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40 Under 40: The Class of 2021

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Welcome to the latest edition of 40 Under 40, our annual collection of Connecticut’s most influential young people. Read on to meet the leaders, innovators, artists and rebels taking our small state to great places.

As always, our latest crop of up-and-comers were nominated by friends, family, co-workers, admirers and Connecticut Magazine staff. Prepare to be inspired!

Ever wonder what happens after someone is named to the 40 Under 40 list? 40 Under 40 Class Reunion: 2011-2020 catches up with honorees from the past 10 years, from the feature's debut in 2011 through 2020. Find out what's new with them, where they're headed now, and what advise they have for the next generations.

Do you know someone with Connecticut roots who should be part of next year's 40 Under 40 class? Nominate them here!

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Asma Rahimyar

Asma Rahimyar • 20 • Trumbull

First-ever Rhodes Scholar from Southern Connecticut State University

Although the honor of being a Rhodes Scholar is hers, Rahimyar insists that she shares the achievement with many others, including her family and organizations she’s involved in. “My parents fled from Afghanistan to Pakistan as refugees and emigrated to America in 1997,” she says. Currently a senior majoring in politics and international studies while pursuing a second degree in philosophy and a minor in English, she is the lone Connecticut native of 32 winners chosen from 953 Rhodes Scholar applicants in 2020. She is president of the Muslim Student Association and took part in a United Nations Conference on Cultural Diplomacy. “I will be headed to Oxford in October 2021, after I graduate from Southern this spring,” she says. “While I first thought that I would like to attain a dual master’s degree in global governance and diplomacy and forced migration and refugee studies, I am considering substituting one for a master’s in criminology. My ultimate objective is involvement with international human rights law/refugee and asylum law.” Rahimyar calls New Haven her true home now. “I have come to think of it as my own because it’s where my family’s story in the United States began, and Southern is truly a hidden gem. I intend to return to New Haven for my law degree and/or doctoral degree. The community is undoubtedly unique, as is the pizza!”

Ryan "Arcy" Christenson

Ryan "Arcy" Christenson

Ryan “ARCY” Christenson • 33 • North Haven

Street artist

Ryan Christenson, more commonly known by the pseudonym ARCY (get it? R.C.), is a Wallingford native and internationally known street artist. Since the inception of his live-event mural tour, ARCY Live!, Christenson has traveled the world spray painting hundreds of 8-by-12-foot, free-standing murals in front of live audiences for major events. He also creates large-scale public art murals for municipalities across the country and world. In addition to Christenson’s multi-story murals throughout North America, Europe and Australia, he is also a Disney Fine Artist for the Walt Disney Company. His authenticated works can be found in galleries, theme parks and retail establishments. No matter how far his travels take him, Christenson’s art is all over his home state on billboards, restaurants, breweries and shopping malls. Christenson’s love for public art is his driving force. One of his most famous projects is in Milford, but ironically it’s one that’s not open to the public. Christenson made the walls of sportscaster Dan Patrick’s massive studio come to life with what Patrick calls a “cathedral of sports art that is unparalleled.” In 2019 Christenson was inducted into the Mark T. Sheehan High School Hall of Fame. arcyofficial.com • Instagram: @arcyart

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Alexa Curtis

Alexa Curtis • 23 • Mansfield

Entrepreneur and social media influencer

Back in middle school, Curtis started a fashion blog. By high school, however, as she was dealing with bullying, insecurities and body-image issues, she switched her writing focus to lifestyle. Today, she is CEO of Life Unfiltered with Alexa, a lifestyle platform aimed at young adults on social media with a focus on mental health. She also has a podcast, This is Life Unfiltered, and formerly hosted a Radio Disney show, Fearless Everyday. “For me, living life unfiltered comes down to doing absolutely anything that gets you out of your comfort zone, whether that means taking a leap and starting a company or even maybe going to college if you’ve never considered going before,” she says. “It can also be as simple as trying a new restaurant or meeting a new person and that’s how I really classify being fearless.” Fearless for her in 2020 came in the form of producing her second annual Be Fearless Summit for college students, which was to take place live in April. Curtis ended up running it virtually in October, and the event drew a strong audience. She hopes to run two more virtual conferences this year with an eye toward returning to in-person events as soon as safely possible. lifeunfilteredwithalexa.com • Instagram: @alexa_curtis

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Xavier Santiago   

Xavier Santiago • 38 • Hartford

Chef

The executive chef and head of culinary development of Carbone’s Hospitality, Santiago has long been impressing critics both inside and outside the state. In 2019 he won Food Network’s Chopped, which was no surprise to anyone who has tried his food. Born and raised in Caguas, Puerto Rico, he moved to Connecticut in 1996. His first cooking lessons were from his grandmother, who taught him the importance of farm-fresh food. He started working in the restaurants at 15 and became enchanted with the world. He says that being a chef is an “incredible form of expression and dedication,” and notes that he feels lucky to do what he loves. We feel lucky to eat the food he creates.

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Nicole Esposito

Nicole Esposito • 37 • Manchester

CEO, Manchester Community College

Esposito is the youngest chief executive officer to ever lead a Connecticut community college. The fact that she began said position at Manchester Community College on July 6, 2020, in the midst of a global pandemic and still managed to successfully navigate a severe budget crisis, stabilize leadership, improve morale, reorganize key areas of the college to benefit student outcomes and safely reopen the college campus speaks volumes about the direction in which MCC is headed. Esposito earned a doctorate of Educational Psychology, master of science in forensic psychology and a certificate of advanced graduate studies in adjustment counseling from American International College. She believes that successful leadership requires “dedication and talent,” but she also views “empathy, compassion and connection” as equally important. “New generations of leadership must prioritize in different ways,” Esposito says. “If I don’t take good care of my employees how can I then expect them to take good care of their students?” Born in North Haven and raised in Cheshire, Esposito also happens to be a mom, and as a mom, she says, “you have a unique perspective on the world; you have grit.” In fact, Esposito believes that she “leads like a mom,” which is truly a badge of honor. There’s that grit, passion and fierce determination to do what’s best for those in your care, “but I also have a very human, compassionate style and people need that,” Esposito says. “Especially now.”

