October 14, 2014
by Notre Dame de Namur University

Opening Doors: Women in Science

“If we’re going to out-innovate and out-educate the rest of the world, we’ve got to open doors for everyone. We need all hands on deck, and that means clearing hurdles for women and girls as they navigate careers in science, technology, engineering, and math.”

First Lady Michelle Obama, September 26, 2011

Female student with professor in science labCollege degrees and jobs in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) are all the rage right now. The jobs aren’t just exciting; they’re growing as well:

  • STEM grads have a lower unemployment rate than non-STEM grads (see She Geeks infographic)
  • The growth in STEM jobs in the past 10 years was three times greater than that of non-STEM jobs (see Edutopia infographic)
  • And that growth isn’t stopping: STEM jobs are projected to grow 17 percent from 2008-2018; non-STEM jobs are only projected to grow 9.8 percent
  • The payoff for STEM jobs is greater: STEM majors who go on to work in STEM jobs earn 20 percent more than non-STEM majors in non-STEM jobs (read report)

But another hot topic is gender inequality in the workplace, and the story is no different in STEM fields. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, while women make up almost half of the workforce in the United States, they have less than 25 percent of STEM jobs, despite the fact that more college-educated women have joined the workforce. However, women with STEM jobs earn 33 percent more than women in non-STEM jobs, and gap between compensation for men and women in STEM fields is less than in other areas.

With all the potential that is available to women in STEM, why aren’t there as many women pursuing STEM careers? In “Women in STEM: A Gender Gap To Innovation,” gender stereotyping and a lack of female role models are cited as a couple of the reasons for the discrepancy.

At Notre Dame de Namur University, there’s no shortage of female role models within our Department of Natural Sciences. We caught up with Natural Sciences faculty Melissa McAlexander, Ph.D., and Rachel Shellabarger, MS, to get their perspective on women in science.

Why did you pursue science?

MM: I was the kid who always loved science – it seemed like fun. My high school biology teacher had a particularly strong influence on me. She really encouraged me, and probably helped me understand for the first time that I could pursue science as a career.

RS: I think the case for myself and a lot of my colleagues was that we found topics we liked and stuck with them because we were passionate about them. As a more general trend, however, I think the scientific process is a way of thinking that works in all realms of life, and perhaps those of us that end up in scientific fields really appreciate that process.

Why is it important for women to work in science?

RS: It’s important for people to go into fields they are interested in and passionate about, regardless of their background/demographic. Science thrives on a range of diverse opinions, and we want the scientific field to be representative of our population as a whole. As with many other fields, there has been a history of excluding women (and other groups) from various parts of science, so we of course want to move toward a future where no group is excluded from a field because of demographics.

MM: In any field, having women as part of the team increases the diversity of ideas and experiences at the table. The process of science benefits when different perspectives are represented in the approaches we take. No gender or ethnicity (or any other way of classifying people) does science “better” than another. But the more we engage the whole of the population in science, the better science gets.

What advice would you give to a student who wants to pursue science?

RS: A career in science requires lots of hard work to understand course material, research protocols/findings, and the broader impact of science on society. Every individual’s background prepares them for scientific inquiry in different ways, and it’s important to understand the skills you bring with you, as well as the skills you need to work to improve.

MM: Go for it, if it is a fit with your interests, skills, and passion. You need to love the process of doing science, of gaining new understandings about the world, and/or of making something beneficial to society. There’s loads of fascinating questions being asked in laboratories in all fields these days – find an area you’re passionate for learning about, and dive in deep. Be ready to be challenged – to try something no one has ever done before, to learn new techniques, and to repeat something challenging until you perfect it.

Science: Where Can You Go and How Do You Get There?

When it comes to science-related job opportunities, the sky’s the limit. There are a number of jobs in clinical or research laboratories that do not necessarily require graduate degrees. Scientists in these positions are trying to answer many different questions that can have a direct impact on our lives. But not all scientists work in the lab — many companies are looking for knowledgeable employees to help with product development or provide technical customer service. These opportunities are available in a variety of fields, including molecular biology, biochemistry, health care and environmental science.

You may find working in science education may be more your speed. From university professor to grade school teacher to after-school science programs and museum education programs, there are many ways you can help pass on knowledge to the next generation of inquiring minds. Melissa McAlexander worked at The Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose before coming to Notre Dame de Namur University. “It was a fabulous way of thinking about how to engage the public with science,” says McAlexander. “And man, was it fun!”

There are a number of scholarships available for women interested in studying science in college; here are a couple of web resources to get you started on your search:

Notre Dame de Namur University offers undergraduate degrees within the natural sciences — biochemistry, biology and kinesiology — as well as minors in biology, biochemistry, chemistry and environmental justice. A Bachelor of Science from NDNU will prepare you for the many exciting opportunities in science.

August 26, 2014
by Notre Dame de Namur University

Nonprofits are big business. Qualified leaders are in high demand!

People in meetingThere has been a lot of discussion and research lately about the demand for organizational workers and leaders in the nonprofit sector. But, did you know that the nonprofit sector also grew faster — in terms of employees and wages — than both business and government combined?

Approximately 2.3 million nonprofit organizations currently operate in the United States, representing the third largest workforce of U.S. industry. In 2012 alone, public charities reported over $1.65 trillion in total revenues and $1.57 trillion in total expenses, accounting for 5.5% of the nation’s total GDP.

