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FALL 2019

DEAN’S MESSAGE As you read through this edition of The Communicator, you might be surprised to learn about the breadth of talent and expertise in our presence on the West Coast. Our alumni have been making their way to Hollywood — and then making their mark in Hollywood – for many years. The first Penn Stater to make it to the fabled Walk of Fame was Fred Waring (’22), who has three stars: for radio, television and recording. Waring was a pioneer of the modern stage show. He auditioned for, but didn’t make, the Penn State Glee Club, but went on to form his own famous band, Fred Waring and his Pennsylvanians. Of course, you already know about the most recent (and second, to my knowledge) Penn Stater to make it to the Walk of Fame: Our very own Donald P. Bellisario (’61). After a wartime boyhood in the coal-mining town of Cokeburg, Pennsylvania, then service in the Marines before completing his degree at Penn State, Don sold advertising for the Centre Daily Times before moving on to agencies in Lancaster and Dallas, Texas. Don knew, though, that he wanted a career in Hollywood. Like many of our alumni, he made the “big gamble” and moved out West. A string of hits later, you know how this story turns out! Don and other Penn Staters who found success in Hollywood did so after college. But we want to help launch those careers earlier. That’s why, five years ago, we launched our semester-in-residence program in L.A. The idea is not unique: Our peers (such as programs at the University of Texas and Northwestern) also have West Coast residency programs for students.

Of course, it was. It’s endowed and named for alumnus Stanley E. Degler (’51), so it will be serving students for many decades. Each January after his stint in the nation’s capital, Bob packs up and heads West, where he’s replicated the Degler program’s success. The Penn State Hollywood Program was his brainchild. He approached me soon after I became dean in 2014 to pitch the idea. It was an easy sell becuase it was the right thing to do for our students. It also had the right person to launch it., and Bob had a track record of success. And as a First Amendment expert who had many contacts in the entertainment industries, he was a natural. Bob may be the only full-time Penn State faculty member who spends more time outside of Happy Valley than in it. All to serve our students. Along with all his work, Bob knows how to have fun! He’s a Certified Specialist of Wine and his recent book, ‘Wine Savvy: Exploring and Enjoying American Wine,” is an entertaining, easy guide (and includes some great recipes). So, with that in mind: Let’s raise a toast to Bob and his work as we read about the many success stories in this issue. And may 2020 bring many of our graduates closer to their own stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame!

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

DEAN Marie Hardin EDITOR Steve Sampsell (‘90) ASSISTANT EDITOR Jonathan McVerry (’05) DESIGNER Whitney Justice 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, the Bellisario College or editorial staff.

I hope to hear from you soon!

Dean Marie Hardin

But what does make us unique – besides our extraordinary alumni, ready to help at every turn – is the personal attention each student in the program receives, from application to graduation. No other program exercises the care we do to match students with internship opportunities and to help them reach their goals.

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

For that, one faculty member deserves his own star on the Bellisario College Walk of Fame: Bob Richards. Many of you know Bob, a Penn State graduate who returned for a job in 1988 and never left. He joined the Bellisario College as an instructor after working in broadcasting and earning his law degree at American University. He taught law and journalism skills courses before helping students as director of internships and and career placement. He later launched our Washington semesterin-residency program. That fall-semester opportunity was built on the idea that carefully matching students with internships, then providing tailored coursework and mentoring with local alumni, was a winning concept.

Follow Dean Hardin on Twitter


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: html U.Ed. COM 20-22



12 From Happy Valley to Hollywood Alumni craft entertainment industry success in a variety of roles

18 Insights, Internships and Much More Hollywood Program provides unrivaled experience for students

22 No Laughing Matter Stan Lathan’s career built on determination and hard work

34 Determined to Succeed Dawn Manning has been more than lucky in Hollywood

46 Keeping it Fun Chris Smith’s secret to success has been simple

DEPARTMENTS 2 Dean’s Message 4

Starting Shots


A Day in the Life


Alumni Notes


The Interview

ON THE COVER As the Penn State Hollywood Program, which offers internships and classes in Los Angeles for students each spring, prepares to welcome its fifth group of students, this issue takes a look at that program as well as our strong, successful contingent of alumni working in the entertainment industry. (Cover design by Whitney Justice)

Look throughout the magazine for special feature video links!



Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications

Faculty filmmaker Pearl Gluck cuts a ribbon of film to officially open the 2019 Centre Film Festival at the historic Rowland Theatre in Philipsburg on Nov. 8, 2019. Gluck, an assistant professor in the Bellisario College and director of the Centre Film Festival, is flanked by Philipsburg Mayor John Streno and Rowland Theatre board member Rebecca Inlow. For more about the festival, see Page 38. (Photo by Josie Chen, ’19)

The Communicator | Fall 2019




Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications

A student enters Carnegie Building on a late October evening. (Photo by John Beale)

The Communicator | Fall 2019




Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications

Alumnus Marc Brownstein (’91 Adv), with senior Dejanae Gibson, discusses the importance of philanthropy and his support of CommAgency during the annual Donor Recognition Dinner at the Nittany Lion Inn. (Photo by Riley Herman, ’22)

The Communicator | Fall 2019


according to the princeton review

Penn State is the

Number 1 school for

Best Alumni Network

Based on college students’ rankings of alumni activity and visibility on campus.

NEWS & NOTES Center for Immersive Experiences launched Penn State will be equipped to meet the needs of students, faculty and a society at large that is progressively more reliant on immersive technology with the opening of the Center for Immersive Experiences. The center, with physical space in Pattee Library and collaborators in 11 different academic units, is housed in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications.

Numerous honors for faculty member’s film Bellisario College assistant professor Boaz Dvir won Best Director in the Green section of the NEZ International Film Festival in West Bengal, India, for a documentary short. The film, “El País de la Eterna Primavera (Land of the Eternal Spring),” also: won Best Micro Film at a monthly online competition in Santiago, Chile; was nominated for Best Documentary Short at the Motion Pictures Film Festival in Salt Lake City, Utah; and was a finalist at the Silver Screen International Film Festival in Tampa, Florida.

Faculty member elected ICA president Respected faculty member Mary Beth Oliver has been elected president of the International Communication Association, which has more than 4,500 members in 80 countries. Oliver, the Donald P. Bellisario Professor of Media Studies, will serve as president-elect beginning on May 25, 2020 — the last day of the association’s annual conference in Australia — and will move into the position of president a year later, continuing until the end of its 2022 conference in France.


HAUPT @angelahaupt



Lives in: Washington, D.C.

Lives in: Irvington, New York

Job: Managing editor, Health: U.S. News & World Report; features contributor: The Washington Post

Job: Deputy editor, tech department at Consumer Reports

Big break: Sophomore year, I snail-mailed around 50 internship application packets (shout-out to Mike the Mailman). I ended up spending two summers in a row on the Life desk at USA Today and loved every second of it. In this issue: Profiles alumni in Hollywood, Page 12 Three things always in my fridge: A well-balanced selection of Coke Zero, tempeh and a leftover slice of cake. Fondest Penn State memory: Getting to serve as the student marshal at graduation in 2009, escorted by my favorite professor, Malcolm Moran.

BEST ADVICE I EVER RECEIVED: A few years ago, I saw a corny painting that said “If you can’t stop thinking about it, don’t stop working for it.” It resonated, so I wrote it down and credit it with inspiring me to launch what’s become a successful freelance career.

Big break: A few weeks out of college, I got hired to type stories into the computer network at Esquire magazine. I’ve had a pretty great run since then. In this issue: Writes about Maura Shea and Rod Bingaman, Page 40 Now reading: “The Remains of the Day” by Kazuo Ishiguro Three things always in my fridge: Hot sauce, strawberries, pure maple syrup My TV/viewing guilty pleasure: “Silicon Valley” Fondest Penn State memory: Getting named editor-in-chief of The Daily Collegian. Favorite vacation destination: Lake Ariel, Pennsylvania Best advice I ever received: Always take notes. If you rely too much on your tape recorder, it will fail you.

IT’S A GOOD DAY WHEN: I get to enjoy a good meal with good friends.


SWEENEY @ShanSween

Lives in: Saratoga Springs, New York Job: Content manager at Death Wish Coffee Co. Big break: I landed my first job at the Albany Business Review as an education reporter. My first “big break” into marketing was at Death Wish Coffee Co. In this issue: Profiles alumna Dawn Manning, Page 34 Now reading: “Where the Crawdads Sing” by Delia Owens Fondest Penn State memory: Being a part of The Daily Collegian staff and serving as editor-in-chief. Three things always in my fridge: Cold brew, cheese and some sort of Thai takeout Favorite kind of cookie: Freshly baked chocolate chip cookie — from the dining hall in West, obviously. Best advice I ever received: To know my worth and to never accept anything less — this is something I’ve learned from my parents, colleagues and friends.

PET PEEVE: When someone says they have a surprise for me — fully knowing I hate surprises — and then refusing to tell me what it is. The Communicator | Fall 2019


FROM HAPPY V TO HOLLYWOO Alumni craft entertainment industry success in By Angela Haupt (’09)


Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications


s in a variety of roles


he thing about trying to get in touch with Penn Staters who are successful in Hollywood is – well, they’re successful in Hollywood. Some were tied up in script meetings, finalizing the films we’ll see on TV or in theaters next year. One was on set in another country with big-name stars; executive assistants got involved to schedule calls. Another was coordinating the unveiling of a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. But, no surprise, they all made time to talk.

The Communicator | Fall 2019


Marguerite Henry (’00 Film)

“There are only two things I would say in my Oscar speech related to outside family,” said Bradley Gallo (’99 Lib), who’s the president of film and TV at Amasia Entertainment. “One of them would be this camp I went to in New Hampshire, which I actually made my first movie about. And the other would be Penn State.” Alumni of the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications have achieved success in virtually every facet of the entertainment industry: There are Nittany Lion videographers, editors, producers, directors, animators and publicists, and that’s just half of it. Most agree that making it in Hollywood is a combination of an unwavering work ethic, smart connections and a flexible, positive attitude; a little good luck never hurt anyone, either. And all cite their time in State College as a foundation they continue to rely on today.

‘You have to create your own big break’ Terry City (’97 Telecomm) remembers arriving in Los Angeles and driving around and around, in awe of his new home. Palm trees, beaches, opulent homes and, oh, there’s the set where his favorite movie was filmed. There’s Universal. There’s Paramount. “I remember just going, ‘I want a piece of this,’” he said. “I think when you’re here, you feel it. You can taste it. Everybody is here to pursue a dream.” After graduating with a telecommunications degree, City knew he wanted to be in Los Angeles but was less sure how to get there. He spent a few years working at Anheuser-Busch in South Florida and assumed his career was going to go the marketing route, until a colleague introduced him to the wonders of L.A. After arriving in California, City cycled through various jobs, including as a regional sales manager for the “entertainment bible” Variety. There, he was immersed in the behindthe-scenes of how Hollywood works: You name an A-lister; City was in a room with him, he recalls, rattling off names like Robert De Niro, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. “And I got the bug that I wanted to do this, too,” he said. “I want to produce! I have ideas, just like the next guy.” So he decided to self-fund a TV pilot called “American Tailgater,” based on his experiences at Penn State’s legendary tailgates. He hired a

producer who eventually became his wife – and the two teamed up to create Steel Titan Productions, where they continue to develop and produce TV and film projects. Highlights include an Emmy Award-winning ESPN “30 for 30” film called “Playing for the Mob.” The idea of a “big break” is often misleading, City said: The public hears about new stars who seemingly came out of nowhere, but “that doesn’t tell you the grind they had to go through to get where they’re at.” Sometimes, he points out, you have to create your own big break. For City – who’s on the advisory board of the Penn State Hollywood Program – it was starting his own production company. More than a decade after those first days when he marveled at his new home, he’s still smitten with Los Angeles. There’s no denying it’s overwhelming, he admits – it’s a huge, sprawling metropolis. YOU HAVE TO BE But it’s also “super, super inspiring.” “You have to be tough – there’s some resilience that goes along there’s some resilience with making the move that goes along with here,” City said. “But this making the move here city definitely gives you enough to tease you to TERRY CITY keep at it.”


‘Women are busting down barriers’ On a recent Friday, Marguerite Henry (’00 Film) worked late into the evening, finalizing the script on the first feature film she’s directing. The following week, she and her team would start principal production. “I’m just so excited,” she squealed. If Los Angeles is a city of dreams, Henry is a lesson in the scrappiness it takes to achieve them. After graduating with a film-video degree, she headed to Atlanta to become a tour guide at CNN. But 9/11 happened just ahead of her start date, and tours were halted, which meant she was jobless in a new city. Fast-forward to a string of gigs she found online and through networking: working as a script supervisor on an indie film and as a production assistant with Georgia Public Broadcasting, for example. After a stint assisting David Copperfield on his live show in Las Vegas, Henry returned to Philadelphia, moved in with her parents and started waitressing at an Outback Steakhouse. It was like starting over – and it didn’t feel good.

Terry City (’97 Telecomm)


Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications

Krista Ostensen Osche (’00 Telecomm)

So she made a CD of songs that mentioned California, because she knew she wanted to move to LA, and listened to it every day – until it manifested. A contact from one of the Atlanta gigs called and said he had a job for her as a production assistant on “The Sharon Osbourne Show,” if she could be there in five days. Since then, “one job has led to another,” Henry said – often the result of “making yourself invaluable.” After being promoted to audience coordinator on Osbourne’s show, she worked as a freelance producer on a variety of unscripted shows, including “Criss Angel Mindfreak” and “Ghost Hunters.” During a one-off working on an independent feature film, she met a woman whose company, Mar Vista Entertainment, had openings. Henry interviewed and joined the company in 2015, ultimately becoming its vice president of production and development. During her time there, she made more than 40 films for channels such as Lifetime and Hallmark. In March, Henry left Mar Vista to start her own company, Ray of Light Entertainment. She’s already executive produced a Christmas movie for the Hallmark Channel that aired this season, and now, of course, she’s directing the feature film – a thriller – that she also co-wrote. It’s a lifelong dream come to fruition. Life in Hollywood isn’t a fairytale, she stressed; it can be cutthroat, lonely and expensive, and often requires getting a roommate – or 10.

There’s no such thing as an average day at “Wheel of Fortune,” Ostensen Osche said. She oversees all press and publicity for the popular game show, which includes handling interview requests; writing press materials; assisting talent with, say, social media or photo shoots; booking celebrity appearances; and cultivating relationships with bookers, producers and journalists – plus much more. Ostensen Osche also creates publicity opportunities; if a “Wheel of Fortune” moment goes viral, she was probably behind it. “We never know when a contestant will go viral,” she said. “Sometimes we kind of help a situation go viral.” Ostensen Osche had been angling for a career in the entertainment industry since high school. She kept her focus broad at Penn State and initially thought she was on a production career path. But once she moved to Los Angeles, she started taking temp jobs, landed in PR and “fell in love with it,” she recalled. Many people in entertainment PR work on multiple shows, and Ostensen Osche said she enjoys getting to focus on just one. “I work hard, I’m present and I have a passion for this,” she said. “A lot of people I work with have a passion for it, too. We really love what we do, and that helps a lot.”

But “I really love what I do,” she said. “It’s a good time (to be in the industry) – women are trying really hard to bust down barriers, and I can only hope I continue to do that and make bigger movies and just keep growing.”

