Newhouse LA reception provides opportunity for students to connect with alumni

The annual Newhouse School and College of Visual and Performing Arts (VPA) reception kicked off the Spring 2023 semester of the Newhouse LA program late last month. Held at the Skirball Cultural Center in northwest Los Angeles, the reception was filled with Syracuse University students, staff, faculty and alumni who mingled, ate and posed for photos. The students were invited to meet the alumni and build connections that last beyond the LA semester. 

Newhouse LA students gather at the annual Newhouse School and College of Visual and Performing Arts reception. Photo by Rich Prugh Photography.

Though the Newhouse LA program began in 2009, this reception began 40 years ago when Syracuse University development officer Larry Martin brought a group of Newhouse seniors to Los Angeles for a week to meet alumni. Assistant vice president of regional programs Joan Adler has planned the annual event for the last several years. 

“The January reception continues to be an annual event that allows the opportunity for our semester students to experience LA and meet with alumni,” Adler says. “It continues to give the alumni the opportunity to meet students and to catch up with each other.” 

Guests mingle at the annual Newhouse School and College of Visual and Performing Arts reception. Photo by Rich Prugh Photography.

As the relationship between the Newhouse School and the College of Visual and Performing Arts blossoms, both Newhouse dean Mark J. Lodato and VPA dean Michael Tick shared their excitement at the opportunity to work with one another. 

“The alumni are the role models for the students who are in this program right now, and to see them together is really exciting,” Tick said, speaking at the event. “This signals a turning point for VPA because we now have a presence in this SULA program.” 

Newhouse dean Mark Lodato speaks at the annual Newhouse School and College of Visual and Performing Arts reception. Photo by Rich Prugh Photography.

Dean Lodato, entering his third year at Newhouse, mentioned how he was continuously impressed by “the engagement level of our alumni and their ability and desire to give back to the school, to engage with our current students, and to help lift up the next generation.”

Guest speaker and alumnus Rob Light ’78, Creative Arts Agency partner and music division head, reminisced about his time at the University. 

Rob Light ’78 speaks at the annual Newhouse School and College of Visual and Performing Arts reception. Photo by Rich Prugh Photography.

“I would not have the success I have had in my career if I had not gone to Syracuse University,” he said. “The friendships, the education and the hands-on experience all came out of that school.”

As a student, Light was concert chair for the University Union, producing his first concert through the organization. While standing on the Skirball stage, Light reflected on that moment. “It was the first time I could see my future, and I thought…I could do this for a living. I wouldn’t have had that opportunity anywhere but Syracuse.” 

Professors, students and alumni all took away something from this remarkable tradition. 

Newhouse LA director Robin Howard (center) chats with students at the annual Newhouse School and College of Visual and Performing Arts reception. Photo by Rich Prugh Photography.

“In addition to the Newhouse and VPA reception being a great opportunity for students and alumni to connect with the deans of both Newhouse and VPA, it was a personally wonderful experience for me to be able to see so many of my former SULA Semester students who have gone on to create successful careers here in Los Angeles,” says Robin Howard, director of the Newhouse LA program.

Television, radio and film junior Emily Farrell is just one of many students who appreciates the opportunities that this reception generates. “Being a junior in college and getting to talk to alumni at events like this really helps me grow in my networking abilities and to prepare me for the future,” she says.

Anastasia Frazier is a junior broadcast and digital journalism major at the Newhouse School.

Life in Los Angeles for a Newhouse LA Student

Spencer Haines

My experience in LA has been extremely transformative. I initially came to Los Angeles with many negative, preconceived notions of the people and environment I would eventually grow to love. My advice to anyone coming to LA for the Newhouse LA semester is to come with an entirely open mind and say yes to as many things as you possibly can. Some of the best experiences I’ve had in Los Angeles I originally had to force myself to go to. You never know at what event or concert you’re going to meet your next great connection or future employer. As far as eventually wanting to work in the music industry, there is no better place than Los Angeles to build your network. Meeting people in LA with similar passions to me has been incredibly effortless. Whether going out to concerts, meeting for coffee or just going out for a drink, you run into some of the people that will eventually become your best business associates and people you will eventually rely on. Creating a network of people that can lean on each other for help and advice is crucial for your success in the business and has been for me. Newhouse LA has given me the opportunity to live and work in the entertainment capital of the world, while taking some of my favorite classes in all of my years at Syracuse. The Newhouse LA program gives me the opportunity and a schedule that allows me to work an amazing internship and gain real world experience before I actually enter the workforce and move out west after graduation.

Spencer Haines in a senior in the Bandier program for recording and entertainment industries at the Newhouse School.

