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’09 Class Profile: Lauren Whitehead

Of all the people interviewed so far in this series of Class Profiles, I think Lauren Whitehead is certainly the most well-traveled! Currently living in Ecuador as a Fulbright Fellow at the United Nation’s Refugee Agency, Lauren recently finished an MA in Global Human Development at Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service. Her travels and adventures having taken her far and wide and she was generous enough to tell us all about them below. I hope you all have as much fun reading her responses as I did!DSC08397-2

Can you tell us a bit about what you were involved in while at Princeton?

Two words: theater and dance. I did shows at 185 Nassau, with the Princeton Shakespeare Company, Black Arts Company: Drama, and Theatre Intime. I also danced with Naacho; worked at the University Ticketing office in Frist (Hi, Mary!); and was an RCA in Whitman for two years when it opened. Best campus jobs ever. When I think back on it, all of the activities I was involved in, even some of the short-lived pursuits (ummm, Club Lacrosse anyone?), not only defined my Princeton experience, but also shaped the path I chose after graduation. Being so intimately involved with the arts led me to spend three and a half incredible years at Arena Stage, a regional theater in DC. The lessons learned as an RCA helped me connect with my students to enrich the learning process as a teacher in Asia. Just taking the plunge to experiment with new pursuits like South Asian dance and lacrosse nudged me out of my comfort zone and across the seas when I graduated. And that was just the beginning.

Talk about what you’ve been up to since Princeton. What are you currently working on? What has the path been like to get to where you are today? What’s next?

Naturally, as a Spanish & Portuguese major, three days after graduation I hopped on a plane to Thailand and pretty much never looked back (perhaps to the dismay of my dear Spanish professors!). I spent two years there, first with Princeton-in-Asia teaching literature, drama, and public speaking at a private university and then also working with the NGO HelpAge International. In two years, I had the chance to see ten countries around South and Southeast Asia, and became fixated on finding a way to continue working and seeing the world. So I turned to a career in international development (aka trying to find a way to make a difference in the lives of the global poor while taking absurd quantities of pictures in beautiful far-flung places with adorable babies. But mostly the former.)

The moment when it first clicked for me was actually on an overnight bus ride in India where I watched a horrible accident that claimed several lives. To my surprise, my reaction was not so much outrage at the drivers, but at the millions of rupees that had been spent building a shiny new highway for tour buses while a piddling amount had been provided to the nearby hospital. We watched as the hospital had to literally send wagons and men running with wooden stretchers to carry off the injured and dead. A year later, I was in another horrible accident in Burma where I was once again fortunate to escape relatively unscathed. My immediate concerns were for the welfare of the family whose truck (and hence livelihood) had been destroyed in the wreck rather than the uncertain six-hour journey in the middle of the night that lay ahead. That is when I knew I was going to be spending a lot more time on dusty back roads in remote towns and places I couldn’t pick out on a map. That moment, combined with countless others prior, is what led me to recognize a deep-seated passion for driving global change. Perhaps not surprisingly, last May I completed my Master’s in Global Human Development with a focus on social enterprise and humanitarian emergencies & refugees at Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service. Thanks to Princeton and Georgetown, I have now been able to travel to 22 countries and counting with no plans of stopping anytime soon. J

Who is a Princetonian who has helped you along the way? Can you talk a bit about how this person has been an influence on your life or career?

It would literally be impossible to name just one Princetonian who has shaped my life. I find that my best friends most often come in trios. Brandee Tate, Samantha Hyacinth, and John Fleming have been my incredible sounding boards on many legitimate and ludicrous (though always life-threatening!) issues that have come up along the way and have never failed to be there when I have needed them most. Lovell Holder and Dylan Alban have always done a better job of knowing my next moves better than I do, and Denali Barron, Jess Lander, and Elena Sheppard are lifetime companions I only wish I had the pleasure of knowing at Princeton, but had the joy of calling my partners in crime in Asia. Outside of my collegiate companions, Professor Robert Sandberg really and truly helped me delve deeper into myself as a student, as an artist, and as a curious inhabitant of the world. He instilled in me not only a deeper appreciation of self with all the talents and shortcomings that entails, but a more profound recognition of what it means to apply oneself fully and completely to one’s passions, however disparate they may seen. When I introduced my idea for my senior creative thesis production The Beat is Sweet, a blend of writing, song, and dance inspired by a fictional dream-world encounter between Federico Garcia Lorca and Langston Hughes, Bob merely wondered how not why I planned to erect a 20-foot full moon in the Marie and Edward Matthews ’53 Acting Studio. Now that takes faith.

