WRITING TEAM SERVES
UP LATTE TROUBLE
RANKS OF STUDENT
VETS ARE SWELLING
SICK KIDS ENJOY FACE
TIME WITH CLASSMATES
UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE MARCH 2015
25 questions with
Madam Mayor, SPA/MPP ’00
An AU insider’s
perspective on next page
Though Michelle Pendoley can carry a tune, the arts
management grad never envisioned a career on the stage.
Instead, as director of public relations at the WOLF TRAP
FOUNDATION FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS,
she supports the scores of musicians and artists who pass
through the Vienna, Virginia, venue each year—including 70
just last summer.
“Public relations touches every part of an organization,
from the artists and managers to the ushers and box office
people,” says the Massachusetts native. “The nature of my
job is incredibly fast-paced. I RARELY SPEND A FULL
DAY AT MY DESK, which is just how I like it.”
The only national park dedicated to the performing arts,
Wolf Trap sits on 100 acres of lush greenery gifted to the US
government in 1966 by the late Catherine Filene Shouse. On
any given evening from May to September, you can hear POP,
COUNTRY, FOLK, BLUES, OR OPERA wafting from
the complex, which includes the 7,028-seat Filene Center and
the 382-seat Barns at Wolf Trap, an intimate indoor venue
housed in two eighteenth-century barns.
Ten months into her job, Pendoley, whose duties include
accompanying photographers to shows (it’s a tough job, but
someone’s gotta do it), IS STILL PINCHING HERSELF.
“Wolf Trap is as good as it gets.”
Cleo Coyle keeps
Charity born from
one boy’s battle
Muriel Bowser helms
4 4400 Mass Ave
Ideas, people, perspectives
36 Your American
Connect, engage, reminisce
American University magazine
Vol. 65, No.3
Adrienne Frank, SPA/MS ’08
ASSISTANT VICE PRESIDENT,
American is published three
times a year by American
University. With a circulation
of 120,000, American is sent
to alumni and other members
of the university community.
An equal opportunity, affirmative
action university. UP15-003
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accreditation and state licensing
of American University, please
Courage after fire
If my husband knew I was devoting many of this column’s
442 words to him, he would be mortified. Sam’s incredibly
humble—but more on that later.
In this issue, writer Mike Unger explores issues affecting
post-9/11 veterans. The idea sprang from David Finkel’s
incredible Thank You for Your Service, which chronicles
soldiers’ return home from Iraq and Afghanistan and their
struggle to reintegrate—both into their families and into
American society. I plowed through the book in two nights
and passed it on to Mike.
As we talked about the book, a story of our own for
American began to take shape. AU—like many institutions
across the country—is seeing an influx of student veterans.
But higher education is just one path young vets can take in
civilian life. Rates of unemployment, homelessness, suicide,
and PTSD are higher among post-9/11 vets than those
without military affiliation. I wondered: Why does one vet
end up in college and another on the streets?
I’m sorry to say, you won’t find an answer in our story.
I don’t even think David Finkel has an answer.
What I do know is how my husband ended up in college.
Sam hails from a no-stoplight town (the town’s lone light
was removed sometime in the late ’90s). He enlisted in the
Air Force to pay for college and left for boot camp a week
after high school graduation.
After five years on active duty, civilian life was jarring.
Sam’s military service, including a tour in the Pentagon,
didn’t mean much to employers, and college presented its
own challenges. After being out of school for six years,
algebra felt like a foreign language. His classmates were
younger and unmarried, and he missed the camaraderie of
military life. Still, Sam pushed forward. Community college
led to a top-25 business school, which led to an MBA from
AU—all while serving in the guard and working full-time.
Sam isn’t one to brag about his accomplishments or his
service. He’ll tell you that—like so many other student vets—
he just did what he had to do. (I’ll tell you, the guy who
struggled with algebra can now decipher derivatives.) His
tireless work ethic, discipline, and commitment to the
mission—traits that always existed but that were honed in
the military—continue to inspire me.
I don’t know, exactly, what brought 328 veterans, their
spouses, and their dependents to AU. I suspect, like Sam,
they believe that higher education is the key to a successful,
satisfying life. Whatever the reason, I say to them: thank you
for your service—you make the AU community stronger.
Send story ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Children, Youth, and Digital Culture
Ever since George Gerbner fired up
the RCA Victor in 1960 to study the
impact of TV on kids, researchers
have been riveted by the role of
media in children’s lives. But a half
century after the University of
Pennsylvania professor published
his pioneering cultivation theory, it’s
Twitter, tablets, video games, and
Google that have the attention of
researchers like Margot Susca.
“Digital media changes so rapidly.
As academics and policy makers,
it feels like once we’ve solved one
issue, a new technology has emerged
in its place,” says the School of
In her popular course—developed
by another giant in the field of
children’s digital media, SOC’s
explores the cognitive, behavioral,
social, and emotional effects of 24/7
connectivity on kids. The class delves
into controversies over violent video
games, sexual and indecent content,
Internet safety, and online privacy and
examines the role of youngsters as
digital media participants, content
creators, and consumers.
“These students grew up with
media, they know media—or they
think they do,” Susca says. “It’s
exciting to explore how media has
shaped their view of the world.”
Perhaps not surprisingly, Susca
created a hashtag (#COMM515) to
encourage real-time discussion
among her 24 tech-savvy students.
“We can debate after-hours. Or if
students are watching TV or reading
an article, they can tweet me in the
middle of the night. It’s all about
meeting today’s digital students
where they are.”
INTERNATIONAL SERVICE 633
Students explore new digital
diplomatic tools being adopted by
governments around the world in
the wake of developments such as
WikiLeaks and Arab Spring.
INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY 466
Cyber Security Risk Management
Data security wonks study the
risks associated with information
management in the digital
economy—and the best practices
to mitigate those risks.
4 AMERICAN MAGAZINE MARCH 2015
3 MINUTES ON . . . Selfies
Instructor, Department of History,
College of Arts and Sciences
Selfies capture a moment
in time—how we looked,
where we were. Selfies say, “I
was here.” It started with
celebrities, who took selfies as a
way to show a
different side of
the age of the
paparazzi, selfies give celebs
they made their
way to youth,
who are active on social media.
study showed that
for 65 percent of
teenage girls, selfies boost
gives them control over how they
online, at a time when
they want more
It’s the idea that “I can’t choose
whether I go to school, what my
curfew is, or when I can drive.
But an outfit? That I can do.”
The critics say, “Look
at these girls who are so
away from their
agency, from their feeling of
comfort in their skin. It
could also be a bit of envy
someone takes a selfie looking
great in a bikini, I chuckle
to myself and
think I might
thing if I looked that good.
Throwing around the term
“narcissism,” when you’re not
a mental health professional,
might not be the best idea,
since narcissism is
a mental health
disorder. All social media,
self-promoting. We’re expressing
ourselves in a way that we
hope will get a
There’s so much negativity
in this world. If this
is an easy way to
get a smile or a
confidence boost, why wouldn’t
we do it? Would every phone
have these resources if
it wasn’t something
that was desired?
have been named
the Oxford Dictionaries 2013
Word of the Year?
I take “welfies” of myself and my
daughter, and I post them because
they make me
happy. I hope
she’ll look at
them the same way I look at old
photo albums of my parents.
But in this culture of
likes and positivity, there is
also the culture of
trolls and criticism. In the
case of the Alabama
teenager who was
criticized for tweeting a selfie
at Auschwitz, it came down
to context. If she had included,
“Dad, I’m here on
the anniversary of
your death, thinking
of how we studied
World War II and wishing you
were here with me”—but she
was constrained by
characters. Was it the
best move? Maybe not. But we’re
judging a teenage girl on how
she’s processing grief in the loss
of her father.
It’s human nature
to take a selfie and post it, because
President Obama took a selfie
in 2013 with the British and
Danish prime ministers. We’re
staking our own American flag in
whatever our moon is for that day.
FOLLOW US @AU_AMERICANMAG 5
As part of the Department of Literature’s Writer as Witness Program—
now in its 17th year—all incoming students read a common text and
meet with its author. After the colloquium in Bender Arena, most of
the books end up on dorm room shelves, collecting dust.
This year, however, hundreds of copies of Brooke Gladstone’s The
Influencing Machine—which chronicles two millennia of media history
through vivid comics by acclaimed artist Josh Neufeld—found a happy
home in alumna Jennifer Coleman’s Long Beach, Mississippi, classroom.
“I was following news of this year’s Writer as Witness text with
much interest and a tad of envy,” says Coleman, CAS/MFA ’11, who
teaches at Long Beach High in a school district still recovering from
the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. “I couldn’t help but dream
about the lessons and activities that would be possible with such a
versatile and relevant text. I knew my high school students would be
invigorated and engaged with a book like The Influencing Machine.
And that’s when I had this idea: What if AU freshmen were asked
to donate their copy of their Writer as Witness text after they were
finished using it?”
Hundreds of students answered Coleman’s call, and Professor John
Hyman (pictured) spearheaded the effort to ship the paperbacks
south to Mississippi.
“This partnership is just the latest affirmation of many positive
experiences I’ve had since joining the AU family in 2008,” Coleman
says. “The entire Long Beach community thanks you, AU.”
Twenty-five years ago, sharpshooting
point guard Derek Hyra
had sights set on the NBA. When
a coach urged him to venture out
of the suburbs to hone his skills
on New York City’s fabled asphalt
playgrounds, Hyra joined the
Rucker League on 155th Street
in Harlem, where Julius “Dr. J”
Erving and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
While Hyra didn’t go on to
play at a premier Division I
school, the experience profoundly
shaped his career. Harlem, like
many cities in the late 1980s and
early ’90s, had been devastated
by drugs, gangs, and crime. On
and off the court, Hyra learned
about race in America from
teammates who lived in Harlem
and the Bronx.
Today, as director of the
School of Public Affairs’s new
Metropolitan Policy Center, Hyra
is leading a team of researchers
interested in issues that continue
to plague urbanites: affordable
housing, racial and ethnic
diversity, social service provisions,
and economic development.
The center, which hosts an
urban speaker series showcasing
research by AU faculty and grad
students, houses academics
from across campus. Current
projects include Bradley Hardy’s
examination of the efficacy of the
DC supplemental earned income
tax credit and Daniel Kerr’s
historical research project with
residents of DC’s Community
for Creative Non-Violence
homeless shelter, located just
blocks from the Capitol.
“It’s great that we have
more inclusive, mixed-income
neighborhoods, but when
you really get into these
racially diverse, redeveloping
communities, there is
microsegregation, racial power
imbalances, and social tensions,”
Hyra says. “These challenges are
still the defining urban issues of
MASTERS OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
AU’s international relations program is the ninth-best in the country,
according to Foreign Policy’s annual rankings, released in February. The
School of International Service clocked in at No. 8 for master’s programs
and No. 22 for doctoral programs. Results were based on responses
from 1,615 IR scholars at 1,375 US colleges.
THE ART OF ILLUSTRATION
John S. Dykes’s civil rights illustrations from the November 2014
issue of American were among 400 works showcased at the Society
of Illustrators’ annual exhibition in New York City. The exhibit, which
ran through February 28, featured the year’s best illustrations
commissioned by newspapers and magazines.
6 AMERICAN MAGAZINE MARCH 2015
One in eight Washington
households is “food-insecure,”
according to DC Hunger Solutions.
Ever the good neighbor, AU
and its dining services provider,
Aramark, have teamed up with
the Food Recovery Network to
help Washingtonians who are
struggling to put food on the table.
“With an institution the size
of AU and its daily dining needs,
it’s inevitable that we will have
leftover food. Donating it to
reputable, local organizations
whose mission is to feed the
hungry seemed like the most
sensible and socially responsible
thing to do,” says Jo-Ann Jolly,
Dining Services’s registered
Last year, AU donated almost
300 meals, including more than
$3,000 worth of fresh produce,
ready-to-eat meals, and bread.
Twice a week, students collect
and distribute the food to local
nonprofits like Martha’s Table.
The Food Recovery Network
was founded in 2012 at the
University of Maryland. The
organization, which now boasts
partners at 110 colleges in 30
states and the District, has
donated more than 500,000
pounds of food.
Sixteen years ago, University Chaplain Joe Eldridge posted a flier in
the Kay Spiritual Life Center lounge, advertising a spring break trip
to Honduras. But instead of sunning themselves along the Caribbean
Sea, AU’s spring breakers were to help with relief efforts in the wake
of Hurricane Mitch, which killed 5,000 people and destroyed more
than 33,000 houses.
And with that, the Alternative Breaks program—a cornerstone of
the AU experience—was born.
Hundreds of students have since spent their summer, spring, and
winter breaks immersed in social justice issues in all corners of the
world, from Appalachia to Zambia. Now, a new endowment bearing
Eldridge’s name will enable even more students to participate.
“Alternative Breaks is such a valuable program for our students
and so in line with the values of this institution,” says Fanta Aw,
assistant vice president of campus life, who spearheaded the
effort to create the Joseph T. Eldridge Social Justice Alternative
“We’re celebrating the legacy of a great person who continues to
do this work, day in and day out.”
The award will provide financial assistance to students for whom
traveling abroad is cost-prohibitive. Visit giving.american.edu to
make a gift.
PHOTO BY MATTHEW BURGOYNE
¿DÓNDE ESTÁ EL BAÑO IN BULGARIAN?
Pronunciator, the library’s newest online learning tool, enables
users to master 80 languages in any of 50 languages. The range of
permutations means that a Spanish speaker can learn Chinese, or
a Thai speaker can learn Russian (just to name a few of the 4,000
combinations). Access to the database is free for alumni.
MEET THE PROFESSOR
Emmy Award–winning producer Betsy Fischer Martin, SPA/BA ’92, SOC/
MA ’96, has returned to the School of Public Affairs as an executive in
residence. Fischer Martin— More magazine’s new Washington, DC, editor
and former executive producer of NBC’s Meet the Press—will help shape
SPA’s political communications curriculum.
FOLLOW US @AU_AMERICANMAG 7
WITH 236 CLUBS, AU students
have an array of activities from which
to choose. From Bollywood dancers
to Shakespearean actors to aspiring
accountants, “there’s something for
everyone,” says Annalise Setorie,
student activities coordinator.
The largest group, College
Democrats, boasts 202 students, while
the smallest ones have eight—the
minimum amount to be recognized.
(In case you’re curious, AU College
Republicans has 37 members.)
But it’s often the smallest groups
that have the mightiest voices, Setorie
says. “I always see AU Texans out
tabling in cowboy hats and boots,
repping their state.”
Launched by 13 proud Lone Star
Staters, AU Texans was one of 30 new
clubs last fall. If a student has an
interest—and seven other recruits—
a club can soon follow. Foodies? Spoon
University. Singers? Pitches Be Trippin’.
Sci-fi fanatics? Doctor Who@AU.
Join the club
Although interests come and go,
clubs have been part of student life
at AU for 90 years.
AU’s first club, the Areopagus
Society, formed in December 1925.
The 15-member debate team (whose
first match in early 1926 against
Washington College centered
on the Child Labor Amendment)
was followed by the Pi Mu Kappa
Mathematics Club, the History Club,
and the AU Orchestra.
Today, just as they did nearly a
century ago, “clubs help students
find their AU family, people who
understand them on a deeper level,”
says Tatiana Laing, SPA/BA ’16,
Caribbean Circle president.
