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A busy builder From start to finish, Adriana Lacy made the most of her undergraduate career

Dean’s Message Every student who joins the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications brings something unique to campus. One of my favorite times of year is when I read application essays for our incoming students, where they talk about the jobs, high school teachers, and family experiences that have shaped them. What unites our students is their collective interest in creating media of all forms. You can read more about some of our first-year students (p. 30) and one of our most recent graduates (p. 34) in this issue. I try to get to know as many students as I can. When I became dean in 2014, after more than a decade of teaching, I made it a goal to have at least one meaningful conversation with a student each day. Given my other responsibilities, that can take a bit of effort. I often reach out to leaders of student organizations and ask them to stop by my office (and many do). I also advise a couple of student organizations — HerCampus Penn State and Valley Magazine. I teach a one-credit “welcome to college” course each fall, which allows me to get to know many of our first-year students. And, finally, I simply invite students, when I meet them, to keep in touch through their college careers. Most don’t, and I understand. But a few students do. I cherish those relationships. I’ve just finished my fourth year as dean, so a few of the students who began visiting me as freshmen — with periodic checkins to tell me how they were doing and ask for advice — have just graduated. It was extra special to give them a hug when they crossed the commencement stage last month, after four years of conversations about their ups and downs, their challenges and triumphs. One such student was Jill Beckman. I met Jill and her parents, Darryl and Nora, during her first months on campus. Jill came in with an interest in sports journalism and great energy. She got involved right away, wasting no time in getting her byline in The Daily Collegian.

During the summer after her freshman year, she worked with high school students at our annual summer camp. And, steadily, she rose through the ranks at the Collegian, took on a leadership role with the campus chapter of the Association for Women in Sports Media, and sought additional experience. She covered Penn State football for the Reading Eagle, and the summer before her senior year, landed a sports internship at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. During her senior year, she covered Penn State football for the Philadelphia Media Group. She was also part of a project by the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism to cover NFL games in London, and she was part of a team of students who worked at Super Bowl LII. Wisely, she collected business cards from everyone she met there. She told me when she returned from that trip that her goal was to work for an NFL team. We discussed her strategy: network, network, network, and apply, apply, apply. Getting a job with any NFL team isn’t easy. As qualified as she was, Jill knew the competition would be very stiff. She landed a series of interviews with one team, and I got a request for a reference. But she didn’t get the job. She kept trying. I saw her the day before graduation. She had completed multiple interviews with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and she was hoping to get good news. Her parents were planning to move from Philadelphia to Florida, too. So, perhaps it was meant to be. Indeed, it was. In the week after commencement, she found out she’d beat the competition to land a season-long digital media internship with the team. Her next journey has started. I’m so glad I was along for the ride with her at Penn State. To Jill and all of our recent graduates: Thank you for the time you spent with us. Stay in touch!

Dean Marie Hardin

Communicator the

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

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

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


Faculty member Pearl Gluck (center) discusses her film “The Turn Out” before a screening at The Rowland Theatre in Philipsburg, Pennsylvania, in late April. (Photo by Curt Chandler)

12 A broadband challenge

High-speed broadband remains spotty in parts of Pennsylvania — and the focus of research by Bellisario College faculty member Sascha Meinrath

20 ‘I don’t live in the past’

Retired but never retiring Tom Berner remains as active as ever

28 Expanding opportunities

World Campus options increase offerings to eight undergraduate majors

34 A busy builder

From start to finish, Adriana Lacy made the most of her undergraduate career

38 Portrait of a cruciverbalist This publication is available in alternative media on request. Penn State is an equal opportunity, affirmative action employer, and is committed to providing employment opportunities to minorities, women, veterans, individuals with disabilities, and other protected groups. Nondiscrimination: http://guru. U.Ed. COM 18-85

Russell Frank talks about crossword puzzles — and builds one for readers


2 Dean’s Message

Adriana Lacy started building her career from the time she stepped on campus as a first-year student until she crossed the stage and accepted her diploma in May. Story on page 34. (Photo by Trey Miller)

44 Alumni Notes

4 Starting Shots

The Communicator | Spring 2018



Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications

Danielle Barrasse, a Dancer Relations Committee member from Scranton, Pennsylvania, leads the line dance during the Penn State Dance Marathon at the Bryce Jordan Center. (Photo by Samantha Marzullo, ’18)

The Communicator | Spring 2018



Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications

A student enters the West Halls courtyard from Waring Hall on a rainy morning. (Photo by Sydney Herdle, ’20)

The Communicator | Spring 2018



Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications

Multiple 30-second exposures made before dawn capture the Lyrid meteor shower from a vantage point at Black Moshannon State Park. (Photo by Yutong Zhou, ’19)

The Communicator | Spring 2018



Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications

The Communicator | Fall 2015


News and Notes

Commencement student marshals Six standout seniors — one for the Bellisario College overall and one for each of five majors —served as marshals during spring commencement exercises. They were: Katherine Litwin (Westborough, Massachusetts), overall; Natalie Guarna (Newtown, Pennsylvania), advertising/ public relations; Jaime Chan (West Chester, Pennsylvania), film-video; Emily Kohlman (Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania), journalism; Yifan Zhao (Xiangtan City, China), media studies; and Leen Obeidat (Amman, Jordan), telecommunications. Mutchler among ‘Most Influential’ in Pa. Terry Mutchler (’87 Journ), a founding partner of the law firm Mutchler Lyons who created Pennsylvania’s Office of Open Records and was an award-winning investigative reporter for The Associated Press earlier in her career, was named among the most influential women in Pennsylvania by City & State PA, a multimedia news organization dedicated to covering local and state politics and policy in the commonwealth. Robinson named honorary FastStart mentoring chair NFL Network analyst Michael Robinson (’04 Ad/PR, ’06 Journ) was named the honorary chair of the Penn State Alumni Association’s FastStart program. FastStart matches first-year Penn State students from diverse backgrounds with faculty/staff and alumni who can help students grow in their new college environment; develop valuable contacts; get advice on majors, careers, and internships; build connections with the community; access available University services and resources; and make new friends. The FastStart opportunity dovetails with the mission Robinson embraces in his work with middle and high school students through his Excel to Excellence Foundation, based in Richmond, Virginia.


Penn State College of Communications






STOCKTON @HalleStockton

Lives in: Newtown, Pennsylvania

Lives in: Pittsburgh

Job: Senior writer, The Athletic

Job: Managing editor of

Big break: Landing a job as a reporter for The Philadelphia Daily News In this issue: Writes about retired faculty member Tom Berner (page 20) Three things always in my fridge: Grapefruit, almond milk and eggs My TV/viewing guilty pleasure: “Jane the Virgin” Favorite kind of cookie: Homemade chocolate chip Fondest Penn State memory: National championship parade in 1987 Top three artists on my playlist: Bruce Springsteen, Bob Marley, Billy Joel

In this issue: Writes about broadband access in Pennsylvania, its impact and related issues (page 12) Big break: Hearing about the new nonprofit model of in-depth investigative journalism and landing a reporting job at one that was just starting My go-to cure for writer’s block: Taking a walk and not thinking about it Three things always in my fridge: Mini cans of Diet Pepsi — at least three of them or I’m anxious. I don’t drink coffee, so this is my fix

Pet peeve: When someone reads my newspaper before me, or reads it out loud to me (and yes, I still get a newspaper)

My TV/viewing guilty pleasure: “Shark Tank”

Best advice I ever received: Don’t worry if people (sources, readers, etc.) like you, but make sure they respect you

Fondest Penn State memory: All the late nights at The Daily Collegian

It’s a good day when: Any day I’m spending on Long Beach Island with my family and friends

MY GO-TO CURE FOR WRITER’S BLOCK: Going outside to play with my dogs

Favorite kind of cookie: Kitchen sink cookies from Panera

Top three artists on your playlist: Tom Petty, Queen, Ace of Base Pet peeve: Any kind of chewing noises

IT’S A GOOD DAY WHEN: ... the people (and pets) around me are happy and healthy, and important stories are being told and making a difference

The Communicator | Spring 2018


A Broadband Challenge Across Pennsylvania — in fields such as agriculture, education and medicine — reliable broadband internet access remains elusive. That’s why a Bellisario College faculty member is studying the issue and its impact. By Halle Stockton (’08)


Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications

(Cartoons by Bill Bettwy)

The Communicator | Spring 2018



Technology director Jeffrey Price says Lakeland School District in Lackawana County struggles with consistent broadband internet access for its nearly 1,500 students in two elementary schools and a junior/senior high school. (Photo by Jake Stevens)

ncorporating online features into lesson plans isn’t just a flashy add-on anymore. It’s the future of education. Not so much for some teachers in the small and very rural Lakeland School District, located in northern Lackawanna County north of Scranton. Many teachers won’t take that chance because they can’t rely on the internet, says district technology director Jeffrey Price. “You can lose your internet connection in a moment’s notice and everything grinds to a halt,” Price says. “... It deters teachers from moving in that direction because they know some things can be derailed.” More than 300 miles to the west in Erie County, Jerry Port and his wife Kelly run a Waterford farm where they grow soybeans and Christmas trees, and put on seasonal hay rides, among other events. Yet one of their most trying tasks is transmitting files to their accountant. Most of the time, the Ports walk away from the internet buffering symbol and make the hour-long round trip to deliver documents to their Erie accountant. Travel another 300 miles from Erie to southcentral Pennsylvania and you’ll find Val Kater, a retired psychologist from Chanceford Township in York County. She drives to the library four times a week to get on the internet because she can’t connect at home. Kater retains her license to practice. Recently, she said she was warned by the Department of State that 14

Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications

this was the last year she could renew through snail mail. At the age of 67, Kater says she feels like the lack of highspeed broadband access is squeezing her out of being an active member of society. “Education, business and general contact as a citizen — it’s just eluding me at this point unless I’m sitting at the library, which is just ridiculous,” Kater says. l l l l Access to the internet is often thought of as a “great equalizer,” a tool that can lead the user to anything from obtaining an education or employment to connecting to social services or friends and family. Rural areas are at a particular disadvantage regarding access to high-speed broadband. In Pennsylvania, 48 of the 67 counties are considered to be rural. Only about 27 percent of the state’s population live in rural counties, though. Of the 800,000 Pennsylvanians lacking access to high-speed internet, two-thirds are people living in rural areas. Therein lies the issue: Laying lines over vast amounts of land with relatively few people is not a profitable proposition for internet service providers. Price, Port and Kater have all been told at one time or another over the past several years that they’re out of luck. “We’re the outliers, end-of-the-line folks,” Kater says. The Communicator | Fall 2015


That reality is unacceptable to Sascha Meinrath, a renowned technology policy expert who serves as the Palmer Chair in Telecommunications at the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications. In February, Meinrath and partners launched a rigorous study to better understand internet access in the state. Years ago, Meinrath co-founded the Measurement Lab, which produced the multimillion-dollar M-Lab tool that allows for easy testing of internet speed. Meinrath’s team will use the data already collected through the millions of M-Lab tests. He is also asking that the public, whether the users live in a rural or urban area, use the tool to further build Meinrath’s data sampling. He anticipates as many as a million more tests in the coming year, enough information to provide reliable data. The study is supported with a $50,000 grant by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania. Meinrath’s team will produce a report meant to equip legislators and other policymakers with the information they need to address the internet access concerns of rural constituents. “This is aspirational, but our plan is to provide not just an overall assessment but hopefully also a district-by-district breakdown to let legislators not just know what’s going on in the state but also in their backyards,” Meinrath says. The desire to amplify access to high-speed broadband is growing. In March, Gov. Tom Wolf announced the Pennsylvania Broadband Investment Incentive Program, establishing the Pennsylvania Office of Broadband Initiatives and offering $35 million in incentives to internet providers that invest in underserved areas. Wolf, in his announcement, said Pennsylvania ranks 27th among states for making broadband available. Meinrath says he wants to move the needle for Pennsylvanians and create a framework for other states to evaluate and improve access to high-speed broadband. “When legislators and key decision-makers have access to good data, they make smarter decisions,” the professor says.

