The Loeb Center for Career Exploration and Planning Advisory Council consists of a dynamic group dedicated to expanding the Center’s reach and ability to connect students with experiential opportunities in order to translate their Amherst educations into a future career.

Council members 2020 -2023

Julie Ajinkya

JULIE AJINKYA ’03

Julie Ajinkya, Ph.D., is the Vice President of Applied Research at the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP). Her research interests include equity in postsecondary education and innovative models that improve degree completion for underserved populations. Prior to joining IHEP, Ajinkya worked at the Center for American Progress (CAP), where she focused primarily on underserved populations and the impact that demographic change has on a diverse portfolio of policy issues. Her work at CAP culminated in the production of a book, All-In Nation: An America That Works For All, which argues that equity is the best model for economic growth and lays out a federal policy blueprint to close gaps between racial/ethnic groups and meet our future workforce needs. Ajinkya also serves as a visiting professor of Government at Cornell University’s campus in Washington, D.C., where she teaches courses on race, inequality and public policy.In 2019, Diverse Issues in Higher Education named Julie one of the Top 35 Women in Higher Education. Ajinkya earned her M.A. and Ph.D. in Government from Cornell University and holds a B.A. in Political Science from Amherst College.

Catherine E

CATHERINE EPSTEIN

Catherine Epstein has been Amherst’s dean of the faculty since 2014, and became the college’s first provost and dean of the faculty in 2019. The provost and dean of the faculty is the chief academic officer of the college and has primary responsibility for matters of academic policy and for the academic budget. A professor of history at the college since 2000, Epstein is a scholar of German history and the author of four books, including Model Nazi: Arthur Greiser and the Nazi Occupation of Western Poland (Oxford, 2010) and a textbook, Nazi Germany: Confronting the Myths (Wiley-Blackwell, 2015). Provost Epstein has taught a wide range of European history classes, including courses on the Holocaust, Nazi Germany, and World War II.  

Chip Garner CHIP GARNER ’89

Chip Garner is Senior Vice President at MWWPR, creating and implementing integrated communications strategies for a variety of corporate and crisis clients.

Directly prior to MWWPR, he was VP, Americas, for British Airways, where he oversaw all media relations, crisis, creative, and corporate campaigns for the global airline in the Americas, Caribbean, and Bermuda. Prior to British Airways, he was Senior Vice President of Social at the world-renowned advertising agency Ogilvy, working extensively in influencer management, crisis and nuisance governance, executive positioning and training, and content development, as well as providing strategic direction for global clients.

His background includes a rewarding time at Rubenstein PR as the VP of Digital Strategies, as well as stops at Showtime Networks, the New York Times, and, at the beginning of his career, ABC News. He has also produced award-winning independent films and directed infomercials in Florida.

Jeff Glass JEFF GLASS ’90

Jeffrey Glass is the co-founder and CEO of Hometap Equity Partners, a data-driven, residential real estate platform that is changing home ownership financing by providing homeowners with a financial alternative to debt. A serial entrepreneur, business operator, and investor, Jeff started his first company during his first year at Amherst College, and since then has been the founder and CEO of multiple successful technology-driven companies over the past 3 decades. He’s led businesses through difficult survival moments, as well as through periods of award-winning hyper growth. He has also been an investor in a broad set of businesses during his tenure as a Managing Director at Bain Capital Ventures.   

Jeff sees entrepreneurship as the “liberal arts” of business and credits his enthusiasm for starting companies to the critical thinking he learned at Amherst and a desire to help talented and driven people perform at their best. This passion has made its way into the nonprofit world, where he helped create BUILD Boston, an organization that teaches entrepreneurship to at-risk students as a way of motivating them to excel in high school and go on to college.   

