Excavating the Past: A Look Into the Lives of Transient Workers

Imagine spending several weeks rediscovering forgotten people, letting them tell you about their life and their struggles, and then bringing that story to the rest of the world. This is exactly how Justin Uehlein and a team of American University students spent their summer, excavating a site in Southern Pennsylvania. Justin is a PhD. Student working on his Dissertation and he led a group of 2 graduate students and 3 undergraduates on a field school at a hobo jungle where he is currently conducting research.

This was an incredible opportunity for students to learn first-hand about excavation methods in the field of Archeology. Several of the students participating in the field school had never had any Archeological experience, and the field school allowed them to work closely with Justin and his advisor Dr. Daniel Sayers.

Justin’s research involves researching transient laborers in capitalist society, and in specific he has focused on hobos in the United States during the 19th and 20th centuries. The site of his dissertation work is a hobo jungle, or camp, located next to a river under a trestle bridge near Delta Pennsylvania. The field school offered students the opportunity to see the way hobo jungles would appear where there was access to transportation and available work, such as the quarry in Delta.

Justin has used this insight to develop a predictive model for locating additional hobo jungles, which he has already used to test 26 sites across the northeastern United States.  This model could lead to a larger project detailing the experience of transient laborers who lived at these sites, and Justin hopes this will provide research opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students going forward. Even now, some students are taking full advantage of this research to advance their own work.

Margaret (Maggie) Stone is a master’s student who participated in the field school this summer, and she has used the experience to frame her graduate research. Maggie has begun developing a website which focuses on the Delta hobo site, and “gives a rundown of Archeological process and what it looks like in the field”. This website will serve as part of her final research project, and when completed will give individuals the opportunity to explore the exciting discoveries at the Delta site, as well as learn more about the discipline of Archeology.

Justin presented this research at the weekly Social Justice Colloquium. By presenting this work in a variety of formats, Justin, Maggie, and others who have contributed to the research seek to clarify the relationship between transient laborers such as hobos and the capitalist system. The necessary and undesirable condition of transient labor no longer bears the same appearance of hobos from the early 20th century. However, by better understanding how hobos lived and sought after work we may gain a better understanding how people seek out temporary work today.


If you are interested in learning more about the work students at AU do or about the public anthropology program you can check out our MAPA page.

Park in Autumn

3 Reasons Why Washington, DC is the Fittest City in U.S.

No city’s journey toward healthier, happier residents is ever complete, but the District seems to be moving in the right direction. This metro area with a population of more than six million has been recognized by the American College of Sports Medicine’s (ACSM) American Fitness Index as the fittest city in the U.S. multiple times, and it retained that title in 2016.

Taking into account a variety of health indicators and community resources, the American Fitness Index (AFI) aims to help communities identify and expand opportunities to foster healthy lifestyles. According to the AFI findings, Washington, DC, is outpacing the ACSM’s target goals in several key areas, including:

Percentage of people who smoke

  • Washington, D.C.: 12.6 percent
  • AFI Target Goal: 13.1 percent

Death rate due to diabetes, per 100,000 people

  • Washington, D.C.: 146.8
  • AFI Target Goal: 167.1

Percentage of people who bicycle or walk to work

  • Washington, D.C.: 3.9 percent
  • AFI Target Goal: 2.8 percent

For those who are interested in improving health and well-being, DC is overflowing with opportunities. Here are three reasons why we think the District landed on the list of fittest cities in the country:


Access to Parks and Other Fitness Opportunities

Is it any surprise that an area so full of parks also is a bastion for exercise? Consider these statistics about our park system:

Parkland as a percentage of city land area

  • Washington, D.C.: 21.9 percent
  • AFI Target Goal: 10.6 percent

Percentage of people with a 10-minute walk to a park

  • Washington, D.C.: 96.3 percent
  • AFI Target Goal: 63.8 percent

Total park expenditure per resident

  • Washington, D.C.: $346
  • AFI Target Goal: $101.80

The DC metro area is an incredibly popular place to hold festivals, conferences and events that are conducive to foot traffic. We boast an average of 28.5 farmer’ markets per 1 million people, compared to the AFI’s target goal of 13.1 per 1 million people.


Comfortable Climate

One of the reasons that parks, rec centers, public pools and walking trails are so prevalent and popular here is that they are easy to use for a large portion of the year. The city has a desirable climate with comfortable summers, relatively mild winters, and comfortable springs and falls. The average humidity is relatively manageable, too (just slightly more humid than the national average).

Our fitness-friendly climate and array of outdoor opportunities and indoor museums foster a cultural in which biking and walking are common and beloved.


Well-Educated People

Washington, DC, also has been ranked one of the five most educated cities, which likely is a key factor in our high level of fitness. The study, performed by WalletHub, takes into account percentage of adult residents and variety of demographic indicators. Many studies suggest that education levels often are linked to things such as income, healthcare coverage and fitness.

These factors and many more have Washington, DC, on a path to better fitness, improved health, longer lives and enhanced quality of life.


If you are passionate about improving community health, fitness and wellness, consider a master’s degree in Health Program Management at American University.

HPM Speaker

How to Land Your Dream Job in Health and Fitness

At its core, health promotion is about helping individuals and groups implement lifestyle habits that improve health and well-being. One of the best ways to affect change in the field is for talented, passionate professionals to find roles that allow them to thrive, motivate and lead.

Here are three qualities that can help you land your dream job in health and fitness, based on feedback from successful alumni of American University’s Health Promotion Management graduate program:


  1. Cultivate Your Communication Skills

“Having an open line of communication both internally and with clients has been huge for the success of the programs, campaigns and projects I’ve worked on over the years,” said Ari Klenicki, director of Screening Services at Wellness Corporate Solutions, LLC. He earned his master’s degree in HPM from AU in 2012.

Without the ability to effectively communicate, even the most impressive, potentially world-altering initiative could go unnoticed. When you have the skills to help people understand what an organization or service actually does to improve health or why that health information is important to them, employers notice.


  1. Be Able to Adapt

Do you learn from your mistakes? Are you flexible enough to adjust to the constantly changing world in which you live, work and play? How do you react when well-laid plans go awry?

Adaptability is a skill that will set you apart from those who can’t or won’t cope when unexpected circumstances arise.

“You need to be able to make real-time adjustments to projects and tasks, and understand that life happens,” Klenicki said. “I used to sour at the idea of changing a process that seemed to work, but it turns out that when you listen and open up to new ideas, often they end up working out well.”


  1. Leverage Your Foundation of Skills and Knowledge

In our HPM master’s program, every course is designed to be applicable in each of our student’s careers. In fact, we hear frequently statements like, “This program provided me with transferrable skills I can use at work every day. Examples include:

  • Researching topics that you don’t know much about — and becoming an expert
  • Developing ways to frame an issue for advocacy
  • Writing detailed papers that can affect change in communities, states and even countries

Communication, adaptability and a base of skills and knowledge are three important components of landing your dream job in health and fitness.


If you’re excited about finding a dream job in health and fitness, learn what it takes to earn a Master of Science in Health Program Management at American University.



Jeanne Hanna on “Brexit” & Anthropology of “Right-Wing” Groups

As a self-described “political nerd at heart,” AU anthropology PhD candidate Jeanne Hanna is having quite a year.

Her current research focuses on the UK Independence Party (UKIP), exploring the social, economic, emotional, and political issues motivating people to support this political party.

Jeanne was in the country for the June 2016 Brexit referendum, which initiated the withdrawal of the UK from the European Union. Her inquiries include how UKIP’s supporters are attempting to reshape the party in the aftermath of the referendum, and the ways social, economic, and regional differences among UKIP supporters affect their relationship with the party. She’s also interested in how English people outside UKIP perceive the party’s supporters.

Jeanne is now wrapping up ethnographic fieldwork among supporters of the UKIP in South Yorkshire, after which she’ll return to the United States for a brief visit. She’ll then continue her work in Greater London. Over email, Jeanne shared more about her background, her research in the UK, and how her research connects to her understanding of the current political landscape in the United States.


Ballot Table

The “Leave” and “Remain” signs used at the count on the night of the EU referendum to sort the votes. All British votes are still done by paper ballot and sorted and counted by hand.

Jeanne’s path to AU and the UK

Jeanne’s interest in politics has long since led her to pursue meaningful, on-the-ground work. When she was an undergraduate at the University of Memphis, she conducted research with a political action nonprofit in her home state of Tennessee. Her senior thesis, “Identity and activism among Muslims in Tennessee,” called for original ethnographic research on social and political movements among Middle Tennessee’s Muslim communities.

Jeanne came to AU to explore her questions about what draws people to political groups and political causes, as well as how political social movements impact people’s lives.

“Anthropological studies of the so-called ‘right wing’ are relatively rare, and arguably increasing in importance and popularity, not just in the US and UK, but around the world,” Jeanne said. “I decided this was broadly where I wanted to focus my research.”

When she first conceived of the idea of writing her dissertation on a “right-wing” group, she felt somewhat hesitant. “It’s still not a common area of research for anthropologists, though I’m glad to say that’s changing,” she said. “But when I nervously floated the idea to my advisor, David Vine, he was immediately and unconditionally supportive.”

David was willing to learn alongside Jeanne as she developed her initial research plan. “David, along with other faculty members in the department, has an excellent history of pursing and encouraging research that pushes the boundaries of what is typical anthropology. And while our department is committed to social justice, I’ve always appreciated that the people around me understand there are multiple and different avenues to pursuing that aim,” Jeanne said.

Jeanne brought her interests into the classroom, through conversations about theory and through her projects, and insights from peers and teachers helped shape her thinking. Seeking to hone in on a more specific subject, Jeanne first spent 12 weeks in England, hanging out with people involved in a range of political groups.

“The UK Independence Party, which has enjoyed increasing electoral and popular support in the last couple of years, stood out as a group that drew a dedicated and committed following of people from a range of different political backgrounds,” Jeanne said. “I decided to focus the rest of my research on them, and it’s been a fascinating experience so far.”



After spending all night at the referendum count in Sheffield, Jeanne snapped this picture of the dawn on what many people she’s gotten to know consider a “new Britain.”

Jeanne’s day-to-day field research in the UK

Each day of field work takes Jeanne somewhere different. She attends twice-weekly meetings of local UKIP branches. She attends local town and city council meetings. She attends committee meetings within local councils.

“I’ve been very lucky to be welcomed at several parties and social gatherings organized by local or regional UKIP groups. I also went to events related to the recent election of UKIP’s new national leader,” she said.

At least half her working time is composed of writing notes on her observations and experiences – and last summer gave her a lot to write about.

“By far, the highlight of my research has been the EU referendum campaign,” Jeanne said. “The growing support for UKIP was a major influence in making the referendum a reality, and the people I’ve been getting to know here were actively involved in campaigning to leave the EU. I was able to shadow several campaign events and attend the vote count in Sheffield. It was fascinating and exhilarating to watch history in action that evening.”


Billboard truck

A billboard truck, advocating a Leave vote in the referendum, hired by one of the local UKIP groups to drive around town in the days just before the referendum

Political connections across the pond

“With the Trump v. Clinton US election coming right on the heels of the Brexit summer here in the UK, it’s hard not to make comparisons across the current political moment in which we’re all living,” Jeanne said.

While her own interests focus on the views, perspectives, and experiences of the people she is getting to know in the UK, the US election looms large even in England, garnering news coverage and prompting people to ask Jeanne her thoughts about the choice US voters face this November.

“I’m very mindful of the global social and political contexts in which my research participants live, and in which my research is developing,” Jeanne said. “The political movements that have amassed behind Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are a part of that context. There is a great deal of concern about the rise in support for ‘right-wing’ or ‘far right’ movements in the US, Europe, and beyond,” Jeanne said.

Through her research, Jeanne works to push past than those labels, digging deeper to develop an understanding of which issues matter most to people and why. “I don’t doubt that there are connections between various political movements across national borders, but I’m hoping to challenge some of the assumptions about what those connections look like and what views and feelings motivate the people involved,” she said.

She plans to reconnect with AU classmates and teachers in person this winter before continuing the next leg of her research. “I try to keep people updated on how my research is going through semi-regular emails, but I’m looking forward to catching up with these same colleagues and continuing to learn from them during my mid-year break,” Jeanne said.

The MAPA program and Ph.D. in anthropology give students space to explore their interests about the world. Find out more about the master’s degree in public anthropology.


PAC: National Nurses United Panel

This weekend was an exciting time for the Anthropology department at AU. We hosted our 13th annual Public Anthropology Conference. Speakers represented a multitude of schools and organizations. One particularly exciting session highlighted a new partnership between the American University Department of Anthropology and National Nurses United.

National Nurses United is the largest union of registered nurses in the history of the United States. This fall, NNU and the Anthropology Department unrolled a new certificate program in Health Inequity and Care (HIC). Three of NNU’s educators, Heidi Hoechst, Alana Glaser, and Chris Nielsen joined AU Professor Adrienne Pine to talk about this new opportunity.

The panel focused on the potential of the new partnership between NNU and AU as well as the dynamic online learning format for all of the HIC courses. It gave students a chance to ask questions and learn more about NNU and the certificate program. The certificate includes six different courses, each exploring the relationship between health care and political and economic structures. Courses such as Militarization and Health and Neoliberal Globalization and Health take a critical look at our healthcare system, offering students the chance to learn how to examine it as part of a “larger structural machine.”

The panelists discussed the format as one of the most exciting parts of the new program. All of the courses are offered online. This enables registered nurses from around the country to be enrolled along with undergraduate and graduate students from AU. Registered nurses have the opportunity to critically examine the structures they are working in and traditional students have the unique chance to learn about healthcare from those at the frontlines. The NNU educators hope that this will offer the space for “asking critical questions” and facilitate a constructive dialogue about what it means to be effective social advocates.

This year’s PAC was hoping to create a conversation between academia and social activism. The NNU panel exemplified what this conversation can look like moving forward. NNU and the anthropology department at AU are both committed to issues of social justice. The nurses working with NNU often witness these issues firsthand. They are activists who understand that well-being encompasses far more than what happens in clinical settings. The Health Inequity and Care Certificate is a chance for social activism to meet academia in a space committed to taking a critical look at health.

Learn more about the Health Inequity and Care Certificate or email any questions to

James Reber

How I Went from American University to the BBC

By James Reber

I’ve been interested in audio since I began playing the guitar as a child. I wanted to know how my favorite artists achieved their signature sounds — and how I could re-create them.

That said, it wasn’t until I discovered the Audio Technology program at American University (AU) that my passion for sound began developing into a career and not just a hobby.

While working toward my bachelor’s degree (2013) in audio production and master’s degree (2015) in audio technology at AU, several opportunities proved integral to my future success in the field, including:

  • Working on recording projects with students who were just as passionate about audio as I was
  • Having access to the same tools the professionals use
  • Practicing proven recording techniques while enjoying the freedom to experiment with my own ideas

Audio technology is just as much about art as it is about science. Like any art form, you have to understand the fundamentals and technical aspects of audio before your creativity can really thrive. It’s one thing to get signal into a mixer or computer, but true artists are able to capture sound with whatever aesthetic they desire to create.

From Student to Audio Production Professional

During my undergrad coursework at AU, an internship with the BBC proved to be a prime pathway to my first job in the audio technology industry. As a broadcast engineer for the BBC, I help look after the technical infrastructure of the news bureau, including audio and video systems as well as IT. I also assist with live and prerecorded news programs, such as our nightly program “World News America.”

The transition from student to sound engineering professional has been a natural outcropping of what I learned at AU — how to innovate creative solutions and improve workflow. One of the best parts of my job is carefully considering every possible solution to a problem and determining which one is best for any given situation.

Discovering a Future in Audio Technology

This fall I’m teaching ATEC 311, Sound Studio Techniques I, an undergraduate level class at AU. It’s my students’ first class in the Kreeger Building studios, so my main goal is to help them become comfortable enough with the equipment to confidently run a recording session. We’re covering topics such as basic signal flow for recording and mixing, headphone sends for monitoring, microphone techniques, and using outboard gear to process audio.

It’s exciting to reflect on my own journey into this field, to encourage the growth and development of current AU students, and to deeply consider how all of us will be affected as technology and culture evolve.

Careers based in technology don’t stand still for long. In audio technology, I believe the increasing popularity of virtual reality will create a need for 360-degree or binaural recordings. You can only be completely immersed in a virtual world if the audio corresponds with the visuals. I think this will create a whole new field for audio professionals who will have to start thinking beyond stereo or 5.1 mixing.

No one knows for sure what the future of audio production and technology will look like, but it’s exciting to think about. Whatever happens, art and science most assuredly will continue to collide.


Do you see yourself having a career as an audio engineer? Learn about how students thrive after completing American University’s MA in Audio Technology program.

DC Capitol

4 Health Promotion Management Alumni You Should Know

Factors such as curriculum, faculty and location are key variables that help differentiate between a good master’s degree program and a great one. However, one of the more underrated aspects of graduate work is who you know.

Meeting alumni from your university is important not only because of how valuable a close-knit network of professional friends can be during a job search, but because students can learn from others’ missteps and triumphs. In a sense, successful alumni serve as templates that students can follow for years to come.

Here are some health promotion management (HPM) alumni whom current American University HPM students should know:


Megan Hammes, Class of 2004

Megan HammesIn 13 years as manager and now interim director of University of Iowa UI Wellness and its LiveWELL Program, Megan Hammes has had the opportunity to develop, implement and evaluate wellness programming for approximately 18,000 faculty and staff. It’s an investment of time, energy and passion that was shaped, at least in part, by a wealth of learning and experiences from AU’s master’s in Health Promotion Management Program.

“I obtained a lot of practical, hands-on experience during my time at AU,” said Hammes, who has poured her knowledge, talent and training into a program that won UI a 2015 C. Everett Koop National Health Award (Honorable Mention) for outstanding worksite health promotion and improvement programs. In four years, LiveWELL helped increase the percentage of faculty and staff who have “good nutrition” from 50 percent in 2011 to 68 percent in 2016.

“In our field … we often need to explain and articulate in lots of creative ways to make linkages for leaders as to how improved health equals improved culture and performance, which ultimately dictates how well the company is performing,” Hammes said.

She encourages current students to embrace the many advantages of the program in the heart of Washington DC.

“The DC area was just fantastic for having easy access to experts and professionals, and I valued that a lot. Today, I continue to have contact with my former classmates and people who I met during my tenure at AU that have proven to be a very powerful professional network.”


Madeline Fromm, Class of 2013

Madeline FrommBefore earning a MS degree in health promotion management at AU in 2013, Madeline Fromm worked in Megan Hammes’ office (see above) at the University of Iowa, where she had previously received her bachelor’s degree in health sciences. Madeline is proof that a career path doesn’t have to move slowly.

Madeline began as a public policy specialist for the American Council on Exercise in 2013 and quickly was promoted to engagement program manager earlier this year. Her graduate coursework, along with an array of experiences in DC, helped prepare her for the type of research, analysis, reporting, planning, presentations, communication, education and advocacy she now is responsible for on a regular basis.


Cathy Turner, Class of 1990

After 26 years with Virginia Hospital Center—today serving as director of health promotion and senior health—one could excuse Cathy Turner if her passion for health and wellness had plateaued. However, Turner insists she still loves her role.

“There is no better feeling than when someone tells you that if they had not come to the health fair they would have never known they were diabetic, or because of their screening they made lifestyle changes and it changed their life,” she said.

Turner completed a master’s in health fitness management at AU in 1990, seizing as many opportunities as she could grab along the way.

“One of the most valuable aspects of the program was the opportunity to get practical experience while working at USPS Fitness Center, which was a contract AU’s health promotion program had,” Turner said.


Kelly Serwer, Class of 2009

Kelly SerwerKelly Serwer, who earned her MS in HPM in 2009, has built a career in wellness — a career that began at the university level. She transitioned from her bachelor’s program in exercise science at Ithaca College to AU, then immediately entered the workforce as a fitness services manager.

Since then, Kelly has been a program manager and wellness coordinator at a few organizations, and she has been a certified Zumba instructor for nearly six years. Today she is a wellness specialist at CRSA Inc., where she continues to show that education, preparation and networking really do matter.



Are you looking for the right combination of curriculum, networking and community opportunities along your path to a career in health promotion? Learn more about American University’s MS in Health Promotion Management Program.

American University

Elijah Adiv Edelman: Joining us at the Social Justice Colloquium October 10

Dr. Elijah Adiv Edelman is a graduate of the AU PhD program in anthropology and now teaches at Rhode Island College. On Monday, October 10, he will join us at the Social Justice Colloquium to give the talk “Trans and Queer Anthropology: Activism, Academia and Community.”

In this discussion, Elijah will address how to do activist-engaged anthropological work. He will especially focus on how students and academics working in Trans and Queer-specific anthropological inquiry can partner with LGBT activists and communities of practice. He’ll introduce us to international and U.S. case studies that serve as examples of both best practices and inequities in conversations around LGBT civil rights.

The conversation will be active, with participant invited to brainstorm ways of shifting or reformulating our own research practices, and we thought it might be helpful to introduce you to Elijah before his talk. We reached out to him over email to learn more about his research, his time at AU, and what he’s up to now.


The evolution of Elijah’s research interests

There has always been a close relationship between Elijah’s activist interests and his work as an anthropologist. “My graduate school research interests really emerged out of my activist interests, which, in turn, further informed both my graduate and post-graduate work,” Elijah said.

During Elijah’s time in DC, most of his work focused on issues facing trans communities in the metro area. “By virtue of the communities I worked with, this led to my work taking a turn towards looking at how the loss of life—in this context trans women of color—may be seen as not terribly important due to institutionalized anti-blackness, transphobia and the hypercriminalization of trans women’s bodies,” he said.

Now, in Providence, Elijah’s work focuses more on public health and the accessibility of harm reduction materials to sex workers, as well as on general public access to HIV/STI testing.

“I teach courses on sex and sexuality (as well as queer and trans anthropology!). It was only through the continued support of my AU advisor, Bill Leap, that I felt encouraged to work on and towards issues that, at the time, were not terribly hot topics in anthropology,” Elijah said.


What does activist-engaged anthropological work look like?

Elijah’s work pursues questions about how community-based concerns and activism can be addressed in academic-based projects.

“I think one of the biggest challenges to activist engaged anthropology, or any kind of social science research, is that the process itself can take real time,” Elijah said.

A researcher can write a survey and get it out within months. But if the researcher wants that same survey to include questions generated by community members and framed in ways that support community needs, and then to test the questions in the community, the timeline increases to upwards of a year.

“While this means that getting the ‘data’ can take time, that entire process is a key element of cultivating truly meaningful relationships between the ‘researcher’ and the ‘researched,’” Elijah said.

A profound example of this came out of a series of roundtables Elijah and trans community researchers conducted with DC trans community members between 2010 and 2011, reaching a total of 109 trans community members.

This was followed up with a large, community-produced 81-question needs assessment survey, with community-led data collection running between 2012 through 2013. Upon closing in May 2013, 624 surveys were completed with a total of 521 surveys qualifying for inclusion in the data analysis. To date, this is the largest city-based, trans-specific needs assessment survey in U.S. history. The final report outlining these findings, ‘Access Denied,’ was released in November 2014, and is available for free download here.

“We (the researchers) learned that many young trans feminine folks of color would often find community in spaces that police identified as areas of ‘prostitution’. This resulted in many, many young trans women of color being wrongly charged with solicitation, being forced to move into areas with less traffic and less safety and, in some cases, it resulted in their murder,” Elijah explained.

“In short, while the police (and perhaps the broader ‘lgb’ community) might have seen groups of young trans women of color in sex worker spaces as evidence of sex work, this community-informed research allowed for those with institutional privilege to go to local community organizations, and even to city council, and make it clear that not all ‘LGBT’ organizations are inclusive of trans folks and not all trans folks will go to the same places to find community.”

The work had a concrete impact on legislation. The legislation that allowed for pre-emptive arrests of people who merely appeared to be engaging in sex work because of their presence in “prostitution free zones” was declared legally questionable and is no longer carried out in DC.

“This was a profound win on many levels and a fantastic reminder of the importance of community-based research,” Elijah said.


Snagging a tenure-track position after the Ph.D.

After his time at AU, Elijah managed to find something a lot of anthropology PhD students seek: a tenure-track teaching position at a school he loves.

“I found my current faculty position at RIC through the nightmare process that is the academic job market! I was very, very fortunate to have been offered a tenure-track position at an institution like RIC,” Elijah said.

Rhode Island College is the only public college in the state (though there is also a community college and a university). RIC students are majority first-generation college students, and many work full-time jobs in addition to going to school.

“The students are in the classroom because they want to be there and I think this really translates into a level of investment that isn’t terribly common in many spaces in higher education,” Elijah said. “We cap our classes around 20-30 students and tuition works out to be around seven thousand dollars a year for a full course load. Our faculty, adjuncts and staff are all unionized and are paid truly living wages. I am beyond grateful that I landed where I did!”

He advises students who share his interests in gender, sex, and sexuality to pursue experiences outside the academy in addition to their studies. “I think these issues are really extremely ‘hot’ topics not just in higher education but also in NGO work, public health work, and community justice work. Having experience in those areas is definitely a good thing,” he said.


Our students’ experiences in the MAPA program lead them to real-world accomplishments and launch their careers. Find out more about the master’s degree in public anthropology.

Kreeger Studio at American University

Science and Art Flourish in Advanced Audio Technology Capstone Course

The Audio Technology Capstone is an advanced course in our undergraduate program that enables students to embrace their unique skills and particular areas of interest — to explore both the art and science of their future fields of study. It’s an opportunity to engage in discipline-specific projects in subjects such as:

  • Electro-acoustic instrument design and construction
  • Advanced live sound reinforcement techniques
  • Post-production audio for film and video
  • Music Production
  • Electro-acoustic music composition

We give our students a and equip them with tools. What’s amazing is how they turn that canvas into innovative art that reflects each person’s background and future work. Here are a few examples:

Joey Kaitany — Film, Audio Production and Physics in Unison

In spaces, such as an enclosed stairwell at the Union Arts building in Washington DC, Joey Kaitany created a Capstone experience that merged three of her passions: film, audio production, and physics. In a series of three videos, she captured musicians performing improvised pieces on acoustic instruments in locations with highly reflective surfaces, and therefore long reverberation times.

“I wanted to show the way art and creativity can connect these three disciplines into an emotional and immersive experience,” Joey said.

The goal? Use minimal technology to preserve the depth and experience of a live improvisation. The result? A hauntingly beautiful fusion of art and science.


Jon Whitman — A Historical Anthology of Musical Styles

With the underlying idea that characteristics of music are recycled back and forth into new music — cultivating continued innovation by composers — Jon Whitman created “The Waves Concerto,” an eight-minute composition that cycles through a historical anthology of musical styles:

Using original themes composed over several years, the concerto was crafted with samples of voices, orchestral instruments (brass, woodwinds, strings, and percussion), synthesizers, and live guitar, which he arranged and performed.


Logan Bancroft Boucher — Audio Technology Meets Computer Science

Sometimes a well-laid plan doesn’t play out exactly as imagined, but spearheads discovery. While Logan Bancroft Boucher, who came to AU to double major in audio technology and computer science, took a slightly different path than originally expected, he ended up achieving his goal: a working, multi-effects plug-in program that enables users to manipulate an audio track in their digital audio workstation — in real time.

Logan Plugin

The plug-in’s effects included:

  • Stereo Widener Effect — Widens or narrows the stereo field, depending on the parameter set by the engineer.
  • Reverberation Effect — Several parameters can be adjusted to change the sounds of the echoes — taking into consideration room size, wetness, dryness, damping, reverb width, and freeze mode.

Each of these Capstone projects was unique, echoing the passions and skills of the student. This course presents a challenge, but a good one. It’s an opportunity for students in our program to reach toward their goals — and, many times, adjust and add to those aspirations along the way.



Find a home for your passion at American University. Explore our Audio Technology Program

Kelci Reiss with Esperanza Project

Developing the Student Research Project: A Spotlight on Kelci Reiss

Some students arrive at AU already set on the research they want to pursue.

Others, like third-year student Kelci Reiss, make new discoveries throughout their time in the program that shape their focus and drive their Student Research Project (SRP).

While Kelci knew all along that her SRP would draw on her interest in social justice on behalf of immigrant communities, she wasn’t sure which project would suit the needs of her current life situation. She had been dealing with some health issues and commuting to DC from Baltimore for classes, and the trip was starting to feel strenuous.

Kelci found the perfect solution through her MAPA network. Her colleague David Riesche (whose work we featured last December) connected Kelci with his mother, a pro bono lawyer who works with Baltimore’s Esperanza Center. The match was perfect. The Esperanza Center is a nonprofit that supports immigrants – especially from Central America – with services such as ESL education, healthcare, and low-cost legal services, and Kelci found that her backgrounds and skills overlapped with the needs of the Center.

“This is a new and exciting thing for me, because I’m about to work on something I completely didn’t expect to be doing,” Kelci said.

How the unexpected can shape students’ research

Even after connecting with the Esperanza Center, Kelci’s plans continued to evolve. She had originally intended to focus on the Esperanza Center’s health clinic, which is designed to serve people who are deemed uninsurable by the state – primarily undocumented immigrants.

“I was very interested in chronic illness because I myself deal with chronic illness, and it’s really hard navigating the health system and insurance even as someone who is documented,” she said. “I was very interested in developing more understanding and improving programs to help those who are considered uninsurable, who may not have regular healthcare access and benefits.”

Kelci Reiss with Esperanza Project children.However, as Kelci began to set up her work with the clinic, she began volunteering with the youth ESL program, which took her work in a new direction. “I fell in love with the kids I was working with!” she said. “They’re between ages of thirteen and eighteen, and I decided to develop my SRP research with them. They are so smart and so inspiring, and I am just really looking forward to getting to work with them.”

Kelci hopes to use her time, in part, to provide insight into how the ESL program can improve. In particular, she wants to learn more about how students’ lives outside the classroom impact their progress at school.

“I’ve already seen quite a few ways that outside situations – family life and everyday outside aspects – have affected their learning in the center,” she said. “We can alter the programs to better meet their needs and to specifically address some of these issues. This touches on legal status, so I need to be very careful because of the vulnerabilities of the students’ status and age.”

Drawing on MAPA coursework in the SRP

A secondary element of Kelci’s project will draw from her training and experience in documentary work. Earlier this year, Kelci contributed to the production of a documentary for the School of the Americas Watch promoting Spring Days of Action, a week-long program including protests, public activities, and public education events about U.S. military involvement in Latin America. Now, she plans to apply those skills to create a documentary the Esperanza Center can use as an educational tool in their community.

While the Center is enthusiastic about her idea, she knows she may face challenges in the production. “There are ethical concerns, so I’ll be constantly double-checking what I’m doing so as not to expose anything that could make problems for the kids,” she said.

Kelci credits a joint course between the AU anthropology and communications departments with giving her the skill she needs to carry out effective documentary work. “As anthropologists, we understand story and story composition well, but understanding how to put the visuals to together and create something visually and auditorily compelling is something very different,” she said.

While she now has the know-how she needs to move forward, she also knows she can reach out to her professors for help with layout and composition.

“I have a really great support system within my department as well as in the communications department, which is very supportive of anthropology films. They understand that film is a tool for social justice,” Kelci said. “We have a really wonderful partnership between the two departments.”

Kelci has been given particular guidance by Adrienne Pine and Nina Shapiro-Perl. “They have shaped how I look at everything now and I wouldn’t have made it this far without their knowledge and shared experiences,” she said.

Where will the project go from here?

We’ll all just have to stay tuned for the final outcome! Like most projects, Kelci’s SRP will continue to sharpen and change form as she learns from the communities with which she’ll work.

Her experiences exemplify how the MAPA program accommodates students’ changing needs and allows students’ interests to develop, leading to unexpected places.

5 Anthropology Conferences to Attend This School Year

5 Anthropology Conferences to Attend This School Year


When anthropologists come together, the most important conversations of our day evolve, deepen, and expand. We’re proud of the rich exchange of ideas that happens in our own anthropology department, and we encourage students to engage with scholars from outside AU by attending conferences both on and off our campus.

Below are five conferences we have our eye on for the upcoming school year, and you can find more by exploring the calendar at at the American Anthropology Association.


Pre-Columbian Society of Washington, D.C. Symposium

September 17, 2016

U.S. Navy Memorial and Naval Heritage Center, Washington, D.C.

The Pre-Columbian Society of Washington, D.C. is dedicated to furthering understanding of the peoples of the Americas before the time of Columbus. This fall, their one-day symposium will explore “Divine Kinship: The Political Ideology of Pre-Columbian Rulers,” probing historical connections between the sacred and the political.


The Public Anthropology Conference 2016

October 8-9, 2016

Mary Graydon Center, AU, Washington, D.C.

AU’s own Public Anthropology Conference is in its 16th year, and this year’s theme is “Social Movements & Academia.” Together, we will explore concrete ways to strengthen collaborative efforts between activists and academics, with the goal of combatting social inequalities and injustices. The conference will highlight panels, papers, workshops, dialogues, posters, film, audio/visual displays, and performances.


Society for Applied Anthropology Annual Meeting

March 28–April 1, 2017

La Fonda on the Plaza Hotel, Santa Fe, New Mexico

The Society for Applied Anthropology is an association of professionals interested in making an impact on the quality of life in today’s world. Its members come from social and behavioral disciplines including anthropology, economics, sociology, planning, medicine, nursing, and law. The theme of the 77th annual meeting is “Trails, Traditions, and New Directions,” and papers are welcomes until October 15th.


