Fall 2016 COMMConnection Newsletter

Welcome to the fall 2016 edition (second edition of the second volume of the communication alumni newsletter!

In this edition we highlight recently passed alumn, Bill Schroeder, touch base with four featured alum, Britt Wright, Eric Olsen, Rodrigo Velasquez, and Daniel Walsch, and recap our spring 2016 events: PRSSA and Communication Department Annual Career Fair, Undergraduate Awards Luncheon, and our Graduate Awards Dinner.

We'll also share some information about upcoming events for the fall 2016 and spring 2017 semesters.


Remembrance of Air Force Fellow, William "Bill" Schroeder, MA Strategic Communication, 2012

By Katherine E. Rowan, Ph.D.


Many of you have read Sig Christenson's piece for Bill Schroeder Commander 'went out swinging' in Lackland murder-suicide in early April, but we wanted to share a little bit about the Bill Schroeder we knew here in communication at George Mason University.

Squadron Commander William A. “Bill” Schroeder was killed defending a fellow officer from a shooter at Fort Garland Air Force Base in 2016.  The news coverage of this incident describes Commander Schroeder’s valor in putting himself in harm’s way to defend another officer.  Schroeder was a quiet, conscientious, and brave person who leaves behind a wife and two young sons.  In this remembrance, I want to share ways in which we will always remember and honor him at Mason.  Bill received his master’s in strategic communication from George MasonUniversity in January 2012.  This educational program is a prestigious honor available to Air Force Fellows, like Commander Schroeder, who want to think carefully about strategy for Air Force work.

Five years ago, in spring 2011, I was teaching a graduate class in science communication.  The class was assigned five-minute elevator talks where they explained an important set of concepts to lay stakeholders.  Bill Schroeder explained air pressure.  Bill’s expertise with meteorology was impressive. As an Air Force officer, his work had many challenges.  One of them was to detect weather patterns apt to impact combat operations in the Middle East.  His sharp analyses were likely the difference between many missions being successful or not. 

But that February evening in class, Bill was providing meteorology 101 – in five minutes – to me and his classmates.  His task was made tougher because his class included another meteorologist, Joe Witte, who now works at NASA Goddard and was one of the first individuals to take science communication graduate courses at Mason.  So, Bill’s explanation of how high and low pressure systems form had to be accessible to many, but also accurate enough to pass muster with a fellow meteorologist.

Bill’s talk was excellent.  We videotaped it so we can still watch it and learn from his explanation of how uneven heating of the Earth by the sun creates high and low pressure systems, which create weather.

Bill’s talk generated several questions from the audience.  When you watch the video of him giving the talk and listening to the questions, you notice something important.  Bill had worked hard to explain complexities he knew well. He could have been arrogant about the lack of knowledge others had concerning air pressure, but he was not.  As you see him listening to his classmates’ questions, you sense his graciousness.  Good science communicators, as Bill demonstrated, understand their science and want the audience to understand complexities, too.  They are patient, gracious, and skilled. 

I remember one more important aspect of working with Bill Schroeder. At Mason, he wanted to do a real project, one that made a difference.  He did that.  For his capstone master’s project, he conducted an evaluation of materials showcasing ways in which TV meteorologists throughout North America explain climate change to their audiences.

Watching the video of Bill giving his elevator talk in my class five years ago, and thinking about him now says to me that the best way we can honor Bill Schroeder at Mason is to do work that matters, that makes a difference, just as he assigned himself to do while he was with us.


Britt Wright Named "Top 30 Under 30" Class of 2016 by 9.39FM WKYS

Feb 15, 2016


Britt Wright Named "Top 30 Under 30" Class of 2016 by 9.39FM WKYS


Marshall Britt Wright Jr better known as “Britt,” is a 25-year-old, born and raised in Richmond, VA. He was brought to the DMV in pursuit of his Bachelors in Communications from George Mason University in Fairfax, VA. While at Mason he initiated and served as President of the Iota Alpha Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. and a two term President of the Black Student Alliance. Britt graduated in 4 years with a 3.03 GPA in 2012. Britt decided to stay in the Washington Metropolitan area where he mentored young men and women as a part of College Board's Upward Bound Program at Catholic University. During his time with Upward Bound, Britt also interned for New Anchor, Angie Goff of NBC 4 who at the time was at WUSA 9.