‘There isn’t an average day’ In late October, Krista Ostensen Osche (’00 Telecomm) was totally booked. She’s the executive director of communications for “Wheel of Fortune” at Sony Pictures Television, and she was coordinating the unveiling of a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and subsequent celebration. Plus, “Wheel of Fortune” was giving away a home to a lucky viewer. “It was incredible,” she said days later, still brimming with the energy of the job she’s been in for a decade. “What we do is fun. It’s all positive – people can win life-changing amounts of money.”

Bradley Gallo (’99 LIb) often proudly displays his Penn State pride on sets where he’s working.

Anthony Layser (‘01 Film)

‘Some of us live for it’ In early November, Bradley Gallo, the grad who would shoutout Penn State in his Oscar speech, had just returned home from six weeks in Ireland. He oversaw the filming of “Wild Mountain Thyme,” which stars Emily Blunt, Jamie Dornan, Christopher Walken and Jon Hamm. The movie will release sometime around September of next year, he said, and “has award season written all over it.” A day after an 11-hour flight, plus the arrival of daylight saving time and a change in time zones, one might have expected Gallo to sound drowsy, or like he had better things to do (sleep) than recount the experience for a fellow alum. But his energy and passion for his work were obvious immediately. “It was kind of amazing,” he said. “The production process is intense, but some of us live for it.” Movies and TV shows start and end with the producer – work Gallo has been doing for two decades. In his role as president of Amasia Entertainment, the company he co-founded in 2012, Gallo oversees development and production of all film and TV projects. “We’re out there looking for scripts, then we find one and get excited,” he said. Next, he and his team prepare the budget, assemble a cast and crew, scout locations and schedule shooting. “And then eventually, you’re there and directing during the shooting period.” Days on set are anywhere from 14 to 18 hours long. Everyone goes to bed exhausted – but waking up early the next morning is non-negotiable. Following filming, producers head into around nine months of post-production, an exacting process that turns raw footage into what the rest of us see on the big screen. There’s no one route to success in Hollywood, Gallo said, describing his path as “a weird zig-zaggy thing.” He wrote his first screenplay If you’re a Penn Stater and when he was 20 years old, you’re moving to Hollywood, and then spent a number there’s a support system of years producing – largethere for you. ly in the reality TV world – before getting a master’s YOU JUST HAVE TO degree in journalism from Columbia University in 2010.


But films continued to call to him, so in 2011, he joined Troika Pictures, where he made films like “Careful What You Wish For” with Nick Jonas and “The Call” with Halle Berry and Abigail Breslin. Then he departed to launch Amasia, where the films he’s proudest of include “Them That Follow” with Olivia Colman and “Mr. Right” with Anna Kendrick.


Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications

Persistence and tenacity have been key to his career success, Gallo said: “You stay around long enough to where they have to let you in.” He’s on the advisory board for the Penn State Hollywood Program, and every year, his company enlists numerous Nittany Lion interns. “If you’re a Penn Stater and you’re moving to Hollywood, there’s a support system there for you,” he said. “You just have to reach out.”

‘It’s really DIY’ Anthony Layser (‘01 Film) is the vice president of content partnerships and programming at XUMO, a streaming platform – which means he’s found success in a role that didn’t exist when he graduated with a degree in film-video. At the time, streaming services were in a nascent stage; Layser is one of a number of Penn State grads who have become leaders in tech and media fields that weren’t established when they began their professional careers. That speaks to a flexibility that can serve those in Hollywood well as the industry evolves. “There’s a lot of talk about what you can do to ‘break into the industry,’ and I’m making finger quotes right now,” Layser said. “The bottom line is, a lot of the time, it’s really DIY.” During his time at Penn State, Layser wrote for The Daily Collegian; he also credits producing a documentary with now-retired professor Barbara Bird as a major influence on his future career. Post-graduation, Layser spent six years as a writer for TV Guide. At that point, none of his colleagues cared about the magazine’s website, he said; they were focused on the print product. Soon, the staff knew to “just delegate (web tasks) to Tony,” which allowed him to become intimately familiar with what types of content got clicks and what drove user engagement. Eventually, Layser joined AOL, where he developed and oversaw original video content, including flagship series like “You’ve Got.” That allowed him to pivot into video strategy, a role that directly led to his next move: overseeing U.S. strategy with a company called dailymotion.

David Coppola (’01 Telecomm)


Then, in 2017, he joined XUMO, where he does business development with entertainment and media companies to bring TV and movie titles to the streaming platform. Over the past year, Layser has been particularly proud of the movie catalog he’s built at XUMO. The company made a deal with Paramount, for example, the result of eight months of work. He also enjoys examining movie and TV catalogs to identify overlooked gems that could be used to create rich channels. Earlier this year, he collaborated with America’s Test Kitchen to make a 24-hour channel that consists of the popular cooking show’s universe of episodes. “It took off right away,” he said. “It’s fun and exciting to look for those types of catalogs and figure out how to package them.”

‘They want you to start tomorrow’ Life in Hollywood can be glamorous – and relentless. David Coppola (’01 Telecomm) is a freelance video editor who currently works on MTV’s “The Jersey Shore” and has a long resume, with credits including “The Voice,” “America’s Got Talent,” “Dancing With the Stars” and “The X Factor.” After graduating with a telecommunications degree, Coppola figured he might go into radio; he’d worked at a State College station. But he’d also enjoyed the end-of-season video editing he’d done during his time in the Blue Band. So he sold his tuba to make some quick money and, one week after graduation, moved to Los Angeles, sleeping on a couch in a house with three other Penn Staters. One roommate hooked him up with an editing job on “The Apprentice,” which Coppola ultimately worked on for seven seasons – the start of what’s become a long career in the reality TV world. Location-wise, he wouldn’t have been able to make a go of it from anywhere else and stresses the importance of being in L.A. before starting to look for work: “They want you to start tomorrow,” he said. Being freelance means a lot of moving from job to job, and having to constantly think ahead and be proactive: If Coppola knows he’s going to be free in January, he has to start asking around about upcoming positions months earlier. Some people work on one big show and then take four months off, but he prefers to keep steady work. Speaking of which: Unscripted TV generally equates to an intense workload. Coppola recalls working 100 hours a week from May until Christmas on “The X Factor,” and he missed his daughter’s birthday two years in a row due to “Dancing With the Stars.” Think about it: If a live crew is filming in New York during the week, the footage might not make it to Coppola until Saturday, ahead of a Monday airing. “Edit is where it all ends,” he said. “We’re the people who actually make the show, so we’re here until it’s done.” Those who achieve success in Hollywood experience a payoff that’s worth it – but it’s smart to

be realistic, too. “It’s definitely not like, ‘OK, I’m gonna line up this 9 to 5 job I’m going to have for the next 30 years, and it’s gonna have a 401K and all that stuff,’” Coppola said. “It’s more, come out here and work your butt off, and you have to do everything for yourself.”

‘Be willing to be a student’ Caleb Yoder (’16 Film) always knew he wanted to work in the entertainment industry, probably doing something with animation – but his exact plan shifted a few times. That’s where the importance of internships came in. The summer after his sophomore year of college, Yoder, who studied interdisciplinary digital studio with a concurrent major Caleb Yoder (’16 Film) in film-video, was a production intern at C-Net in State College. “It wasn’t the most exhilarating work, setting up for those government meetings, but it let me put ‘videography internship’ on my resume,” he said. That set him up for another internship, the summer after his junior year, with DreamWorks Animation in Los Angeles. He filmed and edited in-house events and classes for the education department – and after graduation, returned to the company as a videographer. Having a job lined up before he made the cross-country move was huge, he recalled. During three and a half years at DreamWorks, Yoder jumped around, ultimately moving into a role as an assistant animatic editor. Animatics, he explained, are similar to storyboards and used to time out things like music and dialogue before an episode is animated. That experience led to his current role as an assistant editor at Bento Box Entertainment, a company he joined in May. Yoder said he’s having fun and enjoying Hollywood. Networking has been helpful as he’s established his career – though that’s not exactly the right word for it. What you’re really trying to do, Yoder said, is make friends. A good attitude, especially at the lower levels of the ladder, is also crucial. “Just being willing to be a student, even though you’re out of college, and learn, is pretty important,” he said. Moving to California immediately after graduation can be difficult, especially given that the city isn’t cheap. He urges anyone considering it to make sure they’re financially prepared before jumping in prematurely. Once you’re there, it’s a grind, for sure. It may never be easy. But as Yoder put it, and the others agreed: “It’s worth it.”

The Communicator | Fall 2019


Insights, Internships and Much More

Hollywood Program provides unrivaled experience for students seeking careers in entertainment By Nina Trach (’21)


arl Laguerre wakes up every morning in sunny Los Angeles, much like he did in his final semester as a Penn State student. Now working for Walt Disney Studios, Laguerre thinks back on his time in the Penn State Hollywood Program as the starting point for his career. Laguerre was a member of the first cohort of Hollywood Program students in spring 2016. For the Long Island native, the opportunity to complete an internship and take classes through the program in L.A. introduced him not only to the city, but also to the skills and connections he would use to establish a career in the entertainment capital of the world. Every spring semester, the program offers highly motivated students the chance to intern for entertainment companies during one of Hollywood’s busiest seasons, while still taking Penn State courses onsite or online. “I didn’t know what to think about it because it was the first year,” Laguerre said. “One of the things I think is important with this program is that it gives you the insight, the inside look, on an industry that otherwise is closed off.”

Members of the spring class of the Penn State Hollywood Program include (from left) Emma Furry, Leo Massey, Christine Kovell, Freddie Killian, Jenna Minnig and Jacob Saar.


Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications

Now, five years later, another cohort of juniors and seniors in the Bellisario College is hoping to gain that same perspective as they prepare to embark on the same adventure. Under the guidance of program creator and director Robert Richards, the program complements classroom and internship experience with networking dinners and guest speakers. Housing is provided at an apartment complex located in close proximity to both the Warner Bros. and Universal Studios lots. Richards, the John and Ann Curley Professor of First Amendment Studies, is a respected and well-known First Amendment scholar who established the Stanley E. Degler Washington Program more than two decades ago at Penn State. The model for that successful program in the nation’s capital provided the blueprint for the Hollywood Program. And, these days, Richards retains membership in the National Press Club as well as the Screen Actors Guild. Though Laguerre did not know much about the program before flying to L.A., the opportunity to work and study in Hollywood is now actively drawing students like Jenna Minnig (senior-

journalism) to the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications. Minnig has loved the entertainment industry for as long as she can remember, having grown up watching E! News every night. After hearing about the Hollywood Program on a tour of Penn State, she saw it as a chance to try to make her childhood dreams a reality. It was a major reason she choose to attend Penn State. Since she got accepted, a semester in L.A. has been the motivating factor in Minnig’s dedication to completing internships at Young Hollywood and the Bryce Jordan Center, getting involved on campus with CommRadio and “Centre County Report” and even working to graduate a year early. “I am just so happy and honored, honestly, that I was accepted into it,” Minnig said of the Hollywood Program. “I’ve been taking extra credits so that hopefully I can turn whatever internship I have into a job, or I can find a job out there and just stay out there after graduation.” Bellisario College Fellow Jacob Saar (junior-film) also hopes his experience in the spring will lead to a job down the road. After working hard to get the on-campus, off-campus and internship experience necessary to apply for the Hollywood Program, Saar said this is an opportunity he has looked forward to since switching his major from mechanical engineering his freshman year. Christine Kovell (junior-telecommunications and finance) and Emma Furry (senior-public relations) have similar stories. For both students, the Hollywood Program was a deciding factor in their choice to pursue majors in the Bellisario College; Kovell decided to double-major and Furry transferred into the Bellisario College from the College of Human Health and Development. “The entertainment industry is so relationship based and it’s so daunting to

Carl Laguerre was part of the inaugural Hollywood Program class, and has since started his career in Los Angeles.

salesman flair and love for media. Minnig looks forward to finding the same success in combining her interest in broadcast journalism with a passion for event marketing.

think about how you really have to know someone to get in there,” said Kovell, who considered transferring to a school in Los Angeles earlier in her college career. She ultimately decided to stay and apply for the Hollywood Program. “I knew I loved Penn State and I knew it (the Hollywood Program) was still going to give me the opportunity to make those relationships.” Laguerre confirmed the networking opportunities were part of what made his experience in 2016 so valuable, along with the chance to see that there is more to the entertainment industry than the traditional roles like production, script writing and acting. He learned that through his digital, publicity and marketing internship in distribution with Open Road Films, where he discovered the perfect career path to mix his

Meanwhile, Furry sees the program as an opportunity to explore the start of a long-term career in entertainment. “It’s just as important to know what you don’t want to do,” Furry said. “I feel like this program offers us a really good way into seeing if we really want to do entertainment, and if we don’t, it’s just as valid, which is awesome.” Leo Massey (senior-film), already confident in his passion for entertainment, plans to use his Hollywood semester to discover how he can best contribute to the industry. He’s hoping to secure an internship with a company that focuses both its work culture and productions on inclusivity, specifically in the LGBTQ community. He has applied to multiple independent production companies. That is part of the flexibility of the program.

Students have the opportunity to work for organizations diverse in size, focus and culture, depending on their expressed interest. In the first four years of the program, companies including ABC Studios, HBO, Viacom and more have welcomed Penn State Hollywood Program interns onto their teams. While this year’s class of students is still in the process of confirming their internships for the spring, its members are excited to get started and gain hands-on experience. Laguerre said they can also look forward to learning how to manage their time and master the L.A. commute — skills he still uses every day. As January quickly approaches, the spring class is eager to gain experience supported by the Bellisario College before starting careers on their own. “They always say ‘big school resources, small school feel.’ I’m trying to utilize the resources and the connections, especially with the alumni network out there,” Saar said. “I’m glad to be going as part of Penn State.”

from s g n i t Gree

Members of the spring 2020 class for the Penn State Hollywood Program

hear from some of the students

Matthew Caccavone (senior-telecomm)

Jenna Minnig (senior-journalism)

Grant Donghia (junior-film)

JonMichael Pereira (junior-telecomm)

Vince Fiore (senior-film)

Rodrigo Pimentel (senior-telecomm)

Emma Furry (senior-adv/pr)

Sarah Price (senior-journalism)

Olivia Gude (senior-film)

Jacob Saar (junior-film)

Freddie Killian (senior-telecomm)

Molly Shilling (junior-telecomm and English)

Christine Kovell (junior-telecomm and finance)

Melanie Weltner (senior-adv/pr)

Leo Massey (senior-film)

Hollywood Program Faculty Member Earns First Directing Credit (Photo by Junie Olmedo Mori)


n idea from an instructor in the Penn State Hollywood Program was developed into a short film thanks to success in a screenwriting competition, and it has already earned accolades as it prepares to hit the film festival circuit. The film, “Coffee Shop Names,” focuses on three people who use a name other than their own when placing their order at the local coffee shop. For writer/director Deepak Sethi, a writer for Cartoon Network and stand-up comedian who teaches comedy in the Hollywood Program, the film was somewhat autobiographical. “The idea is something I’ve always had in mind because I use ‘Derek’ as my coffee shop name and one time I was in Vegas and I remember getting mad about them getting it wrong. And it wasn’t even my name,” he said. “It’s funny that I had attached a persona to that name.

