Issue 100 | May 2013

Congrats to Harvardwood on 100 issues of the Harvardwood Highlights


* Director's Notes
* Message from Allison
* 100th issue Trivia Mania!
* Pencil Me In:


  • ***Harvardwood Seminar Series presents: The Woody Allen Exercise - Coming Up With The Idea, Wed., May 15
  • Brown University Entertainment Group & Harvardwood co-present THE LEAGUE SHOW, Thurs., May 2
  • Harvardwood Heads To...Embracing Diversity: Spotlight on Latino Culture, Fri., May 3
  • CreatorUp invites Harvardwood to: How to Make Original Web Video to Grow x10, Sat., May 4
  • Harvardwood Heads To..."SHADES" (bicoastal-award-winning play), Sun., May 5
  • TEN invites Harvardwood to...Inside the Business Speaker Series feat. talent manager Danny Sussman, Thurs., May 9
  • NUEA invites Harvardwood Elevator Pitch Workshop + Speed Networking, Tues., May 14
  • C.L.A. invites Harvardwood to The Nuts & Bolts of Screenwriter Agreements, Tues., May 21
  • C.L.A. invites Harvardwood to Copyright and Publishing Agreements for Musicians, Wed., May 29


  • Harvardwood Heads To...MARRIED & COUNTING, Wed., May 1
  • OPC invites Harvardwood to FREE Preview Screening of FILL THE VOID, Wed., May 8 (exclusive access available to members only through email, not listed on website -- be sure you're logged in to view)
  • Harvardwood Presents Grammy-Nominated Violinist ANASTASIA KHITRUK: Love, Passion, Obession, Thurs., May 9 - NY
  • Special Harvardwood Tour of NY Historical Society's AUDUBON WATERCOLORS, Sat., May 11
  • Harvardwood Presents BARTLETT SHER on Directing, Thurs., May 16
  • Harvardwood Heads To...NYC Audubon Bryant Park Spring Migration Tour, Thurs., May 16


  • C.L.A. invites Harvardwood to The Business of Making and Distributing a Film, Wed., May 29


  • Harvardwood Heads To...EVERY DAY IS A HOLIDAY at the Montclair Film Festival, Sat., May 4


  • Harvardwood Reunion Mixer! Sat., June 1

* Submit for a Harvardwood Heroes grant (deadline June 1st)!
* Calling all Summer Interns! (Sign-up for housing lottery by May 15)
* A Gift for our Grads
* It's not too late...2013 Harvardwood Summer Internship Listings Still Available
* Seeking summer housing for students in LA and NY
* Industry Successes
* Featured Member Posting: Assistant to Literary Manager/Producer - LA
* Member Profile: Celebrate 100 issues with the Founders' Spotlight!

Director's Notes

I felt like a proud mama when I saw that the Harvardwood Highlights had reached issue #100!! Harvardwood has come such a long way with a lion’s share of the credit due to its esteemed founders, Stacy Cohen ’89, Adam Fratto ’90, and Mia Riverton ’99. To them, we all owe a huge debt of gratitude. This issue is chock full of 100th edition madness, so enjoy! Take the trivia challenge and read all about the folklore of Harvardwood’s origins in the Founders’ Spotlight.

And as we reminisce on the past, we are just as excited to envision Harvardwood’s future – an organization poised to make the world a better place through the creativity and leadership of its awesome members and the power of the arts. To that end, I encourage everyone to take a look at our newly established Harvardwood Heroes grant program. Through this new initiative Harvardwood aims to offer financial support to those members making a significant contribution to the community specifically at the intersection of arts and service. Read on to learn more!

-- Kelley

Message from Allison

Happy 100 Harvardwood Highlights! And a special congrats to Kelley who has put together over a third of these fabulous issues and, in the process, innovated and grown this great monthly resource, including all the fun 100th edition madness!

Each month when I read through the seminars, job-listings, successes and member profiles, I am struck by what an amazing community Harvardwood has become. Definitely check out this month's fantastic profile to see where it all started!

- Allison

100th issue Trivia Mania!

Celebrate 100 issues of the Harvardwood Highlights with Trivia Mania! The first member to email the CORRECT answer to [email protected] will win a prize...(hint: the answer can be found in this very issue)!

In what year did the first unofficial Harvardwood event occur?

A) 1976
B) 1989
C) 1996
D) 2006

Insert Jeopardy music here.