Scott "Scooter" Braun

Scott "Scooter" Braun

Scott “Scooter” Braun 39 • Greenwich

Media proprietor, record executive, philanthropist and investor

The founder of SB Projects, an entertainment and media company that includes music, film, television, technology, brands and culture, Braun in 2006 recognized the potential of a 12-year-old Canadian, Justin Bieber, via a YouTube video, and was instrumental in guiding him to superstardom over the next several years. A native of Greenwich who still lives there, Braun has become a major power broker, managing Kanye West, Ariana Grande, Usher, Karlie Kloss, Tori Kelly, Carly Rae Jepsen, The Black Eyed Peas, Martin Garrix and others. His company’s founding philosophy is one of giving back, and it designs a philanthropic element for each new initiative. Braun serves as chair of the Advisory Board of Pencils of Promise, a nonprofit founded by his brother Adam that builds schools in developing countries. Scooter Braun, his clients, and his companies have together granted more wishes for the Make-A-Wish Foundation than any other organization. In 2018, Braun was honored with the Music Biz 2018 Harry Chapin Memorial Humanitarian Award for his philanthropic efforts. scooterbraun.com • @scooterbraun on Twitter and Instagram

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Sky Casper (center)

Sky Casper • 27 • West Hartford

LGBTQ+ event producer and entertainment agent

Casper is an events producer and entertainment agent bringing greater visibility to the LGBTQ+ community. “The majority of the country still doesn’t know us,” says Casper, who focuses on innovative and unique LGBTQ+ talent. “It’s important for any minority’s stories and history to be told and for people to understand what it’s like to be treated unjustly or unfairly. What I want to say to heterosexual or cis-gender audiences is that LGBTQ+ people are just like them, but with better hair.” His foray into the entertainment industry began at age 20 when he founded Sky Casper Entertainment and produced small bar parties around central Connecticut. Since then, Casper has expanded into the Northeast to include theater productions, drag brunches, pride festivals and corporate events. Sky Casper Events is best known for Pink Eggs & Glam, a drag brunch featuring live singing and comedic drag queens; Gag Reflex, a gay standup comedy show; and touring Drag Race Thailand host Pangina Heals around the country. “Seeing guests smile and laugh at my shows brings me so much joy,” he adds. During quarantine, Casper admitted to indulging in chocolate-covered pretzels and hopes to work on his summer body unless the quarantine is extended. “In which case, people can send me more chocolate-covered pretzels or an email to sky@skycasper.com to book a virtual show or a socially distanced program for a private party.” skycasper.com@SkyCasperEntertainment on Instagram and @SkyCasperEntertainment on Facebook

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Megan Henry

Megan Henry • 33 • Roxbury

Athlete

Henry is at the top of the U.S. skeleton racing world. For the second season in a row she’s won the USA Skeleton Team Trials, and last season was the highest-ranked American male or female racer and finished the season ranked eighth overall in the Women’s Skeleton World Cup, winning a bronze medal in Igls, Austria. But like a skeleton track, her road to success was full of dangerous twists. In college, she played Division I field hockey at American University and was recruited to try bobsledding after graduation, but was too small so switched to skeleton. However, she lost her shot at competing in the 2014 Olympics after suffering life-threatening blood clots. She fought back and is hoping to compete at the upcoming Winter Olympics. Off the track she’s been busy as well. She enlisted in the Army after graduating and is now a first lieutenant intelligence officer with a master’s in intelligence studies from American Military University. Between her service and work as an athlete, she still makes time to volunteer with Z Girls and the Lindsey Vonn Foundation to coach young female athletes and help them achieve their dreams. Ultimately, she hopes to get a second master’s or doctorate in sport psychology to continue to help others achieve peak performance. @TheSavageMeglet on Instagram and Twitter

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Nick Cianfaglione

Nick Cianfaglione • 22 • Old Saybrook

CEO and founder, Artist Republik

The year 2020 was a devastating one for live music. In an industry in which just a few gatekeepers control almost all large venues, ticketing and promotions, artists have been hard hit. With gatherings banned, the only option for most artists is self distributing their music online, alongside hundreds of thousands of competing tracks and albums. Artist Republik, headed by Cianfaglione, aims to give musicians more control of their careers. The social network is free to join, and offers artists the ability to book their own shows, sell their own tickets, and take advantage of pay-per-use benefits such as Artist Republik’s management, marketing and IP protection services. Cianfaglione previously launched NES360, an audience growth and marketing platform, while still a student at Bryant University in Rhode Island. His experiences led him to conceive of Artist Republik, which has already attracted more than $5 million in investments. Describing the company as LinkedIn meets the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers, Cianfaglione aims to open the career bottleneck imposed by industry monoliths. Musicians and fans alike have one more reason to be excited for the rebirth of live music in 2021 and beyond. artistrepublik.comInstagram: @chalkerbeachboy

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Adriane Jefferson 

Adriane Jefferson 34 • New London

Director, New Haven cultural affairs

When the pandemic hit, Jefferson was less than a month into her new job for the city of New Haven. She was already working to amplify the voices of marginalized people, and the pandemic oddly helped her quickly adapt. “I think we are reimagining what the arts looks like in the city of New Haven,” she says. “The pandemic — as unfortunate as it has been — has allowed us to reimagine what we can be and how we can be better.” Instead of focusing on arts downtown, she wants to create arts opportunities throughout the city. Her mission is to achieve arts equity: to ensure all people have access to the arts, whether as an audience member, performer, employee or leader. That first means looking at underrepresented people and neighborhoods and access challenges like transportation and health care. “The idea is that you can’t achieve true art equity until you achieve equity in the everyday livelihood of people.” Using arts to drive social change, Jefferson has helped create initiatives such as antiracism programs and Masked Up. The latter was a campaign seen on billboards and buses using brown and black creatives to encourage people to wear a mask for public safety. Amplifying voices is at the core of her mission, where “we give them a chance to tell their stories to use the arts as a platform to create change in their environment.” Instagram: @adrianevjefferson

