Akoya’s Conference Planning Team Hits Bean Town

DLC annual conference in Boston, MA, July 9 – July 11, 2018

Since 2016, Akoya has worked with the DesignLights ConsortiumTM to plan and execute its annual Stakeholder Meeting — a marquee event that draws 250 attendees for three days of education, collaboration, and networking. This year’s meeting, held this past July, had particular significance, as the host city was none other than Boston, MA — the DLC’s hometown.

Planning for the 2018 meeting began last summer with an extensive, city-wide venue search, where we worked closely with the DLC to select the beautiful and historic Boston Park Plaza for the meeting itself and the unique Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum for the offsite reception. From there, we handled all aspects of pre-event management, including negotiating contracts, coordinating over 20 exhibits and sponsor stations, tracking registration, developing a comprehensive food and beverage package, and managing the space plan and schedule for more than a dozen meeting rooms. On site, we were the liaison between the DLC and the hotel to oversee all behind-the-scenes details and problem-solve as needed.

It’s safe to say that this year’s DLC Stakeholder Meeting was “wicked awesome” — we’re already hard at work on the site search for 2019 and look forward to our continued partnership with the DLC.

Akoya Welcomes Adrian McNamara to Military Health Team

Adrian McNamara

We’re happy to welcome Adrian McNamara, who joined the Akoya team this month as a communications account manager at the Department of Defense, Defense Health Agency. In his new role, he’ll develop and execute internal and external communications plans that highlight DHA and Military Health System events, activities, and policies.

Adrian has spent much of his career working for the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, and he most recently worked as a strategic communications contractor supporting the Office of the Army Surgeon General. He has a B.A. in political science from the University of Arizona, and he’s fluent in Spanish.

Tennis, Anyone?

 

Especially during warm-weather months, it’s common to see our president, Holly Wray, sporting her tennis whites in the office before an after-work match. Holly’s love for the sport and Akoya’s work in the Washington, DC, area are what inspired us to support the venerable Washington Tennis & Education Foundation. Since 1955, the nonprofit has built “life champions” by giving underserved kids a safe environment in which they can excel in tennis and academics. Hundreds of children ages two and older participate in WTEF’s afterschool programs and summer camps annually.

WTEF’s annual Tennis Ball is something we look forward to each year, and not only are we proud to be a bronze sponsor for the recent gala, we are proud that Team Akoya made it all the way to the finals of the VIP Round Robin Tennis Tournament! Watch out, Roger and Serena!

 

Akoyans Volunteer at Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank

A team of Akoyans and their kids volunteered at Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank in early April.

After an inspiring Round One in Washington, DC, a team of Akoyans supported the fight against hunger with a volunteer event at the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. Together, we rolled up our sleeves and in just a few hours bagged and packed an estimated 3,200 pounds of dry pasta for distribution. Special thanks and commendation goes to Ike, Roy, and Fiona, whose youthful energy helped keep the old folks in gear!

The Food Bank was founded in 1980 to help families affected by the closing of Pittsburgh’s famous steel mills. Today, its reach extends across 11 counties in southwestern Pennsylvania, providing healthy food to more than 360,000 people each year — people who often have to make daily decisions about which essential items they need to sacrifice just to buy food. And well over 90,000 children in the area are food insecure, defined as having limited or uncertain access to adequate food. Consistent hunger and worrying when their next meal will be — especially in summer months when school meals are not available — impacts not only children’s physical health, but also their mental and emotional health, leaving scars that can last a lifetime. For these reasons alone, it’s clear the work of the Food Bank is far from over.

Akoya is grateful for the work and commitment of the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. The team was proud to participate and looks forward to our next staff-wide volunteer event, planned for later this year.

Akoya Wins 2018 Communitas Award for Excellence in Community Service

Under the leadership of Chief Creative Officer Nancy Reese, Akoya’s pro bono work with the Women’s Law Project has won a 2018 Communitas Award for excellence in company community service. Administered by the Association of Marketing and Communications Professionals, the Communitas Awards honor excellence in social responsibility and community service among individuals and organizations.

