Ever hear an interview and crave more? Us too!
Welcome to Season One of Behind the Biography - a podcast where we dig deeper with the professionals in our Speaker Network to get insight into key career decisions, what drives their success, and what the future might hold. Follow on your favorite podcast apps.
Episode 15: Malaika Serrano
This week we are joined by special guest Malaika Serrano. Malaika is a certified Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) professional who has a burning passion for driving systemic change that benefits historically marginalized communities. She spent her undergraduate days at the University of Southern Cal, before heading east to pursue her Masters at the University of Maryland and obtain her Diversity and Inclusion Certification from Cornell. She has her Ph.D in Environmental Science & Policy from the nearby George Mason University. Malaika is someone who finds joy in connecting with people from all walks of life and loved her experiences living and teaching abroad.
Episode 15: Ryan Valdez
Ryan Valdez is a STEM career and academic mentor who advises students on development strategies for their future employment and the university application process. He is a graduate of Texas A&M University, and after graduation pursued his Masters at Yale University and his Ph.D in Environmental Science & Policy from the nearby George Mason University. He has since assumed the title of Director of Conservation Science & Policy at the National Parks Conservation Association. Regularly he engages students in conversations on topics of conservation, science and policy. Envision scholars will be able to share in that experience this summer at our Global Young Leaders Conference in Washington, D.C.
Episode 14: Bianca Jackson
Bianca Jackson is an award-winning technology project manager, career and leadership consultant, and social entrepreneur. As a Philadelphia, PA native she learned resilience and the benefits of team building early on. She spent her undergraduate days at nearby Drexel University where she led or started numerous organizations. Bianca has since received many awards on her journey to becoming a social brand marketing guru and is currently the owner/operator of two Businesses, BrickRose Exchange and Jax Digital LLC. You can hear Bianca as a guest speaker at Envision’s Junior National Young Leaders Alumni Conference in Boston, MA.
Episode 13: Meg O’Brien
This week we are joined by Meg O’Brien. Ms. O’Brien is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma and received her MS in Forensic Science. While working in the field of toxicology she took post graduate classes to learn more about crime scene investigation, which put her on the path to be a crime scene technician. She is a member of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and the Mid-Atlantic Association for Forensic Sciences. Meg also sits on the Board of Directors of he American Board of Forensic Document Examination.
Episode 12: Machin Norris
As a middle and high school science teacher in Northern Colorado, she has taught STEAM, Agriculture-Natural and Renewable Resources, and Gifted Education. Ms. Norris is currently a STEM Integration Specialist and teaches Senior STEM Capstones. She does that, while also working closely with families and community resources to assist students in truancy and behavioral modifications. Ms. Norris has been a part of Envision’s Aerospace & Aviation Academy Team.
Episode 11: Amanda Freitag Thomas
This week we are joined by Amanda Freitag Thomas. Amanda currently serves as Head of K12 Individual Education Travel and Experience at WorldStrides. Amanda’s journey to her current role is admired by all Envisionaries. Once an Alumna of an Envision by WorldStrides career exploration program, she has spent over a decade serving in various program and supervisory roles. Her impact goes far beyond the program experience for our scholars and their families.
Episode 10: Sean Aday
Dr. Aday has published widely on subjects ranging from the effects of watching local television news, to coverage of American politics and media coverage of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has been involved in global media and government capacity training projects, including work in Iraq and Afghanistan.
For seven years Dr. Aday directed GW’s Institute for Public Diplomacy and Global Communication and its Global Communications M.A. program.
As part of a National Science Foundation grant, he, along with two colleagues, conducted a series of surveys about Americans' attitudes about government and media following the September 11th terrorist attacks. Recently he received a grant from the Hewlett Foundation to study media coverage of cybersecurity issues. Aday was also the principal investigator for DC Student Voices, a curriculum-based project in Washington DC high schools that aimed to get students more involved in politics. He has been a frequent commentator in the press on news coverage of elections, crime, and war.