Figure 5: Anticipated Job Growth in Specific Areas by Year

Approximately one-third of nonprofits surveyed anticipate growth in the area of direct services (36%), program management/support (31%), and fundraising/development (31%) in 2013. As seen in figure 5, the percentage of organizations anticipating job growth increased from a year ago – and dramatically from two years ago – in all areas, with one exception, marketing/ communications/ public relations. Source: http://www.nonprofithr.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/2013-Employment-Trends-Survey-Report.pdf

Figure 2: Plans to Create New Positions and Eliminate Positions and/or Gradually Reduce Staff in 2013 by Organization Type

This graph illustrates which fields anticipate the greatest increase in positions. Over half of health (62%), environment and animals (56%), education (53%), and faith-based (53%) organizations surveyed indicated that they plan to create new positions this year. In their projections to 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics findings support the increase in health care positions; they predict that employment in the health care and social assistance sectors will generate the largest number of jobs at an annual rate of 3%, which is the largest rate of all major employment sectors. Source: http://www.nonprofithr.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/2013-Employment-Trends-Survey-Report.pdf

Exceptional leaders are in demand in the nonprofit sector.

According to Nonprofit HR Solutions, clients respond to the significant economic changes of the recent three to four years by maximizing efficiencies in infrastructure and operations and putting an even greater focus on the direct services work that influences resource development strategies. In this regard, all areas of nonprofit business that resonate with funders have greater opportunity to be highlighted and funded for further growth. That said, continued organizational growth and mission advancement requires a proportionate response in terms of infrastructure and operational support.

Job outlook by role.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, many of the roles Master’s of Public Administration (MPA) graduates pursue will see double-digit growth in employment between 2010 and 2020.

  • Human Resources Manager – 14%
  • Social Scientists and Related Workers – 18%
  • Urban and Regional Planners – 16%
  • Social and Community Service Managers – 27%
  • Medical and Health Services Manager – 22%
  • Public Relations Managers and Specialists – 21%
  • Management Analysts – 22%
  • Business and Financial Operations – 17%
  • Training and Development Managers – 15%
  • Operations Research Analysts – 15%

Learn how a Masters in Public Administration gets you the job.

According to the nonprofits that participated in the survey conducted by the Nonprofit Finance Fund, highly-trained organizational leaders are needed, now more than ever, in order to meet the growing demand for services and implement a wide range of goals: most importantly long-term financial sustainability.

This broad, yet flexible degree, allows you to instantly pursue many promising and well-paying job opportunities in a number of high demand and growth fields.

Fortunately there are programs to choose from to obtain an MPA, either with and online or an onground program through Notre Dame de Namur University (NDNU). A Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree from (NDNU) can help advance your career by preparing you for a wide variety of job opportunities across multiple industries, including government and private sectors.

Founded in 1851 by the Sisters of Notre Dame (originally from Namur, Belgium), Notre Dame de Namur University (NDNU) is an accredited Catholic, not-for-profit university in the San Francisco Bay Area in Silicon Valley. The University offers a welcoming, accessible learning environment anchored by dedicated professors who are committed to guide students both in their academic pursuits and career development.

April 24, 2014
by Notre Dame de Namur University

The Demand for Teachers is Increasing in California

If you want a career in teaching, now is the time to pursue it!


Between 2007 and 2011, California’s education system experienced massive budget cuts and laid off more than 30,000 teachers — mostly the newly hired with little experience in the field.

As a result, the more experienced, credentialed teachers secured jobs that were otherwise geared for newly credentialed teachers. This created a significant age gap in the teaching workforce.

Today, a significant number of experienced, older teachers are retiring. Because most educators retire between ages 57 and 66, the state is in the midst of a retirement wave that’s expected to continue to swell. Four out of 10 California educators were older than 50 in 2009-10. (Read more)

At the same time, the number of teaching credentials issued in California has decreased dramatically according to a new report from the CTC.

  • For the ninth consecutive year the total number of new teaching credentials issued has decreased.
  • New teaching credentials have decreased 30 percent over the past five years.

Source: Teacher Supply in California, 2012-13

Jobs are becoming available once again.

In addition to increased teacher retirement, California’s population continues to grow faster than the rate that schools are able to hire new teachers. In a statewide report, the California Department of Finance anticipates K-12 enrollment to reach 6.3 million students.


In a special report published by the San Jose Mercury News, a UC Riverside professor argued, “California is facing a severe teacher shortage and deserves the attention of young people, parents, universities and policy makers now more than ever.”

What subject areas are in demand?

In addition to the number of teachers needed, many school districts are having difficulty hiring qualified teachers in subject areas such as mathematics, science, art, music, bilingual education and foreign languages. Qualified vocational teachers are also in demand in a variety of fields at both the middle school and secondary school levels.

How do I get started?

Only a few universities in California now offer blended programs for undergraduates to complete a bachelor’s and a credential in as little as four years. Notre Dame de Namur University (NDNU) is one of the few colleges in California with this option, with a strong reputation for excellence in teacher education programs.

If you already have a bachelor’s degree and are interested in a credential, you can start this as early as May to complete by fall 2015.

If you are just getting started, a new accelerated blended Liberal Studies program now offered through NDNU is designed for students to finish a BA and credential in as little as four years. Providing early fieldwork experiences in education, the program’s structured advising allows for successful job placement by graduation.

That saves an additional year or two of classes and gives first year students an opportunity to gain fieldwork experience right away.

If you want to fast-track your teaching career while receiving a quality education with valuable experience, find out more about the program.

There are special grants and financial aid available for students going into teaching, so make sure to explore these opportunities for assistance in paying for college.

March 5, 2014
by Isabelle Haithcox

How to Make Textbooks More Affordable for College

One innovative way a university department has approached the challenge.

