Category Archives: Portfolio clips

Your Neighbor’s Car is Waiting For You

Your-neighbor-s-car-is-waiting-for-you-Carnegie-Mellon-TodayCarnegie Mellon Today

July 2010

At a pace of about eight minutes a mile, Craig Gaites runs alongside Jay Sizemore and other classmates. They are all part of the Tepper Endurance Club, a group of business students who get together regularly to work out. It’s the middle of winter in Pittsburgh, so ice patches and mounds of packed powder riddle the sidewalks. As Gaites weaves along, he updates Sizemore—like he often does on these jogs—on his burgeoning business venture.

TransportCHAIN would be the first person-to-person car-sharing service around. The idea is profoundly simple: Car owners would earn money on their vehicles whenever they aren’t driving them. [read more …]

Immigrant Stories

Creative Nonfiction

Pittsburgh In Words Issue, Oct 2008

Most Saturday afternoons, you can find Martha Vasser performing an Ethiopian coffee ceremony at Tana Ethiopian Cuisine for a handful of Pittsburgh diners who know little to nothing about her home culture.

“Coffee has a great significance in Ethiopia,” she says as she walks past diners with a long-handled tin full of popping, browning coffee, a smoldering potpourri of equal parts espresso, dark chocolate and cedar. “It’s folklore that it was discovered in Ethiopia by a young shepherd. And coffee comes from the region Kaffa, K-a-f-f-a. Therefore, the name coffee.”

She may also note that goats first ate the beans and then their young shepherd, witnessing their apparently inebriated states,decided he had to try some, too. Some Saturdays, she wears a traditional Ethiopian dress, pale gossamer linen with loosely hanging cuffs, neckline and hem striped in green, red and yellow, the colors of Ethiopia’s flag. Carletta, an African-American woman with straight hair and a deep but deliberately honeyed voice, precedes Martha, taking orders, filling water and tea glasses, and delivering platters of food. Then she distributes the coffee once it’s brewed. Seifu, the owner, greets customers, works the register, checks on the kitchen. A stereo plays Ethiopian music, replete with trebling voices complementing electronic percussion.

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Dispossessed: Life In Our World’s Urban Slums

For the first time in history, more people live in cities than in the countryside. And one in every three urban residents lives in a slum, in housing constructed of cheap or found materials, plywood, plastic tarpaulin, corrugated tin, mud and wattle, and scrap metal. Dispossessed relates stories about people living on the fringes of Manila, Nairobi, Mexico City, Bangkok, and Cairo. Slum residents talk about their fears and their struggles, as well as their hopes and joys. Dispossessed also explores the complex causes of our world’s rapid urbanization and its affects on poor nations and cities in the global South, and it describes solutions to poverty and insecurity that some local residents and agencies are pursuing.

by Mark Kramer

January 2006

Orbis Books, Maryknoll, NY

232 pages, photos

ISBN: 1-57075-658-9

Purchase Dispossessed at For international orders: In Europe, order Dispossessed through Alban Books, Ltd. (Tel: 0-131-226-2217, fax: 0-131-225-5999, In Canada, order Dispossessed through Bayard Distribution (Novalis), (Tel: 1-800-313-3020 x233, fax: 1-877-278-3087,


Head of the Class

h Magazine (Heinz Endowments)

Issue 1, 2013

“Head of the Class,” h Magazine, 2013

Linda Lane still has the musical theater playbills she collected in the 1960s when she was an eighth-grader falling in love with the arts.

“We’re trying desperately to hang onto arts in our schools,” she says, ” because we all know that arts programs have taken a hit nationally. But we’re an arts city.” She nods her head, emphasizing the point: “I mean, we’re an arts city!

Now, as superintendent of Pittsburgh Public Schools, she recalls those playbills while reflecting upon the duties of managing an over-extended district with increasingly tighter budgets. [read more …]

The Way to Uhuru

Beyond Relief

Winter 2013

Kenya is renowned for its safaris, the recreational tracking of lions and herds of elephants and giraffes, during which tourists strain to see all they can through binoculars propped atop a roving vehicle dodging thorned umbrella trees. Many foreigners have also discovered, mostly in the pages of magazines and in documentary films, the Maasai of southern Kenya in their beads, colorfully patterned clothes, and pierced earlobes as they guide cattle from one arid hillside to the next. Yet others know Kenya as a major producer and consumer of tea, a legacy of British colonialism.

These days, Kenya makes the news when bad things happen. Ethnic tribes clash. Violence erupts after national elections. Drought and famine strike at the heart of agriculture and commerce, leaving villagers and urbanites alike to wonder what struggles might lay ahead. [read more …]

Clean Up Crew

h Magazine (Heinz Endowments)


On an unseasonably cool, drizzly afternoon in May, Jamie Moore drives to Susquehanna Mills, a canola oil processing plant in Montoursville in centralPennsylvania. As director of sourcing and sustainability for Pittsburgh-based Eat’n Park Hospitality Group, it’s Moore’s job to source quality food for his division, Parkhurst Dining Services, and make as much of that food local and organic as possible. In his mind, there’s no other way to do so than to follow food to its source. So, he’s inspecting oil and meeting processors.

Moore, 41, is passionate about coordinating food supply chains that utilize sustainable practices and aim to benefit everyone, including his own company and clients. Here’s the chain he envisions for canola oil: he’s showing diary farmers how to raise rapeseed, the seed used to produce canola oil, which will give them an additional stream of revenue; Parkhurst will then purchase and use this oil in their vinaigrette salad dressings and French fries and many other menu items available in their dining halls and catered venues; used oil will then be converted into biodiesel fuel, which will again benefit green-minded consumers. [read more …]