Media Coverage Report: Aug. 2012 - May 2013

Highlights at a Glance:

SMC in the News By Category: 2012-13Overview

It’s hard to believe that the Year of the Gael is in the rearview mirror. Even so, looking back on the quality and quantity of media coverage the College received during its sesquicentennial year, it’s more than apparent that Saint Mary’s academic reputation, rigorous student-center curriculum, stellar faculty, engaging public offerings and competitive athletics program continues to generate pointed interest from local and national media outlets.

During the College’s 150th anniversary year, Saint Mary’s received more than 3,700 media mentions (including duplicate news stories), which included news reports about sesquicentennial events such as Gaelebration – SMC’s campus festival and open house for the greater Bay Area community, various symposia echoing the College’s academic seminar tradition of great conversations and mission-related matters, such as the Cummins Institute’s colloquium on Lasallian Education in the 21st Century.

This report covers the academic year from August 27, 2012 to May 31, 2013. However, at 3,717 items overall, the number of media mentions is down from last year’s higher figure of 4,560. Even so, in reviewing the report, it is evident there are substantial increases in areas of importance to the College, such as Faculty in the News items and Institutional News items.

The decrease of 843 media hits is attributed in part to a sizable drop in the number of media mentions regarding alumni career moves and obituary notices. This year, there are 549 alumni in the news notices compared to last year’s 1,076. Additionally, last year the death of SMC benefactor Patricia Disney generated more 300 media mentions compared to 17 obituary notices this year. Also, public safety media mentions dropped significantly, from last year’s number of 189 to 83 this academic year.

This report notes Faculty in the News items, followed by Institutional News and lists remaining news categories of Athletics, Alumni items, Students in the News, Calendar Listings (which include exhibitions at the College’s Museum of Art), Public Safety items, Obituaries and SMC Mentions (miscellaneous references about the College).

News By Category

Faculty in the News: 700 (last year: 532)

The upward trend in media recognition of Saint Mary's faculty is steady and impressive. There were 700 Faculty in the News mentions this year, a 46 percent increase over the same period as last year. The increase is due to the following:

  1. More than 330 news stories, including national wire reports from the Associated Press, carried commentary by Saint Mary's faculty members such as History Professor Brother Charles Hilken, Communication Professor Rev. Michael Russo and Theology and Religious Studies Professor Tom Poundstone about the historic resignation of Pope Benedict XVI and the selection of Argentinean Bishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio as the new pontiff, Pope Francis.
  2. The Office of College Communications continues to consistently advocate for SMC professors as expert sources for news organizations, and that effort is generating successful results, with more faculty members being asked to weigh in on a variety on news issues, such as the global economy, the 2012 presidential race and Vatican history.

There were several national media hits about SMC faculty during the year, including the American Scientist magazine, which featured a poem by Saint Mary's English Professor Brenda Hillman. Over the last year, the magazine has featured poetry inspired by science. Hillman's poem "Summer Mountain Lightning & Some Music," which references the pioneering electrical engineer and inventor Nikola Tesla, appeared in the May-June print edition and online.

Another MFA Creative Writing professor who garnered national attention was Matthew Zapruder, a new poetry professor in Saint Mary's English Department. Zapruder's work "Poem for a Coin" appeared in the New York Times magazine.

English Professor Lysley Tenorio’s book "Monstress" continued to garner praise. In April, his collection of short stories was nominated for the 2013 California Book Award. Additional praise included Slate magazine’s acknowledgement of it as one of the “Overlooked books of 2012” and its selection by the San Francisco Chronicle as one of the “Best books of 2012: 100 recommended books.”

USA Today’s College section featured an opinion piece by Saint Mary’s Associate Professor David Bird. A Spanish professor and the director of the College’s honors program, Bird argued that just as colleges create programs to support students with learning needs, academic programs that challenge gifted students are extremely important.

