New York Film Academy
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New York Film Academy About Us


Liberal Arts and Sciences

Mary Samuelson Dr. Mary Samuelson
Dean of General Education; Chair of Liberal Arts & Sciences

Dr. Mary Samuelson received her Ph.D. and MA degrees from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and completed her undergraduate work in Cinema-Television and English Literature at the University of Southern California (USC). For the past four years, Mary has taught courses and advised students in the Cinema and Media Studies and Writing Programs departments at UCLA, the Cinema-Television department at Los Angeles Community College (LACC), and here at the New York Film Academy (NYFA). Her essays "Radical Moment: The National Recovery Administration and Hollywood's 'New Deal'" and “Wartime News Flow: Government and Studio Newsreels, 1941-1945” will come out in collections focusing on film and the law (September 2016) and the U.S. newsfilm (June 2016), respectively. Mary’s dissertation “The Patriotic Play: Roosevelt, Antitrust, and the War Activities Committee of the Motion Picture Industry” is slated for book publication in Spring 2017.

Vanessa Conte Vanessa Conte
Associate Chair; Art History; Drawing

MA in Linguistics, CSU, Long Beach; MFA in Painting, UCLA; BS in Studio Art and Art History, New York University; CertTESOL Certificate, St. Georg Institute, London, England.. Presented research at the California TESOL Conference and the American Association of Corpus Linguists. Exhibits paintings and drawings internationally. Research topics include gender and power dynamics in both visual and spoken language and pragmatics of second-language learners.

Nancy Gong Nancy Gong

MA in Linguistics, California State University, Long Beach; BA in Economics with a minor in Spanish Literature. Nancy has been teaching English as a Second/Foreign Language for over ten years domestically and abroad. Her linguistic research focuses on second language acquisition.

Vanessa Apkenas Vanessa Apkenas

MS in Biology, UCLA; BS in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, UC Santa Cruz. Vanessa’s current research interests include evolutionary diversification of African mammals and systematics of elephant shrews. Previous research includes optimization of historical museum specimens for population genetics applications, coevolution of mutualistic relationships in Neotropical rodents and beetles, and migratory patterns in songbirds and salmonids.

Mahsa Ghanbarpoor Dr. Mahsa Ghanbarpoor

PhD in Applied Linguistics-TEFL, University of Tehran; MA in TEFL, University of Tehran. Mahsa has been awarded the IELTS Teacher Preparation Certificate by TESOL Arabia TAE SIG. She has published peer-reviewed research articles in national and international journals and contributed to several academic books. In addition to her work as an instructor, Mahsa has presented several scholarly articles at international conferences. Her main research interests include dynamic and formative assessment, teacher education, and learner characteristics in second language acquisition.

Anna Hogg Anna Hogg
Film History

MFA in Film & Video, California Institute of the Arts; BA in Interdisciplinary Major, University of Virginia. Anna is a Los Angeles-based artist and filmmaker working within a hybrid narrative-documentary framework to explore and dismantle storytelling. Her films have screened internationally, including the Kasseler DokFest, Madrid International Film Festival (MIFF), Chicago Underground Film Festival, and Big Sky Documentary Film Festival. She was awarded the Jury prize for Best International Work at the 2017 WNDX Festival, and was nominated for the Golden Key award and Talented New Filmmaker award at the 2017 Kasseler DokFest and MIFF, respectively. Anna was also a recipient of the Graduate Fellowship from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in 2014.

Kendall Nelson Kendall Nelson
Writing Center Manager; English

MA in TESOL, California State University, Los Angeles; BA in Writing, Literature, and Publishing, Emerson College. Kendall has presented research at the TESOL Conference in Toronto. Kendall’s research topics include trans-lingual education practices in multilingual classrooms, and storytelling methods for English language learners.

Angelina Tala Angelina Tala
Writing Center Assistant Manager; College Success; English

Angelina is a professional writer and motion picture/theatre instructor and a published journalist with eight years experience as a multimedia reporter and four years TEFL/TESOL experience, both domestically and abroad.

