our Board

Danesha Mead | Board President

Danesha Mead is first in her family to go to college. She grew up in Los Angeles and went to a high school where more students dropped out than went to college. She saw first hand how difficult the journey can be to navigate and is dedicated to helping the next generation avoid the many many mistakes she made herself.

Danesha works at McKinsey & Company where she focuses on data driven growth for technology, finance, and retail companies. She started her career at Hall Capital Partners, an investment management firm based in San Francisco, where she grew from a portfolio management analyst to an internal technology and operations strategy associate. Her love for technology drew her away from Hall to Salesforce, where she was an internal consultant for their marketing group focusing on data strategy, data visualization, and attribution modeling.

Danesha holds an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School, a Masters in Economics & Finance at the University of Leeds in England, and a BS from UCSD. Danesha also served on the board of the Financial Women’s Association of San Francisco. In her spare time, she makes and distributes maple syrup so that people can know what real syrup tastes like and enjoys morning walks with her daughter (7 months), dog and husband.

Ryan Baum | Board Vice President

Principal, Jump Associates

Ryan Baum is a Principal at Jump Associates. For the past 10 years he has acted as a partner and advisor to Fortune 500 executives setting the course for large-scale transformations and aggressive growth. That has included work ranging from helping a major airline clarify and roll-out a new corporate strategy, to partnering with an automotive company to recapture the Millennial market, to helping a technology giant break into the healthcare space by redefining the long-term care market.

Ryan is an active thought leader in business strategy and innovation. He teaches a course at Stanford University in which students draw upon methods from anthropology, design, and business strategy to discover insights about people and define new offerings. He has also written for publications such as FastCompany, spoken at conferences such as the Economist’s Ideas Economy conference, and guest lectured at universities such as Wharton and Berkley.

Ryan holds a B.A. in Ethics, Politics and Economics from Yale University.

Hanish Rathod | Finance Committee Chair

Director of Global Go-To-Market Strategy, Zendesk

Hanish is the Director of Global Go-To-Market Strategy at Zendesk where he leads global GTM strategies, product strategy and integrated sales, marketing and channel strategy . Additionally, he leads enablement, pricing & packaging and market intelligence. He has over 15 years of tech industry experience in functions that include product development, marketing, strategy and investing.

Prior to Zendesk, Hanish worked in product marketing at The Climate Corporation, driving global go-to-market strategies, product strategy, messaging & positioning and channel enablement. Earlier at VMware, Hanish was the global lead product marketing manager for vSphere with Operations Management. He has also worked in asset management in New York leveraging his expertise in investment analysis on tech companies for Morgan Stanley.

Hanish went to Harvard Business School and has a Masters in Electrical Engineering from UCLA, and a Bachelors of Engineering from Vanderbilt. Outside of work, Hanish has been actively involved in higher education legislation in Washington D.C. for over 10 years. His grass roots efforts led to the house bill H.R. 3412 (Higher Education Affordability and Equity act) during the 108th congress and continues to serve through various channels to advocate on behalf of students.

John A. Spensieri | Development Committee Chair

Retired Financial Advisor

John served as a Financial Advisor in San Francisco with MorganStanley SmithBarney. Prior to that he was a Financial Advisor with Wells Fargo Advisors in NYC.. He made a career change into the financial services industry joining AG Edwards in NYC which was acquired by Wachovia Securities, which was then acquired by Wells Fargo Advisors.

Prior to Wells Fargo Advisors he was a VP & Senior Partner with Core Strategies, a market development consulting firm providing services to technology small businesses to help them dramatically grow their sales & profitability.

Previous responsibilities included Chief Marketing Officer for an eMarketplace startup Fast Parts, President of a new business unit within International Data Group, Senior Vice President of Business Development for Avnet’s Computer Marketing Group and Vice President of Marketing for Arrow Electronics’ Commercial System Group.

John received his MBA in Marketing from Loyola University in Chicago and a BSME from Marquette University in Milwaukee. John is a board member of the San Francisco Embarcadero YMCA, has served on the board of the NYC McBurney YMCA, Enterprise for HS Students- Board member & mentor in the Career Exploration Program, Career Coach for Summer Search, Volunteer for KIPP Charter Schools, Volunteer for First Graduate, Co-op Board Finance Committee Chairman, Co-President of the NYC Loyola Chicago Alumni and Host Committee member for Marquette University Circles events. Has served on various committees including the advisory committee for Youth Chance HS, YMCA Board Development Committee, YMCA Financial Development Committee , Program and Development for EHSS and Mentor for Enterprise for Youth. He and his wife Jayne enjoy collecting Contemporary Art and traveling.