Lavender Language & Linguistics Conference XXIV

April 28-30, 2017

University of Nottingham, UK

American University’s own Lavender Language & Linguistics Conference is hitting the UK in its 24th year. The call for papers is live until October 3rd, and the organizers have already received submissions from France, Brazil, Australia and the U.S. Conference topics will include language, sexuality and pedagogy, LGBTQ+ discourse and media representations, (Anti)homophobic and transphobic discourses, and much more.


Robyn Rafferty Mathias Student Research Conference

Spring 2017 (Check back for dates and details)

Katzen Arts Center, AU, Washington, D.C.

Each year, the AU College of Arts and Sciences invites undergraduate and graduate students to present original scholarly and creative work before faculty and colleagues. Now in its 27th year, the conference is funded in part by a generous grant from AU trustee and alumna Robyn Rafferty Mathias, and students from all disciplines are encouraged to enter and attend. Cash prizes will be awarded for outstanding presentations, and a professional presentation prize will be offered to graduate students to cover the cost of attendance at a professional, peer-reviewed national conference at which the student is presenting.


Our program invites students to join the most important conversations in the world of anthropology. Find out more about the master’s degree in public anthropology.

Publish Your Work: Insights from Arielle Bernstein

Publish Your Work: Insights from Arielle Bernstein


Arielle Bernstein graduated from the AU MFA in Creative Writing in 2009 with a mixed-genre thesis, and she has now joined us as a professorial lecturer.

Arielle’s career – with wide publication in both fiction and nonfiction – offers an example of where AU’s cross-genre focus can lead. Her cultural criticism, personal narrative and reviews can be found on The Atlantic, Salon, The Rumpus, and The Millions. Her short fiction has found homes on the pages of journals like PANK 10, Literary OrphansThe Puritan, The Rattling Wall Issue 4, and Connotation Press. Now, she’s working on a book.

With her varied experience and some heavy-hitting publications under her belt, we thought Arielle might have some advice to share with other writers – and we were right. Below, learn about Arielle’s experiences and get a peek into the nonfiction publishing process.


On Cultural Criticism…

“One of the things I love most about writing essays is the sense that the work I’m doing is actively participating in ongoing conversations about art, culture and politics,” Arielle said.

Writing as a cultural critic means plugging into the zeitgeist – reading widely, keeping up with events and discussions, and honing a perspective that offers something fresh. The pace feels fast, and the work requires stepping into a current that is already flowing.

When Arielle wrote Marie Kondo and the Privilege of Clutter for The Atlantic this past spring, she received messages from readers across the globe – some of whom shared her particular experiences, and others who had different relationships with Marie Kondo’s ideas about minimalism. “As a writer, my goal is to not simply tell my own story, but to use my personal experiences and ideas as a way to talk about current cultural issues,” she said.

“For me, fiction is a much more private experience,” she said. “I’ll work on a story for months and months, and I won’t send it out until I think it’s absolutely perfect.”

As her publishing record suggests, Arielle is comfortable working on multiple projects at once. While she drafts her book, she has shorter pieces underway as well. “I find myself most motivated when I’m engaged in a number of different projects—from solo work to collaboration with artists, writers, and filmmakers,” she said.


On Logistics of Non-fiction Versus Fiction…

While fiction writers need completed stories or books before seeking publication, a brief pitch – often a proposed headline and two or three short paragraphs – serves a first introduction between a freelance nonfiction writer and a potential editor. Some outlets list an email address to which writers should send their pitches, while others list contact info for specific section editors.

Arielle always pitches ideas before drafting articles. “Different magazines have different audiences, and I am conscious of developing my work with that audience in mind,” she said. “I think meeting and talking with other writers is really important, especially when you first start out. Often, people are working on interesting projects and actively seeking talent. As you continue in your writing career, cold-pitching becomes more comfortable, since you can link to previous work and accomplishments. I tend to pitch places where I really love and value the work, and where I can see my writing (both in terms of content and style) fitting in.”

The timelines also differ vastly between fiction publications and cultural criticism. When fiction writers send their stories out for possible publication, they usually wait months to hear whether a journal thinks a piece is a good fit. Because the turnaround time is so long, most literary outlets accept simultaneous submissions: a fiction writer might send her story to ten or more outlets at once, and wait for the responses to trickle back into her inbox.

Pitching cultural criticism is more time sensitive, and editors typically respond within a day or week’s time. Pitching multiple editors with the same idea – without waiting for a response – is considered a faux-paus. Once a pitch is accepted, the process between writer and editor can also feel more collaborative.

“Different editors have different styles. Some will be very hands-off, while others will be very hands-on, wanting to see multiple drafts and making a lot of sentence-level edits,” Arielle said. “In general, it’s very normal to receive editorial feedback and for there to be a lot of dialogue between writer and editor. I find this discussion to actually be very fruitful for my own work—it helps me to develop ideas more fully and also see how different audiences might respond or react to my ideas in different ways.


On the Publication Process…

“The process of writing a proposal is actually incredibly helpful in terms of helping a writer articulate her ideas more fully, as well as think more critically about the business side of things—who the target audience is, for example, and how will you as a writer go about marketing and promoting your work,” Arielle said. “Once you have a solid proposal, you can start sending query letters to agents, which is how I found representation.”

Arielle has recently turned her attention to a longer project: a book-length work of nonfiction. She has devoted some time over the summer to writing a book proposal. While writers of novels and memoirs need to submit full-length manuscripts when seeking representation, writers of other nonfiction need to first grab the attention of a publishing house with a well-written explanation of what the book is about and why it needs to be in the world.


On Advice for Aspiring Non-fiction Writers…

“My biggest advice is to be persistent about topics and ideas that are important to you,” Arielle says.

“If an idea doesn’t work for one venue, it might be a better fit elsewhere. Use the feedback you receive from positive rejections as a way to tailor your work. It really helps to think about framing your ideas in terms of the conversation you are responding to, and how you think your ideas add to that.”

Arielle learned how to navigate the publishing world, in part, through a role as Saturday editor at The Rumpus. “Being on the other side of the desk gave me insights regarding how to make an initial pitch, how to take a positive rejection, and why an editor might want to make certain kinds of edits on a piece,” she said.

“My other big piece of advice is to keep submitting—if an editor seems excited about working with you, but not totally sold on an idea, that means you should read more work that is featured on the site and see if you can come up with an idea that is a better fit. Even when you’ve worked with an editor for a long time, they will occasionally pass on an idea, or ask you to reframe an article in a new direction. The best editors are actively seeking excellent work and will push you to fully develop your ideas. Keep going!”

Keep up with Arielle’s work by following her on Twitter.


Interested in pursuing your own writing career? Learn more about the MFA in creative writing.

Andros Rodriguez

7 Successful Producers, Musicians & Bands from Washington DC

In the world of music and sound production, artists and audio engineers usually have L.A., New York and Nashville at top of mind. These entertainment hotbeds are legendary breeding grounds for artistic expression through sound—but they’re not the only launching pads for successful careers in the industry.


Culturally diverse cities such as Washington, D.C. often provide the just right situation for development into impressive, fulfilling careers. Here is a list of some truly successful producers, musicians and bands that got their start in DC:


Marvin Gaye, Singer

With several world-famous singles including “Let’s Get It On,” “Heard It Through the Grapevine” and “What’s Going On?” Washington D.C.’s Marvin Gaye was one of those artists whose music transcended both generation and genre. As one of the most influential artists of the 1960s and ’70s, Gaye used his platform to commentate on the racial and political turmoil of his time.


Andros Rodriguez, Music Producer

Since graduating from American University, Andros Rodriguez has kept himself busy producing tracks for artists such as:

  • Justin Timberlake
  • Leona Lewis
  • Ludacris
  • Christina Aguilera
  • Ben Folds
  • Pitbull
  • Shakira
  • Whitney Houston
  • Madonna


Duke Ellington, Composer & Musician

Better known as “The Duke,” D.C. native Edward Ellington brought his big-band jazz music to the masses for decades. A pianist, bandleader and composer, the bulk of The Duke’s music was popular in the early and mid-20th century, although elements of his work continue to influence music to this day. He is one of the most iconic artists in American history.


Tyler Osborne, Video Editor & Filmmaker

Tyler Osborne is putting his film and audio production training from AU to good use. He has edited TV programming for Discovery Channel, A&E, TLC and BET, among others. And, yes, he has helped put together shows for “Shark Week.”


Wale, Rapper

No list of influential music industry leaders from D.C. would be complete without Wale, who calls himself the, “Ambassador of Rap for the Capital.” With a diverse resume of collaborations and an ever-present desire to be unique — he gained attention for giving away his music early in his career — Wale has managed to keep his art firmly in the public spotlight. Earlier this year he earned an impressive designation: the first rapper to open for a State of the Union Address.


Robert Tozzi, Radio Producer

Robert Tozzi, who has a degree in audio technology from AU, continues to provide a great example for how to combine one’s talents and work ethic to accomplish big things in sound production. Today Robert serves as manager of NASCAR programming for Sirius XM Radio, overseeing all weekend programming and operations — including analyst shows and race broadcasts.


Tori Amos, Singer/Songwriter

Always one to do things on her own unique terms, Tori Amos founded Martian Recording Studios years after leaving an indelible mark on the alternative rock scene with songs such as “A Sorta Fairytale” and “God.” She was raised in D.C. before eventually touring the world.


Public Health vs. Health Promotion Management

Advancements in science, technology and healthcare have made at least one thing crystal clear, it will take everyone’s best efforts to improve health in communities all over the world.

This far-flung realization has led to a wealth of career opportunities for people who are passionate about health. There are many exciting professional paths that center on the singular goal of better health, opening up a broad variety of options.

Understanding the nuances of public health vs. health promotion management helps prospective practitioners expedite and enhance their professional journey.


Defining Public Health vs. Health Promotion Management

Public Health

From the ever-increasing life expectancy to childhood obesity, global pandemics and even the environment, public health is a concept that touches everyone. It’s a hotbed issue that’s deeply ingrained at the political, organizational and personal level.

“Public health systems are commonly defined as ‘all public, private, and voluntary entities that contribute to the delivery of essential public health services within a jurisdiction, ” says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This includes:

  • Public health agencies at state and local levels
  • Healthcare providers
  • Public safety agencies
  • Human service and charity organizations
  • Education and youth development organizations
  • Recreation and arts-related organizations
  • Economic and philanthropic organizations
  • Environmental agencies and organizations


Health Promotion Management

Health promotion is the science and art of helping people, organizations, and communities change lifestyle behaviors to move toward a state of improved health, resulting in decreases in chronic disease and health care costs.

University-level health promotion management programs focus on the development of managerial skills with knowledge in subjects such as exercise physiology, human biochemistry, behavioral psychology and nutrition. Students can pursue an emphasis in areas including:

  • Corporate health
  • Health communication
  • Health policy
  • Global health
  • Nutrition education


Discovering the Right Career For You

Public Health Career Opportunities

Virtually anyone within the broad spectrum of the health field could reap benefits from a public health degree program.

While a public health degree certainly can prove useful in private sector positions, it’s particularly applicable in the nonprofit, government and medical sectors.

Health Promotion Management Job Opportunities

For students who foresee a career spent leading and educating people and groups to make better, fact-based decisions to improve their quality of life, a health promotion management (HPM) program often is the best choice. At American University in Washington, D.C., HPM alumni are impacting communities locally, nationally and globally at organizations such as:

  • Wellness Corporate Solutions
  • Mayo Clinic
  • Pan American Health Organization
  • Partnership to Promote Healthy Eating and Active Living
  • Mindfulness Center National
  • WIC Association
  • American Heart Association
  • Booz Allen Hamilton
  • US Department of Health and Human Services


Emphasis on Care vs. Innovation in Education

Addressing Public Danger

The CDC Foundation calls the CDC, “our nation’s premier public health agency.” Most public health degree programs prepare students for careers that are in step with the CDC’s mission: “CDC works 24/7 to protect America from health, safety and security threats, both foreign and in the U.S. Whether diseases start at home or abroad, are chronic or acute, curable or preventable, human error or deliberate attack, CDC fights disease and supports communities and citizens to do the same.”

In other words, earning a degree in public health is an important step toward protecting people from a wide variety of health concerns.

Innovative Engagement Through Health Promotion Management

When American University started the first U.S. degree program combining the concepts of health and wellness with the principles of business and management, it put a new spin on public health. HPM students learn about everything from individual decision-making and corporate America to government policy in an effort to promote healthy behaviors and improve quality of life.

Whether serving in a Fortune 500 company’s health and wellness department or as a leading decision-maker at a think-tank, an HPM graduate has the tools to improve health and well-being from the ground up.


If you are interested in the multi-sector impact of a degree in Health Promotion Management, learn more about American University’s Master’s in HPM Program.


Poetry books

How Do Poets Make a Living?

As Robert Graves put it, “There is no money in poetry, but there is no poetry in money, either.”

Poets don’t pursue poetry for the cash, but the truth is that we all have to make rent and buy groceries.

While it’s rare for a writer in any genre to make a living solely off the sale of their work, financial rewards for excellent poetry are especially hard to come by. At AU, we find ourselves encountering early-career poets eager to hone their craft but nervous about their financial prospects. We hear the same question again and again. How does a poet make a living?

Our goal is to send writers out into the world with talents sharpened and professional opportunities opened. We want our poets to have tools to support themselves so they can sustain artistic lives. Below are some of the ways that our poets go on to support themselves financially as they pursue their art:


Poets write in multiple genres.

Some of the most beautiful prose is penned by poets, with their sensitivity to sound and rhythm. Poets frequently write in multiple genres – and the cash advance that a writer gets when she sells her memoir can sometimes stretch further than the sales of a poetry collection. By writing journalism or creative nonfiction or fiction, poets can diversify their publications in a way that becomes financially sustaining.

AU poetry alumna Sandra Beasley has published three collections of poetry and placed her poems in top journals, and she published a work of nonfiction, a cultural history of food allergies, as well.

When we interviewed Sandra in January, she discussed her experiences at AU taking a class in journalism and a class in translation. “These classes broadened my sense of a literary community, and of what I could do with the degree,” Sandra said. “I can thank Richard McCann for introducing me to the craft of creative nonfiction. Not every program allows students to cross genres so freely. He said you have to find the nerve, the place where it hurts—and then press on it. That advice has stayed with me.”

Our new studio track makes time in students’ schedules for extra creative writing classes, enabling them to receive additional instruction and feedback in their chosen genres.


Poets work a range of professional jobs where their talents are valued.

The MFA is seen as valuable by employers seeking strong communicators. We have written before about non-teaching career paths that our writers pursue.

One alumnus, poet Jay Melder, has lent his skills to the political world, where he currently serves as Chief of Staff at the DC Department of Human Resources. Other alumni have found work as editors, radio producers, coordinators for arts and lectures series, public relations officials and writers in communications and marketing roles.

Our new professional track gives students the chance to take classes that expand their career options by providing supplemental skills and exposure to new work options. The bottom line? An MFA in poetry shows potential employers that you are a serious and accomplished writer—a valuable asset in today’s workforce.


Poets teach creative writing.

Teaching writing is a time-honored tradition among poets. W.H. Auden taught. Elizabeth Bishop taught. Langston Hughes taught. And many of our own graduates teach their craft to other new writers.

A 2009 graduate Jenny Molberg writes poetry, serves as poetry editor for Pleiades, and works as assistant professor of English at the University of Central Missouri.

When we interviewed Jenny in March, she described how she balances her teaching and writing life. “It’s difficult, especially because I am in my first year of a tenure-track job, but I find that I am constantly challenged and inspired by my students, who make me want to go home to write,” Jenny said. “Sending work out and applying for grants and residencies becomes difficult with a very busy teaching load—sometimes I just dedicate a Saturday to reading, writing, and sending out poems.”

Our new teaching track allows students to earn credit toward their MFA while taking classes that will prepare them to teach.


Ready to pursue poetry in the District? Learn more about the MFA in creative writing program.

DC Collections

9 Washington DC Anthropology Organizations You Should Know About

Studying in our nation’s capital puts AU public anthropology students within reach of a number of dynamic, active organizations.

There are opportunities to connect with National Parks, to delve into the history of local schools, and to explore pre-Columbian civilizations. There are grants and fellowships to fund promising field research. There are countless smart, experienced professionals eager to share their knowledge with new anthropologists.

Check out these 9 organizations for a sample of what is at our students’ fingertips:

1. Washington Association of Professional Anthropologists

Our town is home to Washington Association of Professional Anthropologists (WAPA), the world’s largest regional association of anthropologists. WAPA is a great resource, offering opportunities for networking and learning. They host events, mail out jobs listings, and provide mentorships for their members.

2. The Smithsonian’s Department of Anthropology

Beyond the wealth of dinosaur bones and studies on animal evolution, the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History boasts an active Department of Anthropology. Their collections and archives, online databases and research programs serve as resources for our students’ work—and some of our students find internships and jobs with the Smithsonian.

3. The National Park Service’s Cultural Anthropology Program

The National Park Service has an amazing Cultural Anthropology Program that works to deepen the connections between cultural communities and the places that are central to their history and culture. They team up with a network of anthropologists across the country and with partner organizations. Their program office is based in D.C.

4. The Pre-Columbian Society of Washington, DC

The Pre-Columbian Society of Washington, D.C. (PCSWDC) is a community of people interested in the civilizations that populated the Americas before the time of Columbus. They host an annual symposium and a number of talks, discussions, and museum visits around D.C. and they also deliver a newsletter to interested parties outside the area.

5. Charles Sumner School Museum

The Charles Sumner School was among the first public school buildings opened for D.C.’s black community. The building now holds a museum housing public school archives and records and offers meeting spaces for events and gatherings.

6. The Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum

Opened in 1967 as the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum, the Anacostia Community Museum has a strong history in the African American museum movement. It continues to offer documentation, exhibits, and programming concerned with D.C. communities – and it hosts interns and fellows.

7. The Explorer’s Club

The Explorer’s Club is an international professional organization based in New York, with a focus on supporting multidisciplinary field research. The Explorers’ Club Washington Group is the organization’s largest local chapter and hosts talks and events, such as a recent talk by underwater anthropologist Robert Neyland. They also offer Exploration and Field Research Grants to local graduate students.

8. The Cosmos Club Foundation

The Cosmos Club is a privates social club for individuals who have distinguished themselves in the science, literature, and the arts and humanities. Their foundation offers small, highly competitive research grants for D.C. graduate students whose work promises to increase public knowledge. The Club invites the winners to present their research, and hopes that many recipients will go on to become members of the Club themselves.

9. The Institute for Policy Studies

The Institute for Policy Studies is the nation’s oldest progressive, multi-issue think tank. The organization brings together public scholars and organizers to carry out work focused on social justice issues. They offer fellowships, jobs and internships, in addition to putting on events.


Our program invites students to blend real-world experiences with their coursework. Find out more about the master’s degree in public anthropology.


Healthy Schools Act in DC Gives Grad Students Hands-On Training

In some communities, 100 percent of a grad student’s research is done online. But in a metro area—especially Washington, DC—much of that research can be gathered, observed, and analyzed in the field, where firsthand experience with the “real world” can teach us valuable lessons.

For five years, students in American University’s MS in health promotion management program have helped measure fruit and vegetable consumption for the local Healthy Schools Act, a 2010 directive requiring the availability of healthier foods in DC school cafeterias.

The program also features courses that empower students to visit Capitol Hill and chat with congressional leaders about vital health issues. “Health policy is so important and totally interesting, and it’s happening right here,” said Hannah Hutton, a master’s student in the program.

Watch the video to learn more about how hands-on work in the field of health promotion management is helping master’s students create generational change.

To learn more about what students and professionals are saying about the MS in health promotion management program at American University, click here.


5 Accomplished Writers You’ll Connect with at AU

We are proud of our accomplished creative writing faculty, whose achievements include acclaimed publications, national awards and reputations for excellence. There has been a lot of great work published in recent months and years.

If you are applying to, or just considering, our MFA in Creative Writing, we encourage you to check out the work of our teachers and to familiarize yourself with their styles and interests. You’ll get a sense for how they might support your own development, and you’ll gain a well-rounded understanding of how you’d fit into our program—which we hope you’ll detail in your statement of purpose.

Below we’ve gathered just a small sample of recent faculty work, available online for free. Enjoy.


Kyle Dargan, Associate Professor and Director of Creative Writing

Kyle Dargan has published four four collections of poetry with University of Georgia Press, most recently Honest Engine (2015) and Logorrhea Dementia (2010). His first collection, The Listening (2004), was the winner of the 2003 Cave Canem Prize, and his second collection, Bouquet of Hungers (2007), was awarded the 2008 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award in poetry. Public Pool recently published a video by Kyle, featuring DC landscapes and Kyle’s reading of his poem on gentrification, “White. Bread. Blues.” From “White. Bread. Blues.”:

“The Islander on U Street will be shuttered says the metro section of the Washington Post. I had my first and last plate of their curry bird after Heroes Are Gang Leaders hit at Howard.”


WASHINGTON, DC-NOVEMBER 6:DC Fiction writer Kyle G. Dargan likes to spend time in the atrium of the National Portrait Gallery to reflect, read and meet up with friends.(Photo by Lucian Perkins /for The Washington Post)

WASHINGTON, DC-NOVEMBER 6:DC Fiction writer Kyle G. Dargan likes to spend time in the atrium of the National Portrait Gallery to reflect, read and meet up with friends.(Photo by Lucian Perkins /for The Washington Post)


Stephanie Grant, Assistant Professor

Stephanie Grant has penned two novels, The Passion of Alice (Houghton Mifflin, 1995) and Map of Ireland (Scribner, 2008), and has won a number of fellowships and awards. Her essay “Postpartum” explores the experience of reconsidering one’s parents through an adult lens. The essay was published in the New Yorker in December, 2015. From “Postpartum”:

“After my older brother Bill was born, my mother had a devastating postpartum depression: she cried all day, refused to dress, could not take care of the baby. The grandmothers were brought in, and she was sent to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Brighton, Massachusetts, for electroconvulsive therapy.”


David Keplinger, Professor

David Keplinger is the author of four collections of poetry, most recently The Most Natural Thing (New Issues Poetry & Prose, 2013) and The Prayers of Others (New Issues, 2006). His first collection, The Rose Inside (Truman State University Press, 1999), was chosen by the poet Mary Oliver for the 1999 T.S. Eliot Prize. David has also published translations and won a number of prizes for his work. His poem “Wave” was featured as Blog this Rock’s Poem of the Week in 2013. From “Wave”:

“Lincoln, leaving Springfield, 1861, Boards a train with a salute: but it is weak. To correct it, he slides his hand away From his face as if waving, as if brushing The snows of childhood from his eyes.”


Richard McCann, Professor

Richard McCann is the author of the acclaimed linked story collection Mother of Sorrows (Vintage, 2006), and the award-winning poetry collection Ghost Letters. He is also the editor (with Michael Klein) of Things Shaped in Passing: More ‘Poets for Life’ Writing from the Aids Pandemic (Persea Books,1996) and his work has appeared in several esteemed publications. In March 2016, the Washington Post published his essay, “How Bette Davis became a boy’s unlikely pen pal — and, for a time, gave him strength.” From the essay:

“One afternoon, maybe a month after mailing my letter, I came home from school to find in the mailbox a manila envelope, with my name and address written in large letters across the front. I recognized the handwriting at once — the blocky cursive; the oversized letters, drawn with what looked to be a hard and definitive hand; the penchant for fat dots suspended above the i’s and dramatic underscorings.”


Rachel Louise Snyder, Associate Professor

Rachel Louise Snyder is the author of two books: the nonfiction Fugitive Denim: A Moving Story of People and Pants in the Borderless World of Global Trade (WW Norton, 2007) and the novel We’ve Lost is Nothing (Scribner, 2014). She has contributed journalism and commentary to public radio, print and online outlets including This American Life and the New Yorker. In July 2015, the New York Times published her essay “Life, an Unspooling,” on family and parenthood. From “Life: An Unspooling:”

“A marriage proposal for a woman at 38 is rarely really a marriage proposal. Or, rather, it’s not a choice of two people; it’s a choice of child or no child. It’s a last chance. I got engaged on the Mekong River, sitting in the front of a kayak, while my boyfriend attempted to get on one knee behind me.”



Would you like to study with these writers? Start your application or learn more about the MFA in creative writing.


Q&A with Game Design Student Rae Heitkamp

Rae Heitkamp, American University Game Design MA alumnaRae Heitkamp is one of American University’s innovative Game Design students. In our interview, she shares what drew her to the program and imparts her wisdom to future applicants. Her student perspective provides a crucial window into the burgeoning field of Game Design.


Your background is in biomedical research. What prompted the switch to Game Design?

One of the realities of research is that it costs quite a lot of money, especially biomedical research, and there isn’t much funding to go around right now. It’s an extremely competitive field with relatively low financial return on time invested, and it seems that scientists spend a lot of time hunting down funding when they would rather be in the lab.

I was thinking of applying for a doctoral graduate program in biology or something similar, but I decided that I needed to find an opportunity with more autonomy and independence. I wanted to be able to get from an idea to an outcome on my own, and I wanted to do it faster than I can in research.

One day in June, I opened my email and I had a message from American University inviting me to apply to their brand-new Master’s program in game design, beginning in Fall of the same year. When I got that message, everything clicked. I applied right away and was accepted. The rest is history.

Has the program met your expectations?

I hoped that I would learn how to design video games, which I definitely did.

What I wasn’t expecting was the amount of time this program devotes to the philosophy of games and play. To make a good game, you have to know how to communicate with the player through the medium of the game. There need to be clues for the player about how the game works, but you can’t give everything away up front. Part of the fun in playing games is figuring out what you’re playing with. The other fun part is getting good at it. The time I spent in this program reflecting on games, video games, interaction and play–in the cmpany of so many bright minds–is something I value a lot.

How has your internship experience helped contribute to your education?

I’m doing an internship right now with a small studio, Molecular Jig. It’s run by Melanie Stegman, who has a doctorate degree in biochemistry. The studio is developing a game called Immune Defense. In the game, you use the cells and proteins of the immune system to capture and kill bacteria and other harmful invaders. Working with Molecular Jig has been a really important experience. I get to see how a small studio is run and how the design process is managed. Their style is very different from mine and it’s been a good test for me to learn how to work with other people on a shared goal. I’m working on level design for that game, but I’m also doing some coding as well. Melanie is a great mentor and I’m really grateful I got the opportunity to work on this game with her and her team.

What classes have stood out for you?

I think Games and Society was the most challenging class for me, but the focus of the class is fascinating. It’s a good first class because it puts what you’ll be doing for the rest of the program into context: Games are intimately woven into human history and culture. Play is an important part of being human.

Two other classes, 3D Modeling with Chris Totten and Game Design with Mike Treanor, were both taught in the same semester and they were both really challenging. In one class, we were learning how to use this complex software to create 3D models. There were all these hotkeys and shortcuts to remember, never mind the challenge of learning how to think about creating an object from nothing in three dimensions. In the other class we were learning another complicated program, Unity, for building 3D games. There were a lot of students taking both classes at the same time, so we all kind of agreed that it would be really cool and make sense for the two classes to have a single final project. That way, we could have our 3D models embedded in a working game–a game with actual polished 3D art. I think a lot of professors would have insisted on separate projects for their own classes, but Chris and Mike really put the best interests of the students first. The results were all-around really impressive.

What has been your experience with schools at AU outside of the Game Design program?

I took two classes outside of the game design program, both also in the School of Communication. Actually, both classes were in strategic communication–one an intro class and the other about advertising. For the advertising class, my final project was a card game called “Pitch It!” and a team of students in the class helped me prepare a strategic advertising campaign for the game. I’m having a prototype of the game produced this summer, with the support of an SOC faculty member. I can’t speak highly enough of the school and the people.

What would you want prospective students to know as they consider applying to the AU Game Design Program?

I would encourage anyone who is interested in this program to check it out. It’s an extraordinarily diverse group of students, with all kinds of academic interests and skills coming in. Don’t be daunted at the thought of programming, you’ll learn.

Health promotion at American University

Master’s Students Unify Around Art, Science, and Passion to Promote Health

No university program should use long history and rich tradition as an excuse to settle for the status quo. American University has the oldest master’s in health promotion management program in the U.S. — but also some of the most advantageous, hands-on education activities anywhere.

Some students have been able to dive into data collection for Washington DC’s Healthy Schools Act, many have found exceptional internships, and other take advantage of nearby access to U.S. congressional leaders.

Opportunities such as these draw students from various undergraduate backgrounds — ranging from public health and exercise science to English and history. Together, their tactics and professionals aspirations may differ, but they’re unified around an important goal: for people throughout the world to experience healthier lives through better decisions and instrumental policies.

“We need to go further upstream to help people prevent these kinds of chronic conditions that we see in today’s society,” said Anastasia Snelling, chair of AU’s Department of Health Studies.

Watch the video to hear students talk about the unique benefits of seeking a master’s degree in health promotion management in Washington DC.

To learn more about what students and professionals are saying about the MS in health promotion management program at American University, click here.

Audio Technology at American University

Audio Technology: Bringing Sound Production Careers to Life

At American University, people who’ve been fascinated with music and sound for years are finding opportunities to transform their passion into meaningful careers.

AU’s master’s in audio technology program helps budding sound engineers, rock stars and up-and-coming producers to achieve their dreams. Students learn in the classroom and in the studio. They do internships across Washington, DC, and in New York City—where the art and science of audio production are flourishing.

Watch the video to learn more about the abundance of educational and cultural opportunities for MA in audio technology students in Washington, DC.

Sound like the program for you? Learn more about the MA in Audio Technology at American University.

Woman Notebook Working Girl

Master’s Class Focuses on Connections Between Health Equity and Social Justice

It was during her graduate studies at American University that Jessica Young discovered the depth of her interest in the different ways that populations experience health.

“I knew that I wanted to use my career to improve the public’s health and that working with policy would be a way to impact the health of thousands to millions of people at a time,” she said.

It’s quite fitting to welcome Young back to AU as she strives to help others unlock their own unique passions and goals for making lasting improvements in health and well-being. With a master’s degree in health promotion management from AU, Young will lead the HPRM 480/680 class, Health Policy and Behavior Change, this fall.

She has a few key goals for this course, including to help students understand:

  • How policy can be leveraged to achieve population health behavior changes
  • The roles politics and advocacy play in health policymaking
  • How to navigate the policymaking process at the local, state and federal levels

The underlying goal in any class setting is to instill intellectual habits that help students become lifelong learners.

Good Questions Lead to Great Careers

“My experiences have been shaped by the power of inquiry,” said Young, who noted that her class lessons will be centered on a few essential questions to spark in-depth conversations.

Curiosity has been a key component of her lifelong passion for health. Even as a young soccer player, Young committed herself to researching and learning as much as she could about nutrition and strength training. Her journey of health discovery continued as she became a personal trainer and went through AU’s health promotion management MS program.

Like many students, it was during her graduate studies that Young’s interests evolved into what was poised to become her life’s work: health equity.

“At AU, I learned about the incredible role social policies such as housing, education, transportation, food, and employment policies play in shaping health — also known as the social determinants of health,” Young said.

Health Equity vs. Health Access

Ideal health equity would be if everyone had the opportunity to attain their highest level of health, according to the American Public Health Association. Much of Young’s work has centered on the impact of social policies on health equity, which she says continues to lag as many Americans languish without quality care.

Young’s background in the research of social justice’s relationship to health equity will provide unique context in the course she will teach at AU. Multi-layered subjects, such as the effects of racial and ethnic segregation on health and well-being, undoubtedly will arise as part of the curriculum.

“Segregation was a way of isolating people of color from opportunities that shape health, such as social services and quality education, housing, and jobs,” Young said. “We continue to see the health impacts of segregation today through disparities in infant mortality rates, life expectancy rates, and mortality, just to name a few.”

‘Embedding Equity’ Throughout Systems

After nearly completing her master’s degree and a PhD from the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, as well as two years of work with the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Young looks forward to bringing her unique set of skills, ideas, and real-world examples to the table as the instructor for Health Policy and Behavior Change. One of the most important things she will focus on is the Race, Equity, and Inclusion (REI) frame.

“The REI frame helps organizations understand how to embed equity throughout their approach to systemic change,” Young said. Components of REI include:

  • Identifying the root causes of racial and ethnic inequities
  • Creating a shared language around equity
  • Tracking and assessing performance and progress toward equity

The REI frame is shaping everything from Young’s research agenda at AU to how she will prepare students to embed equity in their work now and for decades to come.


If you are passionate about creating lasting change in health polices and behaviors, learn more about American University’s Health Promotion Management Program.

National Nurses United

AU Partners with National Nurses United for New Online Certificate Program

We are thrilled to announce a brand new anthropology certificate program in partnership with National Nurses United (NNU). Starting in fall 2016, students in the MA in Public Anthropology (MAPA) program will have the chance to pursue an online certificate in Health Inequality and Care.

I’m especially excited about this because of my background working with National Nurses United. After receiving my doctorate in medical anthropology from the University of California, Berkeley, my first job was as lead educator at NNU, teaching continuing education courses in medical anthropology to registered nurses throughout California and around the country. I spent three years in that position, during which I learned about how nurses struggle to protect patients in the face of great obstacles—two big obstacles in particular: the profit motive in medicine and the (related) influence of the pharmaceutical, hospital, and medical technology lobbies in US and international politics.

Our Partnership with National Nurses United

National Nurses United is the largest nurses’ union in the country with 190,000 members. The organization has a deep commitment to education—in particular, education on topics that nurses hold near and dear: healthcare and social justice.

NNU chose to partner with AU for multiple reasons: because of our university’s location in the nation’s capital, where so much of healthcare policy is determined; because of the numerous exciting health-centered programs that already exist throughout the university; and, in particular because of the AU Anthropology Department’s commitment to social justice-oriented anthropology.