Without my circles of friends, best friends, and inspiring faculty at Princeton and elsewhere, I have no doubt I would probably have settled on the first “sensible” job offer to come my way after graduation and most certainly would not be on a Fulbright scholarship working with the UN’s Refugee Agency in Ecuador right now!

What about your life now would your Sophomore-year self be most surprised by?

My Sophomore-year self would probably be shocked that I did not venture into international politics, nor have I yet acquired that Spanish villa we’ve been aching for. Haha! No, that might be some of it, but I think more than anything, Sophomore Me would be surprised to find Post-Grad Me contemplating a life back home in Washington, DC rather than residing permanently abroad as I had always intended. There was more than one period of anti-home angst during my Princeton years, if only because I needed the chance to go away and come back again refreshed to appreciate what the city has to offer, particularly for a career in international development. But don’t worry, Sophomore Me! I am holding out hope—we might still get to Antarctica!

What’s your favorite thing about your life right now?

I truly do love that each day is a learning adventure living abroad. It can be exhausting, but there is some level of excitement and triumph in something as small as learning to navigate the local market on your own or finding out how not to get cheated by taxi drivers. In Ecuador, I work designing monitoring and evaluation tools that aim to improve poverty alleviation programming by assessing the projected impact of a program against the intended and actual outcomes for the communities that program serves. Every day is eye opening as I find new and different ways to incorporate what we see and experience among the populations we work with into the projects we execute as an agency of the UN. There is nothing more satisfying than identifying why a successful program works or where a struggling program can be cast a lifeline because you know that at the end of the day the true result is not a set of numbers in a spreadsheet or reports to headquarters, but the realization that your job well done means a life in less jeopardy and the validation that, yes, this was always the right career path.

Even the most rewarding careers have their moments of unbridled doubt. I am very grateful to have supportive friends and parents who, however horrified at my next destination, have nevertheless been my constant cheerleaders for every bout of homesickness and moment of panicky indecision along the way, including my boyfriend who never seems to say ‘no’ even when it means sending me to the other side of the globe and back again.

Is there anything else you’d like your classmates to know about you?

Not about me, but perhaps about themselves? You know that trip you have been sort of saving up for over the past two years, nickel by nickel, but there is always something that comes up so you just don’t have enough cash/ time off or know if it’s the right thing to do? Just do it. Really, just do it. There are so many things about yourself that you won’t know and can’t know until you do and even if it’s just for a vacation to relax and soak in some sun, you deserve it. You know you’ve worked hard enough for it. We’re Princetonians, after all. 😉

’09 Class Profile: Kelvin Dinkins, Jr.

KDinkins_headshotWhile I had met Kelvin Dinkins, Jr. at Princeton, I really got to know him when we both (somewhat unexpectedly) found ourselves in Seattle in 2010. It was clear that he was heading places and sure enough, not long after we reconnected, he was off to NYC. Now the General Manager of Two River Theater in New Jersey, Kelvin has been gracious enough to tell us all about his journey from NJ to Seattle to NY and back to Jersey! Thanks Kelvin!

Can you tell us a bit about what you were involved in while at Princeton?

Anything but classwork, I can tell you that much. Mostly being in a theatre, around theatre, with theatre people or talking about theatre. I first discovered I had a problem when I watched the Princeton Triangle Club Frosh Week Show (Love Potion No. ’09) and could not stop thinking about how much I wanted to be up there with (what I perceived to be) the coolest upperclassmen on campus. From there, it was a downward spiral into Princeton University Players, Theatre & Dance (now the Lewis Center for the Arts) Department thesis productions, BAC: Drama, Princeton Shakespeare Company, Princeton Arts Council and, the deadliest habit of them all, Princeton Summer Theater. Jokes aside, I really did love it and the more shows I agreed to do the more I met other people who were probably “those theater kids” like me in high school. I also joined Tower Club because, and I’m not exaggerating, I didn’t once visit another club (besides maybe Terrace) until after sophomore year. I ate at Tower with upperclassmen as much as I could and ended up there on Thurs nights anyway so it just made sense to undergo the formalities of bicker. As my grand exit from the Princeton Arts scene, I decided it would be fun to collaborate with my friend Jason Pomerantz ’09 to create and stage an original musical entitled Orpheus Waking.

