Meet the Team
For 60 years, relations between the United States and Cuba have been strained. At the governmental level, that has led to public attacks, military threats from both sides and ultimately, sanctions designed to create desperation and push Cuban officials to abandon communism. Today, the situation is dire. But in 2019, 12 students from Northeastern University’s School of Journalism showed that strife between the countries’ power structures does not need to divide the people. On the streets and in the neighborhoods of the island, they were able to connect through their camera lenses, notebooks and recording equipment, capturing a way of life in Cuba that defies a blockade intended to keep these two populations apart. Detrás del Bloqueo (Behind the Embargo), made possible with generous grants from The GroundTruth Project, the Thomas Family’s Explore the World Fund and the College of Arts, Media and Design at Northeastern, is a testament to their work and to a hope that one day, the U.S. and Cuba can find a way to become good neighbors again.
Alin is in her final semester of a combined bachelor’s degree in Interaction Design and Business at Northeastern University in Boston. Alin grew up in New Jersey, but her family is from India. She entered Northeastern as an international business student, focusing on marketing and data analytics. Thanks to co-ops and travel, she quickly realized that she needed creativity, social impact and a human aspect to whatever work she did. This is when she found design, appreciating its dedication to people and the user above anything else. Alin is currently leading a team of six student designers and developers at Northeastern to create a pediatric asthma management application. She is most interested in design and design research as it relates to user experience, healthcare and behavior change. Alin is now lending her skills in web design to create an interactive online magazine for the class’ final stories. In exchange, she gets to dive into a newsroom, pitching and writing stories herself while also learning what a career at the intersection of design and journalism could look like.
Is a science writer, photographer and multimedia reporter currently based in Boston, where he is pursuing his master’s degree in journalism at Northeastern University. He has written about the environment, climate change and its intersection with indigenous rights. As a correspondent for Storybench.org, he creates helpful explainers about the creative process in journalism. As a freelance journalist, he has produced podcasts, feature-length documentary and data-driven pieces, and has been featured with Undark and the Columbia Journalism Review. In the wake of an increasing climate crisis, he seeks to spearhead a news environment that puts the natural world on page one, and intends to do so through powerfully crafted short-form films and enterprise pieces.
Story Hinckley is a graduate student at the Northeastern University School of Journalism. As a master’s candidate in the Media Innovation program, she has focused on long-form narratives, short documentaries and data journalism. Story is also a staff writer at The Christian Science Monitor, where she focuses on politics, education and the environment. Her favorite stories to write are ones that are done away from a desk, while exploring a new place and meeting new people. She grew up in Richmond, Virginia, before attending the University of Virginia, where she graduated in 2015 with a degree in political science and environmental studies. When she is not writing, Story can be found cooking, running or trying to convince people that cats are just as awesome as dogs.
Amanda LaRiviere is a second-year journalism major with a minor in international affairs. She grew up in Clinton, a small shoreline town in eastern Connecticut. Although she finds comfort in ordering “the usual” at her small town breakfast place, she always has her passport in the back of her pocket. Trips to Iceland, Thailand and New Zealand have only intensified her passion to make connections with people around the world. Amanda’s first semester at Northeastern was spent in Sydney, Australia, through the N.U.in program. While there, she volunteered at The Big Issue, a not-for-profit magazine. As an aspiring international reporter, Amanda hopes to improve upon her journalistic skills on an academic program to Israel this summer, and will apply what she learns to her future co-ops. In Boston, Amanda has covered the landmark designation for the Citgo sign and security at the Boston Marathon and other venues in Massachusetts. In Cuba, she reported on education and a Catholic nonprofit. When she is not travelling or reading the news, she’s working on a puzzle, practicing photography or curating a new playlist.
Jane Marks is a fourth-year undergraduate student at Northeastern pursuing a degree in environmental studies with a concentration in journalism. Growing up on Cape Cod, she fell in love with nature and the environment. At Northeastern, Jane wanted to follow the path of science communication and enrolled in both science and journalism courses. She also joined NUSCI, a science magazine on campus, and wrote articles about lion hunting in sub-Saharan Africa and sharks on Cape Cod. Jane prepared for internships where she could continue to learn how to make scientific information more accessible to the public. During her first internship with the Trust for Public Land, she researched different methods of communicating climate change. Throughout her second internship with Boston Harbor Now, Jane realized that connecting people to science could take on a more subtle approach. Through 5K events, free ferry days to the islands and ranger led nature walks, Jane saw how people were eager to learn more about their environment when they were actively engaged in it. Going forward, Jane hopes to continue to emphasize the importance of science communication.
Seamus McAvoy is a third-year journalism student, born in Connecticut but most recently from Camas, Washington. After studying political science and philosophy for his first two years of college, Seamus felt compelled to change gears and pursue a path that would allow for more hands-on interaction with political systems and the individuals that compose them. He currently works with Northeastern’s student newspaper, The Huntington News, as a beat writer and hopes to get involved with student radio in the near future. Seamus embraces the challenge of balancing the art of storytelling with the trade of journalism, and also enjoys reading, listening to music and watching movies.