Britt started his career as a Free Lance Reporter for WPGCTV, a local news station in Prince George's County, MD. He then transitioned to his current role as Sales Manager in Baltimore City for Fortune 200, company, Altria Group, Inc. Altria represent brands by Philip Morris, U.S Smokeless, and John Middleton. Britt has made significant contributions to his clients business as well as to Altria capabilities on both the local Maryland team as well as the Mid-Atlantic Region. Since 2012 Britt has received 5 awards for his efforts and has been a top performer in the region

He continues to be involved in the Black Community at George Mason University. This past Fall, he organized the #MasonManMillionMan March on Washington. The “M4” was an organized effort to unite undergraduate students and alumni to attend the 20th Anniversary Million Man March on Washington, DC.

Britt helps to connect young professionals in the entire DMV area by collaborating with The Network DC to create a positive, innovative space for young professionals to interact and build their brands. In 2015, Britt tapped in to the art scene in Washington, D.C. Britt is the Founder of #CurationDC which is a fun, social event, featuring a live band playing today's Hip Hop and R&B hits which also includes local visual artists showcasing their talent. Those same artists share their artwork and sell it. The average attendance for each installation was over 200 guest. There were 4 #CurationDC events in 2015 and Britt/The Network have planned “The Curation Tour” that will span to 5 cities in Summer 2016.

Britt’s efforts to build community are not just limited to Northern Virginia or Washington D.C. This past winter, Britt organized a necktie drive for Baltimore City group "Boys in A.C.T.I.O.N" providing ties to the youth seeking to strengthen to their professional development skills youth. Britt has also been assisting Dea Thomas, a Baltimore City Council Candidate as her Social Media Specialist and working with Magnepels, a Baltimore based fashion accessory company on their Brand Ambassador program that spans from the Mid-Atlantic Region to the West Coast.

Britt was also selected as a Host for Our Family Dinner, an international family inspired citywide dinner to build community in major cities.

Britt is dedicated to excellence in his personal life and creating opportunities for his community, which makes him an excellent member of the Class of 2016 Top 30 Under 30 by 93.9 WKYS.

Let's Connect: Check out my website and let's build together Britt-Wright.com



Mason Alumnus Helps Coordinate Inaugural Scholarly Communication Conference

International science communication stakeholders visit Fairfax Campus for the first in a ten-year series of events.

by Laura Powers


Eric olsen photo


George Mason University alumnus Eric Olson, BA Communication '09, earned a graduate certificate in science communication from Mason in 2013. Only a few years later, he finds himself at the ground level of an initiative that may change the way major stakeholders in the sciences share, access, and communicate information worldwide. 

This past April, George Mason University hosted the first meeting of the Open Scholarship Initiative (OSI) – a ten-year project aimed at bringing scientists, publishers, librarians, and many other stakeholders together for face-to-face and digital discussions about open access to research. The focus of this conference was, and will continue to be, on ensuring advances are being properly communicated to the public. As Katherine Rowan, director of Mason’s Science Communication program said, “Science Communication is the science underlying how best to share peer-reviewed research with experts and those who seek the benefits of research.” 

Backed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, and organized (this first year) by the National Science Communication Institute, the conference included 15 stakeholder groups from 12 countries and many other organizations who all contributed to questions as fundamental as What is publishing? What is open? And, Who decides? 

“While it might seem silly to ask some of the smartest people in the field such broad questions, the idea is that they all, for a few moments, have to forget their assumptions about the answer and come together to see where their ideas overlap,” said Olson. “They can then speak to the rest of the assembly and report on what they decided as a group—a group of very different minds, with different ideas about these questions.” 

A few years ago, Olson connected with the executive director at the National Science Communication Institute (and now OSI’s program director), Glenn Hampson and provided research support for one of Hampson’s projects—the Open Science Initiative—that promoted online discussion about scientific data access, health literacy and more. Librarians, scholarly communicators, journalists, and researchers contributed to the initiative and shared their concerns about these issues. This work, over a span of six to seven months, turned into a white paper titled “Mapping the Future of Scholarly Publishing,” that laid out the participants’ concerns and the solutions they proposed. One of the solutions was the Open Scholarship Initiative. 

Over the next year, the results of the conversations from the conference will be compiled and shared online to foster both transparency and accessibility to the public. Information will be updated as members of the group continue their conversations and move initiatives forward prior to meeting again next year. This information may be found at www.osinitiative.org

“The ten-year, annual meetings are important because of the face-to-face interaction,” Olson said. “This wouldn’t be as effective if you didn’t have individuals at the same table. The outcomes and developments are also very important. These are not things we could lock away and then publish in a place where someone couldn’t access the information if they wanted to. It’s important to make it available.” 

