Mary Badon surgically mends broken bones. Sara Brown is helping mend a broken country. Jay Shapiro's new film chronicles Uganda's first Little League team. Scott Silver's new film aims for major-league thrills. Caitlyn Thayer teaches business owners how to be social-media savvy. Gunnar Hagstrom teaches kids separated by conflict how to be savvy about each other.
They are all Clark University alumni, all of them under 30 years old, and, like so many of their fellow graduates, they are exerting influence in their professional spheres, in their fields of study, and in the wider world.
In this special story, we celebrate the accomplishments of 20 young alumni who already have made an impact in medicine and finance, high tech and the arts, government and education. They work in rural African villages and teeming American cities, in Manhattan skyscrapers and London laboratories, pursuing their passions with the kind of conviction and focus that are the hallmark of a Clark education.
Whoever came up with the adage, "Youth is wasted on the young," never met the talented men and women who appear on these pages. This likely is the first time you are hearing about them, but it certainly won't be the last.
Mary A. Badon '05
Doctor, Orthopedics, University of Massachusetts Medical Center, Worcester
Mary Badon knows how to focus.
She was eyeing the premed track even before enrolling at Clark, where she went on to excel in biochemistry and molecular biology. Not one to view her education through a narrow lens, she managed to add a second major in studio art, specifically photography.
Today, the 28-year-old from Connecticut is a surgeon in residence in orthopedics at UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester. While studying at the Yale University School of Medicine, some of Badon's photos about homelessness were featured in an exhibit there.
As a Clark undergraduate, Badon received a coveted Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, a Pfizer Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship and an Anton Fellowship. She graduated summa cum laude in 2005, with highest honors in both majors.
At Yale, Badon didn't stop at an M.D. She added an M.B.A. and focused her joint business and medicine degrees on public policy. She studied allocation of medical resources and how different interests in medicine lobby for their causes in the political arena. Last summer, she and a Yale Medical Group surgeon presented a study on a musculoskeletal ultrasound technique that could translate into more than $650 million in Medicare savings.
"Working in hospitals, you notice that things don't always run the way you anticipate," Badon says. "So I've learned about processes from a business perspective — efficiencies, financial incentives that influence medical care. I don't think business concerns and finance in health care are necessarily negative influences, as long as they're aligned with patients' interests."
Badon says she enjoys the hands-on nature of orthopedics. "I like being in the operating room. I like the procedures and the fact that, for the most part, orthopedics cases have positive outcomes."
Orthopedics is becoming "more molecular," Badon adds, noting that her Clark studies with the likes of adviser Denis Larochelle provided a "strong foundation in molecular biology, so I can understand the new growth factors that are becoming a more important area in orthopedics."
What are Badon's goals for the future? "I'm still figuring that out," she laughs. "Being in residency right now is all-consuming."
The daughter of a pathologist father and physical therapist mother, Badon has kept her medical career in focus while making sure science, business and art also stay in the picture.
Jonathon D. Blumenthal '06
Software Site Reliability Engineer, Google, Portland, Ore.
If you Google the best companies at which to work, you'll find Google.
Google "Jonathon Blumenthal" and you'll also find Google, where he has worked for the past three and a half years.
Blumenthal is with Google's Emerging Markets team, bringing products and services to countries with far less developed infrastructure than the United States.
He finds the company, the opportunities, and his location to his liking. Google was rated the top company to work for in 2012, and Blumenthal cites strong benefits and perks, and the way Google "offers opportunities to change the world."
His biggest challenges and rewards on the job? "Scale, for both," he answers. "When thinking about problems and solutions, the scale is always amazing. The problem most likely doesn't impact a few people, but rather thousands or even millions of people. That is a pretty tall order to think about; however, the reward is just as big — if not bigger."
Blumenthal values the teamwork he learned at Clark. "While my computer science and mathematicsmajors provided the necessary foundation and fundamentals, I've found that academic coursework is nothing like corporate and commercial software engineering. However, I'm still using the teamwork and group skills that I learned from doing research with Professor Li Han and group projects in advanced math courses with Professor Natalia Sternberg."
His future plans include continuing to challenge himself at Google. "I see endless ways of growing my career as a software engineer. Technology is always changing and there is always room to grow."
When asked to recall the most exciting thing to happen to him both at Clark and after Clark, Blumenthal had only one answer: "I met my future wife at Clark (Katie Spencer '05), and we were married this past October."
Sara E. Brown '05
Ph.D. student in Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Clark But what about law school?
Like college students through the ages, Sara Brown was asked that question just after telling her mother that she'd decided to switch her major from prelaw to government and international relations with a concentration in Holocaust and genocide studies.
After taking an introductory course on genocide, "I literally dropped everything I was doing and changed my major," Brown says. Since then, she has taught, studied and worked in Israel, Rwanda, Tanzania, Burundi and the United States. She's been chased by elephants in Zambia, done refugee resettlement work in Dallas, and worked with post-Hurricane Katrina shelter populations in Baton Rouge.
Brown's life path began to reveal itself in Rwanda during the summer of 2004. Mentored by Professor Shelly Tenenbaum, she received the Arthur and Rochelle Belfer Foundation award for an internship there with the Alternatives to Violence Project. "It was right at the 10-year anniversary of the Rwandan genocide," Brown said. "I left feeling like I hadn't done enough. I'd also fallen in love with the sights, smells and the people."
Brown graduated with honors in 2005. Now, she's back at Clark in her second year as a doctoral student, working on a dissertation in comparative genocide studies.
