Alumni Spotlight: Vanessa Gerber ’11

IMG_6904
Tell us about your life today.

After graduating from UC Berkeley last spring, I am now a bit farther from home doing my masters at Oxford! At Berkeley I designed my own major within the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management and loved the interdisciplinary approach I was able to take in looking at energy and resource issues. Looking for an opportunity to learn even more and fully engage in the world of climate science, energy systems and policy, and solution-oriented business models and governance systems I found just what I was looking for in the MSc in Environmental Change and Management here at Oxford. I will be doing my dissertation this summer in the realm of energy and development, hopefully traveling to Zambia to work on a project regarding solar-powered mini-grid infrastructure and their role in rural electrification projects, as well as various knock-on effects.

A few new friends and I also decided, particularly in light of all of the political developments back home in the States, that we should restart and revitalize the abandoned Oxford Student American Society to create a platform for events and discussion regarding politics, culture, and other stories happening in the US. Oxford is a very international place, and it has been great to see a variety of people engaging in these issues, as well as a way for US students to remain involved and active in discussions regarding critical issues from which we may otherwise feel removed.

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Vanessa with Ben Bogin, Maddy Scheer, and Talia Krahling in the 2011 MA Yearbook.

Outside of work, what are you passionate about?

At Cal I was on the Women’s Rowing Team for four years and hoped to be able to continue rowing at a competitive level at Oxford, though the demanding schedule of my course had other plans for me. Now I am spending more time going to a variety of fascinating lectures around campus, volunteering at the local farmers’ market, and playing my guitar in my ‘free’ time!


Looking back on the classes that you took at MA, which had the greatest impact on you and why?

Honestly, I cite J O’Malley’s English II class my sophomore year as a critical turning point for not only the quality of my writing, but also my relationship with writing… I love to do it! Additionally, I would say AP Environmental Science was probably the point at which I confirmed my passion for environmental studies and action, and influenced my choice of major at Cal, my current masters, and my future career aspirations.

What is one of your best MA memories?

I absolutely loved the senior backpacking trip to Pt Reyes in our final weeks. Getting to really talk with my classmates, enjoy Marin’s beauty, be outside, and look back on the wonderful four years we had spent together was a beautiful and memorable cap to my time at MA.

 

On the windy Welsh coast at the end of a field course on marine and coastal ecosystems and management challenges.

On the windy Welsh coast at the end of a field course on marine and coastal ecosystems and management challenges.

If you were to re-enroll at Marin Academy, what would you do differently the second time around?

I would make more of an effort to get to know folks outside of my immediate friend group on a deeper level, and that includes teachers. Something I still struggle with is talking with professors about ideas and questions, and I think if I had done that more in high school I could have fostered a better ability and comfort with doing it now, too.

Tell us about the first time you remember taking a big risk or stepped outside your comfort zone at MA.

Spirit Week during the Fall of my freshman year I went big. I was still in the awkward early stages of freshman year in high school, but that didn’t stop me from getting creative and wearing ridiculous costumes (like a full black and glitter halter-top jumpsuit, go-go boots, a wig and a jacket some might describe as some sort of velvet cape on Disco 70s day…). It was the kind of thing where I felt fine about it at home, but the second we rolled up to the Circle my stomach dropped with immediate regret, but I got out of the car, owned up to my awesome costume, and I think I made some friends that day. I realized how trivial so many things are that make us self-conscious, and I realized how fun it was to just be out there.

 

Interested in being featured in the Alumni Spotlight or a speaker at our Alumni Speaker Series?  Fill out our Alumni Spotlight Questionnaire or send a message to Beth Sherman ’96, Director of Alumni Relations!

Alumni Spotlight: Sky Nelson ’92

IMG_7703Tell us about your life today. 

