The Northerner multimedia project nominated for national award

A Northerner story produced by a team that included a journalist, web developer, graphic designer, photographer and videographer has earned national recognition.

The story, ““The underground world of NKU recycling”,  is one of three national finalists in the College Media Association Pinnacle Award in the category of Best Multimedia News Story.

“This recognition is a real testament to the success that innovative thinking and trans disciplinary collaboration can bring about,” said Kevin Schultz, who wrote and reported the story published on on March 26, 2014.

Photo by: Kody Kahle

Photo by: Kody Kahle

The project, which combined in-depth reporting and narrative writing with video, interactive quizzes, charts and infographics, was one of three multimedia projects that The Northerner’s 11-person web team produced in Spring 2014.

Team members divided up to collaborate on different projects. The recycling project team members included Schultz, lead reporter; James Lloyd, web developer; Robert Huelsman, video; Kody Kahle, photographer and Mosef Asad, graphic designer.

“I was nervous at first when we put the team together, but taking a chance can really pay off,” Schultz said. “It turned out that the ability to communicate and work together was just as much of an important product as the project itself.”
Robert Huelsman, the project’s videographer, agrees and said one of the best parts of the project was bringing everyone together to work toward one common goal.

“It was cool working with people from media informatics and web and journalism and me being an EMB student — bringing pretty much everybody in Griffin Hall together,” Huelsman said. “News coverage is a little different from narrative production. But in the end it’s trying to tell a story — visually and through what people are saying.”

Michele Day, The Northerner faculty adviser, said the entire team deserves recognition for both experimenting with innovative forms of storytelling and digging into a significant issue.

“It was the techie stuff, the in-depth reporting and everything coming together,” she said.

Schultz spent eight weeks reporting the story, which took Northerner readers behind-the-scenes of the campus recycling process and documented the strengths and weaknesses of efforts to make the campus more green. “I had pages and pages of records to go through,” he said referring to the different documents on recycling policy and recyclable materials data he dug up.

But the highlight of the experience was a 5 a.m. venture through the tunnels where NKU’s recycling center is located.
“We were all really tired and cold, and we were in this dark underground area. But then out walks Chris [the man shadowed for the narrative] and he was smiling, full of energy. He started talking about his life then he led us into this big room full of lights, machines and people and it’s like all of a sudden we woke up a bit because we realized there was this whole other world below us on campus that no one really gets to see,” Schultz said. “And I guess we sort of realized how neat it was to be able to be the ones to show that world to people through all these different immersive mediums of storytelling.”

Winners of the 2014 College Media Association Pinnacle Awards will be announced at #collegemedia14, the National College Media Convention, Oct. 29-Nov. 2 in Philadelphia.

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University leader hopes to use humble beginnings to create a ‘bridge’ between two nations

Gitau_Web2“The thing that makes education so powerfully important to me is that I would not be here today if I did not have access to quality education,” Peter Gitau, vice president of Student Affairs said. For his entire life education has been the driving force behind Gitau’s success, from his humble start to now at NKU he strives to make education a possibility for everyone.

Humble beginnings

Gitau was born in Kenya and every day, once they were all school aged, he and his two brothers and four sisters would trek four miles barefoot to attend their small village school. At the school the classes would be filled with upwards of 30 children who would often share only one class book. Life was simple on the farm Gitau was raised on, there was no electricity and food was not always readily available. However it was those daily treks, totaling at least eight miles back and forth, and other hardships that first inspired a passion for education in Gitau.

“Those kinds of things [the distance and lack of resources] I think motivated us, there was quite a good group of us who in spite of that went on to do good things, and study and get advanced education,” Gitau said.

Gitau was one of those students who would advance his education. At 13, Gitau attend a boarding school. From there he would go on to attend Kenyatta University earning his bachelor’s degree in secondary education. Even though his life was much more centered in the city he would often return home.

“I still kept coming back to the village because I loved the simplicity and the calmness and the fresh air,” Gitau said.

Gitau’s passion for pursuing an education also came from his greatest inspiration, his father. Though he passed away in 1999 Gitau’s father remains as a huge influence in his life. After being detained while fighting for liberation from the British, his father lost a good job and then found a new one working as a painter on a college campus in the city.