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Emily Mingrone (left)

Emily Mingrone • 35 • New Haven

Chef

Growing up with a chef for a father, Mingrone was destined for a career in the kitchen. She opened and operated a deli/catering business while in high school before a couple of corporate gigs made her realize her heart was in the restaurant business. She bartended, waited tables and cooked before finally taking the plunge and enrolling in culinary school. Mingrone worked in renowned Connecticut restaurants including Zinc, Match and Jesup Hall to gain experience and spent significant time at Fleishers, where she made her bones in butchery. Along with Shane McGowan, Mingrone opened Tavern on State in the East Rock section of New Haven in the summer of 2019. Just six months later Tavern took home Newcomer of the Year honors from the Connecticut Restaurant Association. When the pandemic struck in early 2020 and supply-chain issues arose, a “provisions” section was added to the Tavern menu. Again, just six months later Provisions on State opened a few doors down from the Tavern. Provisions not only stocks grab-and-go items, but it’s also a whole-animal butchery that Mingrone utilizes for dishes at Tavern. When she’s not spending her time on Upper State Street, Mingrone can occasionally be found on the Food Network (Chopped, Guy’s Grocery Games) or feeding local hospital employees who are quarantined or sick. Instagram: @emilymni

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Jeff Gitelman

Jeff “Gitty” Gitelman • 38 • Orange

Producer and musician

It’s probably safe to assume that you “know” (or have at least heard of) many of the folks with whom Jeff Gitelman likes to spend his days. After all, the Grammy-nominated producer, songwriter and musician, a native of Moldova who was raised in Greater New Haven, has toured the world playing guitar for everyone from Lauryn Hill and Alicia Keys to Stevie Wonder and David Bowie; is lead vocalist and guitarist for the band The Stepkids; boasts writing and/or production credits for a diverse group of artists that include John Legend, Camila Cabello, Florida Georgia Line, Anderson Paak and Earth Wind & Fire; and was nominated for a Grammy Award for Album of the Year for his work on H.E.R.’s 2019 album I Used to Know Her. Never one to forget where he came from, Gitelman founded the Duality School of Music in 2017, dedicated to providing music education and opportunity to young musicians/composers struggling to be heard in Greater New Haven, and has seen it evolve to include mentorship and internship opportunities for music-minded kids throughout the state. “Connecticut has a deep history of music culture, and no shortage of talent,” Gitelman says. The problem? What he terms a “lack of professional guidance and opportunities.” Thus, “a lot of times a career in the arts is discouraged by parents [when] the reality is that there are an unbelievable amount of jobs available in the music industry.” Hear that kids? Gitty says “go for it.” Instagram: @jeffgitty

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Karen Karniol-Tambour 

Karen Karniol-Tambour • 35 • Norwalk

Investor

Karen joined Bridgewater Associates in 2006 and now heads investment research at the Westport hedge fund, the largest in the world. Her duties include overseeing teams of investors developing systematic insights on global markets and economies. She is a regular author of Bridgewater’s Daily Observations, a celebrated in-depth analysis of the economic environment and markets, which is distributed to Bridgewater clients and occasionally made public. She also leads Bridgewater’s sustainable investing efforts. Outside the office, she is a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader, a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and serves on the Board of Seeds of Peace, a nonprofit cultivating young leaders to transform conflict in the Middle East and South Asia. She received an AB from Princeton’s School of Public and International Affairs with a certificate in finance. In 2019 she was named to Fortune's 40 Under 40 list.

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Lindaluz Carrillo

Lindaluz Carrillo • 27 • Hartford

Urban pop artist and graphic designer

An Afro-Peruvian born in New York and raised in Hartford, Carrillo uses bold typography, textile patterns and graffiti elements to create street and wall murals that tell stories about her life experiences and values. Her work reflects topics such as self-love, growth, resilience and encouraging others to be strong in their beliefs. She also teaches art, computer science and graphic arts in several Hartford-area schools, and is starting to design clothes featuring her work. “I also want to collaborate with other creatives and make space for those who want to dive deeper into their passion,” she says. “With all the uncertainty that 2020 brought it allowed me to step back and really understand my limitations. At the same time it encouraged me to lean into my role as a creative educator. I hope that over time my creations can help others see and understand their potential and growth.” Her street and wall visuals often change as she creates. “The duration of a mural varies,” says Carrillo, who earned a BFA in visual communication design at the Hartford Art School at the University of Hartford. “I create multiple mock-ups and go through a series of edits before the final design touches the wall. The process can take days to weeks depending on the scale and other factors.” lindaluzcarrillo.com • Instagram: @aiir.is

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Bertram McDowell Jr.

Bertram McDowell Jr. • 33 • Stratford

Attorney

McDowell is a smart man, and as an attorney, that is exactly what you would expect. However, no one expected a global pandemic. Only three months after launching his own law firm, he was faced with an unimaginable task: business survival. But instead of merely surviving, his firm, Bert McDowell Injury Law, soared. Since its launch in December 2019, with offices in Bridgeport, Meriden and East Hartford, McDowell’s firm has represented injured people throughout the state. Although he is proud of his firm’s successes, he is most proud of giving back to the community. McDowell previously served on the board for several nonprofit and educational organizations, including The BlackManCan, Jumoke Academy and Ascend Mentoring. He also created the Veronica M. Sullivan Scholarship, an annual college scholarship for high school seniors, which he named after his late maternal grandmother, a Jamaican immigrant who worked tirelessly to support her family. McDowell says he’s from a hardworking family, which is where he gets his professional drive, and never forgets the foundation of family he’s built his own success on. His paternal grandmother grew up as a sharecropper in Alabama during Jim Crow, and McDowell was raised by his single mother who sacrificed her dreams to always be there for him. “The sacrifices that my family made in order for me to be in this position is what motivates me day-in and day-out,” explains McDowell, who for three consecutive years has been named to the Super Lawyers Rising Stars list. “I am always on the mission to make them proud.” justfortheinjured.com • Instagram: @injury_law_bert • Twitter: @injurylawBert

