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Thursday, November 13, 2014

Exclusive Interview: Samantha Lukens, Designer and MFA Candidate

By Aaron S. Robertson

Inspired by an accident a number of years back that could have proven truly tragic, graphic designer and long-time friend of this author is on a noble mission to educate people about health insurance with her master’s thesis.

Samantha “Sami” Lukens is on a mission. A serious one. The MFA (Master of Fine Arts) candidate and old college friend of mine has decided to tackle the subject of health insurance for her thesis. The subject, by all outward appearances, seems more fit for an MBA student, or a student of the social sciences. Not a designer. How does a graphic designer take such a seemingly cold, sterile, but certainly important and relevant topic, and make it lively, interesting, engaging … even fun? Well, for starters, you have to have the passion. And for Sami, this topic is deeply personal.

At the age of 23, Sami was attending a party on a lake here in the Milwaukee area. Out of nowhere, as she was sitting on a picnic bench facing away from the beach, a jet skier hit her from behind. She was about 15 feet inland, and the jet ski actually pinned her to the bench. Another half of an inch to the left, and Sami would have cracked her spine. She could have certainly been paralyzed.

Now 31 and living near San Francisco, where she studies at the Academy of Art, Sami still feels the aftermath, both in terms of her physical health and the battles she’s faced with insurance companies, bill collectors, healthcare providers, and the credit bureaus.

Samantha Lukens, Sami Lukens, CareAware
Samantha Lukens
“I’ll forever have a pinched sciatic nerve as a result,” Sami told me during our conversation by phone the evening of September 11, continuing on, “And possibly difficulty with childbirth.”

At the time of the accident, Sami and her parents were confident that her student insurance would have her covered. After all, they concluded, she was enrolled in a summer course at the time, and had just returned from a student trip overseas. However, the insurance, they discovered, would not cover the incident. The next logical move, then, would have been to pursue the insurance of the jet skier, but the jet ski had no vehicle coverage. With options dwindling, Sami turned to a law firm, which successfully won a civil case on her behalf against the operator of the jet ski. The case, at least on paper, has exonerated her from the medical debt, but Sami has yet to see that money, however. In the meantime, bill collectors are still pursuing her, and her credit has been dealt major setbacks.

“All of this has left my parents and I wondering, ‘What if we paid a few more dollars for this student insurance? Would I be covered?’”, Sami told me. “Often times, people who purchase health insurance, especially younger people, simply go with the least expensive option, not knowing the potential consequences.”

But if anything remotely good can come out of all this pain and hassle, it’s Sami’s thesis project, which she is calling CareAware.

“My goal is to educate others on health insurance. While health insurance is certainly not new, I’m working on developing a new way to communicate it,” Sami said, continuing, “A lot of people really struggle to understand their insurance. It’s all in medical jargon. There’s no centralized resource. That’s where my work hopefully comes into play. But it can’t be boring. It has to be real, and it has to capture peoples’ interests.”

Curious to know how Sami is working to incorporate her artistic talents into something that traditionally seems, well, sort of dry and boring, she told me, “As graphic designers, we take boring, mundane topics, and make them interesting. We figure out how to make them fun, exciting, visually appealing, and making large amounts of information digestible. I like to call myself a ‘conceptual designer.’ Right now, health insurance isn’t being communicated well, and I want to change that.”

Sami’s vision for CareAware in a nutshell: She wants to produce a new educational Web site to help communicate health insurance. Along with that Web site, her thesis will include advertising and social media use. There is talk of an app, as well, but that has yet to be determined. Right now, she is currently working on the content that surrounds her thesis until her next thesis class, when she will begin building those deliverables.

The response for her efforts so far has been great. “There’s been a lot of interest. I’m actually surprised how much interest there is,” Sami said. And her research is turning up surprises, as well. “Only 14 percent of people who have health insurance actually understand their insurance. Instead of being divided among various risk pools, we’re all in one risk pool now. I didn’t realize how many business contracts are involved between insurance companies and health care facilities. Some of the stories have been shocking, in both good and bad ways,” she went on to tell me.

