Tag Archive | "school of communication"


NBC Universal’s Vice Chairman Shares His Recipe for Success

By Zoe Kafkes
Special to UM News


NBC Universal’s Ron Meyer and School of Communication Professor Ana Francois chat at Shoma Hall.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (October 13, 2014)—What do you get when you take a high school dropout, luck, a few white lies, and a lot of hard work? The answer is Ron Meyer, vice chairman of NBC Universal.

Meyer spoke to School of Communication students last Monday, October 13, in Shoma Hall on the Coral Gables campus. During a Q&A session, Meyer told students about his experiences, and gave advice on the movie industry and how to build a career.

A high school dropout and son of two German-Jewish immigrants, Meyer joined the U.S. Marine Corps at age 17. When his service concluded, he knew he wanted a job as a Hollywood agent and began his search, lying about his education and past employment. He applied for more than 150 jobs, and succeeded after asking every person he came across if they knew anyone in the industry who could help. His mom’s friend’s husband’s sister’s husband was the key.

Asked what students should know before entering the workforce, Meyer said, “Even though at the University of Miami you are at one of the best communications schools in the United States, you still are not special.” He urged students to differentiate themselves from others and noted that success rests on being in the right place at the right time.

Meyer made sure to answer all student questions, speaking for an hour longer than his scheduled appearance. Questions included what to do upon graduation, how to deal with disapproving parents, where the industry is headed, and about his professional experiences.

The final questioner asked Meyer if, in his more than 20 years at NBC Universal, he was ever bored. His answer was a firm no, summarizing in one word the value of his life’s journey through Hollywood.

Meyer is 70 years old and looks forward to continuing his career with NBC Universal.

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Faculty and Staff Support the U: Filmmaker’s Talents Shine on the Silver Screen and on the University

Talavera.croppedThrough his award-winning documentaries, outreach to local non-profits, and wide-ranging teaching activities, Professor Edmund Talavera strives to make the world a better place.  As chair of the Department of Cinema and Interactive Media in the School of Communication, Talavera enjoys creating promotional videos for the University of Miami, organizing alumni fundraising events, and making personal donations to the Momentum2 campaign.

“Our University is doing great things,” he says. “As faculty and employees, we all need to show the world that we care about the future of UM.”

Talavera’s charitable spirit is shared with his wife, Konstantia Kontaxis, who is also a professor in the School of Communication, and their two children. “Every year, my wife and I create videos for local health and social organizations, such as the Transplant House,” he says. “I also bring our alumni and film students together for networking and fundraising events in Hollywood, like our Los Angeles Showcase. It’s a great way to build those personal and professional connections.”

A graduate of New York University’s film program, Talavera joined the faculty in 1999. Over the past 15 years, he has taken UM film students to such locations as Peru, Guatemala, and Greece, producing narrative and documentary feature films on social and health issues. His most recent documentary, Finding Gaston, was an official selection of film festivals in Spain, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. His 2011 documentary, Mistura – The Power of Food, was named the best short foreign documentary at the International Family Film Festival and won the Golden Palm Award at the Mexico International Film Festival. His films have shown in theaters worldwide and aired on HBO, Showtime, and Cinemax.

Closer to home, Talavera puts his talents to work to promote the University. He was the cinematographer for At the U, and recently completed a new video about the Patti and Allan Herbert Wellness Center on the Coral Gables campus. He also serves as director of the ’Canes Film Festival, an annual showcase of student films.

“I really appreciate the support our film program has received through the years,” he says. “It’s a pleasure for my wife and I to give back to our University.”

Read about other faculty and staff who support the U.


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Cosford Cinema Kicks Off Fall Semester in 3-D

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Cosford Cinema Kicks Off Fall Semester in 3-D

The Cosford Cinema screened The Lego Movie, it's first 3-D film, last week.

The Cosford Cinema screened The Lego Movie, it’s first 3-D film, last week.

By Megan M. Ondrizek
UM News

GABLES, Fla. (September 5, 2014)­—Screening the first 3-D film shown on campus, The Lego Movie, last week, the Bill Cosford Cinema inaugurated the ambitious technology upgrades the Division of Student Affairs, in partnership with the School of Communication and the student Cinematic Arts Commission (CAC), completed over the summer.

