Season 5: Guest Bios
Ahmad Shiina (St. Marys 2005)
CTO and Head of Products at Timers inc
Ahmad Shiina is the co-founder, CTO, and Head of Products at Timers inc, a startup based in Tokyo.
He was born and raised in Tokyo, and graduated from St.Mary's International School in 2005. He then entered Waseda University's International Liberal Arts Department. While studying there he has taught himself Computer Science and programming in his spare time, also working part-time as a software engineer for a mobile website firm.
Upon graduating Waseda, Ahmad joined DeNA as a software engineer. In 2012 he has left the company to co-found Timers inc. Timers inc is a tech startup running Famm, a suite of businesses primarily targeted towards families such as photo printing mobile apps, family photo studios, and career development schools for mothers. They have over 1.3 million customers and have received 1.4 billion JPY in investments (13 million USD), and currently have over 50 employees passionately providing solutions for families all around Japan. As the CTO and Head of Product, Ahmad oversees all technological investment strategies, including hiring and management of engineers, and also oversees the app business segment.
Ahmad's area of expertise includes all things computer technology related, as well as business strategy and organizational management.
Kari Kohl (ASIJ 1986)
Kari Kohl was raised by an IBM family in and around Westchester County, NY and Paris, France. She came to Tokyo in 1984. She then stayed in Tokyo for a year and enrolled in Sophia University’s Intensive Japanese Language program.
Kari then returned to the US where she graduated from Princeton University in 1992 with a BA in Modern East Asian History with minors in Women’s Studies and Teacher Preparation.
She taught third grade in public New Jersey schools for 4 years, and then enrolled in Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) and married David Kohl.
While earning her Masters Degree, she started her family, and quickly realized that she would not be able to devote herself 100% to both her family and a new career, and she decided to stay home with her children. During the next 13 years, she tutored, wrote curriculum for the New York Times, and became a volunteer breastfeeding counselor with La Leche League International.
It was during this time that she found her calling, wanting to empower women to know and feel comfortable with their bodies, and she started her journey to becoming a midwife. She graduated from Westchester Community College with her RN license in 2012, worked in Labor and Delivery for several years, and then earned her Masters in Midwifery and her CNM license from Frontier Nursing University in 2017. Since 2018, she has been working for Planned Parenthood in New Rochelle, NY, caring for women at all stages of life. Her daughter, Alexandra, graduated from Brown University via Zoom this past May, and her son Ben begins college at Northeastern University this Fall.
Steven Lobianco (Former ASIJ Faculty 1998-2013)
Lived the first 18 years of my life in Dubuque, Iowa. Then attended the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, Iowa, where I played tennis for four years and graduated with a Bachelors in Mathematics with an emphasis in secondary education. A bit later in my career (over the course of a number of summers), I completed a Masters in Educational Technology at a small liberal arts school named Clarke College in Dubuque, Iowa. Dubuque is still my summer home.
Teaching Career: I worked for three years in Dubuque teaching in a (mostly) self-contained 7th/8th grade classroom in Dubuque, IA. Then we moved overseas first spending 3 years teaching mathematics to 8th/9th graders in Khamis Mushayt, Saudi Arabia, followed by 15 years teaching mathematics at ASIJ (3 years in the MS and 12 in the HS), and have just started year 8 in Doha, Qatar, at the American School of Doha teaching Mathematics and IB Economics in high school.
During my teaching career, I have coached numerous sports including tennis, volleyball, and American football. However, my passion and the one I've done for the most years is Girls basketball - current the Varsity Girls coach in Doha. I also coached the girl's varsity team at ASIJ for a number of years.
Family: I’ve been married for 27 years to Lora who is an elementary teacher – currently grade 4. We have two children. Our oldest, Daniela, who graduated from the American School of Doha (2019), is currently studying forensic science at the University of New Haven. Our youngest, Pacifico, just began his senior year at the American School of Doha. He is in the process of deciding where to attend university and is strongly considering applying to some schools in Japan.
Personal: I have been blessed with the opportunity to live overseas for the majority of my adult life and travel quite extensively which is a passion. I am also an avid – but not that skilled – golfer.
DJ Taku Takahashi (member of M-Flo) (St. Marys 1993)
Musician and Producer
Taku Takahashi is a Japanese hip hop recording artist, DJ and record producer who debuted in 1997 as a record producer of the hip hop group M-Flo. The group rose to prominence in the early 2000s, with hit singles such as "How You Like Me Now?" and "Come Again." Takahashi was also a member of Avex's 20th anniversary dance music project Ravex, and has produced songs for musicians such as Crystal Kay, Ami Suzuki and Rie Fu, and remixes for Hikaru Utada and Ayumi Hamasaki. He formed the record labels Tachytelic Records and TCY Recording.
M-Flo is a Japanese hip hop group consisting of record producer DJ Taku Takahashi, MC Verbal and Lisa.
Their mainstream success and critical acclaim established them as the most iconic and influential hip-hop production team in Japan with success throughout Asia. Taku Takahashi and Verbal also started successful side-projects outside M-Flo, such as the Teriyaki Boyz and Global Astro Alliance collaborating with international producers and artists such as Kanye West and the Beastie Boys.
