By AnnMarie Hartnett

Longtime Journalism and Media Studies Professor Richard Heffner was not simply “teaching” about media history; he was a piece of history himself.

Prof. Richard Heffner Photo © Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

Prof. Richard Heffner
Photo © Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

Heffner, who died in December of a sudden cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 88, interviewed the likes of Edward R. Murrow, Martin Luther King and Gloria Steinem and never cowered from discussions of provocative and controversial issues.

His platform was the television show “The Open Mind,” the half-hour public affairs show that originated in 1956 with Heffner in the host’s chair. Originally seen on WNBC, “The Open Mind” moved to Channel 13 when Heffner helped negotiate the establishment of Channel 13 (it had been a failing commercial station in Newark) and became the station’s first general manager in 1961.

He had an impressive list of other accomplishments that included writing a book, The Documentary History of the United States, and serving as chairman of the Motion Picture Association of America’s Classification and Rating Administration for 20 years – the folks that label movies with a G, PG, R or X and other sub-categories.

During his tenure he introduced such ratings as PG-13 and NC-17. Heffner also led the rating board’s move to evaluate films for excessive violence along with sexual provocation.

“Parents were more concerned about the human body and sexuality in the 1960s,” Heffner told The Associated Press in 1986. “Today, the threat to family is violence and drug use. We’re tougher on violence and a mite less involved with the view of the human body.”

The Los Angeles Times called Heffner “the least-known most powerful person in Hollywood.”

However, Heffner was first and foremost a scholar with a passion for teaching. In fact, he had just finished his grades for the two courses he was teaching when he died.

He joined the faculty of Rutgers in 1964 and last held the title of University Professor of Communications and Public Policy. He commuted to New Brunswick once or twice a week from his home in Manhattan.

Heffner’s wife has been quoted saying that she always knew her husband would be a teacher until the day he died. Decades of J/MS students learned an immeasurable amount from this sweet, humble, dedicated and inspiring person.

Mass Communication and the American Image and Communication and Human Values were among the courses he was famous for on campus. Both of these conceptual courses integrated all of his areas of expertise and motivated students to look at media in a broader perspective in their relationship to history and politics.

Ron Miskoff, one of the teachers of Media Publishing and Design, took Mass Communication and the American Image with Heffner in the 1960s.

“I went to see him in his office one day, and on his wall was a picture of the presidential candidate, Bobby Kennedy, who had been assassinated about six months before. The inscription read something like, ‘Thank you for being there in our darkest hour.’ It was signed by Kennedy’s wife, Ethel.”

Claire McInerney, acting dean of the School of Communication and Information, describes the reaction to his death: “We were shocked because he was an active teacher. We were extremely saddened. Words seem inadequate to describe it. Heffner’s experience in the fields of media, politics and history often provided the backbone for his classes.”

According to McInerney, “The Open Mind” showcased Heffner’s skills as a communicator. “He was someone who listens, someone who asks good questions and someone who has something to say,” noted McInerney. “He had opinions about things, informed opinions, but then he was open to hearing other peoples’ opinions.”

She noted that Heffner was an extremely respected and beloved staff member at SC&I who will be missed.

“He lived what he proposed,” said McInerney. “He lived his life according to how he thought people should be in the communication field.”

She added that it was a great fortune for Rutgers to have Heffner on staff as long as it did. “It was a very great loss to us in the school, but we all learned lessons from him that will carry forward.”

As a tribute to Heffner, the Rutgers School of Arts and Sciences will be setting up a lecture series in his memory. It seems a fitting tribute to a man who dedicated his life to learning and educating others.

“There has been a fund established for the lecture series, and it will be titled the Richard Heffner Lecture Series,” said McInerney.


Bjoern Kils captains his New York Media Boat in the waters of the Hudson River. Photo by Lisa Marie Segarra

Bjoern Kils captains his New York Media Boat in the waters of the Hudson River. Photo by Lisa Marie Segarra

By Lisa Marie Segarra

In the world of broadcast journalism, getting the perfect shot can be critical. That couldn’t be truer out on the water, where one J/MS alumnus pilots a boat that allows reporters and film crews to see New York City from an entirely different angle.

Bjoern Kils, J/MS 2002, owns the New York Media Boat, a 26-foot, ex-military special ops craft that plies New York harbor and surrounding waters.

“We take photographers on board, we take news crews on board, and I also do a lot of maritime photography out here myself,” said Kils.

His clientele includes CNN, Fox, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and Bloomberg, which use the boat to shoot footage from the harbor.

Kils also creates sailing-based photography packages for international clients like Hugo Boss and Maserati.

“A lot of these bigger New York media outlets come to us because this boat is cheaper to run than a helicopter, and generally we can stay on scene longer,” noted Kils. “We can also get to many places that are harder to access by car.”

A car could never have saved the life of a crew member of a tugboat sinking in the waters off Queens, as Kils and the New York Media Boat team did in January.

“I was doing some commercial work off East Rockaway, out in the Atlantic with this boat,” said Kils. “It was very bad conditions, very foggy with 6-foot waves. We were out there, and all of a sudden I hear on the radio that there is a mayday call, a tugboat was taking on water, and it was sinking.

“So the Coast Guard relayed the coordinates, and we figured out the position with the help of our navigation systems on board, and we responded to this tugboat that was going down. By the time we got there, there was only about two feet of tugboat left. The boat was going down fast, and there was a person laying across the bow. It was a pretty hopeless situation for the guy, but we were able to go in there and pull him on board and rescue him.

“We dropped him off at the pilot ship out there. The pilots also had three of the other crew on board. It was great. We were able to save this guy’s life.”

Although he always loved being on the water, Kils never thought he’d make his living this way. He grew up in northern Germany on the Baltic Sea and moved with his family to the United States in 1994, when his father was recruited by Rutgers Institute of Marine and Coastal Science.

At Rutgers, beside journalism, Kils had a minor in marine science. He began working at News 12 News Jersey following graduation. Beginning as a freelancer working overnight in the master control room, he eventually got promoted to an editor and cameraperson. Kils also worked at the assignment desk and ran the satellite truck.

He stayed with News 12 New Jersey until 2007. He then got an offer to work for MedPage Today, an accredited medical news service, to build up the company’s video department. There, Kils shot medical conferences and expert interviews as he traveled throughout North America and Europe.

During that time, he got the idea to start the New York Media Boat by working on his own photography.

“I had a smaller boat here in the harbor, a 12-foot boat, with which I was doing a lot of photography, especially of sail boats and anything that was going on in the harbor, really,” he recalled.

“There was a lot of stuff happening. I saw the demand for photographers wanting to come on board and TV crews, and then I upgraded the boat.”

Kils cites his experience, including the skills he learned and the J/MS classes he took, as contributing reasons for starting the New York Media Boat.

“Rutgers was great,” he stated. “Steve Miller always stands out as one of my favorite professors. He always encouraged me to think beyond the classroom and do independent study projects and such. And here I am with the New York Media Boat, and I think this is in part thanks to Professor Miller.”

Now the New York Media Boat has another sideline: taking tourists and photography clubs out on the water. Embarking from a dock off the West Side Highway at North Moore Street, Kils’ Adventure Sightseeing Tours business lets visitors see the major sights in New York City from the water.

