovering the life story of Elizebeth Smith Friedman, who escaped smalltown life as a teacher to become a chief architect of the modern science of cryptology. Fagone chronicles Elizebeth’s life in his new book, “The Woman Who Smashed Codes: A True Story of Love, Spies, and the Unlikely Heroine Who Outwitted America’s Enemies.” Fagone’s journey, much like Elizebeth’s, was unexpected. When Edward Snowden’s National Security Agency leaks dominated headlines in 2013, Fagone began researching the NSA and its history. “I realized I didn’t know much about this large powerful intelligence agency,” he said. “I started reading about it and all roads led to William Friedman, who is considered the godfather of the NSA.” It didn’t take long for Fagone to realize that the NSA had a godmother, too. Elizebeth, with William, was among a very small group of U.S. codebreakers during the 1920s and 1930s. “Behind the story of what we know about the NSA, there is this amazing woman,” Fagone said. “She was a poet, not a mathematician, but she became one of the greatest codebreakers the world has ever seen.” Much of Elizebeth’s story was made possible because an eccentric millionaire named George Fabyan recruited her to his research commune in northern Illinois. That community, Riverbank, would plant the seeds for the NSA and it was where Elizebeth met William. Like Elizebeth, William was not a codebreaker. He was a geneticist from Pittsburgh brought to Riverbank to develop wheat that could grow in arid places. The two hit it off and became a husband and wife code-breaking team

for the ages. When the country entered World War I, it found itself ill-prepared to decipher German messages. The FBI was barely a decade old, and there was no CIA or NSA. The U.S. Government outsourced its code-breaking work to Riverbank, and Elizebeth and William’s team cracked codes for the Army, Navy, Justice Department and Treasury. “Over and over again, these government agencies would find themselves unprepared,” Fagone said. “There really wasn’t anybody who had the level of experience so they would go to Elizebeth because her skillset was so rare.” Even though William’s life and career were well documented, Fagone quickly noticed Elizebeth’s incredible influence on the earliest days of U.S. code-breaking operations. Her story, however, was purposefully not as well documented. Some of it was due to the secrecy of the information, but a lot was due to a fledgling industry dominated by men. Thankfully, Elizebeth and William were pack rats. From diary passages to love letters to coded messages, they saved everything. Even while indexing her husband’s work, Elizebeth dropped in clues of her role in each project. “It’s really because of her foresight and commitment to preserve records that her story can be told at all,” Fagone said. “It’s like she left little shards of glass in the archive that can still draw blood today.” At the Marshall Foundation’s Library, Fagone found 22 boxes of letters, notes and an unpublished children’s book Elizebeth wrote about cryptology. The thousands of coded messages between Nazi spies that Elizebeth and her team intercepted and decoded were unearthed at the National Archives. There were 30 boxes of materials in the New York Public Library from the earliest days of Elizabeth’s career. “I could see her handwriting. Everything was in her own hand,” Fagone said. “It was like a superhero origin story moment. I was not expecting to

After reviewing thousands of documents, including many with hand-written notes, author Jason Fagone was able to share the story of Elizebeth Smith Friedman in his book. find that … I almost screamed, which is a bad idea when you’re in the archive.” As details revealed themselves, the makings of an epic spy novel emerged. The modest beginnings of a school teacher turn to fighting Nazi spies, overcoming adversity and using ambition and intellect to save the day. The love story helps too, and it’s all true. “She, along with William, helped define the modern science of cryptology,” Fagone said. “It all flows organically from the insights that she and William made at Riverbank in 1916 when they fell in love and became this amazing code-breaking duo.” l l l l On Nov. 27, CBS Studios announced it had purchased the rights for “The Woman Who Smashed Codes” with plans to develop the book as a television series.