Asked about advice for those interested in entering the field, Sami said possibilities are virtually endless. “When I first started in the field of graphic design, my first initial thought was that I would be creating beautiful things around me. After a few semesters at the Academy, I’ve come to understand that we are really visual storytellers, communicators, and problem solvers. You will find graphic designers working in entertainment, at innovative consulting firms, small businesses, corporate offices, and much more.” Sami has been fortunate to embark on a number of interesting and meaningful adventures in her work so far, including stints with RDI, an independent photography and film studio, as well as the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Alaska and Washington, and Smart Design in San Francisco.

For those interested in helping Sami with CareAware, or to learn more, e-mail her at, and follow along on the journey at CareAware’s Facebook page. Sami is interested in talking with health insurance agents, healthcare providers, and those who want to share their stories and battles with health insurance.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

123@5 Networking Tonight, 10/8/14

123@5 logo
"If you make great friends, great business will follow..." Steve Riege
Yes, it's Wednesday!
 Join your friends at 123@5, Wednesday October 8th
beginning at 5:00 at Rail Hall!
Welcome back to Milwaukee's Premier Business Networking Event.

Large FREE parking across the street, on the corner of 2nd and Seeboth Streets

 Why 123@5 works for YOU?(click to see the video)
(click for our website)

Milwaukee's Premiere Business Networking Event
No agenda, No membership, No hassles, and...
Yes - 123@5 is still FREE!

Great business networking begins again 
Wednesday October 8th, beginning at 5:00.
 Spread the word.
Mark your calendars...Our 2015 events are
January 14, April 8th, July 8th, October 14th. (Always Wednesday)

 Will I see you there?
p.s...pass this on to others!
A return to great "Old School" Business Networking - Face to Face

Open to everyone interested in business networking
No Membership
No Fee (yes, it's free)
BYOS (buy your own stuff)
Bring a friend, or two, or several
Invite your network

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Business Fraud Presentation at Harley-Davidson Museum on 10/20/14

U.S. Bank is holding an event entitled, "Innovations in Fraud: How to protect your business against the newest threats" at the Harley-Davidson Museum on Monday, October 20th, from 8:30am to 12pm.

It is being presented by Jeff Lanza, a retired FBI agent with over 20 years experience.

If you are interested in attending, please RSVP to Tracy Harris at 262-638-8007 or

Upcoming Workshops at Boerner Botanical Gardens

Aquaponics: Year’ Round Gardening
Session 1: Thursday, October 9, 6:30pm – 8pm (at Boerner Botanical Gardens)

Session 2: Saturday, October 11, 10aom – 11am (at Central Greens – 51st and Bluemound)
$15 members / $20 non-members
Two-part aquaponics demonstration will teach about aquaponic food production and how you can grow fresh­ fish and vegetables.

The Lore and Lure of Spices
Thursday, October 16, 6:30pm – 8pm
$10 members / $15 non-members
Milwaukee Spice House will discuss the history and uses of a variety of spices. Tasting and samples included.

Family Workshops
Families (up to 5 people): $20 members / $25 non-members
Individuals: $10 members / $12 non-members
To register, please call (414) 525-5656

Planting a Windowsill Herb Garden
Saturday, October 18, 10am – 12pm
Learn which winter herbs will grow best indoors on your windowsills. Decorate terra cotta flowerpots and plant herbs to enjoy at home.

Please let me know if you have any questions!

Thank you,

Julia Buraczewski
Marketing & Event Coordinator
Friends of Boerner Botanical Gardens – since 1984
(414) 525-5661

Friday, September 26, 2014

Harvest Fair This Weekend at the Wisconsin State Fair Grounds

Among other bands in a great lineup, The Buckinghams perform Saturday; a brief interview with lead singer Carl Giammarese.