Pencil Me In...

***LA - Harvardwood Seminar Series presents: The Woody Allen Exercise - Coming Up With The Idea, Wed., May 15

Woody Allen has a nightstand drawer filled with potential – hundreds of paper scraps, napkins, bill envelopes and torn yellow legal pad papers – all documenting film ideas. When he’s finished a project, he pulls out the ideas, swirls them around on top of the bedspread and randomly picks one. Bluepig Founder and Writing Coach, Michelle Semrad, M.Ed. will be leading this writing seminar dedicated to Mr. Allen’s proficiency at generating ideas, lots of ideas, perhaps from some unfamiliar muses. Drawing upon Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences, we’ll meet our wary geniuses and get acquainted in order to put the creative spirits to work for us as a regular part of our writing habit – in between projects, at the beginning of projects, in the middle of projects, as part of a project…To view full posting, please visit:

LA - Brown University Entertainment Group & Harvardwood co-present THE LEAGUE SHOW, Thurs., May 2

The Brown University Entertainment Group and Harvardwood are proud to sponsor a new stand-up comedy night showcasing Ivy talent. We call it THE LEAGUE SHOW. This monthly show in Los Angeles features stand-up comics that are graduates of the prestigious Ivy League: Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Brown, Cornell, Dartmouth, Columbia, and Penn. These hysterically funny men and women once rubbed shoulders with the very best and brightest — before throwing it all away to come to Hollywood! Please join us for our next show at 9:45pm on Thursday, May 2nd, 2013 at Room 5 in Hollywood! …To view full posting, please visit:

LA - Harvardwood Heads To...Embracing Diversity: Spotlight on Latino Culture, Fri., May 3

Embracing Diversity is a film and live performance multicultural event and fundraiser for Generation Arts, in order to provide digital arts programs for free or at very low cost to students. The highlight of the event is the multi award-winning independent film SMUGGLED, recently featured by ABC, Univision and NBCLatino. The film was produced by Harvard Alum Jennifer Fischer and was written and directed by Ramon Hamilton, who will be present for Q&A about the film. Additional performances at the event include: a lively performance by the City of Santa Clarita Ballet Folklorico Dancers, the screening of a short film project made by local youth through Generation Arts at Newhall Elementary School, and presentations by prominent Latino/as in the community who will share their stories as featured in the book PROFILES IN LATINO COURAGE by Bill Miranda…Review a trailer for the film, SMUGGLED, on the Harvardwood Channel! …To view full posting, please visit:

LA - CreatorUp invites Harvardwood to: How to Make Original Web Video to Grow x10, Sat., May 4

Join CreatorUp teachers for our next live lab in LA to learn how to take your ideas from concept to reality by writing, producing, and marketing your own original online video content. Whether you're a writer, startup, or small business, online video is a great way to establish and grow your own brand. SPECIAL DEAL: Anyone that completes a FREE consultation with Michael Persaud HBS '94 at Ameriprise will receive a $15 coupon code to use with CreatorUp! …To view full posting, please visit:

LA - Harvardwood Heads To..."SHADES" (bicoastal-award-winning play), Sun., May 5

Join us as Harvardwood Heads To...SHADES (world premiere, bicoastal-award-winning play) for its closing performance on Sun., May 5. *NOTE: The last six performances are April 27, 28 (matinee), May 2, 3, 4, and 5 (matinee). The politics of war, race, and sex collide with echoes of the past in this compelling drama about what happens to family ties when oppositional politics threaten to tear them apart. Witnesses to life’s fleeting nature, each must take action now or risk losing all. A play about discovering the path to love, laughter, and even some peace beneath the ruins of war. Recipient of the Inaugural Pen & Brush Award for Playwriting. Harvardwood member, Bob Reese, comments -- "powerful...uncommon depth. SHADES may well be the best serious play so far in the 21st century.” …To view full posting, please visit:

LA - TEN invites Harvardwood to...Inside the Business Speaker Series feat. talent manager Danny Sussman, Thurs., May 9

Our counterparts at USC cordially invite Harvardwood members to join an exclusive evening with one of the top A-list talent managers in Hollywood, Danny Sussman. Moderated by Larry Auerbach….To view full posting, please visit:

LA - NUEA invites Harvardwood Elevator Pitch Workshop + Speed Networking, Tues., May 14

