Meet the team

We know from experience that everybody’s admissions journey is a little different.

Our Leadership Team

Jon Carson

Chief Executive Officer





Second-best Language


Has a Pet Named


Why am I here? Why now?

I was introduced to the founding team as a mentor at the Harvard iLab back in 2015 and, simply put, I liked them and greatly respected their passion, drive, and intellect. I was also impressed that they were quite open to acknowledging what they did not know or were unsure of. That kind of self-awareness among talented individuals is somewhat rare in my experience. Lastly, with my own kids in their high school years, I very much identified with the need.

The more I dug around into high school guidance and the college admissions space, the more I realized there were several troubling aspects. Nowhere else have I seen individuals signaling such pain through anxiety and stress. At a fundamental level, there are two issues that are both tied to a crying need to level the playing field.

First, college admissions is a process with high information asymmetry which is to say sellers (the colleges) hold huge information advantages over the buyers (families) who are making a high stakes decision with poor information resources. Families are at a big information disadvantage while colleges are using state of the art data tools and advanced marketing techniques. It is not a level playing field.

Second, there is a huge guidance gap between students at elite private schools and those who attend public schools. In private schools, starting in 9th grade students meet weekly or monthly all year long with their guidance counselor. In public schools that is typically a single 30-minute meeting. When it comes to planning and preparing for high stakes college applications, private schools begin the process in January of 11th grade, while in public schools it is common to hear of students waiting until the fall of their senior year. It is not a level playing field.

What if we could build a data-driven guidance platform that offered college probability chancing and preference matching tools? What if we could build advanced financial ROI tools so families knew exactly what they were signing up for and could compare schools on both a cost and postgraduate earnings basis to create a break-even point for every school? What if we could build a milestone engine that can create a custom project plan for any college list? What if we could harness the mentoring expertise that talented graduates have gained by going through the high school process, knowing their schools, and receiving state of the art training? What if we could make the very best high school guidance available to everyone at an affordable cost?

That is the big idea that I am here to help build.

When Jon was a sophomore at Babson College, he started a beer keg delivery business for fraternities in the Boston area and an entrepreneurial career was born. Other than brief stints at Boeing (sales), McKinsey & Co. (junior analyst), and two years at the Yale School of Management, he has always worked on his own ventures which for the last 20 years have always emphasized a social impact mission. To date, Jon has started, built, and sold four companies, the largest of which was Family Education Network which became the largest K-12 website on the Internet ultimately acquired by Pearson. His most recent company was BiddingForGood, a $60m marketplace for charity auctions. In 1999 Jon was profiled by e-School News as one of the 25 most influential people in education technology. In 2008 Jon was an initial inductee into the Babson College Alumni Entrepreneur Hall of Fame. In 2009 Jon was a finalist for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year award (New England Region). In 2015 Jon was featured in Insights—Reflections From 101 Of Yale’s Most Successful Entrepreneurs. Jon has served on the boards of the National School Boards Foundation, The National PTA, Net Impact, Trinity Boston Foundation, and Americas Charities.

Zack Perkins

Co-founder, Head of Product





Second-best Language


Has a Pet Named


I co-founded CollegeVine because my high school career was characterized by significant personal development and I wanted to extend the lessons I’d learned to other students.

I played a ton of sports as a kid and didn’t even think about college admissions until my sophomore year of high school. My parents wanted me to work hard, but they never exerted any pressure on me to intensively study or join a million activities. I entered high school expecting to be completely average, accepting the path that I was passively on. My friends used to joke that I was bad at math (probably fair even today).

But over the course of high school, something clicked. I developed a strong desire to achieve, and once I found the areas in which I was passionate, I devoted inhuman amounts of time to develop my skills and experience in those areas. I found myself continuously setting higher goals that were completely my own, and I achieved them too. In doing so, I carved my own path through school and had a really, really enjoyable high school experience.

My background has helped me recognize that everyone has a very unique potential, regardless of how that potential is forecasted by family, friends, or teachers. I wanted to be able to help students ignite the fire that makes them successful in any area that makes them passionate because I saw firsthand how life changing it can be. I’m proud that CollegeVine is a driving force behind recognizing and developing the innate talents of our students, making them more successful leaders and achievers.