By Aaron S. Robertson

“We’re really looking forward to Milwaukee, even if you’re a bunch of Packers fans,” Carl Giammarese, the lead singer of famed 60s pop group The Buckinghams, told me with a laugh in a brief interview with him by phone this past Tuesday afternoon, September 23. It was my second interview with him. Check out my more comprehensive conversation with Carl near the end of 2011. “As you know, we’ve visited Milwaukee many, many times, going back to the 60s, and we always have a great time.”

The Chicago-based group, armed with hits like “Kind of a Drag”, “Don’t You Care”, “Hey Baby (They’re Playing Our Song)”, and “Susan”, takes the stage this Saturday, September 27, starting at 4:00pm at the Bank Mutual Amphitheater. Admission is free for the family-friendly fair, which opens Friday evening and runs through Sunday.

The Harvest Fair performance will include the band’s horn section, which is always a treat. Joining along in the 75-minute performance will be Brookfield resident Peter Neumer on sax.

Carl Giammarese, The Buckinghams
Carl Giammarese, Potawatomi Bingo Casino, 12/5/12.
“We had a good summer,” Carl told me. “There were some really enjoyable shows throughout the year so far. We recently performed with The Grass Roots and Gary Puckett & The Union Gap. Nick [Fortuna, the band’s bassist and other remaining original member] and I are really pleased with the current lineup. We just keep plotting along here.” The Grass Roots are also performing Saturday at the same stage, starting at 8:00pm. Read my in-depth 2012 interview with bassist and lead singer Mark Dawson.

Aside from additional upcoming performances this year, Carl said the band doesn’t have any new recordings or other special projects coming up in the pipeline at the immediate moment, but he did note that an album was released earlier this year entitled FlashBack, a collection of newer recordings featuring both national hits and regional favorites that The Buckinghams have enjoyed over the years. “I’d like to maybe record another live show for DVD one of these days, as well,” Carl explained, noting, “But you have to have the perfect venue for something like that.” Carl has also been working on an autobiography for some time now. “I’m hoping to complete it before I pass away,” he said with a laugh. “But joking aside, I think our fan base will really come to enjoy it. It will be very extensive.”

Nick Fortuna, The Buckinghams
Bassist Nick Fortuna, Potawatomi Bingo Casino, 12/5/12.
From personal experience, The Buckinghams always put on a great show. There’s something for everyone. It’s actually worth forgetting and forgiving for that 75 minutes that some of the band members are die-hard Bears and Cubs fans. And we know that it’s pretty darn rare when we can say that, right Milwaukee? So come check the band out and take in all of the other great entertainment and food offerings that Harvest Fair has in store for you this weekend. And if 60s pop is in fact your forte, you definitely have to return for The Grass Roots.

Click here for the complete Harvest Fair lineup, and check out

Monday, September 22, 2014

Upcoming Interview with Carl Giammarese of The Buckinghams

Excited to announce I'll be catching up with Carl Giammarese of The Buckinghams tomorrow in a brief interview leading up to the band's appearance at Harvest Fair at the Wisconsin State Fair grounds this coming Saturday!

In the meantime, check out my comprehensive interview with him near the end of 2011.

All the Best,


Monday, September 15, 2014

Manpower Job Fair on 9/17/14 in East Troy

Manpower is hosting a job fair at the East Troy City Hall on Wednesday, September 17, 2014 from 9am until 2pm. Manpower representatives will be there to speak with you about your experience and our current and future openings. Address of the facility is:
2015 Energy Drive
East Troy, WI 53120
Municipal Building Meeting Room A
We have quite a number of openings in Lake Country in a variety of fields, such as:

·         Production/Assembly
·         Press Operation
·         Customer Service/Inside Sales
·         Warehouse

We are looking for individuals who are motivated to work hard and advance their career!  
If you are interested or know someone who is, please plan to attend and bring along a copy of your updated resume for review. In the meantime, please make sure you are registered on