Student with booksI knew there was a problem when the textbook I had assigned for one of my chemistry classes was listed at $325 in the bookstore. It was the book that our department had been using for more than a decade, but the latest edition had just come out and the list price was $270. I encouraged my students to use the previous edition and to find used copies, and I thought everything was fine. The following year, I was no longer teaching the course, but the same textbook was being used. I wondered how students were affording the book, but I didn’t give it too much thought until several of them came to my office. When they asked for help solving problems, I pulled out my copy of the textbook, opened it to the relevant section, and showed them how to use the information provided to answer the question.  The students seemed surprised that the information they needed was readily available in the textbook. At first I was worried that the students weren’t bothering to open the book. I found that hard to believe so I finally started asking them if they had a copy of the textbook. They were embarrassed, but finally admitted that they hadn’t been able to purchase the book and were trying to make do with the copy on reserve at the library, or trying to share with friends. At that point, I became determined to find a way to help our students.

Thanks to funds that became available from an HSI-STEM grant received from the Department of Education, we were able to use part of those funds to establish a textbook lending program. I knew that this would go a long way toward helping our students with the basic supplies they needed for success, and also align with the main goal of the project, which is to support student learning.

First, the department had to determine which courses we would buy textbooks for. We wanted books that could be reused for several years so we chose to target the basic courses, the ones in which the students build their foundations for their upper division classes. Next we had to determine the number of copies that needed to be purchased and where to get them. We found that the easiest and most cost-effective thing for us to do was to buy the books directly from the publishers.

Purchasing the books was an adventure. Most publishers are used to receiving orders from bookstores, not a faculty member. It took more time than I ever imagined to determine the correct ordering protocol for each publisher. I then had to get multiple signatures at NDNU before placing each order. Finally, all of the orders were placed and only one title was on back-order.

The textbooks started coming in and then the real fun began! We had mountains of books (602 books to be exact) that had to be labeled and sorted. We had originally hoped to run the lending program through the library, but since that was not possible, we decided to house it in the Chemistry Lab. We made labels with a unique ID number for each book. We then had to place the labels on the books, create a check-out form, and have all of the books ready to go by the beginning of the semester. And as though we needed more pressure, we had to make sure the books were checked out within the first few days of the semester so that the Chemistry Lab would then be usable for its real purpose: as a lab!

Miraculously, it all worked out. The first few days of checking out textbooks were very hectic and sometimes we had lines of students out the door and down the hallway, but we were able to provide the books to students in 16 different math and science classes (10 different titles). The students were very patient and thankful as they checked out the books. They were all very polite and thanked us over and over. It was a great feeling to know that we were able to provide this basic resource for them.

In their first semester at Notre Dame de Namur University in Fall 2013, freshmen majoring in science saved about $370 through the Textbook Lending Program. By their second semester, most science majors will have saved about $577.  That is a considerable savings!

There are still some basic costs for students since some courses require using an online homework system and NDNU is not able to provide online access codes for all of the courses, but these costs are definitely more manageable ranging from $30- $85 for online access depending on the course.

If you are an NDNU undergraduate student who cannot afford the cost of your math or science books, please contact me at ihaithcox@ndnu.edu. We are here to help provide access to the education you deserve.

Isabelle Haithcox, Ph.D. is a Professor of Chemistry in the Natural Sciences Department and Project Director of Developing Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSI) Program – STEM Grant at Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont, CA.

January 14, 2014
by Notre Dame de Namur University

Accounting is hip and sexy these days!

Want a career where people are interested in what you have to say and offer? How about a job that is in demand while making good money? Do you want the flexibility to be self employed, work for a government organization or a large corporation?

Accounting is more than just crunching numbers these days and can actually be an interesting and lucrative career. Here are five popular career paths for accountants:

  1. International Accountant: Accounting isn’t all about office work. International accountants get to travel to faraway places and work with people all over the globe.
  2. Forensic Accountant: Forensic accountants go wherever the money takes them, investigating financial crimes and insurance fraud on behalf of companies and public law enforcement agencies.
  3. IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agent: Embezzlement, extortion and even murder are just a few of the crimes that IRS criminal investigation special agents uncover as a result of their scrutiny, according to the agency’s website.
  4. Comptrollers: Sometimes called controllers, they are in charge of an organization’s or governments purse strings, and closely watch all outgoing and incoming finances. Chief accountant is another way to describe the position. It’s a big responsibility to have, not to mention a pretty cool one as well.
  5. Chief Financial Officer: Forget about CEOs. As far as Wall Street is concerned, CFOs are the real kings of corporate America. CFOs are responsible for a company’s financial goals and budgets. In a publicly traded company, they are accountable for the organization’s financial reporting. The possibilities are endless!

Make sure you check out the Bachelor of Science in Accounting at Notre Dame de Namur University to help provide you with a strong foundation in business, highly valued by business employers. A major in accounting will allow you to meet the necessary academic requirements needed to take the professional Certified Public Accounting (CPA) examination.

December 13, 2013
by Notre Dame de Namur University

Public or Private College? Getting the best return on your investment.

As parents and students look at the rising costs of higher education, many have debated whether attending a private university in California is worth the expense. Here are some factors to consider:

Fact or Fiction?
Public Universities + Grants + Loans = Affordable Opportunities

Community colleges are seen as opportunities for immediate career placement, or cost-saving measures for students with ambitions to transfer to a four-year institution. The total average cost of completing an AA degree in two years at a California community college was estimated to be $5,000. Students see this as an affordable opportunity to achieve a meaningful income. 

For undergraduates considering the CSU or UC system, there is a wide-spread belief that they save on cost in the long-run versus a private education. Publicized access to grants and loans coupled with projected overall cost of attendance by the CSU and UC systems creates this expectation.

What are the financial risks of enrolling in a public institution?

Public colleges and universities are frequently targets for state cost cutting. California has seen a $1.5 billion cut to higher education between 2007-2008 and 2011-2012.