‘We try to warn teachers ...’

Price has spent 15 years as technology director of the Lakeland School District, which has nearly 1,500 students attending two elementary schools and a junior/senior high school. Ironically, Price worked at an internet service provider in Scranton before taking the position. Lakeland was one of 10 rural school districts in Pennsylvania that reported needing bandwidth because their speeds are below 100 Kbps per student, according to EducationSuperHighway data. The standard for high-speed broadband is 25 Mbps download speed and 3 Mbps upload speed; 100 Kbps is equivalent to 0.1 Mbps. “The reality is we’re in the middle of nowhere. In an urban area, the greatest asset you have is competition,” Price says. “Now when you get up on top of a mountain like we are, your options are extremely limited. For one, there is no fiber.” To get a fiber-optic connection — the fastest form of broadband — the lines would need to be custom run; Price said that would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. The district’s internet speed depends on the time of the day, the weather and the stress it’s under. If several students are asked to watch a YouTube video in class, it can eat up the bandwidth for the day, he said. This becomes most problematic for advanced classes, like the Project Lead the Way engineering and biomedical programs. “We have to look at possibilities of what we can and can’t do. We try to warn teachers

“When legislators and key decisionmakers have access to good data, they make smarter decisions.” — Sascha Meinrath, Palmer Chair in Telecommunications

How fast is your internet? During the more than year-long effort to measure and report on broadband access in Pennsylvania, Bellisario College researcher Sascha Meinrath and his team will rely on online tests conducted by people across the state. Meinrath anticipates more than one million tests, which will provide a reliable trove of information. Those tests will complement more than four million that have been collected from Pennsylvania through the years as part of an ongoing effort by the M-Lab ( While finding exact reasons for slow internet speeds can be a challenge, testing is simple. Anyone can direct their browser to and follow the prompts to get a report about their internet connection’s speed. l The Communicator | Spring 2018


of that,” Price says. The challenges at Lakeland School District don’t translate to all rural school districts, says James Wagner, executive director of the ARIN Intermediate Unit, a regional public school service agency covering Armstrong and Indiana counties northeast of Pittsburgh. For the schools in his region, he said internet access is not a problem. And “for a majority of students, it’s not an issue at home,” Wagner says. Wagner takes issue with the concept that everyone needs access to high-speed broadband; students need the internet but most are accessing it through their cell phones. He says that while the Meinrath-led study is worthwhile, he hopes the researchers will also evaluate what internet infrastructure has already been paid for by For Jerry and Kelly Port of Port Farms in Erie County, unreliable broadband internet access taxpayers. provides an often inconvenient frustration for their farm business built on soybeans, Christmas “We all have to, at some point, look trees, seasonal hayrides and hosting special events. (Photos by Robert Frank) at dwindling resources and we have concrete action resulting from Meinrath’s study and the Center to figure out how to allocate those resources, so I’m more concerned about everybody being able for Rural Pennsylvania’s commitment to educate lawmakers on to have a minimum level of service than I am trying to figure the issue. “You hear promises — this funding’s going in or this is going out a way to have everybody have the best thing going,” he says. “I don’t know the answer. I just know that needs to be looked at to happen — and that’s the frustrating part,” says Port, who testified about rural broadband service at an April hearing in as part of the discussion.” Wellsboro hosted by the center. “You spend the time to try to get the stuff going. I’ve talked to my local representative for Bandwidth for business Sullivan County in northcentral Pennsylvania is 40 percent several years, and it’s always coming or it’s not quite yet but it public forest and among its latest crowning achievements is will be. It seems like we’ve attempted to fund this type of stuff that Loyalsock Creek was named the 2018 Pennsylvania River before but it never happens.” Even more aggravating to the Ports is the fiber-optic line of the Year. With roughly 6,500 residents, the county is the second-least populous in the state. Outdoor recreation is the running through their property. “You can see it, but you just county’s bread and butter, and natural gas work is picking back can’t get it,” he says. The Ports just got DSL internet service at their home and up after a slowdown from high inventory and plummeting pricPort Farms a year ago. Verizon could only offer its lowest es. Florence Suarez is responsible for furthering the inter- speed. They pay $177 a month. “One good thing is it’s unlimited, ests of area businesses as executive director of the Sullivan but the speed is very limited,” says Port, noting that satellite County Chamber of Commerce. She can’t access the internet service was slow and charged overage fees. from her office. It’s not a huge problem for her, but she said county officials are recognizing that internet access is a key Telehealth transformation Tim Schoener is vice president factor to keeping the economy afloat when recreation or other and chief information officer at market-dependent businesses falter. “For businesses to come in and flourish, and we hope we UPMC Susquehanna, a seven-hoskeep having that potential, they have talked about needing pital organization with 350 providers in central Pennsylvania. He has broadband recently,” Suarez says. Mark Haas, economic development officer in the Sullivan worked in IT for more than two County Planning Office, said county commissioners are trying decades. “I rode that revolution of to address a dearth of internet access. Haas said the lack of change of IT transforming health high-speed broadband access limits choices for the people care,” he says. Now, medical professionals use who live there. If you want to homeschool your children, well, electronic medical records, picture you can’t access online courses. If you want to telecommute, Sullivan County may not be the place for you. Without reliable archiving for radiology and teleinternet access, “that limits their ability to make money away medicine. “Broadband access didn’t really mean much or matter much from the office while living here,” Haas says. Tim Schoener Jerry Port, the farmer from Erie County, said he hopes to see 20 years ago,” he says. “There was 16

Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications

The Communicator | Spring 2018


Retirees Sue and Chuck Long appreciate the solitude of rural Centre County near Black Moshannon State Park but would like the affordability and convenience of reliable broadband internet access as well. (Photo courtesy of Chuck Long) no need for it.” Schoener, who earned his bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering from Penn State in 1985, pointed to industry leader Kaiser Permanente to make the point. In 2015, the California-based health network saw more patients through telehealth than in person. To emulate this for patients in Pennsylvania’s rural areas would be invaluable, Schoener says. So far, state and federal grant funding has helped UPMC Susquehanna make progress. But, he says, “grant funding is drying up and being spread thinner. It’s going to become a problem.” Rural counties have fewer physicians than urban counties, and the population is older. By 2040, it’s projected that 25 percent of rural Pennsylvania will be 65 or older. If healthcare providers in Pennsylvania can’t keep up now, Schoener says they won’t be ready when artificial intelligence takes over. “AI is going to make decisions, perform analytics on data (and) will be part of common health care in the next few years,” he says, “and it takes broadband bandwidth.” In rural northwestern Pennsylvania, the Dickinson Center is a nonprofit behavioral health facility serving patients throughout eight counties. Its medical professionals visit patients’ homes. During home evaluations, they update electronic medical records — at least they try to. Internet in the area is spotty and inconsistent. If the connection drops, as it often does, work can be lost. That poor connection can lead to errors and inconvenience for both the employee and patient. “There could be continuity-of-care issues and, in rare cases, we do have delegates or crisis care workers determining if the person is in need of involuntary or inpatient care,” says Jennifer Dippold, the center’s communications and development director. “Access [to the electronic charts] would educate the healthcare worker more effectively.” In an attempt to mitigate the problem, the Dickinson Center has invested about $10,000 in offline mobile applications.

18 18

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

Access, affordability and exclusion

Internet connectivity affects people at all stages of life. For Kater and Chuck Long, a new era of retirees who want to mix work with recreation, the lack of broadband excludes them from the daily grind more than they’d like. Kater volunteers for human rights organizations and is leaving the door open to practice psychology. Long, 64, is an atmospheric scientist who earned a meteorology degree from Penn State. In 2010, he and his wife purchased property in the Black Moshannon State Park, about 18 miles from State College. Sometime next year, they hope to move into the retirement home they’re building in the park. Sure, he isn’t worried about the internet when he envisions himself on the lake fishing for bass and bluegills. But he plans to do consulting work and would like to be able to stream a movie occasionally. “It’s not going to change where we’re going to build,” he says. “It’s going to change our lifestyle.” An internet service provider’s website warns Long that DSL internet would be excruciatingly slow. “If we have to rely on DSL, we’re basically without communication to the outside world,” Long says. “That’s dangerous nowadays.” Long is assuming that his only option for reliable internet is the pricey satellite service HughesNet. Kater cautions Long against making that assumption. HughesNet didn’t work out for her. She previously spent a full day navigating the application process and waiting for an installer, only to find it made no difference in terms of reliable internet access. She still takes at least one day a year to call internet providers and “fight the fight.” Her last daylong quest took place in November. She believes internet access matters and should be treated as a serious matter in communities across the state. “It’s worthwhile using our funds to connect everybody,” Kater says, “just like it was worthwhile to connect everyone to electricity.” l

RESEARCH: Facebook use involves, empowers older adults


ocial networking sites, such as Facebook, offer tools and activities that may help older adults feel more empowered and less isolated, according to researchers. In a study of Facebook use, older adults who posted a lot of personal stories on the social networking site felt a higher sense of community, and the more they customized their profiles, the more in control they felt, said S. Shyam Sundar, Penn State distinguished professor of communications and co-director of the Media Effects Research Laboratory. He added that the study suggests that using social media is not a uniform experience that is either all bad, or all good, but offers multiple functions for diverse users. “People tend to think of Facebook as a black box that either has an overall positive effect or a negative effect, but what distinguishes this study is that it makes an effort to go in and see what people do in Facebook — and that’s what matters,” said Sundar. “So, in other words, social media, by itself, is neither good, nor bad, but it’s how you use it.” For older adults, who may be less mobile, Facebook and similar social networking sites could play a critical role in easing isolation and making them feel like they are part of a large community, according to the researchers, who report their findings in the journal New Media & Society. “This is important, especially for older adults who might be aging in place, because they have mobility constraints that

limit their ability to socialize,” said Sundar. “And, for the last 10 years or so, we’ve been looking into how social networking sites can enhance the social life of older adults and reduce the social S. Shyam Sundar isolation that they might feel. These are more fine-grained findings that say certain things you do on Facebook can give you gratifications, like fulfilling the needs for activity, having interactions with others, having a greater sense of agency, and building community.” The researchers also suggested that commenting on and responding to posts gave older users a feeling of social interaction. Eun Hwa Jung, formerly a doctoral student at Penn State and currently assistant professor of communications and new media, National University of Singapore, who worked with Sundar, said older adults are increasingly adopting social media, and are a growing number of Facebook’s membership. l

Actor joins faculty filmmaker for on-campus screening Photo by Curt Chandler


conic actor Judd Nelson — John Bender in “The Breakfast Club” — joined Penn State faculty filmmaker Boaz Dvir on campus April 12 for a dialogue with the audience at the screening of a rough cut of “Cojot.” Nelson is the narrator and Dvir is the writer, director and producer of “Cojot,” which tells the little-known story of a Holocaust survivor who set out to kill his father’s Nazi executioner and wound up playing a pivotal role in history’s most daring hostage-rescue operation. “I was drawn to the project by the powerful gravitational pull of an incredible story,” said Nelson, who has recently done voiceover work for the “Transformers” TV mini-series. “‘Cojot’ proves once again that real life is more fantastic than fiction, and that second chances often come in disguise,” he said. l