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Scott Dolch 

Scott Dolch • 38 • Simsbury

Executive director, Connecticut Restaurant Association

Even before the pandemic hit, Dolch’s impact on the Connecticut Restaurant Association was clear. Since Dolch took the reins of the organization in 2018 membership has increased by 200 percent, rising to more than 1,300 restaurants. He rebranded the organization’s annual awards gala as the CRAzies and it went from 200 to 800 guests in two years. But since the coronavirus entered the state he has redoubled his efforts on behalf of restaurants. Whether lobbying the governor for relief packages, getting clarity about safety guidelines, or fielding calls from exhausted restaurant owners who just need a sympathetic ear, Dolch has been a tireless advocate for the state’s restaurant owners and workers. Just one of the fruits of those efforts has been the CT Hospitality Employee Relief Fund, which was launched during the pandemic and has provided $150,000 in grants to more than 300 out-of-work restaurant employees. Twitter: @Dolchie10

Christian Siriano

Christian Siriano

Christian Siriano • 35 • Westport

Fashion designer

A testament to the power of perseverance and chasing your dream, Siriano transformed a rejection from the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) into a more worldly path to becoming a top fashion designer who caters to celebrity clients while embracing a socially conscious ethos and building an empire with egalitarian points of entry for the style savvy on a budget. Instead of FIT, Siriano went from the Baltimore School for the Arts to American InterContinental University in London and ended up interning with Vivienne Westwood and Alexander McQueen before moving to New York after graduation. He rose to fame as the winner of Project Runway season 4, and “the new king of old-school glamour” (Elle magazine) launched his Christian Siriano collection in 2008. Yahoo Style says he’s “the next billion-dollar designer.” He’s also a devoted Connecticut resident, trading a 19th-century Colonial “getaway house” in Danbury that he still owns for a clean, minimal, modernist house near the beach in Westport in early 2020. The commute to the city is so manageable, he told Architectural Digest, that he might shed his New York apartment in favor of living surrounded by nature “in another world up here.” Siriano’s star clients are too numerous to list — think Angelina Jolie, Scarlett Johansson, Lupita Nyong’o, Rihanna, Taylor Swift, etc. — but he also offers casual and sport collections, designs seasonal collections of shoes and handbags for Payless shoes, has a line of Christian Siriano New York Rugs available on Amazon, and offers his faux fur bedding through Sam’s Club. christiansiriano.com • Twitter: @CSiriano • Instagram: @csiriano

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Presley & Taylor

Presley & Taylor • 23 & 21 • Middlefield

Musicians

Can you get to Nashville by way of Connecticut? This sister act from Middlefield, whose music has been characterized as a blend of “God-given sibling harmonies and stone-cold country sound” has proven you can. It doesn’t matter how far north of the Mason-Dixon Line our Yankee Doodle-dandy state lies, “country music is something we grew up with and have been listening to since the minute we were born,” Taylor says. Indeed, each Sunday after the supper dishes were cleared, “the guitars came out and our whole family would sing,” Presley says. “It’s just what we did.” After spending most of their high-school years going back and forth to Nashville, the Mercy High graduates made it their “second home” three years ago and haven’t looked back. “The thing Taylor and I like most about Nashville is that there is music everywhere,” Presley says. “The minute we got here we knew we were in the right place to do what we want to do.” In recent years, the inseparable sisters have been on the summer concert tour circuit, including headlining the Durham Fair in 2019. They also have shared the stage with everyone from Martina McBride and Tanya Tucker to Jimmie Allen and Mo Pitney, performed a sold-out show with Pam Tillis at the Grand Ole Opry and late last year signed on as the flagship artists for new label White Mustang Records, launched by country-music veteran James Stroud, whose name is attached to more than 150 No. 1 records as a producer, musician and/or writer. The label and the duo’s debut single, “Everybody Sees It,” hit Oct. 30 and was followed by a music video last month. An album, meanwhile, is in the works for later this year — Connecticut proud! presleyandtaylor.com • Instagram: @presleyandtaylor • Facebook: @presleyandtaylor • Twitter: @presleyntaylor

Do you know someone with Connecticut roots who should be part of next year's 40 Under 40 class? Nominate them here!

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Marissa Gillett

Marissa Paslick Gillett • 34 • West Hartford

Chair, Connecticut Public Utilities Regulatory Authority

Gillett brings a high level of energy and expertise to the complex task of regulating Connecticut’s investor-owned electricity, natural gas, water and telecommunication companies at a crucial period. Connecticut’s energy grid, as is the case in most of the country, needs to be modernized, and Gov. Ned Lamont, who in 2019 appointed Gillett to the three-member regulating panel, last fall tasked PURA with investigating the practices of the two electric companies serving the state, particularly regarding storm response and rate increases. That’s no small task, but thus far, Gillett has earned high marks and respect from elected officials, the public and the utility providers themselves. Most recently, PURA imposed sweeping changes to how electricity rate increases are proposed and approved in Connecticut. PURA says those changes will help prevent dramatic bill increases, ensure that electricity rates more accurately reflect costs, and curb overcharging by Eversource and United Illuminating. Gillett and her PURA colleagues made a conscious effort to communicate with the public at that time “to demonstrate that PURA is going to hold itself accountable, along with the utilities.” Gillett is widely recognized for her leadership in efforts to build a 21st-century electric grid that can combat climate change and advance the state’s green economy. Gillett, who with her school teacher husband is raising pre-school-age twins, was previously the vice president of external relations for the national Energy Storage Association.

