Three Tufts graduates, in collaboration with the Communications and Media Studies (CMS) Program, have established the CJ Saraceno Memorial Scholarship to provide financial assistance to students interested in a summer media internship in Los Angeles.
The scholarship was created in memory of Christopher “CJ” Saraceno (LA ’11), a Tufts graduate who died last year while working in Los Angeles, according to Dan Rosen (LA ’10), a friend of Saraceno and co-creator of the scholarship.
“It was an immense tragedy that should have never happened,” Rosen said. “The world has lost a really great person. People always say that … but I truly feel that in his way, CJ was destined to change the world.”
Rosanna Xia (LA ’11), another friend of Saraceno who helped with the creation of the scholarship, explained that Saraceno was employed by NCLUSIVE, Inc., a Los Angeles-based firm that manages social media and branding campaigns on behalf of celebrities and professional athletes.
“He was so fascinated with audience engagement,” she said. “One of our last intellectual conversations … was how to get someone to connect to an issue, to think about something – how to convey a brand. He loved to influence which direction an issue was going in. He was just a force.”
While at Tufts, Saraceno was a brother at Sigma Phi Epsilon (SigEp), wrote for The Primary Source and the Observer and contributed a column to the Daily, Rosen said. He majored in political science and minored in communications and media studies.
Julie Dobrow, director of the CMS program, explained that Xia approached her about honoring Saraceno’s legacy.
“Rosanna, who had worked with me closely when she was at Tufts, called me up and said that she and a group of CJ’s other friends wanted to raise some money, and was there anything that I could think of that would be an appropriate tribute to him,” she said. “And I immediately thought of how CJ was determined to make his way in Los Angeles.”
Dobrow said that achieving success in Los Angeles can be difficult for students.
“A lot of our students who are interested in pursuing careers in film and television, [and] that is where they need to go,” she said. “And if you don’t have family in Los Angeles, it isn’t easy to do. It is expensive to live [there], it isn’t easy to get around, there isn’t good public transportation, and it can take some time to get a good job in the media industry.”
Xia, Rosen and Nancy Shrodes (LA ’11), in collaboration with some of Saraceno’s friends from Los Angeles, organized a fundraising effort thatincluded parties in New York and Los Angeles, in addition to online donations through the scholarship’s website, Rosen said.
“A couple months ago, we began with a message on Facebook and a simple website, and it turned into something very large,” he said. “People pitched in from around the world, because this story really affected people.”
According to Rosen, the scholarship fund has now raised enough money to provide the scholarship for three years, and will provide students with a $4,000 stipend each year, he said.
Dobrow contacted Albert Berger (A ’79) co-founder of Bona Fide Productions – a company that produced films including “Little Miss Sunshine” (2006), “Little Children” (2006) and “Cold Mountain” (2003) – to arrange an internship to accompany the scholarship.
“Albert and his colleagues at Bona Fide have always taken Tufts students in as interns, so I just thought that he would be open and amendable to have the first CJ Saraceno intern work with him, and indeed he was,” she said. “We procured that spot, and worked with folks in the advancement office to put together language for this internship, and we have rolled it out, and are recruiting students to apply for this now. It will be a rigorous and robust selection process.”
According to Dobrow, the recipient of the scholarship will be selected both based on need and his or her embodiment of Saraceno’s spirit, she said.
“We are looking for somebody who, first of all, would benefit from this opportunity, and may not otherwise have an opportunity to do an internship at Bona Fide – somebody who is creative as CJ was, who is passionate about telling stories in film and has some of the tools to be able to do that,” Dobrow said.
Xia hopes that Saraceno’s legacy will live on through the scholarship.
“Within the CMS community, there is always that one kid that is going to make it big and [who] goes beyond the realm of Tufts media studies,” Xia said. “CJ was that guy. He always had the best ideas and coolest projects.”
According to Dobrow, this year’s CJ Saraceno Intern will be selected by the third or fourth week of April.