“Colleges and universities have more resources, opportunities, and challenges in one place than many people will have again in their lives. Try everything - even, maybe especially, the things you’re not sure you’ll like or be good at.”
Amma comes to Shearwater after ten years of working on college campuses in the areas of student life and leadership. While there, she became curious about how employing and teaching creativity can change the way people learn, explore career paths, and think about the world they live in. She continues to explore this through her work at Shearwater, as well as through speaking, facilitating, and consulting on campuses and at companies nationwide. In her spare time, she loves trivia, exploring libraries and bookstores, cooking, and stand-up comedy (both watching and performing).
Byron Wasti -- Software Engineer
"The most challenging part of higher education for me was trying to work as hard as possible without burning myself out. I felt like I had to sprint in college to learn everything I could in four years, when in reality this caused me undue amounts of stress. Thankfully, I was part of an amazing community which helped me cope with stress. I can't imagine going through that experience feeling alone."
Byron is passionate about user-centered design for software systems. He joined Shearwater in order to help make an impact, and to develop robust, easy to use systems. He has a B.S. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Olin College of Engineering. In his free time he can be found tinkering on personal projects and biking.
Caleb Rakestraw-Morn - Partner Success Associate
"I really struggled to narrow down my focus in college. I'm very grateful to have been at a school that allowed me to cast a wide net, but I still should have focused more on particular goals or skill-sets I was interested in developing."
Caleb graduated with a degree in Philosophy from Carleton College. At Carleton he worked in the Learning and Teaching Center (LTC), an office on campus devoted to investigating questions of interest in higher education. In his time at the LTC he observed classes with an eye to student engagement and led discussion groups on various topics in Higher Ed. Caleb spends a disproportionate amount of his time thinking about coffee, dogs, and baseball.
Chris Elia - Higher Education Partnerships
"[The advice I would give my college self is] ask more questions, take advantage of more programs and opportunities outside of the classroom."
Chris Elia is from East Lyme, CT and graduated from Merrimack College in Andover, MA. After playing lacrosse in college, Chris moved to England where he continued to play and also worked as an ambassador of the sport within schools. This is what drove his interest in international education, and he has built his career working in sales and partnerships within higher ed. Chris came to Shearwater from Hotcourses, where he helped schools build their brand and generate interest from students in their target international markets.
Elise Tjernagel - Higher Education Partnerships
"I would have told my past self to spend more time learning and asking questions about what ELSE is out there... careers, professions, advanced degrees, industries... without feeling the pressure to make a choice about which one was right for me."
Elise was born and raised in inner-city Boston and deeply values the crossroads of culture and class that experience gave her. Prior to joining Shearwater, Elise was the Director of Sales and Marketing at MindMax where she led new university partnerships. She also worked with universities nationwide at Crimson Hexagon, a industry-leading SaaS company, and brings nonprofit experience from her work at Year Up, Inc. Elise earned her MBA in marketing at Simmons College School of Management and her Bachelor of Arts degree from Gordon College. Elise loves her (big) family, lifting weights, and playing the piano (in that order).
Eliza LaJoie - Director of Student Success
"[I would advise my college self to not] be afraid to take classes that you feel are challenging and far outside of your comfort zone -- especially those in STEM. And don't let early bad grades in those classes deter you. You belong in these classes, and your future self will be using the foundations that you build more than you know!"
Eliza is passionate about empowering all kinds of curious minds. Before joining Shearwater, she worked as a student advisor, data analyst and program manager in both non-profits and startups -- including Quad Learning and AVID -- focused on non-traditional and underserved students. She graduated magna cum laude from Cornell University, where she studied the history of US education policy and sat on the editorial board of the Cornell Daily Sun.
Eli Rose - Director of Engineering
"In high school, I had a fixed mindset. I was good at taking tests and skated by on that, and didn't think about academics too much or try to improve. In college I started taking computer science classes, and 1-2 years in hit a wall where my usual 'think really hard about it' strategy stopped working. This was existentially frustrating to me and I had zero coping strategies for it! It took a long time for me to build a growth mindset."
Eli is a person, and behaves accordingly. He graduated Oberlin College in Ohio, with majors in Computer Science and Creative Writing. Before coming to Shearwater, Eli worked at Cogo Labs in Kendall Square. He volunteers co-teaching a computer science class at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, and enjoys going to Effective Altruist meetups in Cambridge.
Gaby Yeshua - Mentorships Lead
"[The advice I would give my college self is] don't be afraid to do the things that scare you -- Turns out you're more than capable!"
Gaby is passionate about reducing educational disparity and supporting students through tricky transitions. While a student teacher in a 2nd grade classroom, Gaby conducted research on mindfulness and applies it to her everyday pedagogy. An eager learner, Gaby received her Bachelor’s in Psychology and Master of Arts in Teaching from Brandeis University. Gaby considers herself to be a life-long learner and hopes to travel the world!