And for Setorie, that’s a win: “My
job is to help students find their place
ART BY DENNIS FLEMING
8 AMERICAN MAGAZINE MARCH 2015
ILLUSTRATION BY PETER HOEY
science degree from
University of North
Hill, where he met
future wife and law
partner Amy Howe.
Sowed seeds of oral
argument talent on
UNC debate team.
Discovered destiny by
accident, interning with
NPR Supreme Court
reporter Nina Totenberg.
“I DID IT FOR
AND FELL IN
LOVE WITH THE
Graduated from WCL.
Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers: The Story of
Success offers a formula for success—being born
at the right place and time and investing at least
10,000 hours in pursuit of your goal. After more
than 100 Supreme Court cases, attorney Tom
Goldstein, WCL/JD ’95, is a seasoned veteran
of the nation’s highest court. In a profession
that loves tradition, his entrepreneurial spirit
ruffled feathers—at first. Today, colleagues
emulate his once-unconventional strategy for
landing cases. SCOTUSblog, the site Goldstein,
44, cofounded with wife Amy Howe, has made
the court more transparent than ever, for lawyers
and laypeople alike.
Daughter Betsy born.
On a whim, created
SCOTUSblog with Amy. With
an encouraging 30 hits the
first day, Goldstein decided
to keep blogging. Today,
SCOTUSblog is an unparalleled
source for reporters, lawyers,
legislators, and lobbyists.
Caught a televised game
of Texas Hold ’Em on ESPN.
Served as second chair
in Bush v. Gore on behalf
of Vice President Al Gore.
Started Goldstein & Howe
out of his spare bedroom,
hustling for Supreme Court
cases from the get-go. Raised
eyebrows by cold-calling
attorneys and offering to file
appeals for free. “IT WAS
UPON . . . BUT IT WAS
THE ONLY WAY I
WAS GOING TO GET
IN THE DOOR.”
Argued first case before the
Supreme Court. Didn’t win,
but learned a lot.
Joined Akin Gump
to establish firm’s
practice. Stayed five
partner and litigation
Daughter Nina born,
named in honor of
a certain Supreme
Won a seat in World
Series of Poker by
beating 130 opponents
in a charity tournament.
Rejoined his law
firm, now Goldstein
bet with friend and
player Dan Bilzerian:
458 Italia vs.
AC Cobra (with
NASCAR engine) in
at Las Vegas Motor
race, but “IT WAS
A LOT OF FUN.”
Served as creative
consultant for NBCcommissioned
for Tommy Supreme,
a TV series based
on his life. “THIS
WAS A TERRIBLE
I TOLD THEM
FROM THE VERY
first blog to win
Landed on GQ’s list of 50
Most Powerful People in
On the day the Supreme
Court upheld the Affordable
Care Act, SCOTUSblog
scored 5.3 million hits from
1.7 million unique visitors.
“THAT WAS A HUGE
THING FOR THE BLOG,
WERE SO MANY
ATTENTION TO US
AS A SOURCE.”
Invited to appear on The Daily
Show with Jon Stewart. Did
so well that he was invited
back a year later.
Named one of 100 most
influential attorneys in the
country (for the second time)
by National Law Journal.
SCOTUSblog became first blog
recipient of prestigious Peabody
Award. Blog readership keeps
growing: roughly 45,000 hits
on a quiet day, 200,000-plus
for big court decisions.
Argued 34th Supreme Court
case. “I FEEL LIKE
I’M STILL LEARNING
SO MUCH EVERY
YEAR. IF YOU PAY
THE SAME NINE
DO, YOU’VE GOT TO
GET DECENTLY GOOD
WHAT IT IS THAT
THEY ARE TRYING
TO DO AND HOW IT
IS THAT THEY DO IT.”
DOWNLOAD the American
magazine app to hear more of
Goldstein’s story in his own words.
FOLLOW US @AU_AMERICANMAG 9
My jaw hurts. I’m not a regular
gum chewer, but I also don’t
usually sit on the bench with a
Division I women’s basketball
team during its conference home
opener. Before my stint as AU’s
honorary guest coach for its
January 7 tussle with Loyola, I
had popped a piece of Orbit, and
as the game gets more and more
intense, so does my chomping.
The action is fast and freeflowing
from floor level. My
chair sits between the relentlessly
upbeat players to my right
(“Let’s go, white!” they scream)
and the always-coaching coaches
to my left (“Call out screens!”
they shout nonstop).
My role is ceremonial—the
only assignment is handing Coach
Megan Gebbia her clipboard
during timeouts—but the
experience offers a fascinating
behind-the-scenes look at a
college basketball team.
“It’s important that the faculty,
staff, and alumni feel like they’re
a part of our program,” Gebbia
says. “They get to see what the
girls go through on the court and
before the game. Our players
In the locker room prior to
opening tip, the second-year head
coach lists five keys for beating
the Greyhounds. The first four
are technical (example: contain
dribble penetration), but the fifth
“Control the game,” she says to
her attentive team. “In the Patriot
League, we should be able to go
into most games and feel like
we’re in control. Where have we
struggled? In the first half. We’ve
got to find a way to keep them
at bay. That’s part of you guys
growing and maturing as a group.”
Her words resonate. AU jumps
out to a 30–13 lead and takes a
16-point lead at halftime. Gebbia’s
pleased, but she makes a point to
stress to her players the importance
of minimizing turnovers. Loyola
outscores AU by four in the second
half, but the Eagles still cruise to a
62–50 victory, which puts them on
top of the Patriot League with a
In the postgame locker room,
you would think AU had lost.
“Fifteen assists to 15 turnovers
against this team is not good,”
Gebbia says. Her voice never rises.
She’s teaching, not scolding. “This
should be a 20–25 point win for us.
That really bothers me, because I
want to win and I want to win big.
You guys are so much better than
She then surprises me by asking
if I’d like to say a few words.
“I’ll be a little more positive,”
I say while clapping my hands,
drawing a smile from the coach
and laughter from the players.
As the guest coach, my night is
over, but for the real coaches and
players, the season is one long blur
of seemingly never-ending work.
“Tomorrow morning, you have
lifting at nine,” Gebbia tells the
team, which might have to leave
for its upcoming road trip early to
avoid a predicted snowstorm.
“We’ve got Colgate on Saturday.”
IT MUST HAVE BEEN THE COACHING
With a dominating 41–29 win over Navy on February 25, the women’s basketball team clinched the Patriot
League regular season title and the top seed in the conference tournament. The Eagles were led by senior
Jen Dumiak, who scored 22 points and was named to the Capital One Academic All-America Division I
women’s basketball team a day later.
The late Shawn Kuykendall, SOC/BA ’05, who waged an inspiring battle
against cancer, was inducted into the Stafford H. “Pop” Cassell Hall of
Fame on February 14. Joining the former soccer standout in the hall
is Magdalena Aguilar, CAS/BA ’03, a four-time All-Patriot League field
hockey player, and former basketball star Calvin Brown, SOC/BA ’78.
10 AMERICAN MAGAZINE MARCH 2015
Last November, 30-year-old Elise
Stefanik became the youngest
woman ever elected to Congress.
Mia Love of Utah won her
race and will be the inaugural
female Republican African
American to serve in the House
of Representatives. For the first
time, a woman, Gina Raimondo,
is the governer of Rhode Island.
These and other high-profile
victories made the 2014 election
a monumental one for women—
or so it seemed.
“Symbolically, it was important
because the total number of
women in Congress passed the
triple-digit threshold,” says
School of Public Affairs professor
Jennifer Lawless, director of the
Women and Politics Institute. “But
in terms of actual progress, it’s
A closer look at the numbers
reveals why. Before the election,
there were five female governors—
the same as after it. The Senate
remained 20 percent female. And
what about the number of women
in the House jumping to 103? The
previous Congress had 99.
are female, yet
women make up
just 23 percent of
the US Congress.
Lawless believes 2014 was
“Not a ‘Year of the Woman’ . . .
and 2036 Doesn’t Look So Good
Either.” That’s the title of a paper
she published with Richard Fox
for the Brookings Institution.
The biggest impediment to
women winning political office,
Lawless believes, is that not
enough of them run.
“When women are competing
in only about a third of the races
across the country, there aren’t
that many opportunities for
them to make substantial
gains,” she says. “Even
in this election cycle,
which was an antiincumbency
about 95 percent
So if men are
80 percent of
and 90 percent of them seek
reelection, and 95 percent of
them get reelected, that does
not allow opportunities for any
traditionally marginalized groups
to make gains. That’s exacerbated
when women are far less likely
than men to run for office in the
Lawless and Fox found that
the difference in men’s and
women’s political ambition begins
to appear in college. Although
the same proportion of high
school boys and girls say they
would “definitely” be interested
in running for office, college men
were twice as likely as college
women to show interest in a
“If we can intervene on
college campuses to close that
gap, that can have long-standing
effects,” Lawless says. “Unless
something changes, there’s no
reason to believe that things are
going to look any different 22
years from now.”
How addicted to social media are
today’s college students? Consider
this: a number of apps allow users to
purposely lock themselves out of their
social media accounts, ostensibly
so they can study.
One site millennials are not liking
much these days is Facebook, which is
increasingly populated by old fogies
(that is, anyone over 30).
“Facebook is sort of like breakfast,”
says School of Communication
professor Scott Talan, an expert on
social media. “Older people tend to
have breakfast pretty regularly. Younger
people, especially college students,
because they’re up later, are skipping
breakfast. But they’re still eating. They
are having snacks and other meals at
other times, whether that’s Instagram
or Snapchat. In the past 12 months, the
rise of anonymous apps—Yik Yak in
particular—came out of nowhere.”
Yik Yak allows users within a
10-mile radius to post comments
anonymously. It’s available on roughly
1,500 college campuses.
“You definitely get a real insight
into the minds of college students,”
Talan says. “There’s the good side:
I like someone, what are some
suggestions for letting them know?
On the negative side, there’s
everything from drinking to sexual
matters, in pretty graphic language.”
While it’s the latest social media
craze, Yik Yak certainly won’t be the last.
You can bet that something new will
burst onto the scene soon, Talan says.
“Social media is ubiquitous,
omnipresent, and omnivorous because
humans are social.”
Chemistry professor Stefano Costanzi has created a 3-D
computer model of a receptor protein derived from a
gene linked to human growth. Costanzi’s model, detailed
in the New England Journal of Medicine, may lead to the
development of drugs to treat gigantism and dwarfism.
SOC’s Laura DeNardis has received a
$51,676 Google Research Award to advance
her work on the destabilization of Internet
governance. The grant will provide full
funding for one of SOC’s doctoral fellows.
SIS professor Stephen Silvia has been awarded the 2014 German
Academic Exchange Service Prize for Distinguished Scholarship in
German and European Studies. Silva, whose current research centers
on the industrial practices of German automobile “transplants” in the
United States, is the 20th scholar to receive the award.
FOLLOW US @AU_AMERICANMAG 11
Lincoln laughed. That much we know. His
war secretary did not. The rest of the
cabinet either collectively chuckled or
uniformly scowled, depending on whose
account you believe.
It was noon on September 22, 1862, five days after
Antietam, the bloodiest one-day battle of the Civil War.
The president, meeting with his advisors in what is
now the Lincoln Bedroom of the White House, was
about to sign his preliminary Emancipation Proclamation.
As a preamble to this historic act, the tall, somber
executive read aloud the words of Artemus Ward—the
national jester of the Civil War era and America’s first
For anyone familiar with the intersection of
Massachusetts and Nebraska Avenues, something might
sound a bit off. Isn’t the statue at the center of Ward
Circle of a Revolutionary War general? Yes, it is. It’s also
a statue of Artemas Ward—with an a. It’s time you got
to know Artemus with a u.
Artemus Ward was a persona dreamed up by 23-yearold
New Englander and newspaperman Charles Foster
Browne (née Brown—he added the e to affect an
English air). Browne started out as a humble typesetter
but rose to transatlantic fame thanks to this immensely
popular alter ego he created to fill out the pages of the
Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Browne developed the character of Ward—a plump,
balding, opportunistic sideshow promoter—through
dozens of comically misspelled letters ostensibly
written to newspapers and magazines to recount his
travels and pitch his bogus sideshow, one “ekalled
by few & exceld by none.” Intolerant of religious
and political fervor, the Ward travelogues satirized
extremists and institutions of all stripes using
butchered attempts at highfalutin language.
In that 1862 cabinet meeting, Lincoln read Ward’s
“High-Handed Outrage at Utica,” in which a country
moralizer destroys a wax figure of “Judas Iscarrot” to
punish the false apostle for daring to show his face
in town. “What did you bring this pussylanermus cuss
here fur?” the avenging local asked Artemus while
clobbering the statue to bits.
Ward had skewered Lincoln himself, poking fun at
his humbler-than-life, folksy image. But apparently,
honest Abe was big enough to laugh at himself. That
day, in fact, he felt he needed to.
“With the fearful strain that is upon me night
and day, if I did not laugh I should die,” he said to his
cabinet after reading the Utica story, “and you need
this medicine as much as I do.”
Ward’s letters helped Browne become editor of
Vanity Fair, a humor publication unrelated to today’s
magazine. The position was short-lived but established
Browne as an arbiter of an emerging, national comedic
style. He became a regular at Pfaff’s, a legendary
bohemian saloon in New York City where Walt Whitman
Around this time, Browne transformed Artemus
from a character in the pages of the Plain Dealer into
the touring star of a comedic lecture, essentially an
hour-long stand-up routine.
The Ward of the stage, as portrayed by Browne, was
thin, with a prominent nose and imposing mustache.
His signature opening was to remain silent with such
a sustained straight face that its woodenness in the
awkward pause inevitably prompted laughter. At that
point, he would take extreme and bewildered offense,
offering to continue only once the audience had
stopped interrupting him.
On a coast-to-coast lecture circuit, Browne set
attendance records, earned handsome sums, and drank
heavily. In Virginia City, Nevada, he spent 10 raucous
days with another aspiring writer who employed a
Browne later gave a career boost to his literary
peer, asking Twain for a story to pad the pages of a
book anthologizing the Artemus letters. Twain sent
one, but it arrived too late. Instead, Henry Clapp, who
hosted the gatherings at Pfaff’s, published the tale
of a celebrated jumping frog, and it became Twain’s
Twain borrowed inspiration—and a few jokes—
from Ward as his career developed but later tired at
comparisons to the more famous storyteller. Their
12 AMERICAN MAGAZINE MARCH 2015
BY BRAD SCRIBER, CAS/BA ’97
ILLUSTRATIONS BY NATE BEELER, SOC/BA ’02
careers often intertwined, but they never met in
Browne’s final tour as Ward was to London, where
he was the talk of the town and contributed to the
humor magazine Punch. Browne died there in 1867, and
his body was brought back across the Atlantic, landing
in New York Harbor just as Twain was outbound on his
own trip to Europe.
Twain eulogized Browne as “one of the kindest
and gentlest men in the world” and “America’s
It is unclear if Browne picked his pseudonym in
homage to Artemas Ward, the Revolutionary War general.
That’s one explanation he offered, but he also claimed to
have lifted it from a showman of the same name.
Ward, the general, has no connection to AU. By the
whim of a planning commission, his statue was installed
at the Massachusetts Avenue intersection, and the
campus now brushes against the circumference of the
circle that bears his name. He may stand at the center
to greet campus visitors, but his relation to our alma
mater is—both historically and geometrically—
Nonetheless, AU has embraced General Ward as a
mascot of sorts, adopting his name for the School of
Public Affairs building and the annual Artie Ward Week
celebration. Imagine what might have been if the other
Artemus had been enshrined in that spot.
