Speakers

Anthony Jack Sociologist and Assistant Professor of Education at Harvard University

Anthony Jack, sociologist and Assistant Professor of Education at Harvard University, is transforming the way we address diversity and inclusion in education. His new book, The Privileged Poor: How Elite Colleges are Failing Disadvantaged Students, reframes the conversation surrounding poverty and higher education. In it, he explains the paths of two uniquely segregated groups. First, the “privileged poor”: students from low-income, diverse backgrounds who attended elite prep or boarding school before attending college. The second are what Jack calls the “doubly disadvantaged” — students who arrive from underprivileged backgrounds without prep or boarding school to soften their college transition. Although both groups come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, the privileged poor have more cultural capital to navigate and succeed — in the college environment and beyond.

“It’s one thing to graduate with a degree from an elite institution, and another thing to graduate with the social capital to activate that degree,” Jack explains. In many ways, rather than close the wealth gap, campus culture at elite schools further alienate poor students by making them feel like they don’t belong. To challenge these deeply ingrained social, cultural, and economic disparities on campus, we must first begin to question what we take for granted. Jack reveals how organizations — from administrators and association organizers, to educators and student activists — can ask the right questions and bridge the gap.

Anthony Jack is a junior fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows and assistant professor of Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Recently, he wrote a feature for The New York Times Magazine’s Education Issue, based off his book and life experience as a low-income college student. His research has been cited by The New York Times, the Boston Globe, The Atlantic, The Huffington Post, The National Review, The Washington Post, American RadioWorks, WBUR, and MPR. His book The Privileged Poor, was named the 2018 recipient of the Thomas J. Wilson Memorial Prize by Harvard University Press.

Paris Woods Chief of Programs at YouthForce NOLA

Paris Woods is a first-generation college graduate of Harvard University and a lifelong educator, having worked at some of the country’s top institutions. The daughter of a wise mother who encouraged her to venture out into the world and make “new mistakes,” Paris learned the hard way how to manage her finances and achieve financial freedom. Through years of trial and error and the guidance of numerous FIRE (financial independence, retire early) experts, Paris landed on some simple principles that completely turned things around for her financially and in life. Her #1 Amazon Bestselling book, The Black Girl’s Guide to Financial Freedom, teaches readers how to win financially while living a life they love. Paris is a two-time graduate of Harvard University with a bachelor’s degree in African-American Studies and a master’s degree in Education Policy & Management. She is currently a doctoral student at the University of Texas at Austin.

Gorick Ng Wall Street Journal Bestselling Author

Gorick Ng is the Wall Street Journal Bestselling Author of The Unspoken Rules: Secrets to Starting Your Career Off Right, a book published by Harvard Business Review Press. It is a guide to help professionals, especially those from underrepresented backgrounds, take control of their careers, based on 500+ interviews with professionals across geographies, industries, and job types. Gorick is a career adviser at Harvard College, specializing in coaching first-generation, low-income students. He has worked in management consulting at Boston Consulting Group (BCG), investment banking at Credit Suisse, and research with the Managing the Future of Work project at Harvard Business School. He has been featured in The Today Show, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BuzzFeed, New York Post, Fast Company, and CNBC. Gorick, a first-generation college student, is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Business School. Find him at www.gorick.com.

Phyllis Njoroge Product Manager, Redfin; Author, "From Fraud to Freedom"

Phyllis Njoroge is a QuestBridge Alum who has earned a Bachelor of Science in Cognitive and Brain Sciences from Tufts University in 2019, as well as a Women’s Entrepreneurship certificate from Cornell University in 2021. The seemingly never-ending war against impostor syndrome stems from both internal and external sources and Njoroge shares her well-researched views on the subject in her book, From Fraud to Freedom.

Myrna Garza First-Year Experience Coordinator, Texas A&M University-San Antonio

Myrna Garza works at Texas A&M University-San Antonio as a Coordinator for the Office of First-Year Experience and a First-Year Seminar Adjunct Faculty. She received a Master of Education in Higher Education in 2019 from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a B.A. in Economics and Spanish from Rice University in 2016. She grew up on both sides of the border, going to school in the Rio Grande Valley but spending most of her weekends and breaks in her parents’ hometowns in northeast Mexico.

