Bios – 2014

TanzinaKeynote Speaker Tanzina Vega
New York Times
Tanzina Vega is a staff reporter for The New York Times, a position she has held since August 2010. She has written about race, ethnicity, technology and media for the business and national sections of the The Times. From 2008 to 2010 she was a web producer. She joined the paper in 2006 as a news clerk and a stringer.

Before joining The Times, Ms. Vega was the editorial research manager at CMP Media and worked as a language consultant and ESL teacher in Barcelona and South Korea. Ms. Vega began her career at CMP Media as a research assistant.

Ms. Vega has won various awards for her multimedia work, including being part of the Emmy-winning team that produced One in 8 Million. She has also won multiple awards from the National Press Photographers Association. NPR’s Code Switch included Ms. Vega in their “Journalists — Of Color! — To Watch In 2014” list and The Huffington Post named her one of the top 40 Latinos in American Media.

Born in New York City, Ms. Vega received her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from the State University of New York at Stony Brook. She earned a master’s in multimedia journalism from City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism.

IMG_1138Dan Adkison got his start as the photo editor of his high school newspaper. Since then, he has been the copy chief of the Village Voice and TIME magazine and has also been a copy editor at Condé Nast Portfolio, City Limits and Eight by Eight. Dan has a B.S. in journalism from Boston University and is currently a staff editor for the business section of the New York Times.

Michael ArenaMichael Arena, CUNY University Director for Communications and Marketing, is responsible for planning and implementation of the University’s media, public information and marketing efforts. Prior to joining the University, he was an award-winning special writer and investigative reporter in a career that spanned more than 20 years at Newsday and New York Newsday. He was nominated for Pulitzer Prize in 1987 and shared a Pulitzer Prize in 1997 for spot reporting on the downing of TWA Flight 800. He graduated from The City College New York.

jenni-avinsJenni Avins is the lifestyle reporter at Quartz. Most recently, she covered fashion, food, travel, and pop culture as a freelancer for The Wall Street Journal, New York Magazine, Vice, Harper’s Bazaar, Gourmet, Saveur, and She was also contributing editor to New York Magazine’s fashion site, the Cut. Jenni is usually wondering what to wear, and has explored the question via her personal site, Closettour, since 2009. Closettour has won a McCormick Foundation grant for entrepreneurial journalism and a Webby nomination for its videos. Jenni began her career in fashion, managing knitwear production for Edun, and her favorite fashion stories have taken her to a fetish-wear factory in the Brazilian rainforest, New Jersey wetlands teeming with muskrats, and a terrifying basement full of animal pelts in rural Pennsylvania. She is fluent in Portuguese. Obsessions: indigenous dress, baking, and Brazil.

Ilsa CowenIlsa Cowen has recently retired after having taught journalism and English at Townsend Harris High School in Queens and serving as advisor of the school’s award-winning newspaper, The Classic, for over 20 years.  Together with student editors, she developed a First Amendment charter for the paper that declares it to be “an open forum for the expression of student views.”  Since the charter was signed by the school’s principal in 2000, the school and the paper have won many national and state First Amendment awards.  In 2002, the Freedom Forum’s First Amendment Center selected Ms. Cowen as a Newsweek/First Amendment Schools mentor teacher and she frequently conducts First Amendment and other workshops at journalism conferences for New York City high school students. She has served as Vice President and Acting President of the New York City Scholastic Press Association, remains a member of NYCSPA’s Executive Board, and is an active participant in the NYC High School Journalism Collaborative at Baruch College.

Ojalvo_FBHolly Epstein Ojalvo has spent nearly 15 years at the intersection of youth, education, and news. Holly is the founder and editor in chief of Kicker, which engages millennials in current events and social action. Previously, she was deputy editor for The New York Times Learning Network, which provides teaching and learning materials based on Times content. For more than a decade Holly was an award-winning English, journalism, and philosophy teacher at Stuyvesant, Packer Collegiate, and other schools. As a school newspaper adviser, she specialized in turning student papers around and championing student First Amendment rights.