“Plus, with the immigrant experience and different names, it seemed like an interesting topic overall. When the film was done, a lot of people were coming up to me telling me they used a name other than their own in the coffee shop.” After winning the Script House competition to secure funding, “Coffee Shop Names” was filmed over three days in August. It was honored at the London Film Festival and along with upcoming trips to the festival circuit, Sethi hopes to develop the film into a TV series. Sethi moved from Toronto to Los Angeles nine years ago. He’s been teaching in the Penn State Hollywood Program since its inception in 2016. Along with his experience as a writer and comedian, he hopes to build credits and hone his skills as a director — and “Coffee Shop Names” provides a strong first step toward that goal. “It was a great shoot. And we had really great people jump on and do it, supporting independent filmmaking,” he said. “That was exciting.” Actors who participated included Kausar Mohammed (“What Men Want,” “Speechless”), Danny Pudi (“Community”) and Karan Soni (“Deadpool”). Robert Richards, the John and Ann Curley Professor of First Amendment Studies and creator of the Penn State Hollywood Program, served as an executive producer on the project.

Lead roles in “Coffee Shop Names” were played by (from left): Danny Pudi, Karan Soni and Kausar Mohammed. (Photo by Jonas Fisher)

Abrams sets tone for alumni success in Hollywood An alumnus who has built an award-winning career while consistently serving as a resource for others ranks as one of Penn State’s pioneers in the entertainment industry. Gerry Abrams (’61 Bus), the chairman of Cypress Point Productions, has more than 50 years of television experience, ranging from account executive to sales manager and executive producer. He has produced more than 70 films, including “Houdini” (which was the top-rated cable TV miniseries of 2014) and the Emmy Award-winning miniseries “Nuremberg” and “Out of the Ashes.” He was honored as “Producer of the Year” by the Hollywood Caucus Group in 2004. Abrams, who was named as an Alumni Fellow in 1981 and recognized as a Distinguished Alumnus of the University in


Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications

1986, regularly volunteers for his alma mater, too. He has served on the Alumni Council for the University and the Alumni Society Board for the Bellisario College. He’s also on the board for the Penn State Hollywood Program. His late wife, Carol (Kelvin) Abrams (’63 Lib) was an accomplished and award-winning independent producer. She earned a Peabody Award for “The Ernest Green Story,” a film she produced for the Disney Channel in 1994. The couple made a $100,000 gift to the University in 2009 to support film students. That gift supported the existing Samuel D. and Lillian K. Abrams Senior Film Endowment. Abrams and his mother, Lillian, initially created that endowment to honor his father, the late Samuel Abrams, in 1992.

Hollywood Program Board Members of the advisory board for the Penn State Hollywood Program:

Gerald Abrams (’61)

Mary Lou Belli (’78) Director

Robin Bronk (’82)

Terry City (’97)

Film Producer, Cypress Point Productions

CEO, The Creative Coalition Senior Vice President, Brand Partnerships, Dose

Cheryl Fair (’73)

Bradley Gallo (’99)

Daniel Hartman (’85)

Mark Hoerr (’87)

Director/Series Post Production, Netflix

Suzanne Kamenir (’93)

VP, Global Creative Marketing, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Melissa Stone Mangham (’91)

Mike Marcus (’67)

Tom Ortenberg (’82)

Dan Reynolds (’02)

Hal Sadoff (’86)

President and General Manager, KABC-TV CCO, Amasia Entertainment Media Consultant, Hartman Media

SVP, Marketing and Brand Strategy, Pop Head of Management, Echo Lake Entertainment CEO, Briarcliff Entertainment VP, Digital Media, Walt Disney Co. CEO, Luna Park Inc.

Paul Schaeffer (’68)

Vice Chairman and COO, Mandalay Entertainment Group

Rosemary Tarquinio (’84)

Senior Vice President/Current Programs, CBS Entertainment

The Communicator | Fall 2019


NO LAUGHING MATTER Stan Lathan’s career built on determination, hard work and visionary thinking


ith a body of work steeped in comedy and built on determination, hard work and visionary thinking, one thing is for sure — comedy icon Stan Lathan’s career has been no laughing matter. Lathan, 74, best known as a director and producer of television comedy, moved to Hollywood to work with influential and legendary comedian Redd Foxx in 1974. More than 45 years later, Lathan remains a driving force in producing and directing sitcoms, specials and variety TV. Whether directing Foxx in his groundbreaking 1970s network sitcom, or directing and executive producing all five of Dave Chapelle’s most recent record-breaking Netflix comedy specials, it’s clear that while the names have changed Lathan remains the same. He’s steadfast in his quest to stay ahead of the game and continue to create content that stands the test of time. When Lathan started in the business, viewing choices were limited to three broadcast networks and, if viewers were lucky, perhaps a public television station. These days he’s developing projects that are streamed to a thin screen on a wall or a smart device in someone’s pocket. Lathan has continued to flourish on a landscape he could almost never have envisioned. Coming from Philadelphia to Penn State in 1964 had its challenges. At a time of a growing civil rights struggle, in a university community that was overwhelmingly white, Lathan wanted to contribute to positive societal change. At first, he was interested in journalism (“It sounded cool”). He eventually found a better fit with theater, TV and film. He immersed himself in the arts and was drawn to directing. With his bachelor’s degree in hand, Lathan (’67 Brdcst) headed to Boston University for a work-study program at the city’s PBS affiliate, WGBH. In the spring of 1968, Martin Luther King was assassinated and there was fear of more unrest in many U.S. cities. At that time, WGBH decided to produce a series of programs made for, by and about African Americans. Lathan was hired to direct and co-produce a weekly show titled “Say Brother.” The magazine show covered politics, black arts, black culture and music. Lathan spent the next two years working on the show’s grueling production schedule while developing 22

his TV directing skills. In 1970 he moved to New York to take on bigger directing challenges. An even bigger opportunity arose in 1973 when “Sanford and Son” was searching for a director. “Redd Foxx had been complaining there were no black directors on ‘Sanford and Son’ or on any other sitcom,” Lathan said. “So the producers did a nationwide search. They called me while I was in New York directing ‘Sesame Street’ and wanted to know if I was interested in coming out to L.A. to direct an episode. Of course I was. When I showed up, it was phenomenal. I was the only African American on the crew, except for the actors. It was such a big deal that I’ve been called a pioneer for breaking into the primetime network directing game. “I was very confident. The pressure was not so much about being black. It was about getting the work done and getting it done as well as I could.” “Sanford and Son” was one of the highestrated and most-watched programs on TV. It drew a 29.6 rating and reached 20.2 million households each week during the 1974-75 season. Along with hard work, Lathan’s career provides proof of his commitment to his community. While he has hundreds of directing credits with mainstream network television programs such as “Hill Street Blues,” “Eight is Enough,” “Miami Vice” and “The Waltons,” he was determined to bring quality African American content to the forefront. Not only has Lathan directed the pilots of iconic “black” sitcoms, he was also instrumental in their development. Shows like ”Amen!” “Martin,” “Moesha,” “The Parkers,” “The Steve Harvey Show” and, most recently, “The Real Husbands Of Hollywood” are among many projects Lathan fought to bring to air. He has proven his dedication to creating diverse sitcoms that are relatable to an underserved population while still being funny to all. He did not stop there. Along with hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons he came up with a show that would literally change the face of comedy. The duo partnered with HBO to create and produce “Def Comedy Jam.” The show helped launch the careers of Chappelle, Jamie Foxx, Kevin Hart, Steve Harvey, Martin Lawrence, Bernie Mac and Chris Tucker, as well as Deon Cole and Tiffany Haddish. In terms of comedy, and perhaps more importantly culture, it remains one of the most influential artistic projects ever created for television.

A Standout Director (and author and leader) Lathan has also ventured into the worlds of poetry, music, dance and even children’s programming. He executive produced and directed “Def Poetry” for HBO and for a live run on Broadway. With public television, he directed projects ranging from “Sesame Street” to dance specials with a number of renowned choreographers, including Alvin Ailey, Mikhail Barishnikov and the Martha Graham Dance Troupe. He also directed the classic hip hop movie, “Beat Street.” Lathan has earned an Emmy, a Tony, a Peabody, two Grammys and six NAACP Image awards. He also received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Caucus for Producers, Writers and Directors. Nothing seems like a stretch for Lathan, who says you must “put your best foot forward and shoot your best shot, no matter how big or small the job.”

(Photo by Kevin Kwan)

“The challenge now is trying to stay ahead of the curve,” Lathan said in reference to new media and distribution platforms developing daily. “The entertainment landscape has gone through major changes and growth over the last fifty years. I’ve been fortunate enough to be a player in the game, and I plan to keep on pushing.”

Penn State alumni in the entertainment industry often know each other, or at least know of each other and for those entering the industry — especially women — Mary Lou Belli is a name they know well. The highly respected Belli (’78 Lib) was trained as an actor, singer and dancer as a theatre major, but she has crafted success in Hollywood behind the scenes as a director. A two-time Emmy Award winner, she has been directing TV shows for more than 20 years. Her impressive list of more than 150 directing credits includes “Bull,” “NCIS: New Orleans,” “The Hughleys” and many others. The first show she directed was an episode of “Charles in Charge” in 1988. She supports numerous diversity programs, including AFI’s Directing Workshop for Women and Warner Bros. Directing Workshop mentoring the next generation of directors. Belli has also written four books. “Acting for the Screen” was published in 2019. It was preceded by: “The NEW Sitcom Career Book,” “Acting for Young Actors” and “Directors Tell the Story.”

Mary Lou Belli and Jaina Lee Ortiz in Station 19. (IMDb)

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Hard work a more common theme than serendipity


inding a job and some security means different things to different people, and different things to people in different industries.

In the entertainment industry, the search and security rarely come with some magical moment of chance, happenstance or luck. Instead, it’s a matter of hard work — often an ongoing effort to appreciate what you have and prepare for what’s next. A “big break” often amounts to not just one moment but, perhaps, months and years of effort and energy. “I think the idea of a ‘big break’ is misleading. Start at the bottom, work hard, build your network and climb steadily. I freelance, so I’ve come to grips with uncertainty,” said Brian Morrison (’05 Film). “My life is uncertain. There are people I know who came out of school with benefits and a 401K. In my world, that’s not the case. But I love what I do.” Right now, Morrison is working on a show for a streaming service that will launch in April. His credits include writing, directing and producing. Like many alumni working in Hollywood (and Morrison knows many of them as a valuable connector for newcomers and more established alumni), he’s learned to adapt and grow.

Some forms of content delivery did not exist when he graduated, and more get created alsmost daily. So he has embraced the value of a community and familiarity. “Almost every job I’ve gotten was because someone said ‘Hey, there’s this thing that needs done and you would be great for it.’ More often than not, it’s not about me finding a job,” he said. “It’s about a job finding me.” He puts an emphasis on finding good people to work with and good stories to tell. The increasing number of content delivery platforms provides more opportunities. “We have to keep learning to stay on what’s changing intellectually and with technology,” Morrison said. “If you’re not paying attention, you’ll fall behind.” He has some enduring influences. “I think PBS is hugely important,” he said. “We can learn a lot from ‘Mister Rogers’ and ‘Seasame Street.’” And he still watches “South Park” every season. With accumulated knowledge and experience, his “big breaks” have more often been manufactured than mystically encountered. Here’s a look at some other alumni, “big breaks,” which reveal a theme of hard work and persistence:

Azra Bano Ali (’05 Film) Assistant Prop Master

Meeting a very talented set decorator who took me under her wing and taught me so much about working in the art department. She introduced me to many people I still work with and to a designer who got me into the union. Game changer!

Erin Gardner Dawson (’07 Journ) Azra Bano Ali

Freelance Story Producer

I worked in several different areas of reality TV and moved through many different job titles while trying to become a story producer. My first chance to work in the field as an associate producer actually came on Lifetime’s “Surviving R. Kelly” as a post-story producer.

Karah Donovan (’06 Ad/PR) Actress Karah Donovan

I’m still working hard toward my next opportunity. I’ve found success in entertainment hasn’t always come in the form of a big break nor overnight, but rather through hard work over time.

Jamie Dunfee (’07 Journ)

Outside Sales Coordinator, Michael Smith Inc./Jasper My big break was landing the job with one of the top designers in the world, Michael Smith, in December 2018. An AD100 designer, Michael designed the White House during Obama’s tenure and has designed homes for Steven Spielberg, Cindy Crawford and Shonda Rhimes, to name a few. Johnathan Fernandez

Johnathan Fernandez (’06 Telecomm) Actor

It’s actually been a series of big breaks. My first was becoming a regular performer at the famed Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, which led to my first TV appearance on “The Colbert Report.” That led to getting a manager, which led to doing a major showcase for ABC. The exposure from that eventually got me the opportunity to audition for “Lethal Weapon.”

Danielle Ivancich (’11 Journ)

Production Coordinator, “Good Trouble” on Freeform Danielle Ivancich

Getting a job as the assistant to producers of “Suits” on USA Network. My goal was to work on a scripted show and that was a great foundation. I didn’t even realize how much I was learning.

Drew Kilcoin (’02 Film)

1st Assistant Editor, “Six Underground” for Netflix Meeting the editor who had been editing Robert Zemeckis’ films. He brought me along to do the movie “Flight.”

Trevor Kress (’07 Film)

Integrated Marketing & Communications Director at Stage 13, Warner Bros. Entertainment My “big break” came when I moved across the country and started working in Hollywood one week after graduation. I was lucky enough to work as an assistant to the producer on the film “Cowboys & Aliens” with icons like Harrison Ford, Ron Howard and Jon Favreau. I worked on a show called “Rock Star” and have made connections with Tommy Lee, George Clooney and “Star Wars” director Rian Johnson. While none of these felt like “big breaks” at the time, each moment has a place in my Hollywood experience.

Heather Maggi (’13 Film)

Freelance and Assistant Editor to William Turro Each job I’ve had has led to my next one, so it is hard to narrow it down to one moment. My first job as a PA, starting at the NFL Network and returning to “Orange is the New Black” were very important. I would also consider my “big break” as still to come!

Lindsey McCann (’05 Film) Children’s Fiction Writer

Being one of very few women in the video game industry helped promote me internally to the marketing department, where I had hoped to transition to game design. Massive industry layoff provided the biggest break I needed to write my first manuscript in one month’s time.

Lauren Mele (’08 Ad/PR) Vice President, Beachwood Entertainment Collective

After a summer internship with Atlantic Records and graduating from Penn State, I took a chance and moved to Los Angeles. I couch surfed and stayed with friends for two months until landing my “big break” with The Lippin Group, a well-established entertainment PR firm. It was there that I met my now business partner, Jean Sievers, and 11 years later we run our own independent PR firm.

Bradley Stoner (’05 Ad/PR)

Group Director of Planning, Rufus My first job was working on the Disney Studios account. One of the first campaigns I worked on was the initial “Avengers” movie, which at the time was the largest opening movie of all time. This led to working on some of the largest Disney films to date, including “Guardians of the Galaxy,” “Star Wars” and various Pixar and Disney Animation titles.

David Thibodeau (’11 Ad/PR) Production Supervisor, Netflix Animation

I don’t think I’ve had mine yet, but I’m always looking for the opportunity to seize it!