Akoya was recognized for its work on FAIR:PLAY, a website designed to help parents, students, and communities advocate for a fair share of sports opportunities for girls in Pennsylvania’s public secondary schools. The concept was born when Nancy – also a Women’s Law Project board member – identified that the Department of Education’s abundant but unwieldy raw data made it nearly impossible to determine if a school is out of compliance with Title IX law.

After collaborating with WLP on the game plan, Akoya created the website’s branding and homepage design; recruited volunteer mentors, programmers, and coders (nearly all women); and, with support from the FISA Foundation, hosted a weekend-long hackathon to crunch the data and create an easy-to-use interface. And while ultimately the result was a website providing meaningful and actionable information, the hackathon itself was a remarkable STEM learning experience showcasing the region’s technical talent and the participants’ dedication to fairness and equality.

The Communitas Award is a testament to Akoya’s ongoing commitment to giving back and using its talents to help nonprofits and organizations that may not have the funding or resources to do so. We are grateful for the honor and for the opportunity to bring attention to the advocacy work of the Women’s Law Project.  

D.C. Akoyans Enter the Ring for the Fight Against Hunger

Akoyans and friends volunteer at DC Central Kitchen.

One evening in late January, Akoyans from our Falls Church office laced up their proverbial gloves and entered the ring to battle a formidable foe: systemic hunger in the Washington, D.C. area.

At DC Central Kitchen—the nation’s first and leading community kitchen—food isn’t just used to nourish and strengthen bodies. It is central to breaking the cycle of hunger and poverty. DCCK’s holistic strategy diverts millions of pounds of food waste toward millions of meals for homeless shelters, schools, and nonprofits; expands access to healthful, local options in urban food deserts; and develops meaningful career training and job assistance for at-risk individuals.

DCCK’s mission resonates with Akoyan Katie Walker, who grew up volunteering, often to help the food insecure. As a first year student at American University in 2001, Katie lived on a floor dedicated to students interested in volunteering locally. DCCK was among the different locations students on the floor were introduced to each week. It wasn’t long before Katie started volunteering there regularly—sometimes several times a month.

“The people who work, train, and volunteer there have—and continue to be—a great source of inspiration for me,” Katie says.

Katie decided to introduce Akoyans to DCCK not only because she has a strong connection to the organization but also because it’s a great place for groups to volunteer. “It’s a chance to interact with coworkers, other volunteers, and the people who work there,” she says. “You’re helping others, having fun, and as an added bonus, learning new skills in the kitchen.”

And in true Akoya fashion, we had a good time for a good cause: we rolled up our sleeves, donned our hairnets, and joined the ranks of volunteers who’ve dedicated time to fighting hunger in the nation’s capital.

Akoyans get some “Facetime” in Pittsburgh

When Akoyans suggested during our August retreat that making trips to our Pittsburgh office would be beneficial, we made it happen. In November, December, and January, small groups of Akoyans based outside the Steel City made overnight trips to visit home base.

The meetings, dubbed Facetime @ Akoya, were a fantastic way for coworkers to further solidify connections made with each other in August and gave us the opportunity to brainstorm ways to make those connections even stronger. Discussions centered around how to improve the onboarding process for new employees working outside Pittsburgh and ways to replicate Akoya’s company culture at a client site where many of us work in Falls Church, Virginia.

Akoyans appreciated the opportunity to see Akoya headquarters, work with Pittsburgh staff, and learn firsthand why Honest John’s is so special to our president, Holly Wray. We look forward to making Facetime a regular gathering.

Fifteen Years of DOE SSL R&D Workshops

A few shots of Akoyans behind the scenes of a DOE Solid-State Lighting workshop.

Remember where you were in November 2003? A few of us at Akoya do, as that was when DOE’s Solid-State Lighting program held its very first R&D Workshop, in Crystal City, VA. Fast-forward to today, and we’re proud to say we’ve just returned from working our fifteenth R&D Workshop – every one of them under the leadership of account manager Karen Marchese.

What began as a small two-day gathering with a dozen speakers has grown into one of the lighting industry’s most venerable conferences and spawned other SSL workshops as well. This year’s R&D Workshop, in Nashville, spanned three full days, welcomed fifty speakers, and hosted a bustling poster session enhanced by an assortment of cutting-edge product demos and four talented winners of the third-annual student poster competition. And believe it or not, a few of those inaugural participants and speakers have made it a priority to return year after year, because they value the robust and candid exchange of information and ideas that happens at a DOE SSL workshop.

