August 2023 Class Notes


Cynthia Schaefer ’72 Majored in Growth and Development. Employed as the 3K Teacher for Community Services at DC Everest School District.


Michael Counter ’84 Majored in Communication and the Arts. Retired from St. Norbert College as the Director of Media Relations.

Darren Voigt ’89 Majored in Business Administration and minored in Economics. Recently promoted to Executive Vice President & Chief Lending Officer with Bank of Luxemburg.


Laure Radke ’90 Majored in Public & Environmental Administration and minored in Urban Studies. Recently appointed to Green Bay Packers Board of Directors.

Susan Heim ’93 Majored in Business Administration and minored in Humanistic Studies. Employed as President for Quali T, Inc. Chair of the Bank of Luxemburg Board.

James Stockman ’96 Majored in Human Biology. Employed as a Public Affairs Specialist with Naval Education and Training Command.

David Hermanson ’97 Majored in Business Administration and minored in Political Science. New position with Fisker Inc. as the Director of Indirect Purchasing.


Aaron Qualio ’01 Double majored in Public Administration and Political Science. Recognized in the Green Bay Press Gazette for his two published books, “Mystery in the Hill” and “The Heir.”

Vincent Czahor ’04 Majored in History and minored in Secondary Education. Has a master degree from UW- Eau Claire and UW- Whitewater. New job as 4K-12 Principal of the Beecher-Dunbar-Pembine School District.

Eric Vanden Heuvel ’07 Majored in Elementary Education and minored in Earth Science. Recently appointed to board of directors for the Asociation of Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE).

William Curtis ’08 Majored in Political Science and minored in Communications & The Arts. Employed as the associate vice president of student life operations & strategic initiatives with Lewis & Clark College.

Brittni Moran ’08 Majored in Business Administration and minored in Psychology. Recently appointed to advisory board for The Women’s Fund of Greater Green Bay.

Hannah O’Brien ’09 Majored in Communications. Recently promoted to Director of Media Relations at St. Norbert College


Benjamin Kvalo ’10 Majored in Business Administration and minored in Communications. Recently co-founded and serves as chief executive officer for Midwest Games.

Kelly Kozak ’13 Double majored in Accounting and Business Administration and minored in History. Recently promoted to leader of operational teams in risk management, accounting, office management, and human resources at Hoffman Planning, Design, & Construction.

Zianya Saldana ’15 Double-majored in Political Science and Public Administration. New job as Director of Equity and Community Initiatives at the Greater Green Bay Community Foundation.

Rachel Huben ’17 Double-majored in Accounting and Business Administration. Recently promoted to Assurance Director with CliftonLarsonAllen LLP.

Tara Jackson ’19 Majored in Theatre. Cast as “Juliet” in Seven Ages Theatrical’s production “Romeo & Juliet”.

Stephanie Plewa ’19 Majored in Psychology and minored in Human Development. Employed as a school psychologist for Dodgeland School District.


Kayla Minor ’20 Majored in Accounting and double-minored in Business Administration and Spanish & Latin American Studies. Recently promoted to senior associate with Hawkins Ash CPAs.

Molly Vandervest ’20 M.S. in Applied Leadership for Teaching & Learning. Recently appointed to advisory board for The Women’s Fund of Greater Green Bay.

Jordan Ogren ’21 Majored in Business Administration. Recently appointed to board member for the Howe Community Resource Center board of directors.

July 2023 Class Notes


Paul Northway ’90 Double majored in Business Administration and Political Science. Recently appointed vice chair of to the Wisconsin Bankers Association board.

Kelly Bock ’95 Majored in Business Administration and minored in Economics. New job with First Carolina Bank as the manager of FinTech Operations, started in June.


Justin Grones ’14 Majored in Communications. New job as a Retail Relationship Banker with BMO.

Cordero Barkley ’09 ’16 Bachelor’s in Business Administration and minored in Psychology. M.S. in Management. Was recently appointed to the board of directors for the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center.

Txhees Xiong ’17 Majored in Human Development and double-minored in Psychology and Women & Gender Studies. New job with University of Minnesota as Assistant Manager of Pathways Programs.

