ALUMNI PROFILES — Winter 2009
   

 
Formerly director of voter registration for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, Jason G. Green is now deputy associate counsel at the White House. (Photo: Andres Alonso)

Young Lawyer Lands at the White House
After President Barack Obama named Jason G. Green, AB ’03, a deputy associate counsel in late January, the young lawyer headed to the White House. A month later, Green took the bar exam and was admitted to the Maryland Bar in June. All that time and since, he has been working in the Old Executive Office Building next to the White House, scrutinizing domestic legislation and writing briefs.

Green landed the White House job after performing a range of duties for Obama’s presidential campaign, winding up as director of its voter registration drive. In the fall of 2007, he joined what then looked like a long-shot campaign while still a third-year law student at Yale University.

Studying law in the early morning before hunting for votes all day, Green tirelessly worked for Obama in six states stretching from Nevada to North Carolina. “I did the tour,” says Green.

The dual major in political science and finance started off in North Las Vegas, directing field operations to drum up support for Obama in the Nevada caucus. Then, successively, he served as the state political director in Connecticut, deputy field director in Maryland, regional get-out-the-vote director in Milwaukee and Houston, and finally he worked as the regional field director in Charlotte, North Carolina.

After stopping at Yale to take his final exams and collect his law degree, Green took over the drive to sign up voters.

“We were the only campaign in recent history to have an in-house voter registration campaign,” instead of leaving it to independent groups, he notes.

Through the summer and into the early fall, Green collaborated with field operatives and campaign volunteers to register voters in battleground states.

The campaign’s novel effort also was waged in cyberspace. Close to a million people, he says, started the registration process on a special campaign Web site, voteforchange.com. “We needed additional server space to handle that kind of traffic,” says Green.

After Obama’s victory, Green, like thousands of others, applied for a job in the new administration. Uncertain of what—if anything—he might be offered, Green applied through another Web site established for the presidential transition.

First, he researched, on the Internet and in the library, different government jobs available. On his application, he expressed interest in a half-dozen jobs in the White House Counsel’s Office, Justice Department, and State Department. Rounds of interviews followed. “My first choice was always to be here,” says Green.

A week before his appointment, Green found out he would get his first choice from an e-mail from then-White House Counsel Gregory B. Craig. The message arrived on Martin Luther King Day, which also was the day before Obama’s inauguration.

Pennsylvania Avenue is a long way from Washington University, but Green says he learned pertinent lessons from serving as a senator and vice president in Student Union and as senior class president. His campaign slate, named “true.” (meaning: true period), he says, was “very interested in fomenting change.” As a candidate, he made the rounds listening to various student groups and, once in office, worked to reconcile opposing viewpoints and to reach consensus. “Running for student government is very similar to a presidential campaign,” he says.

Green’s campus service and strong academic performance were widely recognized. Among other honors, he was a John B. Ervin Scholar, an Erich and Barbara Sippel Arts & Sciences Scholar, and a recipient of the Ethan A.H. Shepley Leadership Award.

The young White House lawyer is unsure what lies ahead for him, professionally, but he is likely to remain in Washington, D.C. Since the 1860s, his father’s family has lived along a single street in suburban Gaithersburg, Maryland, as he does now.

“Once I got back to Washington, I felt I was never going to leave,” says Green. “It might be hard to get away.”

—Kenneth J. Cooper, AB ’77


Through her work on television shows, engineer Deanne Bell works to promote and enhance the image of women in science. (Photo: Rob Brown)

Engineering a Creative Career in Television
A sense of adventure runs in the family for Deanne Bell, BSME ’02. When she was growing up, her father would exclaim, “Let’s go find Passamaquoddy!” He was referring to the fictitious city from the movie Pete’s Dragon. (He told his family it was somewhere in Maine.) The Bells would then pile into the family van and make the drive from Florida to every national park imaginable.

“That’s the kind of adventurous spirit I grew up with,” recalls Bell, now an engineer and former host of Discovery Channel’s two-season TV series Smash Lab. “I don’t always know where I want to go, but it doesn’t matter because the journey is usually more important than the destination anyway.”

In addition to being a world traveler, she describes herself as a TV dinner of “a mechanical engineer patty with two side dishes of creativity and athleticism.” She further developed these qualities while attending Washington University. Bell chose to study at the University not only for its engineering program, but also for its well-rounded, personalized education.

“I had great relationships with our deans, with professors, and with students both in and outside of the engineering school. Even five years after I graduated, one of my professors e-mailed me to make sure I was still chasing the dream job I had always talked about,” says Bell.

She also used her time at the University to study architecture, get involved with her community, and play soccer. “I am so fortunate that I chose to attend a university that both nurtured me as an individual and gave me the confidence to be the kind of engineer I always wanted to be.”

Right now, the kind she wants to be is an engineer television host—two things that are not necessarily exclusive.

She got her start on television with PBS’ Peabody Award-winning children’s series Design Squad. Bell’s most recent television series was Discovery Channel’s Smash Lab, a show based on breaking down technology to figure out how it works and then reconstructing it for a new purpose.

