What you can achieve: Notable sophomores reflect on freshman feats

Wolf Blitzer Wanna-be

All it takes is lunch at J Street for Jared Pliner to realize he’s in the perfect place to pursue his passion.

“I’ll look at the TV and be like, ‘Oh my God, it’s (SMPA professor) Frank Sesno talking to Wolf Blitzer on ‘The Situation Room,”” the sophomore journalism major from Massachusetts said.

Such moments remind him how privileged he is to be in “the journalism capital of the country,” as he calls D.C.

“There’s no better place to do what I want to do,” he said.

Pliner started freshman year at GW’s radio station, WRGW, as a general assignment reporter and anchor.

When there was an opening in October for the station’s assistant news director, Pliner snagged the spot. Although he had experience with his high school and community newspapers and his high school’s TV station, he doesn’t take the appointment for granted.

“It’s an honor to get something like that your first year,” said Pliner, who continues to anchor and report. “To be assistant news director as a freshman doesn’t happen very frequently.”

International Match-up

The daughter of a military man, Cincinnati-born Trish Puttmann has lived in Australia, Germany and Belgium. Given her international background, her role as secretary general for the Greater Washington Conference on International Affairs, a program arranged by GW’s International Affairs Society, is fitting.

Selected for the position as a freshman, the international affairs major – who’s enthusiasm for Model UN has led her to more than 25 conferences since high school – is the GWCIA’s youngest secretary general ever. She is charged with overseeing the entire October conference of 300 middle school students and 100 college volunteers.

Puttmann is organizing the conference while spending the summer in Belgium, where she has lived six years.

She listed her responsibilities as “gathering participants, finance matters, administration and communicating with faculty from the participating schools.” She is also active in choosing the topics discussed at the conference.

“They looked at my application for what it was worth,” she said of the selection process for the position, “not the fact that I was a freshman or that they didn’t know me as well as the other applicants.”

The Dancing Linguist

Iman Sheybani-Nezhad used to jump with surprise when she heard someone speaking Farsi, which she spoke while living in Iran for six years.

Since coming to GW from her home in Connecticut, the linguist – also fluent in French and studying Arabic – said she often hears the Persian language and is no longer shocked to find someone who shares her background.

“I’ve been (in America) most of my life, and in Connecticut there aren’t that many options to connect with my heritage,” said the international affairs major, who was born in Silver Spring, Md., but moved to Iran at two months old. Her mother is American, her father Iranian.

Shaybani-Nezhad has taken her cultural roots with her to GW’s campus. She is vice president of the Iranian Cultural Society and co-president of Aatash, a student organization that represents Iranian culture through performances.

“At GW there are so many different (cultural) groups to get involved in. It’s exciting,” she said.

In March, she performed with Aatash in New York City’s Persian Day Parade.

Though she didn’t perform before GW, Sheybani-Nezhad quickly developed a passion for Iranian dancing.

“It’s kind of in the blood,”she said.

Entertainment Mogul

During the day sophomore Anthony Suber is a computer science major with a concentration in network security, but at night he becomes an entertainment entrepreneur.

After several unsatisfying months as a party promoter, the St. Louis native developed Vitae Productions along with help from four other sophomore promoters. “We were sick of being treated like just promoters,” Suber said. “We couldn’t really do what we wanted. (Our bosses) didn’t want to do any outrageous ideas, and we’re all about going to the edge and trying new things.”

Suber described Vitae Productions as “a new and upcoming, exclusive nightlife entertainment company based at GW.” The company also caters to other local colleges.

“We try to hold our events at the upscale clubs, throw more classy parties,” he said.

His goal is for Vitae to electrify nightlife for GW students.

“Last year, it was always, like, the same clubs, trying to cram as many people as you can into one venue,” he said. “We aim for new things that people haven’t seen at clubs before, something that will get them excited about going out.”


Sophomore Jessica Gordon got involved in Obama’s campaign as a summer intern before she came to GW, but during winter break last year she was the Obama captain of her home precinct in Iowa City during Caucus time. She arrived at the Caucus early, set up tables and corralled people into the Obama corner, which was quite a feat especially since her father was the precinct captain for former presidential candidate John Edwards, D-N.C.

Obama won every precinct in Iowa City, and Gordon said she felt she helped that happen.

“When they were calling it and announced that we did it, we won, I broke down in tears. Everything I had been doing for so many months came to a close. It was so weird. I just started crying. It was the most exciting thing I’ve ever done.

Gordon brought her love for Obama to GW in the fall, too. She quickly got involved in the student group Students for Obama, the GW chapter. She became their get out the vote coordinator and organized campaign trips to volunteer in seven states such as Maryland and South Carolina.

But that’s not all Gordon did as a freshman. She worked for an Iowa congressman, tutored 6th graders, and had a leadership position in the College Democrats. Next year she will be a House Proctor for freshman.

“I loved my House Proctors and I got to know all of them in the building,” she said. “They were just nice to have. I want to do what they did for me for new freshman. Transitioning to college is a very hard thing.”

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