“This technological upgrade for the Bill Cosford Cinema is terrific and timely for the University of Miami,” said Patricia A. Whitely, UM’s vice president for student affairs, at a ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrating the Cosford’s new BARCO digital cinema projectors and Dolby 3D system. “This new cinema system will allow us to not only screen movies in high-definition and 3-D, but also allow the opportunity to offer even more ‘sneak-peek’ films on our campus.”

Student Robert Pinney, chair of the CAC, added that, “As the movie industry begins to shift from reels to a digital format, it is necessary for us to adapt to the changing environment. This projector puts us on the same level as the major movie theaters, such as AMC and Regal, in terms of our capability to show the latest movies and bring sneak previews to campus. Ultimately, all this is done so that CAC can keep providing quality entertainment to students on this campus.”

A full schedule of film screenings at the Bill Cosford Cinema can be found online.

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Make a Move: Professor’s Board Game Helps Young Immigrants Plot Their Futures


Make a Move: Professor’s Board Game Helps Young Immigrants Plot Their Futures

By Barbara Gutierrez
UM News

Lien Trans teaches counselors how to play the board game she created or the young, unaccompanied, and undocumented immigrants who are streaming into the United States.

Lien Tran shows counselors how to play the board game she created for the young, unaccompanied, and undocumented immigrants who are streaming into the United States. (Photo by Han Chang)

MIAMI, Fla. (August 20, 2014)—Life in the United States for the thousands of young, unaccompanied, and undocumented immigrants who continue to arrive from Central America can be daunting. Many end up in detention centers where they must make legal decisions that will determine their future.

University of Miami School of Communication assistant professor Lien Tran has created a board game called Toma el Paso (Make a Move) to make their lives easier. It introduces them to the system for seeking approval to leave the shelter.  

Last Monday, Tran visited “His House Children’s Home” in Miami Gardens, where 166 children between 11 and 17 years of age reside, to train 20 resident counselors who work with the minors how to use the game.

“This is a good way to engage kids with complicated information,” said Tran. “You can play with the children at any time.”

Available in English and Spanish, the game was first introduced at the shelter in April as part of the Immigrant Children Affirmative Network (ICAN), a youth program developed by faculty and students in the School of Education and Human Development that has been used for seven years to promote resilience and hope among unaccompanied immigrant minors in South Florida. To date, dozens of the youngsters have played the game.

“Professor Tran has created a remarkable tool to help educate these youth and bring joy to their lives at the same time,” said Etiony Aldarondo, associate dean for research at the school and director of  ICAN. “Most of us would be overwhelmed if we had to deal with the complex legal and social challenges faced by unaccompanied immigrant minors in this country. This game turns the stress of figuring out the uncertain pathways that lie ahead for these kids into a fun opportunity to learn.”

The goal of the game, which up to six people can play at a time, is for participants to get out of the shelter, symbolized by reaching a yellow star. Tran developed the game with the help of an immigration lawyer in New York. The board resembles a juvenile detention facility with squares that players reach by rolling the dice. The squares represent a case manager, a lawyer, a phone, or the opportunity to get a specific card that provides information.

Meeting a case manager is one of the first goals.

“Let me meet with the case manager—that should be the name of the game,” said Israel, one of the counselors. “That’s what the kids want the most.”

Case managers are crucial because they help determine which of the three release options are open to the minors: reunification with a U.S. sponsor, federal foster care, or voluntary departure. Once players choose the option they intend to pursue, they are given color-coded cards with the requisites needed to achieve it.

For example, in order to be reunited with family members in the U.S., minors need proof of their sponsor’s relationship to them, fingerprints of the sponsor, and proof that the sponsor can financially support them.

The object is to collect enough cards to fill a submission packet and ultimately be released from the detention center.

The complexity of the legal process came as a surprise to Eddy, a 22-year-old FIU student who works with the detainees.

“This game helps us be more empathetic to their plight,” Eddy said. “We realize what they have to go through.”

Gina, a Haitian-American counselor who has worked with detainees for many years, said the game simplifies the legal process and can help minors cope with their situation.

“Many of the children are under a lot of stress,” she said. “Many come into this country escorted by strangers, and some are abused by these strangers. It is important for us to be vigilant to their needs and make sure they know that they are in a safe environment.”

More information on the game and how to order a copy is available at http://lienbtran.com/games/toma-el-paso/.