Perhaps we would be home, instead, to a School
or Public Satire ekalled by few & exceld by none.
FOLLOW US @AU_AMERICANMAG 13
WHEN THE AMERICAN
OPENED IN 2005, volunteers
made it possible for a tiny staff of
two to manage the 30,000-squarefoot
space. A decade and an inch
of paint later (the walls have been
painted 250 times to accommodate
more than 25 exhibits each year),
45 volunteers continue to give the
museum an accordion-like ability to
The volunteer corps comprises
alumni, students, retirees, and working
professionals, who do more than simply
man the front desk. They lead tours,
develop programming, and spread
the word about exhibits and events
throughout the arts community. Many
of the volunteers live in AU Park—
making it likely that visitors to the AU
Museum will be greeted by a neighbor.
“The volunteers are the best thing
that’s happened to AU’s relationship
with its neighborhood,” says museum
director and curator Jack Rasmussen
(pictured, far right).
The group makes museumgoers
feel at home in the three-story gallery,
perched off Ward Circle. It can be a
challenge, with five or more exhibits
rotating every eight weeks (including
Locally Sourced, pictured above). The
volunteers, many with an encyclopedic
knowledge of art history, wrestle with
the new works, before figuring out how
best to engage visitors.
“Every two months we start from
scratch,” Rasmussen says. “I give
a presentation to volunteers about
how to be open to the artwork and
facilitate visitors’ experience. It’s
about knowing how to start the
conversation in each room.”
Hands to work
For AU Museum volunteers, this
is more than a service gig. It’s an
opportunity for a tight-knit group of
art lovers to share their knowledge
and enthusiasm with even the
“Our hands are in a lot of what you
see,” says Shelley Broderick, who
cochairs Kids@Katzen with Susan
Cole. Geared at youngsters ages 5 to
12, Kids@Katzen features artist talks
and crafts inspired by the exhibits.
“We feel like we’re part of something
where we can make a difference.”
Visit american.edu/cas/museum for
details on exhibits opening April 4.
14 AMERICAN MAGAZINE MARCH 2015
Q. How did you come to believe in the importance of organ, eye,
and tissue donation?
A. My husband and I learned that I was pregnant with identical
twins when I was halfway through my degree at American. When I was
about three months along, we learned one of the twins had a fatal birth
defect, anencephaly, and would not survive. It was a very difficult time.
It was hard to feel happy about having a baby, and it was also
hard to feel sad. It was a time of suffering.
I tried to think of a way to ease the suffering or
find some meaning, and I thought of organ donation.
My mother and I approached Washington Regional
Transplant Community to ask if this was possible. But a
lot of babies just don’t need hearts or lungs that are that
small. We couldn’t donate for transplant, but we could
donate to research.
Thomas was the sick twin and Callum, who is now four, was
healthy. The day they were born, we weren’t sure if Thomas was
going to survive. He lived for five days, so we were able to take
him home. In a lot of ways, he seemed like a healthy baby. He would
cuddle us and fall asleep in our arms. But he started having seizures.
He died at home.
Thomas’s liver went to a research center in North Carolina, his
retinas went to the University of Pennsylvania, and his corneas went
to Harvard University Schepens Eye Research Institute. I learned
that Duke University was doing research on anencephaly, and they
said they would be grateful to receive his cord blood.
It is awesome to be able to brag about
Thomas. Moms like to brag about
their kids, and when you have a child
who dies, there is mostly pity. People
feel sorry for you or they don’t want
to talk about it. It’s really nice to have a
happy reason to talk about Thomas’s life. I
like to say my son got into Harvard and the
University of Pennsylvania and Duke. It’s
a source of pride.
People who want to be a donor can
register at donatelife.net. A donation
for research can help unlock the
mysteries of medical science. Through
transplant, one organ, eye, and tissue
donor can save between 8 and 10 lives,
heal up to 100 people, and provide
sight to 2 people.
Director of marketing and public affairs,
American Association of Tissue Banks
FOLLOW US @AU_AMERICANMAG 15
Emily Roseman, SOC/BA ’12
Video producer, Associated Press
Noah Black, SPA/BA ’05
Vice president of public affairs,
Association of Private Sector
Colleges and Universities
Julie Rogers, CAS/MA ’15
Public history fellow,
White House Historical Association
An urban playground. A laboratory for learning. A professional hub.
A vibrant collection of neighborhoods—and neighbors. Washington’s
got it all. And for our alumni, students, and faculty, Metro is their
ticket to ride, connect, and explore AU’s backyard.
Which Metro stop is the center of your world? Share your story: email@example.com.
Jared Farber, Kogod/MBA ’06
Director of digital marketing, Washington Post
Rachel Wojnilower, CAS/BA ’08
Digital marketing manager,
Golden Triangle Business
Philip Coyle, CAS/BS ’15
US Chamber of Commerce
Isel Galvan, SOC/BA ’10
Digital strategist, Delucchi Plus
FOLLOW US @AU_AMERICANMAG 17
Ann Arbor, Michigan-based artist Cathy Gendron has drawn the
covers for all of Cleo Coyle’s Coffeehouse Mysteries (see page 21).
American commissioned Gendron’s illustration of Alice Alfonsi
and Marc Cerasini, the writing team behind the series.
BY AMY BURROUGHS
WITH NEARLY 1 MILLION BOOKS IN PRINT, THE HUSBAND-AND-WIFE WRITING TEAM
OF MARC CERASINI AND ALICE ALFONSI, WASHINGTON SEMESTER ’83, KEEPS READERS
BUZZING WITH TALES OF MURDER AND MOCHAS IN NEW YORK CITY.
ILLUSTRATION BY CATHY GENDRON
Alice Alfonsi and Marc Cerasini are skilled
at plotting murders, robberies, and
hit-and-runs. They know about New York
City treasures that some natives don’t even
know about, like Socrates Sculpture Park and
the rooftop gardens at Rockefeller Center.
And they are coffee connoisseurs, with
expert knowledge of the common bean and
discriminating palates to rival any
Cerasini and Alfonsi, a husband-and-wife
writing team, connect each of those threads
in their best-selling Coffeehouse Mystery
series. (Their pen name, Cleo Coyle, was
inspired in part by their cat, Cleocatra.)
Published by Penguin, the series launched in
2003 with On What Grounds. Their 14th book,
Once upon a Grind, hit shelves in December.
By the time they started the series,
Alfonsi—a 1983 alum of AU’s Washington
Semester Program—and Cerasini had more
than 20 years of experience writing and
editing books, essays, magazines, and media
tie-ins, such as novels based on Fox’s television
show 24. Alfonsi spent her Washington, DC,
semester taking journalism classes at AU
and interning at the Federal Times, before
graduating from Carnegie Mellon. The
Washington Semester Program, established
in 1947, brings undergraduates worldwide to
study at AU and complete an internship.
Alfonsi moved to the Big Apple in 1984,
launching her career as a cub reporter for the
New York Times. Cerasini landed in New York
in 1979. She and Cerasini didn’t know each
other in those early years—they both worked
in publishing, which is how they eventually
met—but they shared common roots in
working-class neighborhoods near Pittsburgh,
a love of literature, and a dream of writing
careers in the big city.
They married in 2000 and have been
writing together almost as long. When
they decided to create their own mystery
series, an amateur sleuth managing a New
York City coffee shop piqued their interest
from the start.
On a frigid January day, Alfonsi and
Cerasini are having lunch at The
Cuckoo’s Nest, one of many Irish pubs in their
Queens neighborhood. With burnished wood
floors, red club chairs, and a wooden bar that
runs the length of the restaurant, it’s a warm
respite from the sharp wind. The Nest is also
one block from the subway station for the
Number 7 train, which appears in their book
A Brew to a Kill.
New York plays a huge role in the authors’
creative process: locations suggest a storyline,
a cabbie becomes a character, real-life
incidents plant the seed of a plot.
“That butcher shop across the street—
people come from all over the city to go there,”
Cerasini says. “I’ll get a good meal and a story
at a place like that.”
The couple moved to the city long before
former mayor Rudy Giuliani’s reforms in the
1990s, which cut crime and improved quality
of life. They remember a plague of drugs and
violence. Early on, when Cerasini lived in
Brooklyn’s Red Hook neighborhood, “They
found a corpse down the road by the end of
my block—a Mafia corpse.” Alfonsi remembers
graffiti, drug dealers, shootings, and smashand-grabs
where criminals stole radios out of
Despite all that, they loved the city.
“There’s a lot of energy from the people,”
Alfonsi says. “As writers, it fuels us. You
just get in a cab and talk to the cab driver.
We don’t tell people we’re writers; we
just engage people in conversation and we
FOLLOW US @AU_AMERICANMAG 19
In a city filled with characters, they find an
almost endless supply of colorful detail. Take
that rooftop garden at Rockefeller Center:
“It’s fantastic,” Cerasini says. “So we had a
murder up there.”
New York also inspired their choice of a
protagonist: Clare Cosi, amateur sleuth and
manager of the fictional Village Blend coffee
shop. Cerasini describes her as a “workingclass
“The powerful working-class roots in New
York City are ignored in a lot of stuff in popular
culture,” he says. “You just see the gritty side—
you’re talking Taxi Driver—or you see mob
crime, or you see the rich people like Gossip
Girls. You don’t really see how the average New
The authors also
I was taking
pictures of this one
door. The next thing
I knew there were
guards standing all
around. They said,
‘What are you doing?’
They thought I was
planning a robbery.
I was planning a
robbery, but only
for the story.
wanted their leading
lady to be a strong female
character; Clare Cosi is
empowered, Alfonsi says,
but not in an exaggerated
way. They took equal
care with their character
Madame, a wise, elegant
woman who defies
stereotypes of older
people as bumbling and
clueless, and a gay barista
whose sexuality is neither
caricatured nor unduly
The Village Blend
isn’t based on an actual
coffee shop (to the
disappointment of fans
who email the authors to
ask for an address, so they
can visit), but the authors
did have a specific reason for setting their
books in storied Greenwich Village.
“We started to see the disappearance of
the old Village,” Alfonsi says, recounting the
area’s rich history, which ranges from Cold
War spies to legendary artists to the roots
of gay rights activism. Nowadays, New York
University owns much of the neighborhood
real estate, and national chains have pushed
out many boutique businesses.
“My favorite comic book store is a phone
store now,” Cerasini says.
Conducting research in the city does create
interesting challenges. Cerasini recalls the day
he scoped out the Metropolitan Museum of
Art for the book Espresso Shot.
“I was taking pictures of this one door. The
next thing I knew there were guards standing
all around. They said, ‘What are you doing?’
They thought I was planning a robbery. I was
planning a robbery, but only for the story.”
When Alfonsi and Cerasini started
their series, coffee shops were just
emerging in American popular culture. But
Alfonsi, the daughter of Italians, knew all
about the espresso scene. Her first job, in fact,
was pushing a coffee cart at church bingo
when she was 12. Cerasini also
encountered coffee early: in
high school, he served coffee
at a Greek deli in Carnegie,
Today, more than a decade
after they started writing
about baristas and specialty
beans, Alfonsi and Cerasini are
experts in their own right.
“There are so many levels
now to the coffee business,”
Just as oenophiles study
vineyards and varietals, coffee
enthusiasts learn about coffee
farms, agriculture practices,
and sustainable sourcing.
Alfonsi and Cerasini tap local
experts to learn certain aspects
of the business, and they can
rattle off the best roasters in
Their connoisseurship shows
when The Cuckoo’s Nest waiter stops by to ask,
in a light Irish brogue, if anyone wants afterlunch
coffee. Alfonsi says sure, and Cerasini
hesitates, then orders a cup.
“I hope it’s good coffee,” he says, after the
waiter leaves. “We’ll see.”
Alfonsi gives him a glance and a little smile,
like she knows what’s coming next.
“I don’t even like to say it, but the best
coffee in the city is at our house,” Cerasini
says. “We make it the way we like it.”
The authors set their stories in a coffee
shop, in part, because it’s a location that
nearly everyone visits.
“You have the beat cops coming in for
coffee, you have kids coming in after school,
you have baristas dealing with people who
are aficionados of the bean,” Alfonsi says. “It’s
the village within the village.”
The fictional Village Blend, in fact, is
named to reflect that mix of humanity.
“We’ve had a mystery about a homeless
man dressed as a Santa Claus, and we’ve had
a mystery about a billionaire,” Cerasini says.
“And it can only be possible because they’re
both New Yorkers and they both came to the
The authors’ writing process starts with
the crime that kicks off the story. Then
they create an outline—“that will always,
always change,” Alfonsi says—and each writes
certain parts of the story.
“It’s brick by brick,” Alfonsi says. “One of
us will have a stronger feeling about [writing]
a scene, but then once it’s done, we hand it
over to the other person and they may layer
in jokes or extra observations or details.”
Alfonsi writes in a nearby coffee shop,
Lucid Café, where the hum and bustle help her
concentrate. Cerasini works at home, for good
reason: “I would be ridiculous in a room full of
normal people. I talk to my characters.”
When it comes to research, the authors
have found creative ways to gain insight
into characters. Take members of the New
York City Police Department, who appear
frequently in their books. When one of
Alfonsi’s friends, an Upper East Side resident,
attended a meeting with detectives after a
series of crimes in her upscale neighborhood,
Alfonsi tagged along to observe how cops
interacted with the neighbors.
Day-to-day living provides ample
opportunity to collect details and information
that later might be useful for a story. When
Alfonsi’s car was broken into, Cerasini says,
“We were grilling the cops who came over.”
Today, after making good on their goal to
become full-time authors in New York City—
a dream that has lured and defeated many
aspiring writers—Alfonsi and Cerasini are
grateful for their success.
“Our point of view is to bring as high a
standard as we can to what we’re doing,”
So, how is the coffee at The Cuckoo’s Nest?
Cerasini shrugs. “I thought it was okay.”
20 AMERICAN MAGAZINE MARCH 2015
Excerpt from Espresso Shot: A Coffeehouse
Mystery by Cleo Coyle
The way I see it, a wedding is a new beginning, full of
hope and possibility. Death is an ending—black, dark,
final. Flowers are involved with both, and tasteful music
selections, but for the most part, brides and corpses
have nothing in common, unless you’re talking about the
Bride of Frankenstein, in which case the bride is a corpse.
This particular wedding story involved a bride and
several corpses. I was not one of the corpses. I wasn’t
the bride, either. The one and only time I’d been a bride
took place at Manhattan’s City Hall, where I waited with
my groom in a long line of couples to obtain the proper
paperwork, after which my future husband and I were
ushered into a room with all the charm of a DMV office.
A fleshy-faced justice of the peace in a snug-fitting suit
then auto-stamped our marriage license in the midst of
declaring us wed, which sounded something like—
“I now pronounce you” . . . ker-chunk . . . “man
I was nineteen at the time.
In calendar years, my bridegroom was barely three
years older than I. Sexually speaking, however, Matteo
Allegro had traveled light-years beyond. Case in point:
our first date.
The life-altering event began with my giving
him a chaste tour of the Vatican Museums. It ended
in a Roman pensione with me giggling naked and
blindfolded on a narrow bed, my future husband hand-
feeding me bites of gorgonzola-stuffed figs. Eve had the
apple. For me it was a Mediterranean fruit drenched in
honey and balsamic vinegar.