Talk about what you’ve been up to since Princeton. What are you currently working on? What has the path been like to get to where you are today? What’s next?

Still theatre. I graduated with absolutely no clue or hint as to what I was supposed to do with years of education in English and Theater and a particular need not to spend my every day auditioning for the Broadway. So I turned to management. After being elected to the Princeton Triangle Club’s Board of Trustees following graduation, I interned at National Artists Management Company (the NYC producers of CHICAGO, the musical) and then got a job as Associate General Manager out at Intiman Theatre in Seattle, WA (following my former Princeton professor Kate Whoriskey who was taking over as Artistic Director). It bears mentioning that I met a lot of Princeton people out there who I didn’t get to know much at Princeton so it was great to be connected to some new friends. Anyway, the Intiman Theatre was on the verge of collapse in the spring of 2010 and I had previously decided that, should things go south, I needed to go hide out in grad school and maybe graduate into a better job market. I decided to apply to Columbia University’s School of the Arts MFA in Theatre Management and Producing program so that I wouldn’t be in the current position of not knowing what to do when your company is on the brink of collapse.

I got two consulting jobs that afforded me the opportunity to get back on the east coast before I started my program and decided to make the big move back from Seattle. Three weeks later, Intiman Theatre had to close and their employees were let go…truly an unfortunate experience that turned into the biggest learning opportunity in my life and the driving force behind my decision to whole-heartedly pursue a career as a theatre entrepreneur/producer. Columbia’s program was perfect for me as I got to see first-hand the particulars of the non-profit and commercial theatre industry all the while learning from a diverse group of practicing, leading industry professionals. Taking classes with the heads of Disney Theatricals, Manhattan Theatre Club and Serrino/Coyne and many other notable companies became the ultimate geek out for the theatre kid who didn’t star in a musical until his freshman year of college.

I officially graduated from Columbia on October 1, 2014 and, in January 2014, I luckily landed a job as General Manager of the Two River Theater in Red Bank, NJ (essentially, my plan worked!). I was recently selected as one of ten participants in the Theatre Communications Group SPARK Leadership Program which is an initiative to improve Diversity & Inclusion in the arts field across the country by training leaders of color for executive leadership through mentorship and professional development. I am getting to attend a lot of conferences and have extremely difficult discussions about the field and how best to prepare ourselves for talks around sustainability and creating racial equity in the field’s top leadership positions. I am thrilled to be where I am and though it seems like a long journey already, I know there’s so much more to do.

Who is a Princetonian who has helped you along the way? Can you talk a bit about how this person has been an influence on your life or career?

It takes a village really. I can’t single out one person except maybe my amazing girlfriend, Alexis Rodda ’10, who I’ve been dating since senior year. She’s been with me throughout this whole crazy period of life that is your mid-twenties which can be extremely stressful when you’re trying to make all these major decisions about who you want to be and what you want to do given the time you have. She’s gone through a lot of the same periods of self-discovery I have and I feel that we have been each other’s rock when times get hard and each other’s cheerleader when things go really well (I also want to take this time to point out that I actually was a Varsity Cheerleader in High School). Alexis also has an entrepreneurial spirit (she started her own company, The Secret Opera, this year and it’s awesome to watch her process and offer my own opinions from time to time). Our lives and relationship has been forged as a result of our shared experiences at Princeton and it’s pretty amazing to share that with someone else. I guess this question might have been fishing for something less romantic, but I do love her and she is honestly the most influential Princetonian (human being) to make an impact on my life over the years since leaving Old Nassau.

What about your life now would your Sophomore-year self be most surprised by?