Nichole Frisch ’19 Majored in Nursing. Recipient of the Hospital Sisters Health System (HSHS) 2022 Nurse of the Year Award.


Nicholas Paustian ’22 Majored in Accounting and minored in Business Administration. New job managing general accounting at McClone Insurance.

Fanni Xie ’22 Master’s in Social Work. Recently named one of Wisconsin’s 40 Most Influential Asian American Leaders.

Jared Ramirez ’23 Double majored in Humanities and Marketing and minored in Spanish & Latin American Studies. Recently promoted to copywriter/editor with Prophit Co.

With Eyes to the Sky, Honorary Alumni Recipient Terry Fulwiler Kept His Feet Planted Firmly in Northeast Wisconsin

Terry Fulwiler’s heart has always been in his native Algoma, Wis., the charming community nestled on the shores of Lake Michigan.

The retired CEO and Chairman of the Board for WS Packaging Group, could have made his home anywhere in the world, and he could have spent time, talent and treasure these past decades with any non-profit organization. He chose to stay, and over the course of a few decades, adopted the University just 30 miles west of his small town as the focus of his gifts, calling it “a true treasure.”

Fulwiler’s extraordinary contributions were recognized on April 20, 2023 when UW-Green Bay Chancellor Michael Alexander presented him with the University’s Honorary Alumni Award, given to those whose dedication to the University is “equal to any alumnus” and of tremendous value to the institution.

“Terry Fulwiler has been a steadfast advocate for higher education across the region throughout his career,” said Alexander. “His dedication to UW-Green Bay over many years cannot be overstated and inspires us to push as hard as we can to serve the people of Northeast Wisconsin to meet their educational goals.”

“I was surprised an honored,” said the understated Fulwiler of initially hearing about the honor. At the reception honoring alumni award winners, he earned a few chuckles when stated he was probably the only alumnus in the room that has never taken a class at UW-Green Bay.

Receiving the Honorary Alumni Award Terry Fulwiler, retired CEO and Chairmen of the Board of WS Packaging, during the 2023 Alumni Awards Dinner on Thursday, April 20, 2023 in the Phoenix Rooms in the University Union. Terry has worked tirelessly to advocate for UW-Green Bay and has extensive community involvement.

Reflecting on the decisions he made as an 18-year-old to pursue an Aerospace Engineering degree from the University of Michigan, Fulwiler said he very well intended to attend UW-Green Bay. But the University was in its fledgling stage, and Fulwiler had his heart set on an engineering degree—not offered at the University at the time.

While the aerospace industry was booming when he left for the University of Michigan (a place he could affordably attend because of tuition reciprocity), the market was flat when he graduated. “Not one of my classmates ended with a career in Aerospace Engineering,” he said.

Fulwiler returned to Algoma where his parents were starting a label printing company (Wisconsin Label). “My dad said I could work there until I found a real job,” he recalls. In true Fulwiler form, he never left. Instead, he made his permanent home in Algoma, worked his way through leadership roles in the company, and invested in the hard-working people of Northeast Wisconsin, growing with them along the way. The family business with five employees, grew to become an international leader in packaging products, labels, and specialty products, employing 2,200 people in 20-plus locations, while becoming the largest label maker in the U.S. and the second largest in the world by the time Terry retired in 2011.

Terry’s brother Dan, a 1983 UW-Green Bay Science and Environmental Change graduate, was also instrumental in growing the business.

“As it turns out, business was something I could do,” he said. “But I had had no business or finance classes. That was the hard part. I didn’t have the training, but I did know how to put things together, build things to make sense. In retrospect, I realized that business may have been a better major, and had I realized that sooner, I would have ended up being a GB grad. So, it’s special to be getting the honorary alumni award.”

Fulwiler has focused his time and charitable giving on higher education. “I like the idea of enabling people to go from being someone who needs help, to someone who can provide help for others. That’s the sense of it,” he said.

Deeply rooted in the region, Fulwiler said as president and CEO, he used to have a difficult time convincing people to move to Green Bay from bigger cities. But once they were here, the bigger problem, he insisted, was getting them to relocate back to larger communities, when he needed their leadership at other WS Packaging facilities in other parts of the country and world.