Dozens more times, I’d succumbed to Matt’s perilous
charms (not to mention those figs), and by summer’s end
my fate was sealed. I’d gone to Italy a virgin art student,
determined to expose myself to Renaissance genius. I’d
returned pregnant with a daughter named Joy.
Matt had been the one to name our daughter, a child
he loved dearly (too often from afar), but ultimately Joy’s
name had not been a good predictor of the years ahead,
and after ten difficult laps with my groom around the
sun, I forced myself to admit that the magnetic young
man to whom I’d passionately pledged my undying
fidelity viewed our vows not as a sacred covenant but as
a loose collection of suggested guidelines. (His addiction
to cocaine hadn’t helped, either.)
After our divorce, I’d made a new life for myself
and our daughter. We moved to a suburb in New Jersey,
where I put together an odd collection of part-time
jobs: assisting a busy caterer, writing freelance for
coffee industry trades, and baking snacks for a nearby
day care center (caffeine free, I assure you).
Unfortunately, my new address across the Hudson
and a ream of fully signed legal papers did little to stop
my infrequent reunions with my ex-husband. Given
his perpetual itches and my own pathetic weakness,
the man’s magic hands, hard body, and low intentions
occasionally found their way back into my lonely,
Now, with our daughter grown and working
abroad, I was back in Greenwich Village. My marital
partnership with Matt remained dissolved, yet our
alliance continued in other ways: like the parenting of
Joy, for one, and the running of the Village Blend coffee
business, for another . . .
On good days, my ex and I actually acknowledged
what we meant to each other. Even on bad ones, we
managed to remain begrudging friends. So, when he
asked me, I agreed to help out with aspects of his second
wedding, a union with the annoyingly swanlike Breanne
Summour, disdainer-in-chief of Trend magazine.
For months now, Breanne had been planning the
nuptials and reception. Photographers were hired (still
and video), flower and cake designs selected (elaborate
and expensive), dress fitted (a House of Fen original),
and venue reserved (New York’s Metropolitan Museum
of Art). In sum, the event was shaping up to be a tad
more lavish than the unceremonious City Hall kerchunking
of the man’s first marriage to me.
This was the week that brought us down to the
wire. The groom-to-be had just moved back into the
apartment above our coffeehouse, and the bride was
moving into panic mode . . .
All rights reserved. Text under copyright and published by
arrangement with the authors and the Penguin Group.
DOWNLOAD the American magazine app
for a chance to win the Cleo Coyle collection.
FOLLOW US @AU_AMERICANMAG 21
Many of the nation’s 2.8 million veterans who served after 9/11—
including 40 percent who saw action in Iraq and Afghanistan—have
higher education. Thanks in part to the enhanced Post-9/11 GI Bill,
the ranks of veterans on college campuses across the United States,
including AU, are swelling to record numbers (1.1 million at latest
count). Vets who trade their rucksacks for backpacks bring to the
classroom unique perspectives and challenges. In many cases, they’ve
experienced more violence, tragedy, and loss—both on the battlefield
and on the home front—by their 21st birthday than most people see in
a lifetime. And while their high-and-tights or the straight and tall way
in which they walk across campus might betray their former lives,
student veterans share one thing in common with their traditional
classmates: the hope, the belief, that a college degree will better their
future. These are a few of AU’s veterans’ stories. BY MIKE UNGER
22 AMERICAN MAGAZINE MARCH 2015
It’s reasonable to assume that few—if any—
of Matthew Hawkland’s classmates, many
of whom aren’t old enough to legally
buy a Budweiser, have experienced a day
like the one the 29-year-old is recounting in
As we sit on stone benches in the courtyard
outside Asbury Hall on a pleasant mid-
November day, his mind is transported back
to Afghanistan, where he served three tours
in the infantry. The School of International
Service undergraduate does not strain to
conjure minutiae—whether he likes it or not,
hardly a day elapses without memories of
combat and the friends he fought alongside
inhabiting his brain.
“I watched my mentor take a shit-ton of
shrapnel to his face and body,” he says, his
voice as calm as the leaves rustling around
us. “I watched my private die. We were in a
firefight for 45 minutes. That was the one time
in my life when I was like, ‘I’m probably going
to die tonight. That’s cool.’ I came back inside
the wire and I just started crying.”
Hawkland’s one of the lucky ones. He
made it home alive, his body and mind
intact. He doesn’t consider the unease he
occasionally feels among big groups of
people or his jumpiness at loud noises (twoby-fours
clapping together sound an awful lot
like rifle rounds passing overhead, he says)
symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder
(PTSD)—a psychological condition many
veterans consider serious yet often unfairly
branded upon all of them. Rather, Hawkland
believes these behaviors are just a part of his
personality now, the fabric of his new normal.
As America’s longest-ever foreign war
winds down in Afghanistan, institutes of
higher learning are increasingly populated by
veterans. Like all students on campus, who
range from slackers to studious, veterans
are not a homogenous bunch. Some, like
Hawkland, flew halfway around the world,
taking the fight to the enemy. Others carried
out their service stateside from behind a
desk. Still, they all bring backgrounds and
experiences that differ from those of the
Approximately 1.1 million veterans
attended colleges in 2013, according to
Student Veterans of America. (About 16
percent of those went to a private school.)
At American University, 328 veterans and
their spouses or dependents were certified
for benefits for the fall semester under the
Post-9/11 GI Bill (a 2008 law that provides
enhanced education benefits for service
members who have served on active duty for
90 or more days since September 10, 2001), up
from 223 in 2012. Overall, AU has seen a 175
percent increase in veteran enrollment in the
past five years.
A desire to smooth their transition to
scholastic life led AU to create its Veterans
Liaison Network, a collection of staff from
the counseling and career centers, academic
advising, admissions, and students from
“The cultures in the military and on
college campuses are very different,” says
Jeanne Piette, assistant director for training
at the counseling center. “There are also
developmental differences. A number of
I can’t tell you
“ how many times
fire. One of my
two of them lost
legs. The only
people you can
really talk about
[this stuff] with
are people who
share your own
—Matthew Hawkland ”
veterans coming to campus will already have
a life partner or kids, which is really different
from an 18-year-old. Sometimes finding
connections to people on campus can be a
little bit challenging.”
That, in part, sparked AU to open a lounge
specifically for veterans in Asbury Hall. It’s
where Hawkland, SIS/BA ’16, who’s the
president of AU Vets, spends a lot of time.
“I’ve stepped over three IEDs, I’ve had
six RPGs shot at me,” says the former staff
sergeant, who left active duty in 2013. “I can’t
tell you how many times I’ve watched walls
explode with AK-47 fire. One of my soldiers
died, two of them lost legs. The only people
you can really talk about [this stuff ] with are
people who share your own experience. You
tell some of these 18-year-olds about some
of the things I’ve seen and done, they can’t
The tears he shed that fateful day were
his last in Afghanistan.
“My platoon sergeant slapped me straight
across my face and pushed me up against a
wall and said, ‘You better man up. You have a
responsibility. They see you like that, what’s
that gonna do to everybody else?’” he recalls.
“You have to internalize everything because it
can affect your soldiers.”
More than 16 million Americans
served in the military during
World War II, and most were
greeted as heroes upon their
return home. But in the 1940s and ’50s, many
of the transitional issues that are openly
discussed now were ignored publicly, which
is not to say that veterans then didn’t face some
of the same challenges their contemporary
counterparts do today.
“One didn’t hear about a suicide problem.
That doesn’t mean it didn’t occur, but there’s
no evidence that there were a lot of suicides
after the war,” says AU history professor Alan
Kraut. “Remember, the ability to save lives
during the Second World War was not as
great as it is today. Many of the people who
are returning without limbs today would have
simply died in the Second World War.”
Vietnam veterans came back from their
tours to an often hostile homeland. Many
left the military with drug habits they didn’t
have going in, which may have been their
way of coping with PTSD, a term that hadn’t
yet entered the mainstream lexicon. Almost
31 percent of Vietnam veterans suffer from
PTSD, according to Department of Veterans
After Vietnam the draft was abolished, and
today’s all-volunteer force has more soldiers,
seamen, marines, and airmen who enter the
armed services having never established a
career path. Unlike veterans from previous
wars, many either have no vocation to return
to or find their skills don’t transfer to the
civilian world when they leave the military.
For some that can lead to difficulties when
they enter the crowded workforce.
“In the case of most soldiers who are
coming out at 22 or 25 or somewhere in
that area, they have never held a civilian job
FOLLOW US @AU_AMERICANMAG 23
FACE aren’t limited
to the classroom. Veterans—
of which there are nearly 22
million in the United States,
spanning World War II to
the War in Afghanistan—
wrestle with unemployment,
homelessness, PTSD, and
suicide at rates higher than
the average American. In
many cases, young vets are
the hardest hit.
WOMEN make up 10–12% of the military
ranks and 27% of student veterans. < < < < < <
In the US,
the rate for
Nearly1MILLION veterans have used
benefits offered through the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
before,” says Lt. Gen. (Ret.) David Barno,
distinguished practitioner in residence at SIS.
“So going into that employment environment
when you’ve had no opportunity, no
experience in how to write a résumé, how
to sell yourself—which is actually frowned
upon in the military—how to negotiate a
salary, how to understand what your actual
skills and strengths are versus what your
employer is looking for and align those two,
is a very big challenge.”
Todd Hunter, SOC/MA ’14, served eight
years, five months, and 14 days in the Marine
Corps. In some ways, he believes, that time was
easier than the months following his departure.
“Transitioning out of the military has
been infinitely more difficult than joining the
military,” he says. “There’s a lot of what-ifs
and uncertainty. Coming in, you’re broken
down to fit a mold the military wants you to
be. It’s easy, because the entire time you’re
surrounded by a group of peers going through
the same thing, so you have a support system.
When you get out, you’re all on your own.”
Veterans also must deal with preconceived
notions employers might have about them.
Hawkland faced this when he applied for a
data entry job.
“The interviewer actually asked me how
PTSD would affect my job,” he says. “I was
insulted. If it affects my performance, then
you should fire me. And who are you to know
anything about it? You have an engineering
degree. You have no concept of what it’s like.”
Hawkland, who attended college before
joining the service at 21, always planned
to return to higher education (he chose
AU because of its strong reputation in
international studies). Nontraditional
students like him face an entirely different
set of challenges.
“In the academic arena, the big change
for most veterans is moving from an
environment that is very structured and
hierarchical and predictable to a very
unstructured environment,” Lt. Gen. (Ret.)
Barno says. “That’s a sea change even for
officers who leave the military, but particularly
for young soldiers, young marines.
“You decide whether to go to class or
not—you should go to class, clearly—but
nobody’s checking up on you on a daily basis.
You don’t have to be standing in a prescribed
uniform at 6:30 every morning to do physical
training or show up at 9:00 to get the orders
for the day. So they’ve moved from an
environment that’s very deliberate and
predictable to one that is none of those
things. I think that psychological change is
an immense challenge for many people.”
For others, military experience is an
asset in the classroom. William Hubbard,
SIS/BA ’11, is vice president of government
affairs at Student Veterans of America. He
attended AU while serving in the US Marine
“It was a balancing act, but in the end it was
quite worthwhile,” says Hubbard, who plans
to serve 20 years in the intelligence field. “You
gain the discipline of focusing on two different
aspects of your life and succeeding in both.”
The presence of veterans on campus is
enriching to universities in a multitude of ways.
At private schools like AU, the Yellow Ribbon
Program allows a university to voluntarily
enter into an agreement with the VA to fund
tuition expenses that exceed the highest public
in-state undergraduate tuition rate. In addition
to the financial benefits, veterans bring a
wealth of unique knowledge to classrooms.
“The folks who have been in the military
oftentimes will have been overseas and
experienced other cultures,” Barno says.
“They have had to accomplish some very
difficult things, sometimes under some
immense pressure. In some ways, they’re
more mature because they’ve had these
significant life experiences. They also have
perhaps a broader experience of what life’s
challenges and difficulties and dynamics are.
24 AMERICAN MAGAZINE MARCH 2015
In 2013, 1.1 million
of higher education.
at the start
28% of post-9/11 veterans work in the public
sector; the federal government employs 16%
of post-9/11 veterans
veterans had a higher
(21.4% vs. 14.3%).
Sources: American Council on Education,
National Conference of State Legislatures,
Pat Tillman Foundation and Operation
College Promise, Student Veterans of
America, US Department of Veterans Affairs
62% of post-9/11 vets
believe civilian employers
see their military service
as an advantage
Sources: US Bureau of Labor Statistics,
Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation
They’re going to bring a very different flavor
and outlook to the classroom. I think that is
very valuable to both the students and the
PTSD is a psychiatric diagnosis that
affects people who have experienced
a horrific or life-threatening event.
Reliving the experience through
nightmares or flashbacks, difficulty sleeping
or concentrating, and feeling anxious or
hypervigilant are among the 20 symptoms
defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical
Manual of Mental Disorders.
“In the US, the best studies suggest that
approximately 8 percent of Americans will
experience PTSD in their lifetime,” says
Mark Miller, CAS/BA ’91, a staff psychologist
in the behavioral sciences division of the
National Center for PTSD at the VA Boston
Healthcare System. “From the wars in Iraq
and Afghanistan, we’re seeing 15 to 20 percent
of combat veterans having PTSD.”
Studies suggest that biological variables
may place one person at greater risk for
developing PTSD than another, Miller says.
But the fundamental question remains:
does PTSD alter the brain or do brain
differences reflect higher vulnerabilities
for the development of PTSD?
Talk to enough veterans and you’ll hear a
common theme: experiencing post-traumatic
stress is not a disorder.
“I think it’s important to note that PTSD,
which I want to call PTS, is a spectrum
disorder,” says Todd Hunter, the national
director of communications for Disabled
American Veterans. “There’s different
symptoms that affect people at different
levels. I know there are guys who went
through a hell of a lot worse things than I did
and actually came out better, and I know that
there’s people who went through a hell of a lot
less than I did, who are having some serious
problems functioning day to day. I’ve been
lucky to be okay for the most part.”
While at AU he wrote an honors capstone
on the military, the media, and PTSD.
“I know people who have it and I don’t
think it’s right to portray everyone as ticking
time bombs,” Hunter says. “But also I noticed
that a lot of the people who I know, I feel like
they didn’t get help because they were so
worried about the stigma of having a disorder.
I feel like the civilian media will more likely
portray you as a victim because you have a
certain condition. To me, there’s nothing
wrong with it. There would be something
wrong if you went to combat and came back
the same. That’s just not possible.”
Despite that inevitable change, Piette
says veterans who seek counseling often
are dealing with the same problems other
students have. We shouldn’t assume, she
says, that their lives are always indelibly
harmed by their military experiences.
“We have some pretty powerful myths
about veterans,” she says. “They can go in
many different directions. The hero myth, or
for some people, veterans as villains. Or the
“None of us want to be seen as stereotypes.”
Ben King is urging his students to get
taller. Soften your feet; drop your
chin; pull your shoulder blades back,
he tells the half-dozen students
standing on mats in a studio at the Cassell
Fitness Center on campus.
They’ve come to this free class on
Veterans Day to learn King’s blend of yoga
and meditation, which he says helped save
him from the physical and emotional scars
inflicted on him during a year of combat in
Iraq. He calls the program “Armor Down.”
