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Sara Matsumura playing volleyball.

Haverford College senior Sara Matsumura ’16 added to her impressive list of achievements on September 9, when she was awarded the Centennial Conference’s Player of the Week after being named Most Valuable Player of the Ford Invitational only two days earlier. Then, on September 16, the NCAA announced that Sara was ranked third in Division III in total digs and seventh in service aces.

“I am over-the-moon ecstatic,” Sara said about the start of her senior season.

Despite the recent attention she has personally received, the Haverford volleyball co-captain remained focused on her team. “It is amazing to see all of our hard work coming to fruition and so motivating to see everyone reaching and playing at their full potential,” she said. “I feel a lot of appreciation for the group of girls I get to play with."

I am over-the-moon ecstatic. It is amazing to see all of our hard work coming to fruition and so motivating to see everyone reaching and playing at their full potential.—Sara Matsumura, Class of 2016

Kendra Tomsic, Sara’s former coach and Rowland Hall’s director of athletics, was not surprised to learn of Sara’s focus on teamwork. “Sara never cared about individual stats or accolades—she loved her teammates and celebrated their accomplishments as if they were her own,” she said of Sara’s time playing for the Winged Lions. “Her unmatched work ethic, positive attitude, fiery spirit, enthusiasm, heart, and passion for the game were an inspiration to her teammates and coaches.”
 
Kendra also praised Sara’s athletic prowess. “Sara is undoubtedly one of the most talented volleyball players to come out of our program. Her stats were tops in nearly every category, and she was instrumental to our winning several consecutive region titles,” she said. “I am so very proud and excited, but definitely not surprised, that Sara has continued to excel and has made such an amazing impact on her Haverford College team.”
 
Sara credited Rowland Hall for preparing her for success at the college level, both on the court and in the classroom. “The endless support I received from Rowland Hall’s coaching staff gave me the confidence I needed to gain an I-own-the-court mentality. As a back-row player, that is essential and has definitely been tested when facing strong teams,” she said. “Rowland Hall also prepared me to balance school and volleyball, as academics is our top priority at Haverford too.”
 
These balancing skills, first gained at Rowland Hall and then strengthened at Haverford, are essential to Sara’s success. When she isn’t excelling on the court, the chemistry major is researching microplastics and bioplastics for her senior thesis. After graduation, she plans on taking a gap year to work at an environmentally focused company, then earning a PhD in environmental engineering or chemistry. Armed with an arsenal of skills she has gathered as a student-athlete, we have no doubt she’ll continue to do great things, and we can’t wait to see them.


Top of page: Sara Matsumura playing in a Haverford College volleyball game. (Photo courtesy David Sinclair)

Alumni

Claire Wang in front of US Capitol
Winged Lions on the Rise—title page graphic featuring six alumni.

Editor's note: this is one of six profiles republished from Rowland Hall's 2018–2019 Annual Report feature story, "Winged Lions on the Rise." Millennial alumni are finding their voices and already shaping their fields and communities—from physics to film, music to medical innovations, and environmental policy to conservation-minded real estate. Learn how Rowland Hall impacted them, and how they’re impacting the world. From left, Jared Ruga ’06, Claire Wang ’15, Phinehas Bynum ’08, Jeanna Tachiki Ryan ’01, Tyler Ruggles ’05, and Sarah Day ’06.


In her daily fight against climate change, Claire Wang’s weapons of choice include her bicycle, travel utensils, and reusable water bottle.

But the 21-year-old’s real arsenal is her character: her empathy, intellect, and contagious optimism that she wields to mobilize peers, negotiate with institutions, and drive environmental progress locally and nationally. Now, Rowland Hall’s first Rhodes Scholar graduates to the global stage.

There’s no choice but to be hopeful. We have a collective obligation to keep working towards a better future. Giving up would be a selfish act.—Claire Wang ’15

In Claire, the daunting problem of climate change finds a formidable opponent: the former nationally ranked Rowland Hall debater loves what she does and refuses to be discouraged. “There’s no choice but to be hopeful,” she said. “We have a collective obligation to keep working towards a better future. Giving up would be a selfish act.”

