Alumni Board

Members of the Boettcher Scholar Alumni Board are interviewing their fellow Boettcher Scholars to help the community get to know one another better. The following Q&A was compiled by Boettcher Scholar Angelique Diaz. Name: McKenna Asakawa Scholar Year: 2012 Hometown: Lafayette College(s), Degree(s) and Graduation Year(s): Colorado College, B.A. in sociology, minor in Spanish Tell us about your current work and how long you’ve been doing it. What is your favorite aspect of your current occupation? I’ve been working as the digital content editor for Nelson Treehouse and Supply for about a year now (you might recognize the company from the show Treehouse Masters). It’s a privilege to work at a small family business that has global reach, and to work alongside stunningly creative (and fun!) people. I write copy and manage a lot of our communications, including our blog at nelsontreehouse.com. I love witnessing the positive impact this company has on many lives: from its own staff, to local businesses, to fans from all over the world. Treehouses make people happy! What role has being a Boettcher Scholar played into where you are and what you are doing now? The Boettcher Scholarship has been a liberating force in my life. For one, the foundation’s generosity gave me the financial freedom to take a leap and move for this job after graduation. I am also deeply grateful for the foundation’s ethos of exploration – I remember hearing a Boettcher staff member discuss how she was proud of alumni for doing whatever it is that makes them come alive. This genuine, equal respect for every scholar’s pursuits— whether that be graduate school or growing a family or building treehouses— encouraged me to try the things that led to what I do now. Tell us about your involvement in activities, organizations or groups outside of work. Until recently, I was also working part-time as the development director for Sawhorse Revolution, a Seattle-based nonprofit that hosts year-round carpentry programs for diverse youth. Many Sawhorse programs involve partnering teens with design/build professionals to construct tiny homes for local homeless communities. I also am beginning to volunteer with my local chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League. My favorite pastimes include cooking with my boyfriend, Evan; listening to music and podcasts (try The Flop House!); tasting wines in Woodinville (five minutes from my place!); and basking in the summertime Pacific Northwest sunshine (gotta stock up on Vitamin D now!). What’s the best advice you’ve received and what advice do you have for new graduates entering your career field? Some of the best advice I’ve received came from Seanix, one of the Nelson Treehouse carpenters. He said, “Stop taking yourself so seriously, and start taking life and the things you love more seriously.” If I were to dole out some career advice at my wise age of 23, I’d say: 1) Don’t be afraid to change your plans as you yourself change. 2) Find the humor in it. 3) The people you work with can make or break your job satisfaction. Don’t underestimate the importance of the organization’s culture and the team you’ll be a part of everyday If you could have dinner with one person or a few people from history, whom would you choose and why? I’m reading Jacques Pepin’s memoir, The Apprentice, right now, and would love to have dinner with his mother, Jeannette. She was just a few years older than me during WWII in France (during which time she’d bike miles on her one day off a week to scrounge up enough food to feed her three sons!), and holy cow was she a tough person! I’d love to find out more about her sources of strength and time running her own restaurant. Plus, I bet the meal would be delicious!...

