Class of 2020 Commencement events to be held Sept. 17-19

Syracuse University will host a Commencement ceremony—delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic—and other celebratory events for the Class of 2020 during the weekend of Sept. 17–19.  

Commencement will be held Sept. 19 at 10 a.m. at the Stadium. This University-wide ceremony, where Syracuse University Chancellor and President Kent Syverud will formally confer degrees, is for all undergraduate, graduate and doctoral candidates. Doors open at 8 a.m.

Following Commencement, all 2020 Newhouse graduates and their families are invited to join Dean Mark J. Lodato and the faculty and staff for a celebratory reception. The event will include a dean’s welcome, recognition of participating graduates and an opportunity to reconnect with faculty. A precise time and location will be announced soon; stay tuned for details.

For more information about Commencement activities for the Class of 2020, see the event listing.

Elizabeth Gardner ’18: Creating Content for the Academy of Country Music

If you tune into the 16th Annual Academy of Country Music (ACM) Honors broadcast Monday night on the FOX television network, Elizabeth Gardner ’18 hopes you’ll appreciate her work. She’s not a performer or presenter, but Gardner played a crucial role in putting the show together—writing the script that will guide host and four-time ACM Award winner Carly Pearce. This is Pearce’s third time hosting the ceremony and Gardner’s third year writing the script.

Elizabeth Gardner

“The first year I wrote it, ACM Honors wasn’t televised so it was just a live in-house event,” says Gardner, ACM’s senior manager of content and editorial. “Last year, it was televised on FOX, and this year it’s returning to FOX. So, it’s really exciting to see my work on national television.” 

Gardner started at ACM as an intern during her senior year in college, while attending Newhouse’s Syracuse University in Los Angeles (SULA) program. The television, radio and film major decided to spend her final semester away from campus so she could immerse herself in the TV/Film industry. She says she’s been inspired through connections with successful alumni and she credits her Newhouse professors, and Bob Boden in particular, with providing real world lessons and inspiring her to get out of her comfort zone.

Editor’s note: Though her role at ACM includes responsibilities for scripting shows like the ACM Honors Ceremony, Gardner is not a member of the striking Writers Guild of America. 

Human Rights Film Festival: Changing the World, One Conversation at a Time

From the rural landscape of Michigan, to the devastated landscape of Bucha in the Ukraine, to the virtual landscape of the African diaspora, filmmakers address social issues and the fight for human rights around the globe at the 21st annual Syracuse University Human Rights Film Festival. The festival, a cherished annual event on the University calendar, has been held over two decades, representing an dynamic interdisciplinary collaboration across schools and colleges. The Newhouse School of Public Communications and the Humanities Center in the College of Arts and Sciences partner to co-present the festival.

“The film festival provides a space for faculty, students, staff and community members not just to view impactful films, but more importantly have a space in which we can share our reactions to them, ask questions of their filmmakers and learn more about the situations, people and events they depict,” says Roger Hallas, associate professor of English and director of the festival. “This is how films can change the world, one conversation at a time.”

Tula Goenka
Tula Goenka

Founded by Tula Goenka, professor and graduate director of television, radio and film in the Newhouse School, the festival has consistently engaged the urgent issues of our time, from climate change to institutional racism to ongoing wars. Two films about the current war in Ukraine, to be presented Saturday, Sept. 23 at 1 p.m., were made by filmmakers with Syracuse connections. Shashkov Protyah’s short film “My Favorite Job” offers an intimate look of Ukrainian volunteers rescuing civilians from the besieged city of Mariupol. “I was struck by how powerfully this short film conveyed the courage and resilience of the rescuers,” says Hallas. Protyah is a member of Freefilmers, a film collective from the city, whose members include Oksana Kazmina, who is also a current graduate student in the M.F.A. film program in the College of Visual and Performing Arts.

Newhouse in the News

Some recent media appearances, interviews or stories by Newhouse School faculty and staff.