Lindsey McCann

Richard Uzelac (’80 Journ) CEO, and

Working at REZN8, a studio in Hollywood. I learned 3D animation in the 1990s when it was in its infancy and worked on some major networks’ branding and graphic packages, including “Ants 2,” “Pirates of the Caribbean,” the NHL on ESPN and college football on Fox Sports, among other great projects.

Lauren Mele

Justin Vesci (’05 Media Studies) Senior Director of Development, Silver Lion Films

The executive producer fired her assistant on the set of a feature that I was working on as an office PA. She liked me and hired me. She likes her eggs without any oil.

Meghan Walsh (’10 Journ) Owner and Producer, More Salt Productions

My first producing role was on a family history show called “Who Do You Think You Are?” which traces the ancestry of A-list celebrities around the globe. I worked with amazing talent — John Stamos, Regina King, Jessica Biel, Cindy Crawford and so on. Trust me, John Stamos is as good looking as you might imagine … and also extremely kind!

David Thibodeau

Richard Uzelac

Frederick Wedler (’96 Film) Founder & Vice President, OpenDrives LLC

Producing the indie feature film “Napoleon Dynamite.”

Alyssa Sovereign (’14 Journ)

Betsy Whitney (‘06 Ad/PR)

Meeting Mike Schu (writer, creator and producer on shows including “Parks and Recreation” and “The Office”) and his wife at an Emmy Awards gifting suite.

Taking over Bruce Springsteen’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts opened up the opportunity for me on several other artists to manage their digital accounts.

Office Manager, Executive Assistant, Popdog Inc.

Trevor Kress

Senior Director of Marketing, Columbia Records

Megan Walsh


Many Alumni Making an Enduring Mark in the Entertainment Industry Alumnus Donald P. Bellisario received his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2004. That spot on the south side of the 7000 block of Hollywood Boulevard puts him in special company. The namesake of the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications is not alone as a Penn State alumnus making an impact, though. More than 1,000 communications alumni call Southern California home. Here’s a brief look at a handful of standouts in a variety of roles in the entertainment industry:

JOSHUA ALTMAN (‘03 Film) Editor, Writer

Joshua Altman and his wife Allison (’03 Film) moved to Los Angeles after graduation and worked almost side-by-side in reality TV for a few years. In 2019, he served as editor for the Oscar-nominated documentary “Minding the Gap.” In 2018, he edited “The Price of Free (FKA Kailash),” which earned a special jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival.


Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications

ROBIN BRONK (‘82 Sp Comm) CEO / The Creative Coalition

Robin Bronk is the CEO of The Creative Coalition, the leading nonprofit, nonpartisan charity arm of the entertainment industry. She’s led successful advocacy, public service and marketing campaigns with an impact that stretches from coast to coast and, regularly, to the nation’s capital. Her many collaborators read like a Who’s Who list of entertainment. She’s also an author and respected public speaker.

MICHAEL FIMOGNARI (‘96 Film) Cinematographer, Director

Michael Fimognari, whose recent credits include “Doctor Sleep,” “The Haunting of Hill House” and “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before,” worked on making films every weekend while at Penn State. As bigger opportunities have come during his career, he remains motivated by a certain kind of opportunity. “It’s great when people are seeing your work on a big screen or Netflix, but it’s always most enjoyable to work with people you like to tell a good story.”

The Communicator | Fall 2019


GREG HARRIOTT (‘09 Film) Cinematographer, Filmmaker

A combination of work on TV series, documentaries and shorts have kept Greg Harriott busy and challenged during his career. They have also led to award-winning efforts, including additional cinematography to “Free Solo,” which won the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature in 2018, and a daytime Emmy for “Born to Explore.” As a cameraman on “Born to Explore,” a position for which he applied after seeing a Craigslist ad, he traveled to 11 countries and five continents over a period of three years.

BRIAN HEWITT (‘07 Media)

Director, Business and Legal Affairs, Unscripted Television / MGM “I oversee a team of production attorneys who are responsible for any legal matters related to our unscripted shows.” Those include competition shows (“The Voice”), business shows (“Shark Tank”), game shows (“Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader?”) and soft-scripted content (“Lucha Underground”). “I got my big break when I was offered a position as the production attorney for NBC’s ‘The Voice.’” 28

Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications

MARK HOERR (‘87 Adv) Director Original Series Post-Production / Netflix

“I built, and currently manage, the original series post-production team here. My team oversees all areas of post production – including scheduling and budgeting, hiring of freelance crews, negotiating vendor deals, creative editorial, sound editing and mixing, music, and color correction.” Some of his recent projects included “Stranger Things,” “When They See Us” and “Unbelievable.” Before that, he was the VP of post production at HBO for 14 years and oversaw projects such as “Westworld,” “True Detective” and “Ballers.”

AMY HUSSEY (’97 Telecomm) Head of Production / Quibi

“I oversee production for a slate of scripted, alternative and daily programming. Meg Whitman and Jeffrey Katzenberg are at the helm of Quibi, which will launch April 6, 2020, with quick bites of captivating entertainment. I got my start on campus working for ABC Sports college football, primarily because Penn State had a strong football team at the time and ABC came to cover the games quite a bit.”

The Communicator | Fall 2019


NINA JACK (‘94 Film) Producer

Nina Jack has been working regularly since she moved to L.A., with credits that include “Mad Men,” “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul.” One of her first jobs was as a second assistant director on “The X-Files,” which she watched regularly in college, and that led to many more opportunities. “Every job I’ve ever had is probably six degrees of ‘The X-Files.’” She earned a Director’s Guild award for “Breaking Bad” and has earned five Primetime Emmy nominations.

ADDIE MANIS (‘04 Film) VFX Producer

“I oversee the world-building visual effects on series ranging from ‘Cosmos’ (FOX) to ‘Foundation’ (Apple/Skydance). Back in the day ‘intern’ was code for free labor with no legal oversight — basically a free production assistant. Luckly I got on the path to paid production assistant within the first year after college, and worked my way up from there.”


Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications


Coordinating Network Associate Director / ESPN “I facilitate live event and network coordination between remote production sites and in-house master control rooms as the primary point person and emergency responder to lost feed and transmission issues. As the lone coordinating network AD for ESPN in Los Angeles, I handle all live event coordination for ESPN’s Longhorn Network.”

MATT RISSMILLER (’03 Ad/PR) Director, Long Form-Films / Uninterrupted

Matt Rissmiller oversees the development/ production of high-end stand-alone films and series for UNINTERRUPTED that release in collaboration with premium streaming distributors. He joined the company, owned by LeBron James, in 2016 after previously working with ESPN. “Above all, I work closely with athletes to support sharing the thoughts, messages and stories they’re most passionate about.” The Communicator | Fall 2019


MIKE WALLZ (’12 Telecomm) Creative Director/Producer, Free Life Enterprises LLC

“My biggest opportunity so far was going on my first world tour as the personal photographer and videographer for Nicki Minaj. That wouldn’t have happened without my first national tour with Jay-Z and 1500 or Nothin. I think ‘big breaks’ are an illusion. My ‘big break’ was breaking away from my ego and tapping into my inner power.”

KRYSTAL ZIV (’01 Film)

Executive Producer, Writer “The Purge” “I am a co-showrunner, which basically means I’m in charge of the writers department and of overseeing production and post-production of the TV series. I got my first script assignment on ‘CSI: Miami’ when I was the writers’ assistant, but my introduction to Hollywood was through an internship from Penn State. (Alumnus) Paul Levine was a writer on the show ‘JAG’ and I went out to L.A. for the summer to intern in the writers’ office.” 32

Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications


Land of Fun Good stories are about people, and Penn State alumnus Chris Lindsley (’87 Journ) knows that. Lindsley also knows how to tell a story, and he proves that with his book that focuses on Funland — the timeless amusement park in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. In “Land of Fun: The Story of an Old-Fashioned Amusement Park for the Ages,” Lindsley tells the story of Funland, its 90-year-old co-founder — Al Fasnacht, also a Penn State alumnus — and the four generations of his family who have created a summer beach institution based on valuing customer experience over profits. Lindsley’s 143-page paperback book also includes 16 personal stories from people who share what makes the amusement park special to them. The book — part history, part memoir — represents a labor of love for Lindsley, who spent six summers in high school and college working at Funland. He earned his journalism degree from Penn State in 1987 and, like more than 300,000 other people each summer, continues to visit Funland with his family. Funland has been owned and operated by Fasnacht — who earned his degree from Penn State in commerce and finance in 1950 — and his family since 1962. It’s one of fewer than 25 seaside amusement parks still active in the United States, down significantly from 1,500 in the 1920s. So as the park provides a familyfriendly, throwback experience for visi-

tors, Lindsley provides an inside look at what that means and why it continues to happen. In the process, it evokes a feeling as well as many tangible impacts for those who have visited or worked at Funland. The book also addressees the impact of a 2015 national TV appearance on the park and shares how another Penn State alumnus — graphic designer Brian Allen (’04 Ad/PR) — has left his mark on Funland. Charlie STEPs UP to Lacrosse Longtime coach and former Penn State women’s lacrosse player Lauren Burke Meyer (’09 Ad/PR) wrote “Charlie STEPs UP to Lacrosse,” which comes complete with a lacrosse playbook of offensive and defensive lessons, as well as inspirational songs. In addition, body positivity is a central theme of the children’s story. Title character Charlie dislikes ballet, especially as her mother insists she be more ladylike and stop playing sports with her brother and his friends. Then Charlie stumbles upon her first lacrosse practice with girls her age with varying heights and builds – all with something a bit unique and special to contribute to the team’s success. A portion of the proceeds from sales of the book, with illustrations from Al Margolis, benefit STEP UP Lacrosse. The non-profit charitable organization is dedicated to providing disadvantaged and underprivileged youth the opportunity to learn the sport of lacrosse from the most experienced

players in the world. This is Meyer’s first children’s book. She has been published in Jack & Jill magazine, the Severna Park Voice, The Gunpowder Review, The Penn Stater and The Capital, where her weekly Green Hornets youth sports column appeared from 2011-2012. She lives in Annapolis with her husband Scott and their daughter Charlotte, aka “Charlie.” Woman in the Pin-Striped Suit The first novel by former Time and Forbes magazine journalist Al Butkus (’64 Journ) focuses on a lead character who embraces danger but is in the midst of a career change. Cable Wheeler is a former Wall Street accountant and Coast Guard rescue swimmer now embroiled in a patent battle that ended in murder. First, a chemist mysteriously drowns in an Iowa resort lake. Months later, his lawyer’s daughter is shot in a Kansas City hotel. These could be coincidences — or not. It’s all part of a power play, a race to acquire a certain formula that will yield the biggest fortune in the coming years. The chemist’s secret is the prize, and greedy money men and a powerful politician both want it. Despite his inexperience, Wheeler proves worthy time and time again in this bloody business. He is just trying to do the right thing, but it could get him killed. First-time novelist Butkus is an adjunct communications professor at the University of Missouri in Kansas City.

The Communicator | Fall 2019


DETERMINED TO SUCCEED From her first internship to her blossoming career, Dawn Manning has been more than just lucky By Shannon Sweeney (’16)


awn Manning’s first trip to Los Angeles was for an internship at the end of her junior year at Penn State. But one key thing was missing — she didn’t actually have an internship yet. Manning (’00 Film), a Baltimore native, told her parents she had an internship secured at Miramax during the summer of 1999, knowing it was the only way they’d let her go almost 3,000 miles away from home. So when she stepped off the plane in California, she had only one option: Nail the interview, land the internship. That’s exactly what she did. “When I interviewed, [Miramax] was shocked I came all the way out there with nothing,” Manning said. “But I came out there knowing I had to get that internship, there was no question about it — and I got it.”

Dawn Manning moved to Los Angeles after she secured an internship at Miramax — an opportunity she told her parents she already had confirmed, when she really only had the interview pinned down.

Manning’s internship opened the doors to her extensive career in film. Twenty years later, she’s made a name for herself as a production manager, line producer, director, dancer and more, working with some of the biggest stars in Hollywood — including Beyonce, Lady Gaga, Nicki Minaj and Maroon 5.

Manning produced highlight reels for football games and directed a documentary about the Four Diamonds Fund for THON. To this day, she said, she’s inspired by her Four Diamonds documentary, adding that her family and patient interviews remain “the toughest interviews I’ve ever done.”

Now she’s head of production at Westbrook Inc., an entertainment company launched by Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith. But even in her day-to-day job of calculating budgets, scouting locations and more, she still has a chance to direct — something she fell in love with at Penn State.

Even though she no longer goes by “Lucky” — a nickname she earned in high school that stuck at Penn State — it’s how her professors remember her.

“[Directing] was my love at Penn State, so I love when I have a chance to do that,” Manning said. “But that’s what I love about Westbrook, they really hone in on our skills. If you’re good at numbers but you also have a background in directing, they want to hear your feedback. They want you to give them ideas. They encourage.”

A girl with a camera on campus Manning arrived at the University Park campus, where her friends knew her as “Lucky,” as a theater major after spending two years on the Altoona campus. She only wanted to study theatre, but her parents encouraged her to consider other majors — and she immediately fell in love with film. “I became that kid on campus with a camera,” Manning said. “I would lug it around, bring it on spring break with me, and I would drop my friends off places and immediately go to the editing lab. I was always doing it without understanding that my hobby was turning into a career.”


Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications

Maura Shea, associate teaching professor and associate head of the Department of Film-Video and Media Studies, remembers Manning as a hardworking person. Shea reconnected with Manning two years ago on campus, learning about her extensive career after she graduated in 2000. “A student was just asking me about the most successful students I’ve had, and definitely being head of production for Will Smith’s company — that means something,” Shea said. “It’s a great thing to be able to put that out there for incoming students and current students to show them what opportunities are out there. It might take a little while, but you can make it work.”

Sleepless on set On Dec. 13, 2013, the same day as the release of her fifth album, Beyonce released a music video for her song, “Haunted.” In the video, she’s shown in a tuxedo with a tie, a white fur jacket, and heels designed by Saint Laurent. Throughout the video, she’s walking down the corridor of a mansion, peering into rooms and seeing people wearing masks, dancing, staying

in a hospital room. The whole video looks like something out of “American Horror Story.” That music video has more than 54 million views on YouTube. It’s the first project that introduced Manning to music video production. “That was my hardest and most favorite video to work on, and probably the one I cried the most on,” said Manning, who was a production manager for the video. “I sat and cried in the corner afterward. It was so overwhelming — we had 300 background extras, all in makeup. Afterwards, I sat like I was defeated. But I finished it, and it turned out great.” The “Haunted” music video ultimately led Manning to landing production manager positions for music videos like “Good Thing” by Sage the Gemini and Nick Jonas, “Bad Girls” by MKTO, “John Wayne” by Lady Gaga and “The Night is Still Young” by Nicki Minaj. Minaj’s music video alone has more than 163 million views on YouTube. But the long hours and overnight shoots eventually led her career path away from music video production to documentary filmmaking. Manning joined VICE in 2015, working as a production manager for “Vice World of Sports” and “Vice Does America.” There, she earned a Producers Guild Award for Best Sports Programming, and eventually worked as a line producer on “Shut Up and Dribble,” a three-part documentary produced by NBA star LeBron James that chronicles the NBA’s influence on sports culture and politics. Those experiences — working 48 hours straight on music videos that now have hundreds of millions of views, coordinating with Lebron James’ management to help produce an Emmy-nominated documentary — led her to a call that would change her career.

