‘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.

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.

UWGB Alumnus Richard Stewart ’82 Receives National Medal

UWGB Alumnus Richard Stewart ’82 Receives National Medal

On May 22, 2023, during the National Maritime Day celebration in the port of Duluth Superior a representative of the United States Maritime Administration presented Richard Dow Stewart with the Merchant Marine Medal for Outstanding Achievement.

The Outstanding Achievement Medal was established in 2002 and is awarded by the U.S. Maritime Administration to members of the maritime industry for an act or operation of humanitarian nature directly to an individual or groups of individuals, long and dedicated years of service or achievement, or for an extraordinary valuable contribution or work to the maritime industry.

Richard Dow Stewart’s extraordinary contributions to the maritime industry span over half a century of continuous service.

In 1967 Richard started his maritime career sailing in the fo’c’sle as a messman and ordinary seaman. In 1969 he was appointed to the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, NY and graduated in 1973. He was awarded the Merchant Marine Vietnam Service Medal sailing in the war zone in 1968, 1970 and 1971. Upon graduation he sailed oceans and coastwise as a deck officer. Richard earned his Master of Steam and Motor Vessels of any Tonnage upon Oceans license in May 1979. One of the many vessels Richard sailed was the UST Pacific, the largest U.S. flag merchant ship ever built, where he served as Chief Mate for two years. He commanded ocean-going vessels for several years before becoming a fleet manager of seven vessels for Falcon Carriers based in Houston, Texas.

While on leave from vessels, Richard attended the University of Wisconsin Green Bay. His master’s thesis was a “A Lake Michigan Hovercraft Ferry Service: An Environmental Analysis”.  The director of his master’s committee was Dr. Mike Troyer. In 1982 he graduated from UWGB with a Master of Science in Environmental Studies.

Richard started his academic career at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in 1987 in the Department of Marine Transportation. He was Department Head for several years and became a tenured full professor. He was appointed with the rank of Captain in the U.S. Maritime Service. While teaching at Kings Point, he earned his Doctor of Philosophy at Rensselaer Polytechnic University. During his time teaching and researching at the Academy, he also sailed vessels on the Mississippi River, the Great Lakes, and oceans. He received grants for research in GIS and simulation training. Richard was recognized with awards for his superior service by the Maritime Administration and the U.S. Coast Guard.

The University of Wisconsin-Superior in 1999 brought Richard into the Department of Business and Economics (DBE) to lead the new Transportation and Logistics (T&L) major and Research Center. Under his leadership the T&L Research Center brought in over $11 million in research grants the majority focused on maritime transportation. The T&L major became a national award-winning program and one of the largest majors on campus. Richard was Chair of DBE for several years and became a tenured full professor. In 2020 he was the first professor at UW-Superior to receive the UW-System’s Board of Regents Excellence in Teaching Award.

In 2006 the U.S. Maritime Administration recognized the Great Lakes Maritime Research Institute (GLMRI) that Richard helped create as a National Maritime Enhancement Institute. GLMRI involved eight universities in a wide variety of maritime research projects including alternative fuels, GIS data collection, maritime security, and climate change’s impact on shipping. In 2022 Richard retired from UW-Superior and was honored as a Professor Emeritus for his teaching, publishing, and research.

Richard served for 30 years as a commissioned officer in the United States Naval Reserve, honorably discharged in 2003 with the rank of Captain, USNR. For over 55 years he maintained valid merchant marine credentials by sailing, teaching maritime classes, working as a cargo surveyor, taking maritime courses, and USCG exams.

Public service has always been an essential element of Richard’s contributions to the maritime community. He served for many years on public advisory boards and was chair of the USCG Merchant Marine Personnel Advisory Committee (MERPAC). He was a founding member of the EPA’s Advisory Board on Great Lakes Restoration, the Great Lakes Observing System, and the advisory committee for Green Marine. He served on the boards of the Lake Superior Marine Museum, Duluth International Airport, Twin Ports Maritime Club, Duluth-Superior Transportation Association, and the North Shore Scenic Railroad Board of Directors. Richard was Boy Scout Troop Master and board member for the Girl Scouts.

Richard remains very active in the maritime community. He holds leadership roles in numerous public advisory boards, professional maritime and non-profit organizations and teaches transportation courses.

For over four decades Richard has had the good fortune to have Kathleen Collins as his wonderful supportive spouse. They have shared many adventures including raising four children who are now accomplished adults.

UW-Green Bay Alumni Supports Community with Cellcom Marathon Water Station

On Sunday, May 21st, more than twenty UW-Green Bay alumni, family and friends along with support from the UW-Green Bay Pi Beta Phi sorority volunteered at a water station at the Cellcom Green Bay Marathon.  The weather was perfect.   All enjoyed helping hydrate and cheer on both the half marathon and marathon walkers and runners.

Special thank you to Jim Schwartz ’83 and Mark Brunette ’85 for once again overseeing this year’s event!



Kress Krashers


With food, drink, cool shirts and plenty to cheer about, UW-Green Bay season ticket holders, students, alumni, prospective students and friends, gathered for Krash the Kress on Friday, February 16. The official sellout was a warm welcome for the Green Bay men’s basketball team playing its first-ever Horizon League game at the Kress Center. In the photos… members of Greek life on campus, the Green Bandana Brigade, the always spirited Pep Band, a view from above, and more..

See photos.

Stock up on Phoenix Apparel at the Phoenix Bookstore

Check outIMG_6455 www.THEphoenixbookstore.com for your Phoenix Friday deals. Discounts are available in the store or use promo code “PHOENIXFRIDAY” online.

Yard Sale-April 18-19 from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. at The Phoenix Bookstore.  Take an EXTRA 25% off all clearance items.

Remember to use your Alumni Discount – 10% off apparel and gift items – when you shop.  Online promo code ALUMNI