Meet Our Advisory Board

Dr. Christopher Ali
Dr. Christopher Ali is the Pioneers Chair of Telecommunications and Professor of Telecommunications at the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications at Penn State University. He holds a PhD in Communications Studies from the University of Pennsylvania and his work focuses on broadband and digital equity in rural and remote communities. He is the author of the book Farm Fresh Broadband: The Politics of Rural Connectivity and has been published in the New York Times, Washington Monthly, The Hill, Realtor Magazine, and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. He sits on the board of Charlottesville Tomorrow, and the advisory boards of the Corporation for Education Network Initiatives in California and the Digital Equity Research Center. 

Heather Baumgarten, Treasurer
Heather Baumgarten is honored to sit on the Boatd of Directors of The Centre Film Festival as treasurer. She currently is a board member of Chabad of Penn State and the former President of State College Hadassah. Heather is also the author of the soon to be published children’s book, “Bubby Takes a Train.” She and her husband, Tom, live in State College and are the grateful grandparents of granddaughters Sawyer, Finley, Zoe, and Olivia.

Charles Dumas
Charles Dumas has directed, written, produced and acted in more than three hundred plays, films and TV shows. He has also appeared or voiced over a hundred commercials for TV and radio. He is an ensemble EMMY Award recipient for his appearance in SEPARATE BUT EQUAL with Sidney Portier. He was awarded the Beverly Hills/Hollywood best actor award for B.C. ASTORIA. He received a PA award for playwriting and was the first Hendler Fellow in screenwriting at the American Film Institute. Dumas is a professor emeritus from Penn State University where he was the first African-American to receive tenure in the theatre department. 

Jo Dumas

J. Ann Dumas is an Associate Teaching Professor of Media Studies for the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications at Penn State University, with an expertise in information and communication technology policy. Her work in broadcast engineering led her to lecture at Stellenbosch University in South Africa from 2002 – 2003. Her experience includes being communications and outreach consultant for the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Gender Caucus in Geneva and becoming a research fellow for in South Africa. Also a producer of Three Minutes from Broadway and The Garden, her work in research, writing, digital media, and theatre production continues with her partner Charles Dumas.

Dr. Yoav Friedman, Vice President
Yoav Friedman is a lecturer and researcher in the fields of International Relations, Higher Education Policies and Creative Economy and an alum of the Fulbright Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship at Penn State University. 

Friedman has established and directed the Research and Development Authority of Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem. In addition, he co-founded JLM-IMPACT – an inter-institutional design-driven academic entrepreneurship center in Jerusalem, chaired the European Jean-Monnet REACTIK research network on cultural diplomacy and co-founded The Centre for the Studies of Holocaust Visualization.

Pearl Gluck, President
Gluck’s work has been part of the Sundance Lab, Cannes, PBS, and won prizes such as Best Actor, Best Film, Best Debut Feature and Best LGBT Short at festivals worldwide. Her first documentary feature, Divan (2004) opened theatrically at the Film Forum in NYC and premiered on the Sundance Channel. Her award-winning fiction feature, “The Turn Out,” as well as her short films, “Summer” and “Write Me” are currently screening at festivals. She continues to make both doc and narrative films that explore themes of faith, class, and gender. She teaches Screenwriting and Directing at Penn State University.

Grace Hampton 
Dr. Grace Hampton has taught undergraduate and graduate art, art education, and Integrative Arts Courses at Illinois State University, Northern Illinois University, California State University at Sacramento, The University of Oregon in Eugene, Jackson State University in Mississippi, and The Pennsylvania State University at University Park. She also served as Assistant Director of the Expansion Arts Program at the National Endowment for the Arts in Washington, D. C. before arriving at Penn State. Since joining Penn State in 1985, she has served as Director of the School of Visual Arts, Vice Provost, Executive Assistant to the Provost for the Development of the Arts, Head of African and African American Studies, and University-wide Senior Faculty Mentor.

Rebecca Inlow
As a member of the Board of Directors of the Rowland Theatre Inc., I have had the privilege of being a part of the amazing story of the historic Philipsburg theatre. I have also had the privilege of being a part of the Centre Film Festival since its inception. 

Savita Iyer
Savita Iyer is the senior editor of the Penn Stater magazine, Penn State’s alumni magazine. Her freelance articles and essays have appeared in multiple publications, including SELF, Teen Vogue, Vogue India, Yahoo Lifestyle, and Refinery 29 UK. She has lived in and worked from Switzerland, India, and The Netherlands. Born in Calcutta, India, and raised in Geneva, Switzerland, Savita has served on the board of the State College chapter of the NAACP and is currently on the board of the Osaze’s Heart Community Scholarship, which honors the legacy of Osaze Osagie, a 20-year old Black man fatally shot in 2019 by a State College police officer serving a mental health warrant. She is currently working on a novel. 