Chris Touhey, Broadcast and Digital Journalism

Margaret Talev, Institute for Democracy, Journalism and Citizenship

Robert Thompson, Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture

Eric Grode, Goldring Arts Journalism and Communications

Renée Stevens, Visual Communications

Anthony D’Angelo, Public Relations

Bill Werde, Bandier Program for Recording and Entertainment Industries

‘My Heritage Defines and Guides Me:’ Students Discuss Importance of Celebrating Latine Heritage Month

What does it mean to be a descendant of Latine, Latinx, Latino, Latina and Hispanic heritage and trace your cultural roots to a Spanish-speaking community in Latin America, Central America, South America or the Caribbean?

It’s nearly impossible to come up with a singular defining trait, characteristic or value that represents the Latine culture, but beginning on Friday, the University community will come together to celebrate Latine Heritage Month (LHM) and learn more about the rich cultural history of the Latine community.

Three current students—Evelina Torres ’25, German Nolivos ’26 and Janeice Lopez G’25—share what their cultural heritage means to them, how they’ve discovered a cultural home on campus and why they wanted to get involved in planning LHM celebrations.

The monthlong celebration begins Friday night with an opening ceremony, an information fair and the “Futurismo Latino” exhibition opening event in the Schine Student Center atrium.

One of the most anticipated programs, the Fiesta Latina, occurs on Oct. 6 and features Latine cuisine and live entertainment from Trio Los Claveles, Raices Dance Troupe and the National Association of Latino Fraternal Organizations. LHM festivities conclude with the fifth annual LGBTQ+ History Month Potash Collaborative Keynote on Oct. 19.

Learn the stories of how these three students celebrate their cultures, then check out the complete schedule of Latine Heritage Month events and programs.

German Nolivos ’26

When Nolivos was 12 years old, his family left Caracas, Venezuela, and relocated to Miami, Florida. He remains connected to his Latin culture, preferring to speak in Spanish, listen to Latin music and cook dishes from his native Venezuela.

German Nolivos

Nolivos is a Possee Leadership Scholar and first-generation college student studying both political science in the Maxwell School and public relations in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. When he graduates, Nolivos plans to establish a public relations firm.

Nolivos serves as the vice president of community and government affairs in Student Association—the student governing and advocacy body at Syracuse University and SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry—and is also a student senator in University Senate and president of Las Naranjas Spanish Club.

What role does your cultural heritage play in your life? “My heritage is a defining aspect of who I am—it’s ingrained in me. My first language is Spanish. I think, react initially and communicate with my closest friends and family in Spanish. Being in a place like Miami, where Latin culture and heritage are prevalent, has certainly been a significant factor. However, in Syracuse I’ve learned how to build a sense of community, finding people who understand my heritage, who make me happy and help me feel at home.”

Lim, Jiang co-author paper examining dialogic communication impact on brand loyalty

Joon Soo Lim, associate professor of public relations, co-authored the paper “How Perceptions of Dialogic Communication and Authenticity of CSR Communication Lead to Trust and Brand Loyalty Through Online Brand Community Engagement Intention” with Hua Jiang, also an associate professor of public relations at the Newhouse School. The paper was published in the Journal of Public Relations Research.


This study investigates the relationship between the perceived quality of dialogic CSR communication and perceived trust and brand loyalty. It explores the potential mediation of online brand community engagement (OBCE) intention and the perceived authenticity of CSR communication in this relationship. A survey was conducted using a representative sample of US adult consumers (N = 1,022). All hypotheses were supported by demonstrating (1) the direct linkage between perceived quality of dialogic communication and perceived authenticity, as well as OBCE intention; (2) the direct connection of OBCE intention to trust and brand loyalty; (3) the indirect linkage between perceived quality of dialogic communication and brand loyalty, which were mediated through OBCE intention and trust. The results affirmed that trust operates as a mediator in the relationship between perceived dialogic communication and brand loyalty. Furthermore, the findings suggest that OBCE intention acts as a catalyst that enhances trust in the company and brand loyalty by heightening the perceived authenticity of dialogic communication.

Hometown Hero – Levi “L.J.” Guerra

United States Marine Corps Sgt. Levi J. “L.J.” Guerra was born on Feb. 25, 1997, in Moses Lake, Washington. She graduated from Warden High School in the Class of 2015 and from Big Bend Community College, Washington, Class of 2016.