When time is of the essence, and networking is vital to achieving professional success, having a clear and concise message, or "elevator pitch" is crucial. Join the NUEA (Northwestern University Entertainment Alliance) for "Crafting Your Elevator Pitch / Speed Networking Night" presented by Matthew Temple (KSM93), Director, Kellogg Alumni Career Services. Matthew will guide attendees through an interactive workshop, providing real world examples and key tips to creating an effective elevator pitch. This workshop has been presented to Kellogg alumni in 13 cities and 5 countries, and will be tailored to fit the needs of entertainment professionals…Everyone will benefit from this program, including creatives, new professionals, experienced managers, career changers, and entrepreneurs…To view full posting, please visit:

LA - C.L.A. invites Harvardwood to The Nuts & Bolts of Screenwriter Agreements, Tues., May 21

There are many different kinds of writer deals made: film, TV, established writer, new writer, guild, non-guild, etc. In this workshop, speaker Gary G. Goldberger will discuss and analyze the deal points involved in different kinds of agreements between writers and producers, from the perspective of both writers and producers. Agreements and talking points include submission agreements, representation agreements, option/purchase agreements, for-hire writing agreements, collaboration agreements, source materials, copyright registration, and rights retention & reversion …To view full posting, please visit:

LA - C.L.A. invites Harvardwood to Copyright and Publishing Agreements for Musicians, Wed., May 29

No one concept in the music industry is as satisfying, confusing, and potentially income generating as songwriting and music publishing. As the music industry continues to undergo once-in-a-lifetime changes, music publishing remains one of the most important means of making money over the long term. This workshop will focus on the core elements of copyright law as it applies to sound recordings and musical compositions, the sources of income for both, and how to monetize them effectively. Speaker Dean Sheldon Serwin will discuss what copyright is and is not, how to protect your own copyrights, and how to go about using someone else’s copyright, including when you need to secure a license…To view full posting, please visit:

NY - Harvardwood Heads To...MARRIED & COUNTING, Wed., May 1

Join us as Harvardwood Heads to...MARRIED & COUNTING! Come see MARRIED & COUNTING, the award-winning documentary by Allan Piper '96. Narrated by George Takei, the film tells the story of two men who celebrate 25 years together by traveling the country to get married in every state that will let them. Huffington Post called it "one of the most relevant, heart-felt, and timely documentaries of the year... a brilliant gem." Q&A with Allan and the film subjects will follow, and then drinks at a nearby bar...If you can't make it to this particular date, you have several more chances to see it at the Quad Cinema between Apr. 26 - May 2. Info and tickets at …To view full posting, please visit:

NY - OPC invites Harvardwood to FREE Preview Screening of FILL THE VOID, Wed., May 8 (exclusive access available to members only through email, not listed on website -- be sure you're logged in to view)

Directed by Rama Burshtein, and set in Tel Aviv, FILL THE VOID tells the story of an Orthodox 18-year old who is pressured to marry the husband of her late sister. Hadas Yaron, the lead actress in the movie, won the best actress award at the Venice Film Festival for this performance. The film was Israel's official entry for the Academy Award Best Foreign Language Film competition, and was screened at the New York Film Festival. The director, herself an active member of the Orthodox community in Israel, will be on hand after the screening to talk about the film and answer questions…The film preview is courtesy of Donna Daniels Public Relations and will be screened for the Overseas Press Club on Wednesday, May 8 at the SONY Screening Room…Reservations are essential as seating is limited…To view full posting and get specific reservation instructions, please visit:

NY - Harvardwood Presents Grammy-Nominated Violinist ANASTASIA KHITRUK: Love, Passion, Obession, Thurs., May 9 - NY

Throughout its history, more than any other instrument, the violin has been the voice of passion. Anastasia Khitruk, herself a magnificently expressive and passionate player, will talk about the violin and its history of Love, Passion, and Obsession, as she plays violin works including Franck's sweepingly romantic Violin Sonata and what is probably the greatest of all works for solo violin, Bach's stupendous Chaconne. Our evening begins at 6 p.m. with a 45 minute reception, with OPEN BAR, cheeses, and light hors d'oeuvres, in the stunning landmark setting of the 1887 Down Town Association…To view full posting, please visit:

NY - Special Harvardwood Tour of NY Historical Society's AUDUBON WATERCOLORS, Sat., May 11

