Tony Aguilar                                      Founder and CEO, Student Loan Genius

Tony Aguilar is co-founder and CEO of Student Loan Genius, Austin-based inventor of the first complete student loan employer benefits solution. Today he uses his years of experience as a financial advisor and founder of Amiti Advising and Campus Slice to help crush America’s $1.3 trillion student loan problem. Featured in the Wall Street Journal, Money Magazine, and on CNN, his commitment to helping professionals get ahead and live a life free from debt is the common thread in all of his work. When he’s not leading the team at Student Loan Genius, Tony is spending time with his three-year old daughter. He can also be found guest lecturing at the University of Texas and Concordia University on entrepreneurship and personal finance, serving as Chairman of Concordia University’s Emerging Leaders Advisory Board, or mentoring fellow social entrepreneurs and startups.

Beth Akers                                          Senior Fellow, Manhattan Institute

Beth Akers started as a Senior Fellow in higher education at the Manhattan Institute in October 2016. Before joining MI, Beth was a Fellow in the Brookings Institution’s Center on Children and Families and a Fellow at the Brown Center on Education Policy. She is an expert on the economics of education, with a focus on higher education policy.  Beth’s recent writing has been on the topic of higher education finance, including student debt.  She is the coauthor of Game of Loans: The Rhetoric and Reality of Student Debt.  She previously held the position of staff economist with the President’s Council of Economic Advisors, where she worked on federal student lending policy as well as other education and labor issues.  Beth received a B.S. in Mathematics and Economics from SUNY Albany and a Ph.D. in Economics from Columbia University.

David Bergeron                                 Senior Fellow for Postsecondary Education, Center for American Progress

David A. Bergeron is a Senior Fellow for Postsecondary Education at American Progress. David previously served as the Acting Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education at the U.S. Department of Education. In this position, David served as the Education Secretary’s chief advisor on higher education issues and administered more than 60 grant and loan programs that provide nearly $3 billion annually to institutions of higher education and community-based organizations. David also served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy, Planning, and Innovation for the Office of Postsecondary Education and was responsible for the program budget for the federal postsecondary education programs administered by the Office of Postsecondary Education and Federal Student Aid. David was responsible for legislative, regulatory, and other policies affecting the Department’s postsecondary education programs including Federal Student Aid. David became Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary in 2009 and was named permanently to that position in 2011. Prior to becoming Deputy Assistant Secretary, David served in a variety of other roles in the Department of Education.

Prior to joining the department, David received his bachelor of arts in political science and sociology from the University of Rhode Island and worked for a bank in consumer loans.

Jillian Berman                                    Reporter, MarketWatch

Jillian Berman is a reporter for MarketWatch in New York, where she covers student debt. Prior to joining MarketWatch in 2015, Jillian wrote about retailers, fast food restaurants and gender politics as a business reporter for the Huffington Post. Her work has also appeared in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today and on Bloomberg. Originally from Washington, D.C., Jillian is a graduate of the University of Michigan.

Kirk Carapezza,                                                 Correspondent and Managing Editor, WGBH

Kirk is a Correspondent and the Managing Editor for WGBH. Kirk has reported for Wisconsin Public Radio in Madison, Wis., and Vermont Public Radio in Montpelier, Vt. He’s been a writer and producer at WBUR in Boston; a teacher and coach at Nativity Preparatory School in New Bedford, Mass.; a Fenway Park tour guide; and a tourist abroad. Kirk received his B.A. from the College of the Holy Cross and earned his M.S. from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. When he’s not reporting or editing stories on campus, you can find him posting K’s on the Wall at Fenway.

Kristine Clerkin                                  Executive Director, College for America , Southern New Hampshire University

Kristine Clerkin is Executive Director of College for America (CfA) at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU).  CfA is the workforce-focused College of SNHU offering competency-based AA, BA and Certificate programs that have enrolled nearly 5,000 students in the past year.  CfA’s direct assessment programs were the first such to be approved by its regional accreditor and the Department of Education to offer Title IV financial aid.  CfA partners with over 100 employers, non-profits, and public agencies to offer career-relevant, flexibly-paced, project-based learning that helps working adults gain valuable skills and credentials that help advance their careers.  With a $3,000/year subscription model and tuition assistance from their employer, 90 percent of students are debt-free upon completing their degree.  CfA has introduced new staffing models, innovated to drive down costs, used data in new ways to help adult learners become successful, and proven that its programs help employers retain more skilled and engaged employees.  Kris has many years of senior leadership experience in the higher education industry including roles as President of Houghton Mifflin’s Higher Education Division and General Manager of Wolters Kluwer Legal Education. She has a BA from the University of Wisconsin and an MPA from the Harvard Kennedy School.