The Washington Post featured a book review by Politics Professor David Alvarez. An author of a volume on the military history of the Vatican, Alvarez was tapped to review The Pope's Last Crusade: How an American Jesuit Helped Pope Pius XI's Campaign to Stop Hitler.

Additionally, Private University Products and News Magazine (PUPN MAG), a trade magazine which focuses on operation services for colleges and universities, spotlighted Saint Mary's anthropology professor Dana Herrera. The outlet, which profiles the academic research of professors across the nation, featured Herrera's interest in employing virtual gaming, digital media and science fiction as instructional tools for conveying concepts about anthropology to her students.

Closer to home, but no less impressive, was the regional coverage of SMC Provost Beth Dobkin, who was featured in Diablo Magazine's May issue. Dobkin is among seven women the East Bay magazine spotlighted for its "Women to Watch" feature story. The article highlights Dobkin's perspective on what it takes to be a successful leader in higher education and underscores her commitment to Saint Mary's mission of inclusive excellence.

School of Liberal Arts Dean Steve Woolpert continues to be called on as a trusted and knowledgeable source on constitutional and national politics for news organizations. Woolpert has been tapped by local broadcast outlets such as KCBS radio, KGO radio and CBS-5-TV, and has commented on a variety of national news topics, such as whether Hurricane Sandy might delay the presidential election and how the U.S. Supreme Court might weigh in on gay marriage.

In addition to Dean Woolpert, other SMC faculty offered their scholarly insights on national issues, including Communication Professor Cathy Glenn, who weighed in on the presidential debates between Barack Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romneyfirst with KGO radio and then again with KTVU-TV, along with several of her students. Also, Management Professor Michael Hadani spoke with KGO radio about what he called the "arms race" of political fundraising in the 2012 $2 billion campaign for the Oval Office.

Other Saint Mary’s faculty members to whom the media reached out included KSOE Associate Dean Sandra Mattar, whose research includes trauma counseling. In the wake of the December Sandy Hook massacre, Mattar spoke to KGO radio and Univision regarding about the rise of academic courses in teaching institutions that address the issue of trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in K-12 schools. Additionally, the insights of Politics Professor Steve Sloan are frequently highlighted by the Lake County Record Bee, which regularly features commentary by him on a variety of topics, including gun control and sexual assault in the military.

Institutional News: 452  (last year 213)

The College saw a tremendous amount of coverage relating to the institution’s academic reputation during the sesquicentennial year, including the announcement of James Donahue as the College’s next academic leader and its first lay president, reports about the Gaelebration (the College’s open house and public festival), its academic and Catholic faith-related symposiums that were a part of the featured Great(est) Conversation/s series and public forums, including the College’s annual January Term Speaker Series.

Institutional news highlights included local and national coverage about the appointment of James Donahue, the former president of the Graduate Theological Union, as the next academic leader of Saint Mary's. Media outlets that reported on Donahue as SMC’s next president included the National Catholic Reporter, Catholic Voice, Contra Costa Times and Oakland Tribune. The announcement was the subject of a featured photo slide show in the San Jose Mercury News and a story by KCBS radio.

News outlets that recognized Saint Mary’s 150th anniversary included the Contra Costa Times and Oakland Tribune, which offered the glowing editorial “Public is invited to join the party at Saint Mary’sto recognize SMC’s sesquicentennial and Gaelebration, the College’s free public open house and festival on October 6, 2012. In concert with Gaelebration, a special editorial insert in the San Francisco Chronicle promoted the College’s history and contributions to the Bay Area.

As a part of the Year of the Gael celebrations, the College partnered with CBS-5/KPIX-TV for a 30-minute historical special on the College. Saint Mary's was featured in the CBS-5 Eye of the Bay program "Celebrating a Legacy: 150 Years of Saint Mary's College." The show had repeated showings throughout March on KPIX and its sister station, KBCW, and was posted online at

The College’s reputation for academic excellence was highlighted in two books about outstanding institutions of higher education. At the beginning of the fall term, SMC officials were notified of the institution’s inclusion in the prestigious 2013 edition of Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About Colleges. The newly revised guidebook praised Saint Mary's educational approach as "powerful" and "a mechanism of change." Colleges That Change Lives is widely recognized as essential reading for college-bound students and discerning parents to identify colleges that offer life-transforming educational experiences.