Sgt. Levi J. “L.J.” Guerra

Sgt. Guerra reported for boot camp on Dec. 11, 2017, at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina. After boot camp, she reported to the School of Infantry East for Marine Combat Training (MCT) at Camp Geiger, North Carolina. Upon the completion of MCT, Sgt Guerra received orders to her Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) School and reported to Fort George G. Meade, Maryland.

On Aug. 28, 2018, Sgt. Guerra graduated from the Defense Information School (DINFOS) and earned her Military Occupational Skill (MOS) as a Combat Mass Communicator and would later become a Combat Videographer. She reported for duty to the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, Marine Wing Headquarters Squadron 3, San Diego, California. In September 2018, she was promoted to the rank of Lance Corporal.

Sgt. Guerra is a student in the military visual journalism program at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.

Meet Biko Skalla ’18, Voice of the World-Famous Savannah Bananas

Baseball is America’s pastime, a game rich in history and time-honored traditions, where change is slow to be embraced and slower still to be adopted.

Then, there are the Savannah Bananas, a minor league baseball team that has changed the way baseball is played.

Yes, the fundamentals of the game remain the same. But the Bananas—who are bringing their unique brand of baseball to Syracuse’s NBT Stadium Thursday evening as part of their sold-out Banana Ball World Tour—incorporate a fan-friendly style that has ushered in a new generation of fans, something that was sorely lacking in Major League Baseball (MLB).

Biko Skalla

Enticements include a breakdancing first-base coach, a dance team consisting solely of grandmothers (the Banana Nanas), choreographed walk-up performances for every batter and a commitment to providing fans with nonstop entertainment from the moment they enter the ballpark.

And the voice of the Bananas, Biko Skalla ’18, is an up-and-coming broadcaster who, like the players he covers, isn’t afraid to break traditional norms. Skalla shows excitement and passion that is reflected whenever he calls a huge moment for the team. He lets his goofy personality show through to the audience with an over-the-top call. He’s even conducted postgame interviews in the shower or in an ice bath following a big win.

With a personality that perfectly aligns with the zany on-field antics of the team he covers, Skalla has found a home in Savannah as the Bananas’ ultimate hype man while honing a craft he hopes can carry him to the big leagues.

Biko Skalla ’18 is an alumnus of the broadcast and digital journalism program at the Newhouse School.

Photo Gallery, Panel Discussion Among Newhouse Events Shining Light on Trauma-Informed Journalism 

Preparing aspiring journalists at Newhouse to cover traumatic events in a moral and ethical way is the focus of “Trauma-Informed Journalism in a Time of Chaos,” a series of events that start Thursday at the school.  

The series, which includes a photo gallery opening, interactive panel discussion and workshops, is meant to help empower journalists with the tools to be both professional and ethical when working with vulnerable populations, while being resilient and supporting their peers, said Ken Harper, an associate professor of visual communications who created the program. 

a soldier cries while holding onto a tree trunk
The sole survivor of a massacre finds his home in ruins after the Bosnian army recaptured his village from Serb forces in the fall of 1995. He is standing on what is believed to be a mass grave of 69 people, including his family. (Photo by Ron Haviv / VII / Redux)

The field of journalism requires journalists to write articles on numerous pressing and traumatic topics, which can take a toll on one’s mental health, Harper said, though it’s hard to cover a story consumed by hardship without experiencing it yourself.   

Ken Harper
Ken Harper

“How do you do the work that is needed to be done as a journalist and still be kind, and not come out of it a wreck yourself?” said Harper, who is also the director of Newhouse’s Center for Global Engagement. “If you are going to shooting after shooting, fire after fire, conflict after conflict, decades long poverty and marginalized people, how do you still function?” 

The events, which are the beginning of an ongoing series sponsored by the nonprofit organization Trust for Trauma Journalism, were created to give students the tools they need to enter the field of journalism. Harper has been working on this for about the last five years with Amy Putman, a member on the Interim Board of Trustees for the Trust For Trauma Journalism, but progress was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Newhouse Dean Mark J. Lodato, Julia Pierson, vice chair and treasurer of the Interim Board of Trustees for the Trust For Trauma Journalism, as well as Aileen Gallagher, chair of Newhouse’s magazine, news and digital journalism department and Anthony Adornato, chair of the broadcast and digital journalism department, were also involved in helping to plan the series.  