“Once people are here, they realize that they can deal with a few cold months, but the quality of life is so great… no traffic, little crime, great place to raise a family… that they didn’t want to leave. That was the case for me, as well.”

Fulwiler serves on more than 10 executive boards, including the Green Bay Packers, but his passion for building vibrant communities through education, means he also lends his time as an advocate for Bellin College of Nursing and Northeast Wisconsin Technical College. At UW-Green Bay, he has served on the Council of Trustees for past Chancellor’s Tom Harden and Gary Miller, interim Chancellor Sheryl VanGruensven and current Chancellor Alexander. “I consider it a privilege to serve with these leaders, as every one of them cared about the students, the community and the culture that higher education can provide,” he said.

While he was appreciative of the applause over his dedication to UW-Green Bay on awards night, Fulwiler is much more comfortable turning the conversation around… putting his hands together for a well-played basketball game at the Kress Center or cheering for the kids who visited campus as a fifth-grader and stick with their dream to attend college someday. Those are the instances that beckon his heart back to his now beloved alma mater, at 2420 Nicolet Drive.

Read more about Fulwiler and the other alumni honorees in the news release.

Story by Sue Bodilly, ’87 and ’04

‘Dreaming big’ brings alumna Peres Owino ’99 from Nairobi, Kenya, to LA…by way of UW-Green Bay

Without question, Peres Owino had a dream. Her pursuit of that dream brought her from Nairobi, Kenya, through the tunnels of UW-Green Bay, and landing beneath the bright lights of Hollywood, where she is a successful writer, director and producer.

She wouldn’t have had it any other way.

“(Green Bay) …is my favorite place to be because its where I’ve learned the most about America/Americans, understanding who they by living right in the middle of it,” says Owino.

Owino was back on campus in April 2023 and was recognized with UW-Green Bay’s Distinguished Alumni Award along with her siblings, Dave (a Forbes business executive) and Rita, (an international healthcare consultant.)

Her journey to UW-Green Bay is quite ‘serendipitous,’ as she explains it, and has partly to do with her mother’s willingness to tell anyone and everyone about her children. “My mother was talking about us (Peres and sister Rita) and Dr. Richard Logan, a UW-Green Bay professor studying in Kenya overheard her, and suggested we attend UW-Green Bay.” Shortly after, Prof. Logan welcomed Peres on-campus, and to the U.S. for the very first time. Her biggest surprise, of course, was the weather. “It was so cold your body fluids would freeze,” she says, sharing her story of the first time she experienced a snowfall. “It was violent,” she exclaims with mock terror. “The snowflakes hitting my eyeballs…I thought I would lose an eye!”

But she stayed and studied writing and theatre arts at UW-Green Bay, never doubting her dream to one day become an actor. After completing two degrees Theater and the Performing Arts and Social Change and Development (now Democracy and Justice Studies,) and much to her father’s dismay, Owino set off to Los Angeles with $10 on a Discover card and a ride from her friend Jessica.

“When we arrived in LA, a former Theater-mate, Meg was gracious enough to make space in her apartment for us. A few months later, I had no job and no place to live,” says Owino. Because of her foreign passport, a tourist hostels allowed her room and board in exchange for three hours of work. She took full advantage while at the same time writing stories and searching for a job in “the industry.” She refused to wait tables, as so many up-and-coming actors believe they need to do, and instead found temporary work in the office of the executive vice president for creative advertising at Paramount Pictures.

All this time, Owino continued to listen, learn and most importantly, write plays, screenplays and participate in art that she found true to her lived experience – not the latest trends, or what others thought she should be doing. This prompted her to write and direct a story inspired by an encounter she had while studying at UW-Green Bay. It became her first big hit. “BOUND: Africans vs African-Americans.” BOUND is a documentary that attempts to heal the little-known rift between people of African descent.

