Some say, ‘the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.’ And for two American University School of Communication students this sentiment rings true. For recent graduate Aneeta Mathur-Ashton and rising junior Olivia Pincus, they decided to not only follow in the footsteps of their mothers, as SOC students, but also, walk similar career paths.
Because of her mother, Mathur-Ashton grew up on AU’s campus, and wouldn’t have it any other way. “I’ve been coming to this campus since I was five years old, so it always felt like home,” she said. “I don’t think it was a hard decision when it came to accepting and finally making the decision for college.”
Growing up in a house of journalists, Mathur-Ashton was fortunate enough to experience an environment where both of her parents thrived in their profession and shared that with her. One of them being Vandana Mathur, a journalist with over 20 years of experience. Mathur wasn’t the slightest surprised by her daughter’s decision to attend the same university as her, and study what she studied. In fact, she remembers the day Aneeta sat out on the front porch, ripped open the envelope, and received her letter of acceptance to AU. After the biggest hug, the professor recalls feeling great and knowing this was the place her “mini me” always wanted to be.
As for Pincus, she knew DC seemed like the perfect fit for her after growing up right outside of New York and wanting to be in a city. But like a lot of AU students, she had political science on her mind. After realizing that wasn’t the right career fit for her, she quickly switched her major. “I think a lot of people, if their kid told them that they wanted to study film, might be a little hesitant,” she shared. She was assured that her mother wouldn’t have that reaction, since this was what she studied, as well.
“I think that art is very generational, too.” The current SOC student went on to explain that even her mother’s student films are on VHS somewhere in their home, and how excited she is to find them and watch them for herself. Her mother, Jennifer Sauer, began her time in SOC as a journalism major, but ultimately realized that film was, too, her true passion. “It was so clear to everyone who knew me growing up that I loved movies, I loved TV,” she said. And much like her daughter, spent a “ridiculous amount of time” watching content. According to Sauer, she was excited to hear that Olivia wanted to switch her major.
Now, Sauer doesn’t work on films as much as she used to but has developed her ability to tell stories with words and through photography. While working for a non-profit, the alumna has been able to use social media to share various narratives. “I think that you can draw a line directly back to my time in AU and learning how to curate the right images and learning from [that] news class,” she expressed. “Even how to tell a good story in words, and how to edit.” And one thing that has stuck with her from that class that she also imparts to her daughter, Olivia: “There is no good writing. There is only good rewriting.”
And Pincus can attest that writing is the avenue she sees herself going down in the film industry, as she develops a love for screenwriting in her classes. “Who I look up to in the film industry is Greta Gerwig,” she said. “I really love her. She writes her own scripts and directs her own films. So, I would love to do that.”
But for her mother, even in their shared love of storytelling, it’s “a crazy thing” for her to think of her daughter as walking in the shoes that she walked in. While they have “very different tastes” in film and TV shows, there’s a mutual understanding about the importance of media and how it reflects the society in which we live.
“I always want to watch shows or movies with you that I loved when I was growing up because it’s going to teach you more about who I am and what influenced me when I was your age,” Sauer shared with her daughter. Yet, Pincus strives to do the same, in her own way by saying, “Come on, we’re going to go watch Euphoria,” as her mother puts it.
The bond between a mother and daughter is a special one. But it’s also one that can be deepened by the sharing of a journey, like attending the same university, even decades apart.
“I thought I was the luckiest person in the world to have my own daughter sitting at the same university where I grew to love so much,” shared Mathur. The adjunct professor recalled how she watched Aneeta grow into an accomplished and confident young woman before her very eyes while at AU, yet also marveling in how similar and different their experiences were from one another.
And for the recent SOC graduate, this campus will always be “home” and place she will “definitely come back to,” especially since she won’t be far from family, biologically and academically. Her journey here started at a young age and has now culminated in the receiving of a master's degree in the same field, from the same university as her life role model. “My friends make fun of me for this, [but] I turned out exactly like you,” Aneeta expressed to her mother. “I grew up wearing your clothes, wearing your shoes; I pretended to be you. And now I am you. I’m just a little younger and I have a different hair color.”