Musician Justin Brady at his burnt home in Mallacoota, a small town in the East Gippsland region in the state of Victoria, Australia. (Photo by Rachel Mounsey/Oculi)

The “Trauma” series consists of three events over two days. All events take place in the Joyce Hergenhan Auditorium. 

The hope is that attendees come away with techniques to cope and report on tough or emotional situations.  

“We are really excited to provide students with the tools they need to go out into the world and do good work,” Harper said.

Alix Berman is a sophomore in the magazine, news and digital journalism program in the Newhouse School.

In Sight: Newhouse Visual Communications Assistant Professor Works with Canon to Develop Camera Tech for Cinematography Class

Students in Milton Santiago’s cinematography class got an up-close look at cutting-edge technology.  

They watched as Santiago, an assistant professor of visual communications, and engineers from Canon demonstrated a revolutionary camera-and-software tech called Activate My Line of Sight (AMLOS), which was fully customized just for the Newhouse class last fall.  

Almost a year later, there is so much promise for the future. 

Milton Santiago

AMLOS was originally designed to streamline hybrid meetings, making them more interactive and intimate by having a single camera filming multiple parts of a meeting room at the same time. This allows remote users to customize the interface and select their preferred views to see different people, objects and areas in an in-person meeting.  

Santiago encountered the tech at the National Association of Broadcasters trade show in April 2022. 

“I immediately thought: ‘What if I took this tech and brought it into the classroom?’” Santiago said in recounting his initial look at AMLOS. 

Santiago had always wanted to show his cinematography students how different camera lenses work in real time. But, he said, “very rarely are you able to show the before and after, or the side by side, of what one person looks like with two different kinds of lenses locked in on them without the introduction of some post-production process.”  

In the past, when demonstrating how lenses change the perspective or shape of an actor’s face, Santiago showed his students disparate images, one at a time, using one camera. That method required students to compare how different lenses changed how an actor’s face looked just by memory. 

Two men look at a laptop computer screen
Santiago and a Canon engineer work together during the demonstration. (Photo by Leigh Vo)

“It’s difficult for a trained eye to be able to see those nuanced differences, so it’s even harder for beginners or someone who doesn’t know what to look for,” he said. 

He viewed AMLOS as the solution.  

With “pan, tilt and zoom” camera functionality and facial and gesture recognition, the award-winning tech can display multiple live images side by side using only one camera. It was exactly what Santiago needed for his lensing lessons. Canon was willing to help and collaborated with him to make new coding adjustments in AMLOS’s interface, essentially tailoring the technology for the lessons.

A global debut

In November 2022, Newhouse students experienced the first, global academic use case of this customized AMLOS technology.  

During the demonstration in the Newhouse School’s state-of-the-art Dick Clark Studios, students watched the powerful AMLOS camera as it filmed a fellow classmate who was seated in the front of the studio surrounded by lights and monitors. The single camera focused on a close-up of the student’s face, filming them with different lenses or lighting setups, and placed the images side by side on monitors. The student watching got an almost instantaneous view of the differences that resulted from these different lens focal lengths or shapes.  

students look at their laptops in a dark photo studio
Students look at their laptops during the AMLOS demonstration. (Photo by Arthur Maiorella)

“Students very quickly were able to start making the associations between these nuanced optical changes and the lenses just based on being able to see things in real time,” Santiago said. 

Visual communications senior Murphy McFarlane recalled how students were able compare the images and take screenshots of images on the monitors for reference in the future. For McFarlane, the AMLOS lesson felt different than others she experienced at Newhouse.  

“It felt different for two main reasons: the AMLOS demonstration was innovative and collaborative. It was a really cool experience to be some of the first students to test the software with Canon,” she said. “In the end, the Canon reps asked for our feedback on how to improve and fine-tune the user experience, which made it clear that our input was important.” 

a student is filmed by a camera
A student is filmed by the AMLOS camera as his image appears on the monitor in the background. (Photo by Arthur Maiorella)

Watching the demonstration remotely on a computer, 2023 photography graduate Xinning Li saw the same nuances as students in the classroom. 