Claire was always interested in science and environmentalism; after coming to Rowland Hall in seventh grade, relevant curriculum furthered her interest in climate advocacy, while debate turned her into a policy wonk. In high school, she started volunteering for Utah Clean Energy through a school connection. “That was the moment I realized that I love this work and I want to do it for a living,” Claire said. “Rowland Hall was really supportive of that.” As a senior, she co-organized a press conference—held at the McCarthey Campus and covered by local news outlets—advocating against new fees on solar panels. And just before she finished high school, the Sierra Club asked her to help plan a national youth-led movement for renewable energy.

Claire Wang speaks with a broadcast news reporter at a 2015 press conference on solar panels, held at Rowland Hall.

Claire graduated as valedictorian and accepted a full ride to Duke University, where she majored in environmental science and policy. As a freshman, she worked with college administrators to secure Duke’s official support for renewable-energy policy reform. Then, Duke Energy—a large utility company unaffiliated with the university—announced plans to build a natural-gas plant on the university’s campus. It was the first of eight small-scale gas plants planned for the Carolinas. Claire spent two years fighting the campus plant proposal, and the university suspended the plans in spring 2018. Since then, none of the other North Carolina plants have entered the planning process. “Turning the tide early with the first plant ended up being really impactful,” Claire said.

Claire thrived in community campaigns at Duke and beyond—she even won prestigious Truman and Udall Scholarships in recognition of her work—and envisioned a career in national policy. But a 2018 study-abroad program on climate change and the politics of food, water, and energy spurred a shift. She visited a hydroelectric dam in Vietnam, and an ethnic-minority community displaced because of that dam. She also learned about how extreme weather impacts farmers, from drought in Bolivia to hail in Morocco. Now, Claire wants to reduce financing for fossil-fuel infrastructure, especially in developing countries. “We're not going to be able to achieve a livable climate future without cutting those back,” she said.

Eschew the conventional belief that salaries define successful careers. “Instead, focus on the impact you have on the world,” Claire said. “What you do with your life is not just a job—it’s a legacy.”

That global perspective drove Claire to apply for the Rhodes Scholarship—the oldest award for international study, covering graduate school at England’s University of Oxford. When she learned she’d been selected, Claire was elated, but incredulous. “It was a mix of nervousness, excitement, pride, and a general sense of, ‘Wait, did this actually happen?’”

Claire will be at Oxford for two years, starting with a one-year master’s in environmental change and management. She expects to land in policy, perhaps working for the government or an international group. Regardless, she’ll be doing work that’s meaningful to her, and she encourages other young people to follow suit: eschew the conventional belief that salaries define successful careers. “Instead, focus on the impact you have on the world,” she said. “What you do with your life is not just a job—it’s a legacy.”


Top photo: Claire in front of the United States Capitol. Over the summer, Claire interned with the Natural Resources Defense Council as part of the Truman Scholars' Summer Institute.

Alumni

Phinehas Bynum performs in Candide
Winged Lions on the Rise—title page graphic featuring six alumni.

Editor's note: this is one of six profiles republished from Rowland Hall's 2018–2019 Annual Report feature story, "Winged Lions on the Rise." Millennial alumni are finding their voices and already shaping their fields and communities—from physics to film, music to medical innovations, and environmental policy to conservation-minded real estate. Learn how Rowland Hall impacted them, and how they’re impacting the world. From left, Jared Ruga ’06, Claire Wang ’15, Phinehas Bynum ’08, Jeanna Tachiki Ryan ’01, Tyler Ruggles ’05, and Sarah Day ’06.


Phinehas Bynum makes “whizbangs and gizmos” to automate mundane things in his Minneapolis house. A motion sensor on his washing machine messages him when the washer stops. Between loads, he composes and plays music in his DIY home-recording studio. It’s a delightful showcase of his two biggest passions.

Phinehas—Phin, for short—holds a music and computer science degree from St. Olaf College in Minnesota. By day, he works for software company Jamf on a technical-implementation team that teaches and trains clients. But the renaissance man has also been a lifelong singer—performing with the likes of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir as a fourth grader, the renowned St. Olaf Choir as a college student, and operas around Minneapolis, including the Minnesota Opera (MNOp), since college.