In fact, Adventure Sightseeing Tours now ranks fifth of 477 New York City activities listed on Trip Advisor. Seagoing tourists could have no better captain than Bjoern Kils.


By Nyasa Jackson

Dr. Philip Napoli Photo by Nyasa Jackson

Dr. Philip Napoli
Photo by Nyasa Jackson

Dr. Philip Napoli isn’t a Rutgers graduate. Yet he is a figure poised to make a difference in the Department of Journalism and Media Studies as its newest faculty member. He joined the department in January as a full-time professor teaching Mass Media Management and Communications Law.

Napoli’s scholarship is in audience research, and he has published three books to date. The most recent is Audience Evolution: New Technologies and the Transformation of Media Audiences (2011).

He often shares his knowledge in formal and informal testimonies in front of the U.S. Senate, the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commiss­ion.

“Those can get you nervous,” he said with a chuckle. “You get invited to come down to D.C., and they ask you a bunch of questions, and you offer the best answers you can. You’re only picked to be the expert if someone has vetted you and decided they think what you say is going to be okay.”

Most of Napoli’s expertise was developed at the Fordham University School of Business, where he taught for the last 15 years. But actually, this isn’t his first gig at Rutgers. In 1997, Napoli joined SC&I as an assistant professor in the Communication Department. It was his first teaching position after earning his doctorate from Northwestern University. Napoli wasn’t sure if he’d find any job after graduation, and the opportunity to join the Rutgers community “was fantastic,” he said. “To be near New York, to be at a really good school with good faculty, very strong research orientation. All those things were just what I was looking for.”

What made him return to Rutgers after all these years? For Napoli, it was aligning himself with people who shared the same interests as he. At Fordham he was teaching courses such as Issues in Information Policy and Mass Media in America.

“It was okay for a while,” recalled Napoli.

However, Napoli continued, “It became really important to be somewhere that had a Ph.D. program, because I didn’t have a chance to teach and work with doctoral students. I was in a business school, and so there weren’t a lot of colleagues who shared my interests. And that got old after a while. I wanted to be around people who do the kinds of things that I do and think the kind of things that I think are interesting.”

It feels as though he never left. Sure, some of the infrastructure has changed since he was last here, but Napoli appreciates Rutgers’ welcoming him back with open arms.

“Oh yes!” he said enthus­iastically. “It’s just so neat to see people whom I was pals with my first go around — Steve Miller, Jack Grasso (professor of Communications), Jon Oliver (assistant dean for IT). It’s like going back home in some ways.”

He added that sometimes people leave places and “bridges get burned. But they didn’t get too upset at me for leaving, and they were nice enough to have me back.”

In the classroom, his passion for teaching is very evident.

His Mass Media Management course focuses on “issues with business models and strategy and how different industry sectors adapt to new technologies and monetize content,” Napoli explained. “It is very practical stuff, I think.”

The subject matter is similar to the material he taught at Fordham. His research is grounded in media regulation and policy. He also delves into audiences and “how media industries deal with audiences, how audiences are measured, how audiences are bought and sold, how they are valued.”

Although Napoli is the professor, he learns just as much from the students as they do from him.

He said, “It’s much more of an exchange. It ends being a natural outgrowth of my research, and I can tell people things that I am learning and get their feedback.”

It wasn’t until Napoli com­ple­ted his undergraduate work at UC Berkeley that he decided wanted to be a college professor. He has always loved writing. So he studied film and rhetoric in hopes of becoming a screenwriter. He then realized, “I don’t have any ideas about movies, but I had ideas for four books, 10 articles. These ideas just keep coming.”

Many people aren’t lucky enough to do what they love. Napoli isn’t one of those people.

“To be honest, I can’t imagine doing anything else,” he said. “You do exactly what interests you. It barely feels like work.”

He is currently in the process of developing two books. The first idea is “to do a book on the politics of policy research,” he disclosed. “I’ve seen how research gets used and sort of misused, exploited, stifled. It’s interesting to see all the ways and how politicized our policy process has become.”

His second book idea may explore “the implications of these new tools that have been developed to sort of predict audience media production.”

With such a busy life, what does Napoli do in his free time?

“Racquetball,” he said.

He doesn’t have much time for extracurricular activities with his career, wife and son Donovan, but he is faithful to racquetball.

He wakes up at 5 a.m. every day to play and even won the Rutgers tournament at the Werblin Recreation Center this winter.


Professor Hann chats with a journalism student. Photo by Nicole Reeves

Professor Hann chats with a journalism student. Photo by Nicole Reeves

By Nicole Reeves

If J/MS students in Professor Christopher Hann’s Magazine Writing class have any aspirations of making it as a professional writer, they have come to the right place to learn.

Hann, who has had an impressive career as a news reporter, freelance writer and editor, has been sharing his expert knowledge with J/MS students since the summer of 2006, when he first started teaching Magazine Writing. Hann is also a professor of News Reporting and Writing, although this is the first time he is teaching both classes in the same semester.

When bringing his knowledge to the classroom, Hann looks to prepare his students for the professional arena.

“I try to make it as real life as possible,” he said, “to give students a sense of what it’s like to do this work in the real world.”

Hann loves to share anecdotes with his students about the experiences he has had as a writer and speaks fondly of his time as a journalist.

“My favorite part is having the privilege of telling stories of really interesting people doing really interesting things,” he said. “Journalistic privilege gets you into places and through doors that would not open otherwise.”

A graduate of Ohio University, Hann began his career working as a reporter for a small newspaper called the News-Review in Roseburg, Oregon. Although he was nervous at the thought of picking up and moving to an unfamiliar state, Hann learned a great deal from the experience.

“There’s no better way to learn about a place than to be a newspaper reporter in that place,” he said.

Originally from Bridgewater, New Jersey, Hann found his way back to the Garden State after spending three years on the West Coast.

He got a job as a police reporter at The Times of Trenton.

Hann was assigned to make police checks by calling local police stations twice a day. The experience was difficult, as he was working a Wednesday-to-Sunday shift and was not on the same schedule as the rest of the world.

Craving the active reporter lifestyle, Hann left the Times after about a year and began working at his hometown’s paper, the Courier News, where he was a reporter for 10 years.
He also started freelance writing for New Jersey Monthly, where he later became senior editor.

Following his nine years as editor, Hann became a freelance writer, working for an assortment of publications, including the New York Times, Entrepreneur Magazine, Art and Antiques Magazine and various college alumni magazines.

“The thing you have to remember as a freelancer is you have to do every story well because you’re never guaranteed that they’re going to call back,” Hann said. “It’s something that helps keep you sharp.”

Professor Teresa Politano and her class on a field trip. Photo by Craig Donofrio.

Professor Teresa Politano and her class on a field trip. Photos by Craig Donofrio.

By Craig Donofrio The long, serrated knife, guided by the baker’s steady hand, saws through a crusty baguette and casts golden crumbs onto a sun-splashed butcher’s block. Warm, natural light and a complex array of earthy, yeasty aromas fill the glass-walled room, and nearly 20 Rutgers journalism majors eagerly await a slice of baker John Ropelski’s fresh, hand-crafted bread.

Teresa Politano

Teresa Politano

This type of full-sensory, hands-on experience is what Teresa Politano is serving to her Rutgers journalism students this semester, and she is teaching them how to use those nuanced details and personal observations to craft engaging, front-page food stories. “Talk about the bread, the smells in the bakery and the rolling pins on the wall,” Politano said, referring to the class trip to &Grain, an artisanal bread bakery in Garwood.