By Special Invitation, Harvardwood Members Enjoy a Private Docent-led tour of Audubon's Aviary: The Original Watercolors for "The Birds of America." Optional picnic lunch will follow in Central Park. The trilogy AUDUBON'S AVIARY: THE COMPLETE FLOCK is a once-in-a-lifetime series (2013–2015) that will explore the evolution of Audubon’s dazzling watercolors in the order in which they were engraved. Visitors to New-York Historical will have the unique opportunity to view these national treasures sequentially and in their entirety for the first time—the same way his original subscribers received the Havell plates. Harvardwood is delighted to offer a PRIVATE TOUR of Part 1 of this exhibit…To view full posting, please visit:

NY - Harvardwood Presents BARTLETT SHER on Directing, Thurs., May 16

Bartlett Sher is one of the finest and most versatile directors of our time. His breathtaking 2008 revival of SOUTH PACIFIC for the Lincoln Center Theater earned him a Tony, a Drama Desk, and an Outer Critics Circle award as Best Director of a Musical, and the show won 6 other Tonys as well, including Best Revival of a Musical. Bartlett Sher will be interviewed about his thoughts on directing by playwright and Harvardwood NYC Chapter Head, Spence Porter. This event is graciously hosted by the Dramatists Guild, with half the seats reserved for the Guild and half for Harvardwood, so we expect this event to sell out early…To view full posting, please visit:

NY - Harvardwood Heads To...NYC Audubon Bryant Park Spring Migration Tour, Thurs., May 16

Join Naturalist and NYC Audubon Guide, Gabriel Willow with the Bryant Park Corporation to witness some of the thousands of birds (like this black and white warbler) that stop in Bryant Park during Spring Migration to South America. Meet at the Birding Tour sign at the 42nd Street and 6th Avenue entrance to the park. Guests are welcome. FREE. (But please register so that we know who will be there!) Optional cocktails and/or dinner following walk. And yes--you can go to this event and then still be in time for the Bart Sher event only a few blocks away! …To view full posting, please visit:

SF - C.L.A. invites Harvardwood to The Business of Making and Distributing a Film, Wed., May 29

This workshop covers the business of making and distributing a film. Topics covered include the Development Phase; the Production Phase; the Post Production Phase; and the Distribution Phase. The workshop will conclude with a review of useful Film Production Resources…To view full posting, please visit:

NJ - Harvardwood Heads To...EVERY DAY IS A HOLIDAY at the Montclair Film Festival, Sat., May 4

Join us as Harvardwood Heads to...EVERY DAY IS A HOLIDAY at the Montclair Film Festival. Please support filmmaker Theresa (Tree) Loong for her directorial debut of EVERY DAY IS A HOLIDAY, the life-affirming story of her father’s unlikely journey from Chinese-Malay teenager and POW in Japan during WWII to merchant seaman, Veterans Affairs doctor and naturalized citizen of the country that liberated him: the United States. With special guest Dr. Paul Loong …To view full posting, please visit:

BOSTON - Harvardwood Reunion Mixer! Sat., June 1

It's back again, our seventh annual Harvardwood Reunion Mixer! Join Boston-based Harvardwood members, folks in town for reunion week, and current students for food, drink, and general merriment! RSVP highly recommended …To view full posting, please visit:

Submit for a Harvardwood Heroes grant (deadline June 1st)!

Launched in 2013 the Harvardwood Heroes (HH) grant program aims to spotlight and support those members of Harvardwood that have made or plan to make an exceptional contribution to the community, specifically at the intersection of arts and service. These Heroes exemplify the mission of Harvardwood, demonstrating the power and purpose of the arts, media, and entertainment…Harvardwood will begin this program in 2013 by awarding four $500* grants to applicants that have demonstrated a distinguished level of service to their organization of choice (*grant money may be spent at the winner’s discretion)…To apply for an HH grant, please read carefully the guidelines at this link:

Calling all Summer Interns! (Sign up for housing lottery by May 15)

Calling all summer interns for this year's Harvardwood Summer Internship Program (HSIP)! If you are interning and/or working in any facet of entertainment this summer let us know! Please fill out the HSIP participant form so we may stay in touch with you regarding HSIP events and activities. You do not have to have an internship that was listed on the HSIP list of opportunities. All summer interns affiliated with Harvard University can participate! In addition to being eligible for all HSIP activities, you will also have the opportunity to enter our HSIP housing lottery for the summer. The housing lottery consists of a few alums that have offered to host an intern for the summer in LA and/or NY. Please sign up before May 15 to be eligible, the lottery results will be announced in late May…To view full posting, please visit:

A Gift for Our Grads

If you are a member of the graduating class of 2013, Harvardwood would like to offer you a discount when you sign up for or renew your Full Membership this May! Click the link below to retrieve your discount code and follow the necessary instructions.

