About Lou Corsaro

Lou Corsaro Lou Corsaro is managing director of marketing and public relations for Point Park University and lives in Brighton Heights with his wife and daughter. You can email him at lcorsaro@pointpark.edu.
Lou Corsaro

When Point Park University envisioned the future for its School of Communication, a key objective was to create a state-of-the-art learning center where students could merge their energy, talent and ambition.

The school’s Center for Media Innovation at the corner of Wood Street and Third Avenue, Downtown will do just that.

“The media industry has evolved from individual labels such as print and television into a massive multimedia effort that requires knowledge and expertise in all disciplines,” said Point Park University President Paul Hennigan. “This is an innovative incubator and collaborative space that brings together a cohesive, interactive strategy to education, while simultaneously engaging a Downtown audience.”

Rendering courtesy of Point Park University
Rendering courtesy of Point Park University

The 4,000-square-foot center, designed by Pittsburgh-based GBBN Architects, will feature floor-to-ceiling glass walls, flat-screen televisions and a digital ticker will offer a New York City-style media hub where passersby can be entertained and informed as students learn their craft.

“Point Park prides itself on offering a real-world, career-focused educational experience,” Hennigan said. “The Center for Media Innovation will play a key role in the University’s mission to teach students to be entrepreneurs and to embrace technological change, while adding another vibrant corner to the important Wood Street corridor.”

When complete in 2016, will afford students access to the latest technology. The center will feature:

  • Television and radio broadcast studios. The TV studio will include a green screen, industry-specific lighting, and state-of-the-art high-definition cameras. A radio broadcast booth will share a common control room. Both broadcast areas will be self-contained modules with high-visibility glass walls for a “fishbowl” studio experience.
  • Photo studio. The studio will feature high ceilings and light control for the best possible shooting environment.
  • Multimedia newsroom. Reporting and multimedia storytelling, along with graphics production, social media, and website and page layout can be conducted through multiple courses in this high-tech smart classroom.
  • Transformational presentation and gallery space. The center will open into an event space for networking and educational sessions with newsmakers and industry leaders. The same area also can be used as a photo gallery, offering another space for students to showcase their work.

Also featured in the center will be café-style work stations for editing, reporting and design situated throughout the facility and open to students for class projects, the Point Park News Service, Wood Street Communications, and student publications such as The Globe, the weekly student-run newspaper, and The Pioneer, a classroom-based digital magazine.

The center will act as a critical educational complement to Point Park’s Academic Village Initiative, the multi-block living and learning hub that has helped to transform the urban center into a vibrant place to learn, work, live and play.

Construction will cost $2.5 million to build and is made possible, in part, with a grant from the Allegheny Foundation and sponsorship of Trib Total Media, a multimedia network that publishes the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and six other daily newspapers, 24 weekly newspapers, the Pennysaver and shoppers, the news site TribLIVE.com and various niche magazines, websites and targeted direct mail to reach more than 1.2 million readers western Pennsylvania readers each week.

Richard M. Scaife, the late owner of Trib Total Media, was deeply committed to journalism and its essential role in American life, said Allegheny Foundation Chairman Matt Groll.

“Dick always said he wanted to find ways to help build journalism, not just through the Trib and his other papers, but through the education of future journalists,” said Groll, who succeeded Scaife as head of the foundation in 2014. “This partnership is a perfect opportunity for us to do that with one of his two foundations. It is especially exciting because Point Park’s program is here in Pittsburgh.”

Founded in 1960, Point Park enrolls nearly 4,000 full- and part-time students in more than 100 undergraduate and graduate programs offered through the School of Arts and Sciences, School of Business, School of Communication and Conservatory of Performing Arts.

