Cinema program continues its growth

November 18, 2010

Cinema has always been an important part of the School of Communications’  curriculum, but this year it got a major face-lift with the addition of new faculty, programs and student activities.

“It’s really grown considerably,” said Kenn Gaither, the associate dean of the School of Communications. “In the last couple of years we’ve added new faculty, we’re growing our student organizations and programs. Cinelon and Elon Docs, for example, are both getting larger.”

Included in these improvements is Elon’s hiring of screenwriter and director Paul Castro as a visiting faculty member. Castro is most well known for his screenplay for the movie “August Rush,” a major motion picture starring Keri Russell and Robin Williams.

“What I believe I can bring to the cinema program is experience and passion,” Castro said. “I certainly have the experience to teach screenwriting and filmmaking, but more importantly is the passion, the passion for my students’ success.”

The changes in the cinema program have not gone unnoticed in the professional world.  Elon was recently one of 13 colleges and universities selected to participate in the Sprite Refreshing Filmmakers Challenge.  The contest, which gives students the chance to work on a professional commercial, is only open to the selected schools and includes some of the most prestigious film programs in the country.

More than anything, Elon cinema students have the opportunity, now more than ever, to hone their skills and to one day become important members of the very competitive entertainment industry.

“I just love what I do,” said cinema student Josh Chagani. “I love being behind the camera or in front of Final Cut, and I’m really glad that the support system here is as amazing as it is.”


Alumni Updates

April 8, 2010

Our alumni are engaged in some exciting projects and initiatives. We want to make sure we’re keeping up with all the exciting work you’re doing. So be sure to contact us at eloncommalumni@gmail.com with updates about what you’re doing. Send us any details about projects you’re working on, honors you’ve won or changes in your employment status.

  • Erin Barnett

    Erin Barnett

    ERIN BARNETT ’09 had a documentary she produced as a student broadcast in the spring on One Africa TV. Erin Barnett’s film, “My Name is Anita,” introduces viewers to Anita Isaacs, a former Periclean-in-Residence at Elon and an HIV/AIDS activist in Namibia. The “Anita” film was also screened in October 2009 at the St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival in Canada. Barnett is now an assistant to Alex Gibney at Jigsaw Productions in New York.

  • AUDREY SEAGRAVES ’02 won one of 15 Tech Award Laureates for 2009, an award that honors innovators from around the world who are applying technology to benefit humanity. The online “Fair Wage Guide,” managed by Seagraves, is a tool to assist millions of workers in the developing world who live below the poverty level. Seagraves is Director of Programs for World of Good Development Organization, a non-profit organization focused on improving economic and social conditions for women and adolescent girls in the developing world who live on less than $2/day.
  • Alumni team that produced "Sequoia"

    Alumni team that produced "Sequoia"

    KATY BRANSTON, CONOR BRITAIN, CHRIS FORD, TIM JOHNSON, EMILY KAMISCHKE, LAUREN LIMERICK, KELLY MURTAUGH AND LIZZIE NAPIER, all 2009 alumni, produced a documentary titled “Sequoia: A Sailor and His Ship,” which won the North Carolina Filmmaker award at the Carolina Film and Video Festival in Greensboro, N.C. The students completed the all the filming and basic work in the fall semester Communications Fellows capstone course and then put finishing touches on the project in the spring with the support of elondocs. The film also will be screened at the Asheville Film Festival in November.

  • BILLY CAHILL ’09 won an award for his film “A Slice of Key Lime Pie” from The Canadian International Film Festival. The film, which Cahill made during his senior year at Elon, is about a college student’s attempt to impress a boy she likes as she prepares for her first date.
  • NATALIE FAVA AND TAYLOR JOHNSON, both 2009 alumnae, had their film “Elsewhere: 3 Stories Afterwards” selected for the 2009 Carrboro Film Festival in November. The film is about a woman named Sylvia, who collected everything and sold almost nothing from her family’s Army surplus store. What was left after she died in 1997 were three stories of American memorabilia stacked floor to ceiling in a building in downtown Greensboro, N.C.
  • SCOTT GUSTAFSON ’00, OLIVIA HUBERT-ALLEN ’09, TOM MULLEN ’00 and BETH ROBERTS ’07 spoke to a packed room of undergraduate and graduate students in February as part of a panel discussion titled “How to Win Friends and Influence Your Career.” All panelists agreed that networking was a necessary component of their job and internship searches. They acknowledged that students can’t be afraid to meet people and, most importantly, remember people.
  • RICH BLOMQUIST ’00, a writer for “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” who has won a number of Emmys for his work, co-wrote a book titled “Sexy Book of Sexy Sex” with “Daily Show” contributor Kristen Schaal.
  • HEATH OLDHAM ’00 on an Emmy award from The National Capital Chesapeake Bay Chapter for marketing work he did for WTVR-TV CBS 6 news in Richmond, Va., earlier in June. Oldham, the promotions manager for the news organization, worked with two other people on the Emmy-award winning promotional spot featuring CBS 6 reporter Mark Holmberg.
  • MATT DAVIS ’09 presented a research paper in November at a scholarly conference of the Mid-Atlantic Region of the Association for Asian Studies at Villanova University. Davis’s paper, “Loanwords in Lyrics: An Audience-Oriented Study of English in J-Pop Music,” examines English-language loan words in Japanese popular music.
  • COLLEEN CALLAHAN and CAROLYN KLASNICK, both 2009 alumnae, won the GLEE Photobucket Show Us Your Gold Star Potential contest administered by Photobucket. They submitted an episode of a series called titled “Transitions,” which Callahan produced in her seminar project class. (Watch the VIDEO.)
  • Bobby Hoppey