We are excited that NNU has chosen to partner with American University. The programs are funded not through corporate profits but rather by nurses who are collectively committed to making the ideal of healthcare as a human right become a reality. The Health Inequity and Care Certificate Program is an example of our department’s commitment to a public anthropology that combines cutting edge scholarship and teaching with solidarity.

Registered nurses will take the courses along with MAPA students, giving our students the benefit of having classmates from all over the country and the world. This diversity will bring a wealth of experience to the classroom that in-person courses rarely provide—enriching everyone’s educational experience.

Focus and Outcomes of the Certificate

This certificate is for students seeking theoretical and practical training to help them understand and challenge the roots of healthcare inequality and injustice. Rooted in social justice and structural analysis, the program is theoretically grounded in critical medical anthropology, but interdisciplinary in nature. Courses draw upon subject areas such as geography, history, nursing, philosophy, political economy, public health, and sociology.

The Health Inequity and Care Graduate Certificate Program provides students with new and critical approaches to cultural competency training, deepening comprehension of the structural determinants of health as well as the relationship between health inequities and technological restructuring, understood as replacing worker skills or judgment with automated equipment and computer software. The program goes beyond individual or cultural explanations of health, well-being, inequality, and justice to challenge the boundaries between healthcare, economic rights, and social justice advocacy. By tackling the underlying factors of health disparities, the Health Inequity and Care Certificate Program provides students the intellectual tools to study, evaluate, and fight against the structural causes of injustice in health and healthcare.

The course offerings will be of particular interest to students interested in critical medical anthropology, healthcare, technology, militarization, neoliberalism, social movements, geography, labor, and inequality.

A Flexible Online Course Schedule

The program is offered online in order to accommodate the busy, unpredictable schedules of registered nurses, who will enroll in the classes alongside AU students. MAPA students may take the entire certificate, or just courses of particular interest to them.

Course assignments have fixed deadlines that students can plan ahead for, but there are no requirements to “attend” class at a specific time. Online university coursework in the Health Inequity and Care program offers numerous advantages for MAPA students, who, like nurses, have unpredictable and busy schedules.

What are the requirements?

15 credit hours of approved coursework, with grades C or higher. Students must have at least a 3.0 GPA in certificate courses to be awarded a certificate.

Choose five of the six classes below:

  • ANTH 421/621: Health Geographies
  • ANTH 422/622: Neoliberal Globalization and Health
  • ANTH 423/623: Militarization and Health
  • ANTH 424/624: Science, Technology and Human Health
  • ANTH 425/625: Health, Care, and Social Movements
  • ANTH- 491/691 Health Advocacy Internship


More information about the Health Inequity & Care Certificate Program can be found on the program website. For questions about the program, please contact:

About the Author

Adrienne PineAdrienne Pine is the program director for the Master of Arts in Public Anthropology. A militant medical anthropologist who has worked in Honduras, Mexico, Korea, the United States, Egypt, and Cuba, Dr. Pine has worked both outside and inside the academy to effect a more just world.








Learn more about our Master of Arts in Public Anthropology program.

Coffee Cup

An Interview with Valzhyna Mort, Poet & AU Graduate

When poet Valzhyna Mort arrived at AU as a student, she already had several accomplishments behind her. She had published a collection of poetry, Factory of Tears, in the United States and in Belarus, and been the youngest person ever featured on the cover of Poets & Writers magazine.

Valzhyna has since published another collection, Collected Body (Copper Canyon Press, 2011), and edited two poetry anthologies, Something Indecent: Poems Recommended by Eastern European Poets (Red Hen Press, 2013), and Gossip and Metaphysics: Prose and Poetry of Russian Modernist Poets, with Ilya Kaminsky and Katie Farris (Tupelo Press, 2014). She has received the Lannan Foundation Fellowship, the Bess Hokins Prize from Poetry, and the Burda Poetry Prize in Germany.

During her time in the AU MFA Program, Valzhyna immersed herself in cross-genre workshops and focused deeply on her craft—much as the program’s new studio track will invite students to do.

Now a visiting assistant professor at Cornell University, Valzhyna is an Amy Clamitt Foundation fellow in Lenox, MA. We reached out to her to learn about how her time at AU fed her work and to discuss how she has spent her time since.

I know that you came into the AU MFA program with several accomplishments already—Professor David Keplinger once described you as having come here “fully formed.” What led to your choice to pursue an MFA?

Valzhyna MortIt’s true that when I applied to the AU MFA I already had my first book published in the States and at home, in Belarus. I was mostly confused about what MFA programs entailed. I was convinced that I had to be a published poet in order to be accepted into one. But don’t be fooled by this “fully formed” statement because even now, and perhaps especially now, after years of writing and reading, I have no idea how one writes a poem.

Let me say this, though. I think one does have to come to an MFA program formed, by that I don’t mean that one should have a manuscript ready or a book published, not in the least. But one does have to have a sense of herself as a writer, a vision of one’s voice, even if in a dream. Otherwise, it could be very distracting to hear 10 other writers say to you in a workshop: “you can do this and that in your text.” There are so many things a poem can do, so many directions it can take, and it’s important to keep your own vision in mind. Paradoxically, people who might be told that they have their writing figured out and are “fully formed” would benefit from going through an MFA most.

What was your primary focus during your time at AU?

An MFA program is a time to learn writer’s discipline. Talent is important but it’s nothing without hard work, without daily discipline of reading, of being attentive. Poetry is a religion. You have to practice it—you have to worship. An MFA teaches you this discipline, gives you tools to establish it against the routines of your daily life. In a way, an MFA is a way to delay your daily life, to create a bubble of timelessness within the mercilessly fast time, to say “pause now, let me hear my voice before you sweep me away.” People talk of it as a privilege—to have these few years of focusing on nothing but writing—but I don’t think it’s a privilege, it’s a right of every artist.

Another thing about poetry is that it’s historic—you are always writing after somebody: after Dante, after Rilke. You have to know these poets you are writing after! My favorite thing about the AU MFA is the never-flinching focus on reading. You come here for your own work, but you stay for Elizabeth Bishop, for Gwendolyn Brooks, for C.D. Wright.

What types of classes did you take while you were in the MFA program, and did any make a particular impact?

I took all the workshops—poetry, fiction, non-fiction, translation, journalism. Poetry and translation—with David Keplinger. He is, apart from being the most beautiful poet himself, a very insightful, generous mentor. I still marvel remembering how precisely he got what I was trying to write. All his comments on my work—as if from my future-self that knows better. Non-fiction workshop with Richard McCann was very impactful. He has that best skill of best mentors: to effortlessly mix wisdom with humor.

Every literature class I took at AU, with MA students and as my two independent studies, changed my life, nothing short of it. There are so many gaps in my literary education, such large empty gaps that are like tumors that would silently eat at your writing if you don’t eradicate them. I feel very strongly that without literature classes an MFA is a waste. You have to learn to be a reader as much as a writer.

How has your writing life looked since you finished your MFA? Do you find it challenging to balance your writing with other work, such as your teaching?

I’m writing these responses from Amy Clampitt’s house in the Berkshires. It’s a writing residency I’m holding for half a year—no teaching, no obligations, just poetry. So the challenge of balance has been figured out, at least for half a year. On the other hand, I do love teaching poetry. I can get quite overwhelmed with my love for a certain poem in class, in front of the students. They become the captive audience to my literary passions, so how can I not feel grateful? In return, I make sure that a workshop remains a space where we allow ourselves bad writing days, a space where, even though we are each other’s captive audience, nobody feels pressured to write poems to please anybody present.

What advice do you have for current or prospective MFA students?

Always read crazy dead poets. They will steer you away from writing that special brand of “MFA poems.” Don’t allow any normalcy, any comfort, to settle in your workshops.


If you’re interesting in studying in a variety of genres, and in focusing intensively on your craft, learn more about the new studio track in our MFA in Creative Writing program.

Homo naledi fossils

Watch: Becca Peixotto on the Homo Naledi Excavation

In 2013, two cavers came across human remains in the Rising Star Cave system near Johannesburg, South Africa, and American paleoanthropologist Lee Berger was eager to get a look at them. The only problem? The remains could only be accessed through a 7-inch- wide passageway, and Berger was too large to fit.

He put out a call for cavers with experience in paleontology or archaeology—and with very small stature. Becca Peixotto answered the call.

A current AU anthropology PhD student and graduate of the public anthropology master’s program, Becca was excited to join the expedition.

Working on an all woman-team of six scientist climbers, Becca helped excavate the largest collection of hominin remains ever found in Africa and contributed to the discovery of a new early human relative species: Homo naledi.

Listen as she shares a bit about her experience on the Rising Star Expedition.

Find out more about the Master’s Degree in Public Anthropology.

Director Kyle Dargan

A Look Inside the District’s Only Creative Writing MFA

The multi-genre focus. The vibrant location. The engaged community of writers with diverse backgrounds and rigorous insights.

For more than 30 years, the District’s only creative writing MFA program has fostered the talents and ambitions of writers who have gone on to make their mark in poetry, fiction, and nonfiction—and to make their mark on their communities.

In the video below, Director Kyle Dargan reads from his own work and offers his take on what sets our program apart.

Interested in joining our community? Start your application or learn more about the MFA in Creative Writing.



The Beatles, British Recording Techniques, and the Evolution of Audio Production

Innovative audio production courses with names such as 1960s British Recording Techniques sound like a lot of fun (they really are, too), but they’re much more. Mike Harvey, American University Audio Technology Instructor, uses an era of significant change in music and culture to help illustrate what’s possible with a career in audio and music technology.

As one would expect from a class about 1960s British music production, The Beatles are a major topic of discussion. However, the curriculum’s scope takes students much further and deeper than Paul, John, George, and Ringo. By the end of the semester, Harvey says students are able to:

  • Produce and engineer a multi-track recording session in the style of British recordings from the mid-1960s to 1970.
  • Apply microphone and hardware techniques for recording acoustic and amplified instruments particular to the era.
  • Identify production elements and recording techniques developed and made popular by groups such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and The Who.
  • Utilize those production elements in original recordings.
  • Use software recreations of hardware from the Abbey Road album to process recorded audio.

Beyond the highly technical sound production tenets of the British Invasion era lies a fascinating layer of context regarding the art and science of audio technology over the past 50 years.

The Beatles were pioneers in music, pushing the boundaries of studio technology and acceptable pop songwriting topics and song structure, Harvey says. They served as a template for other bands to follow: a mostly self-contained and carefully balanced team of performers and songwriters, producer(s), and an engineering crew.

“As an entity their album sales still dominate, but as an influence they are greater still, from the use of the studio as a creative tool to the establishment of their own label and brand, to the simple fact that, for most of their career, they were in control of their products and processes,” Harvey said.

The Beatles accomplished all of this with recording resources considered highly primitive by today’s standards—a fact that surprises many students.

“They started recording on two-track recorders (dual mono), and during Abbey Road, their last recording, they were limited to an 8-track machine,” Harvey said, adding that “The End” from Abbey Road features the only Beatles drum recording tracked in stereo.

The Beatles’ production brilliance, despite using relatively rudimentary tools, opens students’ minds to what is possible when art and science collide. Today, we’re witnessing a different but equally significant example in the modern-day music industry—the blurring of lines between artists and technology professionals.

For instance, electronic music affords artists the opportunity to create music as audio technicians “in the box” (on the computer). The paradigm of artist as technician has become increasingly common since the era of the Beatles, when the roles of audio technician/producer and artist were much more delineated.

Undoubtedly, that’s part of the beauty of pursuing a degree in audio technology, the knowledge and understanding of how—regardless of the era or trend—music production impacts what the world hears.


Interested in taking classes like 1960s British Recording Techniques and getting to know industry experts like Harvey? Check out our MA in Audio Technology program.

Health facilities

AhealthyU: How Health and Wellness Programs Make a Positive Impact on Campus

AhealthyU, American University’s faculty and staff wellness program, is celebrating its 10th year. While its scope and goals have grown, the program’s inception was driven by both necessity and a deep desire to see its team flourish.

“We discovered that many of our faculty and staff were being treated for health conditions that could lead to heart disease and other serious illnesses,” said Andie Rowe, director of employee wellness and work-life at AU.

The university implemented AhealthyU to improve employee medical conditions and better manage ballooning healthcare costs. The response has been overwhelmingly positive, which is consistent with the trend toward proactive health that is gaining ground in offices, campuses, and schools throughout the world.

For organizations, the effects include happier, healthier, more productive faculty and staff and reduced healthcare expenditures. For individuals, it simply means a better life.

“Programs like AhealthyU are important because they provide opportunities for faculty and staff to engage in healthy activities, learn about important health issues, and understand that their employer is interested in their overall well-being,” Rowe said.

What makes a good wellness program?

Much of AhealthyU’s success—about 500 people are participating—revolves around convenience. By offering many types of activities appealing to a wide variety of interests at convenient times and locations, AU makes it simple to get plugged in. The most popular opportunities include:

  • Fitness classes (on and off site)
  • Brown bag wellness workshops
  • Cooking demonstrations
  • Pedometer and weight challenges.

What makes the program such a success?

As is the case in most successful wellness programs, buy-in for AhealthyU is consistent throughout the organization, said Leah Tasman, wellness program manager at AU. Leaders from HR, administration, and a wellness council composed of faculty and staff provide support and feedback, which helps drive future decisions about AhealthyU.

Incentives are a driving factor, too. Motivators for AhealthyU activities include:

  • A $50 incentive for participating in a health assessment survey
  • A monetary reward for winning a team challenge
  • Cool fitness-related items such as wicking T-shirts or yoga mats, earned by achieving predetermined goals.

Do students have a role?

For students working toward an MS in Health Promotion Management (HPM), AhealthyU is a valuable asset. The program employs a part-time graduate assistant and draws support from many other HPM students through class projects. In fact, Tasman herself served as a graduate assistant with AhealthyU while earning her own HPM master’s degree.

“It’s important to get HPM students involved because it exposes them to real-world worksite health promotion and helps to re-enforce what they’re learning in class,” she said.


To learn more about AhealthyU and the MS in Health Promotion Management at American University, visit the program webpage or follow along in Facebook.


Q&A with Game Design Student Kelli Dunlap

As a Game Design student and a JoLT fellow, Kelli Dunlap embodies the program’s commitment to socially conscious gaming. We spoke with her about what brought her to AU, her expertise in video game psychology and how joining the Game Lab has prepared her for the future.

Why get a Game Design degree and why choose AU?

It was actually a bit of a serendipitous accident. I graduated from my doctoral program in August 2014 and was looking for a job when I found myself at game-related event hosted by the Red Cross. Lindsay Grace was a speaker there and I had the opportunity to speak with him after the event. He told me about a new program at AU, the Journalism and Leadership Transformation (JoLT) initiative, and that they were looking for people interested in game design, journalism and changing the world. Although I didn’t have the journalism chops, he encouraged me to apply. I did, and received confirmation over Thanksgiving that I’d been selected as a JoLT Fellow. This meant I would enroll as an MA student in Game Design as well as work on projects related to social impact games and the realm of journalism. That’s how I came back to AU!

Would you consider yourself a gamer?

I’ve played video games for as long as I can remember. Gaming was something I did with my brother at home, with friends from school and was a big part of my undergraduate experience at AU. I actually met my current husband playing Halo during undergrad. I was a psychology major and in the Honors program, so when I had to propose an Honors Capstone project, I wanted to do something in the world of psychology and games. That project really fueled my interest in video game psychology as a whole.

Is it necessary to have a special focus before entering the program?

Not at all. I think the program is a good fit for students who have a genuine, broad curiosity about games. Some of my classes involve coding, some involve drawing and art skills and some are research-based. It’s a program for developing a solid foundation in the world of games with flexible personal and academic exploration.

What’s the most valuable skill you’ve learned within the program?

The ability to talk about games and play in a way which addresses common misconceptions about their frivolity or “childishness” has been supremely beneficial. When working with organizations or individuals beyond the Game Lab, I’ve definitely found myself having to address misconceptions about what games are and what play is, and confront negative stereotypes regarding both. This program provides the vernacular to discuss games and play in ways which can be understood outside of the game space.

What class experience outside of the Game Design curriculum stands out?

This past semester I took a Kogod business course with Professor Bradley. Learning to run and market a business was something I felt was important to my future success in the field of games and psychology. Even though it was not a traditional class for a game design student, I was able to seek out a course specific to my training needs.

Have you visited any Game Design Conferences?

Thanks to the Game Lab, I had the opportunity to attend and present at the 2016 Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco last semester. Along with the two other JoLT Fellows and Lindsay, we spoke about community management issues and what the game industry and journalism industry could learn from one another on this topic. I’m fairly certain I would not have had a chance to attend GDC, much less present, if not for being part of the AU Game Lab.

Also, I was able to volunteer at the Indie Arcade at the Smithsonian American Art Museum last semester and am currently working on both a game and a conference paper for a developing project at Indie Arcade.

How has your interest in gaming changed your life?

My interest in gaming led me to the Game Design program, and now, I feel equipped to face whatever my future brings. Through this program, I’ve made so many like-minded contacts that finding a way forward doesn’t seem daunting. I’m currently on an internship with the Educational Testing Service for the summer working on projects related to game design and assessment. The knowledge I’ve obtained and the skills I’ve developed as a student in the Game Lab have given me the confidence to talk about game design issues as they pertain to assessment with peers and supervisors, and has given me the unique perspective of someone who simultaneously inhabits both the psychological assessment and game design worlds.

Want to follow in Kelli’s footsteps? Apply to the American University Game Design Program today!

Game Lab at Indie Arcade

6 Game Conferences You Should Know About

If you are serious about games, you need to check out the best game conferences. To make the most of your opportunity, it’s crucial that you find the one which is right for you. Luckily, American University’s Game Lab team has checked them all out and can give you the info you need.

AU Game lab students present at GDC panel1. GDC

The Game Developers Conference, GDC, hosts pros from all corners of the gaming world. Everyone from audio designers to business executives attend. Based out of the tech-hub of San Francisco, GDC is the perfect forum for graduate students to learn and gain access to a wide range of awesome opportunities. The American University Game Lab travels to this conference for those opportunities. Lindsay Grace, founding director of the American University Game Lab and Studio, has even spoken on panels at the conference. He’s a game-creator whose work has been inducted to the Games for Change Festival’s Hall of Fame. What’s Games for Change? Keep reading to find out!

AU Game Lab faculty and students at Games for Change 2. Games for Change

Games for Change is a non-profit corporation that puts on a yearly festival specifically for those who believe that gaming should both entertain and be a tool for social progress. Benjamin Stokes, an assistant professor in the AU Game Lab, co-founded Games for Change to bring together forward-thinking designers. Hosted in NYC, this fest is for anyone who has a knack for creating change through games. AU grad students hosted a table in 2015, and are constantly involved in this can’t-miss event.

But what if you’re looking to find the next Braid or Super Meat Boy? Then you need to venture into the realm of indie gaming. Two top indie conferences are Indiecade and Indie Arcade.

Screenshot of Prom Week by Mike Treanor3. Indiecade

Indiecade is the largest event of its kind. While there, you’ll get to meet legends of the indie gaming world, and demo over 200 innovative games from around the globe. Maybe you’ll even submit your own work, like Game Lab Assistant Professor Mike Treanor, whose game, Prom Week, was a finalist or Assistant Professor Benjamin Stokes whose game Sankofa Says was featured at the festival.


AU Game Lab at Indie Arcade4. Indie Arcade

With more than 11,000 participants in 2016, Indie Arcade can’t be beat. Supported by the trailblazing team at the AU Game Lab in partnership with the Smithsonian American Art Museum, this yearly pop-up arcade celebrates America’s independent game developers and creates a perfect forum for experiencing the future of gaming. For a closer look at the festival in action check out this short video.


Chris Totten presents at Magfest5. Magfest

Not your typical conference, Magfest blends gaming with music to provide an awesome mash-up. Chris Totten, Game Designer in Residence at AU, presented his game, Dead Man’s Trail, at the Indie Game Showcase of the 2016 Magfest to rave reviews. Chris and Lindsay Grace have also sat on panels for the event. Its DC location makes it convenient for all members of the AU Game Lab.


AU Game Lab faculty member Mike Treanor6. DiGRA + FDG

How about something brand new? This year, the DiGRA (Digital Games Research Association) and FDG (Foundations of Digital Games) conferences will join forces for their first ever joint international conference. Hosted in Scotland, this collaborative academic conference has six tracks including game design, game criticism and analysis, game technology and artificial intelligence. One of the hallmarks of the event is the Doctoral Consortium, headed by AU Assistant Professor, Mike Treanor, who will work with students in the early stages of their Ph.D. The AU Game Lab is also co-sponsoring a hallmark of the conference, Blank Arcade, being co-curated by Lindsay Grace.

The other hallmark of this event is the diverse workshops it offers. If you can make it, don’t miss the Social Believability in Games Workshops that AU’s own Joshua McCoy helped organize. We all know games are better when the characters are believable, but how do you make an authentic character? Find that answer and more with this immersive workshop at this robust conference.


Interested in the Gaming? Start your path to gamer glory at the American University Game Lab.


7 Audio Industry Influencers You Should Know

When students from American University’s chapter of the Audio Engineering Society met up to discuss their audio production heroes, a common theme emerged. It wasn’t as much about a certain technology or a ground-breaking technique. The students expressed appreciation for certain engineers who’ve managed to infuse their unique personalities and talents into every work they’ve helped create.

From the perspective of audio technology students, here are seven sound engineers and industry influencers you should know:


  1. Bob Katz
    When an engineering stalwart like Bob Katz writes a textbook, students pay close attention. That’s not only because he’s won multiple Grammys and worked with many exceptional musicians, but also because he cares enough to pay it forward. In his book Mastering Audio: The Art and the Science, Katz breaks down an extremely complex topic into concepts that can be understood, appreciated, and implemented. As far as our students are concerned, the music industry should be thanking him for decades to come.


  1. Geoffrey Emerick
    For audio technology students, longtime Beatles engineer Geoffrey Emerick is an obvious role model, as he’s done so many things they aspire to do. From boldly trying inventive production techniques and working with ground-breaking artists—Supertramp, Jeff Beck, and Elvis Costello, to name a few—to advancing quickly in the profession at an uncommonly young age, Emerick represents everything that’s possible.
    Thanks to sound professionals such as Emerick, today student audio engineers are able to pursue fulfilling careers that focus on the art and science of audio engineering.


  1. Kendrick Lamar
    It’s hard to put one overarching label on Kendrick Lamar. He’s a rapper, producer, activist, and visionary, to name a few. He has proved he can grab the spotlight with highly engineered album such as “To Pimp a Butterfly” or raw efforts such as the recently released Either way, audio technology students are always left anxiously awaiting his next move.


  1. Leslie Ann Jones
    Usually the rock stars reside in front of the mic, but our audio technology students think recording and mixing engineer Leslie Ann Jones rocks pretty hard from behind the glass. Of course, the fact that she works at legendary Skywalker Sound makes here the envy of many. But more than that, students envy her more than 30 years of diverse opportunities to record scores, mix film and video elements, and produce albums. With her experience, talent, and lineage (her father, Spike Jones, is a music icon), Jones is a quintessential bridge from audio engineering’s past to its future.


  1. Zaytoven
    DJ and record producer Zaytoven is part of a long line of audio professionals who weave a particular style into the fabric of music history as a whole. Fifty years from now, Zaytoven’s contributions to the industry through his award-winning trap music and mixtapes will serve as vital connective tissue in the constantly evolving story of sound production.


  1. Tony Visconti
    If part of the fun of audio production is shaping art across a wide spectrum of genres, then Tony Visconti had an absolute blast. Working with artists such as David Bowie and T. Rex, Visconti built a decades-long career atop creativity and experimentation. The result was some of the most memorable music ever created.


  1. Nigel Godrich
    Best known for his critically acclaimed work with Radiohead, producer Nigel Godrich’s rise to the top of the music industry followed a formula that appeals to many audio technology students:
  • Receive hands-on training from experienced professionals in a university setting.
  • Begin working at the industry’s entry level, if necessary—working extremely hard.
  • Stay true to one’s convictions and passions.
  • Discover opportunities to work with talented artists to combine the art and science of audio production.


All of these people give audio technology students examples of what’s possible. Our students look forward to forging their own unique paths in the near future.


Ready to take your first step toward a career as a sound engineer? Check out American University’s Audio Technology Program.


4 Northern Virginia Writers’ Colonies & Conferences to Explore

We’re lucky to be within close proximity to a number of great writers’ colonies and conferences in the Washington, DC, metro area.

Writers’ colonies offer quiet space and solitude to support the creation of new work, and to remove daily distractions like friends and families and routines from the writing process. Workshops and conferences offer the vibrancy of community—energizing conversations, sharp feedback, and inspiring instruction.

Below are a few of the opportunities that we encourage AU students to explore in the area:

  1. Virginia Center for the Arts
    Tucked into the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, writers, artists, and composers enjoy private studios, bedrooms, and three meals a day. They spend their days working alone before coming together for dinner to get to know other colony artists.

Length: Offering residencies between two weeks and two months

Cost: Fellows are asked to contribute as they can


  1. Hurston/Wright Summer Writers Weeks
    At Howard University in the heart of DC, the Hurston/Wright Foundation offers a safe space for fiction and nonfiction writers, in a week of intensive master classes and workshops. The program includes workshop sessions led by award-winning writers—this year it’s Ralph Eubanks in creative nonfiction and Elizabeth Nunez in fiction—as well as craft talks, public readings, and private writing time to put new learning into practice. Breakfast and lunch are provided.

Length: One week (this year, August 6-August 12)

Cost: $700 tuition (housing not included, but discounted hotel rates are available)


  1. Tinker Mountain Writers’ Workshop
    On the campus of Hollins University, writers gather for workshops in a range of genres and forms—novel writing, genre writing, poetry, flash fiction, and more—to receive guidance from experienced teachers and to work alongside other serious writers.

Length: One week (this year: June 12-17)

Cost: $795 tuition (plus additional fees for housing and meal plans)


  1. Virginia Quarterly Review Writers’ Conference
    Fiction writers, nonfiction writers, and poets are invited to gather on the historic University of Virginia campus alongside committed writers at various stages in their careers. They participate in workshops and craft talks with distinguished faculty—this year it’s Major Jackson, Meghan Daum, and Bret Anthony Johnson. In the evenings, students and faculty have the chance to explore Charlottesville’s great restaurants and night life.

Length: One week (this year: July 13-17)

Cost: $1,100 (tuition, lodging, and meals included)


You can also build community even without going to a residency or workshop. Get involved with the Inner Loop or explore other literary organizations and activities for DC writers in our previous post.


Interested in joining the DC writing community? Check out the only creative writing MFA program in Washington, DC.


Global Healthy Workplace Summit Brings Program Innovation to Washington, DC

By Wolf Kirsten

Regardless of country, historical background, local government, or cultural trends, workplace health promotion is vital. It’s easier than ever to fall into sedentary behaviors and poor eating habits, which is why we need more professionals throughout the world who have the talents, passion, and work ethic to help people, organizations and communities change lifestyle behaviors and improve their health.

The fourth annual Global Healthy Workplace Awards & Summit, set for June 7 in Washington, DC, is an exciting convergence of groups and individuals from across the globe who are taking health promotion to new places in innovative ways.

Although not associated with the World Health Organization, the #GHWAwards follow the WHO’s Healthy Workplace framework—a comprehensive way of thinking and acting that addresses workplace risks, promotes and supports healthy behaviors, and takes into consideration broad social and environmental determinants. The six healthiest workplaces in the world will present their programs in front of a distinguished panel of judges and audience members.

Taking place on the campus of American University—my alma mater—this event celebrates the only global awards program in the field. It’s also an invaluable opportunity for AU students in the Health Promotion Management Program to see not only how their future profession is progressing, but why those in the field believe their messages of health and well-being can and will be heard.

It’s important to remember that workplace health promotion is expanding all over the world—it’s called the “Global” Healthy Workplace Awards & Summit for a reason. No two countries are the same, thus health promotion requires tailored efforts.

Social factors affecting workplace health may vary from country to country, but certain aspects of employer health programs prove important no matter where in the world you are—factors such as:

  • Support from senior management and leadership. Buy-in from those in charge goes a long way toward workplace health advancement. Without buy-in, such progress is virtually impossible.
  • Comprehensive and integrated programming. Many modern-day programs address the physical work environment, psychosocial work environment, personal health resources, and enterprise-community involvement.
  • Worker involvement—from the beginning. Ideally, new employees are educated about workplace health programs during the on-boarding process—and simultaneously inspired to jump right in. In addition, employees’ input on programming needs to be sought from the outset. That’s a how a culture of health and well-being takes shape.
  • Following a continual improvement process (including evaluation).

Of course, implementing health promotion programs involves much more than simply building employee participation. A program is much more likely to thrive when it fits the organization’s underlying mission and goals.

Measuring success can be tricky, though—especially because health care costs are measured differently in the US than they are in most other countries. Because US employers carry the burden of direct healthcare costs, for them it is all about containing or reducing these costs. In the rest of the world, the drivers behind wellness programs are much broader, including:

  • Absenteeism
  • Productivity
  • Employee morale and engagement
  • Recruitment and retention
  • Corporate social responsibility

These factors and more can be addressed by improving overall employee health and well-being, which really should be the underlying goal of workplace health programs throughout the world. Rapidly evolving program trends and emerging technologies keep health promotion professionals on their toes. They must be flexible, apt to experiment with communication methods and programming tools in response to the changing world around them. And, maybe most importantly, they must be able to convince their leadership to support and underwrite wellness programs.

When we gather at events such as the Global Healthy Workplace Awards & Summit, we have a prime opportunity to both celebrate and learn from the best and brightest in the field of health promotion management. When we improve, so does the art and science of health and well-being.


About Wolf Kirsten

Wolf is a social entrepreneur and Founder of International Health Consulting based in Tuscon, Arizona and Hamburg, Germany. He is also a proud alumnus of the health promotion management MS program.


Ready to make an impact? Interested in networking at events like #GHWAwards. Join a passionate community of health enthusiasts in master of science in health promotion management at AU.


Jumpstarting Change: Game Lab Students Showcase Findings on Community Engagement at GDC 2016

The JoLT initiative started in 2015 with the question, “Do the worlds of game design and journalism have anything to learn from each other?” The answer is yes, and three students from the American University Game Design program got to present the initiative’s findings this year at the Game Developers’ Conference. The conference, known as GDC, is the nation’s premier professionals-only gaming event and attracts over 26,000 people annually to network and share ideas.

AU game design students Joyce Rice, Cherisse Datu, and Kelli Dunlap are JoLT Fellows, which means they work with the JoLT initiative as part of their curriculum. The three women went to downtown San Francisco in mid-March to present their findings in the heart of tech industry territory alongside Game Lab Director Lindsay Grace.

Rice is the Creative Director of Symbolia, a magazine that merges comics and news; Datu is an international journalism professional interested in multi-platform news innovation; and Dunlap has a doctorate in Clinical Psychology and focuses on mental health and gaming. Over the course of the past year they created and researched games that promote critical thinking about important world issues.

Their panel, “Community Engagement at the Intersection of Games and News,” explored community engagement both within the game space and without. How do you manage information to guide users to feel a certain way about a cause? What are effective styles to catch consumers’ attention on what was once considered stuffy topics? How can games further a social cause or foundation? Alongside their presentation, the panel featured a roundtable-style feedback session afterwards.

The experience was significant for Rice and company for several reasons. First and foremost, students rarely get to host an event at GDC, and earning the spot shows that their work is innovative and valuable to the community as a whole. Too, GDC itself is a fertile ground to share ideas and learn from industry leaders. It’s also the country’s best networking opportunity for game developers new and old; Microsoft and many other well-known companies are within walking distance.


JoLT is a collaboration between American University’s Game Lab and the School of Communication, and is funded through a $250,000 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Hosted at AU, JoLT brings together faculty, students, and industry professionals from both worlds.

At first, this might seem like an odd pairing of disciplines, but game designers are very good at engaging their audience in a way that leaves a lasting impression; however, the industry has a longstanding issue with addressing social responsibility. Meanwhile, journalists often center on human-focused issues, but the industry struggles for engagement and guided understanding, as well as lasting impact once away from the article.

JoLT’s first year brought together academics and industry professionals from both sides along with GameLab students to identify what we know, what we didn’t know, and our potential to do great things in the world through gaming. And then, they built games.


The JoLT team discovered that when news is changed from a standard, linear narrative to an interactive experience, it can both change people’s perspectives effectively and promote consumer action.

For instance, the game Cow Crusher illustrates the barbaric practices of slaughterhouses in way that is much cuter than real life, but still shifts one’s understanding in a targeted way.

Meanwhile, Factitious, one of the ongoing outreach projects developed through JoLT, uses an online game designed to work in classrooms—it teaches high school students how to spot fake or fabricated news. Such media literacy is crucial to having an educated citizenry, who in turn consume more—and more intelligent—media. Which, at the end of the day, may promote more investigative and social-minded news media being funded and created, which benefits everyone.


Interested in the Game Design MA at American University? Apply today!


Green Spaces: Bringing the Classroom to the Campus Grounds

Anthro BlogStephanie DeStefano has a more intimate relationship with the AU campus than most students. This year, she not only graduates from the master’s in public anthropology program, but she also celebrated her 14th anniversary as Grounds Operations Coordinator at AU.

We talked with Stephanie to learn about her job at AU and how it has complemented her work as a public anthropology graduate student. When we reached her, she was sitting outside, in her favorite spot on campus.