By Amanda Cary 2014 scholar  In early June, current Boettcher scholars and alumni came together for a tour of KUNC, a public radio station that broadcasts NPR and other local news and music out of Greeley. Five members of the Boettcher community attended. They were: Paula Pulido (2016), Amanda Cary (2014), Doug Marek (1972), Steve Winograd (1968) and Ken Weaver (1963). KUNC began in 1967, but it was initially known as KCBL. After years of being affiliated with the University of Northern Colorado, the station became independent of the university in 2001 when UNC attempted to sell it to Colorado Public Radio. However, a community of dedicated listeners intervened and raised $2 million in 20 days to keep KUNC independent. Today, KUNC is operated by Community Radio for Northern Colorado, and monitored by a board of directors and advisory council. “It speaks to the value of the community,” said Neil Best, KUNC president. Though the station’s operations come from Greeley, KUNC’s presence is felt across the State of Colorado. There are 20 towers broadcasting KUNC programs across Colorado. KUNC was the first station in the state to air NPR’s “All Things Considered” and “Morning Edition.” KUNC will celebrate its 50th anniversary this year, and so much has changed beyond just ownership in 2001. The station has grown from a small, college station to an organization with a budget of $3.2 million that is sustained by 32 staff members and has 220,000 listeners. Best also recognized the challenges in the radio industry, such as the need to engage younger listeners and adjust to the technology shifts that came in 2007, when more people relied on streaming services to listen to their music and news. Facilities have also been among the significant change to the station in the past 50 years. While KUNC was initially operated on UNC’s campus, the station is now operated from an office in west Greeley, where the tour was held. Best showed the Boettcher Scholars where both prerecorded and live broadcasts are transmitted from, along with the newsroom, control room and various offices. The modern technology used to operate KUNC was juxtaposed with old-fashioned radio sets from when the station was first launched. The lobby’s wall holds a large map of Colorado, with 20 KUNC icons located across the map indicating the 20 towers. After the tour concluded, the group went to enjoy dinner and each other’s company at the Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant in downtown Greeley. The group was also able to check out the Greeley Blues Jam Kickoff event, an evening of live music and community celebration. The event brought together scholars who are all from different years and different fields, yet united in their curiosity to learn about a Colorado-based organization, and the desire to build community with their fellow Boettcher Scholars. **This tour was organized by Boettcher Scholar Alumni Board Programs Committee Co-Chair, Tracy Wahl, who worked at NPR headquarters in D.C. for 20 years....

Members of the Boettcher Scholar Alumni Board are interviewing their fellow Boettcher Scholars to help the community get to know one another better. The following Q&A was compiled by Boettcher Scholar Gergana Kostadinova. Name: Emily Wolverton Scholar Year: 2013 Hometown: Montrose College(s), Degree(s): University of Denver, B.S. in biology; minors in business administration, leadership studies and chemistry. Graduating June 2017 What are you currently interested in pursuing after graduating? I am currently applying to medical schools all over the country, but I have a year off during the application process. I will be working as a scribe for a surgeon in Montrose until December, then I am participating in a program called Somos Hermanos in Guatemala for five months. In this program, I will take medical Spanish lessons for two months, then work in a health setting like public health outreach or as an aide in a clinic for the next three months. I have wanted to improve my Spanish skills, so I am excited to have this opportunity and hopefully become fluent! Tell us about what activities, groups and/or organizations you have joined in college and why you joined them. Throughout college I have been involved primarily in the Pioneer Leadership Program. Aside from earning a minor in leadership studies, I joined this program for the outstanding community it provided. I have volunteered in several hospitals both to stay engaged with the Denver community and to increase my exposure to the world of health. I worked as a tour guide and orientation leader at DU because I had an exceptional college experience and wanted to share my enthusiasm for the school with prospective and new students. Finally, I loved playing volleyball throughout my DU career in intramurals, a Wash Park league and just for fun on campus. Tell us about an important mentor you have had. Throughout college I have appreciated the number and quality of mentors I have been privileged to know. However, one of the most helpful mentors is one I was paired with through the Pioneer Leadership Program, and she happens to be a Boettcher Scholar as well. Claudia Temmer and I first met electronically when I was a senior in high school because my grandparents knew her family and knew she received the Boettcher Scholarship. Back then, she chatted with me on the phone and gave me some interview tips. Four years later, PLP paired us through the Alumni Mentor Program and she has been pivotal in my preparation for medical school. Claudia has been important because she has not only provided support and comfort when I get worried about the medical acceptance statistics, but she has also called me to answer my questions, read draft after draft of my personal statement and met with me in person to share her experience in medical school. What's the best advice you've ever received? There is always time to do the things you love, so if you don't have enough time, you need to re-evaluate your commitments. If you could have dinner with one or more people from history, whom would you choose and why?  I would choose to have dinner with Martin Luther King Jr. because I think he would have great stories to tell and could give me great advice about leadership and mobilizing people toward a goal....