Parker Cohen                                     Associate Director, Savings and Financial Capability, CFED

Parker Cohen is Associate Director of the Savings & Financial Capability Team at CFED (Corporation for Enterprise Development). In this role, Parker provides program coordination, research and writing for projects that provide matched savings accounts and other financial empowerment tools to adults and children. He works with organizations to design and implement innovative strategies that improve the financial capability of low-to-moderate income clients and ultimately bring these strategies to scale. Prior to joining CFED, Parker worked as the Community Development Manager for the Mid-Atlantic Association of Community Health Centers, where he provided strategic planning support to community health centers and helped establish the West Baltimore Primary Care Access Collaborative. He also previously worked to provide technical assistance to community centers in federally insured and assisted housing properties through the HUD Neighborhood Networks program. Parker holds a Masters from the University of Minnesota, and an undergraduate degree in economics from Macalester College.

Bob Collins                             Vice President, Financial Aid, Western Governors University

Bob Collins joined Western Governors University (WGU) in October 2012 as the Vice President of Financial Aid. In the late 1990’s, Bob was the Acting Director of Financial Aid at the University of Colorado at Boulder and was a consultant for WGU in the very early stages – before the first students enrolled.  Bob has 35+ years of experience in student aid administration and continues to be active in the state, regional, and national professional associations.  He has been a member of several technical review panels for the National Center for Education Statistics, participated on numerous negotiated rulemaking committees, and actively engaged in the Distance Education Demonstration Program with the U.S. Department of Education.

Eileen Donoghue                                              State Senator, Massachusetts General Court

Eileen Donoghue is a third-term state senator from the First Middlesex District, serving the communities of Lowell, Dunstable, Groton, Pepperell, Tyngsboro, and Westford. The Senator was first elected to the Massachusetts Senate in November of 2010.

Upon graduating from University of Massachusetts in 1976, with an individualized concentration in law and Spanish, the Senator pursued her passion for law. She received her Juris Doctor at Suffolk University Law School in 1979. After twelve years of practicing law, Senator Donoghue opened her own firm in the City of Lowell in 1991 before joining Gallagher & Cavanaugh in 2008. Senator Donoghue was elected to the Lowell City Council in 1996 and two years later was elected mayor for her first of two terms at that post. During her tenure as mayor, she was proud to champion some of the most historic and important economic development projects for the city, including the Tsongas Arena and LeLacheur Park, the construction and renovation of 17 schools, and the artist overlay district which resulted in more than 800 new artists’ lofts now occupying formerly abandoned mills.

Senator Donoghue serves as the Senate chair of the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies. This committee handles matters concerning commercial and industrial establishments, industrial development, science and technology, economic development, retention of science or technology-intensive industries; adoption of existing industries; innovation systems from research to development; computers; information, networking, the Internet, data storage and access; communication; biotechnology; stem cell research medical technology; medical devices; environmental technologies, classroom applications; workforce technology training and development, etc., and other matters similar in nature.

Issues surrounding higher education have long been a legislative priority for the senator, who is now Senate vice chair of the Joint Committee on Higher Education. She is in a great position to expand on her subcommittee work from the previous legislative session concerning the various components of the student loan and debt landscape.

The senator has also been appointed to serve as vice chair of the Senate Committee on Rules, and as a member of the Senate Committee on Ways & Means, the Senate Committee on Bonding, Capital Expenditures and State Assets, the Senate Committee on Personnel and Administration, the Joint Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government, the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development, and the Joint Committee on Transportation.

In early 2013, Senator Donoghue initiated legislation to create a commission to study the feasibility of hosting the summer Olympics in Boston. The commission found that, despite challenges, hosting the Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games in Massachusetts in 2024 would be feasible. Although Massachusetts will not end up hosting the Olympics, Senator Donoghue is proud that the bid prompted a robust discussion about the opportunities and challenges that the commonwealth will encounter during the next decade.

In her third term, Senator Donoghue remains honored to represent the people of the First Middlesex District in the Massachusetts Senate.