His father was “intrigued” by the environment around him and hoped to see at least one of his own become a part of that world. Since he worked in the city, they would only physically see him twice a month, but when he returned home he would always stay up late telling Gitau and his sibling’s stories of the pomp and circumstance he saw on campus.

“He did not have much in life, but he told me once, and my brothers and sisters, ‘I don’t have a lot for you to inherit from me, I don’t have land or vehicles, but I’m going to make sure each of you gets a quality education’,” Gitau said.

Gitau came to the United States, with the support of colleagues at the girls boarding school at which he taught he was able to gather the money to take the opportunity to attend Eastern Illinois University where he’d earn his master’s degree. He would then go on to earn his PH.D at the University of Kansas.

“I think by looking at our environment and our circumstances we were very determined, and I know personally I was, I was very, very determined to make sure I did not grow old in that environment,” Gitau said.

A ‘bridge’ to Kenya

Gitau’s upbringing has provided him with a unique perspective and opportunity to help others in Kenya now. For many years now he has returned home, taking a group students with him to help educate them and the students in Kenya.

Unlike here were K-12 education is free over there it is not. The government might provide some teachers, may provide some classrooms, but generally it falls on the parents to pay for education, which can be extremely difficult. For ten years, through his first non-profit organization ‘Teach my Kenyan Children’ Gitau worked to provide programs to help better educate students, establish feeding programs in some schools, and find scholarships for promising students who could not afford to attend secondary school.

“These kids go to school and don’t have the bare essentials of learning,” Gitau said. ““I think about the chance that they have to get something out of all of that, and if there is something I can do I’m going to do it”

One of his favorite aspects of returning home with students, some of whom have never left the U.S., is taking them to his old school and village home to see where his opportunity began. The student’s even settle, living with a host family in a small village, for seven days when they go.

The biggest roadblock for students that Gitau has cited is an uneven field of advantage. Students in Kenya, when leaving primary school all take the same test. Children from small villages with little to no resources take the same test as city children who have extensive resources at their grasp. The test determines what secondary school you go to, and often times, even when they score high enough, children from small villages do not attend secondary school due to the high cost. Gitau hopes to level the chances and make it a more equal chance for every student to earn a quality education.

“You invest in their education you invest in the whole family, and therefore invest in the community,” Gitau said.

Gitau now runs a new non-profit organization called ‘The African International Foundation for Educational Excellence’. On last year’s trip to Kenya, instead of taking students, Gitau took faculty members both from NKU and other universities at which he’s worked in the past to help train Kenyan teachers.

A shorter trip than his usual, Gitau and his colleagues spent one week doing various training sessions to improve teacher quality.

“I approach my work here with a very strong sense of dedication, because I see myself as a bridge between that community and this community,” Gitau said. “There’s always this sense of going home, and what I have tried to do is to mix my going home with activities that bridge the community I’m living in and the communities over there.”

Gitau has become a known name in Kenya for his work with improving the school system. He’s built six separate libraries in schools, and has even caught the attention of the government to improve the quality of education.

In his latest trip he spearheaded the signing of an international agreement between NKU and Mt. Kenya University. As a result of this agreement NKU will have the ability to exchange faculty, staff and students in addition to many other mutual benefits. Dr. Lenore Kinne, from the education department, and trustee board member Andra Ward were part of the delegation.

Life at NKU

Gitau has only been at NKU for a year, but he’s hoping to leave a lasting mark on the fairly young university which he calls “dynamic”.

Though in the past his roles at universities have been more one-on-one with students he now feels he has the opportunity to make a larger difference in the lives of students. He feels he can connect with any student, because he himself has not come from any privileged background and can understand what students go through.

“The main gratification that I get from my job is that I get to work on programs that are impacting students at the very core points of their lives,” Gitau said. “I get to hear stories of what students are dealing with and then from the vantage point of a vice president I have the ability to make a difference.”

Gitau also likes the size of NKU.

“I always wanted to come to a campus that was a little more intimate, where I don’t have to take a bus form east campus to west campus,” Gitau said.

Gitau’s son also attends NKU, which is a great source of pride for him.

He sees it as a great time to be at NKU, and he has a strong passion for the work he is doing.