You can make someone's day better by fixing their computer, or by singing them a song. And both of these involve compassion, creativity, logic, and technique.—Phinehas Bynum ’08

“I was just about born singing,” said Phin, whose parents prophetically gave him a name that means, among other interpretations, mouth of brass. “Every time you say ‘Phinehas’ a trumpet gets its wings,” the alum quipped. Naturally, young Phin also dabbled in reverse engineering. “Mama and Papa stepped on clock springs and screws on the daily because I took everything apart to see how it worked,” he said. “Computer science was an extension of tinkering for me because you could change how something worked just by telling it to change, no take-apart required.” 

Phin has deftly balanced singing and computing, which he said similarly fulfill him. “You can make someone's day better by fixing their computer, or by singing them a song,” he said. “And both of these involve compassion, creativity, logic, and technique.” And he continues the balancing act, in part, because of Rowland Hall. “I was always encouraged to spend time doing what I was passionate about, and that goal has stuck with me,” he said. “Ultimate frisbee, robotics club, cross country, choir, jazz band—most of the things I am doing now, I was also doing in some form in high school.”

Actors on stage in front of orchestra.

Phinehas Bynum, second from left, stars in VocalEssence and Theater Latté Da’s March 2019 production of Candide. (Photos by Bruce Silcox, courtesy of VocalEssence)

Now, Phin’s arts life is expanding. The singer made his theatrical debut in March to rave reviews. Two Minneapolis arts organizations collaborated to present Candide, a reimagining of the Leonard Bernstein operetta. Phin landed the titular role. Tickets to the five-night, 505-seat show in the heart of downtown sold out early, so the final dress rehearsal became a sixth production. Phin called the performance—his largest to date—transformative. He described his character as an optimist whose misadventures make him wiser instead of bitter. “I'd consider myself a stubborn, but quiet optimist,” Phin said. “It was core-shaking to inhabit a character who lives his optimism completely on the outside, and it challenged me to let the rest of the world, the audience, see that element of me.” His months of practice paid off. In the Star Tribune, critic Terry Blain praised Phin’s performance: “Bynum cut a convincingly boyish figure, his light tenor imparting a touchingly artless quality to songs.”

Since Candide wrapped, Phin has spent more time making his own music—an exploration of jazz, pop, and electronic. He’s recording an album, a longtime dream that combines his musical and technical pursuits. He’s also excited to sing with MNOp again. “I get to sit in a room of wonderfully passionate and diverse folks and bring feelings and ideas and notes and rhythms off a piece of paper and into reality,” he said. “It's the best.” 

Phin credited Rowland Hall for a solid foundation, and expressed gratitude to teachers and administrators—particularly the late Linda Hampton, a beloved Upper School staffer who attended nearly all of his performances. “Linda called herself my ‘biggest fan,’” Phin said. “I’m blessed that my musical endeavors have always been supported by my family and friends, but Linda will always have a special place in my heart.”

Alumni

Jared Ruga '06 at whiteboard during writing session
Winged Lions on the Rise—title page graphic featuring six alumni.

Editor's note: this is one of six profiles republished from Rowland Hall's 2018–2019 Annual Report feature story, "Winged Lions on the Rise." Millennial alumni are finding their voices and already shaping their fields and communities—from physics to film, music to medical innovations, and environmental policy to conservation-minded real estate. Learn how Rowland Hall impacted them, and how they’re impacting the world. From left, Jared Ruga ’06, Claire Wang ’15, Phinehas Bynum ’08, Jeanna Tachiki Ryan ’01, Tyler Ruggles ’05, and Sarah Day ’06.


Rowland Hall lifer Jared Ruga grew up directing friends in eccentric homemade movies, including a “sci-fi space opera retelling” of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar for freshman English. The young auteur was self-taught, though he did glean inspiration from attending the Sundance Film Festival every year since age 16. One decade and three advanced degrees later, he founded Vavani Productions. And in 2018, Vavani’s first film debuted at Sundance—it was chaos.

Jared and his team crafted a stirring documentary in Quiet Heroes. It tells the story of Dr. Kristen Ries and physician assistant Maggie Snyder, the only Utahns treating HIV/AIDS patients at the peak of that crisis. Vavani submitted a rough cut to Sundance expecting a rejection, so when it got in, they scrambled to finish it. Then came the thrilling-but-exhausting process of shepherding the film through the festival—Jared delivered his second Q&A with a 103-degree fever. He looks back on the madness and laughs, noting he’ll know to handle it if there’s a next time: “Maybe have the film totally done by the time you submit.”

