Former Gov. Tom Kean is interviewed about 9/11 as Jason Shark operates the video camera.


For the 9/11 Student-Journalism Project, 21 handpicked J/MS majors had to travel the state to interview and film children of those who died in the Twin Towers collapse a decade ago.

While they were filming the survivors, someone was making a film about them.

Jason Scharch, J/MS 2011, now a production assistant at AOL Studios in NYC, spent the months from last January to August filming J/MS students in the classroom and as they went into homes where families lost a parent a decade ago. View Post

Seth Mandel

By Greg Stambach — 

At Commentary magazine, a monthly periodical known for its focus on political, cultural, and social issues as well as Judaism, Assistant Editor Seth Mandel, J/MS 2004, gets to write thought-provoking articles that fall under those broad umbrellas.

At the moment, the heaviest focus of his articles is on American politics, including the 2012 U.S. presidential race, as well as international affairs and security. Politics are unquestionably his strength and primary go-to topic of choice.

“It’s a pretty broad category but one that enables me to cast a wide enough intellectual net to make sure I and our readers have a full picture of the world around us,” he said.

His frequent blog posts revolve around national matters: recently he has written several entries on Mitt Romney being the reluctant choice of Republicans and the controversial link between President Obama and former New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine, whose company, MF Global, is in financial meltdown over risky European debt.

Mandel has received investigative reporting awards and recognition for his coverage of conflicts in the Middle East in addition to Iran’s nuclear program and the Second Lebanon War.

He said that he puts his J/MS skills to use on a daily basis. Only a month after graduating, Mandel began working as a newspaper reporter for the East Brunswick Sentinel and held that job for two years. After gaining wide recognition in 2006 for publishing an article about Israel’s then prime minister, Ariel Sharon, who had gone into (and still remains in) a coma following two subsequent strokes, Mandel was offered reporting jobs at four newspapers, The Jewish State, The Jewish Journal, The Speaker, and Jewish Life of Hudson County.

He rose to become managing editor of each.

“I stayed at that job for four years, until the papers closed,” he stated. His ambitions opened up new windows of opportunity as he went about his work.

After moving to Washington, D.C., last year, Mandel worked as a freelance writer and was named one of 16 National Security Fellows chosen at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a non-partisan organization that combats terrorism and militant Islam.

Additionally, he was also a journalism fellow at the Horowitz Freedom Center, formerly the Center for the Study of Popular Culture, a conservative “national security think tank,” as he calls it.

This past July, Mandel joined the staff of Commentary as the assistant editor and currently resides in New York with his wife and co-worker Bethany, a 2008 Rutgers graduate who supervises the magazine’s social media presence.

“My work involves writing both for the magazine and for the website, editing, assigning stories, working with writers, and planning layout for the print edition,” he said.

Looking back, Mandel is glad that he listened to what his professors had to offer in real-world, practical tips.

He said, “I did not pursue an advanced degree after graduating. The advice I was given was to get real-world experience first and then consider going back to school. It was good advice. The first thing I was asked by any prospective employer was: ‘What have you had published?’”

Mandel said certain classes and professors still come to mind. “Dr. Reed certainly stands out,” he recalled. “Her class was tough but fair, and Dr. Reed expected a lot from us—a sign of her confidence in our abilities.”

Mandel called the journalism program at Rutgers “impressive” and said, “Rutgers prepares its students for any and every possible journalism career path.”

Mandel’s advice to future generations of journalists is, “Learning to budget your time is invaluable, as is getting over your nerves about asking strangers pointed questions.”

With an ever-expanding knowledge of political and cultural issues in his mental dossier, Mandel is becoming one of the major American journalists of our time.


Sarah Dunn

Photo of Sarah Dunn. Photo supplied by her.

By Johanna Ordonez

With the flying public jittery about terrorism concerns and air accidents, doing public relations for the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) is serious business.

Sarah Dunn, J/MS 2010, communications and public affairs specialist for NATCA, doesn’t bother with A-listers, launch parties, or goodie bags. She speaks with the media daily about flight safety and writes about legislative issues before Congress.

She likes that, in public relations, she is in control of what is said and written about her organization.

“I like knowing that I control the messages about our association as much as is humanly possible, and I say that because I don’t believe that an organization can ever be in total control of what is said or written about it, especially in the aviation industry,” said Dunn.

Some of her biggest pleasures are to write about air traffic controllers who have gone way beyond their duties in saving lives.

For example, an air traffic controller in Denver saved the life of a pilot and his wife by instructing the pilot’s wife to an emergency landing route after the pilot became incapacitated from lack of oxygen during the plane’s ascent.

