The Heroes of SCMA

On the second floor of Martire down the west side hallway are the offices for the faculty and advisors of the School of Communication and Media Arts. The group of professionals sitting in these offices have created a program that allows students to become confident professionals. Outlined below are a handful of the professors that have made our four years at SHU well-worth it. 

Kabak – The Editor

In addition to her role at Sacred Heart as a News Writing and Reporting Professor and advisor of The Spectrum in 2008, Joanne Kabak has many professional experiences. Her influence on the students at Sacred Heart goes beyond the AP Stylistic teaching and writing creative ledes. When you take Professor Kabak’s News Writing and Reporting class, you learn the foundation of becoming an informed journalist. She teaches you that going out of your comfort zone pays off. 

From the moment I entered Professor Kabak’s class on zoom my junior year I could see how much she valued students. Her experience in journalism slowly surfaced through the years but that never mattered. You just believed that she knew exactly what she was teaching…and she does! She taught me that I could make a difference with my writing. What always stood out to me was the way she let former senior leadership, Shannon and Dan, lead the class. I sat in that class and actually thought to myself, ‘maybe I could do that!’ And here I am less than 2 years later, leaving my last remarks after publishing 25 issues of The Spectrum. I am not a perfect writer, but Professor Kabak taught us how to grow as writers. How to take edits and be better. How to always keep the reader engaged. And most importantly, how to format a quote in AP style. Some call it the basics, but I call it a foundation and I would not want to have be taught it by anyone else.”

– Maisy

Alicastro – The Veteran

“When I was at NBC…” Any guesses? Well, if you have ever taken a class with Professor Alicastro, you know exactly what we are talking about. The former NBC Producer legend was first introduced as a professor at SHU in ____. But before that, he had a long standing career at NBC as a producer. His favorite stories to tell are the ones of him working for the Rome Bureau.They are also the most impressive. Since then, the strides he has made to the Undergraduate and Graduate program here do not go unnoticed. Alicastro has created opportunities that allow students to feel comfortable and confident to enter the world of media. From his lessons in story mapping, to effective storytelling, and creative producing styles, he makes a great professor. 

“Lately as I walk into the office section of Martire and beeline right to Professor Alicastro’s office, ready to tell him about the latest update on a story, show, or lately, job placement…I think back to freshman year when I was nervous to have my scheduling meeting with him..well I was really just eager to impress. How could I not be?  Well, flash forward to now and though my eagerness to impress did not go away, I became comfortable making mistakes because he taught us that it was ok. My confidence in my abilities grew because of it. I had no idea what I wanted to do or who I wanted to be, and he helped me find that. He let me follow my passions and tell stories that I wanted to tell. In every move I made, he supported and offered guidance. Though a terrible pandemic, he never wavered and answered every email I sent him…usually at least 3 or 4 a week. I know it is rare to be taught by someone who cares so deeply about his students I will never take it for granted.”

– Maisy

Castonguay – The Visionary

            Every program needs an architect, a leader, a visionary… yet not every program gets one like Dr. James Castonguay. Professor Castonguay always stresses that while he attends to his administrative duties most of the day, his favorite part of every week is working with his students. Since first becoming a part of SHU, the published phD has grown the SCMA program into a true leader in communication education and helped start different educational programs such as the Easton Courier and has greenlit many student projects that have made a lasting mark on SHU and the reputation of its students.

“My time at my previous institute made me detest college administrations somewhat. You were a number and nothing more. Sure some students flourished, but no matter how much I tried to leave an impression on the admin there, I was constantly set aside or ignored. When I transferred to SHU, I was worried the same thing would happen, I could not have been more wrong. Professor Castonguay’s lectures, meetings and enlightening discussions became an uplifting point of the week. Not only had I found another individual with an unhealthy fascination with the media world but I also found someone who was willing to give me a chance. Two projects, many Easton Courier, and one epic film premiere articles later, I can proudly say Dr. Castonguay was the arrowhead in helping cultivate my strong and successful portfolio.”

– Tomas 

Barnes – The Filmmaker

            When one talks about professor Todd Barnes, most people think about the cheerful, enthusiastic professor located in the FTMA program. What most do not realize is the Sundance award winner is extremely industry savvy with a vast amount of knowledge on surviving the cutthroat world of filmmaking. Oh and sidenote, he also has a doctorate in law from Boston University. 

“I never took a formal class with professor Todd Barnes, but I can say from the two independent studies that I have taken with him that he is among the most enthusiastic and exuberant mentors I have ever had. One amazing attribute is his background and understanding in narrative storytelling. While I myself am a documentarian, many of the same rules apply in how to tell an impactful and thought provoking arc. Barnes was integral in helping smooth out the bumps in the stories I would produce and I owe many of the great fires present in my projects to his spark that helped start the flame”

– Tomas

Falco – The Photojournalist

Professor Richard Falco has told many stories, and all through the lens of his camera. The well-traveled photographer leans into his experiences in his classes to teach students the importance of a well lit shot that is in frame. Possibly the most important lesson that he teaches is patience as you wait for something to enter your shot. 