“I may not be the kind of person that screams and yells and jumps everywhere but I’m a very passionate individual. I pursue my goals very, very passionately. I believe I’m a global educator and sometimes you can go to a place and people may never notice what you do until you’re gone, so if there’s anything I can contribute, if there’s anyone I can talk to and encourage, if there’s any connection I can make I’m more than willing to do that, Gitau said. “I’m not just here doing a job, I’m a man on a mission and my mission is to make sure that every person gets the opportunities that they can, because I believe strongly that education is the key.”

Two NKU Art Students Earn Exclusive Art Show Scholarships

Devan Horton and Adam Schmidt to be Featured at 48th Annual Hyde Park Square Art Show in October

Two NKU students will be honored at the 48th annual Hyde Park Square Art Show in October and both are celebrating the scholarships that come with the honor.

Painting by Devan Horton

Painting by Devan Horton

Devan Horton and Adam Schmidt will be two of the three area recipients of the 2014 Hyde Park Art Scholarships. Each year, three students majoring in some form of the arts from local universities are awarded $2,500 scholarships to apply to their college tuition.

Horton is pursuing a Bachelor of Fine Arts with an emphasis in painting and Schmidt is pursuing a Bachelor of Fine Arts with an emphasis in sculpture and a degree in art education.

“It’s really great and I’m thankful that people understand the arts and respect their importance in the community,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt learned about the scholarship from an adviser and Horton, searching for any sort of scholarship, learned about the opportunity from a professor. During the interview process that led to their acceptance, each student presented three pieces of work.

Schmidt presented a wooden sculpture, a wooden, ceramic and bronze sculpture, as well as a multimedia painting.

Horton presented a self-portrait that focused more on her “self-identity,” an abstract piece with photo transfers that represents her brother’s struggles with the legal system and an abstract piece inspired by the works of one of her favorite artists.

Each of the pieces presented during the application process will also be shown during the art show, which is the largest one-day art show in the tri-state area. The show features more than 200 local artists in nearly every medium imaginable. The opportunity could change a lot for both artists, and Horton “hopes it opens a lot of doors” for her.

“It means a lot because not only will my pieces be looked at by other people but since I won the scholarship they’ll be all ‘oh who won the scholarship?’ so they’ll really be seeking out my stuff,” Horton said.

Schmidt is excited for what the show could bring as well.

Painting by Adam Schmidt

Painting by Adam Schmidt

“The exposure could lead to bigger and better things,” Schmidt said.

Both Schmidt and Horton are grateful for the scholarship and intend to put it to good use to further their education at NKU. As they prepare for the show and their final year of higher education, they’re both looking forward to the future of their careers in art.

“I’m just hoping to get more exposure in the community, that would be excellent,” Schmidt said.

Horton is also looking to the future and not just getting her work out more, but taking a new direction in her work moving from self-identity to a look more into the world of psychology.

“My last piece I did was called the hypochondriac and I have a psychology background because originally I was going into art therapy,” Horton said. “So I have all that knowledge so I might as well use it.”

The Hyde Park Square Art Show will occur Sunday, Oct. 5 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Schmidt and Horton’s works will appear throughout that day.

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NKU Students Produce Cincinnati Cable Access Blue Chip Award Winner

Dingo Suede Hailed as 2014 Best Entertainment Program

For two years, a group of NKU students has been writing, producing and filming an award-winning 18-episode online and cable access mini-series based around a private detective named Dingo Suede.

“It was one of those things where I didn’t really know what I was getting into at the very beginning, but it turned out to be an awesome, awesome, experience,” said Chandler Taylor, a senior Bachelor of Fine Arts performance major and the lead actor of the series.

The hard work of the students has paid off with a 2014 Cincinnati Cable Access Blue Chip Award for Best Entertainment Program.

“Us being recognized by the Cincinnati community gave more validation than I already had that the show was good quality and the show was something worth pursuing,” Taylor said. “It wasn’t just a bunch of people with camcorders, we were very professional in the way we approached things.”

Holland Raines, a recent graduate, came up with the idea and contacted Norse Media producer/director and Department of Communication lecturer Bavand Karim. From there Karim, along with assistance from the Norse Film Society, became the driving force behind the project.

The series began with full-length 17 to 18 minute episodes in fall 2012, but the episodes were taking a full semester to finish and they were cut to mini-episodes.  Due to the smaller form, Taylor was able to get extra help from his friends in the Department of Theatre and Dance to play supporting roles.