The recognition of Saint Mary’s in the notable higher education guidebook prompted national and local media coverage, including a high-profile story in the education guide of the National Catholic Reporter, coverage by the Catholic News Service, the Contra Costa Times and KGO radio.

Saint Mary's January Term was spotlighted as a distinctive academic program in the new book College Unbound: The Future of Higher Education and What It Means for Students. Written by the Chronicle of Higher Education's editor-at-large Jeffrey Selingo, the book examines what's working and what isn't in the field of higher education. 

The Catholic News Service and the National Catholic Reporter both covered the recent visit of Brother Alvaro Rodriguez Echeverria, FSC, the superior general of the Christian Brothers, to Saint Mary's. The national outlets and Oakland’s Catholic Voice reported on Brother Alvaro's address on the importance of empowering the poor through globalization in education, which he delivered as the guest of honor at Saint Mary’s annual De La Salle Week Convocation. 

Another national media hit was the Associated Press story “Private colleges boom as Calif universities falter,” which spotlighted Saint Mary’s in a national landscape analysis of higher education in the Golden State. The AP reporter received insight on SMC from Michael Beseda, former vice provost for Enrollment and vice president of  College Communications, about the College’s steady increase in enrollment over the past several years, along with other private nonprofit colleges, while the public system stumbled under the burden of the state’s budget problems.

Additional highlights included news coverage of the College's Great Bay Area Service Day for Schools, which was held on March 16. News outlets, including the Bay City News, KGO radio, KTVU-TV —which partnered with the College on the initiative — and the Catholic Voice reported on the community service event that drew 800 volunteers who helped out at 21 schools across the Bay Area, including eight in the Diocese of Oakland. Volunteers contributed 3,000 hours of service working on a variety of projects, including painting, landscaping and organizing classroom libraries. 

The College’s annual “River of Words” environmental art and poetry contest generated media interest. Winners of the 18th annual River of Words International Youth Creativity Awards were covered by several regional news outlets, including the Atlanta area’s Dunwoody Patch.

Since many of the public programs during the year were related to the College’s sesquicentennial and presented as part of the Great(est) Conversation/s, media mentions about public programs that would have been noted in the Calendar Listings category previously were shifted over to the Institutional News category.

Some of the notable free public programs presented during the sesquicentennial year that garnered media attention included the Great(est) Conversation/s lecture by Harvard Professor Michael Sandel, who was featured on KQED’s Forum news show, and a Contra Costa Times story about a Jan Term Speaker Series lecture about Black Catholics by Rev. Edward Branch.

Athletics: 1,400 (last year 1,315)

Media mentions about the College’s Division I athletics program garnered the majority of media coverage about the College this year. While the performance of the men's basketball team, and standout student athlete Matthew Dellavedova, earned appropriate praise — the 28-7 Gaels earned their third trip to the NCAA's Big Dance in four yearsthe College's basketball program garnered more than 340 news mentions, including national stories by USA Today about the March 1, 2013, decision by the NCAA's Committee on Infractions to penalize Saint Mary's for compliance and failure to monitor violations in its program. 

Saint Mary's addressed the NCAA penalties directly. On the morning of the NCAA announcement, College Communications arranged for a Chapel lawn press availability session with Brother President Ronald Gallagher and Athletic Director Mark Orr.

Nearly a dozen news outlets, including the San Jose Mercury News and NBC Bay Area News, carried statements from Gallagher and Orr acknowledging the College’s acceptance of missteps, leadership remorse and the Athletic Department's responsibility in compliance failures. A Chapel lawn mid-afternoon press session with coach Randy Bennett and Orr further addressed the matter. News reports included statements by Bennett taking responsibility for missteps in the men’s basketball program, expressing deep regret about the sanctions and stating his commitment to moving forward.