Oh God. I was an econ major Sophomore fall and by spring I was an English/Theater major. So Sophomore “me” was a doppelganger that would be most surprised by my decision to choose a career where everyone thinks I would be poor for the rest of my life. On the other hand, I think he would be pretty shocked at how far I’ve come (gone?) in such a short period of time. I never really understood that becoming a theatre manager/producer was an option for me and since I took my first course in The Art of Producing Theatre during my sophomore year (shout-out to Tamsen Wolf and Mara Isaacs), I am pleased that I have chosen this path thanks to my Princeton experiences.

What’s your favorite thing about your life right now?

That I am doing what I love. A few people said that to me during reunions and at first I thought it was a little condescending because I naively assumed we were all doing what we loved…you know, you spend all that money going to college, you should at least be doing something that gives you joy. But I respect and understand that that is not the case for everyone, so my favorite thing about life right now is that I enjoy it. I unfortunately lost my mother (Anya R. Shepherd) this past summer, and it gave me the opportunity to honor and celebrate her life and bring me closer to my younger siblings and family. We have such a finite amount of time on this earth and I would rather spend it pursuing the things that make me happy and finding my own purpose. I have chosen theatre for a reason and it is my sincerest hope that, through my work, I will have the opportunity to make an impact on someone else’s life through the art. Since Princeton had such an profound impact on where I am today, I hope that I can connect our whole community of Princeton Tigers who are working in or supporting the arts as undergraduates or alumni and help create a network that supports one another. I have begun that work and that’s one of my favorite things to focus on nowadays as well. Oh, and also, that I’m still with my amazing girlfriend, Alexis.

Is there anything else you’d like your classmates to know about you?

I’m always down for more Princeton ’09 events and meeting the other 500-600 of you I probably never met yet…I recognize faces mostly but if you ever see me walking down the street say ‘hey, you went to Princeton, right?’…I like that.

’09 Class Profiles: Sara-Ashley Bischoff

1500880_10100175850630732_377925170_oThis will be the last profile of 2014—can’t believe how it zoomed by! Please do nominate friends and foes, lovers and leaders for inclusion in 2015!

Sara-Ashley Bischoff (“Sash” to her friends) is a New York based writer and director. She’s currently assistant directing “On the Town”—which, if you missed it, received rave reviews!—and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” as well as working on her own writing and directing. I’m thrilled she took the time out of her (very!) busy schedule to answer our Class Profile questions!

Can you tell us a bit about what you were involved in while at Princeton?

I spent the majority of my time at Princeton splitting my time between theater (T&D, Triangle, Intime, PUP) and the Creative Writing Dept. I took as many acting, directing, and writing (playwriting and fiction) classes as my schedule would allow, and was always involved in acting or directing at least one show at a time outside of class.

Talk about what you’ve been up to since Princeton. What are you currently working on? What has the path been like to get to where you are today? What’s next?

Over the past 5.5 years, I’ve been pursuing a career in directing theater in New York, all the while working on my writing in between gigs. Being a young director in New York basically means doing a lot of assistant and associate directing, and fitting in your own smaller directing projects when you can. Currently, I’m assistant directing “On the Town” on Broadway, assistant directing “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” at Madison Square Garden, and developing three new plays with emerging playwrights for potential productions in 2015. I’m also making a concerted effort to focus more on my writing, and have accepted a writing residency at PLAYA in Oregon for the month of May 2015, so that I’m not allowed to get distracted!

Who is a Princetonian who has helped you along the way? Can you talk a bit about how this person has been an influence on your life or career?

Davis McCallum has been an enormous influence, mentor, and friend. I assisted him and choreographed a musical for him at Williamstown a year out of college, and it was an incredibly formative experience for me. I continued to assist him for a couple more years afterward because of that project. To this day, I consider him one of the smartest, most incisive, and most creative directors I know. I learned so much from him, and I think the world of him as a person.

What about your life now would your Sophomore-year self be most surprised by?

I’m not acting! When I was a sophomore, I was 100% sure I was going to be an actor for life. After Princeton, I made a hard-nosed decision to stop acting and pursue directing, and I haven’t looked back once. My younger self never would’ve guessed it, but it was definitely the right choice for me.

What’s your favorite thing about your life right now?

I’m in New York, the city I adore, I have a really close network of friends (most of whom are Princetonians), and I’m doing work that makes me happy. As a freelancer, it’s both a blessing and a curse to constantly be looking around the corner for your next job. But I love the stimulation and excitement of diving into new stories, and figuring out how to puzzle-piece my way into telling the best version of that story.

