Mentors

Founding Director

Mark Oppenheimer

Director, Yale Journalism Initiative and THREAD at Yale

Mark Oppenheimer, the founding director of THREAD at Yale, is the biweekly “Beliefs” columnist for The New York Times. He has been a contributor to This American Life, a storyteller at The Moth, and a visiting professor at Stanford, Wesleyan, Wellesley, NYU, and Boston College. His three books include Wisenheimer: A Childhood Subject to Debate, about his wild years on the high school debate circuit, and Thirteen and a Day: The Bar and Bat Mitzvah Across America (which he should have called The Bar Mitzvah Crasher). He hosted the famous “dinner table debate,” on YouTube, between sex columnist Dan Savage and Brian Brown, the head of the conservative National Organization for Marriage.


2017 Mentors

Jill Abramson

Former Executive Editor, The New York Times, and Lecturer, Harvard University

Jill Abramson worked most recently at The New York Times, where she was the first woman to serve as Washington bureau chief, managing editor and executive editor. Before joining the Times, she spent nine years at The Wall Street Journal as an editor and investigative reporter covering money and politics. She is the author of three books including Strange Justice, which she co-authored with Jane Mayer. In addition to her current position as a lecturer in Harvard’s English Department, Jill Abramson has taught at both Princeton and Yale, where she led undergraduate writing seminars for five years. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences and The American Philosophical Society. 


Steve Brodner

Editorial Cartoonist and Illustrator

Steve Brodner became editorial cartoonist at The Hudson Dispatch, in Union City, New Jersey after getting his BFA atCooper Union in 1976. In 1977 Steven Heller, protean art director of The New York Times Book Review, began tapping him for illustration assignments. Eventually Brodner realized he could survive nicely just doing this without ever having a real job. This is called Freelance Illustration. To this day he is still confused about how this works. In 1979-82 he published his own journal, The New York Illustrated News which was a little like this Bicycle but using a technique called printing. In 1981 he became a regular contributor to Harper’s magazine with the monthly feature, “Ars Politica”, a name thought up by Lewis Lapham, Harper’s editor. In the late 1980’s, as editors realized that Ronald Reagan was less like an Olympian God and more like a rotting puppet, more magazines asked Brodner to contribute regularly. These included the National Lampoon, Sports Illustrated, Playboy and Spy. In 1988 Esquire brought him in as an unofficial house artist. It was there that he did portrait caricature, art journalism and a back-page political cartoon, “Adversaria”. This all served to convince him that illustration was an important part of the mix of any journalistic enterprise. Well . . . isn’t it?  Since then he has worked for most major publications in the US and Canada.


Catherine Burns

Artistic Director, The Moth

Catherine Burns is a producer and frequent host of the Peabody Award-winning The Moth Radio Hour, and the editor of the international bestseller The Moth: 50 True Stories. She is the director of the solo show Helen & Edgar, which opened at The Public Theater in January 2014 as part of the Under the Radar Festival, and was called “utterly absorbing and unexpectedly moving” by Ben Brantley of The New York Times. Prior to The Moth, she directed and produced television and independent films, interviewing such diverse talent as Ozzy Osbourne, Martha Stewart and Howard Stern. Born and raised in Alabama, she now lives in Brooklyn with her husband and five year old son.


Matthew Dicks

Author, Columnist, Storyteller

Matthew Dicks is the internationally bestselling author of the novels Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend, Something Missing and Unexpectedly, Milo, and The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs. His novels have been translated into more than 25 languages worldwide. He is also the author of the rock opera The Clowns and the musicals Caught in the Middle and Sticks & Stones. He has written comic books for Double Take comics. He is a columnist for Seasons magazine and has published work in Reader's Digest, The Hartford Courant, The Huffington Post, and The Christian Science Monitor. Matthew is a 23-time Moth StorySLAM champion and four-time GrandSLAM champion whose stories have been featured on their nationally syndicated Moth Radio Hour and their weekly podcast. Matthew is also the co-founder and creative director of Speak Up, a Hartford-based storytelling organization that produces shows throughout New England. He teaches storytelling and public speaking to individuals, corporations, and school districts around the world. Matthew is the creator and co-host of Boy vs. Girl, a podcast about gender and gender stereotypes.  


Stephanie Foo

Producer, This American Life

Before joining This American Life, Stephanie Foo helped create Snap Judgment. Her work has been featured on shows like Reply All and 99% Invisible. She was also the co-creator of This American Life’s Audio Hackathon.


Nikole Hannah-Jones

Investigative Reporter, New York Times Magazine

Nikole Hannah-Jones has spent the last five years investigating the way racial segregation in housing and schools is maintained through official action and policy. Nikole's reporting has won several national awards, including the Peabody Award, George Polk Award, National Magazine Award, Sigma Delta Chi Award for Public Service, and the Hechinger Grand Prize for Distinguished Education Reporting. She is also a 2017 New America Emerson fellow. Nikole is writing a book on school segregation entitled, "The Problem We All Live With," to be published on the One World imprint of Penguin/Random House. Before joining The New York Times, Nikole worked for investigative news organization ProPublica. Her works has also appeared in The Atlantic Magazine, Huffington Post, Essence Magazine, The Week Magazine, Grist, Politico Magazine and on Face the Nation, This American Life, NPR, the Tom Joyner Morning Show, MSNBC, C-SPAN, Democracy Now and radio stations across the country.


