Class of 2024

Emily Oliver headshot

Emily Oliver is a 2022 graduate of Edinburgh University where she gained a first-class honours degree in Biotechnology. Born and raised in the rural Yorkshire Dales they escaped as soon as they could to a big(ish) city where they soon developed a keen interest in global affairs, art of all kinds, and factual storytelling. Here, she also began writing articles for her university’s science media society, of which she later became a podcast host and website editor. Emily is particularly interested in exploring stories of alternative kinship and niche communities around the world. In her work at NYU she hopes to focus on the experience of queer communities, transitory combinations of people and place, and how these interact with wider society in New York and further afield. Their main hope for this new adventure in New York is to gain greater storytelling and filmmaking skills with which they can pursue a career in documentary making. They cannot wait to find inspiration and meet great people in a new and exciting country.

Laya Hartman Headshot

Laya Hartman was born in Okemos, Michigan. She attended Northwestern University for her bachelors in Communication Studies with a focus in film and Entrepreneurship. She filmed her first short Documentary through a University grant her junior year which sparked her interest in documentary filmmaking. Along with being a student, Laya played Division1 basketball at Northwestern, in which many of her early on storytelling experiences and interests lay within the world of athletics.
At NYU, Laya will continue to explore her interests in documentary storytelling to tell authentic stories in artistically compelling ways. Whether filming on the field or court, or outside of the arena Laya is driven by the beauty of human nature and diverse experiences. She is excited to work alongside her peers at NYU and bring her storytelling skills to the next level. 

Maria Cestero headshot

María Fernanda Cestero Muñiz was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico. After years of determination to be a seamstress, she decided on a whim to study journalism after seeing a journalism pamphlet laying on the ground. María Fernanda received her bachelor’s degree in journalism at Stony Brook University and was enamored with all things reporting. During her time at Stony Brook University, she developed a passion for writing, photography and history, focusing her time and efforts on documenting the history and affairs of Puerto Rico. Her current greatest feat in journalism is her multimedia project of the present and past of Puerto Rico and how Hurricane María impacted all ways of life on the island. The project includes a lengthy article, photo series, video series and cartoon about the history of Puerto Rico. An extremely curious mind, she loves journalism because every day is something new and different and it’s never the same job twice. She is determined to travel the world documenting different cultures and eventually settling down back on her home island where it all began. 

Oreoluwa Ojewuyi headshot

Oreoluwa Ojewuyi is a first generation Nigerian American and a Southern Illinois native. In 2022 she graduated with a B.A in political science and a B.S in journalism with a minor in French from Southern Illinois University. A passion for storytelling and advocacy led her to pursue a path in journalism.

During her time at SIU she became a reporter for a daily newspaper where she would eventually become the Editor-in-Chief . She also worked as an anchor for the evening edition of the university’s broadcast television station. Oreoluwa largely reported on racial and social justice issues. In her reporting she worked to shine a light on injustice and inequality on the local, national and international level.

Oreoluwa has also been a part of multiple international exchanges including the Wole Soyinka International Cultural Exchange and the Radio in the American Sector fellowship in Berlin, Germany.

Upon receiving her undergraduate degree she continued working in journalism. Oreoluwa is a columnist for Nigerian newspaper – the Naija Times. She also began working as a producer at a local broadcast news station – WSIL News 3. Her love for telling difficult stories, media and investigation led her to take the next step and apply for the NYU news and documentary program. Through NYU’s News and Documentary program, Oreoluwa is excited to expand her tool kit and skill sets. She will challenge herself creatively and academically through this immersive program. She hopes to use documentaries to dive deeper into the storytelling process. She believes the documentary format allows people to make deeper connections with stories and see the world that exists outside of their own experiences.

Paulina Ruiz headshot

Paulina Ruiz, 28, is a 2018 graduate of the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México, with a degree in Business Administration. She co-founded a podcast in 2019 seeking to inform and inspire her generation that has more than 100 episodes and a community of thousands of listeners. She has interviewed such renowned Mexican leaders as former President Felipe Calderón and journalist Jorge Ramos. In 2020, she also became a social entrepreneur, founding a handcrafted accessories brand with a Huichol community – a marginalized indigenous group in Mexico that preserves its pre-Hispanic beliefs, culture and traditions. At NYU, she hopes to improve her skills for compelling storytelling and interviewing, learn visual storytelling, and pursue a career that prioritizes the narratives of marginalized groups such as the Huichol. She also wants to make documentaries that broaden the Mexican story and that provide understanding and hope, perspective and respect.

Prabhat Seelamsetti headshot

Prabhat Seelamsetti: Hello! My name is Prabhat Seelamsetti and I am a 22-year-old incoming at New York University (Fall ‘23), pursuing a masters degree (MA) in News and Documentary.
Since beginning in my career path, I have acquired fantastic experience and built strong relationships within the field. I studied sports journalism for my undergraduate and was able to intern with a variety of organizations, mainly the Dallas Mavericks as a media member, and become more confident and prominent in my craft. 

Now, I want to expand upon my skill set and learn about the Video/Documentary and News side of journalism. The end goal for my career is to travel the world and produce documentaries and shorts about significant problems, that suffer from a lack of coverage. I hope to continue my sports journalism path as well, but more so as a second career. 

I am very excited to be attending New York University and I cannot wait to get started learning under this program and institution!

Qingyue Zheng headshot

Qingyue Zheng: I grew up in JiuJiang, a small city in southern China, and majored in journalism in my undergraduate years. As a student director, I tried documentaries with different themes, including history, humanities and social reality during my undergraduate years. “Self” has always been the core of my concern. From filming old people pursuing poems and distance in life to interpreting the emperor’s love choice under the system of imprisonment in the ancient Song dynasty; from recording the reflection of a suffering anti-cancer girl to observing the plight of ordinary middle-aged women, the “situation”,”choice”, “desire” and “contradiction” of these individuals have deeply attracted me. These experiences strengthened my belief to go as far as possible to be a documentary creator specializing in making female-theme documentaries, inspiring females to think and act differently.
Every filming and editing process is like living a different life, leading me out of prejudice and reinventing myself. I enjoy the resonance with interviewees by reaching their hearts during interviews. I have my insistence on the truth, and the courage to interpret the rough reality. I don’t look down upon the soft and fragile parts of human nature. I long for my works to be seen and heard by more audiences. From immature trial to my graduation work “Sunny was born” being  nominated in The 12th China Academy Awards of Documentary Film, 29th College student of Beijing International Film Festival , 2022 Aranya Waves Film Festival and other film festivals, I have gained gratifying growth in actual practice. 

I believe that joining NYU will accelerate my steps to achieve my career goal of being an excellent documentary creator.  

River Zhang headshot

River Zhang was born and raised in Beijing, China, and spent her college years in Hong Kong, Shanghai, and New York. Her international and multicultural life experience during her early adulthood has shaped her identity and perspective, leading her to become a curious, empathetic, and insightful storyteller.
River holds a B.A. in Journalism and Cinema Studies from New York University, where she explored and committed to non-fiction video storytelling. Her research in cinema studies centers on transnational women documentary filmmakers and their cross-national feminist practices. Through this research, she encountered films by Wang Nanfu and realized the powerful potential of long-form video storytelling to convey transnational stories. In River’s broadcast journalism practices, she reported on a wide range of social issues, including human rights movements by the Chinese and Iranian diasporas, ocean pollution in Miami, and immigrant workers’ rights in New York City. She also worked with Morocco World News in summer 2022, where she covered local stories and events in North Africa and reflected on ethical practices as an international reporter.

Recently, River was awarded the Don R. Mellett Prize for excellence in broadcast journalism at NYU Journalism Institute. She is thrilled to continue her journey at NewsDoc, and is ready to take on new challenges and adventures behind the camera lens.

Ruonan Jiang headshot

Ruonan Jiang is named after the “Phoebe Zhennan”, a precious and resilient evergreen tree species growing in Hubei, China.
Her name represents her the best. Raised in Wuhan, Ruonan embraces her traditional cultural background and identifies herself as a storyteller who emphasizes environmental concerns and social topics, including gender and cultural issues. The passion for telling stories and engaging with the world leads her to major in Film & TV and minor in Psychology, Animal Studies, and Business Entertainment, Media & Technology at NYU.

Ruonan has experience in producing media content, including a feature film that reflects situations of Wuhan healthcare workers during the pandemic, several fictional shorts focusing on women’s dilemmas, short documentaries about the relationship between nature and humans, and a Chinese variety show at Hunan Television & Broadcast. 

During the production and research of the scripts that highlight social issues and volunteering in environmental NGOs, Ruonan embraces different voices and challenging ideas. She realizes the pursuit of non-fictional stories would keep subverting her established thoughts and pushing her through endless boundaries. Driven by courage and curiosity, Ruonan is dedicated to becoming a documentary filmmaker and exploring stories on unexpected journeys through the lens.

Shreya Suresh headshot

Shreya Suresh was raised in Bangalore, India, a post-colonial melting pot of cultures that created and corrupted her frameworks of thinking. She studied Anthropology with a concentration in religion at Vassar College where she developed her academic interests in the intersection between affect, secularism, and urbanization. This informed her senior thesis, which was a study of modernity in the contemporary music scenes of southern India.For the past two years she has worked as a qualitative research associate for a consulting firm and as a staff writer for Mochi Magazine, a publication centering Asian American women. She is looking forward to creating engaging media at NYU.

Susanna Calhoun headshot

Susanna Calhoun is a documentary filmmaker from Boston, Massachusetts. She graduated with honors from Santa Clara University in 2019 with a double major in Communication with an emphasis in Film, and Theatre Arts. For her Senior Thesis, she explored mental health, specifically psychosis, through various media forms such as documentary and theatre. During her undergraduate career, she was awarded the Quinn Martin Scholarship for her academic achievements and filmmaking promise. She also won “Best Documentary” at Santa Clara’s Genesis Film Festival. For the last four years Susanna has been working as a Creative Producer at a software company, creating engaging and educational multi-media content.
Susanna believes that documentary filmmaking lies between journalism and art, the space in which she feels most invigorated, creative, and engaged. She is committed to exploring social issues, focusing on the intersection between gender and public health, as well as themes of corruption and exploitation.

Tristian Smith headshot

Tristan Smith: I’m a man with multiple hometowns or areas that raised me. I was born in Queens, New York but grew up in Broward County/ Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Would often find myself going back and forth from Queens to Florida as a kid so I identify with both areas but Florida-man/Queens-boy don’t really mesh.
I came up in a strict Jamaican household and became infatuated with news at an early age when I would sit and watch headlines pass with my grandfather most evenings. My interest turned into a commitment after witnessing Florida news outlets’ negligent coverage of Trayvon Martin’s death, their misrepresentation of the facts around Trayvon’s death and attempt to demonize a child inspired me to join the media industry to produce stories that accurately depict communities of color. 

As I previously mentioned I did a lot of moving, and would transition to Northampton Mass during my sophomore year in high school. I’ve been living in the general Springfield-area for the past seven years now and graduated from UMass Amherst with a degree in journalism in Fall 2021. 

I began working at MassLive, the second biggest news outlet in Massachusetts behind the Globe, directly after graduation. I’ve enjoyed covering a whole host of topics in Massachusetts from schools, politics, small business, crimes and courts, but never really had my heart in the way fast-paced news was produced. My drive to tell deeper stories is what brought me to NYU.

When I’m not caught up in reporting, you can catch me either playing my cello or listening to underground hip-hop heavy with samples over some Alchemist-type production, or relaxing to 70’s soul. I like to DJ too, haven’t performed at any shows since undergrad, but that may change when I get to New York. 

Zhiying Deng headshot

Zhiying Deng is an independent documentary filmmaker in China with strong interest in social inequalities and marginalized groups. She believes documentary itself is a social action.
Earlier in her bachelor years as a journalist student in Beijing Foreign Studies University, she made a short documentary, Along the way, about rural migrant children in the community where she works as a volunteer in Beijing, the capital city of China.In 2018, she continued her graduate study in inequalities and social science in London School of Economics and Political Science.