The room is peacefully quiet, save for the
sound of a fan and King’s booming voice.
“I want you to take a deep breath in and
hold it,” he says. “Feel the pressure. You’re
going to start to feel your body telling you
FOLLOW US @AU_AMERICANMAG 25
half hour into Fort Bliss, Claudia
A Myers’s emotionally stirring
film released late last year, Staff
Sergeant Maggie Swann, wearing
green army fatigues and a guarded
look, walks into the office of her new
commanding officer. She’s a medic
and single mother who has returned
to Texas from a tour of duty in
Afghanistan to discover her bond with
her 5-year-old son has been broken.
She’s also recently reenlisted.
“So how does it feel, to be
back a second time around?”
the officer asks.
“It’s always an adjustment, sir,”
responds Swann, played by Michelle
Monaghan of True Detective fame.
“I always say, coming home’s a lot
harder than going to war,” he says.
“So many damn expectations.”
The weight of those expectations,
shouldered by both soldiers and
their loved ones, is at the heart
of Myers’s film, which she
wrote, directed, and produced.
It received critical acclaim
during its limited theatrical run—
including the audience award
at the Champs-Élysées Film
Festival—and it’s now streaming
on Netflix and available on
iTunes and Amazon.
In the tradition of cominghome-from-war
classics like The
Best Years of Our Lives, The Deer
Hunter, and even this year’s smash
hit American Sniper, Fort Bliss
aims to capture how everyday
life unfolds after the euphoria
of familial reunion wears off.
(Unlike previous movies, it does
so from the perspective of a
female lead character.)
“It’s not just the reunion we
see at the homecomings,” says
Myers, a School of Communication
professor. “That’s actually just
the very beginning of a long and
complicated journey for people to
get to know each other again when
both have changed.”
She became interested in the
topic after making a training film
for the army about leadership
at the junior officer level and a
documentary for the VA on the
evolution of women’s roles in the
military. During those projects,
she forged relationships with
veterans and their families,
and realized the gulf that exists
between their expectations
“I believe that most people
don’t see or grasp the social
impact of war,” Myers says.
“When a soldier deploys, the
family’s at war, too. They have
their own stresses and their own
challenges. When the family is
back together, it’s disruptive in
a way, and it’s difficult. Everyone
THE MAJORITY OF
ARE SINGLE MEN WHO
LIVE IN URBAN AREAS AND
SUFFER FROM MENTAL
ILLNESS, ALCOHOL OR
OR BOTH; 40% ARE
BLACK OR HISPANIC.
to exhale. That’s an impulse. It’s an impulse
similar to anger, rage, whatever. Your body is
always communicating with you. The trick is
to learn how to listen to it.”
It took King, SPA/BA ’03, CAS/MA ’10,
several years to heed his own advice. Always
fascinated with guns, war movies, and
societal ideals of masculinity, he joined the
army while a student at AU and deployed
in 2006. On New Year’s Eve he was driving
down a South Baghdad road he’d been on a
thousand times before.
“I looked back at the lieutenant who came
with us and said, ‘I bet you didn’t think you’d
be spending New Year’s in a Humvee,’” he
recalls. “Then it was, boom!” His voice
explodes and he smacks his hands together.
“Time stood still. There was a bright
flash—heat, rocks, dirt, and metal came
rushing in my face. I remember thinking,
‘Close your eyes.’ I remember pain in my leg,
pain in my hand, pain in my groin. I opened
my eyes slowly and there was blood all over
me. The guy in the turret was bleeding out
of his face, and the guy in the back was
screaming about his neck. I was medevaced
to the Green Zone where they took care of
my injuries. I sustained burns and lacerations
to my leg and hand and blunt force trauma to
my left testicle.”
26 AMERICAN MAGAZINE MARCH 2015
were homeless or
in a federal program
aimed at keeping
them off the streets
INCIDENCES OF PTSD ARE 250% HIGHER IN THE
YEAR AFTER DEPLOYMENT (VERSUS IMMEDIATELY
AFTER VETS RETURN HOME).
OUT OF EVERY
SINCE 2006, 400,000
VETERANS HAVE APPLIED FOR
MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES.
Sources: Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN),
US Department of Veterans Affairs,
Washington Post and the Kaiser
veterans have been
wounded in action
since October 2001;
239,174 have been
diagnosed with PTSD
Sources: CBS News, Congressional Research Service, National Center for PTSD,
US Department of Defense, US Department of Veterans Affairs
veterans know a
Three days later he was back on duty. After
finishing his tour (he received a Purple Heart
and honorable discharge), King struggled to
find himself. He was working as a personal
trainer in Washington yet felt tremendous
physical pain in his back and knees. He
couldn’t sleep, couldn’t turn his mind to “off,”
couldn’t find inner peace.
He believes he was suffering from PTSD
during this time, and he still is waiting to be
evaluated by the VA.
“Once the euphoria of coming home wore
off, my mind began to overwhelm me, to the
point where I was never at ease,” he says. “My
mind was constantly racing, it was an electric
hum in my head. I had no recourse to do
anything about it. I felt constantly pressed.”
He took a chance on a yoga class and
was instantly hooked. A membership to a
wellness center began to inform his thinking
on the mind-body relationship, and soon he
established his workout program, designed to
help veterans realign their bodies and minds
to nonmilitary living.
“Once you exhale, the reward comes in the
presence of an impulse of thank you,” he tells
his students. “That is the same as having an
impulse that gets stuck. Take post-traumatic
stress. For me, impulses like doubt, worry,
fear, guilt—that is a sensational experience.
“I didn’t understand it. I thought it was
a thought process. I had no relationship to
the physical, sensational experience of it. But
when you begin to see that it’s not that you
eliminate anger, fear, guilt, frustration, it’s that
you begin to recognize that, yes, it’s there, but
with awareness I can watch it show up and
watch it leave.”
For King, helping other veterans traverse
the road to mental, physical, and spiritual
recovery is a critical part of his own
readjustment to civilian life. It’s a tricky path
to negotiate, and the consequences of failure
can be dire.
The statistic is almost too ghastly to
contemplate: a veteran commits
suicide once every 65 minutes.
That’s 22 veterans taking their
own lives every day. (It’s a horrific, muchpublicized
number, but it may not be a direct
result of the War on Terror. While a Los
Angeles Times report found the figure to be
misleading—about 72 percent of veterans
are 50 or older, accounting for more than
15 of the 22 per day—even one suicide is
one too many.)
Tim Lawson, SOC/BA ’16, started the 1, 2
Many: Veteran Suicide podcast in response to
the torrent of media coverage of the issue.
“I was reading articles on how horrible
the problem was. They were just talking
about the numbers and statistics,” he
says. “It really angered me that we were
dehumanizing the crisis.”
A marine veteran who did not serve in
combat, Lawson was planning just 10 to 12
episodes of the show until he discovered
how many people were willing to share their
stories. He extended it indefinitely.
“Each week I feature a veteran or a family
member who’s lost someone to suicide, and I
get the raw story of what happened,” he says.
“The objective is to remove the stigma, to
help us realize what suicide prevention really
means. Are we having the right conversation
about suicide in general? I want to make it an
easier conversation to have.”
Hawkland knew two soldiers who took
their own lives, seemingly out of nowhere.
Each appeared to be doing well in the “real
world.” They’re a tragic reminder of his
former life, which on this breezy afternoon—
and all others—feels like it was both yesterday
and light-years ago.
After an hour-long conversation filled with
memories prideful and painful, he heads back
to the veterans’ lounge, where friends and
comrades—and his textbooks—await.
FOLLOW US @AU_AMERICANMAG 27
Len Forkas was determined to connect his sick, homebound
son to his friends and teachers at school. Hundreds of other
children continue to reap the benefits of his resolve.
BY MIKE UNGER
he skinny 22-year-old man with a thick
tuft of brown hair sitting at the kitchen
table and the photo of the bald, sallow
9-year-old boy, his cheeks severely swollen,
share only one obvious similarity.
The same broad smile.
When Len Forkas’s calves were pulsating,
his back tightening, his head pounding, his
lungs gasping for oxygen, he thought often of
both the boy in the photo and the man that
boy has become. But throughout the 3,000-
mile Race across America he completed
in 2012, he also drew inspiration from the
roughly 14,000 other children who, like his
son Matt a decade earlier, are diagnosed with
cancer every year. Len, Kogod/MBA ’89, rode
his Trek Madone 5.9 bike from the Pacific
Ocean to the Chesapeake Bay to raise money
for Hopecam, a charity born from his son’s
battle for life.
On a mild December day that seems too
warm for the wire polar bears and other
holiday decorations on the front lawn of the
family’s Vienna, Virginia, home, father and
son sit next to each another, recounting the
darkest days of their lives and the blessings
those trials ultimately brought.
“Everybody gets tested in their lives,
and it comes in different forms,” Len says.
“The question is, when it happens to you,
what do you do? Fortunately, as a family, we
didn’t look at ourselves as victims. We fought
it. We turned a negative into a positive by
focusing on ways that we could help other
people going through the same thing we
Matt is home for winter break from Stetson
University in Florida, where he’s majoring
in business and digital arts. He’s a bit more
laid back than his telecommunications
entrepreneur, marathon-running, bike-racing,
55-year-old father, but the two did team up to
summit Mount Kilimanjaro last summer to
raise $25,000 for Hopecam. Matt bears almost
28 AMERICAN MAGAZINE MARCH 2015
no resemblance to that sickly kid in the photo,
whom he hardly recognizes anymore.
“It’s not like I’m happy that I got [cancer],
but I don’t think I’d be who I am today
without getting sick,” he says quietly. “It
matured me very quickly. Faced with death
so young kind of sped up that process. It gave
me a lot more to be grateful for. It made me
a lot more grounded. It’s so long ago that it
almost seems like it didn’t happen, but at the
same time, I have so many things to show
that it did happen. Like Hopecam.”
he phone rang in Len Forkas’s office
at 10 a.m. on January 18, 2002. He
remembers the date and time precisely.
“Can we wait until after school?” Len
asked the physician on the other line, who
was unmistakably concerned about Matt.
“No, he’s got to come in right now.”
The urgency in the doctor’s voice was
For the first eight years of his life, Matt
Forkas was a healthy, normal boy. He loved to
play basketball with his friends, but he began
getting curiously short of breath during games.
Doctors struggled to pinpoint the problem.
One diagnosed whooping cough, which his
parents, Len and Elizabeth, found odd. Who
gets whooping cough anymore? He missed
numerous days of school with headaches and
generally felt under the weather.
During a family vacation his color turned
yellowish, so his parents took him to the doctor
for blood work when they returned home.
After dropping him off at school, Len was now
being told to bring him back. Immediately.
“That’s when they told us he had
leukemia,” Len says. “Nothing prepares you
for that, and I had to explain it to him. I
said, ‘We think you have cancer. Cancer is
something we can fight, and we can win it.
I’m going to be with you the whole way.’”
They drove to Inova Children’s Hospital
in Falls Church, Virginia, parked in the
garage, then walked across a skybridge
toward the building.
“It’s five o’clock, it’s dark and cold,” Len
says as if he’s describing yesterday, not a
Friday more than a dozen years ago. “I look
down and Matthew is holding in his hand
a statue of St. Matthew that my mom gave
him when he had his first communion. That’s
the moment he asks me if he is going to die.
It’s almost like our old life is over here on this
parking deck, and the new world is behind
these big steel doors, and it feels like we’re
going through this tunnel. You don’t know how
far it goes or how long it’s going to go, and you
can’t see past.”
That was the first day.
Matt’s chemo treatments for acute
lymphoblastic leukemia were extremely
intense. His thigh was injected with vincristine,
and he received methotrexate, which caused
painful sores in his mouth. He took steroids
to shrink the swelling of his cells, but that
caused his face to puff up. Because doctors
were trying to kill as many of his cancerous
white blood cells as possible, he was at high
risk for contracting pneumonia, and he was
homebound for the rest of the school year.
The nine-year-old boy began losing his
hair, as if he were 49.
Seeing his son virtually bedridden and
depressed tore at Len. He was determined
to reunite Matt with his friends, even if they
couldn’t physically interact. So he decided
to equip computers in Matt’s bedroom and
fourth-grade classroom with cameras, and
connect the two. In 2002, eons before Skype or
FaceTime, this was no easy task. He contacted
the Fairfax County School System’s head of
technology, who helped him figure out answers
to his myriad questions. What software could
be used? How could they test it? Was it even
legal to put a camera in a classroom?
“The hardest part was to create a sense
of urgency to make this happen, because the
clock was ticking,” Len says. “Every single
day I came home and saw Matt and how
tough it was for him. School was going to
be over in June, so I was really trying to get
this done quickly. In the end it took us eight
weeks. All the roadblocks that got thrown in
front of us, we picked them off one at a time.”
Using Microsoft’s NetMeeting software,
Matt was able to see his classroom and talk
to his friends every morning and after recess.
“Seeing everyone smiling and waving
made me feel like I was there,” Matt says. “It
almost made me forget that I was undergoing
all those treatments. Everyone looked at me
like it was me. They weren’t scared.”
Len believes it was a transformative
experience for all involved.
“He didn’t even recognize himself, but
those 24 kids in the classroom could see
him and they knew it was Matt,” Len says.
“They reminded him that he hadn’t been
forgotten and you’re coming back. Your desk
is still there waiting for you. The unintended
consequence of this was we demystified what
cancer was for the 24 kids, and we taught
them empathy and how valuable it is to stay
connected to your friends.”
When Matt returned to school in the fall,
some of his buddies rubbed his head for
“When I saw how easy it was for him
to transition back to school, that’s when
I realized the value of it. Those kids
understood what he went through, he didn’t
have to explain it to anybody. They saw
it. That to me was the magic of what we
stumbled on. I’d gone through all the red
tape and cut through all the bureaucracy, and
I can’t even imagine what another parent
would have to go through trying to do
what I did. That’s when I realized I’ve
got to find a way to help more kids.”
n the early 2000s, laptops ran about
$1,000 and Internet connections were
far from ubiquitous. Len knew that to
provide other sick kids with the connectivity
that benefitted his son, he’d have to raise
So he started running.
30 AMERICAN MAGAZINE MARCH 2015
“When Matt was born, I ran the Marine
Corps Marathon,” he says. “I promised I
would never do another one of those. But
I started running more and biking more to
cope with the stress of his illness. I ended up
doing the Marine Corps again, then I signed
up for a 50-mile ultramarathon, and I raised
five grand. I bought five computers, I went to
a clinic, and we found five kids to help. The
next year I raised 10 grand. Every year I raised
more money to help more kids.”
Hopecam was officially born in 2003,
and its growth has been powered by Len’s
grit and determination. He completed an
Ironman triathlon, which raised $30,000 for
the charity, enabling him to hire a part-time
director. Next was a 400-mile, 24-hour bike
race in Florida, which raised enough money
to make that director full-time. By 2012 Matt
had been declared cancer-free, and Hopecam
was helping dozens of kids throughout the
The organization provides kids with a
tablet computer equipped with a webcam,
and Internet access if needed, then works
with schools to establish a regular
connection, enabling housebound children
to participate in classroom activities and
interact with friends.
“We are the ombudsman for the parents,”
Len says. “Lots of charities can give you an
iPad with Skype, but to be able to connect
to the school and cut through the red tape,
that’s the real differentiator.”
few years ago, Len, who Matt says
sleeps four hours a night and takes
10-minute catnaps that completely
reenergize him, had an itch.