“I planned to audition for a play that took place in Africa, but after reading the script I was so depressed that I couldn’t step out my front door. It was at the moment that I decided that I wanted to show the world MY AFRICA. Not the way other people saw us, but the way WE SEE OURSELVES.  I started work on my original screenplay, The Basket Weaver that evening.” The Basket Weaver would go on to win the NYWIFT Writer’s Lab supported by Meryl Streep.

 Owino’s feature credits also include; Seasons of Love, produced by Taraji P. Henson, nominated for an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Writing of a Television Movie; and “Once Upon A Time in Africa.” Her original works for the stage include her one act play, Cut which premiered at The Walt Disney Concert Hall – REDCAT and her one-woman show, Beauty For Ashes.

In TV, her show, “African Queens: Njinga ” which she co-wrote for Netflix, Westbrook and Nutopia premiered February 15, 2023 and “Queen Cleopatra,” written by Owino and executive produced by Jada Pinkett-Smith made its debut on Netflix in late spring of 2023.

Peres took time to sit in on a couple of theatre classes and for a round of Q and A before the on-campus screening of “BOUND.” She provided valuable and insightful advice to students attending, with humor and a passion that comes from her desire to make a path to Hollywood easier for her fellow Phoenix alumni.

UW-Green Bay alumna Peres Owino ’99, from left, during the Q&A session with Associate Professor Thomas Campbell and Theatre and Dance students before the screening of her documentary BOUND: Africans vs African-Americans in the Christie Theater on the UW-Green Bay, Green Bay campus on April 19, 2023. Peres visited campus to receive the 2023 Distinguished Alumni Award. UW-Green Bay, Sue Pischke University Photographer

How did you get from graduation to where you are now?

Audaciously…which translates to bold and sometimes stupid choices. I hitched a ride to LA with $10 to my name.. Thank you Jessica Jelinski. I got my first job scooping ice cream at Universal Studios. Three months later I walked away from it because that was not what I wanted to be doing at a studio. I mean, every day I’d show up with a different accent just to keep myself entertained.  So, I reverted back to what I know, performance. I met other actors and started putting up plays around town. Then I got a gig working in creative advertising at Paramount. That was an invaluable experience because it taught me the business side of show business. Then I took the advice of a friend and wrote my first screenplay, and the rest is history.

How do you prep for an audition or pitch session?

The basics, understand the heart and soul of what you’re pitch and who you are pitching too. In the case of an audition understand your character and memorize your lines. But remember, audition & pitching are subjective which makes rejection rates high. So focus on winning the people in the room so that it’s not just about “getting” this job or this project, but about being memorable enough to be called back again. To do that, you need to toss all that pressure to be perfect out the window and show up as you. Trust me, there is nothing more unique and interesting than YOU. The more of “you” that shows up, before and after the audition or pitch the better your chances of winning the room.

What skill set is most useful, i.e. writing, acting, etc.?

A creative is just that, a creator. So be as versatile as possible. God didn’t stop at “let there be light,” so why would you? Keep going until you reach your seventh day. Expand the scope of what you can do, who you can be. Every skill you cultivate refines the one before it.  The fact that I am an actor makes pitching, as a writer a breeze. Don’t limit yourself.

What makes you proud to be a Phoenix?

I’m proud to be a Phoenix for the oddest reasons, because there are not a lot of Phoenixes in my industry. Meaning, I know that there are a lot of other voices out there that we’ll never get a shot at being heard because they don’t come from the “approved” schools. I see those people. I am those people. That’s why it’s so important to kick doors down and break glass ceilings. Not just for you, but for everyone who is not part of the “powerful alumni” in your industry.

What’s saving your life right now?

My four-year old nephew.

What are some of your favorite books?

In the fiction space, I read across time, genre and culture. The Kite Runner, Things Fall Apart, Lord of the Rings, The Bluest Eyes, The Road, Cherry Magic, Wuthering Heights, Interpreter of Maladies, Lie With Me, Children of Blood & Bone, The Arabian Nights. I’m anywhere and everywhere. But, in the non-fiction space I lean toward books that speak on poignant moments in human history; The enslavement of African people, Colonialism, the Holocaust, the World Wars and Religion.