Lou Corsaro
Point Park University students  Jaz McKibben, left, Jordan Durham and Blaise Kepple will travel to South Africa later this year to film a documentary about the process of shark finning and how it is endangering the species. Photo Credit: Victoria A. Mikula/The Globe
Point Park University students (from left) Jaz McKibben, Jordan Durham and Blaise Kepple will take their cameras to South Africa later this year.
Photo: Victoria A. Mikula/The Globe

Three Point Park University students are traveling to South Africa later this year to film a documentary about shark finning, a controversial practice that has caused some species of the animal to reach the brink of extinction.

Cinema production sophomores Jordan Durham and Jaz McKibben and global studies freshman Blaise Kepple are trying to raising $10,000 to pay for their travel and camera gear. They have created a Kickstarter page titled “Rock Bottom: The Truth Behind Shark Finning.” The campaign closes Feb. 9.

The students will travel to Cape Town via GoEco, an organization created by experienced volunteers for people who want to travel while contributing to the community, wildlife and environment they experience on the trip. All three Point Park students will do volunteer work with great white sharks during their two- to four-week trip, which could take place as soon as May. They will assist scientists with shark tagging, beach cleanup and ecotourism, while recording the process in an effort to reduce the stigma sharks face, great whites in particular.

“The lack of care for these animals has made the species decline in numbers,” said Durham, who will act as producer and co-director. “In reality, sharks only kill about four people a year and, out of 500 species of sharks, only 12 are dangerous to humans.”

More than 70 million sharks are killed for their fins each year. Fishermen bring the shark onto the boat, cut off all its fins while still alive, then kick it back into the water, where it eventually drowns.

Durham will be the producer and co-director of the documentary, while McKibben will act as co-director and editor. Kebble will be the production manager. Learn more about Point Park University here. and read more about the student’s project at The Globe, the university’s student-run newspaper.

Lou Corsaro

When Point Park University envisioned a new Pittsburgh Playhouse, located in the heart of Downtown Pittsburgh, one of its foremost considerations was to create a state-of-the art learning center where students could merge their energy, talent and ambition into a central location.

Today, the University reveals the result of that academic vision with renderings of the new Pittsburgh Playhouse. Set to open in 2017, the 92,000-square-foot structure will be located on approximately 1.6 acres of land along the Forbes Avenue corridor between Wood and Smithfield streets. The site is close to two major, ongoing construction projects – PNC’s new world headquarters and The Gardens at Market Square by Millcraft.

“We believe the new Pittsburgh Playhouse will be a game-changer for Downtown Pittsburgh,” said Paul Hennigan, president of Point Park University. “Not only will the new facility be a dynamic learning environment for students in our Conservatory of Performing Arts, it will allow their creative process to be an integral part of the Downtown experience.”

Backstage is forestage

The new Playhouse is a complex, large-scale project that will encompass three structures when complete. The new building will be seamlessly interwoven with two existing historic structures – the current University Center, designed by Frederick J. Osterling for the Colonial Trust Company, and the Stock Exchange Building, designed by prominent architect Charles M. Bartberger.
Designed by Cleveland-based architecture firm Westlake Reed Leskosky, the new Playhouse will offer the public an intimate view of the making of art, as large windows offer an unobstructed view of performance venues typically shielded from observation. A hangar door will connect one theater inside the Playhouse to the outdoor courtyard, providing students the opportunity to perform for the Downtown public at large.

Corporate gifts launch fundraising effort

The University is announcing a $74 million campaign for the Playhouse project, which includes site assembly, a very generous parking arrangement and a maintenance endowment. It will cost $53 million to build and furnish the Playhouse.

To date, the University has completed $45 million in funding, including $14 million from Point Park University, its trustees and campaign leadership, corporate gifts totaling $18 million, a $5 million Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) grant and $8 million in foundation gifts.

Including the sale of the Playhouse in Oakland and gifts that are pending, the University will need to raise an additional $20 million to complete the project. The $18 million in corporate gifts comes from a group of corporations and represents significant investments from The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc., the PNC Foundation and Highmark Health.