Olson was instrumental in bringing the first OSI conference to Mason. He reached out to Mason’s Department of Communication, and reported that department chair Anne Nicotera and Katherine Rowan immediately got the ball rolling, helping to solidify the location and coordinating with other university parties including Mason’s libraries and facilities. Mason is at the forefront of science communication with its graduate program in science communication and its publishing and scholarly communication offices headed by librarians John Warren and Claudia Holland. 

Olson earned his bachelor’s degree in communication at Mason and went on to earn his master’s degree in communication from Virginia Tech. Wanting to find his niche in the industry, he enrolled in Mason’s graduate science communication certificate program and has been actively involved in the field ever since. He currently works as the outreach coordinator for the PressForward Project, a free and open-source software project designed for curating and sharing content from the web, which is run by Mason’s Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media. 

“Mason goes back a long time for me as an undergraduate and further back in my family, so the university always comes around for me and has been there when I needed it.” Olson said. “It’s great to be a part of this conference and to contribute in any way that I can. I hope that maybe ten years from now, I’m one of the voices continuing to contribute in a major way.”

Special thanks for the coordination of this event goes out to the University’s Office of the President and the Office of the Provost, and to the leadership, faculty and staff of the Department of Communication, PressForward Institute, University Libraries and its Mason Publishing Group, University Catering, and University Information, and to the students of Comm 331, Alpha Phi Sorority, and the Mason Ambassadors program. In particular, thank you to Anne Nicotera (Chair of the Mason Department of Communication), Eric Olson (Outreach Coordinator for PressForward), Lisa Sevilla (Undergraduate Program Coordinator for the Department of Communication) and Claudia Holland (Mason’s Scholarly Communication and Copyright Officer) for their year-long effort to create and organize the infrastructure needed to support this project.

Seeking Solutions to Social Issues


Junior Ana Tobar and Rodrigo Velasquez (BA, '16) of the student organization Mason DREAMers were among several George Mason University students to attend the recent Clinton Global Initiative University. The Initiative invites students, university representatives, and subject matter experts to join in developing solutions to social problems.

As a high school senior, Rodrigo Velasquez says some universities would not accept his application because he was an undocumented immigrant from Bolivia. Despite gaining permanent residency a year ago, he says he still faces prejudice, more so, he believes, because of the presidential campaign's divisive rhetoric. That’s why the George Mason University senior, president of Mason DREAMers, was eager to attend the Clinton Global Initiative University in April in Berkeley, California.

“Being able to do this shows the hard work our team has put in,” says Velasquez, a communication major.

Velasquez and DREAMers’ internal vice president Ana Tobar, a junior majoring in communication and global affairs, were two of 14 Mason students invited to CGIU, which brings together students, university representatives,  and topic experts to develop solutions to social problems. Funding for the trip came from the Center for Advancement of Well-Being, University Life, and the Office of Student Scholarship, Creative Activities, and Research (OSCAR).

Mason students presented ideas for, among other things, clean water initiatives in the Amazon, refugee health, and promoting nonviolence in Burundi. Velasquez and Tobar talked about the Northeast DREAMers Collegiate Alliance, the Mason DREAMers’ plan to create a coalition of universities that, as Velasquez says, “will work together to change institutional policies within our universities to be more accepting of undocumented  students.”
“A lot of student leaders are undocumented, and a lot of faculty and staff don’t know that,” says Tobar. “To be able to show what they are doing toward bettering the community is a great counter argument.”

To help make that argument, Mason DREAMers used the UndocuAlly program that, according to its website, “helps participants better understand the history, legislation, and realities of the undocumented community.”

Within the Northeast DREAMers Collegiate Alliance, Velasquez hopes to see what he called a rapid-response team to react quickly to changing legislation. “Given the political environment, we need mass mobilization,” he says, “something effective that isn’t just hosted at Mason.” 

DREAMers groups from the University of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth, Georgetown, Virginia Tech, Marymount, and Columbia are already committed, Velasquez says.

“This momentum is so important,” says Jennifer Crewalk, assistant director of Mason’s Office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Multicultural Education. “When we build a coalition across universities, it helps people feel they have a place of belonging that they may not have currently within their institutions. The success of MasonDreamers on our campus and university can really impact and inspire what is possible at other universities.”

https://titles.cognella.com/catalog/product/view/id/90724 Dr. Daniel Walsch (PhD, '15) has written a new book, Why Communication Matters. Why Communication Matters is a compilation of entries from the blog of the same name. Taken together these clear, concise essays make the case for the relevance of real, meaningful, effective communication in both professional and personal life.The essays are organized by theme into eleven chapters. These themes include relationships, communication in the classroom and on the job, communication for self-improvement, and leadership. The book also touches on communication theories and concepts, shares the author's reflections, and looks ahead to what the future of interpersonal communication may hold. Each of the entries is followed by discussion questions for use in class or as prompts for self-reflection or writing.