‘Congratulations, you’re Will Smith’s new live producer.’ Manning sat at a Hibachi table in Benihana for her 40th birthday when the call came. She had already been asked to work for a high-profile celebrity, but up until that point, she didn’t have a clue who it was. “This happens all the time in production — if it’s someone high profile, they won’t tell you who it is,” Manning said. “In my head, it’s Beyonce — usually if I’m holding, it ends up being Beyonce. But on that call in the middle of Benihana, I was told ‘Congratulations, you’re Will Smith’s new live producer.’” She had just started working on “Will Smith’s Bucket List,” a six-part reality show that aired on Facebook and featured Smith doing, well, things he had on his bucket list — skydiving in Dubai, swimming with sharks, taking part in a Bollywood movie, and more. That was Manning’s first introduction to Westbrook Inc. Now, she’s the head of physical production.

As head of physical production, Manning works with a team on budgets, location scouting and logistics (finding people, food, equipment and more) for projects ranging from YouTube video shoots and red carpet events to social media account management for a celebrity’s brand. It’s something she’d never, ever think she’d do. “When I say I used to be against social media, I mean that saying that I work for a social media company is absolutely crazy,” Manning said. “I was totally against it, and didn’t even think it was going to be a thing. I didn’t want to do any short form video — now I’m an advocate preaching about social media.” Westbrook’s family environment stands out, too. “No one treats their employees with a sense of family like they do,” Manning said. “Will and Jada want everyone to be able to have a chance, and they’re big on diversity — this company is the one company where I don’t feel like I’m the only one.”

‘I still do it all by myself’ A fellow producer told Manning she landed the job at Westbrook, in part, because she was attractive — not because of her 20-plus year career. “He openly said, ‘You’re attractive, you have to be honest, that has a lot to do with it,’” Manning said. “I was shocked he said that — that’s how he felt that I got the job. I will never forget that.” Manning’s experience is only a small part of what she and other women have dealt with being a minority in the industry. Production is still predominantly male, and even though there’s been progress in hiring more women and people of color, there’s still a lot of work to be done. “I’ve gotten comments about having a kid and assuming that I can’t do a job because of it. People make decisions for me, like I can’t travel or can’t do this job because I’m a single mom,” she said. “But I’ve done all of this being a single mom. I still do it all by myself.” Manning uses her own experiences to empower other women to speak up and bring as many other women onto projects as she can. She thinks the industry, in general, has made strides of being more diverse and accepting women. She pointed to Hannah Lux Davis and Ava DuVernay, two prominent female directors who have opened the doors for other female directors and department heads. Manning says that through her career and the challenges she faces as a black woman, she has one main source of inspiration: Her 10-year-old daughter, Skyla. “Being a single mom has pushed me even harder because I have someone else to whom I answer, my daughter,” Manning said. “No matter what, I have to provide for my child. But even though I have all of these stigmas on me, I’m still able to do what I do, and I make it work.”

Westbrook Inc. began as a venture by the Smith family to expand its media content and commerce business. The company houses Overbrook Entertainment, Red Table Talk Enterprises, Westbrook Studios, Westbrook Media (the digital content studio), a social media management and creative brand incubator, and the direct-to-consumer business Good Goods.

Daughter Skyla provides ongoing motivation for Manning.




Director of Original Programming, Development at DAZN Compiled by The Alumni Society Board


any sports fans, especially those who enjoy boxing, would love to live a day in the life of Hannah Biondi. From production pitches and meetings with sports agents, to the whirlwind travel schedule that keeps her bouncing from coast to coast, Biondi (’14 Ad/PR) has applied her Penn State degree toward a unique career path. And if you’re wondering exactly what that looks like, she graciously shared every detail with us (while on a plane to San Diego nonetheless)! A snapshot of Hannah’s schedule on one particular day:

MySchedule gym! 5:30 a.m. Wake up and hit the ailsandpackingabag 7:00 a.m. Coffee,breakfast,em for a business trip. theLTrainwhilelisteningtothe 8:00 a.m. Commutetoworkon podcast “How I Built This.” routemailsfromthenightbefore. 9:00 a.m. Arriveattheoffice,clea ductioncompanytohear 9:00 a.m. Meetingwiththepro content pitches. gooveroutstandingprojects 10:00 a.m. Meetingwithmybossto and approvals. for one of our athletes. 11:30 a.m. Call with an agent oming programming. 12:00 p.m. Meeting about upc forupcomingprogramming. 1:00 p.m. Workonpresentation makingandreturningcalls 2:00 p.m. Leavefortheairport, while in the car. airport. 3:30 p.m. Late lunch at the whilewaitingforflighttotakeoff 4:00 p.m. “Lifeadministration” oming wedding). (i.e. booking flights for an upc ailsonflightuntilaround8). 5:00 p.m. Boardtheplane(em and prep for tomorrow’s 8:00 p.m. Land in San Diego production shoot.


Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications

Start Strong My morning routine is my favorite part of my day. I try to start my day at 5:30 a.m. with a workout; however, that only happens when I’m not jet lagged from a ton of travel. Following my workout and shower, at around 7 a.m., I have coffee with my boyfriend and skim through my emails from overnight. We use our morning as a catch-up time because both of us often have things going on in the evening. After hanging for a bit, I get ready for work and am out the door between 8 and 8:15 a.m.

An Adventure Every Day Every day for me is different. I’m rarely in the same city, building or office. As someone who has become truly “bicoastal” I generally split my time between New York and L.A. I work from our office at 1 World Trade Center in New York City, as well as from hotels or coffee shops in Los Angeles, boxing gyms all over the country and sometimes arenas or stadiums. In addition to my frequent travel and due to the global nature of my company, my hours change often. I generally start working on clearing my inbox at 7 a.m. to catch up on the emails that came in over night. I get to the office around 9 a.m., work until 6 p.m. and occasionally continue emails when I get home. I am also pretty much always available for athletes, producers and production partners that I work with on a daily basis. On any given day I could be working on presentations, in planning meetings with other teams across the company, hearing pitches from production companies, meeting with potential executive producers or their agents, or visiting our athletes at their gyms. A big part of my role is to get to know the external people we work with and create content with to make sure everyone is happy and we are putting out the best product we can. Making connections and keeping great relationships is one of my favorite things I do and I’m lucky to get to work with everyone from internal teams to agents, athletes, celebrities, producers, directors, production companies, executives and more every day.

Outside of Work When not at work, I love to work out and do things outside. My favorite workout is boxing, so I try to get that in as often as possible. Also, due to my hectic travel schedule I don’t get too much time in New York. So when I’m here, I spend it getting brunch or drinks with my friends and bouncing around my neighborhood.

Q&A with Hannah What was your field of study at Penn State and how did it lead you to this career path? I studied public relations and integrated art. My public relations degree taught me how to be a great communicator, while my art degree helped grow my creativity to be able to work in the content field. Where’s your hometown and where do you call home now? My hometown is Pittsburgh. I now consider New York City home. (Don’t tell my mom.)

World champion boxer Canelo Alverez shadow boxes with Biondi during a promotional shoot. (Photo by Amanda Westcott)

What’s your best Penn State memory? In college I worked in the recruiting department for the football team. My best Penn State memory is sitting at the “whiteout” game against Michigan in 2013 with one of football’s top recruits at the time. Seeing Allen Robinson make the insane touchdown catch, hearing the recruit sing the alma mater at the end of the game and realizing he would likely commit to Penn State. He later committed to play for Penn State and now plays in the NFL. What made you choose Penn State and how has this impacted where you are now? I chose Penn State because it was a big athletic school, with a lot of options and opportunity. Without the network that Penn State has given me, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Two of my three jobs I’ve had since I’ve been out of school were brought to me, or helped along by, other Penn Staters! A network is everything and we’ve got the best one!

What was the most valuable lesson you learned from an internship? I definitely made mistakes as an intern and the biggest thing I learned every time was, “Oh, that’s not right. Never make that mistake again.” That being said, the biggest lesson to be learned is if you mess something up it’s not the end of the world. You can fix it and move on, but don’t make the same mistake twice. As a new member of the Alumni Society Board, how do you wish to impact the Bellisario College’s alumni network? I hope to make an impact in driving alumni (and students!) to connect and get to know one another. Relationships and networks are the best part of my job and I hope to continue to grow the extremely strong bond Penn Staters already have to continue to lift each other into amazing roles and opportunities. Finally, what advice would you give to your college freshman self? Don’t work too hard. The real world is way harder and you will never have that college schedule again.

Biondi helps Danny Jacobs prepare for a content shoot. (Photo by Amanda Westcott)

The Communicator | Fall 2019











The Rowland Theatre is, in many ways, a monument to an earlier era of film history: a single-screen theater constructed in 1917, its interior lavishly decorated with sculptures of cherubs, rich crimson carpeting and Tuscan-style pillars. But Gluck, an assistant professor of film-video in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications, didn’t just see the theater’s connection to the past — she had a vision for how it could shape the future and help empower the next generation of filmmakers.

•T he seminal Peabody Award-winning documentary “Riding the Rails,” which chronicles the lives of young hobos during the Great Depression and the hardships they endured. Afterward, Philipsburg native and self-described “former hobo king” Luther Gette discussed his own experiences riding freight trains across the nation.


hen she first stepped foot into the historic Rowland Theatre in Philipsburg, Pearl Gluck knew she was looking at something special.

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By Michael Garrett (‘14)

• A celebration of folk and Americana music, with a screening of the documentary “Fiddlin’,” followed by a live performance of noted West Virginia bluegrass band The Hillbilly Gypsies.



“I instantly got drawn in, and I was thinking about ways in which we can engage the youth who are here in Philipsburg and this region with what already exists here,” Gluck said. “I knew there was something here that was brewing.”

Gluck said her vision was to “let these streets, their history and this incredible theater inspire the ability to educate across generations” — and to that end, the Centre Film Festival also featured a series of masterclasses in which accomplished professionals led hands-on courses on photography, music, storytelling and dance with local high school students.

That vision blossomed into the inaugural Centre Film Festival, which was conducted Nov. 8-10. It brought together community leaders and Penn State experts while connecting young filmmakers with the mentorship they need to help them Salt - Regular to tell their own stories.

“It’s really a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me to be doing this,” said Scott Franz, a first-year student at PhilipsburgOsceola Senior High School who participated in the storytelling masterclass led by Susan Russell, associate professor of Avant Garde ProLaureate. - Medium theatre and the 2014-15Gothic Penn State

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Franz said having.,:!?“” the opportunity to learn directly from 1234567890 accomplished directors and filmmakers will help him grow as a director storyteller. He Pro recently completed his first Avant and Garde Gothic - Bold abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz short film — a documentary about his track-and-field coach’s .,:!?“” battle 1234567890 with cancer, which he made as a tribute to the impact the coach had in the lives of the athletes she coaches.







“[I want to make films] because some people’s stories need • “ Going Attractions: The Definitive Story of the Movie to be known. Some people are very special in what they do,” Palace,” a history of the great theaters from America’s Franz said. “People need to know what kind of life other people rich history of film and cinema, followed by a Q&A are living, to hopefully improve their own, or someone with the director April Wright; photographer re F i l else’s.” t Matt Lambros, who is featured in the film; and en Rebecca Inlow, a Rowland Theatre Board And it’s exactly that passion to bring people of Directors member who wrote a book together through the power of storytelling that Gluck said she hoped to cultivate and inspire chronicling the theater’s history.



Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications

through the Centre Film Festival.

(Photo by M

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“I get how this time of your life can be deeply lifechanging — and life-inspiring — depending on what you know,” Gluck said. “The whole purpose of creating a platform like this or an event like this is for people to have an excuse to do what they’re passionate about.”

‘Keep doing what you love’ Empowering the next generation of storytellers was a principle built into every level of the festival. In addition to the masterclasses for aspiring filmmakers, an entire section of the festival’s schedule was dedicated to short films produced by high school students around the world and selected by Penn State undergraduate film students, including Franz’s documentary, “Not Just A Team.”

(Photo by Al

an Murphy)

Justin Gibbs, a senior studying film-video, served on the jury that selected the student films for the festival. He also helped produce a series of short films, titled “Caught in the Act,” about the people making the festival happen. For Gibbs, the Centre Film Festival was a chance to help show aspiring storytellers and filmmakers that there are resources and expertise available to help them succeed. “I want to be there for these high school students, to tell them, ‘Hey, I was in your shoes not too long ago. This was my path. You can create your own path, and you can tell your own story,’” Gibbs said. “’Keep exploring the arts. Keep doing what you love.’”

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Rebecca Inlow, a member of the theater’s board of directors, said she thinks the goals of the Centre Film Festival align with the theater’s vision: to celebrate the history of Philipsburg and the surrounding region, while also providing a service and a resource that continues to serve the community into the future.

(Photo by W

“Everybody alive today who either grew up in Philipsburg, or central Pennsylvania in this area, has a memory of the Rowland Theatre,” Inlow said. Now the Penn State and local high school students involved with the festival will have their own new, unique memories at the historic theater. “Penn State is enabling them to be a part of something that is much bigger than they’ve ever been a part of,” Inlow said. “This could lead to them having a future in a career like this.”

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Although it was only the first year of the festival, Gluck already has plans for next year and beyond. She is optimistic for the future of the Centre Film Festival and the relationship between Penn State and the Philipsburg community.

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“The overall vision is, eventually, a brick-and-mortar place where students can come after high school and think about any element of filmmaking,” Gluck said. “My goal is to try to educate students on the ways they can monetize their passions and the skills they have, to show them you can support yourself while also doing something you love.”


Husband-and-wife team enjoys success By Chris Raymond (’87) Maura Shea


or Maura Shea and Rod Bingaman, teaching film together at Penn State makes perfect sense. The husband-and-wife team has been collaborating for roughly 30 years.

They met in grad school at Boston University in 1988. Bingaman was working a summer job, fielding calls from would-be students, when Shea phoned to ask about applying to the film program. “He talked me into it,” she says. “I was incredibly charming in those days,” he replies. After earning their master’s degrees, the couple remained in New England, making ends meet by working on commercials, TV shows, documentaries and feature films. Shea leaned toward video and sound editing. Bingaman said yes to almost everything — writing, editing, directing. If someone needed a cameraman, he did it. He even worked in a post-production print shop. “I owed them $500,” he says. Shea edited segments for “Sesame Street” and served as a sound editor on the PBS documentary “Malcolm X: Make It Plain,” which won a Peabody Award in 1994. Bingaman’s credits include “Mermaids,” “Mystic Pizza” and “Witches of Eastwick.” Eventually, though, Shea grew weary of the chaos of freelance life. In 1996, a job posting at Penn State caught her attention. The communications program was looking for a sub for a professor on sabbatical, an adjunct who could teach students the new AVID editing system Shea had just mastered. “They hired me for a year,” she says. “So we decided to pack up and move, see where it led. We never left.” For the first few months in State College, Bingaman continued to work with a Boston director on an editing project. And then, in a span of three days, he got three offers to teach classes at Penn State, too. “Just like that, I had a full-time gig,” he says. But the couple never quite lost their love for making movies. As he walked the campus and nearby streets, admiring the local architecture, Bingaman found himself drifting back in time, dreaming up screwball comedies and other period pieces.