“Point Park University is helping to change our city’s Downtown and the new playhouse will be a lively addition,” said David Holmberg, president and CEO, Highmark Health. “People who live in vibrant and vital communities lead more active, healthy lives. Highmark Health is committed to supporting education at all levels, as well as preserving our national recognition as a leader in arts and culture, both of which are integral parts of our community.”

“For decades, PNC has been a leading supporter of arts and cultural organizations in communities where we do business,” said William S. Demchak, chairman, president and chief executive officer of PNC. “In recent years, as we have expanded our own Downtown Pittsburgh campus, we have been delighted to witness all that Point Park University has done to help lead the revitalization of the city’s central business district. And we are pleased today to announce both a grant from the PNC Foundation and our gift of free parking for patrons of the new theater at Point Park.”

Historic façades become Playhouse focal points

Preservation will be a key element to the Pittsburgh Playhouse. An urban courtyard – a two-story outdoor plaza and colonnade– will feature three Forbes Avenue façades that will be meticulously deconstructed, then reconstructed as major focal pieces.

“The University has conceived of an excellent way to preserve the most important elements and ornamentals, such as the façade of the former Royal building, by incorporating them as sculptural elements in the new Playhouse,” noted Arthur P. Ziegler, president of the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation.

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Founded in 1960, Point Park University is a dynamic, urban university with a strong liberal arts tradition. Located in Downtown Pittsburgh, Point Park enrolls nearly 4,000 full- and part-time students in 82 undergraduate programs, 17 master’s programs and a doctoral program offered through its School of Arts and Sciences, School of Business, School of Communication and Conservatory of Performing Arts.

Lou Corsaro

Dr. George R. and Kathleen White portrait

The late George and Kathleen White’s long-time commitment to the growth of Point Park University has been a source of academic and physical campus improvement for more than 20 years.

That commitment to ensuring Point Park University’s growth and prosperity in the future is manifested in a $15 million bequest announced on Oct. 8, 2014, the single largest gift in the University’s 54-year history. The White bequest will be dispersed among several initiatives at the University including the Pittsburgh Playhouse construction fund and enhancements to the University’s School of Business, including continued funding of the George Rowland White Endowed Professor of Accounting and Finance.

“The White bequest is a transformational gift for our University and we are humbled by their legacy of generosity and support,” said Paul Hennigan, president of Point Park University. “The Whites’ passion for the arts and their understanding of the importance of a well-rounded liberal arts education set in a vibrant Downtown are embodied in this generous gift to our University.”

According to Hennigan, the Whites’ bequest will allow the University to expand programs and campus enhancements that are significant and meaningful, “not just to our students and academic community, but to the Pittsburgh region as well.”

For example, he pointed to the Urban Accounting Initiative, established in 2011 by the Whites to encourage minority youth to pursue studies and careers in accounting and financing. “The Whites had the vision to match the growing need for accountants and financial professionals with the importance of finding stable careers for a demographic that is historically challenged to do so,” he said.  Now in its 3rd year, the Urban Accounting Initiative, directed by Edward Scott, M.B.A., C.P.A., the George Rowland White Endowed Professor of Accounting and Finance, hosts an Accounting Career Awareness Program each summer, in conjunction with the National Association of Black Accountants, where minority high school students attend classes on careers in accounting and business, personal development and college preparation as well as meet and learn from mentors in the fields.

In an economic climate where many schools of Point Park’s size and endowment are often challenged to fund the expansion of academic programs, enhancements to the physical campus, and attract and retain a vibrant study body, the bequest comes at a pivotal moment for the University.  “The transformation our campus has experienced through the Academic Village initiative has been significant and the Whites’ generous gift allows us to further that process and plant the seeds for future efforts,” said Hennigan.