Members of the Boettcher Scholar Alumni Board are interviewing their fellow Boettcher Scholars to help the community get to know one another better. The following Q&A was compiled by Boettcher Scholar Gergana Kostadinova. Name: Brian Peagler Scholar Year: 1998 Hometown: Denver College(s), Degree(s) and Graduation Year(s): University of Denver, Bachelors in Computer Engineering, Masters in Business Administration, 2005 Tell us about your current work and how long you’ve been doing it. What is your favorite aspect of your current occupation? I currently work as the finance systems manager for eBags, the world’s largest online retailer of luggage, handbags and travel accessories. I’m responsible for our back office software, which allows eBags to pay vendors, order inventory and report our financials. I’ve been with eBags for nearly five years. The favorite aspect of my current position is that I’m given a lot of autonomy in the work that I perform. I am more involved in the day-to-day business of the company, use my expertise in application development and find ways to leverage my system to improve our company performance. What role has being a Boettcher Scholar played into where you are and what you are doing now? Being a Boettcher Scholar has had a direct impact on where I am and what I do currently. Thinking back to my senior year of high school, I was dead set on heading out of state for college. Learning that I had won this scholarship quickly changed my mind. Weeks later, I had taken an internship with J.D. Edwards (a software company that has made my career) and was on my way to the University of Denver. There are a handful of life-defining moments and getting that congratulatory phone call is near the top of the list for me. Tell us about your involvement in activities, organizations or groups outside of work. A great deal of my time outside of work is spent in and around the University of Denver. From volunteering on the Alumni Association Board for the Pioneer Leadership Program to attending concerts and athletic events, I am an active alumnus and engage with the university in any way it will allow me to. The way for me to continuously stimulate my curiosity and push myself to learn new things is to be engaged in a community that fosters that environment. What’s the best advice you’ve received and what advice do you have for new graduates entering your career field? The best advice I’ve received is to find what motivates you. Once you’ve found that, align your career to that motivation as best you can. The easiest way to find work/life balance is to find a career where your life is enriched by it, not weighed against it. For current graduates entering software development – focus on how you get things done. The syntax and languages will always evolve and change, but if you have a steady focus on your process for producing great applications and tools, you’ll always have the drive to succeed. If you could have dinner with one person or a few people from history, whom would you choose and why? I feel like I should list a former U.S. president or world leader, but I would like to have dinner with Jackie Robinson. Besides the major implications he has had on the history of baseball (and American society), he is the single player that inspired me to play baseball and follow the game to this day. I feel that Major League Baseball does a tremendous job in honoring his legacy each year. I’ve read several books about his life, but I would want to learn firsthand some of the history behind playing for the Dodgers during that era....

By Beth Baker Owens Boettcher Scholar Alumni Board As part of our annual spring service project, 17 Boettcher Scholars and friends gathered at the The GrowHaus in north Denver’s Elyria-Swansea neighborhood on a sunny, cool Saturday in April to lend a hand and learn what’s happening there. The GrowHaus is a nonprofit community center that combines hydroponics, aquaponics and permaculture farming with a daily market, food pantry and education. The nonprofit is pioneering food access in a neighborhood that is known as a “food desert,” meaning there are no food stores for miles. Also, the soil in many places is contaminated from earlier industrial wastes, making traditional gardens problematic in the neighborhood. Inside the warm greenhouses is a paradise of edible plants. Some plants grow in water, others in ecosystems with fish in ponds that feed and water the plants. Others are in raised beds and hanging baskets. The Boettcher Scholar volunteer group planted, tended and watered plants. The worm beds needed new materials, so we shredded paper and mixed it into the worm bed for a tactile adventure. We also tore apart an old shed cover. While we worked, a group of about 15 kids and parents had an experiential class on growing food. The areas inside and outside were full of conversation and laughter. As the kids’ class ended, the market opened in the front of the building. A steady stream of neighbors came in to purchase fresh vegetables and herbs. The GrowHaus then became a quiet oasis where we finished with a potluck and sandwiches provided by the Boettcher Foundation. Many thanks to alumni board member Kelley Ritz and Boettcher staffer Marisa Pooley for their capable planning and implementation of this fun and educational event....