Several media stories questioned the severity of the sanctions against SMC, including the San Francisco Chronicle article “Corrupt NCAA has no right to judge Gaels” and the ABC7/KGO-TV report “NCAA penalizes Saint Mary's for recruiting violations.”

The College’s men’s rugby team also garnered some media attention. The team’s appearance in the NCAA championships game drew interest from the San Francisco Chronicle.

Alumni: 549 (last year: 1,076)

The numbers of alumni in the news mentions are down from last year at this time by almost half. The reduction is a result of fewer press releases about alumni career moves that were distributed by news outlets or online aggregators this academic year. While there were announcements about new opportunities for alums, there were a variety of high-profile news mentions about alumni during the past year.

Significant news mentions included several stories about the Honorable Troy Nunley '86. Both the San Francisco Chronicle and Sacramento Bee reported on his nomination to the federal bench by President Barack Obama in 2012 and his Senate confirmation. The Chronicle and the Contra Costa Times also reported on Nunley as the 2013 Undergraduate Commencement speaker for the College.

Other notable news mentions included a New York Times story that spotlighted alumna Paige Palmer ’12 in an article about how unemployed parents and their children are finding new employment opportunities. Palmer’s out-of-work stepfather invested in a franchise to kick-start both Palmer’s and his own job prospects. 

Another highlight was a Contra Costa Times article about “What Light Can Do: Essays on Art, Imagination, and the Natural World,the new collection of essays from former national poet laureate and Saint Mary alumnus Robert Hass.

CBS This Morning featured a national interview with alumna Christy Fowler Vega 99, the owner of Casa Vega, a landmark Mexican restaurant in Los Angeles, about her favorite recipes and popular dishes.

The Root, an online hub of news and commentary from an African-American perspective, profiled alumnus and successful Hollywood actor Mahershala Ali '96. 

Engadget reported on the shakeout in the top offices at Microsoft with the exit of Windows head Steve Sinofsky and the new opportunities for Chief Marketing Officer and Chief Financial Officer and alumna Tami Reller EMBA ’94. In addition to her current marketing and finance responsibilities, Reller assumes the lead in driving business and marketing strategy for Windows devices, including Surface and partner devices.

Students in the News: 82 (last year 93)

Various media outlets covered Saint Mary’s students over the course of the year regarding their perspectives on variety of issues, including their academic achievements, matters of faith and local and national news issues.

The Contra Costa Times profiled Shelby Solomon, the valedictorian for the class of 2013 in an endearing story about the Pittsburg resident who is the first in her family to graduate from college.

Several SMC undergrads were interviewed by KGO-TV about the historic papal resignation in February. The Catholic Voice  interviewed Ali Carroll '14, a student ambassador for Catholic Relief Services and one of several organizers of Saint Mary's Rice Bowl effort in support of CRS.

The Oakland Tribune spoke with SMC student Shanton Tyson about the "Remember Them: Champions for Humanity" monument in Oakland, which includes a steel remnant from the World Trade Center. Tyson’s father was a New York Fire Department lieutenant who, among many other first responders on September 11, went to the aid of those trapped in the World Trade Center towers. Fortunately, Tyson's father survived.

During the presidential election campaign, SMC student Tiffany Wagner, a 20-year-old Saint Mary's student volunteered at a fundraising event for Republican vice presidential candidate Congressman Paul Ryan. Wagner was briefly interviewed by the one of AOL's East Bay Patch outlets about her impressions of the visit by Ryan. A KTVU story on local reactions to the second presidential debate featured perspectives from several SMC students and included quotes from Ruby Palmer Ghose ’15 and Evan Richardson ’14.

Calendar Listings: 243 (last year 482)

While Calendar listings appear to be down by more than half from the previous year, the number of events on campus didn’t actually drop off. Since many of the academic and faith-related public programs offered during the sesquicentennial year were part of the College’s Year of the Gael public forums and part of the Great(est) Conversation/s series, a good portion of those events were folded into the Institutional News category. 