Cynthia Mazzant
Cynthia is a director/choreographer, teaching artist, educator, playwright, producer and performer. She is a member of the Society of Directors and Choreographers, an independent national labor union, and a member of The Dramatists Guild, Inc. Cynthia currently serves as the Co-Artistic Director for Tempest Productions, is a registered consultant artist for the PA Council on the Arts and a lecturer at Penn State University. She has been the recipient of two National Endowment for the Arts grants for her work in creative drama and drama-in-education. She has spent the last 30 years working in Theatre-in-Education (TIE), Drama-in-Education (DIE) and Conflict Resolution Through Drama (CRTD).

Patrick Lee Plaisance
Patrick Lee Plaisance is the Don W. Davis Professor in Ethics at the Bellisario College of Communications at Penn State. His research focuses on media ethics theory, moral psychology theory, and applications of the philosophy of technology to media practice. He is Editor of the Journal of Media Ethics. He is author of Media Ethics: Key Principles for Responsible Practice (Cognella, 3rd Ed., 2021), and Virtue in Media: The Moral Psychology of Excellence in News and Public Relations (Routledge, 2015). He edited The Handbook of Communication & Media Ethics (De Gruyter Mouton, 2018) and has published two dozen journal articles.

Tracy Peterson
Tracy is a citizen of the Diné (Navajo) Nation and serves as the director of student transitions and pre-college programs in the college of engineering at Penn State. He is responsible for coordinating transition programs for commonwealth campus students entering the college of engineering. He is also responsible for youth programs, policies, and collaboration geared towards pre-college students that will enhance college readiness and foster inclusion. Tracy maintains an interest and advocacy in media representation and the portrayal of Indigenous peoples in historical and popular culture. He is passionate about social justice, transformation, and being an instrument for social change.

Maryam Shahri
Maya is from Iran and has been living in the US for over a decade. She is a scholar at Penn State’s Agricultural and Biological Engineering Department. Her specialty is sustainable governance and environmental behavior as well as surveying and data collection. She has taught a variety of topics from decision making to ethics in engineering. She also conducts research on environmental behavior, sustainable governance and plastic waste and recycling. Human behavior is at the center of her professional life. Moreover, human behavior and its chaotic nature is also the reason she is drawn to the visual story telling in film. She enjoys nothing more than helping to provide an opportunity for film makers and audiences to connect.  

Maura Shea
Maura has been teaching film production for over 30 years. She puts her producing skills to work as the Associate Department Head of Film Production & Media Studies in the Bellisario College of Communications. In her academic life, she teaches narrative production, producing and editing. Maura and her husband Rod Bingaman launched Ma & Pa Pictures in 1999 to produce work with alumni and students of Penn State. They’ve made five feature films in the last 20 years: A Holiday Affair (Audience Award, 2000 Brooklyn FF); Hooray for Mister Touchdown (2005, Goliath Arts/Access Media Group); Chasing Butterflies (2009, Anderson Media/Vanguard); Ripped! (2015, Monarch Films); and Spooky Action (2023, Best Film under $250,00 at the New York International Film Festival). She began her professional career in Boston, MA, as a producer, editor, and sound designer.

Yermiyahu Ahron Taub
Yermiyahu Ahron Taub is a poet, writer, and Yiddish literary translator. He is the author of two books of fiction, Beloved Comrades: a Novel in Stories (2020) and Prodigal Children in the House of G-d: Stories (2018), and six volumes of poetry, including A Mouse Among Tottering Skyscrapers: Selected Yiddish Poems (2017). Yermiyahu’s most recent translation from the Yiddish is Blessed Hands: Stories by Frume Halpern (2023). Please visit his website at

Johntrae Williams
Johntrae Williams, M.Ed. holds a BFA in Film and Theater from University of the Arts, and a Masters of Education in Communication and Media Studies from Cabrini University. He is currently an Executive MBA candidate at Howard University, with a focus in Business, Management, Marketing, and Related Support Services. In August of 2021 Johntrae Founded the Film, Arts, Culture & Tourism Specialist (FACTS), a Non- Profit 501 (c) (3) dedicated to creating a sustainable space for arts programming that can serve chronically under-resourced communities. Shortly after, in Septembber of 2022, FACTS would launch the Central Pennsylvania Film Commission, charged with drawing film and television production to the Central Pennsylvania region.

Melissa Wright
Dr. Wright is a scholar of social justice movements within Mexico and the Mexico-US borderlands, and in the southern Americas. As a critical geographic scholar with foundations in interdisciplinary feminist, critical race, solidarity, and political economic studies,  Dr. Wright examines how social movements that articulate human rights, social justice, and landscape stewardship subvert the necropolitical convergence of anti-immigrant, extractive economies, and racist governance systems that threaten the well-being of the borderlands beyond the human domain. She has authored foundational pieces in studies of feminicidio and the social movements against it in Mexico and beyond, of social justice campaigns against state terror and labor exploitation, and of the formation of solidarity in support of social and ecological diversity in the Mexico-US borderlands. Her current research examines how critical race, ecological, and indigenous movements throughout the borderlands have gained steam through “border thinking” combined with solidarity movements that prioritize the merging of social justice with ecological well-being.