Members of the Boettcher Scholar Alumni Board are interviewing their fellow Boettcher Scholars to help the community get to know one another better. The following Q&A was compiled by Boettcher Scholar Gergana Kostadinova. Name: Mary Margaret Knudson Hesse Scholar Year: 1992 Hometown: Colorado Springs College(s), Degree(s) and Graduation Year(s): University of Colorado at Boulder, B.A. in Spanish and English, minor in Mathematics, 1997; M.A. Georgetown University, Security Studies and International Security, 2004 Tell us about your current work and how long you’ve been doing it. What is your favorite aspect of your current occupation? My primary focus in recent years has been on raising my children. I currently also work part-time with a local nonprofit, Raising a Reader, promoting early childhood literacy for low-income, at-risk and immigrant families on Colorado’s western slope. I formerly served as a foreign service officer with the U.S. Department of State overseas and in Washington, D.C., as a civil servant with the U.S. Department of Defense and for a defense contracting company working for NATO and the U.S. Joint Forces Command. I continue to serve as a senior foreign affairs consultant for a global defense company. What role has being a Boettcher Scholar played into where you are and what you are doing now? Receiving the Boettcher Scholarship was life-changing. The freedom from financial pressures that came along with the scholarship allowed me to pursue international study and work experiences as well as a heavy course load in college, helping to jump-start my career in foreign affairs. I appreciate the Boettcher Foundation’s ethos of service and community and believe we all have roles to play in supporting and uplifting our communities. Tell us about your involvement in activities, organizations or groups outside of work. I support my children’s school as a weekly volunteer providing math enrichment, serve on the school’s accountability board, and enjoy speaking with high school students about the college scholarship and admissions process as a Boettcher Ambassador. I serve periodically as a volunteer interpreter on international medical brigades, and am working to expose my children to the broader world through Spanish instruction at home and annual language/immersion trips to Guatemala. Living in rural western Colorado, I enjoy participating in many outdoor mountain activities. In the summer I coax a few vegetables out of a community garden plot. What’s the best advice you’ve received and what advice do you have for new graduates entering your career field? Concise, incisive writing and speaking are highly valued skills in many careers, including the Foreign Service. A mentor once counseled me to always consider the question, “So what?” (why does this matter?) in my writing. I would advise students to keep this question in mind in life in general as well as in work. It is useful periodically to take stock of what we are doing and to consider, “So what? How is who I am and what I am doing making the world, or the day, better for someone? Is this the best way to use my time and talents?” If you could have dinner with one person or a few people from history, whom would you choose and why? I recently read Guatemalan human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize recipient Rigoberta Menchu’s autobiography, and I admire her work to support the rights of women and indigenous people. She came from an extremely humble background and had very little education and few resources. Despite suffering though persecution as well as the torture and murder of several family members at the hands of the military regime, through her tenacity and dedication she drew worldwide attention to the plight of indigenous Guatemalans and has supported an international movement for peace, justice and equality....