Terah Jackson Terah Jackson
The Great Playwrights and Playwrights and Screenwriters

MFA in Screenwriting, American Film Institute. Terah is a Nicholl Fellowship Semifinalist. He wrote and produced Counter, wrote and assistant directed on Splendor, and was the assistant director on It’s Not Always Sunny and Fanta Face.

Zareh Arevshatian Zareh Arevshatian
Film Studies

M.A. in Critical Studies, California State University, Northridge; B.A. in Radio-Television-Film, CSUN. Adjunct faculty at Los Angeles Mission College. Media Coordinator for the School of Film, TV, and Digital Media at UCLA. Background in retrospectives and festival programming, American Film Institute, American Cinematheque, and UCLA.

Brian Beery Brian Beery
English, Public Speaking

MFA Screenwriting, AFI. BA Theater Arts, UCSC. Vested member of SAG. Rewrote scripts based on recommendations from Oscar-nominated filmmakers. Winner, Kodak 35mm Award for “Speed Dating” and George Mayr Award for Excellence in Screenwriting. Recommended “Sideways” to Alexander Payne. Has worked on both sides of development, listening to and giving film pitches.

Camille Boag Camille Boag
Natural Sciences

Bachelor's in Integrative Biology from UC Berkeley and a Master's of Science in Biology from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. Her most recent research focuses on the relationships between endemic rodents and invasive grass species in central California;

Megan Breen Megan Breen
Dramatic Literature

MFA in Dramatic Writing, USC School of Theatre; BFA in Dramturgy/Criticism, DePaul University. Writer of over a dozen plays, as well as television and feature length films.

Mike Civille Dr. Mike Civille
Film Studies; Cultural Studies

PhD American Studies (Boston University); MFA Film Studies (Boston University) As a film scholar, Mike has presented papers on Hollywood cinema and popular culture at the Society of Cinema and Media Studies, the Popular/American Culture Association, the California American Studies Association, the Museum of Fine Arts (Boston), and the Baseball Hall of Fame. As a film director, his short After June (2006) played at several nationwide film festivals including the Tribeca Film Festival and the Palm Spring International Festival of Short Films.

Anastasia Coon Anastasia Coon
Academic Advisor; Theatre History; Public Speaking

BFA in Theatre - Acting Emphasis, Chapman University. Conservatory Training Certificate, Dell'Arte International School of Physical Theatre. MFA Acting, UT Austin. Adjunct Instructor at USC, Teaching Artist: Pasadena Playhouse, Guest Artist: Directors Lab West, Board Member: 2nd Sundays Screenplays LA.

Merrilyn Crouch Merrilyn Crouch
English; Public Speaking

Merrilyn Crouch received an MFA in Theater from The University of Southern California and has worked as an actor, writer and director in commericals, television, and film for over 20 years. Merrilyn has written, produced and directed promos for clients including CNN International, TNT, FOX, Discovery Channel, NUVO TV and others. She can be seen on the Food Network’s Good Eats in the recurring role as Alton Brown’s sister, Marsha.

David D'Andrade David D'Andrade
Drawing; Art History

Award winning artist with exhibitions nationwide. Past and present teaching experience include: Instructor for New Roads School, adjunct instructor for Sonoma State University, El Camino College and Napa Valley College. Degrees: San Francisco Art Institute MFA 1996; San Francisco Art Institute BFA. 1994; Pratt Institute, attended 1982-85.

Olivia Elliott Olivia Elliott
English; Psychology of Performance

Olivia received her MS in sociology, social theory, and public affairs from the University of Amsterdam; she is finishing her MA in education, linguistics and culturally diverse education/TESOL this spring from the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire, and has a TESOL certificate from Trinity College of Rome, Italy. Olivia has studied and worked abroad in several countries including Korea, the Netherlands, Italy, and Portugal. Before arriving at the New York Film Academy, Olivia spent seven years teaching courses and advising students in writing composition, research, and rhetoric and logic at the University of Colorado, Denver.