Danielle Douglas-Gabriel               Reporter, Washington Post

Danielle Douglas-Gabriel covers the economics of higher education at the Washington Post, writing about the financial lives of students, graduates, faculty and administration. Danielle joined the national economy desk of the Post in July 2012 from Capital Business, a Post publication where she served as the local retail, hospitality and banking reporter. Prior to Capital Business, Danielle was the Managing Editor of Real Estate Forum, a commercial real estate trade magazine. Her writing has appeared in, New York Sun and New York Amsterdam News. She is the recipient of fellowships from the Donald Reynolds Journalism Institute and Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.                

Leanne M. Fay                                  Economic Empowerment Program Director of Financial Education, Massachusetts Office of the Treasurer

In her role at the Massachusetts State Treasurer’s Office, Leanne leads a public and private effort to support organizations that have displayed success advancing financial education initiatives through skills training and economic empowerment. The Office of Economic Empowerment (OEE) at the State Treasury has prepared Massachusetts youth, veterans, and senior citizens with financial skills in order make informed financial decisions about saving, investing, borrowing, and financial protection.  The OEE’s scope supports a wide range of empowerment initiatives, including wage equality, college savings accounts, and STEM education. Leanne’s role at the State Treasurer’s office includes overseeing regional financial education initiatives with many audiences, including K-12 schools and low and moderate income communities. In this capacity, she upholds proven practices in financial literacy and college savings account policy and generates grant opportunities for direct service providers. Leanne has served on behalf of the State Treasurer on the Advisory Committee to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education for a high school Financial Literacy Pilot Program. Leanne has also been innovative in working across all sectors to release a 2015 Financial Literacy Task Force Report. As a member of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston’s College Savings Account Consortium, Leanne is currently working to implement the Treasury’s $eedMA program, a recently announced college savings account program for all kindergarten students. As graduate of Providence College and with over a decade of experience at the State Treasurer’s office, Leanne is committed to advancing the economic empowerment and capability of all citizens.

Deirdre Fernandes                           Reporter, Boston Globe

Deirdre Fernandes covers banking and insurance for the Boston Globe’s Business section. She has also written about Newton and the western Boston suburbs for GlobeWest. Prior to joining the Globe in 2011, she had worked for The Virginian-Pilot, in Norfolk, Virginia and papers in North Carolina. She has written about politics, education, public pensions and salaries, and the occasional rogue tomato gardener. She grew up in Sudbury, Mass.

Kevin Fudge                                       Director of Consumer Advocacy & Ombudsman, American Student Assistance

Kevin serves as the Ombudsman and Director of Consumer Advocacy for American Student Assistance. In his role as Ombudsman, Kevin facilitates borrower concerns and serves as a neutral party to resolve complex borrower challenges. He uses the trends he sees in Ombudsman cases to shape policies and regulations that ASA’s Center for Consumer Advocacy should address moving forward.  Kevin also works with policymakers, state agencies and non-profit organizations to improve college access, college completion rates, and successful higher education debt management by raising public awareness about the college financing process.  As a diligent advocate for consumers in the national conversation about student loan debt and higher education policy, Kevin provides innovative research and insightful analysis of federal student aid to national and local media, secondary school administrators, higher education professionals, and think tanks.  Kevin serves on the board of the Massachusetts Advisory Council on Private Occupational Schools, is a graduate of the University of Virginia, and received his master’s degree in Education Policy and Management from Harvard University.

Bob Hildreth                                       Founder and Board Chair, Inversant

Bob is the founder and board chair of Inversant, a company committed to helping the entire family invest in higher education through an effective combination of savings incentives, financial savvy, and ongoing support, to help families become knowledgeable and fully engaged in what it takes to apply to, pay for, and succeed in higher education. Following a career in Latin American finance at the IMF, Citibank, Drexel Burnham Lambert, and his own brokering company, Bob turned his sights to active philanthropy. Bob turned to his financial background to create a matched savings program that became the basis for Inversant. His intent from the outset has been to use a monetary reward system as a means for motivating aspirational behavior.

Bob is a dedicated supporter of educational institutions. In addition to co-founding La Vida, Inc. in Lynn, he joined with Boston University to build the John Silber Early Learning Center in Chelsea. Bob’s involvement has been recognized with numerous awards, including the 2008 Bostonian of the Year by the Boston Globe, and 2007 Champion of Justice Award from the Greater Boston Legal Services. Bob is a graduate of Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University, and George Washington University. He also serves on UMass Boston’s Board of Visitors , WBUR’s Board of Overseers, and SEMA’s Board of Directors. Among his many notable activities, Bob serves as President and Treasurer of the Sizer Charter School in Fitchburg, and is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post blog.

