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Alumni Profiles

Journalism graduate reports on Iraqi War

By John Trent

When war with Iraq consumed the attention of the country last spring, Reynolds School of Journalism graduate Keith Garvin was there reporting from the front lines.

Garvin, a 1995 graduate of the university, was an embedded reporter for WTVD, the ABC affiliate in Raleigh, N.C.

His initial reaction?

“I remember thinking, ‘My goodness, we have so much free reign,’” Garvin said in April when he spoke on campus as part of the inaugural lecture sponsored by the Fred Smith Chair in Ethics and Journalism. “We could cover what we wanted to cover. Restrictions were very, very light; almost non-existent.”

Garvin’s reportage caught the attention of more than just his viewers in the Raleigh-Durham area. In September, he joined ABC News as a correspondent.

Throughout his time in Iraq, Garvin kept students at his old school attuned to much of the action via a Weblog he kept on the Reynolds School home page.

Garvin, a native Texan, was a football letterman during his time at Nevada. He was a member of the 1991 Wolf Pack team that staged the greatest comeback in NCAA history, rallying from a 35-point deficit against Weber State.

Garvin, who covered troops as they moved from Camp Lejeune in North Carolina to the front, says he was aware of the special considerations a journalist must make when placed in the middle of a war. He recalled one moment in particular, when he joined a group of Marines who were erecting a field hospital tent.

“Then I stepped back,” he says. “I didn’t want to blur that line.”

Garvin says he saw much he will always remember during his time in Iraq: a country of contrasts, where oil rigs rise majestically into the sky — and a land where donkeys roam dirt streets; a place where freedom was welcomed — and feared; a place where war, for all of the combatants, was ultimately time spent away from those who really matter — loved ones and family.

Garvin’s ascendancy through the ranks of television reporters has not been surprising to his former professors. In addition to covering the Iraqi War, he has also interviewed Rev. Billy Graham, Rev. Jerry Falwell, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and Rev. Jesse Jackson, and flown with the Navy’s Blue Angels.

“Having folks from ABC see my reports from Iraq obviously piqued their interest in me,” he says, adding quickly that he is no fan of war. “I look forward to the opportunity, the challenge and the excitement. I hope to make the J-School proud.”

Garvin is married to Lisa, and the couple has three daughters.

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Cottingham: Andretti Green Racing events planner

By Melanie Supersano

Carol Cottingham is living the life many people dream of. She travels the world, rubbing shoulders with celebrities in an exciting whirl of activity as the events planner for Andretti Green Racing, owned by Michael Andretti, whose name is synonymous with auto racing excellence.

“The racing circuit is a circus. It’s been crazy,” says Cottingham, 24, who graduated from Nevada in 2001 with a degree in marketing. But for a young, single woman it’s a good kind of crazy. “This job allows me to travel around the world. I’m on the road all the time. Over the past year, I got to go to Japan, Australia and England,” Cottingham says.

Her job is primarily arranging events for Andretti Green Racing’s sponsors, which this year are Motorola, Archipelago, Klein Tools, Jim Beam and 7-Eleven. “I coordinate driver appearances and hospitality for the sponsors. We send out invitations, book hotel rooms and throw parties for them,” she says.

A fringe benefit is entrée into an elite crowd. “I constantly mingle with the rich and famous,” she jokes. However, it is quite true. “One of our drivers, Dario Franchitti, is married to Ashley Judd [the actress],” Cottingham notes.

Cottingham came to Nevada in her sophomore year from the State University of New York at Buffalo, recruited by swim coach Mike Shrader. “We had a great program when I was at Nevada and the coaching staff and everyone were great to work with.”

Her interest in events planning was born when she took marketing classes from R. C. Barnes, now emeritus professor of marketing. “He was really enthusiastic about marketing. In our senior year, we had to come up with a marketing plan for a yacht club. The planning and everything that had to do with it totally appealed to me,” Cottingham says.

Based in Indianapolis, Cottingham misses Reno and Lake Tahoe. “I loved it there and I was really upset to leave. All my friends are there. I stay in touch by e-mail, but it’s hard.” But with 68 members on the Andretti Green Racing team, Cottingham is not alone. “It’s like having 68 big brothers,” she says.

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Sister Heidland ‘rocks’ in new profession

By Jennifer Sanzi

How does one go from being a late night disc jockey who loves to party to a devoted nun who loves to serve? That is exactly what Sharon Heidland, a 1998 graduate of the university, did when she became Sister Miriam James Heidland.

A Washington native, Heidland was recruited to Nevada on a full volleyball scholarship. She became a successful player and maintained good grades in her communications major and journalism minor. At the end of her freshman year, Heidland began to notice that something was missing from her life.

“I had everything that the world said I should have to be happy,” she says. “A full-ride, academic success, lots of friends and a popular boyfriend, but something was still missing. I knew that I had to do more with my life.”

Thus began Heidland’s journey back to religious life.

“I started going back to church and reading my Bible,” she says. “There was a growing hunger for something more.”

A knee injury at the beginning of her senior year ended Heidland’s volleyball career at the university. Without the chance to play the entire length of her eligibility, she graduated in four years and realized that she had to figure out what she wanted to do with the rest of her life.

“I don’t recall ever having a desire to be a nun,” Heidland reflects. “I had planned on getting a job with CNN and making a lot of money.”

Her plan took an unexpected turn when Father Santan Pinto, a priest who had been a spiritual mentor to Heidland since freshman year, invited her to visit his mission in New Mexico. Heidland accepted the invitation and attended some of his seminary classes.

“I had no idea what to expect,” she says. “But those were some of the most peaceful days of my life.”

After her visit, Father Pinto encouraged Heidland to come back and stay for a longer period of time. Since she still did not know what her calling was, she agreed and packed up her things to move to New Mexico.

“It was at that time, being around so many people striving to live a life of holiness, that I realized God was calling me,” Heidland recalls.

Heidland remained in New Mexico for nearly a year and then continued her studies with her religious order, the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity (SOLT), in Italy for three years. On Dec. 8, 2002, she professed her vows and became married to Jesus.

Heidland’s first assignment brought her to the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation in Dunseith, N.D., where she now writes a column for the local newspaper, visits housing projects, helps in schools, works in the parish, visits the nursing home and plays guitar for the church. In addition, she just became head coach of the high school volleyball team at Dunseith High School.

Although Heidland’s path has changed drastically from its original course, she says she would not be happy doing anything else with her life.

“I have always been an all or nothing person,” she stated. “I want everything or I want nothing. I wanted to do something great with my life, something big.”

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