Episode 9: Tokiwa Smith
A native of Miami, Florida and an alumna of Florida A & M University, Ms. Tokiwa T. Smith is a Chemical Engineer, Social Entrepreneur and Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Educator. She has over 15 years’ experience in education, government and philanthropy having worked for organizations such as Atlanta Public Schools, California State University East Bay, Georgia State University, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Spelman College. Ms. Smith the Founder and Executive Director of Science, Engineering and Mathematics Link Inc., also known as SEM Link, a nonprofit organization that exposes urban youth to STEM and STEM Careers by connecting to the STEM community. She is the CEO and Principal Consultant of Kemet Educational Services, a STEM educational consulting firm that focuses on ensuring that pre-college, community college and undergraduate students are prepared to pursue STEM careers.
Bonus Episode: Teacher Appreciation Week with Michael Green Jr.
Michael Green Jr. is the Dean of Culture and Instruction for Uplift Education in Dallas, TX. In his role as Dean, he impacts teacher practices and influences the way schools to provide culturally sound educational experiences for all students. This upcoming Teacher Appreciation Week we wanted to shine a light on the WHY behind the gratitude so many students and their families will be showing next week. In Michael’s journey from a college graduate, to a 6th-grade teacher, and now Dean, every step of the way there has been someone, even in his most recent school, that he appreciates for being a motivating influence. He now joins us to discuss how he is using all those motivating factors to merge his love for youth development and his dedication to fighting for the inclusion of underrepresented people. It’s the work organizations like Motivational Goals LLC and Black Men For that Michael has co-founded, and the care put into educators’ well-being and mental health that is at the root of Equity in Education. So, click play and tune in to this Teacher Appreciation Episode of Behind the Biography featuring Michael Green Jr.
Episode 8: Dr Kelly Esch
Dr. Kelly Esch is currently a Chief of Staff at Banfield Pet Hospital, Leesburg Village. She is a graduate of Christopher Newport University where she then went onto Virginia Tech’s Vet School, Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Esch has known since she was a young child that she wanted to attend vet school and be a veterinarian. She has always had a passion for animals and even worked in a kennel to get more experience prior to vet school. She has been partnering with the Guide Dog Foundation to help raise puppies who then go on to be service dogs for the blind. Dr. Esch is an animal owner herself and talks about her Green-Cheeked Conure during her episode! So, click play and tune in to this episode of Behind the Biography featuring Dr. Kelly Esch.
Episode 7: Ben Lafferty
Ben Lafferty is an accomplished professor and author. Ben graduated with a BA in Modern History from the University of Oxford, and with an MA and PhD from the University of London. He has been the recipient of multiple awards for writing and scholarship, including the Fulbright Early Career Award, the Guardian Student Critic of the Year, the Kenneth Tynan Prize, the Wylie Prize, and the Howell Daniels award. He has taught history and American Studies at colleges in the United Kingdom, and recently published his new book, American Intelligence, an examination of news culture in the early years of the American republic. We had the honor of working with Ben as he designed our new Simulation for the NYLF: National Security program.
Episode 6: Dr. Leroy Chiao
Dr. Leroy Chiao, a retired NASA Astronaut, and former International Space Station Commander, is the Co-Founder and CEO of One Orbit. He and the One Orbit team leads corporate keynote and training workshops. However, it is their partnership with Envision’s Explore STEM and Aerospace & Aviation Academies that has led our students to score Dr. Chiao the programs’ highest-rated speakers. During his time as a distinguished NASA astronaut, he has spent over 229 days on missions and spacewalks while exploring space. Dr. Chiao is one of the most sought out experts in his field and he used this conversation to share his past and current experiences, to educate us on the future of space exploration, and how we can impact the next leaders who will boldly go where no man has gone before. Enjoy deep exploration in this episode of Behind the Biography featuring Dr. Leroy Chiao.