Receiving 2023 Distinguished Alumni Award Peres Owino ’99 (Social Change and Development/Theater) during the 2023 Alumni Awards Dinner on Thursday, April 20, 2023 in the Phoenix Rooms in the University Union. Peres is an award-winning Kenyan-American storyteller who came onto the scene with her directorial debut, BOUND: Africans vs African-Americans.


UW-Green Bay Alumni Support Current Students Through The 42nd Annual Scholarship Golf Classic

On Friday, June 16th, 83 UW-Green Bay alumni, family and friends participated in the 42nd annual Scholarship Golf Classic at the Brown County Golf Course.  Nearly $15,000 was raised from the event to benefit the University scholarship fund which helps hundreds of students reach their goal of earning UW-Green Bay degrees.  University enrollment continues to grow, and the increasing availability of scholarships makes this growth possible.

I appreciate the support from the donors and golfers who contributed to this scholarship. The scholarship I received has helped me tremendously to allow me to further my education and pursue my dream of becoming an educator. Thank you for your support!

-Brenna D. (one of our 2022-23 UWGB Alumni Scholarship recipients)

Chancellor Michael Alexander welcomes golfers and shares UW-Green Bay updates.

Thank you to all our sponsors and golfers for making this year’s event a success including our co-title sponsors: Aon and Prevea Health and Lunch sponsor: Green Bay Packers Give Back.  A special thanks to alumni Sara Chaloupka, Ken Eggen, Nora Langolf, Jordan Lorenz, Al Lutterman, Cheryl Paul and Mike Powers for helping to plan this year’s event.

June 2023 Class Notes


Karen Mancl ’77 Majored in Science & Environmental Change. Named ASABE’s 2023 Fellow.


Pam Roecker ’83 Double majored in Communication Processes and Communication and the Arts and minored in Business Administration. Recently inducted into the Madison Sports Hall of Fame.

Julie Will ’87 Majored in Human Development. Retired from the Luxemburg-Casco Intermediate School after 36 years.

Jodine Thiry ’88 Majored in Nutritional Sciences and double-minored in Psychology and Human Biology. New job as scribe for Envision Healthcare.


Kristin Bouchard ’93 Majored in Communication Processes and minored in Business Administration. Employed with UW-Green Bay as the Assistant Director of Communications.

Brett Dimmer ’98 Majored in Music and minored in Secondary Education. Selected as the new director of the Port Washington City Band.


Terrence Brennan ’06 Major in Music and minored in Human Development. New job with the Greater Green Bay YMCA as a program director.

Justin Nickels ’08 AAS in History. Honoree of 2023 Insight 40 under 40 Young Professional Award


Carrie Dorski ’11 Majored in Art and minored in Arts Management. Honoree of 2023 Insight 40 Under 40 Young Professional Award.

Jessica Hopp ’11 Double-majored in Human Development and Psychology. Employed at The Chronicle of Higher Education as a research specialist.

Allison Thut ’11 Majored in Biology and triple-minored in Secondary Education, Chemistry, and Environmental Science. Honoree of 2023 Insight 40 Under 40 Young Professional Award.

Ashley Jones ’13 Majored in Public Administration and minored in Political Science. Honoree of 2023 Insight 40 Under 40 Young Professional Award. New job with Bellin Health and Bellin Health Foundation, Inc as a team leader.

Abby Ficek ’14 Majored in Design Arts and minored in Art. Married Zachary Ficek on June 7, 2018. Has a 2-year-old son named Archer, a 1-year-old son named Griffin, and two pets – Lena and Olive.

Stephanie Free ’15 Double-majored in Political Science and Public Administration. Has a 5-year-old daughter named Tahlia, a 1-year-old daughter named Tegan, and a pet named Leela.

Jose Villa ’16 Majored in Business Administration and minored in International Business. Honoree of 2023 Insight 40 Under 40 Young Professional Award.

Cordero Barkley ’09 ’16 BBA in Business Administration, minor in Psychology. MS in Management. Honoree of 2023 Insight 40 Under 40 Young Professional Award.