I live with my wife Dana Nelson-Isaacs (MA class of 1992) and our 6 year old daughter Eliana. I left a software job last year in order to pursue a Master’s degree in Physics at San Francisco State University. I am in the process of publishing my first book, titled “What Are the Chances? Science, Serendipity, and Seizing the Moment.” I still play music semi-professionally, on the weekends. I often play at spiritual centers where I also give a talk on my research into synchronicity. I spent the last weekend at a meditation retreat with a local research institution where we began work coding a mobile app that allows users to test for “psi” abilities (more commonly referred to as psychic). Dana and I both work largely from home, and get quality time to spend together and with Eliana.

Outside of work, what are you passionate about? 

I have been studying the fundamentals of quantum mechanics in order to develop a theory to describe how meaningful coincidences happen, aka synchronicity. I have had a growing number of these experiences over the past decade, and would like to be able to bring them into mainstream science.

image1 (2)Looking back on the classes that you took at MA, which one had the greatest impact on you and why? 

In music classes with Bob Schleeter, I had the freedom to create. The class was driven by the ingenuity of the students, and we made it what we wanted it to be. For my senior project, I created a concert involving a wide variety of friends that I had played music with in various ways. It was sort of a variety show, and it was an amazing climax to my experience of creative freedom at MA.

What is one of your best MA memories? 

There are so many, that none stands out above the rest. But I will never forget my expeditions cross country skiing in Shasta as well as rock climbing in Joshua Tree. It was an amazingly free opportunity to get to connect with friends from school and form real, lasting bonds and social skills.

If you were to re-enroll at Marin Academy, what would you do differently the second time around?

Take more than two years of math! I have spent quite a bit of time making up for the math classes I didn’t want to take in high school, because I need them in what I am doing now!

Tell us about the first time you remember taking a big risk or stepped outside your comfort zone at MA.

For me, MA was a chance to start over. I had a very stagnant group of friends from elementary school in the town where I grew up, and I felt insecure and lonely. When I arrived at MA, I was nervous and shy. For the first few weeks of the semester freshman year I would go down to the arcade on fourth street during lunch and play video games. It was an easy way to feel happy and not have to break out of my shell.

IMG_7718One day in October, I decided that what I really wanted was to have new friends at school, so I decided to stay on campus for lunch and try to sit down with a new group. It was very scary, but I got myself to do it. I did it the next day, too, and very shortly I found myself comfortable with this new group of people. Those new friends were the heart and soul of my high school experience, and they have remained my friends to this day (including my wonderful wife Dana).

Anything else you’d like to share with the MA community?

I have found that if we have the energy and the motivation, we can start new chapters at any stage in our lives. We cannot necessarily know the path our life will take right out of high school, and we shouldn’t let anyone tell us it is too late to try something new further on down the line. Many different life paths are possible, and the most fulfilling ones are the ones we design for ourselves.

Interested in being featured in the Alumni Spotlight or a speaker at our Alumni Speaker Series?  Fill out our Alumni Spotlight Questionnaire or send a message to Beth Sherman ’96, Director of Alumni Relations!

Alumni Spotlight: Rachel Adam ’01

RR_Shot1. Tell us about your life today. 

I am a freelance artist and graphic designer. My husband and I live in the Outer Sunset, right near my brother (Tyler, MA Class of ’03). We recently moved back to SF after living in Brooklyn for many many years and I am so happy to be home! I spent most of my time in NYC working in publishing – specifically in book cover design, which was a total dream. Getting to design book covers all day really is as wonderful as one would imagine. Now that I’m in San Francisco, I still work on book covers, but my custom art and freelance design career has also been growing strong, which is super exciting! You can check out my work at www.rachelrogersdesign.com or www.racheladam.com.  Really, I couldn’t be happier about where my life and career has taken me.

2. Outside of work, what are you passionate about? 

Since returning to SF my passion for fresh air, water and sunshine has only grown stronger. We surf at ocean beach or Bolinas all the time. I also love to run, hike, cycle, swim and generally play in the sun. And although I know it’s sometimes work, I love to paint and let the creativity flow.

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Tyler Adam ’03, Megan Clark ’01, and Rachel in the 2000 Yearbook.

