Mission:
Better Healthcare

Winter 2013
<< previous story  |  next story >>

Chicago’s Top Dog: Paula Fasseas a champion for homeless pets

by Kelsey Rotwein

Sixteen years ago, the future looked bleak for Chicago’s stray cats and dogs. Euthanasia was the most common fate for homeless animals at the city pound or shelters. “When I went down to the city pound, they were killing about 90 percent of the animals,” Paula Fasseas (LAS ’80) recalls. “And I was horrified because these were wonderful animals. But nobody really knew what was going on … there was not a lot of visibility.”

Armed with this statistic, Fasseas decided to bring her knowledge to the public by organizing an animal adoption fair along Michigan Avenue and Oak Street. It was the first Angels with Tails event for Fasseas’ nascent organization, PAWS Chicago, and it was an undeniable hit. Besides finding homes for more than 60 animals, the event also prompted an outpouring of support.

“The following day, I had 50 phone calls from people that had passed by,” Fasseas remembers. “People who loved animals wanted to volunteer and help our organization–which really we had just created for that event.” From those humble beginnings, PAWS Chicago became one of the largest no-kill shelters in the country (PAWS stands for “Pets Are Worth Saving.”). In addition to an adoption center in Lincoln Park, where Fidos and felines relax in suites rather than cages, PAWS Chicago operates a spay/neuter clinic in Little Village as well as the GusMobile, which brings free and low-cost surgical services to neighborhoods with high numbers of strays.

Last year, PAWS Chicago saved the lives of 5,606 animals. Fasseas is quick to credit the organization’s staff and volunteers for this accomplishment. As founder and chair, she herself is a volunteer. “Our model is two things: everything that’s done is done by volunteers and the community,” she says. PAWS Chicago’s strong network of community supporters donated 94,000 hours of service in 2012.

“The more service we give, the happier we are,” Fasseas posits, and she sees that motto in DePaul’s mission. When she transferred to DePaul, she found that the “warm environment” came from the university’s philosophy of inclusion. “It’s not just about the academics,” she says. “I think DePaul teaches ? that everyone is part of the big picture.” Of course, “everyone” also includes our furry friends.

Fasseas spent her career in community banking, and she brings her business savvy to PAWS Chicago. For DePaul students considering a non-profit career, she emphasizes the importance of developing a strong business background. “For every dollar a donor gives to PAWS, it’s really being leveraged to help the greatest number of animals,” she notes. “You have to understand that one person can’t do everything, and you have to be willing to work as a team.”

In the coming years, Fasseas hopes to expand PAWS Chicago’s services to even more communities, continue to educate the public about the realities facing homeless pets and eventually transform Chicago into a no-kill city. “Once the cat’s out of the bag, so to speak, it doesn’t ever go back in again,” Fasseas says, laughing. For the nearly 26,000 animals adopted through PAWS Chicago since 1997, that’s terrific news.

To learn more about PAWS Chicago, including volunteer opportunities, visit pawschicago.org.


A Home in Hollywood: Behind the Scenes with Art O’Leary

by Kelsey Rotwein

Ominous music swells as the Wizard, one of five king crab fishing boats featured on the Discovery Channel’s “Deadliest Catch,” pushes feebly against chunks of ice in the Bering Sea. The drumbeat accelerates, matching the panic in the captain’s voice. He shouts for help, but no one comes, and then the Wizard’s engine shuts down.

As a recently promoted editor on “Deadliest Catch,” Art O’Leary (CDM ’07) spends nine to 12 hours a day transforming raw footage into the streamlined, seamless episodes that show up on your TV. Among other responsibilities, O’Leary selects the music that adds so much tension and drama to the award-winning show. “If it’s a very deep character moment, you might not want a whole lot of music, so you might just use something soft,” he explains. “You don’t want to take away from what the characters are saying or what they’re going through.”

Each 16-episode season generates approximately 30,000 hours of footage across multiple cameras, which associate producers review and reduce. A story producer outlines the scenes, and then O’Leary works his magic. “My job is to take the string of bites and make the show,” he says. “So I score the music, add the sound effects, space out the bites and make sure there are no jump cuts or anything of that nature.” The process takes time and patience, but O’Leary finds great satisfaction in the work.

O’Leary initially entered DePaul as an industrial psychology major. At the time, psychology was one of the most popular majors, and digital cinema was just gaining traction. On a whim, O’Leary signed up for a class in digital media. “I always liked movies,” O’Leary says. “The professor asked the class to recut the end of an old movie using old footage, and I fell in love with it.” By the time junior year rolled around, O’Leary had already completed an internship at a local post-production house, and he soon acquired a second internship on the set of “The Ghost Whisperer” in Los Angeles. “I got the internship thanks to two of my professors, Matt Irvine and Lou Kleinman,” O’Leary says. “DePaul directly helped me get into Hollywood.”

By the time summer ended, O’Leary had impressed the team behind “The Ghost Whisperer” enough that they offered him a job. While flattered, O’Leary knew he wanted to finish his degree. “Quite frankly, I wasn’t done with DePaul just yet,” he says.

O’Leary buckled down when he returned to campus. “I really focused on taking courses and learning programs that would make me employable.” The gamble paid off. O’Leary returned to Universal Studios on the Monday after commencement, and a variety of editing jobs followed.

“We found a wholesome home in Hollywood,” O’Leary laughs, referring to his wife, Gabriela Gold (CDM ’07), and their daughter, Neve. Although he’s far from his Midwestern roots, O’Leary still carries DePaul with him. “My professors taught me to think critically and ask questions: Is this the right shot, would this character say this, is that the right music cue, is that sound effect too odd or too loud?” he shares. “I hear their voices in my head pretty much every day that I work.”