The Communicator | Fall 2017


Award winners (from left): Nancy Eshelman, Ann Marie Major and Tony Mancuso

Alumni board selects annual winners


hree Penn State alumni, a faculty member and an award-winning Pennsylvania journalist earned the top annual awards from the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications Alumni Society Board. The awards were presented Oct. 2 on the University Park campus. Those selected for the honors were: l Tony Mancuso, a 2008 advertising/public relations graduate, who earned the Emerging Professional Award; l David Skidmore, a 1979 journalism and history graduate, who earned the Outstanding Alumni Award; l Laurence Moskowitz, a 1973 journalism graduate, who earned the Alumni Achievement Award; l Nancy Eshelman, a columnist for the Harrisburg Patriot-News and, who was named as recipient of the Douglas A. Anderson Communications Contributor Award; and 40

l Ann Marie Major, an associate professor in the Bellisario College who earned the Excellence in Teaching Award.

Emerging Professional: Tony Mancuso

Tony Mancuso is in his second season with the New York Jets, serving as manager, digital media services. He oversees all aspects of NewYorkJets. com, including day-to-day editorial, video and photo content coverage of the Jets. Mancuso started his career in the sports communications world as a junior at Penn State. He worked as a student intern in the athletic communications office for two years (2006-08), serving as the primary contact for the men’s tennis team. Mancuso then worked eight years (2008-16) as a full-time professional inside Penn State Athletics. After graduating in 2008, he spent two years

Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications


covering all things Penn State sports as the managing editor for the Penn State Official Sports Report – a 365-day-a-year sports news service. Mancuso was hired by Penn State in 2010 to produce extensive content for the official home of Penn State Athletics on the web, GoPSUsports. com. From 2008 to 2016, Mancuso covered every Penn State football game, home and away (103 straight games), provided on-site coverage for 10 Penn State national championships (wrestling, women’s volleyball, women’s soccer and men’s gymnastics) and worked at Penn State athletic events in 26 states and two countries before leaving his role for the National Football League in July 2016. Born in Millersburg, Ohio, Mancuso’s hometown is Sharpsville, Pennsylvania. He lives with his fiancee, Lindsey Nakonechy, a 2011 Penn State graduate, in Basking Ridge, New Jersey.

Outstanding Alumni: David Skidmore

Dave Skidmore serves as a media relations officer and speech editor for the Federal Reserve Board, which he joined in 1999 after a career in journalism. He works in a collaborative team-oriented environment, focusing more on media relations and editing than on writing. In 2014, he took a one-year leave from the board to assist former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke with his book, “The Courage to Act: A Memoir of a Crisis and its Aftermath.” Prior to joining the Federal Reserve Board in 1999, Skidmore worked for The Associated Press in Milwaukee and Washington, D.C., covering economics and banking. He graduated from Penn State in 1979 with a degree in history and journalism. After graduation, Skidmore was a reporter for The Globe-Times of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. At Penn State, Skidmore joined the staff of The Daily Collegian as a freshman and served as editor-in-chief in 1978-79. In this position, he was responsible for deciding what stories the campus newspaper would publish. Skidmore, a native of Philadelphia, lives in northwest Washington, D.C., with his wife, Marsha Silverberg.

Alumni Achievement: Laurence Moskowitz

Laurence Moskowitz, founder, managing partner and chief executive of Lumentus, was named one of the 10 most influential public relations executives of the 20th Century by PR Week magazine. In 1999, Moskowitz was honored with the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award for communications. Regarded as an expert in crisis communications, issues management and strategic corporate communications, Moskowitz founded the New York-based Lumentus in 2009 after recognizing that technology and client service needs were changing how public relations, marketing and advertising firms must operate. A communications pioneer, Moskowitz has leveraged emerging technologies throughout his career to provide business and professional communicators with more powerful and effective means of reaching their audiences. Prior to Lumentus, Moskowitz founded Medialink, then the world’s largest provider of video-based media communications services to Fortune 500 companies. As chairman and CEO of Medialink, Moskowitz forged strategic alliances with The Associated Press and Nielsen to create the first professional distribution network linking corporations and other organizations with television broadcasters nationwide. Medialink, which he took public in a 1997 IPO led by Dean Witter -- now Morgan Stanley -- won hundreds of public relations industry awards, and was successfully merged into a successor company in 2009. Moskowitz holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Penn State, where he was Kappa Tau Alpha in communications.

