People to Watch 2010
Susan Woods and Becca Selvidge Fox
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Scrapbooks usually connote old acquaintances, but not ours, which is filled with images of memories still being made. People to Watch we define as folks doing something new that we should be aware of. That is why they’re so watchable. Look through these pages and and gaze at the future, where there will be more scrapbooks to be filled.
Laboratory Research Technician, Tulane University School of Medicine
Amanda McGillivray isn’t afraid of germs; in fact, she loves them. As a laboratory research technician at Tulane University School of Medicine’s Department of Microbiology and Immunology, McGillivray studies novel vaccine and adjuvant development – the latter of which is a necessary and often overlooked factor in the effectiveness of vaccines. In laymen’s terms, she works to prevent infectious disease through vaccines. “Currently, there are only a few FDA-approved adjuvants in the U.S. and these unfortunately do not work well with all vaccine formulations,” she says. “Therefore, it is very important to develop other safe and effective adjuvant alternatives.” Part of McGillivray’s job is to test the safety, structure, functionality and effectiveness of vaccine proteins. “I consider that my work is very relevant and important to human health as this protein might ultimately be used as a component of vaccines administered to humans,” she says.
McGillivray has always been interested in science, specifically microbiology. “I have an innate curiosity about why and how underlying processes occur,” she says. “I love learning about how organisms function in a particular manner. I especially enjoy studying how bacteria cause disease. There is something so fascinating about how an organism, such as a microbe, can cause severe complications.”
Her ultimate goal is to become a Principal Investigator (P.I.) and own her own research lab. To reach that goal, McGillivray must earn her Ph.D., a step toward which she’s already taking; she was accepted into the Biomedical Sciences doctoral program at Tulane, a feat that she says is both her biggest challenge and her greatest accomplishment. “I am very fortunate,” she says, “to be able to work in an environment that has allowed me to grow as a young scientist.”
Director of Aviation, New Orleans Aviation Board and the City of New Orleans
Iftikhar Ahmad wasn’t afraid to have his head in the clouds. And as Director of Aviation for Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, he does just that. “I believe in living a life with purpose,” he says. “In leading airports I have found my purpose.” He sees MSY as both a literal hub of commerce and also a greater symbol of how travel effects New Orleans and the community. “I believe airports play a very important role as economic engines for their regions,” Ahmad says. “They add to the prosperity and quality of life of a community by connecting it to the rest of the world. When visitors come to this community, they stay in our hotels, go to our restaurants, use our gas stations and other venues where money changes hands and jobs are created. In the case of New Orleans, if New Orleans is playing zydeco, we are the accordion.” Ahmad’s professional goal is to properly equip the aviation industry to serve people in the future, though his personal goals deal not with work, but with his wife and two sons. “My long-term goal is to raise my children in a way that they would have a sense of duty, while encouraging them to reach the stars. I spend all my time with my children and wife when I am not working.”
Angela Watson Daliet
Founder and Executive Director, Save Our Schools NOLA
Angela Daliet, along with many New Orleanians, lost everything in Hurricane Katrina. One thing she couldn’t bear to lose, however, was an adequate public school system. “I didn’t grow up in New Orleans, but I moved here for college and fell in love with the city’s culture, funky vibe and openness to diversity,” Daliet says. “My small-town upbringing and mother’s continuous push [for me] to be a strong woman who stands up for what I believe led me on the path to become an advocate for people like me and my kids, public school parents and students.”
She started Save Our Schools NOLA in September 2005, determined to help reform the public school system through awareness, education, community and action. The group’s goals also include advocating for both policy and social change. “SOSNOLA is building parent and citizen demand for excellent public schools for all children in New Orleans by informing our community, organizing a constituency, and advocating toward educational equality and quality,” Daliet says.
She says her biggest challenge this year has been trying to balance work and a family of seven children, but she believes that both her professional and personal accomplishments are a result of such challenges.
While the demands of her job are strenuous and time-consuming, including late nights, early mornings and anything but a typical 40-hour workweek, Daliet wouldn’t have it any other way. “Do what you love, and you’ll never work another day in your life,” she says. “That’s me. No matter what the future holds, I know I will always be working to ensure better opportunities and outcomes for our local children, families, businesses, neighborhoods, city, region and state.”