Jared's time at Rowland Hall taught him that focus and commitment yield long-term rewards, even if it takes some short-term pain.

Still, Vavani’s bold moves paid off. Quiet Heroes secured three distribution deals. A TV showing qualified it for a Daytime Emmy, and in May, the doc won in its category—even edging out an Oprah special. Quiet Heroes was a challenging film to make over three years, Jared said, but his time at Rowland Hall taught him that focus and commitment yield long-term rewards, even if it takes some short-term pain. Plus, he knew the narrative deserved attention, and he was fueled by Salt Lake City’s supportive LGBTQ+ community. 

Three people standing together, around an Emmy award.

Jared Ruga holds his Emmy for Quiet Heroes, flanked by documentary subjects Dr. Kristen Ries and physician assistant Maggie Snyder. The trio visited Rowland Hall in May 2019 for Jared's speech during our annual Alumni Senior Breakfast—read that story.

Jared learned about Kristen and Maggie while earning his JD, MBA, and film MFA from the University of Utah (he credits Rowland Hall for sparking his interdisciplinary curiosity). As a gay man from Salt Lake, he was embarrassed he’d never before heard of the duo. “The scourge of the AIDS crisis in the ’80s and ’90s is a crucial part of Queer history that we in younger generations must understand and appreciate,” Jared said. So he shared the story, and it moved local audiences to tears: people who’d lost family to the epidemic told Jared the film was a beautiful, meaningful portrayal of that struggle. Plus, the movie’s message extends beyond that crisis: it’s about standing up for your community amidst adversity, and creating a sense of family for people who are otherwise ostracized. 

There’s a sense of duty that you need to pay it forward. Twenty years down the road, I hope that I’ve created an ecosystem for change.—Jared Ruga ’06

And that’s why Jared got into filmmaking. Upon founding Vavani, he wrote an ethos to tell compelling, socially conscious stories from underrepresented perspectives. The philosophy reflects his Rowland Hall roots: “Teachers were focused on making sure we weren’t just learning facts, we were learning how to be good stewards of our society,” he said. “There’s a sense of duty that you need to pay it forward.” Jared and his team have already released another documentary, and eventually hope to have a few films out every year. They’re also exploring “impact campaigns,” which could involve sending movies on tour, creating survivor-support networks, and more—part of Jared’s greater goal of advancing the conversation. “Twenty years down the road, I hope that I’ve created an ecosystem for change.”


Top: Jared in a Vavani Productions writing session for narrative TV series Graduates, one of several projects in development.

Alumni

Sarah Day near fence with Montana mountains in background
Winged Lions on the Rise—title page graphic featuring six alumni.

Editor's note: this is one of six profiles republished from Rowland Hall's 2018–2019 Annual Report feature story, "Winged Lions on the Rise." Millennial alumni are finding their voices and already shaping their fields and communities—from physics to film, music to medical innovations, and environmental policy to conservation-minded real estate. Learn how Rowland Hall impacted them, and how they’re impacting the world. From left, Jared Ruga ’06, Claire Wang ’15, Phinehas Bynum ’08, Jeanna Tachiki Ryan ’01, Tyler Ruggles ’05, and Sarah Day ’06.


Sarah Day loved her bucolic childhood spent mostly on a 3,000-acre cattle ranch just outside of Bozeman, Montana. Her family ran a calf-cow operation with 350 cattle and a supporting cast of horses, dogs, and barn cats. “Every day revolved around stewarding the land and the animals,” she said, explaining she took notice as adults around her fixed fences, moved cows, and farmed the land. “I carried that with me.”

Rowland Hall taught me to think about how I can give back and how to take action.—Sarah Day ’06

Her family sold the ranch in 2001, and since then, it’s been rezoned for residential development and broken up into smaller parcels. That change—plus Bozeman’s location in one of the nation’s fastest-growing counties—means housing may be in the former ranch’s future. “It's a little heartbreaking,” Sarah said. “It wasn’t the intention when we sold it.” But Sarah’s not one to sit on the sidelines. The alumna said her nine years at Rowland Hall encouraged her to prioritize community involvement. “Rowland Hall taught me to think about how I can give back,” she said, “and how to take action.” So she asked herself what she could do to protect Bozeman’s open lands—maybe even her family’s former ranch—in the future.