Mira Furlan Mira Furlan
Dramatic Literature

Award winning actress Mira Furlan has starred or co-starred in over 25 films, most notably the Academy Award ® nominated and Palme d’Ore winning “When Father Was Away on Business.” She has over forty television credits and starred in "Babylon 5", which she won a Sci-fi Universe award for best supporting actor. Mira’s work in her home country of Yugoslavia resulted in two Golden Arenas (Yugoslavia’s equivalent to an Oscar).

Nedra Gallegos Nedra Gallegos
English, History of Theatre

Nedra Gallegos has taught theatre and writing since 1993, beginning at Pennsylvania State University, University Park. She has extensive and varied experiences with teaching the fundamentals of acting, playwriting and creative writing. Her expertise is working with “non-actors,” creating a supportive atmosphere where they can tap into their imagination, go beyond their comfort zone, and explore their creativity. She has worked in New York and Los Angeles teaching in a myriad of circumstances in colleges, public and private schools, and homeless shelters, as well as as a private coach. She is uniquely qualified to work with students from all walks of life and to effectively guide them as they discover the artist within themselves.

Ros Gentle Ros Gentle
Psychology of Performance; Public Speaking

BDA, National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA), University of NSW, Australia; Diploma in Teaching, Balmain Teachers' College of Advanced Education, Sydney. Producer, director and current working actress of 40 years experience with many IMDB credits. Corporate consulting clients include Foxtel Television, The Motion Picture and Television Fund and Opera Pacific. Teaching experience at NIDA, Actors Center and her own studio in Australia and Joanne Baron/DW Brown Studio, NYFA in NYC and Australian Institute of Dramatic Art in the U.S.

Lonnie Halouska Lonnie Halouska
Economics; Film Studies

MS, USC School of Cinema-Television; JD, Loyola University. Entertainment and telecommunications lawyer, negotiator and business manager for more than 20 years. Major studio and network background.

Richard Van Heertum Dr. Richard Van Heertum
Academic Advisor; Film Studies; Cultural Anthropology

Richard Van Heertum has a PhD in Cultural Studies and Education from UCLA and a MA in Economics from SDSU. He has published three books, 25 academic essays and chapters and over 150 articles in the mainstream media on film, music and culture.

Karen Howes Karen Howes
English; Theatre History

BA in philosophy from The College of William and Mary; MFA in writing for the performing arts from UCR. Current recipient of numerous arts grants and theater commissions, including work with the William Inge Center, International City Theater and The Academy Theater. Winner of the Maxum Mazumdor New Play Prize and the 2014 New Science Driven Play Award. Served as artistic director for The Young Actors Ensemble and worked as a writing/acting instructor for over 15 years, with plays published by Smith and Kraus. Also worked as a journalist and on-air news anchor covering science and technology issues. Resident playwright at SkyLight Theater in LA, and currently under commission with Open Eye Theater in NY to write a musical set during the reform movements of women’s rights and abolition.

Konstantin Kremenetski Dr. Konstantin Kremenetski
Geography; Mathematics

B.S. Physical Geography, Moscow Lomonosov University, 1983 PhD Geomorphology and Paleogeography, Institute of Geography, USSR Academy of Sciences, 1987; Teaching experience in Earth Science, Environmental Science and Geography disciplines.

Paul Laverack Paul Laverack
Film Studies

MFA in Screenwriting and MA in Mass Communication (Journalism), California State University, Northridge; BA in Theater, Elmira College. Paul has written and directed independent feature and short films, both narrative and documentary. He has also produced video content for the nonprofit Families In Schools foundation, traveled the nation as a stage performer, and taught students of all ages in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Paz Leon Paz Leon
Psychology of Film; Psychology of Production

MFA in Directing from the American Film Institute. BFA in Film Studies and Modern Literature from Université Louis Loumiere, Lyon, France. She has directed several short films and music videos and is currently developing her first feature film.