Rakhi Agrawal Organizer, Community Centric Fundraising

Rakhi (she/her/ella) is a network weaver, educator, mathematician, community organizer, fundraiser, data scientist, facilitator, strategist, and consultant working at the intersections of equity, justice, and liberation for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC). Currently, Rakhi organizes within the Community-Centric Fundraising movement, a global push to dismantle white supremacist structures within fundraising and philanthropy in order to fundamentally disrupt the nonprofit industrial complex. This work has taken her from being a grassroots community organizer, advocate, and movement builder to a classroom teacher, coach, tutor, and curriculum writer to a nonprofit development director, interim ED, grant writer, program manager, and operations manager to a machine learning engineer and data scientist and beyond, always seeking mergers within these roles in order to create a world she has never seen.

Vidal Anguiano Jr. Data Science Senior Consultant, West Monroe

Based in Chicago, Vidal is a Data Science Senior Consultant at West Monroe, a digital consultancy. His interests include learning and applying personal finance principles, cooking, and reading philosophy and theology. He earned a B.A. (’15) in Public Policy Studies from the University of Chicago and an M.S. (’19) in Computational Analysis and Public Policy at the Harris School of Public Policy.

Janet Asante Recent Graduate, Scripps College

Janet Asante is a recent graduate from Scripps College with a passion for social impact and education. She is a SecondDay Social Impact Fellowship alum, and a teacher in the making.

Anjeliqueca Bajita Creator + Certified Coach

Anjeliqueca is a first-generation Pilipina-American graduate from USC’s School of Architecture, Class of 2017. Two years after graduating, she became debt-free and left her tech startup job to pursue a career in creativity, community building, and coaching. Her work focuses on defining and increasing well-being. You can find her at anjeliqueca.com.

Hector Correa Senior Product Designer, Bill.com

Originally from Azusa, CA, Hector received a B.A. in Mathematics & Philosophy from Yale in 2013. Since discovering a passion for design in his last semester, Hector has worked as a product designer and consultant at multiple tech startups in the SF Bay area and Los Angeles. While working remotely as a digital nomad, Hector traveled to 10 countries and volunteered at Ak’Tenamit Association, a boarding school for Mayan and Garifuna youth in Guatemala.

Christopher Cross Software Engineer, J.P. Morgan

Christopher Cross was a 2014 QuestBridge Match Recipient to Princeton University. After graduating with a B.A. in Philosophy in 2018, he began work on a Ph.D. in Philosophy at UCLA. In 2020, he stepped away from academia to begin a career in tech and, since 2021, has been working as a software engineer at J.P. Morgan.

Brielle Dotson Graduate Nursing Student at the University of Virginia

Brielle Dotson is a graduate of the University of Virginia currently pursuing her Master’s in Nursing. She has works as a research assistant studying the complication for individuals with disabilities and as a group exercise instructor in her free time. During her undergraduate career, Brielle helped found the Hoos First Look Program at UVA to enable low-income and first-generation students to come view the university and obtain mentorship about the application process.

Josh Farris Education Researcher

Josh is a native of Southwest Virginia and received his degree from the University of Virginia, where he majored in Youth & Social Innovation. Josh’s scholarship focused on the educational barriers that students from first-generation and low-income (F.G.L.I.) learners face in education. He regularly creates resources to support practitioners and students in education.

Karissa Justice Founder, Work Can Be Better

Karissa Justice is the founder of Work Can Be Better, where she is a talent strategy consultant for values-driven companies, as well as a coach and content creator. Her coaching practice is primarily focused on helping FGLI students and other people from low-income backgrounds develop professional skills to navigate white collar workplaces. Justice received a B.A. in Fine Arts from the University of Pennsylvania as a QuestBridge Scholar, and was previously the Vice President of Finance & Administration at a geospatial tech company in Philadelphia.

Youssef Kalad Founder at Equity Strategies, MBA Candidate at Wharton

Youssef is pursing his MBA at Wharton and consults startups, VCs, and nonprofits on the intersection of technology, public interest, and equity. He’s worked on COVID-19 response for the Governor of New York, innovation and startup attraction for the Mayor of New York, product and growth strategy for Uber pre-IPO, and new venture creation at Treacy & Company. He graduated from UChicago in 2012 (Public Policy).

Tran Lam Renewable Energy Project Finance Analyst & Environmental Justice Consultant

Tran works in sustainability — a new and rising field with new jobs and titles being invented everyday. She is working in renewable energy finance and environmental justice policy making (full-time and part-time, respectively) in California. Previously, she also worked in sustainable investment jewelry startup. Tran graduated from Stanford University with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Earth Systems, an interdisciplinary degree that she customized to focus on climate change science, technology, policy, and business.

