Who are the students behind Fairfield University’s Film program?

Heather Mooney is a senior at Fairfield University majoring in Film. Mooney has her sights set on directing and producing documentaries and music videos but Fairfield’s film program has prepared her for various careers within the film industry. In the clip below, watch Mooney describe her experience as a film student and how she’s carved her own path in Fairfield’s program.

While Film, Television, and Media, is just one department, the students within the major have very diverse goals within the entertainment industry. The following 5 seniors, like Mooney, have had to work very hard to establish themselves as experts in their respective fields, in a major not many students think of on a daily basis.


Name: Carina Nieto
Film, Television, and Media studies with a minor in Latin American and Caribbean Studies
Why you chose Fairfield’s Film program: I chose Fairfield’s film program because it seemed the most friendly and open to teach me anything I wanted, the proximity to NYC didn’t hurt either! I also saw an opportunity to get to use the equipment right when I started school rather than in my junior year (which is what most film schools do).
Career goals for after Fairfield: Since being here I have worked on a variety of different film projects. The ones that I had the most fun and I felt the most connected to completing are documentary films and television production. After I graduate I would like to work in the documentary industry or in TV production in the future, but I am mainly looking to join a non-profit so that I can repay some of my student loans.
Fairfield’s preparation: Fairfield’s Program helped me mainly through the Production Team. They have taught me so much and provided countless opportunities for me to work on short pieces that I normally wouldn’t be able to.

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Name: Alex Mongillo Major: Film, Television, and Media Arts Major with a Theatre Minor
Why you chose Fairfield’s film program: I chose Fairfield’s film program because it provides a broad view of every aspect of production. Coming into school I knew I wanted to do something with film and/or television, but I wasn’t sure specifically what part of it I was interested in most. Other schools required you to have a focus on a certain area, but here at Fairfield I was able to get experience in all parts.
Career goals for after Fairfield: After I graduate I hope to have any position really. Within the film and television industry there’s really no way to get the job you want right away as with most industries, but I would not mind at all being a production assistant. In the end however, I would love to be the executive producer of a television show.
Fairfield’s preparation: Fairfield’s FTM program helped me to prepare for this field by giving me experience in many fields within film and television and pushed me to work hard. Not only do I have a good understanding of production, but also film history, which is something that has influences the films I make now.
What’s one thing you wish other students knew about the FTM program? I wish other students knew how cathartic being a film major is. You work long, hard hours on films you’re making and sometimes it seems like you’ll never get it done, but when you do and you see your creation come to life, you can’t help but feel like you’ve just made a masterpiece. This goes for something that is a minute to a full length short film, something that you were just a production assistant on to something you directed, no matter how long it is or what your job was, you get a huge satisfaction from just knowing you were a part of this amazing final product.


Name: Joann Cowley
Major: Film with a Minor in Creative Writing
Why you chose Fairfield’s Film program: I choose Fairfield’s film program because of the multitude of resources we have and the camaraderie between the students and faculty.
Career goals for after Fairfield: I would love to be able to work in the camera department and work my way up from an Assistant Camera [person] to a Director of Photography (DP).
Fairfield’s preparation: I’m hoping [Fairfield] provided my with the skills necessary to work with a wide range of equipment.
What’s one thing you wish other students knew about the FTM program? That we work very hard to accomplish our goals and that just because we aren’t STEM, doesn’t mean we can’t contribute.

Dewey 3Name: Dewey Browder IV
Film, TV and Media Arts Major
Why you chose Fairfield’s Film program: While looking for colleges in CT (my family moved here in 2012), I discovered Fairfield University’s film program and instantly thought it was something I’d want to be part of. 
Career goals for after Fairfield: Although I will be absolutely thrilled to work in any area of film, my end goal is to work my way up to directing/conceptualizing music videos and commercials. 
Fairfield’s preparation: The FTM program allows students to explore whatever area of film they desire, which is crucial for developing the skills necessary to succeed. Personally, being able to work on student film shoots and develop projects outside of class was integral to my experience here. 
What’s one thing you wish other students knew about the Film program? The insane amount of work actually required to work in film. Especially during Spring Semester, most of our weekends are filled with production work, in addition to the normal Mon-Fri college schedule. But it’s a labor of love and everyone that sticks with it is truly there for the love of film.