The Communicator | Spring 2018



Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications

H Ink in his


By DANA O’NEIL (’90)

Photographing barns has become a growing hobby for Tom Berner in his retirement. (Photo by Trey Miller)

er name was Barbara and to Tom Berner’s adolescent eyes, she was everything — lovely and bright, and alas … just out of his league. Undaunted, not to mention fueled by the throes of a teenage crush, Berner decided the best way to woo Barbara was to travel in her orbit. At the time, she was the editor of the Tamaqua High School newspaper and so Berner, with zero interest in journalism but lots of interest in Barbara, signed on as a reporter. He even volunteered for the unenviable task of pasting up the paper. The fairy tale does not contain the traditional happily ever after. Barbara did not fall madly in love with young Tom — in fact, she went on to become a missionary — but that’s not to say there is no joy in the outcome. From her vaunted position as a high school newspaper editor, Barbara recommended her once-lovesick reporter for a spot on the local newspaper, The Evening Courier. That was the first step in a circuitous path that eventually led to Penn State and Berner’s position as one of the most influential and respected professors in what has become the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications. Retired from teaching since 2003, Berner is hardly living a retired life. He has turned an old photography hobby into a fledgling career, authored books that combine his old skills with new, and travels frequently to become better at his craft. This surprises absolutely no one who knows Berner well. “He is a straight-talking, small-town Pennsylvania boy with an incisive intellect,’’ says Kathleen Pavelko, the president and CEO of WITF, a media company based in Harrisburg. That intellect has served as Berner’s North Star, guiding him through various iterations of essentially the same career he tripped on while pursuing his high school love. Not that he was anywhere near as certain about a future in journalism as he was in his fervor for Barbara. No, even after that brief stint at The Evening Courier — where like all reporters at the local level Berner covered sports, cops, courts and whatever else came his way — Berner was intent on a law career. Finances stood temporarily in the way of dreams and reality, but then Congress issued the Readjustments Benefits Act in 1966, extending the G.I. Bill benefits. Berner, in his second year as a Navy enlisted, enrolled at Penn State Pottsville (now Schuylkill). The federal government’s money only stretched so far, so recalling his experience from high school Berner took a job at the local paper, The Pennsylvania Mirror in State College. “I realized I didn’t have blood in my veins,’’ he says. “It was ink. I forgot about law school.’’ The Communicator | Spring 2018


From grading papers and collaborating with colleagues to his retirement in 2003 and, more recently, annual

An ‘inauspicious hiring’

Technically a general assignment reporter, Berner made himself useful at The Mirror in every way he could. His knowledge of the teletype machine made him a temporary sports editor when the real boss headed with the Penn State football team to the Orange Bowl. The experience and versatility made Berner an attractive postgraduate hire. He finished his degree in 1971, and was immediately brought on by the Centre Daily Times. Berner was working on his master’s degree when Penn State hired him as a part-time instructor in the journalism school, at that time part of the College of the Liberal Arts. Four years later, happenstance intervened again and he was elevated to full time. “It was a rather inauspicious hiring,’’ Berner explains. “Someone resigned out of season and they couldn’t do a national search. Here I was.’’ Berner figured he’d stick around for six, maybe seven years, at the most. He retired 28 years later, discovering that he not only had a knack for teaching but he enjoyed how the academic world afforded him a chance to immerse himself into unique and interesting subjects. He wound up teaching a host of courses, developing a reputation for being tough on his students but fair. Berner preferred hands-on education to large lectures, convinced that the best way to learn journalism was to do journalism. “I wanted them to be ready for the professional world,’’ he says. “I wanted them to be individuals, to be thinkers, to learn how to learn, not to take my word for everything.’’

Some dedicated editing

His students — proteges might be more apt — remain fiercely loyal, appreciative that Berner didn’t soft pedal to save their feelings, but rather brought his razor-sharp editing skills to their work. Berner served as one of three committee members on Pavelko’s graduate thesis about the origin and development of the American newspaper ombudsman. This was in 1979, long before email and the 22

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internet, and Pavelko, living at the time in London, had to rely on the good old postal system to get back her thesis edits. “The first draft was thoroughly, and I mean thoroughly, edited and so was the second. I also noted some of the second draft suggestions contradicted the first,’’ she says. “I asked, via postal mail, ‘How long is this going to go on?’ I was told, ‘Well as long as you keep sending us drafts.’’’ Pavelko jokes that her next draft was the final one, but remains grateful for the critique. “The thing about Tom, he was able to edit without imposing himself on the writer,’’ she says. “It was improving the writing, not changing the writer. That’s meaningful. When one compared the original draft with the edited version, any person with an even beginner’s journalistic smarts would see the qualitative difference.’’ Berner’s touch served Pavelko well long after she finished her thesis. She has worked every rung of the TV ladder — from producer all the way to her current executive position — and has channeled his advice while shaping how she edits, as well as how she communicates. “As a manager and a supervisor, you’re trying to help people achieve their best work,’’ she says. “It’s about the work, but that said, a lot of times you’re dealing with young and inexperienced staffs. Their personalities and professional demeanors needed to be guided as well. That’s about the person as well. That’s your first and foremost obligation.’’

A fortuitous change and a big impact

Ben Feller similarly hears Berner’s voice ringing in his ears. Now a managing director at Mercury, a public strategy and consulting firm in Manhattan, Feller spent more than six years as a White House correspondent for The Associated Press, part of the press corps that trailed Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. In 1991 he was a Penn State junior, one year away from graduation and intent on switching majors. “You could say that was a bit risky,’’ Feller says. Risky, but he believed necessary. Feller began at Penn State as a

visits with wife Paulette to the Bellisario College’s Donor Dinner, Berner consistently finds ways to stay busy.

psychology major, and though he earned good grades, he never felt connected to the coursework. A trip abroad to the University of Exeter in London changed his focus entirely. He realized he wanted more out of his college experience, and to make more of an impact with his career. An avid writer, he thought that skill would serve him well, researching both English and journalism degrees. Already far down his collegiate path, Feller realized more of his credits would transfer into journalism and selected that as his new major. The only problem? He’d already enrolled in a host of psychology courses for the upcoming fall semester. Undaunted, he decided he’d drop his psychology load and simply add journalism classes. This was back when students had to add and drop classes over the phone, so during a lunch break from his summer job as a bank teller in State College, Feller proceeded to drop all of the courses on his schedule. When he went to replace them with journalism courses, he discovered they were all full. “I came back from lunch and the teller next to me, who knew of my epiphany, asked how it had gone,” he says. “I told her, ‘I think I just dropped out of college.’ ’’ With little choice, Feller opted to audit the classes in the fall, showing up at an intro to journalism course in the hopes that some students might drop so that he could add the class. Though not teaching the course, Berner spoke to the students that day. “If you want to be a journalist,’’ he said, “you’d better take it seriously.’’ Berner was trying to weed out the students who thought the job sounded cool or merely wanted to see a byline in the newspaper, and instill the right amount of respect for the profession. “He also was trying to scare the hell out of people,’’ Feller says. To Feller’s good fortune, the scare tactic worked. Some students dropped the course and he wiggled his way in, embarking on a career that has since earned him several distinguished awards, taken him aboard Air Force One, to 25 countries, and in front of the most powerful person in the world.

Those, of course, are the stories that people want to hear when they discover Feller’s career path, and he’s more than happy to share the “glamour” stories to people who are merely curious. But when it comes time to speak about the profession — to talk to fellow reporters or aspiring journalists — Feller finds himself repeatedly returning to that first official lesson he heard from Berner. “Not only does that conversation ring in my head, but it really became part of my whole approach to work,’’ he says. “I wanted people to think about the preparation, the pressure of getting every single word right and the consequences of that. I was so earnest about it, friends kidded me.’’ Ironically, Feller never had Berner for a class and his first actual interaction with the professor came after college, when Feller was working for the Centre Daily Times and Berner was the president of the borough council. “You don’t have to have a tremendous amount of time together for a person to have an impact,’’ Feller says. “And that was the case for me with Tom.’’

Past perspectives and plans for the future

Berner is still having an impact on the profession as well as his community. He is keenly, and occasionally painfully, aware of the demise of journalism. He believes even more in the importance of the job, but he worries about the business end of the industry and is dismayed at the death of newspapers. “We watch CNN a lot, and so often you’ll hear, ‘As reported in The New York Times or the Washington Post,’’ he says. “So often it starts with print. But you have to have substantive newspapers to succeed.’’ He meets monthly at the Red Horse Tavern in Pleasant Gap, Pennsylvania, with a group of CDT retirees who call themselves Young Writers of America Inc. “We’re not young,’’ he says. “We weren’t even young when we started, but we like to get together and gnaw on political issues or journalism issues.’’ Berner also has found new ways to keep busy, as well as stretch his journalistic wings. Upon retirement, he and The Communicator | Spring 2018


“I don’t live in the past. And the present is gone like that. I live in the future.’’ — Tom Berner his wife, Pauline, moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, intent on thoroughly cutting the cord from Penn State. Berner counts himself as a lifelong photography hobbyist. He owned a Brownie Hawkeye back in the day, and still has the black-and-white negatives from his first single-lens-reflex camera. With time on his hands and a new part of the country to explore, Berner opted to use his retirement to feed his passion, enrolling in a workshop at a local community college taught by Efrain Padro, a lawyer turned fulltime photographer. Enamored of Padro’s teachings, Berner enrolled in another New Mexico-based workshop, eventually joining Padro on excursions to Puerto Rico and Peru. After eight years in New Mexico, the couple decided to return home, settling in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, close to the epicenter of the University but far enough away to not get immersed in it. Berner was driving back to Bellefonte, up Interstate 40 after visiting his daughter in North Carolina, when he started noticing all of the different barns dotting the landscape. He was seeing them as a photographer, imagining perhaps some sort of book. He soon discovered his wasn’t an unusual idea. There are, it turns out, plenty of books featuring photographs of barns. “I’m an OK photographer, but not at that level,’’ Berner says. “I figured there had to be something unique about my book.’’ That’s when the old journalism instincts kicked in, Berner figuring each barn must have a story and


Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications

if he could find a way to tell those stories, he might be on to something. Three years later he published Pennsylvania Barn Stories, a collection featuring 36 barns in 23 counties. He refuses to name a favorite but does share a tale about a structure in Blair County, a stone barn built by a veteran of the Revolutionary War. The veteran was killed while quarrying the stone to finish the barn. His sons weren’t stone masters as their father was, and had to finish the barn out of wood. Berner found the father’s grave in a cemetery, five miles away. On the day he visited it was decorated with a flag for Memorial Day. Berner’s original research sent him to his second book — about Pennsylvania quilt barns — and he’s now working on a book about Centre County churches. This summer he and Pauline will visit Brittany, France. He’s hoping they can collaborate on a project through their copyrighted name, Pixels and Bristles, combining his stories and photographs, as well as pictures of her painting. If this doesn’t sound a bit like retirement, it sounds entirely like Berner. “I don’t live in the past,’’ Berner says of his zest to keep busy. “And the present is gone like that. I live in the future.’’ Even if it is a long-lost friend from the past named Barbara who started it all. l

Faculty members like Tara Wyckoff (back row, far right), who took students to the National Millennial Community meetings in Seattle, know the value of opportunities that challenge and engage students outside the classroom.