John is a first generation college graduate.

Siddharth R. Alexander | Board Member

Managing Director, Investment Portfolio at Wells Fargo

Siddharth began his volunteer journey with First Graduate in 2009, joining the Board of Directors in 2018.

“I’ve supported and been involved with First Graduate for almost ten years now. The culture of the organization and level of dedication to the students and mission is truly impressive. Despite their success, I’ve valued their continued focus on the San Francisco area to help students be the first in their families to graduate college. Last year I had the opportunity to meet the college graduates I tutored when I first volunteered at First Graduate in 2008. It’s hard to express the mixed emotions of pride, joy, and mostly gratitude that I and other volunteers felt to have another class of students enter the work force and adult life equipped with a college degree, in large part due to First Graduate’s support. And if I were to gauge success, the same graduates fully recognize the benefits and support they have received from First Graduate’s staff, volunteers and donors. If you believe that education is near the top of the list to directly or indirectly make for a better world and better human beings, I would strongly urge you to consider supporting First Graduate in any capacity.”

Marvell C. Allen | Board Member

Principal & Owner, Millennium Career Advantage, LLC

Marvell C. Allen is Owner and Principal, of Millennium Career Advantage, LLC, a professional leadership development and coaching practice, started in 2010.  Current and past clients have included Twitter, LinkedIn, Contra Costa County, The Bureau of Indian Affairs (U.S. Department of the Interior), Marin County, UC Davis, Marriott International, City of Mountain View, Kaiser Permanente, SanDisk, Watermark, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, The Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, and Genentech, to name a few.

Marvell is an expert at delivering executive, management, and staff development programs that support organizational objectives. Moreover, she has a solid track record as a training leader for dynamic organizations to resolve complex business issues. Marvell is known as a key strategic partner for senior executives and cross-functional teams to help achieve business imperatives.

Marvell has spent many years supporting strategic organizational/learning initiatives with topics including:

  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Change Management
  • Inclusive Leadership
  • Executive Presence
  • Organizational Influence
  • StrengthsFinder
  • Conflict Management
  • Building Effective Relationships and Alliances

Marvell’s academic credentials include a BA degree from UC Berkeley, a MA in Political and Economic Assessment (International Business Asia) from Dominican University of California, and coaching certifications in StrengthsFinder, Leadership/Talent Management, and Career Management Coaching.

Neera Bhat | Board Member

Managing Director, Accenture

Neera is a Managing Director at Accenture, and like all of our students she is the first in her family to graduate from college.

Gopa Dasari | Board Member

Gopa Dasari was a volunteer with First Graduate for seven years before joining the board. Over the past 10 years, he has worked in the Private Wealth Management industry, dealing primarily with high-net-worth families and institutions.

Daniel Curme | Board Member

Professional Development Administrator at Minerva Schools at KGI

Dan Curme is a Professional Development Administrator at Minerva Schools at KGI, a relatively new non-profit university program built on principles of the science of learning and which equips students with practical skills and knowledge for the 21st century. He works with some of the brightest undergraduate students from around the world to help shape their professional interests and opportunities outside the classroom – and he does this without having a Minerva alumni network to lean on (the first graduating class in May 2019). Based on his experience teaching in the classroom, managing education programs, and advising students, Dan believes effective change in education comes from passionate, well-supported individuals and teams working in innovative and forward-thinking models.

Dan has spent his entire professional career in education, working and volunteering at organizations around the world with a variety of age groups. His experience includes Junior Achievement, City Year, College Access Now, Seattle Public Schools, StudentVox, and Minerva Schools.  For 7 summers, Dan coached at Ultimate Peace, a non-profit ultimate Frisbee summer camp for Palestinian and Israeli youth.

Dan has co-written two Master’s theses, both of which explored college culture and supporting first-generation students in high school and college. Dan holds a BA in Modern Middle East History from Carleton College and an MA in Higher Education Administration from Stanford University.

Mark Hamilton | Board Member

CEO & Founder, Hamilton Zanze

Prior to co-founding Hamilton Zanze in 2001, Mark Hamilton sponsored the acquisition, ownership, and development of nearly 40 properties in the Bay Area. Mark’s main focus has always been locating value-add properties in changing urban neighborhoods and then re-working them into higher-quality buildings with higher incomes, improved tenant profiles, and higher resale values.

Mark has considerable experience in partnership formations and operations, project planning and implementation, asset management and management oversight, landlord-tenant and rent-control issues, risk management, and zoning and building department matters. Before forming his own commercial brokerage and investment business in 1994, Mark worked in the San Francisco office of Marcus & Millichap, subsequently co-founding Property Resource Group (real estate brokerage) and Quantum Land Company (development).