Two Newhouse alumni release first feature film

Nate Hapke

Filmmakers Nate Hapke ’14 and Rosie Grace ’14 recently released their first feature film, a romantic drama titled “TWO DASH ONE ONE.” Both Hapke and Grace are alumni of the Newhouse School’s television, radio and film (TRF) program.

While Hapke directed the film, he and Grace share writing and producing credits. The film’s cinematographer, Nicholas Ferreiro ’15, is also an alumnus of the TRF program.

“TWO DASH ONE ONE” tells the story of two young lovers who are forced to reexamine their relationship when they are reunited in the afterlife after being torn apart by a tragic accident. The two main characters, Marnie and April, struggle to find life amidst monotony, and face difficult truths to find their happily ever after.

Written in the quarantine of the COVID-19 pandemic, the film’s narrative emerged from a short writing prompt Hapke and Grace heard on actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s podcast. With a finished script and a simple production—two characters and one location—the crew shot the film over 10 days in the middle of a California heat wave.

Rosie Grace

“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to share this very special story with an ever-widening audience,” Hapke said in a press release when Freestyle Digital Media acquired the film’s rights. Through the independent film distributor, “TWO DASH ONE ONE” is now available to rent and own on North American digital, high definition, internet and satellite platforms.

Grace reflects on the film’s journey and how grateful she and Hapke are of the filmmaking experience.

“It’s so humbling and exciting to finally be sharing this project with the world,” Grace says. “What started as a cathartic lockdown collaboration evolved into an incredible production adventure, and a final product that we’re so proud to claim as our first feature film.”

The filmmakers, who all participated in the Newhouse LA off-campus program, acknowledge how their Newhouse education and experiences aided in the creation and release of the film.

Nicholas Ferreiro

“We’re so grateful to our Newhouse family, because without them this movie wouldn’t even exist,” Grace says.  “We owe it to Barbara Jones’ TRF 235 class for bringing us together in the first place, and the practical experience we received during our LA semester which really helped set us up for success. We also couldn’t have done it without the incredible support we received from our school, professors and fellow alumni during the crowdfunding process.”  

My Newhouse LA experience

David Barbier Jr.

I hopped off the plane at LAX and thus the adventures began. My goal for my time in Newhouse LA was to get a glimpse into what life could look like post-graduation. Working at AMC Networks’ ALLBLK streaming service let me see the great effort it takes to make Black storytelling feel authentic to our audience. I’ve gotten to attend film festivals, spend time on set and even pitch my own original series. Outside of work, I’ve tried to explore the outdoors, whether that’s catching a sunset in Malibu or hiking up to the Griffith Observatory. My time here emphasized the importance of being in the place where your industry happens because you never know who you could meet. More importantly you never know what could happen until you say “yes.”

David Barbier Jr. is a senior television, radio and film major in the Newhouse School.

West Hollywood’s Hidden Gem—The Writer’s Guild Foundation Library

J Rodriguez

Most strangers to Los Angeles would have you believe that you have to spend money to have fun here. But a few weeks before moving to LA, I discovered one of its best-kept, free secrets—the Writer’s Guild Foundation Shavelson-Webb Library. Though an archive housing a copy of nearly every WGA-registered script, free for the reading, may not be everyone’s idea of fun, the WGA library has quickly become my favorite spot in LA. There’s no better place to write coverage or cozy up with an iced coffee from the nearby Dayglow coffee (the best bang for your caffeinated buck in Hollywood!) and a copy of your favorite episode of “Game of Thrones.” Having free, exclusive access to such a vast selection of work is absolutely invaluable, and yet so few people seem to know that this resource is available to them! Next time you’re in West Hollywood, stop by—you’d be amazed by what you might find on the shelf!

J Rodriguez is a senior television, radio and film student at the Newhouse School.

Post (production) Up In LA

Chiara Ruggiero

So far, my time in Los Angeles has been incredible and irreplaceable. The vibe and culture of LA is so unique, and it’s simply inspiring to exist in such a hub of creativity. 

Not only is it incredibly influential to be around such talented and skilled professionals, but it is even more powerful to have the opportunity to work and learn from them. During my time as a visual effects intern at Filmworks FX, I have pursued my passion for VFX and post-production, working alongside accomplished artists and absorbing a litany of skills no textbook can teach. This experience has truly been life-changing for me. From experiencing the vibrant LA weekends, workshopping with my peers, enjoying the sunshine at the beach and thriving in an environment of creativity, I know Newhouse LA has solidified a sense of belonging and purpose in my life that I would not change for the world.

Chiara Ruggiero is a senior television, radio and film major at the Newhouse School.

Alumna a welcome addition to the Newhouse LA faculty

Alisann Blood ’02

It is always an honor to have professionals as accomplished as Alisann Blood ’02 join our Newhouse LA faculty, but when it’s a Newhouse alumna, it is truly special.