As the workshops have expanded, so has Akoya’s role in them. Multi-city site search? Sure. Tour organization? No problem. Speaker outreach? Notetaking? Video production? All in a day’s work. After over fifteen years working with the DOE SSL program, we’re proud of the integral role we play in these workshops, and the role they play in shaping the future of lighting.

Villarreal, Goldberg Join Akoya MHS Team

Laura Villarreal and Ari Goldberg

We’re glad to have recently welcomed two new Akoyans to our Military Health System team.

Laura Villarreal joined the Health.mil writing team at the Defense Health Agency in November. With more than a decade of health care communications experience across the public and private sectors, Laura crafts compelling stories for Military Health System beneficiaries about health, wellness and the latest innovations across the MHS.    

Laura is no stranger to the MHS: from 2009 to 2012, she served as a senior strategic communications consultant to the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs. She has also worked as an account director for a communications contract at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and as a communications consultant for UnitedHealth Group. 

Ari Ben Goldberg joined the strategic communications team last month as a senior communications consultant, bringing more than 20 years of experience in speechwriting, op-eds, and media relations. Ari’s role involves applying all these skills to special projects that strengthen the Defense Health Agency’s communications and outreach efforts.

Ari’s previous work has included writing speeches and op-eds focused on health, world hunger, global poverty, and peace for high-profile individuals, including former Irish president Mary Robinson, former Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the president of the U.S. Institute of Peace, the president of Radio Free Europe, and U2’s Bono. He has also served as a producer for BBC News and C-SPAN.

Tuning the Light in Senior Care

LED lighting can do far more than save energy. As a recent pilot by the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) demonstrated (download report), tunable white lighting with LEDs can dramatically improve the wellbeing of dementia patients and the working conditions of caregivers. Akoya’s video team got the story from Connie Samla of SMUD, catching up with her at the Solid-State Lighting Program workshop held by the Department of Energy in Denver, Colorado.

The pilot installation in a hallway at the ACC Care Center in Sacramento showed that “tuning” the color temperature of the new LED lighting to match circadian rhythms improved sleep patterns and nighttime safety for residents, significantly reducing falls, use of psychotropic and sleep medications, and agitated behaviors. At the same time, tuning the lighting better equipped the staff with the levels of task lighting needed to provide excellent care.

The outcome of he study revealed the powerful potential of LED to improve healthcare and quality of life, as well as saving energy. The full video produced by Akoya, “Tuning the Light in Senior Care,” is available at the DOE website.

Honest John’s Is a New Pittsburgh Favorite

Akoya designed Honest John’s logo, which includes a playful nod to the restaurant’s Eighth Avenue location.

At Honest John’s, good food and a memorable dining experience come honestly—and Pittsburgh agrees. The casual dining spot, which opened in Homestead in November 2016, won public endorsements in both the Pittsburgh City Paper and The Pittsburgh Business Times this fall.

For three weeks over the summer, Pittsburgh City Paper readers had the chance to vote for their favorite restaurants in the ‘Burgh, and they selected Honest John’s as Pittsburgh’s Best New Restaurant and Best Contemporary American Restaurant.

City Paper staffers declared Honest John’s “an awesome place” that’s helped revive Homestead’s downtown scene. They praised the Eighth Avenue eatery’s candied-bacon BLTs, blackened tilapia fish tacos, and pimiento mac and cheese.

The Pittsburgh Business Times polled their readers too, asking for their favorite restaurants in the region. Of the 240+ restaurants mentioned in responses, Honest John’s was voted one of the top 50 restaurants, which were published alphabetically.

Having designed the restaurant’s website and logo, we’re glad that Pittsburghers are fans of Honest John’s. And perhaps no one is more thrilled than Akoya President Holly Wray, who is both mom and business partner to son John, Honest John’s owner and manager.  

Holly is a frequent visitor to the restaurant, and she loves bringing fellow Akoyans with her. During recent trips to visit our Pittsburgh office, Akoyans from Falls Church have all had the chance to savor this honestly good fare.

Akoyans from Falls Church and Pittsburgh break bread at Honest John’s.