Over the past several years, Zhiying worked as a freelance documentary filmmaker in China. She is particularly good at cross-cultural filming as she has filmed in more than 20 countries, such as Tanzania, Guinea, Suriname, Guatemala ,UK and Qatar. Her projects mainly cover ‘unseen’ marginalized groups, such as deaf lesbian and female factory workers. In 2020, after the Covid-19 outbreak, she entered the lock-down Wuhan city and filmed on her own for half year. There, she started her first feature documentary project “Wuhan Diary”, and one of the stories was already released in NHK. The Sound of Wind, a documentary currently in production, is her first feature as producer.


Class of 2023

Alexa Sarci

Alexa Sarci graduated with a B.A. in English and Journalism from Boston College’s Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences in 2022. She graduated with university honors and departmental English Honors with her thesis on how language in the media exacerbates racial bias and criminalization of the Black Community. She was a part of the SHAW Leadership Program at BC and was a Bowman Scholar; she maintained First Dean’s List every semester.

During her time at Boston College, she was involved in multiple social justice groups on campus, such as Bowman Advocates. She advocated for Inclusive Culture by striving to support and empower the undergraduate student body to build a more inclusive BC community through cross-cultural dialogue.

Alexa also worked for the Innocence Project on several cases of individuals seeking relief from wrongful conviction or access to scientific testing of physical evidence to prove their innocence. She planned and conducted factual investigations, including witness interviews, and worked with scientific experts, forensic witnesses, and crime labs. Additionally, she wrote about social justice issues prevalent on campus for her school newspaper, The Heights, as the Gender & Diversity reporter. Alexa also mentored sophomore women at Boston College, engaging in authentic conversations and the shared experience of being women at BC. As a journalist, she expects to bring awareness to groups of people and problems often overlooked. She believes the good you do for others is the good you do for yourself.

Crispin Kerr-Dineen

Crispin Kerr-Dineen was born in London and educated at Ampleforth College, North Yorkshire. Following school, Crispin gained a BA in History from Newcastle University where his bachelor’s thesis was on a 19th century military painting ‘The Remnants of an Army’ by Elizabeth Butler which depicts the disastrous retreat from Kabul in 1842 during the First Anglo Afghan War. The point of the dissertation was to look at how patterns occur throughout History with a concluding chapter looking at the withdrawal from Afghanistan in the summer of 2021. Crispin is looking forward to entering the news and documentary world under some excellent guidance at NYU because he believes the news in front of us is all part of a pattern. The pattern being history, stories that need to be told to understand the present.

Christopher Cornejo

Christopher Cornejo is a print and visual journalist. A North Jersey native, born on the Hudson directly across from New York City, he has always sought to explore new ideas and cultures. This curiosity led him to the University of Pittsburgh, where he studied communications, with minors in both Political Science and French. During his undergraduate studies, he wrote for multiple publications, publishing content ranging from sports news and interviews with public officials to pieces related to improving pedagogical practices at the university level. In addition, he was a trailblazing journalist for the university, serving as the inaugural anchor for the news-television program “PittToThePoint,” which airs throughout the Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania region. As a second-generation immigrant and first-generation college student, he feels his perspectives on the world provide him with a unique lens through which he explores stories, writes his pieces and creates content.

Christopher’s goal is to create and share pieces of media that excite yet inform readers and viewers. He hopes to uncover stories and share experiences of others that highlight human nature and the influence of society and the world on it. He is humbled and excited to join the News and Documentary program and is extremely eager to work with and learn from the NYU faculty, peers and the city of New York itself.

Francesca Dean

Francesca Dean grew up in Oxfordshire, England. Franky, as she prefers to go by, graduated in 2021 with a first-class honors degree in Photography and Video from DeMontfort University. Before this, she spent a year traveling through Asia, Australia and New Zealand, which ignited her passion for storytelling and photography. During her degree, she had a focus on protesting and environmental issues which is when she began creating documentary-style work. Through her developing interest and pursuit in documentary work, Franky did work experience with the BBC, resulting in her work being in a BBC documentary, “Why is climate activism so white?”. For her final major project at university, she produced and directed her own documentary during Covid where she followed a group of protesters fighting to protect ancient woodlands from High-Speed Rail Two. Since the end of her course, she has continued to pursue her career with a number of ventures, most notably at The Times Newspaper. The News and Documentary program will give Franky the opportunity to expand her knowledge further on the ins and outs of creating documentaries that will push her and her storytelling skills, and she is excited for the adventure of moving to New York City.

Ke Chen

Ke Chen is an independent documentary filmmaker, born and raised in Xinjiang, Northwestern China. Making documentaries provides her with a way to co-exist with the world. Thematically, Chen focuses more on marginalized groups and how they achieve spiritual balance in their turbulent lives. Moreover, she also explores other possibilities within documentary filmmaking.

After obtaining a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Nottingham in Ningbo, China with a major in International Business Economics, Chen participated in the “Semester at Sea” study-abroad program, which exposed her to 10 countries with diverse cultures. When the voyage ended, Chen spent 2 years working in the advertising industry in Shanghai. During this period, she completed multiple business projects; with topics ranging from animal and environmental protection to sustainable development. She also worked as a documentary maker and journalist, traveling to 8 different cities in Algeria to bring local stories back to China. As her diverse experiences increased, she found herself more concerned with social issues, and is hoping to use her documentaries as a way to make an impact. Thus, she returned to her hometown, undertaking video production for local corporations while conducting independent documentary projects, including documenting the life of isolated ethnic minorities.

Chen hopes to produce more humanistic works reflecting real-world issues through visual expression and ultimately to make a social change through her study in NewsDoc.

Mano Baghjajian

Mano Baghjajian was born in Los Angeles, California. He has had a deep passion for storytelling from an early age, so he chose to pursue that passion via the medium of journalism. After attending community college for a few years, Mano transferred to California State University Northridge, where graduated with a B.A. in Journalism, with a minor in Popular Culture Studies. Mano was also heavily involved with the student newspaper on campus, where he worked his way up from beat writer to editor. In his year off from school, he worked as a freelance writer for a number of local newspapers in the Greater Los Angeles area. Through NYU’s News and Documentary program, Mano is eager to learn new skills in the documentary and video space that will help take him to the next level as a journalist and storyteller.

Rishabh Raj Jain

Rishabh Raj Jain is a video journalist at the Associated Press’ South Asia Desk based in New Delhi, India.

Actively pursuing stories often ignored by mainstream media and giving a voice to people at the bottom of the pyramid are his main goals. From churning out articles at his college’s student-run newspaper, to in-depth, award-winning video coverage of key news events like the Rohingya refugee crisis, Myanmar military coup and the Easter Sunday attack in Sri Lanka for AP, Jain has made stories, headlines and deadlines the center of his life.

Jain graduated from the University of Iowa in 2014 with a bachelor’s in economics and journalism. He joined AP the following year and produced gripping video and articles about violent protests, terror attacks, political campaigns and also fashion and auto shows. His stories were regularly featured in The New York Times and The Washington Post, and aired by global broadcasters including ABC, Al-Jazeera and Deutsche Welle.

Starting 2017, Jain spent several months in Bangladesh, extensively covering the Rohingya crisis after the mass exodus of nearly a million refugees from Myanmar. His work was part of a package that won the Overseas Press Club of America’s 2017 Hal Boyle Award. A Pulitzer Centre Grantee, Jain was also nominated for the Young Talent of the Year Award by the Royal Television Society in 2019.

At NYU, he plans to take his passion into the documentary industry. By working with the program’s world-class faculty, Jain seeks to evolve his visual storytelling skills to gracefully tackle critical stories of conflict, despair and bravery around the world.

Samyu Sridhar

Samyu Sridhar: I grew up in Northern California and graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara where I studied Economics, Statistics, and Music. After graduation, my passion for music and storytelling led me to work in NYC as a data analyst at Warner Music Group and then Soundcloud, using data to construct narratives about music trends. After 4 years in the workforce, I realized that I wanted to tell stories with broader scope, in the hopes of cultivating empathy for those around us. Inspired by my music classes in college and the diversity of cultures in New York, I began to write pieces about musical practices around the world and their intersections with social and political structures. Having grown up immersed in South Indian art forms, I have witnessed how the transformation of these art forms into “classical” systems by those with cultural power excluded many who practiced and developed them; it is my goal to portray the arts through the eyes of those excluded from the mainstream narrative.

I view documentary journalism as the creative and personal medium through which I can focus on individual communities’ relationships with the world. At NYU, I hope to continue to grow as a storyteller, and create documentaries that promote empathy, challenge previously held beliefs and highlight the complexity of human beings. In my free time, I enjoy stringing together soundbites and video snippets from my excursions around the world, taking film photographs, and becoming emotionally invested in movie soundtracks.

Seyeon Bang headshot

Seyeon Bang was born and raised in South Korea. She graduated with a B.A. in Linguistics and Chinese Language & Literature from Korea University. In her sophomore year, she directed her first short documentary film and realized that she could build a future as a visual storyteller. Seyeon is excited to continue to communicate with viewers through her work and deepen her understanding of cinematic language. She believes that films have the potential to redefine viewers’ impressions of other people and invite audiences to listen to stories that they may have once readily overlooked. Seyeon plans to research new perspectives on social issues around the world and lay the foundation she needs to reach a global audience through visual media.

Tenzin Zompa

I am Tenzin Zompa, a Tibetan refugee born and brought up in India. After graduating with a Master’s degree in Mass Communication from Banaras Hindu University in India, I started working as a program host/ content creator at Tibet TV, the Tibetan News Bureau of the Central Tibetan Administration. During my one and a half years of service there, I realized the amount of stories and talent people from my community has for the world to see. So, I see documentary as a powerful medium to reach them to everyone’s home and heart. At NYU, I aim to widen my horizon in areas of story-telling, filmmaking and video editing. With this, I hope to one day become a great storyteller through my work.

Ziyi Xu

Ziyi Xu is from Beijing, China. She attended NYU’s Film & TV program in 2017 to pursue her Hollywood dream, only to realize her passion is in non-fiction storytelling instead of staying on film sets every weekend. Right before the pandemic, she took a Documentary course in Cuba, where she fell in love with the process of making documentaries – meeting people and learning more about this world. Since then, she’s been making short docs of people she met from all walks of life, and she hopes she can do this for the rest of her life.

Keren He

Keren He is a videographer, photographer, and newbie journalist currently based in Boston. She earned her bachelor’s degree in cinematography and film/tv production from Emerson College in 2020. During her time as a film student and after graduating, Keren got the chance to spend some time connecting with local activists, which inspired her to tell their stories about how they make big social changes one step at a time.

Keren’s work experience includes working at a local TV station in the great Boston area, being a production assistant and associate producer for a couple of NOVA documentaries, and freelancing as a photographer and videographer in her local community.


Class of 2022

Ziru Wang

Ziru Wang was born in Hunan, China. Driven to uncover and unload those unnecessary pain, burdens and boundaries in the society, she tried to be a nomad– a changing soul, a restless target and an unlimited being. Ziru believes documentary is an important path on her long journey, a way of corresponding between her soul and the world.

Nicole Guillen

Nicole Guillen was born and raised in Miami, Florida and graduated from the University of Florida in 2021 with a B.A. in Criminology, B.S. in Psychology, and a minor in Communications. As an undergraduate, Nicole became heavily involved in research studying legal psychological topics such as wrongful convictions, false confessions, and erroneous eyewitness testimonies. She also served as the President of the Criminology & Law Honor Society and was a criminal investigations intern at the Gainesville Police Department. Soon, she became very passionate about social justice and criminal justice reform. In 2020, Nicole and two other students published a paper in the Albany Law Review analyzing the current existing compensation statutes for victims of wrongful conviction. Thereafter, Nicole was awarded a grant from the American Psychology and Law Society to fund her senior thesis project focusing on the mental health of exonerees and the accessibility of mental health resources for victims of wrongful conviction. One day, she hopes to shed light on these issues through journalism, documentary making, and media. Nicole also loves photography and music. She began her photography career in 2017 and has since had her work published in multiple publications such as Daydream Magazine, Our Town Magazine, OrangePeel, and Communícate Magazine. She also served as the Director of Photography for Student Government Productions and has enjoyed photographing the local music scene in Gainesville, Florida. Nicole looks forward to finding a creative community in New York City and documenting her journey at NYU.