Jeff majored in Political Science and Economics at Amherst College. His love and appreciation for his time at Amherst has led Jeff to hold a number of alumni roles over time, including Class Agent, Class President, Reunion Chair, Regional Capital Campaign Committee Member, Student Mentor and others. Jeff earned a M.B.A. from Harvard Business School, where he later served as an Entrepreneur in Residence. He and his wife, Amy, live in Brookline, Massachusetts, and have three children.

Brad Goldberg BRAD GOLDBERG ’91 

Brad Goldberg is the CEO of Quartz Strategic, where he partners with tech CEOs and investment firms on strategy, product, and organization during periods of transformation. Clients span diverse segments from fintech to consumer lifestyle, with platform, marketplace, or community as core to their business models.

Brad started his career at a tech startup in Tokyo before working in strategy consulting. He then spent 12 years at Microsoft, first in product management roles in Visual C++ and SQL Server and later in general management roles, leading multi-billion p&ls in Server Platforms, Windows, and Search. 

After Microsoft, Brad joined PEAK6 Investments as CEO of Online, where he built digital fintech companies on the firm’s trading and risk platforms. Later, as President of PEAK6, he started, operated, sold, invested in, and advised a broad portfolio of data-driven businesses. Brad scaled the online brokerage OptionsHouse, ultimately sold to E*TRADE, and took the clearing firm Penson private and transformed it into an industry leader in digital custody and clearing as Apex. Brad is the Lead Independent Director and Chair of the Presiding Committee for Spark Networks (NYSE:  LOV), based in Berlin.

Brad holds a B.A. in Economics from Amherst College, an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School, and passed the highest level of the Japanese Proficiency Test, certifying fluency in Japanese. Brad is a passionate cook and wine enthusiast who earned a Level 2 Award with distinction from the Wine Spirits Education Trust. Brad is inspired by the common design and cultural elements in Japan and Italy.

Elizabeth Grayer ELIZABETH GRAYER ’86

Elizabeth Grayer is a lawyer and a nonprofit executive.  She spent much of her career at the law firm of Cravath, Swaine and Moore, where she was the second female litigation partner in Cravath’s history.  At Cravath she litigated cases in court, conducted investigations, provided legal counsel, and represented clients in arbitrations and mediations.  Also while at Cravath, Elizabeth taught, recruited lawyers, and spoke about issues relating to the law and to women in the law.  In 2011, Elizabeth changed her professional focus and became the President of Legal Momentum (formerly the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund). At Legal Momentum, she used legal and policy advocacy to help ensure the economic and personal security of all women and girls.  Since leaving Legal Momentum, Elizabeth has served as an interim executive, a consultant, and a very active board member at a number of different nonprofit organizations.  Recently, she was the interim chief operations officer at Sponsors for Educational Opportunity (SEO).  Elizabeth graduated magna cum laude with a degree in Philosophy and also holds a J.D. cum laude from Harvard Law School.

Doug Grissom

DOUGLAS C. GRISSOM ’89, P’22

Doug Grissom is a Managing Director on the Meredith Corporation’s (MDP) Business & Government Software and Services team. Prior to joining MDP, he was with Bain Capital in private equity, McKinsey & Company, and Goldman Sachs. Doug currently serves on the Boards of Directors of BlueCat Networks, CoVant Technologies II and Fleet Complete. In addition, he was formerly on the Boards of Directors of @stake, Aderant, Asurion, Cbeyond, Fieldglass, Great Lakes Dredge and Dock, Intelsat, LGS Innovations, Lightspeed Systems, LinQuest Corporation and Neoworld. Outside of MDP, he is a Board Member at Amherst College, the Harvard Business School Fund Council, the Lincoln Park Zoo, METROsquash, the Museum of Science and Industry, the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, and Churchill Downs.

Robert Kwak ROBERT KWAK ’92

Robert Kwak has held numerous operational roles throughout his career for creative companies and mission-driven organizations. He presently serves as Chief Operating Officer of Benchmark Arts, a concept development and art fabrication firm, serving artists, galleries, themed entertainment companies, and cultural institutions. The firm’s clients include emerging and mid-career artists, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Clark Art Institute, the Contemporary Art Museum of St. Louis, the Rose Kennedy Greenway, and Walt Disney Imagineering.  Robert is also a visiting lecturer at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, where he teaches in the Studio for Interrelated Media. 