Is there anything else you’d like your classmates to know about you?

I’m fully confident my life would look nothing like the one I’m currently leading had it not been for Princeton. I’m so grateful for my experience there, and only appreciate it more with each passing year.

’09 Class Profiles: Lovell Holder

’09 Class Profiles took a Thanksgiving hiatus, but we’re back now and should remain on an biweekly schedule through the end of the year!

Lovell Holder is a film producer and director living in LA–and one of the most caring and thoughtful people I’ve ever met. I’m thrilled he was able to take some time out of his busy schedule and travels to chat with us!

Can you tell us a bit about what you were involved in while at Princeton?headshot126-1

I was an English major with a Theater certificate. Outside of the classroom, I spent much of my time working with Princeton Shakespeare Company, as an actor, director, and board member. I learned extraordinary professional and personal lessons about making art with this organization, and I was fortunate enough to meet several of my dearest friends and some of the most talented people I know. PSC also led me to collaborating with several other on-campus theater and dance groups as well, from acting at Theatre Intime to stage managing several DiSiac shows. In addition to haunting rehearsal spaces around campus, I had the privilege of working as a Mathey College RCA, serving as a Chapel Deacon, and being a proud member of Tower Club.

Talk about what you’ve been up to since Princeton. What are you currently working on? What has the path been like to get to where you are today? What’s next?

Princeton provided an invaluable opportunity for me in that it truly allowed me to entertain (pun partially intended) the idea that a career in the arts was possible. After graduation, I spent three years in Providence, RI, at Brown University getting my MFA in acting. The program, which partners with Providence’s amazing regional theater Trinity Repertory Company, afforded me a fantastic environment in which to grow both as an artist and a person. Of course, I would be lying if I said it wasn’t difficult and extremely challenging. In many ways, I think this was the first environment I’ve ever been where in many ways the goal is to fail. By pushing yourself and expanding your capabilities, you naturally run into some very thorny, hard places, and I honestly had a tough time understanding that sometimes learning what does not succeed is as valuable as learning what does. Simultaneously, working with the same seventeen classmates (no matter how genuinely lovely they are) for fifteen hours a day, six days a week, for three years will admittedly drive anyone a bit insane, but amidst the madness I was blessed to learn incredible things both from my teachers and my fellow students. One of the reasons I selected the Brown program initially was the fact that they require all their MFA students to both direct and write in addition to their acting work, which ended up being such a gift. I remain so thankful that I was able to direct multiple productions in addition to my acting roles, and I was thrilled that I also got to teach on the faculty of LaSalle Academy, a really special Providence high school, as part of my final year at Brown.

Since graduating from Brown, I’ve been living full-time in Los Angeles, working in the film industry. I spent my first two years in town as the assistant to a really terrific independent film producer, Clark Peterson, and I could not have had a better introduction to the inner workings of this rather crazy business. While working for Clark, I also began producing my first full-length film project, a small independent drama called “Some Freaks.” Written and directed by one of my good friends from Brown, Ian MacAllister-McDonald, the film follows the turbulent romance of two high school outsiders (a boy who lost an eye to cancer and an overweight girl). Since the fall of 2012, we’ve been working on all the various aspects of the film: financing, casting, locations, shooting, etc. I never fully grasped how long a journey it is to take a script from the page to the screen. Several fellow Princetonians also joined the film in various capacities both behind the scenes (Daniela Kende Ploszek ’09, Sash Bischoff ’09, and Jerry Peng ’10) and in front of the camera (Chris Ghaffari ’12), which was a lovely component to the experience. It has been a mightily steep learning curve, but I am very proud to say that we completed production on the film in September, and we’re currently submitting the project to several festivals for competition in the coming year (fingers crossed!). To be fair, this all sounds much more glamourous than it actually is, so I don’t mean to give the wrong impression of filmmaking: the hours are maddening, the uncertainty is paralyzing, and the financial issues are often borderline farcical. The magic of the movies! But… a big part of the past five years for me has been learning to be grateful for struggles, because they make us appreciate our successes even more. Forgive me the fortune cookie mantras.