John Hupalo                                      Founder & CEO, Invite Education 

John Hupalo is a nationally recognized expert in education loan finance and private credit student loans and founder of Invite Education. His education-focused career spans more than 30 years as a Legislative Assistant on Capitol Hill, Managing Director on Wall Street, CFO of a publicly traded education finance company and now as an entrepreneur. He formed Invite Education to empower parents and students with the information, tools and services to guide them to better college fits academically and financially. He has also been elected to a school board, chaired an alumni association, established a not-for-profit foundation, and has served as a Trustee and Treasurer for a school for children with language-based learning issues.  Prior to founding Invite Education in 2012, John served as a member of the Board of American Student Assistance.

On June 14th, 2016 Peterson’s published Plan and Finance Your Family’s College Dreams: A Parent’s Step-by-Step Guide from Pre-K to Senior Year, which John wrote with his co-author and co-founder of Invite Education, Dr. Peter Mazareas. John received his B.A. with Honors from Boston University and an MBA in Finance from New York University’s Stern School of Business. 

Marven Hyppolite                             VP of the Board, Public Higher Education Network of MA (PHENOM)

Marven Hyppolite is the current Vice President of Phenom and works with the organizations to fight for accessible and affordable public higher education in Massachusetts. Marven joined PHENOM while he was a student at Umass Dartmouth, where he helped to recruit and organize students around the student debt loan crisis. While at Umass Dartmouth Marven was elected as the Student Government President and continued to fight to empower students in that role. He is currently an immigration and housing caseworker for Congressman Seth Moulton of the 6th district of Massachusetts.

Manjula Karamcheti                          Director of Counseling, Lexington High School

Manjula N. Karamcheti is the Lexington High School/K-12 Assistant Director of Counseling for the Lexington Public Schools. Prior to that, she served as the Director of Guidance, Testing and Academic Support for the Malden Public Schools. A graduate of UMASS – Lowell’s M.A. Program in Community Social Psychology and the Harvard School of Education’s Risk and Prevention, her career has been dedicated to working with school systems to develop systems and supports for positive youth academic and social emotional outcomes.  Manjula is passionate about college and career readiness, equity and access issues, and the affordability of higher education. Her work has allowed her to create partnerships with organizations and programs like the Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Bunker Hill Community College/Dual Enrollment, FAFSA Day, and much, much more.


Laura Krantz,                                     Reporter, Boston Globe                

Laura Krantz covers higher education for the Boston Globe. She joined the Globe in 2015 and previously covered criminal justice for VTDigger in Vermont and local news for the MetroWest Daily News, in Framingham, Mass. She graduated from Boston University.

Julie Ryder Lammers                      Managing Director of Consumer Advocacy & Government Relations, American Student Assistance

Julie Lammers is the Managing Director of the American Student Assistance Center for Consumer Advocacy and oversees ASA’s government relations efforts on both the federal and state level. Through this work she helps to create and push legislative changes on behalf of consumers with student debt and facilitate ASA’s interaction with elected officials.   Julie also manages ASA’s public policy, research, and advocacy efforts related to higher education, financial aid and student debt issues. Julie coordinates research and special projects that examine the impact that student debt is having on consumers and develops policy solutions that will ease the debt burden on borrowers. Julie has been at ASA since March 2010. 

Prior to ASA, Julie spent more than nine years working on higher education and various other issues as Congressional Aide to Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) and his successor, Senator Paul Kirk, Jr. (D-MA). Julie has a dual political science and history from Northeastern University, a J.D. from Suffolk University Law School, a certificate in legislative studies from the Government Affairs Institute at Georgetown University, and is a member of the Massachusetts Bar. In addition to her professional work, Julie serves on the Steering Committee of the John F. Kennedy Library New Frontier Network and lives in Milton, Mass. with her husband and two daughters.

