Foundation for Letters Team


Mike Jackson, Founder & Chief Executive Officer. Mike is Executive Vice President of Capital Markets at Supernova Companies, co-based in Chicago and New York. Prior to joining Supernova, Mike was a Director at Brookfield Investment Management in New York, where over a 12 year tenure he focused on trading, research and surveillance of mortgage and asset-backed securities. Mike previously held investment banking positions at JP Morgan Chase, Prudential Securities, and WestLB. Mike served 10 years as a Trustee for the Williston-Northampton School, and is currently Chair of its Investment Committee. Mike co-founded the Bronx Academy of Letters, voted one of New York City’s 25 best high schools by the NY Daily News. Mike holds a BA from Yale University, where he lettered in Varsity Track & Field.

SaroseSarose Klein, Executive Director. Sarose is the Executive Director of the Foundation for Letters, where she focuses on marketing, development, finance, program design and management, operations administration and Board of Directors support and management. Prior to joining FFL, Sarose held a positions as an event coordinator for POGO events, which offers public events all around New York and San Francisco Bay, including customized events for corporate team building, Sarose holds a BA in Psychology from Mt. Holyoke College, where she earned the Mt. Holyoke Leadership Award.




Stephen Gandel, Chair. Steve is a senior writer for TIME, covering real estate, economics and Wall Street. He joined TIME from Time Inc. sister publication Money, where he was a senior writer for several years. Prior to that, Gandel was the senior Wall Street reporter for Crain’s New York Business. He has held positions at Individual Investor and theRiverfront Times in St. Louis. Additionally, his work has appeared in Fortune and Esquire. Steve has been a guest market commentator on CBS’s New York affliate, WNYC, MSNBC, WB11′s Morning News, NY1, and Fox Five. In 2003, he was the recipient of the gold award for feature writing from the Association of Area Business Publications. A New Jersey native, Steve graduated cum laude with a B.A. in economics and English from Washington University in St. Louis.


Pooja Pathak, President. Pooja Pathak. Pooja is an Associate Director on the Structured Finance team at MetLife Investments in New Jersey. Prior to joining MetLife, Pooja was a Senior Director on the Structured Products Investment Team at Brookfield Investment Management and held various other positions at Credit Suisse and Deloitte. Pooja holds BS in Finance and a BA in Economics from Rutgers College, where she graduated Cum Laude as well as graduating from the Rutgers College Honors Program.

MaxMax Fisher, Treasurer. Max is a Strategy Analyst at Aon Inpoint where he helps advise Insurance companies on their domestic and global growth strategies and product offerings. Prior to joining Aon, Max worked at Allstate Insurance in Chicago as a Financial Analyst in the CFO’s department working with internal partners to meet growth and profitability goals. While in Chicago, Max was also involved with SPARK an apprenticeship program where he worked with inner-city middle school students to help them learn about different careers and what steps to take to get there. Max graduated from the University of Michigan in 2012 with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Political Science.


Arliene Amador, Secretary. Arliene is a sophomore at Brooklyn College, majoring in English, while also on a pre-med track. Prior to enrolling at Brooklyn College, Arliene matriculated to the University of Notre Dame from the Bronx Science High School. Arliene has been a Spanish English tutor for the past 5 years, and has volunteered for numerous organizations. At Bronx Science, Arliene was selected as a scholar in the National Hispanic Recognition Program, and was active in numerous clubs including the Crafts for Charity and the Biology Web Club. After making the Dean’s list at Notre Dame, Arliene transferred to Brooklyn College to be closer to an ailing grandmother, and looks forward to completing her collegiate work in New York. Arliene’s Bachelor’s degree in English is expected in 2016.


sarahSarah Carson, Co-Chair – Strategic Planning Committee. Sarah is the Founder and CEO of Leota, a fashion design company based in New York that is known for innovative designs and meshing simplicity with glamour. Launched in 2010, Leota’s flirty, modern designs are handmade in New York’s Garment District. Leota designs have been featured everywhere from The Oprah Winfrey Show, to People Magazine, to Bravo Television Network. Sarah is a life-long crafter who developed her design company after eight years on Wall Street, most recently as Director of Equity Sales and Trading at UBS Investment Bank. She holds a BA from Brown University.