Looking ahead, with “Some Freaks” mostly completed, I’m now diving into the next adventure, a new film called “Loserville,” which I will be directing. It’s a charming little comedy, and we’re aiming to shoot the film in Nashville this spring. The project is also lucky enough to be produced by our classmate Evie Whiting ’09, so I’m very excited to start this next endeavor.

Who is a Princetonian who has helped you along the way? Can you talk a bit about how this person has been an influence on your life or career?

I would be remiss not to immediately single out Stacy Rukeyser, a supremely talented screenwriter and producer, who recommended me for my first industry job with her husband, Clark Peterson. Stacy and Clark gave me such freedom and guidance while working with them both on their various projects, and I am so grateful to have had such a productive and safe space in which to genuinely begin my career in the entertainment industry. Amidst my own Princeton peers, I have been lucky enough to encounter many folks whom I hope will continue to be lifelong collaborators and friends. For example, as mentioned above, I would never have the opportunity to direct this upcoming film without the faith and endorsement of Evie Whiting ’09.

Perhaps one of the most significant debts I should identify, as should each of us pursuing careers in the arts, is all the many Princeton friends who support us in the audiences of plays, dance performances, gallery openings, etc. Without the belief and support of my friends from Princeton, I would never have had the confidence to seek out the path that I have. From on-campus shows back in the day to “real world” projects now, seeing a familiar Princeton face in the audience is a treat for which I am undeserving and forever grateful.

What about your life now would your Sophomore-year self be most surprised by?

I suspect I would be most surprised by the fact that I’m living in Los Angeles. I’d always sworn repeatedly and far too cavalierly that I never wanted to leave the East Coast… and then I finally spent more than a day in Los Angeles, and I loved it. For all of its sprawl, I’ve never seen any other city in the world where you can truly carve out whatever experience you want to within it. I also will freely admit that being in such an outdoorsy city has inspired me to be healthier in so many ways as well (and I can never give enough credit to Daniela Kende Ploszek ’09 for shepherding me to a healthier lifestyle through her new health business, Color Me Complete – I recommend her to anyone and everyone!).

What’s your favorite thing about your life right now?

Honestly, my favorite thing about my life is the people that I am fortunate enough to share it with. I am so blessed to have parents and friends who support me, inspire me, and challenge me. Whether I’m writing or acting, smiling or crying, I couldn’t be more proud of the fantastic community that the world has given me, and so many of those people come directly from my time at Princeton. Indeed, there is one person I will forever be indebted to: Princeton Dean of Admission Janet Lavin Rapelye, for not just admitting me, but for admitting so many of the people who would affect my life so significantly.

 

Thanks Lovell!  Classmates, please send in nominations for people to be featured in the new year!

’09 Class Profiles: Alexander Bisignano

Alexander Bisignano is currently changing the world through his startup, Recombine, a clinical genetic testing company that helps couples make informed decisions about genetic diseases prior to pregnancy. As the co-founder and CEO, Alex has been hard at work building the company from the ground up since graduation. Thanks, Alex, for agreeing to answer a few questions!

Can you tell us a bit about what you were involved in while at Princeton?_MG_6937 (1)

At Princeton, I was a Molecular Biology major with a Certificate in Medical Spanish. Outside of academics, I was a member of Cap & Gown and played on the Varsity Sprint Football team my senior year.

Talk about what you’ve been up to since Princeton. What are you currently working on? What has the path been like to get to where you are today? What’s next?

In 2011, I co-founded Recombine, a clinical genetic testing company. We help couples identify and prevent genetic disease in their children before pregnancy. It’s been a random but amazing path since graduation. I didn’t really have a job going into senior spring, and I had the intentions of taking the MCATs and going to medical school. Then one day, Professor Lee Silver introduced me to Dr. Santiago Munne, a brilliant pioneer in embryo diagnostics. Over the next two years, I learned computer science, built some software to analyze embryo data, and Dr. Munne and I eventually co-founded Recombine. The company has grown now to over 50 employees and we help thousands of couples identify and prevent genetic diseases in their prospective children.

Who is a Princetonian who has helped you along the way? Can you talk a bit about how this person has been an influence on your life or career?

Too many people to name, but one definitely sticks out: my best friend and roommate, Carter Cleveland ’09, has been an inspiration as I’ve had the privilege to watch him build an amazing company in Artsy, which is changing the world of fine art. Also, classmate Sally Rodriguez ’09 was Recombine’s first clinical Genetic Counselor and really helped build the business and educate the company about the Clinical Perspective. Other alums who have been instrumental are John Goldsmith ’85 who was an early investor and continues to be a close personal advisor, Ellen Hukkelhoven ’08, an incredible friend and brilliant cancer biologist turned hedge fund analyst, and so many more who I meet in passing in the biotech industry. Princeton has been incredibly helpful. This isn’t even touching on the number of Tigers who are involved in the startup and VC community!

What about your life now would your Sophomore-year self be most surprised by?

The three areas of focus I had academically were Molecular Biology, Finance, and Spanish, and there was no way I thought I’d build a cohesive narrative on how I’d combine all three in my career. Yet, Recombine just officially financed and opened up a new molecular laboratory in Barcelona to perform genetic testing. Couldn’t have seen that coming.

What’s your favorite thing about your life right now?

The constant-learning and being on the cutting edge. The work Recombine is doing in Genomics is some of the most cutting-edge science in the world. We have the privilege of working with top physicians, the leading genomics companies (illumina & Ion Torrent), and an amazing internal group of counselors, engineers, bioinformaticists, and product specialists.

 Is there anything else you’d like your classmates to know about you?

I’m really passionate about advancing the field of clinical genomics, and would love to meet anyone else who shares this vision!

 

’09 Class Profiles: Pete Ploszek

While Princeton’s most famous superhero alum is probably Bruce Wayne, aka Batman, today I’m pleased to present our newest, up-and-coming, superhero alum: Pete Ploszek ’09, who recently appeared as Leonardo in the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie. Pete was kind enough to take the time out from his busy acting and auditioning schedule to answer some questions about his life since Princeton.

Can you tell us a bit about what you were involved in while at Princeton?

Photo by James Lee Wall © Paramount Pictures 2014. All Rights Reserved.

Photo by James Lee Wall
© Paramount Pictures 2014. All Rights Reserved.

I played four years on the football team, which (like any sport) had a tendency to dominate the schedule. But I managed to take part in some opportunities around campus that proved to be pretty life-changing, like studying in the theatre program. I took my first acting class in the spring of my sophomore year and joined two productions (Miss Julie, Angels in America) before graduating. Also, I served as president of Cottage Club my senior year.

Talk about what you’ve been up to since Princeton. What are you currently working on? What has the path been like to get to where you are today? What’s next?

After graduating I went straight to USC, earning my Masters of Fine Arts (MFA) from the School of Theatre in 2012. I was fortunate to secure a manager and agent coming out of school, so that allowed me to hit the audition process right away. I booked two single-episode gigs on Parks & Recreation and Shameless, followed by my first feature, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, for Paramount. While a sequel to TMNT has been announced, my focus is back on auditioning and trying to line up the next gig. It’s all very up-and-down and unpredictable, so you never know what kind of opportunity is (or isn’t) around the corner.

Who is a Princetonian who has helped you along the way? Can you talk a bit about how this person has been an influence on your life or career?

My wife Daniela (’09) makes my life better every single day. She’s given me a self-confidence I didn’t think was possible. She’s showed me how one attracts more bees with honey than vinegar (who knew!). And she provides a really safe, judgment-free space to fail and fall on my face while I figure out how to build a career. I’d be facedown in a roadside ditch by now without her.

What about your life now would your Sophomore-year self be most surprised by?

I imagine his first questions would include, “Why are you so skinny?” “Where did you get all those feelings?” and “What the hell is gluten-free?”

What’s your favorite thing about your life right now?

As fickle as the acting pursuit can be, I’m truly doing what I love – and with a wife who’s game to sit in the front row on the rollercoaster. To me, it doesn’t get any better than that.

Is there anything else you’d like your classmates to know about you?

 Absolutely not.

 

If you know anyone who should be featured in this space, please email me at Scholick@alumni.princeton.edu.