“Be descriptive in your reporting,” she said. “You were there.” Politano, who has been teaching part time for J/MS since 1999, is hosting a new special topics course this semester about food journalism. Judging from just a few of Politano’s past and present credentials — book author; restaurant critic and food writer for the Star-Ledger and its monthly magazine, Inside New Jersey; a James Beard nominee for food writing; former managing editor of the Home News Tribune — she is perfectly suited to mentor aspiring food writers. According to Politano, mentoring is a significant part of the class philosophy.

“The class features one-on-one workshops to improve reporting and writing,” reported Politano, “and we’ve launched a magazine-format class blog. We have several key guest speakers and field trips throughout the semester.”

During the field trip to &Grain, owner and head baker Ropelski provided Politano’s students with more than just lessons in bread making. He also explained some of the hardships in starting a business and some of the mistakes he made along the way. For example, Ropelski said the desire for high visibility and a street corner space pushed him to design a window-lined, glass-walled room that was not exactly ideal for temperature-sensitive bread yeasts.

Those hardships and mistakes were not lost on Politano. She coached her students to use those details to develop a different angle for their food stories. “This story could be about entrepreneurial secrets and problems revealed,” she said. “One issue with covering food and restaurants is that it’s often said it’s a hard business, but it’s not always explained why or shown to the reader.” Another issue Politano picked up on was the economics behind Ropelski’s bakery.

At one point during the class at &Grain, Ropelski mentioned that customer satisfaction and positive reviews don’t always equate to financial success. Ropelski looked pained to admit that some days’ lack of traffic have even caused him to question his bakery venture altogether. Back in the J/MS classroom the following week, Politano explained to her students that a good reporter has to be ready to ask difficult and uncomfortable questions during interviews.

“Giving examples of mistakes that were made by an owner or talking about the financial struggles behind the business gives context and intrigue to the story,” said Politano. Providing context and setting food stories within larger issues are some things Politano learned early in her journalism career. After graduating from Duquesne University, Politano attended a Washington, DC journalism semester at American University. According to Politano, words of wisdom from a Washington Post reporter during a conference there opened her eyes to the fact that well-conceived and well-written food stories could be front-page news.

“Food is also part of politics and economics,” Politano said, “It is a cultural story, an entertainment story.” The major news outlets and media organizations of the past often overlooked this connection, added Pol­­i­­tano. Things have quickly changed, however, and the media now serve a constant buffet of dedicated food channels, “foodie” blogs and even “food porn” photography. For Politano, this explosion of food culture interest and content creation is all related to “access” in the digital age: easy access to digital food content has sparked popular culinary awareness in the same way that better access to fresh produce and rare ingredients has enhanced chefs’ creativity in the modern age. Politano points to one obvious sign that indicates interest in food culture and food writing is spreading to a younger audience. The food journalism course reached its maximum number, about two dozen students, within a few hours of registration. “Young people are just naturally curious,” said Politano, explaining why food culture is appealing to younger audiences nowadays and why it’s an exciting time to teach.

The food journalism class blog, called The New Jersey Food Journal (, is where a lot of the student writing can be found. Politano said the class is “very selective” in what it posts in the way of restaurant reviews, profiles, photography and even some personal essays related to food. “We’re not going to race to post just because we can,” said Politano. “I want my students to think like they’re submitting to the New York Times.” 

Michele Lucarelli putting his specialty organic pizza in the oven. Photo provided by Michele Lucarelli

Michele Lucarelli putting his specialty organic pizza in the oven. Photo provided by Michele Lucarelli

By Alyssa Verhoof

Alumni of the Journalism and Media Studies Department are reporters, editors, PR people, teachers, lawyers and political operatives. But pizza chef?

Meet Michele Lucarelli, who was at J/MS in 2008 as an exchange student from Urbino University in Italy.

Lucarelli, a prolific food blogger and pizza maker since he was 17 years old, is actually a kind of “pizza celebrity” in Italy.

After returning to Italy from New Brunswick, he knew he wanted to turn pizza into something he considered to be “different,” so he began making pizzas that were organic. Instead of yeast he cooked the pizza with sourdough, and instead of using industrial and processed ingredients he determined only to use fresh and organic ones.

He uses a long fermentation style with the sour dough. It develops slowly over 48 hours in a controlled temperature, giving off a characteristic fragrance. The invention is known as “BioPizza.”

“It is a new way to think about pizza —combining pizza with a lot of excellence in our region,” noted Lucarelli.

He claims his tastes unlike any other type of pizza. “It is very healthy for you,” said Lucarelli, “and you can digest it very easily.” People who have gluten allergies say it is very easy to eat, he added.

The organic pizzas quickly became a hit in his region, and Lucarelli soon became well known for his culinary invention.

He has always had a love for journalism, food and traveling. He took the opportunity to study at Rutgers to challenge himself to learn a different culture. When he first began his studies in New Jersey, he said it was difficult, but over time he adapted to the New Jersey atmosphere and smell.

When Lucarelli arrived in America, he had a blog written in Italian about his travel experiences, and he blogged about his life in America. His J/MS courses helped him polish his writing skills and his English. He remembered Professor Barbara Reed for being inspiring and particularly helpful.

“In my time there I met a lot of wonderful people,” he said. “I really enjoyed the social environment and extra-curricular activities, like hosting international pizza parties.”

After the semester at Rutgers, Lucarelli returned to Italy to finish up his bachelor’s degree in Advertising and Communications.

However, Lucarelli was not 100 percent sure what he wanted to do with his degree. He knew though that he wanted to incorporate journalism and something that he loved, which was food.

He explained that he had discovered his passion for food and cooking when he became a pizza chef in his hometown when he was a teenager. “I just took the job because I needed money to pay my schooling bills,” recalled Lucarelli. “I didn’t know I had a passion for food and cooking until then.”

Lucarelli continued to work at the pizza parlor after he obtained his bachelor’s degree, but as his organic pizza became more popular, Lucarelli wanted to take a next step in the food industry and apply for a job as a head pizza chef.

Last July he was surfing the internet and noticed a job opening at a restaurant in New Zealand for a head pizza chef. Lucarelli decided to take the risk and apply. Two days later he received a phone call from the restaurant saying that it was extremely impressed with his resume and would love to hire him.

Lucarelli accepted the job offer right away, and four months later, in October, Lucarelli packed his chef hat and jetted off to New Zealand.

There, he is making new pizza converts every day and keeping up with his writing. Lucarelli has a new blog — in English ( — about the different restaurants and cafés all over southern New Zealand where he travels by motor bike.

The plan is to return to Italy at the end of this summer and keep up with his blog there. He has hopes to continue with his organic pizza business and take it to the next level.

Maybe even back to New Jersey.

One of Hollie Gilroy’s duties at the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission is to publicize the agency’s clean-up of the Passaic River system. Photo provided by Hollie Gilroy

One of Hollie Gilroy’s duties at the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission is to publicize the agency’s clean-up of the Passaic River system.
Photo provided by Hollie Gilroy

By Tiffany Lu

It isn’t a glamorous name, but today’s “sewerage commission” is essential to the workings of government as a means to improve the environment and routinely clean up polluted waterways. Its partners are schools and environmental groups. Its outreach involves not only the media but every resident who lives within its service area.