Harvardwood members, feel free to forward this along to other 2013 grads that may have an interest!


Harvardwood is a nonprofit organization for members of the Harvard community who believe in the power and purpose of the arts, media, and entertainment. Harvardwood coordinates career enhancing and community building programs and events for its members around the world, including on- and off-campus activities for students. Additionally, Harvardwood has an active online community, including a website, alumni directory and various email lists through which our 5,000+ members worldwide can send and receive information regarding career-related issues, job opportunities, cultural & social events, classified ads, and other areas of interest. By providing professional resources and service opportunities, Harvardwood strives to utilize the creativity and leadership of our diverse members as forces for positive social change.

Click here to learn more about and take advantage of our "Gift for Grads” discount:

It's not too late...2013 Harvardwood Summer Internship Listings Still Available

Most arts, media, and entertainment companies are still accepting applications for summer internships, so you're not too late! Check out the 2013 Harvardwood Summer Internship Program (HSIP) list of opportunities for more information. Started in 2003, HSIP provides a list of summer internship opportunities in the arts, media and entertainment to interested Harvard students. In addition, HSIP facilitates career-related activities throughout the summer for participating students and companies in NYC and LA …To view full posting, please visit:

Seeking summer housing for students in LA and NY

Harvardwood seeks accommodations hosts for the 2013 Harvardwood Summer Internship Program (HSIP). The HSIP provides a list of summer internship opportunities in the arts, media, and entertainment to interested Harvard students. In addition, HSIP facilitates career-related activities throughout the summer for participating students and companies in NYC and LA.

Because several of these internships are unpaid, many HSIP participants are in need of free or discounted accommodations to help defray the costs of accepting these opportunities. If you have a spare couch, futon, sleeping bag, or room(s) you can provide to a student or students (either free or discounted) for an extended period of time this summer (most internships run from mid-June to early August) please let us know!

In addition to our undying gratitude, you will receive a free year of Full Membership to Harvardwood and you will be invited to attend special HSIP activities. Hosts are NOT expected to provide transportation, meals, entertainment, etc.

If interested, please email us at [email protected] with the subject line HOUSING. Thank you very much in advance for your help.

Industry Successes...

This past month, Kelley Nicole Purcell took her multi-media stage show SHATTERED GLASS on tour to Cal State Monterey Bay and a nearby women’s shelter. Both shows were a success and received to great acclaim. The show continues to build momentum with several bookings anticipated for the fall. Learn more about SHATTERED GLASS and the music of Kelley Nicole at

Melissa Lee '03 (DEAR LEMON LIMA, CIRCUMSTANCE -- winner of the US Audience Award at Sundance 2011) will premiere her new film BENDS at this month's Cannes Film Festival. BENDS premieres this summer as an official selection of Un Certain Regards, the Cannes Film Festival's survey of current world cinema. BENDS (Hong Kong, 2013) by Flora Lau; produced by Melissa Lee (AB '03), Nansun Shi, Yu Tsang, Ken Hui; world premiere, Official Selection - Un Certain Regard.

Alum Sara Melson released her second full-length album, A MILLION WHITE STARS, on April 30, 2013. Sara's songs have been featured in GREY’S ANATOMY and a recent Chevy campaign as well as other film and tv soundtracks. From Direct Current: "What sets Melson's own particular songcraft apart from the thousands of female singer/songwriters is the palpable strength and honesty that flows through her music. In a cookie-cutter world littered with songs more interested in marketing than music, she's simply not afraid to wear her own real emotions prominently on her sleeve." Read the full review here: …Now available on iTunes and the artist's website:

Review of world premiere of Paula J. Caplan's award-winning play, SHADES, in LIFE IN LA: "Shades makes the audience take a broader perspective on war and delve into a deeper connection to something we all need and want…to be loved...a terrific and touching story...the chemistry they share on stage exudes family love and harmony, in the midst of tragedy and pain. The actors did an astonishing job...It is a play I suggest everyone experience." SHADES runs through May 5. See for more information.