Prior to Benchmark, Robert founded Muu, a contemporary furniture company committed to sustainable design and domestic production. A finalist for the 2009 Industrial Design Society of America’s International Design Excellence Awards, the company received media coverage from Dwell, the LA Times, and California Home + Design, among others. 

Earlier in his career, Robert worked on state and national political campaigns and served as the head of operations at a human services nonprofit. He began his career in the college marketing department at Sony Music. In addition to his work at Benchmark Arts, Robert is a member of the Advisory Board for the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston.

He holds a B.A., magna cum laude, in Interdisciplinary/Cultural Studies from Amherst College, as well as a J.D. from Georgetown University.

Melissa Lawrence MELISSA A. LAWRENCE ’91

Melissa Lawrence graduated Phi Beta Kappa and summa cum laude from Amherst in 1991, receiving the George A. Plimpton Fellowship from the Board of Trustees. While at Amherst, she also received a Forris Jewett Moore Fellowship for work at Yale Law School. 

After Amherst, she studied philosophy as the French department's fellow at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris for one year and then at Cambridge University as Amherst’s Evan Carroll Commager Fellow, where she earned an M.Phil. Melissa then attended Harvard Law School pursuant to Amherst’s John Woodruff Simpson Fellowship. 

After clerking for a federal judge (S.D.N.Y.) and working at Covington & Burling in Washington D.C., Melissa worked as a senior corporate attorney for HBO and then, throwing caution to the wind, turned to the internet video space. She is now the CEO of Cloudmom, an internet video resource for pregnant women and new moms that has over 21 million YouTube views and enjoys a large social media following. Cloudmom has worked with Amazon, MasterCard, United Healthcare, Chicco, Inglesina, and various other brands in the parenting space and had the pleasure of employing a talented Amherst student during the summer of 2020 through the Loeb Center. 

Melissa has appreciated opportunities to volunteer at Amherst as a Class Agent and member of the Annual Fund Committee. She also enjoys tailgating as the Co-President of the Class of ’91. A mom of six, Melissa resides in Barcelona, Spain.

Charles Lewis

CHARLES ASHBY LEWIS ’64, H’03, P’93

Charles Ashby Lewis is Chairman of the Lewis-Sebring Family Foundation and Managing Partner of Coach House Capital, his family office. He is a retired Vice Chairman, Investment Banking, of Merrill Lynch & Co., having worked for it and a predecessor from 1970 to 2004. Chuck was Assistant to the President and CEO of Computer Technology, Inc., 1969-70, and served in the U.S. Army from 1966-69, attaining the rank of Captain.

Chuck was educated at Amherst College, graduating in 1964, and he received his M.B.A. from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in 1966. He received honorary degrees from Amherst and Grinnell College.

Chuck was a Trustee of the University of Chicago. He has long been involved with the UChicago Urban Education Institute (UEI) in a number of capacities. He is also a life member of the College Advisory Council and a member of the Division of the Social Sciences Advisory Council.

He is a Life Trustee of Amherst, co-chaired one of its campaigns, and is actively involved with its Loeb Center for Career Exploration and Planning as an Advisory Council member. He is a Life Trustee of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and a Trustee of the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago. He is on the Leadership Council of the Chicago Public Education Fund, and he is a member of the Commercial Club of Chicago.  

He was a member of the National Finance Committee for both Obama presidential campaigns and has authored numerous commentaries he calls “Obamagrams.” He has also authored “PetePosts,” “Exograms,” and “BidenBriefs.”

Chuck is married to Penny Bender Sebring, Ph.D., a Senior Research Associate at the University of Chicago and the Co-Founder of the UChicago Consortium on School Research, a principal component of UEI. They have three children and five grandchildren.