JordanJordan Caruso, Co-Chair – Development Committee.. Jordan is a Financial Analyst at Mindspark Intereractive Network, a division of IAC/Interactive Corp, where he prepares financial forecasts and scenario analyses for the business to consumer Search & Applications Business. Prior to joining Mindspark, Jordan worked as an Analyst at a private equity firm focused on growth stage companies, and was a Consultant at a boutique management consulting firm. Jordan holds a BA in Economics from Brandeis University with minors in Film and Italian. While at Brandeis he served as Treasurer and Crew Chief for the Brandeis Emergency Medical Corps and was the Founder & Editor-in-Chief of the Brandeis Economics & Finance Review.

AaliyahAaliyah El-Amin, Chair – Governance Committee. Aaliyah is Founder and Managing Principal of A.L.I. Advisors LLC, a strategy and finance consulting advisory based in the New York City area. Aaliyah advises C-level executives on strategic, financial and operational concerns across industries that range from healthcare to financial services. Prior to A.L.I. Advisors, Aaliyah held consulting and finance positions at Strategy & Morgan Stanley and Accenture. Aaliyah holds a BS of Mathematics from Spelman College, a Bachelor of Industrial Engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology and an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

caraCara Kiernan Fallon, Co-Chair – Programming Committee. Cara is a history of science PhD candidate at Harvard University. Prior to beginning her studies at Harvard, Cara worked as both an investment banker in the Financial Institutions Group, and as a private wealth management analyst at Goldman Sachs. Cara completed several writing intensive teaching fellowships during her time at Yale and Harvard, she has tutored high school students on the SAT writing, reading comprehension and math exams, and given essay guidance for college applications. Cara holds a Masters in Public Health and a BA (summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa) from Yale University, where she lettered in Varsity Track & Field, and in Cross Country, where she earned All-America honors in 2004.

ReubenReuben Gottlieb, Chair – Finance Committee. Reuben is a currently a JD candidate at Brooklyn Law school. Prior to pursuing a law degree, Reuben was a Forensics and Investigations Associate at Deloitte & Touche, LLP. Reuben previously held consulting and valuation internships at the University of Albany, WeiserMarz LLP, and Mark S. Gottlieb, CPA CP. Reuben received a Masters Degree in Forensic Accounting and a BS in Accounting from the University of Albany, SUNY.


BrentBrent Herbert, Co-Chair – Development Committee. Brent is a Vice President at Nomura Securities in New York, where he focuses on Structured Products Sales. Prior to joining Nomura, Brent spent two years in the Rotational Analyst program at JP Morgan Chase. Brent Received a BS in Finance from Lehigh University, and is an MBA Candidate (2016) at Columbia University.


MattMatthew Hicks. Matt is a Director of Proprietary Trading of U.S. and European Residential MBS securities at RBC Capital Markets in New York.  Prior to joining RBC, Matt was an Associate Vice-President on the Residential MBS/ABS Investment Team at Hyperion Brookfield Asset Management in New York. Matt holds a BS in Computer Engineering from University of Pittsburgh, where he graduated Magna Cum Laude. Matt also served on the Bronx Academy of Letters Advisory Board from 2006-20012.


ChelseaChelsea Jurman. Chelsea is an Equity Research Analyst at Goldman, Sachs, where she covers the semiconductor industry. Chelsea has also covered the Healthcare industry and worked in Goldman’s Investment Management group in previous stints as a summer analyst. Chelsea graduated Phi Beta Kappa/Magna Cum Laude from Yale University earning a BA in Political Science. Chelsea’s senior thesis was entitled, “Gifted and Underserved: How New York City’s education policies struggle to identify gifted students from minority and low-income communities”. Chelsea has also interned for Senator Chuck Schumer, and placed 5th nationwide in the prestigious Intel Science Talent Search, earning a $25,000 prize.