“Using technology to achieve a higher level of creativity, AMLOS fulfills the purpose of assisting students and fueling their passion for filmmaking,” Li said. “It’s about the tools, and it’s also about how we use them and what we use them for.” 

More than just a lens 

Students in Santiago’s class have an advocate for their education and future in the film industry.  Santiago said he is “always looking for ways to use technology to accelerate the growth curve of a student cinematographer. … How can we use this plethora of amazing new technologies to still teach traditional visual storytelling but give students a leg up?”  

a professor teachers while standing next to seated students on their laptops
Santiago had always wanted to show his cinematography students how different camera lenses work in real time. Canon’s AMLOS technology was the solution. (Photo by Leigh Vo)

He had Canon engineers train instructional assistant Collin Bell and research assistant Jason Lozada on the AMLOS tech, allowing the multimedia, photography and design graduate students to teach a class on their own using AMLOS and develop those skills. 

“The biggest thing I will take into my future career from the AMLOS training is the ability to solve problems with new technology,” Bell said. “We were basically using technology that I had never seen before. There was a learning curve for sure, but it was also fun to solve the problems that AMLOS had to offer.” 

Students in the class walked away from this demonstration with a better understanding of cinematic storytelling and how lighting and differently shaped lenses bring about “little nuanced changes” in a character onscreen.  

For McFarlane, the experience was unforgettable.  

“Overall, I think the whole demo was a very unique experience. It was really exciting to be a part of something so innovative,” she said. 

Santiago and Canon continue to look at ways to customize the AMLOS software for more interactive learning experiences, even hoping to partner with international universities and collaborate with students on creative projects. 

“There’s still a lot of room to explore,” Santiago said. “It’s just like experimenting and seeing what other kind of ground we can break with the tech.” 

Fast Times at The Asylum

Given the industry’s current state, with the writer’s strike putting all major studios at a standstill, I am very fortunate to have taken up a gig at a production company like The Asylum. Although you may not recognize the company, you would recognize some of their previous works, mainly the infamous “Sharknado” franchise and their hit show “Z Nation” on SyFy. These examples are just the tip of the iceberg; the company has been in business for over 25 years now and bolsters a catalog of hundreds of films, or “mockbusters,” as they are affectionately titled. Put simply, The Asylum is in the business of taking topical blockbusters and putting its signature spin on them. Some hardcore film enthusiasts might not deem this a legitimate contribution to the art form, but I would tend to disagree. Here is my testimony:

I am one of four Syracuse interns at The Asylum this summer, and we have all been split into different departments, ensuring we can all bounce around the company and try out different roles at our leisure. My friend, fellow Syracuse student Ethan Mitchell, and I were assigned to the production team, and on the very first day of my internship, we were sent to the set of “The Exorcists.” I was exhilarated. I have been lucky enough to participate in several student film shoots at SU, but being on location in LA county and working with actual professionals in the field was such a novel experience that is the whole reason I came out here in the first place. From the first day, I have been doing my due diligence as a PA or production assistant, meaning I help out in any way, shape or form. My interpretation of being a PA is that you act as the on-set yes man; there is no request you will not accept. I have helped grips set up lights, disassemble cameras with ACs, and operate special effects; they even let me be an extra in a movie! (look for me in Alien Apocalypse, coming soon to streaming near you).

The beauty of being a PA is that you are in a position on set where you can witness all the different departments’ operations and occasionally even help and learn a thing or two from them. You can’t learn these things any other way than just doing them, and it can be very helpful for those who know they want to make movies but are unsure what role they want to take. I have learned so much about filmmaking over the past few weeks, and I continue to learn more daily. With new productions starting every week (they aim to put out 2-3 movies a month!), the madness is far from over, and I am excited to see where The Asylum will take me next. Thank you for your time!

Dylan Rode is a senior in the television, radio and film program at the Newhouse School.