Jessica Lautz     Managing Director, Survey Research & Communications, National Association of REALTORS ®

Jessica Lautz is the Managing Director of Survey Research and Communications for the National Associations of REALTORS®. Jessica started at NAR in 2007. The core of her research focuses on demographic trends for both NAR members and housing consumers, and issues such as: how housing preferences shift in an ever changing market place, the consistent trends of consumers for the desire to own a home, consumers’ search to find a real estate agent, and generational trends. Jessica discusses the results of these studies in blog articles, Twitter chats, webinars, as well as in major media outlets and keynote presentations. Jessica is a graduate of the American University Master’s of Public Policy Program and has undergraduate degrees in Political Science and Law and Justice from Central Washington University. She is currently pursuing her doctorate of Real Estate from Nottingham Trent University. Her thesis is: “Is the Dream Still Alive? Tracking Homeownership Amid Changing Economic and Demographic Conditions.”

Phuong Luong                                  Director of Financial Services, Compass Working Capital

As the Director of Financial Services at Compass Working Capital, a nonprofit financial services organization, Phuong oversees the recruitment, hiring, and ongoing professional development of CWC’s financial counseling and coaching team and leads its efforts in expanding and strengthening its menu of financial services and resources for clients. Phuong first joined Compass in October 2013 after eight years in public education. Most recently, Phuong served as a teacher of middle-school math and special education with Cambridge Public Schools. She was also a Teaching Policy Fellow with Teach Plus, a national organization dedicated to strengthening teacher voice in education policy.

Phuong graduated from the Teacher Education Program and received her B.A. from Dartmouth College. She also possesses an M.Ed in Special Education as a Teacher of Students with Mild/Moderate Disabilities from Boston University. In addition, Phuong completed the Financial Planning Program at Boston University and passed the CFP® Certification Examination in November 2014.

Paul Mark                                            State Representative, Massachusetts General Court

Paul W. Mark was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives on November 2, 2010. Representative Mark’s district encompasses 16 communities in Berkshire and Franklin Counties, the largest geographical Representative district in the Commonwealth.

During high school and through his early college years, Paul worked at a number of part-time and temporary jobs. Paul secured full-time employment working for Bell Atlantic and then Verizon for 10 years. Paul earned an Associate’s Degree in Telecommunications from Springfield Technical Community College and a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics and Finance from Southern New Hampshire University while working full-time during the day. His passion for education brought him to enroll in both a Master’s Degree in Labor Relations at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and the evening division of Suffolk University Law School in the fall of 2005. Paul commuted back and forth across the Commonwealth from work in Pittsfield to Boston for law classes three nights a week while continuing to work full-time at Verizon and completing his UMass studies. In 2007, he completed his Master’s of Science and immediately enrolled in Northeastern University’s Law and Policy Doctoral program. Paul graduated from Suffolk Law in 2009 and Northeastern in 2010. Paul was sworn in as an Attorney on December 2, 2009 and the following year ran for and won a seat in the Massachusetts House of Representatives.

Paul is a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and has held many positions in the local union including steward, political director, press secretary, and executive board member. Mark was named the 2010 Berkshire Central Labor Council Person of the Year. Paul and his wife Cassandra live in Western Massachusetts.

Josh Martin                                         Vice President, ideas42

Josh Martin (@joshbworld) is a Vice President at ideas42, responsible for overseeing behavioral science intervention programs in diverse fields from domestic financial aid reform to international livelihoods programs. Prior to joining ideas42, Josh was a policy advisor in Côte d’Ivoire’s Ministry of Planning and Development, having previously held posts at Cordoba Initiative and Princeton University’s Empirical Studies of Conflict program and roles at the World Bank, USAID, the National Democratic Institute, and others. Josh has a master’s from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and speaks Arabic and French. 

Betsy Mayotte                                    Director of Consumer Outreach and Compliance, American Student Assistance

Betsy is the Director of Consumer Outreach at American Student Assistance. In this role, she and her staff resolve loan issues for individual borrowers, as well as analyze data on borrower issues to recommend improvements to federal aid policies and processes. Additionally, she works with all ASA business units to ensure regulatory compliance and evaluate pending legislation for potential impact. As ASA’s principal regulatory subject matter expert, she has served as a primary negotiator for federal Title IV negotiated rulemaking sessions on topics such as the use of student loans at foreign schools and borrower defense to repayment, and has provided regulatory and technical support for most negotiated rulemaking sessions since 2006. 

