July 30, 2016

Uneven Strings – Recap

Baker StudiosOn Friday, October 11th, 150 people packed Suffolk University’s Modern Theatre for a screening of ‘Uneven Strings,” a film created by three Suffolk Alumni, Joseph Serra (’10), Justin Callahan (’11), and Matthew Fleming (’10). A question and answer session with the cast and crew followed the screening where they discussed their experiences creating Uneven Strings and post-graduation life in the film and media industry. Serra thanked Suffolk and the CJN department by stating, “It is truly an honor to be a Suffolk Alum, and I can’t express in words how much the Media Department has played a role in making me the filmmaker, and successful person I am today.”



View photos from the Uneven Strings Film Screening >>


Media and Politics – A Winning Combination

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In the fall of 2006, Audacity of Hope hit bookshelves around the world. The biography — written by the up-and-coming US Senator from Illinois, Barack Obama — quickly became a New York Times and Amazon.com best seller, inspiring millions of people around the world. One of those people was 19-year-old Aaron Straus Garcia.

Aaron Straus Garcia (BA Media Studies ’09) was studying abroad in Madrid when he heard the news that the Illinois Senator was jumping into the presidential ring.  Aaron felt a call-to-action. When he returned to Boston in the fall, he took an opportunity to volunteer with the Obama campaign during the New Hampshire primaries. He spent his weekends carpooling with other young volunteers to knock on doors and make phone calls to prospective New Hampshire supporters.  Despite a primary defeat in the Granite State,  Aaron continued to actively volunteer for the campaign throughout the Northeast.

His hard work paid off when he was offered the position of Field Organizer for the Obama Presidential Campaign in the swing state of North Carolina during the summer of 2008. Aaron deferred his fall semester at Suffolk and experienced “the best time of [his] life,” organizing a team of more than 150 volunteers. After poll results were tallied, Obama won North Carolina by just 13,000 votes, contributing to the national victory of Obama over candidate Senator John McCain (R–Arizona).

This experience with the campaign left Aaron wanting more. After graduation, Aaron continued his campaign work with a startup company, NationBuilder, a platform that provides communication tools to young leaders, nonprofits and organizations.  During his time with NationBuilder, Aaron met Alex Torpey – the youngest mayor of South Orange, New Jersey. Elected at age 23, Alex was one of the first successful candidates to use the NationalBuilder platform with the help of Aaron.

After the success of Alex’s mayoral campaign, Aaron and Alex saw potential for a new venture.  Aaron explained, “Millennials know how to use media, create start-ups and are resourceful – all of these skills can be used in local government.”  Alex and Aaron brought on Ryan Morgan (a creative web developer) to start a political media company, Veracity Media (www.veracitymedia.com).  Launched in 2011, Veracity Media uses the NationBuilder platform to help clients build a community of supporters through digital and online media channels.

 Alumni: Aaron Garcia ('09)

Ryan Morgan (left), Aaron Straus Garcia (Center) and Alex Torpey (right) at the Personal Democracy Forum in NYC in June 2013.

As a side project for both Aaron and Alex, they developed the nonprofit organization, Rethink Leadership (www.rethinkleadership.com), which launched in January 2012. Their goal is to promote and inspire younger generations of leaders to run for local office. They want to highlight the stories of successful young leaders and inspire other young people to take action, whether at a national, state or local level.

“Millennials know how to use media, create start-ups and are resourceful – all of these skills can be used in local government.”  – Aaron Straus Garcia


When asked to reflect on his time at Suffolk University, Aaron stated, “Writing, reports, communicating and research…Suffolk helped me develop the skills I use on a day-to-day basis.” Aaron recently moved to Washington D.C. and plans to grow his companies in the national political hub and continue to network with other young, inspiring individuals who will be the future leaders of the nation.

Alumni Adventure Series: Part Three- Tom Godfrey (’06)

TomFollowing a year spent teaching in Cheongju, South Korea, Tom Godfrey (‘06, print journalism) returned to his hometown of Shrewsbury, but not for long.

“It’s hard to go from living alone in East Asia to living in your parents’ attic,” says Godfrey.

After graduation, Godfrey felt what many students do, “[T]hat weird, gray area post-graduation, I guess pre-real-life.” He had worked at various office jobs and interned at the Beacon Hill Times as a photographer. When he started writing for Pulse Magazine, Godfrey says, “I started reading a lot of travel writing, so I wanted to make traveling a little more prominent in my life.”