Members of the Boettcher Scholar Alumni Board are interviewing their fellow Boettcher Scholars to help the community get to know one another better. The following Q&A was compiled by Boettcher Scholar Gergana Kostadinova. Name: Michael Gohde Scholar Year: 2016 Hometown: Colorado Springs College(s), Degree(s): University of Colorado Colorado Springs What are you currently interested in pursuing after graduating? After I graduate, I plan on attending grad school to study either computer systems or machine learning. I have worked for three cutting-edge labs for the last four+ years and they have all in some way shaped what I want to do. Among these experiences, my work with the Cox Lab at Harvard University has had the greatest influence. The Cox Lab is currently focused on developing biologically inspired machine learning systems, which fascinate me. I have worked in their lab for two years and will return this summer. In the long-term, I would like to start a business specializing in one of these fields. Tell us about what activities, groups and/or organizations you have joined in college and why you joined them. From prior experience, I’ve learned to try to stick to a few core activities so my schedule can remain somewhat flexible. I somewhat regularly attend swing dance, car club and comedy club meetings as time allows. These clubs represent some of the most interesting options available to me. I was also actively involved in campaigning for one of the tickets in the recent CU Student Government elections since I was able to meet the candidates and believed that their platform and passion made them worthwhile. Besides this, I have continued to make and distribute cancer care kits at Penrose Hospital. I also work for both CU Boulder’s Dowell Lab and during vacations, I return and help out at the Vision and Security Technology Lab at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs.   Tell us about an important mentor you have had. One of the greatest mentors I’ve ever had was Dr. Dana Wortman at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs. As my Intro to Computer Science professor, she was monumental in transforming my general and scattered interest in computer science into a well-directed vision. I attended my first class with her when I was 13, and, despite the significant age difference between all of the other students and myself, she made me feel as though I belonged in the class. She never treated me as anything other than an equal, and she always challenged me to strive for more and to do better. Later on, I took her Game AI and C++ classes, where I learned to write clean code and documentation. In the times when she was not my teacher, she was a mentor and good friend. What's the best advice you've ever received? Some of the best advice that I’ve gotten was from Dr. Terrance Boult, who told me to build solid working relationships and have a reputation as a hard worker. Working for him and taking his advice has and will continue to provide opportunities for me, and someday it will allow me to provide opportunities to others.   If you could have dinner with one or more people from history, whom would you choose and why?  If I could have dinner with one or more people from history, then I would be most interested in meeting any of the directors of Bell Labs. It would be fascinating to learn how they fostered a culture and atmosphere of such outstanding productivity and creativity within a for-profit institution....

Members of the Boettcher Scholar Alumni Board are interviewing their fellow Boettcher Scholars to help the community get to know one another better. The following Q&A was compiled by Boettcher Scholar Gergana Kostadinova. Name: Jasmine (Jazzy) Middleton Scholar Year: 2016 Hometown: Aurora College(s), Degree(s): University of Northern Colorado, Acting What are you currently interested in pursuing after graduating? I am currently pursuing a degree in acting! I’m hoping to act for a while after college but my long-term goal is to own my own theatre so that I may show how much art can positively impact any community. It’s been a dream of mine for a long time and I am working hard to make it a reality. Tell us about what activities, groups and/or organizations you have joined in college and why you joined them. Being an acting major takes up quite a bit of time on its own… so most of the activities I’ve joined have stayed very close to the theatre. I have joined some wonderful student troupes that put-on productions here and there, which has been a unique experience. I also was lucky enough to be cast in a main-stage production second semester, which is wonderfully wonderful but also wonderfully time-consuming. Even with the business of a college performing arts career, I have been attending a multitude of public events put on by various student groups. It is a great way to be involved even when you can’t join a club. I’ve also been going to youth group with Intervarsity which is a great way to meet people. Tell us about an important mentor you have had. One of my most important mentors was my high school theatre teacher Eric Eidson. Not only did he teach me so much about my craft and about the importance of pursuing my passions, but he also taught me so much about navigating life and staying positive. Unfortunately, his dorky sense of humor rubbed off on me too, but he’s a person whose qualities are contagious if you’re seeking success, so I’m not too upset about it. We’re still very close even though I’m out of high school, and he’s still proven to be a mentor to me. I cherish getting to have such a great adult in my life! What's the best advice you've ever received? Something I always turn to when life is getting tough is something one of my incredibly wise friends told me in high school. She told me “always live life 15 minutes at a time”. It seems simple but it really changes your perspective on things! If you take life in 15 minutes it really takes the weight of the future off your shoulders, especially in an institutionalized education lifestyle where things feel like they’re hitting you all at once. Just breathe, worry about the next fifteen minutes and write everything long-term in your planner. (Have a really nice pack of pens to do it with, too!) You’ll never be stressed again, which opens life up for all the beauty that it holds. If you could have dinner with one person or a few people from history, whom would you choose and why? If I could have a sit-down dinner with Bob Marley I would be the happiest girl who ever has existed. He is inspirational in his outside-of-the-box way of thinking and his positive philosophies. He’s not one of those creepy positive people who you can just tell are faking it though, he’s down-to-earth and super meta. I feel like we’d vibe well. We’re also both Aquarians and that kind of rocks too....