The organization of the text allows professors and students to move effortlessly between topics, making the connections that seem most appropriate for the organization of diverse communication courses. Designed to lead to meaningful interactions among those who aim to advance the act of communicating in their personal and professional lives, Why Communication Matters can be used in communication courses and by professionals whose careers require excellent communication skills. Each of the entries is followed by discussion questions for use in class or as prompts for self-reflection or writing. The organization of the text allows professors and students to move effortlessly between topics, making the connections that seem most appropriate for the organization of diverse communication courses. 

Communication and PRSSA Career Fair

Tuesday, March 22, 2016
9:00 AM to 1:00 PM
Johnson Center, Dewberry Hall

The 4th annual PRSSA and Communication Career Fair was yet another success. Students were able to network with employers and many received internship or job offers.

GMU Public Relations Chapter (PRSSA) Offers Job and Internship Opportunities for Communication and Marketing Students

Communication career fair brings new employers to GMU on March 22

by Erin White

Mason students majoring in communication and marketing will have the opportunity to meet potential employers at The Fourth Annual Communication Career Fair on March 22 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at George Mason University in Fairfax. The fair will be held in Dewberry Hall at the bottom of the Johnson Center. Both employers and students interested in participating are invited to contact the GMU PRSSA chapter for more information about the event.

Communication Career Fair is sponsored by the George Mason Communication Department and organized by the local chapter of Public Relations Student Society of America. The Career Fair offers students the opportunity to gain more insight about top tier companies and network with potential employers. Employers from Public Relations, Marketing, Advertising, Media Production, and Journalism backgrounds will be in attendance and students are encouraged to attend. This is a great opportunity for students to network with potential employers.

“The Communication Career Fair is much more beneficial than the other George Mason career fairs because it’s much more specific in what I am interested in doing,” said Siobhan Klie, a senior communication student. “I think it is really helpful to go to the career fair and get involved in PRSSA even if you aren't actively looking for a job or internship because it opens up so many doors and gives you countless opportunities that you wouldn’t normally be exposed to,” Klie added.

Previous employers included Focused Image, Michael Smith Business Development, Inc., Edelman DC, MediaDC, Washington Wizards, Northern Virginia Magazine, Bixal and many more great companies! The event is free to employers. Employers are encouraged to bring applications, brochures, trifold boards, and any other marketing materials you may need.

Professional dress is required and students are recommended to bring several copies of their resumes or business cards and research companies prior to arrival. In addition to researching companies prior to the career fair, it is recommend that you utilize University Career Services located in Sub I. Walk-in appointments with Career Services for the marketing and public relations industry are Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. for advice about tailoring resumes and cover letters to a specific job posting along with basic networking and interviewing skills.

Registered Employers included:

Media DC
Focused Image PR
Buisness Wire
Michael Smith Business Development (MSBD), Inc.
Northern Virginia Magazine
Tote Media, LLC
ICF International
USA Today
Media Force, LLC
World Bank Group - Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA)

Graduate communication departments from George Mason University, West Virginia University,and George Washington University were also in attendance for students with questions on continuing studies degrees.


Communication Undergraduate Awards Luncheon & Ceremony

 Saturday, April 9, 2016





Our 25th Annual Communication Undergraduate Awards Ceremony was held on April 09, 2016 in Geroge's in the Johnson Center at George Mason University’s Fairfax campus. While the participants enjoyed refreshments ordered from Mason Catering, our featured speaker, Matt Hersey, Outstanding Undergraduate Alumnus of the Year, began his speech discussing the wonderful opportunities his Mason communication degree has given him. Once he finished, our students received their awards. We also were able to see the production award winners short videos!