‘Engaged scholarship’ a strong complement to class


hen Tara Wyckoff teaches Penn State students, her efforts and influence extend far beyond the classroom — and she’s not alone. Faculty members in every department of the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications find ways to complement and enhance their efforts by providing opportunities for students and putting them in a position to succeed in ways that are not necessarily specifically outlined in a syllabus. For example, Wyckoff, an assistant teaching professor in the Department of Advertising/Public Relations, led a small contingent of students to the National Millennial Community meetings in Seattle at the start of the 2017-18 academic year. In the spring semester, she was a judge and mentor during Penn State Startup Week. She’s also the adviser for the Ad/PR Club, consistently working with students to design programs and invite professional visitors back to campus to help students prepare for their careers. Likewise, Bill Zimmerman, a lecturer in the Department of Advertising/Public Relations, supervised a team of students who worked with the National Elder Law

Foundation to help the organization expand its social media presence and increase the foundation’s exposure in the media. He said it was a valuable opportunity. “We’re thrilled our students had the chance to tackle a project with a real impact,” Zimmerman said. “The foundation receives a PR boost and the students get valuable experience Students (from left) Katherine Finneran, Lara Pasko and Sarah working with a client — Pinsky collaborated with the National Elder Law Foundation. plus ideal pieces for their z faculty filmmakers such as Boaz Dvir portfolios. Everybody wins.” and Pearl Gluck including students on A small sampling of recent “engaged projects for organizations and in editscholarship” efforts across the Bellisario ing and production roles for filmmaking College includes: z Colleen Connelly-Ahern, associate efforts when they work side-by-side with professor of advertising/public relations, industry professionals; and z Curt Chandler, an assistant teaching facilitating two service learning projects professor in the Department of Journalin one of her 400-level courses; ism, leading separate teams of students z an effort by Connelly-Ahern and husband Lee Ahern, associate professor to the America East journalism entrepreof advertising/public relations, mentor- neurship hackathon and the Lens Collecing students making a pitch in an interna- tive multimedia storytelling workshop, tional competition sponsored by L’Oréal; respectively. l The Communicator | Spring 2018


Doctoral candidate studies how media shock culture By JONATHAN McVERRY (’05)



he people of Afghanistan experienced a five-year media blackout in the mid-1990s due to Taliban rule. The ban was lifted in 2001 and an onslaught of new media quickly filled the void. This created an interesting dynamic of both national and international influence. Penn State doctoral candidate Azeta Hatef spent a month in the country’s capital of Kabul to examine how its people transitioned both culturally and socially from the dramatic change. Specifically, she studied the relationship between media and the changing beauty industry through interviews with consumers of cosmetic surgery. Hatef’s interest in media’s cultural influence began years before. Growing up in an Afghan-American family in

Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications

Fremont, California, just outside of San Francisco, Hatef said her community was diverse, but what she saw in the media was not. “It was interesting that I could not identify with individuals on covers of magazines or on TV screens,” she said. In many ways, this early realization later inspired the dissertation work that would take Hatef to the other side of the world. A key moment in that journey happened during her undergraduate years at the University of California, Berkeley. In an introductory communications course, she learned about the media’s role in building and changing culture. Hatef paired this area of ethnographic research with an interest in the

beauty industry, and an important academic focus emerged. “I am drawn into understanding how it is we create our identities and create communities,” she said. “How do we come to know ourselves and the world around us?” Hatef completed her master’s degree at Syracuse University. During that time, she made her trip to Afghanistan. She said other countries’ media descended on Afghanistan to jockey for position after the media blackout was lifted. Her goal was to understand the motivations for seeking cosmetic surgery through a specific focus on media engagement. “I remember walking through a mall (in Kabul) and seeing posters of the Kardashians and Selena Gomez,” she said. “These are global celebrities in a space that for a long time didn’t have media. During the blackout, you could go to jail for just owning a television, so it was a big change.” Her project was published in the research journal Feminist Media Studies. It included 16 in-depth interviews with

Hatef said some interesting results have emerged. She has found that many Roma people are using social media in response to the lack of or negative representation of Roma people in mainstream Czech media. “If you turn on the TV, if you see Roma in the news, it’s often focusing on negative experiences,” she said. “I am seeing activists and organizations challenge traditional media by finding alternative spaces like social media” to broadcast their messages. Hatef will complete her data gathering this summer. When she returns to University Park, she will resume one of her other favorite things about academia — teaching. Hatef says she has fallen in love with the classroom and is happy it will be a part of her career going forward. She aims to be an educator who provides support to students and inspire them to achieve great things. “Being an Afghan-American woman, a child of refugees and a woman of color in academia, I want to help students who oftentimes do not see themselves in their teachers,” she said. “I want to help students navigate these spaces, whether that’s understanding the financial resources available to them or finding mentors and communities.” Hatef teaches COMM 419: World Media Systems and COMM 410: International Mass Communications at Penn State. She said her teaching philosophy is to clarify diverse needs and ways of learning where students feel valued and respected. “Students need to feel like they belong in the classroom and that their academic and career goals matter.” Last year, Hatef won the Harold F. Martin Graduate Assistant Outstanding Teaching Award, which is given to only 10 graduate student teachers University-wide. McAllister says Hatef is an “amazing teacher” who incorporates global sensibilities into her classrooms. “Azeta has excellent classroom energy and shows her enthusiasm for international communications issues,” McAllister said. “Scholars and teachers like Azeta are an important part of Penn State’s mission to internationalize its impact and reach.” Hatef has a busy summer lined up. While completing her work in the Czech Republic, she will be organizing a preconference event at the International Communications Association conference this May in Brno, Czech Republic. In July, she will be attending the Romani Identities and Antigypsyism summer program at Central European University in Budapest. She’ll return to Penn State this fall to teach and finish her dissertation. After that, she will begin searching for professor positions. Her ideal first job will allow her to continue teaching and researching, and she hopes to build a better understanding of engagement with and within Romani communities, and identify other transnational opportunities in this line of research. “There are groups around the world that experience marginalization and oppression and I am interested in understanding these intersections,” she said. “I think this will help us better understand how to work toward change.”l

“I am drawn into understanding how it is we create our identities and create communities. How do we come to know ourselves and the world around us?” — Azeta Hatef Afghan women who received cosmetic surgery. “It was a really fantastic experience, both personally, having an Afghan background, and as a researcher,” she said. Hatef completed her master’s work and saw an opportunity to continue international research at Penn State. After meeting with a few faculty members in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications, she enrolled as a doctoral student in media studies in 2014. Last year, Hatef was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to conduct her research and she is currently in the middle of her field work in the Czech Republic. “Azeta brings a truly international perspective to her research and teaching,” said Matt McAllister, professor of media studies and Hatef’s graduate adviser. Hatef is examining social media within the Czech Republic’s Roma community, specifically to see its role in social and political change. The Roma people represent a small portion of the Czech population. However, they are a marginalized group in the country. In a 2010 survey conducted by the Czech Republic government’s Ministry of Interior, nearly 50 percent of Czechs said they’d prefer the country expel Roma people. Hatef is hoping to gain a better understanding of how social media can be a space of resistance for this ostracized group of people. “Social media give Roma people an easier, safer way to get information out,” she said. “It provides a space to produce identities and communities when living in an environment that may not be as welcoming.”

The Communicator | Spring 2018



n May 2017, 21-year-old Kasey Altman set out to travel the world. Since then, she has visited nearly 30 countries, including places in Europe, Oceania, South America and Southeast Asia. She has spent time backpacking, exploring and learning more about herself than she could have ever imagined. She has also been working toward a college degree without ever having set foot in a classroom, thanks to Penn State World Campus and the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications. Altman has been able to be a full-time student during her solo-traveling trip, which will conclude in June when she returns home to San Diego. “For me, it’s almost more like I’m traveling as a digital nomad,” said Altman. “I have something that I have to sit down, find Wi-Fi, plan ahead, manage my time and Penn State has just given me that opportunity. I couldn’t have asked for more. It has really been so ideal on every level.” A former Division I volleyball player, Altman attended Montana State and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga before her travels. After deciding she wanted to complete her education





Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications

online, a quick Google search of degree options led her to Penn State. She plans to graduate in December 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in strategic communications. While not every student is traveling the world, many others are using online options to earn their Penn State degrees. In early May, 24 students in the Bellisario College received undergraduate degrees offered through World Campus. A majority of those students graduated from Penn State without ever being in Pennsylvania. They came from all over the country -- from Maine to California (which had five graduates), and represented 12 states. This spring, there were 239 World Campus students participating in a Bellisario College program. They hailed from 34 states, including Washington, D.C., and six countries. Thanks to World Campus, and offerings through the Bellisario College, students have the flexibility to complete their college degrees in a way that fits their lifestyle. “We are able to reach an entirely different population of students with our online programs,” said Shannon Kennan, director of eLearning initiatives in the Bellisario College. “We are tapping into students who would not have been able to go back and get a college degree because their lives wouldn’t permit them to be in a certain place at a certain time multiple times a week.” In addition, the online courses fulfill the University’s commitment to diversity by allowing Penn State to reach people from so many different walks of life. With its online degrees, the Bellisario College offers eight different undergraduate major options for students. Resident students have five options (advertising/public relations, film-video, journalism, media studies and telecommunications) and those studying online have three (digital journalism and media, digital multimedia design, and strategic communications). Along with the undergraduate communications degrees, World Campus offers a master’s degree in strategic communications and a minor in media studies. More than 50 communications courses will be available online, a tremendous growth from the initial group of 12 online courses. “We are proud of the growth and success of our online offerings through the World Campus, and they play an integral role in establishing the Bellisario College as one of the nation’s leading communications programs,” Dean Marie Hardin said. “We are constantly envisioning new and innovative degree possibilities for online learners, understanding that simply replicating our in-residence offerings may not be the best fit for a growing population of students.” The strategic communications bachelor’s degree is the oldest of the group, starting in spring 2013 as a bachelor’s in advertising/public relations with an option in strategic communi-

Kasey Altman in Minca, Colombia. cations. Its name was changed in February 2018. In total, the major usually has just under 200 students. The newest bachelor’s degree is in digital journalism and media, which launched in spring 2018. Through a collaboration with the College of Arts and Architecture and the College of Information Sciences and Technology, faculty from the Bellisario College also teach courses in the bachelor of design in digital multimedia design, which officially began in fall 2017. The most recent offering from the Bellisario College is a master’s degree in strategic communications, with the first courses set to start in fall 2018. “The MPS degree goes beyond simply teaching communications skills by preparing students for leadership roles in managing the entire strategic communications process for any company, brand, or organization,” said Frank Dardis, an associate professor in the Department of Advertising/Public Relations and lead faculty for the online master’s program. “It’s a very applied, professional degree. If you’re out in the industry and you’re learning more not only at your own job, but learning more about how this whole process works, that’s perfect. You can call it advanced, on-the-job training.” No matter the focus, Bellisario College courses and degrees delivered through World Campus provide something motivated students covet – flexibility and opportunity. Whether it’s a returning adult learner balancing a family with a class or two a semester, a member of the military complementing his or her skill set with a college degree, or even a world-traveling, back-packing 20-something, those options matter. “You don’t know where you’re going next. You don’t know who you’re going to meet. You don’t know what you’re going to do,” Altman said. “That’s the most beautiful and liberating part of traveling. But, something that Penn State has given me is structure.” l The Communicator | Spring 2018


First-year students (from left) Kerry Brennan, Carson Spence and Jake Jurich were part of a group the Bellisario College followed throughout the 2017-18 academic year and hope to follow throughout their Penn State careers.