Giorgio Ghiotto

Giorgio Ghiotto was born in Rome, Italy. One day, while volunteering in the suburbs of his city he was told: “Your happiness is not enough. Use your talent and your skills to contribute to making the world a better place.” Since then, Giorgio has believed in putting his talent at the service of people in need–a belief which has shaped his professional perspectives and has given life to his journey. After a degree in Media Arts in London (UK), Giorgio improved his cinematography skills and produced documentaries for various organizations including UNHCR and La Repubblica, covering stories about immigration and poverty. He has continued to cover these topics throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. With his natural energy, creativity, and his ability to connect with people, Giorgio aims to awaken people’s consciences about environmental and humanitarian issues at NYU, telling stories from all around the world through video journalism.

Keillor Irving

Keillor Irving comes to the Big Apple from the East Coast of Canada. He graduated with B.A. in Architectural Studies from Brown University in 2016, where he held a leadership role in the Ivy Film Festival, the world’s largest student run film festival. Maintaining his passion for film and storytelling post-grad in New York City, Keillor spent his spare time involved with several film festivals while working at a global marketing agency. Growing up next to the highest tides in the world, at a young age, Keillor developed a fascination with the natural and marine environments. An experienced diver in both temperate and tropical climates since he was a teenager, Keillor is just as comfortable under the sea as he is on land. Keillor’s ideal long weekend requires only a well-stocked backpack, a leak-free kayak, and a lot of sunscreen. Keillor seeks to bring together Earth’s inhabitants by exploring the stories that weave throughout all our lives and connect us to the natural world. At NYU he intends to focus his craft on topics of environmental anthropology, as today’s world faces unprecedented urgency for unity in addressing global issues. Keillor is currently serving as the director and co-founder of the Outdoor Outdoor Film Festival, a film festival celebrating love of the outdoors and the adventures in our backyards. Keillor is also producing his first documentary short, “Breaking Trail”, which follows a group of trail stewards into the provincial wilderness of the emerging Atlantic Canadian mountain biking scene.

Clara Charrin

Clara Charrin was born and raised in New York City before moving to Lyon, France. From there, she went on to study in Milan, Italy, where she graduated with a BSc in International Economics & Management from l’Università Commerciale Luigi Bocconi. Her Bachelor’s thesis on the impact of Artificial Intelligence in the digital transformation of companies led her to work in Dubai, UAE, where outside of the tech incubator, she soon discovered a growing artistic and cultural scene. She quickly decided to leave the business world in order to finally pursue her passion in the art of visual storytelling. Across the different Emirates of the UAE and then back in her hometown, New York, she experimented telling stories through lights, video mapping, dance performances, pyrotechnics, photography, and video. Today she wishes to focus on honing the skills to tell stories through her camera. Being part of the NewsDoc program at NYU will be a decisive step in her goal to use her camera as both lens and catalyst, and one day create content that sheds light on the use and impact of art in social changes.

Mehar Gujral

Mehar Gujral is an immigrant making her home in this world. Born in Kurukshetra, India, she was raised in Punjab, Ontario, and New Jersey. After graduating from McGill University in 2018 with a degree in Honours International Development, she pursued opportunities in media, nonprofit, and academia in South Africa, India, and Eastern Africa. Her multimedia work has been featured in Teen Vogue, Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post, and she’s served as a director’s assistant for an Indian short film series on Netflix. Currently, Mehar is the co-founder of Evergreen Story, an audio publishing platform with a sustainable heart. Her aim is to listen and document peoples’ stories with nuance and empathy. It’s not all about the medium, or the subject, it’s about the brilliant point where they intersect. At NYU, Mehar plans to draw on her worlds, networks and experiences to create narratives with the camera. Her motto is the old E.M. Forster adage, “Only connect!” The NewsDoc program came on Mehar’s radar after she accidentally wandered into a screening of Nanfu Wang’s “One Child Nation” at the Mumbai International Film Festival in 2019, and she’s happy for that moment of serendipity that’s leading her back to New York this fall.

Ann Gilmore

Ann Gilmore graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Film and Media Arts from American University. She was born in Gejiu, China but was adopted and raised in Maryland. Ann grew up in a household that encouraged her to be creative and expressive, whether it was through music, art or photography. Initially, she directed and produced narrative fiction films in Prague, CZ and Washington D.C.; however, Ann’s interest in documentary filmmaking was sparked after spearheading a short-form documentary that highlighted an El Salvadoran immigrant’s story of survival and perseverance. She became most interested in the voice behind each story and how motion picture can emphasize the message. As a future journalist, Ann aims to master the art of cinematography in order to tell a story, visually. Her goal is to create or challenge existing narratives while practicing empathy and accountability. The News & Documentary program will give Ann the opportunity to explore the intersectionality of news reporting and its relationship to documentary filmmaking. During her spare time, Ann is a production assistant with a love for traveling and meeting new people along the way.

Jiale Hu

Jiale Hu refers to home as Shanghai and, more truthfully, wherever she is given families. Her days at the University of Notre Dame kindled a passion to help de-alienate “others” in our world through postcolonial literature and community field work. As Jiale’s path of self-discovery unfolded, she made a short documentary named Mama Yen in her senior year. Documentary has captivated her ever since, as a path that fosters her humility and thus humanity. After graduation, Jiale became an explainer video producer and editor at DX Channel in Shanghai. The platforms of Bilibili and Youtube challenged her greatly, and pushed her to own her works as a public-facing reporter. Jiale is excited to break new boundaries as a reporter, filmmaker, and as a human being in the Newsdoc community.

Eliza Mitnick

Eliza Mitnick is an aspiring documentary filmmaker from NYC. Growing up in the city, Eliza drew inspiration from the diversity and vibrance she saw all around her. In highschool she fell in love with theater and theater directing– clenching her desire to curate impactful experiences for an audience. In college at the University of Chicago, Eliza focused her studies on the history of racism in the United States, and the formation of race as we know it today. In her senior year, she conducted an in depth thesis project exploring the impact of microaggressions on black students at UC, and realized that her true passion was highlighting stories of systemic injustice– along with the beautiful resilience that comes from that. For the past 3 years Eliza has worked as a freelance video editor in NYC. Her proudest moment was editing the film Mayor Mohamed, which premiered at the Brooklyn Film festival in Spring 2021. The film follows a Syrian refugee who is also the mayor of a small town in New Jersey as he faces islamophobia in the states and a growing crisis in his hometown of Aleppo. Eliza’s wish now is to direct her own films. She hopes to use this medium to illustrate systemic obstacles, particularly those surrounding NYC’s segregated public school system, while zooming in to the lived experiences of the people on the ground.

Stephanie Lemesianou

Stephanie Lemesianou is a multimedia storyteller born and raised in Nicosia, Cyprus, known as the last divided capital of the world. Experienced in communications, photojournalism and film production, she strives to share what is true and human through real stories that transcend cultural, political and physical barriers. She graduated from NYU Tisch School of the Arts with a BFA in Film and Television and has accumulated film credits in a number of short film productions as a director, producer and assistant director. Over the years, she has also gained work experience in talent management, social media and public relations. As a former member of the European Youth Parliament, Stephanie was introduced to the work of international organizations and international affairs at a young age, which sparked her passion for human rights advocacy. She has worked for organizations such as Visual Voices and the Anna Lindh Foundation, on projects that advocate for intercultural relations, open dialogue, gender equality and peacebuilding. Stephanie hopes to continue her journey in artistic activism and to investigate through different mediums how the personal story can be universal.

Maggie Geiler

Maggie Geiler is a storyteller, motivational speaker, producer, friend, and aspiring host, reporter, and filmmaker. Maggie grew up in a small town south of Houston, Texas and began telling stories from a young age – bringing her parents camcorder around family gatherings to interview people and jotting down the vivid stories her grandparents told. During her time at Baylor Maggie had the opportunity to intern with non-profits in Greece that worked with Middle Eastern refugees, volunteer with student ministries in South Africa, and work with nonprofits in the islands of Indonesia. In befriending people from all over the world and hearing their stories, Maggie knew that there were so many stories that needed to be told. Since graduating from Baylor, Maggie has lived in Los Angeles, getting to intern for the TODAY Show as well as work in social media and film production. Maggie is beyond honored to be a part of the NYU News and Documentary program and is excited for her love of people and their stories to continue!

Lyuwei Chen

Lyuwei Chen is a documentary filmmaker and an associate professor in Drama and Film Studies from Hangzhou, China.

After earning her bachelor’s degree in music editing and beginning her master’s program in musicology at the Communication University of China, she found her lifelong passion, documentary filmmaking, when she worked as an assistant documentary director for China Central Television’s Folk Music program.

Following her passion, Lyuwei went to Zhejiang TV Station to be a video journalist after graduation. She interviewed a wide range of people, from unprivileged citizens to disabled children. Reporting their stories not only allowed her to share what she had seen but also to find her own voice. Her long-form documentary film The Strength of a Father won “Best Documentary” at the Peony TV Awards, the highest award in Zhejiang province.

Now, Lyuwei teaches Short Film Production and also works as an independent documentary director. Her work focuses on social issues and family dynamics. Committed to non-fiction storytelling, Lyuwei wants to make compelling documentaries to touch people worldwide. She believes that the News and Documentary program will help her make a definitive professional breakthrough and express herself more freely and more creatively.


Class of 2021

Julie Levy

My name is Julie Levy. I grew up in Los Angeles, and in 2014, moved to Montreal to study Civil Engineering at McGill University. After graduating, I worked as a Deputy Project Manager for a transportation software company. Throughout my engineering studies, I was well aware of my interest in research and technical writing, as well as my love for journalistic stories, especially in the form of podcasts and documentaries. As I entered the work force, I explored my interests by creating short documentaries about local artists in my spare time. It became clear to me that I wanted to study and pursue Journalism. I look forward to all of the knowledge and practical experience I will gain as a NewsDoc student at NYU.

Adam Santovac

Adam Santovac is a television journalist from Serbia. Since 2011, he has been working for several media outlets. Santovac established himself as a journalist working as a news reporter for the 24-hour news cable channel N1 (CNN affiliate), and as a producer at the commercial cable television station Nova S. Santovac covers daily politics, social issues and human-interest stories, but the focus of his reporting is in-depth investigation of educational, healthcare and environmental problems. Since 2015, Santovac has produced nine documentaries and won seven awards. These awards include The Investigative Journalism Award on behalf of The Independent Journalists Association of Serbia for environmental documentary “The Dustbin of Irresponsibility” and the Special Award on behalf of The Journalists Association of Serbia for documentary “The Super Graduate”. The latter is about the suspicious activity surrounding the Serbian Minister of the Interior’s receipt of bachelor’s degree from the largest private university is Serbia. Adam Santovac expressed his interest in journalism at a very early age. When he was 11, he published his own children magazine “The Little Crocodile”. Santovac graduated with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and master’s degree in cultural studies from the University of Belgrade.