Anna Novick (St. Maur 2008)
International Educator / Writer
Anna was born in Seoul, Korea, in 1989 to a US Navy family. After spending the first 18-months of her life between Seoul and Vermont, her family moved (back) to Japan (her family had lived there before she was born) in 1992.
Following in her two older brothers’ footsteps, Anna attended local Japanese public school from Kindergarten through ninth grade. After finishing junior high, Anna’s mother, a professor at Keisen Women’s University in Machida, took a sabbatical to North Wales, where Anna experienced her first school with English instruction. By the time she got over the culture shock a year later, it was time to return to Japan. She attended Saint Maur International school from 2005-2008. She attended Harvard (C’2013), where she studied Sociology and Psychology. She completed the Undergraduate Teacher Education Program and has a Massachusetts teaching license in Biology.
In high school, Anna was best known for her academic and running career. She broke the Tama Hills Girls’ cross country record 2007 (it has since been broken, and rebroken…). At Harvard, Anna competed for the Greater Boston Track Club, setting personal bests in the 5k (17:53), 10k (37:30), half marathon (1:23:05) and the marathon (2:56:23).
Anna returned to Japan in 2013 and has been teaching IB Biology and General Science at Saint Maur ever since. She is also a member of the college guidance team and coaches cross country. She has been a bilingual IB examiner since 2016.
Outside of education, Anna works as a translator, researcher, and writer. She is working on a novel, which she hopes to finish before she is 80.
She lives in Hayama with her two cats, dog and partner. She continues to train and race competitively with the hope of running an Olympic Trials Qualifier (2:45:00).
Robin Lewis (ASIJ 2006)
Co-founder/CEO of MyMizu
Robin is the Co-founder of mymizu - an award-winning initiative to reduce consumption of single-use plastics.
He is also the Co-founder & Director of Social Innovation Japan - a platform for social good focusing on the UN Sustainable Development Goals - and is a Consultant at the World Bank (Climate Change Group).
He has 10 years’ experience working with inter-governmental organisations, social enterprises and NGOs, and has managed humanitarian operations in countries such as Haiti, Nepal, Vanuatu and Mozambique.
In 2017, he took on a sponsored expedition, walking 600+km along Japan’s disaster-affected coastline to document the recovery from the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis. Robin is a Board Member of the Shibuya QWS Innovation Council and graduated with an M.A. in International Business from the University of Edinburgh, UK.
Frank Streigl (St. Marys 2002)
President and Owner of Finom K.K.
Frank is the owner at Finom Inc., operating the brands Tokyo Ramen Tours and 5 AM Ramen.
Essentially, he has one of the best jobs in the world. He eats ramen for a living.
After St. Mary's, he majored in Sociology and minored in Law at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. His first job was in Tokyo, where he worked as a Nikkei stock broker. After finance, he found himself working in tech, chiefly in sales and business development roles. From this point onward he would continue to work in sales, including at online booking website Agoda.
In January of 2018 he started offering ramen tours to inbound tourists, immersing himself in the world of ramen full-time.
Dr. Michael Thornton (ASIJ 2006)
Historian (Post Doctoral Research Associate)
Michael Thornton is a historian of early-modern and modern Japan, with a particular interest in urban history. In his dissertation, “Settling Sapporo: City and State in the Global Nineteenth Century,” he analyzed the planning and construction of Sapporo across the nineteenth century. He argued that the city was built as a settler-colonial capital, playing an instrumental role in the Japanese colonization of Hokkaido. The city was in turn heavily shaped by its colonial position and functions.
More broadly, Thornton is interested in the transformation of Japanese cities between the Tokugawa and Meiji periods, including the development of new forms of social and political organization and municipal administration, with an eye to lessons that the rest of the world might learn from one of the planet’s most urbanized societies.
Thornton grew up in Kobe and Tokyo before attending Yale, where he received a BA in History in 2010. After brief stints in Germany and back in Japan he entered the PhD program in History at Harvard, from which he graduated in May 2018.
Miguel Gen Ortiz-Cañavate Ozeki (St. Mary's 2009)
Miguel graduated from St. Mary’s in 2009 and holds a Bachelor's in Economics from University of Michigan and a Master’s in Hotel & Restaurant Management from Eastern Michigan University.
In 2016, Miguel completed his professional swimming career after winning the NCAA championship title in college and competing at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro along with his brother, Bruno Ortiz, who also graduated from St. Mary’s.
Currently, he works at Galaxy Entertainment Group, the second-largest casino hospitality company in the world, supporting the pursuit of winning the casino license in Japan.
Bruno Kenji Ortiz-Cañavate Ozeki (St. Marys 2011)
Bruno graduated from St. Mary’s in 2011. He holds a Bachelor's in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology from University of Michigan, and a Master’s in Inland Water Quality Assessment from Autonomous University of Madrid.
In 2016, Bruno, along with his older brother, Miguel, competed at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
He is currently training to qualify for Tokyo 2021 Olympic Games.