Angie Luo Operations, People & Design Associate, DC Design

Angie Luo is a 2017 USC QuestBridge alumna, where she also worked full-time for 4 years after graduation. She graduated with an M.S. in Social Entrepreneurship also from USC in 2021 and now works as an Operations, People, and Design Associate at DC Design. Her personal mission statement is to flow toward love and celebrate.

Rifat Mursalin Senior Consultant at FSG; QuestBridge National Alumni Advisory Council Member

Rifat Mursalin is a Senior Consultant at FSG, a mission-driven consulting firm advising corporate, foundation, and nonprofit leaders to create social impact. Prior to FSG, Rifat worked in investment banking, education, and social enterprise. Originally from Bangladesh, Rifat grew up in Atlanta and earned a B.A. with Honors in economics and French from Emory University in 2016 as a QuestBridge Scholar.

Christa Nutor Digital Marketing Strategist

Christa has been a business leader in tech for the past 5 years with experience in finance and marketing. She graduated from Emory University – Goizueta Business School in 2016 and was named one of the top 100 students of her graduating class. She spends a lot of her free time volunteering for nonprofits and diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts.

David Simas Chief Executive Officer, Obama Foundation

David Simas is the Chief Executive Officer of the Obama Foundation. A native of Taunton, Massachusetts, he was appointed Deputy Chief of Staff to Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick in 2007. Simas then joined President Obama’s administration in 2009 as a Deputy Assistant to the President, working with senior advisors David Axelrod and David Plouffe. In 2012, he served as Director of Opinion Research for President Obama’s reelection campaign. Following the reelection, Simas returned to the White House as Assistant to the President and Director of the Office of Political Strategy and Outreach. Simas holds a B.A. in political science from Stonehill College and a J.D. from Boston College Law School. He serves on the national board of directors of OneGoal and lives in Chicago with his wife, Shauna, and their two daughters.

Brandon Sixto Research Analyst, Vera Institute of Justice

Brandon graduated from Princeton University in 2017 with a degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. After college, Brandon sought to work in the legal field to advance justice and engage with community members in the San Francisco Bay Area. Now, Brandon is able to synthesize his scientific background, legal knowledge and language skills to serve as a quantitative research analyst for the Vera Institute of Justice, which aims to advance justice within the criminal-legal system at all scales.

Nico Slate Quest Leadership Alum Professor of History, Carnegie Mellon University

Nico Slate loves smoothies, basketball, and mountaintops. He is Professor and Department Head in the Department of History at Carnegie Mellon University. He believes that education is a form of social change, that children are often wiser than adults, and that the world is full of really good people doing amazing things all the time. He is the author of four books: Colored Cosmopolitanism: The Shared Struggle for Freedom in the United States and India (Harvard University Press, 2012), The Prism of Race: W.E.B. Du Bois, Langston Hughes, Paul Robeson and the Colored World of Cedric Dover (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), Gandhi’s Search for the Perfect Diet: Eating with the World in Mind (University of Washington Press, 2019), and Lord Cornwallis Is Dead: The Struggle for Democracy in the United States and India (Harvard University Press, 2019). He is also the editor of Black Power Beyond Borders (Palgrave MacMillan, 2013). He participated in Quest in the summer of 1996 and has remained a proud supporter ever since.

Kiki Spiezio Community Engagement Associate, Hack.Diversity

Kiki Spiezio works at the intersection of equity and inclusion, future of work, social impact, and community building – currently at Hack.Diversity, building on a trajectory within the nonprofit sector. She graduated from Washington and Lee University with a BS in Business Administration, BA in Politics, and minors in Studio Art and Poverty and Human Capability Studies, and serves as Development Co-Chair on the Boston Regional Alumni Board.

Nicholas Casey Quest Leadership Alum National Politics Reporter, New York Times

Nicholas Casey is a staff writer for The New York Times whose wanderings have taken him from Easter Island to the Gaza Strip. This year he is working as a political correspondent for the newspaper writing long narratives about the difficult decisions Americans face under President Trump and Covid-19. Before 2020, Nicholas worked as a foreign correspondent in Mexico, Israel, Venezuela and Colombia, spending eight years at The Wall Street Journal. He attended the Quest Scholars Program in 2000. He graduated from Stanford in 2005 with a degree in anthropology – a field whose adventures abroad would eventually lead him to become a foreign correspondent.