3. Looking back on the classes that you took at MA, which one had the greatest impact on you and why? 

I couldn’t get enough of my history classes at MA and in hindsight, the passion I developed for history informed a lot of my interests since. I studied Political Science in college, which I basically consider a combo of history + philosophy. And as an artist/designer I’ve tapped into my love of history quite a bit. Most notably, I recently completed a set of Early Californian portraits in which I painted 12 historically relevant individuals who were alive during the time of pre-statehood. Also, my photography classes with Dan Babior made a huge impact on me (didn’t he make an impact on everyone? He’s so great!). His class was one of the first instances where I learned to be a little less lazy with my creativity and push it further than I knew I could. Knowing how to edit and push myself creatively has been invaluable in my profession.

4. What is one of your best MA memories? 

Looking back, I often think of lunch periods spent on the porch with my best friends, enjoying the sunshine and all the goings-on around me. I think of those moments with such contentment.

5. If you were to re-enroll at Marin Academy, what would you do differently the second time around?

Oh…I’m not sure…I came from an all-girls grade school so I was a little scared of talking to boys my freshmen year. Turns out they aren’t so bad 🙂 I would tell my younger self not to worry so much. Ha.

Interested in being featured in the Alumni Spotlight or a speaker at our Alumni Speaker Series?  Send a message to Beth Sherman ’96, Director of Alumni Relations!

Alumni Spotlight: Collin Wikman ’06

Earlier this month Collin joined us on campus for pizza and conversation with our current students as part of our Alumni Speaker Series. Collin, one of the first designers at Square, spoke to students about his time at MA, his professional journey, and how design influences our daily lives.

966403_10201713523534229_1318634815_oTell us about your life today.

At the heart of it, I am a maker. As I look back, I have always been a maker  – orchestrating pranks, building legos, tearing it down to rebuild it, designing go carts, etc. Making is in my blood and is my biggest passion. Combined with the fortune of living during a time of incredible technological evolution, making is ultimately what has led me to a where I am today.

Today I find myself living in San Francisco, the heart of technical innovation, and working at Square, a payments company that has led the charge in advancing commerce and democratizing the unchanged and unfair payments industry. 11947757_10156082858715038_1248002459069344925_oI have been a product designer at Square for the last 4 years and have seen it go from a small startup to now over 1400 employees, issuing $225M in business financing and Square Sellers being the 13th largest retailer in the country behind companies like Walmart, Amazon and McDonald’s. It has been a wild and unforgettable journey – one that I have been so lucky to be a part of. As a product designer, I have designed the experiences and interfaces of our mobile and web apps, ranging from our original Square Register product to some of the more recent products that are focused on enhancing the relationship of a merchant and their customers. I am so excited for the future and what Square will have to offer!

Outside of work, what are you passionate about?

Outside of work, you will often find me being active in the sun or in the workshop building some new passion project. As of recent I have been getting more into road biking as my soccer career seems to be winding down due to knee problems and surgery. In the workshop, I have built a wide variety of projects ranging from restoring an old ‘67 Mustang to refurbishing an old sailboat.

Looking back on the classes that you took at MA, which one had the greatest impact on you and why?

Looking back (10 years, which is crazy!) there are two classes that have really stuck with me and have helped be get to where I am. The first one is photography with Jenny Rosenberg. While photography was not my ultimate calling, the class fostered a level of creativity that allowed me to find my true passion in the design world. The second is History, Culture & Identity (HCI) with Bill Meyer. It was actually the first HCI class that Bill taught at MA and it had a lasting impression. It really taught me how to think. I still believe I wrote some of my best papers in that class.

Collin circa 2006

Collin circa 2006

What is one of your best MA memories?

Soccer was such a big part of my high school years. I have no words to express how influential Coach Josh Kalkstein and all my teammates were in me becoming who I am. There are so many memories from soccer, but one of my favorites and most comedic happened when I was a freshman. As a freshman, especially a smaller one, our jerseys never seemed to fit – really big and baggy. At one point, during a game up in Davis, CA the ball got kicked over a fence into a meadow. Given that I was the only freshman on the team and on the bench, it was my job to go get the ball. On my way back as I was climbing back over the fence, the back of my jersey got caught on the top of the fence leaving me hanging by my jersey and requiring some of my teammates to help unhook me and bring me down. I was beyond embarrassed, but looking back at it, it is such a fond memory.