Vladyslav Bilyy ’19 Double-majored in Democracy & Justice Studies and Political Science. Started a new position with Milwaukee County Circuit Court as a charging attorney. Graduated from Marquette Law School with a Juris Doctorate (J.D.) in May 2023. Starting graduate school at Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law with an International Human Rights Masters of Law in August 2023. Has a pet dog named Sasha.


Chase Grabowski ’22 Majored in Music/Applied Music. Recently won the “Creative Artist” award at the National Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival

Amanda Pulvermacher ’22 Majored in Organizational Leadership and minored in Public Administration. New job as deputy director for Dodge County Emergency Management.

Taylor Reichow ’22 Double-majored in Computer Science and Information Sciences and minored in Mathematics. Honoree of 2023 Insight 40 Under 40 Young Professional Award.

Taylor Salm ’22 Majored in Design Arts. Promoted to graphic designer at Prophit Co.

Fanni Xie ’22 Masters of Social Work. Currently employed by Northeast Wisconsin Chinese Association as President/CEO. Owns Uni Uni Bubble Tea in Appleton. Recipient of the 2023 Future 15 Young Professional Award from Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce. Organizer of N.E.W. Dragonboat Festival. Advisory board member of WWBIC.

Ben Kvalo ’10 uses his Business Administration degree to bolster the business side of video games

The letterboard sign on UW-Green Bay alum Ben Kvalo’s desk asks a tongue-in-cheek question: “Wait, Netflix has games?”

And the answer is: It sure does! That is partially because of Kvalo, who worked tirelessly to grow the Netflix gaming division from the ground up into a global platform, much like the streaming service did for movies.

His success at Netflix has recently allowed him to begin his newest adventure: founder and CEO of a game publishing business located right here in the Midwest. In this new role, Kvalo is looking to create more opportunities for gamers in the region, diversify the gaming industry and support overlooked game developers.

But before Kvalo made a name for himself in the gaming industry, he had to start where so many of us did: working his way through his senior year of high school trying to determine where he’d go to college after graduation. Spoiler alert: Kvalo called UW-Green Bay home for four years. His journey to where he is today began because of on-campus experiences that gave him the tools to build the life he envisioned from the ground up.

Finding His Fit

Five generations of Kvalo’s family attended the same university, but the Portage, Wisconsin, native wanted to attend a school that more precisely fit his needs and interests. While very involved in sports and activities, he lacked confidence and wasn’t quite sure of his voice. Not wanting to be another face in the crowd, Kvalo started looking at universities that could use his potential and empower him to become his best self.

Kvalo immediately fell in love with the beauty of the UW-Green Bay campus during his tour, but it was when he heard from his tour guide about how the school approached higher education that he knew it was the place for him.

“I’m a doer and need to get my hands on things,” Kvalo says. “I like to learn by life, so the traditional way a lot of universities approach education wouldn’t have worked for me.”

He saw the opportunity to be more hands-on and interactive with his education at UW-Green Bay, which bolstered his confidence that he’d receive an education that truly fit him. The more intimate campus, diverse extracurricular opportunities and ability to more easily connect with professors and peers made him feel like he could start the journey of self-discovery to become who he was meant to be.

Strengthening His Voice

Once at school, Kvalo found no shortage of spaces to get involved and grow. He briefly worked as one of the men’s basketball team managers before pivoting to a new opportunity: helping to launch and grow WGBX, a student-run radio station. This opportunity taught him how to collaborate with different teams and build something from the ground up. As the general manager for 3 ½ years, he wore a lot of hats and found opportunities to strengthen his weaknesses. During the summer, he was a light and sound technician at the University Union. This, too, was another opportunity to roll up his sleeves, learn on the go and develop strong interpersonal skills.

Ben helped found WGBX student-run radio at UW-Green Bay

As if that wasn’t enough to keep him busy, he was also a campus tour guide—but this opportunity didn’t come quite as easily. He was turned down twice, but that only fueled him to keep practicing his communication skills to eventually land the gig. Once he found his voice—both internally and externally—he brought a genuine realism to his tours to help prospective students who were considering UW-Green Bay.

Turning His Attention to the Future

During his senior year, the business administration major and communications minor started thinking about life post-graduation. One of his professors, Lucy Arendt, said to him, “You can do what you’re dreaming in your head.”

