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Class Notes May 2007: Volume 4, Number 2

Alumni Profiles

Danny Paz, M.P.I.A. ’06
Georgeanne Brennan, M.A. ’69
Monica Cuoco, M.F.A. ’04
Aaron Coleman, Warren ’06

Building with Trash.
Danny Paz is not your typical social activist. The California businessman spent four months in an out-of-the-way corner of Guatemala creating a monument to education with a pile of worn-out tires, which The Huffington Post called "the school that garbage built."

"I was inspired by the concept of turning tires and plastic beverage bottles into a badly needed school," says Paz, M.P.I.A. '06. "The school we are creating has passive solar heating and cooling, a water-collection and reuse system, and everything is environmentally integrated into the surrounding environment."

Paz, director of client services for ITZ Credits, a firm that provides tax-credit analysis for clients, says his outlook on nonprofit service changed when he arrived in San Juan Comalapa. Residents of the rural Mayan community in the interior highlands of Guatemala struggle to meet their basic needs with subsistence farming. Paz volunteered with Long Way Home, a nonprofit organization dedicated to building a much-needed school by recycling the community's garbage.

The BBC/Newsweek World Competition 2010 named the Guatemalan project one of its 12 "projects or small businesses from around the world that have shown enterprise and innovation at a grassroots level."

By building schools with trash and simultaneously solving a local garbage problem, Long Way Home is seeking donors and volunteers to replicate its model throughout all of Latin America. Visit www.longwayhomeinc.org for more information.

[Danny Paz, M.P.I.A. '06]

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Food for All Seasons.
Just because the holiday season is over, doesn't mean you can't continue to whip up memorable meals. Georgeanne Brennan, M.A. '69, always considers the season when preparing her dishes, as demonstrated in her latest book Gather: Memorable Menus for Entertaining Throughout the Seasons. "It's really about choosing what's in season around you if possible. I don't want cherries in December," she says.

Although she has no professional training in the kitchen, Brennan attributes her passion for cooking to her mother and grandmother as well as to her year abroad in Aix-en-Provence, France. There, she fell in love with the rural life and also met her husband. Together, they raised goats, making and selling goat's milk cheese. "I learned how to live with the seasons and in rhythm with what's available from my Provençal neighbors," says Brennan. She now hosts an annual food and writing retreat for women at her home in Provence and cooking classes in Northern California. Brennan's focus on fresh, seasonal ingredients and her many books, including The Dr. Seuss Green Eggs and Ham Cookbook and A Pig in Provence, have earned her recognition in Sunset and Gourmet, as well as a byline in The San Francisco Chronicle. "Food is more than just fuel. It's a central part of life, it's family time, it's conversation," says Brennan.

[ Georgeanne Brennan, M.A. '69 ]

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Angels on Stage.
There are few shows either on or off-Broadway today that have generated as much buzz as the revival of Tony Kushner's 1991 play Angels in America. Under the direction of Michael Greif, M.F.A. '85, Angels is playing to packed houses at New York's Signature Theatre. And as production stage manager, Monica Cuoco, M.F.A. '04, has the overwhelming task of managing all the various moving parts of not one, but two three-hour productions that make up Angels Parts I and II, Millennium Approaches and Perestroika. It is Cuoco's job to see that everything works together seamlessly and it doesn't hurt to work with a stellar cast and crew. "This is the most amazing, dedicated, hard-working and inspiring group of artists you could ask for," states Cuoco.

During her M.F.A. studies at UC San Diego, Cuoco stage managed productions for the UCSD Department of Theatre and Dance, the La Jolla Playhouse and the Old Globe. Most recently, she was working on the successful Broadway pro­duction of Memphis, but asked for a seven-month leave of absence to take the Angels gig.

"In our first readings of the Angels scripts," she says, "it occurred to me that these plays are as relevant today, in so many ways, as they were when they were first staged."

Angels in America runs through February 20, 2011.

[ Monica Cuoco, M.F.A. '04 ]

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Gut Busters.
When they're not working at UC San Diego's division of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2), Aaron Coleman, Warren '06, and Jesica Oratowski-Coleman are still putting their tech skills to good use. The married couple heeded the call of First Lady Michelle Obama—and her Let's Move! initiative to fight childhood obesity—by designing an online game that challenges users to select healthy foods without breaking a virtual scale.

Their digital creation, called "Food Buster," recently won the Popular Choice award in the Game category in the Apps for Healthy Kids Challenge. The nationwide competition was sponsored by the First Lady to motivate children to choose healthier food options and become more physically active. The couple beat out 95 other submissions, earning them a trip to the White House and a $4,500 prize.

"We applaud the Apps for Healthy Kids contest for getting normal people like us, a husband-and-wife team, to get involved with the issue of childhood obesity," Coleman remarked.

The duo, who are based at Calit2's Center for Wireless and Population Health Systems, plan to donate half of their winnings to the San Diego Victory Gardens for an outdoor education planter box that will educate the public about food origins and growing food. The other half will go to Long Beach's Centro Shalom, which distributes healthy produce to the poor.

[ Aaron Coleman, Warren '06 ]

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