Anderson Communications Contributor: Nancy Eshelman

Nancy Eshelman has been writing a weekly column for the Harrisburg Patriot-News since 1989. She began her career with Lancaster Newspapers and joined the Patriot-News in 1985. She’s been a reporter and an assistant city editor, but her heart has always been in her column. Although she retired from full-time duties at the paper in 2008, she has continued to entertain and annoy readers with her weekly column, which also appears online at

Receiving weekly emails from her most frequent readers, Eshelman has developed a supportive, loyal community of readers through her column. She takes pride in tackling topics like domestic violence and juveniles in prison in order to raise awareness about such issues. Alternatively, she also enjoys writing about relatable topics from her personal life. Warm notes from readers in similar situations have poured into her inbox over the years. For 19 consecutive years, she has been awarded “Simply the Best Columnist/Journalist” by readers of Harrisburg Magazine. Eshelman is a graduate of Millersville University and holds a master’s degree in journalism from Temple University. She spent a semester at Penn State as the Bellisario College of Communications’ Editor-in-Residence.

Excellence in Teaching: Ann Marie Major

Ann Marie Major has taught a wide range of communications courses -from capstone, senior-level advertising and public relations courses to firstyear seminars -- during her tenure at Penn State. This semester she is teaching multiple sections of public relations campaigns. She has also served as the adviser of the University’s chapter of Public Relations Student Society of America. Major is co-author of the book “GoodBye Gweilo: Public Opinion and the 1997 Problem in Hong Kong.” Her current research focuses on the intersection of public opinion, news discourse, and emergency response. Major worked in advertising and public relations before earning her Ph.D. from Southern Illinois University. She is an accredited member (APR) of the Public Relations Society of America and has served in national leadership positions. She has authored articles in more than a half dozen journals, including Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, the Journal of Public Relations Research, and the Proceedings of the American Academy of Advertising. She also has authored several book chapters. l The Communicator | Fall 2017

(Photo courtesy Robert Beck / Sports Illustrated)


Alumni Notes 1980s

David Boyer (’82 Journ) is senior White House correspondent for The Washington Times. Karen Klein (’82 Journ), principal of Fulcrum Information Resources, received the AIIP Connections Writers Award, given to the writer with the best article published in AIIP Connections each year. Carl Walton (’82 Journ) joined the U.S. Postal Service at its headquarters in Washington, D.C., as a senior public relations representative. Tony A. Phyrillas (’83 Journ) is editor/content of The Mercury, a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning daily newspaper in Pottstown, Pennsylvania. Phyrillas previously served as a reporter, copy editor, city editor and managing editor of The Mercury.


Adrienne M. Ciletti (’90 Journ), senior manager of internal communications at J.C. Penney Company Inc., earned the Strategic Communication Management Professional certification. She is among the first to sit for and pass the inaugural exam by the Global Communication Certification Council, an initiative of the International Association of Business Communicators. This certification demonstrates her proficiency in advising and leading, management, strategy development, innovation, ethics and reputation management in the field of


To submit an alumni note, visit organizational communications. David Falchek (’91 Journ) was appointed executive director of the American Wine Society, the oldest and largest organization of wine consumers in the United States, in 2017. A member of the American Society of Association Executives, he serves on that organization’s public policy committee. Scott Dodd (’94 Journ) was elected to the board of the Society of Environmental Journalists at the organization’s 2017 conference in Pittsburgh. He is the editor-in-chief of Grist, the nation’s leading nonprofit environmental publication. On Twitter: @scottdodd Chris McKim (’95 Film) won a 2017 Daytime Emmy for the documentary “Out of Iraq,” which he produced and directed. Previously he was the executive producer and showrunner on the first four seasons of “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” Jim Reeser (’96 Journ), sports editor of The Citizens’ Voice in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, is now the Mid-Atlantic region chairman for the Associated Press Sports Editors.

Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications

Kelly Buckingham (’97 Ad/PR) is director of strategic communications at Lockheed Martin in Moorestown, New Jersey. Stephanie (Podey) Kuhl (’97 Telecomm) is vice president and associate general Counsel at NCTA The Internet and Television Association in Washington, D.C. She lives with her husband and daughters in Arlington, Virginia. Scott Love (’98 Ad/PR) is vice president of Boston-based MSLGROUP. Tom Resau (’99 Ad/PR) is senior vice president of the cybersecurity and privacy practice at W2 Communications in Washington, D.C.


Aimee Harris (’01 Journ) is the associate editor for news administration at The New York Times. David Bockino (’02 Ad/PR) is an assistant professor at Elon University. Brooke (Pliszak) Duffy (’02 Ad/PR) is recently published her second book, “(Not) Getting Paid to Do What You Love: Gender, Social Media and Aspirational Work” (Yale University Press, 2017). She is an assistant professor of communication at Cornell University and lives with her husband Michael Duffy (’03 Eng) in Lansing, New York.

Alumni Notes Rich Tornambe (’02 Ad/PR) is director of HR communications at AIG in New York City. Rob Joswiak (’04 Telecomm) is a foreign service officer for the Department of State. He lives in Washington, D.C. Jen Lamanski (’04 Ad/PR) is a senior manager for Pannell Kerr Forster of Texas. Laura Michalski (’05 Journ) is a multiplatform editor for The Washington Post. Matt Eichelberger (’07 Journ) joined the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications as the associate director of development. Jennifer O’Meara (’07 Ad/PR) was promoted to digital marketing manager at Eruptr in January 2017. She started with the company January 2016. Halle Stockton (’08 Journ) is the managing editor of PublicSource. Heather Hilinski Kelso (’09 Ad/PR) is an executive communications specialist working for the chairman, president and CEO of Lockheed Martin Corporation.


Dave Miniaci (’10 Journ) is a production editor with Taylor & Francis. Bob Brooks (’10 Journ) is a reporter at WPVI Action News in Philadelphia. Matt Fortuna (’11 Journ) joined The All-American as a college football reporter. Sarah Andreychik (’12 Ad/PR) is a senior account executive at Weber Shandwick in New York City. Kristin DeRosa (’12 Ad/PR) is manager of Public Affairs & Crisis Communication at BursonMarsteller. Lynn Ondrusek (’12 Journ) is the community outreach and communications manager with Third Street Alliance for Women & Children in Easton, Pennsylvania. She is engaged to Dustin Schoof, a 2004 Temple graduate, and they plan to marry in June 2018. Chelsea Sweithelm (’12 Ad/PR) is a senior communications analyst at Highmark Inc. Tyler Estright (’13 Journ) is a managed service representative for Link Computer Corp. in Bellwood, Pennsylvania. Stephanie Sapol (’13 Ad/PR) is an account executive with Berk Communications. Colleen Lynch (’14 Ad/PR) is a social media account executive at MeadsDurket.

Successful season about more than stories for sports writer


hile millions of U.S. residents enjoy four seasons every year, alumnus Jake Kaplan knows of only two for sure – baseball season and the offseason, and they’re not at all equal in length. In fact, the offseason ends soon for Kaplan, the baseball beat writer who will be entering his third season covering the Houston Astros for the Houston Chronicle. That’s the World Champion Houston Astros, and the team’s run to its first championship provided highs and lows for Kaplan last season. “The highs are when you file a story you know was good. It’s hard to describe but there are certain days you know you nailed it and there are certain days you didn’t, and it does not have any correlation to how the team does,” he said. Of course, following a team from the start of the season in spring training all the way to the World Series provides a few more opportunities for good days. And those initial days were especially important for Kaplan (’12 Journ). He took over the Astros beat after the start of the season in 2016, and missed spring training with the team. Getting to start in spring training in 2017 made an impact on his coverage. “It was great to cover a team from the day players reported to their fourth champagne celebration in a month,” he said. “You have more time to know people on a personal level and it shows in your work. You have a better sense of the trajectory of the team.” During a season that runs from mid-February to early November Kaplan’s challenges were often as much personal as professional, including an ongoing effort to eat healthy, exercise and make mental notes about the day of the week and month of the year. “You constantly wake up not knowing what city you’re in or checking your phone for the day of the week. It’s kind of a blur,” he said. “So, you prioritize sleep, with seven or eight hours a night, and try to live a healthy lifestyle.” During off days on the road he would often explore a city by foot and make

