mariah ramirez


Mariah Ramirez

"Applying to college through QuestBridge opens countless doors for students facing financial challenges. QuestBridge's gift to me has impacted my life forever. Low-income students may think that the most prestigious universities in the country are out of reach, but it is imperative for these students to realize that through QuestBridge, all things are possible."

Kansas City, MO
2013 National College Match Recipient
Vanderbilt University, Class of 2018


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Team / Staff

Meet the Team


Ary Ascencio

Software Engineer, Data & Technology

ary-ascencioAry grew up in Denver, Colorado, and received her BS in Symbolic Systems from Stanford University as a Quest Scholar. Throughout college, Ary spent time working with pre-school through high school students, both locally and abroad. Her experiences working with these students inspired her to continue her involvement in education, and she's excited to keep on merging her interests in both technology and educational fields through QuestBridge.

Vanessa Chen

Program Associate, Partner Relations

vanessa_chenVanessa grew up in Southern California and earned her BA in Spanish from UCLA, where she developed her passion for higher education as an undergraduate discussion leader. This led her to pursue her Ed.M at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. While in Cambridge, Vanessa worked in the Graduate Admissions office at HGSE. Prior to joining QuestBridge, she was the Assistant Director of Admissions at UC Irvine's Paul Merage School of Business. She is excited to be in the Bay Area and contribute to the QuestBridge team!

Grace Cho

Director, Data & Technology

grace-choGrace worked mainly in science and technology firms before she was inspired to join the vibrant QuestBridge team in the summer of 2008.  Having grown up in the San Francisco Bay Area, Grace returned to live in the Bay Area with her husband and two children.  Grace continues to use her technical skills to manage the data and web applications for the organization.  Grace received her B.S. in Materials Science & Engineering from MIT and M.S. in Electrical Engineering from Tufts University. 

Yu-Ree Cho

Data Analyst, Partner Relations

yuree-choYu-Ree was born in Illinois and grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. She went to UC Berkeley where she received her BA in Psychology. After graduating, she further developed a passion and interest in education as she worked as a research assistant at psychology and education labs at Stanford, as well as through working with students from diverse backgrounds and needs. This led her to pursue her MA in Human Development and Psychology at UCLA, and upon graduating, she moved back up to Northern California where she worked as a research analyst at Stanford and took part in working with data that significantly impacted educational decision making. She is very excited to join the QuestBridge team! 

Ziyan Chu

Program Manager, Student Relations

ziyan-chuZiyan was born in China and grew up in the US, where she has lived in San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, and New York City. She received a B.S. in Biology from MIT and, upon graduation, worked as a Microbiologist/Virologist at a consumer products company. A few years into the job, she found education to be her passion and has since then worked in Americorps as a Mentor/Tutor and in an EdTech start-up as a Sales Consultant. She enjoys working at QuestBridge and being given the opportunity to meet such talented students every year through various programs and conferences. In her free time, she enjoys long distance running, international travel, reading, photography, rock climbing, and being a "foodie" (she loves swapping restaurant recommendations - especially hole-in-the-wall taquerias and ramen spots!).

Alana Early

Associate, Research & Focused Initiatives

alana earlyAlana received her BA from the University of California, Berkeley where she also advised students struggling with financial aid, enrollment and discrimination issues. This hands-on experience opened her eyes to the barriers standing between bright, low-income students and the education they deserve. At Quest, Alana is excited to combine her passion for college access with her experience in community service. Before joining the Quest team, Alana worked with the U.S. Federal Government and several nonprofits on economic development, trade and human rights projects. 

Tara Filer

Director, Student Relations

tara-filerTara grew up in the Seattle area and earned her BA in Spanish Language and Literature and an English as a Second language teaching certificate from the University of Montana. Tara’s love for teaching and language led her to Southern Italy where she completed her MA in Italian Studies and taught students of all ages (and enjoyed the fantastic food!). Back stateside, she taught at and managed various English Language schools in California. During this time, she further developed her love of educating youth and helping them realize their dreams. She had the opportunity to travel with and teach many talented young leaders of the world through the English Access Microscholarship Program and decided it was time to start making more of a difference. And then she found QuestBridge. She is excited to be a member of the team, helping us grow our educational resources and community among Quest Scholars.

Rachel Fishbein

Program Manager, Quest for Excellence

rachel-fishbeinRachel grew up in Manhattan and received her BA in Psychology from Cornell University.  Through research and volunteering, she became very interested in education, and upon graduation returned to New York City where she taught in the public and charter school system through Teach For America.  During that time she earned an MS from Pace University in Childhood education, and decided to move her focus from academics to student support and college access.  She attended the Stanford Graduate School of Education where she earned an MA in Policy, Organization, and Leadership Studies, and was first introduced to QuestBridge as an application reader.  After graduation she spent time working at the Kellogg School of Management in Evanston, IL, and then ultimately made her way back to New York City where she lives with her husband and their dog Lily.  Rachel has seen firsthand the wonderful work that Quest does, and is so excited to further those benefits through the Quest for Excellence NYC Award!

