Changing Lives for the World
By Bob Cunningham and Matt Markey
For many students, BGSU provides the first chance for them to find their voice or learn what’s important to them. The leadership and connections fostered within the Falcon Family can be a catalyst to a new way of thinking or provide a road sign to a different career path.
For these five BGSU alumni – Mike Hart ‘94, Tara Huffman ’96, Dr. Dena Krishnan ’07, Teresa Lopez ’07 and Jessica Loughner ’11 – and countless others like them, the University provided the building blocks for careers that effect change and make a difference in the lives of others.
Michael Hart '94
On the high-tech horizon
There are a lot of places a business degree with a specialization in finance can take you — to careers in banking, investing, portfolio management or even Wall Street. But for Michael Hart, Silicon Valley was the logical destination, as he coupled that BGSU education with an instinctive aptitude in engineering in the rapidly evolving high-tech world.
“Coming out of BGSU, I was hoping to see a role where I could move up fast in finance, but those jobs were all part of a kind of ‘pay your dues’ type of culture,” Hart said.
So Hart went a different route, and currently heads a team of engineers at Amazon working on taking the company’s Alexa intelligent personal assistant well beyond its current role that includes the capability for voice interaction, music playback, and real-time weather, traffic and news.
Following graduation, Hart actively pursued a post with Accenture, a global professional services company he saw as a gateway into the vast frontier of emerging technology.
“I heard they were looking for hard-working Midwestern types, and they wanted people with some business savvy who they could teach the technology side,” Hart said. “That sounded good to me.”
Hart settled in California following stops in Chicago and Toronto, and lives there with his Falcon Flame, Kathleen, and their two daughters.
He has worked as an adviser with companies involved with search technology, cyber security and digital business acceleration. Hart conceived and built the innovative DVR-integrated TV that Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates chose to demonstrate during a 2006 keynote address. Hart also led the development of an interface for entertainment giant Netflix that allowed users to access 100,000 movie and television episode titles, and helped launch Netflix’s social integration with Facebook.
“I guess I’ve always been more of a get-out-there-and-do-it guy,” Hart said.
He spent more than six years with Microsoft, including managing engineering teams, and also started his own company, Attune Inc., that specialized in increasing sales for its clients with real-time evaluations of which products customers were most likely to purchase.
“I’ve always had an entrepreneurial itch, and I’ve even fired myself a few times, just to get into something new, interesting and challenging,” Hart said.
He has been able to merge his finance education with a remarkable high-tech skill set, and thrive at the forefront of technological change.
“I basically taught myself engineering,” Hart said, “but my finance education and my business underpinnings have always served me well.”
Tara Huffman '96
Building vibrant and tolerant societies
Tara (Andrews) Huffman earned a Bachelor of Science in sociology with a specialization in criminology. She is the director of the Criminal and Juvenile Justice Program at Open Society Institute-Baltimore.
Huffman is deeply committed to reforming policies and practices that contribute to racial disparities, an over-reliance on incarceration, blocked opportunities and unrealized potential. A graduate of the University of Maryland School of Law, Huffman began her career as a staff attorney at the Public Justice Center in Baltimore. She served for five years as the deputy director for policy and programs at the Coalition for Juvenile Justice in Washington, D.C.
She enjoys her current role at OSI-Baltimore because she’s able to fight for more than one cause at a time as the organization works to build vibrant and tolerant societies whose governments are accountable and open to the participation of all people. Huffman learned her first lessons in activism at BGSU.
“Those were my early years of activism as I was involved with the Black Student Union, and I was active on the board of Black Cultural Activities. I was part of the gospel choir, and I wrote for the Obsidian,” she said. “It’s during those years that I started to find my voice – I certainly did not find it completely – but I started to learn that change is hard, things are the way they are for a reason, and even when rules seem to be stacked in one person’s favor versus other people’s favor, people still have a vested interest in the way things are. And when you start trying to change things, people become very defensive.
“It’s strange for me because personally I am conflict averse. Ironically, the work that I feel that I have been called to do is the exact opposite of that. So I have had to learn how to reconcile my preference for peace and agreement with the fact that I have to enter into conflict. I have to be willing to be confrontational at times when it’s strategic to do so because that is what it takes to get these kind of changes.
“That means there’s going to be a time that you’re going to have to come in conflict with another person or another party. I’ve had to learn how to do that in a way that is respectful, but at the same time effective, because that’s what it takes to get things done.”
Dr. Dena Krishnan ‘07
Caring for the underserved
Dr. Dena Krishnan earned a Master of Science in biology with a specialization in neuroscience. She is an internist in Grand Blanc, Michigan, after receiving her medical degree from Lincoln Memorial University’s DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine.
Krishnan, who grew up in Perrysburg, Ohio, graduated from Xavier University in 2004 but wasn’t sure what she wanted to do with her life.
“I wanted to go to medical school but was too chicken to apply,” she said. “I had never failed at anything before and was afraid to fail because I saw smarter people than me get rejected.”
Krishnan decided to take some upper-level science courses at BGSU to make sure she wanted to pursue medical school. While signing up for classes, she ended up running into Dr. Lee Meserve (see “Last Lecture” on page 8), who talked her into enrolling in the Graduate College and becoming a teaching assistant.