Theresa Loong's documentary film, EVERY DAY IS A HOLIDAY, is playing at the Montclair Film Festival in Montclair, NJ on May 4 at 11:15am. She would really appreciate your support! The film is about survival, immigration, and forgiveness. It features a man who was a prisoner in WWII in Japan (and that man is her father). The documentary is also screening on public television May 3-5. For more information, please visit

Featured Member Posting: Assistant to Literary Manager/Producer - LA

Anonymous Content seeks organized, resourceful assistant to support literary manager / producer. Minimum requirements: 1 - 2 years assistant experience at busy Agency/Management/Production Company, thorough knowledge of industry/players, interest in client representation & production…To view full posting, please visit:

Member Profile: Founders' Spotlight!

by D. Dona Lefounderphoto_homepage.jpg

In terms of academic manpower and resources, Harvard students ordinarily want for nothing. But as recently as 15 years ago, before Harvardwood was founded, many students wondered how to best go about pursuing careers in the arts and the entertainment industry—more specifically, in Hollywood.

One of those students was Stacy Cohen (AB ’89), who concentrated in the History of Architecture and finagled the department into letting her write its first film-related thesis. While at Harvard, Cohen had no idea that Adam Fratto (AB ’90), just a year behind her, was interested in a similar career path in the moviemaking industry.

And even after Cohen and Fratto connected in Los Angeles in the mid-1990s and began hosting informal mixer events for Harvard alumni, it would be years before they were put in touch with Mia Riverton (AB ’99). Together, the three of them would combine their contacts and form Harvardwood.

Cohen entered college with the intention of becoming a veterinarian before discovering that the study of biology was pretty unappealing. However, she had "always passionately loved movies, watched them, consumed them. I would go through these completely obsessive periods of basically learning an entire genre or piece of the history of movies, and then it was director-based. I’d see all their movies and read all kinds of books about them, but it never occurred to me that I could do it too.”

Although Harvard’s VES department was certainly thriving in the 1980s, its faculty members were more interested in cinéma vérité than they were in Hollywood blockbusters. Without a clear-cut network to consult for advice or useful contacts, Cohen improvised.

Cohen’s older sister, also a Harvard alum, had given her the September-October 1987 issue of Harvard Magazine, which featured an article called "The Harvard Powers in Hollywood.” But Cohen had no way of getting in touch with those Harvard powers—there was no database, no Internet, no LinkedIn to facilitate her search.

So she moved to Los Angeles on her own and reached out to a Harvard peer who was working as an assistant for Edgar Scherick (AB ‘50). Cohen had a half-hour meeting with the contact, who told her "how to find my first assistant job and what it would be like. He described gassing up the car and picking up the dry-cleaning, and I said, ‘Great.’”

Soon thereafter, Cohen had her first job as a production assistant.

Back in Cambridge, Fratto, whose "earliest memories are watching ABBOT AND COSTELLO movies on a gnarly old black-and-white television with my dad,” concentrated in Social Studies and wrote his senior thesis about horror films.

"I couched it all in a lot of cultural theory and critical blah blah blah,” he quips. After graduating in 1990, he moved to New York to explore theater. He came with ample experience, having directed seven shows as a Harvard undergraduate.

After directing a Broadway show, Fratto spent a year living in China and then moved to Los Angeles for the University of Southern California’s MFA film program.

"There was so little networking among Harvard alums so I was out here knocking on doors and trying to break into the biz, talking to anybody who would open up the door. Stacy was kind enough to give me twenty minutes of her time.”

And this was how two-thirds of the Harvardwood triumvirate met—while Riverton was still attending high school in Indiana, although she’d already begun performing as an actress, singer, dancer, and instrumentalist.

During her first few years in LA, Cohen remembered the difficulty she’d experienced making contacts in Hollywood, so she reached out to Harvard’s Office of Career Services and offered to be a resource for current students. Cohen began making time for informational meetings with recent graduates who moved to Los Angeles looking to break into the entertainment industry. She also used the OCS as a way to find and hire reliable Harvard interns, whom she needed for her office-based development job at Disney.

Cohen’s pay-it-forward generosity, in combination with the proactive networking of students such as Fratto and Riverton, eventually led to the founding of Harvardwood.