    Bobby Hoppey

    ROBERT HOPPEY ’09 saw a tough job market in the year leading up to his graduation, he built a “souped-up multimedia resume” that included a video spoof of “The Office” television program to show potential employers his creative side. CBS Evening News took note, too, and Hoppey was featured in a June 8 nationwide segment on the ways college graduates are marketing themselves in an economic recession.


Alumni Spotlight: Laith Majali produces film, gears up to deliver May Commencement address

April 7, 2010
Laith Majali

Laith Majali

Alumnus and acclaimed filmmaker Laith Majali ’05 will deliver Elon University’s 120th Commencement address scheduled May 22, Under the Oaks in front of West Residence Hall. But in the five years since his graduation, he has been a constant source of support for students, faculty and staff in the School of Communications. He returns to campus several times during the year and lends a hand in the Elon in Los Angeles summer program. He valued his education at Elon and now shares his wealth of experience as a filmmaker, editor and photographer.

“Elon is where I got my base and was allowed to develop my own projects,” Majali says. “Doing my own projects and seeking out internships are the main things that have helped me out. And having mentors like professor Ray Johnson and (staff member) J. McMerty to look at my work and help me out, that was the big thing.”

Majali came to Elon in 2001 as the university’s first King Hussein of Jordan Scholar. He quickly distinguished himself as a campus leader, becoming an Isabella Cannon Leadership Fellow and Elon Ambassador, and joining the Intercultural Relations Club. In the days following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Majali served as a unifying voice during campus gatherings, sharing his Arabic culture with fellow students.

Embracing Elon’s engaged learning philosophy, Majali was active in campus media, regularly volunteering to videotape athletics events and Elon Student Television programs in addition to working on his own film projects. Called a “true student of film and photography,” he often could be found working late into the night in the School of Communications, honing his editing skills. In 2002, he received an Aegis Award for a music video he produced about his hometown.


As a student, Laith displayed tremendous potential and promise as a filmmaker, and early in 2008 his hard work paid off when “Captain Abu Raed,” a feature film he produced and edited, won the World Cinema Audience Award for Drama at the Sundance Film Festival. (READ MORE ABOUT LAITH’S FILM.) The honor was one of the top bestowed on filmmakers at Sundance.

“From the moment we started, we never knew how far we could go, but we always thought good about it,” he says. “It’s gratifying to see all our efforts and the collaboration of 120 people from 16 countries end up in such a beautiful film.”

Since the film’s release, it has been screened all over the world. It is now available on DVD. (READ MORE ABOUT THE DVD RELEASE.)



School of Communications announces leadership appointments

April 7, 2010
From left: Don Grady, Kenn Gaither, Jessica Gisclair

From left: Don Grady, Kenn Gaither, Jessica Gisclair

The School of Communications on Wednesday announced the appointments of two associate deans, with associate professors Don Grady and Kenn Gaither assuming their new responsibilities on June 1. Associate professor Jessica Gisclair will succeed Grady as the school’s department chair.

Dean Paul Parsons announced the appointments based on an internal application process and substantive faculty/staff conversations following the selection earlier this year of current associate dean Connie Book as associate provost for academic affairs. The Communications faculty voted to remain a holistic school with a single department chair and to add an associate dean rather than create multiple departments.

“We work well as a holistic school, and Don Grady, Kenn Gaither and Jessica Gisclair are terrific individuals with leadership talents that complement one another,” Parsons said. “They have the spirit of innovation that makes the School of Communications special, and their appointments also ensure continuity of our learning-centered mission.”



David Copeland takes sinewy route to academia

April 7, 2010
David Copeland

David Copeland

Ask David Copeland to describe himself and he will respond, “David Copeland is just a guy who loves to teach and has been doing it for a long time.”

With that statement, Copeland does not cover a fraction of what he has accomplished in his time as a historian, an educator, a journalist and a musician. He dug an outhouse in historic Williamsburg, did freelance archaeology in his hometown, lucked into the position of sports editor at a local daily newspaper, played trumpet with The Temptations and wrote nine books.

When he applied for his position as sports editor, he was asked about his journalism background.

“‘I don’t have any,'” Copeland told them. “‘But,’ I said, ‘I can write.’ And they said, ‘Go home tonight and watch the World Series.'”

Copeland was told to not read anything and to not watch any reports on it. His task was simply to write it up and turn it in the next day. He was hired and his hands-on journalism education began.

He has earned two master’s degrees – one in divinity and the other in theology. Copeland served as a music minister from 1987 to 2001 in addition to working as a journalist and earning his doctorate degree.