A controller in Rome, Georgia, saved the life of a pilot by providing a safe path to the runway despite the plane’s malfunctioning navigation equipment, low ceilings and fog, low fuel, and two missed approaches.

But when things go wrong, Dunn is at NATCA’s Washington, DC, headquarters at all times and is ready to explain it to the media.

“We are very well prepared for an emergency situation,” she emphasized. “The group of people that needs to be involved in a response to the situation immediately gets in touch about whatever the situation is and discusses whether we will put out a statement or press release.”

Born in New York State

Dunn  was born and raised in Eaton, New York. Her parents are recently retired English teachers, but she discovered her talent for writing all on her own. At Rutgers she wrote for The Daily Targum when she could but spent most of her time playing field hockey.

“I don’t regret one moment of that time because it was what I liked to do,” said Dunn.

She also found something that kept her busy and focused: half marathons and sprint triathlons, which she still does in the company of her sister.

When Dunn entered college she had her eyes on majoring in marine biology, but when class conflicted with her sports she had to find another direction, and that was J/MS.

She loved the writing, she said, and listened carefully to what her professors taught her.

“It is always hard to figure out if what a professor is saying is something you will actually need,” noted Dunn. “It seems that everything that you need to know to become a great journalist you learn on your way.”

Dunn found her inspiration in a few of her professors, including professor Liz Fuerst for public relations and professor Robert Kubey for his Media in Politics course.

“I found professor Fuerst straightforward but helpful since she knew what she was talking about,” said Dunn. “Everything I learned in professor Kubey’s class I am now using when I deal with the media directly.”

At J/MS she had two different internships that helped her prepare for jobs in public relations, and she particularly thanked professor Steve Miller for helping her find these internships.

When she graduated, she was not sure her hard work would pay off. She took a position at a government-affairs firm in the Washington area but felt no room for growth. As soon as she heard about the NATCA job from her boyfriend, she immediately sent in her resume and was hired.

Dunn said she loves what she does. What advice does she have for current J/MS students?

“It’s very simple, go to class.”

Adrian Jose Feliciano ’08 at the Syfy headquarters. Photo By Jamaal Brown.



By Jamaal Brown

If you are a media person and a devotee of science fiction, you might relish the job that Adrian Jose Feliciano, J/MS 2008, has: assistant to the president of   NBCUniversal’s Syfy network.

That’s the national network that has shows like “Ghost Hunters International,” “Paranormal Witness,” and the cultish “Face Off.”

Feliciano also has supervisory duties for the Universal 24-hour horror and suspense network Chiller TV. Along with zombies, vampires, and the undead, Chiller TV also airs reruns of “Fear Factor,” the granddaddy of gross-out reality shows featuring contestants who face their greatest fears, such as climbing into a coffin filled with writhing worms.

You won’t find worms in the sleek NBCUniversal offices in Manhattan, but every day Feliciano faces the fear of coming up with compelling programming to delight special interest audiences and keep them returning. His duties range from administrative work all the way up to planning major events for the Syfy network.

“I act as a filter or a funnel to the president of Syfy,” he said. “So I have to know the content of everything that goes on so I can put it into context for him.”

Feliciano is also involved with the development of television series. Whenever scripts and treatments for new series hit his desk, he makes time to read them.

“I’m the most stressed I’ve ever been at my current position,” said Feliciano. “But it’s my favorite position I’ve ever held because it keeps things interesting, and I’m learning more than ever before.

“I want to know why the scripts were accepted or rejected so I can better understand how decisions are made. I just recently read through eight scripts of pilot episodes in one weekend.”

Feliciano says that the TV reporting class at Rutgers helped prepare him for the work that he’s doing because it helped him gain an understanding for sound, lighting and video. He says that hands-on experience is important in the industry.

“You need to know how to edit and the logistics of putting packages together,” he said.  “If you work on the cable or corporate side, it helps you understand producers and the process. When people talk their industry jargon, you know what they’re talking about.”

Feliciano always had a deep passion for journalism but planned to go to law school. While at J/MS he was a popular DJ for the Philadelphia/South Jersey area, working for two companies and his own, doing emcee chores at weddings, bar mitzvahs and birthdays.

But as part of a J/MS internship with the ACLU, he made a documentary on the issue of giving ex-felons the right to vote, and later did an internship in Spain for the UN High Command on Refugees, for which he did a short-form documentary about North African refugees in Spanish territory.