Our phenomenal undergraduate student award winners for the 2015-2016 year are:

Communication Challenge Award—Honorable Mention

 Khanh "Erica" Vo
 Brooke Jones

Communication Challenge Award—Finalists

 Ana Tobar
 Sara Moniuszko

Production Awards

        Best Commercial Project "Sapori D'Italia" Anna Davis, Taylor Lloyd, Carey Haga

        Best Demonstration Project "How to Make an Armature Clay Figure" Jacob Roberts

        Best Music Video Project "Municipal Waste: Lunch Hall Food Brawl" Jacob Roberts

        Best Infographic Video "The Art of Sampling" Ryan Judge

Journalism Awards

        Society of Professional Journalists Outstanding Leadership Alexa Gohl, Fernanda Rodriguez

        Multimedia Journalist Emily O'Rourke

        Outstanding Writing for Journalism Reem Nadeem

        Political Coverage Olivia de la Pena

        Economic Reporting Tom Storey

        Diversity in Reporting Omar Batterjee

PRSSA Special Recognition         

 Logan Rice (President), Erin White (Vice President)
 Ashley Cook, Alexis Stevens, Candace Williams,  Patrick Fernandez

WGMU Awards

Broadcaster of the Year: Ryan Allen

Announcer of the Year: Jackie Reed

Beth Kauffman Award for Creativity: Matt Dotson


Undergraduate Academic Awards

Dr. Bruce Manchester Outstanding Academic Achievement Award: Courtney Simmons

Excellence in Communication Awards:

                Samuel Abney                          Eavan Kennedy                           Amy Rose

                Eric Backus                              Lindsay Kroboth                          Margaret Schneider

                Kelly Damato                           Ana Laramore                             Stephanie Sikorski

                Raquel DeSouza                       Lori Lawson                                 Vishaka Sundar

                Zachary Dittami                        Kathleen Maney                           Michael Thompson

                Patrick Finch                             Alexandra Mendenhall                  Yuanjing Weng

                Sarah Greathead                      Theresa Novak                            Meeka Williams

                Andrew Hood                            Khanh Pham                               Robert Winship

                Unochukwu Izegbu                    Logan Rice                                  Julianne Woodson

                                                                                                                Kaitlyn Yetman


Communication Graduate Awards Dinner & Ceremony

 Thursday, May 12, 2016




Our 6th Annual Communication Graduate Awards Ceremony was held on May 12, 2016 in George's in the Johnson Center at George Mason University’s Fairfax campus. While the participants enjoyed supper and dessert, ordered from Mason Catering, our featured speaker, Sunny Kim, Outstanding Graduate Alumnus of the Year, began her speech discussing the phenomenal opportunities her Mason health communication degree has given her working with doctors and nurses in a hospital setting. Once she finished, our students received their awards and posed for photographs. We also celebrated our MA and PhD Graduates from fall 2015 and spring 2016. Once all of the awards had been handed out, Dr. Kathy Rowan and guest, Ms. Wendy Varhegyi, gave wonderful speeches about recently deceased communication alum, Lt. Col William "Bill" Schroeder, MA 2011.

Our phenomenal graduate student award winners for the 2015-2016 year are:

Outstanding MA Student

 Patrick McCleary

Outstanding PhD Student

 Ashley Thomas

Graduate Teaching Award

 Brenda MacArthur

Commitment to the Graduate Program

 Camella Rising

Communication Graduate Challenge Awards

 Reba Good (MA)
 Tom Roccotagliata (PhD)

Wendy Balazik Communication and Social Change Award

 Lindsey Beall

Communication Leadership Award

Andrew Caulk

Graduate Faculty Recognition (presented by CGSA)

Dr. Xiaomei Cai

Upcoming Events: Fall 2016

Communication Student Welcome Week Reception

We welcome students to the fall 2016 celebration in Dewberry Hall on Tuesday, 06 September 2016 from 10am-1pm.

Students get to meet with faculty and staff representatives from our major, five minors, Lambda Pi Eta, COMM Internships, MA & PhD programs, Forensics Team, Debate Team, WGMU Radio, Student Media (Yearbook, Newspaper, GMU TV, etc)., Student Video Center, Public Relations Student Society of America, Society of Professional Journalists, and the Communication Graduate Student Association.  We also invite representatives from many of the centers with whom we work closely: University Life, Career Services, Center for Global Education, WAVES, Police, Writing Center, ODS, Library, CHSS Academic Affairs Office, Registrar's office, Student Accounts, and Financial Aid Work Study.

Light refreshments will be served.

Communication Department and Insight Committee Career Forum

Save the date: 25 October 2016!

Every fall semester the Insight Committee (our advisory board of communication professionals) and the Department of Communication host a free industry forum where students are able to participate in a group panel discussion and then engage in personal conversation in small groups with the panelists. 

Upcoming Events: Spring 2017

Communication Department and Public Relations Student Society of America Career Fair

Save the date: 21 March 2017!

Every spring semester, the department and Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) host a free career fair where students are able to meet and interview with employers from all over the region to network and even gain employment!  

Communication Undergraduate Awards Ceremony

April 2017

Communication Department Graduate Awards Ceremony

May 2017