’09 Class Profiles: Amy LaViers Minnick

For the second installment of ’09 Classmate Profiles, I’m thrilled to introduce Amy LaViers Minnick. Amy finished her PhD at Georgia Tech last year, where she was the recipient of the ECE Graduate Teaching Excellence Award and a finalist for the CETL/BP Outstanding Graduate Teaching Award. She is currently an Assistant Professor in Systems and Information Engineering at the University of Virginia—and, as a PhD student myself, I can tell you what a huge accomplishment that is!

Photo Credit: Jamie Fischer

Photo Credit: Jamie Fischer

Amy was awesome enough to answer some questions about what she’s been up to since Princeton:

Can you tell us a bit about what you were involved in while at Princeton?

I was an MAE and Dance student and a member of OA, eXpressions, and TI.

Talk about what you’ve been up to since Princeton. What are you currently working on? What has the path been like to get to where you are today? What’s next?

Put simply, I’ve been working on my senior thesis. It’s taken on different forms along the way — it morphed into a PhD thesis and is now the basis for an entire lab I’ve been starting over the last year: The Robotics, Automation, and Dance (RAD) Lab. We are working to study the great variety of movement arrangement exhibited by humans and, synergistically, design better algorithms for robots.

After a four-year stint in Atlanta, GA, I’m now living in Charlottesville, VA with my husband, Eric, and our two dogs, Atlas and Cyrus B. We have a guest room – that has already hosted one Princetonian – so come visit!

Who is a Princetonian who has helped you along the way? Can you talk a bit about how this person has been an influence on your life or career?

My thesis adviser, Naomi Leonard ‘85. I consider my professional career to have begun when she agreed to advise my off-the-wall-sounding thesis topic. She also introduced me to my PhD adviser and wrote recommendations for my job search. We are currently writing a collaborative grant together, so stay tuned!

What about your life now would your Sophomore-year self be most surprised by?

That I graduated.

What’s your favorite thing about your life right now?

I love that I have a job where I feel like I can change the world – not only in the methods and technology I develop but also in the way I train my students. This makes shaking off a bad hair day quite easy.☺

Know someone who should be featured in this space? Comment below or send an email to scholick@alumni.princeton.edu!

’09 Class Profiles: Chloe Angyal

Chloe Angyal Photo Credit: Clayton Raithel '12

Chloe Angyal Photo Credit: Clayton Raithel ’12

Hello Class of 2009! Welcome to a new website feature: ’09 Class Profiles! I’m thrilled to kick off this project and add some depth to our monthly class updates in the PAW.

For the first installment of ’09 Class Profiles, I’m thrilled to introduce Chloe Angyal. Chloe is the Senior Editor of Feministing, the world’s most-read feminist publication, and recently finished her PhD in Arts and Media from the University of South Wales.

Chloe was kind enough to give us some awesomely thoughtful answers to my questions about her life since Princeton. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I did!

Can you tell us a bit about what you were involved in while at Princeton? 

I was in Expressions Dance Company, which I absolutely loved. I really miss rehearsing and performing with a group of dancers, and I met some of my dearest friends through Expressions. I was in Eating Concerns Advisers (ECA), which was emotionally hard, but totally necessary; Princeton had, and still has, such a culture of perfection, and for a lot of women that manifests in really unhealthy eating and exercise habits, and, in some cases, in eating disorders. At the start of senior year, I co-founded a feminist blog, Equal Writes, with Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux ’11. The more work I did with ECA, the more I started thinking about gender issues on campus, and the more dismayed I became by the very real sexism at Princeton: sexual violence, slut-shaming, the stunningly low numbers of women professors I had, even in the social sciences – to name just a few examples. In 2008, the feminist blogosphere was really becoming A Thing, and I wanted to be a part of it. I wanted Princeton to be a part of it, too – we had never had a feminist publication, in the almost 40 years since coeducation, and we so desperately needed one.

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OktoberFifth Survey Infographic

We’re so excited to unveil the results of our class survey, presented in an awesome infographic that was designed by our very own (and very talented) classmate, Andy Chen!

140523ReunionInfographic_screen

Voting reminder and missed ballot instructions

Thanks to the 312 of you who have voted already! And to the rest of you – make sure to vote by the end of Thursday (EST)!

If you didn’t get an email with ballot information (from SurveyMonkey), check your spam filter or email us at voting@princeton09.com and we can get you set up. We want to make sure every classmate has the opportunity to vote!