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Chrissy Tracey

Chrissy Tracey • 26 • New Fairfield

Chef and Internet personality

The Cheshire native and lifelong Connecticut resident made a splash in the culinary industry in 2020 when she became the first vegan chef to join the cast of the Bon Appétit Test Kitchen (so far her videos have garnered nearly a million views on YouTube). Off camera, Tracey stays busy as the owner and operator of Vegan Vibes Meal Prep and devotes herself to a variety of charitable causes. Since September, she has been feeding 20 families a week in the New Haven Public Schools, where her mother Dr. Iline Tracey is superintendent. This summer she launched Black Owned Connecticut, a website devoted to promoting Black-owned businesses in the state. She hopes to use her platform to help make healthy, meat-free eating more accessible and popular. Her message to the masses is that, while not everyone has to go meat-free, if people eat less meat it can be better for them and the environment. Instagram: @eatwithchrissy

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Erick Russell

Erick Russell • 32 • New Haven

Vice chair, Connecticut Democratic Party

Russell is a bright young star in governmental affairs, both as an attorney specializing in government finance and as vice chair of the Connecticut Democratic Party. His work with the law firm of Pullman & Comley, primarily representing state and municipal governments in the issuance of bonds and other debt obligations, has garnered regional and national recognition, including the American Bar Association’s On The Rise: Top 40 Young Lawyers Award in 2020. Russell is also deeply involved in the Democratic Party at the state, regional and national levels, making significant contributions to getting Democrats elected to office locally and beyond, while also bringing energized leadership that’s attracting more young people to the party. Along with being elected vice chair of the Connecticut Dems in 2019, Russell, who is married to former state Rep. Christopher Lyddy, serves as Eastern Region vice chair of the Association of State Democratic Committees, a member of the National Democratic Committee and as co-chair of Connecticut Cares, an annual fundraiser to benefit Lambda Legal, a national nonprofit at the forefront of LGBTQ rights. Before joining Pullman & Comley in 2011, Russell represented low-income taxpayers dealing with the IRS and the state’s Department of Revenue Services as part of the UConn School of Law’s Low-Income Tax Clinic. Russell also interned for the general counsel to then-Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, and was a legal intern for the Connecticut Legal Rights Project in 2010, a year after earning his bachelor’s degree at the University of New Haven in the city where he was raised. He was the first in his family to go to college, which largely fuels his mentoring of young people, especially those of color, to pursue their educational and professional goals and take an active role in politics.

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Marissa Dionne Mead

Marissa Dionne Mead • 39 • Hamden

Architect

Mead unites sculptural art and architecture to create thoughtful, beautiful places. “It’s miraculous to witness a small piece of geographic space transform from something unremarkable into a cherished place,” says Mead, director of art integration at New Haven-based Svigals + Partners, the first to hold this industry title. A graduate of Notre Dame School of Architecture, Mead has managed over 300,000 square feet of mixed-use projects and her civic work designs have received national recognition, including New Britain’s sculptural Beehive Bridge and her pro-bono design of The New Haven Botanical Garden of Healing, which was named Editor’s Choice for Best Unbuilt Design in ArchPaper. Her work has also been featured in more than 25 publications. In addition, Mead is principal and co-founder of art and fabrication studio Atelier Cue, which advances public arts projects including a design exhibited at the state Capitol for its Equitable Community focus. “Magnificent public places remind us that our experience matters, that we matter,” she says. A mother of three, Mead strives to implement family-friendly policies into the workplace, and recently launched Spring Forward, a community activism group pursuing zoning reform in Hamden.

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Anna Nyakana

Anna Nyakana • 34 • Stamford

Children’s author and entrepreneur

Nyakana set out to write multicultural books to help children celebrate their diversity and recognize their worth. Born to a Ugandan father and German-Moldavian mother, she attended a low-funded school that failed to offer positive role models or lesson plans that spotlighted representation. “Every child deserves to know they have the ability to reach their fullest potential regardless of their ZIP code,” says the award-winning, best-selling author of Niyah Zuri and The Pharaoh’s Throne. “Children of color and all cultures should have respect, love and understanding of one another in order to develop a prolific knowledge of self and those they share this world with.” More important to her than sales, Nyakana works with school administrators in Connecticut and nationally to implement the Niyah Zuri series into curriculums. She is creating an educational cartoon series, Adventures with Niyah Zuri, based on her books that will help children build their consciousness and vocabulary through world adventures while showing them they can achieve their wildest dreams. Multifaceted, Nyakana is also a singer-songwriter, producer, content-creator, motivational speaker, and a mom of two who has sparked a movement for unification. “My purpose is to save the youth and I’m just getting started!” annanyakana.com • @Niyah_Zuri on Instagram and Twitter

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Tyler Green

Tyler Green 34 • Litchfield

SFX makeup artist/instructor, entrepreneur

Green has been fascinated by movie monsters since childhood. After graduating from Litchfield High School, he enrolled in Tom Savini’s Special Make-Up Effects Program (think Friday the 13th and Night of the Living Dead), but it was being a season 6 finalist and season 11 all-star on the Syfy Channel show Face Off that changed his life and launched his career. The Tyler Green FX Studio in the Whiting Mills artists’ complex in Winsted is the home base for his entrepreneurial venture, Creative Genius. It includes his SFX career and instructing, as well as medical and consumer products that range from the Wonderband System of organizing/storage tools for makeup artists to designing and fabricating hyper-realistic synthetic bodies, organs and membranes for the medical industry, as well as prosthetics. The COVID-19 pandemic has put a hold on FX makeup instructing and direct work on projects for the screen, but Green is looking forward to film projects in the works and open for more film opportunities. Kids’ fascination with movie monsters provides the bright spot at the moment. Green, who hosts monster-making birthday parties (when people had parties) created the Monster Kidz Box so children can make DIY cinematic monsters, and it has become a thriving COVID-era birthday-in-a-box enterprise. tylergreenfx.com • Instagram: @tylergreenfx • Twitter: @TylerGreenFX