Michael Matthys Michael Matthys
Public Speaking; Dramatic Literature

M.F.A. University of Minnesota; BA, Buffalo State College, teaches Dramatic Literature and Public Speaking. For NYFA he has also taught Voice, Movement, Dialects, Accent Reduction, Shakespeare, and History of Acting. As an actor, Michael has appeared at the Ahmanson Theatre, A Noise Within, Shakespeare LA and on many other stages. He also teaches physical acting at AADA and has served on the faculties of SDSU and Stella Adler Academy as well.

Kathleen McLaughlin Kathleen McLaughlin
History of Photo; Visual Aesthetics

Received her BS in Psychology (1990) and MFA in Photography (2001) from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia. She has received grants from Fulbright-Hayes (2015), United States Fulbright Senior Scholarship Program (2003), and the IREX (Individual Advanced Research Opportunities) Fellowship Program (2003). Kathleen’s images have recently been published in National Geographic Traveler Magazine (2015) and the Dutch FLOW Magazine (2015). Her work has been exhibited in numerous group and solo shows. She is an active member of the Society for Photographic Education.

Genia Michaela Genia Michaela
Public Speaking and Mathematics

Attended North Carolina School of the Arts, MIT and Yale, where she studied physics, opera, screenwriting and theatre, and played Division1 ice hockey. She is a SCUBA divemaster and has worked as a stunt freediver.

Matteo Nurizzo Matteo Nurizzo
Film Studies; Art History

Master of Science in Industrial Design and Fashion Management at the Politecnico di Milano ITALY. Designer of a baby Stroller for the company Brevi. Designer of the "Gundam" Lamp that covered various group exhibits of REUSE DESIGN in Europe Director and Editor of "Style In Frames". client: Comune di Milano, which the changes, in the city of Milan (Italy ), of fashion, culture, architecture and music,from 1920 till 2004. Accompanying the project itself isa 137 page book that tells a story of the city of Milan.

Founder of "King Milano" a Graphic-Video-Audio company (Not associated with anymore). Worked at Lillisimone as graphic and video artist. Clients: Alfa Romeo, Lancia, Tissot, Panerai, Opel. As freelance videographer and editor, clients: BM Factory, Banque PSA Finance, Castiglioni. Editor for various short indie films. Avid Certified Instructor.

Robert Pucci Robert Pucci
Academic Advisor; Film Studies

BA with honors in Economics, Gettysburg College; JD, Washington College of Law at American University; Licensed Attorney, NY and NJ; Writer “The Corruptor” New Line Cinema; Writer “The Spider & The Fly” Paramount Television, Writer of the fiction novel, “In Harlem’s Way.”

Peter Rainer Peter Rainer

M.A. from the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts; undergraduate studies summa cum laude at Brandeis University, member: Phi Beta Kappa. Peter Rainer is the film critic for the Christian Science Monitor and can be heard regularly on NPR’s “Film Week” on kpcc-fm.

Peter was one of three finalists in 1998 for the Pultizer Prize in Criticism and is a three-time winner of the Arts and Entertainment Journalism Award for best online film critic. He has served as film critic for New York Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Herald Examiner, New Times Los Angeles and Los Angeles magazine. His writings have also appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Vogue, and GQ. Peter is president of the National Society of Film Critics and has appeared as a film commentator on CNN, ABC News World Tonight, Bloomberg Radio and Nightline.

He has lectured on film at colleges and film societies throughout the world and contributed to numerous books and journals. He is the author/editor of two books: “Love and Hisses” (1991) and “Rainer on Film: Thirty Years of Film Writing in a Turbulent Era” (2013), a career-spanning collection of his essays about which David Denby of The New Yorker wrote: “No one is better at establishing the intersection of politics and popular culture.” Peter has also written and co-produced two A&E Biographies, on Sidney Poitier and John Huston, and co-authored the film “Joyride" (1977). He has served on the main juries for the Venice and Montreal film festivals.

Yolanda Sanders Yolanda Sanders
Public Speaking

BA in Communications, Howard University; MFA in Acting, UCLA. Some of her work includes the national one-person show, “Faces of America,” Voice of America’s popular radio drama “Pay Day,” as well as other numerous radio dramas, documentaries, and PSA’s.

