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College Success Summit

On Saturday, January 6th, The TEAK Fellowship hosted its first annual College Success Summit, an action-packed day of guest speakers, workshops, and panels geared at helping TEAK college students prepare for their next steps. TEAK is grateful for the support of our partners, and volunteers, particularly the event’s host, RBC Capital Markets.


The day featured Keynote Speaker, Dena Simmons, Director of Education at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, who spoke about Imposter Syndrome–the experience that underrepresented students go through when navigating privileged spaces. Through lecture, personal narrative, and small group discussions she led students through a reflection of their own experiences. Students felt inspired by her honesty and a deep connection to her story. Dena is an activist, educator, and a “student of life” from the Bronx who writes and speak nationally about social justice, pedagogy and creating emotionally intelligent and safe classrooms within the context of equity. Her TED talk, “How students of color confront impostor syndrome,” which pushes for creating classrooms where all young people can learn in the comfort of their own skin, has received over a million views. Watch her TED Talk HERE.


The Summit included five TEAK alumni who volunteered for the Graduate School Panel. These alumni have navigated the graduate school process for a diverse range of programs and were able to provide sage advice to students interested in continuing their education. We also heard from Rachel Mak, a TEAK alumna from Class 3, who spoke about her experience in TEAK and her journey since. Read more about Rachel HERE.


The day also featured the following workshops: Adulting 101 hosted by PwC, LinkedIn Workshop hosted by LinkedIn, Practice Interviews hosted by RBC, Navigating the Grey, an identity & Values Dialogue, Stress Management and Mindfulness Workshop, and an extensive Career Panel featuring 13 mid-level professionals across a wide array of industries who spoke candidly about their education and career paths. View the full list of facilitators and speakers and their bios below.


Thank you to all of our volunteers, staff, students, and especially our host RBC, who made this event a success.


Volunteer and Workshop Leader Bios


Rachel Mak | Associate, Industrial Economics

I am a proud alumna of TEAK Class 3. I grew up in Elmhurst, Queens and went to I.S. 73. With TEAK’s support, I attended Phillips Exeter Academy and Harvard University where I majored in Environmental  Studies and Public Policy. After college, I moved to Shanghai, China to work with E.J. McKay & Co. on Mergers & Acquisitions. Afterwards, I attended Yale University where I earned a Masters in Environmental Management and MBA. I now work as an Environmental Sustainability Consultant and live in Western Massachusetts with my husband and adorable dog.



Jason Everitt | Sales Manager, LinkedIn

I attended University of California, Santa Barbara, where I majored in Political Science. I also received my Master of Arts in International Relations and Master in Public Administration from the University of Southern California. My background is primarily in the nonprofit sector. I have spent my career working with organizations that specialize in economic empowerment and environmental protection. Moving to LinkedIn has allowed me to continue to pursue those interests with a very different type of organization.


Grace Rochford | Engagement Manager, LinkedIn

I attended Emerson College in Boston and majored in Theater Education. After graduating, I moved to NYC and began working in arts nonprofits. As my career progressed I took on leadership roles within the nonprofit industry. Outside of work, my interest in technology grew. I made the career shift into the

start-up industry with a company that focused on connecting volunteers with nonprofit organizations. I have since started working at LinkedIn, where I work with nonprofits to help them better leverage their networks for change.



Steven Lanza | Director, PwC

I attended the University of Connecticut and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, with a major in Accounting. I also obtained a Master’s degree in Accounting from the same university. When I started college I did not intend to be an accounting major, but after taking a class early on I found it interesting. Once I graduated, I got a job with PwC and have been here for 10 years.


Catherine Kernan | Associate, PwC

I attended Boston College where I studied Accounting and Finance. While I was in school, I completed a summer internship at PwC. After graduation, I started working full time at PwC within the audit practice in Boston. This past year, I transferred into the Financial Due Diligence Advisory practice in New York.




Nana Amoh | Ph.D. Student, The Graduate Center/John Jay College of Criminal Justice

I am currently a third-year doctoral student in the Clinical Psychology Ph.D. program at John Jay College of Criminal Justice/The Graduate Center. I completed my undergraduate career in 2013 at Columbia College, Columbia University where I majored in Psychology and concentrated in English. I then earned my master’s degree in Clinical Psychology from Teachers College, Columbia University in 2015.


Tarif Chowdhury | MD, NYP Hospital – Columbia Presbyterian

I was born and raised in Queens, NY and completed all of my education in NYC, from Stuyvesant High School to NYU for my undergraduate studies. I went on to attend medical school in the Bronx, at Albert Einstein College of Medicine – affiliated with Montefiore Medical Center. I am currently a third-year resident in Anesthesiology at Columbia University’s campus of NYP Hospital.


Lissette Duran | Associate, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP

I am a fourth-year Litigation Associate at Paul Weiss. I graduated from UPenn in 2009 and worked at Paul Weiss as a paralegal for two years before attending Columbia Law School. I just returned to Paul Weiss in September after having worked for a federal judge.


Steven Xu | MBA Candidate, NYU Stern School of Business

I graduated from Columbia in 2012 with a major in mechanical engineering. I started my career as an engineer at Boeing and spent my first couple of years working on a new airplane development in Seattle. Then, I spent the next few years in customer support operations in Southern California, working closely with airlines around the world. I developed an interest in working on higher-level, strategic issues for a broader set of industries, so I decided to pursue an MBA at NYU Stern School of Business and am currently recruiting for management consulting positions.