"I think Clark raised me," Brown says. "I grew into myself as an academic and as a humanitarian. That sounds so self-aggrandizing. … But Clark made me go out and do something with my life. Clark drew the dots for me and then I was able to connect them."
Brown earned a master's degree in diplomacy and conflict studies at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, Israel, led a team of six graduate students on a service-learning trip to Rwanda, and also conducted research in Burundi.
In spring 2011, Brown participated in the highly selective Clinton Global Initiative University, hosted by President Bill Clinton. The annual conference aims to inspire, educate and motivate students who want to make a difference. Her project involved working with high-level members of the Rwandan government as the country strives to recover from the 1994 genocide that claimed an estimated 800,000 lives.
Last summer, Brown spent five weeks in Rwanda. She met with organizations where women are primary stakeholders and studied the role of women in genocide — as victims, as bystanders, and as perpetrators.
Brown's contributions to education include conference presentations in Sarajevo and in Kigali, Rwanda's capital.
Coming full circle, she guest-lectured for the same Introduction to Genocide Studies course that inspired her as an undergraduate. She taught two classes — one on central Africa and another on the Rwandan genocide.
At the time of this writing, Brown had just returned from Kigali, where she was continuing her doctoral research. "I have to be in the field," she says.
"I have to get a little dirt under my fingernails to have a good day."
Damon Ginandes ‘04
Knowledge Worker, Capgemini, Jersey City, N.J.; Painter/Sculptor, New York area damonginandes.com
How would you like to get paid for doodling at work, drawing images to illustrate ideas that percolate at corporate workshops? And when you're done with that, you hit the streets to create celebrated pieces of art in locales ranging from the traditional (art galleries) to the urban-exotic (a decommissioned subway station).
Welcome to Damon Ginanades' world.
He's a "knowledge worker" in the Accelerated Solutions Environment at the consulting agency Capgemini. In the ASE, executives from large companies and government agencies participate in focused, intense workshops where they try to solve problems in a compressed amount of time. Ginandes facilitates these workshops by graphically recording the conversations through sketches he composes in real time to help participants absorb information more efficiently and make sure the flow and content of the discussions are captured accurately.
Art has always been a big part of Ginandes' life. He has seriously pursued a career as a painter/sculpture for more than four years and sees plenty of room for entrepreneurship in the visual arts, especially with the growth of technology and media.
After graduation, Ginandes did post-production work as an assistant editor on historical documentaries for PBS. He also tried his hand as a graphic artist.
"While both involve levels of creativity, I missed the hands-on, tactile nature of artmaking," he says.
Ginandes aspires to show his art to a broad audience through exhibitions and public work.
He's off to a great start. In 2007, he was commissioned to paint The DeGraw Street Mural, a 60-foot-long mural in Brooklyn. He toiled every day for a month on the piece, which he says "generated more acclaim than I could have ever imagined." In 2008, he had a solo show at a gallery in Brooklyn. In 2010, he and more than 100 street artists from all over the world created the "Underbelly Project," an exhibition mounted in a long-abandoned subway station. His work has also been exhibited in Los Angeles, Miami and London.
Ginandes has done a handful of large-scale commission projects, including murals in Brooklyn and Manhattan, and a sculptural relief installation on the facade of the Carlton Arms Hotel in Manhattan. Although his works physically reside in and around New York, photos of his larger works, featured on websites and blogs, have generated regional and international interest in his art. He has created numerous studio pieces on commission for individual collectors.
"It's a challenge to stay inspired without getting discouraged," he says. "It takes a lot of focus and self-motivation to continually create new work, especially when creativity is not always financially rewarding."
Whether Ginandes can earn a living as an artist is still to be determined, but he insists he must try.
"If I gave up, or simply relegated art making to a hobby at this point, I think I would be deeply disappointed with myself for not following through on a true passion."
Gunnar Hagstrom '07, M.B.A. '08
International Fellow, PeacePlayers International, Cyprus
"Anyone who ever got me a job was a Clark grad."
Gunnar Hagstrom chuckles when he says this, but not because it isn't true.
The former Clark basketball and baseball player is speaking by phone from the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, where he works with PeacePlayers International, an organization that uses athletics to foster conflict resolution in troubled spots around the world, including South Africa, Israel and the West Bank, and Northern Ireland. Hagstrom landed the position with help from contacts Lawrence Norman '94, M.B.A. '95, a member of the Peace- Players board of directors, and John Ginnity '01, a former assistant basketball coach at Clark.
Prior to heading overseas, Hagstrom was an assistant coach with the MIT men's basketball team. His Clark connection there was former MIT assistant Oliver Eslinger '97, now head coach at CalTech. Last year Hagstrom played in the North Cyprus Professional Basketball League. ("My buddies from Clark joke that of all the people who got to play professional basketball, somehow it was me.")
Riven by conflict between Greek and Turkish factions since 1974, Cyprus has proven to be the perfect locale for PeacePlayers' efforts. Hagstrom and other organizers work with children and coaches on both sides of the "green line" — the United Nations-monitored buffer zone separating northern and southern Cyprus. The players practice in their own communities, and they are taught conflict-resolution through basketball. "They're low-skilled players, but we make the game fun and enjoyable," Hagstrom says. "This is more about getting kids involved than creating the next Michael Jordan."
Once a month, teams from the north and south are brought together for friendly competition. Sometimes they cross through the armed checkpoints; other times they play at a court in the neutral zone.