Shuhao Xie

Shuhao Xie is from Shanghai, China, who graduated from East China Normal University with a degree in Journalism. After graduation, he has been working for Shanghai Media Group (SMG) for nearly four years as a journalist and a documentary director. During this period, he participated in a range of investigative news reporting covering issues about adolescents’ criminal behaviors, drugs, scientific investigation, etc. In 2017, he transferred to the Documentary Department and worked as the head director for the medical documentary, Life Matters II-Episode 01 Fireworks. It is about four rural children with bone tumors. It focused on their choices and efforts while they faced life-threatening diseases. Life Matters II obtained awards internationally, including the Best Documentary Series in Shanghai TV Festival and the Best Editing in Asian TV Festival. Also, it drew on so much public attention to osteosarcoma. Recently, Shuhao is working on his new project concerning the COVID-2019 in Wuhan City. Through four-year working experience, he thinks that we are undergoing an era of unprecedented complexity where the ongoing global transformation impacts everyone. He believes that studying at NYU would be a very decisive step to continue his life adventure in making documentaries.

Serge Kharytonau

Serge Kharytonau is a World Journalist Fellow at the NYU’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute. He is an independent journalist and media consultant from the Republic of Belarus known as ‘Europe’s last dictatorship’ for its severe human rights violations and censorship of press. Since 2011, Mr. Kharytonau has contributed to a wide range of European and Belarusian media. His reporting work focuses on social issues and the lives of the least privileged people in his home country: repressed political activists, the relatives of people sentenced to death, victims of home violence, and many more.

In 2018-2020 Mr. Kharytonau has been employed as foreign correspondent at the Current Time TV (a global television project of Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty and the Voice of America). In this position, he became known nationwide for his human stories, live broadcasts of mass protests, high-profile political interviews, and the coverage of 2019 parliamentary elections when he was able to record the proofs of ballot stuffing. In 2020, Serge was nominated for ‘Journalist of the year’ award of the Assembly of NGOs of Belarus.

Guldana Dale

Guldana Talgat was born and brought up in Semey, which can be found in the East part of Kazakhstan. Incredibly rich city in the past, the embodiment of Kazakh identity and free spirit has shaped her as a person. At a very early age, she started to be curious about characters, news, politics, and public affairs. Growing up in a creative family where dad was a writer and a public leader nurtured her storytelling talent. After earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism in the capital city, Guldana started her career as a correspondent at one of the main media outlets in Kazakhstan. Covering various city events and issues related to education, health, city planning, culture, environmental and economic issues she wanted to turn into a documentary filmmaker. She is a firm believer that everyone has its own story to tell. Connecting with people, asking them questions, and converting their words into meaningful messages, thus making powerful documentaries — that is what Guldana is going to upgrade herself during her study at NYU’s News&Doc. She would like to lead a TV-project that would cover remote villages and cities which have lost its glory and share their stories so that she can assist them to resolve their issues by attracting attention. Guldana loves nature, hiking, dancing, and learning foreign languages.

Tamar Baruch

Israeli filmmaker Tamar Baruch (b.1987) graduated from the Steve Tisch School of Film and Television at Tel Aviv University and from York University in Toronto, and was a student of Jewish Studies at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Germany. Her short films, including Gloria (2013), Power of Attorney (2014), and Stranger of the Dunes (2017), have been screened at film festivals worldwide, and received First Prize at the Jerusalem Film Festival and Amazon Most Promising Director Prize at the Montreal World Film Festival, amongst others. She has also been nominated for an Israeli Academy Award (Ophir), earned a MacDowell Fellowship, and is a recent laureate of the Israeli Ministry of Culture’s Early Career Film Award.
At NYU Tamar will pursue a Master’s Degree in documentary filmmaking as a Fulbright Fellow.

Soukaina Alaoui El Hassani

Soukaina Alaoui El Hassani was born in the developing metropolis that is Casablanca, Morocco. She grew up in a culture that was heavily influenced by oral tradition and storytelling, which eventually prompted her to become a storyteller. She is heavily influenced by Arab feminist writers, notably Fatima Mernissi, Huda Sha’arawi and Mona El Tahawy. Alaoui El Hassani decided to become a journalist after witnessing the perverse glorification of taboo culture, intentional ignorance of systemic social disparities in her country, and the irresponsible way Western news outlets report on the East, specifically Africa and the Middle East. Alaoui El Hassani completed a bachelors in Communication at Fordham University with a concentration in TV and Film. After working for CNN and Image Factory, she decided to specialize in documentary and long form narrative because she believed that not enough diverse voices were being spotlighted and storytellers are just as important as the story.

Alaoui El Hassani has also produced three short films, a web-series and is currently working on a novel.

Andrea Acosta

Andrea Acosta was raised in Venezuela and South Florida. She graduated from Florida International University with a degree in International Relations and French. She later interned for the Organization of American States, where she was able to attend conferences that dealt with unaccompanied minors in the U.S. Since graduating, Andrea has worked as a paralegal for immigration nonprofits both in Miami and New York. There, she has been interviewing and sharing stories from kids that are seeking asylum and that have been separated from their families. She’s honored to be part of the program and hopes to use the skills she will learn at NYU NewsDoc to become a video storyteller and keep building a career advocating and helping raise awareness for the rights of immigrants in the United States.

Laura Loguercio

Laura Loguercio is a 24-years-old journalist from Milan, Italy. She graduated in Philosophy and got an MSc in Corporate Communication. The passion for journalism began in 2015, when she wanted to denounce the injustices and biases that became popular right after the Bataclan attacks in Paris. Today, Laura writes for several online publications and works for an Italian fact-checking website. Previously, she interned at an online magazine set at the United Nations Headquarters and worked in the video desk of a Milan-based news agency. She also hosted a personal news podcast.

Sydney Bertun

Sydney Bertun grew up in Madison, Wisconsin. Her first experience with politics was in 2011, when her highschool teachers went on strike for almost two weeks over proposed limits to their collective bargaining rights. She joined thousands of other Wisconsinites at the Capitol building in what became known as the Act 10 protests. Since then, Sydney has been engaged with politics and advocacy work in one way or another. After graduating from UW-Madison in 2017, she moved to Minnesota where she served two years in CTEP Americorps, teaching media production classes to youth and recent immigrants. In 2018, she produced her first documentary, Understand Your Man, which explored issues of masculinity, mental health and the military experience through the story of her brother’s suicide. It humbled her more than she thought it would. Sydney is excited to continue telling stories through NYU News/Doc.

Yunbo Wu

Yunbo Wu was born and raised in Wuhan, China. His work is predominately in the medium of film, but also involves creative writing and photography. He received a four years scholarship from New York University Abu Dhabi and graduated with a double major in film and literature. He has a wide range of experience in filmmaking. In the last several years, he has explored China, Canada, Cuba and Australia in different film projects. He firmly believes that societal problems can be better clarified and demystified to the general public through documentary filmmaking.

Julia Eckley

Julia Eckley is a classically trained actress with a wide range of experiences in all aspects of the theater and film industry. A born and raised New Yorker, Julia is a 2020 graduate of Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. Her unique college career allowed her to participate in programs at The New School, Duke University and USC while pursuing her B.A in Theater. These varied experiences refocused her passion for storytelling via performance to a desire to document real stories through film. While attending Duke University’s semester-long pre-professional Media Studies program in Los Angeles, Julia had the opportunity to collaboratively produce a three-part promotional campaign for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles. The campaign, based on interviews with local students, examined how their families’ undocumented immigration status impacted their educational journeys. This experience helped shape Julia’s journalistic aspirations of how she could utilize media to incentivize change, spread essential information, and document first person stories. Most recently, Julia worked on a four-part educational web series focused on the ecology of the Long Island Sound while interning at Larchmont Mamaroneck Community Television, a hyper local news and media group. The series went on to win several national awards for community based media projects. Julia is deeply interested in the nature of things that connect people and hopes her studies at NYU will allow her to continue developing her multimedia and filmmaking skills to document and share those intimate stories that shape new perspectives of the widely diverse communities within New York City.

Celina Torrealba

Celina Torrealba is a Brazilian filmmaker, director and producer. In association with Rodrigo Teixeira (RT Features), she has acted as an executive producer of films such as The Lighthouse, Wasp Network and Port Authority.

Les Enfants du Paradis and Le Quai des Brumes are films that mark her cinematic look. Marcel Carné as well as the actors Arletty, Jean Gabin, Jean Louis Barrault – names of French poetic realism from an early filmic age – are Ms. Torrealba’s references.

She graduated in License de cinéma, Université Sorbonne – Paris I, France. She also participated in the postgraduate studies in documentary cinema at Fundação Getulio Vargas-FGV / RJ under the coordination of Eduardo Escorel. Celina attended the Atelier Varan in Paris, Pratique du montage de films documentaires; and Réalisés le son au cinéma with Daniel Deshays.

The Rainy Season, a documentary currently in production, is her first feature as a Director.


Class of 2020

Victor Bonini

Victor Bonini was born in São Paulo, Brazil, a city that is not only the largest in South America, but also has a proportionally big set of social disparities. They all influenced Bonini since his childhood. He decided to become a journalist in order to bring these social issues to light. While studying at Cásper Líbero College, in São Paulo, he started working in news websites, magazines and, finally, with broadcast journalism, a field he pursued after graduation. In 2015, after working as producer and text editor, Bonini became a TV news reporter. The next year, he started working at TV Globo, the second biggest media company in the world, watched by 100 million people every day. His experience in reporting on social inequality problems encouraged him to go after a specialization in documentaries, so he can tell these stories with in-depth analysis and more investigation. Bonini has also written three novels so far, all published between 2015 and 2019.

Bohao Liu

Bohao Liu is from Sichuan, China. He was to be a chemist before he found his passion for film. After two transfers and changes of major, he graduated from Northwestern University with a bachelor’s degree in Communication. He has also studied at the London Film School. He worked at Weber Shandwick and VICE before he started his own studio in Chengdu, which profited from making commercials to subsidize his independent filmmaking. He has made several short films: documentary and fiction. He believes that only after witnessing the true stories can one know what and how to tell. Bohao can speak Mandarin and French. He watches and plays basketball. He is fond of Romanian and Iranian cinema.

Madeline Gunderson

Madeline Gunderson was born and raised in a log cabin in the Pacific Northwest. She graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in International Studies and Human Rights. Her thesis group, along with the UW Center for Human Rights and UW Information School, researched and published a report on the violence and circular nature of Central American migration to the United States and Mexico, in service of Los Angeles legal clinic El Rescate. During her undergraduate career, Madeline studied in León, Spain and in Buenos Aires, Argentina at the Universidad de San Andrés. She also hosted a show, Sopa de Letras, on the student-run Rainy Dawg Radio. Since graduation, Madeline has worked as a paralegal for an immigration office and volunteered with the Northwest Immigrant Rights project. Her passion for justice and legal empowerment took her to the non-profit Namati in Washington, D.C. She has been interviewing and sharing stories of perseverance through photo and video from asylum seekers, activists and community advocates around the world. She hopes to use her NYU NewsDoc experience to capture the beauty and struggle of the human experience.

Talgat Almanov

My name is Talgat Almanov. I was born and raised in Almaty, the largest megapolis of Kazakhstan. I believe, the fact that Almaty is also known as the media centre of the country influenced on my decision and passion to become a reporter. In almost 8 years of being a journalist I have worked in several news portals and information agencies in various positions. Although I have had the opportunity to pursue journalism in Kazakhstan, I want to expand my knowledge in investigating documentary filmmaking and hope that NYU and its mentors will help me with that. I am very happy to be a part of such a prestigious university.

Veronica Narkwor Kwabla

My name is Veronica Narkwor Kwabla, an award-winning journalist from Ghana. I started out a general news reporter with an Accra based TV station and over a decade down the line, I have reported on the field, presented, produced stories and programmes for international news channels.
I have always been a news junkie but my interest is going beyond the headlines because it affects lives, most of which are often overlooked. Leaving my comfort zone has made me to discover a lot through my travels and interaction with people. The highlight of my career was covering the devastating effect of the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone and Liberia.

Transitioning from news reporting to producing documentaries has come with some challenges for me, but my goal is to overcome these with advanced learning through the NYU news and documentary program.