ErinErin Lenahan. Erin is an Executive Assistant at DigitasLBi US, a global marketing and technology agency that transforms businesses for the digital age. Prior to joining Digitas, Erin held high school English teaching positions at the Noble Charter School Network, the Bronx Academy of Letters, and the High School of Graphic Communication Arts. Erin Holds a Masters Degree in Secondary Education and Teaching from Pace University, and a Bachelors Degree in English Language and Literature from the University of Michigan.


StephanieStephanie Orphan, Co-Chair – Programming Committee. Stephanie is the Director of Publisher Relations at Portico, based in New York City and Princeton, New Jersey. Stephanie is responsible for maintaining and expanding publisher participation in the Portico preservation service to ensure ongoing growth and sustainability of the Portico archive. Prior to joining Portico, Stephanie was editor-in-chief of College & Research Libraries News at the Association of College & Research Libraries, responsible for the ACRL web site and e-learning program, at the Museum of Broadcast Communications in Chicago, and as assistant director for information services in the University of Chicago’s Career & Placement Services. Stephanie holds an M.S. in library & information science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and was a member of the first cohort of the LEEP online ed program. She also holds an M.A. in literary studies from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

JasonJason Pereira. Jason is a Director in the Consulting and Execution team at Pfizer where he focuses on corporate, commercial and R&D issues that impact Pfizer globally. Prior to joining Pfizer, Jason spent 10 years at PricewaterhouseCoopers, where he was most recently a Strategy & Operations Director and had Business Development and Learning & Development responsibilities in addition to working with clients on consulting engagements. Jason has also held various positions at the Scotts Miracle-Gro Company, Owens Corning and Mahindra & Mahindra. Jason holds an MBA and a MS in Industrial & Systems Engineering from the Ohio State University. He also holds a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering from the University of Mumbai.

JuniaJunia Zhang, Co-Chair – Strategic Planning Committee. Junia currently works in Data Science, Analytics & Insights at Birchbox in NYC, and previously held roles as the Director of Strategy & Ops at Circa, a mobile news startup, and as a Summer Associate at the Boston Consulting Group. Junia graduated from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, where she concentrated in Finance and Operations & Information Management. Junia has conducted research on maternal health in Indonesia, developed strategic initiatives for social entrepreneurship as a Compass Fellow, forecasted and budgeted as the Finance Director of the Wharton Social Impact Fellowship, and continues to implement community service projects as part of the Do Good Division at Birchbox.



AntaAnta Cissé-Green. Ms. Cissé-Green is senior counsel in the private client services section of the tax practice group at Akin Gump StrauseHauer & Feld. She advises wealthy individuals on tax-efficient vehicles for the transfer of wealth, complex estate and trust administration issues, charitable planning strategies, and the formation and administration of tax-exempt organizations. Ms. Cissé-Green also advises clients on strategic succession planning for closely-held family businesses. Ms. Cissé-Green is a member of Akin Gump’s New York Pro Bono Committee and Diversity Committees, and a director of the firm’s Pro Bono Clinic. Ms. Cissé-Green received her LLM in Tax from NYU School of Law in January 2014, her J.D. magna cum laude from Brooklyn Law School in 2003, and her B.A. in 1995 from Cedar Crest College.

Sakib Dadi.

S. Douglas-Heck - PictureShahkira Douglas-Heck. Shahkira is a Vice President in the Legal and Compliance Department with BlackRock in New York, NY where she provides compliance and regulatory advisory support to the global Alternatives businesses (including, hedge funds, private equity funds and real estate). Shahkira has an aggregate of more than twelve years of experience gained in both the United States and Europe in legal private practice and the in-house compliance advisory function. She worked as a senior compliance officer with Deutsche Bank in London, UK and Frankfurt, Germany. She practiced law as a senior associate with Goodwin Procter and Tannenbaum Helpern in their New York, NY offices and internationally with Jones Day in both their New York, NY and Frankfurt, Germany offices. Shahkira is a licensed attorney in the United States (New York) and in England and Wales. She attended the University of Pennsylvania (B.A. English and Political Science,cum laude, 1999), Georgetown University Law Center (J.D., 2002), University of Frankfurt, Institute for Law and Finance (LL.M., 2005). Shahkira attended Horace Mann School in Riverdale, NY where she played lacrosse and track and field. Shahkira speaks German (advanced), French (conversant) and Spanish (basic).