"We try to get them as many interactions as possible over the course of a year," Hagstrom says. PeacePlayers also runs summer camps and teaches a leadership development program for 16- to 18-year-olds. "The earlier we get these kids the better; we can really help shape the way they see the other community. Our motto is: Children who can play together can live together."
Kelley Shortsleeves '09
Associate Scientist at Ensemble Therapeutics, Cambridge, Mass.
It's no coincidence that when she describes her profession, Kelley Shortsleeves' phrases are peppered with the vocabulary of conflict. She speaks of "antagonists" and "targets," and about locating the weakness in an enemy that has proven impervious to traditional methods of attack.
Shortsleeves is a chemist, and the front line in the war against disease is populated by soldiers like her who are uniformed in white lab coats and do battle at the molecular level.
And yes, they do have victories.
Ensemble Therapeutics, the Cambridge, Mass.-based biotechnology company where Shortsleeves works as an associate scientist, recently announced that it has identified a series of small-molecule antagonists of Interleukin-17 (IL-17), a cytokine — a type of protein molecule implicated in multiple inflammatory and autoimmune diseases such as psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's and intestinal bowel disease. The company is working to develop an oral inhibitor to IL-17 by the end of 2012.
"It's still in the very early stages," says Shortsleeves. "I've been fortunate to work on this project almost since its inception at Ensemble and have contributed a large amount of work to the med-chem and development of this lead series."
At Ensemble Therapeutics, Shortsleeves helps build large libraries of macrocyclic molecules and screen them against drug-resistant protein-to-protein interactions that are common in oncology and inflammation-related diseases. "As a chemist, my job is to take the hits from these library screens, synthesize them on a larger scale, and supply compounds for in vitro testing," she says.
A high school teacher inspired a love of chemistry in Shortsleeves, who pursued her passion at Clark. The summer after her junior year she interned at Abbott Labs in Worcester in the Organic Synthesis Department, and she later established a project working with Abbott in their labs to complete her master's degree.
"While writing my thesis, I started applying to small biotech companies in and around Boston," she recalls. "I got one interview with Ensemble. It was the only interview I went on, and they offered me the job a day later."
Ensemble Therapeutics has created a new class of synthetic macrocyles called Ensemblins ™ using its proprietary chemistry platforms. These macrocycles are uniquely suited to address many protein targets that cannot be modulated effectively by traditional small-molecule pharmaceuticals. As Ensemble develops this novel class of therapeutics, it's leveraging its findings to establish high-value partnerships with major pharmaceutical companies like Bristol-Myers Squibb and Pfizer.
Can Shortsleeves shed any light on other Ensemble initiatives in the pipeline?
She laughs. "Not without breaking confidentiality."
Janette Ekanem '09, M.P.A. '10
Major: Government and International Relations
Second-year student, Northeastern University School of Law, Boston, Mass.
When Roderick Ireland, Chief Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court in Massachusetts, issues an opinion, he does so with the support of a staff that conducts deep research into the surrounding case law and helps the judge shape his final document.
Janette Ekanem is a valued member of Justice Ireland's team. The second-year law student at Northeastern, who is working for Ireland as part of the school's co-op program, is steeping herself in case law these days, researching and comparing the legal literature in different states and combing through decisions in lower courts to unearth cases that can be successfully appealed at the Supreme Court level.
Though still a student, Ekanem has been handed substantial responsibility, which she accepts with grace and equanimity. Her first internship was with the civil division of the U.S. Attorney's office in Boston during the capture of renowned gangster Whitey Bulger, so she's also used to distractions in the workplace. Ekanem's passion is civil rights law, particularly in the area of labor and employment, so she is eager to process the lessons learned in Ireland's office and apply them in her legal career.
"One of the things that always stuck with me is that I have an eye for justice," she says. "And I realize that small decisions can have very broad, significant impacts in the way they affect people with different racial, social and economic backgrounds."
The Lexington, Mass., native served as the president of the Black Student Union at Clark and helped lead tutoring efforts for young students in the Main South neighborhood. At Northeastern, she is the director of academic affairs for the Black Law Student Association, matching first-year students with upper-level students for mentoring.
She looks forward to eventually landing with a firm that will give her plenty of general litigation experience before she moves into civil rights practice.
"One of the things I really like about civil rights law is the ability to advocate for someone whose voice has been silenced by systematic forms of oppression," she says. "I'd really like the chance to push the envelope."
Jay Shapiro '04
Major: Screen Studies
Documentary Filmmaker, New York, N.Y.
Watch a trailer from his documentary "Opposite Fields"
The boy's name is Ivan, and he is poor even by Ugandan standards. He lives with seven other relatives in an equipment shed, sleeping on the bare ground, which turns to mud during rainstorms. Once his eyes shut, though, he is happy.
"When I lay here at night, I dream about baseball," Ivan says with a slight smile, looking directly into the lens of Jay Shapiro's camera.
Ivan and dozens of other boys from Uganda are the stars of Shapiro's documentary, "Opposite Field," which chronicles the unlikely rise of baseball in the east African nation and the vision of a Long Island businessman who transformed swamps into ball fields to bring Little League games there. Shapiro has spent nearly three years filming the saga of Uganda's Little League team, which in 2011 became the first African squad to qualify for the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa. In a heartbreaking turn, the team was denied visas because many of the players lacked the proper documentation that would confirm their ages.
"There was no intentional cheating," Shapiro says. "Where they grew up, paperwork was not a priority. A lot of these kids really don't know how old they are."
At ESPN's request, Shapiro put together a five-minute feature about the team that was aired on the sports channel last August. The response was overwhelming.