These cuts are significant and:

  1. Impact ability to offer merit scholarships to students
  2. Increase tuition rates on students, both in-state and out-of-state
  3. Reduce the size of faculty
  4. Create a shortage of class offerings year-round
  5. Generate large class sizes
  6. Result in longer delays to graduation

Students in public institutions are acquiring more risk and debt than anticipated.

Theoretically, students attending a community college should be able to complete their degree or transfer in as little as two to three years.

According to EdSource.org, only 52% of students in the California community college system seeking a degree, certificate or transfer, succeed after SIX years (spending an additional average $15,000 or more).

Some reports show completion rates taking as long as EIGHT years.

The National Center for Education Statistics shows an average matriculation rate for students starting at a four-year public institution is 72 months (six years) from first year of enrollment.

Private vs Public Grad Rates

© Independent California Colleges & Universities (AICCU), 2013


Aside from delays in graduation, students must work harder to be their own skilled advocate and find the external support they need to attain their degree goals. This includes ongoing access to information and advising on financial aid procedures and career mentoring. Transfer students also must keep up with changing admission standards for four-year colleges to acquire the necessary prerequisites to transfer (i.e. specific class units or an AA degree). This can sometimes be the biggest challenge. Many transfer students find that not all their coursework credits from their community college are equal to the coursework credits of the four-year public school counterpart. Private colleges have more flexibility on transferable coursework than the UC’s or CSU’s do.

Fact or Fiction?
Private Universities + Grants + Loans = Costly Opportunities

VIDEO: 9 Myths about Private Nonprofit Higher Education

Publicized access to grants and loans coupled with projected overall cost of attendance at private universities often creates “sticker shock”.  Although the initial shock gives the impression private education is too costly, it may be the more affordable option.

Oftentimes the published rates are rarely what students end up paying. According to the Council of Independent Colleges:

“Independent colleges and universities give students more than six times as much grant aid as does the federal government”.

Private universities are constantly working to find the best incentives for their students. They want to create lasting relationships. Whether you are a first-generation student, a top achiever or a high-need student, private universities invest time and resources to get to know you and to ensure that hard work outside the classroom is equally acknowledged when awarding scholarships.

Undergrads Receiving Financial Aid- Independent Colleges source

© The Council on Independent Colleges, 2013.

Discount Rates for Private UniversitiesThe key to getting the most for your money is to inquire with the private universities about scholarships, grants and discounts available to you.  Search outside scholarships.

Most private universities have the flexibility of offering an average tuition discount rate of 45% (sometimes more) to help offset the cost of your private education.

As a result, nearly one-third of bachelor’s students were able to graduate without any educational debt in 2012.

At the graduate level, the average student loan debt accrued is $22,380 – about $4,000 less than the national student debt level quoted by the Obama administration.

What are the risks with enrolling in a private institution?

Private universities may at times change their discount rates for various reasons, they do not however, run into the same issues that public institutions often face with state cost-cutting measures. Be sure to inquire with the Financial Aid Office for opportunities available to you.

Fewer years of paying tuition often means a quicker start at earning a salary.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average graduation time for students in private universities is 50 months (4.2 years) from start to finish.

When calculating the true cost of college, it is important to consider the opportunity cost of delayed income in addition to the potential expense of an extra semester or year.

How private universities benefit the student:

  • Getting into classes = finishing sooner
  • Relevant majors + internships = great jobs
  • Small class sizes = personal attention
  • Guaranteed one-on-one advising = quality education

Consider if you graduated in four years instead of six, you could potentially be making $40,000/year, times two years, and be $80,000 ahead!

Note to Transfer Students:

Private universities each have their own transfer crediting methods. Some universities don’t require an AA degree completion to start classes, others may not allow you to retain all the credits earned at the community college level.

Check with an admissions counselor to ensure your classes are transferable. Click below to set up an appointment.


August 28, 2013
by Johnny Villar

“The Count’s Daughter” Wins Best Acting @ 2013 IYSFF!

Hello NDNU community!

For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Johnny Villar. I’m a theatre major in my senior year here at NDNU (as of today, as a matter of fact), and I’m thrilled to have been given the opportunity to write a blog entry about my latest and greatest short film, The Count’s Daughter, which I’m extremely  happy to say won the award for “Best Acting”  in the 2013 International Youth Silent Film Festival in Portland, Oregon, over the summer!

(The film can be seen on the home page of my website: www.johnnyvillar.com)

Now, as I’m sure you can tell, The Count’s Daughter is very much a tribute to the great silent comedies of the 1920′s, and is heavily influenced by the films of Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and (in particular in this case) Harold Lloyd. I’ve always been a huge fan of silent cinema, and, when I first found out about the International Youth Silent Film Festival last year, I knew that it was something I simply couldn’t pass up!

As a matter of fact, before I explain just how I came to win “Best Acting” in this year’s IYSFF, I should probably explain that this isn’t the first filmmaking award I’ve won, nor is it the first award I’ve won for a silent film…

You see, before I transferred to NDNU last year, I was a student at College of San Mateo for two years, where I was lucky enough to win both the 2011 and 2012 CSM ‘What the Film’ (WTF) Festivals (the first of which just so happened to take place the year I started there)! In the 2011 festival, my short silent film The Bicycle (also a tribute to the great silent comedians) won in the “Parody” category (there being three different categories per year), and, in the 2012 festival, my short film The Raven, an adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s legendary poem of the same name, won in the “Adaptation” category, making me the only CSM student as yet to have won the student film festival two years in a row!

Now, around the same time as I was shooting The Raven in the spring of 2012 (and while I was simultaneously appearing in NDNU Theatre’s spring 2012 production of Our Town, my second production at NDNU, prior to being a student there), I came across a film festival while browsing online one day called the International Youth Silent Film Festival, which, as I read, took place in Portland, Oregon, and was, at that time, about to go into its third year. The challenge of the festival, as I read on, was for filmmakers age 20 and under to create a 3-minute silent film set to one of the festival’s six pre-recorded organ soundtracks, each one of which represents a different genre (Romance, Action, Horror, Slapstick, Mystery, Science Fiction).