            “It doesn’t take long for onlookers to see the magic of Rick Falco’s eye. I consider him to be a master of photo composition, a technique that was essential during an era of photojournalism when lenses were not able to support large apertures. It is because of this limitation that has made Rick Falco’s images and technique unique in the sense that every corner of every image demands attention, attention that is well warranted. The only thing that could rival professor Falco’s talent in photojournalism is his love of teaching. Each class I attended was filled with excitement and suspense as we reviewed photos from different works. Professor Falco was the first professor at SHU that I had a mentorship with and I can only hope other students are able to tap into the passion for journalism that he preaches every day.” – Tomas          

Keith – The Technician

Professor Zdrojowy, or as everyone knows him as, Keith, is the everyday hero of SCMA when he comes down to the studio to fix something right before an important filming day. Whether it is user error or a technology issue, Keith is always there. In addition to his fix-it skills, Keith teaches multiple classes. Those teaching skills come in use as the department gets new technology and Keith creates a new “How-to” video for students. 

“Keith is by far one of the most hardworking and diligent individuals that I have ever met. He is tech savvy, industry savvy and socially savvy enough to be able to offer advice on essentially any issue that one may run into within the communications industry. Keith also served as the associate producer in my latest project where he helped acquire equipment, resources, and everything in between that involved helping make the film something I could be proud of. In other words, Keith helped me make my dreams come true by making previously unattainable resources accessible, he saw my love for the craft and created an avenue to help me reach for the stars.” – Tomas

Golda – The Artist

Every program needs an artist, someone that can act as the nucleus for what the program is all about. Professor Golda has been in the program since its creation and has watched it grow from a small closet into an entire college. Professor Golda’s eagerness to cultivate a comfortable learning environment for the students of SCMA has given students the habitat to find their passion.

“Perhaps it was because it was so late into my college career, or maybe because it took me so much by surprise, but I can say that one of the most memorable classes in my undergrad was in a class taught by Greg Golda, namely for all of the right reasons. The class was a discussion about the current state of the world which encompassed wars, pollution, and the debate on the purpose of humanity. This discussion led to tears of happiness when one of the students came out to the class, a brave moment that showcased one of Greg’s greatest strengths, the ability to make students comfortable enough to pursue their own dreams, create their own vision, and allow them to stay true to themselves.”  

– Tomas 

Russo – The Coach

            Not many professors, let alone people, care so much about the perfection of work like that of Gary Russo. The ABC veteran has worked for countless high profile clients and uses his vast experience in the studio and in storytelling to help his students hone their craft. Countless times students have proudly shown their hard work only for Russo to give an honest assessment featuring changes and suggestions they may not have thought of. The amazing part about professor Russo is his ability to help his students piece these stories back together in a way that meet the goals of the assignment and far exceed their own. 

“I remember the countless times I had spent nights working on a project, dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s and proudly walking into class to present the work to professor Russo. Each time, Russo would be very careful with how he critiqued each piece, but he was honest, sometimes brutally honest. Yet after the dust had settled and the mist had cleared, professor Russo’s advice and honest opinions always pushed my work to the next level. Most importantly, he never trotted upon my style either, if anything he helped further hone my style and the way I work, something that I had never experienced before in schooling. Russo was more than a teacher though, he was a mentor and a coach that I could call at any time with any questions about the industry, I can only hope that more students can experience the amazing enthusiasm that Gary Russo brought to the table time and time again.”    

– Tomas 

Priscilla – The Advocate

Priscilla Hernandez sits at the end (or beginning) of the SCMA office hallway at an open desk. Many people are unaware of the work she does, but if you have ever needed ANY paper work filled out, signed, sent somewhere…she’s the one to thank. Priscilla does a multitude of tasks and through it all makes SCMA a warmer place to be. 

“I didn’t even know who Priscilla was until the end of my junior year. I had emailed with her a few times, but it wasn’t until I was coming to her every Friday to borrow her key to get into the studio, that I really understood how incredible of a person and mentor she is. A smiling face that is always there to help. Priscilla has a way of connecting with the students. Her infectious laugh always brightened my day and made the long days and nights in Martire that much more manageable.”

…these professors are just a part of the amazing group of educators in SCMA. It is to the credit of ALL the professors, administrators, and staff that have led to the success of the senior class. We are all beyond grateful for our past four years in Martire and can not wait to see the program continue to grow. 

All photos on front page taken by Tomas Koeck

About the author

Editor-In-Chief and Contributing Author

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