"We had calls from Hollywood stars, Major League Baseball stars, asking what they could do to help," Shapiro recalls. "I had kids who wanted to send me their gloves."
In the spirit of Shapiro's profession of filmmaker, we'll save the ending for last, and instead go to a flashback.
A native of Allentown, Pa., Shapiro had a love for storytelling that early on manifested itself in short-story writing. At Clark, he took a screenwriting class and fell in love with the idea of structuring a story through film.
Shapiro became fluent in the techniques and technologies of filmmaking. He shot his own short films, found outside projects where he could apply his skills, and by sophomore year he'd secured an internship in the Philadelphia area to learn editing. "I think I earned half my credits outside the classroom," he says.
Shapiro also earned an Anton Fellowship, which sent him to Ghana. There, he gave his camera to a 10-year-old boy and had him chronicle his world. The result was the documentary, "Like Me, I am Here."
"The quandary of Africa has always interested me," he says. "I wanted to focus on the notion of changing the way people identify themselves, and how it can change the trajectory of a community, and ultimately an entire nation. What happens when you give a camera to a kid who's never seen one? What's that transformation like?"
After college, Shapiro moved to New York where he hustled for freelance jobs, including shooting industrial videos. He worked as an unpaid assistant on an independent film called "The F Word," which led him into ad agency work.
Then Shapiro, a former high school baseball player, landed a job working for Major League Baseball. He began as a freelancer, editing each day's game highlights from across the country for the league's website. The position evolved into a full-time job, with Shapiro filming major leaguers for use in MLB marketing campaigns.
"I did it for three years; met most of the players, got to go to spring training. It was a fantasy job, but I was getting burnt out on it," he says, then adds with a laugh, "Of course I could never tell my friends that."
When the league realigned its operations, Shapiro's job became redundant in New York, and rather than move to a new office in Secaucus, N.J., he decided to make a change. Earlier, Shapiro had met Richard Stanley, an area businessman who was building a baseball field in Uganda and who dreamed of hosting Little League tournaments there. With the assistance of Nick Goldfarb, a producer he'd met on "The F Word," Shapiro worked to secure investors for a documentary on the Ugandan team, and beginning in 2009, he traveled to Africa, camera in hand, to film "Opposite Field."
Shapiro acknowledges he caught lightning in a bottle. In a huge upset, the Ugandan team defeated Saudi Arabia in a regional final to earn entrée into the Little League World Series before the visa snafu dashed its chances. Their story drew worldwide headlines, including on the front page of the New York Times.
And now, the happy ending.
A community organizer from Vancouver named Ruth Hoffman learned that if it had been allowed to play in the World Series, the Ugandan team's first opponent would have been Canada. With the help of Major League ballplayers like Jimmy Rollins of the Philadelphia Phillies and Derrek Lee of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Hoffman launched a successful $155,000 fundraising drive to send a Canadian team to Uganda, build more baseball fields there, and supply funds for the Ugandan team to travel to future Little League competitions.
On Jan. 17, on a brilliant day in Uganda's capital city of Kampala, the Pearl of Africa Series was played, with the Ugandan team beating the Canadians, 2-1. The game, and all its peripheral drama and joy, was captured on film by Jay Shapiro.
When this interview took place, Shapiro was shopping the distribution rights for "Opposite Field" and was in talks with Turner Sports about the possibility of making a basketball-themed film in South America. He marvels that on the fields of Uganda he was able to unite his three loves — baseball, storytelling and filmmaking — in an endeavor that sometimes feels less like a job than it does a sweet dream.
Laura M. Faulkner '10, M.P.A.'11
Major: Political Science
Policy Analyst, The Poverty Institute, Providence, R.I.
After a nine-month stint with the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council, Laura Faulkner left for an opportunity at The Poverty Institute in Providence. She can't say enough about the need to "follow your heart and intuition" when it comes to career opportunities. While she notes that her position at RIPEC, a fiscally conservative, business-backed think tank, challenged her to research and write from a perspective that didn't necessarily jibe with her personal ideology, one gets the impression she is grateful she kept her options open.
Faulkner describes her job at The Poverty Institute as "the right blend of analysis and advocacy" that allows her to take an active role in wiping out poverty in Rhode Island. Working with political coalitions, Faulkner encourages legislators to pass laws that benefit those most in need.
"Policymakers want clear and specific solutions to eradicating poverty and providing support to those in need, but the political climate and various agendas present a challenge at times," she acknowledges.
Faulkner says her experience at the Expenditure Council and working on the Family Impact Seminar with Jim Gomes, executive director of Clark's Mosakowski Institute for Public Enterprise, were "absolutely formative to my current career path."
Faulkner found that her involvement in Student Council and other campus organizations resulted in "real world" applications, and the discovery that group work comes with its own distinct lessons: consensus-building is essential, one person will always use group time as a personal sounding board, there isn't always a simple "good" or "bad" vote.
Faulkner hopes to continue working in social policy for several years, and would consider a career in government. While politics energizes her, she doesn't predict she would ever run for public office. "I'll stick to think-tank policy work and possibly state government," she says.
Dan Roberts '07, M.A. '08
Director of History and Research, Wilson History and Research Center, Little Rock, Ark.
Dan Roberts' love of history was practically predestined by his hometown. He grew up in South Portland, Maine, on a coastline dotted with old fortresses, and near the Portland Harbor shipyard where workers flocked to build the "liberty ships" that would establish United States naval dominance during World War II. He played on streets named for generals and presidents.