Micheal Loeb MICHAEL LOEB ’77, P’21

Michael Loeb is a serial entrepreneur and the founder and CEO of Loeb.nyc.

After starting his career at Time, Inc., Michael co-founded the Synapse Group with partner Jay Walker. Under Michael’s direction, Synapse grew to become the largest seller of consumer magazine subscriptions worldwide, with its revolutionary and patented Continuous Service Model. Michael and Jay went on to form and incubate Priceline.com together at Synapse, leveraging a shared team of operators and capital.

When Synapse Group was sold to Time Warner in 2006, Michael formed Loeb Enterprises with partner Rich Vogel to ideate and develop new business concepts. The largest of those ventures was ScriptRelief, a pharmacy discount provider that has a membership in excess of 12 million Americans.

In 2019, Loeb Enterprises rebranded to Loeb.nyc and now boasts a portfolio of over 18 direct investments, most of which execute from Loeb.nyc headquarters in Manhattan. Under Michael’s visionary leadership, Loeb.nyc has established a new model for startup investments. By pairing exceptional strategic and executional talent with passionate founders, Loeb.nyc significantly de-risks startup launches.

Michael sits on the board of several non-profit organizations and is an avid philanthropist. He currently resides in New York City with his wife and children. 

Beth Swanson

BETH SWANSON ’96

Beth Swanson is A Better Chicago’s CEO. In this role, she leads the organization’s work to fight poverty by investing in bold leaders and organizations serving Chicago youth. Prior to joining the A Better Chicago team, Beth was Vice President of Strategy and Programs at the Joyce Foundation, where she oversaw an annual grant portfolio of $50 million, provided strategic direction to all programs, and drove foundation-wide innovation initiatives. 

Beth previously served as Deputy for Education in the administration of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, working collaboratively with education and community leaders to define the city’s education policy agenda from birth through college. Earlier in her career, Beth was executive director of the Pritzker Traubert Family Foundation and worked at Chicago Public Schools with CEO Arne Duncan as director of the Office of Extended Learning Opportunities and then leading the district’s Office of Management and Budget. Beth is vice chair of the City Colleges’ Board of Trustees, Board Chair for the Partnership for College Completion, founder and Board member of Thrive Chicago, and a member of the Illinois P-20 Council. She holds a B.A. in English and American studies from Amherst College, as well as a master's in public policy from the University of Chicago.

Jason Spero JASON SPERO ’94

Jason Spero is Vice President, Global Business at Google. He is the Global Business Lead for Search, Display, Shopping, Analytics, and Google Marketing Platforms offerings. Previously, Jason was Global VP of Mobile, where he drove strategy and operations for Google’s Mobile offerings on Search, Display, and YouTube. Jason is passionate about the transformative influence of mobility and connectivity.

Jason joined Google in May 2010 as part of the company’s acquisition of AdMob, where he was Vice President and General Manager of North America, responsible for strategy and operations. In this role, he also led the company’s Sales, Business Development, and Marketing teams. 

Jason has more than 20 years of experience in product, marketing, and general management functions in mobile at Google, AdMob, Digital Chocolate, and Openwave. He was also an Entrepreneur in Residence at Redpoint Ventures.  

Jason holds a B.A. from Amherst College and an M.B.A. from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management. He serves on the Board of Directors of GirlsWhoCode. He is an advisor to Google’s growth equity investment fund CapitalG. Jason lives in San Francisco with his wife and two daughters.