“You might hear birds chirping in the background,” she said. “We have an amphitheater area, and it’s totally enclosed by trees, and a stream is running through here. There are tons of birds in the area, and you can’t see any roads or cars. On an urban campus, I just think it’s really nice to be sitting outside and not hearing the traffic and the typical noise you hear in the city, but hearing birds chirping instead,” she said.

Stephanie takes great pride in the university grounds and respects the way the administration has valued its care. She said, “We put a high priority on the landscape and maintaining it in a sustainable manner. We are very concerned about adding a lot of diversity to the urban landscape, and the campus has won many awards for the grounds.”


Stephanie’s Road to AU

Stephanie has a degree in horticulture from the University of Maryland and is a certified arborist. Busy with her career and raising three children, Stephanie worked at AU for years before deciding she was ready to take advantage of her access to free classes and pursue her master’s degree.

“It’s been a long process,” she said. “I picked anthropology because of the experience I’d had as undergraduate and because it combines my interests in humans and culture and plants and nature.”

Because the anthropology program allows students to pursue their own particular interests, Stephanie was able to make her coursework meaningful to her. “In every class I’ve taken, I’ve been able to combine and relate my interests in some way,” she said.


Bringing Together Career & Studies

The Substantial Research Paper that Stephanie completed for her degree involved an investigation of how AU faculty across disciplines utilize the American University arboretums and gardens as a teaching resource. She started the paper last fall, and was in the final stages of finishing it when we spoke. She has interviewed 28 faculty members.

“It’s been fascinating,” she said. “I’ve interviewed faculty that teach art, for example, and they take their classes outside and have them do projects where they draw something and then put the drawing away. They take it out two weeks later, and everything is different. The lighting is different, the plants around it are different, any nature around it will be different. So they’re trying to show that art captures a moment, and in nature, that moment is not repeatable.”

She also accompanied a journalism professor when he took students to the place where President Kennedy gave a well-known 1963 commencement speech on nuclear arms. While he taught students about the political significance of the location, he asked Stephanie to share her knowledge about the physical landscape.

“So the teachers aren’t using it necessarily for teaching about plants, but exposing students to history, and to what is special about the place, and getting a little bit of environmental knowledge in there as well,” she said.

“I interviewed one faculty member from the School of Education, and she teaches innovative ways to teach math classes. And she’s a nature lover. So she takes her students outside and they look at flowers and pinecones and things like that, and they talk about Fibonacci numbers and number sequences that are found in nature. If I’d had a professor who had taught math like that in my undergrad, I probably would have thought about math in a different way. Math has never been my favorite subject, but hearing about that made it real to me.”


Where Does Her Work Go From Here?

Stephanie plans to leverage the feedback she has received from faculty to further disseminate information and inspiration. “During my interviews, I asked the question: what can we do better to let faculty know that this resource is available and give them ideas?” she said. Possibilities include putting the information on campus TV screens, or making booklets or pamphlets that teachers can pick up.

Stephanie has already made progress toward supporting teachers in utilizing campus resources. She organized a panel at the Ann Ferren Conference in January, in which faculty members spoke about their work with the grounds. Since then, faculty contact her every week, asking for her input or support in using the campus in their teaching.

A marketing teacher has given his students the option of drawing up a marketing plan for the arboretum as their final project. “They’re going to turn it over to us. The university will look at it and take their good ideas, with the development office and the alumni affairs office getting the word out about what we are doing. I’m very excited to see what they come up with.”

The work she has done as a student has been rewarding and feeds her longer term hopes and goals for the AU campus—such as finding solutions to protect the Potomac River from campus storm water runoff, and working with a faculty member who runs a beekeeping society on campus, finding spaces that will work for the honeybees and ensuring that they won’t be harmed by pesticides.

“My goals for the future is that we continue to do this work. There is still a lot more to be done,” Stephanie said.


If you’re interested in a program that allows you to explore your specific interests and find real-world applications, check out our master of arts in public anthropology.


7 Health, Fitness, and Nutrition Blogs You Should Follow

The rapid expansion of health-related content available on the Internet has its pros and cons. The most notable drawback is that consumers often feel overwhelmed and confused by hundreds of conflicting opinions, which can lead to poor decisions that hinder or at least stagnate health progress.

With all of the fitness and nutrition blogs out there, how do you know which ones to follow? We asked our students and faculty to recommend a few favorites. Here are seven health, fitness, and nutrition blogs you should follow:


  1. Healthy Happy Life

If the vibrant photography and inventive recipes don’t instantly draw you in, the ebullient personality of the author likely will. Vegan blogger and cookbook author Kathy Patalsky—a graduate of the Health Promotion Management Program at American University—drizzles every last drop of positivity and passion into her artfully designed concoctions.

Readers who aren’t vegan might just change their minds after spending a bit of time at Healthy Happy Life blog. Her sincere effusiveness and sunny disposition about creatively healthy fare is on point and looks so, so good.


  1. PlantifulBlog

Devin Ellsworth is another deeply passionate vegan blogger, coming from the unique perspective of a health coach. The PlantifulBlog provides valuable tips and personal stories that can help aspiring plant devotees stay the course.

Fully embracing any new diet/lifestyle can be really difficult, but’s it’s always easier with support from people who’ve walked in your shoes. Devin, who earned a master’s degree in health promotion management from American University, uses understanding, encouragement, and humor to guide people down a healthier path.


  1. Oh She Glows

For “Type A” vegans, Oh She Glows is a plant-based recipe blog that’s chock full of hearty details and tips. However, it’s much more than that. Angela Liddon, whose blog is read by more than 1 million people per month and who is releasing her second cookbook this fall, strives to inspire healthier eating for people of all backgrounds and beliefs.

“The best part about my recipes is that anyone can enjoy them, from vegans to omnivores alike,” Angela writes, adding that she hopes to inspire major changes such as losing weight, reducing meat consumption, overcoming eating disorders, and changing careers.


  1. Run to the Finish

If variety is the spice of life, the Run to the Finish blog is a full-on spice rack. Amanda Brooks uses her own story and knowledge as a foundation for sharing ideas that reinforce clean eating, fitness, and overall health and well-being.

Run to the Finish zigs and zags through an array of lifestyle topics, including nutritious recipes, workout routines, running tips, motivation, expert interviews, travel, and much more.


  1. Fannetastic Food

As a registered dietician, Anne Mauney uses her blog to share her expertise in healthy, tasty recipes—but Fannetastic Food is about much more than nutrition. Anne, who has a master’s of public health degree, is a marathoner, yogi and CrossFitter, as well as an advocate for outdoors recreation, adventure and travel.

The many photos routinely found in Anne’s posts help illustrate the diversity of daily situations in which solid choices can impact a person’s health.


  1. Minutes Per Mile

Mary from Nashville resonates with people because she talks about the stuff that people who want to stay healthy actually talk about. She shares stories about things that, for many, help make healthy living more fun and easy to embrace, such as:

  • Cool fitness-related gadgets and apparel
  • Delicious meals
  • Races
  • The mind-set of runners—with great tips for success

Mary also keeps her blog funny and honest. She always seems to share about what she’s feeling at that moment, which helps make her words more relatable and easy to integrate into one’s own life.


  1. Coffee Cake and Cardio

Coffee Cake and Cardio is much more about real life than the “perfect life.” Former powerlifter and track and field thrower Ashley talks about struggles, not just victories. She discusses what works and what fails miserably. Perhaps most importantly, she provides a viewpoint that many moms can relate and respond to.

While not fully about fitness or nutrition, Coffee Cake and Cardio consistently takes an honest, positive look at ways to improve well-being and become more self-aware.


You can keep track of news and progress in health and well-being by following American University’s Health Promotion Management Program Facebook page.


Social Justice in Action: AU Student Travels to Armenia with Peace Corps

By Robert Craycraft

In August 2015, I moved to the South Caucasus nation of Armenia to serve as a Peace Corps volunteer. I had previously spent a full academic year in Washington, DC, at American University in the Anthropology Department working towards my master’s degree in public anthropology (MAPA).

During the fall semester, I began and later submitted my application to the Peace Corps, narrowing my field of interest to community/youth development. I wanted to gain more experience in non-governmental/non-profit organizations.

You’re probably wondering why spend the money on graduate school and a whole two years abroad. My best answer is that I knew I wanted to continue my education, but just not in a wholly traditional way. I also have a strong passion to travel…everywhere. So I began to look for ways to get a degree and travel at the same time. I quickly found the Master’s International Program from the Peace Corps and searched for anthropological or sociological graduate programs. The MAPA program at American University caught my eye. I got accepted, moved to DC, and started graduate school in August 2014.

Anthropology was and is a different field for me, as my bachelor’s degree is in sociology. It awakened an activism inside of me that I knew was there but couldn’t clearly express. Living in DC gave me an educational environment and urban/professional landscape that could facilitate that activism. I was introduced to the key founding and contemporary theories of anthropology through my classes. Additionally, I created an anthropological research project within the context of the classroom. This involved as much theory and literature research as it did paperwork for consent forms and travel expenses.

My first experience with a nonprofit was in the spring of 2015 with an organization called Public Citizen. I attended a few Congressional hearings—one on compensation for victims of asbestos poisoning who were employed by the government. I also became familiar with how the offices of Senators and Representatives function. It was all very humbling and insightful.

Now with that full academic year in the books and going on eight months in Armenia, I am starting to formulate ideas for my Substantial Research Project (SRP). This project has been open to interpretation for my cohort in our respective Peace Corps posts. Armenia is truly rich in its possibilities for anthropologists. Armenians have a unique history and identity, a transition between the political economies of communism and capitalism, and an overall dynamic of change that is happening as I serve.

I am living in a small town of 12,000 by Lake Sevan called Vardenis. I work in the local YMCA. I often explain it as not your typical YMCA by American standards. There’s no basketball court, swimming pool, or exercise room. The facility is primarily used as educational center during the school year. In the summer they have another building by the lake where the staff host summer camps for youth around Vardenis.

I am assisting one of the English teachers with her after-school class and once a week I visit the local college and run an English club there for older students. The ages of students at the YMCA range from five to thirteen. The college is the equivalent of the American high school system.

Outside of English clubs, I have begun work on applying for a grant to create a computer resource room for the YMCA. The idea is to have three to five computers connected to the internet and have various workshops for resume-building, email use, and Microsoft Office. Another possibility is to create a schedule for an internet café where community members can pay per hour to access the internet. This adds some much needed revenue to the YMCA budget and expands the resources that the YMCA can provide to Vardenis.

As my first year draws to completion and the second draws nearer, I am beginning to narrow my topics for the SRP. I am growing more interested in conducting interviews with Armenians—young and old—to record their perspectives and opinions on what it is to be Armenian while transitioning into a new economy. I was previously thinking of exploring the difference between what it means to be Posh Corps and Peace Corps. The difference primarily being a level of comfort that is not typical of Peace Corps volunteers. Those are my two competing topics for my SRP.

When I return to American University, I will complete one more semester and write up my project. I look forward to seeing old friends, making new friends, and reconnecting with the other three volunteers in my cohort. Hearing their stories and plans for their project is very exciting and keeps me upbeat when I’m missing home. I hope to honor the Armenian people and their culture with my project. As they have shown me the true meaning of hospitality and a full stomach. Armenia will have taught me how people can and should treat each other when they are strangers in a foreign country. You treat them like family.


About Rob

I am from Lexington, Kentucky. My first experience traveling outside the US was to Italy for one month in a study abroad program. I really miss my dog and cat and a soda from Kentucky called Ale81.


Are you passionate about social justice at home and abroad? Connect with other students like Rob in the master of arts in public anthropology program at AU.


Social Justice Colloquium Series Recap: Ori Burton on Fugitive Masculinity

Ori_and_President_of_BSAcWe were honored to partner with the Black Student Alliance to host a groundbreaking speaker at our weekly Social Justice Colloquium Series earlier this month. Orisanmi Burton joined us from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he is a doctoral candidate in social anthropology, to give a presentation based on a chapter of his dissertation.

Burton’s dissertation, entitled Taller Than The Wall: Prison-based Organizing in the Empire State, has been funded by the Wenner-Gren Foundation and by multiple UNC-CH fellowships. It broadly explores forty years of activism, organizing, and intellectual production in New York state men’s prisons.

In his talk, Burton spoke with us about how gender—and specifically Black masculinity—mediates men’s experience of imprisonment and the strategies they use to resist dehumanization. Below is a quick recap of key takeaways and quotes from Burton’s presentation:

Burton discussed the 1971 prison rebellion in Attica, New York, pointing to the rebellion as an important challenge to patriarchal prison structures. He showed us an aerial map of Attica Correctional Facility, which is 340 miles west of New York City, and said:

“Notice that the prison is divided into four major cell blocks, and this is really important, because as Audre Lorde has said, divide and conquer is the first patriarchal lesson. So we can see the principle of patriarchy really clearly by looking at prison architecture and design. It separates captives from each other, but the prison also thrives on multiple levels of isolation and alienation. Captives are geographically isolated from their home communities and social networks, they are isolated from civil society, and the prolonged solitude of confinement leads many captives to express a strong sense of isolation and alienation from their own personalities and their own bodies. And this sort of experience is often likened to death. You’ll hear it called living death, social death—this is how people actually talk about it.”

A focus of Burton’s research has been to explore how groups of imprisoned men fight to preserve their humanity, dignity, and masculinity within and against the dehumanization of state captivity. Burton read from a letter from incarcerated man named Absolute who is a member of a collective. Burton said:

“This letter shows that Absolute and other members of activists know what’s going on. They know how the prison operates because they’ve studied it and formulated critiques of it. One of my key interventions in the dissertation is to argue that imprisoned activists are in fact the true ethnographers of the criminal justice continuum. The bars, fences, and walls that Absolute talks about keep imprisoned activists within tight material and geographic limits, but these groups also function against compliance. Compliance is a key term of state power in various institutional settings within and beyond the prison, but within the prison, it invokes specifically racialized and patriarchal dimensions of domination. The guards and the prison authorities have the sole authority to define compliance. They have the sole authority to interpret it and enforce it, and in practice it means, ‘Do what the man of the house says or else.’ Compliance becomes really important as a form of power after Attica. Because after Attica, prison authorities recognized that it wasn’t enough to control imprisoned bodies; they also had to control imprisoned minds.”

Burton discussed the concept of “fugitive masculinity,” a body of protofeminist thought and analysis being developed by incarcerated men.

“I am using the term fugitive masculinity to describe an emergent politics that improvises many of the the tactics and strategies associated with black feminist politics. It’s a protofeminist politics in which captive men seek to escape and abolish the logic of racist patriarchy as it is enacted in the prison. It is about constructing a manhood that does not rely on symbols of hegemonic masculinity. It is about building a masculine power that does not presuppose or reenact domination. When I’m talking about black feminist politics, I’m citing women such as Audre Lorde, Angela Davis, bell hooks, Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, Julia Oparah, Joy James, and many others. According to these theorists, some of the key aspects of black feminist theory include building unity across difference, using experience as a mode of analysis, enacting a politics of care, and preserving and transmitting knowledge.”


We invite you to join us for future sessions in the Social Justice Colloquium Series.


AU Researcher Suggests Avoiding Certain Food Additives Can Alleviate Neurological Symptoms

D15_158_August_OS_Faculty nfs Kathleen_Holton, SETH, faculty

Often it’s the hot-button, trendy, social-media-friendly health topics that get the general populace buzzing about health and well-being. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, there’s a wealth of research, strategy, and passion converging in efforts to truly improve the state of health—and not just spur a new crop of popular diet books.

In the work of Dr. Kathleen Holton, a nutritional neuroscientist and Assistant Professor at American University, there is the rare collision of mainstream trendiness and highly substantive research, as she delves into an issue that affects virtually everyone: food additives.

Over the years, the popularity of various sugar substitutes has swelled and waned, over and over again. Today it is found in everything from soda and cookies to gum, breath mints, yogurts, cereals, and even bread. Many people seem to feel a sense of nutrition invincibility when using their sweetener of choice instead of sugar.

On the contrary, Dr. Holton recommends that people avoid all artificial sweeteners. Here are a few reasons why:

  • Association with many negative health effects
  • Potential adverse effect on ability to taste natural sweetness in food
  • Artificial sweeteners are hundreds of times sweeter than sugar, which cultivates increased desire for sweetness in foods

“My goal is to help people eat better, which includes eating more fruits and vegetables,” Holton said. “I want people to be able to taste the natural sugar in these foods, and the best way to do that is to help them reduce their consumption of highly sweet foods.”


Research: Avoiding Food Additives Can Alleviate Neurological Symptoms

Dr. Holton’s research examines the negative effects of dietary excitotoxins on neurological symptoms, as well as the protective effects of certain micronutrients on the brain. The most common dietary excitotoxins in the US. are from food additives used as flavor enhancers, such as MSG, and the artificial sweetener aspartame.

Early in Dr. Holton’s career, she was intrigued by anecdotal reports of neurological symptoms being reduced when people stopped consuming certain food additives. Her research into the chemical composition of these food additives, and the potential biologic mechanism for how these may be able to affect health, led her to create a diet that limited the consumption of certain additives. She has tested this diet in individuals with fibromyalgia, with very promising results, and will be testing the diet as a potential treatment for ADHD in the near future.

“Studying this diet has been amazing on multiple fronts,” Dr. Holton said. “Not only have I seen dramatic improvement in neurological symptoms such as pain, memory loss, cognitive dysfunction, and mental health disorders like depression and OCD, but importantly, I have also watched subjects report a huge reduction in cravings for junk food, which may also have important implications for the obesity epidemic.”


Informing the Masses

While phrases such as “dietary excitotoxins” aren’t likely to crack the general public’s lexicon anytime soon, Dr. Holton does hope more people will recognize and respond to the health ramifications of poor dietary choices, including the fact that processed food in our country is not only a source of excess fat and sugar in the diet, but also increases our exposure to food additives. “For instance, in the US we are exposed to more than 3,000 food additives, whereas in Canada and the European Union, people are exposed to less than 500 food additives.”

As Dr. Holton’s research illustrates, there is plenty of work to be done by graduates of health programs such as those at American University. There’s a wealth of knowledge that needs to be communicated through workplaces, nonprofits, governmental agencies, schools and more, to help individuals improve their health.

In the nutrition classes that Dr. Holton teaches at AU, she sees students who are excited to learn about health and who are passionate for the work they will be doing in the future.

“I love hearing about their conversations with friends and relatives and how they are looking at what they eat in a whole new way. Nutrition education is something that can profoundly impact people’s lives.”


Interested in research like Dr. Holton’s on food additives? Learn more about a master’s degree in health promotion management from American University.




Why Exploring Multiple Genres Matters and Other Insights from Rachel Louise Snyder

RLS_Author_PhotoA distinguishing feature of AU’s MFA in creative writing program is the opportunity to explore multiple genres, discovering how poetry, fiction, and nonfiction can feed one another and lead to expansive career opportunities.

AU Associate Professor Rachel Louise Snyder has a body of work that embodies our cross-genre values, with achievements in both fiction and nonfiction.

Since receiving her MFA from Emerson, Rachel has written nonfiction for a number of publications including the New Yorker, New York Times Magazine, the New Republic, and Glamour, and contributed to top radio shows including This American Life, Marketplace, and All Things Considered.

Her first book was a work of nonfiction called Fugitive Denim: A Moving Story of People and Pants in the Borderless World of Global Trade (WW Norton, 2008), which was excerpted on This American Life and won an Overseas Press Award.

In addition to her extensive nonfiction credits, she has a novel called What We’ve Lost is Nothing, which follows the aftermath of a crime in an Illinois suburb (Scribner, 2014), and which was named one of’s “Ten Best Suspense Books.”

We connected with Rachel to discuss how cross-genre work has shaped her career.


Can you tell us a little bit about your journey as a writer working in multiple genres?

I’ve always moved organically through the genres. I’ve kept journals off and on since I was eight years old, and as a teenager I wrote very bad poetry and fiction. In college, most of the classes I took were in fiction. Early in grad school, I gravitated toward poetry, but had a terrible experience in a class one day with a professor and it scared me away from poetry—which is too bad, really. I always saw myself as a fiction writer, primarily.

My thesis was a book of short stories. But I took one class in nonfiction in my final semester of grad school and published work from that class, so it became a de facto genre, mostly because you could earn money writing nonfiction much more easily than fiction—a fact which holds true still today. So nearly all of what I’ve learned as a journalist has been on the job.


What do you see as the relationship between your novelist self and your nonfiction writing self?

I think all art informs other mediums. I also paint and listen to music like a lunatic, and I consider these almost meditations for my writing. If I’m stuck in a writing project, I will often pop into a museum and study the lines of a painting or some other piece of art that grabs me. But to answer your question, there is a difference not so much between nonfiction and fiction for me, but between fiction and journalism, or nonfiction work that is creative in nature and journalism, which at its core is about someone else, and also about the reportage.

Journalism is more like a math problem. I have to figure out the formula and put everything in a particular order, but there’s not something necessarily for me to discover (beyond the stakes of the piece). With fiction and more personal nonfiction, there is always that discovery, and so it exists in a different place in my mind and body. I can’t work on two creative pieces simultaneously, but I can work on journalism and a creative piece.


How did your own MFA program help you move closer to your writing goals, or shape you as a writer?

I’m glad you asked that, because there is this raging debate going on about whether or not an MFA degree is worth it, and to me it’s sort of a ridiculous question. Maybe some people at 22 years old, or 24 or whatever, have enough confidence in their own abilities to not go through the MFA experience, but I was not one of these writers. I was riddled with self-doubt.

For me, the MFA is about time to develop your writing muscles. Yes, a moment in life when someone will actually care about what you’re writing, but it’s also about cultivating the tools you’re going to need out there in the world of writing and publishing—which can be very cutthroat, and brutal, and unforgiving. It’s about learning self-discipline, learning that rejection is relentless (but hopefully so are you!), learning what writing will and won’t be in your life.

No one ever questions a graduate degree in business, for example, like they do with the arts. Why is that? What do you learn in business school that you can’t learn from experience in the workplace? (Lots of things, is the answer, and in a context in which there are no stakes. It is precisely the same for the arts).


What advice do you have for current or prospective MFA students who are interested in writing in multiple genres?

My first piece of advice is embedded in the question: even if you consider yourself a poet, or a journalist, or a fiction writer, learn other genres. I spent three months last spring reading nothing but poetry and from that experience wrote some of the most powerful nonfiction material I’d ever written.

If you’re naturally inclined toward multiple genres, then you’re already ahead of the game. We don’t live in vacuums and we ought not confine ourselves to them in any of our endeavors, in my opinion. But it’s also hard to find an MFA program that will allow multiple genres in the way that AU does. So that would be one of the primary questions I’d ask any potential program.


If you’re interested in exploring multiple genres, check out the Creative Writing Program at American University.


3 Tips from Health Promotion Management Alumni

By Stephanie George, MS, CHES

Stephanie_George__HeadshotWithout question, one of the best parts of my career in health promotion management is the opportunity to meet and encourage my future colleagues in this field—a field defined by true passion for better health and well-being.

Recently I returned to my alma mater for American University’s Annual Alumni Panel for the Health Promotion Management Program. This was a prime opportunity for aspiring professionals to learn different ways their degrees can be utilized to make a difference in the world. Even just the list of panelists is an encouraging indicator of what’s possible for health promotion students:

  • Jessica Mack (MS ’05): Manager of Corporate Health at Virginia Hospital
  • Teha Kennard (MS ’08): Senior Associate at Booz Allen Hamilton
  • Lauren Brayer (MS ’09): Senior Program Manager at Sodexo
  • Sarah Kuchinos (MS ’13): Fitness Specialist at National Center for Weight and Wellness
  • Moderator – Sherry Compton (MS ’05): Independent Management Consultant

I graduated from AU with a master’s degree in health promotion management in May 2014 and now work as a Wellness Program Administrator for Navy Federal Credit Union, facilitating their employee wellness programs and initiatives. My fellow event panelists and I may have very different jobs among us, but we were able to agree on several important tips for attendees to both navigate the health promotion job market and maximize their potential in the field they love.


1. When in doubt, network.

College students often are intimidated by the idea of networking and reaching out to people they don’t know very well, but in reality, most professionals are very helpful—if asked. Most people are willing to meet up for coffee and share their experiences. Often the topics range from health promotion trends to intra-office politics and how things actually work behind the scenes. All of it is good to know.

Even the savviest networking efforts don’t always directly lead to a job offer, but the info gleaned is invaluable. Also, the whole process is great practice for interviewing and selecting positions to apply for in the future.


2. Convey your passion for health promotion.

Whether at a casual gathering or in a crowded boardroom, be honest about your passion for health and well-being—and for promoting it. People will respond to your enthusiasm. If you don’t speak up about what you’re interested in, you might miss out on valuable opportunities.

Our panel noted that while there are many variables affecting one’s work in the health promotion field, the main drivers of success include:

  • Passion
  • Hard work
  • Continual learning
  • Persistence
  • Creativity
  • Ability and willingness to adapt


3. Seize every opportunity.

It’s impossible to predict the quantity and quality of opportunities you’ll encounter during your career. Perhaps the next one will be the best you ever find.

Take advantage of every opportunity. View every experience as a chance to learn more about yourself and the industry. Even if the process involves stepping outside your comfort zone, you’ll find that it’s worth the effort.

With a master’s degree in health promotion management, there are so many potential paths that lie in front of you. Those paths lead in different directions, with unique twists and turns along the way. You may have to traverse a few of them before finding your niche.

Wherever you end up, we welcome you to the world of health promotion management—where improving health and well-being is equal parts art and science.


Are you considering a career that involves the art and science of health promotion? Learn about achieving a master’s degree in health promotion management from American University.


The Pros and Cons of Saturation and Distortion

By Peter Bonaventure

In the world of audio technology, we often use tools such as compressors and limiters to smooth out the peaks of a signal, which raises the overall volume of that signal. However, conventional compression is not the only way to thicken up a sound. A small amount of distortion, often referred to as saturation, can add character and density.

A compressor turns down the overall signal amplitude of a snare drum, for example, when it exceeds a certain level. Similarly, distortion sort of “chops” the wave form. Saturation is merely a more subtle form of Distortion. The differences between various types of distortion and saturation depend on how the signal is clipped. A digital clip, also known as a hard clip, simply removes the top of the wave form (see image below).


An analog clip is a bit more musical sounding than a hard clip, which often sounds objectively bad (a term I rarely get to use in the world of music). When a tube amp, for example, is driven hard enough to distort, it doesn’t simply slice the signal. Instead, it accentuates musically pleasing harmonics, also known as “even and odd order harmonics.”

Naturally, different types of distortion emphasize different harmonics. However, in all cases of musical distortion, the resulting wave form is smoother and more pleasant sounding than digital distortion. The result is fuller, denser sound. It’s a beautiful thing. You have achieved a bit of compression without even using a compressor, plus you have created a more interesting and complex sound.

Saturation sometimes comes with unwanted side effects, though. If you overuse it, your mix will quickly begin to sound messy and lack clarity—especially if the saturation wasn’t necessary in the first place. Also, saturation on instruments but not vocals sometimes leaves the timbre of the singer’s voice sounding a little plain (especially in more stripped down productions).

When considering whether to use saturation, make sure you have a reason and a plan. If you have a chorus with 12 guitars, a full drum kit, backing vocals, strings, horns, and synth pads, perhaps the overall sound of that chorus is complex and interesting enough without saturation. That said, if you have a beat with sparse instrumentation, maybe a bit of saturation of the 808s could make them sound more unique, helping them cut through the mix a little better.


About Peter:

Peter is a recording and mixing engineer, and specializes in music production for artists as well as films. He also sings and plays guitar in the Indie Rock band Calm and Crisis. Peter’s most recent work includes his band’s debut LP In A Real Good Place, a single with the NYC based artist Roarke, and a collaborative Rock/Hip Hop song with DC rapper SpennyAlmost which is set to be placed in the Starz film, Flock of Dudes. Peter is a BA/MA student in the Audio Technology Program at AU.


If you are interested in a career as a mixing or sound engineer, learn more about the audio technology degree programs at American University.


University Audio Technology Team Works With Strathmore to Record Orchestras

By Matt Twiford

 Behind_CameraClassrooms and homework assignments are just a couple aspects of a comprehensive education experience. For those of us who study and/or teach in American University’s Audio Technology Program, immersing ourselves in the rich culture of Washington, DC, adds color and shape to our professional development.

This past December, the AU Audio Technology Program partnered with the Maryland Classic Youth Orchestra to capture their “Winter Soundscapes” performance at Strathmore. As an adjunct professor and a master’s student in the Audio Technology Program at AU,  I was lucky enough to enjoy and learn from the experience.

The Music Center at Strathmore is a 1,976-seat concert hall located just north of DC in Bethesda, Maryland. The venue presents more than 150 performances a year and is home to the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, the National Philharmonic, and the Maryland Classic Youth Orchestras.

The “Winter Soundscapes” event and experience were a great success. We captured the symphony, chamber ensemble, and philharmonic orchestras without a hiccup. As an audio professional, it was a pleasure to work at a world-class facility such as the Strathmore. The acoustics of the concert hall are perfectly tuned, so even the quietest passages of the performance could be heard throughout the audience.

My studies and work in the graduate program at American University prepared me for this opportunity in many ways. For instance, having access to an endless gear selection allowed me to test many different microphones and microphone techniques on a variety of instruments.

Critical listening–a huge component of our graduate curriculum at AU–proved extremely valuable during my time at Strathmore. My knowledge of how simply moving microphones can affect the balance of a recording was important in preparation for the event.

The most enjoyable part of the experience, though, was the actual performance. I’d never attended an orchestral performance—neither as an engineer or patron. Once the main prep work was complete and the music began, I could actually relax for a moment. I could focus and reflect on what both the process and the product mean to audio enthusiasts like me.

Seeing the byproduct of incredible musicians mixed with expert audio engineering was an experience I’ll never forget. It’s why you study audio technology in the first place. It was quite a sight—and sound.

About Matt:

Matt Twiford is a graduate student and adjunct professor living in Washington, DC. He will graduate with a master’s degree in audio technology from American University in May and he has a bachelor’s degree in music production from Full Sail University. Matt plays guitar, writes music, and freelance engineers in his free time.



Washington DC provides countless opportunities for American University students. Learn about achieving a master’s degree in audio technology from AU.

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How an MFA Professor’s Challenge Led to a Student’s First Book

Written by Glen Finland

American University Professor Denise Orenstein was adamant—“Write about the one thing you don’t want to write about.” It wasn’t easy, but she was right. Once I got up the courage to try it, the truth popped out. Ten years later, Putnam published my book Next Stop.

In 2002, at age 50, I decided to go back to school. I’d taken a decade long kids-raising shift away from journalism and was now keen to step into the world of teachers, visiting authors, and everyday folks like me who simply love the written word. Even though I fit into the category of non-traditional student—shorthand for being the oldest face around the MFA table—I learned to never underestimate how being present in other writers’ lives enriches one’s own. Of course, we all know that writing is hard work and often done in seclusion, so it didn’t happen overnight and it didn’t happen in a bubble. It developed over 10 years inside Washington’s community of writers—and it started with that professor’s dare at AU.

The first time I read my nonfiction aloud to a group of MFA candidates young enough to be any of my three sons, Professor Orenstein came and sat next to me at the start of class. No one could see that under the table she was holding my hand, squeezing me onward, graf by graf.

Over the next three years in that same room, I often witnessed the power of community. With every Can you say more? The genuine curiosity of my fellow writers gave each of us a deeper way into our work. A few were quick to raise a flag over verbal clutter in a work-in-progress or a missed opportunity in a short story; but rather than resentment, the humor and depth of purpose around the table seemed to breed trust. I realized each of us were there to improve our craft. Sitting in that circle forced me to pay more attention to what was not being said, to write more about the ordinary fleas of life.

Some of my best tips came after class, from fellow writers who invited me to bivouac with them in local coffee shops to pick over our stories with tiny, pointed scalpels. Over time, an intimate understanding of each other’s work turned on repeated threads from those stories. This created an intimate trust. Three of us formed an intergenerational writer’s bond that still exists.

After one of my revised pieces was published in the Washington Post Magazine, a New York agent sent me a simple but life-changing email: “Would you consider writing a book proposal?” Yes, I wrote back without hesitation—then turned to my writing club pals and The Writer’s Center to figure out how the hell do I do that! Three months and a book proposal class later, the agent sold my idea to Putnam. Next Stop: Letting Go of an Autistic Son was published in 2012.
That spring I returned to AU as a Visiting Writer to read aloud from my original manuscript. When I finished, I took a deep breath and looked into the generous faces of my fellow everyday writers. No one looked away, and in that moment I knew the writing would hold.


About the Author

finland_glen_webGlen Finland is the author of Next Stop (Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam), a Barnes & Noble Discover Pick and Penguin’s 2012 Book Club selection for National Disability Employment Awareness Month. Glen’s work has appeared in the Washington Post, Family Circle, Revolution, Parenting, American Magazine, Wired, Special Needs, Babble, and Autism Speaks. A featured autism advocate on NPR and CNN, Glen received the 2012 Dean’s Medal for Excellence in Communication from the University of Georgia. The mother of three grown sons, Glen received her MFA from American University in 2006.


If you’d like to experience a writing journey like Glen’s, please check out the MFA creative writing program at American University.



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An Interview with Jenny Molberg, Poet and English Professor

Jenny MolbergMany graduates of the creative writing MFA program pursue rewarding teaching opportunities to accompany their writing careers. A 2009 American University graduate, Jenny Molberg is a poet, serves as poetry editor for Pleiades, and works as assistant professor of English at the University of Central Missouri.

Jenny’s debut collection, Marvels of the Invisible, won the 2014 Berkshire Prize and is forthcoming from Tupelo Press in December 2016. Her poems appear in The Missouri Review, North American Review, Copper Nickel, Mississippi Review, The Adroit Journal, Poetry International, and other journals. Her awards and honors include the 2013 Third Coast poetry prize, and she was featured in Best New Poets 2014.