Sarah has been a sales associate for Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Montana Properties just since June 2018. She earned a bachelor’s in economics from Connecticut College and a master’s in accounting from Montana State University, then worked in accounting and fundraising. She sought a career shift after a continuing-education accounting class on conservation easements struck a chord with her. The Montana Association of Land Trusts (MALT) hosted the class for accountants, lawyers, real estate agents—anyone who might work on conservation easements, voluntary legal agreements that protect landowners’ properties from future development. Thanks in part to MALT and its member organizations championing such easements, Montana is a leader in open-space preservation. 

MALT’s class heightened Sarah’s interest in becoming a real estate agent—a career her beloved late father introduced her to—but only if she could leverage her city’s economic success to advocate land protection. She knew of a local firm donating a profit percentage to animal shelters, and figured she could do that with conservation. “It just started to click,” she said. So Sarah made the career jump, and now gives 10% of her commissions to local land trusts. It felt amazing to write her first donation check in early 2019, she said. And she’s not only giving cash to the cause—she’s also giving time, as a member of Gallatin Valley Land Trust’s NextGen Advisory Board, a group of young professionals fostering advocacy among their peers.

Sarah gives 10% of her commissions to local land trusts. She’s also giving time as a member of Gallatin Valley Land Trust’s NextGen Advisory Board, a group of young professionals fostering advocacy among their peers.

In the long term, Sarah hopes to work with clients interested in contributing to conservation. For now, she’s content to grow her business and promote Bozeman’s outdoors via her volunteerism, philanthropy, and simple gestures such as handing out trail maps at open houses. Naturally, she and husband Ian Kirby also take advantage of the town’s 80-mile trail system. They favor one loop on Drinking Horse Mountain, shaded by trees and overlooking the valley. It’s gorgeous, Sarah said, and at the trail’s bottom, their Border Collie and Corgi mix, Gear—so named after Ian’s job as a mechanic—likes to splash around in a creek. “Outdoor therapy is a real thing,” she said. “It puts everything in perspective.” And Sarah is working to ensure Bozemanites will always be able to get that perspective from their own backyards.


Top: Sarah Day ’06 on Peet’s Hill, one of her favorite Bozeman trails. (Photo by Troy Meikle)

Alumni

Tyler Ruggles giving a tour of the CMS Collaboration at CERN
Winged Lions on the Rise—title page graphic featuring six alumni.

Editor's note: this is one of six profiles republished from Rowland Hall's 2018–2019 Annual Report feature story, "Winged Lions on the Rise." Millennial alumni are finding their voices and already shaping their fields and communities—from physics to film, music to medical innovations, and environmental policy to conservation-minded real estate. Learn how Rowland Hall impacted them, and how they’re impacting the world. From left, Jared Ruga ’06, Claire Wang ’15, Phinehas Bynum ’08, Jeanna Tachiki Ryan ’01, Tyler Ruggles ’05, and Sarah Day ’06.


Two decades ago, now-retired eighth-grade science teacher Nancy Petersen set Tyler Ruggles’ physics interest in motion with word problems about trains traveling from one station to another. Tyler, a Rowland Hall lifer, enjoyed visualizing those reality-based questions. He still leans on that visual aptitude, but he’s since graduated from trains to particles colliding at nearly the speed of light, and from solving for velocity to working with fellow physicists to better understand the equations that govern the universe.

As a University of Wisconsin-Madison physics PhD student and postdoctoral researcher, Tyler spent over five years working for the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) Collaboration at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN. Four of those years, he worked on site near Geneva, Switzerland, where the Large Hadron Collider sits in an underground tunnel with a 17-mile circumference.