Linda Steele LINDA STEELE ’85 

Linda Steele is the Founder and CEO of ArtUp, an idea incubator and business accelerator that breaks down barriers to the creative economy; nurtures ideas that drive social change; and launches artists into creative entrepreneurship. ArtUp initially began as a grantmaking initiative under Steele’s leadership as Chief Engagement Officer at ArtsMemphis. Additional accomplishments during her tenure include creating an arts-based, community development grant portfolio, the Engagement Transforms Communities (ETC ) grants, and launching a Community Engagement Fellowship to build the capacity of Memphis artists and neighborhood leaders in the field. She is the driving force behind the transformation of an abandoned storefront and former liquor store into an art gallery and community flex space called OMG in Orange Mound, Memphis, TN. This work has allowed her opportunities to present on the power of arts, creativity, and innovation to revitalize disinvested communities at conferences and workshops across the country and around the world. 

A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Linda has used her entrepreneurial expertise in the past to help open a first arts-based private pre-school in Park Slope, Brooklyn. She has served in leadership positions at Urban Gateways: Center for Arts Education, the Art Institute of Chicago, and Cool Culture, Inc., and has an extensive background in youth development and education. She is a graduate of both Amherst College and Harvard University. 

Her work at ArtUp and ArtsMemphis has received numerous honors and awards, including: the inaugural Robert E. Gard Award from Americans for the Arts; 2016 and 2017 Artworks grants from the National Endowment for the Arts; membership in the 2016-17 PlaceLab Salon Sessions in Chicago, Illinois; and 2017-18 membership in New INC in New York City, the first museum-led incubator dedicated to supporting innovation, collaboration, and entrepreneurship across art, design, and technology. She is a 2020 City of Memphis Housing and Community Development Trailblazer Award winner. Steele is the host of The Artivism Podcast on the OAM Network, where she interviews artists, activists, and creatives who work at the intersection of art and social activism.

Rob Tarkoff ROB TARKOFF ’91 P’22

Rob serves as the Executive Vice President of Oracle CX Cloud and Oracle Data Cloud, responsible for the Front Office Application suite, including Sales, Service, Marketing, Content, and Commerce Product businesses, as well as Oracle's Ad-Tech business. Prior to Oracle, he was President and CEO of Lithium Technologies, where he grew the business from under $30M in revenue to well over $100M in ARR prior to its sale to Vista Equity Partners. He joined Lithium from Adobe Systems, where he served as Senior Vice President and General Manager of the Digital Enterprise Solutions business unit that had annual revenue in excess of $1.3 billion and represented approximately 40% of all of Adobe's revenue.

Before Adobe, he held responsibility for several divisions of the EMC Software group and the software storage outsourcing business. Prior to EMC, he was an EVP at Documentum, Inc., where he helped lead the sale of the company to EMC in 2003. Prior to Documentum, he was the EVP of Strategy and Business Development for Commerce One, Inc., and was responsible for the formation and operation of the Global Trading Web network, which included the automotive JV Covisint, Inc. Earlier his career, he was an Associate Attorney at the law firm of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati and a financial analyst at Goldman Sachs & Co.

Rob holds a J.D. from Harvard Law School (cum laude) and a B.A. from Amherst College (magna cum laude). Additionally, he serves or has served on several public Boards, all of which have achieved strong financial outcomes through sale of the businesses. He currently serves on the Board of CDK Global, a $2B provider of digital solutions and DMS systems to the Automotive industry.

Rob is a member of the President's Campaign Board at Amherst College and formerly was a member of the Advisory Board at the Lawrence Hall of Science at U.C. Berkeley.

Adrianna Turner ADRIANNA M. TURNER ’14

Adrianna M. Turner is a senior team manager consultant for Blueprint Talent Group LLC. Following graduation, she served as an Amherst College post-graduate fellow for diversity and inclusion as well as served as interim director for the Multicultural Resource Center (MRC). In 2016, she served on the College’s Presidential Task for Force for Diversity and Inclusion. Adrianna majored in neuroscience with a specialization in culture health and science and currently resides in Chicago, Illinois.