After receiving her creative writing MFA from AU, Jenny pursued a PhD from the University of North Texas. She currently teaches creative writing and literature courses. We talked with Jenny over email about her experiences at AU, and how she balances life as a writer and a teacher.



What led you to choose AU for your MFA?

After living in the South, I wanted to experience something different, and focused my MFA applications in that area of the country. I was drawn to AU by the diversity of courses offered in the program—especially translation—and was impressed by the work of the faculty. Once I visited the campus, I knew AU was right for me. Campus was bustling, it was spring in DC, and I felt I would find a home in the program. When I met David Keplinger, who would be my best teacher and one of my greatest friends, I knew I had made the right choice.


What were some of the highlights of your time in the program?

The people I met at AU were the biggest highlight of my time in DC. To this day, those people are my best friends, even though I moved away when I graduated. My favorite classes were my poetry workshops with David Keplinger and Kyle Dargan, and I also really enjoyed my course in translation with David. Keith Leonard taught a class called Performing the Word that blew my mind, and I did an independent study with Erik Dussere on Morrison and Faulkner. My scholarly interest in literature grew immensely with those two courses.

Outside the classroom, two experiences stand out in my mind: I was able to work as an assistant editor for Poet Lore, where I met Ethelbert Miller, from whom I learned a great deal about publishing and contemporary poetry. Then, in 2008, the Obamas hosted a night of poetry, music, and the spoken word at the White House, and I was able to go with a couple of my peers as a local poetry student. That was an amazing experience. We heard an early rendition of a song from Hamilton, James Earl Jones performed a soliloquy from Othello, and Joshua Bennett performed an unforgettable poem. It was an incredible time to be in DC.


In what ways did you grow as a writer during your time in the MFA program?

I think I grew enormously as a writer because of my teachers and peers who held me to high standards and pushed me to want to be better, to out-write my old self. I learned how to obsess (in a good way) over words, thanks to David and Kyle. I grew as an editor, reading the work of my peers, and I also grew more in my passion for poetry. It’s a love that never stops growing. My friends and I used to sit late into the night, drinking wine, reading poems to each other, falling in love with the words.


Please describe your current teaching position. What courses do you teach?

I am an assistant professor of English at the University of Central Missouri, where I teach Advanced Poetry, Introduction to Creative Writing, and modern and contemporary American Literature. I also serve as the poetry editor for Pleiades and the assistant director of Pleiades Press here at UCM.


How do you balance your writing life and teaching life?

It’s difficult, especially because I am in my first year of a tenure-track job, but I find that I am constantly challenged and inspired by my students, who make me want to go home to write. Sending work out and applying for grants and residencies becomes difficult with a very busy teaching load—sometimes I just dedicate a Saturday to reading, writing, and sending out poems.


What experiences from your time in the MFA program have been most beneficial in feeding your teaching career?

Watching and learning from good teachers. I often think WWDD: what would David do? One thing I learned from David that was so invaluable was that you can be positive, excited about poetry, and encouraging to your students, and this will help them grow immensely as writers in ways that harsh criticism fails. Criticism is not always bad, but when you help a young writer to see what they are doing right, they will want to keep doing that thing. I try to help my students to see that. Also, the MFA program helped me to think and talk deeply about literature, to ask the difficult questions, to consider the responsibility of writer to the reader. This kind of thinking helps me (try) to convince my students to fall in love with poetry as I have.


Is there any advice you’d give to prospective or current MFA students about pursuing a teaching career?

Keep reading and writing voraciously. In the job market now, it seems helpful to have a book published, so if you are able to do this soon after you complete your MFA, you will be more competitive on the market. Don’t shy away from sending your work out: rejection is hard, but the validation of seeing your work on the page and joining the creative conversation is worth it. Pay attention to the way your best teachers guide and mentor you. Go to conferences and attend (or participate in) pedagogy panels—this can be extremely helpful, and you will probably pick up great teaching ideas. If you can gain teaching experience while you are at AU through the teaching-track, I’d encourage you to do so, if a future in teaching is one of your goals.


If you’d like to share Jenny’s experiences writing in DC, and perhaps pursue a teaching post in the future, please please check out the MFA creative writing program at American University.

DC Capitol

5 Reasons to Study Health in DC

No city features a more diverse convergence of richly beneficial internship and service opportunities than Washington, DC. Our graduate students discover many perks while living and studying in the District. So we asked for their thoughts, and they answered. Here are the five most exciting advantages of studying health in DC:

1. Social Justice Opportunities

Social justice means different things to different types of people. Luckily, DC has something for just about everyone. A large amount of nationally known nonprofits are headquartered here, covering just about every issue imaginable.

Naturally, many health promotion management students interpret social justice through the lens of widening opportunities for people to improve their health and well-being. You can easily find dozens of DC-based, health-related nonprofits to volunteer or intern at, including:


2. Access to Federal Agencies and Lawmakers

American University students are in close proximity to the lawmakers who shape many critical policies, as well as the national budget. You’ll attend public meetings that provide more than a glimpse into how nation-changing decisions originate and come to fruition.

Federal agencies provide a wealth of potential, too. Enterprising students—often with help from professors and alumni—can seek internships, research materials, informational interviews, and more from impactful agencies such as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.


3. International Experiences

Washington, DC, also functions as a de facto gateway into international opportunities. This area is a hotbed for internationally focused groups such as the World Bank and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

With so many US and international organizations based nearby, AU students with worldwide goals can work to make connections and develop relationships that will help them secure internships or full-time positions overseas after graduation.


4. Vibrant ‘Classroom’ Experiences

In many situations, it’s the university itself that connects health promotion graduate students with unique opportunities in Washington, DC. Health-related advocacy exercises on Capitol Hill. On-campus lectures from global leaders. Off-campus tours of significant organizations. Our students’ experiences go far beyond the pages of a textbook and the edges of a whiteboard.

“Studying in DC gives me access to amazing professionals and staff, internships, volunteering, and networking events,” said Andrea Battaglia, who is working toward a health promotion management master’s degree from AU. “The success that lies within the city is both empowering and motivational.”


5. Clean Living

Beyond the numerous opportunities for innovative learning and career preparation, DC is a great place for health-minded individuals to live, study, work, and play. Andrea said she enjoys how clean the city is, with great weather that draws adventurous, outdoorsy people to the area.

“I love being able to walk around different parts of DC, whether it’s a farmers market or the waterfront, with thousands of people buzzing on the sidewalks,” Battaglia said.

The benefits of studying health in Washington, DC, extend from the classroom to local businesses and agencies to the community’s parks and walkways. It’s a comprehensive experience that serves as a wonderful base for a career spent promoting health and well-being.


If you are interested in pursuing your master’s degree in health promotion management in Washington, DC, please visit our program page to start your application today.




Health Promotion Internships and Opportunities in Washington, DC


Real strides in health promotion take place when young professionals like Yasha Ghamarian roll up their sleeves and take their studies from the classroom to the community.

Yasha is poised to receive his master’s in health promotion management this spring, and in-class studies are only one part of his preparation. Embracing internships in the Washington, DC, community has played a huge role in his development.

“I’ve been exposed to many wonderful opportunities at American University,” he said, adding that the school’s location ensures ample training options close to home.

Over the course of his graduate program, Yasha has gained experience as a research assistant, intern, and volunteer. Here are a few of Yasha’s most memorable experiences during his time in the health promotion management program:


Participating in a USDA-Funded Study:

Working as a research assistant for Dr. Anastasia Snelling, Yasha supervised 30 fellow AU students on a USDA-funded study assessing the impact of a behavioral economics strategy on fruit and vegetable consumption in local elementary schools.


Analyzing implementation of the Healthy Schools Act:

Applying knowledge from a health policy class, Yasha worked with AU Department of Health Studies Instructor Erin Watts on a project related to the Healthy Schools Act. The project involved gauging how well the act has been implemented in DC schools.


Teaching nutrition lessons at local summer camps:

In a summer internship, Yasha worked with Applied Physiology Instructor Joanne Roberts to teach nutrition lessons to kids in summer camp centers across Montgomery County, Maryland.



Bringing health education to the forefront at Kaiser Permanente:

As a health education intern at the Kaiser Permanente Capitol Hill Medical Center, Yasha collaborates with physicians and other health care professionals to integrate health education into patient visits.

“These activities have given me great experience and helped narrow down my interests in the health promotion field,” said Yasha.

Yasha found opportunities for internships, conferences, and more through AU faculty members, guest speakers, department newsletters, and alumni panels.

Today, as he nears completion of the master’s program, Yasha sees a clear path ahead. His dream is to become a health education specialist in health care or a worksite setting. He plans to pursue a health education specialist certification and perhaps even attain a PhD in health behavior.


Does Yasha’s passion resonate with you? Help change behaviors to improve health and well-being in communities. Earn a master’s degree in health promotion management from American University.


Notes from Rome: An Interview with MFA Student Nancy Kidder

Last summer, the AU creative writing MFA program launched an annual study abroad program in Rome, through a partnership with John Cabot University’s Institute for Creative Writing and Literary Translation. The program allows our students to spend five weeks with a writer in residence and take literature and writing classes—all while exploring Rome and nearby areas.

AU group in Rome.Nancy Kidder (center), who will graduate from the creative writing MFA program this spring, participated in the program last summer. She spoke with us over email about her experiences at AU and in Rome.


Tell us us a little bit about your background. What led you to the
AU creative writing MFA program?

Despite an early interest in writing, I stopped writing creatively by high school. I thought I needed to be responsible. I went to Duke University, started as pre-med, and ultimately changed my major to English. Yet I never allowed myself to take a writing workshop. I never studied abroad. I got married. Moved to DC. Worked for a senator. Had a daughter. Moved to Ohio. Then moved back to DC. In the spring of 2013, I applied to American University’s MFA program. What had changed? I finally realized why I wasn’t writing: I was scared. I now embrace this fear and try to funnel it into my writing. Yes, I risk ridicule or rejection, but the rewards have been worth it.


What has been your focus in your MFA studies, and how has the program put you in touch with an international writing community?

I chose AU for its impressive faculty and diverse workshop opportunities. Yet, I have discovered so much more. While I came in writing fiction, I later fell in love with creative non-fiction, eventually constructing my thesis from personal essays.

For a translation class, I reached out to and ultimately established a close relationship with a young Turkish poet, Yaprak Oz, who I traveled to meet in Istanbul in early 2015. Oz would later visit Washington, DC, in September 2015 for readings with the AU community and the American Turkish Association.

And I got to write in Rome. During my second year, I learned that the AU MFA program was partnering with John Cabot University. Not only would our credits be transferred, but JCU would provide a discount on tuition, a balance that would help offset travel expenses. In other words, studying in Rome would be essentially the same price as taking a class here in DC. As you can imagine, having missed going abroad as an undergraduate, I was on board immediately.


How would you describe the learning environment and instruction in the Rome program?  

One incentive to go to Rome was the opportunity to take a poetry workshop with AU professor David Keplinger. Not only did Keplinger encourage a poetry novice like myself to take risks (I wrote a sestina!), he incorporated the Roman landscape into class, prompting us to roam churches for inspiration and bringing us to the Yeats-Shelly Museum, the final home of young poet John Keats.

Professor Elizabeth Geoghegan’s mesmerizing American literature class, “How to Read Like a Writer,” helped us understand the prose maneuvers of writers such as Flannery O’Conner, Thomas Mann, and Jennifer Egan.

We were also fortunate to have acclaimed nonfiction writer, Edmund White as a writer in residence at JCU. He provided gems of wisdom, including the necessity of a few “dumb sentences.” According to White, a reader sometimes needs a break in order to appreciate the longer, more eloquent phrases.


What was it like to spend time in Italy? How did the landscape and culture inspire your work?

JCU is in the heart of Trastevere, an ancient district of Rome located on the west bank of the Tiber. It is home to ancient homes and churches and winding streets lined with shops, cafes, restaurants, and bars. Walking along these alleyways, ducking past locals and tourists, it’s evident that Rome is a city of noises. From the church bells of Santa Maria, to the scooters whizzing by, to the accordion players stationed in the square, it’s a feast for your ears. My roommate and I would often wake up to children voicing, “Ma-Ma! Ma-Ma!” Later, we’d hear the stomping footsteps of a tour group, the guide describing the everyday lives of our previous medieval homeowners. At night, the cries of seagulls, former ocean dwellers that have recently taken residence in a now saltier Tiber, pummeled through, making known that we were not the only new residents in this city.

We were within walking distance from the Forum, the Colosseum, the Vatican, and the Spanish Steps. The Termini train station was a long walk or short taxi ride away, allowing for easy access to other cities. During my stay, I visited Florence, Venice, Pompeii, Sardinia, and Barcelona. I have been back for eight months and I still have mountains of writing material to unpack.


How would you describe your immersion in the city? Do you have any advice for other student travelers?

From Gio (“Please, don’t call me Sergio”), the bartender at our local espresso bar to Rudy, our favorite waiter at Popi Popi pizzeria, Rome quickly felt like a family. An expat JCU graduate, Jahan Genet, manages a club just off the Piazza Santa Maria and holds weekly readings for students. I am proud to say almost everyone from AU read some of their work. A couple of us even played guitars.

As for how to navigate Rome, four words: sit back and wait. Everything will take forever. Restaurants, stores, wi-fi, travel. But it’s worth it. Not only will you eat some of the best food and view some masterpieces, you’ll start to enjoy the “dolce far niente,” which translates to “sweet doing nothing.” Unlike the urgency of the Beltway, Romans take pleasure in doing less.



Would you like to see what Rome can do for your writing? Learn more about studying abroad with the AU creative writing MFA program.


Recapping the Lavender Languages Conference

The 23rd Annual Lavender Languages Conference was held at American University on February 12-14, 2016. Directed by Professor William L. Leap, “Lav 23” offered a venue for discussion of language and sexuality, drawing on ongoing conversations in anthropological linguistics, sociolinguistics, sexuality studies, and queer theory.

Professor William Leap

Professor William Leap

This year’s conference was all the more significant to Leap because it was the last to be held before he retires from AU. “I had a hand in creating the conference and maintaining it for twenty-three years, and it is one of the achievements that I am most proud of,” Leap said. “We didn’t have a safe space venue for LGBTQ language work when I started the conference in 1993, and today there are many places where this work is still viewed with suspicion and disdain. Not so at Lavender Languages. This may be what makes the conference attractive, its academic ‘safe space’ function.”

The first Lavender Languages Conference was held in conjunction with the 1993 March on Washington DC for Lesbian, Gay and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation. At that time, very few academic venues were open to in-depth discussion of the relationships between language, gender, and sexuality, and few academic journals were publishing papers exploring the conversations in depth.

The conference’s accomplishments include encouraging the creation of a journal, the Journal of Language and Sexuality. It’s the world’s only journal devoted entirely to studies of language and sexuality, and Leap serves as a founding senior editor. “Our readership, like our authors, is world-wide and diverse in other ways—exactly in the spirit of the conference,” he said.

We reached out to Professor Leap over email to learn more about Lav 23, and plans for the future of the conference.


How did the conference go this year? What were some overall highlights for you?

The fact that the conference has been going for 23 years is important to me. The conference cannot happen without a lot of support from a lot of people, including the undergraduates who travel at their own expense to share their research findings, and the established scholars who travel from across the US and from more distant places (British West Indies, Scotland, Austria, South Africa) to do the same. That support remains after 23 years. When I say that Lavender Languages is the longest running LGBTQ studies conference in the US and maybe the world, and the only conference dedicated to studies of language, broadly defined, in LGTBQ life—this is what I am referring to: enduring interests in queer language/linguistics. This conference embodies that enduring interest.


Promoting a safe space environment is a main conference priority, with the info page announcing efforts made toward this end—low fees, accessible venues, casual environment, etc.—and the line “No one attending Lav 23 need feel alone, out-of-place, or unloved.” Can you tell me more about the conference’s “safe space” focus?

Though the world has changed greatly since 1993, there are many campus locations where queer language research is still discouraged. People say, ‘This isn’t real research, how will you get a job, etc.’ Our goal at Lavender Languages is to create a space where we can be supportive of these lines of inquiry and the people who pursue them. It is part of the ‘no attitude’ conference philosophy which we all work very hard to maintain during the three-day event.


How has conference interest grown over the years?

Attendance was much larger this year than at past conferences, due in part of a good turnout from on-campus, but also due to people travelling from various locations just to hear papers and participate in discussions. There is a very strong education function associated with the conference, with students (and younger scholars) finding ideas and suggestions here that they tell us they cannot receive back in their home institution.


How have you seen conversations and conference topics evolve over the years? In what ways were this year’s conversations and topics particular to this cultural/historical moment?

In earlier years, papers at Lavender Languages talked a lot about examples. We were busy discovering the presence of LGBTQ language and we wanted to share discoveries with others. We were challenged by others to stop being anecdotal and to start engaging theory—whether the theory be queer theory or linguistic theory, or theory of sexuality or urban geography or globalization, etc. People started to do that at the conference in the early 2000s. Several of the now-classic items in the LGBTQ language studies “canon” emerged from this work.

So the shift from description to theory has been one trend. Another trend has been a real concern with intersections of language and political economy: who speakers are in relation to race, ethnicity, class, opportunity structure, etc. We didn’t talk a lot about that in the 1990s (foolishly), but “intersectionality” is a major theme in almost every paper I heard at the conference this year.

To say this differently, people are not looking at language as a detached formation, as a plaything, separated from the realities of the historical moment. The language of drag queens is interesting because drag queens are real people, not aesthetic curiosities. Transgender language is interesting because transgender language is a major means of deflecting or combatting transphobic violence. And so on.

I’d also note how the conference has shifted from studies that focus only on American English. We had panels this year exploring LGBTQ issues in various forms of French (not your standard textbook French, either), and in Spanish as used in Central and South America. And papers addressing Spanish language themes were also included in panels across the program—including the Saturday plenary session, which featured the editors of the new anthology Queer Brown Voices: Personal Narratives of LGBT Activism. Importantly, and especially in the case of the Spanish language papers, many of the presenters were native speakers of the languages under discussion. This lends qualities of authority and also personal voice to the discussion. Native speaker involvement is especially important when the presenters were students; this is confirming substantial investment in the future of lavender language research.


What will the conference look like in the coming years, and how can people get involved?

Next year, in 2017, we are taking the conference to the University of Nottingham in the UK. This will allow our European colleagues to have greater access to Lavender Languages discussions, and introduce more of those discussions to US scholars (who are often sheltered from the exciting work that is happening in Europe in the areas of queer linguistics.) I anticipate that Lav 24 will be quite international in focus. Details regarding conference planning are posted here.

For Lav 25, we hope to return to the American University campus to celebrate a quarter century of conference activity.


Would you like to add your voice to valuable conversations, like those at the Lavender Language Conference? Learn more about AU’s master’s in public anthropology program.


How I Went From American University to NPR


GastonThe science behind electronics and acoustics is, without question, essential for a career in audio technology. However, for me, it’s the vast potential of artistic expression that breathes life into my work.

I first became interested in audio technology about five years ago, when I was in a metal band that recorded a demo in the lead guitarist’s house. I helped set up the microphones and oversaw the recording process. Seeing riffs and melodies we wrote in my bedroom come to life as a song—an actual song that people can listen to—was the coolest thing.

I didn’t mix those songs myself, but being involved in the process sparked a passion that continues to grow. Audio technicians like me have opportunities to take great sound and make it even better. We have sprawling canvases of sound where we can explore and express previously untapped reserves of creativity. We create sonic landscapes that take listeners on a ride.

The possibilities are endless.

I’m a broadcast technician in Washington, DC, at WAMU 88.5 FM radio, a National Public Radio affiliate. Basically, I run the board (an Axia Element mixing console) during All Things Considered, one of NPR’s most popular programs.

During All Things Considered, NPR streams segments that follow a very precise schedule. About six times each hour, our team at WAMU is given a block of time for local programming, in which our host briefly discusses news, the weather, or upcoming shows.

The best part of working at WAMU is knowing that thousands of people are listening to what I do. It’s a lot of responsibility, which also is a lot of fun. The fact that my performance affects people’s listening experiences inspires me to do the best job I can.

Audio engineers are in the background, behind the spotlight—and that’s OK. From hit songs and music videos to radio shows and live events, we take pride in the significant role we play in bringing high-quality sound to anxiously awaiting ears.

For many of us, this pride grew during our higher education studies. My confidence crescendoed as I learned about the many aspects of audio technology. I learned that the little things matter—factors such as the microphone(s) being used to record a song. The placement of the microphone(s). Where the musician is standing. The pre-amps used to boost the signal. Processing and effects that alter the sound.

It is in the details—the “little things”—that an audio engineer’s creativity can really shine. It’s where a mix becomes a work of art.

My bachelor’s degree in audio production from American University represents all the effort and knowledge that makes my job such a blast. The audio production and audio technology programs at AU also open up unique opportunities to learn in a real-world setting. I was able to intern at WAMU 88.5 and other places prior to graduating, giving me firmer footing as I transitioned into a career.

I’ve also been a member of AU’s chapter of the Audio Engineering Society for about two years. AES has presented me with excellent networking opportunities and served as a window into what’s possible with a degree in audio technology. I have attended master classes and workshops and have listened to professionals speak about the industry. Now, as an alumnus of the Audio Technology Program at AU, I plan on continuing my involvement with AES. It’s an opportunity to support aspiring audio engineers for years to come.



The Audio Technology Program prepared Gaston for his career at NPR. If you are interested in a career as an audio engineer, learn more about the Audio Technology Program at American University.


4 Anthropologists that Inspire Our Students

AU public anthropology students have diverse interests shaped by their experiences, their teachers, and their immersion in the work of established anthropologists. We reached out to four students to learn how their work has been inspired and guided by the work of others. Here is what they told us:


Kelci Reiss has been inspired by anthropologist and AU Associate Professor Adrienne Pine. Kelci says:

“My first day in a course taught by my academic advisor was a defining experience. It changed my life and set me on a social justice-oriented path in my approach to research and day-to-day life. Professor Pine taught me the importance of examining inequality, violence, and oppression through her own work in Honduras, and her ongoing involvement in the research community and with National Nurses United. Professor Pine has dedicated her career to fighting against systems of oppression, leading by example as she enriches the minds and passions of her students. Her dedication to anthropological research has inspired me daily, and I look forward to continuing to work with Professor Pine as I develop my master’s research.”

Kelci is interested examining the late effects of cancer and cancer treatments, and how cancer survivors experience barriers to follow-up care. She has also worked with undocumented Central American migrants, looking at their reasons for migration to the United States.


Anthropologist and Truckee Meadows Community College instructor Christine E. Boston inspires Caroline Robertson. Caroline says:

“Professor Christine E. Boston was the instructor of my first anthropology class. As my professor, she took me under her wing and became a role model. She helped me find the courage to become an anthropologist. Professor Boston introduced me to ideas such as the processes of human evolution and the ignorance behind contemporary slut-shaming—ideas I had not been exposed to in my small town upbringing. Further, Professor Boston’s fascination with Chilean mummies affirmed my own fascination with the dead, and with what we can learn from those who have gone before us. Currently, she is an instructor and discipline coordinator at Truckee Meadows Community College in Reno, Nevada and writes an anthropology blog with input from her students. I look forward to watching the growth of my mentor as she continues to influence young anthropologists like me.”

Caroline is interested in cultural anthropology in the United States.


Anthropologist and Messiah College professor Jenell Paris inspires Joshua Schea. Joshua says:

“Geertz, Mead, and Boaz are just a few of the great thinkers whose work has taught me what it means to be an anthropologist. However, no anthropologist has taught me more about looking into human experience, or made the work more fascinating, than my undergraduate professor and mentor Jenell Paris. Her work in queer studies, urban research, and the way she lives out her values as an anthropologist have inspired me, and are the reason I study anthropology today. Professor Paris’s work is varied, and includes researching a particular neighborhood in Washington, DC, and analyzing how women deal with the death of their young children through internet forums. She has an infectious curiosity about how the world works, demonstrating a desire to learn about the ways people experience this world.”

Joshua’s studies focus on religion and urban education. Over the next few years, he intends to examine how students and teachers interact with religion in the classroom.


Robin Svendsen found inspiration in Barbara Myerhoff’s work. Myerhoff was an American anthropologist and filmmaker, and founder of the Center for Visual Anthropology at the University of Southern California. Robin says:

“Barbara Myerhoff is the author of the 1980 book Number Our Days: A Triumph of Continuity and Culture Among Jewish Old People in an Urban Ghetto. At its time, Number Our Days was a trailblazing text—representing a new direction for anthropology. Researched and written in the late 1970s, Number Our Days was situated in a disappearing Jewish Community in Venice Beach California, and Myerhoff’s unique look at people in her ‘own community,’ so to speak, offered an insider/outsider perspective and carried deeper meaning for the preservation of culture. The elderly, immigrant Jews featured in Myerhoff’s work were given a voice in their own history, something rarely afforded in the history of anthropology, and something that is still all too rare today. Myerhoff tackled the challenge of practicing objectivity in one’s own community, and her insider status enabled her to highlight the lives of people often forgotten. Because Myerhoff was considered by the community to be ‘one of their own,’ they opened up to her in a way never achieved by previous anthropologists. Myerhoff’s research techniques, insider status, and love of her subjects—as well as her deep belief in their need to be heard—are woven through her eloquent writing style, which opened doors into the intimate lives of profusely private people and provided a deeper understanding of the individual and collective experiences of being Jewish within the diaspora.”

Robin’s studies focus on third-wave immigration to the United States and on material culture.


Some of our students find their mentors in the master’s in public anthropology program. Others find the support to continue the work they’ve already been inspired to pursue. Learn what you can accomplish with us.


Five-Year Report on the Healthy School Act

For the past five years, American University has worked with the Kaiser Foundation of the Mid-Atlantic States to assess the success of the 2010 Healthy Schools Act (HSA) in Washington, DC. The District Council enacted the HSA to help make schools healthier environments in which to learn and work.

It’s essential to ensure students’ well-being during the school day. The HSA supports that schools are just as responsible for children’s nutrition and health as they are for success in reading, math, and other traditional subjects.

To measure the impact of the HSA in its initial five-year period, campus researchers in the Health Promotion Management Program conducted a longitudinal analysis of six areas listed below. Here are some of the most encouraging success stories from the report.


School Meals

The percentage of schools that indicated their meals met or exceeded HSA requirements rose from 90 percent in 2010-11 to 100 percent in 2014-15.


School Gardens & Farm to School

The HSA initiated funding for school gardens, which boosted the prevalence of such gardens by about five percent in five years. Additionally, reporting requirements regarding processed foods helped the region attain an intriguing statistic: 95 percent of schools reported serving locally grown and/or locally processed and unprocessed foods during meal times.


Local Wellness Policy

Wide-ranging expansion of federal goals for local wellness policies fostered stronger partnerships between parents, administrators, and other involved parties. Anecdotal evidence shows unique strides ranging from new on-campus green spaces to fun family exercise nights.


School Nurses

Given their role as the link between family, community, school personnel, and healthcare providers, school nurses were identified as a key priority in the HSA. As a result, the percentage of schools with either a part-time or full-time nurse rose in both public schools and public charter schools.


Physical Education

Physical activity is critical to optimizing cognitive function during the school day, which is why the HSA made consistent physical education time a priority. In five years, the average minutes of physical education per week for middle-schoolers rose by more than 30 minutes.

The success of the Healthy Schools Act has united local leaders and parents in their support of continued focus and effort toward better health and wellness for children. Much work lies ahead, yet clear strides thus far have shown that the HAS is on the right track for long-term impact.


Interested in more information on the HSA report results?

  • The Washington Post delves into the link between physical education and math test scores.
  • Another story takes an honest look at what’s working—increased prevalence of school nurses and on-site gardens, for instance— and what should improve, such as the average time students spend in PE.

For more data about how DC schools are improving opportunities for healthy lifestyles among students, download the full Five-Year Report on the Healthy School Act.

New Tracks in the Creative Writing Program

New Tracks in the Creative Writing MFA

The Creative Writing Program is pleased to introduce a slight change: the addition of tracks of study in the MFA that will help our students clarify their goals and prepare for their post-MFA lives.


What does this mean?

The addition of tracks will clarify the options available for our students and enable them to more specifically direct their studies from the moment they enter the program.


What will the tracks look like?

Students can direct six credits toward one of the following three tracks:

  • Professional Track: Apply six credits toward one or more internship; or combine these six credits with elective credits and work toward a graduate certificate in another field, such as arts management or audio production.
  • Teaching Track: Put six credits toward the “teaching of composition” sequence, LIT-730: Teaching Composition and LIT-731: Teaching of Writing Practicum.
  • Studio Track: Take six credits of additional writing workshops and literary craft classes.


When will the tracks go into effect?

Students will be able to choose tracks starting in May 2016.


Why are we making this change?

As the creative writing MFA program continues to admit larger numbers of students with varied academic backgrounds, the expectations and expressed needs of the program’s population have changed.

With students seeking diverse outcomes from the program, distinct tracks within the existing curriculum not only make it easier for faculty advisers to guide students, but also encourage students to begin thinking about their post-MFA options earlier.

Our hope is that tracks will enable our students to design and plan the degree experience that best supports their distinctive professional and artistic aims.


How will this change distinguish the AU creative writing MFA?

While most creative writing MFA programs offer tracks related to the genre of writing a student may study, AU has always allowed students to work in multiple genres. This is one of our program’s selling points, and often enables our students to launch more diversified careers (for one example, check out our interview with poet and nonfiction writer Sandra Beasley).

By adding tracks that focus on outcomes separate from genre, AU sets itself apart in yet another way. We’re focused on helping our students with their professional development in addition to their writing, and these tracks highlight the flexible, customizable nature of the creative writing MFA at AU.


We hope that the new tracks—in addition to our existing MFA curriculum—will support you in reaching your goals. If you’re interested in learning more, please check out the MFA Creative Writing Program at American University.

Get Your MFA in Creative Writing at American University

5 Reasons to Get Your MFA in Creative Writing

Looking to connect with a community of writers? American University offers the only MFA in creative writing in the District. You’ll find lawyers, journalists, poets and authors collaborating in workshops on our campus.


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The priority deadline for fall 2016 enrollment is just around the corner. Get started on your application today.

Top 5 Reasons to Choose Public Anthropology

Top 5 Reasons to Choose Public Anthropology

Public anthropology students are passionate about history and culture. They put their hands to work unearthing new species and studying culture on a global scale. They conduct research that makes a real difference in their communities and around the world. Sound like you? Take the next step by earning your master’s degree in public anthropology from American University.


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The priority deadline for fall 2016 enrollment is just around the corner. Get started on your application today.

Health Promotion Master's at American University

Earn Your Degree in Health Promotion Management

Health promotion students are passionate about health and fitness. They’re on campus brainstorming marketing plans and strategies for health promotion. They’re out in the District community impacting corporate health and wellness for local companies.


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Ready to join our community? The priority deadline for Fall 2016 enrollment is just around the corner. Get started on your application today.

davis blog post

Poetry in DC’s Public Spaces: An AU Student’s Journey

When Davis Shoulders arrived at AU for the master’s in public anthropology program, he was in search of a way to focus his research interests.

“I wanted a place that would guide me directly into communities that I could serve and help. I knew that the city of DC has such a variety of organizations and infrastructure for community support around the world,” Davis said.

He soon decided to turn a critical lens on the the DC community itself, exploring ways that public spaces—particularly those that house poetry readings—generate discourse among diverse groups.

“The conversations in these urban communities change people, and allow for certain performances of identity that are often subdued or hidden by systems of privilege,” Davis said. “In my work, I hope to feature the importance of these often unknown or informal public spaces, which provide a community-centric method of mapping the city.”


Slam Poetry as a Public Forum in the DC Community

When a space puts on a poetry slam, Davis has found, the environment can amplify diverse voices by offering equitable access to a microphone.

“Artists and audiences alike learn from the positive energy of the room, and from people who are willing to be honest on a stage for a few minutes,” Davis said.

In any given month, DC is home to more than 30 open mic and poetry nights, most taking place in the late evening hours. Davis plans to eventually devote one month to attending every performance offered, but for now he tries to attend one per week. He has been most engaged with the Beltway Poetry Slam, which hosts a competition the last Tuesday of the month at the Busboys and Poets in Brookland.

“A lot of my ‘research’ just involves showing up, being present and supportive of poets, and paying my five dollars to attend,” Davis said.

Davis has also interviewed some poets to develop his understanding of how they navigate and support the slam’s “safe spaces,” and his interviews have shaped his understanding of his role as a researcher.

His research is primarily focused on understanding the ways the poets choose to engage with these spaces. His biggest conclusion so far is that poets are incredibly intentional and social-justice oriented in their choices, including in the language they choose to express their ideas.

“It’s more than just entertainment,” Davis said. “Each and every poet lays down their privilege, their vulnerability for a bigger picture, for sharing their art in an impactful way that speaks honestly to themselves, while having the rest of the world in mind. It’s this sensitivity and awareness to current social justice issues, and how they navigate their identity in poetic conversation, that makes their boldly confident and often prophetic poetry so magical and moving.”

He has drawn from skills learned in his Community Documentary class, taught by Nina Shapiro-Perl, to produce digital stories and to consider his own positioning as a researcher. This has shaped his approach working in DC’s poetry community.

“Discovering my role in the community—whether as poet, audience member, or scorekeeper—is critical to validating any research that I eventually produce, so it can be an effective resource for this community,” Davis said.