Jake Kaplan time to plan upcoming legs of travel for the season. Movies are often an option, but they can be dangerous — at least professionally. “I get paranoid going in there and turning my phone off,” he said. “I just know some news is going to break when I do that.” Although Houston is the nation’s fourth-largest city with 2.3 million people in the metro area, Kaplan’s competition on the baseball beat might not be as intense as that in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago or Philadelphia. Planning and travel have provided the most consistent challenges for Kaplan during his young career. While competitors influence his work and editors provide regular feedback, maintaining a high bar of success is about much more than access, breaking news, interviews, sentence structure or storylines. “I don’t think you understand how much time you spend on the road until you do it. Along with flying, just getting to the airport is 45 minutes and then you’re waiting for your bags. There’s a lot of dead time,” Kaplan said. “You gradually learn the tricks of the trade and, like writing, there’s always room for improvement. Plus, it’s the kind of job a lot of people would want, and I never lose focus on that. I know I’m lucky to be doing this.”l The Communicator | Fall 2017


Alumni Notes Christine Monteleone (’14 Journ) is an account executive at EvolveMKD.

Mario Marroquin (’16 Journ) is a reporter at

Anna Orso (’14 Journ) is a reporter for The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Dorisa Rodney (’16 Ad/PR) is a production coordinator for Bravo at NBCUniversal.

Erin Ryan (’14 Film) had her first feature film, “Love Isn’t Enough,” accepted for distribution by Amazon Prime. She co-directed the film.

Erica Bailey (’17 PhD) is an assistant professor at Angelo State University.

Sara ElSawy (’15 Media) is a digital media planner at MediaCom. Stacy Finkelstein (’15 Telecomm) is an account assistant at Branded Entertainment Network. Leah Polakoff (’15 Journ) is an associate web producer for Prevention magazine. David Zellers (’15 Telecomm) joined NH Bragg in Bangor, Maine, as a marketing and e-commerce specialist. Kendall Allen (’16 Ad/PR) is an account executive with North Hills Magazine in Pittsburgh. Katie Blitz (’16 Ad/PR) has joined Time Inc. as a public relations coordinator for Entertainment Weekly, Food & Wine, Cooking Light and Extra Crispy. Emily Grabowski (’16 Ad/PR) is an artist management assistant with Vector Management. Megan Henney (’16 Journ) is a digital producer for Fox Business.

Antonella Crescimbeni (’17 Journ) is a photographer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Kailene Dolan (’17 Ad/PR) is the Telefund Program coordinator at the University of Tennessee. Yan Huang (’17 PhD) is an assistant professor at Southern Methodist University. Ruobing Li (’17 PhD) is an assistant professor in the Manship School of Communication at Louisiana State University. Lesley Salazar (’17 Journ) is a producer for Daily Blast LIVE. Courtney Testa (’17 Telecomm) is a production assistant with Peacock Productions. Michail Vafeiadis (’17 PhD) is an assistant professor in the School of Communication and Journalism at Auburn University. Ruoxu Wang (’17 PhD) is an assistant professor in the College of Communication and Fine Arts at the University of Memphis.

Katie Kappel (’16 Ad/PR) is a training coordinator at Evolve IP.


Donald P. Bellisario of Communications Penn State CollegeCollege of Communications

Min Xian (’17 Journ) is a reporter at WPSU-FM.