Betsy represents ASA on various student loan industry committees, including the National Council of Higher Education Resources Regulations Committee and the Common Manual Governing Board. Betsy regularly advises consumers on planning and paying for college. She is a frequent contributor to U.S. News and World Report’s The Student Loan Ranger blog; responds to public inquiries via the advice resource “Just Ask”; and is frequently quoted in traditional and social media on the topics of student loans and financial aid. Betsy graduated from Bentley College with a B.S. in Business Communications.

Toby Merrill                                         Project on Predatory Student Lending, Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School

Toby Merrill is the Director of the Project on Predatory Student Lending at the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School, which represents low-income student loan borrowers in cases challenging unfair and deceptive practices of for-profit and occupational schools. The Project undertakes much of its work in partnership with community organizers and community-based organizations. It is a clinical program of Harvard Law School, where she is a lecturer and supervises law students as a clinical instructor in the Legal Services Center’s Predatory Lending Clinic. She also teaches a class on Student Loan Law.  Toby has represented the interests of low-income borrowers to the U.S. Department of Education in two recent negotiated rulemaking sessions. Toby joined the Legal Services Center’s Predatory Lending Practice in 2012 as a Skadden Fellow, after clerking for the Honorable Janet C. Hall of the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut. She received her J.D. cum laude from Harvard Law School, where she participated in the Center’s Employment and Predatory Lending Clinics. She holds a B.A. from Yale.

Nan Morrison                                     President and CEO, Council for Economic Education

Nan J. Morrison is President and Chief Executive Officer of the Council for Economic Education. She has overall responsibility for deepening and expanding CEE’s work to deliver on its mission, including working closely with CEE’s network of over 240 affiliates across the country. Nan is an accomplished strategy consultant with extensive experience in the nonprofit world. This experience, along with her academic background anchored in mathematics, makes her fundamentally aware of the critical importance of economic and financial literacy in the lives of our nation’s young people. Nan holds a B.S. in Applied Mathematics from Yale University (magna cum laude) and an M.B.A. from the Harvard Business School, with second year honors. She has completed five triathlons.

Tonya Mosley                                    Senior Reporter, Edify, WBUR

Tonya Mosley is the senior education reporter for WBUR’s Edify. She comes to WBUR from Stanford University, where she was a 2015-16 John S. Knight Journalism Fellow. While at Stanford, Tonya created a curriculum for journalists on the impacts of implicit bias and co-wrote a Belgian/American experimental study on the effects of protest coverage. Before WBUR, Tonya was a regular broadcast correspondent for Al Jazeera America and created the national award-winning public radio series “Black in Seattle.”In 2014, Tonya was named one of the “51 Most Influential People” by Seattle Magazine and 2015 “Journalist of the Year” by the Washington State Association for Justice. In 2016 Tonya won an Emmy Award for her televised piece “Beyond Ferguson.”

Akhil Nigam                                        Managing Director, Fidelity Labs

Akhil Nigam is a Managing Director at Fidelity Labs. Fidelity Lab’s vision is to serve as Fidelity’s innovation catalyst, helping Fidelity businesses realize the possibilities of new products, technologies and business models. Before Fidelity, he was the founder and former President of MassChallenge, the largest startup accelerator and competition in the world. MassChallenge every year accepts 128 early stage high impact companies from all over the world. Under his leadership, MassChallenge alumni have raised well over $900M and have generated over $500M in revenue.  Before MassChallenge, Akhil worked for Bain & Company where he worked on a variety of industries both in the private equity and general consulting practices. He also worked for Fidelity’s private equity practice helping technology and telecom companies with strategy, financial and operational issues. Prior to business school, Akhil was one of the founding team members and part of the executive team of a high growth startup focused on software, Internet technology and IT services. He has been recognized as ‘top 40 under 40’ in Boston and awarded the distinguished ’10 Top Outstanding Young Leaders in Boston’ award by the Boston Chamber of Commerce. In 2015 he was also awarded the prestigious  ‘Asper Award for Global Entrepreneurship’. He is recognized as a thought leader in innovation and entrepreneurship and has served as a mentor for entrepreneurship programs at Harvard and MIT. He also serves on several boards including the Board of Directors for Goodwill International.

Akhil Nigam received his MBA from Harvard Business School and his undergraduate degree in Electrical Engineering from the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in New York City, where he graduated top of his class. He also completed a Masters in Financial Engineering from Columbia University. Akhil lived in India until age 12 and then attended high school in Zimbabwe before receiving a full four-year scholarship to the Cooper Union. 