Davis’s Typical Day on Campus

When he’s not attending poetry slams, Davis is busy with the other demands of the master’s in public anthropology program. He usually devotes his mornings to reading and studying, to clear his afternoons for classes and events on campus, including the Monday Social Justice Colloquium and the Metropolitan Policy Center series.

 It can be pleasantly distracting on campus with all the activist meetings and lectures that I could attend within a day, so I generally try to finish my reading at home before coming in,” Davis said.

Davis enjoys running into students and professors at Hamilton, the Department of Anthropology building, for quick conversations before getting back to work.

“Classes to me are just planned extensions of those incidental conversations I sometimes have in the hallways,” he said. “We all become teachers and students. You hear fellow classmates say things that make you revaluate your thoughts on a topic for the next month.”


Davis’s Journey toward Becoming a Public Anthropologist

Davis doesn’t have an undergraduate background in anthropology, so he searched for a program that would support the initial development of his skills and interests.

“When I read about AU’s program and its social justice mission, I was immediately inspired by a department that would proclaim such a strong stance in affecting the world around them. All the professors seemed to have such a diversity of work in anthropology that I felt that even if I wasn’t one hundred percent certain about my research focus, the faculty could give me a wide range of opportunities to explore.”

Going forward, Davis may pursue a PhD in urban studies, and he intends to continue engaging with urban communities. He names priorities including fighting gentrification and championing local rights to the city through positive public spaces.

“I am mostly committed to living intentionally in urban communities and offering my resources and support, whether that means working for a non-profit, a school, a housing community, or other activist groups,” Davis said.


Davis Shoulders, like many AU public anthropology students, has discovered his research and career interests through collaborating with our faculty and students. If you are interested in finding your own calling, you can learn more about the master’s in public anthropology at American University.

Audio Tech Streaming

How Streaming is Changing the Music Industry

Whether you love it or hate it, the pervasive presence of music streaming is completely changing the music industry.

Besides giving audio technology professionals something juicy to discuss at the water cooler, online music streaming is the latest industry-shifting phenomenon—not unlike payola in the 1960s, MTV in the 1980s, and Napster at the turn of the 21st century.

Streaming music increased 93 percent in 2015, with 317 billion total streams, according to Variety. The streaming debate, which won’t likely dissipate anytime soon, has several layers:


The Benefits of Music Streaming

To many in the general listening public, music streaming seems like a wonderful no-brainer. “A la cart music, on the go? Whenever I want it? What’s the downside?”

Music streaming—both free and fee-based streaming—gives our constantly on-the-go society opportunities to listen to the music they want in a highly portable, richly customized fashion.

Perhaps most importantly, online music streaming is free in many cases, with the only “catch” being brief ads that listeners must listen to every so often. Some streaming platforms charge a small fee for the ability to bypass those ads.


Does Streaming Devalue Art?

For many artists, audio engineers, and other music professionals, the streaming debate centers on the economics of the music industry.

When megastar Taylor Swift began publicly pointing out the potential drawbacks of music streaming—especially in a July 2014 opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal—one of her biggest concerns was that streaming services would devalue the art of music.

“It’s my opinion that music should not be free, and my prediction is that individual artists and their labels will someday decide what an album’s price point is,” Swift wrote. “I hope they don’t underestimate themselves or undervalue their art.”

Swift actually pulled her music off the popular streaming site Spotify and later refused to allow her album 1989 on Apple Music because of a 3-month free trial for consumers, during which Apple was not going to pay artists royalties. The company eventually relented and agreed to pay.

Streaming is a complex issue, though. Some music industry professionals, such as DJ and producer Armin Van Buuren, trumpet the benefits of streaming—especially for enabling people to listen to the music they love wherever and whenever.

Van Buuren, who has more than 1.4 million followers on Spotify, points out that free streaming doesn’t mean artists don’t get paid. It’s just that their pay comes from advertising rather than more traditional sources.

Others see the streaming model as a worrisome breeding ground for deeper inequity between big names and lesser-known acts.


Streaming Companies Move Toward Paid Subscriptions

As is the case with virtually anything valuable that starts out free, music streaming appears headed toward services available only with paid premiums, such as Apple Music.

Even platforms such as Spotify, which is well-known for its free tier, are developing ways to make more money—and to pacify artists. Spotify reportedly may allow artists to temporarily keep new releases off its free tier.

As music streaming companies evolve and expand, they undoubtedly will experience more victories like the one they struck in December, when the Beatles allowed their catalog—13 albums and 4 compilations—to be streamed on Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play, Amazon Prime Music, Tidal, Deezer, Microsoft Groove, Napster/Rhapsody, and Slacker Radio.


Effects of Streaming on the Listening Experience

Streaming presents other hot-button debates for audio technology professionals, who are always considering the quality of what’s entering consumers’ ears. Highly compressed, lossy files that take up less space—great for streaming—take away from the original composition.

Listeners who understand the problem can maximize the quality of their streaming experience by researching the specs of the available streaming services and changing player preferences. Unfortunately, only a fraction of streamers will put in this work or even recognize that they can. Additionally, there’s the challenge of cellular data costs.

Companies already are making progress toward improving the quality of streamed music. For now, sound gurus will go back and forth about what’s more important, music availability, or sound purity.


Options in the Music Industry

When Adele’s latest offering—a wildly emotive collection of rangy love-related songs—was released November 20, people wondered what she was thinking. Her decision to keep the new album off streaming services such as Spotify, Apple Music, and more was a slap in the face to conventional Internet-era wisdom.

Everyone from music industry tycoons to audio technology MA students wondered whether forcing consumers to buy a hard-copy album instead of streaming would work. It did. While critics of all ages and backgrounds complained about the streaming void, 25 destroyed the all-time first-week sales record, and sales have continued to thrive.


To help boost the album, Adele and her label used other digital-age techniques to boost awareness. The music video version of Adele’s fantastically popular song Hello is approaching 1 billion views in YouTube. Also, Adele’s live version of Hello from late-night TV has been viewed by nearly 27 million people on YouTube.


The Future of Music Streaming

No one knows how streaming-related questions about the pay model, sound quality, and more will be answered in the years to come, but that’s part of the fun of the music industry. Constant changes to how, where, and when people listen to the gorgeous music that artists create and audio technology professionals produce are exciting, scary, and everything in between.

For the professors and master’s students in the Audio Technology Program at American University, the art and science of sound represents our careers and our joy—whether it’s heard via free streaming, CDs, or any other medium.


Those interested in advancing a career in the music industry can click to learn how to achieve a master’s degree in audio technology from American University.

2016 Health Trends from American University

2016 Health Trends from American University

This time of year, many people invest a great deal of time, thought, money, and effort into ways to improve their health and well-being. This pervasive openness to new health ideas draws people to a wide variety of health-related trends—from weight-loss programs and diet fads to exciting exercise routines.

Research in our Department of Health Studies focuses on trends in nutrition and fitness that can help people, organizations, and communities change lifestyle behaviors to move toward a state of improved health. Here are a few key 2016 trends we’ve been discussing on campus:


Health Coaching

As more people look to take their short- and long-term health into their own hands, the field of health coaching should continue to expand.

Foundationally, health coaches are trained professionals who provide mentoring, motivation, and personalized support to empower individuals to make beneficial health choices. Training programs throughout the US offer health-coaching certification.

We already see the influx of health coaches working with independent corporations, insurance companies, workplace wellness programs, and similar groups. In 2016, we envision healthcare clinics, patient-centered medical homes, and healthcare-at-home delivery organizations will utilize health coaches and patient advocates more than ever before.

In response to growing demand, new health coach training programs will arise, and existing programs will become more advanced.


Interactive Health Data

The availability of “big data” has industries and individuals clamoring for tools to analyze and respond to statistics. The rampant popularity of wearables doesn’t appear to be waning, and new tools will be increasingly interactive. Instead of simply tracking data, self-health, and fitness technology—wearables, mobile apps, and health-related games—will evolve to provide responsive coaching and granular analytics that are customizable to the user.

The sharing of personal health data via interactive technology continues to draw skepticism, but for many the benefits of personalized self-health outweigh such fears. We anticipate more healthcare facilities developing ways to integrate behavior-tracking technology into their patient care models.


Stress Support

Research indicates that stress levels in the workplace are at an all-time high. In efforts to allay the myriad of minor and major health problems stemming from stress, many companies will encourage their employees to take stress-reduction breaks, exercise regularly, and eat nutritious foods at the office. Stress-mindful businesses can greatly reduce long-term healthcare costs for the business and their staff members.

Workplaces with excellent communication between managers and their teams thrive at minimizing stress. Approximately 70 percent of individuals complain that their boss is the number one cause of their stress.


Intuitive Eating Rather than Weight Obsession

While losing weight can be an excellent boon for your health, it’s also important to address the underlying approach you take to eating. Intuitive eating enables people to develop a symbiotic relationship between their food, mind, and body. By respecting your cues for taste, hunger, and satisfaction, and by limiting negative distractions, you can improve your health without engaging in militant, potentially harmful dieting practices.


Expanded View of Overall Well-Being

With issues such as mental health and gun violence planted squarely in the public’s line of sight, 2016 will present ample opportunities for thoughtful, fair-minded discussions about overall health and well-being. As a result, we hope for strong decisions—at the individual and governmental levels—and community partnerships that cultivate healthier, safer lives throughout the world.



Interested in researching and leading change towards positive health trends in the US and throughout the world? Learn how a master’s degree in health promotion management from American University can help you reach your goals.



Top 4 Reasons to Choose Audio Technology

Audio technology students put their passion for music and sound to work. They’re in our cutting-edge campus studio recording and engineering new tracks. They’re out in the District community interning for companies like NPR, BBC and SiriusXM.

Ready to advance your sound engineering and production skills? Take the next step by earning your master’s degree in audio technology from American University.


Top 5 Reasons to Choose Audio Technology at American University


The priority deadline for fall 2016 enrollment is just around the corner. Get started on your application today.


4 Tips for Writing a Successful Personal Statement

A promising creative manuscript is the key to a successful MFA program application. But, as the admissions committee reads applications, they know they are selecting more than good writers: they are also selecting members of the program community.

Your personal statement plays a critical role in showing the admissions committee who you are and how you’d fit into that community. So, how best to tackle it?

Kyle G. Dargan is the director of the MFA program in creative writing at AU, and he has read stacks of personal statements over the years. Below, he offers his top four tips for crafting a personal statement that stands out.


Advice from Kyle G. Dargan:

Tip #1: Tell us what or who you are currently reading or have read in the past. How has your reading influenced what you are attempting to, or what you want to, write?

Writers are readers first and foremost. One comes to an MFA program seeking a literary community, and one of the clearest ways of assessing what kind of literary community member an applicant will be is to get a sense of how and why she or he reads. Don’t worry if you have not read “the classics.” We aren’t interested in assembling a group of budding writers who have all read the same canon. We want to know what sincerely inspires and challenges you as a unique voice.


Tip #2: Articulate what it is that you want to do with the MFA degree.

An MFA is not a plug-and-play degree with a select set of professional outcomes. The opportunities are wide open, but one needs to be proactive about curating an MFA experience that will lead to opportunities to satisfy her or his own interests (as well as earning a living to support one’s writing). Even if your plans are not firm, throwing out some ideas will help us develop a sense of how we can guide you and allow us to begin considering you for certain opportunities.


Tip #3. Avoid telling us about how you’ve wanted to be a novelist since you were three years old (which many applicants actually do).

Even if you’re being sincere, telling us about your kindergarten stories and poems won’t particularly endear us to your application. You are likely a much different person now than you were as a child. We are particularly interested in what is bringing you to apply for an MFA at this point in time. That may, of course, include some of your personal history, but tell us what specifically is motivating you at this moment.


Tip #4. Convey that you know us.

We’re becoming familiar with your work via your writing sample. You should consider taking some time to familiarize yourself with our faculty—specifically those writers with whom you want to, or will likely be, in workshop. We want to know that you want to work with us. One’s experiences in writing workshops are very sensitive to the dynamic between the writer and the workshop leader. It helps to be familiar with the work of an MFA program’s faculty.


Ready to tell us about yourself? Get started with your application for the MFA Creative Writing Program at American University.

Audio Technology at American University

Multi-Platinum Audio Engineer Supports Future Professionals

In the audio technology industry, degrees, internships, and key connections are valuable tools. However, one key factor makes it all matter: passion.

With real passion for sound—and a work ethic to match—talented individuals from any background can find success in the world of audio technology.

American University adjunct professor Maurizio Sera, a multi-platinum award-winning audio engineer, is living, breathing, headphone-wearing proof that when passion, work ethic, and opportunity collide, great things can happen.

Maurizio, known as IRKO in the music industry, has helped shape the music of high-profile artists Jay-Z, Kanye West, Diddy, Pitbull, Jennifer Lopez, and many more. However, like most audio engineers, his journey wasn’t as glamorous as the list of people he’s worked with. It was dotted with hard work, networking, and a love of music.

“I get paid for my sessions, and that’s fine, but part of my payment is twisting an instrument, knowing that what I heard first in my head will be heard by millions of people,” he said. That passion simmered and grew through a long but rewarding process.

Maurizio was born and raised in Venice, Italy, where he entered college to study computer science. It didn’t take long for him to discover his calling was elsewhere. He dropped out to instead enter a three-year audio engineering program—which he completed in nine months.

Obviously, Maurizio had found his niche.

During his tenure in higher education, he interned with one of his instructors before building a studio in his father’s garage, just outside Venice. He honed his craft in that studio for five years.

Maurizio’s business blossomed and eventually led to a successful partnership with one of his former teachers. And the two of them spent a couple of years creating and equipping the largest studio in northeast Italy.

When he later set off for New York to garner insight on how to take his business to the next level, Maurizio reconnected with an old acquaintance to do some work—including production of a Jay-Z record that ended up going double platinum.

Maurizio’s globe-crossing career took off after that, and eventually so did his desire to help aspiring audio engineers from various backgrounds blaze their own professional trails.

“I was thinking, ‘I have a unique experience that has led me here. Maybe I should start to share it with others,’” Maurizio said.

After being invited to a small community college to teach and share his story, Maurizio has made a point to schedule workshops and classes all over the world. Eventually he plans to expand his workshop series and begin promoting it online.

At American University, Maurizio has been working with the Audio Technology Program to drop real-world knowledge on students. His first class, called “Speakeasy,” was focused on hip-hop mixing. His second class was an inventive model: For three weekends, 10 students worked with a guest producer to take a beat with a sample in it and replace that sample with a different style of music.

Overall, Maurizio wants to help prospective engineers better understand everything from mixing to how royalties work. For students, his central advice is simple yet potent: Take full advantage of the opportunities provided by a program such as the master’s in audio technology at American University. You have the chances to “mess up” and experiment before entering the industry.

“If you don’t know your keyboard well, practice here so you are more efficient when you get out in the real world,” he said. “Then you won’t be going through that phase of ‘practice’ once you leave, because you already messed up all you could in safe environment.”

If you are interested in a career as an audio engineer, click to learn how to achieve a master’s degree in audio technology from American University.


An Interview with Sandra Beasley, MFA Graduate & DC Writer

Sandra Beasley by Milly West photoPoet and nonfiction writer Sandra Beasley graduated from the AU creative writing MFA program in 2004, and she has continued to make her home in Washington, DC, in the years since.

In addition to her three collections of poetry—Theories of Falling (2008), I Was the Jukebox (2010), and Count the Waves (2015)—Sandra’s memoir, Don’t Kill the Birthday Girl: Tales From an Allergic Life (2011), offers a cultural history of food allergies. She attributes her movement toward creative nonfiction to her cross-genre workshop experience in the MFA program.

Sandra’s poetry has appeared in such magazines as Tin House, The Believer, and Ploughshares, and her nonfiction has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post Magazine, Oxford American, and the Wall Street Journal. Her numerous honors include a 2015 Literature Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.

A strong voice in the DC literary community, Sandra gives readings, visits schools, and coordinates events for the Arts Club of Washington.

We reached out to Sandra over email to find out more about her time at AU, and to get her advice for writers looking into MFA programs or launching writing careers in DC.


What led you to choose AU’s MFA program?

In the spring of 2002, I was finishing my degree at the University of Virginia, and I wanted to build on the mentorship I’d found in workshops. I applied to programs all over the country, but I felt a pull toward home in the DC area. At UVA, I’d interviewed Henry Taylor* for 3.7, a literary journal. Our scheduled hour turned into an afternoon-long conversation that included discussion of Henry’s own UVA memories, how writing had anchored him during a battle with cancer, and the craft of sonnets and clerihews. So when Henry left a message on the voicemail in my dorm room—saying he had reviewed my application, asking if I’d come study poetry with him—that settled it. All young writers dream of being heard. The American University community made me feel like my voice could matter.

[* Henry Taylor taught literature and co-directed the MFA program in creative writing from 1971–2003.]


What were your most meaningful experiences in the program? 

Thanks to the Visiting Writer Series we had incredible authors come through, such as Nick Flynn and Thomas Glave. But what really stayed with me were two unique components of the program’s requirements for study: the journalism class, taught by Henry Taylor, and the exposure to world poetry and poetry in translation, taught by Myra Sklarew. These courses should be part of every MFA curriculum. These classes broadened my sense of a literary community, and of what I could do with the degree. I can thank Richard McCann for introducing me to the craft of creative nonfiction. Not every program allows students to cross genres so freely. He said you have to find the nerve, the place where it hurts—and then press on it. That advice has stayed with me.


How has the MFA program made a difference in your career since graduation?

You don’t need an MFA to be a great writer. But an MFA-vetted manuscript can provide the basis for your first book, as it was for me with Theories of Falling. You can use an MFA as a foundation for a career—especially in cities such as Washington, DC, where a terminal degree is highly valued. My MFA was taken as a qualification for consultation opportunities, and my alumni community continues to provide connections to readings and freelancing. At American University, I was the editor-in-chief for Folio; when I later worked at The American Scholar, I applied the layout and correspondence skills I’d honed at the journal.


What advice do you have for current or prospective MFA students?

Don’t fixate on perfecting the draft at hand. Focus on acquiring skills to revise. The tough thing, after the indulgence of a graduate-level workshop, is learning to be your own best editor. That means conceptualizing the upper level of questions and proofing line by line. Be open to writing and learning in all genres, because you never know where career options will veer. Identify a few friends you might want to keep in touch with beyond the program, to trade manuscripts and moral support. Don’t be afraid to ask your professors frank questions about the publishing world—conference experiences, agent relationships, even finances. That’s not a “dirty” or shameful topic. That’s part of the business at hand, if you aim to support yourself though your writing.


How would you describe your involvement in the DC writing community? How has living in the District influenced or inspired your work?

For me, to be a writer is to be a writer in DC. Washington is where I write poems; it’s the place where I find myself in situations, realistic and surreal, that inspire poems. Sometimes the texture is subtle, in the form of referring to a bus line or a neighborhood cemetery. But where else are you going to find yourself in the same theater as Ruth Bader Ginsburg, taking in an evening show?

Washington is where my readers are, and I’ve been fortunate to receive financial support from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities. I host a literary series at the Arts Club of Washington, and I try to make as many readings as I can around town. If I’m in Dupont Circle, I swing by Kramerbooks. If I’m up on Connecticut Avenue, I drop in to Politics & Prose. If I’m getting my shoes repaired at Philip’s, I walk across the street to Upshur Street Books. If a local school asks me to visit, I say Yes whenever I can.

If there’s ever a chance to champion this town in print, I do, because DC deserves more credit for what it offers artists. Music, sculpture, dance, theater: it’s all here. And often free.


What advice do you have for writers looking to become more involved in the DC writing community?  

DC is full of places in which to participate. There’s no “one” scene. On a given night, there might be readings going on at five different places. Check out Bridge Street Books and the Folger Shakespeare Library’s O.B. Harrison series, if you haven’t already. Workshop with kids at 826DC, step up to the open mic at BloomBars, or absorb a lecture at Georgetown University. Just look around. When you do attend something, be sure to introduce yourself to the organizer or host. We remember your face—and we appreciate making the connection. One last thing: find a friend who agrees to meet up, and hang out for sushi before or a martini afterwards. DC is my home, and there’s tons to do, but even for me it can get lonely. You have to create community within the crowd.


If Sandra’s experiences in the MFA program and in the DC community sound like experiences you’d like to share, please check out the MFA Creative Writing Program at American University.

Interested in working with Sandra? Join her for a poetry intensive on March 13 at The Writer’s Center.


Join Us: A Literary Evening with a Cause

We hope you’ll join us on January 27 for our Annual Faculty Benefit Reading, the only MFA faculty group reading of the year.

We’re supporting an excellent cause: the important wok of 826DC—and we plan to have a good time doing it. 826DC is a nonprofit that supports students ages 6 to 18 with their writing, and helps teachers inspire their students to write.

Everyone is welcome at the benefit reading: current students, MFA applicants, and anyone who wants to check out our writing community.


What: The Annual Faculty Benefit Reading, a special night in our Visiting Writers Series, features the faculty in our MFA program—and raises funds for an amazing cause. The suggested donation is $5. Donations can also be made online.

Where: 826DC, in their brand new location on the Mezzanine level of the Tivoli Theater (across from their old location), 3333 14th St. NW, Suite M120. They’re a block away from the Columbia Heights Metro station, on the green and yellow lines.

When: January 27, 2016, 8:00 p.m. (doors open at 7:30 p.m.)

Who: A lineup of six accomplished MFA faculty members, listed alongside their most recent books:

-Kyle Dargan, author of the poetry collection Honest Engine

-Stephanie Grant, author of the novel Map of Ireland

-David Keplinger, author of the poetry collection The Most Natural Thing

-Rachel Louise Snyder, author of the novel What We’ve Lost Is Nothing

-Richard McCann, author of the linked short story collection Mother of Sorrows

-Dolen Perkins-Valdez, author of the novel Balm


The Work of 826DC

We’re proud to support 826DC, a vital community resource for the District.

826DC is one of eight affiliates of 826 National, which was co-founded by author David Eggers and by veteran educator Ninive Calegari, with the goal of working alongside teachers and students on exciting, meaningful writing.

The staff at 826DC offers drop-in tutoring, field trips, after-school workshops, in-school tutoring, help for English language learners, and assistance with student publications. They also collaborate with teachers to design workshops, project-based learning opportunities, and more.

Now in a new location, the organization also has a new storefront: Tivoli’s Astounding Magic Supply Co., where the magicians among us can pick up the essentials—capes, gloves, and far beyond.


Our Visiting Writers Series

While this particular reading highlights our own faculty, we’re also proud to mention writers on this year’s lineup, such as Claudia Rankine and Alexander Chee. The full schedule can be seen online.


Would you like to join our writing community? Learn more about the MFA creative writing program at American University.


Revolutionary Medicine: Anthropology in Action

Student Beth Geglia arrived at AU with professional accomplishments in human rights campaigning, crisis intervention, and language interpretation—and with a dedication to activism, particularly in Central America. She completed the AU master’s in anthropology program and is now pursuing a PhD in anthropology at AU.

Drawing on her interests and skills, including training in documentary filmmaking, Beth engages in meaningful projects with an extensive reach. Of particular note is her documentary, Revolutionary Medicine: A Story of the First Garífuna Hospital, which Beth co-directed with journalist Jesse Freeston, and first screened in 2013. After a Washington, DC, premier in early 2014, a screening also took place this past November.

The film tells the story of a community-controlled free hospital, located in the small community of Ciriboya, Colón, on Honduras’ Caribbean Coast. Built in a town without paved roads or electricity, this is the first hospital on Afro-indigenous Garífuna land. While located in a small community, the hospital serves people from the entire region. People served by this hospital have few other options for healthcare because of barriers including cost, distance, and the need to communicate in the Garífuna language.

The film does more than highlight the achievements of the community Ciriboya. As Beth says, “The film is about the struggle for healthcare as a human right—which the hospital is very explicitly a part of, and which makes the messages in the film universal and relevant.”

Revolutionary Medicine has been shown in nine countries so far, and in over a dozen US universities. It won first prize in the 2015 Futures of Visual Anthropology Conference.

And, most significantly, it has inspired action in Honduras and incited support from abroad, making an on-the-ground difference in Ciriboya. The film’s success demonstrates the potential strength of partnership between anthropologists and communities.


The Community that Took Control of Their Healthcare

Beth provided some background on the history of the Garífuna. “The history of the Garífuna people includes forced displacement and resistance, dating back to the slave trade,” she said.

Today, the Garífuna live on the Caribbean coasts of Honduras, Guatemala, Belize, and Nicaragua, and also in New York, Los Angeles, and other major US cities.

“On the Caribbean coasts of Honduras, they face neglect by the state, exemplified in part by the state’s failure to establish a hospital on Garífuna land,” Beth said.

Concerned about the lack of health resources available to them, the community took action. Their self-organization and persistence have resulted in the First Garífuna Hospital, the subject of Revolutionary Medicine.

Beth began work on Revolutionary Medicine after meeting Dr. Luther Castillo, a founding doctor of the First Garífuna Hospital. In the film, the community’s story is told in the words of Castillo and other Garífuna community members.

The hospital itself, the filmmakers point out, has come to stand as a symbol of Garífuna self-determination, with the hospital offering an alternative model of healthcare as the Honduras national system grows increasingly privatized.

The hospital’s work is funded primarily by Garífuna living around the world, by US unions and solidarity groups, and by the Cuban government. The Cuban-trained medical professionals at the First Garífuna Hospital are members of the Garífuna themselves. Without access to electricity, the hospital uses solar panels to power an x-ray machine, an ultrasound, dental equipment, and a laboratory. According to hospital records, the staff has carried out more than half a million patient consultations in less than a decade—and has never charged a cent for its services.


The Film’s Impact in Honduras

Revolutionary Medicine has introduced audiences to new ideas about healthcare and has helped expand the hospital’s work.

A 2013 screening for National Autonomous University of Honduras (UNAH) inspired medical students to partner with the professionals at the First Garífuna Hospital.

AU public anthropology Assistant Professor Adrienne Pine was engaged in teaching and field work in Honduras at the time, and she also screened the film for her nursing students, prompting 12 of her students to join the efforts of the UNAH medical students.

Working alongside the Garífuna doctors, the students carried out a study in Ciriboya on the prevalence of hemoglobin S, which can result in sickle cell anemia. The study will help medical professionals with prevention and treatment; it will also contribute to the body of knowledge about hemoglobinopathy.

With the support of UNAH, students have provided useful services for the medical professionals in Ciriboya. The students have benefited from the partnership as well, learning from the Ciriboya community’s transformative approach to community-driven medicine. Built on collaboration and solidarity visits, the relationship between the students and hospital continues today.


The Film’s Reach Outside Honduras

Revolutionary Medicine showcases the successes of one small community, and it has incited action on behalf of the First Garífuna Hospital. The screenings drive important conversations about alternative models of healthcare in the US and elsewhere.

Screenings have been held in the US with activists, medical professionals, social work students, youth, and medical students in attendance. The film was screened repeatedly as part of the political education project of Maryland’s local “Healthcare is a Human Right Campaign,” which Beth worked on in the summer of 2013 as a public anthropologist intern with United Workers. Screenings have also been held for Diaspora communities in the US, mainly in the Bronx, in partnership with New York’s Garífuna Health and Education Support Institute.

In June 2014, Revolutionary Medicine was screened in Havana, Cuba on a number of dates, where medical students also presented the preliminary results of the hemoglobin study.

Beth observes that people leave the screenings feeling inspired to act.

In 2014, Adrienne wrote an article, “Common Purpose, Common Struggle,” for National Nurses United Magazine about her work in Honduras, the successes of the hospital, and the value of Beth and Jesse’s documentary.

Adrienne argues that nurses in the US, Honduras, and across the globe are united in a fight for the health of their patients, against the forces of corporate healthcare and privatization.

Beth and Jesse’s film, she says, can serve as an educational tool and a foundation for activism, opening the minds of healthcare providers by demonstrating how an alternative, community-based system of healthcare can work effectively.


How to watch Revolutionary Medicine

You can watch the film’s trailer or purchase the film at 50% of all sales go directly to the expansion of the health project.

Photo: Still from Revolutionary Medicine: A Story of the First Garífuna Hospital



Beth Geglia has used the tools of anthropology to make a real difference with her award-winning documentary. If this work interests you, please explore the master’s in public anthropology at American University.



Community Garden

AU Students Do Their Part to Build Healthy Communities and Give Back in DC

Written by Dr. Anastasia Snelling

Each year the students, faculty, and staff in the Health Promotion Management Program select a holiday community service project. In the past, we have adopted families from a local maternal and childcare clinic and surprised them on Christmas morning with gifts for children and/or their homes.

In 2014, we donated over 25 teddy bears to children at the local Ronald McDonald House. This year we collected canned goods for the Arlington Food Assistance Center. Over 50 students, faculty, and staff, contributed hundreds of canned goods to stock the shelves of the local food bank.

Our program is committed to addressing health disparities by partnering with local community health agencies and organizations. Health Promotion Management students make it their mission to give back to the Washington DC area with active volunteerism throughout the year.

JR Denson, an incoming master’s student, had the opportunity to work on a project with Dr. Elizabeth Cotter in Arlington. JR, Dr. Cotter, and six other graduate students worked with the Arlington community to create a community garden. Together with the residents of the neighborhood, the group built plant beds filled with vegetables that were harvested at the end of the summer.

The following spring, JR was awarded a grant from AU’s Eagle Foundation. The goal of the grant was to collaborate with a local organization, Little Lights, a non-profit located in Southeast DC, which offers after school tutoring and mentoring to children living in nearby public housing.

JR was inspired by his community garden project in Arlington. Armed with a few gardening skills and a generous budget, JR worked with Little Lights staff and children to create an on-site teaching garden. Similar to the project in Arlington, JR and the team worked together to construct and harvest a garden that brought together people in the local community. At the end of the summer, JR was able to lead elementary-level cooking lessons with the children.

I’m proud to be a part of the strong community in the Health Promotion Management Program where students like JR are doing their part to take lessons learned in the classroom and apply them to give back to our community.


Looking for a graduate program that gives you the opportunity to make a difference in the local community? Learn more about the health program management MS program at AU.



Dr. Anastasia Snelling is a professor and chair of the Department of Health Studies at American University. Her research aims to understand the impact of food policy and programs on health and weight status of students and teachers in the school environment.



5 Nutrition and Health Tips for the Holidays

Even the most ardent nutrition advocate is susceptible to treat-induced slip-ups and skipped workout sessions during the holiday season. From sugary beverages and baked goods, to high-fat savory dishes, there’s a bevy of food-related obstacles to avoid. Plus, with all that eating, who has the time and willpower to stay active?

You do! With firm goals, knowledge, and cool technology, you can change your behaviors to move toward improved health and well-being. In the spirit of change and personal responsibility, here are five nutrition and health tips for the holidays.


  1. Change the Recipes, Not the Items

Many traditional holiday favorites are fairly healthy when prepared certain ways, yet quite unhealthy when other recipes are applied. Cranberry and sweet potato dishes are among the items that tend to have wide-ranging nutritional value, depending on the cook’s plan of action.

In the same vein, seasonally popular holiday meats such as ham, turkey, and goose serve as robust sources of protein. However, for these meats, strive to find recipes that minimize additional sugar, fat, and salt.


  1. Savor Moderation

At this point, most people seem to understand that almost any food item is better for you in moderation than in vast supply—especially foods that lack nutritional benefits. However, getting people to discipline themselves to eat moderate amounts of food during the holidays is easier said than done.

Self-control during the holidays is made easier when we embrace the pleasure of smaller quantities and take great care to think about and experience the flavors intertwined in each bite. When you eat less and reduce bloating, you free yourself up to be more active during the holidays too. It’s a win-win!


  1. Exercise in Spirited Spurts

The holiday season can be a tricky time to get in those regularly scheduled workouts. Between travel, family outings, parties, and general hustle and bustle, getting to the gym can be difficult.

It works out well that shorter, significantly strenuous exercise sessions arguably are the best kind for your health and well-being. Obviously 20-minute workout sessions are easier to fit into the day planner, or even spur of the moment. More importantly, studies show that high-intensity bursts of fitness help burn fat faster and improve fitness.


  1. Focus on Meals instead of Snacks

One of the most common and easily taken for granted nutrition traps is snacks. As people mill around living rooms and holiday parties, chatting, and laughing with friends or relatives, it’s all too easy to down a platter’s worth of cocktail wieners, seasonal cookies, and the like—perhaps without even realizing it.

If you can resolve yourself to become satiated during healthy, tasty square meals during the holidays, hopefully you’ll be less likely to aimlessly stuff yourself during the snacking hours.


  1. Use Technology to Your Advantage

The popularity of fitness and nutrition technology has skyrocketed as of late. While the sheer quantity of health-related apps and gadgets boggles the mind, zeroing in on one tool that fits your unique needs can be a great help.

The various fitness apps for mobile devices cater to a wide array of people. Some focus on motivating the user, while others are all about monitoring data such as daily steps, calories burned, heart rate, and much more. Goal-setting is another key function of many apps.

To improve nutritious and ramp up healthy eating, cooking gadgets often motivate people to try healthier options than they’re used to. If you have an immersion blender, oil mister, or handheld chopper, what’s standing in your way?

The holidays don’t have to be defined by unhealthy overeating and lack of exercise. With the right goals, plan of action, and even technology, you can change your behaviors and move toward a state of improved health.


Learn about how a master’s degree in health promotion management from American University can help you impact the world and change health behaviors.


Photo: Markus Spiske


Student Research Engages #blacklivesmatter and Mountaintop Coal Removal

David Reische is deeply involved in research projects that engage with social media, put video equipment into the hands of communities, and make an impact.