Dena Simmons | Director of Education at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence

I am an activist, educator, and student of life from the Bronx, New York. I serve as the Director of Education at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. I write and speak nationally about social justice pedagogy and creating emotionally intelligent and safe classrooms within the context of equity. My TED talk, “How students of color confront impostor syndrome,” which pushes for

creating classrooms where all young people can learn in the comfort of their own skin, has received over a million views. I have been profiled in Education Week, the Huffington Post, the AOL/PBS project, MAKERS: Women Who Make America, and a Beacon Press Book, Do It Anyway: The New Generation of Activists. My research interests include teacher preparedness to address bullying in the K-12 school setting, and the intersection of emotional intelligence and culturally responsive pedagogy—all in an effort to ensure and foster justice and safe spaces for all.



Jason Kurtz | Director of Training, Training Institute for Mental Health

I am a graduate of Brandeis University (BA in English Literature) and NYU (MAs in both English Literature and Social Work). I studied psychoanalysis at the Training Institute for 4 years and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) for 3 years. I am also a memoirist, having published Follow The Joy.



Kiana Walbrook | Independent Trainer & Consultant

I am an independent consultant with over 17 years of experience working in youth services, with both community-based and for-profit organizations. I provide comprehensive on-site technical assistance, curriculum development, training and professional development to hundreds of organizations and companies in need of program support. I received my B.A. in English and Sociology from Binghamton University, and a Masters of Public Administrations and Policy from Metropolitan College of New York, where I also taught as a Graduate Assistant for the M.P.A thesis class. I am also a member of the Pi Alpha Alpha Honors Society for Public Administration.



Seth Bynum | Jr Project Manager, NYC Department of Housing Preservation & Development

I attended Vassar College and studied Economics with a minor in Urban Studies. After graduating in 2015, I took part in the Coro Fellowship in Public Affairs in New York City. After concluding the fellowship, I worked as a democratic polling strategist and am now a junior project manager at the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development where I work to provide financing for the preservation and rehabilitation of affordable housing.


Lauren Coakley Vincent | President, Bridgeport Downtown Special Services District

I have worked in community development, education access, leadership development, and economic development spaces over the last ten years. The common thread through these experiences has been my rigorous commitment to creating both opportunity and high-quality programs and services. While pursuing my Master’s of Science in Nonprofit Management at The New School’s Milano School of International Affairs, Management, and Urban Policy, I focused on Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation. I have paired that knowledge with technical competencies in participatory needs assessment, infrastructure building, and fundraising to take on a range of roles supporting local economic development.


Mira Dewji | General Counsel and Board Member, Kupona Foundation

My college experience was deliberately broad; I pursued a wide range of courses on topics that interested me. I went to law school immediately after college, and then got recruited by a large international corporate law firm. There I learned essential, transferable skills such as effective communication, project management and collaboration. I transitioned from business law into the social impact sector, and now represent nonprofits, foundations and social enterprises while teaching as an Adjunct Professor at NYU.


Charles Dodson | Senior Product Manager, Talent, Inc.

For the past 8+ years, I have been a product leader in technology organizations ranging from early-stage startups to large publicly traded companies, like Nike. I’ve focused primarily on consumer-facing web and mobile experiences, and co-founded a new venture of my own. Prior to working in technology, I studied Economics and International Relations at American University in Washington, DC.


Sam French | Head of Strategy & Business Development, A24

I lead the team responsible for growth initiatives at A24, the Academy Award-winning film & TV studio behind Moonlight, Lady Bird, Ex Machina, and The Disaster Artist. Prior to A24, I spent three years as a management consultant at McKinsey & Co., primarily advising Fortune 500 companies on their strategy and operations. I hold a B.A. in English from Harvard University.


Elizabeth Lefever | Software Engineer, Google

Originally from New York, I attended Amherst College and majored in Computer Science and Asian Languages & Civilizations, concentrating in Japanese. After graduating, I joined Google through a rotational engineering program and currently work as a Software Engineer on Google Slides.


Ben Grad | Head of Content Strategy & Acquisition, fubuTV

I have built my career in media over the past 15+ years. At fubuTV, I am a multichannel video distribution executive with digital media expertise, specializing in Media/Entertainment – multichannel, negotiating affiliation agreements, alternative distribution platforms, strategy, business development, deal structuring, financial analysis, new product development. I earned my B.A. in Economics from Princeton University and an MBA in Finance from Wharton. I am proud to be part of the TEAK community as a former mentor.


Alexandra Martucci | Assoc. Director of Events & Sponsorships, Douglas Elliman

I am from South Florida and began my college studies at Florida State University, graduating in 3.5 years with a major in Business and Fashion Merchandising. My first job after graduating was working for a record label, under business development. For a life change, I moved to NYC and began my career in events and partnerships at the largest Real Estate company, Douglas Elliman.


Jia Ying Mei | Project Management Manager, DigitasLBi

I graduated from Princeton with a degree in Economics. Since graduating, I have worked in a few different industries, including non-profit and finance. For the last 5 years, I have been in the marketing/advertising agency industry, with a focus on technical project management. I am also a TEAK alum from Class 3.


Christianne Molina | Growth Equity Analyst, Stripes Group

I am an analyst at Stripes Group, a growth equity firm based in NYC, where I focus on identifying and analyzing investment opportunities across technology and consumer companies. Prior to Stripes, I worked with a number of start-up companies, which spurred my interest in the entrepreneurial ecosystem and in investing. I attended the University of Pennsylvania, where I studied Economics and Consumer Psychology and graduated magna cum laude. I was also a coxswain on the women’s rowing team.


Kevin Wu I Investment Banking Analyst, Healthcare, RBC Capital Markets

I am a proud member of TEAK Class 10 and a recent alum of Brown University with a dual concentration in Computer Science and Economics. After graduating, I launched my career in finance at RBC Capital Markets. During my college years, I completed numerous internships–Hall Capital Partners, Jana Partners LLC, Plough Penny Partners and Societe Generale–with the support of TEAK, all of which indelibly prepared me for my experience at RBC.