If you were to re-enroll at Marin Academy, what would you do differently the second time around?

If I could do all again, there is one thing I would have taken more advantage of. The outings program. There were so many great trips and adventures offered and I really don’t think I did any! Major bummer.

Tell us about the first time you remember taking a big risk or stepped outside your comfort zone at MA.

Again, this brings me back to freshman year soccer. I can remember my first game I started being absolutely terrified. Ross Porter ’03 (then a senior) was injured and I remember hearing my name called to start warming up. The butterflies got worse. I went in playing in the back and remembering a bit lost. Within the first couple minutes, I made a strong slide tackle winning the ball back. I vividly remember Andrew Nourafshan ’03 (also a senior) coming up behind me afterward yelling and patting me (pretty hard) on the back telling me I was the [expletive] man. After that, the nerves were gone and the next four years on the field were some of the best I ever had.

Interested in being featured in the Alumni Spotlight or a speaker at our Alumni Speaker Series?  Send a message to Beth Sherman ’96, Director of Alumni Relations!

Alumni Spotlight: Adriana Baer ’00

Adriana Baer headshot1. Tell us about your life today. 

I live in Portland, Oregon with my husband Ryan Durham (also class of 2000), and I am the Artistic Director of Profile Theatre.  It took me a while to get back to the West Coast from NYC, and I’m so happy to be back!  Besides directing, I also spend time trying to grow tomatoes in a place that rains all the time and at the coast enjoying the Pacific Ocean.

2. Outside of work, what are you passionate about?
Cooking, gardening, exploring the Pacific Northwest, yoga and meditation.

3. Looking back on the classes that you took at MA, which one had the greatest impact on you and why?
There were so many classes that were impactful for me that it’s completely impossible to choose one.  The obvious choice would be my senior year directing class with Rob Melrose since that set me on a course to where I am now.  But to be honest, I think that my Algebra II class with David Badger was just as important to me since it showed me that I could think analytically as well as theoretically.  It was awesome to be inspired by math as much as I was inspired by the arts.  I also think a lot about history with James Shipman and Doug Woodbrown, chemistry with John Hicks, all my Japanese classes, and English 1 with Eugenie Chan.

4. What is one of your best MA memories?
Senior Vision Quest.  How amazing to be howling at the moon at the end of high school!  I have a deep gratitude for that experience.

5. If you were to re-enroll at Marin Academy, what would you do differently the second time around?
What a great question!  I think I would go on more outings, and make sure I did something really different from my normal interests during Minicourse.

6. Tell us about the first time you remember taking a big risk or stepped outside your comfort zone at MA.
This is probably not the first time, however…  I was always good at performing other peoples’ stories and writing, but for my Senior Speech, I read a creative short story I had written myself.  Even though I was comfortable speaking in front of people, it was a big difference sharing my own words in that way with the whole school.

Alumni Spotlight: Daniel Herzberg ’86

1.  Tell us about your life today.

_MG_5678As an Accelerated Learning Specialist I consult with families to help teens prepare in high school to get into college and thrive when they get there.  I recently created the Accelerated SAT Mastery Online Program with Live Expert Coaching (www.AcceleratedSATMastery.com).  It took six years to create but it’s comprehensive and I’m enjoying helping a lot more teens than I could when I only worked only directly with them one-on-one.  I still coach teens around the US and internationally on the SAT, ACT, test anxiety, writing personal statements for college admissions, time management, and study skills. So far I have worked with over 7000 families over the past 23 years.

2.  Outside of work, what are you passionate about?

I love spending time with friends, hiking with my dog, biking, singing, playing music, and learning foreign languages.  I enjoy traveling, and have traveled and lived all over the continental US, Alaska, Mexico, Western Europe, and Thailand. This next year I want to visit Bali and the Philippines.