In Northern New Jersey, the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission (PVSC) is responsible for the environmental health and livelihood of more than 1.4 million residents in 48 different municipalities. Hollie A. Gilroy, J/MS 1985, is public affairs director for the agency.

At times one can find her in the office in Newark, but often she is out on the Passaic River and tributaries and in Newark Bay, making sure community-based river restoration programs are in place and showing the media how the PVSC’s surface skimmer vessel removes debris and litter from the water. Gilroy has had an illustrious career in the world of public communications.

Before beginning work for PVSC last year, Gilroy served New Jersey government for three years, holding chief communications jobs at the Department of Community Affairs and the New Jersey Economic Development Authority. At PVSC, she draws from all her past experience as she writes aggressive press releases that support the PVSC policy and reforms agenda. She also communicates with a variety of people, including elected officials, key stakeholders, educational groups and internal employees.

“Each day is different, ranging from writing press releases to conducting tours to administrative work.” Gilroy said.

She also administers the commission’s award-winning outreach program for schools district-wide that teaches students about environmental awareness. This allows Gilroy to work with local schools as well as environmental groups.

Gilroy has come a long way since she attended J/MS and worked as a part-time writer for the Courier News in Bridgewater, and even farther since she was the managing editor of her community college paper.

Yet Gilroy still uses the skills she learned from her stint in newspaper reporting and time in J/MS to keep on her toes in the world of public affairs.

“Having worked on newspapers, you learn how to research a subject, identify opinion leaders and synthesize a story or argument,” she said. “From reporting, my strengths in the field include meeting tight deadlines and compiling and writing succinctly to highlight the most important facts and themes.”

These skills are what helped Gilroy win numerous professional awards. They include “Communicator of the Year Award” in 1998 from the National Council for Marketing and Public Relations, and “Woman of Influence in Communications” in 2006 from the Women’s Fund of New Jersey. After J/MS, Gilroy’s interest in the field and the financial incentives led her to pursue a master’s degree from Seton Hall University in Public and Corporate Communications. “I was able to put my strategic communications skills and my government rel­ations skills to good use,” Gilroy said. “Because I have both skill sets, I’ve been able to craft some unusual and exciting job opportunities.”

She began her career by working at Rutgers, a trade association, and two prominent lobbying firms, later serving eight years as the director of communications for the HealthCare Institute of New Jersey, a trade association for the research-based biopharmaceutical and medical technology industry. There she worked with the late Congressman from New Jersey, Bob Franks, who had become the institute’s president.

Whenever she is asked how to break into the public communications field, her advice for prospective graduate students is to “go get some real world experience first.” A higher degree is costly and time consuming, so it is better first to go into a field and know the inner-workings of it, according to Gilroy.

“Some valid work experience makes you better prepared to tackle the rigors of graduate study — with passion and commitment,” she said.

Her particular passion — in addition to being a public spokeswoman for government — is horses. Off the job, Gilroy is a frequent lecturer and experienced horse racer. She is also an American Sailing Association-certified sailor, having earned her USCG license by sailing a Hunter 36 yacht around the Caribbean in 2001. She lives in Edison with her husband, Michael Skowronski, and her son Max.

By Anna Batt

Lizzie Plaugic Photo supplied by Lizzie Plaugic

Lizzie Plaugic
Photo supplied by Lizzie Plaugic

Lizzie Plaugic, a 2012 J/MS graduate and assistant editor at The College Music Journal, knows how to turn music into words with wit and ease.

The College Music Journal (CMJ) is a music news/event/online media company that hosts a popular annual music festival, the CMJ Music Marathon. Established in 1978 as a bi-weekly magazine aimed at college radio programmers, CMJ has changed drastically throughout the years. The journal also releases a monthly mixtape of music for fans and DJ’s to download to discover new music.

As the assistant editor Plaugic is responsible for writing and editing music news, album reviews, interviews, compiling the monthly Mixtape and weekly Scene Report, organizing downloads and reviews for staff writers. She is also in charge of CMJ’s social media components like Facebook, Twitter and Soundcloud.

She has worked there since May 2013.

Working for CMJ, Plaugic uses skills she learned at J/MS every day. Professors like Bruce Reynolds helped her sharpen her interviewing abilities, knowing what to say and what not to say, and developing her ability to go out and find interesting stories and write them quickly.

In her professional life, she has gotten the opportunity to go to various concerts and festivals for free, and has interviewed more than 100 bands. “Usually when I do interviews I try to make them fun,” said Plaugic. “It’s usually just someone talking to me and me laughing a lot.”

Plaugic is dedicated to covering local, lesser-known bands that would not be written about in mainstream media. “I think it’s better to interviews with lesser-known bands because they are more excited to talk to you,” she said. “With an artist like Drake, they are not really that into it, and it would be more boring.”

Before working at CMJ, Plaugic held an assistant editorial position at Nerve is an American online magazine dedicated to topics like sex, relationships and culture. She was in charge of writing feature stories, various social media projects and photo editing.

She free-lanced for Time Out New York, a print and online guide to the best events, places to go, and nightlife in New York. “I would go into the office and basically do whatever they told me to — a lot of it was fact-checking,” Plaugic recalled. “I would call places and say things like, ‘do you still sell this ice cream for $2?’”

During her time at Rutgers, Plaugic wrote for the Rutgers Review, and eventually became editor-in-chief. She was one of the creators of the column called “Potpourri” about random events going on in New Brunswick or whatever members want to write about. At the Review, she learned how to use Adobe InDesign, and learned valuable skills she uses in her job.

Plaugic lives in Bushwick, Brooklyn, where she said she sees famous people pretty often. The comedian Joel McHale was standing behind her in line, and she saw actor Edward Norton during CMJ Music Marathon “in a coffee place around 10 p.m. He was the only one in there, and we locked eyes. He looked he was having a rough day.”

Plaugic is currently working towards her master’s degree in Creative Writing at the New School in New York.



Steven Sandberg, left, with U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez. Sandberg, a 2000 graduate, made the move from journalist to press secretary. Photo provided by Steven Sandberg

Steven Sandberg, left, with U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez. Sandberg, a 2000 graduate, made the move from journalist to press secretary. Photo provided by Steven Sandberg

By Kalah McLaughlin

After working more than a decade and a half in broadcast journalism, Steven Sandberg, J/MS 2000, has flipped the script and become the press secretary for New Jersey’s senior U.S. Senator, Robert Menendez, a Democrat.

Sandberg’s main duty is to interface with the press and so has switched from being the reporter to now responding to reporters’ questions and giving them information to write and produce their stories. Without letting his journalism degree go to waste, Sandberg also writes press releases and speeches and arranges public events for the senator, who is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and is prominent in U.S. immigration policy reform.

“The decision to go to ‘the other side’ was not made lightly,” said Sandberg, who worked for WINS 1010 Radio for the last 10 years. “It was done with great deliberation, but in the end without regrets. Having covered the senator over the years, I had great respect for his public service and tireless work on behalf of the people of New Jersey.”

This career change should not have taken anyone by surprise. Sandberg graduated with dual degrees in journalism and political science. He also briefly studied law at Rutgers Law School in Newark.

