School of Communication

Meet the 2010 Communications Fellows

The School of Communications welcomes its 2010 class of Journalism and Communications Fellows. Fellows wrote their own mini biographies, which you can read below.

Jeffrey Ackermann is from Livingston, N.J., and is very excited to be one of the Communications Fellows at Elon. In high school, Jeffrey was involved with his high school's morning news program, “AM Wired,” which was shot live every morning and aired to the entire high school. After having the opportunity to anchor, edit and produce for the live news show, Jeffrey is very excited to bring his skills to Pheonix14News, FreshTV and other media related programs. Jeffrey also wrote several articles for his high school's newspaper and participated in numerous theatrical productions in his free time. He is excited to take advantage of the study abroad programs and internships at Elon and is ultimately excited to start preparing for the exciting world of television.

Natalie Allison has lived in the Town of Elon, N.C., since birth. A lifelong lover of the stage, music and simply interacting with other people, Natalie discovered her niche in the world of communications during a history project her freshman year of high school. Assigned the task of creating a 10-minute news segment, Natalie had her first opportunity to use the university’s cameras and facilities. Little did she know this project was setting her on the course of study she would pursue in college and, in turn, what to pursue afterward. Natalie was a student government officer every year of high school and was elected student body president her senior year. Participating in voter registration drives and paging for the North Carolina Senate, Natalie developed a particular interest in politics during high school and is considering political science as a double major. Natalie is looking forward to majoring in Journalism with a print and online concentration. She is excited to be a part of the Internet’s increasing role in mass communications and will be a member of The Pendulum staff.

Elizabeth Ballard left the small town of Harrisburg, N.C., to join the Elon family. Throughout high school, Lizzy realized that she had a passion for language, writing, photography and, most of all, people. Her junior and senior years, Lizzy was editor of her school yearbook, which furthered her interest in journalism and photojournalism. She also played the violin, coached cheerleading at a local middle school, volunteered at a Community Free Clinic and served as a counselor at a mentally handicapped camp each summer. She intends to major in Strategic Communications, where she can learn to make the best of her interpersonal skills and better understand the field of public relations. Lizzy is convinced that the Communications Fellows program and all Elon University has to offer will benefit her tremendously and further her passion for communications.

Emmy Bird, from Kansas City, Mo., is passionate about photography and loves to hide behind her camera while traveling, photographing the people and places that are a part of her life. She is excited for all of the wonderful opportunities that await her as a Communications Fellow at Elon. She is interested in public relations and advertising, but is anxious to see what else communications has to offer her. She has stayed extremely busy while attending an all-girls high school, Notre Dame de Sion, in Kansas City. She worked as a nanny while she played varsity tennis and lacrosse all four years in high school and participated in many community service projects. She loves the personal touch that Elon offered her from the very beginning, and she can't wait to begin her college journey at such a wonderful place.

Madeline Carlin is from North Bethesda, Md., right outside of Washington, D.C. She attended the Academy of the Holy Cross where she participated in dance, theater, varsity and intramural sports, and served as class president all four years. She has always been a movie buff but her interest in communications was sparked upon taking a film class at school where she had the chance to make her own. She is looking to double-major in Communications and anthropology, and possibly minor in dance.

Kristen Case is from Ellicott City, Md., which is just outside of Baltimore. She graduated from Mt. Hebron High School, where she was a varsity captain for the cheerleading squad, participated in many of the school’s musicals and was Opinions Editor for her school’s newspaper, The Mountain. She is not entirely sure what branch of Communications she intends to study, but she is currently leaning toward Print Journalism, with maybe some photography. Although she is not sure where that will take her in life, she knows she will be happy working in just about any part of the Communications field because it is her passion. She is excited to be attending Elon and taking advantage of the many opportunities that the university has to offer, such as being a member of The Pendulum staff and studying abroad.

Nicole Chadwick hails from the wonderful town of Dallas, as a graduate of Ursuline Academy. In her four years of high school, she was active in three choirs, various student service organizations and theater, acting in five productions her senior year. She cannot wait to be just as active on the Elon campus in Phoenix14News and other organizations. Her love for communications began in 7th grade as the "student director/producer" of her middle school morning announcements broadcast, and blossomed in her senior year of high school as she fell in love with writing, editing and producing various videos for her class, along with other out-of-school video projects. She believes that communications is what ties the world together, and she cannot wait to become a part of this fantastic and fast moving phenomenon after graduation, hoping to go into broadcast journalism and production.