Even so, there were many unique public events and cultural offerings that received media attention over the year, including the Museum of Art’s exhibit “The Nature of Collecting,” which was covered by the San Jose Mercury News.

Other notable museum offerings that made their way into media calendars included exhibitions such as “The Art of the Cross," art professor Nyame Brown’s “John Henry's Adventures in a Post-Black World" and the "Missions of Will Sparks.”

The Performing Arts Department’s Spring Awakening” was covered by the Contra Costa Times, and guest speakers for the 2013 Jan Term Speaker Series were noted in the calendar sections of several East Bay outlets, with Contra Costa Times' Lamorinda Sun spotlighting Jan Term speaker and humanitarian photographer Lisa Kristine.

Public Safety: 83 (last year 189)

The most notable event in this category was early April news coverage of a reported sexual assault of a female SMC student by a male whom she met off campus and who is not a Saint Mary student. The incident prompted coverage by more than a half a dozen news outlets, including the Contra Costa Times and TV stations KTVU, KPIX, KRON and KNTV and radio outlets KCBS and KGO. As a result, there were approximately 60 news mentions, including 40 broadcast news stories (which represents repeat mentions during morning and evening newscasts), several online stories and one print article. 

As it did the previous year when there were two reported sexual assaults in a two-week span, College Communications responded proactively. In an April 8 story by KTVU-TV, SMC's public safety director was made available to respond to questions about the status of the investigation, which he directed to the Moraga Police Department. College Communications also made Gillian Cutshaw, coordinator of Saint Mary's sexual assault awareness, outreach and education program, available to a KTVU reporter. She clarified what resources the College has available to the campus community whenever a report of sexual assault is made and what type of ongoing education and awareness programs Saint Mary’s employs. 

Reports that ran the following day included interviews with SMC spokesperson Mike McAlpin, who made it clear that the campus is safe, noting the College's around-the-clock public safety officers, and that the isolated incident reflected a breach of trust by a non-SMC student.  

Additionally, College Communication made  Cutshaw available to KGO and KCBS radio and the Contra Costa Times, in addition to KTVU-TV. Cutshaw again spoke about the support available to the campus community through the Women's Resource Center and noted that sexual assault is a concern for college campuses across the nation. She explained the importance of the sexual assault awareness, outreach and education programs that SMC provides for its community.

Obituaries: 17 (last year 353)

This year, media coverage of the passing of individuals with a connection to Saint Mary’s was dramatically different. There were more than 330 obituary stories filed last year about the death of Patricia Disney, widow of Roy Disney and a former regent and founder of the College’s Disney Forum. However, this year, there were 17 obit notices that were related to the passing of five men who were either alumni or former teachers at the College. 

The Sacramento Bee reported on the loss of the Rev. Colin Macdonald, a Sacramento-based Catholic priest and former Christian Brother, who was an alumnus of the College. He was 75  years old.  Robert Langston, age 66, the city treasurer for Benicia, California, died in late August after a fighting a battle with cancer. Langston earned a bachelor of arts degree from SMC. Robert Jue died at the age of 63 in his Oakland home on Oct. 7 after a 16-month battle with kidney cancer. Jue received a master's degree in educational leadership from Saint Mary's. Bill Redel, who taught at the College, died at the age of 95, and Rev. John Francis Fahey, who was a former adjunct faculty member at Saint Mary's, passed away this year at the age of 88.

SMC Mentions: 208  (last year 318)

There were fewer miscellaneous references to the College in news reports this year compared to the prior year. Perhaps the drop was a result of fewer off-campus organizations holding events on campus during the extremely busy sesquicentennial year. Most of the mentions refer to Saint Mary's as a location for prep sports games, workshops or fundraisers or as a landmark for traffic and weather reports and its proximity to Moraga.

The following link provides a breakdown of all of the media mentions in this report: