Scholarships available for visual arts students

Rutgers University’s Mason Gross School of the Arts has announced that beginning next fall, all incoming visual arts graduate students will receive scholarships equivalent to full out-of-state tuition in the first year and full in-state tuition for the second year of the Master of Fine Arts (MFA) program.

The scholarships reflect the school’s belief that graduate study in art should be accessible to students from a diverse range of backgrounds. Combined with private studios and the resources of a major public research university, these scholarships give students the opportunity to fully focus on their work within a stimulating and supportive community of equals.

“As a public university, we feel that critical art practice should be the focus of our graduate program and that access should be as democratic as possible,” said Gerry Beegan, chair of the Visual Arts Department. “We encourage artists to engage in a dialogue with each other, faculty, visiting artists and critics. They can also connect with our undergraduates through teaching and mentorship opportunities.”

The full-time 60-credit MFA degree program offers seminars in painting, sculpture, photography, media and printmaking. Each graduate student at Mason Gross receives private studio space that is available year-round, 24 hours a day, for the duration of their study.

Graduate students mount exhibitions in the school’s 4,000-square-foot gallery space, dedicated to showcasing student work, and follow up their final thesis show with an exhibition in New York City.

Applications for fall 2016 admission are being accepted through Feb. 1. For more information, visit www.masongross.

Local college student organizes global event in one month

Staff Writer

NORTH BRUNSWICK — A young man from North Brunswick organized a competition that has a global impact.

Umair Masood, a sophomore at Rutgers University, served as campus director for the seventh annual Hult Prize competition at Rutgers on Dec. 5, when 10 teams competed to solve former President Bill Clinton’s challenge for 2015: How to end poverty in urban spaces and encourage students to build sustainable, scalable and fast-growing social enterprises that double the income of 10 million people resided in crowded urban spaces by better connecting people, goods, services and capital.

“This creates a community platform for social entrepreneurs on campus who are trying to get their name out there,” Masood said.

“The one thing I learned as director is that there is a huge entrepreneurial community at Rutgers and there is a new wave of social entrepreneurship [that is] creating an idea or a project that is profitable while solving the world’s problems at the same time, which is very powerful.”

Masood was able to pull the event together in just a month’s time, having to find teams and judges, obtain sponsors and partners and secure prize money.

His experience was rooted in a five-year internship at the American Muslim Consumer Consortium, founded by his parents, Faisal Masood and Sabiha Ansari, to understand and address the needs of American Muslim consumers and to empower companies developing products for the market.

“I’ve seen them run an event, build a network and brand themselves,” he said.

The winning team members from Rutgers University were Daniel Reji of Holmdel, David Shah of Edison, Chisa Egbelu of Louisiana and Myles Jackson of Pennsylvania. They were awarded $500 and will represent Rutgers at Regionals in Boston in March.

Following the regional finals, one winning team from each host city will move into a summer business accelerator program, where participants will receive mentorship, advisory and strategic planning as they create prototypes and set-up to launch their new social business.

The final round of competition will be hosted at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting in September, when one team will be selected as the Hult Prize recipient. Clinton himself will award the $1,000,000 prize to the winning team.

“The Hult Prize is a wonderful example of the creative cooperation needed to build a world with shared opportunity, shared responsibility, and shared prosperity, and each year I look forward to seeing the many outstanding ideas the competition produces,” Clinton said in a statement.

For more information on the event, visit

Contact Jennifer Amato at

Renaming buildings at Princeton is ‘hogwash’

People are talking about the renaming of buildings at Princeton University that bear the name of Woodrow Wilson, the desire by some individuals to erase and rewrite history in order to whitewash our past.

In this instance, describing the need by these people to remove a person’s name from a building because of a perceived slight is overly dramatic and self-serving.

First, Princeton should not weaken to these demands for removing Woodrow Wilson’s name from the building(s) in question. The reason for the removal is for alleged insensitivity. What hogwash. This man was the president of Princeton University at the turn of the last century and the president of the United States. He was president during World War I, was the chief architect for the League of Nations – the forerunner to the United Nations – and he “expanded Princeton into a full scale university” so the university, to honor him, “created the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.”

This school is known throughout the world – should it be renamed now? As one of the students at Princeton stated, “If the criteria for naming a building for someone was that they’d be perfect, we shouldn’t name buildings.” He was correct in his assessment.

Should we also look to remove his picture from the White House where it is hung in tribute to him as is done for all other presidents? When does political correctness go too far? Times have changed and what was once accepted and tolerated may no longer be; however, it doesn’t mean that history should be cleansed so that we can’t look back at mistakes or successes and learn from the past. Nor does it mean that a person’s accomplishments should be ignored because of modern day thinking.

To all of you politically correct individuals, learn to be more tolerant of the past and mature enough to know the difference. Stop blaming others for the slights that you believe are directed at you and enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness that this great country provides.

Bruce Papkin

Robert D. Azzara

Robert D. Azzara, 56, of East Brunswick passed away suddenly on Nov. 20.

Born in New Brunswick, he was a lifelong resident of East Brunswick and a graduate of Boston College.

In 2013, he retired from TD Bank, Morristown.

Surviving are his parents, Nicholas and Ann (Battaglia) Azzara of East Brunswick; his sister, Jamie Malloy and her husband, Michael, of Berwyn, Pennsylvania; his three nephews, Christofer, Nicholas and Michael Ryan; and his niece, Cara.

Funeral services were made by Rezem Funeral Home, 457 Cranbury Road, East Brunswick, and a Mass was held at St Bartholomew’s Roman Catholic Church, 470 Ryders Lane, East Brunswick.

Newcomer Shanice Williams shines in NBC’s star-studded live musical

By Lori Acken,

Somewhere over the Rainbow Room marquee that marks the eatery’s shared entrance with NBC Studios at New York City’s legendary 30 Rockefeller Plaza, a brand-new Dorothy prepares to make the “Wizard of Oz” story her own.

During an intense, nationwide audition process this past June, 19-year-old, applecheeked charmer Shanice Williams — a local-theater standout from Rahway, N.J. — warbled her way into the lead role in NBC’s The Wiz Live! (Thursday, Dec. 3), the Peacock’s third theater-meets-smallscreen production. The family-friendly extravaganza puts the bubbly, honey-voiced Williams square in the middle of the Live! franchise’s most star-studded lineup yet, including Queen Latifah as The Wiz, Mary J. Blige as Evillene, David Alan Grier as Cowardly Lion, Elijah Kelly as Scarecrow, Ne-Yo as Tin Man and Stephanie Mills — who originated the Dorothy role in The Wiz’s Broadway debut when she was just Williams’ age — as Auntie Em.

“She is so adorable,” exclaims Williams, who delved into Lincoln Center archives to study Mills’ performance in the Tony-winning 1975 original. “She made me cry, and I made her cry. Her voice still sounds the same from when she was 16. What can you say to that? She’s my inspiration. She started singing, and I just started crying. Her voice, it just touches you!”

Like its predecessors, 2013’s The Sound of Music Live! and 2014’s Peter Pan Live!, The Wiz boasts an impressive theater pedigree — executive-produced by Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, directed by Tony winner Kenny Leon (Broadway’s 2014 A Raisin in the Sun revival) and featuring new written material by the inimitable Harvey Fierstein. Cirque du Soleil performers and jaw-dropping costumes by award-magnet costumer Paul Tazewell amp up the wow factor.

Williams says she was “overcome with gratitude” when Leon himself delivered the news of her big break. Having spent two semesters at a Los Angeles performing arts school, the lifelong music buff wondered if there really was no place like home. She returned to Rahway for the summer and was contemplating her next move when she spied the Wiz audition online and made herself a deal. She’d give it her best shot and resume her school search if it didn’t pan out.

“I was already so comfortable with [the material],” said the longtime fan of the 1978 film (starring Diana Ross as Dorothy and Michael Jackson as Scarecrow) who played good witch Addaperle in a middleschool production. “I never really dug deep into the role of Dorothy, but I just felt like, ‘OK, I already know this story. I love this show. It’s gonna be fun.”

Suffice it to say those school applications are going to have to wait — likely indefinitely — while Williams eases on down the road to success with the support of her famous “sweet and welcoming and chill” costars.