Zoee Sciarrotta Zoee Sciarrotta
Art History; Visual Aesthetics; Media Studies

With a BFA in art and BA in psychology from the University of Iowa and a MFA in studio arts and MA in communication studies from California State University, Los Angeles, Zoee is a interdisciplinary-focused cultural studies scholar. Drawing from her work experience in fashion, photography, higher education, fine arts, and new media, her research is centered on understanding how we make meaning of our visual experiences in the world and how identities are formed in and through culture.

Shlomo Sher Dr. Shlomo Sher
Ethics; Critical Thinking

Shlomo Sher received his PhD in Philosophy with a focus on ethics from USC in 2009. He was a Research Associate at the USC Levan Institute of Humanities and Ethics (2009-2011) and has taught courses at USC, CSU Fullerton, CSU LA, Mt. St. Mary’s College, Beijing Normal University, and East China Normal University.

Andrew Simpson Andrew Simpson
English; Critical Thinking; Media Studies

Double B.A in Political Science with a focus in international security and in Drama with a focus in acting from Stanford University. He teaches Critical Thinking, Public Speaking , Art/Culture/Society, Writing, US and World History, and Mathematics. As an actor, he starred in the independent films Heathens and Thieves, Dark Mountain, and The Phoenix Project, and appeared with Joaquin Phoenix in Paul Thomas Anderson's Inherent Vice.

Diana Stanich Diana Stanich
Environmental Biology

ABPhD, Capella University; MBA, University of La Verne; MA in Physical Education/Health, California State University, Long Beach; BS in Kinesiology, University of California, Los Angeles. Professor of Kinesiology/Dance, Santa Clarita Community College District.

Riley Steiner Riley Steiner
Shakespeare; Theatre History

MFA in Shakespeare and Performance from Mary Baldwin College in Virginia; was classically trained at the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco and studied acting for many years with the legendary Uta Hagen at HB Studios in New York. Has taught at Mary Baldwin College, Stuart Hall College Prep. Her play, Tucumcari, premiered at the Utah Shakespeare Festival.

Maureen Tabor Dr. Maureen Tabor
World Religions; Psychology of Film

Maureen Tabor, PhD Yale University, started teaching at UC Berkeley and then turned to the stage where she acted, taught, and directed. Next was over a decade of work in major motion picture studios: Paramount and Warners. She then returned to academia in Southern California at California State University, Los Angeles, before joining NYFA in 2014.

Stephen Tapert Stephen Tapert
Film Studies

MA in humanities film studies (The University of Chicago); BA in education and French studies (The Evergreen State College). Stephen worked for eight years at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, where, as a researcher, he provided foundational work for the Academy’s forthcoming film museum. He subsequently wrote a book on the women who won the Oscar for Best Actress and curated an accompanying exhibition at the Museo Nazionale del Cinema in Turin, Italy, and at the Deutsche Kinemathek in Berlin, Germany.

Igor Torgeson Igor Torgeson
Mythology; Film Studies

M.F.A. Film, Boston University. B.A. Journalism, The George Washington University.

Igor works as a actor, producer and post-production specialist in Los Angeles. Over the past ten years, he has completed both long-form and short-form projects for a variety of clients, including Southern California Gas, McGraw-Hill, National Lampoon, and The Gameshow Network. Igor has taught at the UCLA Extension and NYFA, as well as having extensive experience teaching workshops at, ABC, NBC and CBS, as well as the 2012 DV Expo. Igor also teaches and performs improvisational comedy at theaters around the L.A. area with his troupe, The Captains of Industry.

Steve Weese Steve Weese
Mathematic; History of Video Games; Music Appreciation

BS in Computer Science, George Mason University; MS in Computer Information Technology, Regis University. Instructor and computer contractor for Anthem College, Duke Ellington School of the Arts, ECPI College of Technology, and Stratford University.