Roselle Tenorio Texas Organizer, Community Centric Fundraising

Roselle Tenorio is a seventh generation Tejanx with 6 years of experience working in the nonprofit sector in addition to many more years of lived and volunteer experience within the sector. They received their Bachelor of Arts in 2017 from Grinnell College, where they studied Sociology and Gender, Women’s & Sexuality Studies. Currently, they serve as a Texas Organizer for the Community Centric Fundraising movement, which is dedicated to dismantling inequitable systems and practices within organizations.

Ashanti Branch Founder & Executive Director, The Ever Forward Club

Ashanti Branch, raised by a single mother on welfare in Oakland, went on to study engineering at California Polytechnic – San Luis Obispo. A Civil Engineer in his first career, Ashanti found his passion for teaching while tutoring struggling students. In 2004, as a first-year teacher, Ashanti started The Ever Forward Club to provide a support group for African American and Latino males, who were not achieving to the level of their potential. The Ever Forward Club has helped 100% of its members graduate high school. Branch is on a mission to change the way that students interact with their education and the way schools interact with students.

After being featured in The Mask You Live In the documentary, and Fellowships at the Stanford d.school, Campaign for Black Male Achievement, and The Gratitude Network, Ashanti and The Ever Forward Club has launched the #MillionMaskMovement to collect 1 Million masks from people all over the world in a self-reflective experience that helps people visualize and realize, “I am not alone.”

Nicholas Timms Analyst Consultant, Education Resource Strategies

Nick is currently an Analyst Consultant at Education Resource Strategies (ERS), a national nonprofit based in Boston, MA, that partners with and supports urban school districts across the country. His current project is centered around analyzing school staffing formulas to support Fairfax County Public Schools in maintaining an equitable allocation of resources and people across the district. Nick graduated from Pomona College with a B.A. in International Relations in May 2021. During his time there, he further developed his passion for the education sector through his work in the Office of Admissions, as well as with The Constellation Fund as a social impact intern.

Amy Elizabeth Paulson Co-Founder & CEO, Gratitude Alliance

Amy Elizabeth Paulson is a mental health advocate, writer, speaker, facilitator, trauma survivor, and the co-founder and CEO of Gratitude Alliance, a non-profit that works at the intersection of healing and social justice – helping to break generational cycles of trauma and harm, build individual and collective resilience, and democratize access to mental health resources in the Bay Area, Asia, and Africa. As an orphan and survivor of gender-based child abandonment, Amy is passionate about de-stigmatizing and de-pathologizing trauma as a mental health issue, and advocates for survivor-centered, community-led approaches to trauma-informed, healing-centered
care.

Based in Oakland, California, Amy left a corporate finance career in 2011 to co-found Gratitude Alliance after working for over a decade in the U.S. and Europe for Deloitte, SAP, and eBay. She holds a MS in Nonprofit Management with a concentration in Global Studies from Northeastern University, certifications in Trauma-Informed Interventions (UC Berkeley) and Global Mental Health (Harvard Medical School), and is a facilitator for Stanford GSB’s legendary Interpersonal Dynamics Course.

Amy’s #MeToo story was published in The Anatomy of Silence: 26 Stories About All The Sh*t That Gets In The Way Of Speaking About Sexual Violence. Her memoir, The Wound Myth (working title) chronicles her journey as a survivor of generational, gender based violence, child sexual abuse, and transnational adoption – through the lens of trauma – and explores what it means to embrace gratitude as a powerful catalyst for transformation, from the inside out.

Isabel Cesanto Safie QuestBridge Board of Directors, Quest Leadership Alum Partner, Best Best & Krieger LLP

Isabel Safie is an attorney and equity partner in the Employee Benefits Practice Group of Best Best & Krieger LLP. She works with public and private sector clients on the design, interpretation and operation of employee benefit programs and issues related to those programs, including pension and health benefits. Isabel graduated from UCLA School of Law in 2005 and received her bachelor’s degree in Political Science with a minor in Human Biology from Stanford University in 2002. She is an alumna of Stanford Youth Environmental Science Program, the predecessor to Quest Scholars, Inc. Isabel has been involved with Quest Scholars, Inc. in various forms over more than two decades, including as a member of the Board of Directors. She’s married to her high school sweetheart (Omar) and has three children: Mateo Ali (12), Gabriel Esmael (10) and Olivia Nazanin (4). She enjoys cooking, running/cycling and hiking.

