What is your favorite meal to cook for someone else?
I’d have to go with steak (assuming they’re not opposed to meat) topped with my homemade bourbon/maple syrup glaze, paired with sautéed sliced zucchini, yellow squash, and shallots served with roasted red potatoes. If they’re opposed to meat dishes, I have an awesome portobello mushroom Wellington in mind.
What was your favorite course in college that was unrelated to your major? What did you learn that changed the way you think about the world?
I took an acting class as an elective my senior year, and I enjoyed it for two reasons. First, I got to explore putting on a persona and playing with emotion and words. Second, we had a couple of French exchange students in our class, and I got to introduce one of them to Girl Scout Cookies because they were involved in a scene we did. (Girl Scout Cookies aren’t really a thing in France.) That experience allowed me to see that often, there are expressions in other countries or societies that just don’t translate, even though these students were very fluent in English. In this case, it was a character’s love for this special kind of cookie, which my acting partner could not understand, because it isn’t a part of the culture she was raised in.
What would people be surprised to learn about you?
I’m really interested in poetry, I think it’s fascinating that someone can place so much meaning in so few words. My favorite poem is “If” by Rudyard Kipling. It’s about a father’s words to his son about success and becoming a man. I’ve also written several of my own poems because I think it helps to preserve the feelings you have at certain points of your life.
Who is your favorite character of all time (can be from anything, movie, book, TV, whatever)? Why?
Thomas Shelby from the TV show Peaky Blinders. He understands that his strengths mean he must be the face of his family, even if he isn’t the eldest. He can see several steps ahead of those around him, and is willing to do whatever it takes to earn his keep, even if things get messy. But he also understands that some situations require a softer side.
Best concert you’ve ever been to, and why?
It was a show at The Funhouse at Mr. Smalls, a venue in the attic of a church here in Pittsburgh. My friend’s band, Horus Maze, headlined a charity show there. Horus Maze is my favorite band by far, because my friend treats his band members like family, and even employs several of them. It was a particularly powerful show because in the middle of it, he revealed that the band’s drummer was diagnosed with a condition that will eventually make it impossible for him to play. He still chose to be there, however, despite having an invasive treatment that morning.
Of all the cities you've been to, which did you connect with more than any other? Why?
Buffalo, New York is where I feel the most at home. Aside from the fact that it’s the city I was born in, the people there embody this spirit of togetherness. Whether it’s banding together to dig out your neighbor after waking up to seven feet of heavy, wet snow, or meeting complete strangers at a Bills or Sabres game and bonding over making every minute of it regrettable for the other team, everyone has common ground to connect over.
What was the dumbest thing you did when you were a kid?
I’m honestly reminded of a time back around when I was probably three, I’d say. I remember my dad was baking cookies and in charge of “watching me” because Mom was on her way to work. Well, Dad opened the oven, removed a cookie sheet, and as he turned to place them on the cooling rack, I crawled up into the oven to get the cookies. Naturally, the three of us spent most of the night in the emergency room because I had first- and second-degree burns on my hands and legs.
Is there some random thing you’ve never done that most people would be surprised and/or slightly appalled at?
I have never been to New York City, which I think most people think is weird because I’ve lived in New York for about 23 years and have honestly always wanted to go.
Tell us a story from when you were a kid. It can be funny, stupid, warm and fuzzy, whatever. Just make it a good one.
I don’t know if this counts as me being a kid, but just a month ago my three sisters and I put together a family surprise party for my parents’ twenty-fifth anniversary. It was really cool because they truly had no idea and were extremely confused because of how well we sold it. It was definitely warm and fuzzy because of the amount of teamwork we had to exhibit, even though we fought a lot in our younger years. I think it truly showed my parents how their examples of love, kindness, support and communication instilled in us a spirit of togetherness.
Which core value do you identify with most? Why?
Family First. My team mates have been with me through so many struggles in life and supported me in every way they could. That’s what family does, no matter what, and it’s what has allowed me to find the value in every struggle. They also instilled a fighting spirit in me to do whatever needs to be done in order to find success.
You majored in psychology and communication arts in college. That’s an unlikely combination. What drew you to that path? How do those two areas connect?
So, these two areas really connect in that a lot of the theories you study in communication arts are applied in psychological research. I was drawn to study each because of the way that one informs the other—specifically, in the areas of brand identification and consumer psychology, which are fundamentally similar. I particularly focused on what drew people to the Ice Bucket Challenge and was able to look at the themes in some of the Facebook videos people made to determine what aspects of the challenge were most important to participants. I was also able to perform a quantitative study that allowed me to see how informative or emotional ads impacted an individual’s willingness to donate to a cause. I found all of this extremely applicable because it gave me insight into what causes people to identify with certain groups.
Tell us about your connection to BJ Nelson and what impact that relationship had on your life.
I’ve known BJ for just over five years now. I met him in college and sought him out while I rushed and pledged the Phi Delta Theta fraternity, of which he was a brother. We shared a similar sense of humor, and a dedication to working hard. Through the pledge process, he took me under his wing and mentored me as my Big—he somehow even got me into several of his yoga classes. After he graduated and began his professional career, it was more difficult to stay in touch, but that never changed the respect I had for him. We still talked from time to time. By some stroke of luck during May of last year, we talked about where we were in life. He mentioned this awesome company called Prolink, how he was able to create his own success there, and that he felt I could benefit in the same way. It was, and still is, a big point of pride for me that someone I look up to and respect believed in me enough to bring my name up and give me the feedback I needed to find a home here at Prolink.
You bartended for a number of years during and after college. How did that experience shape your philosophy on spirits and how they are best enjoyed (in your professional opinion)?
My most memorable experience bartending was at 1776 Bar and Grille in Meadville. It was truly a gem, and I am happy to consider myself one of the founding team members there. I was able to learn so much about the process of distilling whisky, because we had over 60 different bottles. I also learned about the creation of a cigar, because we had over 50 different brands, and the process of farming beef cattle as a main source of food, because we were farm-to -table. I think that understanding of the processes and the amount of care, passion and labor that goes into your shot of whisky, cigar or steak emboldens you. I believe that in order to enjoy something like that, you need to do as little to it as possible. To me, that means enjoying your whisky neat and in a rocks glass, lighting up your favorite stogie with old-fashioned wooden matches, and eating your steak Pittsburgh rare with just a little bit of butter.