Erin Hansen

Data Analyst, Data & Technology

erin-hansenErin grew up in Visalia, California, a mid-sized town in the heart of the Central Valley. She attended UCLA where she earned a BS degree in Mathematics / Actuarial Science; however, it was her minor in Statistics that allowed her to discover her passion for data. Prior to joining QuestBridge, Erin worked as a research analyst at an executive compensation data firm in Redwood City, CA. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, traveling, and watching live music. Erin is excited to join the very dedicated and enthusiastic QuestBridge team where she can do the analytical work that she loves while contributing to the organization's impactful mission."

Marcia Kilcrease

Manager, Human Resources & Administration

marcia-kilcreaseMarcia is passionate about supporting the people side of business. She received her BS in Business Administration from the University of Colorado and brings over 20 years of Human Resources experience to her role on the Quest Team. While Marcia began her career in nonprofit, she has worked at various software and Internet companies, from a small start-up to global corporations, since moving to the Bay Area. She is excited to now have the opportunity to support the Quest staff in achieving our mission by making a real difference in the lives of individuals and in the future of our communities.

Maureen Kim

Associate Director, Partner Relations

maureen_kimMaureen grew up in Northern New Jersey and attended the University of Michigan, receiving her BA in Communication Studies.  After working at a corporate law firm in New York City for a few years, she found her passion for urban education reform by joining Teach for America.  After teaching in Newark, New Jersey, she made the cross country move to the Bay Area with her husband and taught for another year in East San Jose.  Through her experiences in the classroom, Maureen saw firsthand the impact that equal access to education and opportunities can have on students of low-income communities.  She is thrilled to join the QuestBridge team, where she can continue her work in education on a greater scale.

Julia Kleingarn

Project Manager, Student Relations

julia_kleingarnJulia grew up both Philadelphia and Arizona before moving to Minnesota to attend Carleton College, where she received her B.A. in Psychology with a concentration in Educational Studies. After graduating, Julia remained in the Twin Cities area and received a Master of Public Health from the University of Minnesota. Julia became interested in education reform by studying disparities in access to both educational opportunities and health resources and how these issues are often interconnected. Prior to joining QuestBridge, Julia worked on public health research projects and as a program manager for a small university. Julia is thrilled to be part of the Quest team.

Kelsey Kojetin

Communications Associate, Student Relations

kelsey-kojetinKelsey grew up in Knoxville, Tennessee, and started making her way westward after receiving her B.A. in Journalism and International Studies from Miami University of Ohio. Following graduation, Kelsey moved to Colorado to work with passionate college students in a communications role at Engineers Without Borders USA and she witnessed the impact that the college years can make on both the student and the world. She is thrilled to join the QuestBridge team to help connect more students to the outstanding opportunities that college can provide. Outside of work, she enjoys hiking, playing with her dog, and exploring new places around the Bay Area.

Miriam Lee

Director, Partner Relations

miriam-leeOriginally from a small town in Northern New Jersey, Miriam attended Boston College and graduated with a BA in Human Development and Sociology. She worked for over three years as an Assistant Buyer for a department store before deciding to turn her growing interest in education and student development into a full-time career. It was at Teachers College at Columbia University that Miriam discovered her passion for educational access. She graduated with an MA in Higher Education and went on to be an Assistant Director of Admissions at Boston University. She is excited to be in the Bay Area and working at QuestBridge, where she is able to combine her passion and experiences into helping students reach their academic potential.

Mursil Makhani

Project Manager, Data & Technology

mursil_makhaniMursil received his dual degrees in Industrial Engineering and Mathematics from the University of California, Berkeley. While in college, he had the opportunity to serve as a counselor, coordinator, and chair of Camp Kesem Berkeley, a nonprofit organization that puts on a camp for kids whose parents have or have had cancer. After college, Mursil worked with a small company to build highly accurate mapping databases for public safety agencies around the country, leading several large and high profile projects. Mursil is a big fan of many sports, particularly the NFL. He also enjoys being a nerd on Code Academy or taking other professional development coursework. Mursil is very excited to be a part of the Quest family!