During his years as an undergrad at Rutgers, Sandberg fell in love with radio at WRSU. He broadcast Rutgers football and men and women’s basketball through his junior year. During his senior year, Sandberg was hired to broadcast College of New Jersey football and did so for three seasons.

“Simultaneously, I had begun to pursue a career in news while still an undergrad,” he recalled. “Towards the end of my freshman year, I answered an ad and got the job as a news assistant at WOR Radio in New York. Within a few months — at just 19 years old — I was on the air in the Big Apple. “

During that time, Sandberg also did some freelance news anchoring and reporting for WRNJ AM/FM in Hackettstown, NPR and Metro Networks. In 2004, Sandberg joined 1010 WINS as a New Jersey correspondent. There, he covered the Tyler Clementi trial, the fight for same-sex marriage and Superstorm Sandy.

One professor’s words stuck with Sandberg through the years. “I’ll never forget what Steve Miller told us the first day of his Intro to TV class: If you’re pursuing a career in journalism, it’s not for the money, but for the passion. He was absolutely right. It’s a calling.”

Sandberg also added, “The skills I acquired studying at Rutgers and working as a reporter for more than a decade and a half are absolutely vital and essential in my current role. I use them every day.”

Sandberg has worked for Sen. Menendez since last December. He is primarily based in New Jersey but travels with the senator around the state and occasionally to Washington, D.C.

“I am still a journalist and storyteller at heart,” Sandberg emphasized. “Reporters will joke that I have jumped to the ‘dark side,’ in reference to the sometimes adversarial relationship between the media and people in my position. However, it only further illustrates the dichotomy and two-sided nature of a story.”

Sandberg resides in Nutley with his wife, Kathy, and son, David.


Heather Brookhart, J/MS 2010, has grown in her job at Jaffe Communications. Photo by Gina Rizza

Heather Brookhart, J/MS 2010, has grown in her job at Jaffe Communications. Photo by Gina Rizza

By Gina Rizza
Media convergence has drastically altered the job market for recent graduates with Journalism and Media Studies degrees. Students often hear that they must be well-rounded and willing to pick up new skills. Recent graduate Heather Brookhart, J/MS 2010, will be the first to say this is true.

Brookhart works as the creative services coordinator for Jaffe Communications in Newark. Her job encompasses everything from public relations to reporting to web design. Over the past several years her position has both shifted and expanded.

“My position actually spans a couple different areas,” noted Brookhart.

She began at Jaffe with writing press releases, pitching stories, and reporting. Now, she added, “There’s been a shift towards more digital needs for our clients. My position now is more marketing focus and also graphic and web design.”

In addition to providing design and social media content for her clients, Brookhart is a reporter and editor for many of the firm’s hyper-local newspapers, which are distributed to residents in Central and Northern New Jersey.
She interned for the firm in the summer of her junior year and was asked to return for her last semester after staying in touch with her boss, Jonathan Jaffe, also a J/MS graduate from 1993. The position transitioned into full-time when she graduated.

“When I started working full time there was a pretty big need for [design], and I was able to fill that need for our clients,” said Brookhart.

Being four years into the business, Brookhart seems to be on her way to being an expert in all aspects of the media. Many of her skills, she said, were developed during her undergraduate career.

“A lot of what I learned at Rutgers definitely prepared me,” said Brookhart. “I’d say probably the most useful courses that I attended while I was at Rutgers were more the skill-based classes—all of those things I use day to day in my job now.”

Like many students in J/MS, she expanded her skills outside of the classroom as well. Brookhart started at the Daily Targum her freshman year and became metro editor by her junior year.

“There are things I learned that I don’t know I would have learned otherwise—just little ins and outs of business and the industry overall,” said Brookhart.

Brookhart said she was doing “real-life reporting” at Daily Targum while covering New Brunswick news.

“At the time I was on the other side; now I’m in PR,” said Brookhart. “I had that insight from being a former reporter.”

Brookhart also worked as a graphic designer for RU-tv. That provided her with a “creative outlet” since graphics were a hobby and passion of hers.
During this time she also experimented with the Adobe Creative Suite and taught herself skills that she would find herself using at her job.

As a successful and talented J/MS graduate, Brookhart stressed the importance of taking advantage of the resources at Rutgers.

Brookhart landed her internship through Professor Steve Miller, who provided her with a list of contacts, one of them being her current boss.

“You should start in the industry as soon as possible,” said Brookhart. “Get yourself in the door as soon as you can whether it’s through an internship or early on. Do what you can to learn first-hand.”


By Maiy Elbery 

and Catarina Pereira —

For five fortunate J/MS alumni, one doctor has brought them all together.  “The Dr. Oz Show,” filmed in Manhattan, has become a fulltime job to Tim Sullivan, Class of 1994, Jenna Bauer and Stephanie Makowski, both Class of 2012, and Steve Pappas and Melissa Mendonca, both Class of 2013.

The Emmy-award winning syndicated talk show, hosted by cardiothoracic surgeon and Columbia University professor Mehmet Oz, has been on air for five seasons.

Tim Sullivan has been Dr. Oz’s director of publicity since the show first premiered in September 2009.

While attending Rutgers, Sullivan became a journalism major thanks to Steve Miller, who became his subject and career mentor when he did not know where else to turn, Sullivan said.

Sullivan wrote for The Green Print while pursuing his degree at Cook College and got his start in public relations prior to graduating when he was offered a fellowship at the Johnson and Johnson national headquarters near campus. He became their first public relations fellow and was able to work while pursuing his masters’ degree at Rutgers.

From left, Melissa Mendonca, Tim Sullivan, Dr. Mehmet Oz, Jenna Bauer and Stephanie Makowski all work together at “The Dr. Oz Show.” Steve Pappas is not pictured. Photo by Barbara Nitke.

From left, Melissa Mendonca, Tim Sullivan, Dr. Mehmet Oz, Jenna Bauer and Stephanie Makowski all work together at “The Dr. Oz Show.” Steve Pappas is not pictured. Photo by Barbara Nitke.

After working for J&J, Sullivan’s career ran full speed when he took a position at Dan Klores Communications in New York, doing everything from publicity for major musicians’ charity work such as Paul McCartney, Heart and the Doobie Brothers to having more than dozens healthcare clients.

“When I was hired at Dan Klores Communications, they needed someone to run their health care division, and I wanted to work in music, so I said I could run your healthcare department if you could provide me with some music projects,” Sullivan recalled. “And that’s what we did, and I was there for 10 years. It was fantastic.”

When Oprah Winfrey was getting ready to launch Dr. Oz as a TV show, Sullivan seemed like the perfect match because of his level of experience in both television and healthcare. He assisted prepping the show for its launch and when the season kicked off, he managed the show’s PR while at Klores, he said.

By season two, Sullivan was brought into the Dr. Oz offices as fulltime head of the PR Department, where he continues to work today.

“The thing about Oz is, I got to launch the show, and I got to take him around for an entire year around the country to let everyone know there was a show coming,” said Sullivan. “I got the privilege to build the brand, and I do not see myself leaving anytime soon.”

Jenna Bauer

Being in the offices of “The Dr. Oz Show” can be both rewarding and demanding at the same time for one of the young professionals who work for Sullivan, publicity assistant Jenna Bauer. She started with Dr. Oz in October 2012.