"You can imagine the mystique," he says. "It was like growing up next to a castle."
Roberts parlayed his passion into history degrees at Clark (a bachelor's and master's), which included professional opportunities provided to him through the Strassler Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies. During the summer of 2006 he worked at the Lidice Memorial and Museum for three months in the Czech Republic, and in 2007 he worked as an historical archivist for a Worcester insurance company. ("Both of these looked better on my resumé when I applied for jobs in the history field than my previous summer job as a pizza delivery guy," he notes.)
He graduated into one of the bleakest economies in recent memory, but Roberts remained optimistic that he would land a position in his field of interest. Three months into his employment search, he was named the director of history and research at the Wilson History and Research Center in Little Rock, Ark. The center is devoted to the preservation and display of 20th-century military uniforms and headgear.
Roberts is responsible for the historical messaging behind the museum's exhibits, books and presentations; he oversees a team of researchers who identify and write about each of the 10,000 artifacts in the museum's archives. His job has evolved into a history major's dream, offering him many opportunities to travel, including a trip to the Airborne Museum in St. Mere Eglise where his museum gifted a WWII-era artillery spotter plane in honor of the 65th anniversary of D-Day.
Roberts' latest project is a book he's writing for the museum about an Italian-American GI named Basil Antonelli, who immigrated to the U.S. with his family in the 1920s, and enlisted in the service during World War II. Antonelli persevered through several campaigns before landing in Naples and fought his way up the very road he traveled as a child on the way to America, says Roberts. Antonelli was killed in the Battle of Monte Cassino, just miles from his ancestral village.
In researching and writing the book, Roberts met with the Antonelli family in New Jersey, then traveled with them to Italy to visit Basil's birthplace of Sant'Andrea, and Monte Cassino. Roberts' book recounting the soldier's saga is expected to be published this April.
Erika Leclair ‘05
Bacteriologist, Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Jamaica Plain, Mass.
Most people run the other way when they hear "West Nile" or "H1N1." Not Erika LeClair. She thrives on her proximity to these potentially deadly viruses.
LeClair is a bacteriologist in the Molecular Diagnostics Laboratory at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health's State Laboratory Institute in Jamaica Plain, Mass. The lab tests for West Nile Virus, Eastern Equine Encephalitus, seasonal influenza, H1N1, measles and bioterrorist agents.
"It's very rewarding being on the front lines," she says. "I like helping in the detection of major public health concerns and doing it rapidly." LeClair's lab works with many city, state and federal agencies, responding to concerns and threats, and developing tests for various viruses and bacteria strains.
LeClair landed her position after being a contract worker in another state laboratory. When H1N1 influenza broke out in 2009, she assisted by processing samples. When a position opened up in the Molecular Diagnostics Laboratory, she applied. "They had already seen my work ethic so they knew I could handle high-stress situations," she says.
LeClair developed her skills and love of the laboratory at Clark under the tutelage of biology Professor Tom Leonard. She was responsible for making media cultures, which required her to develop a sterile technique so that the plates were not contaminated.
"In my current position a sterile environment is essential so I do not contaminate myself, coworkers and samples," she explains. "A false positive in a test can be a very expensive learning experience that can send people into hysteria and [initiate] a massive cleanup that may not have been necessary."
Jennifer Goldstein '05
Majors: Political Science and History
Desk Officer, U.S. Department of State, Washington, D.C.
Jennifer Goldstein remembers a session of Professor Cynthia Enloe's Comparative Politics class where the discussion centered on one topic: tomatoes.
"The basic premise was that you take what would appear to be mundane issues," Goldstein says, "and discuss how everything is political. People's motivations are political, whether they realize it or not."
After graduating from Clark, she worked for Harris Bank as a privacy analyst; for a political media firm; and then moved to D.C. to be an intern for Rep. Melissa Bean of Illinois. A detour to the London School of Economics and Political Science, where she earned a master's in human rights, led to four and a half years of living in the U.K., first studying and then working for LSE's external relations department and the mayor of London.
But an interest in the U.S. Foreign Service had long been percolating, and Goldstein pursued and obtained her current position as desk officer for the countries of Malawi and Botswana.
Goldstein is "a communication linchpin" connecting the U.S. embassies in Botswana and Malawi, those countries' embassies in the U.S., the State Department, and other components of the federal government. She is also the Washington, D.C.-based "subject matter expert" on the political and economic climate in the two countries, and is an advocate in Washington on their behalf.
In August, Goldstein will prepare for a two-year tour in Brazzaville, the Republic of Congo. Her first task? Learning French, so she can properly do her job as consular chief in the U.S. Embassy. She will oversee American citizen services and visa requests, along with other consular duties.
Sometimes a Foreign Service officer's role is more about conflict resolution, Goldstein says. "You want to get to your goal, and you have to convince people to come along with you — so you need to figure out what's bothering them and what's affecting them."
Even if it's tomatoes.
Long Lin ‘09
Financial Analyst, Schiltkamp International Consultants, New York, N.Y.
"I always think my ‘career' started in my freshman year," says Long Lin.
At the time he was unsure of his professional path, but he discovered very quickly how best to move in the right direction. With the help of Career Services and the online alumni database, Lin reached out to alumni working in the fields that interested him, and they brought him in.
"I remember my first meeting was on a chilly Sunday in Boston with Mollie (Grotpeter) Murphy ['03], who was also an economics major. Mollie introduced me to her work as a consultant at Bill Mosakowski's ['76] Public Consulting Group, and I was lucky to get an internship at PCG after my first year at Clark, and returned for a second summer after my sophomore year," he recalls.