Through making the documentaries and seeing their impact, he discovered his true passion for film. He abandoned the idea of being a lawyer and began searching for a career in the film field.

Through a friend he knew from the Rutgers Glee Club, Feliciano found his first job just one month after graduating. “Even though we weren’t in contact all the time, I knew his reputation and he knew mine,” recalled Feliciano. “When we touched base, he was exiting his position at NBCUniversal TV Distribution, and he put in my resume. I’m very grateful to him.”

His first position was in syndication, and his main duty was to find programming from cable and syndicate it to local stations. He had a long run in syndication but wanted to get into development.

“Syndication is all game shows and talkers,” said Feliciano. “So I knew I had to get into cable. That’s when I was approached by Syfy. They wanted someone with experience, so here I am.”

Feliciano’s long-term goal is to be a development executive and nurture his own projects from start to finish. To help him get to that point, Feliciano is in graduate school for business. He hopes that a graduate school education will take him to the next level in his career.

“I have no idea how I balance 60-hour work weeks and nine credit grad school semesters,” said Feliciano, who resides in Manhattan.

Feliciano has papers to do, exams to study for and books to read. On the business front, he has events that have to be planned and scripts that need to be read. When asked how he does it all, his reply was, “I plan for the future and live by the day. I have faith that good will come from all of the hard work.”

Jerry Aumente in Lithuania

Prof. Jerry Aumente with his class of Lithuanian students.

By Liz Fuerst 

When J/MS Distinguished Professor Emeritus Jerome Aumente went to teach this fall at the University of Vilnius in Lithuania on a Fulbright Specialist grant assignment, he had his graduate students study the J/MS department’s acclaimed 9/11 Student-Journalism Project as an example of using the multi platform strengths of the internet to tell a story.

Rutgers’ 9/11 Project involved text, still photographs and video to profile children of New Jersey 9/11 victims on the 10th anniversary of the Twin Towers tragedy (see related story about alumnus Jason Scharch on page 5).

Aumente said he found the
J/MS reportage “very moving” and felt he could use it to help the Vilnius students create a multimedia website on health and environment issues.

Although the university was founded in the 16th century,  its outlook on the media is decidedly modern. Aumente spent four weeks there as a guest of the Institute of Journalism and the Faculty of Communication, lecturing on new media and the internet. He also advised the journalism faculty on curriculum development and research initiatives.

The health and environmental website “was custom designed for Lithuania and the greater Vilnius region,” Aumente reported, “and the students did a superb job planning its graphic design, editorial content, budget, technology, advertising and marketing strategies.

“Their theoretical study of new media and internet wedded professionally with the real-life practical challenge they confronted.”

Aumente donated to the institute library copies of his own books on new media and those of the J/MS Department Chair, John Pavlik.

The globe-trotting Aumente has been very busy this year on journalism consulting projects abroad.

He spent some of the summer in Mozambique, where he completed a detailed evaluation of health journalism and communication training on behalf of the Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health.

The school has a major grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to combat communicable diseases, with a focus on HIV-AIDS.

“Mozambique is a vibrant, developing nation emerging from its Portuguese colonial history and facing serious health challenges where one of six of its people has contracted HIV-AIDS,” Aumente said. “The country has launched a nationwide campaign to fight it, and a new generation of trained health journalists and health communicators is urgently needed.”

From the Winter 2011 Issue

To find a successor to Rutgers President Richard L. McCormick, the university has tapped a blue-ribbon committee that includes Dean Jorge Schement of the School of Communication and Information and Yetunde Odugbesan, J/MS 2009, a current Rutgers Ph.D. candidate.

Schement said the committee has been meeting frequently, and by June, the search should be narrowed down to a handful of candidates. Aiding the committee in its search is the prominent education search firm R. William Funk & Associates of Dallas, Texas.

The search committee has held several public forums with students, faculty, and staff, which Schement has attended, to listen to suggestions.

The selection of a new president, according to Schement “will determine the future of the university for decades. This is a great university that deserves a great president.”

Schement said the new president could come from academia or politics or even the corporate sphere. “My hope that whoever it is, that person will be comfortable living the public life,” he continued.

Among the important tasks for the next president, as Schement sees it, are overseeing the merger of the university with the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ), bringing more diversity to the faculty, and taking an active role in fundraising.

He clearly emphasized that it is critical for the new president to represent the Rutgers University brand.
“He or she should be a salesman for the university to all kinds of constituencies,” said Schement, “to make New Jerseyans feel about Rutgers the way Californians think of Berkeley and Texans think of the University of Texas.”