Before his death in 2012, George White served on Point Park University’s Board of Trustees since 1995 and was also, for a time, an adjunct professor.  George and his wife Kathleen, who passed away in 2013,  became Downtown residents when George was recruited to lead what is now the University of Pittsburgh Applied Research Facility in Harmar Township. According to Hennigan, the Whites’ support of a healthy Downtown, its rich cultural offerings, business and corporate interests as well as opportunities for exploring and learning, were a perfect complement to the community of Point Park University.

In a 2011 interview with The Point, Point Park University’s alumni magazine, George White discussed the $1 million bequest he and Kathleen made to the University to establish the George Rowland White Endowed Professor of Accounting and Finance. “My hope is that others will be inspired to make bequests and similar types of planned gifts. We would like to set a precedent.”

Lou Corsaro

On the heels of the Sept. 4 premiere in Pittsburgh, excitement is building for the television debut of the documentary series The Chair.

The first episode airs at 11 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 6 on the Starz network, and throughout the show, Pittsburgh and Point Park University will be generously highlighted.

The show was created by Good Will Hunting and American Pie producer Chris Moore, who also gained fame for his visible role on the documentary series Project Greenlight, which aired on HBO and Bravo for three seasons.

Moore partnered with Pittsburgh native Zachary Quinto’s Before the Door Pictures and a host of Pittsburgh partners, including Point Park University, Steeltown Entertainment Group and WQED, to bring his vision to reality. The show centers around two aspiring filmmakers, YouTube star Shane Dawson and Anna Martemucci, as they are tasked with making films based on the same script. Both films will be released in theaters and on demand, and viewers will vote for the one they like best. The winner gets $250,000.

Ahead of Thursday’s premiere, Moore and Dawson stopped by the Point Park campus, which played host to the production. More than 100 students and alumni also worked on the TV show and films. Moore said the students provided energy and excitement, and were true professionals. He also found their attitude to be contagious.

“I wish more people in this industry were far less jaded,” Moore said. “Students have a great way of reminding you how cool it is.”

Dawson and Martemucci joined Moore at the red carpet premiere at the SouthSide Works theater. Point Park students and alumni who worked on the project also were in attendance.

And, if Moore has his way, he’ll be back in Pittsburgh next year for season two of The Chair. The hope would be to work with the same partners, including Point Park. Moore said he has great respect for the university’s cinema program, which takes a hands-on approach with the students.

Lou Corsaro

Shane Set-R“The Chair,” a documentary series executive produced by Point Park University, will air its first episode Sept. 6 on the STARZ channel.

The 10-episode series, filmed in Pittsburgh, follows two up-and-coming directors, Shane Dawson and Anna Martemucci, as they compete to make two separate feature films from the same script. “The Chair” will document the creation, marketing and theatrical release of both adaptations, which will also air on STARZ. Both directors have the same budget and, through multiplatform voting, the audience will determine which director will be awarded $250,000.

More than 100 Point Park students and alumni from a variety of majors supported the TV series and two feature films as interns, employees, and through class projects.  Additionally, production offices were located on Point Park University’s campus in downtown Pittsburgh.

“Point Park University is proud to act as an economic driver and incubator for original works of entertainment that can help boost the local economy, while also giving students and alumni an outlet for developing the kind of experience they need to thrive in the real world,” said University President Paul Hennigan.

“The Chair” was created by producer Chris Moore, who partnered with Ben Affleck and Matt Damon on HBO’s “Project Greenlight.” For “The Chair,” he partnered with Green Tree native Zachary Quinto and his production company, Before The Door Pictures.

“Working in Pittsburgh with the support of Point Park University was an invaluable component in creating this show and these two films,” said Josh Shader, who produced the two films.

“The Chair” chronicles Los Angeles filmmakers Shane Dawson and Anna Martemucci as they make their feature films, also shot in Pittsburgh, from a script by Dan Schoffer. The film is a coming-of-age comedy about a group of former high school classmates who return home from college for Thanksgiving.

View the trailer for Martemucci’s “Hollidaysburg,” the trailer for Shane Dawson’s “Not Cool,” and watch a preview of “The Chair.”