"After meetings with Mollie, my friends at Clark could often spot me on a bus or train to Boston or New York on weekends, for coffee with Clark alumni, informational interviews, and then job interviews. Gary Rosen ['85] helped me land an internship at Wells Fargo Advisors' Investment Management Group after my junior year. I first met my current boss, Arrien Schiltkamp ['78], at a board of trustees meeting on campus when I was a sophomore."
The buses and trains that transported Lin have since been replaced by airplanes, which every two months carry him to China. As a financial analyst for Schiltkamp International Consultants in New York, Lin conducts economic and financial research for the company and assists managing its Asian clients.
A native of Chengdu, Lin knew he wanted to work in a profession involved with establishing and maintaining a connection between China and the United States. His facility with the Mandarin language and his business skills are a perfect pairing for this sensitive job.
"I feel excited to be part of a team when we help a Chinese client understand the market in the U.S. and invest internationally," Lin says. "I'm passionate about improving my own skills while learning to bring people together across cultures."
He says the meaningful undergraduate research opportunities he enjoyed at Clark were key to his development. As early as his sophomore year he was "learning the ABCs" of economics research from Professor Wayne Gray. With the guidance of his professors, he was then able to secure a junior-year-abroad slot at the prestigious London School of Economics.
Those collective Clark experiences — from his research responsibilities to the valuable alumni mentoring he received — are serving Long Lin well as he realizes his dream of bridging the two countries that have nurtured and educated him.
Nagraj Rao '08
Major: Math and Economics
Research Analyst, World Bank, Tanzania
Nagraj Rao crunches numbers for a living, but to him these are not just figures on a spread sheet. They represent thousands of little stories from which emerges a human narrative, one that describes the day-to-day circumstances of individual people, and, when considered collectively, of an entire country.
Rao, a research analyst with the World Bank, manages data collection on families in the African country of Tanzania, overseeing the teams who conduct interviews in remote villages and bustling cities. Working through grants from the Gates Foundation and other donors, Rao helps design survey models and deploys interviewers to gather information that will give the government hard numbers on such issues as poverty, housing, agriculture, water and sanitation, and consumer price index. These and other key indicators help determine Tanzania's social and economic health, and are meant to supply the basis for informed decision-making about the nation's future.
A native of New Delhi, India, Rao earned his bachelor's degree at Clark in math and economics, then obtained a master's degree in agricultural economics from the University of Maryland. The job, he says, is the perfect amalgam of the skills he learned in both disciplines.
Tanzania is a fascinating case study, he notes. "You don't see much of a middle class here," Rao says, "certainly less so than in India, which has a very strong middle class. It's critical for people to have a voice that's not washed away in the politics of the place."
The surveys are a multi-year process (Rao came on board during the second year). His teams follow up with families who were interviewed last year, then enter the data via computer software, which will tell Rao the types of changes that have occurred. He spends about 50 percent of his time traveling the country to ensure the surveys are being conducted properly.
"We're looking at trends," he says. "Obviously there is quite a bit of movement — people get new jobs, get married, move away. Tracing the same people [who were previously interviewed] is the hard part, and we have to devise strategies to reach them. There are no locational addresses in Tanzania — even in the cities — and not everyone owns a phone."
Once the data are collected, Rao and his colleagues in Washington pore over the information to check its legitimacy, a process that takes two to three months. When the government has given its approval, the data are publicly posted.
Rao describes his job as "perfectly symbiotic" for the way it meshes his twin passions of statistical analysis and international development. He's also done work in Ethiopia, which helped hone his ability to work and negotiate with various entities that include the government, international organizations and donors.
This spring he's off to Liberia to conduct a major survey with the Ministry of Statistics.
"It's an interesting place because they were in a civil war for almost twenty years," he says. "The country is dynamic, it's changing, but there's no data for the last thirty or forty years — nothing on poverty or consumption. We'll be setting up the survey for them and build the statistical capacity for the country. It's exciting to be part of things as they change in Liberia — it's on the verge of becoming a great nation."
Harrison Mackler '07
Periodontal student Harvard Dental School, Boston, Mass.; Researcher
Harrison Mackler cut his teeth in a London dentistry internship, where his research was quite literally bone deep.
While studying abroad on Clark's London Internship Program his junior year, Mackler worked at King's College's London Dental Institute, and began learning about tissue engineering. "Tissue engineering means recreating organs, such as bone, a heart valve, or an entire pancreas, in the laboratory. By combining stem cells and growth factors onto materials that mimic our own body," he explains, "we can make a final product that could be used to replace our own wounded or aged body parts."
When he returned to Clark, he used his Steinbrecher and Comer fellowships to deepen his research with Professor Tim Lyerla. Mackler focused on a synthetic alternative to bone grafts that could be used to repair bone damaged by injury or disease such as osteoporosis, arthritis and cancer.
After Clark, Mackler expanded his tissue-engineering research to include teeth, first in a lab at Tufts Dental School and then at Brigham and Women's Hospital. His interests also encompassed the workings of the immune system.
"When someone has gum disease, the immune system naturally tries to fight the bacteria that started it. Unfortunately, this response does not clear the infection," Mackler says. "In fact, while it's trying, the immune cells inadvertently break down bone and cause more of a problem."
Continuing on this trajectory, he became the only dental student in the country to be selected for a year-long Howard Hughes Medical Institute research fellowship, which he carried out at the Forsyth Institute and the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. There, he took a year off from dental school to investigate a cure to suppress the immune responses in the mouth, trying selectively to stop the bone from breaking down.