Hannah DelaCourt is from Raleigh, N.C. She has three years of journalism experience on her school newspaper as a two-year staff writer and as the features section editor her senior year. She also played four years of volleyball, was a National Honor Society member and was a peer leader in the retreats program at her high school. She is currently hoping to pursue a major in print journalism with a minor in Spanish. In her four years at Elon, Hannah hopes to become involved with the Pendulum, join the club volleyball team and study abroad. She is excited to take advantage of all the opportunities Elon has to offer, and she is confident that through the Fellows program she will gain valuable experience that will help her achieve her goals in the future.

Grace Elkus is from Cincinnati, Ohio. She attended Seven Hills School, where she was an editor of the school's literary magazine, a class president and a member of the cheerleading squad. Grace has been on a competitive dance team since she was eight years old and plans to continue dancing at Elon. Her interest in communications began when she took the editing role in a film project assigned in her English class junior year. Her interest grew after tackling several other film assignments and taking a challenging yet rewarding speech class. Grace is excited to explore all aspects of the School of Communications before deciding on a specific field of study. She is looking forward to studying abroad, participating in student media and getting to know her fellow Fellows.

Nicole Esplin is from Cary, N.C., and graduated from Cardinal Gibbons High School. She was involved with the school-run newspaper, The Crusader in her sophomore, junior and senior years. As a member of the staff, she served as the op-ed editor and advanced to the position of managing editor her senior year. Her most memorable moments with The Crusader include interviewing and writing about pop singer Colbie Caillat and Executive Editor of the Raleigh News and Observer John Drescher. She was a Junior Marshall for the National Honor Society and has been involved in several service projects, including the Catwalk for Cancer fashion show benefit. Nicole has participated in varsity athletics throughout high school and was part of the cross-country, track and swimming state teams. Nicole is excited to be running for Elon’s varsity cross country and track teams. She is planning on studying communications, with a focus in either Journalism or Strategic Communications, and earning a minor in Exercise Science.

Alexandra Garcia is from Mooresville, N.C., just two hours south of Elon. In high school, she was involved in many athletic and academic clubs, such as the Green Team, math club, varsity girls lacrosse and football cheerleading. Majoring in Communications was not originally her plan, but as high school went on she realized that working with technology and shooting films, as well as taking photographs, is her true passion. Another goal she dreams of pursuing is possibly becoming an anchor for a news station. Alexandra hopes to work for Phoenix14News, either on set or behind the scenes. She’s also thinking about possibly enrolling in Elon’s 10-month Master of Arts in Interactive Media program after she graduates so she can learn how to think strategically and prepare for a real-world job.

Kyra Gemberling comes to Elon University from Charlotte, N.C., having moved there from Lancaster, Pa., at an early age. She graduated from Northwest School of the Arts as a North Carolina Scholar and with honors from several clubs, including Mu Alpha Theta Math Honor Society and Tri-M Music Honor Society. Kyra was involved in various activities at NWSA, including serving as layout editor of the school’s newspaper Intermission. As a part of the newspaper staff, she attended the North Carolina Scholastic Media Institute at UNC-Chapel Hill in 2009 and was awarded First Place in Advanced Design and an Honorable Mention for Feature Photography. These honors validated her passion for print journalism and her decision to pursue it as a career. Kyra also has a strong background in performing arts and participated in chorus, dance and theatrical productions all four years of high school, as well as in the community. She held several leading roles in both plays and musicals, earning awards from “Excellence in Acting” at the North Carolina Theatre Conference in 2007 to “Best Actress in a Play” at her school’s annual theatre awards night this year. She was also the recipient of Fourth Place in the regional 2010 Shakespeare Recitation Competition at Wingate University. Additionally, Kyra served as a 10-Star Honor Member of NWSA’s International Thespian Society and worked with her organization in raising more than $2,000 in donations for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. She hopes to double major in both Journalism and Theatre during her time at Elon and wishes to participate in as many diverse activities as possible. She is also thrilled to be attending Elon as both a Communications Fellow and a Presidential Scholar in the Class of 2014 and looks forward to having a fun and challenging college career.