Omar Safie Director of Evaluation & Assessment, University of California, Riverside

Omar Safie, Ph.D. is the Director of Evaluation and Assessment at the University of California, Riverside where he guides programs on using the assessment process for continuous improvement. His approach is based on nearly 15 years of experience in assessment and evaluation in K-12 and higher education where he utilized mixed-methods, including observational methodology to evaluate schools and school programs. He strongly believes that such a triangulated approach allows for more voices to be heard, leading to a fuller picture of a program’s strengths and areas for growth. Omar Safie received his B.S. in Environmental Science from the University of California, Riverside, his M.A. from California State University, San Bernardino, and his Ph.D. from the Claremont Graduate University. His dissertation focused on identifying the factors that contribute to effective schools in high crime, high poverty, and high minority communities.

Mike Murillo Quest Leadership Alum Principal Mechanical Engineer, Carbon

Mike is a QuestLeadership scholar from 1996 (back when it was called SYESP). It was the major catalyst to his attendance at Stanford University, from where he graduated in 2001 with a degree in Product Design. Mike has worked over a dozen different jobs since then but settled on a career in Mechanical Engineering. He now leads the mechanical engineering team at Carbon, a company specializing in 3D printing in Redwood City. 

Erin Schutte Wadzinski QuestBridge Alum, Yale '12 Attorney, Kivu Immigration Law PLLC

Erin is an immigration attorney and a 2007 QuestBridge College Prep Scholar. In 2019, Erin won the Initiators Fellowship to launch Kivu Immigration Law as a social enterprise to provide immigrants access to legal resources. Erin previously worked as a staff attorney at Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota and as the Director of the Yale Young Global Scholars Program. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from Yale University and her JD from the University of Connecticut School of Law.

Linnea Paseiro QuestBridge Alum, Princeton '14 Alumni Relations Manager, Girls Who Invest

Originally from Northern Arizona, Linnea has worn a number of hats since graduating from Princeton with a degree in Slavic Languages and Literatures in 2014. She has taught writing to business students at a university in Kazakhstan, recruited students for State Department scholarships in Ukraine, engaged in public health advocacy in Vietnam, and worked in Talent Development at a quantitative hedge fund in New York City. Currently, Linnea works as the Alumni Relations Manager at Girls Who Invest, where she gets to support and encourage young women as they strive towards their career goals and gender parity in the finance industry. Outside of work, Linnea is an avid traveler, especially if there are foreign weddings involved. She is also actively engaged with the Princeton Alumni Schools Committee, the QuestBridge Alumni Association, and the Princeton in Asia Alumni Network.

Natalia Delery QuestBridge Alum, UChicago '17 Admissions Ambassador, Columbia University School of Social Work

Natalia Delery (she/her/hers) is a Licensed Master Social Worker and Queens native, currently residing in Brooklyn, NY. She is a proud first-generation college graduate and QuestBridge alum, and was a member of the UChicago QSN board for all 4 years. You may have seen or attended her “Designing Your Life” workshop or QSN Leaders affinity group at QB25! 

After receiving her B.A. in Human Development from the University of Chicago in 2017, Natalia served as a College Advising Corps Member and Postsecondary Coach on the Southside of Chicago, helping students apply to their dream schools. To further build on her passions for social impact and innovation, she later pursued her M.S. in Social Work with a specialization in Social Enterprise Administration at Columbia University, and recently graduated during the pandemic. She has a diverse range of work experience, from doing school social work for the NYC Department of Education’s Pathways to Graduation program, to shaping programming for the City of Philadelphia’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, and most recently was a Public-Private Partnerships Fellow at NYC Service, a division of the Mayor’s Office. In both her professional and personal life, Natalia is committed to uplifting individual voices and stories, advocating for marginalized communities, promoting educational opportunities for youth of color, and fighting for racial and economic justice. In her free time, she dances, writes poetry, and practices her guitar. 

Maria Taha QuestBridge Alum, Wellesley '12 Assistant Program Manager, The Diverse Future

Maria is a QB alumni with roots in Ethiopia and Minnesota. She attended Wellesley College and majored in Peace & Justice Studies. After graduating college in 2014, Maria went on to become a Princeton in Asia fellow where she taught at a university on a tropical island in Malaysia. She then moved from the tropics back to the Northeast to pursue a master’s degree in International Education Development at Teachers College, Columbia University. Maria has worked in international development, improving education accessibility and gender parity in Asia and Africa, and most recently at a mentoring program designed to help professionals of color break through the glass ceiling and help shape American national news through a more multicultural lens.