Jesse O’Connell                                                Strategy Officer, Lumina Foundation

Jesse O’Connell is a Strategy Officer at Lumina Foundation, working to develop and support models of postsecondary finance as well as advance federal policy to increase higher education attainment. Prior to joining Lumina, he served as the Assistant Director for Federal Relations at the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators. Jesse began his career as a financial aid administrator at Georgetown University. He holds both a master’s and bachelor’s degree from Georgetown, and was an All-American as a member of the track and field team. In addition to his professional work, Jesse is involved in his community of Alexandria, Virginia where he lives with his wife and two children.

Eileen O’Leary                                   Assistant VP, Student Financial Assistance, Stonehill College

Eileen O’Leary is the Assistant Vice President of Student Financial Assistance at Stonehill College where she has worked for over 30 years. She received her undergraduate degree from Stonehill and her EdM from Harvard Graduate School of Education. She previously served as Chair of NASFAA, the National Direct Student Loan Coalition, and President of the Massachusetts Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (MASFAA). She is a member of the Massachusetts Office of Student Financial Assistance Advisory Board and of the NEBHE’s recent Regional Advisory Council. A member of numerous professional association committees and task forces over her career, she has served as a negotiator on two Federal Negotiated Rulemaking panels and the College Board’s CSS College Scholarship Service Council. She is the recipient of NASFAA’s Allan Purdy Distinguished Service Award, the MASFAA Jack Sheehan Award for Distinguished Service, and the College Board’s Jolene Mitchell Service Award.

Scott Pulsipher                                  President, Western Governor’s University

Scott Pulsipher has served as President of nonprofit Western Governors University (WGU), the nation’s first and largest competency-based university, since April 2016, leading all academic, operational, and organizational functions. Scott blends a personal drive for making a difference in the lives of individuals and families through education and a passion for technology-powered innovation. At WGU, he is driving continuous innovation to improve student outcomes by focusing on rapidly advancing curriculum quality, new faculty models, data-driven learning, and a different cost model. Prior to WGU, Scott had more than 20 years of leadership experience in technology-based, customer-focused businesses, including Amazon, Sterling Commerce (now part of IBM), and two successful startups that traverse retail, supply chain, banking, payments, and manufacturing sectors. Scott earned his bachelor’s degree in Management from Brigham Young University in 1994 and a MBA from Harvard University in 1999.

Andrew Renshaw, PhD                  Coordinator of Dual Enrollment and Off-Campus Programs, Piedmont Virginia Community College

Andrew Renshaw is the Director of Dual Enrollment and Off-Campus Programs at Piedmont Virginia Community College in Charlottesville, Virginia. As both an educator and administrator, his career has focused on serving underserved, low-income students through innovative educational programming. He has taught in a charter high school in Los Angeles for former high school dropouts and managed a National Science Foundation grant designed to bolster the number of STEM students from underrepresented groups pursuing and completing degrees in engineering. Andrew’s research has focused on statewide education policy development and implementation. His background in education also includes a BA from the University of Virginia, MA from Loyola Marymount University, and a PhD from the University of Virginia.

Geoffrey Sanzenbacher, PhD       Research Economist, Center for Retirement Research at Boston College

Geoffrey T. Sanzenbacher is a research economist at the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.  He conducts research on mortality, job mobility, the shift from defined benefit to defined contribution pensions, and the pension participation decision and has an interest in how these issues relate to low income workers.  Recently, he has worked with states like Oregon and Connecticut who are considering expanding coverage in retirement savings plans to more private sector workers.  Before joining the Center, he earned a doctorate in economics from Boston College in the fields of labor economics, applied econometrics, and applied microeconomics.  He worked for several years after finishing his PhD as an economic consultant at Analysis Group in Boston.  He currently teaches Intermediate Microeconomics, Econometrics, and the Economics of Inequality at Boston College.

Martha Savery                                    Director of Public Affairs, Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority             

For over thirty years, Martha has distinguished herself as an expert in financing higher education helping countless students and families successfully navigate the complex and challenging journey to — and through — college. Martha has held numerous leadership positions across financial aid and admissions departments at leading public and private institutions in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, including Harvard Graduate School of Education where she spent a number of years.

In her role as the Director of Public Affairs at the Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority, Martha is responsible for the Authority’s external relations and outreach activities working with colleges, high schools, community based organizations and the Commonwealth’s College and Career Web Portal – Your Plan for the Future. Martha is regularly quoted in the financial and education press and is a frequent presenter at state, regional and national conferences and seminars.