Zack's High School Resume

When Zack was in 6th grade, he moved to Germany where he quickly became trilingual, learning to speak Spanish and German fluently. In high school, Zack graduated with a 4.0 GPA and a 2400 (single sitting) on his SAT. Zack took a rigorous course load, culminating in 13 AP classes and a German political philosophy course at Princeton University. His main extracurricular interests were focused on politics and economics, as he participated and held leadership in clubs such as Model United Nations and Federal Reserve Challenge. Zack also practiced Krav Maga, an Israeli martial art. Zack developed an extreme passion for one of his activities, YMCA New Jersey Youth and Government, ultimately becoming elected to the highest position of Youth Governor, the student leader of the conference. Zack was also selected to attend New Jersey Boys State, the Youth Governors Conference, the Conference on National Affairs, and completed a summer internship in Investment Controlling and Supply Chain Controlling at Henkel AG & Co. KGaA in Dusseldorf, Germany. With his passion for community service, Zack led a statewide soup kitchen volunteering program that involved 94 high school students from around New Jersey. Additionally, he started a charity to fund solar panels for an impoverished school in Nairobi, Kenya.

Johan Zhang

Co-Founder, Head of Marketing




Applied Math and Econ

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Has a Pet Named


I co-founded CollegeVine because I experienced the benefits of near-peer mentorship in my own life. Throughout high school, I was fortunate enough to have had many incredible teachers. But when I think about the individuals who influenced me the most during those years, the names that first come to mind are friends—mentors—who were only a few years older than me.

I respected them because they were successful after having been in my shoes not too long ago themselves, and I wanted to be like them. Yet because they were still my peers, we were able to communicate on a level that was far more conducive to the type of deep learning that only comes through truly relating to the other person. Whether it was helping me navigate extracurricular activities, providing college admissions advice, or dealing with life in general, these mentors were directly responsible for leading me on the right path to achieving my goals.

Of course, at the time, I didn’t know there existed an official name, “near-peer mentor,” that described this type of teacher. Regardless, the core concept resonates, and CollegeVine’s programs are designed with a unique mentorship-first approach—because it works.

Through CollegeVine, I hope to help other students discover the same life-changing mentorship that I was so lucky to experience. And in the process, I hope to create stronger students, better higher ed outcomes, and ultimately more passionate contributors to society.

Johan's High School Resume

Johan was named salutatorian of his graduating class with a 4.0 GPA and a 2400 (first take) on his SAT. In addition to taking 11 AP classes throughout high school, Johan self-studied 4 AP tests during his junior year. He is the winner of various awards, including the National AP Scholar Award, the National Merit Scholarship, and the Nordstrom National Scholarship. Outside of the classroom, Johan served as Class President and VP for 4 years in a row. Johan was also the captain of his high school fencing team, receiving All-State Team honors and leading his team to its first ever District Championship. Passionate about music, Johan played in the NJ Region Jazz Band as 1st Chair Alto Sax. He also co-founded a non-profit organization that offered high-quality private music lessons to younger students at a low price; all profits were donated to charities dedicated to fostering music education in his community. At the end of his junior year, Johan was selected to attend New Jersey Boys State, where he was elected Nation Senator by 976 of his peers. As 1 of 98 Senators nation-wide, Johan was flown out to DC to meet with various political leaders, including President Barack Obama in the White House.

Vinay Bhaskara

Co-Founder, Head of CV Labs




Econ, Pre-Med

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Has a Pet Named

Airbus A380

I co-founded CollegeVine because I wanted other students to have the guidance for the college admissions process that I was not able to receive.

As the first member of my family to attend college in the US, my parents and I were basically flying blind through the entire admissions process, and I had to build my understanding of the process entirely from scratch. My high school guidance counselor was too overloaded to provide me with specific advice and guidance, so I mostly relied on the internet and older friends to learn more about admissions.

Luckily, I had a background as a writer, so my essays were in relatively good shape (I even helped several of my classmates with their essays). But after spending hours scouring university websites, blogs, and asking my friends for assistance, I learned that there were several additional components to the application, ranging from the exact phrasing of activity descriptions on the Common App to the exact major that you put down on the application.

