Bios of our reporting staff

CHRISTINA BIVONA: I’m just a 20-year-old kid, from the exotic land of Bergen County, N.J, wandering the world and trying to figure out how I want literature to shape my life. I’m a rookie on the journalism path but my love for writing and culture keep me moving in the right direction. After finishing my second year at Northeastern University, I couldn’t have been more eager to immerse myself into the customs of the Middle East and become a temporary “local” of Amman, Jordan. Other than scribbling stories in my notebook and writing up novels in my head, I have previously published a few articles for the Huntington News and will soon snag a position as a section editor at Northeastern’s new magazine, WOOF. Art, health, travel, global issues and food are my niches, but I’m a sucker for any good story. I also like to take pictures. Check some of them out here. Christina Bivona, remember the name: it will someday be familiar at the family dinner table.

ERYN CARLSON: When it comes to journalism, I am particularly interested in exploring the arts, whether that means covering the likes of museums, theatre and music, or reviewing books, film and television. My initial hope when deciding to travel to the Middle East, was ascertain the arts and entertainment culture and its place in society. I was eager to immerse myself in a culture unlike one I have ever known. Beyond those pursuits, I like to travel, watch films and spend time outdoors biking, kayaking and hiking with my friends and incredibly adorable dog.

CLARE COUGHLAN: I grew up in Kentucky, but I’ve learned to love living in Boston. In July I will be starting my first co-op in the media relations office at Wentworth Institute of Technology. This was my first time traveling to the Middle East, and I was excited to do so as a journalist to write about issues facing the region. There have been so many changes in the past year that I’ve been able to explore and learn more about.

MELANIE DOSTIS: After five weeks immersed in reporting throughout Jordan, I’m heading back to Boston to co-op at the Boston Globe in the city desk for the next six months. My trip to Middle East was an opportunity to establish my journalistic aspirations, and a chance to meet fellow journos and expand my traveling experiences. For the past month, I lived the journalistic life I’ve always dreamt of: meeting new people, hearing their incredible stories and honing the skills to connect these lives with the world. The drive that brought me to Jordan will take me to all regions of the world for further exploring and writing. People say they want to travel the world: I want to understand it, and more than anything, I want to write about it.

CAROLINE EDWARDS: Coming to the Middle East from my hometown of Charlotte, N.C, I was especially eager to report on politics and current events because of all the ramifications that have been felt in the United States. In high school, I was chair editor for a broadcast news team, and I plan to further that career at NUTV. Additionally, I’m beginning my first semester working as a writer for the Huntington News.

LAURA FINALDI: I’m 21, originally from Connecticut, now living in Boston. I took off to Jordan for a month for my first real lesson in international reporting and Middle Eastern culture with a group of some of the coolest cats around. In July, I’ll return to Boston as managing editor of The Huntington News, Northeastern University’s independent student newspaper, and as a co-op in the business pages section of The Boston Globe. I feel like it’s safe to say it’ll be a great summer. A devout member of the Church of Tupac Shakur, I’m on an irrational quest to understand and solve the mystery of the 1990s east vs. west coast rap movement. Here are some things I like: black nail polish, magazines and iced coffee. Traveling to Jordan has reaffirmed to me that journalism is the only thing I could ever be truly happy doing.

GINA-MARIA GARCIA: I was excited to go to Jordan not only for the chance to improve my writing and reporting skills as a journalist, but also for the opportunity to travel and learn a new culture, which is one of my favorite pastimes. Some of my interests are cooking, journaling, reading and fashion. Other than the journalism courses I took in school, I do not have much journalism experience. I wrote for the volleyball section for the Huntington News, but I would like to write more feature stories for the paper. In the future I see myself working in television, and though I am not sure exactly what it is I want to do, for now I am interested in magazine writing.

BRI HOLLIS: Aside from journalism, I am greatly interested in athletics, primarily volleyball. Fitness and sports have been prominent aspects of my life from a very young age. I like using the things I learn on the court – teamwork, dedication, focus – and applying them to all other aspects of my life. In regard to writing, I like finding the stories that seem relatively small on the surface and taking them one step further – truly delving into the bigger picture. I am also involved in NUTV’s sports department and have compiled several Northeastern Athletics sports promo videos. After reporting in Amman, a completely unfamiliar city where I know almost none of the language, I’ve found that I wish to pursue more journalistic endeavors abroad in the future.

MATT KAUFFMAN: I’m a graduate student from Portland, Ore. I’ve had a long-standing interest in the Middle East and Islam. As an undergrad, I studied history and religion and both of my capstone projects for those majors were about Egypt, the Middle East and Islam – or all three. I was excited to immerse myself in the region’s cultural, educational and historical hub. This sentiment only holds truer as we witness a dynamic time in the Middle East. Though I was particularly interested in reporting about the region’s teens and young adults on this dialogue, having finished my first semester studying journalism, I’m not sure what subfield I want to go into just yet. My other interests include the outdoors, hiking, cycling, tennis, soccer, music, film and television, and food (I suppose that’s a long-winded way of saying “everything.”)