In layman’s terms, the CMS experiment involves colliding particles and measuring the results. “The CMS detector is essentially a gigantic camera taking photos of what's showering outwards from the middle of these collisions,” Tyler explained. “From that, we can reconstruct what happened at the very center of a collision.” Tyler’s work and that of the collaboration has helped confirm characteristics of the Higgs boson, a particle originally theorized in the 1960s. This sort of testing is a critical part of the scientific method.

physicist in control room

Tyler Ruggles looks at a visualization of a collision between protons on a monitor in the CMS control room. (Photo courtesy of Tyler Ruggles)

Tyler said it was exciting to put even a tiny dent in helping to decode the cosmos, and working at CERN—alongside some of the smartest physicists alive—deepened his own understanding of the field. “I could have envisioned myself staying at CERN for my whole life,” he said. Eventually, though, he gravitated back to what he called the more pressing issue of climate change—a problem he first tackled at Colorado College. His senior year, one of Tyler’s roommates volunteered their dilapidated house for an energy audit from a campus group. The friends learned they could insulate their attic and quickly recoup the cost through lower bills, so they rented a machine to spray the insulation themselves. “One of my friend's rooms never recovered—there was some insulation stuck to the floor for the rest of the year,” Tyler laughed. 

Messy as it was, the project gave Tyler clear takeaways: he loved the confluence of thermodynamics, community-oriented work, and fighting climate change through energy efficiency. “I saw all three of those come together in that moment,” he said. He joined that campus group the next day, and eventually became a group leader. After that, he worked in the rural Colorado mountains, educating energy customers about efficiency and developing a workforce to make energy upgrades to buildings. He valued those roles, but missed digging into the science. “I headed back to do what I loved from eighth grade,” he said. So he earned a PhD, and now he’s combining his three work passions.

Tyler is now doing energy-system and electric-grid modeling, and determining how society can progress toward a grid without carbon emissions. He and his colleagues hope to publish in academic journals, steer future research, and influence those with political clout.

In June, Tyler started as a postdoctoral researcher at the Carnegie Institution for Science on the Stanford University campus. There, he’s doing energy-system and electric-grid modeling, and determining how society can progress toward a grid without carbon emissions. Along the way, he and his colleagues hope to publish in academic journals, steer future research, and influence those with political clout.

Tyler is also exploring uncharted territory in his own personal universe: fatherhood. In 2018, Tyler and his wife, Caroline, welcomed their first child. Neither Rowland Hall nor graduate school could have prepared him for this work, Tyler joked. But he does find himself channeling chapel sessions, where students are taught to value each other: “You can value a crying baby from time to time,” he laughed. “You realize that you're going to help grow a healthy, helpful, kind human, and that makes it worthwhile.”


Top photo: Tyler, far left, gives American tech entrepreneur William Hurley and associates a tour of the CMS Collaboration at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland, on March 5, 2018. (Photo courtesy of CERN)

Alumni

Jeanna Tachiki Ryan demonstrates PreOv
Winged Lions on the Rise—title page graphic featuring six alumni.

Editor's note: this is one of six profiles republished from Rowland Hall's 2018–2019 Annual Report feature story, "Winged Lions on the Rise." Millennial alumni are finding their voices and already shaping their fields and communities—from physics to film, music to medical innovations, and environmental policy to conservation-minded real estate. Learn how Rowland Hall impacted them, and how they’re impacting the world. From left, Jared Ruga ’06, Claire Wang ’15, Phinehas Bynum ’08, Jeanna Tachiki Ryan ’01, Tyler Ruggles ’05, and Sarah Day ’06.


Jeanna Tachiki Ryan is a force of nature with a colorful Google calendar anchoring her bustling life. She’s working in her dream job as the first physician assistant (PA) in the University of Utah Allergy and Immunology Clinic—one of two clinics in Utah and the surrounding area to offer an oral-immunotherapy program addressing life-threatening food allergies. She’s mom to three daughters—her oldest, first-grader Sabrina, has a peanut allergy, which amplified Jeanna’s passion for that field. And the alumna is the co-founder of an award-winning startup: she’s chief technology officer (CTO) of PreOv, a user-friendly fertility monitor aimed at helping women conceive.

Jeanna and two friends entered the U’s 2018 Bench to Bedside competition for medical innovations with the concept of PreOv, and took home the $50,000 grand prize. “It felt surreal,” Jeanna said. Following that validation, PreOv obtained seed-round funding—in addition to cash prizes from two other U competitions—and is now finalizing a working prototype. The company plans to start a series A round of funding in 2020. “I hope PreOv will empower women with knowledge about their body, menstrual cycle, and health without sacrificing time and energy,” she said. “Women deserve better tools.”

Competition winners accepting giant check.