Clio Silver Awards

Two Los Angeles-based alums earned Clio Silver Awards this year. Ira Rosenswieg and Cheryl Tellechea were honored for their work on “One Night Only: Alec Baldwin” (Spike TV) and “The Handmaid’s Tale” (Hulu), respectively. Rosensweig (’99 FIlm) is the chief creative/director at Wavemaker. Tellechea (’05 Film) is a video editor at Ignition.

Chun Yang (’17 PhD) is an assistant professor at Louisiana State University. Fan Yang (’17 PhD) is an assistant professor at University of Albany-SUNY.

Alumni Notes

A patient and (perhaps) prescient practitioner A s a Penn State student, Laura Mahoney did all she could to not become a statistic. Many students change their intended major multiple times but she was not one of them. She just waited as long as possible to officially declare a major. Maybe even a little longer. “I just never declared. At the end of my sophomore year they were calling me from the advising office telling me I had to declare a major,” she said. “I was always in communications. I think I was a public relations major for a month, and then I switched to print journalism.” Her approach was more patience than procrastination, and that approach has served Mahoney (’87 Journ) well throughout her career. Mahoney has worked for Bloomberg BNA for 25 years, covering the California legislature and legal news from the state’s capitol. Earlier this year she was one of only five journalists named to an annual list of the 100 most influential people at the California capitol by Capitol Weekly. In 2015, her longtime reporting on the Board of Equalization (the nation’s only elected tax board) uncovered payments to a nonprofit organization founded by a board member’s wife from taxpayers who had business before the board. In 2010, she wrote a series that showed a correlation between campaign contributions Laura Mahoney and positive tax appeal outcomes before the board. Both series were the result of general curiosity and persistent, solid reporting. While state and federal courts, government regulators, and policy areas like campaign finance, employment, healthcare, privacy and taxes might not appeal to some, Mahoney brings the issues to life for her readers. It helps that subscribers have an interest in the topics (while Mahoney has been patient she’s also been somewhat prescient by working in a journalism niche where readers pay for quality content) and it helps that Mahoney does her job well. Again, it starts with curiosity. The campaign contributions series started with a few sincere questions. “Weird things seemed to be happening and I was wondering ‘Why did that person just lose?’ or ‘Why did that one win?’ and ‘How can a bad case win or a good case lose?’” she said. “Someone said I should probably check the campaign contributions for board members and that set all kinds of wheels in motion. “It turned out that for sophisticated taxpayers the more you gave to board members the more likely you were to win your appeal. So, it was just a classic example of beat reporting, of being there, noticing things and asking questions that grew into a huge story.” Her reporting prompted the legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown to strip the elected board of most of its duties in June, including its authority to hear tax appeals.

Along with persistence, Mahoney knows passion and some right place-right time luck help journalists. She learned that with two stories she wrote as a student for The Daily Collegian – stories she remembers vividly some three decades later. The first was about the then-annual “case study” at The All-American Rathskeller. During the daylong event, bar patrons exclusively drank cases of seven-ounce Rolling Rock beer in an attempt to set a record. “I got there at door opening, talked to the first person who bought the first case, and she looked familiar. Then I remembered, from a journalism reporting class when we covered borough council. She was on borough council’s task force on alcohol abuse,” Mahoney said. “As a reporter, I was thinking ‘This is fantastic!’ “When I quoted her and mentioned it in my story, though, my editors didn’t believe me. They made me call her at home to confirm and ask if it was OK to include her. She said sure, so that was super fun.” To this day, a framed copy of the story hangs not in Mahoney’s house or office, but on a wall outside the women’s restroom in the Skeller. Along with reporting and some rightplace, right-time luck, Mahoney’s curiosity serves her well. She remembers another Collegian story about a proposal for minimum grade-point averages for student-athletes to remain eligible to compete. She figured the university’s most high-profile coach would be a good source for the story. “It seemed like JoePa would be a good one to call, so I asked the people at the sports desk for his number. They all just kind of rolled their eyes and said he’d never call back,” Mahoney said. “One of my friends from high school had a roommate who worked in the football office as a work study, though. She answered the phone when I called. “Back then the Collegian offices were in Carnegie Building and we all worked not far from each other. So, about an hour later when the phone rang, I answered it. It was JoePa calling for me. All the sports writers got to hear me say ‘Coach Paterno! Thanks for calling!’” These days, as president of the Sacramento Press Club, Mahoney mentors other reporters and aspiring journalists through the club’s scholarship program, which awards $34,000 a year through seven different scholarships to juniors, seniors or graduate students studying journalism and who have a connection to Sacramento. Mahoney and husband Joel Schwartz have two children, a 17-year-old son and a 13-year-old daughter, and she cites her family as a daily motivation. l The Communicator | Fall 2017