SAMANTHA LAINE: I completed my undergraduate degree at North Dakota State University in English, and plan to receive my master’s degree in journalism at the end of August 2012. Since beginning the journalism program, I have written for the Head of the Charles Regatta,, NENPA’s E-bulletin and up-kept a blog discussing New England agriculture. I enjoy learning about other cultures, and this was my first opportunity to do so in a “total immersion” setting, as well as my first experience abroad. This program offered me a glimpse into the life of a travel writer or foreign correspondent.

KATE LIEB: My experience living overseas piqued an interest in learning about different cultures and global affairs. I’m also a political junkie and I love listening to music. Within journalism, I have been the news intern at AM New York, a production/editorial intern for the Campbell Brown show and acted as an assistant to the home market editor at Vogue. In the long-term, I hope to eventually be a successful political reporter, but in the meantime I just want to learn as much about the field as I can.

HILLARY O’ROURKE: I’ve always had a love for traveling, writing and photography and strive to incorporate those into my future. My first co-op was at the technology media company TechTarget, where I wrote articles on technology security. My drive is to do something with my life and make a difference in someone else’s so in a couple years make sure to look for my name in the National Geographic Magazine.

AMANDA OSTUNI: As a kid I loved to write all kinds of literature, but when I entered high school, I began writing for my school paper and was appointed sports editor. My interest in pursuing a career in journalism came around that time, when I realized that being a journalist would combine the two things I loved best and was best at: writing and meeting/talking to new and different people. Since then, I’ve published some pieces in Northeastern’s student-run paper, but my most recent reporting has been for my co-op job at the Boston Bruins, where I wrote feature articles and online stories. I’m still not sure which path of journalism I want to take. I want to dabble in broadcasting, and I’ve also considered sports reporting. However, I want to do reporting that can make a difference and open the eyes of readers. That’s where my interest for this trip to Jordan came in. I had the chance to experience writing about an entirely different genre. I experienced real-world, do-it-yourself reporting and covered a more diverse, serious range of topics. I don’t know what the future has in store for me exactly, but I do know that whatever it is, it will involve my making a mark in journalism.

ANTHONY SAVVIDES: I recently completed co-op at The Boston Globe working in the Living/Arts department, where I wrote about music, food, lifestyle and culture, and had a blast all the while. During my six months at The Globe, I had the opportunity to work for and with seasoned editors and reporters. That experience really made me realize that I could, potentially, do this whole reporting thing for the rest of my life. In the summer of 2011, I took part in this very same Dialogue of Civilizations program and was fascinated by the people, places and ideas I encountered in Amman and Istanbul. This year, I further explored the region and all it has to offer, to me and to the world. I lived in Amman for five weeks, covering politics, culture and environmental issues. Reporting and writing stories in an unknown locale has always interested me. After another five weeks traveling in the Middle East, I have learned so much more about myself and the Arab world. As I continue to develop, both as a person and as a journalist, I look forward to returning to the region – Beirut, specifically – for a six-month internship, and further exploring the culture.

MELISSA TABEEK: My interest in international reporting was sparked by my two years serving with the Peace Corps in Kazakhstan. As part of Northeastern University’s Dialogue of Civilizations program, I was able to pursue that interest, reporting stories in Jordan on political demonstrations and Syrian refugees. I also worked as an intern at Watchdog New England, the Northeastern University Initiative for Investigative Reporting; at the same time I was an intern at the Dorchester Reporter, a community newspaper covering Boston’s largest neighborhood in the Massachusetts Commonwealth. On a personal level, I enjoy being out of my element, exploring new cultures and writing about music.

JESSICA TEICH: I grew up in a small town in Maine, so I’ve always had that cliché “big fish, small pond” syndrome. Then I chose to go to college in Rhode Island (talk about small pond,) where I was content, at best. When I mustered the courage to transfer to Northeastern, I realized how much happiness could be found in really pushing past what’s comfortable and easy. That’s why I was so drawn to the Middle East. I headed to the tumultuous region, a little intimidated and a lot excited, aiming to immerse myself into Jordan’s rich history and culture and report from the inside out during this time of radical change. I’m currently in the process of expanding my portfolio: I’m beginning a six-month co-op in the Living/Arts department of The Boston Globe in July, while I maintain my position as assistant web editor for WOOF, Northeastern’s general interest magazine. Traveling to the Middle East with fellow journalists has set the perfect storm of good opportunities to foster my growth in the field and broaden my skills as a journalist. I’m interested in travel, fashion, animals, art, entertainment, photography and fitness. And food, of course.


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