Name: Ally GianniniIMG_2935
Major: Film , TV and Media Arts Major
Why you chose Fairfield’s Film program: I chose Fairfield’s film program because of the extremely hands on, well rounded, approach and dedicated faculty.
Career goals for after Fairfield: I don’t know exactly what I want to do after I graduate, but I could see myself working as a writer for a TV show, as an Editor, or as a Producer of either independent films or branded content. My dream is to Direct.
Fairfield’s preparation: Fairfield has given me the opportunity to pursue my interests and get hands on experience in the subject matter that I’m interested in. Through student productions and internships I have a lot of hard skills.
What’s one thing you wish other students knew about the Film program? I wish other students knew that its not an easy major, and that we’re very dedicated to what we do. We give up a lot of nights and weekends to hone our craft and by the time we graduate are experts in a lot of the content we’ve studied. Filmmaking is a science as well as an art, and you have to know a lot about theory as well as equipment to make a great film.

(images courtesy of the students profiled)

The Interviewees

In order to produce a successful article, I needed to find 4 types of sources:

  1.  A Subject:
    1. Jesse Erickson — The subject of the article.
  2. School Officials:
    1. Dawn Debiase — Assistant Dean in the Dolan School of Business
    2. Sue Peterson — Assistant Dean in the College of Arts and Sciences
    3. Heather Petraglia — Director of Office of Academic Support and Retention
  3. Admissions Ambassador:
    1. Christina Barry: Tour guide, class of 2015.
  4. A Second Opinion:
    1. Erin Connors: Transfer student from College of Arts and Sciences to Dolan School of Business, class of 2016.

Stuck in the Middle: Struggle to Change Schools and its Impact on Students

On November 18th, Jesse Erickson was supposed to register for her first official classes as a student in the Fairfield University Dolan School of Business. The sophomore was all set to transfer from the College of Arts and Sciences but due to slow paperwork processing, her plans were foiled.

“Next semester, I am currently only registered for three classes, two of which are not part of the business core. Because my change of school paper has not yet processed, I am not in the business school which means that I was unable to register for any business classes,” Erickson said.

Erickson is one of an estimated 50 students who transfer from Fairfield’s College of Arts and Science to the Dolan School of Business every year. While the university recommends students in transferring schools during their freshman year, many, like Erickson, decide to transfer late as their goals and interests evolve.

After entering Fairfield undecided, Erickson declared a Communication and Journalism majors before quickly having a change of heart. Erickson turned to her real life experiences to aid in her decision-making process.

“I decided to transfer schools because I spent the summer working in the restaurant business where I really took on a role of leadership and I decided to purse an interest I had in management,” Erickson said, adding that she still plans on a Journalism minor.

Erickson’s transition to the Dolan School of Business began during the first week of the year when she met with her advisor. While she isn’t sure how, her advisor was able to get Erickson written into economics and accounting classes, both usually reserved for business students.

“If it weren’t for my advisor, I don’t know where I would be,” she said.

According to Dawn Debiase, Assistant Dean to the Dolan School of Business, the transfer process is relatively smooth.

“Compared to the processes at some other institutions, I believe the transition process at Fairfield is streamlined and straightforward,” said Debiase.

Erin Connors ’16 transferred into the Dolan School of Business from the College of Arts and Sciences at the end of her freshman year and was surprised at the Erickson’s difficulty.

“[Transferring] was a pretty easy process I just had to get a form signed by both of the deans,” she said. “With the business core, I was able to do it opposite of those starting in the business school”

The first Semester in Dolan School of Business

The first Semester in Dolan School of Business

The first Semester in College of Arts and Sciences

Susan Peterson, assistant dean in the College of Arts and Sciences agrees that the transition from the College of Arts and Sciences can be smooth, but only if the transfer happens early on.