Robert GreenmanRobert Greenman is the author of  Words That Make a Difference (2000, Levenger) and, with his wife, Carol, More Words That Make a Difference (2007, Levenger, and now an e-book), vocabulary enrichment books based on words and passages from The New York Times and the Atlantic Monthly. Bob taught high school and college English and journalism in Brooklyn, at James Madison and Edward R. Murrow High Schools, and at Kingsborough Community College. He is a newspaper-in-education consultant for The New York Times, writes for the language Web site Visual Thesaurus and presents talks and workshops nationwide to high school journalism students and newspaper advisers.

Photo credit: Alex Johnson, WNYC

Rafer Guzman is the film critic for Newsday and a former rock critic for the paper. He is also a regular guest film critic on “The Takeaway,” a nationally-syndicated news show from WNYC. He was previously a staff writer at The Wall Street Journal. His work has also appeared in Rolling Stone, Blender, The San Francisco Bay Guardian and the late, great Option magazine. Recently, Rafer won first place for arts writing from the New York State AP Association for his look at the effects of Sept. 11th on the movies. You can follow him at @RaferGuzman.

Theodore Hamm is the founding editor of The Brooklyn Rail and director of the Journalism and New Media Studies Program at Saint Joseph’s College in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn. His books include The New Blue Media and Pieces of a Decade (co-edited with Williams Cole). Hamm is a member of the Brooklyn Literary Council, which organizes the Brooklyn Book Festival.

Jere Hester Jere Hester is the founding director of the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism’s award-winning NYCity News Service, a multimedia, Web-based wire service that makes student stories about New York neighborhoods available to news organizations around the world. Hester was previously City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992. Hester received his BA in journalism and politics from New York University in 1988. A lifelong Brooklyn resident, he began his journalism career as an intern at the Downtown Express, a lower Manhattan weekly, eventually rising to editor. He currently writes a national weekday column on popular culture for NBC Local Integrated Media, which has websites covering 10 major media markets.

Lonnie IsabelLonnie Isabel is the former deputy managing editor of Newsday, and was responsible for supervising the national, foreign, state, Washington, health and science staffs. During his 16-year career at the newspaper, Isabel also served as assistant managing editor, overseeing coverage of the September 11th aftermath and the Iraq War, and as national editor, covering the 2000 presidential campaign and the Oklahoma City bombing. Earlier in his career, Isabel worked as a reporter and assistant city editor at the Oakland Tribune, and as a political reporter at the Boston Globe. He was appointed a Poynter Ethics Fellow in 2006. He has taught news writing at Hofstra and San Francisco State universities. He received a B.A. in African Studies from Amherst College.

Sandeep Junnarkar is an Associate Professor at CUNY Graduate School of Journalism and the former New York bureau chief of CNET, and has specialized in writing about technologies used in different industries. In April 2003, his three-part report on the security risks of online banking was named “Best in Business Projects among Real-Time Publications” by the Society of American Business Editors and Writers. Junnarkar helped to create online editions of The New York Times, working as breaking news editor, writer, and web producer when the paper went live on the Internet as The New York Times on the Web. Junnarkar is founder and editorial director of, a multimedia web site that features stories on underreported issues. The site received a New Voices grant for 2008-2010 from J-Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism, which is funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. He received a B.A. in Social Science from the University of California at Berkeley and an M.S. from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

CathyKCathy Kaczmarek has been teaching at Midwood High School in Brooklyn for 28 years and the adviser of Argus for 25 years. She teachers a yearlong journalism class. Students who complete the course then choose to become editors to work on the newspaper as seniors. The paper is published nine times a year and online. In 2011 Argus was the Newsies! winner for Best Overall Newspaper. She is a 20-year veteran of the New York City Scholastic Press Association, where she is currently president.  She inspires students to be good consumers of news and to take an active role in reporting the news at Midwood by embracing the First Amendment.