That year of research translated into his winning five science prizes in 2011 and making presentations about his findings at academic conferences across the country.
After graduating from Harvard in May 2012, Mackler will start his residency at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry, where he'll spend three years specializing in clinical periodontology. "I am working toward a career as a practicing periodontist, but I will undoubtedly maintain a connection back to academics, whether that be through research, teaching, or a combination of the two," he says.
"I am working in a field within dentistry that I'm really passionate about," Mackler adds, "and I'm positive that I wouldn't have been able to have these experiences without the opportunities I was given at Clark."
Meghan Rosa '06, M.A. Ed. '07
Major: English, Education
Teacher, University Park Campus School, Worcester
Meghan Rosa's mother is a high school teacher in Attleboro, Mass., and three of her star students went on to attend Clark University.
"She thought there must be something magic about Clark for attracting these three seemingly different but equally thoughtful and original students, so she encouraged me to apply," Rosa says.
Perhaps it's no coincidence that Meghan Rosa not only studied at Clark, but that she now leads her own classroom as a high school teacher at the University Park Campus School in Worcester's Main South neighborhood, where she is now preparing students for their own college experiences.
"Academically, I came away from undergrad with a clear understanding that there was some stuff in the world that needed fixing," Rosa says. But that doesn't mean she was predestined to become a teacher. At a school that preaches the power of challenging convention, pursuing a career in education seemed, well, conventional.
"Teaching was too much of an obvious choice, and I didn't want to do the thing that everybody expected me to do," she says. "However, when it came time to consider my life after college graduation, I couldn't really see myself doing anything else. I love kids and I love school. It only made sense."
Every day in her classes — a packed slate that includes 7th grade literacy, 10th grade AP English Language & Composition, 11th and 12th grade journalism, and 12th grade honors English — Rosa embraces the daunting task of engaging students of multiple abilities and backgrounds. Not all are so easily inspired.
"Motivating students — to do work, to do work well, to take risks — is a daily challenge," she acknowledges. "It's different for every assignment and every kid, but through lots of trial and error I've found that emphasizing the particular student's strengths, instead of his or her weaknesses, as is commonplace in academia, tends to work."
The payback of her efforts is tangible.
"The first seventh graders I ever taught back as a student-teacher are now my current seniors. They've come so far in their six years at the school. We're like a family now and it's so fun to be with them in their final year and to see them off to college."
Scott Silver '06
Major: Screen Studies
Co-owner of Silvatar Media, Los Angeles
Scott Silver makes movies for a living, but often his most essential tool is not a camera or an editing machine, but his cellphone.
As co-owner of the production company Silvatar Media, Silver must stay almost obsessively networked. Phone calls — thousands of them — are what get the deals done so that the films can be launched. In Hollywood, if you don't have a phone to your ear, you aren't even trying.
But he most relishes the creative component of his job. The Texas native, who during his time at Clark made short films starring theater students, honed his editing skills at the prestigious American Film Institute and by doing freelance post-production work. His company's first major film, "Removal," a Hitchcockian psychological thriller starring Billy Burke of "Twilight" and Elliott Gould, has just been released on DVD. He's now in discussions with heavy-hitting producer Mark Canton ("300") to create a thriller set in an unexplored Egyptian tomb. The film, "Site 146," is being prepared for a theatrical release.
Silver is making headway in a notoriously tough business where "it takes a good three to four years to get your feet planted."
His wife, Laurel (Polumbaum) Silver '06, M.A. '07, helps keep him grounded.
"It's tough to have two people in the industry when you're starting career and life together," he says. "It's unstable, the hours are terrible. Fortunately, Laurel is a teacher and very level-headed.
"Some days everything works," Silver continues, "and then you can go three to four weeks with bad news. The truth is, you can be as good as you want, but you still need that lucky break."
Given the number of entertainment vehicles available to the average person, Silver believes the film industry is on the cusp of a golden age. People are always hungry for good cinema, he says, whether a movie is being projected on a 40- foot screen or transmitted through an iPhone.
Yes, somehow it is inevitable that phones will be involved.
Caitlin Thayer '07
Owner of Barefoot Media LLC, Hartford, Conn.
Caitlin Thayer does not take her feet for granted, and with good reason.
As a competitive runner, those feet carry her over hundreds of miles of New England roads each year, hitting the weather-worn, traffic scarred pavement for races ranging in distance from 5K to a half marathon. And that's not to mention the practice runs — three times a week if she's being good.
But here's the thing: Thayer doesn't fear doing all that without the benefit of wearing shoes. She sometimes runs barefoot, eschewing anything that comes between her soles and the street.
Her business — appropriately named Barefoot Media — is equally as scrappy as her running style. Thayer launched her company (originally called Thayer Consulting) on the notion that she could coach nonprofits on using social media to spread the word about their organizations effectively and cheaply. Her clients, like The Alliance for Nonprofit Growth and Opportunity, the Hartford Public Library, the United Way and the Connecticut Women's Hall of Fame, hire Thayer to train them and strategize ways they can employ social media platforms to their advantage.
Thayer is no stranger to the nonprofit world. Following her graduation from Clark, the Maine native moved to Hartford to work as assistant manager of visitor services at The Mark Twain House and Museum. She was soon asked to run the museum's Facebook page, and realized she had a knack for optimizing social media. Over time, Thayer was approached by other nonprofits to help with their online presence, her clientele list expanding to the point that she quit her museum job to start her consulting company.