When asked to describe her role in the office Bauer said:

“My position includes a wide variety of tasks. I keep a to-do list for each day, but things are always changing. It’s an exciting and challenging environment to be a part of.”

While at Rutgers she double majored in Journalism and Media Studies and Dance. She interned at numerous places during her college career, including NBCUniversal, Imbue You, the popular wedding and party website, and Resound Marketing. When she got the job at “The Dr. Oz Show,” Bauer said she was able to put together all her radio, television, and PR experience to become Sullivan’s assistant.

If there is one piece of advice Bauer would give to graduating students it would be:

Rutgers alumnae and co-workers at the “The Dr. Oz Show,” Melissa Mendonca, left, and Stephanie Makowski, said they are grateful for the preparation they received On the Banks. Photo provided by Melissa Mendonca and Stephanie Makowski.

Rutgers alumnae and co-workers at the “The Dr. Oz Show,” Melissa Mendonca, left, and Stephanie Makowski, said they are grateful for the preparation they received On the Banks. Photo provided by Melissa Mendonca and Stephanie Makowski.

“Whatever path you take in life, take time to really get to know the people you meet along the way,” Bauer said. “Their stories will be inspiring, and their lessons – timeless. Also, in the wise words of Conan O’Brien, ‘Work hard, be kind, and amazing things will happen.’ Both will ring true in your personal and professional lives.”

Steve Pappas and Melissa Mendonca

Oz is new to recent graduates Steve Pappas, an assistant to the producers, and Melissa Mendonca, who works on the production side as a scripts and control room production assistant.

Pappas describes the environment as fast paced, keeping him sharp and alert.

“As an assistant to the supervising producers, you really have to know what you’re doing,” Pappas said. “It’s such a critical position for the planning stages. I manage all the organization of the core brainstorming for episodes.”

The Cleveland, Ohio native moved to New Brunswick to attend Rutgers and while completing his degree at J/MS was involved in multiple activities on campus as well as off campus. He obtained internships at ABC’s “The Chew,” “General Hospital,” “The View,” and then went into programming and development at ABC’s TV group.

He began working at the show in July. Although his job consists of logistics, planning and organizing, Pappas has grown a passion for production and directing. All his experience has exposed him to many career paths that taught him to take the best opportunities because they will be most rewarding.

To find the right career fit, he stressed that “the most important thing is to get involved and meet people. Added Pappas, “Whether it is an internship or an on-campus activity, you need to see how to work in an environment outside the classroom, which will help you build your career.”

Pappas is not the only one who believes that getting involved is crucial. So does Melissa Mendonca.

A dedicated assistant, Mendonca began working at Oz three months after graduating. Knowing how rare it is these days for a student to get a job right after graduation, Mendonca said she realizes that the industry is all about whom you know, how you put yourself out there and how you connect to other professionals.

While at J/MS, Mendonca took on three internships to further her connections: interning as a high quality production intern at VH1 her junior year, a promotion intern at Republic Records Universal Music Group, and as a web intern at “Elvis Duran and The Morning Show” on New York radio station Z-100 her senior year.

“Internships are an incredible opportunity, and I strongly encourage every college student to do at least one.” Mendonca said. “This is how you get your foot in the door and how you begin to network yourself.”

Today, Mendonca’s daily routine consists of making changes to scripts with producers and prompters on show days. Her job requires her to be extremely keen on detail and a quick thinker, she said. Beside scripts, Mendonca works closely with the show’s graphics supervisor, associate director and the director.

Being a member of the Oz team is far from a typical nine-to-five job.

“We work crazy hours, but working on a project and putting so much effort into it, only to see it come to fruition, make it all worth it.” Mendonca said. “This industry isn’t for everyone.”

Stephanie Makowski

Luckily, this industry is quite right for Stephanie Makowski.

Makowski has been at Oz since her J/MS days. The New York resident began as a publicity intern at the start of her senior year after hearing back from none other than Sullivan himself, she said. Makowski ended up working as a publicity intern for all of season three.

“I realized that The Dr. Oz Show was where I wanted to stay,” she said. “ When I graduated from Rutgers, I voiced my opinion that I’d love to have a job here.”

Makowski was offered a job as assistant to supervising producers, which she kept for a season. After helping out around the studio, she realized that her interest really lay in the middle of all the action, she said. At the end of season four, Makowski was offered another position, this time as studio production assistant.

“It’s fast-paced, changing constantly, and it keeps you on your toes,” Makowski reported. “My days are long, but worth it. Dr. Oz is a great host who truly cares about his staff and makes us strive for greatness.”

Both Makowski and Mendonca are forever grateful for all of Professor Steve Miller’s work and help throughout their college experience.

“I am so grateful to have known him [Steve Miller] as not only a professor, but now as an amazing mentor,” Makowski said. “He truly goes out of his way for his students. After all, look how many Rutgers alumni we have at Oz because of him!”


By Maiy Elbery

Interning in the publicity offices of “The Dr. Oz Show” in Manhattan is an unforgettable experience, and I get to share it with two other J/MS majors, Kristin Seigeldorf and Shanice O’Brien. We all are Class of 2014.

We have busy days and slow days, but each day we gain more knowledge than the previous. It is such an exciting and challenging environment to be a part of, especially because we get to work side by side with J/MS alums (see larger story).

Logo supplied by

Logo supplied by

As publicity interns we get a firsthand look at how to manage and focus on one client. We research and maintain press clips from top media outlets where Dr. Mehmet Oz’s name is mentioned as well as write show listings to distribute to stations, TV writers and media. Our duties change every day depending what needs to be done, which makes it fulfilling.

The internship is a six-credcourse in the J/MS Department, and although it is not mandatory, most majors find an internship quite useful in resume building.

Undergraduate Coordinator Steve Miller maintains a huge virtual Rolodex of media businesses where majors can learn the ropes – for pay or not — and perhaps catch the eye of a higher-up that can lead to a formal job offer at graduation.

By Emily D’Alessandro and Elizabeth Herlihy  —

Retired undergraduate adviser Marsha Bergman accepts the J/MS Lifetime Achievement Award at the tailgate party. Photo by Elizabeth Herlihy.

Retired undergraduate adviser Marsha Bergman accepts the J/MS Lifetime Achievement Award at the tailgate party. Photo by Elizabeth Herlihy.

The Rutgers football team may not have been impressive on Homecoming Day as it lost to Houston, but the Journalism and Media Studies Department certainly was thrilling.

Students, staff, faculty and alumni came out to enjoy the second annual Alumni Tailgate Mixer. Like any return home, the event, which took place in the infamous blue lot near the stadium, was filled with open arms, big hugs, long stories and tons of food. And while professors supplied the grills and refreshments, alumni brought along their smiling friends and families.

Marking the J/MS tailgating territory were customized scarlet and white balloons swaying high above the crowd — an indicator that visitors were in for a celebration. With the demanding schedules and distant jobs most alumni have, returning to Rutgers was a rare opportunity.

“I love coming back — it’s a lot of fun,” said Taso Stefanidis, J/MS 2000, a photographer at News 12 New Jersey. “I live so close to here, but I don’t come back a lot unless I’m doing something for work or a big event like this, so I’m excited.”