Naturally, I was quite  intrigued, and, after selecting the ‘Mystery’ theme as my soundtrack, I began working on my first IYSFF entry, 2012′s The Box Vanishes, a sequel to my 2011 CSM award-winner The Bicycle, and which, like that previous film, was shot around my neighborhood in Foster City, but which was a bit more influenced by the “film noir” genre than its predecessor.

A few weeks after submitting it, I was thrilled to receive a notice in the mail one day telling me that The Box Vanishes had been selected as one of the Top 45 finalists in the 2012 IYSFF, meaning that it was going to be played at one of the three screening nights taking place at the Hollywood Theatre in Portland, Oregon, in May of 2012! Of course, I was extremely excited about this, despite the  fact that I wasn’t going to be able to attend the screening night for my film, due to it being right in the middle of my final examinations week at CSM (and, as it eventually turned out, the film was not nominated for any of the 2012 awards).

Nevertheless, when 2013 rolled around, I knew that I had to give the IYSFF one more shot, since it was my last year before turning 21, and, therefore, my last chance to take advantage of such a wonderful opportunity as the International Youth Silent Film Festival provides to young filmmakers.

Thus, in the spring of 2013, I began work on my fourth short film, and one which I was determined to have my greatest success yet with: The Count’s Daughter.

Choosing the ‘Slapstick’ theme this time, I envisioned The Count’s Daughter as being largely an homage to the great silent comedian Harold Lloyd, but, at the same time, I wanted it to be a cinematic reflection of my own personality, which is a big part of the reason why I chose to go with the ‘Slapstick’ soundtrack, since its upbeat and energetic style mirrored how my own mood had been since I had begun NDNU.

I also knew from the very beginning of my figuring out what the concept of  the film would be that I wanted one of my fellow NDNU theatre majors to appear in it, and I soon realized that there could be no better choice for the title role of the count’s daughter (Catherine Darkov) than the beautiful and exceptionally talented Margaret Gorrell, whose unique, classy acting style (which recalls movie actresses of the 1920′s and 30′s) made her the perfect choice for the part, which, after offering to her, she accepted!

I had appeared with Margaret previously in four NDNU Theatre productions, two prior to my attending NDNU (2011′s A Christmas Carol and Our Town) and two as a full-fledged NDNU theatre major (Hay Fever and 2012′s A Christmas Carol). When we began shooting The Count’s Daughter in April of 2013, Margaret and I were both in the midst of rehearsals for the theatre department’s spring production of Twelfth Night, and would often shoot right after rehearsals in the afternoon. The film was shot entirely on the beautiful NDNU campus, and prominently features Ralston Hall (which, interestingly, I also used two years ago as the setting for my short story The Door Beside the Stairs, which won 1st place in the “Fiction” category of the Foster City International Writers Contest in 2011) as the setting of Count’s Darkov’s home. I’ve always been fascinated by the beauty of the NDNU campus, and wanted to really show off some of my favorite parts of it in this film.

My decision to play two characters  is a personal nod of mine to some of my favorite movies, such as Kind Hearts and Coronets and Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove, in which the same actor plays multiple roles, a device I’ve always loved! The two characters I played in the film, furthermore, are both tributes to two my favorite actors of the 1920′s: Billy being a tribute to Harold Lloyd, and Count Darkov being a tribute to Erich von Stroheim.

I was editing The Count’s Daughter right up to the deadline (as I often do with almost everything), at one point even bringing my laptop computer into the men’s dressing room during rehearsals and performances for Twelfth Night, editing pieces of the film before going onstage.

Nevertheless, I still managed to get it in on time, and, just a few weeks later (in fact, the first day of my summer break), I looked on the official IYSFF Facebook page to discover, to my utter joy, that The Count’s Daughter had made it into the Top 45 for the 2013 International Youth Silent Film Festival, and that the film would be screened on May 23rd at the Hollywood Theatre in Portland, Oregon (exactly one year to the day after The Box Vanishes was screened), making it my second year in a row of getting in to the Top 45 for this festival! Needless to say, I was extremely thrilled!

Throughout the rest of that wonderful month of May, several more strokes of good fortune came my way, such as when I learned that I had been nominated once again to compete in the Irene Ryan Acting Competition, for my performance as Feste the Fool in Twelfth Night, in the 2014 American College Theater Festival (another ‘second-time-in-a-row’ score for me, as I had also been nominated in the 2013 ACTF for my performance as Simon Bliss in Hay Fever). I also found out that I had received a special Meritorious Achievement Recognition by ACTF for the original pop-rock renditions of Shakespearean songs that I wrote and performed as part of Twelfth Night! These achievements, in addition to my having won NDNU’s first-ever “Argo Idol” singing competition during the previous spring semester, led me to believe that 2013 was shaping up to be my most artistically successful year as yet!

Though, sadly, I was once again unable to attend the screening night for my film, my nerves for the rest of that evening and the following morning were such that I was practically there in spirit, as I painfully looked repeated times at both the IYSFF website and official Facebook page, trying to find out which of the 45 films had been announced as the winners. You see, at the end each screening night, during which 15 of the films are screened per night, the films from that night that had been decided as winners by the celebrity judges are announced.