I hold a Bachelor of Arts degree in Linguistics and Psychology from the University of Ghana. I am a fellow of the World Press Institute in the US, Radio Netherlands Training Centre in The Netherlands and an alumni of the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Kyla Milberger

Kyla Milberger was born and raised in Michigan where she attended undergraduate in Detroit at a small art school called College for Creative Studies. There she majored in photography where she discovered her passion for photojournalism/documentary work and storytelling. Her main and ongoing body of work focuses on the opioid crisis within the U.S. on an intimate level as it is about her personal family’s struggle with addiction. Her intention now is to draw upon the photojournalism skills she developed at CCS and translate her subjects’ stories into long-form documentaries

Kyla’s goal in life is to make change in the world by bringing awareness to the important current issues that are having both negative and positive impacts on society. Storytelling is her passion in life, as well as the essential took she uses to promote social justice and awareness related to vital issues in our world. Kyla is driven by the belief that a more diverse community overall means more strength, understanding and knowledge about one another. Social justice is about having the compassion to want that progression and integration of the individuals themselves. Social justice creates the opportunity for different communities to understand, recognize, and acknowledge authentic identity.

Sara Herrin

Sara Herrin is a multimedia storyteller with a background in environmental education and outreach. Born and raised on the outskirts of Philadelphia, Sara followed her love for the outdoors to Colorado, where she worked toward a B.A. in Environmental Studies with a specialization in Sustainable Development. After earning her degree, Sara held several roles at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, where she worked on domestic and international projects related to environmental science education and public health. Sara attributes her passion for storytelling to her time spent working with scientific institutions, when she learned firsthand how crucial effective communication is to making a difference in public knowledge. As a video storyteller, Sara hopes to inspire positive social change by bringing awareness to issues that affect lives around the globe. She is honored to be given the opportunity to take part in the NewsDoc program at NYU.

Alpha Kamara

Alpha Kamara was born in Makeni city Northern Sierra Leone, a small country in West Africa. He grew up during the peak of the country’s eleven year civil conflict in the late 90’s. The atrocities he saw committed by the rebels for “blood diamonds” prompted him to take journalism as a profession. He started by becoming a volunteer reporter for his district’s community radio to tell stories of war, peace and reconciliation.

He later entered the Northern Polytechnic now called the Ernest Bai Koroma University to pursue Journalism, Conflict and Peace Studies.
Alpha later worked for the BBC Media Action as a journalist trainer in Sierra Leone, Oxfam International as Communications Officer during West Africa’s Ebola response, Open Society Foundation as lead producer and Journalists for Human Rights (JHR) as a Media Trainer in South Sudan.
Alpha’s passion is using pictures, sounds and effects to tell stories of empowerment especially for the vulnerable people. He looks forward to joining NYU in an interesting environment that shapes modern day journalism.

William Martin

William Martin is a 2016 graduate of NYU’s Tisch Photography and Imaging program. He is also a National Geographic Explorer, Fledgling fund recipient, and Video Fellow at the GroundTruth Project working on international human rights documentaries. Currently he is finishing a short documentary, Daughters of Drought, with NYU graduate and Rhode Scholar Melissa Godin. The piece aims to highlight the gendered ways in which climate change is impacting woman’s health and gender-based discrimination in South East Africa. Looking ahead, William will be working with indigenous communities globally to create an hour long documentary on the growing and sometimes violent conflict between the environment, those who protect it, and the exploitative economies poisoning it. His multimedia work is currently featured in Time, Teen Vogue, The GroundTruth Project, BRIC Media, and Al Jazeera.

Fiqah Rahman

Fiqah Rahman is a graduate of Art and Creative Technology from a country called Brunei. Her interests in art especially in film developed as she encountered that the film industry in her country only features government campaigns, religious and education programs throughout the nation with its latest film, which was by the Ministry of Religious Affairs, was based on a citizenry guide. This allowed her to experiment in the digital field as a videographer, photographer, animator and a graphic designer for at least five years. She discovered her love in directing and storytelling to inspire conversation and even social movements, triggering the mind to be aware of the current issues within society. Her first ever successful documentation ‘Social Control’ is a research-based documentary on stereotypes and behaviorism that succeeded in combatting the audiences own cognitive dissonance. It awarded her to represent her country to be one of the leaders of Youth Southeast Asia Leaders Initiative (YSEALI). Apart from that her work has been recognized and awarded in film competitions which brought her to lead projects in Massachusetts, Berlin, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Japan and currently, Vietnam. Being a progressive Muslim in a religious country with strict rules, it is without a doubt a challenge to fight against the conformity and the ideologies but the controversial conflict of art in Brunei brought her to a conclusion that tackling the creative industry is a great solution to support the nation in hopes to end the stereotype of art in Brunei and to seek through Brunei’s creative progress.

Gene Gallerano

Gene Gallerano is a filmmaker, visual journalist and multi-platform storyteller from the Lone Star State. His narrative and documentary films have played film festivals from Tribeca to Anchorage and have included Academy Award winners/nominees Meryl Streep, Natalie Portman, Ethan Hawke, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Peter Sarsgaard, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Denis O’Hare, Olympia Dukakis and others. As a journalist, he has covered migrant families in Tijuana, relief efforts in disaster zones after hurricanes in Florida, North Carolina and Texas, wildfires in California and indigenous suicide activists. He currently resides in NYC with his wife, daughter and dog.


Class of 2019

Yue Yuan

Yue Yuan

I was born and raised in Dongying, a small city in Shandong Province, East China. My childhood was spent among oil fields where I have witnessed the transformation of an industrial city. I love reading, writing, and taking photos and have dreamt of being a journalist since high school. I went to college in Xi’an, home to the world-famous Terracotta Army, then entered the journalism program in Beijing Foreign Studies University, and became a journalist with Chinese media organization Xinhu after graduation. I feel blessed that I get to do what I love and want to tell more stories with my pen and camera.

Lauren Layton

Lauren Layton

Lauren Layton was born and raised in Huntsville, Alabama and thought she was getting out of her comfort zone when she chose to attend at the University of Mississippi, just three hours from home. There she received a B. A. In Journalism with a broadcast emphasis and minors in History and Psychology.
She realized her passion for long-form storytelling during her third year of undergrad after working on a documentary about the political strife during the 2016 presidential election. Since then, she has chased stories that emphasize the hardships of life and human resilience that allows them to rise above. She has won multiple awards for her micro-doc about a young girl pursuing her passion for music despite being blind.
She looks forward to living in the largest city in the U. S. and experiencing what it truly means to get out of her comfort zone. She is excited to meet and work with peers who share her interest in cinematic storytelling.

Sabena Chaudhry

Sabena Chaudhry

Sabena Chaudhry is a graduate of St. John’s University earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology with minor studies in Government and Politics. While at St. John’s her presence as a blogger on amplified her powerful voice as a young Muslim woman in America today. Her passion for grassroots organizing dedicated to social and global development needs led her to working as a Program Coordinator at Women for Afghan Women, a grassroots organization empowering immigrant women from South Asia. As a first-generation Pakistani-American, born and raised in New York, both the experience of navigating different cultures and the diversity of the city itself has inspired and led her to pursue journalism to further explore the stories of immigrant communities.

Roberto Herrera

Roberto Herrera

My name is Roberto Carlos Herrera and I’m from Moreno Valley, Ca. I’m a first generation Mexican-American. My parents are immigrants from Mexico City. I graduated with a Bachelors in Journalism from California State University, Long Beach. I recently won third place for Best Photo Series at the California College Media Association Contest 2018. Those photos were pictures I took of the September 19 Mexico City earthquake aftermath and aftershock. I wrote for my college newspaper for about a year and wrote about the Dakota Access Pipeline, a Trump protest in Long Beach after he won the election, and suicide awareness, among other social awareness topics. My passion is journalism in general, but I’d always wanted to pursue something in video or filmmaking. My other passions are photography, music, and car fabrication/modifications

Emily DeLuca

Emily DeLuca

Emily DeLuca grew up in the small town of Fairfield, CT where she wrote for the local newspaper and produced her first documentary about the lack of diversity awareness at her high school. Her insatiable curiosity about the world led her to Lafayette College where she obtained B.A. degrees in Psychology & English and captained the Women’s Division I Tennis Team. After graduation she worked as the right-hand assistant to a renowned documentary filmmaker who produced a documentary about Dreamers, and their potential as high functioning members of society. After several years of working, she felt inspired to break away from the corporate world and take on an adventure of her own. At 25 she moved to Peru where she lived and volunteered at a fair-trade textile museum, producing a short documentary that highlighted the dying art of traditional weaving.

Emily has worked as a film producer for several high-profile clients in the advertising world. She has a sharp eye for still photography and cinematography, and enjoys discovering new talent and pulling together creatives into new and original projects. Emily is excited to steer away from advertising and once again create something of her own, a powerful and inspiring story that she can distribute across a wide platform and influence and inspire as many people as possible.

Maria Florencia Smith

Maria Florencia Smith

Born and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Maria moved to NYC in 2011 to pursue acting. To her surprise, after graduating from The American Academy of Dramatic Arts, Maria discovered a stronger passion for the behind-the-scenes world. That led her to St. John’s University where she received her B.S. in Television and Film Production.

Since, Maria has been involved in several films where she held different roles on set, such as first and second assistant director, script supervisor and producer. She also spent her last two summers in Scranton, Pennsylvania stage managing for the Scranton Shakespeare Festival.

Despite having worked mainly with scripted films, Maria has always been drawn to portraying life as it really is through real people and real stories, which is what led her to NYU and the NewsDoc program. She is eager to start her journey at NYU alongside her future classmates and professors. In her spare time, Maria enjoys traveling, cooking and catching up on her long list of must-see movies.

Ziyu Wu

Ziyu Wu

There’s a quote from the Roman playwright Terence that I take as my life motto: “Nihil humani a me alienum puto.” In my interpretation, it means I am a human being, thus I share the common feelings of human beings. As an ethnic Mongolian born in a small city in China, I spent my youth in a minority high school in Beijing, and then entered Shanghai International Studies University, majoring in International Journalism. I immersed myself as an outsider in various cultures and met people from different backgrounds which gave me a unique viewpoint of the world.

Since my freshman year, I’ve interned across a wide variety of multimedia platforms including Tencent, Xinhua News Agency and CCTV. I’ve also developed interests in photography and traveling, which further facilitated my cultural exploration.

In this life journey, listening to and recording people’s stories has become the most important part of my life, and it defines how I encounter and reflect on the world. Every time I listen to a story, it’s like I experience a different life, whether it’s humble or glorious, full of joy or sorrow. I cherish the empathy that my experiences give me and hold it as a priceless treasure which leads me to continue telling stories as a culture and art journalist in the world of documentary.

Laura Zephirin

Laura Zephirin

Laura Zephirin is a reporter, producer, international correspondent and videographer who has travelled the world for the past 15 years pursuing her lifelong passion – journalism. She is driven by an intense curiosity to question and understand the world and to connect in a deep way to its people.

Born and raised in Paris, France, and proficient in three languages, she graduated with degrees in history and law before attending one of France’s top journalism schools. Her career was launched in 2012 with multiple assignments for several prestigious public and private French television channels. During this time, she produced over 1,200 live TV reports (2-3 minutes each). In 2014 she produced her first 15-minute documentary for French television about the city of Palm Springs in California.
Laura is committed to capturing on film, original and inspirational stories in order to captivate audiences worldwide. A goal closest to her heart would be to develop, shoot and produce unique documentaries about challenging social and economic issues. For this reason, the News and Documentary Program at NYU is the perfect fit to help her reach her longer-term career objectives.

Louise Liu

Louise Liu

Louise was born and bred in Chongqing, a city embraced by mountains and rivers in southwest China. She founded the first bilingual TV show during her undergraduate years at Boston University, and flexed her storytelling prowess at top-notch news outlets, including NBC News and Business Insider. A chance to help with a documentary about China’s virtual showrooms unveiled her real passion, and documentary filmmaking thus became the vehicle for her to understand human nature. Louise has absorbed both Eastern and Western values, and is looking forward to the opportunities to fulfill her love for doc at NYU NewsDoc.