Those words resonated strongly with Kvalo. As a self-proclaimed gamer growing up, Kvalo routinely hosted video game gatherings with friends, resulting in a lot of late nights trying to beat bosses and save mythical worlds. Video games became a huge aspect of who he is from the minute he got his first Nintendo system, and with the encouragement of his professor, he began to work out a way to parlay that passion into a profession.

The first chance arose during his mergers and acquisitions capstone course. Kvalo and his group decided to use a video game company as the basis for the simulated acquisition project. Kvalo’s role in the scenario was acting on behalf of management, so he took the lead and formulated a business plan for how it would play out. A professor’s wise words coupled with a successful (faux) acquisition was an encouraging and catalyzing moment for him. It made him realize that the business side of video games was a viable career option.

Ben poses with Larry Hyrb (aka Major Nelson), the face of Xbox Live and pioneer in videogame storytelling and communications

But the economy had other plans for this 2010 graduate. Jobs were still hard to come by as the nation was slowly recovering from The Great Recession. To help pay the bills, Kvalo fell back into an industry he had spent a lot of time in as an undergrad: radio. For nine months he worked selling airtime and facilitating various components related to radio broadcasting, but his heart remained in the gaming industry. Reevaluating what he wanted to do in life, he revised his LinkedIn profile to include an emphasis in video games. Those copy adjustments caught the attention of a recruiter for 2K, a video game publisher located outside San Francisco. After several conversations and interviews, Kvalo landed the job and headed west.

Giving His Career a One-Up

Kvalo spent nearly six successful years at 2K. He then made the move to Blizzard, a video game publisher known for its annual BlizzCon gaming convention. After a year at Blizzard, Kvalo made the jump to Netflix in 2018, where he started as a campaign operations manager. Pausing on video games, Kvalo turned his attention to film, where his focus was the planning and execution of tentpole campaigns for Netflix original films. His first big Hollywood moment was the successful launch of Bird Box, starring Sandra Bullock.

Ben smiling for cameras at the 2019 Netflix movie premiere of “Velvet Buzzsaw”

After several more film releases, Netflix approached Kvalo with an opportunity in its newly created games publishing division because of his prior experience in the gaming industry. He knew this was the right next step and became the lead project manager for launch operations in the gaming division.

“My job is to help Netflix become a top-tier gaming platform,” Kvalo said. “I love the challenge of starting at the bottom and building up, so this is a perfect opportunity to create something that disrupts the industry.”

Clearly, what Kvalo is doing is worked: In its first year, the Netflix gaming platform published 48 games—an extraordinary accomplishment considering a small fraction of that is the average a gaming publisher typically launches annually.

Cherishing His Wisco Roots

Kvalo still has deep ties to his Wisconsin roots, which played an important role on how he’s trying to change the industry next. Relocating to the Midwest to launch his new game publishing company, Ben added: “There’s a unique opportunity to tap into the Midwest as an emerging market with unlimited potential. Not only is Chicago the third largest city in America, but there are incredible developer hubs in Madison [Wisconsin], Columbus [Ohio], Minneapolis [Minnesota], Ann Arbor [Michigan], and more. At the moment, those developers lack funding and support to elevate their unique and incredible games to a new level. We aim to change that by providing funding, marketing and support.”

Plus, his family still calls Portage home, he cheers for his hometown favorites, like the Milwaukee Bucks and the Green Bay Packers, and he has collaborated with Titletown Tech, a Wisconsin-based venture capital firm that invests in bold entrepreneurs solving meaningful problems. He’s also giving back to UW-Green Bay by serving as a member of the alumni board, speaking virtually with classes, mentoring students and even helping to create the Esports Lounge in University Union. In 2016, the university celebrated his support of Phoenix success with a distinguished Alumni Award.

The foundational skills he fostered as a Phoenix gave him the confidence to pursue his interests, hone his skills and come into his own. It’s safe to say it’s resulted in the launch and development of some pretty big things.

Learn more about how a business administration degree is a flexible, innovative option that will help propel you on your path forward.