ALUMNI PROFILES — Summer 2009
   

 

(Photo: Marc Bryan-Brown Photography)

Alum Wins News
Emmy

On December 2, 2008, Asa Eslocker (right), A.B. ’03, and Madeleine Sauer won a News Emmy for “Outstanding Investigative Reporting of a Business News Story” at the 6th Annual Emmy Awards for Business & Financial Reporting in New York City. The award-winning piece, titled “Brian Ross Investigates: The Multimillion Dollar ‘Appeal,’” aired on ABC News Nightline on April 11, 2008.

“We reported and produced a long-form investigative piece on how the CEO of Massey Coal Company used his money and power to buy influence on the West Virginia Supreme Court to sway judgments against his company,” says Eslocker, who served as field producer of the story.

This is Eslocker’s second News Emmy. He previously won in the “Outstanding Investigative Journalism” category for “Brian Ross Investigates: Conduct Unbecoming,” a story on Rep. Mark Foley’s inappropriate e-mails to teenage former congressional pages. Eslocker was a field producer of this piece, which also aired on ABC News.

To view “The Multimillion Dollar ‘Appeal,’” visit abcnews.go.com/video/playerIndex?id=4612112.


Karen Jashinsky teaches kids how to lead healthier lives at 02 MAX, a youth fitness center she founded. (Photo: Rob Brown)

Maximizing Healthy Habits for Kids
Physical education classes are being cut at many schools, and childhood obesity is on the rise. Karen Jashinsky, B.S.B.A. ’99, a certified personal trainer and nutrition consultant, uses her love of fitness to fill in the gaps—to teach kids how to lead healthier lives.

“Fitness plays an integral role in my life,” she says. “After receiving an asthma diagnosis at the age of 6, I began swimming to help develop my lungs. Over time, exercise became my outlet for relieving stress and competing against myself.”

Jashinsky is the founder and CEO of 02 MAX. After many years of planning, she launched the youth fitness center in Santa Monica, California, in March 2008. The center opened with an overwhelmingly successful 10-week Prom Fitness Challenge, which aimed to get teen girls in shape for prom. Several teens participated in the program and learned healthy eating and exercise skills using online programs and coaching. Due to the success of the 2008 Prom Fitness Challenge, 02 MAX decided to conduct another one this year.

Since opening, O2 MAX has evolved into a youth fitness media company. The studio in Santa Monica serves as its home base, while its online presence creates a social community for youths with information on fitness, health, and nutrition. 02 MAX also plays an active role in the local community by helping to shape the fitness and nutrition programs in the school district.

“We take a lifestyle approach to teaching teens how to integrate health, fitness, and nutrition into their daily lives while making it cool, fun, and social,” says Jashinsky.

She entered the fitness industry after graduating from Washington University and spending three years in media planning, marketing, and operations management. She realized she wanted to own her own business someday, so she decided to pursue an MBA at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business. During graduate school, she became a certified personal trainer to earn extra money. She received many requests from parents wanting her to work with their teens.

“I realized there was a big niche that wasn’t being tapped. Using my years of experience with fitness, my knowledge of the youth obesity epidemic, and my skills from business school, I came up with the idea for 02 MAX,” she says. “It is my hope that 02 MAX will be a leading force in changing the way teens view fitness by giving them the tools and knowledge to lead healthy lives.”

The International Health, Racquet, and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA), a global organization representing more than 7,000 fitness club owners from 73 countries, named Jashinsky “one of the 25 young leaders in the fitness industry” for her visionary concept and pioneering efforts to create a club exclusively for teens. In the IHRSA’s 26 years of existence, no one had stepped up to champion the inclusion of teens in the “fitness revolution.” Jashinsky also received the first Emerging Female Leader Award from IHRSA.

02 MAX isn’t the only thing keeping Jashinsky busy. She writes articles on teen health for Los Angeles Family Magazine and other publications. In 2006, she created Energy Rocks and partnered with the L.A. After-School All-Stars, a leading after-school program founded by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2002. Energy Rocks is an annual all-day free health festival for teens, integrating music, hip-hop, and exercise to underscore the link between physical fitness and academic achievement. Plans for Energy Rocks 2010 are currently under way, and Jashinsky hopes to make this a national event in the future.

Jashinsky also remains connected with Washington University as chair of the Los Angeles committee for the Alumni and Parents Admission Program (APAP). The program involves alumni and parents of undergraduates in recruiting, selecting, and enrolling students at the University.

“My goal is to create a strong alumni network in Los Angeles and make it easier for recent graduates to connect with alumni for internships and jobs,” she says.

To learn more about 02 MAX, visit www.02MAXfitness.com.

—Blaire Leible Garwitz


Ted Perlstein created Fill In The Blank Greetings™, a greeting card company that provides an interactive experience for the sender and the recipient. (Photo: Ron Vesely)

Increasing Connectivity Is in His Cards
Ted Perlstein, B.S.A.S. ’97, creates and designs new ways for people to connect and communicate—though not in a way his Washington University engineering professors might have expected.

Since June 2008, Perlstein has been on a mission to propel personal greeting cards into the modern age. His Chicago-based business, Fill In The Blank Greetings™, produces greeting cards that provide a more interactive experience for both the sender and the recipient of the card.

“In 2007, I visited some recently married friends,” says Perlstein. “They were in the throes of sending thank-you cards for their wedding gifts, but they were having little fun with the whole process. I started thinking that there had to be a better, more fulfilling card-giving experience.”

His solution involves a new type of greeting card reminiscent of Mad Libs, the humorous word game much beloved by American kids since its invention in the 1950s. In the game, one player prompts other players for random nouns, verbs, or adjectives to substitute for blanks sprinkled throughout a short story. The players then read the resulting nonsensical story out loud, which invariably produces laughter throughout the group.