By the next morning, however, I still hadn’t received any notice about whether or not The Count’s Daughter had been named as one of the winners, and, thus, thinking I had once again not made it, I made a melancholy trip to the NDNU chapel later that afternoon, where I often go to contemplate and reflect in such moments of confusion, in order to ask God for His guidance through what I thought was going to be a very difficult time. I wondered why He had not answered my prayer, especially when I had put so much effort and hope into a film that I believed was surely my best yet (Oh, if I’d only known what was about to happen…)

Then, as I was still in this state of sadness, I walked from the chapel down the path over to the NDNU Library, sat down at a desk in the corner, and opened my laptop to Facebook. And there, in the top left corner, was the sign that there was a message in my inbox. I clicked on it…

It was no illusion; I, who just minutes before had been in the depths of sadness and thinking my film had failed, HAD ACTUALLY WON ONE OF THE 2013 INTERNATIONAL YOUTH SILENT FILM FESTIVAL AWARDS FOR MY FILM THE COUNT’S DAUGHTER!

It was the most joyously surreal moment of my life, as I sat there in the NDNU Library reading this message over and over again, I realized that God had answered my prayer after all! I realized then how silly I had been to have been so saddened over what I thought was a missed opportunity, when I should have known all along (having seen His miracles worked time and time again throughout my life) to always trust in Him! If ever there was a moment where Jesus was standing right alongside me smiling over me, it was on that day at that moment in the NDNU Library!

Of course, the first thing I did, as Ned Thanhouser (who, by the way, is one of the organizers and founders of the IYSFF, who also updates of the official IYSFF facebook page) told me to do, was email Jon “JP” Palanuk, who is the main founder of the International Youth Silent Film Festival, and who, upon replying, congratulated me and gave me all the details about the awards ceremony, which he told me would be taking place on June 6th, 2013 (the day after my 21st birthday), at the Hollywood Theatre in Portland, Oregon! Furthermore, he told me that, as an award finalist, I was confirmed to have won one of the eight award presented by the IYSFF (1st Place: $1000, 2nd Place: $500, 3rd Place: $250, Best Acting, Best Editing, Best Cinematography, Best Story), which would be revealed to me at the awards ceremony!

Naturally, I was beyond thrilled, and though I hadn’t been previously able to attend the screening nights for either this or last year’s festival, I would not have missed the 2013 IYSFF awards ceremony for anything in the world, needless to say, especially now having been told that I would definitely be presented with an award!

Thus, on June 6th, after a very pleasant 21st birthday with my family, my dad and I flew from SFO to Portland, arriving  just two hours before the awards ceremony was supposed to begin (due to our flight being delayed by an hour-and-a-half). I’ll never forget how excited I was the whole way there, though! Here I was, having just turned 21, and off to accept an award in another state for a short film that I shot at my school (what a way to kick-off my “adult years”)! I began to reflect on just how fortunate I was, and thought back to a time when I was 19, when I used to be afraid that, if I hadn’t accomplished anything artistically successful outside of California by the time I was 21, I would be disappointed in myself. But here, just one day late, I had done exactly that, and couldn’t be more thrilled!

We arrived in Portland at about 5:00, and to make a long and stressful story short, after much more waiting and panicking on my part (due to both our shuttle and our cab being late), we finally pulled up in front of the Hollywood Theatre in Downtown Portland…at 6:55! The awards ceremony as supposed to start at 7, so we had just made it! (Boy, was I stressed.)

Fortunately, however everything from then on out that evening went smoothly! The Count’s Daughter was screened (along with all the other winning films in this year’s IYSFF, and with live organ accompaniment), and received a terrific response, the house being packed with people! As I watched it, with the live organ accompaniment of the “Slapstick” soundtrack being played by the composer of all the IYSFF film scores, Nathan Avakian, I thanked God for the incredible good fortune I had, and thanked him for guiding me every step of the way to get me to this point. Sitting there in the Hollywood Theatre watching The Count’s Daughter up on that great big beautiful screen was one of the great thrills of my life!

When the film had finished playing, it being the last finalist shown that evening, the announcer asked all of the winners to crowd up on the stage! At last, it was time to find out what I had won! I looked over to where my dad was sitting, and then looked out to all the faces in the audience staring back up at me and my fellow filmmakers! I couldn’t believe this was all really happening!

The first award given out was the Audience Award, and then JP said the second award would be “Best Acting”, which, as he explained to the audience, was presented by Portland Center Stage, which I later discovered is the city’s leading professional theatre company.

And then, just as he was about to announce who the winner was, a sudden memory flashed into my mind: I remembered, on the last day Margaret and I were shooting The Count’s Daughter, filming the scene in the grotto, I remarked to her that I was trying to win the “Best Acting” award this year at the IYSFF.

And sure enough…


The award I had wanted so much to win, and the one which I had told Margaret I was hoping to win, was now mine!

I shook hands with JP, who gave me a hearty congratulations, and then handed me both my beautiful plaque and another envelope with my name on it. He then turned to the audience and explained how I had flown all the way up from the Bay Area to make it to the awards ceremony, to which the whole audience responded with great cheers and applause! I was a truly emotional moment for me!

The ceremony then proceeded with the awards for Best Story, Best Editing, Best Cinematography, and then the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners, all of which I thought were very well-deserved! I, of course, was still so absorbed with my own “Best Acting” win that I was hardly even aware of what was going on around me!

While the other awards were being announced, I took a look inside the envelope JP had given me, which contained a letter from the Artistic & Education staff of Portland Center Stage, who had granted me the “Best Acting” award! They gave me some very nice compliments about The Count’s Daughter: “You excelled at capturing the unique acting style of silent film, while always keeping the focus, and a critical eye, on telling a good story. We were also impressed with your comedic skills and the distinction given to portraying multiple characters. Well done!”

In addition to this, for my prize, they gave me two complimentary tickets to upcoming productions at both the Berkeley Repertory Theatre and the American Conservatory Theater! This portion of the prize, in particular, was very meaningful to me, since I originally had been worried that, if I won anything, the prize would be for something based in Oregon, which, obviously, would have been hard for me to use. But, thankfully, Portland Center Stage was nice enough to work out a prize for me with these two great Bay Area theatre companies, which I am extremely grateful for!