Ebrima Baldeh

Ebrima Baldeh

Ebrima Baldeh, fondly called “Baldeh or Chief Baldeh,” is the Managing Editor at the News and current Affairs Unit of the Gambia Radio and Television Services (GRTS). His assignments at the national broadcaster included editing news bulletin, write news reports including human interest stories, commentary and produce documentaries.
Baldeh was a regular reporter in mainstream Gambian newspapers before moving to radio and television. He is a part-time columnist and writer for The Standard Newspaper in the Gambia, and has recently published a book written in his native Fulani language, entitled: Jibbi he Pulaar (Poems in Fula). He holds a bachelor’s degree in history at the University of the Gambia.

Baldeh has won back to back national journalism awards dubbed “excellence in agricultural, politics and gender reporting” in 2016 and 2017. He is also interested in developing his talent in producing short and long form of documentary, something he has extensively done over the past years. Baldeh’s long term academic and professional goal is to perfect the art of news gathering and adapt innovative methods of writing news stories and documentary content for television.

Alexander Tabet

Alexander Tabet

Alexander Tabet believes most conflict can be resolved with a game of rock, paper, scissors. A New Yorker with Spanish and Lebanese heritage, Tabet has always had a strong interest in world affairs. This led him to study Political Science, with minors in Economics and History, at the University of Michigan. During undergrad, Tabet had internships in Madrid and London in finance and sales before pursuing his true passion for visual storytelling.

Tabet’s goal is to create content that is both informative and engaging as he looks to tell untold stories and highlight the quirks of the human condition. He is humbled and excited to join the NewsDoc program and cannot wait to begin learning from NYU’s incredible faculty and his fellow peers.

Boning Li

Boning Li

Originally from Beijing, China, Boning recently completed his BA in journalism at the University of Macau. He loves the former Portuguese colony and finds a strong connection to its culture.

Boning went to Israel to check out some of the most advanced media start-ups in the year of 2016 and interned at Sing Tao Daily’s branch in Lower Manhattan last summer, covering topics from city council elections to the dragon boat festival. It was during this internship at Sing Tao that he realized how powerful film language is and thus decided to seek out training in visual storytelling. At NYU Boning hopes to create news content that is more cinematic and aesthetically appealing.

Outside of work, Boning is a lover of stuff that may often be regarded as obsolete, including the game of Go, silent movies, and old literature from the 20s.


Class of 2018

Mengchen Zhang

Mengchen Zhang

Mengchen was born in China and raised in several different cities including Xiamen and Hangzhou. She majored in international journalism for her undergraduate in Beijing with several months’ studies in Hong Kong. She got a pseudonym as Dreamorning, which comes from a word-by-word translation of her Chinese name.
Mengchen has been devoting to International and broadcast journalism since she was a sophomore. As an undergraduate she had interned at CNN Beijing, CGTN (CCTV-News) headquarter and some other local broadcast media outlets. She’s currently working as a part-time producer assistant, applying her broadcast journalism background in documentary making. She doesn’t like to ‘settle down’ so she has always dreamed of working in different places for different stories. She wants to retell the stories she heard to more people, which led her to NYU for news and documentary studies.

MC likes to call herself a “dilettante” because of her strong interests but shallow understandings for arts, especially for art film and chamber music. She loves to visit local markets, parks, and museums once she arrives in a new place. If she hadn’t chosen to be an independent documentary producer, she would like to be a gourmet because she loves cooking and eats a lot.

Elle Luan Chunxiao

Elle Luan Chunxiao

Elle was born and raised in Qingdao, China, a scenery costal city which was a former German colony and now famous for its beer and she recently gained her B.A. Degree from Shanghai International Studies University, specializing in Journalism. Ever since she turned 12, Elle has been traveling around the world and thus developed an undying wanderlust. She spent her college years across Shanghai, Vancouver and Hong Kong with exchange semesters, while she also went to cover the U.S. election as a student reporter, volunteered in Nepal, backpacked throughout Vietnam and organized hiking and camping trips in the Tibet plateau.

She believes in living everyday as if it’s the last, however, it was not until she started interning at Pear video – a rising Chinese media startup featuring short form videos – did she realize what kind of career would wake her up everyday with excitement. Two months into her internship, she was already working as an independent producer, in charge of a series mini documentary on the millennial entrepreneurs, feature videos on the Chinese smartphone expansion in India and more. Overwhelming as the workload was, Elle didn’t feel tired at all for she was too busy enjoying the sweetest joy of doing something she loves.

She came to see that it was the magic stories she encountered while traveling that kept her going and she decided to spend the rest of her life exploring stories that make her heart pound faster. In NYU Newsdoc, she aims to hone her skills at documentary producing to become the kind of story teller she dreams to be.

Rebecca Blandon

Rebecca Blandon

Rebecca Blandon, 23, is a 2016 graduate of Brown University, where she concentrated in Neuroscience among other side projects. Throughout her college years, she discovered her love for art, culture and social justice reporting. After graduating she spent one year at DigitasLBi, learning the media ropes as a strategist and copywriter. Fascinated by the ways in which the news is consumed across the digital landscape, she plans to uncover effective ways to create and share credible stories, particularly via video. At NYU she hopes to establish foundational skills in reporting while learning to build around facts with imagination and empathy. Born and raised in the Bronx, she’s enthusiastic to amplify the voices of fellow New Yorkers through her prospective projects.

Xavier Cousens

Xavier Cousens

Xavier was raised in a small city in Pennsylvania called Easton. He didn’t venture far from the nest when obtaining his B.A. in Anthropology at Lehigh University. However his undergraduate career had him traveling to places like Morocco and Ghana to conduct ethnographic research with particular interest in youth identity and the transatlantic slave trade.

His appreciation for human complexity is equally matched by his interest in film and journalism. Xavier was the recipient of a Mellon Digital Humanities Grant that enabled him to make a short documentary on the variety of fascinating individuals who have traveled from other countries and opened restaurants near his home.
He believes telling stories especially through the medium of video can give a voice to those who have been silenced or underrepresented. He also believes it can be a great way to find new food (in the case of the restaurant project).

Music is also a major part of Xavier’s life. He looks forward to not only the vast amount of stories to be told in New York City, but also the thousands of musicians to be heard, from Radio City to Rockwood.

Jiangxin Jin

Jiangxin Jin

Jiangxin was born in Nanjing, a peaceful city in south-east China. She enjoys reading and writing since young, and admires the power of journalists, so she entered the school of journalism and communication in Tsinghua University.

In the sophomore year, she filmed her first documentary with a classmate, about Tibetans’ tradition of picking Matsutake in mountains. She has been fascinated with the closeness with interviewers and the narrative style of documentary since then. She is working on her undergraduate thesis documentary about Japanese orphans’ life in China after the Second World War.

Sometimes she would imagine, if she chose to major in teaching as her mom wanted, she might become a teacher and lead a steady life. If she followed the mainstream to study finance, she might well suit all day and earn a high salary.

She feels so lucky to have found something she loves at a young age and get the chance to develop it into a life career. She can’t wait to meet all the future classmates and professors in NYU!

Fahad Naveed

Fahad Naveed

Fahad Naveed is a Pakistani journalist, filmmaker and visual artist. He studied graphic design and filmmaking at the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture in Karachi. In 2013, he graduated having received an overall distinction and the prestigious Founders Award.

He then joined the Dawn Media Group where he has focused primarily on long form narrative storytelling. Fahad has served as a Desk Editor at the Herald and Senior Multimedia Producer at Recently, he led a team of journalists during a US State Department sponsored media co-op. The project focused on compelling diaspora stories.

Fahad’s work often deals with identity politics and questioning power structures. His work has been published by the Herald, Dawn newspaper,, Images and the Express Tribune in Pakistan, and The Wire and Scroll in India.

Last year, he co-founded an interdisciplinary artists’ collective called Mandarjazail Collective. This has allowed him to collaborate with other artists, and to explore video art.

Fahad also ventures into fiction writing and filmmaking. He developed a feature-length screenplay during the Qalambaaz Screenwriting Fellowship — Pakistan’s first screenwriting lab.

Most recently, he was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to pursue graduate studies. He now hopes to continue developing his storytelling voice at NYU’s News and Documentary program.

Nick Perrone

Nick Perrone

Nick Perrone is visual storyteller born and bred in the suburbs of New York City. He is a graduate of Rutgers University – New Brunswick with a B.A. in Journalism and Media Studies through the School of Communication & Information and minors in Cultural Anthropology and Political Science. He’s been telling stories through media for over six years. His work has been featured in The New York Observer, Yahoo News, New York Dress, YHM Magazine, I Am Rutgers Magazine, The Rutgers Review, Muckgers, Babble, The Home News Tribune, and many more.

Emily Cameron

Emily Cameron

Growing up in suburban Texas, Emily spent most of her childhood plotting how to escape. That dream finally came true when she attended undergrad in Iowa– eventually settling on an interdisciplinary major in film studies. Initially dreaming of becoming a narrative cinematographer, she immediately moved to New York upon graduating and began working at a camera house. It was only after finding herself producing and operating on a documentary about land speed motorcycle racing, that Emily discovered her true passion was for doc.

She’s spent the last several years lighting and digital teching on commercial fashion and camera operating for small documentary projects. Her most recent project focuses on women in Mixed Martial Arts.

Emily is most looking forward to building a network of friends and peers with a shared interest in story telling, exploring the challenges of finding meaningful stories, and developing technique both in front of and behind the camera. When not working, her current obsessions are baking, literary fiction, and the radio show This American Life.

Marjan Riazi

Marjan Riazi

Marjan Riazi hails from the freezing suburbs of Minneapolis, Minnesota. She completed her BA in Environmental Studies with a minor in Education and Applied Psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. During her undergraduate career, Marjan was heavily involved in student government, intramural futbol, and the vibrant community of Isla Vista. After working in the local public school system and reporting on stories of sustainability and eco-activism for the Community Environmental Council, she returned to her beloved alma mater as a professional to pursue Student Affairs and Education through public health, community outreach, and leadership development at the UCSB Alcohol and Drug Program. There she expanded her passion to creatively communicate messages of social justice and community responsibility via multimedia.

Exposure to activism, multicultural communities, studying abroad in Ghana, and visiting her home countries of Iran and the Philippines sparked her interest in documenting stories of injustice. Marjan’s work focuses on the storytelling of marginalized voices from a transnational perspective invoking notions of interconnectedness, intersectional feminism, and global citizenship. She views journalism as the vehicle for her efforts toward a more inclusive, informed, and activated populace. In her spare time, she is a perpetual adventure-seeker, exploring more of the world and her own communities.

Heying Chen

Heying Chen

I was born in Fengjie, China, a small county which has been submerged in the water storage of the Three Gorges dam on the Yangtze River before I had full awareness to record them. This might be my primal motivation to shoot documentaries about my rapidly transforming country, preserving memories for others and capturing the lives of people in flux, their happiness and hopes, sorrows and frustrations. Working as a reporter at the Global Times – an English-language Chinese newspaper – has sharpened my aspiration. The last two and a half years have provided me with countless chances to closely observe and retell stories of conflict born from rapid development, neglected social problems and marginalized people.

Henry Ogunjimi

Henry Ogunjimi

I am a 36 year old from Oyo state, Nigeria’s southwestern region. I was born in the northwest of the country in ancient Zaria city, Kaduna state. This made me acquire Hausa as a second language and has given me an edge in my line of duty over the years. I had my first degree in English Language from the University of Ilorin, Ilorin, Nigeria’s North-central.

I work for Channels television, 11-time Best Tv station in Nigeria and in the summer of 2012, I and two other colleagues were in the United States to produce a documentary on community policing and Law Enforcement in a free society: The American Example! Back home, This documentary triggered reforms in the Nigerian Police Force and has kept the issue of state/community policing on the front burner of most national security discuss. My most recent work “From Benin City to Italy” is on the scourge of Human trafficking in Nigeria. The risks young Nigerian men and women take to get to Europe in search of greener pastures and the realities they encounter on their way and when they eventually arrive their destinations. This work was inspired by the drive to tell the story from an African’s eye because most documentaries on human trafficking have been by foreign journalists. I wish to continue to be a part of the media that will report all these stories and how Nigeria and it’s people manage the situation to forestall any break down of law and order.