For alumnae Bonnie Cohen-Lafazan, J/MS 1993, and Gina Levine-Levy, J/MS 1994, returning to the tailgate meant Levine-Levy’s hiring a babysitter. Lafazan, an academic librarian at Berkeley College in Woodbridge, was joined by her husband Ryan, her son Aiden, and her closest college classmate, Levine-Levy.

A full-time mother of three young boys and feature writer for in Springfield, Levine-Levy appeared to be enjoying the day with her old professors and laughing with her fellow Scarlet Knight, Cohen-Lafazan. The two women have been best friends since their college years, and several professors said the two are among the department’s “most memorable memorable students.”

The first J/MS tailgate, held a mere two weeks after Superstorm Sandy, left a strikingly positive impact on recent alums. Close friends and 2012 graduates Luke Kalamar of Farmingdale and Stella Morrison of South Amboy never once considered passing up the party this year.

Among the J/MS alums at the Tailgate Reunion was Kyle Beakley, left, class of 2009, who works for the game show “Who Wants to be a Millionaire.” With him is a friend, Ellen Teitel. Photo b y Liz Herlihy.

Among the J/MS alums at the Tailgate Reunion was Kyle Beakley, left, class of 2009, who works for the game show “Who Wants to be a Millionaire.” With him is a friend, Ellen Teitel. Photo b y Liz Herlihy.

“I came back last year primarily to reunite with a lot of friends who I did journalism with,” said Kalamar, promotions and research assistant for Katz Media Group in New York. “It was great last year, and I wanted to come back again this year. And there’s even more people now than were here last year. So it’s totally different, but I’m glad it’s real popular. I love being here.”

Morrison, a staff writer for Greater Media, enthusiastically agreed.

“I made it a point to come back,” she stated. “I’m not even going to the game. I’m here just for the tailgate because it’s not often that you get to see professors that you had and people you went to school with. It’s really good to come back and to reconnect with people. A lot of it is nostalgia, but the other half is just really productive.”

Not only did alums share their stories, but also they offered advice and words of encouragement to current journalism students and those heading into the working world.

The collective theme was to intern, network, and soak up as much experience as possible before graduation.

A smiling Stephanie Berryer Jean-Louis met up with friends and professors at the tailgate. Photo by Ron Miskoff.

A smiling Stephanie Berryer Jean-Louis met up with friends and professors at the tailgate. Photo by Ron Miskoff.

Kyle Beakley, J/MS 2009, who writes for “Who Wants to be A Millionaire” and a new NPR game show, “Ask Me Another,” advised undergraduates and graduating seniors to “just get involved as much as you can, do as many activities as you can.”

Looking for old professors and meeting new ones, returning Scarlet Knights smiled ear to ear at the mere memory of their favorite professors. And at the core of every trip down memory lane were stories about former department secretary and later SC&I undergraduate adviser Marsha Bergman, who retired in May after working 35 years for the university.

Alumni huddled in close to watch J/MS Department Chair Jack Bratich and Professor Steve Miller, coordinator of Undergraduate Studies and the chief organizer of the tailgate reunion, honor Bergman with the Journalism and Media Studies Lifetime Achievement Award.

This is only the second time it has been awarded. Last year’s award was won by J/MS Professor Emeritus Roger Cohen.

Bratich addressed the crowd before the presentation of Bergman’s award. “Home is not just a physical space but a space of relationships, and this is what we want to celebrate today— relationships that we’ve had over time,” he said. “When someone who has given so much to the department over decades retires, and we want to show her that she’s still part of the family, that we want her to always be part of the family, that’s coming home, too. So I want to thank Marsha.”

Added Miller, “For some of you, there are only two words that say J/MS: Marsha Bergman. She’s the one who ushered you through all the hard times, all the good times, and helped you graduate. And while she was there, she was a kind heart, a kind soul and the person you knew you could turn to when chips were down.

Recent grads, from left, who attended the tailgate included Samantha Coppolino ’12, Hillary Goldsmith ’13 and Carla Marie Monica ’10. Photo by Ron Miskoff.

Recent grads, from left, who attended the tailgate included Samantha Coppolino ’12, Hillary Goldsmith ’13 and Carla Marie Monica ’10. Photo by Ron Miskoff.

“We are all better people because of our honoree, the second annual winner of the Journalism Lifetime Achievement Award — Marsha Bergman.”

Even though she has been retired just a few months, Bergman confessed to missing the professors and students she worked with. Although she no longer sits in the advising office, Bergman assured students that there is always someone in the department to help them. “Continue growing — there’s never an end,” she said. “You can always find something new. Make the most of your years at Rutgers because they really can be great years. And if anyone has a problem with anything, if they’re not sure of something, there are always people around to help at the university.

“But unfortunately we can’t go to them. They have to come find us, but there are lots of people that are willing to help.”

Victoria McKinzey-Gonzalez, J/MS 1996, said when she was an undergraduate, Bergman’s positive attitude made a genuine impact on her. She traveled back to the tailgate to honor and support Bergman.

“Marsha, there was no way in the world I was going to miss today,” McKinzey-Gonzalez told Bergman. Then, describing her relationship with Bergman, she added, “I would always say, hands down, she was the one who always held the department together. She was your go-to person, anything you needed.”

School of Communication and Information Dean Claire McInerney welcomes J/MS alums at the Tailgate Reunion. Photo by Liz Fuerst.

School of Communication and Information Dean Claire McInerney welcomes J/MS alums at the Tailgate Reunion. Photo by Liz Fuerst.

After hours of eating, mingling and reconnecting, alumni went off to see football, and the Tailgate Mixer was deemed yet another success.

Many remarked that the food was excellent. Perhaps that’s because of the baking of Jerilyn Richardson, J/MS 2012, who provided dessert for the tailgate with tiny caramel apple tarts and carrot cupcakes from her new business, Sweet Spot Dessert Bar in North Brunswick. The shop specializes in small-sized desserts baked from scratch with the freshest ingredients.

J/MS Professor Liz Fuerst remarked, “Jerilyn first talked about having her own bakery when she was a student in my PR class and gave a persuasive speech accompanied by the most delicious brownies our class had ever tasted. I am thrilled she has pursued her dream.”


By Freddie Morgan —

PG1_DrOzS PG1_FundraisingS

Alumni now have naming opportunities for SC&I classrooms, like 212, according to Director of Development Linda Christian. Photo © Nat Clymer

Alumni now have naming opportunities for SC&I classrooms, like 212, according to Director of Development Linda Christian. Photo © Nat Clymer

The Journalism and Media Studies (J/MS) department is unlike any other. With dedicated, experienced faculty and an ambitious student body, J/MS prides itself on providing real-world knowledge to budding professionals. But the secret to the department’s success is its alumni.

“Our alumni make us look so damn good,” said Steve Miller, coordinator of Undergraduate Studies and active in alumni outreach. Miller’s job is to “let alumni know that they’re not removed upon graduation.”

According to Miller, students should actually be more involved after they graduate than during their time at Rutgers.

“Grads have a better understanding and knowledge of what they learned on campus,” he said. “What they learned assisted them in becoming who they are today.”

However, alumni outreach was not always a priority within J/MS. When Jack Bratich became department chair in the fall of 2012, he realized the department had not done enough to maintain contact with its graduates.

“My task was to look at how to strengthen alumni relations,” he said.