Recently, the public anthropology master’s student used a qualitative analysis of Twitter to examine processes of social movement formation within the context of the Black Lives Matter movement. His ongoing project—visual anthropology on mountaintop coal removal—is equally dynamic.

“For the movements I’ve studied, from #blacklivesmatter to Occupy to Anonymous, I consider myself a participant and contributor first, and a researcher second,” David says.

For David, there’s no “typical” day of research. You might find him hitting the streets to demand change, sitting behind his computer using Twitter search functions and other tools to analyze discourse, or presenting his work to AU audiences and beyond.

David shares his experiences with his two current research projects below.


Off the screen and into the streets: The evolution of #blacklivesmatter

Recently, David has applied critical discourse analysis to examine how the hashtag #blacklivesmatter helped give rise to the social movement it names. David sampled tweets in three categories – “before,” “during,” and “after,” and analyzed the evolution of the term over time. He explains his categories methodology as follows:

“The ‘before’ category corresponds to the first use of the hashtag in conjunction with the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the murder of Trayvon Martin. This was July 13, 2013. The ‘during’ category was sampled from the peak use of the hashtag, which corresponded to the unrest following the acquittal of officer Darren Wilson in the murder of Mike Brown in Ferguson in November, 2014. At this time, the movement was not yet ubiquitously known as the #blacklivesmatter movement. In January 2015, #blacklivesmatter was named the American Dialect Society’s word of the year, the first time a hashtag had received this distinction. I used this as a tangible benchmark for when the movement WAS known as the #blacklivesmatter movement, and tweets from this time comprise the ‘After’ category.”

Employing critical discourse analysis and linguistic tools, David then analyzed who was authoring the tweets, how the author positioned themselves, who their intended audience was, and what was said, to determine what function the #blacklivesmatter hashtag served.

“For example, in the ‘before’ category, the hashtag never stands alone. It’s used in conjunction with other hashtags, such as #trayvonmartin, or #J4TMLA—justice for Trayvon Martin Los Angeles. These additional hashtags are needed to provide context and understand what the tweet is about,” David said.

Moving forward into the “during” category, David saw some tweets using #blacklivesmatter without additional context.

“An example would be a tweet that said, ‘I believe that we will win. #blacklivesmatter,’” David explained. “Without any additional information, it is expected the audience will know who ‘we’ refers to—Ferguson protesters or the movement writ large—and what they will win.”

By the “After” phase, David found that, in, in 13 of 20 tweets sampled, the hashtag was the subject of the tweet, and not simply contextual information.

“By the time officer Darren Wilson was acquitted in the murder of Mike Brown in Ferguson, the ‘black lives matter’ hashtag alone was sufficient to establish what the tweet was about” he said.

David’s research takes a close look at how social media enables change—and he works both behind a computer screen and on the ground alongside the activists with whom he works.


Community documentary: Nuanced approaches to the complexities of mountaintop coal removal

David became interested in mountaintop coal removal as an undergraduate. For his first field experience, he traveled to Kayford Mountain, West Virginia, where he was struck by the ecological effects of removing mountaintops for coal.

On this trip, David met Larry Gibson, a “little old man” standing up to save his home, located on a $650 million coal deposit.

“I realized that if one person like Larry had the power to make such a difference, that I could, too,” David says.

“It was on this trip that I decided to dedicate the rest of my life and anthropological career to political activism. Larry Gibson passed away in 2012, but I see myself as carrying on his legacy and continuing the education that was his goal.”

David has made two subsequent trips to Kayford Mountain and has since involved other students in visual anthropology projects to shed light on the complex conflicts between the mining industry and opponents of coal.

At AU, David has sharpened his community documentary skills, an approach that gives people authorship and control over their own stories. This way of working will help to engage the coal miners who’d been hesitant to participate out of fear their positions would be misrepresented.

“My SRP (substantial research project) will use the footage and insights I’ve gathered on my trips to West Virginia,” David says. “I plan to make a movie highlighting the ways in which we connect with miners and bridge these often hostile divides, including issues of mine safety and economic alternatives to the coal economy, such as industrial hemp farming.”


How the AU Master’s in Public Anthropology Program Supports David’s Work 

David was drawn to AU for its opportunities to pursue applied, politically engaged activism.

“My time studying anthropology in undergrad taught me about the problems facing the world and how to think about and engage with them as an anthropologist. My time in graduate school at AU has been about figuring out how to build solutions to these problems,” David says.

He notes that entering the program with his own goals has helped shape his experience:

“Having personal goals and well-defined interests helps you weave every class, method, and reading together in a purposeful way, and my professors have all provided me opportunities to apply what we’re learning in a way that fits into my interests.”

David plans to continue integrating his interests in activism and anthropology, with a particular focus on those non-profit groups that fight against capitalism, he says.

“I plan to use the tools I’ve acquired at AU to continue my activism and fight for social justice.”


David Reische is one of many public anthropology students pursuing real work that impacts real people. If you are interested in conducting this type of work—or have other ideas you’d like to take on—learn more about the master’s in public anthropology at American University.



5 Podcasts All Writers Should Know About

Podcasts carry value for writers that goes well beyond entertainment.

They highlight poetry readings. Author interviews. Vivid narratives.

Not just a writer’s goldmine, podcasts are also a platform for showcasing a writer’s work. Most narrative podcasts accept story pitches, and as you publish, podcasters may be interested in interviewing you for a show.

The five podcasts below are hand-picked recommendations from Kyle Dargan, creative writing MFA program director, and offer a solid start for writers’ listening.


  1. Library of Congress Poet and the Poem

Produced by the Poetry and Literature Center at the Library of Congress, this DC-based podcast has featured accomplished AU alumni, including Abdul Ali and Sandra Beasley.

Award-winning poet and playwright Grace Cavalieri hosts the (approximately) monthly podcast. Recent episodes interviewed poet Kwame Alexandre, DC resident and author of 10 books, and Carlos Parada Ayala, recipient of the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities Larry Neal Poetry Award.


  1. Make/Work Podcast

This monthly podcast explores the ever-present question for writers and artists: how can we balance the relationship between time spent writing and time spent working? Hosted by Scott Pinkmountain and produced by The Rumpus, Make/Work features discussions with both emerging and established artists working in multiple creative mediums—focusing on how they sustain their creative practice.

The most recent episode features Abeer Hoque, a Nigerian-born writer with Bangaldeshi roots who now lives in New York. After recently publishing her new book in India, Abeer discusses the long road to publishing, the publishing landscape in India, and more. Make/Work also sometimes produces more focused sub-series, such as one that zeroes in on the unique challenges and rewards encountered in romantic partnerships between artists.


  1. Poetry Off the Shelf

This weekly podcast from the Poetry Foundation “explores the diverse world of contemporary poetry,” and puts poetry and culture in conversation. Right now, they have a mini series running, in which poets take over mic to discuss hot topics. Recently, Franny Choi and Saeed Jones discussed “Social Media, Race, and Disney Princesses,” and Erika L. Sánchez and Jacob Saenz had an episode on sex in music and poetry. Past episodes include an introduction to Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera, and a recommended selection of poems to read at gay and lesbian weddings.

Not just for poets, this podcasts keeps writers immersed in the conversations happening around the writing world.


  1. RISK!

Produced by Maximum Fun, each episode of RISK! is a place “where people tell true stories they never thought they’d dare to share in public.” The host, Kevin Allison, performed with the TV sketch comedy troupe The State. RISK! featured Janeane Garofalo, Lisa Lampanelli, Kevin Nealon, Margaret Cho, Marc Maron, Sarah Silverman, and many others telling candid, raw stories in entertaining ways.


  1. Snap Judgment

Hosted by Glynn Washington, this weekly podcast boasts a “stories with a beat.” Glynn told the Guardian, “We want to get into these societal fault lines of race, class, gender, culture. We want to do deep dives to help people really understand another person’s experience. The only way to report that is through storytelling—what happened to one person.”

Recent episodes of Snap Judgment include stories of elementary school crossing guards, the haunting aftermath of a car accident involving a clown car, and a record collector’s best find in decades. This is the perfect podcast for your walking commutes—putting a beat in your step and passing the time with vibrant stories.


Our MFA program is home to a community of interesting people, listening to interesting podcasts (among many other activities). Interested in joining us? Learn more about the creative writing MFA program at AU. We also offer a graduate certificate in audio production for writers who want to produce their own podcasts and other audio recordings.


3 Trending Topics in Audio Technology

Those who embrace and seek a master’s degree in audio technology at American University join an elite group of sound professionals who don’t just thrive in their industry. They enjoy it.

Anyone willing to invest the time and effort it takes to earn a graduate degree focused on sound design, music production, or computer music undoubtedly finds the coursework fascinating—something everyone in the program has in common from day one. Of course, that’s if you can even really refer to shoulder-to-shoulder learning with nationally recognized audio engineers and faculty—in state-of-the-art facilities—as “coursework.” Somehow that word doesn’t do this justice.

For our students, it’s not simply about working toward future paychecks and accolades. They are passionate about the art and science of high-quality, impactful sound. Thus, they find the intricacies of the history and future of music technology fascinating.

Here are three topics our audio technology MA students are currently discussing:


Compressors and Modern Music

The history of—and science behind—compressors is an integral part of the modern-day music we listen to on a daily basis. Audio technology wouldn’t exist without the important nuances of compression, peak reduction, threshold, input gain, and more.

As most music industry professionals would attest, the difference between a tight, modern album and a forgettable track often rests squarely on the shoulders of the audio technology expert behind the glass.

The precise, subtle sound differences that live within the complex world of compression likely seem mundane to the layperson, but they are the lifeblood of clear, impactful live or recorded music.


Sampling is Here to Stay

There are two unshakeable truths about sampling in modern-day music:

  • Music sampling is here to stay.
  • Music sampling presents unique challenges.

Some of the most popular, innovative performances of the past 20 years have been rooted in innovative music sampling. It’s partly because it becomes more and more difficult to create a brand-new sound that’s fresh and exciting. It’s also because artists and producers are forever shaped by the sounds they grew up listening to.

We see it in hip hop constantly: from Sean Combs using The Police to memorialize The Notorious B.I.G., to Jay Z forever changing the way we listen to “Hard Knock Life,” to Pit Bull making “Take On Me” sound new again.

While sampling undoubtedly opens up a huge world of artistic possibilities, it’s also a tricky, challenging practice. Lawsuits by artists are common. Many have no interest in seeing their classic songs reinvented or “stolen from.” On the flip side, powerhouse producers such as Mark Ronson have become advocates for responsible, forward-thinking sampling.

It’s a delicate topic in the music industry—one that won’t go away anytime soon.


Foundations of Sound Will Never Change Acoustics

Some aspects of music and sound production have yet to change—and never will. Factors such as acoustics, ambience, and reverberation are affected as new technologies and applications come and go, but the foundational truths about them are unwavering.

It’s the fundamentals of sound that provide common ground between modern-day students with sound boards and high-end headphones and early humans cupping their hands and listening to reverberations through a towering canyon.

A millennium from now, people may be navigating flying cars in roadways 10,000 feet up in the air. Even then, variables such as acoustics and ambience will remain the linchpins of audio production.

To that end, there will always be a need for audio technology professionals who are excited about and well-trained on the nuances of sound.

Is your goal to become a practitioner of the sound engineering that you’re so passionate about? Learn about a master’s degree in audio technology from American University.


Deaf Communities in Sub-Saharan Africa Lead the Way


In 1996, Uganda was the first country in the world to have an elective deaf Member of Parliament. In 2008, South Africa wrote South African Sign Language into its constitution as one of its official languages. And other African countries have also enacted equally progressive legislation.


On the other hand, the U.S. has never appointed a deaf Congressperson. Nor do all US states recognize American Sign Language as a foreign language.

Many people think of “development” as flowing from Western nations outward. The US especially is accustomed to being the model for others—from capitalism to democracy. But regarding the social and political inclusion of deaf communities, sub-Saharan Africa is taking the lead.

Drs. Audrey Cooper and Khadijat Rashid have taken notice. Both are American University alumnae, and Dr. Cooper is a public anthropology professor at AU through the end of this semester.*

“In many places around the world, deaf people are being denied use of their natural languages,” Cooper says. “Their citizenship participation is limited because of the ideas mainstream populations hold about signed languages or ‘disability.’ They’re often excluded from social, political, and economic participation—if not in policy, then in everyday practice.”

This is not as much the case in Africa. Deaf people here are—and have been—active in their communities, pushing for change and taking the lead in making their lives better.

“They’ve created extremely effective strategies for gaining social and political participation using their signed languages,” Cooper says. But outside of Africa, people aren’t really aware of the progress being made there.

Others working in areas like language rights, gender equality, or signed language research ethics can learn from these African regions—but not if they don’t know about it.

So to promote transnational awareness and share strategies for action, Cooper and Rashid teamed up to host the African Lessons conference in April 2012 in Washington, DC. More than 300 African and American colleagues turned out to jump-start the conversation, sharing research and strategies developed by African deaf social leaders.

“By the end of the conference, people were asking us if we would write a book about all the rich information shared, since no one had done this before,” Rashid says.

And they did. The knowledge gained from the conference inspired the duo’s newly published book, Citizenship, Politics, Difference: Perspectives from Sub-Saharan Signed Language Communities, which they co-edited.

The book is a collection of essays from 16 contributors, and it draws examples from all regions in sub-Saharan Africa, including Western, Eastern, Central, and Southern. These regions are home to more than 2,000 languages and are equally rich in signed languages.

The essays examine sub-Saharan African deaf people’s perspectives on citizenship, politics, and difference in relation to their language practices; and they analyze these practices in relation to sociopolitical histories and social change.

“Deafness has long been considered a disability and treated as such,” Rashid says. “But these communities are advancing different definitions of themselves and demanding to be treated like other citizens.”

One of the main topics explored is how these groups have collaborated across borders to bring attention to range of issues and secure their rights as citizens. “Borders” here can mean geographic, language, ethnic, gender, sexual identity, and others.

“Around the world, deaf groups are often small but very active communities that are leading change,” Rashid says. As editors, the two wanted to capture the activism happening among African deaf communities, which they hope will serve as a model for other countries.

The book’s topics supersede just deaf people in Africa, Rashid says. “It’s really a book about the forces that impact all of us. We are all citizens of a country, we are all different in some way, and we all use language to communicate.”

*In January, Cooper will join Rashid at Gallaudet University, beginning a new position as assistant professor and director of the Master’s Program in International Development.

Want to read the book? Get your copy here or from the AU library. It’s titled Citizenship, Politics, Difference: Perspectives from Sub-Saharan Signed Language Communities, co-edited by Audrey C. Cooper and Khadijat K. Rashid

Click to learn more about a master’s degree in public anthropology from American University.


Finding Community in Your Grad Program


Jen_Fields_HeadshotPeople find their passion and purpose at different stages of life. For students like Jen Fields, those points intersect amid the art and science of the Health Promotion Management Program at American University.

Jen already had a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology when she arrived at AU, but it’s her postgraduate education that is giving her a renewed sensed of community and vision as she moves toward a career centered on improving health and well-being.

By the time she was finishing up her bachelor’s degree in 2013, Jen knew she was interested in exercise—she’s a part-time personal trainer—nutrition and research. However, she wasn’t aware she could combine all those passions in a hands-on master’s program such as the Health Promotion Management Program at American University.

“I didn’t even know I could get a degree in that,” she said, adding that the personal attention she received from an AU adviser while researching the program was very encouraging.

“I was just a number” as an undergraduate, Jen said. But it was different when she arrived at AU. One of her professors knew her by name from her first week on campus—before they’d even officially met.

Her classmates were just as easy to connect with, partly because many of them were taking the same classes together. From social events each semester to community service events to annual holiday gatherings, the health promotion management students are more supportive than competitive.

Jen and her peers feel comfortable enough with each other to routinely share job opportunities back and forth—the type of reciprocal respect that stems from each student having a unique set of talents, skills, passions, and goals.

One of the most advantageous aspects of the program is being able to infuse their own interests and career aspirations into the coursework, Jen said. Her de facto area of emphasis is sports nutrition, which she is exploring within a wide-ranging curriculum. As a health promotion management student, her coursework has included:

  • Getting a firsthand look at real-world health policy on Capitol Hill
  • Planning an end-to-end social marketing campaign
  • Developing infographics, other marketing tools, and more

After completing her master’s degree, Jen’s aspirations include earning a PhD and becoming a professor. She is excited to share the knowledge she’s gathered about how sports nutrition and exercise can improve our world.

“I just want to teach the information I love,” said Jen, who yearns to see vast improvements in the way the general public integrates important health information. With huge swaths of skewed opinions and purported facts available on the Internet, Jen envisions better public knowledge on topics such as how to affordably eat healthful foods.

“People will spend $5 at McDonald’s rather than go to the grocery store and buy produce,” she said. “It’s ultimately about educating people.”


Do you want to use your passion for health and well being to improve the world? Learn about a master’s degree in health promotion management from American University.



Film by Best-selling Author Validates Art and Science of Health Promotion

With the presence of several hot-button, controversial health issues at the forefront in our country and world, it’s easy to lose sight of the depth and breadth of factors affecting health and well-being. It’s about much more than insurance coverage and calorie counting.

As best-selling author Tom Rath addresses in his book and documentary Are You Fully Charged?, improving health and well-being is a complex, multi-faceted endeavor. Through his research, Rath has unearthed factors that indicate a “fully charged” day-to-day life. He found amazing stories of healthier choices, interactions that strengthen relationships, and the pursuit of meaning over happiness.

A recent showing of Rath’s documentary on campus at American University—where he helped launch our new Department of Health Studies—sparked discussions and ideas among students, professors, and others about how they can change the world around them. The movie provided powerful, inspiring examples of how actions that improve someone else’s life and that spur positive moments are connected to better mental and physical health.

Rath’s book and movie resonate with students and staff from the Health Promotion Management Program at American University, because his research helps validate what we have made our mission in life. While our areas of emphasis vary a great deal, the underlying goal that drives us also unites us: We are determined to help people, organizations, and communities change lifestyle behaviors to move toward a state of improved health.

Much like the science and art of health promotion that we learn and teach about daily, the type of work that Rath discovered during his research gives framework and definition to intangible concepts that we hold dear:

  • A church giving its members $500 to spend on others
  • A gardener planting vegetables in abandoned lots
  • A nonprofit helping thousands of low-income students go to college

To add remarkable credibility to his assertions, Rath turned to world-renowned experts in behavioral health, the psychology of spending, social networks, decision-making and behavioral economics, willpower and the role of meaning in the workplace. The result is a thought- and effort-provoking documentary that proves there are practical ways to energize your life.

These real-world success stories encourage our MS in health promotion management students to continue striving. At the moment, they are studying what they can do to make a difference in fields ranging from corporate health and personal nutrition to global health policy.

Soon, their ideas, goals, and hard work will yield “fully charged” personal lives, careers and surrounding communities—and we’ll all be better for it.


Are you ready to turn your passion for health and well-being into a world-changing career? Learn about our master’s degree in health promotion management from American University.


What’s the Audio Engineering Society Convention Like?

Written by Michael Harvey, Instructor in the Department of Performing Arts

The 139th Audio Engineering Society (AES) Convention was hosted last week in New York City. I had the opportunity to attend with a few of our graduate students. It was a pretty cool experience.

When talking to students about the AES Convention, I often hear the question: What’s it like?

Well, there’s enough gear there to excite or cure your G.A.S., (Gear Acquisition Syndrome). There’s also plenty of timely, obscure, and/or fascinating information to feed your head in all-access pass presentations, and enough after parties to make you feel like a rock star.

For me, AES is all about connection. I had the chance to meet and interact with people from all walks of the professional audio industry. There were vets there to hawk their latest memoir and newbies dreaming of making their magic connection. There were hot producers and engineers at the height of their game, surfing the buzz, and equipment providers out to show why you need to own their latest must-have box, microphone, or plug-in.


Here are a few of the highlights:

  • Talking with Peter Reardon, the nattily dressed head of Shadow Hills, whose gear defines G.A.S., but whose story is even more compelling.
  • Listening to a presentation on early British Recording studios chaired by Howard Massey, who besides being a model for audio-guy-turned-journalist is a super nice guy.
  • Meeting one of my recording hero producer/engineers Tony Visconti, who was sitting on Howard’s panel, and besides having a career that stretches from early Bowie to right now, is actively doing live gigs as a player!
  • Having dinner after a long day of conventioneering with graduate students and listening to their takes on the day.
  • Taking a subway ride to the Village with some of my undergraduate seniors and listening to and talking about music late into the night, I heard so much new and compelling music!
  • Talking to reps from SSL, Waves, Eventide, Slate, Telefunken, and Soundtoys, and getting a glimpse of each company’s differing cultures.
  • Connecting with American University alum, Rob Christiansen (audio technology ’93), who is currently working in Public Radio in New York and starting a conversation about a potential student internship path in NYC!


If you take the time to ask, each individual’s path to the AES Convention is an interesting story of his or her dreams, detours, failures, and successes. As an educator whose students are knocking on the doors of the industry, this is an eye opener for me: sometimes what looks like genius from afar is a combination of hard work and strong mentorship.

Walking back from the Village to my hotel south of Broadway, I passed revelers in Halloween costumes, fans in Mets jerseys, and cops on street corners. Breathing in the cool air of a late October evening in Manhattan, I thought back on my own journey in the audio and music world from gigging musician to audio educator.

At 2 a.m. when I should have been dead tired, I was exhilarated—ready to make new connections, explore new software, read a few more books. And stop at that awesome diner on the corner before turning in.


Interested in connecting with mentors and networking at events like the AES Convention? Learn more about the master’s degree in audio technology at American.

About the Author

Mike Harvey
is a highly respected music recorder, mixer, and producer with over 25 years of music industry experience. He has taught in the Audio Technology Program at AU since the fall of 2007.



Conversation Starter: Associate Professor David Vine Discusses US Military Bases Abroad

At AU, public anthropology students work alongside thought leaders on the cutting edge of their field—professors driving discussion around the country and striving for meaningful, on-the-ground impacts.

One of these leaders is Associate Professor David Vine.

David’s newest book, Base Nation: How US Military Bases Abroad Harm America and the World, is drawing widespread attention to the impact of US military bases on foreign and domestic policy.

In Base Nation, David argues that by maintaining more than 800 overseas bases—occupied by hundreds of thousands of troops and their family members—the US incites geopolitical tensions, provokes resentment, and involves itself in situations that compromise democratic values.

“I hope it helps build a conversation, on Capitol Hill and nationally, about closing more US military bases overseas, many of which are unnecessary, hugely wasteful of taxpayer funds, and harmful in a variety of ways,” David said over email.

Because of its bases, the US finds itself partnering with dictators, enforcing ongoing colonial relationships in US territories, and undermining local economies. Not to mention the astounding financial drain: By David’s count, the US pours nearly $160 billion into maintaining bases and troops overseas each year.

“I’m encouraged that people across the political spectrum are beginning to realize that closing unnecessary military bases will help improve US and global security,” David said.


Getting the Word Out, from National Newspapers to Radio Spots

In an interview for NPR’s All Things Considered (which you can listen to here) David discusses the historical development of bases and the contemporary tensions surrounding them. In his New York Times Op-Ed, David argued for the shuttering of unneeded bases abroad—in addition to cutbacks the Pentagon seeks for domestic bases. In a piece for Politico, David discusses the reach of US bases across the world (with an infographic to illustrate).

David was also featured on the debut episode of Abby Martin’s new show, The Empire Files. His previous work includes the book Island of Shame: The Secret History of the US Military Base on Diego Garcia.


The Power of Research in the Classroom  

Beyond his deep dive into military bases, David’s research extends to issues including gentrification in Brooklyn, environmental refugees, homelessness and mental illness, and DC-area basketball.

David draws from all of his varied research interests to inform his teaching of AU anthropology students.

“I try to bring my research into all my classes,” David said. “I have designed classes specifically around my research, including the Anthropology of Militarism, Understanding War and Building Peace, and Writing Ethnography.”

The role of public anthropology in addressing public concerns is at the heart of David’s work, and he considers AU a good home. “The people here are wonderful,” he said. “Individually and collectively, I am especially glad that they are committed to pursuing scholarship that makes a difference in the world.”


Do these sound like people you’d like to learn from?

David Vine is just one of many AU anthropology professors committed to working toward meaningful change. Find out more about the master’s in public anthropology at American University.


Why Music and Device Diversity Matter

“When I was your age …” is something people have been hearing from their parents since the beginning of time. It’s an especially popular phrase in conversations about music. Just about everyone thinks the singers, groups, and listening devices from their childhood were the best there ever was.

For as long as music fills our speakers, debates will rage. The Beatles vs. The Rolling Stones. Turntables vs. MP3 players. The ‘60s vs. the ‘90s. Epic live concerts vs. streaming from anywhere, anytime. Early rock ‘n’ roll vs. Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and their “grunge” colleagues.

Grown men and women argue long into the night over whether pop music was better 30 years ago than it is today.

In reality, it’s the mixture of major differences and foundational similarities between eras that make it such a fun topic for debate. Diversity of music and technology still plays an important role in American culture. Think about TV singing competitions such as The Voice and American Idol, or even the variety of niche satellite channels out there. From electronica and hip hop to country and soul, young people keep pushing forward a wide variety of music genres that speak to their souls.

For those seeking a career in the music or sound industry, it’s particularly interesting. The more that aspiring engineers and producers can do to understand the subtleties within each genre and subgenre, as well between audio technologies throughout the decades, the better they will be able to communicate with artists and end users for years to come.

Sound experts also must navigate the plethora of ways that people now listen to music. It is more complex than ever before—and it can be incredibly frustrating.

Today most people access their favorite music on their phones, via bluetooth through car speakers, through Wi-Fi connectivity, and more. Streaming options include SoundCloud, YouTube, Spotify, Pandora—the list goes on and on.

In 2015, it’s fairly standard to drop $200 on a pair of headphones that are supposed to let you hear “all the music.” But that’s only one part of the equation. If consumers don’t learn about and focus on the medium where their music is stored and reproduced, those expensive headphones won’t live up to their potential.

Audio technology professionals hope users will make a conscious effort to think carefully about how they are consuming the media that artists work so hard to create. For instance, one of our students recently was expressing frustration with modern-day music trends such as highly compressed, lossy files that take up less space—a key factor on mobile devices—but that discard valuable data, quality, and dynamic range from the original composition.

The general public can enhance their listening experience by simply researching the bit rate and file format of each music streaming service they might use. With this information in hand, users can change the player preferences accordingly and listen to the music closer to how it was engineered to be heard.

Then there’s bluetooth technology, which involves a vast list of variables, all of which drastically affect the sound quality coming through those speakers and headphones.

One of our students summed it up very well:

“Simply asking the user to make a conscious effort to recognize how they are consuming their media is a huge step forward.”

Our audio technology graduate students at American University are passionate about music. They’re experts, but they’re also major music enthusiasts, just like everyone else. From the recording studio and the live stage to cell phones and home entertainment systems, they strive to maximize the benefits of their art for all open ears.

Interested in becoming a thought leader and innovator in sound engineering? Learn how a master’s degree in audio technology from American University can help you get there.


These Health Promotion Alumni Are Making A Difference With Their Degrees

The students in our health promotion management master’s program go on to do incredible things in areas including corporate health, exercise physiology, health communication, health policy, global health, and nutrition.

Here are a few examples of American University alumni who are applying their knowledge and passion to truly benefit the communities around them:


Kristen Cox (Class of 2008)

Title: Senior Director, Policy & Advocacy, Cancer Support Community

Kristen Cox left the health promotion management program with an understanding of health behaviors, the healthcare system, policy, and “hot topics” in the industry.

These bricks of her health promotion management education gave her a strong foundational starting point when building policy positions, white papers, and talking points were needed.

In her current role as senior director of policy and advocacy for the Cancer Support Community, Kristen works to support people living with cancer, as well as their families. Her work is promoting health—in a powerful way—by:

  • Convening experts in the cancer field to come to consensus on timely topics
  • Advocating for increased access to cancer care, pain management, and hospice and palliative care
  • Raising awareness about cancer prevention


Abigail Walsh (Class of 2014)

Title: Wellness Program Analyst, Bon Secours Health Systems

From developing stages of change within programs, to learning about the new national and local healthcare policies, Abigail Walsh puts theory—and her training from AU’s master’s program—into practice on a daily basis.

Bon Secours, a nonprofit healthcare system in Virginia, has been a great place for Abigail to utilize the communication concepts she learned in the Health Promotion Management Program. Having professors at AU with extensive experience in the health promotion field helped smooth the transition from studies to “real-world” work, she said.

“There is only so much you can learn from a textbook. Having professors with real life experience enables us to see the paths that others have traveled,” Abigail stated. The graduate program work was important because every single class, research paper, and task was directly related to a topic she likely would encounter in her upcoming career.

Now, right in the middle of that “real world” work, Abigail is ardently trying to move the needle on health risk factors that employees across Virginia encounter. As she helps people manage pre-existing conditions, she also keeps preventive healthcare measures at the forefront of her efforts.

“The total savings for the employee and the employer are incredible. Plus, there are some things that can’t be measured on a monetary scale, such as a longer life with an improved quality of living and an increase in productivity at work.”


Brian Katzowitz (Class of 2011)

Title: Health Communications Specialist, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

As a health communications specialist at the CDC, Brian Katzowitz’s background in health promotion management enables him to consider the principles of behavior change theory when determining communication strategies. He uses his health promotion training to interpret scientific manuscripts and translate complex data into relevant information for consumers.

Brian’s job isn’t the run-of-the-mill public relations gig. He fulfills an integral role in public health initiatives.

“On a day-to-day basis, the outcome of my work can be seen when traditional news outlet like the Washington Post or New York Times publish stories featuring CDC spokespeople, new research, or information on disease outbreaks,” Brian said.


Laurie DiRosa (Class of 2000)

Title: Assistant Professor, Rowan University

Laurie DiRosa, a professor of health promotion and wellness, prepares students to go forth and change lifestyle behaviors throughout the world.

Specifically, going through the thesis process at American University continues to influence how Laurie mentors and guides her own students—both undergrads and graduate students—in their research and capstone projects.

“I still pull out my textbooks from AU when I’m helping students or preparing for classes,” Laurie said. “I feel that the rigorous program at AU was one of the guiding forces for me to continue on to doctoral studies.”


Ready to influence healthy lifestyle behaviors?

Learn more about how a master’s degree in health promotion management from American University can help you impact the world and change health behaviors.


Featured Alumnus: Documentary Filmmaker Keenan Holmes

We are proud to highlight the achievements of recent public anthropology master’s student Keenan Holmes, who screened his first full-length documentary, Indigenous Eyes on DC, at Native American Lifelines in September.

Indigenous Eyes on DC explores ways in which Native people are perceived by non-Natives and strives to amplify the voices and work of Natives in the tri-state area. The film explores the questions:

  • What are Natives in the tri-state urban setting doing about the misrepresentation of their identity?
  • How are Indigenous individuals rebelling against the popular culture’s stereotypes of their image?

Keenan employed critical race theory in driving the emphasis of his work. “I was focusing on the intersections of race, power, and law, and how they all meet in clothing stores, music festivals, classrooms, in law proceedings or court, and in stadiums for sports,” he said.

Anthro2cBefore turning on his camera, Keenan spent a year learning, listening, and connecting with the people and communities that would become his interview subjects. He spoke with grassroots organizers, urban Natives, artists, a Chief of a Native Reservation, and dozens of other community members. He attended more than 20 Native events, including festivals, PowWows, church meetings, museum symposiums, and protests. He consulted existing documentaries including In Whose Honor? and Bones of Contention.

“The subjects in my film have completely different occupations, yet there is community growth and advocacy flowing through their work,” Keenan said.


Keenan’s Journey to the Public Anthropology Program

Keenan majored in art and archeology as an undergraduate, and spent time at Moundville in Alabama, which has 26 earthen mounds and was occupied by Mississippian Indians from around 1000-1450 AD.

“I knew I wanted to study Indigenous artifacts up until that point, but I soon realized I felt a stronger calling towards the contemporary Natives in this country,” Keenan said.

He read about Dan Sayers’s work at the Great Dismal Swamp, and admired how AU professors still have their boots on the ground—as archaeologists or working in marginalized communities.

Keenan found his opportunity to bring his interests together at AU.

“American’s Anthropology Department fuses the best aspects of archaeology, sociology, advocacy, activism, and film in one department. That was exactly what I was looking for,” he said.


Keenan’s AU Experience

While at AU, Keenan took a documentary filmmaking class with Nina Shapiro-Perl and Larry Kirkman. For the course, Keenan worked with other students to create a short documentary about soldiers who use yoga to heal from PTSD (which you can view here). This experience incited his interest in making his own film outside the classroom—and gave him the tools necessary to succeed.

His connections with AU faculty and students led Keenan to contacts that would support him outside the classroom, and those connections have allowed him to see the varied roads that public anthropologists can take in their careers.

“I know people who work in newspapers and study old photos and documents at museums, and one who works for National Geographic,” he said. “Some go on to teach, some do independent work in other countries, and some help out marginalized groups through UNICEF.”

Keenan made connections that enabled him to take his passion for anthropology and make a real impact in the lives of others.


What’s Next for Keenan?

Keenan has finished his public anthropology MA requirements and will walk at commencement this December. After graduation, he is interested in creating more documentaries, including a film focused on individuals in the DC area who are fed up with the “sneaker culture” and high prices.

He also intends to work with the Alabama Natural History Museum Summer Excavation Expeditions in May.


Interested in Seeing Keenan’s Films?

Soon, Keenan’s film will appear on YouTube under the name KeenAnthro (he uses this handle for Veoh, Twitter, and YouTube). You can also view his group documentary about a veteran who used Yoga Nidra to heal his anguish from multiple tours of war here.