Theresa Schnelle                              VP, HR Operations, Lockton Companies

Theresa is responsible for Human Resources operations for nearly 4,000 US Associates at Lockton Companies, based in the insurance broker’s Kansas City headquarters. She leads teams that manage compensation, benefits, HR information systems, and payroll. She is part of the Human Resources team responsible for helping Lockton to earn a reputation as one of the best places to work in the insurance industry. Business Insurance magazine and Best Companies Group have honored Lockton as the only global insurance broker to win the award (2009-2016). Theresa has played a key role in transitioning Lockton to an innovative consumer-driven health plan with a vigorous health risk management component designed to improve health and productivity and reduce long-term health costs for the company.

Prior to joining Lockton, Theresa was manager of compensation at Payless Cashways, a large home improvement retailer. She has also worked as an economist at the Bureau of Labor Statistics. She holds several certifications and designations from professional associations in human resources, employee benefits, and compensation professions. She joined Lockton in 2002.

Michael Stynes                                  Executive Director, Jain Family Institute

Michael Stynes is Executive Director of the Jain Family Institute. He has led the Institute since its formation, directing research into an array of economic, cultural, social, and political areas. For JFI’s flagship higher education financing project—researching how to structure and implement Income Sharing Agreements—Michael led student and capital design at Purdue University for the first ISA pilot at scale in the U.S. Previously, he taught at Harvard University. Michael holds a master’s degree in philosophy from New York University and a bachelor’s degree from Harvard College.

Neil Swidey                                         Staff Writer, Boston Globe Magazine

Neil Swidey is a narrative nonfiction author and journalist. His most recent book, Trapped Under the Sea, was a No. 1 Boston Globe bestseller that was named one of the best books of 2014 by Amazon and Booklist. His first book, The Assist, which focused on urban education, was a Boston Globe bestseller that was named one of the best books of 2008 by the Washington Post. He was also a coauthor of the New York Times bestselling Last Lion: The Fall and Rise of Ted Kennedy. A staff writer for the Boston Globe Magazine, Neil writes about a wide range of topics and subcultures, but returns often to education, most recently doing an in-depth examination of the college debt burden faced by low-income, first-generation students. His writing has won numerous national awards and been featured in The Best American Science Writing, The Best American Crime Writing, and The Best American Political Writing. As an outgrowth of his first book, he founded the Alray Scholars Program, a mentoring and scholarship nonprofit that helps give Boston students a second chance at college. More info:

Persis Yu                                             Staff Attorney, National Consumer Law Center

Persis Yu is a staff attorney at NCLC and is the Director of NCLC’s Student Loan Borrower Assistance Project. She also works on other consumer advocacy issues.  Prior to joining NCLC, Persis was a Hanna S. Cohn Equal Justice Fellow at Empire Justice Center in Rochester, New York.  Her fellowship project focused on credit reporting issues facing low-income consumers, specifically in the areas of accuracy, housing and employment.  Persis is a graduate of Seattle University School of Law, and holds a Master’s of Social Work from the University of Washington, and a Bachelor of Arts from Mount Holyoke College. She is a contributor to NCLC’s Student Loan Law and Fair Credit Reporting. She has also authored several reports, including Pounding Student Loan Borrowers: The Heavy Costs of the Government’s Partnership with Debt Collection Agencies.

John Zurick                                        President and CEO, American Student Assistance

John Zurick became the President and CEO of American Student Assistance in July 2016. John joined ASA after serving as chief operating officer at Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights for eight years, where he served as the organization’s sole strategic planning and business consultant, helping to guide RFK Human Rights through a period of rapid financial growth and programmatic expansion.

John has a long history as a social entrepreneur. In 1994, he founded his consulting firm, ZQI, Inc., through which he has worked in close partnership with social sector clients on change leadership, board and executive leadership development, strategic planning, financial management, social enterprise initiatives, revenue generation, and hands-on operational turnarounds. John began his career as a producer of off-Broadway plays that ran in Boston and London. He is the executive producer of the full-length documentary film Bill Monroe, Father of Bluegrass. He also has served as executive director of the Cincinnati Ballet and marketing director of the Cincinnati Symphony. John holds an M.F.A. from Brandeis University and a B.A. from the State University of New York, Brockport.