Afterwards, we went out to dinner with the rest of the IYSFF organizers. This part of the trip made it particularly special, especially since I was the was the only filmmaker to have been invited (probably because me and my dad had come such a long way to make it to the awards ceremony)!

Winning the Portland Center Stage award for “Best Acting” at the 2013 International Youth Silent Film Festival is perhaps my greatest achievement to date. It is the first acting award I’ve ever won, and the first award I’ve ever won outside of California. Even more than this, it meant a great deal to me that the award was granted by Portland’s leading theatre company, since Margaret Gorrell and I both, after all, come from the NDNU Theatre.

Though my dad and I spent only less than 24 hours in Portland, the combination of both my winning “Best Acting” and the awards ceremony and dinner with the organizers of the IYSFF made it one of the most memorable trips of my life! Furthermore, I’m glad that it was The Count’s Daughter that made it all happen, as I really believe it is the best thing I’ve ever done in any area of art!

To put it simply, it was the best 21st birthday present I could’ve ever dreamed of.

It’s also quite fitting that I’m writing a blog about this now, since The Count’s Daughter is going to be screened two times this very weekend at the annual NDNU Theatre Festival, which runs for its final weekend this Thursday (August 29th), Friday (August 30th), and Saturday (August 31st), at the NDNU Theatre! The film is going to be shown on Friday night, in addition to being screened Saturday afternoon at a special children’s matinee, where I’m also going to be appearing as The Jester (continuing my ever-growing streak of playing eccentric characters) in a short children’s play called A Foolish Fairytale.

In addition to this, also as part of the festival, my directorial debut in the theatre will be playing on Thursday and Saturday night: a live radio drama called Pavane, adapted from the brilliant 1940′s horror-fantasy series Quiet, Please, my favorite old-time radio show!

Though, sadly, I will not be present at the festival myself this weekend (aside from appearing in A Foolish Fairytale), due to it being the opening weekend for The Half Moon Bay Shakespeare Company’s production of Hamlet, which I’m appearing in as part of my summer internship requirement for my theatre major, I hope you’ll be able to come down for one of the evening performances of this weekend’s NDNU Theatre Festival, where you can see some of my latest work! Also, if you get a chance, come see Hamlet, opening this weekend at Cameron’s Inn in Half Moon Bay, in which I’ll be appearing as Guildenstern and Osric!

(You can see the full festival schedule for this weekend here: http://www.ndnu.edu/the-arts/theatre/calendar.aspx)

Aside from that, thanks so much for reading this blog entry of mine, and, if I may say so, though today is only the first day of the fall semester, I can already feel that this is going to be an incredible year! Just wait…


April 19, 2013
by Rachel Geibig

Transitions into Adulthood: Figuring out my future

As I approach my last year of college, it’s dawning on me that I am going to have to be a “grown-up” and I feel kind of cheated.

During high school, I made one good decision (thank God) that left me with a handful of college credits. I was extremely grateful that NDNU accepted all but maybe seven of those credits because that put me one year ahead of my classmates.

Who wouldn’t be happy?!

At first, I was ecstatic beyond words. This meant that my parents wouldn’t have to pay for an extra year of school, and I would be out in the business world faster than everyone else. But being a working “adult” sooner than my friends is a lot scarier than I realized.

Coming into college with one year already behind me gave me one less year to figure out what I want to do with myself. When people find out that I’m graduating in two semesters, they ask me “Rachel! What are going to do when you graduate?” I don’t know what to tell them, so I just say that I’m going to move back into my mom’s house and be a couch potato. Little do they know, I’m only half joking. That’s what scares me the most.

I fear I won’t be happy because I have too many interests to choose just one career path. I’ve sat down with a few of my professors about what I can do with my business degree, and they’ve all given me such great advice that I still can’t decide.

The best words of wisdom I’ve received about my future come from my father (but of course I didn’t really listen to him until I heard the same thing from my professor):

“Just get out there and start. Start somewhere – anywhere – and you’re gonna find your niche. You can’t expect to like what you’re doing, but you’ll find it. Just do something.”

I’m really hoping that I find what I’m looking for, but for now, I’ll continue pretending that I know where I’m going.

April 18, 2013
by Rhea Marcelino
1 Comment

From the Halls of NDNU, to the Halls of Prison

I was in prison for a day. Yes, me — a 3-point-something GPA student, who hides behind her glasses a great majority of the time and whose middle name is definitely not “risks.” This past Saturday, April 13, 2013, I was hauled away at approximately 11 o’clock in the morning from the NDNU campus and brought to jail. Why, you ask? All because I signed up at the Student Life and Leadership Office to tour Alcatraz.


For those who don’t know, Alcatraz Island is located in the San Francisco Bay. The island was once home to some of America’s most notorious criminals, including Al “Scarface” Capone and the “Birdman” Robert Stroud. Even to this day, Alcatraz is known as one of world’s most legendary prisons.

Bright and early, Saturday morning, I woke up indecisive. I wasn’t sure if I should take the time to get ready to see if I made it past the wait list for the Alcatraz tour, or if I should just stay in bed. The night before, each person that signed up got a text and e-mail stating that those who had been wait listed should be ready and meet in the school quad by 10:35 to see if we could take the spot of someone who could not make it. I stayed in bed until about 9:40 and finally decided, “why not? I have nothing to lose.”

Dressed in layers, I walked out to the quad. I saw a group of people at a round table and made my way there. “Did I make it?” I asked. “Yes!” Relieved, I took a seat and signed a waiver form. At that point, my day just got a whole lot more interesting. The bus that took us to San Francisco arrived at the school at around 11 a.m. It took a good 35 minutes or so to reach the starting point for the Alcatraz tour.