Mark earned a B.A. with High Honors in English Literature from San Francisco State University and an M.A. in English and American Literature from Brandeis University, which he attended as a University Scholar and Fellow.

Jenny Kao | Board Member

Chief Policy Advisor to the President of the University of California

Jenny Kao is the Chief Policy Advisor to the President of the University of California system of 10 UC campuses, 6 medical centers, and 3 affiliated national laboratories, where she advances the University’s policy agenda, leads policy initiatives and advises the President on a wide array of policy issues. Issues range from supporting undocumented/DACA-mented, first-generation and low-income students, to standardized testing in admissions, to developing a vision for UC’s role as a social mobility machine and economic driver in California’s future.

A product of California public education, Jenny has worked in the public sector and in public higher education for over two decades. Before her current role as Chief Policy Advisor to the President, she served as both Chief of Staff for Public Affairs and founding Executive Director for Issues Management, Policy Analysis and Coordination (IMPAC). In this dual role, she developed external messaging and strategy for policy initiatives and the University system’s positions on state and federal legislation. Prior to this role, Jenny co-led the University’s state governmental relations office in Sacramento, advocating for UC’s priorities with the Governor and Legislature. Before that, she worked as the Higher Education Policy Analyst in then-Governor Gray Davis’ administration from 1999-2000. She began her career in higher education in undergraduate admissions policy and student athletics at the UC Berkeley campus.

Kao earned her B.A. degree (with honors) in American History from UC Berkeley, with a minor degree in French literature. She holds a Master’s Degree in Public Affairs from Princeton University. An immigrant and non-native English speaker, Jenny was born in Taiwan, raised in San Francisco, and now calls Oakland home. She’s fluent in Mandarin and French. Hobbies include running, hiking, and wining and dining.

Susan Knowles | Board Member

Director of Genomics Services at UCSF Health

Susan Knowles has been a volunteer with First Graduate for four years, and she enjoys working with students on resumes, school applications and math homework.  Susan manages four clinical genetic labs and supports the implementation of cutting-edge genomics methods for precision medicine.  Susan spent 10 years in the life sciences industry developing DNA-sequence based applications in the fields of reproductive health, infectious disease, and metagenomics.

Susan has a BS degree from The George Washington Universityand an MBA from the University of Chicago. Susan lives in San Francisco and in her spare time enjoys cooking and just about anything outdoors.

Jaime Najarro | Board Member

Consultant at The Bridgespan Group

Jaime Najarro is a strategy consultant with deep expertise providing actionable insights to internal and external clients in education, philanthropy, government, and startups. Skilled in quantitative and qualitative analysis, stakeholder engagement, and effective communication on highly sensitive strategic questions. Wharton MBA, with additional degrees from Berkeley and Princeton.

Jaime is a first generation college graduate.

Tucker Serenbetz | Board Member

Director at TMT Strategy at KPMG

Tucker is a 12-year resident of San Francisco and lives just a short walk from the First Graduate office. His career has focused on advising large enterprises on growth and operating model strategy. In that time, he has worked for a number of companies in the Bay Area, including Yahoo! and McKinsey & Company.

Currently, Tucker is a Director of the Corporate Strategy practice at KPMG where he helps Technology, Media, and Telecommunications clients make effective M&A decisions, create winning corporate strategies, and use data to improve business performance.

Tucker is a graduate of Yale University where he studied Economics and History, which remain favorite hobbies.

Stefan Zorn | Board Member

Senior Operations Executive at Deloitte

Stefan is a senior operations executive with over 20 years work experience focused on spend management transformations and M&A execution. He has very deep experience leading complex enterprise-wide external spend management transformations for global enterprises in many industries, including high- and FinTech. Most currently, Stefan led the Customer Success group at Globality, a company that applies AI to transform the sourcing of professional services for Fortune 100 companies. In his previous role as a Managing Director of Deloitte Consulting’s Sourcing and Procurement practice, he has sourced over $3 billion of spend for his clients, while achieving over $450 million of savings and was a leader in Deloitte’s Sourcing and Procurement M&A practice. Stefan is an experienced execution and thought leader in:

  • Spend management transformations: Stefan has deep experience leading global sourcing and procurement leaders through complex transformations to become innovative contributors to their companies
  • Sourcing strategies and execution: Stefan has deep experience in extracting value from a large variety of spend categories, including professional services, marketing, IT hardware and software, legal services and travel
  • M&A execution: Stefan led many companies successfully through company-altering mergers and divestitures

Stefan is a first generation college graduate.