“If planned early on, some courses in the University core would overlap the business core. If the transfer happens later in a student’s career, it could present problems. In addition to the University core, DSB students must also complete a business core,” Peterson said.

Erickson admits that she wishes she figured out what she wanted to major in earlier, especially considering how long it would take to process the transfer papers but is adamant that the school has a responsibility to look after its students.

“This is college and I believe that students have the ability and freedom to change what they want to do,” Erickson said. “When I decide I want to change my mind and my papers still haven’t been processed a month later, I think it’s ridiculous and really hinders my ability to grow at Fairfield, especially wen we have Such a large core. Even if we do transfer late, I feel as though they should be a little more helpful and reassuring that I will be able to stay on track.”

Despite considering the transfer process between schools to be a pretty fluid process, Debiase admits that there can be difficulties in transferring later in the college career.

“Depending on the timing of the transfer, sometimes summer or winter intercession study or taking additional courses during the traditional academic year is required to remain on-track to graduate with the student or class cohort,” Debiase said.

Fairfield Tour Ambassador Christina Barry ’15, admits that answering questions about the transfer process between schools isn’t easy as answering questions that might not make Fairfield desirable are usually difficult to answer.

“I think that the general goal of a tour is to show off the school’s really great aspects, and to make the less attractive, or difficult aspects of the school seem better/easier than they are,” Barry said.

Barry maintains that she’s always honest with the perspective students on the tours, often telling them things that Fairfield could change but tries to do so in a positive way that won’t deter students from the school. Erickson believes that the school isn’t forward with how long the process the transfer actually takes.Step 1. Obtain and fill out change of

Erickson’s issue with the transfer process isn’t with her treatment by administrators but with the slow process that’s holding up her plans. The dishonesty on how difficult it can be to transfer schools has places Erickson in an awkward in-between state where she’s not enrolled in the Dolan School of Business but doesn’t consider herself to be a College of Arts and Science student, either.

Erickson believes that part of the problem is in how restrictive the university is with paperwork.

“There’s so many restrictions to everything that they can’t do anything without authorization. Basically, they just kept saying I needed to wait until the paper processes and now it’s been a month and it still hasn’t processed,” Erickson said.

Understanding the confusion and frustration surrounding navigating through an academic career, in 2014, Fairfield reorganized academic support departments to create the Office of Academic Support and Retention. Director Heather Petraglia, former assistant dean in the Dolan School of Business names the department to be useful for students looking to change.

“One of the responsibilities of the Office of Academic Support and Retention is to support undergraduate students who are undeclared, changing majors and/or schools, or in need of advising to help them make a successful transition to a declared program of study,” she said.

Erickson understands the resources the university provides can really aid in the exploratory process and notes that there are many faculty members who dedicate their time to helping their advisees explore their interests.

“I think that there is staff at Fairfield that definitely cares about the students, like Laura Nash, who is determined to help her students achieve which is why Is why I’ve boasted about her so often,” Erickson said. “She’s helped me with everything and she knows exactly who I should talk to when I have a problem, which I haven’t really found at the business school yet.”

Ultimately, Erickson believes that the transfer process needs to be streamlined because the process is not only a paperwork nightmare but there’s also a lot of factors to consider, like whether another major or minor is feasible with the extra business core or even if it’s possible to study abroad. She’s especially worried about being able to study abroad in Florence, Italy, during the fall of her junior year, a mere semester after the transfer is set to be complete. Additionally the Fairfield Mirror assistant sports editor is hoping to be able to keep an journalism minor after the process is complete.

Erickson’s goals may be lofty but if what Debiase and Peterson are correct in promoting the transfer process as doable, even as late as the beginning of junior year, Erickson should have no problem making the change.

Before its even possible to make the change from one school to another, it’s important to be educated on how the process actually works. Debiase believes that students interested in transferring from the College of Arts and Science to the Dolan School of Business need to be proactive and follow three steps:

  1.     Do your homework:  Explore curricular and co-curricular, and extra-curricular options offered, and career options supported, by the Dolan School of Business.
  2.     Work hard:  Earning strong grades is essential.  The requisite 2.8 cumulative GPA is required.
  3.     Have the right conversations.  Your academic advisor is a valuable resource for all conversations about your academic goals and your personal/professional future.