Now that I have a platform to help other students, I want to enable them to find their voice and craft top-notch application essays and, more importantly, help them get all of the information that they need to navigate the admissions process. No student, first generation immigrant or otherwise, should have to undergo as much stress as I did when applying to college. CollegeVine is our way of working towards that goal.

Vinay's High School Resume

Vinay graduated with a 4.0 GPA and a 2400 (single sitting) on his SAT. Throughout his studies, Vinay genuinely enjoyed a wide range of subjects, ultimately leading him to take 19 AP exams (a school record), earning a score of 5 on all of them. In 2013, Vinay was named the State AP Scholar for the state of New Jersey, an award given to the one male and one female student in each U.S. state with scores of 3 or higher on the greatest number of AP Exams. He also scored perfectly on SAT subject tests in Math, Chemistry, US History, World Studies, and Biology. Vinay participated in a variety of clubs in high school such as Youth and Government, and Science Olympiad; however his main extracurricular passion was in aviation. He has spent six years working in the aviation industry, starting out as a lowly blogger and working his way up to become an analyst at an aerospace consultancy. His aviation analysis has been published by several publications such as Forbes, Business Insider, and Skift, and he has been quoted as an aviation expert in The Capital Forum, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal. He also published two ebooks on airline operations and co-hosted a podcast on Indian aviation. Separately, Vinay co-authored an SAT vocabulary book, drawing upon his extensive knowledge of the exam.

Mohan Zhang

Co-Founder, Chief Technology Officer




CS, Linguistics

Second-best Language


Has a Pet Named


When I think back to what I was like in high school and college, I realize how much of my identity and happiness in life came to me after leaving behind the educational system. Though I had a successful academic career by any measure, all the things I cherish most today are actually things I discovered as a young adult in the “real world.” Mostly, these are things that might lead someone in their mid-20s to a place like Portland, OR—where radical ideas like intellectual freedom, alternative diets, windsurfing, yoga, backyard chickens, and composting are commonplace.

This unfortunate case of DOH (“delayed onset happiness”) had to do, I think, with the fact that I am the first-born in a family of immigrants. Getting the most prestigious college education possible was not only the default path for me, but in fact the only path. Indeed, not knowing very much about the college admissions process, first generation immigrant families like my own have to play it very safe the first time around because our uncertain standing in society forces us to be risk-averse. Ultimately, there was an accepted mold that I had to fit into, exemplified by competitive academics, knowledge of a musical instrument (piano), and an “American” extracurricular activity like mock trial.

Although Cornell, Emory, and Rutgers took a chance on me despite this tired profile that nearly all academically inclined first-generation immigrants try to fit into, I am not surprised in retrospect that Harvard, Brown, and Northwestern all passed. To make matters worse, between the three schools I received big envelopes from, there was never really a question which one I would choose: the one with the highest US News & World Report ranking, of course. Factors like actual happiness, campus fit, and the fact that I might have to spend three years of my life walking up a 45-degree slope in the bitter cold never figured into the decision.

So let’s get this straight: an unavoidable naivete about the admissions process led me to pursue an admissions strategy that had about a 3% chance of actually working (for a similar Asian American male applying to top-10 schools in the year 2018, it has become even less effective). Yet ironically, the very things I love today, had I pursued them earlier in life, would have led to various interesting ECs and essays narrated by a unique voice that would truly stand out from the crowd—all while making me the person I always wanted to be anyway.

And this impedance mismatch is exactly where I see the opportunity in CollegeVine’s platform: this is our chance to foster genuine, interesting applicants that gain admission to their top schools for the right reasons. In this process, not only do we help them stand out, but we encourage them to do it in a way that doesn’t defer what’s actually important in life: their authenticity and identity. Colleges and universities can thank us later.

Taking an interest in computers around the age of six, Mohan launched his first website as an 11-year-old to announce to the world how much he loved Final Fantasy VII, a video game for the original Sony PlayStation. In just two years’ time, the website grew to become the home of an active community dedicated to the Japanese role-playing game franchise, with many volunteers working together to produce fan-authored content. Unfortunately, things quickly unraveled shortly after Mohan’s 13th birthday, once the older contributors on the site found out they had spent the last couple years of their lives working for a prepubescent boy.