Patrick Plaisance

Patrick Plaisance joined the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications faculty this summer as its Don Davis Professor of Ethics. A former journalist who frequently references philosophers such as Aristotle and Immanuel Kant, Plaisance believes the Bellisario College is “walking the walk” when it comes to media ethics education. He looks forward to being a resource for faculty and students. In addition to his outreach, Plaisance’s research focuses on the intersection of media sociology and moral psychology in modern day newsrooms. He joined academia after 15 years working for newspapers in New Jersey, south Florida and Virginia. Plaisance earned his Ph.D. from Syracuse University and comes to Penn State after 15 years teaching at Colorado State University. Why the transition from journalist to researcher? How did that happen? PP: I had a great, fulfilling, challenging career in newspaper journalism. I loved it. I was one of those freaks in high school who just knew I wanted to go into journalism. I don’t know why. At my last journalism job, I was a senior writer for a mid-sized newspaper. It was the best job in the world. After I started teaching part time, I started to ask myself, “What’s the next step?” I didn’t know what media ethics was at that point, but I knew I was interested in big questions. At that time (the late ’90s), college programs were integrating media ethics into their courses. It was an emerging, sexy topic. My luck was incredible and I realized that research was my love. I find journalism work and academic scholarship really analogous. They are both about gathering information, synthesizing it and presenting it to a particular audience. How do you define the role of the Don Davis chair? PP: Personally, it’s an exciting position because it provides support for the things that I am passionate about. It is a super valuable position that shows the Bellisario College is not just paying lip service to ethics, but walking the walk to show that we are serious about the role of ethical deliberation and ethical values in everything we do. From Dean Hardin on down, the chair position is here to be the showcase of ethical theory, ethical values, educational programming, as well as the support for media ethics research. I am not here to tell people they are doing things wrong. I am here to be a resource. For example, we have great practitioners who are great teachers in the classroom, but maybe talking about 46

ethics theory and Aristotle and Kant is not their strong suit. I would love to come in and connect those topics to media practice for their students. Speaking of teaching, what do you see in today’s students when you’re in front your media ethics classrooms? PP: I see excitement. I see thoughtfulness. I see curiosity. I see naiveté. I see obliviousness—the whole range. What is most important to me, and my philosophy with the classroom, is that ethics is all about talking things through. Ethics is all about increasing the quality of your deliberation, stepping up your game on deliberation and really understanding. What do we mean by minimizing harm? What do we mean by justice? What do they look like and do we know what we are talking about? Those questions go back through ages of thinkers. For example, a real buzzword the past few years has been transparency. Everyone wants transparency. It’s popular in media and business, but why is it valuable? Why does it matter? When is it OK not to be transparent? When are hidden cameras in journalism OK? Do we understand transparency enough to make good ethical cases in doing or not doing something? These are the types of questions I want students in my class to struggle with. If I am standing in a classroom saying you should do this or do that … that’s not ethics. Ethics is all about muddling your way through difficult situations. It’s hard and it’s messy. Do you get aggravated or disappointed when unethical things happen? PP: I am amused, more than anything,

Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications

that we as a society must continually relearn lessons. Every year, in journalism, public relations and marketing you have cases that are clearly and often highly publicized ethical lapses, conflicts of interest or deceptive practices. Sometimes it can be frustrating, but it’s also exciting because we can show students the huge mistakes they don’t want to make. I can teach them what Kant says about duty. I can share lessons like: consider these questions before the deadline defines the quality of your work. It is human nature and a part of the learning process. What research projects are you working on? PP: I am doing theoretical work on the moral ecology of media organizations. How do we understand organizations and systems, and the often obscured moral factors that help people in that system do well or act virtuously? What are the factors that help or hinder moral action? I’m interested in examining the moralityrelated components of the socialization process that goes into a newsroom that enforces standards. More long-term, I would like to update a lot of what is known about media sociology. Back in the ’70s and ’80s, we had a lot of media sociology studies on how newsrooms work and what makes journalists tick, but much of it is dated. We don’t have a grasp on new emerging media organizations like Buzzfeed and digital-only, social media promotional firms. Buzzfeed is putting millions of dollars into their newsroom. It’s no longer just clickbait. They are breaking news. What is their culture like? What makes them tick? Did the systems all carry over from the legacy publications? I don’t think so.


Spring Semester Classes Begin

JAN 15

Martin Luther King Jr. Day (No Classes)

FEB Penn State Dance Marathon (Bryce Jordan Center) 16-18 Director Tommy Caamano (right) has found that his film “True North” has made a highly personal impact for many people who have attended initial screenings.

FEB 21

Page Center Dinner (Grand Hyatt-Midtown, New York City)

Compelling story gets stronger with many personal reactions

FEB 24

PSU 2 LA Power Talks

MAR 5-9

Spring Break (No Classes)

MAR 16

JobExpo.Comm (Alumni Hall, HUB-Robeson Center)

MAR 16-17

Ad/PR Alumni Board Meeting


Success in the City (New York City)

APR 8-9

Alumni Society Board Meeting

APR 19

Curley Center Board Meeting/Event

APR 27

Spring Semester Classes End


Commencement (Noon, Bryce Jordan Center)

MAY 14

Bart Richards Award (National Press Club, Washington, D.C.)


ometimes a good story gets even better, and filmmaker Tommy Caamano discovered that after he’d finished putting together the documentary he directed and produced about a two-time cancer survivor with one functioning lung who climbed mountains all over the world. It turned out the compelling and emotional story of Sean Swarner, who survived Hodgkin’s disease and Askin’s sarcoma and completed the Explorers Grand Slam by reaching the highest summit on each of the seven continents as well as the North and South Poles, paled in comparison to the real impact of the story. Caamano (’01 Film) discovered that impact at small-scale screenings of “True North: The Sean Swarner Story” with people affected by cancer. “From emails and people we talk to, the film made them feel like their next day was better. A woman in a Colorado hospital told us, even after she had gotten horrible news about her health, that our work was important,” Caamano said. “That’s pretty special, and that’s how we’re judging the success of the film.” “True North” will debut nationally on American Public Television in 2018. So far, reaction has been positive. A short segment about Swarmer aired on ESPN’s “SC Featured” and

those smaller screenings for cancer survivors continually provide motivation. Caamano is a director for The Worskhop, a multimedia production company with offices in Radnor, Pennsylvania, as well as Stamford, Connecticut, and Los Angeles. He paid his dues through the years with TV commercials and other projects. With Swarner’s story, he found a connection for his personal passion. That’s a passion that was fueled a bit by Penn State. “When you look at THON and just the types of things Penn Staters do, I think that becomes who you are as well,” Caamano said. In an ever-changing media environment, with more and more outlets looking for quality content, he is excited about future opportunities. “People seek out good content and because there’s a demand, we’re seeing better documentaries. It’s upping everyone’s game. All of that opens doors. Ten years ago to pitch a documentary series would’ve been an uphill battle,” Caamano said. “There’s more opportunity now, and that’s exciting — especially when you consider the chance to make someone’s next day better.” l

The Communicator | Fall 2017


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