First-Year Focus

This year, the Bellisario College documented the experiences of a handful of first-year students. Here’s a look back at their first year at Penn State, in their own words: Kerry Brennan | Wyckoff, New Jersey | Ad/PR What did you learn about Penn State so far that maybe you didn’t know coming in? KB: It’s not a lot smaller than I expected, but it does feel really small, in a good way. You don’t feel overwhelmed. It is the epitome of a big school, so it seems like you’re going to come and be overwhelmed and not know anyone. But, within the first three weeks, you already start seeing familiar faces, not even just freshmen, all different grades. Professors, too. I see my professors on campus a lot, which is funny, because I don’t even live on campus. That was something I was definitely pleasantly surprised about how small it feels. Favorite or best memory? Something that stands out? KB: THON was absolutely phenomenal. First of all, it’s a phenomenal thing to experience. Also, 30

Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications

even within that, I was able to do something communications oriented. That was my first time having hands-on public relations experience. I got to escort press around the floor. I was able to get career training while I was also experiencing THON, which is like the Penn State thing. Biggest challenge? KB: The biggest challenge, I think for me, was reestablishing myself. I think I’m still doing that a little. In high school, people know who you are and what you’re about. Teachers, even if I didn’t have them that year, they know this person is a good student or this person excels at English as opposed to math. They know your personality and how you work in a classroom. Friends outside of the classroom, too, just know what type of person you are. When you come to Penn State, your application shows kind of what person you are, but once you’re actually accepted and in, it’s like a clean slate, so you have to build up all that you previously had in high school. It could be a good thing because you maybe want to restart, but for me, I kind of want to get back to where I was in high school.

Jake Jurich | Ashburn, Virginia | Film-Video What are you most proud of? JJ: I think, so far in terms of balancing, obviously I want to get involved in more clubs and things like that, but if you looked at the pie chart of my freshman year it would be a pretty good split of doing work when I needed to do work and not mess around, or just having a ton of fun when I wanted to, and doing THON and doing things for class or COMM-related things, giving tours. I think I have managed it well, which I’m pretty happy about one year in. First thing you tell someone about Penn State? JJ: I just think the fact that there’s always something to do. You can go to any number of places on campus at any moment and you can get into something. Also, there are a lot of places to chill and relax. You could study in a different spot every day of the semester and still have peace and quiet. I just like the overall package of it. It’s great. Advice to incoming students? JJ: Getting involved right from the start in anything. I went to the involvement fair and there were a million THON groups, and I was like, ‘Ah, there are so many. I’ll figure that out later.’ But, my roommate took the opposite approach and grabbed a flier from each one. I think he went to the first one that had their interest meeting earliest. He was like, ‘Oh, it was great. You should join.’ So I joined the one that he joined and I love those guys now and it’s a great time. The THON thing, but I also joined club kickball, things that sometimes I go to and sometimes I don’t. I always have something that, if I wanted to on a given night, I could go do. I think that’s important right from the start just to meet people and get on the ground running. Dymand Mitchell | Temple Hills, Maryland | Ad/PR What did you like about Penn State when you visited? DM: I guess it was more so the energy level that I get from everybody. It seemed more of like a small school even though Penn State is huge. As soon as I stepped on campus, everything just seemed like it could be condensed into this one big happy family sort of feel, which is something I was really looking for in a school. I didn’t want to go somewhere and just not do anything. When I stepped on the Penn State campus, I was like, ‘Yeah, I really love it here.’ Then, learning more about the Bellisario College and everything that Penn State had to offer, I was like, ‘Yeah, I really want to be here now.’

Advice to incoming students? DM: I think the biggest thing would definitely be find somewhere that makes you feel at home. Having that small family feel is something that makes Penn State a great Dymand Mitchell resource. Honestly, I have joined a lot of different clubs just trying to see where I would fit in. The places I know where I can actually fit and stay are the places that make me feel like these are people I want to be around. They give me this family feel. That’s why I’m in the Bellisario College. I love everybody there and all of the extracurriculars I’m doing as well. That’s the biggest piece of advice I would give is find somewhere you would definitely feel comfortable in. Best memory so far? DM: The White Out game against Michigan. Me experiencing my very first White Out game here at Penn State was definitely something to remember. I think the best part was definitely being at the end, singing the alma mater with everybody. Everything about that game was great, especially because I think the whiteout game was the game Donald P. Bellisario came up. I was super excited to just see him standing on the field. I was in really close range of him. Carson Spence | Milesburg, Pennsylvania | Film-Video What was the best part about your first year at Penn State? CS: The best part was probably all the connections I made with students and faculty alike. Just meeting so many good people and making connections. How did your first semester help prepare you for your second semester? CS: I learned to manage my time a little better. The first semester, it was a little overwhelming. The second semester, it was still overwhelming, but I eased into it better and managed my time better. What did you learn in your first year that you can take with you into your sophomore year? CS: I learned what classes to take and what classes not to take at the same time. So, I can really focus on some film classes and then pair them with Gen Eds instead of taking a bunch of hard classes at the same time.

The Communicator | Spring 2018


THE CREATURES WE KEEP Photojournalism students were assigned to photograph Penn Staters with the creatures they keep.

While cats and dogs are more numerous, there are also some more unusual species that serve as pets.

Wenchang Yang,

with his cat, a Sphinx. (Photo by JIayi Lu)

Edward Bonfiglio with his service dog, Bravo. (Photo by Miranda Buckheit) 32

Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications

Maggie Kuzemchak with her pet snake, Butterscotch. (Photo by Giana Han)

Shannon Lin

with her pet spider.

(Photo by Yanye Chen)

Burak Esen with his bearded dragon, Rak.

(Photo by Gabriela Castano)

The Communicator | Spring 2018


For Adriana Lacy, staying busy means staying sane


building a BRAND By TREY MILLER (‘12)


Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications

t was the fall of 2014 and Penn State football was getting set to take on Akron in its home opener Sept. 6. Classes had started Aug. 25 and Adriana Lacy, a first-year student from Delaware County, was just getting settled into the college life. “I’m a first-generation college student, so I didn’t really know what I was getting into,” said Lacy. “It definitely wasn’t like high school. It was tough dealing with that, figuring out how to manage time, being away from parents and things like that.” It didn’t take her long to get involved, though. Lacy connected with some people she met on a Facebook page for incoming class of 2018 students, and they decided they wanted to participate in Nittanyville for the first football game. So, they each pitched in some money, bought a tent and camped out to get good seats for the game. “That’s kind of really how we got close because we spent three days together and didn’t really know each other,” said Lacy. Penn State would end up beating the Zips, 21-3, and Lacy ended up making new friends, one of which she still lives with today. From day one, she was looking to get involved (via social media, coincidentally) at Penn State, and that set the tone for the rest of her college career. The Commute to Communications ince she was 2 years old, Lacy wanted to be a teacher and so when she got to Penn State, she enrolled in the College of Education. Gary Abdullah, assistant dean for diversity and inclusion with the Bellisario College, has known Lacy since her first year when he worked as an adviser in the College of Education. “As soon as I met her, I thought, ‘She’s a communications student,’” said Abdullah. “I just knew. You don’t want to say anything, so I let her figure it


“You’ve got to let her go fly, and it’s like, ‘I’ll catch up with you and I’ll be a fan like everybody else from over here.’ ” — Gary Abdullah out. Then, later in that freshman year, she started telling me she might want to make a change. “There is an energy that comes with most communications students that is different than other students. Her communication skills were outstanding, which you also need to be a teacher, but her communication skills were just outstanding naturally.” Lacy spent time as an advertising/ public relations major, and eventually made the switch to journalism as a senior. The Start of The Underground ut, her passion for journalism shined through well before she made that switch. In February of her freshman year, Lacy and some friends attended a free talk on campus by journalist Soledad O’Brien. During the talk, O’Brien discussed the importance of having diverse newsrooms and the importance of telling stories that represent all of campus. That piqued the interest of Lacy and her friends. They went home and briefly discussed starting their own site. In the summer, those talks came to fruition. The group started to plan and figure out website names. That’s when The Underground, a multicultural student-run media site devoted to telling the untold stories within the Penn State community, was formed with Lacy being a co-founder. “When we started off, there were maybe five of us,” said Lacy. “Most of them were just our friends. At the time, none of us were even in the Bellisario College, so none of us knew really anything that we were doing. After a while, we started getting more students that were in communications. I ended up switching to journalism. We got to really figure out more of the journalistic elements. We definitely pivoted from more of feature stories to more news and things happening around campus.” Now, The Underground has grown to a staff of about 50, including writers, photographers, a marketing and advertising team, and about 10 editors. The organization was a finalist for Best Independent Online Student Publication in the 2017 SPJ Region 1 Mark of Excellence Awards. Lacy finished her college career


as editor-in-chief, overseeing everything. For most, that seems like (and is) a lot of work. For Lacy, it all comes down to setting the tone and the pace for the organization. A big part of that is building relationships and keeping everyone on track. Being editor in chief of The Underground took up most of her time, but being busy helps to drive Lacy. “It’s part of her personality,” said Abdullah. “She doesn’t want to stop. She likes to stay busy. Staying busy for her is her staying sane. That’s just who she is.” Racking up Experiences ince high school, Lacy was always someone who stayed involved. She played sports year-round, was in the yearbook club and was a member of the National Honor Society. Coming to college, especially one the size of Penn State, the opportunities were nearly endless. Outside of The Underground, Lacy has “spent a lot of time walking backwards on campus” as a tour guide for SMART, Penn State’s Student Minority Advisory and Recruitment Team, and was the public relations chair for the Penn State Alumni Association FastStart mentoring program. She also interned for Roar Lions Roar, Penn State Division of Development and Alumni Relations and Blue White TV, in addition to doing freelance writing for a variety of organizations. One of Lacy’s favorite opportunities was completing an internship with Penn State athletics and Penn State football. For two years, she served as a social media intern. There, she got to dive deep into social media and analytics. That helped spark a passion for social media. Lacy, a big proponent of building a personal brand, has done just that as she has more than 3,500 followers on Twitter (@Adriana_Lacy). She continued honing her skills last summer during a social media internship with Axios, a new media company based in Washington, D.C., that covers media trends, tech, business and politics. The influence and reach of social media intrigues her most. “I think it’s just crazy the audience that you can reach and the people you can


meet on social media,” said Lacy. “I know people who live hundreds of miles away, but we can still communicate there. It’s great to see this platform where you can educate and talk to so many people from around the world, and it’s even kind of like an equalizer for a lot of opportunities to people because they have that instant access. There’s so much on the internet that people can take advantage of and it’s really exciting to watch that play out.” Plans for the Future fter graduation, Lacy started a 10-week internship as a social media editor with The New York Times. She was one of 32 selected from thousands of applications to take part in the New York Times Summer Internship Program. After completing her internship, Lacy will have a resume stacked with impressive experiences. In addition to her exceptional writing and social media skills, she is also versed in the Adobe suite, including Photoshop, InDesign and Premiere. A natural and experienced leader, Lacy was a recipient of Penn State’s John W. Oswald Award. One of her goals is to someday be an executive editor for a news organization. The audience engagement and social media realm is something that intrigues her, as does reporting. Whatever future holds for Lacy, it’s sure to be bright. “What venue, what format she chooses to take in that is literally entirely up to her,” said Abdullah. “You can’t say that with everybody. With her, whatever she chooses to do, if she wants to be in front of a camera, she will do it. If she wants to be on the editorial side, she will do it. If she wants to be a writer and produce content, she will do that. It is literally what she decides to do when she decides to do it. “She is on such an upward trajectory, quite frankly. You see she’s going and you’ve just go to let her go. You’ve got to let her go fly, and it’s like, ‘I’ll catch up with you and I’ll be a fan like everybody else from over here.’”