Elizabeth Teel Galante
Executive Director, Global Green USA – New Orleans
When it comes to “going green,” most people are all talk and little action. Beth Galante is not only all action, but she also works to encourage and enable the public to act. After working as an assistant District Attorney in New Orleans an a Deputy Director for Tulane Environmental Law Clinic, she took on the position of Executive Director for Global Green in January 2006.
“My favorite thing about my work is that I get to contribute to New Orleans’ renaissance as a model of coastal resiliency for the rest of the world,” Galante says. “We’ve come so incredibly far in the past five years, and the next five years promise to be just as inspiring.”
Global Green specifically works to “green” New Orleans Schools through outreach and technical assistance on a state and local level. “New Orleans’ public school system is now on track to be a national green schools leader in the coming decade,” she says.
Galante wants to bring environmental awareness to the public in a way that is relatable, accessible and beneficial.
“I want Louisiana to finally take advantage of its abundant renewable natural resources and create 50,000 safe, clean and good paying jobs in solar, wind, biofuels and river turbine energy,” she says. “In the short term, I’m working to bring funders, manufacturers and government officials together to bring a major renewable energy manufacturing facility to our state in the next two years.”
She says that now is the time to act. “I believe that the oil disaster has made many more Louisianians than ever before realize that, if we want our state and children to have a prosperous future, we cannot continue to rely so heavily on one industry, especially one that is employing fewer and fewer workers. There has never been a better opportunity to support clean, safe energy production in our state, and Global Green is going to work hard to help Louisiana make some great strides in that direction.”
Catherine Deano and Renee Maloney
Owners, Corks N Canvas/Painting With a Twist
Cathy Deano and Renee Maloney want everyone to be able to feel like an artist. “Everyone wants to be creative,” Deano says. “(Corks N Canvas/Painting With a Twist) accomplishes this in one evening.” The two women opened Corks N Canvas in 2007, offering beginner art classes where the students have a completed painting to take home at the end. The twist comes with the encouragement to bring a bottle of wine to the class. “Like we say, ‘A little wine, a little art and a whole lot of fun,’” says Deano.
Maloney’s favorite part of her job is seeing the reactions of the reluctant artists. “People are laughing, singing to the music as they paint,” she says. “They are so surprised at the end of the night by their accomplishment. We get phone calls all the time the next day saying, ‘My husband and kids can’t believe I did this!’”
Corks N Canvas has copyrighted more than 700 pieces of art to use in art classes, including everything from Louisiana and New Orleans-themed paintings to landscapes and more. Deano and Maloney soon opened many other locations, including franchises called Painting With a Twist, in Louisiana, Florida, Texas and more.
Corks N Canvas/Painting With a Twist also holds fundraiser classes, called Painting With a Purpose, the proceeds of which benefit local nonprofits.
Deano hopes to keep helping people get in touch with their inner artist. “Seeing the joy on peoples faces at the end of the night as they look at their completed painting is why I do it,” she says. “Knowing that we are exposing people who would have never picked up a paintbrush to actually create a work of art they are proud of is heady stuff.”
General Manager,Mahalia Jackson Theater and Saenger Theater
When it comes to big names, David Skinner has worked with the best of them. Skinner has been involved in entertainment and facility management his entire life – he’s even worked with Elvis and The Rolling Stones. But, ultimately, the big names couldn’t compare to home. “I know what the song says: ‘Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans?’ and that is so true,” he says of his time spent away.
He returned home in the fall of 2008 to aid in rebuilding efforts, specifically in the re-opening of the Mahalia Jackson Theater and the Saenger Theater. “Hard work for sure,” he says. “But extremely rewarding.”
Now the general manager, Skinner is continuing the effort to re-open the beloved local gem, The Saenger. “Our long-term goal is to continue renovation of the Saenger Theater and return this historic landmark to its 1927 grandeur,” he says. “The theater will re-open in late 2011 and, with an enlarged stage house, will be able to host shows that heretofore have passed New Orleans.”
More than anything, Skinner knows the importance of the Saenger to the spirit of the city. “The theater represents memories to every citizen in our community – it is a place where we all had our ‘first’ something … where we saw our first movie, our first play or our first concert. For New Orleans to return, the Saenger must be part of that picture.”