Taylor jumped at the opportunity to be a part of the project. For him it was an opportunity to do something outside of the theater department and do on-camera work.

“That was so appealing to me,” Taylor said. “And the people I got to work with I became really good friends with.”

The nights could be long running into the hours of 2 and 3 a.m. For Taylor, those late nights were hard work, but were worth it all. He also felt that the production being nearly all student-run, with essentially no budget made it something “really special.” Many of the mini-episodes were filmed on campus as well as in the local area.

“We were able to offer experience to the community, not just NKU, we got to go beyond that,” Taylor said.

In one episode, Karim even contacted a professional actor he knows.

“I only had a few lines in that one {with the professional actor} and it was kind of intimidating and caught me so off guard,” Taylor said. “Usually I was working with actors on my skill level, so it was a lot different, but it was a lot of fun and probably one of our better episodes.”

Taylor was a part of another award-winning project that earned a Cincinnati Cable Access Blue Chip Award, which he says was something that wouldn’t have been possible if he hadn’t done Dingo Suede.

“The fact I was able to work in the professional environment and that professional capacity and still have the chance to branch out in college and make more friends was a big deal to me,” Taylor said.

Though it’s uncertain that there could be more Dingo Suede in the future, due to many of the students involved graduating, Taylor is always up for more if the situation came about. Even if there is no more Dingo Suede, Taylor hopes to see more projects like it.

To watch Dingo Suede, go to the series YouTube page.

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NKU Dagorhir Club Takes “Battle” to the Griffin Hall Lawn for Fun and Exercise

Epic sword battles do not generally happen on a college campus.

But on the Griffin Hall lawn, a group of young women and men gather together weekly to battle. Swords and shields clash with a sound much different from the ones you’d hear in an actual battle … because these weapons are made of foam.

Photo by: Timothy Sofranko

Photo by: Timothy Sofranko

Freshman media informatics major Ryan Kellam, along with his high school friend Jared Koshiol, began NKU’s Dagorhir club in March.

Dagorhir is a form of live-action role-playing (LARPing) that is centered on the athleticism and sport of the actions, rather than the character and costume development often times associated with traditional LARPing practices.

“A lot would consider it LARP, but it’s not so much, because LARP is based more on the character you create versus your personal ability,” Kellam said.

Kellam describes it as a full-contact sport.

“It’s a great way to get your cardio out for the week if you’re a person who doesn’t like running,” Kellam said. “You won’t even notice how much you’re running around until you’ve put the sword down.”

Exercise isn’t the only benefit to joining the club. Kellam believes that it’s just a fun way to meet new people and make new friends.

“It’s just a great way to get out and have a lot of fun and meet a lot of great new people,” Kellam said.

In its beginning, the Dagorhir club had decent numbers. As time has passed, the number of members has gotten higher. Kellam credits a lot of the increase in membership in simple word of mouth, saying people walking past talk about the activity and sometimes just join in right on the spot.

Steven Middlemas, a senior English and creative writing major, was an early member of the club who loves being a part of it.

“It’s great fun, even when you get your tail kicked by a girl,” Middlemas said.

Middlemas also likes the idea of what Dagorhir there is beyond NKU’s club. He’s hoping to get involved one day in the larger world of it all.

NKU’s chapter is titled the Vanaheimr chapter, which is a place in Norse mythology where gods adventured to achieve high intelligence and omnipotence, according to Kellam.

Kellam believed the name was appropriate going along with NKU’s Norse mascot.

Photo by: Timothy Sofranko

Photo by: Timothy Sofranko

The NKU chapter is one of the only organized chapters in the area with one female member known as the best fighter in the tri-state area, according to Kellam.

Kellam said that the response from the NKU community and campus has been incredibly positive. Now in the summer months, they’re tailgating at orientations and gaining new freshman members and working to hone in on the skills of their current members.

The Dagorhir club welcomes anyone, and the rules are fairly simple going off an easy limb-loss system (you’re hit in the arm, you lose the arm etc.). Being a full-contact sport, though, does open for the chance of injury.

“Safety above all else is the most important thing,” Kellam said. “We do have a lot of rules in place to keep people safe.”