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Nate Wood

Dr. Nate Wood • 28 • New Haven

Physician, musician and chef

A resident physician in internal medicine at Yale, “Dr. Nate” also earned a degree in professional culinary arts from the Institute of Culinary Education in New York. He is dedicated to bridging the gap between doctors and chefs, believing that what we eat can be simultaneously healthy and flavorful. Additionally, Dr. Nate is a talented musician. He posted an Instagram video of himself last spring playing and singing “Lean on Me” after seeing his first patient with COVID-19 in the ICU. The video won him a share of a 2020 MTV Video Music Award in the new Everyday Heroes: Frontline Medical Workers category. Also a writer, his articles on food and medicine have been published in The Washington Post, ABC News, Good Morning America, and top medical journals. His interviews have appeared in this magazine, as well as The Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe and others publications. Regarding his work with COVID-19 patients, Dr. Nate tackles it head-on. “I work every day and do my best not to get coronavirus, but if I did get it, then that’s just what I signed up for,” he says. “It’s worth it to try to bring as many people as possible back to their normal, healthy selves. It was a risk I decided was worth taking.” drnatewood.com • Instagram: @drchefnate

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Terrence Bogan

Terrence Bogan 18 • Wallingford

College athlete and theater performer

Earning the title renaissance man, and deserving it, usually comes after decades of personal and professional accomplishments, but Trinity College freshman Bogan merits the accolade even before hitting his 20s. Last summer he emerged from a pool of more than 800 other talented performers to win BroadwayWorld’s Next on Stage singing competition, and in October he released his own arrangement of The Impossible Dream from Man of La Mancha on streaming services. The Next on Stage prizes included a donation to the winner’s preferred charity, and the openly gay Bogan chose The Trevor Project, which is focused on suicide prevention efforts for LGBTQ youth, as a way of supporting others who haven’t benefited from a strong support system and championing the rights of LGBTQ communities. Bogan is also a standout athlete. At Sheehan High School he was a 100-meter Class M state champion and also a New England champion, and recorded nearly 6,000 career rushing yards and 77 touchdowns on the football field. He’s a member of the football and track teams at Trinity, in addition to singing in the theater department as he pursues his dream of performing on Broadway. Meanwhile, his “backup” plan at this point has Bogan leaning toward studies in political science, public policy, perhaps law, and human rights. Twitter: @Terrence_Bogan

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Dr. Christopher Wiles

Christopher Wiles • 31 • Farmington

Executive director, Doctors 3D Printing Masks

The sudden demand for personal protective equipment in the U.S. last spring led to critical shortages for hospital workers, first responders, and an American public unaccustomed to thinking of face masks as a part of daily life. That March, Wiles, an anesthesiology resident at UConn, Hartford Hospital and St. Francis Hospital, posted a video to YouTube showing how to create a 3D-printed mask for any size or shape of face. The masks use common household furnace filters to trap airborne impurities, and more than 200 masks can be made from a single large filter. The total cost per mask, once finished, comes to less than $2, and the complete instructions for the mask are available for free download on YouTube and Thingiverse (thingiverse.com/thing:4237783). A New London native and current Farmington resident, Wiles is now the executive director of Doctors 3D Printing Masks, and has distributed thousands to hospitals, nursing homes and dentists, and collaborated with UConn, Yale and the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in their development to make masks more widely available. Twitter: @CWilesDO

Chad Browne-Springer

Chad Browne-Springer

Chad Browne-Springer • 27 • East Hartford

Musician

Born and raised in East Hartford to Barbadian parents, Browne-Springer has found an identity in music. The singer and multi-instrumentalist front of psychedelic soul band Phat A$tronaut and Lvls began with school choirs and marching band before progressing into production, mixing and blending styles into complete compositions, top to bottom. Multiple albums have followed this journey, from an initial acoustic EP Hi, I’m Chad that Browne-Springer describes as “Frank Ocean meets John Mayer,” to the electric R&B of Phat A$tronaut, and a collection of songs and ideas which came together on a months-long “couchspedition” from Montreal to Florida, culminating with their album Love’s Letter. Browne-Springer has remained vibrantly active during the musical doldrums of 2020, appearing on The Quarantine Series, featuring performances by Connecticut musicians live online, and the single “Lakeside” from their 2020 album The Year of Broken Glass. In an interview with The Arts Council of Greater New Haven, Browne-Springer distilled a philosophy: “Music is a connecting entity — it moves humanity forward ... It creates the kind of world I want to live in.” Facebook: @chadbrownes • Spotify: Chad Browne-Springer

Cassie

Cassie

Cassie • 34 • New London

Singer, dancer, actress and model

Born and raised in New London, Cassandra Elizabeth Ventura Fine, now professionally known as Cassie, has had a whirlwind decade-plus. She began modeling in her teens, then embarked on a recording career in the mid-2000s, releasing her eponymously titled debut album in 2006. She now calls California home and has acted, danced and worked as a model for such prestigious brands as Victoria’s Secret and Calvin Klein. She routinely landed on Page 6 and other celebrity websites as much for what she was doing professionally as her long-term relationship with Sean “Diddy” Combs, which ended in 2018 after 10 years. These days she is finding joy with family even while continuing to pursue her interests in fashion and music. Her Instagram page with 7.5 million followers recently delighted fans when she and her husband announced in December that baby No. 2 was coming soon. cassieventura.co/music • Instagram: @cassie

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Michael Harris

Michael Harris • 29 • New Haven

Director, Elm City Innovation Collaborative

As the leader of a core initiative of the Economic Development Corporation of New Haven that has won and distributed $5.2 million in CTNext Innovation Places grants to develop innovation economy resources in New Haven, Harris promotes an agenda that invites contributions from everyone. “We all benefit if more people with new solutions, especially those currently excluded from entrepreneurship for their race, caste or gender, have access to the skills, resources and community they need to build and deploy their idea,” he says. Over four years, Innovation Collaborative funding has launched more than 17 projects aiming to inclusively coach aspiring founders, lower costs for inventors through shared facilities, broaden access to technology skills (through free certifications, paid internships and progressive tuition models), and create welcoming, connective public spaces for collaboration. Projects launching this year include a textile cooperative, a laboratory incubator with local talent partnerships, a pre-career software design academy, and two programs focused on increasing capital access for BIPOC-owned businesses impacted by COVID-19. Before the Innovation Collaborative, Harris, originally from Los Angeles, spent five years in the New Haven Mayor’s Office coordinating and implementing the city’s legislative agenda for Mayor Toni Harp. Using his experience running field operations for local campaigns, he continues to volunteer on voter-mobilization efforts across the country and believes strongly in the importance of civics education for a functioning democracy. nhvinnovation.com

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Patty Anne Miller 

Patty Anne Miller • 38 • Manchester

Drummer and actor

Miller started playing drums at age 10. The Manchester native, who now calls Los Angeles home, was inspired by drummers like Sheila E. and Aaron Spears and was skilled enough to earn a full scholarship from the prestigious Berklee College of Music. From there her musical star kept rising. She’s toured with CeeLo Green, and she played alongside Beyonce at the Super Bowl halftime show in 2016. Other musicians she has performed with include Leslie Odom, Zara Larsson and Melody Thornton. She’s gotten up from behind the drum set to be a contestant on So You Think You Can Dance and appear in a number of commercials as well as in the recent film Bill & Ted Face the Music. Whether she’s playing music or acting, Miller brings clear passion and skill to what she does. pattyannemiller.com • Instagram: @pattyannemiller • Twitter: @IamPattyaMiller

Do you know someone with Connecticut roots who should be part of next year's 40 Under 40 class? Nominate them here!

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Rosemary Ostfeld

Rosemary Ostfeld • 32 • East Lyme

Environmental scientist and food-tech startup founder

A visiting assistant professor in the College of the Environment and Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Rosemary Ostfeld is also the founder of Healthy PlanEat, a new sustainable food-tech startup based in her hometown of East Lyme that helps farmers who use sustainable growing practices sell their farm-fresh goods (whether fruits or veggies, cheese or oysters) directly to local customers. Farmers using Healthy PlanEat — which enthusiastic members of the community helped get its start via a crowdfunding campaign — can upload inventory, set distribution options and manage incoming orders while customers can purchase food to pick up at the farms themselves, at farmers markets, pop-up shop locations or for delivery. Ostfeld, a Cambridge Trust Scholar at the University of Cambridge in England, where she earned a Ph.D. in Land Economy, currently works with 14 USDA Certified Organic and Northeast Organic Farming Association Farmer’s Pledge farms in Connecticut and has plans to expand Healthy PlanEat throughout the Northeast. “We believe sustainable growing practices are important for healthy people and our planet,” Ostfeld says, thus Healthy PlanEat’s mission to help increase access to fresh, sustainably grown, local food. “Healthy people, healthy planet,” she sums up. Works for us. @rosemaryostfeld on Instagram and Twitter

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Christopher Cusano

Christopher Cusano • 36 • West Hartford

Executive director, Connecticut Brain Tumor Alliance

A brain tumor survivor himself, Cusano is now committed to helping those in need and being an advocate for the Connecticut brain tumor community. A native of North Haven who received his B.A. from the University of Connecticut and his J.D. from Roger Williams University School of Law, he first worked for a law firm in the private sector and for the United Way for several years. After being diagnosed with a benign brain tumor in 2008, undergoing multiple surgeries and making a full recovery, he made a life change as well. In 2014 he started volunteering at CTBTA, a nonprofit dedicated to providing hope and support to brain tumor patients and caregivers, while advancing brain tumor awareness, quality of care and brain tumor research. Shortly thereafter he joined full time. “I can relate to the patient, their family and the medical professional, which allows me to strategize on how to best position our organization to fulfill our mission of advancing awareness, quality of care and brain tumor research while providing hope and support,” he says. “Having a background in law assists me with assessing issues from both a legal and patient perspective, as well as using past experiences to run the organization and ensuring we are compliant with the necessary regulations.” Cusano is also the author of GreyMattersBlog.com. ctbta.org

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Darcie Little Badger

Darcie Little Badger • 33 • Shelton

Author and earth scientist

Badger’s bestselling debut novel Elatsoe was not only universally hailed by critics but was also named to a slew of Best of 2020 lists and recognized as one of Time magazine’s Best 100 Fantasy Books of All Time. Elatsoe taps into the traditions and culture of the Lipan Apache tribe, of which Little Badger is a member. Badger’s novel is viewed as part of an “explosion” of Native American and other Indigenous voices in fiction, particularly in sci-fi, fantasy or emerging blends of the magical and the realistic, a movement Badger is proud to be a part of and hopes to build on with her second Young Adult Fantasy novel, A Snake Falls to Earth, set to be published in the fall. The meteoric success of Elatsoe came almost immediately after the death of Badger’s father, and the final stretch of his battle with mesothelioma was made even more difficult because of the impacts of COVID-19 on the health care system and the resulting restrictions. “My family and I had to fight to be with him in the hospital and ensure he received care in an overwhelmed medical system,” Badger says. “It was an excruciating four months.” Despite the heartbreak that marked 2020, Badger, an earth scientist, says her creativity has been energized by the response to Elatsoe from critics and readers alike. She published a story for Marvel about Moonstar, the Northern Cheyenne comic book superheroine, and she’s also working on a graphic novel. “Storytelling is such an important part of not only the Lipan Apache culture, but my family’s tradition as well as who I am,” she explains. Badger’s breakout novel proved she’s a literary voice who will be heard for years to come. darcielittlebadger.wordpress.com • Twitter: @ShiningComic • Instagram: @dr.littlebadger

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Jordan Kessler

Jordan Kessler • 30 • Westport

Vice president, Sports Finance Group, J.P. Morgan Private Bank

Now in his eighth year at the New York office of J.P. Morgan, Kessler manages $5 billion in loans, working with teams and owners in the five major sports leagues (baseball, football, hockey, basketball and soccer). A graduate of Vanderbilt University, with a major in financial management and entrepreneurship and a minor in Spanish, Kessler explains that business is especially brisk because of the pandemic’s effect on event attendance. “With games being held without fans and seasons shortened, teams have seen less local revenue come in,” he says, “providing an opportunity to access liquidity via the debt markets. We specialize in extending financing for team acquisitions, stadium construction and working capital; as well as lending solutions for personal financial needs.” Kessler has warm memories of growing up in Westport, with one slight regret. “I always took for granted that there was a beach in town,” he says. “I wish I took more advantage of it.”