Class of 2017

Ahmed Mansour

Ahmed Mansour

Ahmed is a 23 year old graduate of Gaza University, Gaza Strip, Palestine, where he specialized in Literature and Arabic English Translation. He is a filmmaker, journalist and interpreter. He has worked with international journalists covering Gaza and produced his own powerful documentaries that tell the story of his generation of young people and their aspirations for peace. He excelled as a student leader and co-founded the English Language Club on campus and ran successful art festivals. Starting in 2013, he has won scholarships for programs at NYU and Indiana University and was selected for the New Story Leadership (NSL) program of 2015, but unfortunately, he has not been able to get visas to leave Gaza for these past three years, and missed all these opportunities- until now. Ahmed arrived at the end of the NSL summer of 2015 program and participated in a compact version of the summer, and then in August, moved to NYC to a semester at NYU.

Athyunnath Eleti

Athyunnath Eleti

Athyunnath has completed his college at Manipal University, in India, where he majored in Information Technology. After spending his high school life at coaching centers preparing for engineering entrance exams, he found the freedom of college life rather liberating.

Starting in his freshman year, he joined various student clubs and organizations that the University had, and found his niche as a writer and a reporter. Alongside his journalism work, he participated in several debates and went on to become the Institute champion.

His most significant work, however, is the founding and successful establishment of The MIT Post – one of India’s first student-run news and journalism cells, operating as an official body of the college. Struggling against a reluctant administration for over a year, him and his peers founded the organization which now serves as the official source of news and media for the college.

A fan of the works of Aaron Sorkin, The Lumineers, and good ice cream, he likes to spend his time writing whimsical stories about the mundane events in his life. He looks forward to experimenting with a new medium of telling stories at NewsDoc, and being trained as a professional journalist to help him in his fight against apathy.

Benedetta Cutolo

Benedetta Cutolo

Benedetta was born and raised in Rome, Italy, where she received a B.A. in Contemporary Literature at Roma Tre University. In 2010 she moved to Paris, studying at Sorbonne University asan exchange student. Seduced by the cosmopolitan atmosphere of the French capital, she settled down starting working as a teacher and a free-lance journalist.

In 2013, she obtained a double master degree in European cultures at Bologna and Strasbourg University and joined as an intern the production company Keep Shooting co-directing the documentary Naples from the TV series Villes violentes (Violent cities).

Following the internship, Benedetta worked as a broadcast producer on several documentary series and reportages for the main French TV channels, including France Télévisions and ARTE. In 2015, she directed the production of France24 series You are here dedicated to the French natural and cultural patrimony.

Passionate about any form of storytelling, form literature to filmmaking, Benedetta loves to be inspired by the stories of people surrounding her as well as discovering new regions of the globe.She fluently speaks Italian, French, Spanish and English and she likes to think that languages help her to put together different pieces of the world`s puzzle.

Emily Okuda Overhoff

Emily Okuda-Overhoff

Born to a Japanese mother and a German father, Emily was brought up in London, UK. She studied French language and literature at King’s College London, including a year at the Sorbonne in Paris. She graduated in 2015.Her interest in journalism blossomed during her studies as she started writing articles and developing on ideas for various editorial outlets on the subject of current affairs, travel, lifestyle and fashion. An internship at the Financial Times in London triggered her interest in audio-visual forms of journalism.

She currently works as an assistant producer in a Japanese production company in London, creating news programs, TV documentaries and entertainment programs for Japan’s biggest broadcasters such as the NHK and TV ASAHI. As a complete newbie to the technicalities of the film camera and of visual storytelling, NYU News Documentary program felt like an important, necessary and inspiring step for her to translate and bridge the gap between her writing and her ambitions. She very much looks forward to the challenge of the 30-minute documentary as much for the final product as for the unavoidable path of self-discovery that its process will present.

Marie Dupont

Marie Dupont

Marie grew up in the suburbs of Copenhagen and moved to London at the age of 19 to complete her Bachelor’s Degree in Comparative Literature and Film Studies at King’s College London. Living in London exposed her to a cultural diversity that truly ignited her desire to explore the world and meet people with different backgrounds and life stories.Marie’s time as a Bachelor’s student also confirmed her passion for documentary and reportage, partly through producing a short documentary on disability for an anthropology class at UNC at Chapel Hill where she went on exchange. She was able to pursue this art form as she worked with two film directors on their documentaries about Cycling Without Age (a Danish social movement), one of these films having won two awards at the All Sports Los Angeles Film Festival 2016. Apart from giving voice to those who are marginalized by media and society, Marie is interested in exploring the world, trying different foods and dancing without rest.

Mathieu Faure

Mathieu Faure

I was born and raised in France. My Master of Political Science studies at La Sorbonne university in Paris confirmed my taste for journalism. During these two years, I studied sociology and especially the Chicago School and authors like Howard Becker and Erving Goffman. This teaching inspired me to explore and test theories in the field, and that’s exactly what I did in the USA and Israel. My study of Sarah Palin’s storytelling during the 2008 US election turned into a 50-page dissertation. Besides the study of her path, her communications and how US elections are run by a deeply plutocratic system, I drove through different states meeting voters seduced by her story. This is precisely what I enjoy about my work as a journalist today: being objective, not judging people for their actions and positions, but trying to identify and understand what makes them who they are.

I repeated this challenge a year later for my 150-page graduation dissertation. I chose a different subject: the village of Neve Shalom Wahat al Salam in Israel, where 60 Jewish and Palestinian families have been living in peace for over 40 years. Shortly after, I worked as analyst for the bilateral cooperation division at the French Defense ministry. I have been a journalist for more than 4 years. I started at a web TV channel specialized in economy, finance and social issues. Since May 2013 I have been producing articles and editing reports on various topics for both the web-based channel and M6 television.

The documentary project at NYU is a chance for me, first of all, to learn how to improve with camera in my hands. Secondly, it is the opportunity to work on a subject for several weeks, being able to study a topic in depth and test theories in the field, meeting people and following them in their journey.

When I am not working, I can be found attending theatre, music festivals or at a café, writing down a tv show script.

Olivia Wilson

Olivia Wilson

Olivia Wilson was raised in Brooklyn, New York and received her B.A. at Villanova University for Communication with a speciality in journalism. After enrolling in the social justice documentary program, Olivia switched her focus from sports journalism to a documentaries. She took a break to pursue a semester abroad in Spain to focus on international media.

Olivia served as assistant director for One is No One, a documentary filmed in Costa Rica, and producer and interviewer for Limbo, a documentary filmed in Italy. She interned at New 12 New Jersey and Fox 29 in Philadelphia as a sports department intern, as well as a public relations intern for the Philadelphia 76ers.

She is excited to attend NYU because she is ready to learn how to be an independent film maker. She hopes to be a cross between Michael Moore and Spike Lee, both of which have heavily influenced her style of interviewing and film making. She wants to focus on issues of racism and women’s rights.

Jing Liu

Jing Liu

I was born in a small city in China. It was actually not a serious city but an oilfield with the ever-stopping working units. They accompanied me every day of my childhood and my curiosity of what the world looks like grew day by day.

Since I was a little kid, I was looking forward to knowing different stories. I knew it was impossible for me to experience various lives therefore I was eager to know others’ life stories which could also enrich my own insight and knowledge about life. While being interested in knowing all stories, I grew a strong interest towards literature. That is why I decided to finish my undergraduate education in Beijing Foreign Studies University in China, majoring in Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language, which prepares me rich knowledge in both Chinese and English. And this major broadens my vision in different culture studies, which triggered my interest in documenting the valuable moments of human beings.

I worked as intern editors in new media industry in China. The experience reminds me of the importance of journalism. People need to know about the society they are living in and utter the voice of themselves. It was at that time when I determined to pursue a career as a journalist. However, my perception changed a little bit after I watched the famous documentary called Under The Dome produced by Jing Chai. I was pretty amazed by her investigation into the air pollution in China and wanted to try something like her in my own school. I independently made a documentary film and grew a strong interest of digging more into visual story-telling. I think video would be the most powerful expression of truth.

I love traveling and talking to different people, their life experiences are worth delivering in many senses. Some are quite inspiring, some are really thought-provoking. So, I want to become a storyteller in my future career. I feel thrilled about going to NYU for further study in news and documentary.

Olga Slobodchikova

Olga Slobodchikova

Olga Slobodchikova was born and raised in Kirov, a city along the Trans Siberian railway in Russia. She studied journalism at the Moscow State University, graduating with honors in 2012. Just after the first year of her studies, she was hired by TASS, one of the leading news agencies in the country. Throughout her time at the university, Olga has worked for various Russian media outlets and landed an internship at the Moscow bureau of the New York Times. There, she was researching and fact-checking stories for staff reporters, including Pulitzer-winning journalists. She contributed to the coverage of Vladimir Putin’s decision to run for the third term and mass protests that followed the parliamentary elections of 2011. This unique experience has determined her choice to work for international media.

By the time of graduation, Olga was already working as a producer at the BBC Russian Service, the BBC’s subdivision in Russian language. During her four years at the BBC Moscow bureau, she went on to become a bilingual correspondent who has covered social affairs and culture in both Russian and English languages. Olga has covered the aftermath of the annexation of Crimea, the effect of the economic crisis and Western sanctions on the society and cultural tendencies of Putin’s Russia, which included interviewing the controversial culture minister. At the BBC, she has worked across multiple platforms, including online, video and radio. Her new goal is to perfect a set of skills that would allow her to work behind the camera as well as in front of it.

Tsering Wangmo

Tsering Wangmo

My name is Tsering Wangmo and I was born in exile in India to first generation Tibetan refugee parents. From a young age hearing the story of my parents and listening to folk stories of Tibet I developed a deep interest in storytelling and having spent my childhood in a tiny village I naturally understood the importance of mass media for people to connect to the outside world. When it was time for me to graduate from school I have already fathomed that Journalism was the right subject for me.
I studied BA Journalism from Madras Christian College in south India during which time I interned with The Hindu and later after a year working for an NGO I joined Himachal Pradesh University in Shimla to study Mass Communication. Upon graduating from here, it was now time to follow my long planned dream project to document the lives of Tibetan nomads in exile. Although I graduated in 2014, I have already visited the nomadic plateaus in 2010 and 2011 to establish a better and a more deeper understand of their lifestyle and to also understand how government policies effects their way of life. In 2015, I received funding from The Rowell Fund for Tibet to carry on the project ‘Documenting the lives of Tibetan nomads in exile through photography.’ I strongly believe that the News and Doc course will prepare me to eventually make documentary films on Tibetan nomadic life.

Veronica Wangshen

Veronica Wangshen

Veronica was born and raised in China till she started another chapter of her life at the age of 16 in various countries including US, UK and Japan. She recently completed her M.A. Degree from Columbia University, specializing in history and film studies. Prior to that, she received a B.A. Degree from Michigan State University, where she focused on history, art history and anthropology, and later on worked in museums, galleries and subsequently the New York Public Library. The life experience living under different cultures and lifestyles offers her an open-minded perspective and the academic/professional training enables her to generate a strong passion in socio-cultural studies.

The long-term interest in documentaries of cultural, artistic and social issues was embedded in her since younger ages under her father’s influences. Through former collaborations with several documentary filmmakers, she gained increasing confidence and courage in pursuing documentary filmmaking. Currently she is highly passionate for the issues of the preservation of cultural heritage and endangered art worldwide, as well as the dysfunctional socio-legal systems and underrepresented population in East Asian society. She expects herself and her works to be a light shedding into the darkness.