One of the facts Copeland likes to share when first introducing himself to his students is that he once played with The Temptations. What his students don’t realize – judging by the chuckle that runs through the room when he says it – is that he really did play with The Temptations. They had a show band with a complement of trumpets, saxophones and guitarists, and one night, a trumpet player was sick. The band called Wake Forest, where Copeland was an undergraduate student at the time, and he was asked to fill in for show. The only thing he needed to do to prepare was to find a white tie to fit in with the navy and white attire.

“I kind of took them aback when they looked back there and saw me sitting there,” Copeland said, “because they didn’t exactly expect me to be there. So, it was pretty fun. What was really fun was I had a lot of friends who had gone to the concert and had really up-close seats and they were going, ‘What are you doing there!? I can’t figure this out!'”

Copeland principally teaches Media History now in addition to serving as director of the Interactive Media graduate program.

Read more about David Copeland:


Setting students up for success: internship, career services offices give students leg up

April 7, 2010

Introducing the Internship Office

Internships are an excellent way to apply your classroom knowledge in a professional work setting, to network with professionals and to build your resume. Students enrolled in the School of Communications are required to complete two (2) credit hours of COM381 Communications Internship before they graduate.

In recent years, Elon students have been interns at:

  • Vogue
  • Saatchi & Saatchi
  • Ketchum, Young and Rubicam
  • National Geographic
  • ESPN the Magazine
  • Washington Post Interactive
  • 60 Minutes
  • Baltimore Orioles
  • NBC Nightly News
  • Paramount Studios
  • CNN
  • Discovery Communications
  • International Tennis Hall of Fame
  • Infinity Broadcasting
  • MTV
  • Duke Children’s Hospital
  • Universal Studios
  • Atlantic Coast Conference

The School of Communications internship program is directed by Nagatha Tonkins, who has worked as news reporter/morning anchor for WGHP-TV in High Point, N.C., and as news reporter for WLOE-AM in Eden, N.C. She also served as internship director and department sequence coordinator in the Journalism and Mass Communication Department at North Carolina A&T State University.

Read more about our internship program:

Introducing the Career Services Office

Elon’s School of Communications Careers Office is a branch of Elon’s main Career Center. The primary goal of the School of Communications Careers Office is to assist communications students with (1) self-assessment (exploring interests, abilities, values and personality style), (2) exploration of academic majors (Journalism, Strategic Communications, Media Arts & Entertainment, Communication Science) and career options, (3) career decision making and (4) creating and executing an action plan to secure a job or admission into a graduate program.

The School of Communications career services office is directed by Ross Wade, who has six years of combined media experience in television and documentary film and corporate and entertainment industry multimedia production and project management.

Read more about our career services office:

*If you’d like to be part of our alumni profiles page, please contact us at eloncommalumni@gmail.com. And please consider joining the Elon Job Network, so you can network with Elon students.


Best of the Broadcasting Crop: Randy Gyllenhaal prepares for life after Elon

April 7, 2010
Randy Gyllenhaal

Randy Gyllenhaal

Senior Randy Gyllenhaal dove right into Phoenix14 his freshman year, was anchor his sophomore year and won a Hearst Journalism Award his junior year. As a broadcast journalism major and international studies minor, Gyllenhaal spends a good amount of time in the edit suites of McEwen. But the sacrifice has paid off for him.

Gyllenhaal took first place in the William Randolph Hearst Foundation’s National Television Broadcast News Championship in 2009. He earned third place in hard news, which sent him to the championship round in San Francisco where he competed in a day-of story.

“It was an economics story about the fishing industry in San Francisco, so I wanted to see how the fishermen on the boats were doing and how that impacted restaurants up the chain,” he said. “So, if consumers weren’t eating, that would hurt everybody along the chain. I just talked to everybody in San Francisco I could find – some people on a boat, some people in a restaurant, and I thought it was a pretty compelling story. It had some good images and obviously the judges were impressed, too.”

Gyllenhaal said he has been so focused on journalism during his time at Elon that it has become his main hobby.

“My hobby now is shooting video,” he said. “It wasn’t before. I used to play sports and play guitar. I’ve gotten into just shooting recreational video like documentaries or music videos. That’s kind of fun for me.”

Even though his hobby is in his major, Gyllenhaal said it allows him to escape from pure news reporting for a bit.

Gyllenhaal said he has learned the most from his experiences beyond the classroom. Elon has let him grow by himself through doing hands-on work with Phoenix14 and through internships. He interned at ABC World News with Charlie Gibson the summer after his sophomore year, and FOX 5 in Washington, D.C., the summer after his junior year.

For the next six months, Gyllenhaal plans to focus on himself, hunt for a solid job in broadcast journalism and avoid having to live in the dreaded cardboard box that looms in the back of seniors’ minds. After that, he hopes to give back to Elon both financially and by giving of his time to students who want advice.

Phoenix14 especially has a strong alumni base, Gyllenhaal said, and he keeps in touch with a lot of them through e-mail and facebook.

“It’s a really good networking vineyard for us to be able to just go back and forth with each other and get internships and jobs from each other,” he said.

Gyllenhaal will join that vineyard May 22, 2010.

Read more about Randy Gyllenhaal: