Stop Motion Success for LA&S Communications Alumnae
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences alumnae Claudia Gallo and Kaleigh Griffin, who earned bachelor's degrees in the Department of Communication and Media, received a surprising career boost just months after graduating in May.
"Unsung Hero," the stop motion short they created in Lecturer Joseph Vlachos' Field Production class, won the Tumblr-sponsored Reel 13 Contest, and appeared on WNET 13, a New York PBS affiliate, in October.
The short begins with a child playing with his toys. When he is called to lunch, the toys come to life away from the watchful eyes of their owner. An evil villain kidnaps the princess, and a hero with bulging biceps and dark ponytail stages a valiant rescue.
"We called it 'Unsung Hero' because the boy had no idea the rescue mission happened," said Gallo, who produced and edited the project. Griffin served as director of the film, which also starred her boyfriend. The child actor was a boy she was babysitting at the time.
Griffin and Gallo shot hundreds, if not thousands, of photos, and spent over 60 hours filming and editing the short, which clocked in at 2:44 minutes.
"Stop motion is a lot of work and takes a lot of dedication," said Griffin. "It was one of the hardest things we had ever done up to that point," added Gallo.
The Reel 13 Contest was a contest for Tumblr users, and online viewers selected the finalists. Griffin and Gallo reached out to their family and friends to vote for "Unsung Hero," and their winning film aired twice on WNET 13.
Both students pursued double majors at New Paltz. Gallo graduated with bachelor's degrees in Radio and TV Production and Spanish Language and Literature. Griffin graduated with bachelor's degrees in English and Digital Media Production.
Gallo currently works as an assistant editor at World Wrestling Entertainment in Stamford, CT. Griffin is working on a variety of freelance projects, including producing and directing a short documentary near Schenectady, NY.
Griffin acknowledged the instruction of Vlachos and Assistant Professor Gregory Bray in helping to prepare her for her current career as a freelancer. "They teach you by letting you do things yourself and they expect a level of professionalism and a certain caliber of work from their students," she said.
Echoing Griffin, Gallo said the most important thing she learned at New Paltz was to think and work independently. "There will be times when you will be alone, at 3 a.m., and only you can solve whatever problem you might have, be it technical, creative, etc. This is a vital quality that helped me get my job, and continues to help me in the real world," she said.
Kanter Featured on CNN for Work with Students with Autism
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences alumnus Mark Kanter was recently featured in a CNN segment for his work teaching students with autism to express their thoughts, desires, and needs, through the innovative iPad app, AutisMate.
Kanter earned a bachelor's degree in Communication Disorders in 2006 and a master's degree in Speech and Language Pathology in 2007. He currently serves as the Supervisor of Speech and Language for Middle and Upper School at the McCarton School in Manhattan.
Jonathan Izak, the creator and founder of AutisMate, allowed Kanter and his colleagues to demo the app, and was impressed by the school's work with students with autism. When CNN asked to feature AutisMate on its broadcast, Izak asked the school to select a student to appear in the program.
Joe, 18, had never spoken and expressed himself only by pointing. Kanter said Joe made "no real attempts at verbal language," and could become agitated in his attempts to get what he wanted.
Kanter and his colleagues introduced Joe to the iPad by letting him listen to music and audio books. Slowly, they began introducing basic requesting and labeling tasks, using the iPad as an augmentative and alternative communication device (AAC).
AutisMate uses photos, images and videos of users in their natural environments to help them request and choose, as well as execute a variety of self-modeling and self-correcting tasks.
Through his work with Kanter at the McCarton School, Joe became increasingly efficient at using AutisMate. In the CNN segment, he uses the app to order an Italian BLT with pickles and potato chips at a Subway located near the school. He also navigates his morning routine while watching videos of himself taking out the trash and setting the dinner table.
Kanter said he was thrilled with the segment, and "hoped that it would allow people throughout the country to see that there are lower-cost alternatives to expensive AAC devices that are rich with features."
Kanter credited the SUNY faculty for preparing him for his current position.
"Each of my professors at SUNY New Paltz came from such diverse backgrounds and were able to share experiences from such different realms of the field," said Kanter. "I feel that I'm constantly channeling that which I learned at SUNY New Paltz in my role today and will reach out to my former professors to this day with questions or when I have news to share."
He gave special praise to College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Professors Kathryn Burke and Andrea Abramovich. Burke, who coordinates the Speech and Language Program, served as a mentor during his student internship, and Abramovich, who teaches in the Department of Communication Disorders, provided a wealth of information about AAC devices and assessment during a SUNY Augmentative Communication course.
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