The Communicator | Spring 2018


DESTINATION: DISNEY When you wish upon a star, keep an open mind By JONATHAN McVERRY (’05)


ith the creative and visionary skills to reach billions, Dan Reynolds credits his willingness to take chances more than anything for his job running Disney’s vast digital network. Reynolds (’02 Adv/PR) is the vice president of digital media at the Walt Disney Company. He grew up in Penns Valley — a few miles outside of State College — before finishing high school in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. While he had a connection with the Disney brand through its films and books as a child, the brand that sticks with Reynolds the most from those days is Coca-Cola. “Coca-Cola was the first brand I remember,” Reynolds said. “Looking back, maybe I shouldn’t have been drinking so much soda as a kid, but I can remember the advertising and the feeling of popping open a can. It’s forever ingrained in my brain.” The connection fascinated Reynolds. He was curious why people attached themselves to brands and how brands become so powerful that they mean more than just a product in someone’s hand. As a college student, he saw the product-consumer relationship firsthand while working full-time at the GAP store on College Avenue. The retail job allowed him to be a part of the community and it helped pay for school, but more importantly it taught him about people’s relationships with a brand. That store is no longer there, the Tadashi Japanese and Qdoba restaurants are in its place, but Reynolds’ knowledge and appreciation for branding are as strong as ever.

Be nimble

After graduating high school, Reynolds decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and attend Penn State. He initially had marketing in mind, but wanted to mix the creativity of advertising with the data of marketing. He majored in advertising with a minor in business. “I liked to be creative and tell stories through visuals and words based on data,” Reynolds said. “Advertising allows me to use both sides of my brain.” It was 2002 and digital media was nowhere near as important as it is today. Reynolds had one goal in mind: get to New York City. That is the center of advertising, he thought. His heart was set on the Big Apple. 36

Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications

Unfortunately, living in the city on a junior advertising salary was incredibly difficult. While weighing his options, Reynolds opened up his job search with the help of Penn State’s Career Center. It connected him with alumnus Kert Wilson at Toyota in Los Angeles. “I got on a plane for the last set of interviews. It was November. It was snowing in Pennsylvania,” Reynolds said. “I got to L.A. and it was warm and sunny. I thought, ‘I can do this for a few years.’” Reynolds wasn’t much of a traveler at the time. He had never been to California and he didn’t know anyone there. Also, he wasn’t really a “car guy.” He took the chance and Toyota hired him. Sixteen years later he still laughs at his family’s photos of Pennsylvania snow from his desk in sunny California. “It’s important to be nimble. I took a chance on moving to L.A. and working for a company I never thought I’d work for — and it worked,” Reynolds said. “It’s totally fine to explore a path, and when you reach the end say ‘This is for me’ or ‘This isn’t for me, here’s why’ and move on.” A keen ability to adapt, to be flexible and to “immerse myself in the brand” helped Reynolds move forward in his career, as well as up the corporate ladder. When he started at Toyota, he managed traditional advertising (television, radio, print). Digital media just was about to explode.

Know your value

It’s important to “know your value,” advice Reynolds would pass on to soon-to-be and recent graduates. He says students should work hard to prove themselves, to understand the brand they’re working for and, most importantly, recognize the special skills they can bring to the table. “I think this is something you get coming out of Penn State,” he said. “Be open-minded. Explore. Take a chance. That is how you’ll find your place in this industry.” As the digital landscape evolved, so did Reynolds. He was finding his place in the industry. By the mid-2000s, he was running digital marketing for Toyota’s Lexus brand at a national level. He established the first social media strategy for the luxury line of cars and eventually a very impressive digital footprint.

Dan Reynolds leads a team that manages nearly 300 branded accounts and reaches an audience of more than one billion people globally. Advertisers at the time were beginning to produce branded entertainment online (i.e. sponsored mini-series starring well-known actors) to keep customers connected between purchases. For automakers, that meant keeping customers engaged between buying new cars, which can be a while. “I launched L/Studio, which was a branded short-form entertainment platform that still exists today,” Reynolds said. “One of the first shows we launched was ‘Web Therapy,’ which starred Lisa Kudrow.” He couldn’t believe it. “I was asking myself, ‘How did I get here?’” Reynolds said with a laugh. “It was pretty awesome.” In 2011, Reynolds met members of a small start-up company recently acquired by Disney called DigiSynd. The company was charged with building Disney’s social presence. Reynolds joined the company and got to work. He built a team of content creators and audience development experts. By 2012, Reynolds was working for Disney and leveraging platforms like YouTube, Facebook and Instagram. Today, his team manages nearly 300 branded accounts and reaches an audience of more than one billion people globally. “I think people sometimes don’t realize the franchises we work with at Disney,” said Katie Rinderknecht, director of programming for the Disney Digital Network. “We operate accounts for Disney, Pixar, Star Wars and a lot of

the franchises that fall within those master brands. Dan is able to get the right people in the right room so we have a fast response to what’s happening in the landscape for all these accounts. It’s pretty big.” While studying Disney’s digital audiences, Reynolds identified a somewhat forgotten demographic. “People who were 18 to 34 years old,” he said. “They grew up loving the brand as ’90s Disney kids and before we had digital, we tended to lose our connection to them.” To fill that gap, the team built Oh My Disney, a platform where users can rekindle their Disney fandom and catch up on Disney news, communicate with other fans and share favorite things about the Disney brand. “I’ve worked with Dan for about seven years and it’s been exciting going from a desktop website to laying the foundation for the size of audience we have today,” said Rinderknecht. “Dan is visionary. He saw the importance of social early on. He sees things happening quickly and he has a remarkable ability to mobilize resources.” Today, with its own clothing and other merchandise, Oh My Disney is a full digital brand in itself. It has blossomed into the Disney Digital Network, an online world of fascinating storytelling and captivating content for millennials. “These things were all based on the insights we got from our digital audience,” Reynolds said. “We are always thinking how to enter new spaces and create storytelling that is of the quality people expect from Disney.” l The Communicator | Spring 2018


“Solving crosswords isn’t about having a dictionary or an encyclopedia to answer every ‘Trivial Pursuit’ question ever asked in your head. It’s about mind melding with the puzzle constructor, which comes with experience. A weakness for puns is also helpful.” — Russell Frank

Portrait of a cruciverbalist as a young man I

was a crossword baby, looking on as my dad solved The New York Times Sunday puzzle – in ink. Then I started helping. “Giants’ slugger Mel,” said the clue. “Ott!” said the budding baseball historian at his elbow. “Cookie with crème filling,” said the clue. “I think it might be ‘Oreo,’” said the cookie connoisseur at his elbow. 6 efore long I, too, took pen in hand and father and son sat hip to hip reaching over, under and around each other to fill in the little squares, like Victor Borge and Rowlf playing a duet on “The Muppet Show.” If Dad minded this whippersnapper muscling in on his turf, he didn’t let on, though we soon became like cartoon outlaws in a frontier town, snarling, “This puzzle ain’t big enough for the two of us.” Thus did solving crosswords — in ink — become a lifelong daily routine that in the fullness of time pulled in my daughter Rosa, who began to sit at her daddy’s elbow, offering answers to 13 across and 23 down. y fondest crossword memory: My wife and I had 9 been backpacking in Yosemite National Park. We came off the trail on a Sunday morning, treated ourselves to breakfast at the Tuolumne Meadows Lodge and, thanks to several interlocking modern miracles – electronic transmission of the content of the Times to a plant in California, offset printing, and an internal combustion engine powerful enough to transport a truckload of papers from the Bay Area to the High Sierra, 250 miles away and 8,000 feet up – bought the Sunday paper. Soon I was basking in the sun on a rock by a waterfall, puzzling away. 1




Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications


was sorry to finish it, as I always am. I wish my x-word excellence meant that I was smarter than everybody else, but all it really means is that I have a crossword-solving brain, which, sadly, doesn’t make me particularly adept at solving other kinds of problems. Solving crosswords isn’t about having a dictionary or an encyclopedia or the answer to every “Trivial Pursuit” question ever asked in your head. It’s about mindmelding with the puzzle constructor, which comes with experience. A weakness for puns is also helpful. 12 lways a solver, never a constructor is how I expected to live out my days, content to feel pleasantly clever once a day. But a couple of years ago, I agreed to create a puzzle for State College Magazine. Constructing was exhilarating, nerve-wracking and totally absorbing. It reminded me of rock-climbing, where you search and search for the next handhold or foothold, and just when you think you are going to have to give up or start over, the solution appears, and up you go. he puzzle that appears on the facing page is my 14 second foray into the cruciverbal arts. If the truth be known, I cheated, slightly. The grid was supposed to be symmetrical, but I couldn’t make it work until I tinkered with the arrangement of a few of the black squares. Don’t tell anybody. And don’t despair if you can’t solve the puzzle. It may just mean that your brain, unlike mine, has better things to do. Russell Frank, an associate professor in the Department of Journalism, is the reigning crossword champion of Centre County, having won the Mid-State Literacy Council’s crossword competition in 2016 and 2017. 10



Piled WN higher and deeper




















23 21 20 22 eristic skater 24 25 od hardware for the fun of it 29 26 27 28 30 31 32 pe ACROSS ngeles Angels 1. Chinese chicken dish, for 36 33 34 35 38 39 37 stic short n 5. Un-PC Crayola color 40 41 42 43 nickname 10. Capitol paper nickname dy question about researchers 14. Tabula ____ 46 45 44 .s 15. Spanish poet ome before U 16. Department honcho 47 48 n's late-night predecessor 17. Passing grades o much 18. What a regular custom53 49 50 51 52 54 55 56 rth has seven, supposedly er might order ay to show19. appreciation Insufferable types put 57 58 59 or Mikita them on 20. A poker player with a list Kim good hand might say this 60 61 62 63 halter 22. Keep an eye on a test arts taker 64 65 66 of 24. Not wordy w shapes 25. Plug-in ride 67 68 69 cuke 26. With 44-across, a certain advanced degree er character It hid one can get in Hamlet hot water 33. Pass with flying colors 34. Like a cuke DOWN ale sponsors 36. Candidate’s oration 35. Salinger character 1. Characteristic ones can get you into Penn State 40. Hitman Pete 37. A hot one can get you in hot water 2. Buffalo skater 24. Not wordy 1. Chinese chicken dish, for short penguins 42. OJ’s dog 49. Spooky 38. Bake sale sponsors 3. Hollywood hardware 25. Plug-in ride 5. Un-PC Crayola color on the Rio43.Grande 53. Belief syste _____ party 39. Good ones can get you into Penn Cruelty for the fun of it 26. With 44-across, a certain advanced 10. Capitol 4. paper nickname 44. See 26-across 57. Gooey L.A. State 5. Stovepipe degree 47. George Washington did it 14. in aTabula lot of ____ o PSU 59. Know-it-all 6. _____ Angeles Angels 41. Tallest penguins 29. It hid Hamlet supposedly 15. Spanish7.poet ords from places, Jane Austen 60. Car take-ba Go ballistic 45. School on the Rio Grande bed 33. Pass with flying colors 16. Department honcho 39-Down 48. What the punctured blow-up 61. Scenic view 8. Frighten 46. “Aha.” says 36. Candidate's oration 17. Passing9.grades mese capital 63. Wised-up a 6-down nickname 50. OSU to PSU 49. Spooky 40.researchHitman Pete 18. What a regular customer 10. Jeopardy question about 51. First words from Jane Austen64. Stench 53. Belief system 42. OJ's dog might orderers with Ph.D.s ck-ups 65. Japanese b 57. Gooey L.A. attraction 52. Part of 39-Down 11. They come 19. Insufferable types putbefore them U 43. _____ party ecture 59. Know-it-all 66. Hen house 54. Vietnamese capital 12. Carson’s late-night predecessor 44. See 26-across on Car take-back omes after60.Edgar 67. Former spo 55. In first Has too much 47. Geoge Washington did it in a lot of 61. Scenic view 20. A poker13. player with a good me 68. Hen job de 56. Bus pick-ups Earth has seven, supposedly 63. ruling Wised-up about places, supposedly hand might21. sayThe this f a landmark 57. Local lecture 69. Beverage b 23. One way to show appreciation 64. Stench 48. What the punctured blow-up 22. Keep an eye on a test taker nk in Le Havre 58. What comes after bed Edgarsays