“I run eight-hour rehearsals, and they go by in five minutes,” Williams says. “I’m living my journey. I’m having fun — and everyone in this cast is amazing. We’re gonna give you guys a great show. You guys are not ready for this show! I’m having the time of my life!”

A knockout performance

In theaters now

Creed is the latest installment of the extremely successful Rocky series of films. While Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) is back for this film, the focus is on Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan), the son of the late Apollo Creed.

Adonis never knew his father — Apollo died before he was born — but he has always had a fighter inside. Bouncing around in the system until his grandmother (Phylicia Rashad) took him in, Adonis caused trouble everywhere he went. Now a grown man, he knows fighting is in his blood.

Adonis has been a successful fighter in the Mexican underground boxing scene, but wants more. Leaving his job behind, Adonis decides to dedicate himself to a fighter’s life. When no one on the West Coast will train him, he heads east to Philadelphia and the home of Rocky Balboa.

From the moment he steps foot into Rocky’s restaurant, there is a connection. But Rocky is not ready to get back into the fight game and spurns the attempt Adonis makes to enlist him as his trainer. Adonis doesn’t give up and Rocky feels a personal responsibility to Apollo’s son.

Trying to make it as Adonis Johnson is difficult, but word soon leaks about his true pedigree — he is a Creed. Adonis struggles with the Creed name. He wants to be his own man, judged by his own talents and not his legendary father’s name. This is not an easy task and requires more than just strength in the ring.

Let me be perfectly clear: Although the Rocky franchise once felt tired and a little worn, with Rocky Balboa (2006) and this film, the franchise has risen like a fighter getting up from two knockdowns to knock out the opponent. The franchise is stronger than ever.

Round 1 is the ideal casting of Adonis Johnson — Michael B. Jordan. If he is not a star in the coming years, there is something wrong in Hollywood. He brings his dramatic chops to Creed — the same chops that made him sensational in 2013’s Fruitvale Station. Here he is able to channel the aggression, the loneliness, the internal demons and the life of a kid growing up in foster care into the man on a mission to do the thing he does so well: fight. I can’t imagine anyone better for the role.

Round 2 brings the legendary Sylvester Stallone back to the role that defined much of his career. This chance to become Rocky Balboa once again — not in a fighting role, but a mentoring role — has afforded Stallone the chance to deliver what is arguably his best performance ever onscreen. The interactions between Stallone and Jordan are heartwarming and real.

Round 3 delivers a spot-on story that lingers just enough to allow the boxing sequences to deliver haymakers. There is a love story, but it never overwhelms Creed’s driven nature as he struggles to survive.

And the knockout punch is the boxing action. Director Ryan Coogler delivers believable jabs and uppercuts, creating adrenaline that shoved me to the edge of my seat. I was cheering every punch that landed and feeling the wind knocked from my gut with every body blow Adonis felt.

Creed is a crowd-pleasing journey with great acting, a solid story and intense boxing action that will stand the test of time. It is a pound-for-pound contender with any film released in 2015. A knockout performance that deserves to be seen on the big screen, Creed will thrill boxing fans and film fans.

Rated: PG-13
Stars: Michael B. Jordan,
Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson
Director: Ryan Coogler
Grade: A

Carriers should ensure deliveries

I have been hearing a lot in the news lately about missing packages from people’s front porches. The carriers who deliver the packages can solve this problem.

For example, as it is now, the delivery person sets the package on the front porch and rings the doorbell. The carrier does not wait to see if the customer is at home. Whatever happened to making sure the customer gets the shipment? There have been times when I was doing something upstairs and by the time I get downstairs the delivery person is in the truck already. In some cases, the customer may not be at home. Is it too much effort to go next door and leave the package with someone?

In conclusion, there is a solution to this problem and if the carriers (UPS, FedEx, DHL etc.) would finish doing the job by making sure the shipment actually gets into the customer’s hands then there would not be any problems.

Whatever happened to customer service?

Michael Hart
North Brunswick

Educating children is a Learning Experience

Staff Writer

MATAWAN – A local early education academy is helping its young preschoolers become “little philanthropists” through a curriculum geared towards teaching lessons of hope and charitability, while also providing hands-on opportunities for students to effect change with their newfound skills.