"I actually think my young age made it easier to go out on my own," Thayer says. "My biggest challenge has been that I don't have a business background, so it's been a learning experience dealing with invoicing, taxes and the legalities of starting and running a business."
Much of Thayer's job involves illuminating clients — some who are skittish about new technologies — about how social media can be synthesized into their business plans.
"I teach my clients to use social media in a natural way, grow it organically," she says. "There are so many people who think that social media is just for selling products and marketing themselves, which doesn't help their company or organization in the long run. So I teach organizations how to be natural, how to connect with their audience and how to use social media for long-term success."
Thayer's own success is getting her noticed. She's a familiar presence in the Hartford media, who frequently seek her out to comment on social-media topics. Hartford Magazine named Thayer one of the county's top young achievers, and she leads training seminars to help nonprofits enhance their online portfolio.
As her business grows, Thayer is compiling tips and techniques she's developed for clients over the years and will post a do-it-yourself social- media manual that folks can download for free. She knows that effective communication, like running, cannot be fettered by traditional methods; that success will take you in exciting, sometimes unexpected, directions. Yes, Caitlin Thayer is on the move, but she also has her feet firmly planted.
Ethan Zorfas ‘07, M.P.A. '08
Major: Government and International Relations
Chief of Staff for Congressman Frank Guinta, Washington, D.C.
Introduction to American Politics with Professor Mark Miller. It was his first class, in his first semester, and it was all Ethan Zorfas needed to see his career path.
"I knew then that politics was where I wanted to be," Zorfas says. He's never flip-flopped on that decision.
Zorfas is chief of staff for Congressman Frank Guinta (R-N.H.), managing the lawmaker's staffs in Washington and New Hampshire, and serving as liaison to the leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives.
"I manage my boss in a sense, too," he says. "I work with him on what his focus will be legislatively; how he'll work through his decisions."
After earning his bachelor's and master's degrees, Zorfas worked on campaigns "as one of those guys who does everything — driving the candidates, fundraising, coordinating what needs to be coordinated."
In 2008 he went to work for the National Republican Congressional Committee, traveling across the country to gauge what kind of support local campaigns needed from the committee in Washington.
He clicked with two candidates in particular, Dr. William Cassidy (R-Louisiana) and Cynthia Loomis (R-Wyoming), who were both elected to Congress for the first time in 2008. At their request, Zorfas remained with their campaigns; he added four more clients, and soon he'd built his own campaign-consulting business.
His political views meshed especially closely with Rep. Guinta's. "We just hit it off," Zorfas says. "We saw the world through the same lens."
In January 2011, Zorfas accepted Guinta's offer to become his chief of staff.
He acknowledges the messy legislative gridlock in Washington on major fiscal issues, but is quick to add that off the radar much is being accomplished across the political divide. He cites the work that Guinta's office has done in tandem with Democratic Congressman Barney Frank on issues involving commercial fishing, which affect the coastal populations of both New Hampshire and Massachusetts.
Zorfas himself is no stranger to reaching across the aisle. As a Republican at Clark, he found his positions often were at odds with those of more liberal-leaning students, including many of his friends. But their discussions, he says, "made me sharper."
"If I argued politics with a Clarkie, I had to be on my game. I loved it," he says with a laugh. "Clark helped me interact with people who don't agree with my political ideology; it gave me an understanding of things beyond my own world." That experience has carried over into his professional life, where "I have to put my head in the place of someone who did not grow up as I had. That's important when I'm in New Hampshire talking to a commercial fisherman."
Despite his love of politics, Zorfas has no aspirations for elective office.
"I see what those guys go through; I'm happy where I am," he says. "I'd like to continue to find ways to work in policy through the government."
Bridget T. Millman '08
Major: International Development and Social Change
Project Coordinator, Balkan Trust for Democracy, Serbia
Bridget T. Millman wrapped up her bachelor's degree when the U.S. economy was poised for the Great Recession, a time when college graduates around the country were struggling to find employment. Nonetheless, Millman, who double-majored in philosophy and international development and social change, has managed during these tough economic times to land a personally meaningful job that utilizes her interests and skills.
Millman grabbed an opportunity to intern with the Business Start-up Centre Kragujevac, an initiative of the Dutch organization SPARK. During her internship she conducted interviews with entrepreneurs, local partners, and training participants in Serbia, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Bosnia and Herzegovina, countries where Business Start-up Centres had been established.
She returned to Clark to pursue a master's in international development and social change. Her course research led her back to the Balkans to study the effects of international development assistance on political systems. Millman's return to the Balkans was precipitated by her frustration in finding objective information on that part of the world.
"I had questions I couldn't find answers to by staying put," she explains. "I identified a gap in the quality and objectivity of information available to me in the U.S. on issues and events in the Balkans. I continue to see in the international media discrepancies in the portrayal of local events, and perspectives on those events. The reality is frequently much more complex."
Millman is still in the Balkans, now working with the Balkan Trust for Democracy, an innovative public-private partnership that supports democracy, good governance, and Euro- Atlantic integration in Southeastern Europe. Among her many responsibilities, Millman reviews project proposals and analyzes budgets, monitors ongoing projects and evaluates reports, meets with grantees and applicants, and conducts field-monitoring visits.
In addition to working as part of a closeknit team, Millman enjoys the opportunity to travel and become familiar with Balkan culture and history. "Travel," she notes, "whether international or domestic, is an invaluable education."
This story was originally published in CLARK Magazine, spring 2012.