When you have those tools, you can ask students to do more In 1999, the duo launched Ma & Pa Pictures, with the grand vision of creating large-scale collaborations involving students, faculty members, townspeople and professional actors. Think of it like a master class in feature-length filmmaking. Their first production — an urban comedy called “A Holiday Affair” — was released in 2000 and received the Audience Award for Best Feature Film at the Brooklyn Film Festival. It was followed by the 1930s period film “Hooray for Mr. Touchdown” in 2004, the roadtrip movie “Chasing Butterflies” in 2008 and the 1960s sci-fi musical “Ripped!” (available for 40

Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications

Rod Bingaman

streaming on Amazon Prime) in 2011. Their fifth film — a Rip Van Winkle-style, time-travel tale called “Spooky Action” — is due out in the summer of 2021. Bingaman writes and directs the films, leaving Shea to manage the $100,000 budgets. The couple borrows equipment from the Bellisario College and costumes from the University’s theatre department, scouring eBay for props and accessories and the greater Centre County area for locations. They do the filming in the summer so as not to intrude on student productions, using actors imported from New York and Los Angeles. Shea plays a significant role in bringing Bingaman’s visions to life, always looking for creative ways to stretch the funds. “When Rod originally wrote the script for ‘Ripped,’ the 1967 space musical, there were five guys in the band,” she says. “As the producer, I said, ‘Can we live with four?’ And he said, ‘Yes.’” The team’s productions foster a deep appreciation for the rich history of Penn State’s campus. The duo has scouted Rec Hall, the dorms in West Halls, the Ihlseng Cottage, even an old vegetable cellar across the street from Eisenhower Auditorium for their films. “There’s no building I haven’t been in,” says Bingaman. That includes talking his way onto the roof of Willard Building for a 35-minute shoot for “Hooray for Mr. Touchdown.” “That’s all they’d give us,” he says. “So we just rehearsed, rehearsed, rehearsed.” Days before State College High ripped up the grass at historic Memorial Field to lay down astroturf, Bingaman and Shea were there with cast and crew. “It cost $200 to line the field, in case you’re interested,” she says. As you might imagine, the home where the couple raised their two daughters now houses a prodigious prop collection, not to mention a library of old-fashioned sound effects (revving car engines, ringing telephones, etc.). “The students are always like, ‘Do you have one of these?’” says Shea. “And I’m like, ‘Actually, I do!’” Penn State’s film program has grown quite a bit, too. It’s now as well-equipped as any film school in the country, including a state-of-the-art digital editing lab paid for by the noted TV and film producer Carmen Finestra. “When you have those tools, you can ask students to do more,” Bingaman says. And the students certainly have risen to the task — due in part to the explosion of video in youth culture. “We went through a phase where camcorders were real popular,” he explains. “Now everybody’s shooting with DSLRs — real cameras. All those photo skills you didn’t really emphasize much for seven, eight years are now really important again.”




combined awards Philidelphia Rough Cut Film Festival & “Quiet Sundays” sports documentary

students completed an international experience

As a print reporter you just show up to a place with a notebook, maybe a photographer. If you don’t ask the right questions you can call back later and get quotes. Well, that doesn’t work with TV. You’ve got one shot. Ken Dilanian, of NBC News, speaking during the Foster-Foreman Conference

PR students win national competitions

Hearst Foundation Journalism Awards Program

10 year in the Top 10 th

5 8

1st place finishes in the Mid-Atlantic Emmy Awards

national finalists in the Broadcast Education Association Festival of Media Arts

in the past decade and a half, no other school in the Big Ten Conference or the Northeast has crafted a better average finish in the program

“Part of your job will be to hold people accountable in some way and there’s tons of people that don’t want that to happen so you have to keep finding ways.” Julie K. Brown,

of the Miami Herald, speaking during the Foster-Foreman Conference


undergraduate students earned degrees in 2018-19

The Communicator | Fall 2019


Penn Staters contribute to successful team effort at NFL Films More than two dozen alumni at different points of their careers help the award-winning company thrive


s the NFL season continues, one team — with several key players from Penn State — continually crafts strong performances, but its efforts do not get measured by league standings. Instead, the dominance of NFL Films gets measured in accolades, awards and cultural impact. The company based in Mount Laurel, New Jersey, creates entertaining and impactful content that serves millions of fans every week, year round. With more than 100 Sports Emmys since its inception in 1964, NFL Films in many ways ranks as the gold standard for sports documentaries and sports storytelling. Its approach has altered the expectations of consumers and prompted imitators, in sports and beyond. “I think the company has such a reputation — not only nationally but worldwide — that it’s just such an honor to be associated with it for such a long time,” said John Weiss (’85 Journ), a senior producer who joined the company in 1987. “It is the job I really dreamt about since being a kid.” Weiss earned his bachelor’s degree and worked at The Daily Collegian as an undergraduate. “The only resume I had sent out other than newspapers was NFL Films,” he said. “I knew nothing about filmmaking and had no experience. The only thing I knew was I loved NFL Films. I thought it was a farfetched option. I sent the resume mostly on a whim.” Weiss worked briefly as a sports writer and has been with NFL Films for 32 years. The company was hiring writers, which got him in the door, and its open-minded approach has both challenged and enabled him through the years as he’s written, edited and directed for a variety of shows. His favorite memory

involves “The Walking Dead,” former Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward and a cameo by Weiss himself. More than a dozen of the company’s 250 employees are Penn Staters, many graduates of the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications. The company’s high standards and support of its employees resonate with alumni who work there, no matter their role.

The best thing for me so far was just seeing how you can grow within this company and how they like to help you excel on your career path. — Ashley Tucci (’12 Film)

“The best thing for me so far was just seeing how you can grow within this company and how they like to help you excel on your career path,” said Ashley Tucci (’12 Film), a football operations coordinator. “Seeing that they want to help you out and grow and develop as a person is wonderful.” Tucci is part of a team that coordinates camera/audio crews, support staff, credentials, travel and security for NFL Films personnel as they travel to cover games during the season, as well as for offseason assignments. When the NFL playoffs begin, she accompanies those groups on site, helping ensure access to what they need to do their jobs. Tucci has been with the company since 2014. “Now that I’m here, it’s where I want to be,” she said. “I didn’t know what my career path was, but this is home.”

Some of the Penn Staters at NFL Films include (from left): John Weiss, Erin O’Toole, Blaise Deveney, Ashley Tucci, Sandra Aiken and Eric Reed.

Erin O’Toole, senior coordinator of player and talent relations, first joined NFL Films in August 2014 as an intern. She was promoted to a full-time role and now coordinates player and talent interviews and video shoots. She spent a good part of the past year working on logistics for “Peyton’s Places,” the ESPN+ original series featuring former NFL quarterback Peyton Manning. Because of its many partnerships and its reputation, NFL Films content airs on a variety of outlets. O’Toole helps balance what gets done when, which can be challenging and gratifying – often at the same time. “I realize I have a job a lot of other people would want. It’s as cool as you would think it is,” she said. “But it also comes with sacrifices, working holidays, traveling a lot — but it’s always worth it in the end.” O’Toole (’14 Comm) said her undergraduate experience at Penn State helped ensure her career success. “Oh gosh, it prepared me in so many ways — good education, always able to think on my feet, able to communicate well with others, very strong writing skills,” she said. “Especially in this industry, you have to be able to adapt and think on your feet. I learned a lot of that through my coursework and activities. When you’re on a campus with so many students, you’re doing that all the time.” Associate producer Eric Reed (’11 Journ) said much of what he learned at Penn State transferred to his role at NFL Films as well. He said opportunities at CommRadio, followed by his own internship at NFL Films, enabled him to embrace opportunities to edit, direct and write — whatever the company offered him to attempt. “It’s just a grade-A organization. The people are dedicated and talented,” Reed said. “Being able to see people enjoy something I created is the most exciting part. Earlier this year, I did the ‘Get Back Coach’ and that seemed to really catch on with a lot of people. It was talked about on ‘Good Morning America’ and all kinds of things.” Reed said working for NFL Films represents his dream job. His father accompanied him to the Super Bowl when the hometown Philadelphia Eagles won, and then he took a plane home at 2 a.m. and edited a segment about the decisive “Philly Special” that morning. “We work odd hours. We work late hours. To me, when I step outside this building and realize I just spent 15 hours watching football — pretty much that’s what it all boils down to — that’s a great feeling. I don’t see that feeling going away anytime soon.” Commitment like that from talented employees is important for an organization that creates 4,000 hours of programming annually. Archivist Blaise Deveney (’17 Film) shares that feeling. Deveney said his on-campus experiences — especially with Big Ten U and the Penn State Hollywood Program — prepared him well for what he does now, while offering room for growth.

Several Bellisario College alumni hold social media posiitons for NFL teams. They include (from left to right): Kevin Kline, New York Jets social media manager; Julie Bacanskas, Philadelphia Eagles digital platforms manager; Darnell Brady, Jacksonvile Jaguars social media manager; Dana Byrnes, Dallas Cowboys social media coordinator; Meghan Loder, Washington Redskins social media manager; and Jill Beckman, Tampa Bay Buccaneers social media coordinator.

He helps track and manage NFL Films’ expansive repository of footage. The company creates programming that gets broadcast by dozens of partners on a variety of outlets. “As a film-video major, the practical side of the skills there can translate into anything,” he said. NFL Films goes beyond football. It has filmed the World Series, NBA Finals, Stanley Cup Final, Davis Cup, Kentucky Derby, Wimbledon, and the 24 Hours of Le Mans, among others major events. The company is known for its programming, and the quality of that programming. Producer Shannon Furman (’03 Journ) proudly upholds that tradition. She’s in charge of shows such as “Hard Knocks” and “Hey Rookie!” An Emmy Award winner, she celebrated her 15th anniversary with NFL Films in July. Most of that time she’s been on the road, traveling 150 to 200 days each year. From January until the NFL Draft, she’s focused on “Hey Rookie!” duties — the behind-the-scenes show follows some former college football players on their transition to their professional careers. Previous seasons have starred Penn Staters Saquon Barkley and Trace McSorley. Then April and May mean editing on shows like “Top 100,” followed by planning for “Hard Knocks” in mid-May. That popular show airs annually on HBO and follows one NFL team through its training camp. June means more research for the show, and then some down time in July follows before training camp in late July through September. After that, it’s the NFL season itself — usually a weekly variety of assignments. She enjoys all of it and, even as more sports storytellers compete for stories, she’s not afraid to brag about what she does. She promotes the company to young NFL players (some of whom have multiple offers to work with production companies), fellow alumni and even Penn State students when she makes one of her regular visits to campus. “A lot of people do what we do, but not as well as we do,” Furman said regarding their draft programs. “Because we are the NFL, we have access others do not and that matters. Plus, the people here have a passion for football and for storytelling. It’s a challenging and inspiring atmosphere. I can’t imagine doing anything else.” nfl films videos on youtube

The Communicator | Fall 2019


Alumni, faculty member and an industry professional honored Four Penn State alumni and a faculty member earned awards from the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications Alumni Society Board. The awards were presented Sept. 30 on the University Park campus. Those selected for the honors were: • A ndrew McGill, a 2010 journalism graduate, who earned the Emerging Professional Award; • Diane Salvatore, a 1981 journalism graduate, who earned the Alumni Achievement Award; • Lynne Getz, a 1998 telecommunications graduate, who earned the Outstanding Alumni Award; • Michael Greenwald, a 1963 speech communications graduate, who earned the Douglas A. Anderson Communications Contributor Award; • Steve Manuel, an assistant teaching professor in the Department of Advertising/Public Relations who earned the Excellence in Teaching Award. Emerging Professional, Andrew McGill A developer and reporter with expertise in building data-driven stories and dynamic, user-centered apps, McGill works as a senior product manager for The Atlantic in Washington, D.C. During his time at Penn State, McGill was involved with the Schreyer Honors College and served as the managing editor of The Daily Collegian. Alumni Achievement, Diane Salvatore Salvatore is the editor-in-chief of Consumer Reports magazine, one of the largest circulation monthlies in the United States. As an award-winning media brand builder, Salvatore

has a passion for bringing insight and advice to consumers through her work. As a student, Salvatore was a columnist for The Daily Collegian. In 1991, she graduated from New York University with a master’s degree in English/creative writing. Outstanding Alumni, Lynne Getz Getz runs a multimillion-dollar direct sales team, dabbles in public television and podcasting and tries her best to teach her younger children to be good people. A married mother of three living outside of Philadelphia, she is a writer through and through. Her blog, “Like A Mother,” celebrates motherhood — the good, the bad, and the crazy. Douglas A. Anderson Communications Contributor Award, Michael Greenwald Greenwald was a founding staff member of WITF public broadcasting in Harrisburg, in 1964. In 2007, after 43 years of full-time service, he retired from his position as senior vice president and now holds the title of senior adviser. With positions in producing, directing, public relations, and development throughout his time at WITF, Greenwald has made a significant mark on the communication industry. Excellence in Teaching Award, Steve Manuel Manuel has taught at the University since 1996. Currently, he teaches public relations, public relations campaigns and crisis communications. He consistently earns praise from students and the respect of his colleagues in the classroom. Prior to Penn State, Manuel served as the public affairs officer for the Office of the Secretary and Marine Corps spokesman. Additionally, Manuel is an active photographer with Penn State where he photographs many of the University’s Division I sports teams.

Award winners (from left): Steve Manuel, Lynne Getz, Diane Salvatore and Andrew McGill were honored by the Alumni Society Board. Fellow winner Michael Greenwald will accept his award in the spring semester.

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Chris Smith crafts long-term advertising industry success with a simple approach By Steve Sampsell (’90)


ome people should have entrance music when they enter a room, a way to announce their presence — although Chris Smith does that pretty well himself. Smith’s seemingly boundless energy and enthusiasm have helped him build a lengthy career in advertising that has taken him to Hollywood sound stages, location shoots in places like Alaska, Chile and Tuscany, and an established role at The Richards Group, the respected independent ad agency based in Dallas. His soundtrack would probably be equal parts classic TV commercial jingles, the Penn State Blue Band and Metallica — all turned up to 11. “My default setting is pretty high,” Smith (’94 Adv, ’94 Lib) said. He’s been with the company 21 years and typically oversees three to five creative teams. Among his main accounts are Motel 6 and the H-E-B supermarket chain in Texas. “It’s a great place to work. This agency is known for the tenure of the people who work here. We’re the biggest in town and doing the best work. (Photo by Brielle Netherland)

“I’m good at my job — and it can be an incredibly stressful job — because I manage to keep it fun.” Credit Smith for knowing his strengths. He also collaborates and mentors well, sharing credit and offering opportunities for growth now that he’s in a more senior role. Those who know him best point to the way he approaches work and life — with an engaging demeanor that draws people closer, helping them thrive and succeed. “Everyone has the same first question


Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications

for me about Chris. They look at me, tilt their head a little, and ask, ‘Is he always like that?’ And, yes, he’s always like that,” said Heather Smith (’92 Bus), his wife. She was a piccolo player in the Blue Band and he was a trumpet player. “We have this same shared memory of how we met, probably because he always tells the story and he tells it well,” she said. “At the time, I was thinking he would just not go away but Chris is determined and caring. He was persistent, and he’s the same way with his work. “He knows it’s not always the first idea that’s best, and he’s willing to go back, consider other things and make it better. He’s talented and hard working. That’s why he’s been so successful.” The Smiths have three children, a 16-year-old daughter and 14-year-old twin boys. Heather has moved from marketing to information technology and financial planning during a successful and varied career. Meanwhile, Chris’ boundless energy has remained steadily focused on advertising. Smith was initially a journalism major, and a self-described class clown and “latch-key kid” who grew up on television. When he made the connection between his interests and skills, a career in advertising was the obvious choice. He was an honors student who complemented his advertising degree with a second degree in history. His career revelation came late, though, so he was starting without a portfolio. That led to waiting tables, a bunch of cover letters, some stand-up comedy and eventually an entry-level spot at a firm that gave him a chance as a copywriter. “It wasn’t a creative powerhouse, but I got a business card with my name and I made fantastic friends, including my best friend to this day,” Smith said. Bo McCord, also a strong storyteller, recalls their initial meeting well.