Crystal Valentine CRYSTAL VALENTINE ’04

Crystal Valentine, Ph.D., has a career that has spanned industry, academia, and investing.  In September 2020, she became a Partner at Cross Creek Advisors, a venture capital firm in Salt Lake City. At Cross Creek, Crystal looks forward to combining her unique background, including operational experience and deep technical expertise, to lead direct investments in technology companies.  

Prior to joining Cross Creek, Crystal held operational roles within the technology industry.  Most recently, she was the Chief Data Strategy Officer at Eventbrite, a publicly-traded live events platform company, where she oversaw all technical and operational aspects of data and analytics. Her role included leading a global team of data scientists, architects, data engineers, and analysts who used data to improve operational efficiencies at Eventbrite and to integrate data-driven insights into the Eventbrite platform.  Prior to Eventbrite, she served as the VP of Technology Strategy at MapR Technologies, a pre-IPO big data platform company.  

A celebrated contributor to the industry, Crystal was named a 2020 Tech Executive Who Matters by HMG Strategy; 2019 Data Innovator of the Year by the Women Tech Council; a 2018 Person to Watch by Datanami, and a 2017 Silver Stevie awardee for Female Executive of the Year in the computer software category.

Before working in industry, Crystal established a reputation as an accomplished computer science researcher and professor. After completing her B.A. in Computer Science at Amherst College, her M.A./Ph.D. in Computer Science at Brown University, and a Fulbright Scholarship to Italy, Crystal served as a tenure-track Assistant Professor of Computer Science at Amherst College for two years, where she taught courses on big data, databases, and computational biology.  She’s authored several academic publications in the areas of big data, algorithms, computational biology, and high-performance computing. She also holds a patent for Extreme Virtual Memory.

Adrienne White-Faines ADRIENNE WHITE-FAINES ’82

Adrienne White-Faines brings a background in healthcare strategy and constant commitment to improve health status of populations across the globe to her work with the Financial Health Network (FHN), where she joined in 2020 as Vice President and Market Lead of Healthcare. In this role, she helps FHN navigate the intersection of physical health and wellbeing and financial health for employers and the healthcare sector, including payors, health and hospital systems, provider associations, tech ventures, and community organizations. 

Adrienne brings extensive experience as a healthcare executive in operations administration, strategy design and business development, and medical education, with complex health institutions, associations, and physician practices. 

Previously, Adrienne served as the CEO for the American Osteopathic Association (AOA), the professional association that represents more than 150,000 osteopathic physicians (or DOs) and medical students in the United States. Just prior, she was Vice President and Chief Health Officer at the American Cancer Society, Illinois Division, where she had oversight of research, education, advocacy, and patient services. She was also COO of a health care and physician practice management consulting firm after serving over 10 years in capital strategic planning and community services development at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. Before relocating to Chicago, she began her career working at both LA County Hospitals and the Health and Hospital Corporation in New York City.

Adrienne holds a B.A. degree from Amherst College, an M.P.A. from University of Southern California, and two honorary doctorates. She continues to serve on numerous local and national boards and advisories, committed to advancing equity for diverse populations.

Nic Zhou NIC ZHOU ’10

Nic Zhou is a Managing Director and Partner at the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) in their New York office. He joined BCG out of Amherst in 2010, starting in the Singapore office, and subsequently moved to New York in 2012. At BCG, he is a core member of the consumer and people and organization practices. He is an expert on the wine, beer, and spirits industry in the U.S. and globally, and has experience working in a wide array of other consumer-facing industries, including beauty, food and nutrition, luxury goods, travel and tourism, and durable goods. He has supported clients across a wide array of topics, most recently working with leadership teams to managing the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. At BCG, he is a leader in the firm's Asian Diversity Network. 

Outside of BCG, Nic is a member of the Chinese American Planning Council's Leadership Council, serving immigrant communities (Asian and non-Asian) in the New York area. At Amherst, Nic was an AAS Senator, President of the Debate Society, and an avid competitive debater. He majored in Political Science and Psychology. Nic lives in Manhattan with his wife, Priyanka.