“It was during my two years at BGSU that I really found myself and turned myself into a scholar,” Krishnan said. “As I was getting close to graduating, I was torn about what to do next. Dr. Meserve was actually the one who said, ‘I just think the world would miss out if you didn’t at least try medical school.’”
She was in the medical school’s inaugural class at Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tennessee, in the tri-state area where Tennessee, Virginia and Kentucky all meet in Appalachia.
“They were looking for people wanting to serve some of the poorest counties in America,” Krishnan said. “At first, it was very intimidating, with no friends or family. I felt very isolated. But I got lucky. I fell in love with my study partner, who is now my husband.
“A lot of the doctors there did home visits,” Krishnan said. “There were family medical doctors and even a general surgeon who took me up into the mountains in his pickup truck to do post-op checks.”
She was profiled in People Magazine for her work treating people on the front line in Appalachia in 2010.
Krishnan and her husband did a couple’s match and landed in Grand Blanc in 2011 for their residencies.
“We served the Greater Flint area and our clinic was in downtown Flint, so it was a whole host of problems – different from Appalachia, but unfortunately also with similar issues,” she said. “Instead of the rural South, it was the urban poor. I don’t think a lot of people realize whether you’re in Flint, Michigan, or Carthage, Tennessee, in certain areas in the United States there are people who barely have electricity or running water or inside toilet systems.”
Krishnan is completing a cardiology fellowship this summer, and then she and her husband are headed to Louisville, Kentucky, for a year so he can continue his training. After that, they can apply for permanent positions.
“We are actually looking to go back to the Tennessee-Virginia-Carolina area potentially,” she said. “My training in Appalachia was so meaningful, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.”
Teresa Lopez ‘07
Keeping women safe
Teresa Lopez earned a Bachelor of Arts in psychology with a minor in ethnic studies. She is a transitional housing specialist for the National Network to End Domestic Violence in Washington, D.C., and has been an advocate for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault since 2009. She works on a team that provides training and technical assistance to grantees who provide transitional housing to survivors of domestic violence: stalking, sexual assault and dating violence.
“When I was at the local level, I could help survivors individually one by one in the shelter, but I soon realized the problems that exist for survivors exist on a much larger scale,” said Lopez, who completed a yearlong internship at the Ohio Domestic Violence Network upon completion of her Master of Social Work from the University of Toledo. “My biggest goal was coming to the National Network to solve problems on a macro level to help many individuals at one time instead of one at a time.”
She also worked at a battered women’s shelter in Toledo before her internship.
“That’s where I did most of my service work directly with survivors of domestic violence,” said Lopez, a native of Lima, Ohio.
Now, on the national level, Lopez said maintaining an awareness of the political climate and knowing the funding streams available for local programs are important. Keeping track of trends and staying up to date on research are key factors as well.
She got her first taste of standing up for a cause at BGSU.
“I definitely wouldn’t be where I am if I hadn’t gone to BGSU,” Lopez said. “I think the things that I did while at BGSU started the roots of wanting to be in social action and social change. Things like participating in Take Back the Night and Dance Marathon and being part of Alternative Winter Break and a service sorority like Delta Chi Phi Multicultural Service Sorority.
“All those things really contributed to me wanting to give back to my community and planting those seeds for wanting to do work with, and directly for, people in need.”
Jessica Loughner '11
Saving the Great Lakes
Jessica Loughner earned a Bachelor of Science in biology with a specialization in marine and aquatic studies. She is a biological science technician for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, working out of the Waterford Substation of the Alpena Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office in metro Detroit.
Loughner, who grew up in Columbus, Ohio, went on to earn a master’s degree in conservation biology from Central Michigan University. Her research focused on the near-shore community of Lake Huron in order to see how the lake area has changed over 20 years after the introduction of invasive species.
With the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, she works for the Aquatic Invasive Species Early Detection Monitoring Program, covering the Great Lakes from the locks at Sault Ste. Marie in the St. Marys River down to the Ohio-Pennsylvania border.
“We have a list of high-priority species that have the potential of being introduced into the Great Lakes, so we’re trying to detect if new species are being introduced rather than trying to stop the spread of species that are already here,” Loughner said. “We’re also looking for new invaders, including Asian carp, which are a great threat to the Great Lakes right now, as well as species that have a high likelihood of being introduced and not detected for a long time, because they’re kind of like doppelgangers of our native fish. So, unless someone is specifically looking for these invaders, they could go unnoticed until they are a problem.”
Hunting down invasive species of fish isn’t what she originally set out to do at BGSU, but now she can’t imagine doing anything else.
Loughner benefited from the Academic Investment Math and Science (AIMS) scholarship program at BGSU, as well as from taking a course in ichthyology, the study of fish, in her final semester.
“AIMS focuses on helping women and minorities get involved in scientific fields and aligns them with a mentor at the University to facilitate success in higher education and a job in the field,” Loughner said. “Through that program, my mentor was Dr. Jeff Miner, who is the head of the biology department now. The program and Dr. Miner were critical in helping me choose a career field.”