LoriLori Haims. Lori is the Training and Certification Manager at the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) where she oversees a global network of professional development and certification programs focused on the improvement of teaching and learning of all languages at all levels of instruction. Prior to joining ACTFL, she worked at Sawyer Realty Holdings LLC, as a portfolio manager of residential and commercial properties dealing extensively with subsidized tenant housing, government agencies and property rehabilitation. Lori is a member of the Professional Women of Westchester organization, and has volunteered as an ESL tutor for children. Lori holds a BS in Business administration from Boston University.


CarlosCarlos Lopez. Carlos is Associate General Counsel at The Vitamin Shoppe, where he provides advice and counsel to senior leadership on a wide variety of matters and oversees all company litigation. Prior to joining The Vitamin Shoppe, Carlos was a labor and employment attorney at a large law firm in Manhattan. Carlos graduated from New York Law School in 2008 and The University of Central Florida in 2003.


DerekDerek SoltisDerek is a Partner of the Law Offices of Patel and Soltis, a law firm in Jersey City, NJ. Mr. Soltis focuses on bankruptcy, foreclosure and trust & estate cases, serving Hudson County, as well as clients throughout New Jersey. Prior to joining Paten and Soltis, Derek was a process engineer for over 12 years, most recently as a manager at Grainger and a project manager for Advanced Discovery. Derek is a Relativity Certified Administrator (RCA) Attorney and a member of the New York bar. Derek holds a JD from Rutgers University School of Law, an MBA from the Fordham University Graduate School of Business Administration and a BA in computer information systems from the University of Houston.

SethSeth Tutlis. Seth is a director at HCAP Advisors, LLC. His responsibilities include deal origination, underwriting, structuring, and portfolio management. Prior to joining HCAP, Seth held positions at Prospect Capital, Patriot Capital Funding and AllianceBernstein, and has held various board and investment committee positions over the course of his career. Seth holds an MBA from the Yale School of Management and a BS from Sacred Heart University. He also holds the CFA designation.

PatriciaPatricia VignoloPatricia held a legal consultant position at UHAB Inc. with a specialization on contract law, corporate law and regulatory compliance. Additionally, she has worked as a project manager and financial advisor for small real estate businesses. She has a Master in Laws from Brooklyn Law School, where she was the President of the LL.M. Program. Previously, she worked in Argentina and Spain as an Attorney for public organizations and private companies.

CaraCara Weber. Cara teaches a range of courses in literature, composition, and film at Pace University in Manhattan. As a teacher, Cara seeks to equip students with the tools and desire to evaluate and to change the world they encounter. She earned her PhD in Literature from Johns Hopkins University in 2013; her research considers the intersection of literature and philosophy.  Prior to her graduate studies, Cara spent a year teaching in Germany as a fellow of the Robert Bosch Stiftung.  She earned her BA (summa cum laude, phi beta kappa) from Duke University in 2003 with majors in literature and French.  She speaks decent German and fluent French.

RyanRyan Williams. Ryan Williams knows first-hand the importance of early and personalized attention for developing superior reading and writing skills. Having personally benefited from the availability of outside assistance during grade school, Ryan soon grew to enjoy what was formerly his least favorite subject. After graduating with Honors degrees in English Literature and Economics from New York University, he spent two years as an investment banking analyst on Wall Street before jumping into the startup world. He has enjoyed backpacking through over two dozen countries and during his time in Japan, discovered matcha green tea, which led to his current employ at PANATEA. When Ryan’s not volunteering, he can be found at the gym by day and techno warehouse parties by night.