Michael Lydon, known to millions as “The Handsomest Man in the World” is a writer and musician who lives in New York City. A founding editor of Rolling Stone and author of Rock Folk, Boogie Lightning, Ray Charles: Man and Music, Writing and Life, Lydon has written for many periodicals as well, the Atlantic Monthly, New York Times, Village Voice and others. He is also a songwriter and playwright and, with Ellen Mandel, has composed an opera, Passion in Pigskin. A Yale graduate, Lydon is a member of ASCAP, AFofM local 802, and on the faculty of St. John’s University.

basquecountryJenna Mahoney is a Brooklyn-based travel editor, lifestyle writer, and the author of “Small Apartment Hacks.” She has served as travel editor at Bridal Guide and Fitness Magazine and has contributed to print publications including SELF, Shape, Every Day with Rachael Ray and Redbook. Online her work has appeared on AOL That’s Fit, Yahoo! Travel,, Fashionista, and Sephora’s Beauty and the Blog, among others. Follow Jenna on twitter and instagram at @srajennamahoney

AveryAvery Marder is the owner of Trade Mark Graphics, a Brooklyn-based commercial printing organization that has been producing printed materials and promotional projects for nonprofits, commercial companies and local and state government agencies, including the NYC Department of Education, for more than 40 years. He began his career working in advertising and opened his own agency in 1976 with two partners. In 1982 this company became Trade Mark Graphics Inc, where he is the sole proprietor. Marder attended NYC Technical College for advertising design and Baruch College for advertising and marketing. Avery is also the recipient of the The University of the State of New York, Education Department’s “Award for Excellence by an Occupational in Education Graduate” and “Outstanding Entrepreneur Award.

chrisprofileChristine McKenna is an online editor, multimedia producer and new media instructor. She is currently a lecturer at the City University of New York, teaching at Lehman College and at the Graduate School of Journalism. McKenna has produced documentary and news sites for Time magazine, PBS, the Discovery Channel, WNYC and The Wall Street Journal. She co-founded an online production company and posted digital stories from Asia, Africa, the Middle East and South America. In addition to her journalistic experience, Christine has worked as an investigator for death row inmates and taught an online storytelling course at the University of Barcelona. She holds a B.A. in Rhetoric from the University of California, Berkeley, and an M.S. from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.

Joshua Mills worked as an editor and writer at The New York Times for a decade and as a reporter or editor at The Associated Press; The New York Post, the New York Daily News, Newsday, Bloomberg News and The Star-Ledger (Newark, N.J.). He has written on a wide variety of subjects for magazines ranging from Playboy to Boys’ Life. He continues to do occasional editing for The Times, as well as on book projects. Professor Mills has long been involved in training journalists. He served as chair of the training committee of Society of American Business Editors and Writers, as well as a board member. He also was on the Board of Academic Advisers of the Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism and has led Reynolds workshops in cities around the country. Co-author (with Peter Fornatale) of Radio in the Television Age, Mills has written frequently about broadcast ownership and regulation. He has also worked as a writer and editor for several radio and television documentaries. Before joining the Baruch faculty, Professor Mills taught at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, N.Y.U. and Pace University. He earned a B.A. and an M.A. at City College of New York.

Katina Paron Katina Paron Katina Paron (@katinaparon) is a journalism educator with 20 years of youth media experience. She is the director of the NYC High School Journalism Collaborative at Baruch College and the editor of Teen Voices, a global girl news site at Women’s eNews (@TeenVoices). She was the founding newspaper adviser for Achievement First Crown Heights High School and the Business of Sports School and is an instructor with Bronx Youth Heard. As the co-founder and former managing director of the youth news agency, Children’s PressLine, she has worked with thousands of students to develop professional quality media that has been published in the Daily News, Newsday, Metro, Ebony, Minneapolis Star-Tribune and, among other places. She has written for The New York Times, WNYC SchoolBook,  Voices of New York and the Youth Media Reporter. Her work has been recognized by NY1 as “New Yorker of the Week” and by WCBS-TV as a “Hometown Hero.” Ms. Paron received her B.S. in journalism from Boston University.

TATSHAROBERTSON265_corrTatsha Robertson is an award-winning editor and writer with more than 20 years of experience handling investigative, feature and news stories for leading magazines, newspapers and websites: A former senior editor for People magazine and a former Deputy editor for Essence Magazine, she led the coverage of the Newtown and Boston Marathon tragedies as well as opened the Washington bureau for Essence.  She was also the  New York City bureau chief and national rover for the Boston Globe.  She is currently working on two books, one regarding crime in America and the other on education. She lives near New York City with her husband.