After several weeks of creative thinking, writing, and researching the greeting card industry, Perlstein produced some sample cards to show his friends and family. They responded with so much enthusiasm and encouragement that he decided to run with the idea, officially launching his new business in June 2008.

Here’s how Fill In The Blank cards work: Each card features cutouts on its front panel, with prompts for what to write in the cutout spaces—such as “a dream job” or “an impulse purchase”—printed underneath them. The front panel instructs the recipient to fill in the blanks before opening the card to read the newly crafted message on the inside.

The resulting message on the card’s inside panel, besides being amusing, has effectively been personalized by the recipient.

Perlstein then thought of a way to encourage interaction between the sender and the recipient even further through a patent-pending online process.

“A recipient of any of our cards can go to www.fillintheblankgreetings.com to e-mail his or her newly created message back to the sender or to other friends and family,” explains Perlstein. “It’s an engaging and unique process that advances the evolution of greeting cards.”

Fill In The Blank Greetings isn’t Perlstein’s first successful business built by anticipating new ways to provide products and services via the Internet. Following his graduation from the University, he and a mentor started a thriving online travel company called LastMinuteTravel.com, which today bills itself as the “first Web site serving the time-starved traveler.” After spending five years with LastMinuteTravel.com, Perlstein left in search of new horizons and eventually created Fill In The Blank Greetings.

Perlstein credits the University with helping him see the myriad possibilities of online connectivity. “When I was at Washington University during the mid-1990s, the Internet boom was just beginning,” he says. “Having access to the School of Engineering & Applied Science’s Applied Research Laboratory, which was at the forefront of networking and telecommunications, showed me the Internet’s incredible potential.”

Today, Perlstein is glad to be master of his own destiny. He writes the wording for the greeting cards, hires freelance designers from across North America to create the card graphics, and works on ideas for future products. Soon after starting his company, he began a parallel business that creates direct response campaigns, using the Fill In The Blank concept, for businesses looking for a fresh approach to marketing.

More than anything, Perlstein enjoys creating tangible products that help people connect and celebrate with each other.

“To think of someone filling in a greeting card that I made, then laughing as they read the message inside, is an extremely fun and gratifying experience,” he says.

—Lisa Cary


Using her love of cooking, Carey Palenchar is developing a cooking school for Giant Eagle Market District, a chain of grocery stores. (Photo: Fred Vuich)

Cooking Up a New Culinary Career
For Carey (Long) Palenchar, B.S.C.S. ’02, experiments in the kitchen revealed her true calling. Her love of cooking began when she was a student at Washington University, where Palenchar studied computer science and tried out new recipes in her free time. She became, as she puts it, “pretty much obsessed with [television’s] Food Network.”

After graduation, she worked as a senior analyst in AT&T’s information technology department for three years. Despite working long hours, she still found time for her culinary hobby. “It seemed that whenever I had free time I spent it cooking,” she says.

The joy that cooking brought to her life led her to consider a culinary career. In January 2005, Palenchar decided to enroll part time in the culinary arts program at St. Louis Community College–Forest Park. By the end of her first semester, she knew she wanted to attend culinary school full time. So she quit her job at AT&T and enrolled at L’Ecole Culinaire in St. Louis in August 2005.

“It was a tough decision because, unlike going to culinary school part time, attending classes full time would be a life-changer,” says Palenchar. “But from the time I started there, I knew this was where I should be.”

During this time, several externships exposed her to further positive experiences in the culinary field. “While most students got restaurant jobs, I did a combination of four different things,” says Palenchar. “I worked with the Kelly Twins [chefs in the St. Louis area], helping them with their cooking show on cable television. I also did cooking demonstrations on KSDK Newschannel 5.”

On top of that, she assisted a food photographer and worked in the Whole Lifestyle Center of Whole Foods Market. These four different jobs helped Palenchar hone in on what she wanted to do with her new degree and experiences: recipe development, food styling, and culinary instruction. After graduating from culinary school, she found the perfect job at Dierbergs Markets in St. Louis, when the company created a position just for her in its School of Cooking.

“Dierbergs liked that I had a degree from Washington University along with my culinary school degree, and they were impressed by all the different experiences I had in my four externships,” says Palenchar. In her position at Dierbergs School of Cooking, she developed and taught classes, created and tested recipes for Dierbergs Everybody Cooks® magazine, and assisted with food styling for the magazine and the television show by the same name.

After a year at Dierbergs, Palenchar had to leave the company and her “perfect job” when she and her husband, Ethan, B.S.C.S. ’02, moved to Pittsburgh so he could begin working on an M.B.A. at Carnegie Mellon University. However, she got lucky and ended up finding another dream job at Giant Eagle Market District in Pittsburgh, where she is working to develop a cooking school for the company.

“My experiences from Dierbergs will help me when I form this cooking school,” Palenchar says. “I’m so proud of landing this job because the level of responsibility I’m going to have is definitely a step up from anything I’ve ever done.”

The cooking school formally opens in fall 2009; in the meantime, Palenchar is serving as the food marketing manager for one of the Giant Eagle Market District stores. She creates and demonstrates recipes, plans dishes for the week, and answers customers’ questions.

She uses her past television experience in her current job, as there is a camera on her kitchen area constantly. “Customers can always see what we’re doing even if it’s crowded around the demonstration area, which it always is,” says Palenchar.

Although she ended up in a career totally unrelated to her degree in engineering, Palenchar says that there are some similarities between the two.

“When developing recipes, you have to be detail-oriented, and you have to be able to troubleshoot problems; these are the same raw skills that drive both computer science and recipe development.”

—Victoria Siegel, A.B. ’81, M.A. ’88