In following those steps, no student should struggle to transition to the school of their choice.

Press Conference: Paul Grant

“The users want donuts but you have to give the broccoli to keep them coming back. If all they eat is donuts, they’ll wither away so you have to give them a balanced meal,” Paul Grant, Deputy Editor of ESPN.com recently told a group of young journalists at a press event.

The 47-year-old Toronto native is charged with managing content on one of the largest sports new sites online. On his site, he must curate a mixture of breaking news and updates within the world of professional sports. In addition, ESPN is also competing with the news published by the various professional sports’ networks.

“We’re influenced by them but we don’t try to replicate [it],” Grant said.

He further acknowledged the difficulty in providing an interesting spin on the trade and injury reports that often fill the news cycle.

“You’re the instant gratification generation. How you get news is different than how I got news,” Grant said.

Grant understands the reputation ESPN has as one of the top sporting brands in America and how it drives viewers to ESPN.com but knows that it’s his job to keep viewers coming back.

“If nothing happens in the week, we still have new and fresh content,” Grant said. “[It’s a] Good Mix of News, good mix of features.”

Part of keeping up with viewing trends is looking at the trends themselves and knowing when to publish the most important information. Grant cites 9:00 a.m. in each time zone to be the most popular time to check ESPN.com in the morning and noon for the most popular time throughout the day. In understanding these trends, Grant and his writers can curate the news at the time that has the highest traffic.

Another major part of ESPN’s different take on sports reporting is their platform Grantland, the “brainchild” of Boston blogger Bill Simmons. Grant finds Grantland to be an important part of ESPN because of its differences.

“It’s the antithesis of what we do,” Grant said.

Grantland was able to develop because Bill Simmons “outgrew ESPN” so the top editors used this platform as a way to keep him interested. Grant finds Grantland to complement ESPN.com well because it’s a different way of looking at sports reporting.

“Bill Simmons writes like he’s talking,” Grant said.

He thinks Simmons’ writing style makes him stand out and believes that the social media age is the perfect way to try new ways of writing, whether through online news, newspapers, or blogging.

Grant attributes ESPN’s success to a combination of “institutional arrogance” and adaptability. They’re not afraid to step outside the norm to cater to all sports fans, not just he 51% of men who view their site. The ability to change allows for the flexibility and freedom to take ESPN.com

Press Conference: Abby West

“My job is to make you not leave the site,” Abby West said.

West has made a career out of looking forward. The 41-year-old Executive Editor at Essence.com understands how fast digital news travels and has made it her job to report news first.

“What’s true today is not true a year from now,” West said.

When Essence was first published forty-five years ago, it was the only publication aimed at black women. At Essence.com, West has worked to transform the brand from the magazine that celebrates black women in the 1970s to a mainstream online publication fit for the digital age.

West never imagined herself in online journalism.

“I never thought this would be my career,” she said.

A self-proclaimed “newspaper girl,” West dreamed of being a columnist and credits a Dow Jones internship opportunity with opening her up to the field of journalism. With this newfound passion, West attended NYU before ultimately graduating from Queens College with a degree in political science and a minor in journalism.

West’s journalism career began with the Norwich Bulletin, a “boot camp” that allowed for her to learn the ins and outs of reporting. She soon moved to the Stamford Advocate where she worked long, hectic hours, before deciding to take time off to care for her young children, Warden and Sydney.

West wasn’t built for the stay-at-home lifestyle. She ran journalism workshops for local New York high schools and eventually returned to the professional world with EW.com after having worked at People, Teen People and Stamford Advocate.

“EW.com was my happy place. It was filled with pop culture geeks like myself,” she said.

In charge of TV show recaps, West received stories from her writers between the hours of midnight and 3 AM and had to edit and publish them online. This job gave more flexibility, allowing her to work from home and spend more time with her children. At EW.com, West chose to pursue a career as an editor.

“I took editor track instead of writer,” she said.