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Erin Connolly

Erin Connolly • 37 • Rocky Hill

News anchor, WFSB Channel 3

An Emmy-nominated journalist who has been anchoring and reporting across the country for more than a decade, Connolly joined WFSB in 2014 and can be seen weekdays anchoring Eyewitness News at 4, 5, 6 and 11 p.m. An active volunteer, she has helped raise money for many local organizations including the Channel 3 Kids Camp. A graduate of Tufts University with a degree in political science and mass communications & media studies, Connolly was co-captain of the women’s basketball team and also served as vice president of her class. Originally from Long Island, she loves living in Connecticut with her husband and two daughters. Connolly helped her colleagues and the entire state mourn the loss of longtime WFSB anchor Denise D’Ascenzo, who passed away suddenly in December 2019. “I often wonder what Denise would think of all that happened in 2020,” Connolly wrote on her Facebook page. “I have no doubt she would be reassuring each of us with her calming presence. Be open, be brave, be kind. Those were the words she lived by. May we honor her memory by following in her footsteps.” Facebook: @ErinConnollyTV • Instagram: @erinconnollytv • Twitter: @ErinConnollyTV

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Vasishth Srivastava

Vasishth Srivastava • 29 • Hartford

Chief of staff, City of Hartford

He’s likely the youngest chief of staff for a mayor of a city in the region, but Srivastava is too busy serving the city of Hartford to give that distinction much thought, especially since he’s leading the city’s ongoing public engagement efforts surrounding COVID-19. As Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin’s chief of staff, Srivastava serves as the mayor’s chief spokesperson, as well as Bronin’s primary adviser on local, state and federal policy. In addition to managing the Mayor’s Office, Srivastava also coordinates all communications for the 13 municipal departments serving Connecticut’s capital city and its population of about 123,000. If that seems like a huge set of responsibilities, it is, but Bronin and those who work with or for Srivastava point to his ability to remain “cool under pressure” as among his many strong traits, as well as invaluable to his leadership through a number of crises, including the current pandemic. Srivastava credits Bronin’s team. “We’ve worked hard on many fronts with many partners to expand testing, meet basic needs, and advocate for more support,” Srivastava says. “There is more to do and I feel privileged to have the opportunity to serve.” Srivastava joined Bronin’s staff in 2017, working on policy research and communications, then served as deputy chief of staff before being promoted to the top job. A passion for public service is something imbued in him by his parents. “As the son of immigrants, I feel an obligation to pay my opportunities forward,” Srivastava says. “Trying to build a wise, compassionate government that does its part to build a fair society feels like an effective way to do that.”

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Will Haskell 

Will Haskell • 24 • Westport

State senator

A Democrat representing the towns of Redding, Ridgefield, Wilton and parts of Bethel, Westport, Weston and New Canaan, Haskell upset longtime incumbent Toni Boucher as a first-time candidate in 2018, receiving an endorsement from former President Barack Obama. He won re-election last year and is the youngest member of Connecticut’s General Assembly, having begun his political career after graduating from Georgetown University in 2018. As the chair of the Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee and a staunch advocate for college affordability, Haskell helped bring free community college to Connecticut and has worked to address the growing student loan crisis through strategic tax credits. “I will continue to fight for an economy that grows from the bottom up, not the top down,” he says. As the vice chair of the Government Administration and Elections Committee, he has pushed to ensure that every citizen has convenient access to the ballot. “I ran for office because I believe every generation deserves a seat at the table, and young people are too often unrepresented in the halls of power,” he says. “As I begin my next term, I know there is so much more work that lies ahead to build a more inclusive, more representative, and more effective government.” Twitter: @WillHaskellCT • Facebook: @WillHaskellforCT • Instagram: @willhaskellforct

Molly Qerim

Molly Qerim

Molly Qerim Rose • 36 • Cheshire

ESPN host

Qerim Rose is the host who commands the desk every weekday morning on ESPN’s First Take. She somehow managed to deftly moderate a debate show alone from her basement for a good chunk of 2020. Off camera, Qerim Rose continues to make a meaningful impact across her community as a philanthropist and ambassador for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, the Innocence Project and as an advocate for endometriosis awareness, including working to pass two bills before Congress to further research, early recognition and treatment. During a four-year stint at ESPN early in her career, Qerim Rose earned an Emmy in 2008 for her work on Fantasy Football Now. Her next stops included CBS Sports and NFL Network, but she returned to ESPN in 2015. The list of events Qerim Rose has covered includes Super Bowls, NBA Finals, celebrity red carpets, MMA, tennis, boxing and more, as well as interviewing top musicians and actors. Originally from Cheshire, Qerim Rose graduated from the University of Connecticut and received a master’s degree in broadcast journalism from Quinnipiac, where she was part of the inaugural School of Communications Hall of Fame class in 2020. Instagram: @mollyqerim • Twitter: @MollyQerim

Do you know someone with Connecticut roots who should be part of next year's 40 Under 40 class? Nominate them here!

This article appears in the February 2021 issue of Connecticut MagazineYou can subscribe to Connecticut Magazine here, or find the current issue on sale hereSign up for our newsletter to get our latest and greatest content delivered right to your inbox. Have a question or comment? Email editor@connecticutmag.com. And follow us on Facebook and Instagram @connecticutmagazine and Twitter @connecticutmag.

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Erik Ofgang is the co-author of Penguin Random House’s “The Good Vices” and author of “Buzzed” and “Gillette Castle.” He is also an adjunct professor at WCSU’s MFA Program and Quinnipiac University

Mike Wollschlager is a former editor and writer for Connecticut Magazine. He was born and raised in Bristol.