George Boyar - Director of Partnership Operations
"I would advise my past self to take advantage of all the cool people around me. Going to college is about a lot more than getting good grades. I could have invested more in the unique opportunities provided by WashU, built more relationships with professors, and got involved in interesting side projects."
George savors taking apart problems. He joined Shearwater to create sustainable social impact. Before Shearwater, George worked with Bain & Company and founded a coworking space in St. Louis dedicated to supporting social entrepreneurs. While at Washington University in St. Louis for his undergraduate degree George studied Chinese, Computer Science, Entrepreneurship and Design.
Jackson Boyar - Co-Founder and CEO
"I attended college on a "traditional path," I wasn't the first in my family to attend college, and I was privileged by my upbringing. Even so, I faced serious social-emotional challenges in college. I was turned down by 10 of 11 schools and entered college coping with rejection and lacking confidence. I spent my early years in college trying to prove that my admissions experience wasn't representative of my potential. While I succeeded academically, I struggled deeply with balance, belonging, and self-confidence. It took me years to value my own opinions in the classroom and begin to fully appreciate my accomplishments. In retrospect, I am grateful for those who helped me persevere and forever empathetic to the challenges and pitfalls of a formative college experience."
Prior to founding Shearwater, Jackson worked at L.E.K. Consulting, helping businesses address their most pressing strategic challenges. Jackson is a proud alumnus of Indiana University and a fluent speaker of Mandarin Chinese.
James Morrissey - Co-Founder and COO
"I was very goal-oriented in college, and in order to achieve my goals, I had to improve my time-management skills and learn to focus on doing less, rather than more (quality over quantity)."
James, born in New York City, attended elementary school in Taipei. He later attended Stuyvesant High School and graduated Summa Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Carleton College with majors in Chemistry and Chinese. While studying abroad in China at several universities, James became passionate about mentorship as an effective mechanism for cross-cultural growth and integration, leading to the eventual creation of Shearwater. Previously, James worked at L.E.K., a global strategy consulting firm, and worked in recruiting/marketing for Teach for America.
Jessica Yee - Student Success Manager
“I would advise my past self to always remember to take care of yourself - which would include treating yourself from time to time (like taking a good nap, buying ice-cream, or just doing something you love).”
Jessica is a Philadelphia native who became passionate about reducing education inequality during her senior year in high school when budget cuts left her school of 2,000 students with only 2 counselors. She comes into Shearwater with experience in education research, non-profit work, mentorship, and student advising. Jessica also hopes to use her personal experience as a first-generation, low-income student to help students succeed in higher education. During her free time, she can be found volunteering with youth organizations and building model houses. Jessica holds a BA in Health and Societies from the University of Pennsylvania.
Lauren Dormer - Partnerships Associate
“[The advice I would give to my college self is] to be authentic, be interesting, but most importantly, be you. Also, always remember to live in the moment! It will be over before you know it.”
Lauren is passionate about empowering students and feels naturally inclined to help others succeed in everything they do. Lauren has a Bachelor’s degree from Chico State University in Social Science with a primary emphasis in Health and Human Services and a secondary emphasis in Child Development. During her undergraduate years at Chico State University, Lauren participated in a “Big Buddy” program that allowed her to be a mentor for International students. She guided students from all around the world and welcomed them into American college life.
In Lauren’s spare time, she loves to hike with her dog and discover new places. Her primary life goal is to visit as many countries as possible with her friends and family.
Max Wallace - Technical Advisor
Joe Michie - Higher Education Partnerships
"Almost every major cultural revolution, medical advance, or technological breakthrough has its origins in a decision that was made on a college campus. Higher education is the lifeblood of progress in the world."
Joe Michie is based in Denver, Colorado and has spent the last twelve years working closely with higher education leaders globally to identify and understand factors that lead students to leave an institution. After years of diagnosing student success challenges through market research and analytics at Hanover Research and Eduventures, Joe was driven to help grow a solution that is addressing these important challenges.
Joe Sutherland - Senior Data Advisor
Joe brings more than 15 years of statistics and software development experience to Shearwater. His academic work uses experimentation and novel statistical techniques to study political inequality and representation. Joe’s research is published in top peer-reviewed outlets. A proven leader in the research and public sectors, he built a successful analytical enterprise at Prattle and managed projects at The White House. Joe is a Ph.D. Candidate at Columbia; he holds a Master’s from Columbia and a Bachelor’s from Washington University in St. Louis.
Joseph Sweeney - Software Engineer
"The most challenging part of college was maintaining a healthy life balance. I had a difficult time prioritizing friends and fitness over school. I'd tell anybody that might be on that path to take a step back and realize they have the rest of their life to learn, so make sure they make time for the other aspects of life."