While at EW.com, West developed a site within the EW.com brand. The experience of launching her own pop culture site, eventually brought her to Essence.com, where she used her pop culture background and refocused it toward the demographic of Essence.

While West continues to look ahead at the next ways to improve Essence.com, she’s not looking ahead in her career. Even though there’s always something new to look forward to, she’s living in the present at Essence.com.

Press Conference: Maggie Gordon

“If something happens once, okay. If something happens twice, okay. If something happens three times, it’s a trend,” Reporter Maggie Gordon told a group of perspective journalists during a press conference event on Thursday.

The 27-year-old Greenwich Time columnist has made a career out of data. A graduate of the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse, Gordon is a product of the 2008 job freeze. After struggling to land internships from publications like Men’s Health and getting a job with Hearst Corporation after a year of looking, Gordon realized that she needed to set herself apart from the other thousand young journalists across the country.

“When I first got into journalism, I didn’t think I would be working with math,” she said. “What drew me to trends was that I love math and I love statistics.”

Becoming an expert with trends was no easy feat for Gordon, who found fellowships and workshops to train her to use. Using her passion for math and journalism to zero in on trends, Gordon was able to start a “Trending with Maggie Gordon” column for the Connecticut Hearst Newspapers where she uses data to write interest pieces revolving around Fairfield County.

Writing data-driven pieces has caused Gordon to learn to use on statistics found at data centers like Pew Center and the U.S. Census Bureau. Though most of the data she obtains is public information, much of it requires a Freedom of Information Letter requesting information, which at times can be a very difficult process.

“People always say that teachers and police officers who work in a place like Greenwich can’t afford to live there,” Gordon said, adding that she wanted to know if it was true.

Interested in whether or not teachers and police officers could live in the wealthy town they worked in, Gordon sent a Freedom of Information Letter, asking for home addresses for her subjects. The Letter was rejected and Gordon and Hearst ended up in court over the right to obtain addresses through the Freedom of Information Act.

Gordon and Hearst Corporation lost their case for access to information after it was determined that, “a zip code is an address.”

While Gordon describes disappointing moments in the field of data-driven journalism, she is quick to defend it.

“Data can be fun,” Gordon said.

Data-driven journalism is an important part of the journalism field. The world has become more technology driven and therefore data-driven. Despite this, Gordon warns that it is important to always be looking at the facts.

“A.B.C.: Always be checking, Gordon said. “If someone tells you that these are the statistics, I want to see the documents.”

Press Conference: Kerry Wills

TODAY contributor Kerry Wills covered everything from the Newtown tragedy to a love story sparked by Occupy Wall Street. Despite her diverse career, Wills considers herself to be a spot news journalist, an expert in her field.

“The hardest skill to develop is spot news,” Wills said. “It is a skill that’s getting lost.”

Wills’ career began at the New Haven Register, after a buyout shut down the small Milford newspaper that employed her. As a beat reporter, Wills was quickly molded into a skilled reporter leading her to the Stamford Advocate.

As an undergraduate at Johns Hopkins University, Wills wanted to write the “next great American novel” and considered a field in arts and entertainment writing, but her first job at a newspaper introduced her to the life of hard news.

While most reporters move on from hard news to become editors and staff reporters, Wills admits it can be easy to get stuck in hard news if you are adept at it. She kept at hard news as it took her to New York as a reporter for the New York Daily News.

When Wills began her career as a reporter in the mid-1990s, the news cycle was slower and reporters had more time to carefully craft their stories. As a longtime reporter, she has had the opportunity to watch the field of journalism evolve.

“Print newspapers will soon be a thing of the past.” Wills said.

As the Digital Age takes over, Wills knows her experiences as a hard news newspaper reporter have served her well. She is able to transition due to her diverse background within the field of journalism and understands the necessity to write short, attention-grabbing stories for her readers.

Wills has never regretted having the career that turned her into a hard news virtuoso. Wills has a lifetime of memories, including interactions with Bono, Gloria Steinem, and Regina Spektor, and has covered some of the most important events in the United States. While she has yet to become a mom, Wills takes comfort in knowing that when she finally does, the journalism community is rallied behind her.