He wanted to take Hopecam to the next
level, so he recruited a crew of 11 volunteers to
help him compete in—and complete—the Race
across America. Only half the entrants in the
race from Oceanside, California, to Annapolis,
Maryland, generally finish it, but Len had a
motivation the others did not: Hopecam.
Sleeping for two-hour clips and subsisting
on a largely liquid diet, he finished the race
in 11 days, 4 hours, and 47 minutes. He was
one of just 28 of the 45 solo competitors to
finish the race. Of those 28, Len placed first
in his age group (50–59) and 10th overall.
In What Spins the Wheel, the book
he wrote about the business and
leadership lessons he learned from the
race (he’s founder and CEO of Milestone
Communications, a wireless infrastructure
company that has developed and managed
more than 100 wireless towers in the
Washington region), Forkas described the
physical toll of the grueling endeavor.
“In the desert, the sun is melting you. The
headwinds are making you feel like you are
Sisyphus rolling a rock up the hill, only to have
it roll down again and have to start all over.
Then you are in the Rockies, your extremities
numbed by the cold. Finally you summit the
highest peak and coast into the Great Plains,
only to find the Kansas crosswinds acting like
ropes pulling you back and forth and sideways.
You have never ridden this far in a training
ride and so everything now is uncharted
territory . . . and you haven’t even gotten to
the Appalachians yet, the final push that feels
harder than the Rockies because the hills, like
going 25 rounds with the boxer Mike Tyson,
just keep coming at you.”
Len dropped 10 pounds and raised
$350,000 for Hopecam, which last year
helped 359 kids in 38 states.
Isaac Benjamin was one of them. Unable
to attend first grade in Port Orchard,
Washington, while he undergoes treatment
for leukemia, the six-year-old Skypes for a
half hour with his classmates each week.
“It was so special for us,” says his mother
Sarah. “All his little first-grade classmates
were super excited to talk to him. They were
quizzing him on his math just for fun, they
read a book to him, and they talked to him
about Christmas. There was a lot of joy in
“This journey that you’re on with cancer
is pretty gloomy and gray. You get these spots
of sunshine that people send your way, like
Hopecam,” Sarah says. “Those things that
people do, they really do help, even if
it’s a little thing. Okay, Isaac got to spend half
an hour talking to his class. It’s just a little
spot of sunshine, but it makes a difference
on your journey.”
DOWNLOAD the American magazine
app to read more thank-you notes from
FOLLOW US @AU_AMERICANMAG 31
wanted a selfie with the
mayor. One month after Muriel Bowser’s inauguration, the leader of
the nation’s capital held an open house at her new professional home.
More than 2,500 men and women of all ages, races, and religions trekked
downtown to the John A. Wilson Building after work on a cold, dark
Monday in February for a chance to meet Madam Mayor, as many people
formally address her. Along with the calypso sounds of a steel drum, a
strand of pure optimism particular to a new administration filled the air.
“Call me Muriel,” the 42-year-old said while people swarmed her as
if she were a rock star.
In some ways, she is. A native daughter of DC, Bowser, SPA/MPP
’00, is the second woman and second-youngest person elected to the
District’s highest office since Congress oh-so-generously began letting
residents of the capital of the world’s strongest democracy choose their
own mayor in 1974. Virtually unknown in political circles a decade ago,
her meteoric rise has invigorated a city where her two predecessors
proved wildly unpopular.
“It didn’t seem like such a novel idea, but people left so energized,”
Bowser said of the open house 10 days later, during an interview with
American. It was past 7 p.m., and she’d just come from a marathon of
meetings that included interviews with potential fire chiefs. Ten hours
into her workday, which usually runs about 12, she took a seat on one
of the two white couches in her new office, which she moved from the
sixth floor to the third to be closer to her staff and constituents.
“We had people who had never been in this building,” she said. “For
us to have a building as beautiful as this one, on Pennsylvania Avenue,
a stone’s throw from the White House, is a remarkable thing for the
people of the District of Columbia.”
As is Bowser’s ascent to office No. 310H from the North Michigan
Park house she grew up in. Her father, Joe, was a school facilities
manager who dabbled in local politics, and her mother, Joan,
was a nurse. She attended a small women’s college in Pittsburgh
and AU’s School of Public Affairs before she got into politics. In
2000 she bought a row house in Riggs Park (where she still lives),
and four years later was elected as an advisory neighborhood
commissioner. When Ward 4 councilman Adrian Fenty won the
2006 Democratic mayoral primary (and later the general election),
Bowser was working as an assistant director of an economic agency
in Montgomery County, Maryland. It was then she began to feel an
unmistakable pull toward public office.
Q. People call you Madam Mayor.
Have you gotten used to that yet?
People call me a lot of things: Muriel, Miss
Mayor, Madam Mayor. I answer to them all.
Q. What, if anything, has surprised
you about the job one month in?
It’s interesting, I’m not all that surprised by the
job. Maybe because I was running for so long
that I eased into the type of decision making
and the type of accountability that go along
with it. But, at the end of the day, when you’re
a candidate or when you’re on the council, you
can point out all the problems. When you’re
the mayor, whether you’re the cause of them or
not, they’re now your responsibility. That’s not
a surprise, but it is a heavy reality.
Q. When did you first know you
wanted to be a politician?
It hasn’t been a lifelong aspiration, but I
certainly saw while working in the community
and in government that going the elected route
was the fastest way to make change.
Q. Why did you decide to go to
AU for your master’s degree?
I wanted to come home. At the time I was
living in Philadelphia, and I was looking for
a top program. I knew that I wanted to be in
a policy program that was really substantive.
AU fit all of those criteria.
AU stretched me in some ways because
of the quantitative focus. I enjoyed looking
at government decisions from an economic
policy model. That really shaped the way I
deal with a lot of the issues and problems
that I interact with. It’s made me realize how
important data are to evaluate how we’re
Q. You really jumped into politics
when you ran for Adrian Fenty’s
Ward 4 seat. How influential was he
and is he to your political career?
He’s a great friend and mentor, and I think
we share an energy and vision for how
government should serve people in our
hometown, and a restlessness about getting
things done. We also share a passion for how
we pull along people who are like-minded.
Part of my political career has been trying to
find talented, hardworking people who share
my energy and restlessness about change.
Q. Your dad ran—unsuccessfully—
for city council in 1994. What
have you learned from him about
I think my father represents the best of
grassroots politics. In DC, as much as we’re
known for being the capital city and the home
of Congress and the White House, we’re really a
small town in some ways, and grassroots politics
matter here. My father was very good at them.
Q. Do you enjoy the process
I do. I really love every aspect of it, but mostly
because when you’re on the campaign there’s
really no filter between you and the people
I campaigned from the ground, so
knocking on doors, being in churches and
with community groups, talking to people
about what their real concerns are. When
you’re in government, sometimes you can
get isolated from what real people are saying,
especially in this time when there’s so much
focus on 24-hour news and social media.
Sometimes the insiders just get busy talking
to each other.
In governing, my style is also open and
transparent and close to the ground. That’s
one huge difference between how we have
set out to govern and how others have. This
[February] we have the whole senior team
out in community meetings.
We’re going to upend the budget process
so that we’re getting feedback from people
before we actually go “pencils down” and
submit it to the council. People thought it
was kind of funny that I said we’re going to
have a fresh start, but we really do mean that
we’re looking for ways to start fresh across
the whole government.
FOLLOW US @AU_AMERICANMAG 33
Q. Is feeling filtered or isolated
something you’re experiencing
now that you’re in office? Is it
tougher to interact with people?
You have to be intentional about it. I lead a
government of 30,000 people, so it’s not my
job to do everything that needs to happen in
government. My job is to hire great people,
set metrics for them to reach, hold them
accountable. It’s important for me to listen
to the community and be the voice of the
community in this building. I also realize
that it’s the mayor’s job to make the big asks.
Be the salesperson, be the recruiter, but
ultimately be the person that holds all the
Q. What are some of your
priorities for your first year
We are right now really looking at the things
that are important to accomplish in the first
100 days. What I’ve told everybody is that like
every other mayor in the history of mayors,
you inherit the successes of your predecessors,
but you also inherit the overdue promises and
everything else that could go wrong in a city.
We inherited a city that’s growing. Business
is coming, people are coming, but we’ve also
inherited the stresses of growth. Soaring
housing prices, homelessness, especially family
homelessness. We have systems that aren’t
working the way they should be in our public
safety sector, but on balance a lot of cities
would like to be in our position.
I promised that I would continue growth
in this city while being very intentional
about expanding our middle class. Our first
budget will be due on April 4. Affordable
housing and jobs are what we’ll focus on. I’m
committed to putting $100 million toward
Q. You also inherited a sizable
budget deficit. How does that
impact your agenda?
I’m not a sky-is-falling type of person; I
think that we have a manageable gap. This
year is about $80 million, next year is about
$240 million out of $12 billion. We have to
be prudent, but we can get our priorities
met. I’ve asked the agencies to go through
an exercise of cuts that will allow us to
meet the gap but also fund new initiatives.
We’re going to meet our commitment for
$100 million for the housing, we’re going to
meet our commitment to change the way
we do job training, and we’ll meet all of our
commitments around schools.
“My job is to hire
great people, set metrics
for them to reach, hold
them accountable. It’s
important for me to listen
to the community and be
the voice of the community
in this building.”
Q. We’ve seen what happened
in Ferguson and New York.
How would you assess the state
of relations between District
citizens and their police force?
I think they’re very good, especially relative
to the incidents that you reference. I wouldn’t
have said the same thing 20 years ago. A
lot of great police leaders and officers and
community members and elected officials
have improved the state of relations between
our department and our communities. We
have improved our ranks, and we’re holding
our officers accountable. They’re getting the
training and support that they need. We have
stable and very good leadership at the top
with [Chief ] Cathy Lanier; she’s done a great
job of promoting, within the ranks, really
talented leaders in the department.
We’ve built a lot of trust between the
police and the community. The thing I see
that tells me if communities are working
with police is when crimes get solved,
especially violent crimes.
When there’s a homicide in your city and
somebody’s getting arrested, it’s because, nine
times out of ten, the community helped the
police. Nine times out of ten, in this city, when
there’s a homicide, somebody knows who did
it. The improvement in closing cases like that
demonstrates to me that the community and
the police are talking and that trust has grown
and we’re a much safer city because of it.
Q. DC is the only major city where
the mayor, the chief of police, and
the schools superintendent are all
women. What do you think it says
about the city, if anything?
I’m very proud of it. I don’t think any of us
aspire to be the woman chief or the woman
mayor or the woman schools chancellor, but
I think it’s fitting for the nation’s capital to
say that we are appointing and electing the
most qualified people that share our values. I
think that’s why I was elected; people wanted
a mayor whom they could trust, a mayor
who had a vision for how the city grows, but
a mayor who also wanted to expand who is
participating in that prosperity.
Q. Your first week in office, there
was a threat of snow. It seems like
snow removal is the holy grail for
a big-city mayor . . .
Yes, it is.
Q. What can you do about that
short of picking up a shovel and
digging out yourself ? How do you
ensure that city services like trash
removal, snow removal—these
things that affect people on a dayto-day
We have to have the right people. Period. We
have to have good information and rely on that
information, and we also can’t make excuses. If
we get something wrong, we gotta say we got it
wrong, figure out what happened, and fix it for
the next time. I regard clearing the snow and
removing the trash as one of my top jobs. People
pay taxes, the least they can expect is to get their
trash picked up. It’s not a small matter at all.
I can’t say that I was happy about the first
snow. We’ve had six since then—I don’t think
anybody has mentioned those. We reinstituted
an accountability system called CapStat. The
last administration went away from it; the
Fenty administration was big on it. It’s a way
to look at the data, look at the responses, and
figure out what happened.
Q. You have a unique perspective
because you’re a lifelong
Washingtonian. What would a
10-year-old Muriel Bowser think
of the city right now?
The city is almost not recognizable from
when I was 10 years old. When I was 10 years
34 AMERICAN MAGAZINE MARCH 2015
old, this city was dangerous. When I was
10, my world was my North Michigan Park
home with my family, so you couldn’t tell me
that I didn’t have a great life. Great family, I
had a great education, and I lived in a great
neighborhood where people looked out for
I would wish my life as a 10-year-old on all
the 10-year-olds of today. Now, knowing what
I know as an adult, looking back at that time,
I think it was not a very stable time in our
Q. When you go to other
cities and people sneer at the
mere mention of Washington,
DC, what do you tell them
about why it’s such a great
actual place, not a conceptual
I’ve never really understood it, to be honest
with you. You couldn’t tell me that I didn’t
live in the greatest city in the world. I left
home in 1990; I went to school in Pittsburgh.
At that time, we were the murder capital of
the world. We were on the nightly news for
all the wrong reasons. Even then, I enjoyed
Washington a lot. I worked in the counties
for a good part of my early career. It was a
different kind of sneer. It was “Why is DC
so screwed up?” They were talking about
DC government, not the Congress and the
Actually, we weren’t getting it right. We
weren’t picking up the trash. Ambulances
were taking 45 minutes. It really bothered
me a lot. I felt strongly that I should be
in my city making the changes that my
Q. Four years from now, or
whenever your time in office
comes to an end, how are you
going to know whether you’ve
There’s a lot of different metrics, but I think
that people will say that “She kept her word,
she did what she said she was going to do, she
was honest and had an open government, and
we see an appreciable difference in how the
middle class is growing in DC.”
DOWNLOAD the American magazine
app to watch Mayor Bowser’s inaugural
Q. You can have one great meal
in DC. Where are you going?
I take a lot of people to Acadiana. I love
the low country. I get criticized sometimes,
but I’m a big fan of Ruth’s Chris. I also love
Lauriol Plaza. It has good neighborhood food.
Q. What’s your favorite landmark?
That’s tough. It’s not necessarily a building or
a statue. I would say Rock Creek Park. It’s so
calming, it’s such a beautiful resource. It’s a
well-used park, and we should feel very lucky
to have it.
Q. Who’s your favorite Republican?
I like Connie Morella.
Q. What’s your favorite season?
Summer. I was born in August. I’m over winter.
Q. Should DC become a state?
Q. Favorite sports team?
You’re gonna get me in trouble. I do support
all of our teams, but I didn’t grow up with
baseball. My father is a huge baseball fan; he
did grow up with baseball in Washington. I
have caught the Nationals fever. The thing
that I really like about our sports teams is the
social aspect of it. Going to the games, seeing
people, and eating a hot dog. The games
themselves are kind of secondary.
Q. Should the Redskins change
Q. If you weren’t in public
service, what do you think you
would have done?
I would have liked to have owned a flower
shop. I still might.
FOLLOW US @AU_AMERICANMAG 35
Nicole Gasmen’s snapshot
from high above Seoul on
Mt. Ansan scored second
place in AU Abroad’s
biannual photo contest.
The picture, taken during
the international studies
major’s semester abroad
at Yonsei University,
“combines two of South
Korea’s greatest loves—
selfie sticks and hiking,”
says Gasmen, SIS/BA ’15,
second from right. (Read
more about selfies on
page 5 and download the
American magazine app for
more winning photographs
from students’ travels.)
Bob DiChiara, CAS/BA ’50, was
honored at the Veterans Day 70th
anniversary celebration as the
guest of honor. He spoke about
his wartime experiences aboard
the SS Red Oak Victory.