Bonus Episode: Women's History Month Special
Peipei Zhou leads the Career Connections program at Facebook. The focus of her work is to provide upward mobility for underrepresented students by connecting them to meaningful careers in their communities. Before this, Peipei led the US Global Solutions Partner team at Facebook, helping Facebook’s top global clients maximize their business potential on Facebook and Instagram.
Stephanie Espy founded MathSP Academic and Test Prep Coaching to empower the next generation of STEM leaders by imparting “STEM fluency” – the ability to problem solve, think critically and logically, apply theory and innovate.
Episode 5: Dr. Nick Heyne
Nick Heyne is triple Board-certified Pediatric Sports Psychiatrist. As an Alumni of Envision’s Careers in Medicine Program, to working the Medicine Program as a Faculty Advisor, to being a speaker at some of our sessions, Nick tells us about his journey of getting to where he is today. Dr. Heyne is extremely passionate about his work and always enjoys making connections with his scholars. He gives great advice for scholars who are preparing to attend an Envision Summer Conference. Dr. Heyne tells his story of how he found is identity in wanting to be a doctor and how many different types of programs he attended to confirm this. So, click play and tune into this episode of Behind the Biography with Dr. Nick Heyne!
Episode 4: Alan Nemeth
Alan Nemeth is currently a Professor at the American University Washington College of Law and is a graduate of American University Washington College of Law himself. Alan has been teaching Animal Law for about 14 years and what got him interested in this field was making the choice between going to Vet School or Law School, choosing Law School, but wanting to incorporate his passion for animals in some way. Alan became passionate for Animal Law starting in the 1980’s when he realized that this ties both of his two interests together. As a member of the Maryland BAR Association, he wondered if they would like to add Animal Law as a section. After proposing it, his idea was approved and soon came to find out it was the quickest growing section they’ve ever had. Alan shares his journey on how his outlook on animals and eating meat has changed over the years, from first cutting out meat, to seafood, to then becoming strictly vegan. He encourages listeners to think twice about all that goes into the milk they drink, meat they eat, and how it effects these animals. So, click play and tune into this episode of Behind the Biography featuring Alan Nemeth.
Bonus Episode: Envision's Black History Month Special
This week we celebrate Black History Month. Join some of our incredible employees as they discuss what it means to be black in America, what does being an ally mean, the events of summer 2020 and the BLM movement, and who are the black change makers that inspire them. “When I think of true diversity, it’s not color blind, it’s color bright!” -Matt Castrina
Episode 3: Savannah Peterson
Savannah Peterson is the Founder of Savvy Millennial and a Forbes 30 Under 30 Recipient. At Savvy Millennial, she helps brands and startups discover and connect with their highest Return on Investment (ROI) audience and niche. She also focuses on translating the impact and relevant applications of new technology on business and humanity. She believes innovation should be fun and actionable, versus scary and difficult to digest. She thrives in helping the people, products, and brands she loves grow through storytelling. It’s through her storytelling that she can paint a vivid picture of how embracing your true self, the weird unicorn in all of us, can have the greatest impact on your future success.
Episode 2: Dr. Stella Capoccia
Dr. Stella Capoccia is an individual who has worn many hats throughout her lifetime and has experienced life in different parts of the world such as around the United States and even internationally in East Africa. Her current occupation is a Scientist and an Associate Professor of Biology at Montana Tech. While studying for her PhD in Geography, Stella looked at the way in which animal rights groups shaped conservation and management.
Episode 1: Jan Sikorsky
Jan Sikorsky, the VP of Innovations at Worldstrides, offers a unique perspective on importance of STEM in the evolution of experiential learning. Our host, Amanda Whitener, asks thought-provoking questions to create a space for Jan to use colorful imagery as he describes what is needed to successfully deliver educational content, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. This episode is insight into path he took to become a leader in K-12 product innovation, a path he admittedly did not start his journey on, and then leaves you wanting to learn more about how you can stay innovative while things are rapidly evolving around us.
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Editor's note: This article was originally published on January 6, 2021, and is updated regularly as Season One of Behind the Biography episodes are released.