NewsDoc: Incoming Class of 2012

Claire Ward
is a writer and multimedia journalist based in New York City. She is a frequent contributor to Toronto-based Maclean’s magazine. She writes on topics ranging from protests and politics to cultural trends and technology. Her writing has also appeared in such publications as This Magazine, The Globe and Mail, and The Walrus. She has contributed videos to the New York Times blog, the Local East Village, NYC-TV and Al Jazeera English.

A dual citizen, Claire hails from Nova Scotia, Canada and was raised in the Netherlands. She is currently in pre-production of her thesis documentary, The Cola Road, which set to begin filming in Zambia in July.

You can find her at or @thementalward on Twitter.

Maria Gabriella Clara Pezzo
was born and raised in Milan, Italy where she attended the American School of Milan for eleven years. She graduated in 2006 and completed a BA in History of Art at Cambridge University, UK in 2009. The following year, she pursued her passion for storytelling by writing a book whilst living in Paris and Berlin. Back in Milan, she cultivated her interest in documentaries while working on a series of separate projects. To name a few, she filmed and edited a series of testimonial videos for SAGE Advising, she interviewed several Italian artists and authors such as Arrigo Petacco, Maria Teresa Illuminato and Filippo Panseca, and she contributed to the graphic design of products for Rebuild Design srl. She is now eager to be immersed again in a highly stimulating, academic, multicultural environment where she can truly employ her narrative skills and learn the art of making documentaries.

is a Qiang minority, a native of Beichuan Qiang Autonomous County , China, and a student majored in Bilingual International Economics and Trade at Wu Yuzhang Honors College, Sichuan University, China.

In college, he was one of the most active students who showed their faces and dedication everywhere. In freshman year, he initiated an English workshop that discussed life dreams by watching the legendary “Last Lecture” from CMU’s Professor Randy Pausch. In 2008, he produced a Chinese Culture Show at SUNY Farmingdale, which attracted more than 400 audiences and was said to be “the best show in Farmingdale since 20 years ago”. Mu joined SIFE Sichuan University in the third year of college and became the project manager. He and his teammates founded the Family Guesthouse Association in the outlying Heihu Qiang Village, Sichuan, to boost local tourism, the project won the second prize of 2010 SIFE National Competition. Apart from this, Mu interned at Hunan Broadcasting System, the second largest TV station in China.

Mu’s life was changed due to the 8.0 magnitude 2008 Sichuan Earthquake. His hometown was destroyed in the earthquake and his family was severely affected. He was moved by the love from people all over the world after the earthquake, but he was more angry at the failure of the government——no one was convicted of guilty for the shoddy school buildings that killed more than 5,000 students in the earthquake. Then, Mu made his mind to become a journalist, he wanted to record the things otherwise would be covered or forgotten. He wants to be well trained in NYU J-school and become a topnotch journalist in his future career.

As a fan of Man United and Jon Stewart’s the Daily Show, Mu loves sports and being funny. He enjoys long-time travel to the mountains and villages that gives him a break from the traffic jam and fast paced life in the city. He awfully likes playing board games that sometimes he plays more than 10 games with his friends, staying up all night.



Charlena Tillett is from the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, and received a B.A. in English and Government from Georgetown University. The rich diversity and political culture in Washington inspired Charlena to listen to people’s narratives and discussions at a young age. After studying abroad in Mwanza, Tanzania and helping the journalism class at an all-girls school develop a school magazine, she recognized the promise and vast influence of journalism. She interned with the local news station WUSA the next summer. Upon graduation, Charlena interned with FilmAid International, a non-profit organization which seeks to empower refugees through film and documentary. She currently works at ESPN Radio and NBC Connecticut. Charlena plans to become a news reporter and is eager to learn all aspects of multimedia news production. She loves reading, listening to good music, and spending time with family and friends.


My name is William Gallego, and I graduated from Queens College in June with a major in media studies and a minor in journalism. My senior year, I was the News Editor for the school paper, The Knight News. While at the paper, I assisted my fellow editors in revamping the paper, cutting out sections that we deemed detrimental to the paper’s credibility, and providing the students with a paper that served their best interests. My final year, we covered student walkouts and protests, corruption in student government, and the major budget cuts and issues CUNY was facing. As a journalist, I’ve also worked as an intern for the Queens Courier, writing articles on a variety of topics ranging from City tax and budget cuts to New York Mets press conferences and events. As a Media Studies major, I took a few production courses, learning how to shoot and edit along the way. I hope to one day put to use all of my skills to write and produce my own projects.