Adrianne Haney joins the Elon Communications Fellows program from Atlanta. She plans to major in either Broadcast Journalism, with a minor in International Studies, or Print Journalism. Adrianne attended Our Lady of Mercy Catholic High School and was very involved in her school community. She was a member of her school’s a cappella choir, dance program, theatre program, tennis team, yearbook staff, National Honor Society, Student Government and captain of her school’s cheerleading squad. She is enthusiastic to become an Elon Phoenix and cannot wait to be involved on campus with the Pendulum, FreshTV, the theatre department and the dance department. Adrianne also looks forward to the opportunity to study abroad. Her hope is to become a news anchor for a television station or to become an editor for a magazine.

Heather Harder comes to Elon from the small town of Colfax, Wash. Her fascination with communicating began early, but it wasn’t until she joined the National FFA Organization that Heather learned the extent of her interest. During her four years as an FFA member and officer, Heather was able to travel across the country and learn about communications from an agricultural standpoint. She competed in public speaking and job interview events at the national level and wrote a weekly newsletter for her chapter. Never one for inactivity, Heather also served as a class, service league and National Honor Society officer. Outside of communications, Heather enjoys tap dancing and creative writing, as well as attending summer camps, where she welcomes the opportunity to travel and meet new people. Heather hopes to land a career as a public relations representative for a company with high standards and strong morals, in addition to any service involvement she may have on the side.

Zachary Horner comes from the small city of Sanford, N.C. His father is the publisher of the local newspaper that Zachary’s great-grandfather started in 1930. So, obviously, Zach, as he is known to his friends, has been around that communications thing for his whole life. And for a while, up to his sophomore year of high school, he wanted to be a journalist like his father, grandfather and great-grandfather before him. But a film class he took his sophomore year changed his career path into the great big wide world of cinema. Since then, he has produced three original short films, titled “Dr. Elite” his sophomore year, “Breaking Winter” his senior year and “Ransom My Soul,” his first Christian film, this past summer. He also made a five-part “webshow” inspired by “The Office” with two of his friends. He is excited about coming to Elon and living in the Communications Living Community in Sloan dormitory. The two things he loves more than anything are God and movies. He hopes his name will one day be announced after “And the winner is ...” at the Academy Awards.

Rebecca Iannucci is a journalism major hailing from Nutley, N.J. She has had an interest in journalism for many years, which was only solidified throughout her time in high school. After working for one year as a reporter for the school’s newspaper, The Maroon & Gray, Rebecca spent her senior year as editor-in-chief. During her time at Elon, she hopes to study abroad in London as she pursues a career in entertainment journalism. She is thrilled to be a Communications Fellow at Elon, and cannot wait to seize the opportunities that await her in North Carolina.

Ian Luther was born and raised in Raleigh, N.C. Before graduating from Cardinal Gibbons High School, Ian participated on the lacrosse team for four years and cross country for three. He also wrote for the school newspaper, and throughout much of his life, Ian produced numerous videos, both in and out of school, one of which was used on the Cardinal Gibbons website as encouragement for alumni to donate. Ian is not sure where specifically he will focus within Elon's School of Communications, but he looks forward to taking advantage of everything it has to offer.

Tom Page, who was born in Philadelphia, moved to London at age three and returned to the United States 10 years later. Enrolling at Charlotte Latin School in the 8th grade, Tom quickly took to theater and the performing arts, rising rapidly through the hierarchy of Latin's theater circle. As the years progressed, his burning passion for live theater waned, but his desire for acting and directing remained strong. After directing Steve Martin's one-act play "W.A.S.P," Tom was set on the idea of directing for television and film. Also a pianist and singer, Tom's passion for music has been an important part of his life since an early age. Performing at Carnegie Hall his freshman year with the Charlotte Latin chorus, as well as singing around Europe with his previous school's choir, are fond memories. He looks forward to being a Communications Fellow and hopes to explore his other interests during the years at Elon.

Jason Puckett is an eight-year resident of Wesley Chapel, N.C., having moved here from Connecticut in 2002. During his high school years, he was actively involved in both concert and marching band, National Honor Society, First Priority Christian Club, Youth Group and many other activities. He was student body president his senior year and helped establish the new format for student government in his school. He was very active in the theater department and had leading roles in “Man of La Mancha,” “Fools, Footloose,” “The Diviners,” “Twelfth Night” and “Godspell.” His involvement in theater helped him realize his affinity for public speaking and communicating with large audiences. He also achieved the rank of Eagle Scout in Boy Scouts of America and was given many opportunities to lead and speak to large groups of young men. Theater, speech class, being an Eagle Scout and his role as student body president all helped reaffirm his desire to go into Communications at Elon. He wants to be a part of Phoenix14News and is looking forward to learning all aspects of the communication field, both in front of and behind the camera.