A full decade and a half later, Mohan is finally starting to have age (and hormones) on his side, though the desire to bring people together with technology has always remained at the forefront of his imagination. After graduating magna cum laude from Cornell University with a 4.0 GPA in Computer Science and Linguistics, he worked as an engineer in both the GPU and Mobile units of NVIDIA Corp. Then, seeking new avenues for personal development, he left in 2012 to travel around the world for a year as a migrant farmhand working on organic farms. Prior to becoming the CTO at CollegeVine, he was a Senior Developer at LegitScript LLC, a Portland, OR company specializing in healthcare and online merchant compliance.

Kara O'Toole

VP of Operations





Second-best Language

Problem Solving

Has a Pet Named


I come to the college admissions process from more angles than I want to admit! Throughout my life, I’ve seen it from multiple perspectives — as daughter, as a parent, and now as a professional.

My interest in higher education was born early, when I used to go on college visits with my dad. He was a high school guidance counselor at the time. When it came time to apply to college myself, I knew what I wanted from a school. I searched for colleges where I could competitively play Division I volleyball. (That’s hard for someone 5’5”!) I also wanted the opportunity to participate in meaningful internships. My search landed me at Drexel University in Philadelphia, where I was able to play volleyball and gain co-op experience that helped set me apart from my peers.

Now, decades later I am a mother of four and admissions is a topic that weighs heavy on my mind. Having gone through the process with my oldest daughter, I have a much better understanding of what to do the next time, but each of my children are unique and need different support. And even though I’ve done it once, changes and trends affect admissions year to year.

When the opportunity to work in the college application space presented itself, I was so excited to get on board. I had spent almost 20 years in the travel industry and was looking for a change. When I realized I could work with a dynamic team to make the college process easier for all students, it was a no-brainer what my next move would be.

Every child is unique and needs their own support to find the right path. When I think about my dad’s students and look at my own children, I inspired to create those support nets here at CollegeVine. I believe we have developed an approach that simplifies the college admissions process for everyone.

Kara attended Drexel University where she worked as a co-op student for the British-American and Chilean-American Chambers of Commerce. These experiences sparked an interest in travel, and soon after college, Kara began a 20-year career in the travel industry. Starting off in marketing, Kara eventually went on to lead in many areas including financial planning & analysis, sales, analytics, and customer service. She rose to become the Chief Operating Officer of a $650M company. During this time, Kara gained valuable insight into operational efficiencies and leadership. In 2015, Kara left the travel industry to pursue a career in consulting and ultimately landed at CollegeVine. Kara has run the Boston Marathon 6 times and has raised over $50,000 for charity.

Our HQ Team Members

Aaron Rissler

Director of Enrollment

Adam Wespiser

Associate Data Scientist

Alexandra Briefs

Client Success Associate

Amelia Wills

Client Success Associate

Catherine Sullivan

Director of Hiring and Talent

Chris Coffey

Software Engineer

Corey Feder

Tech Support Engineer

Fyodor Soikin

Software Engineer

Gabrielle F.

Enrollment Director

Gabrielle Lieberman

Managing Director, Test Prep

James Sands-Berking

Enrollment Director

Jason Henson

Enrollment Director

Jennifer Morel

Operations Manager

Jennifer Sovacool

Enrollment Director

Josh Cough

Software Engineer

Liliya Robbins

Managing Director, Mentorship

Mahia Brown

Office Manager

Maria Matveeva

Director of Product Design

Max Rothman

Software Engineer

Rachel Cirineo

Hiring and Talent Associate

Ralph Morton

Software Engineer

Serena Flanagan

Junior Product Designer

Tania Hintlian

Senior Content Marketing Manager

Valeria Amato

Director of Client Success

Our Board of Directors

Gerald Chan

Chief Executive Officer, Morningside Group

Dr. Gerald Chan co-founded Morningside, a diversified investment group engaged in private equity and venture capital investments in North America, Asia, and Europe, in 1987. Morningside has been an active investor in China since 1992.