Kim Marar

Director, Partner Relations

kim-mararOriginally from the Bay Area, Kim attended UCLA where she earned bachelor’s degrees in History/Art History and French.  After working in the museum industry for several years, she went back to school to earn her Ed.M at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.  While in Boston, Kim worked with college-bound low-income students and became focused on access to higher education.  She came back to California where she worked on higher education access for low-income students for 10,000 Degrees and then in the scholarships division and as an admissions reader for the University of California, Irvine.  Kim is thrilled to be a part of the QuestBridge team.

Ana Rowena McCullough, J.D.

Founder and CEO

ana-mcculloughAna co-founded the Quest Scholars Program with Michael McCullough while an undergraduate at Stanford. For this, she received the Dinkelspiel Award for outstanding contributions to education at Stanford. Ana is Co-Founder and former VP, Content at, and is a former management consultant at McKinsey & Company. In addition, she worked for five years as a consulting scientist to the Environmental Defense Fund, a national non-profit environmental organization, and served as a research associate for Stanford President Emeritus Donald Kennedy. Ana holds a J.D. degree from Stanford Law School where she focused on environmental and youth law. Together with her husband Michael, Ana serves as Co-Founder of the Quest Scholars Program and QuestBridge.

Michael McCullough, M.D., M.Sc.

Founder and President

michael-mcculloughMichael co-founded the Quest Scholars Program with Ana Rowena McCullough following his successful co-founding, direction and institutionalization of the Stanford Medical Youth Science Program from 1987-1989. After attending medical school at the University of California San Francisco, Michael trained in emergency medicine at the Stanford University Hospital. In his early years, Michael became the first undergraduate to teach at the Stanford Medical School. Michael attended Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, served as the student advisor to the Oregon State Board of Education, and has successfully founded several local, regional and overseas health related public service projects. Michael, together with his wife Ana, serves as Co-Founder and Co-President of the Quest Scholars Program, and QuestBridge.

Holly Paulsen

Senior Program Associate, Student Relations


Holly is originally from Colorado, just outside of Denver, and still considers herself a Coloradan at heart. She received a BA in English from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. After graduation, she moved to the Bay Area where she spent many years in higher education publishing as a production editor for textbooks in the humanities and social sciences. She first came to QuestBridge in 2012 to assist during the College Match application process, and enjoyed it so much she returned early in 2013 during the College Prep Scholarship application process. She is excited to now be a member of the team, and looks forward to continue helping outstanding students realize their dreams of attending a top college.


Eric Sansone

Data Analyst, Student Relations

eric-sansoneEric, a New Hampshirite, initially attended Ithaca College in New York where he studied Spanish, French & Dance but eventually transferred to earn his B.S. in Mathematics-Physics at Keene State College. In the summer of 2011 he held a research internship in Astronomy at the University of Hawaii-Manoa in Honolulu. For three months he researched planetary dynamics in Binary star systems while gallivanting amongst the Hawaiian Islands. After graduating, Eric taught Math, Astronomy, and Mythology at KSC Upward Bound where he met the most talented, resilient, and inspiring population of students he had ever come across after ten years in the classroom. While graduate school in Physics & Astronomy lured him to the Bay Area originally, it was the love of those students that inspired him to remain and join the QuestBridge team.

Leslie Sullivan

Director, Research & Focused Initiatives

leslie-sullivanLeslie grew up in rural Northern Wisconsin, with lots of trees, lakes, and wild animals. She then moved out to the East Coast, where she not only earned her BA in Economics at Harvard University, but also began working to help low-income students gain access to higher education by working in financial aid at the university. Besides working in financial aid for over eight years, Leslie also spent time doing education research in Washington DC and working as a project manager for an education technology company before joining QuestBridge in 2011.

Grace Sun

Associate Director, Communications & External Relations

grace sunGrace has experience in higher education administration and non-profit communications. Shortly after graduating from Stanford University, she served as a college counselor at an education start-up in the Bay Area. She received an Ed.M. at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and then served as the school's Assistant Director of Admissions, and as the communications manager at an educational non-profit in the Boston area. Relocating again to northern California, she returned to her interest in undergraduate admissions by reading applications for Stanford University, and is happy to now contribute to the work of QuestBridge. Grace is originally from Southern California, and spends her free time running after 3 young kids, including a set of twins.

Erin Turner

Program Associate, Student Relations

grace-cho Erin grew up on a farm in rural Southwest Washington, became a Quest Scholar, and moved to Chicago to attend Northwestern University. Pursuing her long-standing interest in education policy, she graduated with a B.S. in Education and Social Policy. While at college, she became passionate about the power of the Quest community and spurred a campus-wide dialogue on the intersection of socioeconomic class and the college experience. She is delighted to be part of the Quest team and play an active role in supporting the societal change that Quest Scholars are capable of. Outside of work, Erin enjoys bicycle touring, sandy beaches, and reading.


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