He knew he had to do something to build on the department’s relationship among alumni, staff and students.One of the classrooms mentioned as possible naming sites by SC&I administration. Photo by Freddie Morgan. To further the department’s network with alumni, Bratich worked with Miller to coordinate several events, among them the J/MS Annual Tailgate Reunion, which took place at

One of the classroom mentioned by arm i nitration leaders as a possible naming site. Photo by Freddie Morgan.

One of the classrooms mentioned by arm i nitration leaders as a possible naming site. Photo by Freddie Morgan.

Homecoming on Oct. 26. Additionally, Bratich and Miller created mixers for the alumni who live

and work in New York City.

“It’s for recent alums to network and share the same space [to talk] about what’s out there,” Bratich said. At the fall event, around 20 alumni met in the Lower East Side to share drinks and socialize.

The two believe that a sense of community is paramount to the department’s success.

“What we’re trying to do with the tailgates and alumni mixers is to open our door, put down the welcome mat and say to alums, ‘You’re family and you always will be,’” Miller said.

The passionate faculty and staff prove that the J/MS family is invested in helping each other, providing alumni opportunities to socialize, network, and even work with fellow graduates and current students. The hope is that one day, alumni will give back to the department.

Miller is quick to note that giving back does not necessarily mean writing a check.

“The best way to pay it forward is by donating, whether it be with money, time, or willingness to share knowledge,” he said.

Indeed, Miller agrees that money is generous, but the most valuable gift an alumnus or alumna can give is time. He believes visiting classrooms, providing mentorship and even offering internships or entry-level positions are all equally generous ways to show the department gratitude.

“Giving time and knowledge can last a lifetime,” he said.

“Donations should come out of generosity, plentitude and abundance,” Bratich added.

Conversation with alumni

SC&I Director of Development Linda Christian believes contributing should be a conversation with alumni about how they want to give back.

“There are varying levels of ways to support,” she said, citing volunteering as a charitable use of time and an effective way to engage young alumni.

Recent graduates do not need to contribute a significant amount in order to advance the development of J/MS.

“Every dime counts,” Christian said.

ContributePromoAlumni who choose to donate can pick the areas of the department where they want their gift to go.

“The majority want something to do with student support,” Christian said. “Some help provide scholarships and fellowships or faculty support.”

Scholarships are a fundamental aspect of J/MS. Currently, the department offers more than 15 awards and scholarships to defray the cost of tuition.

“There has been an abundance of good will from alums,” Bratich said.

Among the many generous donors is Paul “Pete” Jennings, an 88-year-old cardiologist from Piscataway who still works part-time in administration at St. Peter’s Medical Center. In 1986, he and his family gave a gift of significance to establish a scholarship named for his late father, Kenneth Q. Jennings, Rutgers College 1924, who taught journalism at Rutgers for almost 40 years while working at several New Jersey newspapers, including the Home News. 

When Jennings’ mother died, Pete Jennings had her name added to the scholarship, which is for juniors who intend to make a career in print journalism. Viola Weiss Jennings, NJC 1923, was women’s editor of the Home News for 36 years.

“I thought it was a nice thing to do,” said Jennings, who has been a member of the Rutgers Board of Trustees for more than 30 years. “My father and mother always believed in the importance of education.”

His parents also felt strongly about newspapers. “My parents were traditionalists who believed in print journalism,” Jennings said. “I am, too. When my kids ask why we need newspapers when you can read them on the computer, I tell them if there are no newspapers, what are you going to read on the computer?”

Other J/MS alumni over the years have contributed to the Jennings Scholarship, including a graduate from California who took a course with Kenneth Jennings.

“She had a great experience with my father as a professor,” Jennings said, “and wanted to honor him.”

Another scholarship the department offers has been developed recently. Last summer, Bratich and Miller worked together to create a transportation scholarship for interns who commuted into New York City. They raised almost $2,000, primarily from alumni contributions.

Alums drawn to scholarship

Bratich believes alumni were drawn to this scholarship because it reminded them of when they were student interns.

“They were helping a student do the things they did,” he said. The department plans to continue this scholarship for the following year.

While alumni fund many scholarships, they are not the only way to contribute to the department and get something in return. Naming rights are applicable both in the current SC&I building and in the future building SC&I plans to build across the street.

“Donors can ask for naming opportunities right now,” Christian said, specifically for seminar rooms and for labs.

Ultimately, Bratich would like the department to create a hyperlocal news site, not just for students to use for instruction, but also to work on-site both virtually and in a newsroom. “This is a challenge for the future of news,” he said.

Miller has a broader goal for the department.

“I’d like to see the expansion of all programs with J/MS,” he said. “The department and SC&I have grown exponentially in five years. We need to increase the number of resources to students in order to meet growing demands of the industry.

“If we are fortunate enough to receive donations, it would benefit students now and for years to come.”

By Tanvi Acharya —

New J/MS Assistant Professor Melissa Aronczyk tackles the very popular topic of branding and takes it to another level in her book, Branding the Nation: The Global Business of National Identity, which was published this fall by the Oxford University Press.

Melissa Aronczyk has written a new book, Branding the Nation: The Global Business of National Identity. Photo by Carol Peters.

Melissa Aronczyk has written a new book, Branding the Nation: The Global Business of National Identity. Photo by Carol Peters.

Branding the Nation focuses on the use of strategic communication by national governments to solidify the image of their national identity, attract foreign capital and cement citizen loyalty.

Through various case studies, she shows how various governments are taking a page out of commercial management tactics and choosing branding as a way to create a national identity in this increasingly globalized world. Among the countries she studied is India, with its “Incredible India” campaign to increase tourism, and several Olympics hosts, with their campaigns to sell tickets to the Olympic Games and at the same time brand themselves in a positive light.

Aronczyk teaches in her class, Media and Politics, that corporate branding techniques as well as attention-drawing techniques used by grassroots organizations link media and the government. She refuses to limit the class subject matter to political parties and their electoral campaigns.

The class also spends a lot of time analyzing the strategic use of communications by politicians, corporations and media. Students work on understanding the goals behind the use of different strategies and images.

“You realize branding can have serious consequences when it moves away from selling products to selling drugs to doctors or selling music to consumers,” she said.

Two such serious consequences of nation branding she discovered while doing her book research are the reinforcement of stereotypes and corruption of the concept of diversity.

“What happens in nation branding is that so much of [people’s] sense of belonging gets reduced to stereotypes because we are constantly told that those images that other people consume are all that matters. But I think it can be damaging to the sense of who we are.”

She calls her book “a story of miscommunication and failure” since nation brands many times do not represent its people the way they see themselves.

Aronczyk came to Rutgers from the School of Journalism and Communication at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. She holds a Ph.D. from the Department of Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University. She is also secretary for the Popular Communication Division of the International Communication Association.

She previously co-edited a volume in 2010 called Blowing up the Brand, which contained articles and case studies of how branding has moved out of the commercial world and started to infiltrate governments around the world.

Aronczyk is currently working on a research project based on the politics and public relations of oil pipelines. The research looks at communication strategies by different actors involved in the politics of oil flows.

“That project has a bit of a personal connection too because I’m so outraged at what’s happening with climate change discourse that I needed to research in this area to try to bring to light how PR obscures discourse on oil and its impact on the environment,” she said.

The topic seems to veer away from the tenets of her nation’s branding book, but Aronczyk emphasized that national identity is a major frame of communication — even in the oil pipeline conversation.