Friend and fellow Suffolk graduate Larry Boire (’07) explored the idea of teaching abroad, which intrigued Godfrey as well, however, he didn’t think much would come of it. “He brought it up and I figured it would be one of those things that you would talk about that would never happen.”

Boire left for South Korea and the two friends lost touch, but the idea of teaching abroad stuck in Godfrey’s mind. Godfrey later called his friend. “He raved about it so I sort of made the decision to do it. He set me up with his recruiter and I was out a couple months after that, to the first job that I had in a little city called Cheongju.”

Upon arriving in Seoul, Godfrey noticed major cultural changes; for example, US employers tend to frown upon mixing business with pleasure, but it seemed the opposite in Seoul.

“Even working at school, [in Korea] it’s common to go out with everybody and just drink and eat. Whereas in the US, I feel like it’s not very typical to go out and party with your boss; here it’s almost just part of work.” Godfrey explained that a typical office outing can lead to karaoke, called, Noribong. “You’re inevitably just pushed up to the front to sing.” He adds, “I avoid those places as often as I can.”

Godfrey has had his fair share of struggles with the language barrier, admitting he didn’t know one word of Korean prior to his arrival, but that’s part of the charm of being abroad, as is trying new cuisine.

“Recently, I was trying to order a pork dish because usually, almost every day, I end up getting kimchi soup. I believe (the waitress) was trying to tell me that they had no pork, but to me it just seemed like she was yelling at me. What came out were rice and about a million octopus tentacles,” recounts Godfrey, who doesn’t enjoy seafood. “That stuff happens. It happens pretty frequently. You just tell the story later.”

While at Suffolk, Godfrey was a frequent student in Senior Lecturer Ken Martin’s photography and photojournalism classes. He explains how Martin’s classes and his advisor, Associate Professor Shoshanna Madmoni-Gerber, had influenced his decision to teach abroad. Martin recalls the first signs of Godfrey’s travel bug, “I could tell in class that he had that certain light in his eyes.” Godfrey recalls a meeting with Madmoni-Gerber during which he told her, ‘travel’s more important.’ I always regretted not studying abroad during university. But her and Ken Martin, I guess all their stories sort of stuck with me.”

Godfrey decided it was his time to start making his own stories. He keeps a travel-blog ; and is an editor for the online magazine, The KamikazeMag, which he started with friends prior to living in Korean. The online publications are a great way for Godfrey to share his adventures and stay connected with friends and family at home, even though there are momentary feelings of homesickness.

After teaching for a year, he returned home but was compelled to travel to Seoul again. “People are interested to hear your stories for a time, but you can only make so many jokes about kimchi and what-not before people just… stop caring. You start missing the life that you had.”

When asked if he’ll commit to another year, Godfrey said, “I left Boston and I spent a long time comparing my city to Boston and wishing I was in Boston. And I did that also, when I came home from Korea. I think it’s important to stay somewhere until you’re really finished with it.”

Wherever Godfrey will be in a year, he certainly has a lifetime of stories to tell about his overseas adventures.

CJN Alumnus, Mike Reilly speaks to students

Suffolk University alumnus, Michael Reilly, (’76, BJS)

CJN Alumnus Mike Reilly, ('76, BSJ) with new Suffolk T!

CJN Alumnus Mike Reilly, (’76, BSJ) with new Suffolk T!

spoke to Professor Norine Bacigalupo’s class last Thursday about the changes in the public relations industry. Reilly, who started his PR firm, Reilly Communications in 2000, said that today    public relations practitioners use traditional methods like press releases and media kits, as well as what he calls “digital” methods, like social media.  In the past, firms found the media to share their stories with, Reilly explained, “Now the media finds us,” through social networking. “Instead of a push philosophy, it’s a pull philosophy,” said Reilly.

Today, one major aspect PR firms execute is assisting their clients to build their authenticity.  In order to gain a following and patrons for their businesses, Reilly explained, clients need to provide transparency and honesty so their audiences will find them trustworthy and credible.

For seniors on the job hunt, Reilly says there’s hope.  Firms want to hire people who will teach them the skills to navigate social media.  In order to get the job though, he encourages students to “take every opportunity to write.”  In order to succeed in any profession, it’s important that people speak and write well.  He compared writing to practicing a sport like tennis or baseball, the key to getting good is repetition. “If you can write, you can conquer the world,” added Bacigalupo.