"When I realized that I wanted to do something creative, the OCS basically said, ‘Sorry, you’ve got to figure it out on your own,’” laughs Riverton. Thanks to Cohen, by the time Riverton was a senior at Harvard, the OCS did keep a binder filled with handwritten contact information of Harvard alums working in Hollywood; Cohen was in that binder.

Once Cohen got to know enough Harvard grads in Hollywood, she organized a mixer for everyone in 1996, when Riverton was just entering Harvard as a freshman. Fratto stepped up to help Cohen organize subsequent events, and an informal version of Harvardwood came into existence.

"People were realizing there were a lot of Harvardians around in LA,” Cohen explains, "but no connective tissue between them at all. That’s when Adam and I started hearing about a newer graduate who also had a lot of friends from the later 1990s in Hollywood.”

"When I got to LA,” continues Riverton, "it was 1999 and email lists were just becoming mainstream. I wanted a way to keep in touch with everybody, so I listed a few dozen people who were classmates. Through word of mouth, that list grew, and then the three of us got in touch. I was delighted to find there was a huge network of Harvard people that I had simply not discovered yet in Hollywood.”

While a handful of other people were involved in the initial founding of Harvardwood, Fratto explains, "Of the group of people who would get together, there were three of us who actually pushed it forward. It went from these mixers to more outreach, as we started to do more ambitious events that set us on the long road toward becoming what Harvardwood has become now.”

What it is now is a worldwide network of Harvard students, alumni, faculty, and staff who are pursuing careers in the arts, media, and entertainment and are benefiting from each local chapter’s unique events and programs. Harvardwood was incorporated as a 501(c)(3) in 2002, and since then, official chapters have sprung up in major U.S. cities such as Boston, New York, and Chicago and in places as far as Toronto and London.

Perhaps what is most impressive about the trio of founders is their motivation, their willingness to spend the time, energy, and sheer hard work needed to foster Harvardwood, particularly in its early years.

"In the beginning, the first three to four years, it was a lot of work,” confides Riverton. "I probably spent 40 hours a week doing Harvardwood stuff; it basically constituted a full-time job, right when we were starting to incorporate.”

In the mid-2000s, Cohen, Fratto, and Riverton expanded the Board of Directors to distribute the workload and, just as importantly, to make sure Harvardwood would evolve from the interests and passions of its members, not just of the founders. Each Board Member was required to fulfill a specific function, and as the non-profit grew, the Founders decided to hire Kelley Nicole Purcell (AB ‘02), initially in a part-time role that has since become an (almost) full-time Executive Director position.

As of this year, the current president of Harvardwood is Allison Kiessling (EdM '05), a former Board Member who managed the Harvardwood Writing Program.

"It’s a big step for us to have someone who’s not a Founder step into the role of President,” says Riverton. "The hope is now that we’ve disentangled our ‘power bloc’, others can see themselves in that position and strive to reach that pinnacle of Harvardwood leadership.”

"Non-profits start on the basis of the passion and elbow grease of a few people, but if they’re going to survive, they have to become bigger than that,” says Fratto. "So I think that stepping back a bit is good—not just for us personally but also for the health and longevity of the organization.”

Given that Cohen, Fratto, and Riverton have separately established successful and demanding careers for themselves, one might have expected them to assume more backseat roles in Harvardwood’s management sooner. All three were already working in the entertainment industry when they founded the organization, which was not crucial to furthering their careers.

But this willingness to cultivate a network that helps fellow alumni in Hollywood stems from the challenges they encountered as Harvard undergraduates, as well as from the helpful opportunities they were given.

For instance, Cohen credits Samuel Goldwyn, Jr. for enabling her career as an executive producer, and she met him through a fellow Harvard alum, John Manulis (AB ’78), who was working for Goldwyn in the mid-1990s.

"I wrote [John Manulis] a letter and said, ‘I’m a Harvard grad and I would appreciate if I could get help with my career.' Goldwyn agreed to it and at the meeting, he was so funny and nice and accommodating,” recalls Cohen. "He was encouraging and gave me lots of advice about how to get onto the track that I was interested in. Within five minutes of meeting me, he’d picked up the phone and called someone who needed an assistant at Disney. That’s how I got my first job.”

That experience in part inspired Cohen to do the same for other Harvard alumni who trekked to Los Angeles "because it’s so easy to help and when you’re not plugged in, you don’t know about any jobs; it’s very insular.”

Mia agrees. "It can be a very difficult industry to crack because it’s so relationship-based.”