Jeanna Tachiki Ryan, center, and her team accept their initial $50,000 Bench to Bedside award for PreOv. (Photo courtesy of the University of Utah Center for Medical Innovation)

PreOv provides automated fertility monitoring via an intravaginal ring and Bluetooth app. Jeanna speaks compellingly about its value, and candidly about her own difficulties getting pregnant—common but often unspoken experiences. During one pitch competition, she publicly shared her story for the first time, something she hesitated to do since she now has three kids. “Our outcome doesn’t even compare to the pain others have experienced,” she said. But she opened up, and shed light on a complex topic.

Before starting PA school, Jeanna and husband John knew they wanted another child, so she painstakingly tracked her fertility indicators. “It was a ton of work, but we got pregnant,” she said. Tragically, she had a miscarriage. “On top of the heartache and grief, all of that work and time trying to get pregnant was gone.” The process shouldn’t be so tortuous: “The disappointment of a negative pregnancy test month after month is hopeless enough.”

Jeanna is advocating for her future female users and raising the bar for women’s health, a field too often neglected. She gives Rowland Hall credit for her inclusive, service-driven foundation.

Now, as CTO of a women-led, women-centric company, she’s advocating for her future female users and raising the bar for women’s health. That field is too often neglected, Jeanna said, but she’s faced such challenges head on in her career—from her work as a dietitian in Boston and Chicago helping disenfranchised populations, to her PA stint. And she gives Rowland Hall credit for her inclusive, service-driven foundation. “I was in the minority growing up in Utah being Japanese American and Buddhist,” she said. But her school made her feel accepted, and taught her to value diversity. “Because of this, I enjoy learning about other cultures,” she said, “and have gravitated towards serving the underserved.”

That passion has propelled Jeanna through the trials and tribulations of PreOv. She cited a quote from Jordan Hewson, daughter of U2 singer Bono, that compares starting a business to sprinting a marathon in a ghoul-filled labyrinth—sans David Bowie. “That’s what it’s like,” Jeanna joked. But her experience gives her an edge: in addition to her PA master's from the U, she has a bachelor's and master's in nutrition and a master's in computer information systems from Boston University. The latter helps her bridge the gap between IT and healthcare delivery—a pillar of PreOv. Another advantage: Jeanna’s leadership skills, initially forged as a Rowland Hall volleyball and softball captain. Pitcher Jeanna said her softball team’s regular losses sharpened her resilience. “With every loss, I had to pick myself up and get back on the mound.” As in softball, so in life: Jeanna will keep pitching, and perfecting, the 21st-century family-planning tool women deserve.


Top photo: Jeanna shows off a PreOv prototype at downtown Salt Lake City business incubator Church and State, where her team uses the public space and conference rooms for meetings.

Alumni

At the Intersection of Homelessness, Healthcare, and Humanity

Rowland Hall alumnus Jeff Norris lives his purpose treating and advocating for underserved populations as the medical director of Father Joe’s Villages in San Diego When Jeff Norris ’03 applied to medical school, the admissions office at the University of Utah called him in for a rare second interview. He had submitted a personal statement focused on the connection between medicine, public health, and social justice, and that intersectional approach raised some eyebrows.
 
Admissions officers asked Jeff if he was sure he wanted to go to medical school, and not study public health or social work. But he assured them: he knew he wanted to be a clinician who worked with, and advocated for, underserved populations.

Jeff credited Rowland Hall with launching his career trajectory. In high school, under the mentorship of then-faculty member Liz Paige, he volunteered with Amnesty International and prepared and served food at local youth groups. The positive experience of serving others and making an impact—and relevant content in history and psychology courses—got the wheels turning in Jeff’s brain: “I started reflecting on my role in the world and how I could try to do something to make a difference for others. What is my purpose for being here?”

Jeff's self-described “deliberate and diligent” approach to his career—melding his interests in science and social justice, being motivated by a desire to give back to the world—has been nothing short of a success.

The service and activism Jeff began at Rowland Hall carried through his years as an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, as a med student at the University of Utah, and as a family medicine resident at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. His self-described “deliberate and diligent” approach to his career—melding his interests in science and social justice, being motivated by a desire to give back to the world—has been nothing short of a success: in 2016, Jeff became the medical director of Father Joe’s Villages, an award-winning nonprofit that provides integrated services to people experiencing homelessness in San Diego.
 