Each member is only required one thing: to sign a waiver stating they are aware of the potential for injury. However, Kellam said there haven’t been any serious injuries on the field.

During the summer the club practices every Wednesday and Saturday from noon to 6 p.m. Walk-ons are welcome and more information can be found on their Facebook page.

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Jesse Thomas Wows Crowd in Return Home for Bunbury Music Festival

The Bunbury Music Festival in Cincinnati welcomed some big name talents to the stage July 11-13 in its third year as the go-to local music festival, but Bunbury is also known for showcasing up-and-coming local talent.

This year two of the rising stars included NKU alumna Jesse Thomas (‘07) and Austin Livingood, a current NKU student majoring in public relations.

Inside NKU caught up with Jesse Thomas before her performance…

Jesse Thomas has been working on her music steadily since 2008.

Photo by: Timothy Sofranko

Photo by: Timothy Sofranko

After graduating from Northern Kentucky University in 2007, the Covington native relocated to Los Angeles and the indie artist has toured with known names such as Young the Romans and has had her music featured in episodes of hit shows such as Shameless and Hart of Dixie.

Bunbury was the first festival for Thomas, who studied radio/television (now electronic media and broadcasting) at NKU and played softball for the Norse.

“I’m excited because I don’t really know what will happen,” Thomas said before the show. “Depending on the acts you’re up against, I could play to a lot or a little. There’s a real thrill of the unexpected.”

Thomas was looking forward to the idea of performing alongside big names such as Paramore and Fall Out Boy.

“You dream of obtaining the festival circuit,” Thomas said. “Just to see that sea of people in front of you, that’s every artist’s dream.”

She was also eager to play songs from her latest album, released earlier this summer, to new audiences and to old friends as well.

For Thomas, Bunbury was not just her first festival — it was also a bit of a homecoming, which allowed her to reconnect with her earliest supporters.

And of course, her mom “really appreciates” her return as well.

“It’s kind of cool to feel like a hometown hero of sorts, to see those familiar faces, get that familiarity,” Thomas said.

While Thomas knows that this festival will provide great future opportunities for her, she was really looking forward to meeting new people, seeing other bands perform and making new fans. Thomas hopes she entertained the audiences and gave them moments to hold onto that make them go home and look up her music.

“Nothing feels as good as fest,” Thomas said. “At a fest you get to see all the people out there sweaty and together. There’s nothing like that.”

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Austin Livingood Continued an Awesome 2014 with Bunbury Performance

The Bunbury Music Festival in Cincinnati welcomed some big name talents to the stage July 11-13 in its third year as the go-to local music festival, but Bunbury is also known for showcasing up-and-coming local talent.

This year two of the rising stars included NKU alumna Jesse Thomas (‘07) and Austin Livingood, a current NKU student majoring in public relations.

Inside NKU caught up with Austin Livingood before his performance…

Austin Livingood was eager to show off his solo work during his second Bunbury Music Festival.

Livingood, a senior public relations major at Northern Kentucky University, played Bunbury last year with his former band. But this year was a new experience on his own.

Photo by: Timothy Sofranko

Photo by: Timothy Sofranko

“This time around it will be cool to present things on a more personal level,” Livingood said before the festival.

The past year has been a wild one for Livingood. After launching his second EP, he opened for John McLaughlin. That led to two Cincinnati Entertainment Awards nominations and now the Bunbury invitation.

“Those two EP’s, they kind of opened a gate for me here in Cincinnati,” Livingood said.

“(Bunbury) topped a ridiculous year. Accomplishments on top of accomplishments led to this.”

Livingood was ready to meet new people and fans — or as he likes to call his fans — friends. He wanted to show off new songs and get a gauge on what they think of his new solo stuff.

Livingood’s music is in a transition period that includes a change of pace, which he relates to his own personal life.

“There seems to be a huge difference between boy and man,” Livingood said. “So when you’re single and living the rock star dreams, you make goals based on what you think you need to.

“For me, I feel like I’m coming into my own kind of style, along with getting married. I don’t really know anyone who’s doing something like me in the area, which makes me feel really confident.”

Livingood said the future is looking really bright and that Bunbury would be “awesome” as he works to make each show better than the last.

“I’m not just pursuing this because I want to,” Livingood said. “I’m pursuing a dream. I’m thriving for it.”

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