Thanks to Harvardwood, alumni in Los Angeles and beyond have made invaluable professional and personal connections.

"There have been many instances of members collaborating and finding really fruitful business opportunities through their affiliation with Harvard,” says Fratto.

On a more personal note, Riverton met her husband—David Alpert (AB ‘97)—when his company Circle of Confusion approached Harvardwood about establishing the Writers’ Competition seven years ago. Today, they are co-producing a feature film written by a winner of that competition, directed by another Harvard graduate, and financed by Harvard alumni.

But Riverton didn’t always expect to remain so intertwined with Harvard College.

Noting that Harvard has historically churned out numerous graduates who become investment bankers, doctors, and lawyers, Mia initially envisioned a career in finance and thus chose Economics as her concentration. Thanks to her Advanced Standing status, she graduated cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa one year early.

However, "Getting involved in the arts at Harvard changed my mind and shaped what my goals eventually became,” she explains. Given the challenges of Hollywood networking, "I did not think Harvard would have any relevance in my post-college life except for the friends that I made there.”

For many Harvardwood members who might share that sentiment, the opposite has turned out to be the case. Part of the organization’s success is due to its ability to draw upon the invaluable Harvard network while also establishing a separate identity from the university. Although Harvardwood was one of the first Shared Interest Groups (SIGs) recognized by the Harvard Alumni Association, it was founded outside of that alumni umbrella and with a well-defined, independent mission.

According to Fratto, "We don’t have an agenda other than helping alums and doing cool stuff. There’s no financial motive, there’s no back door trying to drum up support for Harvard in general. I’m personally very excited about our efforts to really encourage visual arts, performing arts, journalism—all of those things that are sister fields and are part of our core mission.”

He does acknowledge that Harvardwood may be perceived by non-members as a program for "over-advantaged kids helping over-advantaged kids become even more advantaged,” although that could describe a broad perception of the university in general. Even Harvard alums themselves may be reticent to seek connections to the College after graduation, but Harvardwood has positively impacted alumni relations.

"It’s really led to a lot of people having a different perception and relationship with the university in general,” Fratto says. "They realize the value, camaraderie, networking, and standards that being an alum brings.”

Cohen is quick to point out that other universities such as USC, UCLA, Stanford, and Northwestern provide supportive networks for their alumni in the entertainment industry as well. The founders have in fact assisted such universities in starting organizations similar to Harvardwood, volunteering their time and offering insight gained from their own experiences.

"We’ve become a model for university alums in general of how to do this kind of thing. When they look at best practices, they seem to point to us, which is nice,” adds Fratto.

To Cohen, Harvardwood stands out because "we’ve taken it so many levels beyond networking with all of the different programs to professionally develop people and also to contribute in other ways.”

In fact, Cohen is currently the Director of Harvardwood Helps, established in 2010 to encourage and enable members to raise awareness of meaningful community service projects. More recently, Harvardwood has taken further steps to demonstrate its commitment to bettering the community, reflecting the direction it will take in the second decade of its existence.

"Part of what we’re doing is activating this amazing community, this resource, to provide the members with opportunities and resources to enact positive social change,” says Riverton, "basically to make the world a better place through the arts.”

To that end, Harvardwood will soon offer financial support to members working on significant community projects through the Harvardwood Heroes grant program. Four $500 grants will be awarded to winning proposals submitted by current Full Members; the deadline to apply for Harvardwood Heroes is June 1.

Harvardwood Heroes is only one of many valuable programs offered by the non-profit, and as local chapters continue to spring up, members can avail themselves of an increasingly global network, exclusive job opportunities, and professional development groups. What started with the founders’ desire to connect with like-minded Harvard graduates and to help future generations of students pursue their artistic talents and passions has blossomed into a full-fledged organization that boasts over 5,000 members.

As Cohen, Fratto, and Riverton take a step back to watch their organization flourish with the talents of its members, now is a particularly good time to acknowledge and thank the original Harvardwood heroes. Through their dedication, vision, and love of the arts, they’ve created a nurturing environment for and given voice to those Harvard graduates who may not necessarily become i-bankers, doctors, and lawyers, but artists and dreamers instead.

ddonale_page.jpgD. Dona Le is a freelance editor and writer currently residing in Chicago, IL. She currently serves as the Co-Chapter Head of Harvardwood's Chicago Chapter.



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