Blood, along with co-head Toni Wallace, leads global music brand partnerships for United Talent Agency’s world-renowned music roster, working with artists like Bad Bunny and Bebe Rexha. Her accomplishments make her the perfect choice to teach the Music, Technology and Emerging Opportunities course to students studying in our Bandier program.

In a nutshell, we work with our music clients to build a roadmap in the brand space based around the artists’ passions, affinities and big ideas and then work hand-in-hand to partner with brands across all different categories to bring those ideas to life,” Blood said. “We are a team of all female agents, which wasn’t by design, but it brings me so much joy to show up every day to get to work with amazing women on projects we’re passionate about day in and day out.”

I talked with Blood to learn more about her work and passion for teaching.

What is your management style?

I love managing teams. People are at the heart of a team and an organization’s culture. It’s always been important for me to lead by example and with thoughtfulness, empathy and kindness.

Why did you want to teach at Newhouse?

I feel really strongly that I wouldn’t have had the opportunities I had without the connections I made at Newhouse (and have fostered throughout my career), and I loved the idea of being able to open that up to a new generation of students. This opportunity has been fantastically fulfilling in that respect. 

If a student leaves your class retaining only one thing, what do you want that to be?

Don’t be afraid to network up, down and across your peer set. My current assistant, who is also a Newhouse graduate, was in the training program in the mailroom when I started. She always said hello and came in to talk to me about her passion for the brand space. When my desk opened 18 months later, she was the first person I thought of for the role. Don’t be afraid to spend time and ask questions of anyone…. 99% of the time, people will make time to forge connections. 

What inspires you the most in young professionals?

Their passion and ideas. Good ideas don’t come from years of experience, but they usually do come from being passionate, having your finger on the pulse and the ability to be creative. The younger professionals on my team and the students I teach are so dialed into culture. It is awesome to hear about the things that excite them.

Thank you to Alisann for being such a valued member of our Newhouse LA team.

Robin Howard is the director of the Newhouse LA program.

My LA experience!

Tessa Meehan

Hello, my name is Tessa Meehan, and I am currently a rising junior studying public relations at the Newhouse School! This semester I have been granted the opportunity to not only take classes geared more toward the arts and entertainment industry and its functions, but also to work hands-on in the industry with an internship experience. With that said, my semester this summer has been hectic, but nothing less than exciting. While taking courses and completing an internship simultaneously may seem like a lot to handle, I have definitely found more than enough time to explore the city! Getting out there and exploring new parts of the world is one of the biggest advantages of studying abroad. From the events Newhouse has provided for us including screenings, dinners, shows, guest speakers, etc.; to the multitude of excursions I’ve gone on with my peers, the Newhouse LA semester truly has an exciting surprise around each corner for everyone!

Tessa Meehan is a junior public relations major at the Newhouse School.

Taco experience in LA

Tacos in Los Angeles

It has been around two weeks in Los Angeles, and I have taken the liberty to try every taco place I encounter. So far, I’ve hit 10 different spots ranging from taco stands to trucks. Let me just say that they have all been fantastic. My go-to is always a carne asada and fish taco. I find that they are the best indicators of what makes a taco place stand out for me. However, two days ago I was finally able to get my hands on an authentic birria taco, a dish I‘ve been craving for the longest time. Firme Tacos was the name of the taco stand I stumbled upon with the fantastic dish. The birria taco dipped inside the consommé was a phenomenal experience that I believe everyone should try.

Jonathan Zhang is a senior in the television, radio and film program at the Newhouse School.

Incredible Summer

L-R: Yahan Xu and a friend on the beach in Los Angeles

My name is Yahan Xu, a rising senior. I’m television, radio and film major with a psychology minor. It was incredible to join Newhouse LA for a semester. As a student who wants to develop my career in the film industry in the future, it is the best choice to come to Los Angeles for an internship. At the same time, Com Law and other courses offered by Newhouse LA also solved my credit needs.

I am enjoying my current lifestyle: go to the gym in the morning, come back after breakfast and start my internship (I’m interning at Immortal Cinema International and my work is to read scripts, write coverage and be an editorial assistant), go to evening classes after the internship and enjoy the dinner made by my roommates when I’m back home.

Having a car allows us to go anywhere freely. During weekends we go to the beach or Koreatown. The supermarkets and restaurants in Ktown are our favorites. There’s so many amazing Asian foods. For me there’s a lot more options than Syracuse. Surprisingly, I adapted faster than expected. Before coming to Los Angeles I was anxious about internships, courses, renting, etc., but now I have fully adapted and am enjoying my life in Los Angeles. Everything is going smoothly and orderly. (I’m pretty sure I’ll miss living in Los Angeles a lot when I get back to Syracuse.) 

Yahan Xu is a junior in the television, radio and film program at the Newhouse School.