Members of the Boettcher Scholar Alumni Board are interviewing their fellow Boettcher Scholars to help the community get to know one another better. The following Q&A was compiled by Boettcher Scholar Gergana Kostadinova. Name: Kenzo Kawanabe Scholar Year: 1990 Hometown: Alamosa  College(s), Degree(s) and Graduation Year(s): University of Colorado, BA (1994), and Georgetown University Law Center, J.D. (1997) Tell us about your current work and how long you’ve been doing it. What is your favorite aspect of your current occupation? For 18 years, I have been a commercial trial lawyer at Davis Graham & Stubbs LLP, one of Colorado’s oldest and largest law firms. I represent clients in a variety of matters relating to commercial disputes, mass torts and intellectual property, in a variety of industries including energy, technology, aviation, engineering and real estate.  I am a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, and I enjoy helping my clients solve their problems. Prior to joining DGS, I served as a law clerk for the Honorable Mary J. Mullarkey, Chief Justice of the Colorado Supreme Court. What role has being a Boettcher Scholar played into where you are and what you are doing now? Obviously, the Boettcher Scholarship paid for my college, for which I am eternally grateful. But more importantly, the Boettcher family taught me about philanthropy and working towards the greater good of a stronger community and state. As a Trustee of the Boettcher Foundation and a member of the Boettcher Scholar Alumni Board, I am committed the paying this generous gift forward. Tell us about your involvement in activities, organizations or groups outside of work. In the legal profession, I teach trial skills and the rule of law, and serve as the Pro Bono Partner at my firm. I was the first-ever General Counsel for the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, and serve on the Boards of the Center for Legal Inclusiveness, CO Lawyers Committee and CO Legal Services. In addition to my legal community service, I have served on the Boards of the Boettcher Foundation, Denver Foundation, Sakura Foundation, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Community Resource Center and CO Nonprofit Development Center. The activities I enjoy the most are spending time (traveling, eating, laughing, etc.) with my family including my wife (Irene), daughters (Mika and Aya), and 85-pound dog (Fozzie). What’s the best advice you’ve received and what advice do you have for new graduates entering your career field? The rule of law is a pillar of our democracy, and attorneys are the guardians of the rule of law. The law opens so many doors to so many different jobs.  Find what makes you happy (your Happiness Factor). While I am not encouraging you to act on whims, I do believe that true introspection will allow you to obtain a satisfying career(s) in the law. If you could have dinner with one person or a few people from history, whom would you choose and why? Abraham Lincoln and Ralph Carr: two lawyers who followed their moral compass to be on the right side of history....

In an effort to connect Boettcher Scholars across the country, both with each other and their communities, we've started organizing scholar service days in a variety of U.S. cities outside Colorado. Most recently, a small but mighty crew of alumni volunteered at a "community build" with Sawhorse Revolution, a Seattle-based nonprofit that provides free, yearlong carpentry and design programs for diverse youth. McKenna Asakawa, a 2012 scholar,  now works for Sawhorse Revolution and helped to organize the service project. "Despite heavy rain, our community build on Saturday was a big success! Volunteers helped us make progress on the 'Parabay Homes,' a tiny house duplex designed for a homeless family," said McKenna. "In mid-April, we'll deliver it to a new, city-sanctioned tiny house village in Georgetown. The Parabay Homes are generating significant excitement, since they are the only homes designed specifically for a family experiencing homelessness." Volunteers spent the day measuring, cutting, and installing interior and exterior paneling.  Michael Estrada, a 2010 scholar, drove all the way  from Bellingham (near the Canadian border) to participate in the service day. "His building prowess, collaboration, and commitment really helped us move forward with the interior of the duplex half designed for kids," McKenna noted. "I was blown away by his dedication and so enjoyed connecting with him!"    ...