Tracy Raetz is from Dallas and graduated from The Greenhill School. Her desire to major in Communications was sparked in middle school when she took her first journalism class. Two years later, her journalism teacher became her boss when she began her internship at a local advertising agency, Maloney Strategic Communications. She has been an intern at the agency for four years and through the internship realized that she wants to major in Strategic Communications. In high school, Tracy was an editor of her school’s yearbook and concentrated a large amount of her time working on her AP photography portfolio. She is looking forward to following her passion for advertising at Elon and is very excited about all the opportunities available to her as a Communications Fellow.

Kate Riley is from Raleigh, N.C., and is thrilled to be a part of Elon's Communications Fellows Program. Beginning with her sophomore year at Enloe Magnet High School, Kate was selected to be a part of her school's yearbook staff. Her junior year, she was selected to be an editor, followed by editor-in-chief as a senior. Along with yearbook, Kate loves singing and was a part of the Capital City Girl’s Choir at Meredith College in Raleigh throughout high school. She toured around France during the summer of 2009 singing with the choir and will never forget singing on the coast of Normandy. She also enjoys working with children and is a camp counselor during the summers. Although most of her communications experience pertains to print journalism, she hopes to major in Broadcast Journalism. Kate hopes that the Fellows Program is the perfect opportunity to aid in pursuing her dream of making news more easily accessible to those in poorer areas and countries around the world.

Natasha Samtani is from Potomac, Md., right outside Washington, D.C., and attended the Holton-Arms School. Inspired by her TV anchor turned producer mother, Natasha has always had a passion for the media and plans to major in Journalism and Strategic Communications. All four years of high school she wrote for her school’s newspaper, The Scribbler, and eventually became editor of the Arts and Entertainment section. She also served as photography editor of her school yearbook. Every week she volunteered as assistant producer for the Potomac Elementary student-run news program, “The Potomac Beat.” Natasha also enjoys on-camera work, as she has participated in national training videos for the American Red Cross and the National Guard. In addition, she had the exciting opportunity to attend Teen Vogue Fashion University in New York, where she learned all about fashion journalism. Natasha is so excited to come to Elon this fall and looks forward to being a Communications Fellow.

Derek Scully was raised in Wilmington, N.C., by parents Madeline and Kevin. He graduated from John T Hoggard High School in 2010, having been awarded both the Dartmouth Book Award and the Order of the Viking for services to the school. In high school, Derek was involved in a variety of clubs and organizations. He excelled in the Drama Department at both acting and improv and was heavily involved in the Digital Media Department, as well. Derek was known as the lead anchor and, later, producer of his school’s live morning television show, “Viking Television.” He dabbled in broadcast journalism, covering the school’s football games and other topics for V-TV. He also enjoyed making and acting in more creative films and videos. Derek’s voice could be easily recognized reading announcements over Hoggard’s PA or as the soccer announcer at Hoggard Stadium. Derek enjoys playing guitar, as well as writing and performing comedy. He has performed stand-up comedy at his local comedy club and did an independent study into the subject for his graduation project. Derek hopes to major in Media Arts & Entertainment at Elon and plans to take advantage of everything the Communications Fellows program has to offer.

Katy Steele grew up in a military family, living in six different states before graduating high school in the suburbs of Dayton, Ohio. Passionate about competitive dance, she served her senior year as dance team captain. She also spent two years in student government before becoming senior class business manager. In this role she focused on coordinating fundraisers and is especially proud of the group's 2009 efforts, which raised $47,000 in one month to benefit local charities. Also involved with her church, Katy combined her faith with her love for writing by serving as a teen editor for the national publication Devozine. While she enjoys writing, she's also interested in broadcast journalism and hopes to explore both areas. Recently, she realized an interest in politics. She is an avid reader of Newsweek and watcher of CNN. Along with journalism, she hopes to pursue either political science or international studies. Katy is most interested in investigative journalism and traveling the world. She hopes her future career involves both, and she feels that being a Communications Fellow at Elon will prepare her for whatever she chooses to do.