“As part of The Learning Experience, we have a philanthropy curriculum [that] helps the children to learn that there is a world outside of their school and that … it is not about how big or small you are, it is the size of your heart that matters,” said Trish Tyler, assistant director of The Learning Experience in Matawan.

October and November saw the academy, located at 762 Rt. 34 in the borough, raise more than $600 towards advancing research and raising awareness about breast cancer, which Tyler said affects one in eight women and most families on some level.

“There was a three-year-old who was talking to his mom about what we were doing and was like ‘I’m a philanthropist mom’ so the fact that a three-year-old knew what the word philanthropist meant, it was super cool to see that in action,” she said.

According to Tyler, funds were donated in support of the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk that took place in Point Pleasant on Oct. 18.

“Everybody thinks kids are blind to things, but kids are a lot smarter than most people give them credit for,” she said. “They see what their grandmas are going through or what the moms of their friends are going through and they want to help.”

“They actually get that there are doctors somewhere who need money to help try to find a cure for this … and it is really exciting to see them in action. It gives you hope for the future.”

Tyler said encouraging students to be hands-on in their community and helping to effect change provides an education that can help make them well rounded in the future.

“Early childhood education is so important because it is about creating good little human beings for the future,” she said. “That is why we take things very seriously here – philanthropy, manners, etiquette, being nice to people … you want people that are going to give back and give hope to the future,” she said.

“It is about creating a good human being who is going to be well rounded and who is going to go out there and make a success out of whatever they choose to do.”

With lessons focusing on the value of helping others, volunteering and donating, Tyler said the decision to raise awareness and funds for breast cancer was easy.

“Breast cancer is something that we take very seriously because we’ve had numerous students whose parents have had to deal with it, so it hits very close to home,” Tyler said. “It is something we see on a daily basis so … we couldn’t think of anything else that we would want to sponsor more in October than something to do with breast cancer.”

According to Tyler, last year approximately $250 was raised in support of finding a cure, and this year the academy did things a little differently to double that number.

“The year before we had raised $250 and we had literally done that just by talking it up with parents and taking donations at the front desk,” Tyler said.

“This year … we did donations, but this time we did it online through the actual Making Strides site where we created our own micro-site that made it a lot more convenient for parents.”

“We bumped up the convenience factor of it so there was no excuse not to help.”

Like many municipalities passing resolutions declaring October “Paint the Town Pink” month in support of breast cancer awareness, Tyler said the academy decided to use the color as well to help generate support.

“Every Friday we went crazy by basically painting the school pink whether it was pink hair, pink jewelry, pink makeup … we even had special pink uniform shirts for the entire month of October that we wore every Friday to kind of bump up our presence,” she said.

“On the wall in our lobby everybody who donated had a pink ribbon until we basically filled up the wall with them.”

Tyler said also increasing presence on social media helped generate support.

“One of our vendors … who is a childhood friend of mine … her grandmother had to deal with [breast cancer and] she saw on our Facebook page that we were doing this with the school so she got the vendor to donate money to us which pushed us over our goal of $500 because we wanted to double what we did last year,” Tyler said.

“This was the first time we really used socially media and it was just amazing how well it worked. I was shocked.

“I feel like you can’t ask a community to support you, unless you support that community … and bumping that convenience factor up made it easier to double our efforts.”

Tyler said that come December the academy will be switching gear and getting into the season spirit by helping generate support for a new mitten drive aimed to assist the RAINE Foundation of Hazlet.

“Part of our curriculum, a big thing we are going to be working on, is changes in weather, so I got in contact with them and said we would love to do a cold weather drive and get them mittens, hats, gloves, scarves,” she said. “It is the first time we have ever done a mitten drive so I am excited to see how this could potentially turn out.”

The Learning Experience is one of the nation’s fastest growing academies of early education for children ages six weeks to five years old.

The academy places a prominent focus on preparing children academically and socially through innovative scholastic and enrichment programs crucial to advancing learning and overall balance, such as philanthropy, manners and etiquette and foreign language.

For more information visit