Jonathan Mejia is a bilingual multimedia journalist. He has worked with CNBC, the world leader in business news, Univision, the No. 1 rated Spanish-language network, and reported from Cuba. His work has been published by CNBC and GroundTruth Project and his on-air experience includes WCVB Chronicle, Univision’s “El Gordo y La Flaca,” “Edición Digital” and “Primer Impacto.” He has a passion for news, entertainment and travel. He is also into health and fitness and music.
Hailing from central Massachusetts, Emily Mitchell will graduate this spring with a degree in journalism and minors in business administration, global fashion studies and communication studies. In the spring of 2018, Emily travelled to Granada, Spain, with a team of student reporters, where she co-wrote a piece about rappers whose lyrics spoke of world peace and lifestyle freedom while incorporating religious imagery. Later that summer, she travelled to Paris and wrote about current and historic fashion trends, studying the ways in which the French influence international fashion. Professionally, Emily has worked as a fashion closet assistant at Harper’s Bazaar Magazine in New York City. For her second co-op, she joined the three-person marketing team of the Boston Globe, where she did everything from event promotion to sponsored content to marketing a love advice columnist’s new memoir. This spring Emily hopes to stretch her Spanish muscles, incorporate multimedia and data visualization into her writing and come home with a much sharper toolbox.
Joshua Qualls is a documentary photographer from eastern Kentucky. Having originally set out to become a reporter, he picked up a camera a few years ago to develop a new skill and ended up falling in love with capturing moments that reveal the human condition. After working as a reporter and a staff photographer for a few small newspapers, he decided to pursue a master’s degree in Media Innovation at Northeastern University. The bulk of his work focuses on economic hardship, social injustice and political strife, particularly along the lines of health care, education and race/ethnicity in low-income communities. Before traveling to Cuba, his most recent project married compelling photos and data visualizations with a poignant narrative about an Appalachian father’s struggle to overcome addiction in the shadow of a national opioid crisis. He anchored the photo coverage in Cuba and helped with design. Find more of his work at www.joshuaqualls.com.
Collyn was born and raised in Jacksonville, Florida, and graduated in 2012 from Florida State University where she studied business management and minored in communication and hospitality. A year after she graduated, she decided to pursue a dream and started to travel. Collyn worked with children in Chile and Spain for two years teaching English. Although she did not know Spanish upon this adventure, she immersed herself in the language and culture of both countries and continues to practice Spanish whenever she can. Chile impacted her life immensely and taught her the value of different cultures, communication, family and how to dance without fear. After she worked various jobs, she decided to pursue a master’s degree and is currently a first-year graduate student in Media Advocacy at Northeastern University. In her free time, Collyn likes to play the drums, dance to live music and read. She is also learning audio engineering skills for live music mixing. Collyn’s future plans revolve around advocacy work, specifically for minority populations, the performing arts and all things that move the United States forward toward a more peaceful, tolerant society.
Estelle De Zan
Estelle De Zan is a Bay-Area native who grew up in a multicultural household in the heart of Silicon Valley. Her father immigrated to the U.S. from France and her mom is a first-generation Salvadorian. They ensured Estelle was raised trilingual and had an appreciation for language learning. This taught her to see the world through different lenses and switching from one language to the other accustomed her to constant change. In the past year, she has divided her time between Boston, San Jose, London and France. Having caught the travel bug, Estelle went on several impromptu solo travels, planning hostel stays and excursions, which she found to be quite empowering. As a second-year journalism and international affairs double major, she is focusing on culture, lifestyle and social themes. She has done photojournalism and written articles on a range of subjects including profiles, features and the coverage of current events. In that sense, this field has allowed her to talk to people and unapologetically ask them questions.. When she is not reading or journaling, Estelle can be found watching John Oliver and Game of Thrones with her cat.
Irvin Zhang is a Seattle native born to two Chinese immigrants. He is a third-year journalism major with a minor in political science. During his time at Northeastern, Irvin has worked with The Huntington News both as a staff writer and an editor. Although sports was his first love within journalism, he has developed a passion for stories focused on complex topics such as religious intersections with politics and culture. Within the past year, through Northeastern special projects, he has been embedded in Granada, Spain, and Havana, Cuba, where he has been able to write stories centered around the secularization of Spanish education, the growing Muslim community, and with this most recent trip, the growing efforts of preservation of Chinese culture within Havana’s Chinatown.
Detrás del Bloqueo would not have been possible without the generous support of:
- Michael Beaudet, Professor of the Practice, College of Arts, Media and Design
- Centro de Estudios Martianos, Havana, Cuba
- Global Experience Office (GEO)
- The GroundTruth Project
- Elizabeth Hudson, Dean, College of Arts, Media and Design
- Jonathan Kaufman, Director, School of Journalism
- Andrea Raynor, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Programs, College of Arts, Media and Design
- The Thomas Family Explore the World Fund
- Erin Wang, Web Designer, Computer Science & Design student
- Maybelline Perez, Content Manager, Design & Entrepreneurship student
- Tammi Westgate, Associate Director, College Research Administration