Besides work, travel is the second most important thing in her life and an alternative lifestyle for her to perceive the world and discover the issues worth further research or larger acknowledgment. If backpacking does not occupy all of her leisure time, she must be into either books or music. So feel free to join her.


Class of 2016

Paul Thomas

Paul Thomas

After completing his B.S. in Agricultural Business at Cal Poly SLO, Paul spent a brief period working in Hollywood before volunteering to serve with the U.S. Peace Corps in Cameroon, West Africa as an Agricultural Business Extension Volunteer. While serving as a volunteer, Paul began using film clips as a device to teach, inspire, and to help raise funds. His work was selected as the winner of the 2014 Peace Corps International Literacy Day Video Contest, which sought to find the best example of a volunteer using technology to ameliorate village literacy levels; the village children he worked with received two computers and a kindle as a prize for winning the contest. Paul also received a large donation, video camera, and spices from McCormick, in partnership with The Food Network, in support of the women’s empowerment and after school groups he organized and ran.

Qingzi Fan

Qingzi Fan

Qingzi Fan was born in a small city in China and raised in Shanghai. She holds a B.A. in Chinese Literature from Fudan University. In her college years, she spent most of the time traveling to the underdeveloped regions of China, where she saw underprivileged families struggling with life, children shouldering the responsibility of onerous farm work and town residents suffering from severe pollution. What she saw strengthened her belief that unless someone like a reporter brings the terrible conditions to light, things would never change.

She has been to Yunnan, Guangxi, Guizhou, Hebei and Tibet as a volunteer photographer and teacher to help out the children who have no chance to receive proper education. She landed a 3-month internship in Shanghai Media Group yet found her freedom of speech hamstrung by the way Chinese media function. Then she started to intern at NBC Universal, where she focused on digital editing, researching and reporting.

Her motto is “be brave and never compromise.” She envisions continuing her fighting for underserved populations and calling attention to issues of inequality, social illness and government corruption in China.

Jan Kobal

Jan Kobal

I hold a BS in Biochemistry from the University of Southampton and an MS in immunology from University College London and this might surprise many an onlooker seeing as I’m moving towards documentary film. I’ve always felt out of place in the field of applied science and this reached a point soon after I moved to London. I reevaluated what it was I find myself doing most often, where my natural drive lies. I found it journalism.

I was the music editor for a long running magazine in Southampton called The Edge and then proceeded to become the music editor at the London publication Savage. Suffice it to say music has always played a large part in my life. I’ve conducted many interviews of bands, scientists, artists and comedians on student radio and I’ve written many pieces on the music world today.

My desires weren’t satiated, however, with simply pursuing journalism as a hobby. Films have always fascinated me, both documentaries and works of fiction, and I struggled to find a way to pursue this creative outlet. With News and Documentary I want to attain the skills required to become a fully individual documentary filmmaker in the style of my idols – Werner Herzog, Erol Morris and Joshua Oppenheimer. In this vein I do not wish to focus on a particular format of documentary journalism, this is because I believe the field is ever evolving and varying lengths and styles of film are able to best capture an inherent narrative. I am interested in understanding what it is that makes us decide to do whatever it is we do – why do doctors spread pseudoscience whilst having sworn the Hippocratic oath? Why do disenchanted youths turn to drugs in one of the most beautiful cities in Norway, Bergen. I suppose you could say I’m blissfully curious and incredibly aware of how quixotic I can be at times, and I look forward to what NYC throws at me.

Qiuxuan Lyu

Qiuxuan Lyu

Qiuxuan Lyu (Lucille) recently earned her B.A degree from Beijing Foreign Studies University, majoring in Chinese Language and Literature and minoring in English. She found her interest in telling and writing stories during her first internship in a local media in Tianjin. She also tried to use video to tell stories and finished her first short documentary in 2014. This experience inspired her to pursue a career in documentary or video journalism. Then she joined APTN Beijing Bureau and landed a 6-month internship as an assistant video journalist. Later, she also did an internship in Xinhua News Network Corperation and tried to tell stories from different angles.

Born and raised in Tianjin, a city famous for folk art and humor, Qiuxuan has a strong interest in Chinese traditional art. She started to learn and play the Pipa (a traditional Chinese musical instrument) when she was seven and she still practices when she has time. Besides music, she developed a penchant for Chinese tea under her mother’s influence. With such a background, she wants to make a documentary about a Chinese art form or stories of Chinese artists.

Kimberly Jones

Kimberly Jones

Kimberly Jones was born and raised in Paterson, NJ and received her B.A. from Cornell University in Sociology. During her undergraduate years, her love of journalism led her to found the Black Perspectives campus newsletter, which provided a forum for topic discussion relevant to students of color. After graduation, Kimberly worked as an editor for various trade publications and subsequently sharpened her print and digital editing skills at McGraw-Hill Education. During this time, Kimberly continued to develop her interest in journalism by working as a freelance reporter for North Jersey Media Group and earning a professional development certificate from MediaBistro in Digital Journalism. Inspired by documentaries such as “Waiting for Superman” and “Blackfish”, Kimberly is looking forward to completing her master’s degree with a particular emphasis on developing her long form storytelling skills and acquiring the finer points of video shooting and editing. When she is not busy perusing the news, Kimberly enjoys spending time with her family and trying out new cooking recipes.

Teng Chen

Teng Chen

Teng comes from a region which is famous for its mafia groups all around the world – Fujian, China. Teng is a very spirited person who has travelled a long and twisted road until finally finding her way into journalism. She studied French language in university, and studied Sociology in France for one year., After graduation in 2010 and until 2012, she tried around 20 jobs in different industries and found none of them satisfying, because of her restless nature and strong curiosity to know always more about the world.

Then Teng finally decided to try journalism.. It was a crazy moment in her life but the door of lights was finally cracked open. Teng gradually found work as a full-time news assistant and producer for NRC (leading dutch newspaper), Canal+ (French TV), and the New York Times. She was lucky enough to have the opportunities to work with the highest journalistic prize winners from Netherlands, France and US (Pulitzer Prize). At the same time, she enriched her journalistic experiences by freelancing as a news assistant and producer for other big international media, such as the BBC, Financial Times, The Economist, Le Monde, Le Figaro, TF1, etc.

Her journey as a China Producer for documentaries started in 2014, by working for the leading Dutch broadcaster VPRO. So far, she has produced a philosophical documentary series, voiced over by philosopher Alain de Botton (she produced one hour out of the total 7 hours in seven countries), as well as her beloved project: a traveling documentary series about China (she produced three hours out of the total six hours). Teng was the only China producer for all these projects.

The various experiences in print media gave Teng the sense to think with content and depth, and experiences in TV gave her the sense to tell stories through images. Teng feels very passionate about coming to NYU because she wants to put herself a step forward towards being an independent journalist and a documentary filmmaker, who can not only produce, but also shoot, edit.

Veda Shastri

Veda Shastri

Veda is a native of Boston, MA, but has been living & working in New Delhi, India since 2010. She graduated from Tufts University with a BA in Anthropology in 2009. Since then, she has been working at CNN-IBN, a television news network headquartered in Delhi. At CNN-IBN, she was a Rundown Producer, and spent her days building and rolling news bulletins, rushing between the newsroom and the control room, and trying to keep calm through all the “breaking news.”

Veda’s passion for storytelling and documentaries was further informed during her study of anthropology and ethnographic films while at Tufts. From her time in India, she’s developed an interest in women’s rights and security on a global scale. She wants to work across media platforms to find new, creative ways to tell stories that both educate and create awareness. Veda is also an enthusiast for the performing arts and when she’s not working, can be found attending theatre, dance & music festivals.

Mercedes Barba

Mercedes Barba

Mercedes Bianca Barba was born and raised in Los Angeles, Calif. She received her Bachelors degree in Broadcast Journalism from California State University, Los Angeles in 2014. She began her career in journalism in 2007 when she worked for a small startup television station in Encino called “Time Television.” There, Mercedes was the host of a weekly fashion show called “Catwalk” and also worked as a producer and editor. She attended numerous fashion events where she interviewed designers such as Christian Audigier of Ed Hardy, Bosnian fashion designer Ina Soltani and even former Los Angeles Laker Lamar Odom.

Shortly after, Mercedes began working as an associate segment producer for a bilingual television station in Santa Monica called “LATV,” where she wrote scripts for two nationwide syndicated television shows called “American Latino” and “LatinNation.” Mercedes also worked many press junkets where she covered the releases of films and conducted one-on-one interviews with celebrities such as Jim Carrey, Cameron Diaz, Justin Timberlake, Jason Segal and Morgan Freeman. Mercedes also served as the in house red carpet correspondent for numerous film festivals. She conducted interviews for the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival, (LALIFF) where she interviewed Oscar-Winning director Alejandro González Iñárritu and at the red carpet of the American Film Institute Film Festival, (AFI) where she interviewed celebrities such as Will Ferrell and Halle Berry.

Kaitlin Sprague

Kaitlin Sprague

Kaitlin Sprague is a New Jersey native from Hopewell Borough. She earned her bachelor degree from Syracuse University in 2015 and majored in Communication and Rhetorical Studies. In an effort to realize her career potential and with a combined interest in documentaries, Kaitlin decided to pursue graduate school. She is looking forward to continuing her studies at NYU and excited for the opportunities that News and Doc will present to her.

Ying Lu

Ying Lu

Ying Lu recently got her B.A. from Jinan University, majoring in Journalism. Her first two years at college taught her much about the field. She worked as a journalist and design editor with the campus newspaper. Instead of their typical campus events news coverage, Ying did a story about student travel. The conversations with interviewees about their inner perspectives from their experiences encouraged her to pursue in-depth coverage. Later, Ying went to Halifax, NS to study, where she met with an independent documentary filmmaker and participated in the production of a short documentary. Witnessing the storytelling power of moving images, Ying determined to pursue her future career as a documentary filmmaker.

Ying interned at Nanfang Daily, Guangdong TV, China Daily and China News Service. Internship experiences in different media gave her a clearer look at how the industry works in China. She wants to be a storyteller, telling stories of different cultures, especially those who are neglected and marginalized.

Hafeel Farisz

Hafeel Farisz

Hafeel Farisz is an Attorney-at-Law and a journalist at Sri Lankas leading English daily- The Daily Mirror and its corresponding website- the highest viewed English news site in Sri Lanka. He joined the newspaper while in high school and has been a key reporter/journalist for both the newspaper and its website since the inception of his career in journalism. As an attorney practicing in the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka he’s been involved in some of the leading and controversial litigation in Sri Lanka including the case of the British Tourist who was arrested with a Buddha tattoo, the Aluthgama racial riots and the Golden Key debacle which made headlines in Sri Lanka and the region.

Hafeel is also a graduate in International Relations. He is a keen follower of adventure sports, given his background as a sportsman having played both Rugby and Cricket and as a President Scout. He also is also a passionate debater and mooter having represented the first Sri Lankan team to compete at the World School Debating Championships, and is a keen follower of theater. He is an avid reader of social processes and has a keen interest in the transformation and evolution in human thinking and its evolution. Hafeel enjoys all kinds of music especially the covers played with acoustics on a Saturday night.

Valerie Theofanis

Valerie Theofanis

Valerie Theofanis was born in Manhattan, and raised in Queens, New York. She graduated magna cum laude from Marymount Manhattan College with a Bachelors of Arts in 2015. She majored in Communication and Media Arts and minored in Business. As an undergraduate at MMC, Valerie traveled to 13 different countries, and lived in both Italy and Australia for two semesters. Her passion for travel and culture sparked her interest in travel journalism, where she interned as an editorial writer for two travel websites. While she enjoys writing, her interest in television and news began after interning at ABC, CBS, and NY1 News. Valerie currently works as a freelance news assistant at NY1 News. She also has a background in the health and sciences, working at a pharmacy for three years. She is excited to start at NYU, where she hopes to express her diverse knowledge and background into a visual platform. When she is not consumed with work, Valerie enjoys painting, baking, exercising, and spending countless hours on Pinterest.