Joe graduated with a degree in Computer Science and Engineering from the University of Connecticut. There he focussed much of his time to learning mathematics and computer science including completing a research project in Markovian Coupling. Joe also spent his summers interning at The MITRE Corporation and NASA Jet Propulsion Lab where he learned how to develop software for the web. In his free time he can be found running, hiking, and reading about whatever topic he's currently interested in.
Maria Van Thienen - Marketing Associate
"I would advise my college self to not be afraid to try new areas of study -- especially ones I knew nothing about. I would also advise myself to actively seek out seniors and recent grads to speak with to learn more about their experiences and learnings."
Maria was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina and moved to the States at an early age. After high school, she took a gap year to travel around Europe, while based in Paris working as an au pair. She then moved to Boston to attend Northeastern University where she completed a major in Psychology and a minor in Business. Her most memorable experiences at Northeastern were volunteering as a Husky Ambassador, working as an Orientation Leader, and studying abroad in Australia. Maria also competed in the Ballroom Dance Team and volunteered at a nonprofit, teaching health classes in Boston public high schools. Before Shearwater, she worked in operations, marketing, and project management roles at various startups in Boston. Maria is most passionate about education, travel, and dance. She speaks English, French, and Spanish and her favorite styles of dance are salsa and swing.
MyHanh Ozonoff - Senior Partner Success Manager
"[One of the biggest challenges for me in college was] stepping into the person that I was becoming without feeling like I was leaving a version of myself or my community behind."
MyHanh is a champion of educational access and equity for students. She has spent more than a decade improving the educational experience through systems engineering and operations. MyHanh is a native Vietnamese speaker and first-generation college student, who was engaged in campus initiatives to increase dialogue across diverse communities during her undergraduate at Boston College. She earned her EdM from Boston University.
Polly Goss - Senior Partner Success Manager
"Juggling my responsibilities and workload as a teacher, alongside obtaining my Master's in Educational Leadership meant it was hard to manage my time effectively. I was lucky to have such a supportive mentor at my school, who helped me by offering encouragement and advice."
Polly is passionate about empowering students through personalized learning and mentorship. Before joining Shearwater, she taught high school English in London, U.K, for three years and is a Teach for All Ambassador. Polly’s first hand experience of moving to the U.S.A. compelled her to join Shearwater, to help others successfully integrate into life in the U.S.A. Polly loves to discover new places in her spare time, enjoys going to the theatre and is currently trying to learn Italian.
Polly has a Master’s degree from University College London in Educational Leadership and a Bachelor’s degree majoring in English Literature. Polly considers herself a global citizen and lifelong explorer!
Rose Petrozzino - Special Projects
"I love the people who work in education; I believe it's a space that welcomes passion, intelligence, and diversity. The drive of my coworkers is part of what motivates me to come to work every day."
Rose considers herself a lifelong learner eager to tackle problems in our educational institutions using the power of technology. After studying abroad in Spain, Rose graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Commonwealth Honors College with degrees in psychology and communication. In her previous role as Team Leader at Kure Creative, Rose excelled at promoting growth and efficiency within the company. She was driven to pursue a career in education technology after spending a summer teaching first grade math in Houston, TX. Rose’s other interests include wearable technologies, Italian food, and performing arts.
Sean Chung - Software Engineer
"In the education industry, we are actively investing in future generations. Although it's one of the slower-moving industries, it is also one of the most important ones."
Sean is a technology enthusiast that love experimenting with different mediums and has a passion for using technology to change the way people interact with each other. Prior to Shearwater, Sean was the co-founder and CTO for Wizdy, a startup that teaches health education through mobile games. Although he majored in computer science at Tufts University, Sean enjoys a wide range of hobbies including graphic design and music production.
Sidra Tareen - Partner Success Associate
"[The advice I would give my college self is] to keep a list of what work makes you proud, what brings you joy, and why. Don’t worry about how they fit into a career, because you will figure that out."
Sidra Tareen believes every student should feel empowered and supported. Before coming to Shearwater, she taught English in Malaysia through the Fulbright Program, worked at a digital marketing agency in San Francisco and earned her EdM from Harvard. Sidra is from Portland, OR and, as a lover of rain, coffee and trees, is a proper representative of the Pacific Northwest.
Sonia Li - Student Success Manager
"I would tell my college self (and remind present me) that life is so much richer when you take experiences as they come and don't remain fixated on following a preset timeline. Don't listen to what other people tell you happiness should like like; figure out what that means for yourself!"
Sonia is originally from Minnesota but has also called far-flung places such as Heidelberg, Frankfurt, Aix-en-Provence, the Loire Valley, and snowy Chicago her home. Over the past few years, she has taught university German and led study abroad programs while conducting doctoral research. With her free time, she enjoys learning new languages, volunteering for Imerman Angels, and taking pictures of her dog. She holds a BA in English, French, and German from Cornell University and a PhD in Comparative Literary Studies from Northwestern University.