I enjoy writing, especially on topics that help others.  I am finishing writing a book titled Transformational Travel: How to Transform your Life Path Through Conscious Vacations.  My Vision Quest experience was a big part of my own personal journey.  I like helping people achieve accelerated change in their lives through travel.  I am also wrapping up writing a book giving mentorship & advice to young adults as they transition out of college.  My working title for that is Get Ready for the Real World Slap.  I like helping young adults get into college AND successfully transition out.

3.  Looking back on the classes that you took at MA, which one had the greatest impact on you and why?

They all did in some way, and that awareness has only grown stronger and unfolded more over the years.  I teach all the junior high and high school subjects to the teens I work with, which I couldn’t do if I hadn’t had a solid foundation at MA.  I especially liked literature and the way it tied in with outdoor experiences.  Beau Leonhart was an amazing and inspiring calculus teacher and Vision Quest leader.  John Hicks was a great physics teacher.  I feel today so inspired by all the teachers I had at MA.  I realize every year how lucky I was to attend MA.  It really was a privilege.

4.  What is one of your best MA memories?

My Vision Quest experience altered the course of my life, and opened me up to a much more self-aware way of being in the world.  I think often about how we are so inundated with media and American consumerism, which I felt acutely during and after my Vision Quest.  It helped me to learn to look more closely for what really matters.  The best things in life are not things.

5.  If you were to re-enroll at Marin Academy, what would you do differently the second time around?

Remember to look for the good in every experience at MA.  Not much was gained by being cynical or complaining.  Probably fewer parties.  I would have been involved in more clubs and done as many outdoor activities as possible.  I probably would have tried to fit in less and try to find my own unique voice.  I would have sung more.  Life is too short not to sing every day.

Interested in being in the Alumni Spotlight?  Send a message to Beth Sherman ’96, Director of Alumni Relations!

Alumni Spotlight: Katherine Disenhof ’08

Headshot - KDisenhof1. Tell us about your life today.
Life is very busy at the moment! In January of 2014, I was fortunate enough to join a San Francisco-based dance company called Robert Moses’ Kin. We are currently preparing for the company’s 20th anniversary home season, SILT, which will premiere a one-of-a-kind installation-style dance at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Forum (May 14-17). Our home season will be followed by a tour to Aspen and then another set of local performances at ODC Theater (June 18-21). I’m simultaneously a graphic designer at Alonzo King LINES Ballet, where I’ve been on staff for about three years. Most of my free time is filled with freelance dance projects and design work.

2. Outside of work, what are you passionate about?
I spend a lot of time soaking up the local dance scene – I’ve tried my best to make my passion my work! Otherwise, I love exploring San Francisco, usually with a camera in hand.

3. Looking back on the classes that you took at MA, which one had the greatest impact on you and why?
During my freshmen year, I had Visual Arts I with Katharine Boyd for one of my morning blocks. The class exposed me to such a wonderful and vast range of media and techniques that have informed what I do today. Moreover, I really appreciated being able to start my day thinking and working artistically. I remember some days it almost felt meditative. I think setting up that creative mindset at the beginning of the school day benefited my subsequent classes, allowing me to approach them more openly and imaginatively.

Performing with Robert Moses’ Kin in India in 2014.

Performing with Robert Moses’ Kin in India in 2014.

4. What is one of your best MA memories?
I have many little memories… Mark Stefanski having my Biology class hunt for M&M’s in the Circle with different utensils during a lesson on natural selection, the egg drop contest in Physics with Ken Lanik, connecting with local youth via the Crossroads outreach program, etc. One particular moment that stands out as a highlight though was my senior “speech”. I performed in a Senior Arts Assembly and dancing solo for my peers and teachers was empowering!

5. If you were to re-enroll at Marin Academy, what would you do differently the second time around?
Tough question! If I got a do-over, I would try to be more engaged with the MA community outside of the classroom. There is such a rich diversity of people, ideas, and interests at students’ fingertips! I feel like was so concentrated on the classroom aspect of the experience that I barely scratched the surface of everything that was happening on campus.

Interested in being in the Alumni Spotlight?  Send a message to Beth Sherman ’96, Director of Alumni Relations!