|Michael Bergman, B.S.B.A. '00 (marketing)
Young Entrepreneur's Got 'Game'
Walk into a high-school library in Atlanta and you could find students doing jumping jacks or shouting the names of sports teams. Don't disturb them; they might be studying.
Physical activity and popular culture are the key ingredients to Numbskull™, a game created by Michael Bergman, B.S.B.A. '00, to help students prepare for the SAT. Teams take turns answering math and verbal questions based on popular culture. Instead of a timer, the players must finish the questions before the opposing team completes a task such as pushups or naming rap artists.
Numbskull is the product of more than two years of work, which began when Bergman was visiting his family for Thanksgiving while a senior at Washington University. He had just taken the LSAT, while his sister—now a senior at the University—was studying to take the SAT. One night they were playing Cranium™, a popular board game that asks players to answer questions or perform physical tasks, and Bergman wondered if there was a way to apply some of the game's ideas to make his own studying more fun.
"It sort of came to me," he says of the idea for Numbskull. "What does every college-bound high-school student go through? Everyone goes through the SAT."
With his own and his sister's test preparations in mind, Bergman saw an opportunity to develop a game that would "help the kids who can't afford the SAT prep classes or who don't have the patience to sit in a room for multiple hours reading a black-and-white book."
Armed with the idea for a game, Bergman returned to the University. As a student in the Olin School of Business, he had had experience developing ideas into products. In previous years, he had participated in internships and in the Hatchery, an Olin program that provides seed money and mentorship to students interested in developing business ideas. Through the Hatchery, Bergman joined with fellow undergraduate, Aaron Bright, B.S.B.A. '00, to form Bare Ware, LLC, a vendor that supplied shirts for student groups. Naturally, Bergman returned to his Hatchery mentor, Richard Klein, who helped him market the concept to game-makers.
Bergman praises the Hatchery with bringing his other classes into perspective and making future projects such as Numbskull possible.
"That real world experience was very nice and helpful," he says. "I had an inkling that I wanted to do something creative yet have a hand in every aspect of a business."
Although Bergman recently earned his law degree from Emory University, he has decided not to practice law for now. He calls the law degree "a good background" but would like to continue developing creative projects.
"It's fun to create something and go through the different stages: from having an idea to having your friends call from L.A. and tell you they saw your game on a shelf," he says.
Bergman has formed a company, Lion Eyes Creations, through which he is currently working on two other projects: flash cards to help students study for the AP U.S. history exam and The Graduate Survival Guide, a book of tips to help college graduates through their first-year challenges, such as picking the right health insurance or finding an apartment. He has partnered with his cousin, art school alumna Carlyn Ross, B.F.A. '97, to produce the survival guide, which he hopes will be distributed by alumni associations as early as spring 2004.
History Comes Alive in Plymouth
|Edya Kalev, A.B. '92
"I distinctly remember being terrified at my first public presentation during my senior year," says Edya Kalev, who completed a bachelor's degree in art history in 1992. Stage fright, however, no longer troubles her. In fact, you'll find Kalev "on stage" every Sunday, except in winter, at Plimoth Plantation, playing the role of Patience Prence (see photo).
At Plimoth Plantation, a living history museum in Plymouth, Massachusetts, it is always 1627. Kalev and 50+ other interpreters don period costumes, adopt historically accurate dialects, inhabit authentically reproduced buildings, and re-create 17th-century Colonial life for the museum's 500,000 annual visitors.
The real Patience Prence arrived in New Plymouth at the age of 20, led by her outspoken father whose break with the Church of England prompted the family's flight, first to Holland and then to America. In 1627, Patience's father was the Separatist church's elder and her husband an assistant to the governor, destined to become governor himself.
In 2003, Kalev-as-Patience spent her Sundays cooking over an open fire, stitching, and tending to animals and her garden. "I plant a few things I know from Holland. I grow borage, which we use for physick (medicine) and in sallats (salads), and leeks and lettuce," Kalev explains. She occasionally strolled through the village on her husband's arm. And she constantly interacted with visitors, always in character as Patience Prence.
Kalev's formal education did not include theater, although she confides, "Acting skills come into play when you have to respond to a visitor's question as though you haven't already heard it a thousand times.
"I don't think any formal education could have prepared me for this job," she continues, "but the writing skills I developed at the University—I wrote a lot of term papers!—have served me very well, along with the ability to read source material critically."
Research and writing are talents Kalev employs in the museum role she occupies Monday through Friday as Plimoth Plantation webmaster. "One position has really informed the other," she says. "For example, the FAQs on the site all came from my experience with visitors.
"It's 'span new,'" Kalev says of the revamped Web site, "not 'brand new.' In 1627, they said 'span new.'" She inherited a chaotic site with more than 2,000 pages, then spent a year gathering historical data and writing accurate, friendly content. Traffic at the new site (www.plimoth.org/), launched in October 2003, is up almost 20 percent.
Kalev's museum career began in 1990 with a summer job at the Cloisters Museum, a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. She also has worked at the Museum of the City of New York, in museums and art galleries in Israel, and at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, where she first encountered first-person programs. "I saw what a great educational tool this was, to be in character. Visitors are fascinated with the stories interpreters tell," she says. Along the way, Kalev also completed an interdisciplinary master's degree in humanities and social thought, with a museum studies certificate in New York University's John W. Draper Program.
Where will Kalev go next? She's thoroughly happy where she is: "I don't think that I can give this up, either of my jobs. I plan to spend the rest of my life working in museums. It's the most fun a girl can have."