 Reilly’s advice to students wishing to pursue this field consisted of SIX MUST HAVES:

  1. “Far reaching curiosity”
  2. “Instinctive ability to see all sides”
  3. “Creative story telling”
  4. “Relationship skills”
  5. “Listening as a  personality type”
  6. “Ability to blow off rejection”

Reilly clearly has mastered these skills; he’s won an impressive ten regional and national awards in the past five years for his communication consulting.  He currently teaches at Boston University and is a contributing editor for SMPS bi-monthly journal Marketer.

“I only bring the best in here,” Bacigalupo admitted. We wish Reilly and his firm the best of success and hope that our students will follow in his footsteps.  

Alumni Adventure Series: Part Two – Katie Sampson (’12)

Katie Sampson (BSJ, ‘12) spent the days immediately following her graduation in May driving into the unknown.

“I honestly didn’t have any expectations,” says Sampson.  “I had never been to the Midwest.  I had no idea what I was in for.” A few whirlwind weeks before graduating, the broadcast journalism student accepted an offer from Kansas First News, a Topeka-based affiliate of ABC, NBC, and Fox, thus beginning her career as a full-time reporter.

Sampson reporting for Kansas First News.

Sampson, joined by her mom and her closest friend, Fonsi, packed her black Passat and made the 1,500-mile trip to Topeka in two days; one of many quick transitions her professors at CJN promised would characterize a career in broadcast journalism.

“Since the first journalism class I had at Suffolk, my professors have said, ‘If you’re serious about being in broadcast journalism, you better be ready to pick up and move anywhere, at any time.’”

Even so, the thought of accepting the job offer and uprooting completely was intimidating.  She sought guidance from her Suffolk U News professor, Dr. Dana Rosengard.

“I ran into Dana’s office when I got the offer, and I was almost crying because I was just so overwhelmed.  He was like, ‘You knew this day was going to come, but you didn’t realize that it was going to be scary… and it is scary.  You just have to do it.’  I needed him to tell me this [was] the right decision.  A lot of people don’t have that person,” she reflects, “[who] can tell them, ‘This is a good decision for you, because I know you personally and I know the business, too.’  It’s really, really amazing.”

Sampson, pictured here with Dr. Dana Rosengard, earned an AP award for outstanding Feature Reporting as a CJN senior.

With sound advice and a solid foundation of course work and class experience to build upon, Sampson was ready to take on life as a reporter. But, as with anything new and different, Sampson’s first few weeks on the job were challenging.

“I felt confident going and doing the interviews,” she says of her initial days at Kansas First.  “But I came back and I was editing… and there were issues here and there.  It ended up getting on air, but it…was a wake-up call.  You are prepared, but you’re going to mess up here and there, and it’s going to be hard.  But that’s fine, because if I went in knowing everything, then I wouldn’t be challenged at all and I wouldn’t improve.”

Sampson and her friend Fonsi on the drive to Topeka.

Six months in, her new position is already providing ample learning opportunities.  Time, she notes, is the most striking difference between student and professional reporting. Suffolk U News usually afforded Sampson about a week to put a piece together, but writing and editing a package in two hours is not uncommon at Kansas First News.  No matter how tight the deadline, Sampson is also responsible for accurately presenting the facts to her viewers.

“You get to talk to these amazing people that have these incredible stories.  You get to meet people in all sorts of different situations and backgrounds and [have] conversations you would never be able to have in any other instance. You really do get to learn something new every day,” she says, “but that’s also why it can be stressful.  You’re responsible for teaching this to the viewers and teaching it in a way that they’ll understand it and remember it.   And if you’re not comfortable with the subject, you have to become an expert in a very short period of time.”

Sampson embraces the challenge with gusto; she sees these opportunities to learn as unique and immeasurable. At this stage in her young career, Sampson is cautious in setting long-term goals; there is no 5-year plan to which she must adhere.

“I had this attitude from the start that I was going to work as hard as I possibly can and have mini-goals, and even long-term goals in short-term situations.  But long-term life?  You can’t control a lot of that.  You can control what you do, but you can’t control what other people do and what opportunities come up and don’t come up. …When I think long-term,” she elaborates, “I think it would be completely unrealistic to envision myself at some end point, because there [are] so many things that could happen that could happen between [now] and then.”

“I like to be a realist,” says Sampson.  What she is yet to be, though, is still unknown.

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