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Interactive Media’s ‘Zoo Rush’ Wins Good Gaming Award for Raising Sickle Cell Awareness

By Nancy M. Molina
Special to UM News


Designer Fan “Franklin” Zhang, a second-year MFA student in the Interactive Media program, works on the award-winning Zoo Rush game.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (July 25, 2014) – Collaborating with the Miller School of Medicine’s Department of Public Health Sciences, student game developers in the School of Communication have created Zoo Rush, an award-winning adventure game that aims to increase awareness about sickle cell disease and reduce the stigma often associated with the painful inherited blood disorder that slows blood flow.

Representing the UM team, Zoo Rush developers Ebtissam “Ebby” Wahman and Fan “Franklin” Zhang brought the Silver Award in the Games for Good category back from the 2014 International Serious Play Awards held July 24 at the University of Southern California.

In the game, which can be played on the Web or by download to any Android or iOS device, players take on the role of a zookeeper with sickle cell disease who, on his or her first day on the job, faces a monumental challenge: All the animals escape.

The goal is for the player to capture each escaped animal before time runs out. Due to the zookeeper’s medical condition, the player must avoid infections, hydrate often, check in with their physician, and take their medication, such as hydroxyurea, the only FDA-approved medication for sickle cell disease.

Assistant Professor Clay Ewing, Zoo Rush’s project manager and game designer, said the Serious Play award validates the work of students and faculty in the School of Communication’s new Interactive Media program, who collaborated with Lanetta Jordan, M.D., M.P.H., M.S.P.H., associate professor of Public Health Sciences and president of the Foundation for Sickle Cell Disease Research, to build awareness about the disease that largely affects people who come from or whose ancestors came from parts of the world where malaria is or was common.

As Ewing notes, new programs must establish credibility, and the Serious Play Association’s recognition is a sign that the program is on the right path. He and the Zoo Rush team are particularly proud that the game is proving successful at increasing awareness of sickle cell disease, the most common genetic disorder of newborns in the U.S.

“My friend’s daughter downloaded the game and couldn’t stop playing,” Ewing said. “Later that night, she asked her dad about sickle cell disease. He didn’t know anything about it, so they spent the night finding out about it online. That’s exactly what we’re trying to do: Get a person engaged in an experience to the point where they begin seeking new knowledge on the topic and spreading the word.”

Wahman, who graduated from the UM College of Engineering’s electrical engineering program in 2012, had limited knowledge of sickle cell before taking part in the project. She said Zoo Rush was the first full game she developed and the experience helped her grow both as a developer and a person. “I feel honored that I was a part of such a project where I not only made a fun game, but also raised awareness about a disease that doesn’t get enough attention and affects millions of people around the world,” Wahman said.

Added Zoo Rush’s sound designer, Isabella Douzoglou, a motion picture and computer science major, “Increasing awareness through a fun medium is brilliant, especially when it’s for a good cause. It was a pleasure to be involved.”

Students from all majors at the School of Communication had the opportunity to test the game on various devices in an open playtest. They said the game gave them some insight on sickle cell disease and left them curious to learn more. The developers used this feedback to make adjustments to the game.

In sickle cell disease, red blood cells take on a sickle or crescent shape. Normal red blood cells are round and move through the blood vessels with ease, carrying oxygen to all parts of the body. Sickle-shaped blood cells often get stuck in blood vessel passageways, slowing down blood flow and preventing oxygen from reaching certain parts of the body. This can cause severe pain and other serious problems, such as infection, anemia, and stroke.

As Jordan notes, the transition from pediatric to adult care in young adults with sickle cell disease is becoming a major public health issue. Studies show that young adults transitioning to adult medical care are at a much higher risk for early death, especially shortly after leaving pediatric care. For some, the shift away from pediatric services results in the loss of an established primary medical home or access to health insurance.

In addition, Jordan said, these young adults are especially at risk of suffering from complex psychosocial issues due to stigmatization, the process of identifying an attribute and associating it with a stereotype that negatively labels a person or group.

Children and adolescents with sickle cell often experience low self-esteem or embarrassment. Pain is one of the most stigmatizing aspects of the disease, which often requires treatment with opioids.  As a result, Jordan said, up to 80 percent of young adults and adults with sickle cell disease choose to manage their pain at home. Zoo Rush developers hope to reduce this number by targeting young adults in the sickle cell community and influencing the way people perceive the disease.

For more information, visit Zoo Rush and the Foundation for Sickle Cell Disease Research.

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