Alumni on Campus

Pitt alumni are making a difference across the globe. From Europe to Africa and Asia their outstanding achievements are impacting business and communities.

Kakenya Ntaiya
School of Education, 2011
Life for Kakenya Ntaiya was supposed to follow the traditional path. Engaged at age 5, she was to be circumcised and married by the time she was a teenager. But she had a different plan and did what no girl had ever done: leave her Maasai village of Enoosaen in south Kenya to go to college in the United States. She went on to the University of Pittsburgh, where she received her Doctorate in Education in 2011. While studying at Pitt, Kakenya founded the Kakenya Center for Excellence, a girls' primary boarding school in Enoosaen, Kenya, where young girls are educated and empowered to become agents of change. Kakenya received numerous awards, such as the Global Women's Right Award from the Feminist Majority Foundation and was named a Top Ten CNN Hero and as one of Newsweek's “150 Women Who Shake the World" in 2011.

Kakenya came back to Pitt as a keynote speaker for the Race, Gender and Leadership Series: Perspectives on Africa held during International Week. Kakenya led a TedTalk-style conversation in which she shared her fearless story of breaking with cultural norms and gendered expectations, and also participated in the International Alumni Panel, talking about how Pitt prepared her for her leadership roles around the world.

 

Susie Meister
Arts & Sciences, 2014
Susie Meister was born and raised in Pittsburgh, but after high school joined MTV and participated in eight shows. All Susie's reality winnings went towards her education, and in 2014 she completed her PhD in Religious Studies from Pitt. In addition to her academic work, Susie now works for organizations as a diversity trainer where she uses Jane Elliott's techniques to teach people about racism, sexism, ageism, and other prejudices in American culture and how to combat them effectively. Susie is working on a book called Being Jesus on the experiences of actors who have played the iconic character. She also has a lifestyle blog, The Gospel of Susie, which features some of her favorites in the world of fashion, food, family, travel, and books. 

Susie was the opening speaker for International Week 2016. Together with Sarah Rice, they came to campus to record an episode of their top-rated show, the Brain Candy Podcast, in which they shared stories about their experiences filming abroad for MTV as well as their personal globe-trotting adventures.

 

Jess Edelstein
Arts & Sciences, 2011
Jess Edelstein decided she had had enough of the struggle with chemical ingredients in typical deodorants that irritated her skin. So she set out to invent her own formula from completely natural ingredients, then and founded PiperWai together with her childhood friend Sarah Ribner. They appeared on the ABC hit business reality show Shark Tank, where investor Barbara Corcoran decided to support the project. Before Shark Tank, PiperWai was sold in about 40 independent brick-and-mortar retailers across the U.S, one in Canada and one in Beijing. Sales skyrocketed from $110,000 (in 10 months) before the show to a mind-blowing $2 million within three months. PiperWai has received more than 200 new wholesale requests from a variety of retail outlets including beauty shops, gyms, pharmacies, organic grocery stories, wellness centers and national retail chains. 

Jess participated in the International Alumni Panel held during International Week 2016. She shared her insights on how Pitt classes prepared her for the business world and the valuable skills she learned from her study abroad experiences in London.

 

Christian Peper
Arts & Sciences, 1990
Christian is a Solutions Architect at KPN in the Netherlands. He is also one of the founding board members of the Europe Pitt Club and serves as the resident social chair. He is a self-described “Nerd, geek, coffee fetishist, gourmand and hobby chef. Love to tinker with new ideas and new technologies, never finishing one before moving onto the next.” He also loves to cook, snowboard, play frisbee, watch movies or dance to trance and techno music until the early morning hours. 

Christian joined us during International Week 2016 for the International Alumni Panel. He told students about his experiences studying in the United States as an international student and discussed the skills he thinks students need to be competent in a global world.