Dr. Chan is a director of publicly listed Hang Lung Group Limited, a Hong Kong-based property holding company. He serves on the boards of several biotechnology companies in North America and Europe including Stealth Peptides, Advanced Cell Diagnostics, Matrivax, Vaccine Technologies Inc., and Oxyrane. He is a member of the Global Advisory Council of the International Society for Stem Cell Research, the International Board of Governors of the New York Academy of Sciences, the Board of Trustees of Fudan University in Shanghai, the Global Advisory Council of Harvard University, and chairs the Board of Overseers of the Morningside College of the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Dr. Chan received his BS and MS degrees in Engineering from UCLA, a Master of Science degree in Medical Radiological Physics, and a Doctor of Science degree in Radiation Biology from Harvard University. He completed his post-doctoral training in pathology at the Harvard Medical School and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Stephanie O'Brien

Partner, Morningside Group

Stephanie O'Brien represents Morningside Ventures and has extensive experience working with venture-backed technology companies.

She focuses on early-stage companies, working with CEOs on building the management team and developing business plans. She has served on numerous private company boards, including ViOptiox, Inc., I-Behavior, Inc., Natural Polymer International Corp., Serica Technology, Inc., Alacer Biomedical, Inc., Inimex Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and BiddingForGood, Inc.

She received her A.B., cum laude, from Harvard College and her J.D. from New York University School of Law. Prior to attending law school, Stephanie worked for Chase Manhattan Bank, N.A, where she completed the loan officer credit training program and then worked in international portfolio analysis.

After law school, Stephanie spent nine years as a corporate lawyer with Hale and Dorr in the Boston and Washington, D.C. offices, working primarily with venture capital finance and start-up companies.

Deepak Malhotra

Professor, Harvard Business School

Deepak Malhotra is the Eli Goldston Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School. His teaching, research, and advisory work is focused on negotiation, deal-making and conflict resolution. Deepak has won numerous awards for his teaching, including the HBS Faculty Award by Harvard Business School's MBA Class of 2011, and the Charles M. Williams Award. In both 2011 and 2012, the MBA students selected Deepak to give the end-of-year speech to graduating students. In 2014, Deepak was chosen by Poets & Quants to be among their "40 under 40", a listing of the world's best business school professors under the age of 40.boardHeading:

Our Board of Advisors

Stephen M. Smith

CEO, Intellispark. Co-Founder, Naviance.

Stephen M. Smith is CEO of Intellispark, vice chair of the national board at College Possible, and a member of the board of the National College Access Network. Steve is co-author of Who Do You Think You Are: Three Critical Conversations for Coaching Teens to College & Career Success, to be published in November 2017 by John Wiley & Sons.

Steve was previously president and chief product officer at Hobsons where he led global product strategy, corporate development, student data privacy, and R&D. Steve joined Hobsons through the acquisition of Naviance, a leading college and career readiness technology platform used in 12,000 schools in more than 100 countries, where he was co-founder and chief executive.

Earlier in his career, Steve served as vice president of digital product development at Peterson’s, as a founding member of the Internet consulting practice at Thomson Technology Services Group, and as a practitioner faculty member at The Johns Hopkins University and Montgomery College.

Steve earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in history, cum laude, and an MBA from Cornell University.

Dr. Anne Bryant

Exec Director Emerita, National School Boards Association

Anne currently serves on the National Advisory Councils of the American Architectural Foundation, and serves on the boards of directors of The National Student Clearinghouse, The National Research Center for College and University Admissions, The Education Development Center and Character.Org.

She has served as Executive Director of the National School Boards Association, on the board of the Universal Service Administrative Company and the National Teachers Hall of Fame. She has held leadership roles with the American Association of University Women (exec.director) and P.M. Haeger & Associates (vice president). Anne is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including the Community Builder Award from the National Coalition for Technology in Education and Training and two honorary degrees. She was awarded the Simmons Lifetime Achievement Award.

Anne holds an EdD from the University of Massachusetts. She is a former Trustee (35 years!), Chair of the Board of Simmons College. Anne has a stepson and a stepdaughter, and two grandchildren.

Doug Williams

Chief Technology Officer, iSpecimen

Doug Williams is the chief technology officer of iSpecimen, a supplier of human clinical specimens to the research, therapeutic, and diagnostic industries.

Doug held various leadership roles as senior vice president and vice president in the fields of technology and engineering at FamilyEducation Network, Zipcar, RunKeeper, Empirix, and NetManage, representing acquisitions of $1.25B in total. He also served as a director of Analogic and Data Translation.

Doug obtained his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and computer science from Princeton University and his MBA from Harvard Business School.