Katherine Niemczyk
hails from a small town in New England: Woodstock, Vermont. From a young age, she aspired to travel and leave the countryside, though memories of growing up on a farm will always remain prominent and close to her heart. She graduated a year early from high school with the desire to go to university at the age of 17. She attended Wheaton College from 2004 to 2008, during which time she produced, directed, and edited a half-hour length documentary film about military veterans speaking out against the Iraq War. As part of her research for the film, she spent a year traveling, filming, and interviewing in cities across the United States: Boston, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., St. Louis, Los Angeles, and near the military base, Fort Drum, in New York. She produced the documentary for her honors thesis for Sociology and Anthropology and premiered the film at Wheaton with a panel including two Iraq War veterans, her thesis advisor, Professor John Grady, and herself. Katherine double-minored in Art History and Religion and also spent a semester of her undergraduate education living in London and interning at CBS News. Working at the London CBS News bureau was one of the most exciting and fulfilling times of her life. It allowed her to work with people of all different backgrounds and gave her a greater worldview. For the past two and a half years, Katherine has been teaching English in South Korea to all ages and levels of learners. She chose to take some time after graduating from Wheaton College to see more of the world before attending graduate school, but is now especially eager and motivated to begin studying News and Documentary at NYU.


After completing her undergraduate studies in political economy at Georgetown University, Mona El-Naggar returned to Egypt and pursued a career in journalism. She started as an assistant producer in the BBC Arabic Radio Service then joined The New York Times Cairo bureau, where she worked as a reporter for the last seven years. Throughout this time, she traveled to over a dozen countries in the Arab world and helped document the complicated set of dynamics driving developments in the region, including the most recent wave of popular uprisings. She covered terrorist attacks, worked on a year-long series exploring the rising tide of Islamic identity among youth in the region, explored life in Gaza under the siege, and contributed to the International Herald Tribune’s Female Factor column. She loves being a journalist and thinks of her work as a process to better understand, capture and share our different realities.


Wenwen Ren: I came to the United States from China in 2007 to study communication and journalism at State University of New York at Albany, where I graduated B.A. Magna Cum Laude in the winter of 2010. During the four years studying and experiencing in Albany, I met so many nice people from all over the world. They made me feel warm and welcome as much as I feel being at home and the conversations with people from so many different backgrounds opened up my world, appreciating the cultural diversity in this country. Now that I am about to move to New York City, I cannot wait to start the exciting journey at NYU and enjoy the life in the “Big Apple”. For leisure time, I like everything about fashion, traveling to interesting places and doing Yoga.


Dion Tan
started out as a Talent Agent and Casting Director in Singapore. During his five years in the South East Asian media industry, he worked with numerous television networks and film production companies around Singapore, Malaysia, and Hong Kong. His passion for cinema led him to direct his own films.

To improve on his directing skills, Tan moved to New York City in 2007. He mastered acting techniques at the oldest and most prestigious theatre conservatory in the United States, The American Academy of Dramatic Arts. He continued to earn his bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts at The New School, majoring in Film Studies and Journalism. Based on his observations of human relationships in New York City, he wrote and directed a trilogy of narrative short films about love in the modern city.

Tan’s interest in filmmaking and sociology inspired him to venture into documentaries. In 2010, he started production on The Forgotten Child Project, a global multi-part documentary series about Down Syndrome individuals.

Find out more about Dion and his latest works at

Kristen Kiraly
was originally drawn to journalism as a way to level the playing field. As a high school athlete she quickly realized that not all sports received equal coverage by the local press. To counter this perceived inequity, Kristen created an internship as a sports reporter publishing articles in several Long Island newspapers. As an undergraduate at Colgate University, she reported for the Oneida Daily Dispatch and produced a 30 minute documentary used by the Stop NYRI group in their successful battle against a large utility company, all while captaining Colgate’s division I Cross Country and Track teams. Kristen graduated in 2009 with dual B.A. degrees in English and Educational Studies. Since graduation, Kristen has been working at the Press Desk for Moody’s Investors Service in New York City. Continuing to follow her passions here in the city, Kristen runs marathons to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, works with local elementary school students to develop reading skills, and edits writing assignments for students learning English at an international high school in Queens.


Thuy Tran has worked as a reporter, editor and news anchor for Vietnam Television VTV, in the World News Section of the Department of News and Current Affairs. Her favorite topics of interest are international politics and poverty alleviation.

Prior to working for VTV, she attended Curtin University of Technology in Australia, where she was an unthusiastic international student activist.
Thuy’s hometown is Hanoi, Vietnam, but she has always considered herself a global citizen. Her job has enabled her to see different corners of the world and have exclusive interviews with outstanding personalities, among whom Secretary Hillary Clinton and Nobel Laureate Mohammad Yunus. Equally unforgettable are the kids she met at slums in South Asia and Africa.

Thuy has come to NYU on a Fulbright scholarship to pursue her dream career of making documentaries.