David Pattison, SIS/BA ’59,
WCL/JD ’61, SPA/MA ’65, was
awarded the annual, statewide,
first-place award for the best
photo in a single issue by the
Florida Press Association. He
“Hey Jude,” the Beatles
2001: A Space Odyssey
IN THE NEWS
North Vietnamese launch the Tet
Offensive, a turning point in the Vietnam
War; Martin Luther King Jr. is assassinated
in Memphis; primetime news magazine 60
Minutes debuts on CBS
FROM THE AU ARCHIVES
Louis Marcoussis’s painting “Abstractions”
is stolen from the Kreeger Music Building
and found in an impounded car in the
police lot, thanks to an anonymous tipster.
AT THE HELM
Luiz Simmons was 1968–1969 Student
Association president. Today, he
represents the 17th District in the
Maryland House of Delegates.
has been writing travel stories for
his local newspaper, the Marco
Island Sun Times, for several
years. He’s traveled to all seven
continents and more than 100
Arnold Danielson, CAS/BA ’62,
wrote American Banking through
Crises and Consolidation, an
update of a book he wrote
David Edgell, CAS/BA ’68, was
honored with the 2014 Board
on Human Sciences Lifetime
Achievement Award, which
recognized a national leader
with a significant history of
advancing human sciences in
CAS/BA ’69, has
Jimmy, The Magic Word, Peter
and the Whimper-Whineys, and
Santa’s Birthday Gift. She is also
the author of seven published and
internationally performed plays
for elementary school children,
which have been produced all
over the world.
I’m like a kid in a
candy store. Never in
my life did I expect
to see the ship again,
let alone walk on the
deck. To be 89 and to
feel like I’m 18 again
is in itself a treat.”
—Bob DiChiara, CAS/BA ’50, on
his return to the SS Red Oak Victory,
where he served for two years
during World War II (1944–1946)
Karen Feld, CAS/BA ’69, was
honored by the National
Federation of Press
awards in a
contest for online
opinion, and news
Barry Moss, CAS/BA ’71,
was elected to the Pompano
Beach, Florida, City Commission.
Pompano Beach has about
125,000 residents “in season” and
about 105,000 in the summer.
Don White, SPA/BS ’76, received
the 2014 Joan White Grassroots
Volunteer Award, in honor of 44
years of community service to
organizations across Alexandria,
Virginia. The award was presented
by Alexandria mayor William
Euille at the US Patent and
Trademark Office headquarters
on November 6, 2014.
“Silly Love Songs,” Wings
IN THE NEWS
US Supreme Court rules that the death
penalty is a constitutionally acceptable
form of punishment; Israeli commandos
attack Uganda’s Entebbe Airport, freeing
103 hostages held by pro-Palestinian
hijackers; mysterious disease that
eventually claims 29 lives strikes American
Legion convention in Philadelphia
FROM THE AU ARCHIVES
A concertgoer loses a finger during the
Peter Frampton show in the Woods-Brown
Ampitheater. The spring concert was
marred by overcrowding, an arrest, a
traffic jam, and “an awesome accumulation
of garbage,” according to the Eagle.
AT THE HELM
Alan Russo served as 1976–1977
Student Confederation president.
Today, he’s a partner at Russo
& Toner, LLP, in New York City.
MY MESSAGE IN THIS ISSUE of American is different from previous letters.
I will leave AU in May to become Franklin College’s next president. As I prepare for this new
chapter in my journey, I reflect on the gains we have made together for AU.
Since I arrived in 2008, thanks to our first-rate staff and alumni board, we’ve made noticeable
progress in the development of outstanding alumni programs:
• ALUMNI EVENT ATTENDANCE has increased fourfold, a result of an enhanced alumni
weekend and robust growth in service, mentorship, social networking, and career
• PARTICIPATION IN ALUMNI CHAPTERS is up; leaders are engaged in a
reinvigorated alumni board and in new, more active deans’ councils, including the
new Eagles Leadership Council.
• THE ALUMNI ADMISSIONS VOLUNTEER PROGRAM—now 600 strong—was
created to engage alumni in the critical work of student recruitment. They connected
with 5,100 prospective students last year alone.
• MORE STUDENTS CONNECT WITH ALUMNI at wide-ranging events, from
convocation to senior barbecues.
Along with many of you who made important annual gifts, trustees and lead donors have
helped cultivate a greater culture of philanthropy at AU, knowing that private support is
the hallmark of successful higher education.
• OVER FIVE YEARS, total dollars for gifts and pledges nearly doubled to $32 million
annually; cash revenues increased 68 percent to $26.3 million annually.
It has been a
work with you
to advance this
and raise the
profile of AU.
• SEVERAL SIGNIFICANT GIFTS ADVANCED our strategic plan goals, including
seven-figure naming gifts. Among them were:
Malsi Doyle and Michael Forman Theater
Susan Carmel Lehrman Chair in Russian History and Culture
Gary D. Cohn Scholarship
Martin H. Steiner Scholarship
Alper Initiative for Washington Art
• I ESPECIALLY WANT TO RECOGNIZE Board of Trustees chair Jeff Sine, who
generously established AU Reach and the Community-Based Research Scholars Program.
My work has benefited tremendously from the talent, commitment, and friendship of so many
of you who care deeply about your alma mater. It has been a privilege to work with you to
advance this great institution and raise the profile of AU. I hope you share my pride in all that
With your support, the university is well positioned to continue its trajectory. I’m proud to
have called AU home for a pivotal time in my career. As I head to Indiana, I will live by the
mantra repeated so often at alumni events: Once an Eagle, always an Eagle.
Thomas J. Minar, PhD
Vice President of Development and Alumni Relations
ILLUSTRATION BY BRUCE MORSER
38 AMERICAN MAGAZINE MARCH 2015
vision + planning = legacy
HOWARD LEE, SPA/BA ’69, WCL/JD ’73
Howard Lee is proof that there’s no better place to study government and law than the nation’s capital. A Washington native, Lee is
a veteran of the George H. W. Bush administration and a former staff director for the US House of Representatives’s subcommittee
on domestic finance and monetary policy. “AU’s School of Public Affairs and Washington College of Law provide students the
opportunity to learn from some of the finest policy makers, advocates, and judges serving our country,” says Lee, executive secretary
and managing director of Cosmos Alliance, a DC-based investment group that advances emerging biotechnologies.
An AU alumnus twice over, Lee believes it’s his duty to help safeguard the academic integrity of independent, private
institutions. “It’s important that everyone who has a stake in AU do what they can to ensure its future.” For his part, Lee created
three awards, named in honor of friends and family—Pat Heinaman, SPA/BA ’71; Charles M. Johnson, CAS/BA ’68, and his wife,
Lucy; and his aunt Alice Lee Quan, CAS/BA ’34, and her husband, Lau King Quan—to help AU students cover their academic
expenses. Lee has also provided annual contributions to WCL for more than three decades.
Years ago, the Fredericksburg, Virginia, resident named SPA and WCL in his estate plans. His gift will support scholarships to
help relieve the burden of student debt and better prepare AU Eagles to pursue their passions. “Howard’s commitment to helping
the next generation of AU students fulfill their academic and professional dreams is remarkable,” says AU president Neil Kerwin.
“I am grateful for his philanthropic vision and generous spirit.”
FOR INFORMATION ON HOW YOUR VISION CAN CREATE A LEGACY at American University through a sound charitable estate plan,
contact Kara Barnes, director of planned giving, at 202-885-5914 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit american.edu/plannedgiving.
Pamela Demain, Kogod/MBA
’80, was elected president of the
Licensing Executives Society
(USA and Canada) during its 50th
anniversary annual meeting.
Karen Lesmez, CAS/BA ’81,
CAS/MEd ’83, was featured as
an extra in the movie A Deaf
Doug Ballantine, SPA/BA ’84,
was named a “Local Star” in
“When Doves Cry,” Prince
and the Revolution
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
IN THE NEWS
Apple debuts the Macintosh personal
computer; Soviet Union boycotts the
summer Olympic games in Los Angeles;
Syria frees captured US Navy pilot,
Lt. Robert Goodman Jr.
FROM THE AU ARCHIVES
Sex therapist Ruth Westheimer visits
AU for a lecture sponsored by the
Kennedy Political Union. The infamous
Dr. Ruth encourages women to carry
contraceptives: “They now come in any
color to match [your] pocketbook.”
AT THE HELM
Darryl Jones was 1983–1984 Student
It is an honor and privilege to work
for Senator Cruz. His leadership is truly
motivating, and I can’t wait to get started
on our collaboration for liberty.”
—Paul Teller, SPA/PhD ’99, on his appointment as Senator Ted
Cruz’s (R-TX) chief of staff, January 16
Kentucky by Benchmark
Litigation in the areas of
commercial, insurance, and
intellectual property law.
Joseph Nader, SIS/BA ’88,
Kogod/MBA ’90, has been named
to the board of directors of Miami
Children’s Hospital. He will
serve on the finance committee
and continue as a member of the
investment committee, on which
he has served since 2012.
Susan Shelby, SIS/BA ’88, is
the founder of public relations
firm Rhino, chosen by Zampell
to create and
and the charity he
with his son, Hopecam,
were featured on Anderson Cooper
360° and Fox and Friends. Forkas
raised more than $300,000 for
Hopecam by participating in
the 2012 Race across America.
Forkas wrote a book, What Spins
the Wheel, about leadership
lessons he learned from the race.
Brian Keane, SPA/BA ’89,
received a Lifetime Achievement
Award from People’s Action for
Clean Energy for his book Green
YOUR FRIENDS IN
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Jeffrey Halick, Kogod/BSBA ’91,
SIS/BA ’91, was promoted to
colonel in the US Army
Mary Call Blanusa,
SIS/BA ’93, was
for US policy
and advocacy at the
Trust in New York.
Jen Nadol, CAS/BA ’93,
published her third novel, This Is
How It Ends, on October 7, 2014.
“Macarena,” Los del Río
IN THE NEWS
President Bill Clinton appoints Madeleine
Albright as the first female US secretary
of state; Congress passes welfare reform
bill; rapper Tupac Shakur dies after a
drive-by shooting in Las Vegas
FROM THE AU ARCHIVES
Thirty-five members of AU’s Free Burma
Coalition participate in a three-day
fast to bring awareness to business
and political problems in the embattled
Southeast Asia country.
AT THE HELM
Thomas Palermo was 1996–1997 Student
Confederation president. Today, he’s
an assistant US attorney at the
Department of Justice.
James Morris, CAS/BA ’96, will
publish his new book, Eye on the
Struggle: Ethel Payne, The First
Lady of the Black Press, through
Michael Dovilla, SPA/MPA ’99,
was elected to a third term in the
Ohio House of Representatives
and was chosen by colleagues to
serve as majority whip in the 131st
General Assembly (2015–2016).
Paul Teller, SPA/PhD ’99, was
promoted to chief of staff in the
Washington, DC, office of US
senator Ted Cruz.
40 AMERICAN MAGAZINE MARCH 2015
ART GROWS HERE
Baye Harrell, CAS/MA ’15 + Brooke Kidd, SIS-CAS/BA ’91, CAS/MA ’98
+ Neena Narayanan, CAS/MA ’12 + Michael Herman, WCL/JD ’92 (not pictured)
Twenty years ago, Kidd had a vision for a cultural center that would NURTURE ARTISTS AND NEIGHBORHOODS alike.
Today, her vision is thriving: JOE’S MOVEMENT EMPORIUM, where she is artistic and executive director, is a hub of
Prince George’s County’s Gateway Arts District, a two-mile stretch of arts-driven revitalization from Mount Rainier to Hyattsville,
just north of DC. Named for “the average Joe”—and the notion that EVERYONE CAN DANCE—Joe’s offers performances,
classes, and a program to prepare at-risk teens for careers in theater production. “A lot of YOUNG PEOPLE ARE CRAVING
DEVELOPMENT AND EXPRESSION, and that’s something we can provide,” Kidd says. Joe’s is also a major player in the
district’s “creative place making”—think POP-UP GALLERIES, art-and-farmers markets in abandoned lots, and a recording
studio for young musicians. Kidd, who found Joe’s permanent home in Mount Rainier seven years ago, says, “We were totally
welcomed into this community and EVERYTHING JUST GREW.” Narayanan, who interned at Joe’s as a grad student, joined
the team full-time in 2013 to lead Art Lives Here, a community engagement program. Harrell joined Joe’s through a fellowship
program at AU, but his connection is also personal. A Prince George’s native, he has watched the district evolve: “I knew Joe’s had
played a role in that.” Herman joined Joe’s board last year and now serves as its chair. Kidd is watching her seeds take root and
flourish: “I think we’ve become A HUB OF A HEALTHY COMMUNITY.”
Sarah Moss, SOC/BA ’01, sang
with her former boss, Colorado
governor John Hickenlooper, and
“The Hick-Tones” in the Denver
Press Club Gridiron political
satire show on October 10. In
“In Da Club,” 50 Cent
The Lord of the Rings:
The Return of the King
IN THE NEWS
North Korea withdraws from the
nonproliferation of nuclear weapons
treaty; Saddam Hussein captured by
American troops; Supreme Court upholds
the right of affirmative action in higher
education; United States declares official
end to combat operations in Iraq
FROM THE AU ARCHIVES
Students smash an old campus van to
raise money for an alternative spring
break in Chiapas, Mexico. Participants
shell out $1 for three hits, $3 for 10
seconds, and $5 for 20 seconds.
AT THE HELM
Haley Stevens was 2003–2004
Student Confederation president.
Today, she’s the associate director of
workforce development at the Digital
Manufacturing and Design Innovation
Institute in Chicago.
August, she began her master’s
degree in public administration
at the University of Colorado–
Amy Anda, Kogod/BSBA ’02,
was named a 2014 Woman of
Distinction Award finalist by the
National Association of Women
Business Owners of Greater DC.
The award recognizes women
who advance women’s business
in meaningful ways.
Sharon Foster, SOC/MA ’02,
recently published a book, Live
Lightly: A Summer of Poetry.
The poetry collection is grouped
into seven sections: change,
inspiration, love lost, love found,
the streets, humanity, and beauty.
SIS/BA ’03, and
along with big
Adriana on May
Robert Kelley, SIS/
BA ’04, has published Agency
Change: Diplomatic Action beyond
the State on the Rowman and
Lauren Ryczek, SIS/BA ’10, and
Michael Stubel, SPA/BA ’10, were
married on September 25, 2014,
It’s a thrill hanging around the Capitol all
day, picking up a nugget of information
and turning that into a must-read story.”
—Heather Caygle, SOC/MA ’12, on her job as Politico’s
federal transportation policy reporter
in Chicago. Many AU alumni
attended, and Kelly Lanza, SOC/
BA ’10, and Tim Gallivan, SPA/
BA ’10, were members of the
Hayley Tamburello, CAS/BA ’10,
opened her own immigration law
office, the Law Office of Hayley
Tamburello, in Baltimore.
Ryan Briggs, SIS/
PhD ’13, has been
professor in the Department
of Political Science at Virginia
Tech’s College of Liberal Arts
and Human Sciences.
Benjamin Leffel, SIS/MA ’13, is
a scholar-practitioner of US-
China local-level relations. He
is starting a PhD in sociology
at the University of California,
where he will focus on US-China
subnational relations. He also
serves as director of research for
the nonprofit Tai Initiative.