Glynn Washington

Host and Executive Producer, Snap Judgment

Glynn Washington was born in Detroit and attended the University of Michigan and its law school. In 2010, he started Snap Judgment, one of the fastest-growing programs in public-radio history, after winning the Public Radio Talent Quest sponsored by Public Radio Exchange (PRX) and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), which had more than 1,400 entries. Before creating the Snap Judgment radio show, Glynn worked as an educator, diplomat, community activist, actor, political strategist, fist-shaker, mountain-hollerer, and foot stomper. He composed music for the Kunst Stoff dance performances in San Francisco, rocked live spoken word poetry in Detroit, joined a band in Indonesia, wrote several screenplays, painted a daring series of self portraits, released a blues album, and thinks his stories are best served with cocktails. 


Workshop Leaders

Linda Gradstein

Mideast Bureau Chief, The Media Line

Linda Gradstein is the Mideast Bureau Chief of The Media Line, an American news agency specializing in coverage of the Middle East. She worked as the Israel correspondent for NPR News from 1990 until 2009. Linda has covered important events in Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip such as the intifada, the mass immigration of Soviet immigrants to Israel, the leadership of Yasser Arafat, Hamas in Gaza, the Persian Gulf war, and major elections in Israel. She is a member of the team that received the Overseas Press Club award for her coverage of the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, as well as the team that received Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia University Award for Excellence in Broadcast Journalism for her coverage of the Persian Gulf War. Linda earned a bachelor’s degree in Foreign Service from Georgetown University in 1985 and a master’s degree in Arab Studies. She spent a year as a Rotary Fellow at the American University in Cairo and was selected to be a Knight Journalist Fellow at Stanford University in 1998-9. Linda speaks both Hebrew and Arabic.


Roya Hakakian

Writer and Journalist

Roya Hakakian is a writer and journalist who works in film and print. Her reportage has been featured on network television, including CBS 60 minutes. Her opinions and essays appear in the New York Times and NPR’s weekend Edition among others. She serves on the editorial board of World Affairs: A Journal of Ideas. Her poetry in Persian has been included in many anthologies, including the PEN anthology of contemporary Iranian literature. Her acclaimed memoir, Journey from the Land of No: A Girlhood Caught in Revolutionary Iran was one of Publisher Weekly's Best Books and Elle Magazine's Best Nonfiction in 2004. Roya is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship in nonfiction for her recent book, Assassins of the Turquoise Palace. It was a 2011 Kirkus Review’s Best and New York Times Notable Book. Roya is a founding member of Iran Human Rights Documentation Center, and is a currently a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholar in Washington, DC.


Jake Halpern

Author, Journalist, and Radio Producer

Jake Halpern's first book, Braving Home (2003), was a main selection for the Book of the Month Club by Bill Bryson and was one of Library Journal's “Best Books of the Year.” His next book, Fame Junkies (2007), was the basis for an original series on NPR’s All Things Considered. Jake’s most recent nonfiction book, Bad Paper (FSG), was excerpted as a cover story for The New York Times Magazine in August 2014. Jake’s debut work of fiction, a young adult trilogy, Dormia, has been hailed by the American Library Association's Booklist as a worthy heir to the Harry Potter series. As a journalist, Jake has written for The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, GQ, Sports Illustrated, The New Republic, Slate, Smithsonian, Entertainment Weekly, Outside, New York Magazine, and other publications. In the realm of radio, Jake is a contributor to NPR’s All Things Considered and This American Life. Jake's hour-long radio story, "Switched at Birth," is on This American Life's "short list" as one of its top eight shows of all time. One of Jake's stories is the basis for a new movie being produced by 20th Century Fox and Heyday Films. Jake recently returned from India, where he was visiting as a Fulbright Scholar.


Sarah Stillman

Staff Writer, The New Yorker, and Visiting Scholar, N.Y.U. Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute

Sarah Stillman has written on topics ranging from civil forfeiture to amateur drone builders and from Mexico’s drug cartels to Bangladesh’s garment-factory workers. She won the 2012 National Magazine Award for Public Interest for her reporting from Iraq and Afghanistan on labor abuses and human trafficking on United States military bases, and also received the Michael Kelly Award, the Overseas Press Club’s Joe and Laurie Dine Award for international human-rights reporting, and the Hillman Prize for Magazine Journalism. Her reporting on the high-risk use of young people as confidential informants in the war on drugs received a George Polk Award and the Molly National Journalism Prize. Before joining The New Yorker, Stillman wrote about America’s wars overseas and the challenges facing soldiers at home for the Washington PostThe Nationnewrepublic.comSlate, and TheAtlantic.com. She co-taught a seminar at Yale on the Iraq War, and also ran a creative-writing workshop for four years at the Cheshire Correctional Institution, a maximum-security men’s prison in Connecticut. Her work is included in The Best American Magazine Writing 2012.


Carl Zimmer

Author, New York Times columnist, and Professor Adjunct at Yale University

Carl Zimmer writes the "Matter" column for the New York Times. He is also the author of 13 books about science, including Parasite Rex and Evolution: Making Sense of Life. His hundreds of magazine articles have appeared in publications including National Geographic, The Atlantic, Wired, and The New York Times Magazine. Zimmer also appears regularly on "Radiolab." He is a three-time winner of the American Association for the Advancement of Science Journalism Award; his other awards include the Stephen Jay Gould Prize, the National Academies Communication Award, and the Distinguished Service Award from the National Association of Biology Teachers. At Yale, Zimmer is a Professor Adjunct in the Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, where he teaches an undergraduate seminar on science writing and runs an annual workshop for Yale science graduate students.