‘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 Majors by College

Austin E. Cofrin School of Business (CSB)

AAS-Business Interest
Actuary Science
Business Administration
Executive Impact MBA
Human Resource Management
International Business
International Studies
Managerial Accounting
Managerial Systems
Master of Science in Cybersecurity
Master of Science in Data Science
Master of Science in Management
Personal Financial Planning

College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences (CAHSS)

AAS–Arts and Humanities Interest
American Indian Studies
Analysis Synthesis
Arts and Visual Design
Arts Management
Associate of Arts
Bachelor of General Studies
Communication Action (became Communication and the Arts)
Communication and the Arts
Communication Processes
Communication Sciences
Corporate Communication
Democracy and Justice Studies
Design Arts
English: Literature and Language
Environmental Planning
Environmental Policy and Planning
First Nation Studies
French and Francophone Studies
French: Literature and Language
German: Literature and Language
Global Studies
Growth and Development
Human Adaptability
Human Development
Humanism and Cultural Change (became Humanistic Studies)
Humanistic Studies
Individual Major
Information and Computing Science
Information Sciences
Integrated Leadership Studies
Interdisciplinary Studies
Master of Arts
Master of Science in Administrative Science
Modern Languages
Modernization Processes (became Social Change & Development)
Music / Applied Music
Organizational Leadership
Personal Concentration
Political Science
Population Dynamics
Public Administration
Public and Environmental Administration
Regional Analysis
Social Change and Development (now DJS)
Social Gerontology
Spanish: Literature and Language
Theatre and Dance
University Without Walls
Urban Analysis (became Urban Studies)
Urban and Studies
Urban Studies
Visual Arts
Women and Gender Studies
Women and Gender Studies
Writing and Applied Arts

College of Health, Education, and Social Welfare (CHESW)

AAS-Health/Ed/Soc Wel Interest
Bachelor of Social Work
BSN Nurse 1-2-1
Elementary Education
First Nation Education doctorate
Health Information Management Technology
Master of Science in Applied Leadership for Teaching & Learning
Master of Science in Community Human Services
Master of Science in Health and Wellness Management
Master of Science in Nursing
Master of Science in Nursing Leadership and Management in Health Systems
Master of Social Work
Medical Techonology
Secondary Education
Social Work
Traditional Nursing

College of Science, Engineering, and Technology (CSET)

AAS-Sci/Engineer/Tech Interest
Computer Science
Earth Science
Ecosystems Analysis
Electrical Engineering
Engineering Technology
Environmental Control
Environmental Science
Human Biology
Master in Environmental Arts and Sciences
Master of Science
Master of Science in Athletic Training
Master of Science in Biotechnology
Master of Science in Environmental Science and Policy
Master of Science in Nutrition and Integrated Health
Master of Science in Sustainable Management Systems
Masters in Environmental Studies
Mechanical Engineering
Natural and Applied Sciences
Nutritional Sciences
Science and Environmental Change
Water Science

Come experience what Lifelong Learning Institute has to offer

Join us for an overview of Lifelong Learning, sample classes, registration information, and questions and answers!

When: July 25, 2018

Time: 10:00 am – 12:00 pm

Where: Neville Public Museum

The Lifelong Learning Institute sponsored by UW-Green Bay, Division on Continuing Learning and Community Engagement is a nonprofit, peer-led volunteer program for adults who are interested in expanding their horizons, and keeping mentally, physically and socially active. It offers a wide variety of course including history, travel, music, painting, computers, science, health, cooking, crafts, current events and more. Courses are held at multiple venues throughout the community. There are no tests, no papers, no credits, just learning, socialization and fun. Click here for more info.

For additional information or to RSVP (suggested but not necessary), contact LLI at 920-465-2356 or lli@uwgb.edu. There is no charge for this event.

UW-Green Bay Foundation announces more than $700,000 in scholarship funds available for students in 2018-19

The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Foundation has informed Chancellor Gary L. Miller that it is releasing $720,700 in named endowed and annual scholarship funds which will be available to award students for the 2018-2019 academic year. This sum is four percent higher than a year ago. This total includes five new endowed scholarships. The UW-Green Bay Foundation currently administers 325 endowed and annual scholarship funds.

Increasing access to higher education at UW-Green Bay remains a top priority for the UW-Green Bay Foundation. Endowed scholarship funds grew by more than 17% in calendar year 2017, riding high on the tailwinds of the global investment environment. Growth in endowed funds results in larger scholarship awards in future years. The UW-Green Bay Foundation spending plan allows for the awarding of 4.5% of the asset balance for endowed scholarship funds.

Alumni and donors to the University consistently demonstrate through their giving that helping students through scholarship support is one their favorite charitable activities. Scholarships give students a motivational boost, letting them know others care about them and support their educational pursuits. Merit scholarships reward hard-working students with a track record of success. Need-based scholarships provide financial assistance to students demonstrating financial need.

To learn more about scholarships available to new and current students at UW-Green Bay, visit www.uwgb.edu/scholarships.

About the University Wisconsin Green Bay

The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay is a comprehensive public institution offering undergraduate and graduate programs to 7,158 students. The University transforms lives and communities through exceptional and award-winning teaching and research, innovative learning opportunities and a problem-solving approach to education. For more information, visit www.uwgb.edu.

Accreditation Notification to Comment

UW-Green Bay is seeking comments from the public in preparation for periodic evaluation by its regional accrediting agency. UW-Green Bay will host a visit October 9 and 10, 2017 with a team representing the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), which will review the institution’s ongoing ability to meet HLC’s Criteria for Accreditation. The University has been HLC-accredited since 1972. For more information on the HLC Accreditation process and the importance to UW-Green Bay, visit www.uwgb.edu/accreditation. The public is invited to address substantive matters related to the quality of the institution or its academic programs by September 9 to the HLC. Comments must be in writing at:

-HLC  website at www.hlcommission.org/comment or

-Public Comment on the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay
Higher Learning Commission
230 South LaSalle Street, Suite 7-500
Chicago, IL 60604-1411

Wanted: New batch of talkative toddlers for language lab

Language Learning LabUW-Green Bay’s Language Learning Lab is once again looking for local parents interested in having their children ages 18 months through 4 years participate in a major study of toddlers’ skill and language development.

Prof. Jennifer Lanter of Human Development is asking alumni, University employees and returning adult students with young children to consider volunteering for a visit. Participation is easy, with only a single 30- to 45-minute session in which the parent gently guides his or her child through a few simple play exercises. Participants (the children, anyway) get a free book or toy as a parting gift. Lanter and/or one of her student research assistants will observe.

If you have a child between the ages of 1 and 4 and a willingness to play games for science, contact Lanter at MAC Hall C322; email Lanterj@uwgb.ed, or sign up online at the project website, http://www.uwgb.edu/learnlab.

UW-Green Bay Alumni Association Annual Meeting

Join your Alumni Association Board for our Annual Meeting next Tuesday, November 20!  This is a great opportunity to say hi to fellow alumni, meet the Chancellor, find out what’s new at your alma mater, tour our beautiful campus and save big money at the Phoenix Bookstore!  We look forward to seeing you there!

5 pm: Networking and Social with Alumni and Chancellor Harden
5:45 pm: Address by Chancellor Tom Harden
6 pm: Alumni Association Board Meeting and Tours of Campus by our Student Ambassadors
7 pm: Continued Tours of Campus by our Student Ambassadors

Phoenix BookstoreThe Phoenix Bookstore will stay open just for our Alumni Event and is offering 25% off apparel and gift items!


RSVP for the event here: http://uwgbalumniannualmeeting-es2.eventbrite.com/?rank=2