Ready to make a difference? Learn more about the master’s in public anthropology at American University.


Print Your Own 3D Fossils

How the Rising Star Project Exemplifies Public Anthropology

“[The] Rising Star [Project] was the first time I’ve seen open science done successfully on such a large scale.”
– Becca Peixotto, CAS/MA ’13 and PhD student

By Katlin Chadwick, Writer/Editor, American University

On the day National Geographic announced the Homo naledi discovery, it also posted two scientific articles in an open-access online journal—giving anyone the ability to download the papers for free. As of September 15, 2015, the papers had been downloaded more than 14,000 times. Project Rising Star also uploaded about 90 high-quality 3-D scans of the fossils in an open-access database for anyone to download and reproduce on a 3-D printer.

Teachers and professors around the world are already printing out the fossils, bringing them to class, and integrating them into lesson plans.

“This changes the way we think about fossils,” says Becca Peixotto, one of the six scientists on the Rising Star excavation team and graduate of AU’s public anthropology master’s program. “They’re no longer locked away in a high security vault. They’re being conceived of as knowledge for everyone.”

Part of AU’s public anthropology program is communicating what you’re doing with the world—and putting that knowledge toward greater social understanding. AU faculty and students already publish in outlets outside of academic journals so as to reach a broader audience. And a big part of what Becca hopes to do in her career is engage the public even more with the past—and with anthropology.

“Even if we can’t post every detail about what we’re learning, the idea of being open about research is something I’m trying to incorporate going forward,” she says.


A Collaborative Discovery

The Rising Star Project was an open access model from the start. Its lead scientist, Lee Berger, found the six scientists for the excavation team by putting out a Facebook post. And each member would come from a different specialty and background.

Once the team was on-site at the cave outside Johannesburg, they worked closely with local volunteers and students to make the whole excavation happen in a short amount of time.

“In a field that’s typically closed off, it’s been remarkable that everyone supported each other and worked together,” Becca says. After a day’s work, the scientist team also took the time to share with the outside world what they were finding.

“We were skyping with schools around the world, from the U.S. to Taiwan,” Becca says. Through blogs and social media, they engaged the public, youth, locals and other scholars, involving them in their scientific process.

After the excavation was complete, Rising Star put out another call for junior researchers to help them analyze the fossils.

“From the beginning, there’s been an emphasis on incorporating early career scientists into the project,” Becca says. Not only was it a learning experience for these scientists, it helped speed up the analysis too. The team finished analyzing the fossils in just six weeks—a process that usually takes many months.

“Rising Star was the first time I’ve seen open science done successfully on such a large scale,” Becca says. “It makes me excited and hopeful.”


Engaging the Public with the Past

How did these hominid fossils get down in the deep cave? When do they date back to? What capacities did Naledi’s smaller brain have? Even amidst an amazing discovery, there are so many questions and so much for us modern humans still to learn.

But this perhaps will be made easier by sharing. Now that the data is accessible to other researchers on the web, “we can all have an academic conversation and learn from each other as we analyze this information,” Becca says.

“We’re shifting the paradigm and power structure with this open access model.” Becca hopes to follow the Rising Star model in how it’s made science accessible.

“People are getting excited about science and sharing in the process of understanding—in real time.”


Click to learn more about a master’s degree in public anthropology from American University.


Photo Credit: The team lays out fossils of H. naledi at the University of the Witwatersrand’s Evolutionary Studies Institute. The new species of human relative was discovered by a team led by National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Lee Berger of the University of the Witwatersrand deep inside a cave located outside Johannesburg, South Africa. The find was announced by the University of the Witwatersrand, the National Geographic Society and the South African National Research Foundation and published in the journal eLife. Photo by Robert Clark/National Geographic


A Day in the Life of an Audio Technology Grad Student

When choosing a grad program, people like options. Diversity is expected and flexibility is coveted.

That’s because a degree isn’t just a piece of paper or box checked on a job application. When done properly, a master’s program is a multi-faceted opportunity to explore the areas that interest you most—whatever those might be.

“Whatever those might be” is a major part of the process. No two students seeking a master’s in audio technology at American University have quite the same experience—and that’s good. The MA in audio technology program affords the freedom to customize your degree based on your unique combination of interests, experiences, talents, and passion.


Music Recording and Production

Matt, one of our MA students concentrating in music recording and production, first became interested in audio technology during his teenage years, while “playing in a band and constantly discovering new music,” he said.

Matt has built upon that foundation of passion during college, embracing certain work that he has found particularly helpful—including technical ear training, the fundamentals of digital audio, and advanced recording techniques. His favorite project was a weekend mixing class focusing on hip-hop and electronic music production.

His journey through the MA in audio technology program at American has helped Matt realize what he really wants to do after graduation: to teach undergrad students who are looking for the best way to use put their talents to good use. He’ll also continue working as a freelance engineer.


Mixing and Programming

Martin is another one of our students who found his future within the confines of his band. While recording an album, he was drawn to “the world of possibilities you have when you start mixing a record.”

He earned a marketing degree and studied audio technology in his homeland of Argentina before coming to the US for graduate studies in Washington, DC. He teaches courses at AU while working through his own student course load.

The work means something different to each person. For Martin, learning how to program in C and mix for movies was important. Now he’s working to develop a series of plugins programmed in C++.

After earning his MA degree, Martin looks forward to programming and eventually selling his own apps.


Each Student’s Average Day is Different

There’s no such thing as an “average day in the life” of an audio technology graduate student. That’s because every student has a unique background, personality, set of circumstances, and future.

We’ve got music fanatics. Film buffs. Single students. Those with children. People obsessed with software. Students who want to use their talents to improve the communities around them. Eager entrepreneurs. Budding teachers.

Some of our students are looking to bring their refined audio technology skills back to their home countries. Others view LA or New York as their professional destination.

The people involved widely vary, but the program at their fingerprints is steady and easy to understand. American University’s MA in audio technology program has nationally recognized faculty with lots of experience in the industry. The setting is a big city where the music scene is robust and internship and job opportunities—spots such as NPR, BBC, Discovery Communications and SiriusXM—abound. Further, the on-campus recording studios are state-of-the-art.

We’d tell you the average “day in the life” of an American University MA in audio technology student is fantastic, but we can’t. You see, there is no such thing as an average “day in the life” of an AU student.

Life is diverse—and so are the careers that lie ahead.


Discover Diverse Talents and Goals at American University

If you are interested in determining the best audio technology career for you, learn more about the audio technology program at American University.


Presenting the 2015 Public Anthropology Conference

The 12th Annual Public Anthropology Conference (PAC 2015) will take place this weekend on October 3-4. We’re excited to learn from public anthropologists and scholar-activists from a broad range of disciplines, and to engage current debates.


This year’s topic is SHIFTING CLIMATES: Dialogues of the Urgent and Emergent.

The keynote presentations, panel discussion, and workshops will probe the issues facing our rapidly transforming world. We’ll focus on the immediate response demanded by today’s problems of economic development, armed conflict, international human rights abuses, racial injustices, medical emergencies, sexual and gender inequalities, and more.

This conference will open forums for dialogue branching into “the urgent” and the “emergent.” We define the “urgent” as social justice issues demanding time-sensitive answers, and “the emergent” as our preparedness to approach new challenges as they arise―while constantly reevaluating the frameworks in which we approach our work.

Presenters and other participants will discuss our roles as practitioners, teachers, students, and interested members of the public within today’s shifting climates. We will probe modes of producing and supporting positive social, environmental, economic, and political change.



The three keynotes have been designated to celebrate the work of three retiring American University anthropology faculty members, William Leap, Brett Williams, and Gretchen Schafft, and their incredible contribution to public anthropology.

Denis M. Provencher’s work explores representations and performances of citizenship, gender, sexuality, religion, and hate speech in global contexts. Denis is associate professor of French and intercultural communication, and affiliate associate professor in the Gender and Women’s Studies Program and in the Language, Literacy, and Culture Doctoral Program at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) and has published two monographs and a number of journal articles and chapters. Denis will be honoring William Leap and his work.

Judith Goode will be speaking about Brett Williams. Judith is known for her pioneering urban anthropology, which first took place in Medellin and Bogota, Colombia. Throughout the 1970s, she conducted urban ethnography in Philadelphia, and she has served in several prominent leadership roles in the field, working to make the voice of anthropology more central to debates about public issues. She is professor emerita at Temple University.

Laurie Krieger will be honoring Gretchen Schafft. Laurie is a medical anthropologist who serves as Senior Advisor in Health and Social Science for The Manoff Group, a woman-owned, small consulting firm working in international health. She has held many leadership roles in fieldwork and on prominent committees and is the author of numerous research papers in the gray literature. Laurie has also authored training curricula, assessments, strategies, manuals, and public health “tools,” in addition to publishing academic literature. She has been a long-time member of WAPA, the oldest local practitioner organization in anthropology, where Gretchen is one of the founders.



October 3-4, 9:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m.

Events take place at Mary Graydon Center, McKinley Building, and School of International Service (SIS) Building.


Getting There:

AU Maps & Directions


DC Metro & AU Shuttle

AU is accessible via the Tenleytown stop on the Red Line (toward upper left on metro map)—just outside the metro east entrance there is an American University shuttle bus stop. The AU Shuttle Blue/Main Campus Route runs every 10-15 minutes: see live bus-location app—ask the driver for main campus stop nearest MGC (immediately past Ward Circle). See also AU Maps/Directions.



Parking is free on weekends and after 5 p.m. Parking is available under the Katzen Arts Center on Massachusetts Avenue and in parking deck attached to Mary Graydon Center.

Questions: Contact:



Get in on the conversation.

It’s not too late to sign up and join the discussion. Register for the conference>

Advance registration closes at 4:00 p.m. on Friday, October 2. On-site registration will be available on the second floor of the Mary Graydon Center outside room 245.


Students Learn From Health Promotion Leaders at HERO Forum

Three students at a conferenceConferences come and go. There are thousands of them every year. However, for our students who are attending the annual Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO) Forum on Employee Health Management Solutions on Sept. 29 through Oct. 1, it’s not “just another conference.”

For the American University students who are pursuing an MS in Health Promotion Management, the HERO Forum is a rare chance to hear from the type of world-changers they themselves are striving to become—the type of professionals who are helping communities change lifestyle behaviors toward a state of improved health.

In other words, our students view this as part of their life’s work, not just a place to view PowerPoint presentations and nab a few business cards.

AU student Katherine Richards is most excited about the keynote address, “How we are Building a Culture of Health in America.” It will cover the many inter-related factors involved in health and well-being, including “where we live, how we work, the soundness and safety of our surroundings, and the strength and resilience of our families, our communities, and our economy,” according to the event website.

Two students at a confernce“I am anxious to learn how different industries and companies are contributing to create a culture that is centered on wellness,” said Katherine, whose classmate Mara Metroka is particularly interested in a talk by Tanya Gilbert titled “A Health Promotion Consultant on Improving Mental Strength to Promote Weight Loss.”

“I am very passionate about positive self talk and the power of ‘change your mind, change your life,’ so I am looking forward to hearing what she has to say!” Mara said.

Many of the topics Katherine and Mara will be engaged in are quite similar to what they find daily in their AU master’s program in health promotion management. For instance, both the program and the HERO event are fully focused on how various aspects of healthy lifestyle efforts work in unison to create a culture of wellness. Employee health is just one of the many components—but an important one, Katherine said.

“Employers have a wonderful opportunity to encourage their employees and employees’ families to live healthy lives. As a result, both the employee and the employer benefit,” Katherine said. Other key aspects of improved health and well-being include exercise physiology, human biochemistry, behavioral psychology, global health, and nutrition.

HERO’s message of health and performance through employer leadership resonates with Mara, who once spent an overworked, exhausting year working in the hospitality industry.

“The employees I was managing were often sick, or unhealthy—not performing at their top level,” Mara said. “Through this experience I realized the need for a healthy work life balance, and how in so many corporations it is lacking. I want to change that.”

Two students at a conferenceIt would not be unprecedented for an AU graduate program student to make that type of difference. For example, Jennifer Flynn (MS ’97), an AU grad and a HERO Forum speaker this year, is a strategy consultant for Mayo Clinic Global Business Solutions. She went from writing papers to literally helping save lives.

Katherine, Mara, and their peers are making their own strides toward such world-focused success. It doesn’t happen overnight, but it’s coming. Their presence will be felt. Health and well-being across this world will be revolutionized.



Are you interested a master’s degree in health promotion management? Learn more about the MS program at American University.


Social Justice Colloquium Series: Igniting Conversations on Campus

It’s happening, all semester long: Gatherings of intellectual activists, sharing relevant work that furthers social justice.

Will you be there?

The College of Arts and Sciences and the AU Anthropology Department are excited to announce the start of the 2015 Fall Social Justice Colloquium series. This new series of seminars is designed to highlight the current research of public anthropologists—and of other scholars whose work combines theory with a strong commitment to social justice. These events are a rare opportunity to hear from and connect with like-minded individuals across disciplines.

Launched September 14 and running through Monday, November 23, the nine seminars will address issues and work spanning the globe. Each talk (with the exception of Becca Peixotto’s September 14 presentation) will take place Mondays, 12:00-1:30 p.m. in Kreeger 100, with light fare provided.

continue reading Social Justice Colloquium Series: Igniting Conversations on Campus

Healthy Living Research

Research Shows Link Between Health and Successful Learning

From preschoolers picking out colored pencils to graduate students upgrading their old laptops, back-to-school shopping remains in full swing.

Written by Dr. Anastasia Snelling

It’s an exciting time of year, with plenty of fun items to purchase. It’s also a great opportunity for parents—and students of all ages—to place healthy lunch items and a comfortable pair of shoes for exercise atop their shopping list.

Why is it so important? Long gone is the notion that eating poorly only affects us from the waist down. Now, it’s quite clear—based on both data and anecdotal evidence—that health and learning are intimately linked.

Even with the knowledge that healthy children are better students, we need more student-level research to address the relationship between obesity and learning. It’s an urgent concern for researchers, policymakers, teachers, children, families, and health promotion professionals.

Fortunately, there are encouraging signs that health’s relationship to education is beginning to receive the attention it deserves.


Wellness Policies

Federal legislation that was enacted more than a decade ago has led to relatively new wellness policies—mostly about curbing obesity—at schools throughout the US. The challenge is that the nuances of these policies and their results widely vary. Factors such as nutrition value of cafeteria meals, amount of time devoted to physical education, and cultivation of health-enhancing environments for teachers and students are different at virtually every school.

What is lacking is a deep understanding of the effects of school-by-school health policies at the student level. The more often and thoroughly that we can compare the health consequences of various lifestyles, the better.


Change on the Menu

Lunch hour is being revamped, too. The Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act upgraded nutrition and monitoring standards that are part of the USDA School Lunch Program. Schools are striving to comply by providing new meals that are both tasty and healthy, but parents and students will take some convincing.

The USDA’s Economic Research Service is poised to do just that, particularly through funding for “behavioral economics” studies. The most recent report, released in August, revealed that while the majority of principals and foodservice managers who responded agreed that “Students generally seem to like the new school lunch,” the participation rate for paid school lunches has been on the decline since FY 2008.

It’s a frustrating divide, but it’s not insurmountable. At schools in Arlington, Virginia, and Washington, DC, our research has shown that by engaging students in selecting how vegetables are prepared or pairing a fruit and vegetable, we can increase the consumption of healthful foods.

These are all important findings to consider, but we must be vigilant with continued research and response. The work has only just begun.


Strong Muscles, Thriving Minds

The playground presents another important opportunity to address the whole child—from physical and mental health to academic performance. The recent push by everyone from First Lady Michelle Obama to professional football players to ramp up physical education time among children isn’t just about strong muscles. It’s about healthy, thriving minds.

Now it’s our task to put clear numbers behind those well-known faces. Fortunately, the body of research linking PE time and well-being is growing.

It’s increasingly evident that time is a key factor. In a study titled “Evidence based physical activity for school-age youth” in The Journal of Pediatrics, researchers reviewed more than 850 experimental studies and concluded that additional physical education boosts academic performance, physical fitness level, concentration, memory, classroom behavior, and intellectual performance.

Our own study found a higher rate of math proficiency on Washington, DC’s standardized tests by elementary schools that offer nearly 90 minutes of PE per week. That’s powerful data, and it begs this question: How far could we move the needle if more schools were to increase the amount of gym time?

The good news: There is a sizable appetite for new research on health and student performance and vigilant advocacy to improve the way we serve children.


Interested in a career in health promotion management?

The more passionate health promotion management professionals we can train to lead the way, the better individuals and families will be positioned to thrive for years to come.

Want to get involved in the conversation and make a difference in health and wellness on a larger scale? Learn more about the Health Promotion Management Program at American University.


About The Author


Dr. Anastasia Snelling is a professor and chair of the Department of Health Studies at American University. Her research aims to understand the impact of food policy and programs on health and weight status of students and teachers in the school environment.


14_Homo_naledi_cr_John Hawks

AU Student Part of Human Ancestor Excavation


“By the time the interview was over, I knew that if by some miracle I got this chance, I was going to drop everything and go.” ~Becca Peixotto (far left in photo)

By: Katlin Chadwick, Writer at American University

When Becca Peixotto and the other five scientists on the Rising Star excavation team arrived in Johannesburg, South Africa, they hoped for something big. Fossils from a single skeleton, perhaps, that could help inform our evolutionary timeline.

But once they maneuvered their way through the cave, down a skinny, jagged chute, and into the hidden Dinaledi chamber, none were prepared for what they found. The floor was quite literally covered in fossils.

So they got to work. Each uncovered fossil was assigned a number, placed in a plastic bag, bubble-wrapped, put in a plastic container, and bubble-wrapped again to send back up the chute. They’d brought along the packaging needed for a three-week excavation, but after just three days, they’d already gone through their entire supply of plastic containers.

Skulls. Femurs. 190 teeth. Enough replicated pieces to suggest 15 separate individuals. This was an unprecedented find in this type of fossil hominid work.


An Unexpected Chance
Becca is a historical archaeologist focused on artifacts. In her public anthropology master’s program at American University and ongoing PhD work (also at AU), she’s worked in remote sites uncovering pieces of civilizations past—for example, a prehistoric Native American village in Frederick, Md., and the Great Dismal Swamp in southeast Virginia. The latter is the topic of her master’s thesis and current PhD work.

Some of her excavations have involved human remains, but hominid morphology, as it’s called, is a whole other specialty entirely. So how did Becca end up unearthing what would turn out to be one of the greatest hominid discoveries in history? She credits it to a combination of things.

At the time the call went out for the Rising Star expedition, Becca had just finished her graduate program and was looking for more archaeology experience before starting her PhD. She’s also a wilderness expert and first responder familiar with leading large adventure trips involving caving, backpacking, rock climbing and ropes work.

So when Rising Star’s head scientist posted the Facebook ad seeking scientists with caving experience, it was almost too good to be true.

“It seemed written for me,” Becca says. “It was a chance to combine my two skillsets of archeology and a background in adventure and wilderness.”

She sent off her application, thinking her chances were slim. But to her surprise, they requested a Skype interview.

“By the time the interview was over, I knew that if by some miracle I got this, I was going to drop everything and go.”


Theory Strengthens Practice
Becca wasn’t the only non-paleoanthropologist on the team. Each of the scientists brought different perspectives into the cave. Becca added historical archaeology and an ability to analyze situations in tough environments. And all teammates brought the willingness to squeeze into small spaces.

“The exchange of ideas between us as we were excavating was incredible. We all had different ways of thinking about how things might be arranged and what our next move should be. Paleoanthropologists approach excavations differently than anthropologists.” This combination was an advantage.

“The cave site was actually very much like an archaeological setting in that the fossils were in a loose setting rather than rock. So we non-paleoanthropologists were able to add that sensibility to the excavation.”

AU’s public anthropology program was good preparation. Because it’s a four-field department, Becca had collaborated with other scientists before. “It helps to work with other specialties because everyone brings something to the table. You can approach the same question in very different ways.”

Her field experience in the Great Dismal Swamp was what gave her the courage to apply to the position in the first place. The theoretical study back on campus helped with the rest.

“AU professors asked us to think deeply about all types of anthropology topics. It was the level of academic and theoretical thought required that gave me the confidence to hang with these big scientists.”

There’s still a lot to do, but in her work Becca wants to follow the Rising Star model in how it’s made this discovery—and scientific research at large—accessible to the bigger world.

Click to learn more about a master’s degree in public anthropology from American University.


Photo credit: The “underground astronauts” (left to right): Becca Peixotto, Alia Gurtov, Elen Feuerriegel, Marina Elliott, K. Lindsay (Eaves) Hunter and Hannah Morris. The team of scientists excavated the chamber where H. naledi, a new species of human relative, was discovered. The find was announced by the University of the Witwatersrand, the National Geographic Society and the South African National Research Foundation and published in the journal eLife. Photo by John Hawks

Audio Mix

The Art and Science of Audio Technology

The master’s program in audio technology at American University is about art, science, and everyday life. Even the slightest nuances can be the difference between crying and laughing during a movie or between dancing and meditating when a song comes across the radio.

Audio technology isn’t just about art and science, though. The master’s program in audio technology enables talented multidisciplinary thinkers to parlay all of those highly refined skills into dream jobs out in the “real world.”

Talented audio technology professionals are the people who make sound “pop.” The general public might not understand why a movie, theatre production, hit single, or music video is so captivating, but if the sound weren’t spot on, they’d definitely realize something wasn’t quite right. That’s the continual burden that the audio technology industry gladly bears.


A Day in the Life

At American University, the 30-credit master’s in audio technology equips in a way that suits each student’s prospective career. Our students decide whether to concentrate on music recording and production, sound design and post-production, or computer music and music technology.

A specialized master’s in audio technology represents a significant first step toward the career you’ve been fantasizing about for years. We’re talking about those positions that make you wonder how you could ever accept payment for doing something so awesome.


Outcomes for All Types of Artists

Audio technology jobs are wide ranging, to say the least. The music industry calls for sound engineers who record, produce and mix music, but also who can ensure hair-raising live tours and concerts. Sound designers are important for TV, radio, movies and video games. And acousticians apply the principles and finer details of sound across virtually every industry and discipline.

That’s merely the tip of the iceberg. Audio experts build software. They configure equipment such as electronics and microphones. They are consulted when studios and performance venues are constructed.

Audio technologists are vital in executive positions, too. Think about how much better music industry decision-makers can do their jobs if they understand the intricate and subtle nuances of what they’re listening to.

Not unlike Liam Neeson in Taken, audio technology professionals have a unique set of skills. They are honed through courses in critical listening, sound synthesis, music production and mixing, digital instrument design, post-production, and film scoring. These classes are taught by people who don’t just “know” about sound. Our audio technology faculty members have immersed themselves in the industry for years.


Prepare for the Career You’ve Always Wanted

A master’s degree in audio technology provides a deeper level of knowledge that helps professionals stay nimble as technologies and industries evolve. The principles of sound are foundational, even as the world around us changes over and over again.

If you’re interested in the science of audio technology, you can count on like-minded American University faculty to understand. They too are enamored with sound—and they will help you find the best way to pour that passion into real-world purpose.


Click to learn more about how a master’s degree in audio technology from American University impacts various industries.


6 Cool Health Promotion Organizations You Should Know About

Our students in American University’s master’s degree in health promotion management have a unique opportunity. While learning about the art and science of health promotion from esteemed experts in the field, students also can reap all the resume-building benefits of living in the nation’s capital.

Washington, DC, is awash in meaningful, effective nonprofits that choose true impact over lip service. From internships to volunteerism and full-time job opportunities, AU health promotion graduate students should be aware of these six DC nonprofits that are improving health in this region and way beyond:


Partnership for a Healthy America

Based in DC, Partnership for a Healthier America is leveraging the power of private partners to make healthier choices more affordable and accessible to families and children across the country. Leaders such as Michele Obama, companies such as Nike and Dannon, and nonprofits such as YMCA and Boys and Girls Clubs of America lend exceptional credibility to the organization.

The work is vast and wide-ranging. For example, American University (AU) joined 25 other campuses and PHA for the Healthier Campus Initiative. These schools are adopting new guidelines around nutrition, physical activity and programming for students and staff.


DC Greens & FoodPrints

Dr. Stacey Snelling, director of AU’s Health Promotion Program, works with DC Greens and FoodPrints to infuse six DC-area public schools with fresh fruits and vegetables into school systems.

Actually, it’s a two-pronged approach. DC Greens supplies the food while FoodPrints integrates gardening, cooking, and nutrition education into the curriculum.

The reach of each of these small but substantive organizations goes far beyond this school program—and both have plenty of room for volunteers and interns alike.


A Wider Circle

Mark Bergel, who earned an MS in health promotion management from American University, received the prestigious CNN Hero Award in 2014 for starting A Wider Circle in 2001. The mission is simple but powerful: “to end poverty for one individual and one family after another.” Through various community programs, A Wider Circle provides basic need items, education, and long-term support.

A Wider Circle also is a great source of health promotion internship and job opportunities—for students intrigued by bold, committed work.


National Business Group on Health

The National Business Group on Health, which launched more than 30 years ago, comprises mostly Fortune 500 companies with a clear focus: Provide and promote practical solutions to companies’ most important health care problems.

These companies believe controlling health care costs and improving patient safety and quality of care helps the whole world, not just a few select industries or a certain demographic. They fully understand that health and wellness are vital for individuals, communities and society.


Center for Science in the Public Interest

For more than 40 years, CSPI has been using science and data to advocate for key health-related efforts at the national level—for instance, issues such as soda consumption and the unhealthiness of “kids meals.”

In 2013, CSPI demonstrated that 97 percent of restaurant children’s meals are unhealthy. That alarming statistic led to a campaign urging eateries to improve the nutrition value of these meals and to stop marketing unhealthy food to children.

The Washington, DC, area features some of the most effective health promotion organizations in the US. These groups, which help keep critical needs at the forefront, also serve as abundant learning tools for the health promotion management students at American University.

“The opportunity for research, internships, and hands-on experience that is connected with this graduate program is unmatched,” said Annessa Bontrager, a 2015 MS graduate who already has begun full-time work at Partnership for a Healthy America. The professors in the Health Promotion Management Program have a genuine desire to positively impact the surrounding community, and that is infectious.”

Interested in helping or working for organizations like these?

Read more blog posts and learn how the Health Promotion Management Program at American University prepares students to make a difference.

PA Blog 1 – WIDNR Image

What Is Public Anthropology

Theory, Practice, and Social Justice

What the dictionary might tell you: Public anthropology builds on other fields of anthropology to serve the public good—in ways you can see.

What public anthropology means at AU: theory, practice, and social justice.

The term “public anthropology” can feel vague if you’re not in-the-know. We’ve outlined what it means at American University: the theory underlying our work, the forms it takes in practice, and how public anthropology drives social justice.


A lot of research is built with a “do no harm” ethos in mind, but public anthropology goes further—actively striving to enact social change.

Public anthropologists look at the roles that cultural forces, societal power structures, and historical legacies play in shaping today’s world. In response, we harness skills in critical inquiry, communication, and problem solving to make an impact.

Importantly, we also emphasize transparency. Too often, academic research—including the research done by anthropologists—is completely opaque to those outside the field. The public has no way to access it or influence it. In contrast, the “public” in public anthropology refers not only to the public concerns we engage, but to our emphasis on openness. Our work is visible to the public and owned by the public. We invite society to participate in big conversations and are held accountable to the people we serve.

Our graduate students come to the field from archeology, cultural/social anthropology, linguistic anthropology, and biological anthropology, but our work draws on fields far beyond. By engaging sociology, public history, education, international development, justice, and law, we shape nuanced lenses through which to view societal dynamics.


Public anthropologists put our skills to work in public service, community organizing, and social justice advocacy. We work in women’s and minority health, educational equity, and cultural resource management. We strive to better human rights conditions and to further environmental justice.

In short, we apply the perspectives of public anthropology at organizations that concern themselves with public problems.

Our public anthropology students have found meaningful internships with the Smithsonian Institution, National Park Service, National Center for Environmental research, Institute for Women’s Policy Research, and the US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants. They have made an impact in organizations in Washington, DC, and across the globe, including at the Peace Corps, the US Department of State, the AIDS and International Development Project, and the Business and Professional Women’s (BPW) Foundation.

Social Justice

Public anthropology identifies the most urgent problems of our world, then draws from a broad body of work to illuminate pathways to solutions.

No public anthropologist can spend too much time in an ivory tower. By working in solidarity with the communities we live in and study, public anthropologists push for real, significant betterment in people’s lives throughout the world. By pushing for transparency, public anthropologists break past academic elitism to achieve on-the-ground social justice.

Our students are making a difference in their communities, working to effect a more just world, and we’d love for you to join us.


Learn more about public anthropology at American University.


Wellness and Health Benefits Fair, Dec. 01

Health Promotion Managers Change the World

For many, the components are all there. Deep devotion to health and well-being. Innovative ideas for improving the system. Clear goals rooted in firm ideals.

For people who pursue careers in health promotion management, it takes all these factors together, working in unison, to make a significant difference in the world.

Health promotion management is the convergence of it all. It’s the business, science, and art of helping individuals, communities, and society be healthier.

There are hundreds of backgrounds and experiences that lead people into health promotion management careers. They’re so different, but there’s also a common thread: passion.

Triumph Through Challenge

Passion is evident in the woman who grew up suffering from a disease that forced her to embrace a carefully constructed, health-conscious diet. Now she’s made it her mission to inform people about the relationship between diet, exercise, genetics and chronic illness. She wants to improve lifestyle behaviors for people from all socioeconomic sections of life.

From the Inside Out

It’s easy to see the passion in those who have organizational change in mind. You know the type: wellness cheerleaders who understand that entire companies can improve their employees’ lives through simple, yet powerful, options.

These are the experts who begin change within companies—often starting a decades-long commitment to employee health. The result can be dozens if not hundreds or even thousands of people with better habits and lower risk of serious problems such as heart attacks and diabetes.

Active Business Acumen

Passion drives the guy who struggled with self-confidence until late high school, when he began working out at the local gym. He knows the emotional and health benefits of staying active, and he wants to encourage others to join him. After earning a bachelor’s degree in business, he’s looking to merge his fitness acumen with his professional training.

Shifting Governmental Policies

Helping one person, family or company at a time is much needed, but some people envision and reach toward something broader. They are eager to turn their lofty ideals into prudent, efficient governmental policies and international programs. They realize it will be a long road, but they’re eager to start the journey.

These different types of future leaders are passionate about health promotion because they understand its long-term importance. In other words, they know that health affects everything from a fifth-grader’s academic performance to a Third World country’s economic stability to an elderly person’s quality of life.

Beyond passion, the reason health promotion managers are so well suited to lead the personal health responsibility revolution is that they are so well trained. They are specialists who can implement knowledge from exercise physiology and to behavioral psychology and nutrition.

For many college students, their major or area of emphasis means little more than a ticket to a diploma and a black robe. But for those who pursue a master’s degree in health promotion management, their field of study has potential to shape their lives—and many, many others—every single day.

Interested in American University’s MS in health promotion management program? Learn more today!

Behind the Scenes at DEMO Spring 2011

During the VMAs, The Technology Behind the Magic

Written by Paul Oehlers, Audio technology professor

Behind Every Celebrity Lies Technicians and Technology

Beyond Miley and Taylor, the Video Music Awards will provide a new batch of case studies to dissect and analyze. More opportunities to delve into the art and science of audio technology.


I’ll watch the MTV Video Music Awards on August 30—but I’ll be watching a different show than most people. It’s just part of being an audio technician.

I’ve been this way since I was a little kid. My memories of Disneyworld are much different than my sister’s. While she enjoyed the magic of the rides, I was looking under the seat, trying to find the air hose, and leaning over the edge to find the mirror that created the illusion.

I was a magician’s worst nightmare. To me, there is no such thing as magic, just technology I haven’t figured out. I’m not afraid of Oz. I see the man behind the curtain.

When the VMAs appear on television this week, I expect it will be more of the same for me. Most people are content to enjoy the illusion that the music industry creates. They will watch the VMAs and be interested in the “who” and “what” of the evening:

  • What did Miley Cyrus say?
  • Who performed better “live,” Taylor Swift or Selena Gomez?
  • Who looked more like a hipster, Bruno Mars, or Mark Ronson?
  • Did Kanye West rush the stage and rage on a fellow musician?

For those of us who are interested in the “How did they do that?” it will be a much different evening. The VMAs will provide a new batch of case studies to dissect and analyze. More opportunities to delve into the art and science of audio technology.

At events like the VMAs, the technology evolves and expands while the talent seems pretty similar from year to year. Miley Cyrus, Taylor Swift, and Selena Gomez aren’t much different than Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and Ashlee Simpson a decade ago. This generation’s One Direction is simply New Kids on the Block.

The technology has improved to make the illusion seem more real, but reality remains the same: the songwriters, musicians, and audio and video technicians behind the camera play a huge role in making those celebrities look great in front of the camera. Between these well-trained professionals and rapidly emerging industry tools, many of the “stars” that the media promotes are rather interchangeable. It’s the “machine” that keeps churning out one platinum hit after another.

I’m not saying that there won’t be enjoyable moments during the VMAs. After all, people eat hamburgers because they taste good, not because they are good for them. I’ll just be watching a different show than most people. My satisfaction comes from knowing “how,” not “who.” I appreciate the techniques these audio and video engineers use to create a spectacle worth watching.

Will there be twerking? Probably. But I won’t care. I’ll be too busy figuring out how they used the video screens to turn a virtual Donald Trump into Batman.



Interested in the “how” of the entertainment industry? Click to learn more about the MA in audio technology program at American University.