Linda Faye Beal Linda Faye Beal

Linda's TV producer credits include talk shows for Whoopi Goldberg, Roseanne Barr, Keenen Ivory Wayans, and Greg Kinnear, and for major media entities, including NBC, King World, Black Entertainment Television, and Buena Vista Television. She has previously earned recognition in TV Guide's Cheers and Jeers. Awarded a Juris Doctorate from U.C. Hastings College of Law in San Francisco. As a recipient of the Reginald Heber Smith Community Lawyer Fellowship, she practiced law at the Atlanta Legal Aid Foundation, and later served as an Attorney-Examiner for the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Linda received the prestigious Walter Kaitz Foundation Fellowship in Cable TV Management, which provided the opportunity to help manage the build of new cable systems in the St. Paul, Minnesota area.

Romi Lynn Stepovich Romi Lynn Stepovich

Romi has taught Film Studies, Television Studies, Communication Studies and English Composition at UCLA, California State University, Los Angeles, and Los Angeles City College. She has worked in the film industry as a Development Executive for producer Brad Wyman, as well as worked for Muse Productions and producer Chris Hanley. She has production experience on several independent films and served as an Associate Producer on The Chase (1994).

Amy E. Stoch Amy E. Stoch

PhD in Theatre History, Theory, and Criticism, University of Illinois. Amy is a professional actress with over 35 years in film, television, commercials, and stage. Her most notable film roles are playing Missy/Mom in the Bill and Ted movie series and Beth Dillon in the Gunsmoke television movies. Amy believes that scholarship strengthens practice. Currently, she is a company member of the acclaimed theatre company, The Road.

Andrew Todd Wankier Andrew Todd Wankier

Award-winning screenwriter Andrew (Andy) Wankier joined NYFA after teaching English Composition full-time at UCLA. Prior to this, he also taught screenwriting at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. He firmly believes that in order to better write creatively, one must learn to write academically and is known for his friendly Socratic approach, encouraging students to become more comfortable in finding their own writing voices. Andy is a freelance journalist and blogger.

Jonathan Higgins Jonathan Higgins

Doctorate in Educational Justice. Dr. Higgins is a speaker, writer, and social justice educator who focuses on issues related to gender, race, and media. Named in Business Equality Magazine’s Top 40 LGBTQ Under 40 in 2019, they have been featured on sites like NBC News, Buzzfeed, Vox, and Attn:, and gave the first TEDx Talk on unlearned fear and reclaiming personal power in 2017. This led them to write their first op-ed piece for Splinter, which led them to write for other platforms including Out Magazine, Them, SyfyWire, The Root, Essence, MTV News, and more. Dr. Higgins is a current columnist with VICE.
Martel Okonji Martel Okonji

BA in Sociology and Queer Studies; MA in Education; Currently working on his PhD in Leadership and Change. Martel has over 15 years of robust experience working with communities, administrators and legislators in the fields of education, juvenile justice, health, and organizational management. Martel is known to have led the implementation and development of the first permanent LGBTQ Resource Center at California State Northridge, all while engaging in leadership roles and programs to mentor, develop, and coach his communities and peers to a healthier future. In 2017 Martel was recognized by California State and Local officials as a leader of change in the Los Angeles and California community.
melissa-gulick Dr. Melissa Beth Mitchell

Dr. Melissa Beth Mitchell comes to NYFA with over seven years of experience teaching Introduction to Philosophy, Critical Thinking and Composition, Logic in Practice, Moral Values and Ethical Decisions, Contemporary Moral Issues, Philosophy of Literature, Society and Values, and Business Ethics courses. Her research interests include virtue ethics, helping students develop as moral, critical thinkers, and aiding students in finding meaning and purpose. Dr. Gulick completed her PhD in Higher Education and has additional interests in student development theory, student success, diversity, and teaching and learning. She enjoys supporting students in attaining positive cognitive, psychosocial, civic, and spiritual outcomes, which is the essence of self-authorship. Courses taught at NYFA include Critical Thinking, Introduction to Philosophy, and Contemporary Moral Issues.
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