Photo by Michael DeLuca

“I remember seeing this awkward 20-something in a blue suit that barely fit, from the Close Enough Collection at JCPenney. Within two days we became best friends,” McCord said. “We’re definitely cut from the same piece of felt. It’s hard for me to explain. We just get along on every level.” They were together for several years, and through a variety of acquisitions and mergers remained together but at different companies. They were apart for about six years after Smith first moved to The Richards Group. He was unhappy and unfulfilled, seeking change. The Richards Group’s venerable leader, Stan Richards, was succinct in his assessment during the hiring process. “He looked at my portfolio and said, ‘Your work is less than terrific and I probably wouldn’t hire you but Bill [Cochran, another Richards Group creative Smith had befriended through improv comedy] said I should give you a shot. So I will give you six months.’ I took the pay cut and was happy to do it,” Smith said. “It was the old, ‘Before we start negotiating, I’m miserable’ thing. I was not coming from a position of strength.” Smith’s impact and work have been strong for the past two decades, and he was thrilled when McCord joined the company. They’ve been together again for 15 years. Although they were not initially on the same clients and projects, the few times they worked together made an impression.

He knows it’s not always the first idea that’s best, and he’s willing to go back, consider other things and make it better.

“We both wanted to get me to The Richards Group. We talked about it constantly,” McCord said. “Then when I got here Stan realized we needed to work together. When I place anything in front of Chris, we trade ideas for about 5 minutes and then things just ignite.” Their collaboration and leadership positions the company and younger members of its teams for ongoing success. Plus, Smith’s energetic, fun approach resonates far beyond the company. “It keeps us all young and clients love it. That’s the energy they want to see come through the door for any project,” McCord said. “They enjoy every bit of it, and whether it’s a meeting or a twoweek TV shoot he’s genuinely having a good time.” Smith said he’s proud of his work, with a variety that offers downhome folksy efforts for Motel 6, more urbane commercials for H-E-B’s Central Market brand, and many not-your-grandmother’s-supermarket spots for H-E-B overall. They’ve produced an H-E-B spot for the central/south Texas market during the Super Bowl every year for the past decade. Smith was initially exposed to Motel 6’s work as part of a class at Penn State. Now he’s doing that work — kind of an ironic and fun journey, and he gets that. His perspective complements his fun approach well. “I don’t react well to people who take themselves too seriously in this job because when it all comes down to it, this job is kind of absurd. The fact that we get paid nicely to think of funny things for a guy in a coyote suit to do with a couple of NBA players? There are so many jobs out there that are so much harder and more serious,” he said. “It’s not that we don’t do important work and do it well. I just feel lucky to be in this job. So I’m going to have fun doing it.”

Chris Smith has been with The Richards Group for 21 years. (Photo by Kelly Williams) h-e-b grocery commercial

ON BUDGET AND ON TIME Every day a day closer for state-of-the-art Bellisario Media Center

The creation of the Donald P. Bellisario Media Center remains on budget and on time as it nears completion for the start of the 2020-21 academic year at Penn State. The $43.5 million project will transform the oldest part of Willard Building, built in 1949, into a stateof-the-art facility encompassing four floors. The facility will be a hub for student media at the University — benefitting students in every major of the Bellisario College working in agency and corporate environments, film, journalism, television and more. Donald and Vivienne Bellisario with Andy Schrenk from PJ Dick (center) as they tour the construction progress in October.

Alumni and benefactors were able to tour the facility and see the progress this fall, and during the spring semester the renovations will move along as the space comes to life with classrooms, collaborative spaces, laboratories and studios.

(Photo by Karen Mozley-Bryan ‘89)

“The vision is to create a space that’s open, collaborative, creative and entrepreneurial,” said Dean Marie Hardin. “That’s a place where faculty and student can come together and do great things.” Classrooms and offices in the showpiece facility will be functioning by the start of fall for the 2020-21 academic year. Some studios, specifically for the award-winning “Centre County Report” student newscast, and the equipment room might not move fully until January 2021 to ensure a smooth transition.

(photo by John Beale)

A special event to showcase the facility and the integration of majors across the Bellisario College — and across campus — is being planned for Election Night in November.

OPENING (photo by John Beale)


Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications

q&a with dean hardin

r) r.


Students selected as Bellisario College Fellows

Eleven Penn State students were selected as the second group of Bellisario College Fellows in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications. Nearly five dozen students, representing each of the Bellisario College’s five majors, were nominated. Those selected after faculty recommendations, an application and personal interviews were (from left): Skylier Smith (senior-Cleveland); Maddie Biertempfel (senior-Pittsburgh); Dominika Brice (senior-Stamford, Connecticut); Jacob Saar (junior-Etters, Pennsylvania); Josh Starr (junior-Broomall, Pennsylvania); Dejanae Gibson (senior-Clarksville, Tennessee); Christina Chambers (senior-West Chester, Pennsylvania); Jake Jurich (junior-Ashburn, Virginia); Nina Trach (junior-South Brunswick, New Jersey); Jillian Beitter (senior-Long Island, New York); and Katie Gergel (senior-West Chester, Pennsylvania).


Advertising, brand management professional named Bellisario Professor

ave Wozniak, a Penn State faculty member who brings decades of leadership experience in advertising and brand management, has been named the inaugural Donald P. Bellisario Career Advancement Professor. Wozniak, a Penn State alumnus and most recently vice president of advertising and partnerships at Lincoln Financial Group, joined the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications in the spring. His background includes broad experience in all aspects of advertising, branding, integrated communications and sports marketing on both the client and agency sides of the business. Wozniak teaches in-residence and online courses in the Department of Advertising and Public Relations, bringing relevant experience and a strong professional network to the classroom. Career advancement professorships are designed to support promising faculty members who are new to their academic rank in teaching, outreach and professional development. Wozniak is the second faculty member to move into a professorship named for Bellisario, the Distinguished Alumnus who provided a $30 million gift to the University in 2017. Mary Beth Oliver was named the Donald P. Bellisario Professor of Media Studies in October 2018. Oliver, an award-winning researcher, is a Fulbright Scholar and co-director of the Media Effects Research Laboratory at Penn State. “Mary Beth and Dave are exemplars of the unique and powerful way the Bellisario College combines scholarly expertise and professional credentials in a student-centered learning environment,” said Dean Marie Hardin. “They are two members of an outstanding faculty that make the Bellisario College a destination for the best students in the country.” The designation of Wozniak for the Bellisario professorship will enhance Penn State’s already strong reputation in advertising, public relations and strategic communication, Hardin

said. “Besides his decades of experience and network, Dave brings a strong commitment to teaching. Already, he’s making a difference with our students,” she said. “Being named a Bellisario professor is truly humbling. I especially look forward to partnering with my colleagues within the Bellisario College in doing great work that helps enrich the academic and practical experiences for our students and prepare them for the ever-changing landscape of the advertising industry,” Wozniak said. “And I’m deeply appreciative of the opportunity to return to Penn State. This is the place that helped launch my career and it now provides me a chance to pay it forward.” Prior to his arrival at Penn State, Wozniak served as vice president of advertising and corporate partnerships for Lincoln Financial Group. During his 15-year tenure at Lincoln Financial, he was responsible for a wide array of initiatives that were designed to build a strong Lincoln Financial Group brand, including strategy development, consumer and business-tobusiness advertising programs, content and social media strategy, corporate identity management and brand communications program integration across the Lincoln enterprise. He was also responsible for overseeing Lincoln’s long, successful partnership with the Philadelphia Eagles, including the development of experiential programs as the naming rights partner for Lincoln Financial Field. Under his leadership, several of Lincoln’s campaigns have been recognized for communications excellence. Wozniak also served as director of advertising at the Principal Financial Group in Des Moines, Iowa, from 1998-2003. Previously, he spent 10 years at N.W. Ayer & Partners in Detroit, where he was the account director on the General Motors brand advertising program. The Communicator | Fall 2019



1940s Howard Back (’48 Journ), who has been retired for more than 20 years, is considered by some as “the father of the video news release.” He was the longtime president of National Television News Inc., which for 30 years produced and distributed TV news and public service messages, as well as a variety of informational film and videos for many U.S. corporations, associations and government agencies. During his lengthy career he earned many awards and honors, including election to the Fellows of the Public Relations Society of America. He lives in Palm Desert, California.

1970s Curt Harler (’72 Journ) published “Historic Caves of the Cuyahoga Valley” in May. It’s his fourth book on caving to go with two on rock climbing and several on high-tech subjects. In June, Harler was inducted as a Fellow in the National Speleological Society. Robert Langer (’76 Adv) is the general manager for Full Moon Features, focusing on event planning, foreign sales and marketing for the movie production and digital streaming company. Dave Blazek (’79 Journ) won a prestigious Reuben Award for Best Newspaper Panel Cartoon in America from the National Cartoonists Society. Blazek’s work was honored for his cartoon, Loose Parts, which is syndicated nationally to newspapers by The Washington Post. The Reuben Award is the Oscar of cartooning and Blazek’s work was recognized by 500 of the world’s best cartoonists, illustrators, graphic novelists and Hollywood animators. Also, his seventh book of cartoons – “Quirky Rectangles of Mirth” – has been released. Learn more about Dave and get his books at Dave lives with his wife Eileen (’79 Sci) in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania

1980s Thomas R. Loebig (’80 Journ) was named chief content officer of the American Philatelic Society. With members in more than 110 countries, the APS is the largest non-profit organization for stamp collectors in the world. Founded in 1886, the APS serves collectors, educators, postal historians and the general public by providing a wide variety of programs and services. Loebig will lead the organization’s present content initiatives and set the strategy for future growth.

REAL WORLD. REAL JOBS. Seven college alumni at a panel discussion about their early career success at the Hintz Family Alumni Center on November 4, 2019. Pictured are (from left): Maddie Brightman, Gabrielle Chappel, Antonia Jaramillo, Adriana Lacy, Kiarra Powell, Lesly Salazar, and Carter Walker. (Photo by Will Yurman)

known for writing “Se7en” and “8MM,” as well as writing the screen story for “Sleepy Hollow,” remains active with a variety of projects. Scripts he’s written can be found online ( Kirk Petruccelli (’86 Film) is a production designer whose recent credits include “Moonfall” and “Midway.”

1990s Jane Francis (’92 MassComm), the executive vice president of Fox21 Television Studios, oversees all development and current programming for the TV studio, which is part of Walt Disney Television Studios. Some of the shows include “Homeland” (Showtime), “Mayans M.C.” (FX) and the American Crime Story franchise (FX). Larry Sushinski (’92 Film) is a freelance gaffer on movies and television, with Fox’s “Bless This Mess” on ABC among his latest credits. Kelly Day (’93 Lib) is the president of Viacom Digital Studios. Mike Abrams (’94 Journ) was named senior editor for editing standards at The New York Times. In that role he: coordinates training programs for editors; recruits and tests new editor candidates; helps run the “flex desk,” a training ground and editing support system; oversees quality control in editing; and helps with standards and ethics issues. Eric Leven (’94 Film) is a visual effects supervisor best known for his work on “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse,” “Cloverfield,” and “I, Robot.” His most recent credits inlcude the TV series “The Orville.” Chris Murphy (’95 Film) is a camera operator for commercials, TV and features. He recently started working on the second season of “The Mandalorian” for Disney+.

Laurie Alicia Roth (’99 Journ) was reappointed to her position as municipal clerk, registrar and public information officer with the Borough of Allentown, New Jersey. With her re-appointment she is granted tenure. Roth has been working for the Borough of Allentown since 2015. She and Robert H. Schmitt Jr. got engaged on July 13, 2019. Robert is a graduate of Temple University who works as a product merchandiser for Allied Beverage, and is the newest fan of the Nittany Lions.

2000s Riva Marker (’00 Film) is the founder of Nine Stories Productions and producer of “Beasts of No Nation.” She has four projects in post-production with four others in pre-production, and she will serve as the producer for each. Nicole Wilson (’02 Telecomm) recently joined L.B. Foster, headquartered in Pittsburgh. For more than a century, L.B. Foster has provided the materials necessary to construct and maintain major transportation, construction, energy, recreation and agriculture projects. L.B. Foster products have recently contributed to the improvement of many landmark structures, including the Panama Canal, Brooklyn Bridge and New Orleans flood walls. As the manager of talent development, she manages the design, implementation, and management of company-wide talent management initiatives across the talent life cycle, including recruiting and on-boarding, performance management, training and development, succession planning. Kristin Fione (’03 Film), a production coordinator for Freeform, works in post production and short form, managing shoots with marketing, ad sales and promotional teams. She also reviews budgets and works with the legal department to draw up contracts for vendors and manage talent on shoot.

Andrew Kevin Walker (’86 Film), best


Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications

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Kalyn (Conner) Flockhart (’04 Film) is a director at ESPN who celebrated 15 years with the company this summer. She recently was awarded a Sports Emmy for Outstanding News/Feature Anthology for “E:60” and a Peabody Award for the network’s collaborative coverage of the Larry Nassar/ Michigan State gymnastics story. David Roush (’04 Journ) was one of 17 winners – from a record 7,100 nominations – of the seventh annual Big Apple Awards, honoring exemplary New York City public school teachers. Roush, a media communications teacher at Harry S. Truman High School in the Bronx, makes the classroom feel like a real television production studio, holding five-minute “staff meetings,” and then releasing students to complete their work. Adam Yenser (’05 Film), a writer for “Ellen: The Ellen Degeneres Show,” has earned three Daytime Emmy Awards for his work. He’s also a stand-up comedian who tours the country and has appeared on “Conan” and other national TV shows. Sean Kirkpatrick (’06 Film) writes and directs television series and feature films. The first feature he wrote and produced, “Cost of a Soul,” is available on Amazon, HBO and Showtime. Evan Cuttic (‘08 Tel) is manager of global creative marketing for original series at Netflix. Joshua Sykes (’08 Journ) has published “Truth Poet: Truths of Our Fallen World and Glorious God,” seeking and showcasing truth through poetry, songs and sayings.

e, visit

More info: jsykes Kristen Huth Rowe (’09 Journ) is the librarian at Pine-Richland Middle School in Gibsonia, Pennsylvania. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband, Gregory Rowe (’09 Eng).

2010s David Janet (’10 Ad/PR) is the COO and co-founder of Emma Dog Productions. He created and produced The Rubin Report, the long-form interview show focused on free speech and big ideas hosted by Dave Rubin. Greg Kincaid (’10 Journ) is assistant athletic director for communications at the U.S. Military Academy.