The show offered Bell the unique opportunity to test her engineering skills on camera. On one of the episodes, she and other Smash Lab crew members were tasked with pressurizing an airplane cabin as if it were flying at 30,000 feet and then bursting it with a handful of C4 explosive.

“We were told, ‘The plane we rented is riddled with holes from the Navy Seals who borrowed it last week. And you have two days. And you have to be on camera the whole time—go!’ And that’s just the beginning,” she says. “Then we had to engineer a solution to attempt to make it safer.”

Even with the demands of her busy schedule, Bell still finds time to stay connected with Washington University. During the production of Smash Lab, she passed through St. Louis and hosted an egg drop challenge for students at the School of Engineering & Applied Science with Guy Genin, associate professor of mechanical, aerospace, and structural engineering. Participating students used paper plates and one piece of duct tape to create a protective apparatus for their parachuting eggs in the competition.

When she is not involved with television, Bell speaks to schools and corporations about being a woman in the field of engineering, nurturing creativity within a technical environment, and what it’s like to blow things up on television.

“You can’t pick out engineers by their pocket protectors anymore. We don’t look a certain way, and we don’t conform to any stereotypes,” says Bell. “No one can take the weight of representing all women in science. I just do my job and do it well. With time, people’s stereotypes change, and it starts to sink in.”

With the conclusion of the Smash Lab series, the creative and adventurous alumna is pitching her own ideas for science television shows to various networks while continuing to promote the image of women in science, especially in engineering.

—Laura Miller, Arts & Sciences Class of ’10


David Nakayama is a concept artist for Paragon Studios, NCsoft’s internal development studio that produces the online game City of Heroes®. (Photo: Max Morse)

From Comics to Games, Artist Lives Dream
As a small child, David Nakayama, BFA ’01, was obsessed with dinosaurs, heavy construction equipment, and Transformers
®. Inspired by comic artist Jim Lee’s work in Uncanny X-Men, he dreamed of drawing comic books for a living someday and practiced on 6-foot-long sheets of butcher paper measured out by his mom.

“If I wanted Transformer A to shoot at Transformer B, I would just draw a long, curving line between the two, rambling all over the piece of paper and conveniently curving around other characters who happened to be in the way,” says Nakayama. “It makes me cringe, looking at it now, but I still enjoy the kid logic of it.”

Nakayama kept drawing and majored in illustration in the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University. For three years, he worked for Student Life, the University’s independent student newspaper, drawing editorial, feature, and political cartoons; creating a regular comic strip; and writing the occasional article.

“In most of my school work, I tried to explore styles and techniques that would be relevant in the comics field, and for the most part, my instructors gave me the freedom to do that,” says Nakayama. “Also, people seemed to enjoy the work that I did for Student Life, and operating under regular deadlines turned out to be excellent training for the job I’d eventually get.”

After graduating from the University, he attended the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art, Inc., a three-year residential college in Dover, New Jersey, with classes such as figure drawing and sequential storytelling. Nakayama published his first professional comic while a student there. But after winning Wizard Magazine’s contest to “Be The Next Top Cow Superstar,” he left school a year early and became an art intern at Top Cow Productions in Los Angeles.

“I started getting both internship and work offers, and after talking it over with the founder of the school and industry legend Joe Kubert, I decided it was an appropriate time to go,” says Nakayama.

Being a comic artist at Top Cow presented an endless stream of deadlines, and Nakayama worked weekends and holidays trying to draw each page better than the previous one. Though the finished comic could be seen as a reflection of the frantic schedule, the act of drawing itself is actually quite mellow.

“Finished superhero art is typically pretty bombastic, colorful, in-your-face stuff, but producing it is a much quieter affair,” he says. “It can take days of focused effort to create the best pieces. I think people might be interested to know that comic artists listen to a lot of music, radio, podcasts—whatever helps us get into the ‘zone,’” he says.

Nakayama currently works as a concept artist for Paragon Studios, NCsoft’s internal development studio that produces the online game City of Heroes®.

“I keep much more regular hours, which makes it a better fit for my family, particularly with a new baby in the picture,” says Nakayama. “I’m fortunate to work in the video game industry as a concept artist, which allows me to make up all kinds of cool stuff for City of Heroes. It’s a blast to watch my 2D art turned into living, breathing characters and environments in the game world, and I still do comic covers on the side as well, which means I get to have my cake and eat it, too.

“In addition to being a comic fan, I’m a huge gamer, so it’s truly a dream come true for me to work at Paragon. I actually drew the City of Heroes comic book series a few years back and often wondered what it would be like to work on the actual game. I didn’t think I would ever get the chance, so I’m feeling pretty lucky right now,” he says.

Recently, Nakayama had the opportunity to draw a set of five covers for Disney’s release of X-Men: The Animated Series.

“I was so flattered to be asked to do that work, given that the television show is based on those Jim Lee comics,” he says, referencing his childhood inspiration.

To view Nakayama’s work, visit www.davidnakayama.com.

—Laura Miller, Arts & Sciences Class of ’10