When I stepped off of the bus, I could feel the beautiful sun on my face. It was a wonderful feeling because if you’ve ever been in the City, you know how cold and foggy it can get there. It was going to be a great day for a tour! At around 1:00 we boarded the ferry for Alcatraz.

Because our group was in the front of the line, when we got the signal that it was okay to start boarding, we booked it to make it to the front of the boat. During our fifteen-minute boat ride there, my view of the island, as well as the city, was amazing. My eyes went from Treasure Island, to the Bay Bridge, to the beautiful city landscape, to the Golden Gate Bridge, and finally, Alcatraz Island. To top off the breathtaking view was the warm weather. I, without a doubt, would have suffered tremendously if we had gone on that tour on a foggy day.

As I stepped off the boat and onto the island, the first thing that I saw was a large rundown yellow brick building. On it is a sign that reads, “United States Penitentiary,” and above that, in bright red, is “INDIANS WELCOME” graffiti on the wall. Once everyone had gotten off of the boat, we all came together in front of that building. After a brief introduction, our group split ways and was given the instructions to make sure that were just back before 3:00 so that we could all leave together.

As we made our way into the “Main Prison,” we were greeted by a man that handed us a set of headphones attached to the device that provided us with our audio tour. Once those headphones were over my ears, I could hear the footsteps of the prisoners that were once there. I could hear the slamming of jail cells. I could hear the whistling and shouting of the officers that once worked there. Throughout the tour, I was given directions of where to look and where to turn. I was shown where the prisoners slept, read, ate and where they went for recreation. I heard stories of prisoners who tried to break out.

During the tour, a former prisoner talked about his experience in the cell. He spoke about how torturous it was to be in a jail that was a mile and a half away from San Francisco. They heard the music and sounds of people laughing and having fun. This stuck with me because that’s when I realized that these prisoners were so close, yet so far from freedom — and they were reminded everyday of it.

After the hour or so tour, we went to the gift shop. I ended up buying a few things for my dad because I thought he would have found Alcatraz to be very interesting, being a former military man and all. The trip itself was very enlightening. It was crazy that I was able to walk through the same halls that some of America’s most notorious prisoners once walked through.

At the end of the day, I was glad that I had decided to get ready that morning. It also helped that everything that happened that afternoon was free  :).

March 20, 2013
by Notre Dame de Namur University

Finish your bachelor’s degree – before your kids do! Learn how …

By Joan L.

I know there are many people like me who never quite finished their degree after spending a couple of years in college. For some it was the need or desire for a paycheck, and for others- well, life just got in the way. Whatever the situation, it can be frustrating and embarrassing to admit to yourself, friends and co-workers that you don’t have a degree.

When I was laid off from a company after working my way up for 13 years, I decided it was time to go back and finish my degree-before my daughter just entering high school started college.

Looking at job opportunities was discouraging without it. I knew my old company paid for tuition and books. Being a working mom, I felt it would have been impossible to take advantage of this and work while finishing college at the same time. If I had only known what I needed to get started and finish, I would have done it years ago.

It took a while to convince myself that going back to school would be worth it. I had so many questions:

  • What would it cost?
  • Would it be flexible enough with my work and home life?
  • Will my credits from community college transfer to a four-year university after all this time?

When I looked into it, I was relieved to find that:

  • Many four-year universities now offer the flexibility of part-time programs, evening courses, accelerated formats and online programs to better align with an adult students life and work needs.
  • Enrollment procedures for returning adult students are becoming simpler and offer greater support and resources like transfer credit assessments and financial aid information.

On a personal level, it was encouraging to see there were others like me out there, and that a degree was within reach.

If you’re in a similar situation and don’t know where to start, here are some tips that helped me find the right college and get started right away:

  1. Collect copies of previous transcripts from college courses regardless of how long it has been. If it’s been less than 10 years, some of these transcripts may be accessed online; otherwise you will need to contact the institution for copies. * Hint: Always ask for numerous copies that are sealed and official so you have them if you apply to more than one place. That way you can have one for yourself that you can open and look at when it comes in the mail.  Once you open it, it is considered unofficial.
  2. Research colleges that offer the programs and flexibility to meet your needs. That might include part-time, evening, weekend, or online programs. Information forums, tours and meetings are a valuable tool in guiding your decision whether or not a college is a right fit.
  3. Have a transfer credit assessment done to see what is transferable. Credits are usually available for accredited two and four year college courses, military active service, police academy, nursing programs, and college level examination programs: AP, CLEP and International Baccalaureate Exams.
  4. See what the options are for start dates. Programs for adults are usually offered with start dates year-round.
  5. Look at majors and programs that will help meet your personal and career goals. Some people make career changes when they have this opportunity.
  6. Research ways to pay for your education. There are more financial opportunities available than you might think. Some employers even offer money to help pay for the cost of tuition.
  7. If you are missing lower division general education and prerequisite classes, it is possible in some cases to complete them at a 2-year college while attending a 4-year institution.

I’m happy to say I was able to finish my degree within two years while going part-time at night. You don’t need to wait until you get laid off from a job to finish. Going back for a bachelor’s degree was the best decision I ever made. The advisors at Notre Dame de Namur University, where I chose to finish my degree, worked with me to identify what evening classes were needed to complete my degree as soon as possible with a clear roadmap to follow.

Get a free transfer credit evaluation.

Click the button and specify that you would like a transfer credit evaluation done at no cost or obligation. An advisor will contact you.

Attend an information forum event.

If you are interested in getting more information for the Notre Dame de Namur University evening bachelors program, click the button to sign up for an information forum.