Jeff’s day-to-day work requires a breadth of skill, knowledge, and tenacity: he estimates he spends about 40 percent of his time treating patients and the other 60 percent engaged in clinic administration, fundraising, and advocacy—including ensuring that state and federal legislation supports nonprofits like his. He serves on a number of boards, including a large network of clinics with over 100,000 patients in the San Diego area. For Jeff, it’s about more than staying connected and representing the interests of Father Joe’s Villages. “It is being present in the community to advocate for the needs of not just those experiencing homelessness, but underserved populations more broadly.”


At the clinic he leads—which serves walk-ins along with residents of Father Joe’s Villages and people receiving assistance from other local agencies—Jeff focuses on decreasing the barriers his patients face in getting adequate care, and staying on the cutting edge of what they need in order to improve their health. “The challenges our patients face are pretty unique, compared to most patient populations,” he said. “Their lives are very chaotic, and they have a lot going on medically, psychiatrically, behaviorally, socially…in all senses.” A significant portion of his time is spent managing programs to deliver medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder (OUD)—drugs such as buprenorphine (suboxone) or naltrexone—and for alcohol abuse. 

At the clinic he leads, Jeff focuses on decreasing the barriers his patients face in getting adequate care, and staying on the cutting edge of what they need in order to improve their health.

Among the most recent and cutting-edge programs Jeff and his team at Father Joe’s Villages are running is the Street Health Program, which launched this spring and is already impacting lives for the better. As the name suggests, the initiative involves going out into the streets and providing healthcare directly to people experiencing homelessness. So far, they’ve reached a number of people who’ve avoided or been underserved by traditional healthcare. One example: a man who had been using heroin for 30 years and had never before been interested in treatment. Pending a grant, the street health team hopes to treat patients with OUD at the first point of contact. In the meantime, they wrote a prescription for this particular patient because, as Jeff said, “it was the right thing to do.”
 
One of the long-term goals of the Street Health Program is to develop rapport with individuals so that they will visit the clinic for treatment. Additionally, the launch has created quite a buzz throughout San Diego, so Jeff hopes other clinics and treatment centers will consider similar programs (which do already exist in other large metropolitan areas like New York and San Francisco). “It can’t just be us,” he said. “There are enough folks experiencing homelessness that we certainly cannot meet the need unilaterally.”
 
Jeff is rightly proud of his advocacy work and the impact his clinic makes on a daily basis, and he speaks passionately of the need for everyone to recognize the homelessness crisis—not just in San Diego, but also in Salt Lake City and urban areas throughout the country. While rising housing costs and relatively stagnant wages are the two primary drivers of the problem, Jeff doesn’t discount the power of the individual to make a difference, whether through volunteering, donating goods, or elevating the dialogue to fight the stigma against those experiencing homelessness.
 
When he’s not working, Jeff stays active outdoors, taking advantage of all that San Diego’s famously temperate climate has to offer. He also prioritizes time with his family: two-year-old daughter Alex keeps Jeff and wife Sonia Ponce—a practicing cardiologist—quite busy.
Jeff always treated those he served with dignity and compassion. It is wonderful to see him intently living his purpose, in the intersection of bettering human relationships as a way to improve healthcare. —Ryan Hoglund, director of ethical education

Rowland Hall’s Director of Ethical Education Ryan Hoglund is not at all surprised that Jeff is making a difference in the lives of others. He recalled how, as a high school student, Jeff was always highly engaged and motivated to serve, often being the last to leave a volunteer event. “Jeff always treated those he served with dignity and compassion,” Ryan said. “It is wonderful to see him intently living his purpose, in the intersection of bettering human relationships as a way to improve healthcare.”

Just as Jeff credited Rowland Hall for sparking his interest in a life of service to others, Mr. Hoglund credited Jeff for setting an example of genuine student leadership at the school. And, to the student leaders today, Jeff sent these words of encouragement: “Figure out what gives you energy and makes you feel like you're contributing to the world in some positive way, then grab that bull by the horns and don’t let go of it. That’s where you're going to be able to make a difference, to be satisfied with who you are and what you're doing in this world.”


All photos courtesy of Father Joe's Villages.

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