65. Japanese beer 66. Hen house 67. Former spouses 68. Hen job description? 69. Beverage bites?

27. Musial or Mikita 28. Journalist Kim 30. Horse halter 31. Play parts 32. Short of 33. Rainbow shapes

59. Twosome 60. Start of a landmark ruling 62. Hot drink in Le Havre (Answers/solution on Page 47.) The Communicator | Spring 2018


Questions with COMM 2018 Distinguished Alumni Award recipient Hal Sadoff


shares some advice about shaping a career

al Sadoff (’86) is the CEO of Silver Pictures Entertainment and a recipient of the 2018 Penn State Distinguished Alumni Award. He is a founding board member of the Bellisario College’s Hollywood Program and mentors students on the realities of the entertainment industry. Sadoff has played integral roles in financing, distributing and producing more than 450 productions, including Oscar-nominated “Hotel Rwanda” and Oscar-winning “Crazy Heart.” He also worked on popular films like “Evita,” “The World is Not Enough,” “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead,” and the acclaimed HBO miniseries “Band of Brothers.” In addition to serving on the Hollywood Program board, Sadoff is a member of the Bellisario College’s Advancement Council. He will return to University Park with his wife, Ande, in June to accept his alumni award. Sadoff spoke with The Communicator and shared the experiences and skills that helped shape his career. He also offered advice for Penn Staters looking to join the entertainment industry. Spoiler alert: It’s not easy.

Sitting on the fence

After graduating from Penn State, Sadoff participated in a yearlong investment banking training program in New York. When the year was up, he was transferred to the bank’s Los Angeles office, which was just beginning to get involved in media financing. This was his introduction to the entertainment industry and the first of many experiences that helped build his diverse skillset. “I learned the ropes of the entertainment industry through my 14 years at the bank working with all sorts of media companies, producers and distributors. After that, I started my own media finance and international sales company where I expanded everything I did at the 40

Getty Images bank, but this time it was for myself. The company sold movies internationally, structured and arranged financing and executive produced films and television productions. “I then made a transition to working at a talent agency, heading the media finance and international group, which allowed me to utilize my banking, producing and international sales experience skills together. It was very important for me to sit on the fence between the creative and finance sides of the business. I changed where I worked, but I utilized and built upon the skillset I learned over the years.”


as polite to an assistant as you are to a CEO of a company. Over the years, I built a tremendous amount of relationships within the industry. My expertise of financing and setting up distribution for movies, along with the relationships I created, enabled me to start my own business. “My various roles within the entertainment industry have enabled me to travel around the world. I go to film festivals like Sundance, Toronto and Berlin and this year will be my 29th year going to Cannes. These opportunities have given me a global perspective and I very much enjoy the relationships I’ve made all around the world.”

While Sadoff wasn’t dreaming about making movies when he graduated, he quickly adapted to the industry’s many ins and outs. He attributes much of his success to the friendships and relationships he has created all over the world during his career.

Resilience and persistence

“It is important to build relationships right from the start. That means being

“I try to help students by advising them about different career paths and

Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications

It is well documented that breaking into the entertainment industry is difficult. Sadoff says students who want a shot at working in the industry must come to L.A. driven to persevere through a variety of challenges.

“Penn State has been a tremendous factor in my life, and I like to give back because I am proud of the University and grateful for the education and social skills that I received, which have provided me with the tools required for my career.” — Hal Sadoff

different ways to break into the industry. There are many skillsets people need. They need to be persistent and resilient, and also be able to learn new things. The industry and technology are changing very quickly with companies like Hulu, Netflix, Amazon, Snapchat and Facebook playing a greater role in film and television production and distribution—people need to adapt. “A lot of people don’t fully understand the complexity of putting a movie together. It all starts with a script, but it’s got to be the right script to attract actors and directors, which will secure financing and distribution. It’s a complex process and all those pieces need to fit together for a movie to be made.”

Most proud

“Hotel Rwanda” went on to win a number of awards, receive multiple Oscar nominations and become one of the most important movies of the 2000s, but the film almost didn’t happen. Its star was not a big name at the time. The director was a relative unknown and Rwanda’s genocide was not a topic most theater-goers were familiar with. By thinking creatively and using relationships, Sadoff was able to help make this project happen, and it’s become the project he is most proud of. ‘“Hotel Rwanda’ was a very interesting and dear project to me. The producers were having a hard time putting it together, and they asked me to jump

on board and find financing and set up distribution. It was difficult. It required a lot of time and energy and relationships to put it together, but once it was made the response was outstanding. To this day, it resonates with people all around the world and brought an important subject matter to U.S. audiences. I think it made a difference, and people are now aware of a tragedy that hopefully won’t happen again.”

Giving back

Sadoff says he is Penn State proud and honored to be selected as a Distinguished Alumnus. He likes to stay involved with the University because he says it’s important to give back. Sadoff speaks to each class of students going through the Hollywood Program, and often recruits interns from the group to work in his office. “Penn State has been a tremendous factor in my life, and I like to give back because I am proud of the University and grateful for the education and social skills that I received, which have provided me with the tools required for my career. I am really humbled by this award. It’s an amazing thing to be recognized and I’m happy to be involved. I’ve had a Penn State intern this spring and it’s been a very good experience. We’ve had several Penn State interns here. It’s been great. I am very appreciative of what Penn State has given me and that is why I want to give back.” l

Corman, Williams earn Distinguished Alumni status Counting this year’s recipients, 28 communications alumni have been honored with Penn State’s Distinguished Alumni Award — the highest honor presented by Penn State to its alumni. This year, two Bellisario College alumni joined Sadoff as honorees.

Jacob D. Corman III

A Pennsylvania state senator, Corman earned his bachelor’s degree in journalism in 1993. He was first elected to the state senate in 1998 and currently serves as majority leader, the second-highest-ranking position in the legislative body.

Roger L. Williams

The retired executive director of the Penn State Alumni Association earned a bachelor’s degree in history from the University in 1973. He added a master’s degree in journalism in 1975 and a doctorate in higher education in 1988. Williams, who began his career in higher education as a writer-editor in the Department of Public Information at Penn State, led the Alumni Association from 2003 to 2015. During his tenure, the Alumni Association grew by 19 percent to 174,379 members and it donated more than $4.3 million to the University.

The Communicator | Spring 2018

(Photo courtesy Robert Beck / Sports Illustrated)


All in the family More than a decade apart, siblings embrace semester-long programs in D.C. and Hollywood


ew recommendations mean more than those that come from family members so when Elan Fingles got a text from his older sister he paid attention — even if it was about something that was years in the future. “It was my freshman fall, and she had seen that we were starting the Penn State Hollywood Program. She texted me and told me to find out more about it and get involved,” Fingles said. “She said if Dr. (Robert) Richards was running it, it was going to be great.” Rachel Fingles (’07 Ad/PR, Lib) completed the Stanley E. Degler Washington Program when she was a Penn State undergraduate. She said the on-site internship program in the nation’s capital was transformative. “It was my favorite semester at Penn State. It totally changed my life,” she said. “I wasn’t really into politics until I went there and by the time I left I was so fully immersed that it felt different to come back to campus where those kinds of things were not necessarily on the tips of everyone’s tongues.” She had always planned to pursue a law degree after graduating from Penn State and the Washington Program confirmed that choice. When she found out about the Hollywood Program, she insisted her brother explore the possibilities. “I told him it was going to change his life,” she said. “I am where I am today because a program I experienced changed my life. I can say that with 100 percent certainty.” Richards, the John and Ann Curley Professor of First Amendment Studies, created both programs, with the Washington Program’s success providing a model for what was created in Hollywood. Both experiences put students on site for internships and courses for a full semester. Elan Fingles was initially rejected from the Hollywood Program, though.


“The first time I applied my credentials really weren’t that strong,” he said. “I studied abroad, improved my grades a little and applied again, figuring it was worth one more shot.” He was accepted and this past spring completed two internships — one with Grandview Entertainment, a talent and literary management company, and one with Wayans Alvarez Productions. Like his sister, the experience had a big impact. “Before this, my plan was to go to New York City with the whole Don Draper ‘Mad Men’ mentality — do something creative,” he said. Now, with just a few months remaining in is Penn State career before he graduates in December, he’s ready to return to California. “My plan is to work for an agency in Los Angeles for a year or so and then work to become a literary agent. I had no idea what to expect in the Hollywood Program, and no idea what it meant to live on the West Coast. Now it’s hard to imagine doing anything else.” It was a good semester for him, and it’s been a good past few months for his sister as well. Rachel Fingles practices family law in Bensalem, Pennsylvania. Last year she was elected to the local school board. Then, in late January 2018, she was one of 47 female elected officials from across the nation featured in a Time magazine article about women in politics. (That’s her on the cover of the magazine, just above the letters “ER” in Avengers.) She ran for the school board because of cuts to personnel and programming. “I

Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications

watched as the previous board made some devastating decisions regarding the budget,” she said. “I had thought of running before that, but that was the main thing.” Since then, the position has provided challenges and satisfaction. It’s also prompted some introspection. “Sitting in that seat has forced me to think of the community as a whole rather than what it is I want or what I want for my children,” she said. “I see many different points of view, and I have to take them all into consideration when making a decision. It’s given me an appreciation of different perspectives. Even even if I disagree with someone, I owe it to them to listen.” l

Bjorn Trowery (’08 Ad/PR), director of communications for Heineken USA and a Penn State Bakery cookie enthusiast, was a winner of the 2018 Penn State Alumni Association’s Alumni Achievement Award, which honors accomplished graduates, 35 years of age and younger.

COMM QUOTABLE On “success”

... “I’m definitely not chasing success, because success

to me is more of a result of the hard work that you do and less about the end game. The process for me, that’s the fun part. I remember as a kid I hated math because my math teachers would always be like, ‘Bjorn, you have to show the process. You have a calculator, but you can’t just give the number.’ I used to hate that, because I’d be like, ‘Well, the answer is right, so who cares? Why are you giving me grief?’ Now I understand how important that process is, and the result is really nice ... but the process and the hard work, that’s the fun part.” The Communicator | Spring 2018


Alumni Notes Yaccarino: Fit presidential pick


Linda Yaccarino, a selfdescribed “hockey and gymnastics mom,” was named to the President’s Council on Sport, Fitness and Nutrition by President Donald Trump. Yaccarino (’85 Telecomm), chairman of

Chris Porter (’74 Journ) is vice president of communications and development for Child Development Centers Inc., which operates 12 child care and early childhood learning centers in northwestern Pennsylvania. Ron Regan (‘75 Journ) and Kelly Tabay Hainer (‘98 Journ, Lib) were part of a team that has won consecutive Regional Emmy Awards for Best News Special in the Lower Great Lakes Region. In 2016, WEWS examined the failed policies within the Cleveland Police Department that led to a Department of Justice review and the signing of a federal consent decree. In 2017, Regan and Hainer worked with a team to develop “Til Death: Ohio Women at Risk” that examined how loopholes in Ohio’s laws left women at risk of injury or death from an intimate partner. Susan Froetschel (’77 Journ) is editor of YaleGlobal Online, an online public service magazine based at Yale University that covers globalization.