Geanne RosenbergGeanne Perlman Rosenberg, a journalist and attorney, is a full professor at Baruch College of the City University of New York, a faculty associate at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society, and an innovator in online education. Geanne directs the Harnisch Journalism Projects — strategic collaborative projects in the areas of journalism, online education, media law and news and information literacy. Geanne is vice chair-elect and a member of the Board of Directors of the Student Press Law Center, a national organization devoted to supporting high school and college journalists and news producers with legal resources and education. She also is a consortial faculty member of CUNY’s Graduate School of Journalism. Geanne is a graduate of Bryn Mawr College and Columbia University’s Schools of Journalism and Law.

StarrStarr Sackstein currently works at World Journalism Preparatory School in Flushing, NY as a high school English and Journalism teacher and author of “Teaching Mythology Exposed: Helping Teachers Create Visionary Classroom Perspective.” This year she begins a new blog with Education Week Teacher called “Work in Progress” in addition to her personal blog where she discusses all aspects of being a teacher. Sackstein co-moderates #jerdchat and #sunchat as well as contributes to #NYedChat. This year she has made the Bammy Awards finals for Secondary High School Educator. In speaking engagements, Sackstein speaks about blogging, journalism education and BYOD, helping people see technology doesn’t have to be feared.

Leslie Seifert was editor of the Sunday Opinion section of Newsday for nine years, and edited bloggers and columnists for Advertising Age from 2011-2014. He was an adjunct professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism from 1985-2000, and in the mid 1990s founded a path-breaking program in which at-risk students produced a newspaper for their alternative public high school in Queens. In 2011, he founded Journalists in Schools, a non-profit organization that is creating the first student-driven news network to serve public high schools across New York City. The project has worked inside high schools in the Brandeis and Martin Luther King Jr. campuses in Manhattan. Seifert has won two national awards for opinion editing and was the arts and media reporter on the staff that launched the MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour on PBS in the early 1980s. In recent years he started In Your Voice, a coaching service for students writing application essays. He is also scheduled to teach opinion writing at mediabistro. Seifert has been a guest lecturer at Hampton University, a judge of numerous journalism contests, and a consultant to the State Department, introducing foreign journalists to the United States. He wrote editorials, blog items and columns as a member of Newsday’s Editorial Board and has published articles in a number of publications, including Education Week The Wall Street Journal, the Columbia Journalism Review and The Bergen Record. Seifert is a graduate of Harvard College, with a master’s in history from Columbia University.

Joshua Sipkin teaches English Language Arts, Journalism and Media Literacy at Information Technology High School in Queens where he has also served as the school newspaper adviser and is currently the varsity baseball coach. Prior to entering the teaching field in Fall 2004, Joshua worked in sports media from the time he was an intern during his senior year of high school. On his path to the classroom, he has had stints writing, producing and editing content at ABC Sports, Fox Sports, the NBA and Major League Baseball.

John SmockJohn Smock is a visual journalist based in New York City. He is a visiting professor teaching photojournalism and interactive journalism the CUNY Graduates School of Journalism. Smock has worked for the Associated Press and SIPA Press, a photo agency with offices in New York and in Paris. His work has appeared in many publications including The New York Times Magazine, Newsweek, Paris Match and Der Siegel. His educational experience also includes work as a journalism trainer in several former Soviet Republics, Cambodia and most recently Afghanistan. In 2005 he was awarded a Knight International Press Fellowship to the Middle East, where he assisted regional publication in developing the visual components of their publications. Prior to becoming a photographer, smock worked as a reporter, an editor and as a consultant for New York Today, the predecessor for The New York Times Online. He received his M.S. degree in journalism from Columbia University.

AStricklerAndrew Strickler is a senior reporter with Law360 a daily legal news service, covering domestic and international law firms, legal industry trends, finances and strategy. Before joining Law360, he was a stringer for the Wall Street Journal’s Greater New York section, and a national criminal justice reporter with The Daily, the first national daily newspaper developed for the iPad. From 2006 to 2011, Andrew covered breaking news, crime and courts, and police departments for Newsday, the Long Island daily newspaper. Andrew’s work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, The Christian Science Monitor, The Las Vegas Review-Journal, New York Post, and others. Andrew is from New Orleans, and graduated from St. John’s College in Santa Fe, N.M. He has a masters in journalism from the University of California at Berkeley.