and Alumni Spotlight
(posted September 17, 2020)
Carter Adler (VAMPY 1992) lives in Copley, OH, and is second vice president at Mutual of America. He graduated from WKU with a BA in music in 2000 and from Michigan State in 2005 with an MBA in integrative management. He is on Facebook at Carter Adler.
Erik Bishop (SCATS 2014-16, VAMPY 2016) graduated from Bishop Brady High School this spring. He will attend Saint Anselm College in Manchester, NH, to pursue a major in politics with a pre-law course of study. He writes: “In 2017 we moved back to New England and settled in Salisbury, NH. I fully immersed myself into New Hampshire's Catholic community when I became a member of the Catholic Church in 2018. That year, I also decided to go into politics and attended all the Granite State debates. In 2019, I attended Boys State at Saint Anselm College and shortly after started working with the NH Trump Victory team. I am excited for the future, but I will always remember the friends I made at SCATS and VAMPY, from Dr. Roberts to her daughter, Julie, as well as the Inmans, the Guthries, and others. I still have all the yearbooks from the years I attended.”
Cody Crofford (Super Saturdays 1998-89, SCATS 2004) of Blacksburg, VA, earned a BS in aerospace engineering from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) in 2014. She is currently working on a master’s in computer engineering, with a focus in machine learning and computer vision, at Virginia Tech with an anticipated graduation date of May 2021. She is also an intern at Graf Research. She writes, “I was a systems safety engineer at Bastion technologies as an on-site NASA contractor. I worked on the Propulsion and Abort system safety of the Space Launch System. I also worked as a software test engineer as a General Dynamics contractor on NASA's Space Network Ground Segment Sustainment program.” Among the classes she recalls taking through The Center are Intro to Mandarin Chinese, Programming in C++, Programming in Q Basics, and Computer Hardware where “we took old PCs apart and put them back together and learned how the components worked together.”
Declan Delaney (SCATS 2015, VAMPY 2016-18) graduated from Mt. Juliet High School in spring 2020.
Daniel Flener (SCATS 2001) received a BA from WKU in 2012 in broadcast journalism with minors in film and creative writing, and an MFA from Butler University in creative writing. He is the college communications coordinator at Georgetown College. He writes, “I remember taking a course in British Literature of the 1940s at SCATS. We read these amazing short stories and discussed them for the entire class period. As a young person not yet in high school, this was exhilarating. It made me think about literature in an entirely new way and really paved the road for me to go on to achieve a Master's in creative writing and to work primarily as a writer in higher education. I am the primary editor of the Georgetown College magazine and primary news story writer for the college, so my writing skills get put to use every day. I also oversee the college's social media channels, so the communications skills from my BA are also utilized. I married my wife, Geena, in the summer of 2017, and we now have one son, Ezra, who was born in July 2019. We also have a dog named Storm, and she's really the one who runs our household."
Scott Grant (VAMPY 1995-97) earned a BS in accounting from Murray State in 2007 and an MBA in finance with an accounting emphasis from Murray State in 2009. He is an assistant accounting manager at sgsco in Louisville, and his work has taken him to Africa and Asia. He on Facebook as Scott Grant.
Kamrin Green (SCATS 2014-16, VAMPY 2017) graduated from South Warren High School this spring. She will be attending the University of Louisville as a member of the class of 2024 and plans to major in bioengineering with a minor in Spanish. She is on Instagram at kami.green45.
Holly Harris (SCATS 2006) graduated from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville (UTK) in 2015 with a major in architecture and a minor in business administration. She lives in Chicago where she works for SmithGroup as a licensed architect practicing healthcare with experience in strategic master planning and renovations. She currently serves as the co-chair of the AIA Chicago Healthcare Knowledge Community and as vice president of the UTK Chicago Alumni Chapter. In 2019, she was recognized as a Herman Miller Scholar for emerging professionals in healthcare design.
Elena Jolly (VAMPY 2018) graduated from duPont Manual High School this spring. She is a member of the class of 2024 at the University of Missouri, where she is studying political science and is in the Honors College. In the summer of 2020, she worked as a camp counselor at Louisville Nature Center, which helps educate children ages four and up about nature through fun activities.
Terry McMahan (SCATS 1986) graduated from Centre College with a BS in math in 1994 and from Emory University with an MBA in 2003. He lives in Brookhaven, GA, and is the director of product development at TransUnion. He still remembers “making a camera made out of an oatmeal container” at SCATS. He is on Facebook at Terry McMahan and on Twitter and Instagram at tdmac45.