Jennifer Rauch (’91 Mass Comm) was promoted to full professor of Journalism and Communication Studies at Long Island University Brooklyn. Her book, “Slow Media: Why Slow is Satisfying, Sustainable and Smart,” will be published by Oxford University Press in September 2018. Jennifer Gottlieb (’92 Journ) was named head of Global Employee Communication by MetLife, with responsibility for internal communications and employee engagement. Gottlieb and her team oversee the internal content strategy, manage all internal channels, and partner with human resources to maximize employee engagement. Gottlieb, a 25-year veteran of MetLife, has held a variety of roles at the company in areas including executive communication, marketing and creative services, and served as chief of staff to a president of the company’s U.S. business. Chris Waldron (’94 Journ) was elected to the board of directors of the National Capitol Radio and Television Museum. He lives in Bowie, Maryland, with his wife Mia and their five children. Michael Corr (’96 Telecomm) joined Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, as the director of marketing and communications after 15-plus years in corporate and agency marketing in New York, the Lehigh Valley and Philadelphia. Michael Lello (’99 Journ) is an online copy editor at the New York Post.


Andy Adelewitz (’00 Ad/PR) is the director of music communications at Paradigm Talent Agency. Colleen Merwick (’01 Adv/PR) is a strategy director at Agency TK working across offices in London, Leeds and Los Angeles. She currently lives outside of London with her English husband, and 2-year-old daughter, who inspired her to start a pregnancy and baby blog (www. to help new moms.

To submit an alumni note, visit book, “The Guiding Purpose Strategy,” about brand management with global business leader Markus Kramer. Huseynzade lives in Istanbul.

Lauren Sullivan (’01 Journ) was named director of digital content for CBS Philadelphia.

Lauren Damone (’12 Ad/PR) is director of branding and social media for football at Southern Methodist University.

Emily (Evans) Mahler (’04 Journ) has been elevated to partner at the law offices of Margolis Edelstein. She graduated from the Temple University Beasley School of Law class of 2010 and has been with Margolis Edelstein since 2011.

Kaila DeRienzo (’12 Journ) is a public relations and marketing content specialist at Academy of Art University in San Francisco, California.

Samantha Sherwood Bononno (’06 Ad/PR) joined labor and employment law firm Fisher Phillips. Kathleen Haughney (’07 Journ) is the assistant director of research communications at Florida State University. Jennifer O’Meara (’07 Ad/PR) is digital marketing manager at Eruptr. Lauren Boyer (’09 Journ) is the manager of social media intelligence at National Geographic. Marissa Carl-Acosta (’09 Journ) is a communications specialist at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.


Matt Fortuna (’11 Journ) is a college football reporter at The Athletic. Jimmy Gibbons (’11 Film) is the director of TV production and development for Berlanti Productions in Los Angeles. Mandy Hofmockel (’11 Media) is deputy editor at Newsday. Tofig Huseynzade (’11 Media) recently published a


NBCUniversal advertising and client partnerships, is an industry leader in advertising sales and revenue streams. She directed ad sales for the final three seasons of Trump’s “Celebrity Apprentice” on NBC.

Donald P. Bellisario of Communications Penn State CollegeCollege of Communications

Shadé Olasimbo (’12 Journ) is the video lab manager at the National Association of Manufacturers. Brian Mattos (’12 Ad/PR) is the manager of pro bono programs at Salesforce. Natalie Plumb (’12 Journ) is the coordinator of digital media at the Catholic Diocese of Arlington, Virginia. Jill Knight (’13 Journ) earned an Emmy Award for her innovative video storytelling about a couple who created a business to employ their developmentally disabled children. Caitlyn Smith (’13 Film) is an associate project manager at Marvel Entertainment. Alyssa Sweeney Angotti (’13 Journ) is an associate at Pollock, Begg, Komar, Glasser & Vertz LLC. Katie Mussel (’15 Ad/PR) is the marketing and public relations manager at SolFarm Solar. Danielle Sampsell (‘15 Ad/PR) joined UPMC as a communications specialist in the public relations department. She supports internal communications and media relations for UPMC Altoona, UPMC Bedford Memorial and regional communications.

Gabby Richards (’15 Journ) launched Persist Strategies, a Pennsylvania communications consulting firm. She works with first-time candidates to develop successful campaign plans and sharpen their public speaking skills, assists progressive organizations with messaging and digital communications strategy. Nicole Suder (’15 Ad/PR) is an associate account executive at Rubenstein. James McShane (’16 Film) is director of photography at Transfixion Films. Alex Brinkman (’17 Journ) is a broadcast associate at MLB Network. Maria Canales (’17 Journ) is the communications coordinator for the School of Labor and Employment Relations. Rachel Hein (’17 Film) is a production assistant on “The Rachel Ray Show.” Emily Overdorf (’17 Journ) is the communication specialist for the Pottstown School District.

A Comic-Con Debut Alum as on-screen lead and producer


lumnus Jared Bajoras plays the lead character and serves as producer of “The Unsung,” which will screen in San Diego, California, on July 20, during Comic-Con International. The film focuses on a homeless man (“Eric”) who learns about a series of murders in his town. He then creates an alter ego and attempts to get involved in the investigation. Bajoras (’02 Telecomm) and Damiano Fusca are the founders of Churchill Pictures, based in the Pittsburgh suburb of Churchill, where they grew up. In addition, Camden Haldeman, a rising senior majoring in film-video, served as an assistant director for “The Unsung,” which was several years in the making from concept to completion. The film’s first screening, for cast and crew, was scheduled for mid-June in Oakmont, Pennsylvania.

Award season success Sports Emmys

Tom Verducci (’82 Journ) of MLB Network and Fox was awarded a Sports Emmy for Outstanding Sports Personality - Sports Reporter. Lisa Salters (’88 Journ) of ESPN/ABC was also nominated. Shannon Furman (’03 Journ) was assistant director for the HBO/NFL Films series “Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers,” a Sports Emmy winner for Outstanding Serialized Sports Documentary. Dan Cronin (’14 Journ) won his second Emmy as an associate producer for “MLB Tonight,” which took home the Emmy for Outstanding Studio Show - Daily.


Podcasr host Chenjerai Kumanyika (’95 Lib, ’13 PhD MassComm) won for “Uncivil: The Raid” from Gimlet Media. “Better Call Saul” was one of nine winners in the Entertainment Category for the Peabody Awards. Nina Jack (’94 Film) is a producer for the show. “Sex.Right.Now.” earned a nomination in the Public Service Category. The show is produced by Fusion Media Group. Mark Lima ( ’87 Telecomm) is the vice president of news for Fusion.


Consumer Reports won a Webby for Best Website in the magazine category. Diane Salvatore (’81 Journ) is editor-in-chief for Consumer Reports and Chris Raymond (’87 Journ) serves as an editor.

The Communicator | Spring 2018



Yael Warshel

In conflict zones around the world, half to a majority of the population is under 18 years old and young people compose up to 70 percent of the population in some of those areas. Knowing the role they will play in the future of those regions, faculty member Yael Warshel studies the effect media has on children and youth in conflict zones, primarily in Africa and the Middle East. Her research on peace communication provides a key to revealing interventions that influence behavior. Warshel is an assistant professor of telecommunications and an award-winning scholar. She is a Rock Ethics Institute core faculty member and an affiliated faculty member of comparative and internal education, international affairs and Middle Eastern studies. This spring, Warshel participated in TEDxPSU, talking about sustaining peace through mass media. What is peace communication? YW: Peace communication research determines whether communication— from interpersonal to mass media—can have an impact on managing armed conflicts. I am interested in seeing if media changes people’s political beliefs—to vote directly or indirectly “with their feet” and their intergroup attitudes—to hate people less. I see what kind of behavior change there is on the part of the audience or participants as a direct result of media or interpersonal communication interventions. Attitudes and beliefs are what you feel and think, and the actual behavior is what you do. What types of behavior change are you talking about? YW: I mostly focus on the relationships between political beliefs and peacemaking behaviors. Will a change in political beliefs cause you to vote differently? Will you protest? This is what I look at, and whether that, in turn, brings about change to existing material structures. If you’re not changing beliefs and associated structures, then an intervention doesn’t have a meaningful impact. Most of the time, people do not change their political opinions, but I am seeing if there is a change and how it happens. What are some examples of media interventions and an intervention you’ve studied? YW: A media intervention can be as low tech as a puppet show or as high tech as a smart phone app. I pay attention to how the intervention is designed, but my focus is on the audience because that’s what matters. I find out what the audience is taking away from it and I 46

use that information to recommend new designs or new interventions. The intervention I spent the longest on is a study of an Israeli-Palestinian version of “Sesame Street.” It was created to manage conflict between Israeli-Palestinian children. It was the first time “Sesame Street” went into a direction that was not just reading, writing and arithmetic. It focused on peace-building and changing the kids’ attitude and stereotypes. They wanted to give them a model that shows Israeli and Palestinian children can be friends. What did you learn from these studies? YW: The kids did not see “the other” in the show because it didn’t match their stereotypes and corresponding political beliefs about the conflict. These are 5 to 8 year olds, and the PalestinianIsraeli conflict is already a function of their daily lives. Palestinian children defined someone who is Jewish as a member of an army or someone with a gun. When they watched the mock episode of “Sesame Street” and didn’t see someone in a military uniform, they explained that they didn’t see anyone who was Jewish. When I asked JewishIsraeli children the same question about Palestinian characters in the episode, they did not see one. In their case, they defined Palestinians as terrorists. These stereotypes and the responsibility the children associate for the conflict is already happening at 5 years old. What have you learned about children and the media? YW: I never planned to work with children, my original focus was on media and conflict (and its management), so I’ve learned a lot now that most of

Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications

my projects target them. One thing I learned is that it takes very few years on this earth for human beings to be encoded culturally. Time and time again people have the inaccurate assumption that children are naïve. People think 5 year olds aren’t prejudiced and haven’t formed political beliefs, and that is totally not the case. Children make astute comments. By 5 years old, I see major political beliefs and there is also a false assumption about children’s media literacy abilities. A lot of people think we must catch these 5 year olds before they get older, and if we show them the right messages, everything will be fine. So adults may not be taking children seriously enough. What about researchers? YW: It depends. There are lines of research that assume kids are naïve and, when that happens, that researcher gets answers that make kids seem incapable—or they don’t get answers at all. They’re not engaging kids in a way that’s meaningful. Either they don’t ask, or they ask in a way that doesn’t generate a sophisticated response. They’re talking down to them so they get what they construct. What are some specific strategies that get children to provide useful answers? YW:You have to use simpler language and you have to break your questions up so multi-part questions are several individual questions. Generally, speaking, children are not used to adults who are genuinely interested in what they have to say. We need to get them engaged. Sometimes (after a session), they’ll say “Wow, this was fun.” It’s not every day that someone asks children their opinion.


Meaningful Message

Alumnus Mike Marcus (’67), head of management at Echo Lake Entertainment, offers advice to graduates during spring commencement exercises at the Bryce Jordan Center. (Photo by Steve Manuel)


Second Six-Week Summer Session Starts


Independence Day (No Classes)

JULY 8-13

Bellisario College Summer Camps

JULY 11-15

Arts Festival Alumni Weekend

AUG 11

Summer Commencement (10:30 a.m., Bryce Jordan Center)

AUG 18-19

Fall Arrival Days

AUG 20

Fall Semester Classes Begin


Labor Day (No Classes)

SEPT 21-23

Black Alumni Reunion

Homecoming Week OCT 7-13 (Parade: Oct. 12; Football: Oct. 13 vs. MSU) NOV 18-24

Thanksgiving Holiday (No Classes)


Fall Semester Classes End

DEC 15

Fall Commencement (12:30 p.m., Bryce Jordan Center)

The Communicator | Spring 2018


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