Jeff Stern graduated from Ward Melville High School in Long Island, N.Y. When he's not selling in Best Buy's camera department, there's a good chance that he's making a movie, photographing for the local paper or working on a website. He hopes to pursue these interests and gain experience at Elon University by majoring in Strategic Communications and becoming involved with student media. Stern also enjoys walking around town, watching trains and wearing T-shirts. While he'll miss his friends and the New York pizza, he's excited to become a member of Elon's Communications Fellows Program. Read Jeff Stern's blog and view his portfolio at

James Stevenson iis from Lansdale, Pa., in the suburbs of Philadelphia. He graduated from La Salle College High School, where he was a member of the cross county and indoor and outdoor track and field teams. He is continuing his love for running by competing for the Phoenix this year in all three seasons. At La Salle, Jimmy was a member of the National Honor Society and was heavily involved in his school's television station, WEXP, where he was the sports anchor for all four years of his high school career. He also helped design the Sports Information Club at his school, which helps students interested in sports to expand their interest through further developing their skills in collecting sports information and displaying them to the student body in various media formats. In addition, Jimmy was a sports writer for his school's newspaper, The Wisterian. With his passion for sports, Jimmy aspires to be a sports anchor for ESPN or a reporter covering cover cross country and track and field throughout the world. He was also active in his church's youth group, Christian Endeavor, and plans to get involved with a campus ministry group at Elon. He dabbles with the guitar and piano wishes to learn more about these instruments while at Elon. In the summer of 2009, Jimmy had the opportunity to take a two-week service trip to Bolivia in the heart of South America. He looks forward to continuing to serve others on various service trips at home and abroad. Jimmy is excited about the opportunities that await him at Elon.

Laura Van Drie graduated from Andover High School in Andover, Mass. Her interest in communications began at a young age when she enjoyed writing stories, making movies and publishing a “magazine” full of family news. In high school, Laura spent two summers immersed in her main interest, writing, first in a workshop led by an Associated Press journalist and later at Emerson College’s Young Writers program in Boston. While at Emerson, she took classes in fiction and nonfiction and copy edited the Young Writers’ literary magazine. At Andover High, Laura explored other modes of communication through classes in digital photography, marketing and broadcast journalism. She won an award for achievement in television production during her sophomore year. Laura also created and maintains a website for her father’s company using her knowledge of Photoshop and HTML. When she wasn’t busy writing, Laura participated in theater and volunteer work and held part-time jobs. Her ideal career would combine her love of writing with her interest in visual media.

Ashley Watkins was born and raised in Warrenton, Va., which is about an hour from Washington, D.C. She graduated with highest distinction from Fauquier High School. Ashley was involved in countless activities during high school and could always be found putting in long hours at a practice or rehearsal. Ashley was a captain of her school's varsity cheerleading squad and also the '09-'10 season MVP. She was a member of the National Honor Society, the Spanish Honor Society and the executive council of her student government. Ashley was also a very active member of her school's theatre department, performing in all of the spring musicals, some of the plays and also directing a student-written one act. She was the dance captain and vocal assistant of her most recent musical and some of her most notable roles were as Elmire in the play “Tartuffe” and Mrs. Paroo in the musical “The Music Man,” for which she won the "Oscar" for best supporting actress. She was also the recipient of the '09-'10 outstanding theatre student award. Ashley was a member of her school's literary magazine staff. Music is the driving passion of Ashley's life and she plans to double major with both communications and vocal performance. Ashley was a member of her school's auditioned choir for all four years and was selected for district choir each year. Her senior year, she was selected to the prestigious VMEA Honor's choir in addition to being asked to sing the National Anthem at her high school graduation. Ashley is very excited to be taking this big leap in her life and she is glad to be able to do so as a Communications Fellow. She hopes to be able to dabble in many of her numerous areas of interest during her time at Elon and ultimately would like to have a career either singing or in a field where music would be the focal point of her job. She would like to explore all of her many interests by doing things such as writing for the Pendulum, working for the TV and radio stations and performing with one of Elon's excellent choirs. She has big intentions to study abroad, preferably in Italy as she has many relatives from there. Ashley cannot wait to join the Phoenix community.