Rachel Smith Moriarty (Super Saturdays 1998, SCATS 1998-2000, VAMPY 2001-02) graduated from Wake Forest University with a BA in communications and minor in sociology in 2008 and received a certificate in accounting from the University of Virginia in 2019. She is a state associations specialist at the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization in Manassas, VA. She says, “I loved my times at SCATS and VAMPY! I have fond memories of playing in the water fountain, the games, etc., and I still talk to a few of my friends from back then even though it's almost 20 years later! I learned a lot both academically and about life. Being on a campus and away from home was a fabulous learning experience. It helped prepare me for the future, and I wouldn't trade the experiences I had there, for anything.” She is on Facebook as Rachel Moriarty.
John Nieri (VAMPY 1992) received his BS in 2001 from Vanderbilt in electrical engineering, computer science, and math. He lives in Kobe, Japan, where he is the president at General Protocols. He writes, "I hope you will learn as much as you can at every step, and leave the world better than you found it. Some steps I have taken: generalprotocols.com, tgl.co.jp,kotai-bio.com, berlitz.co.jp, ni.com/ja-jp.html, and ni.com/en-us.html.” You can follow him on Twitter at emergent_reasons.
Steffanie Skiles (SCATS 2007-08, VAMPY 2009), who teaches band and choir at McKell Middle School, was one of 24 Kentucky educators selected by the Kentucky Department of Education and Valvoline Inc. as recipients of the 2021 Valvoline™ Teacher Achievement Awards. These teachers qualified to compete for the 2021 Kentucky Teacher of the Year Award. She also received the Greenup County Public Schools “Above and Beyond Award,” the Kentucky Music Educators Association District 8 Middle School Teacher of the Year Award, and Campbellsville University’s Middle School Excellence in Teaching Award for Greenup County. Steffanie graduated from Morehead State University with a BA in music education in 2017. She reports that her twin sister, Samantha Skiles (SCATS 2007-08, VAMPY 2009), is engaged and is a civil engineer in Indianapolis. Steffanie says, “I have the dream job: I get to work in a career I love (music), and I get to help students like me when I was in school. My future plans resemble my current ones: keep playing trumpet, teaching kids, and trying to help them. I loved my time spent at The Center. I’m still friends with my campmates and counselors. The Center was the one place I felt academically at home and was surrounded by people just like me. My sister and I grew up quite poor, but we were fortunate to be sponsored to attend SCATS and VAMPY. Then, by extension, we were able to get full rides to several different colleges. We both majored in what we love. Because of these educational opportunities, we have bettered ourselves and improved our lives. I cannot thank Dr. Roberts and The Center enough for what they did for us and what they continue to do today for others.”
Wesley Tinley (VAMPY 1994-97) graduated from Kennesaw State University in 2010 with a BA in history and a BS mechanical engineering. He lives in Smyrna, GA.
Spotlight on: Paul Hudson (SCATS 2010, VAMPY 2011-13, Gatton 2013-5, Counselor 2015)
Leandra and Paul
Paul Hudson graduated from the University of Alabama-Huntsville in 2018 with a degree in electrical engineering, computer engineering, and optical engineering. He is a hardware/firmware engineer for Pulvinar Neuro in Durham, NC. He has joined the ranks of campers and counselors who met their spouses at VAMPY because he is engaged to fellow alum Leandra Caywood (VAMPY 2010-13), whom he met in his first year at camp. She is working on her Ph.D. in chemical engineering at North Carolina State University. He is on Facebook as Paul Hudson
Where have you been spending the pandemic?
I moved to Raleigh, North Carolina, at the beginning of February. My fiancé, Leandra Caywood (VAMPY 2010-13), had been living here in an apartment on a grad student salary, so I moved in, and we’ll upgrade in a couple more months. It was weird going from not seeing her regularly for eight months and then we're stuck in this apartment together!
Tell me about what school was like for you growing up and what regular school was like for you.
I grew up in a small town called Fairdealing. It’s east of Benton, in Marshall County. I went to the public schools — they were very flexible, so I was thankful for that. For a lot of my time there, I didn't have a good crowd that I was able to hang around with consistently, but as far as schooling went, from kindergarten on, they let me take advanced math classes, they let me take advanced reading classes — whatever I needed.
What was your first association with The Center for Gifted Studies?
My late grandmother, Kay Willis, was a teacher and was good friends with Dr. Roberts.
What do you remember about SCATS?