Alumna Kathy Heasley (’83), founder of Heasley&Partners, was one of 16 Penn Staters honored this year as an Alumni Fellow. Her branding expertise has helped companies such as Cold Stone Creamery, MicroAge and the state of Arizona. The Alumni Fellow program is administered by the Penn State Alumni Association in cooperation with the University’s academic colleges, campuses and the Office of the President. Alumni are nominated by a college or campus as leaders in their professional fields and accept an invitation from the president of the University to return to campus to share their expertise with students, faculty and administrators.

Angela Barajas (‘11 Journ) is a CNN field producer. She covers domestic breaking news out of Atlanta. Prior to her field producing role, Angela worked for CNN International as a content producer for international affiliates. Sam Perkins (’11 Film) is a film editor for Whitehouse Post. Adam Eshleman (‘12 Media) was a visual effects coordinator for the new film Ad Astra. Ali Ingersoll (’12 Journ) is a data journalist at Investigative Post in Buffalo, New York. Anne Casper (’16 Journ) earned three Mid-Atlantic Emmy Awards for producer, photographer and video editing work. She works as a digital content associate for WQED Multimedia in Pittsburgh. Meghan Loder (’16 Journ) was hired by the Washington Redskins as a social media manager. Yousef Saba (’17 Journ) is a reporter with Reuters. Erin Alessandroni (’19 Ad/PR) is an account coordinator at Ketchum. Alexis Collins (’19 Journ) is a broadcast associate at CBS.

Alumnus Mark Lima (left) accepts an award for the work of “This Is America,” which was honored by the Radio Television Digital News Association and by the Online News Association in recent months. Lima (’87 Telecomm) is the vice president-news for Fusion.

David Correll (’19 Journ) is a production assistant at NFL Network. Danielle Dindak (’19 Journ) is a reporter at WCHS in Charleston, West Virginia. Ellie French (’19 Journ) is a sports reporter and anchor at WTOK-TV in Meridian, Mississippi. Giana Han (’19 Journ) is a sports writer at Chris Keating (’19 Journ) is a reporter at WNEP-TV in Scranton. Shannon Marhan (’19 Ad/PR) is a sales assistant at Meredith. Jeffrey Morgan (’19 Journ) is a multimedia journalist at WDAM-TV in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Jayleen Murray (’19 Journ) is a production assistant with Fox News. Kelly Powers (’19 Journ) is a reporter at the Daily Times in Salisbury, Maryland. Ellis Stump (’19 Media) had her off-Broadway play debut in October, completed a two-week residency in Prague in November and will begin her studies as a master of fine arts candidate with The Actors Studio at Pace University in January.

The Communicator | Fall 2019


OBITUARIES BILL DULANEY ditor’s Note: This remembrance of late faculty member Bill Dulaney E is written by his former faculty colleague, R. Thomas Berner.

Anyone who’s ever had an internship in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications, or will someday, owes a tip of the hat to Bill Dulaney, a retired journalism professor who died in March. He was 89. The internship program we all know today was born in the School of Journalism in the College of the Liberal Arts in the early 1970s. At the start, the focus was on print journalism majors at newspapers in Pennsylvania. Bill proudly displayed a map in his office with stickpins showing where the internships were. Every summer Bill would drive around the state to see how the interns were doing. One intern recalled that at lunch he gave her advice that becalmed her starry-eyed vision of journalism and introduced her to the realities of the newsroom. She had complained because the editor had suppressed some negative stories. “Welcome to the real world,” she recalled Bill replying. He was not the kind of person to sugarcoat anything. Others remember how tough he was — or seemed to be. Jan Corwin Enger said she overslept one day and arrived late for class, only to be greeted by the “stink eye.” “I’ve been setting multiple alarms ever since,” she said. Other students recall how he would advise those not cut out for journalism. “Son, I suggest you find another path to glory.” Or: “You ought to find some other way to make a living.” Or: “There are plenty of other worthwhile professions for you, but you can’t write so journalism is not among your options.” His most oft-repeated line, remembered on Facebook after he died: “All writing should be clear, concise and interesting.” Bob Frick managed to sneak into the beginning newswriting class as a freshman. After giving Bob the stare but letting him remain, Bill went on to say: “Now, this may seem like a crowded class, but maybe half of you will still be here in a month.” Chuck Hall recalled, “Drill camp, almost literally.” Many students credit Bill with making them good writers and


A longtime editor and writer at the Orlando Sentinel, died July 20, 2019, at the Hollidaysburg Veterans Home in Duncansville, Pennsylvania. He was 92. Summers graduated from high school, served in the Navy as a sailor in the South Pacific during World War II and then attended Penn State. He lived in Orlando for more than 60 years, working for 35 at the newspaper. He was hired as a copy editor in 1955 and covered the Apollo 11 moon landing and worked in various roles at the paper, notably coordinating letters to the editor later in his career. 52

Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications

Faculty member Bill Dulaney, early in his career (left) and then near retirement. (Penn State Photos)

good reporters. Brian Healy said he owes much of his writing skills to Bill. “He was a demanding teacher with high standards. I was a recipient of the Dulaney stare and that slow talking rebuke for sloppy work. Yet he also had a wicked sense of humor.” Probably unknown to many was Bill’s role in helping create the Native American Press Association. In fact, about five weeks before he died, one of the association’s first members, Tim Giago, wrote about Bill in a column. The title of the column is: “Paying tribute to the man who cheered Native journalists on.” Bill got his first college degree from The Citadel, a military college in South Carolina, and went on to become a crypto officer in the U.S. Navy, serving three years in then French Morocco. His son, Billy, was a career sailor. Meanwhile, his daughter, Carol, said she is now sorting through Bill’s estate of first-edition books and antiques. Carol and Bill are his only survivors. His wife, Marge, died nine days after he did. From a map of Pennsylvania with stick pins designating internship sites, Bill Dulaney’s efforts have grown to the point where there’s now a three-person staff for internships in the Bellisario College, led by an assistant dean who tracks on a spreadsheet more than 450 a year from all majors.

WILLIAM EILER (’74 MA Journ) A longtime public relations executive who also conducted a comedy magic show, died June 23, 2019. He was 69. Eiler worked much of his career for several large banks, serving the longest as vice president of regional public relations for Huntington National. He was known for cultivating relationships with local media, his crisis communication skills and for working long hours. When he was not working his day job, he focused on his comedy magic act. He made regular appearances at Pittsburgh-area comedy clubs and at charitable shows. He also performed on television several times, including a Jerry Lewis telethon.



Making a dream a reality


Musical theatre company set to launch

dream will become a reality beginning in mid-February for an alumnus who crafted a successful career in the entertainment industry.

Staters. Plus, sets for the shows are being built on the University Park campus and transported to the theatre in New York City.

Jim Jimirro has launched the J2 Spotlight Musical Theatre Company, which will conduct revivals of Broadway shows beginning Feb. 13 at the Kirk Theatre in New York City. The inaugural three-show season includes “Seesaw” (Feb. 13-23), “No Strings” (Feb. 27-March 9) and “A Class Act” (March 12-22).

Such a hefty blue-and-white core group was not specifically planned, though.

Jimirro — the creator and founding president of The Disney Channel and Walt Disney Home Video, and who revived the National Lampoon brand — serves as executive producer and co-founder of the musical theatre company. “It’s a labor of love and it’s been in the back of my mind for years, because I love Broadway musicals,” Jimirro (’58 Lib) said. “It’s really exciting and, as it turned out, there’s a large Penn State presence helping make it a reality.” Along with Jimirro, who earned the Distinguished Alumni Award from the Penn State Alumni Association in 1985, artistic director and co-founder Rob Schneider serves as an associate professor in the School of Theatre at Penn State. The associate artistic director, Benjamin Nissen, earned his BFA from Penn State. Also, Jimirro’s wife, Ajchara (“AJ”), who has a telecommunication engineering degree, helped with her computer skills and project management. The social media team and several interns are also Penn

Jimirro met Schneider after seeing a revival of “The Happy Time” that Schneider produced. They were introduced after Jimirro praised the production and asked to meet the person in charge. They talked and subsequently came to an agreement that Jimirro was interested in making his passion project possible but not running it day by day. “I’ve done that already,” he said. “But we had a shared dream and vision. So, we shook hands — that was about a year ago — and here we are.” In 2018, Jimirro endowed a $1 million professorship in the Donald P. Bellisaro College of Communications. His gift created the the James P. Jimirro Professor of Media Effects, further positioning Penn State as a leader in the study of the impact of media messaging and communication technologies on the way individuals consume and process information as well as the way they think, and ultimately, behave. Award-winning faculty member S.Shyam Sundar, a Fellow of the International Communication Association, was selected as the first holder of the professorship.

Thursday, March 26 A special evening event for Penn State alumni and friends in Hollywood! Watch for details:

DAN PFAFF (’68 MA Journ)

Longtime faculty member Daniel W. Pfaff, an Army veteran who brought professional experience and a thoughtful, supportive demeanor to the classroom and his work at Penn State, died Nov. 26, 2019. He was 79.

school. He worked for his local paper in the summer and later earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of Oregon, where he worked for the student newspaper. After graduating and completing ROTC training in 1962, he served in the Army for two years in Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, and later worked as a reporter for the Asbury Park Press.

Pfaff grew up in Idaho and became interested in journalism during his junior and senior years in high

Pfaff earned his master’s from Penn State in 1968 and his Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota in 1972. He

returned to Penn State, teaching ethics, mass communications and other courses. Colleagues remembered him as a gentleman and a scholar. He was committed to challenging students to be their best while consistently supporting them. He wrote a number of articles, monographs and two award-winning books. Pfaff donated his research to Pattee Library Archives at Penn State. He served as associate dean and acting dean until his retirement in 1998.

The Communicator | Fall 2019




As a lifelong fan, teacher and researcher, Kevin Hagopian knows the power of films and storytelling. The first full teaching professor in the history of the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications, Hagopian has been a faculty member at Penn State for 21 years. He still watches a half dozen movies a week, every week. He teaches introductory and advanced courses in cinema studies, and the Bellisario College’s graduate seminar in pedagogy. Hagopian was honored in 2016 with the Excellence in Teaching Award from the Bellisario College Alumni Soiety Board. He has been interviewed on National Public Radio and quoted as an expert by media outlets such as USA Today, Boston Globe and Chicago Tribune.

Why do you study films? I had loved movies since I was a kid, and in college I was a theatre major and that department had the film studies classes. I discovered I had a scholarly bent because I was studying something I loved. That was really what did it for me. Do you remember your first movie viewing experience? I can actually recall some drive-in movies. One was Disney’s “Cinderella” and another was “How the West Was Won.” Most of my early movie viewing was done on television because movies were really cheap programming for local affiliates and independent stations. Our local PBS station also had this whole series of silent films late in the evening. Between those films, the classic studio films that I was seeing during the day and the current movies my parents were taking me to, I was getting a pretty good movie education. At what point did it move from entertainment to education? I don’t know that it ever has, actually. It’s more of an “also.” It’s always been, to me, an entertaining form of education. One of the gripes people around the country who teach film studies have is that students cannot imagine a film class would be difficult. Film is something students justifiably feel they already own. They’re actually already skilled movie viewers. They

know the topic in a way they do not with some other disciplines. You don’t go into a biology or physics course already with a feeling of command over it. My approach is that, instead of negating what you already know, let’s add to it. Why are movies so powerful? I think it’s because they’re a combination of several arts — visual and sonic, the arts of montage or editing, the art of performance — and the integration of all those arts in a way that’s designed to be extremely immersive. It’s an art form unlike some other art forms that are first and foremost expressive. Movies are first and foremost communicative. They’re really about what happens in the audience’s mind. A painting may or may not get you as a spectator. It is still successful if it puts on canvas what the painter wanted to put there. A movie is not successful unless it moves an audience. Most narrative movies are character centered, and when you have movies that are about ideas but are presented through the lens of a character those ideas themselves become more engaging and persuasive. It’s one thing to read about the civil rights movement. It’s another thing to watch the movie “Selma.” What impact does the size of the screen have on the impact of a movie? It would be hard to find a filmmaker who wouldn’t want to see their film on as big a screen as possible, with an audience that is culturally primed to attend to what’s in front of them. Socially it’s still appropriate to be outraged when someone takes out a phone in the middle of a movie. There are very few places left where that’s the case. So, the larger the better. That doesn’t mean movies are always somehow a lesser experience on different kinds of screens. For example, the solitary viewer watching on a good-sized television screen now has this private relationship with this movie. That’s really compelling, too.

What are the challenges of teaching film studies in terms of what a filmmaker has in mind, whether it’s sending a message or just entertaining? I’m very humble in terms of the question of interpreting films. I want students to get used to interpreting films in certain given frameworks. So, if we’re looking at film culturally, I want them to understand the possibility that this western, this blaxploitation movie or this musical might be standing in for some other story. I’m not after imprinting students with my interpretation of a film. I want them, particularly in the communications professions, to look at what’s been produced and be able to decide for themselves. That’s valuable across all majors in our program. How do you approach the challenge of keeping up with all of the content that’s being produced? First, you have to see it as a challenge. Our students are jogging along in the mediasphere sampling and sampling and sampling as they go. We need to do that with them so our lessons have some anchoring in their immediate mediasphere. It includes mainstream movies and series cable television, and it also includes the virtual universe and gaming, which has become more storytelling oriented. Meanwhile, you have all of film history available to you. So you’re looking both forward and backward. Do you have a list of favorite movies? For me, the films of Howard Hawks are very important. I also really admire the films of Ida Lupino. I like the films of the Hong Kong filmmaker Wong Kar-wai because of the looseness and slackness of the storytelling style. My tastes range from traditional Hollywood narrative to the much looser style of European and Asian cinema. There’s a lot to be said for the love of movies, not just the individual movies but the love of the art form as a whole.

(Photo from Lucas Film

Lucas Film Ltd)


Fall student marshal Oliva Catena, an advertising/public relations major from Rochester, New York, applied only to Penn State as a high school senior. Her mother and sister earned degrees from the University and her brother is a high school junior strongly considering ... Penn State. (Photo by Abby Luke)

A BIG BIG-SCREEN STAR Several Bellisario College alumni have built on-screen careers in the entertainment industry but the biggest these days — certainly the tallest — is Joonas Suotamo (’08 Film), who plays Chewbacca in the Star Wars movies. Suotamo moved into the role in “Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi” (2017) and continued in “Solo: A Star Wars Story” (2018). His latest film, and the last in the legendary big-screen series, is “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” which was released Dec. 20, 2019. The 6-foot-10 Suotamo, from Espoo, Finland, played basketball at Penn State as an undergraduate student from 2005 to 2008.

Spring Semester Classes Begin

JAN 20

Martin Luther King Jr. Day

FEB 7-8

Ad/PR Network Board Meeting

FEB 21-23

Penn State Dance Marathon

MAR 1-2

Alumni Society Board Meeting

MAR 8-14

Spring Break

(No Classes)

(No Classes)

MAR 19-22

Short Doc Workshop

MAR 19-22


MAR 25-28

Hollywood Events


Success in the City

APR 25-26

Penn State Powwow


Spring Semester Classes End

MAY 4-8

Spring Semester Final Exams


Undergraduate Commencement

The Communicator | Fall 2019 (Photo from Suotamo’s Tiwtter, @joonassuotamo)


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