Olivia Curl, SIS/BA ’14, and her
partner Lena Shareef, SOC/
BA ’11, were among 10 finalists
selected by National Geographic’s
Expedition Granted. They
founded a social media movement,
#GIRLWITHABOOK, in response
to the assassination attempt
on Pakistani youth education
activist Malala Yousafzai. They
hope to lead an expedition to 12
counties in 12 months to highlight
individuals and organizations
who are breaking barriers to girls’
To update your address
Office of Alumni Relations
4400 Massachusetts Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20016-8002
Francis Duffy, CAS/
MEd ’64, September 13,
2014, Arlington, Virginia
SPA/MPA ’76, August
22, 2014, Silver Spring,
Cheryl Mitchell, CAS/
BA ’86, September 14, 2014,
Little Elm, Texas
Kogod/BSBA ’97, September
28, 2014, Washington, DC
Carla Williams, SOC/
MA ’97, July 22, 2014,
Todd Levett, SPA/
BA ’05, October 30, 2014,
42 AMERICAN MAGAZINE MARCH 2015
PHOTOS BY SAMANTHA STORCH
stand up for
social justice at
AU or in DC?
In a decade that saw scores of antiwar gatherings,
50 AU students and faculty members joined other DC
demonstrators at the Department of Justice to protest
the indictment of Benjamin Spock and four other
leaders of the peace movement, who were charged
with conspiracy to counsel, aid, and abet resistance
to the draft. After the protest, the AU group walked
to nearby Western High School to “engage in draft
Following the shooting deaths of four unarmed, antiwar
protestors at Kent State, 250 AU students overran
Ward Circle, urging motorists to “honk for peace.”
Protestors passed out antiwar flyers while members of
DC’s Civil Disturbance Unit stood by with clubs and tear
gas. Pleas to honk for peace “were met with a noisy
response,” according to the Eagle, but “some drivers, no
doubt, honked for other reasons, as traffic backed up”
Massachusetts and Nebraska avenues.
“Why can’t Johnny read? He can’t afford to learn.” More
than 3,000 sign-toting students swarmed the quad to
peacefully protest a proposed 18 percent tuition hike and
a 19.3 percent increase in housing costs. “One of the most
famous educators in history, Socrates, taught his students
to question everything. We are emulating his teachings,”
the Student Confederation said in an open letter to the
university president. Despite the students’ best efforts,
the Board of Trustees approved the hikes two weeks later.
In the wake of the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by
police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri, 100
students staged a “die-in” to support the Black Lives
Matter movement (pictured left). The protestors laid on
the steps of Mary Graydon Center for 4 minutes and 30
seconds to symbolize the 4 hours and 30 minutes that
Brown’s body was left in the street after he was shot. “I
feel like AU represents America as a whole, so if we’re
quiet or complacent about things, then we’re never
going to see any change,” said senior Akosua Bamfo.
DOWNLOAD the American magazine
app to see more of senior Samantha Storch’s
photos of the Ferguson protest.
THE VALLEY OF
THE SUN (OR
THE SEASON) is the
Grand Canyon state’s largest
city and its capital. Home to
haboobs—giant walls of dust that
envelope the city during monsoon
season—and Super Bowl XLIX,
Phoenix is also known for its
stately saguaros, sprawling
suburbs, and striking sunsets.
Incorporated in 1881, 31 years
before Arizona attained statehood,
Phoenix stacked its early economy
on the five Cs: copper, cattle,
climate, cotton, and citrus.
Though the nation’s sixth-largest
city was the epicenter of the
housing bust in 2008, real estate
is again booming in Phoenix;
financial services, manufacturing,
health care, and retail round out
the top five industries.
The vast Phoenix metro area is
home to 4.4 million people—and
about 600 AU alumni. What
besides SPF 50 bought in bulk, a
taste for Mexican food, and a
disregard for daylight savings time
do these Phoenicians share? The
insider’s knowledge of DC, gained
while studying at American
University. Get to know some of
AU’s desert dwellers here.
ZACKERY HAYHURST, CAS/MA ’11, DIRECTOR OF ARTISTIC ADMINISTRATION, ARIZONA OPERA
When most people think opera, they
conjure up the classics: La Bohéme,
But it was Cruzar la Cara de la Luna—
not Carmen, or a century-old Puccini
production—that reenergized the Phoenix
opera scene, signaling what Arizona Republic
theater critic Kerry Lengel called “a change
in direction at the once-staid Arizona Opera.”
Arizona Opera kicked off its 43rd season
in October with the world’s first mariachi
opera and saw a huge crescendo in single
ticket sales, according to Zack Hayhurst.
“One thousand people turned out for
that production that had never been to
the Arizona Opera before,” he says. “We’ll
always do the traditional operas, but more
and more, we want to tell stories that our
community can relate to,” like Cruzar, an
affecting story of an immigrant Mexican
family told in English and Spanish.
Arizona Opera is nestled off palm
tree–lined Central Avenue, downtown
Phoenix’s main drag. It’s part of the newly
designated Central Arts District, which
includes the Phoenix Art Museum and the
Heard Museum, home to one of the world’s
largest collections of American Indian art.
About $60 million has been invested in
the district in recent years, including the
construction of Arizona Opera’s gleaming
A native Floridian, Hayhurst—whose
duties include casting, budgeting,
scheduling, and “anything else that has
to do with the talent on stage or in the
orchestra pit”—is excited to be part of the
Valley of the Sun’s sizzling arts scene.
“We have two major theater companies,
a ballet company, a symphony orchestra,
and a number of local choral organizations.
There are so many cool restaurants,
coffee shops, and bookstores.” And on this
particular day, he says, “it’s 65 and sunny.”
SANDRA DAY O’CONNOR
COLLEGE OF LAW
Marcy Karin, SPA, CAS/BA ’00, clinical
professor. Karin heads the Work-Life Law
and Policy Clinic at ASU’s law school, named
for the retired Supreme Court justice, who
grew up on an Arizona cattle ranch.
PHOENIX BUSINESS JOURNAL
Mike Sunnucks, SIS/BA ’89, SPA/MA ’94,
senior writer. Sunnucks covers commercial
and residential real estate for the weekly
paper, which boasts a circulation of more
ARIZONA STATE UNIVERSITY
Alyssa Chamberlain, SPA/MS ’03,
assistant professor, School of Criminology and
Criminal Justice. The Urban Institute veteran’s
research centers on neighborhood dynamics
44 AMERICAN MAGAZINE MARCH 2015
where we are
C. Murphy Hebert
ARIZONA HOUSE DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS
HAYHURST AND HEBERT PHOTOS BY RICK D’ELIA
Being a Democrat in a traditionally red state is enough
to make someone blue. But C. Murphy Hebert is up to
“I really enjoy local politics. I grew up here, I went
to school here. I know this community, and I love this
community. And man, it’s a good place to fight,” says
Hebert, an alumna of the Campaign Management
Institute, now in its 30th year at AU.
A former newspaper reporter who discovered she
was more interested in participating in politics than
writing about it, Hebert serves as a liaison between the
press and the 24 Democratic members of the Arizona
House of Representatives. She crafts speeches and
talking points, drafts constituent materials, and
maintains the caucus’s website and social media.
“I’m surrounded by passionate people who are
smart, dedicated—and have a great sense of humor,”
she says with an infectious laugh of her own.
Arizona has traditionally been a Republican
stronghold (about 53 percent of voters cast ballots for
Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential election).
However, last spring, registered independents edged
past Republicans, becoming the state’s largest voting
bloc. Of Arizona’s 3.2 million registered voters, 35.78
percent are independents.
So, does Hebert foresee more blue in Arizona’s
future—or at least a purplish hue?
“There’s an opportunity for more progressive values
to take root here. Arizona is a place where people
value financial and political independence—and that’s
an environment where progressive values can prosper.”
ARIZONA TRAIL ASSOCIATION
Andrea Michaels, CAS/BA ’73, chief steward,
northern region. The scenic 800-mile Arizona
Trail, which runs from Mexico to Utah, traverses
postcard-perfect mountains, deserts, and canyons.
TRIWEST HEALTHCARE ALLIANCE
David Brooks, SPA/BA ’91, vice president, data
management. Founded in 1996, this Phoenix-based
company provides health care services for service
members, veterans, and their families.
Dana Diller, Kogod/BSBA ’87, vice president, US
business development. This Tempe-based firm is the
global leader in photovoltaic solar energy solutions,
with more than 8 gigawatts installed worldwide.
THE EYES HAVE IT
Elizabeth Tobbe Swibel, SOC/BA ’98, SPA/MPA ’05 + Matt Swibel, SOC/BA ’99
Photographed at the new School
of Communication building
She first noticed his BLUE EYES AND DIMPLES. It was spring of 1995, and she was a freshman leading a group of high
school seniors around campus. He was visiting from Chicago, bound for AU that fall. Beth’s best friend (and later maid of honor)
encouraged her to STRIKE UP A CONVERSATION. “I didn’t know she was recruiting a husband—I thought she was just
recruiting freshmen,” Matt jokes. Back at AU that fall, they became fast friends. Conversation flowed easily, and THEY MADE
EACH OTHER LAUGH. Their first date was on October 27: dinner at the iconic Old Ebbitt Grill and a walk to the Willard hotel
to pick out their home state seals on the storied lobby ceiling. After that, Matt says, “We found ourselves finding ways to spend more
and more time together.” By 2000, both had graduated and were READY TO START THEIR LIFE TOGETHER. That May,
Matt—then a Washington Business Journal reporter—placed a marriage proposal ad in the newspaper. While Beth read it, he got
down on his knee. “SHE WAS SO EXCITED, SHE GRABBED THE RING AND PUT IT ON HERSELF,” Matt says.
“I said, ‘I’m assuming that’s a yes.’” They married August 11, 2001. Today, she is a grant-writing consultant, and he directs corporate
sustainability for Lockheed Martin. Both have kept AU ties: Beth earned a master’s, and Matt spent three years as an adjunct
professor. Their sons, Jacob, 9, and Aaron, 6, join Matt for runs on the AU track. Beth credits their happy marriage to A STRONG
FRIENDSHIP. But, she says, “HIS BLUE EYES AND DIMPLES DEFINITELY HELPED.”
46 AMERICAN MAGAZINE MARCH 2015
Libby Umstead’s path to
Tinseltown unfolded like one
of the Hollywood scripts that she
sets to song as a music supervisor.
While driving cross-country in
2005, Umstead, CAS/BA ’04, had
a serendipitous meeting
in a Memphis bar with a
screenwriter who introduced
her to Dana Sano, founder of
Santa Monica–based Zenden
Entertainment. Umstead, a lit
major and longtime music lover
(she knew she wanted to pair
music with movies after seeing
Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet
in ninth grade), has been working
with acclaimed music supervisor
Sano ever since.
Umstead—whose own iTunes
collection numbers more than
300,000 songs—works with
directors and composers to craft
soundtracks for films and TV
shows, securing the rights to each
selection. “We’re always looking
for the goose-bumps moments.”
Her credits include Horrible
Bosses, August: Osage County,
and the highly anticipated Fifty
Shades of Grey, which
hit theaters in February. The
soundtrack to the erotic drama,
based on the best-selling novel
of the same name, features songs
by Beyoncé, Ellie Goulding, and
1. THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION (1994)
Music can be transcendent. The prisoners
and guards have a unifying experience when
“The Marriage of Figaro Duettino” plays on
vinyl in the library scene. Tim Robbins took
that piece to solitary confinement.
2. LONE SURVIVOR (2013)
I watched this on a plane and the
flight attendants kept checking on me
because I was sobbing hysterically. The
orchestration and electronic elements
made it very modern.
3. AMADEUS (1984)
For Mozart, music was a friend, lover, foe,
challenge, and chase. The filmmakers did
an excellent job of using his masterpieces
to show all those nuances.
4. THE LORD OF THE RINGS TRILOGY
Howard Shore just did an incredible job of
creating an epic score with soft, whimsical,
ethereal, magical elements without being
sappy. He carried those themes throughout
the trilogy and built on them.
5. ROMEO + JULIET (1996)
I have a musical theater background, so I
love drama. Pairing an old story with new
music was revolutionary.
6. MONEYBALL (2011)
Mychael Danna did an amazing job with the
score, which was more on the minimal side.
“It’s a Process” is a gorgeous score cue.
7. THE LION KING (1994)
Along with Aladdin and The Little Mermaid,
The Lion King redefined animated movie
soundtracks. It featured an all-star group of
musicians and composers and introduced
scores of children to Elton John.
8. AMERICAN HUSTLE (2013)
As music supervisors, the goal is to give
the audience a sense of time, place, and
tone. We create a sonic atmosphere in
which to experience the story. American
Hustle did just that with such elegance.
9. PULP FICTION (1994)
It’s crazy, it’s cool, it’s very Quentin.
The scene where Uma Thurman and
John Travolta dance to Chuck Berry’s
“You Never Can Tell” is great.
10. THE SOUND OF MUSIC (1965)
I grew up with this one. It’s magnificent
and timeless. Maria brought happiness to
the Von Trapp family because she brought
music to their hearts.
—Michael Menachem, SOC/BA ’04
DOWNLOAD the American
magazine app for a chance to win
Umstead’s favorite soundtracks.
PHOTO OF UMSTEAD BY ADRIAN TOYNTON
*SOC/BA ’92, New York–based creator of syndicated comic strip Daddy’s Home, author, and fine artist (rubinocreative.com)
1. I use paint for my fine art (some of the
work is also digital). As a cartoonist, I
use ink pens for the line art when I’m
finished with the sketch.
2. I sketch on the iPad with a stylus and
sketching app. I also use it to watch TV
or listen to music. I need silence when
I’m writing, but I like to listen to music
when I’m drawing.
3. A couple years ago, I started doing
fine art—mostly pop art—and I’ve had
shows in Chicago and New York. The
city is filled with art, whether it’s public
sculpture, graffiti, or an exhibit at
MoMA. I’m so inspired by the city.
4. My reading glasses with a mild
prescription make me look smarter.
5. I work out of my apartment, but I take
the subway to meet with my agent,
publisher, and Avanti Publishing, a
greeting card company with whom I
work as a creative consultant.
6. Beats by Dre headphones are great for
blocking out street noise. I use them to
listen to music (the Rolling Stones are a
favorite) and talk on the phone.
7. I wear my lucky Communist hat while I
work. It’s not really lucky, but I like that
it makes me look like Che Guevara.
8. We’ve been doing one comic a day since
2008. Ideas come from everywhere. I
have pads to jot down an idea or quick
sketch, and I use a vellum pad for inking.
9. The worst thing I can do is stare at a
blank page. Ideas come to me while
I’m working out or walking in the city.
10. I used to drink coffee, but I find diet
Red Bull is a more efficient means of
delivering the drug. I drink four a day.
11. I’ve written 10 books. One of them, Why
Didn’t I Think of That? 101 Inventions That
Changed the World by Hardly Trying, led
to a column that’s distributed overseas
by a London syndicate.
12. I had one of the first Macs ever and I’ve
just kept upgrading. I use my MacBook
Pro for social networking and design
work and to manage all my businesses.
DOWNLOAD the American
magazine app for a chance to
win autographed books and
artwork by Tony Rubino.
PORTRAIT BY TONY RUBINO
48 AMERICAN MAGAZINE MARCH 2015
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