I was so happy to go to the camps every time I went. The first time, when I went to SCATS, I was surprised at how fun the classes were, because obviously you pitch this to a kid as, “You're going to a summer camp where you're going to be taking classes for two weeks.” One of the classes I took had a great title — it was Geology and the Movies. We discussed geological concepts and watched movies and tried to see how movies got it right or wrong. I also took a class on Pearl Harbor and a class on the Holocaust. They were all so interesting. I had never been in a situation where I’d been exposed to so much knowledge so quickly, and I really enjoyed it.
What about VAMPY?
VAMPY was even better than SCATS for me because at VAMPY I met some really good friends. I felt so at home. After the first year, I had to beg my parents to let me go back the next two years year because they wanted to be fair to my sister who only went one year — but then she said, “I don't care what he does.”
I had so much fun, and there were a lot of great people whom I met there whom I would have never met otherwise — and of course, my fiancé and I met there. Class time took up most of the day, but it didn't feel like class was what most of the VAMPY experience was. I got to learn and got a lot of good stuff out of those classes — after I took Math, my school district let me move on to calculus — but VAMPY also helped me grow as a person. Before I went to camp, my middle school teachers called me “squirrely.” I was the smart kid in class. I was kind of friends with a lot of people, but not good friends with many. It gave me a really good outlet.
What was it like being a counselor after you had been a camper?
I loved it. After being a camper for three years, I got a sense for how the camp is run, and everything that's going on and what the camp experience should feel like. I really enjoyed being able to give that experience to younger campers. I hope they enjoyed having me as a counselor. I still talk to two of my campers and play video games with them. One of them has graduated college and the other has almost graduated.
What started you in the direction of study you pursued and the career path you are on?
I was lucky enough while I was at Marshall County to take a pre-electrical engineering class. I thought it was neat. While I was at Gatton, I took electrical engineering classes, and it was those classes that really set me on this course because WKU was really good for beginning electrical engineering. They had a lot of hands-on lab experiences — I was able to completely design a circuit, from start to finish, and make it on a printed circuit board before I was even a college student. I also loved all the math and computer science classes I took at Gatton — the computer science classes were more eye-opening than almost anything else I took. Uta Ziegler, the computer science professor, drove home that computer science was basically a lot of logic puzzles, and programming languages are just syntax to solve those puzzles. I love that concept. It's helped shape my career and what I wanted to do — it’s what drove me into doing both electrical and computer engineering as an undergraduate.
And now you're working on some cutting edge biotechnology for Pulvinar Neuro in Durham, NC. Tell me about that.
Before I joined Pulvinar Neuro, I was working for a missile defense contractor in Huntsville, AL. I wanted to get out of the industry, and I also needed to move to Raleigh so I could live with my fiancé. I had always been interested in biotech and biomedical applications because that's where a lot of interesting work is done in my field. I happened across a startup company that was hiring in the Raleigh area and where I could do some hardware and some software and be able to freely design what they needed. I’m thankful that the work is so applicable and important.
When I started working for Pulvinar Neuro, it already had a rough, research version of its device that does two things, and— transcranial alternating current stimulation tACS and transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS). Psychologists are researching to see if tACS can be used to treat different conditions in the brain like Parkinson's, depression, anxiety, and other illnesses. The thinking is that your brain has regular electric waves to make it work right, and certain people have deficiencies in some of these signals, based on chemical deficiencies in their brains. If we can pinpoint the signal deficiency in their brain, if we can read what's going on and then apply a current — a wave — to jumpstart that signal, we could use the device to treat those brain conditions.
A lot of people have tried to label transcranial stimulation as New Age shock therapy, but the device is at a very low current that is not noticeable to the patient. We have safeguards in place so that if the current ever became too intense, the device would stop. Right now, the device is made to do basic T-ACS and T-DCS in double-blind research studies. What I'm doing upgrading the software and hardware for the second version. We're working on getting it to read an EEG from the brain, so it can detect those signals and apply the stimulation that might be needed.
Is there anything else you want to share about your experiences at camp or your life?
I want to drive home that the connections I made at camp and at Gatton have lasted longer than others. There's still a group of people that I talk to from Gatton, and a lot of those people I knew from VAMPY beforehand. The programs opened up so many doors to me — I first learned about Gatton from SCATS, and when I was moving to Raleigh, I already had connections here with a former camp counselor and a fellow camper. The programs have been more instrumental than I could have ever imagined.
Past interviews can be found in our Alumni Spotlight Archive.