Meet Our Instructors and Pitch Panelists
Elise Hernandez Santora recently starred as Abuela Claudia in the first national tour of In The Heights as well as its Broadway company. Other Broadway credits include Paul Simon's The Capeman and Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Additional national tours include Man of La Mancha with John Cullum and A Chorus Line starring Bebe Neuwirth. Toured internationally as a vocalist for such legends as Bowie, Julio Iglesias and Danny Kaye's Unicef in Africa tour. She was one of the first Latina dancers on the nationally syndicated program, Soul Train. In addition to extensive commercial/voice-over work, she has recently been seen in national commercials for Bank of America and Aleve. Elise has served as teaching artist, acting/voice coach and audition coach for such varied venues and participants as Manhattan Theatre Club, Henry Street Settlement Center, Theatre Development Fund, Frank Sinatra H.S., Professional Performing Arts H.S. and York College. She is currently a professional speech coach for various entrepeneur and corporate executives including coaching the TED talk for Barnard College's Athena Center candidates and the Entrepeneurs in Training 2013 summer session.
Samantha Thornhill is a poet, published author, and educator from Trinidad and Tobago, who has been invited to perform her works across the US, as well as Africa, Europe and elsewhere. Since she arrived in New York City a decade ago, she has taught poetry to actors in training at the Juilliard School. Additionally, she teaches non fiction seminars to high school youth at the Bronx Academy of Letters, as well creative writing workshops to senior citizens for Poets & Writers Inc. Numerous literary journals and anthologies have featured her poems, and she has published two books for children with Simon & Schuster, and Scholastic. She is currently at work on her debut poetry collection, a third children’s book, as well as a documentary film project about the prison system’s impact on youth. Samantha holds a BA in Creative Writing from Florida State University, and an MFA in Poetry from the University of Virginia, where she received a Henry Hoyns fellowship. She is the founding curator of Poets in Unexpected Places, a dynamic collective of poets and performers that enlivens public spaces with surprise literary events. You can learn more about Samantha at her website: www.samanthaspeaks.com.
Meet our Expert Pitch Panelists
Kavita Mehra has spent over 10 years working in the not-for-profit sector and is currently the Chief Transformation Officer for the Boys & Girls Club of Newark. Kavita is a Lead New Jersey Fellow, an Executive Board Member for the New Leaders Council’s New Jersey Chapter, a Board Member for LadyDrinks, a Board Member for the Foundation for the Home Health Care Workers’ Association, an Advisory Council Member for She’s The First, and, is a Steering Committee Member for the South Asian American Caucus for the Democratic Party of New Jersey. In 2014, Kavita will be featured in the forthcoming book “Roshni: Emerging Indian Global Leaders” for her work in the not-for-profit sector. Kavita completed her Bachelor of Arts from New York University with a double major in both History and Gender Studies. She also holds a Master of Arts in Liberal Studies, with a concentration in South Asian Studies, from Columbia University.
Roberta Pereira is a Co-Founder and Managing Editor of Dress Circle Publishing, the premiere publisher of theater-themed books, including best-seller The Untold Stories of Broadway by Jennifer Ashley Tepper. In addition, she is a Producer with Bisno Productions, where she has worked on shows such as the Tony-nominated Broadway premiere of Terrence McNally's Mothers and Sons, starring Tyne Daly; the Broadway revival of Annie; the Olivier-winning West End revival of Stephen Sondheim's Merrily We Roll Along; the Broadway premiere of Grace, starring Paul Rudd, Michael Shannon, and Ed Asner; and Tony Award-winning smash hit War Horse (also Toronto and US tour). Roberta is Chair of the Board of Directors of nonprofit theater company Studio 42 and she is a founding ensemble member of Tilted Field. She is a graduate of Wesleyan University and holds an MFA from Yale School of Drama’s Theater Management program. She is originally from Brazil and currently lives in New York City.
Amanda N. Persaud is Counsel at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen& Katz, which is widely recognized as one of the world’s pre-eminent law firms. She is based in New York City and heads Wachtell’s private funds formation practice. Amanda has been named a leading private funds lawyer in, among others, Legal Media Group’s Expert Guide to Women in Business Law and Law Business Research’s International Who’s Who of Private Funds Lawyers. Amanda advises prominent sponsors of international private equity funds, real estate funds and hedge funds on their alternative investment management businesses. Over the past decade and a half, she has helped sponsors raise funds totaling in excess of$30 billion. She regularly provides counsel on a wide variety of operational and regulatory matters a rising at the private fund and sponsor levels, for instance, regarding governance, internal economic arrangements, restructurings and other corporate transactions. She serves on the New York City Bar’s Committee on Private Investment Funds and is actively engaged with other industry groups. Amanda has authored numerous articles on private funds and is a frequent speaker at global conferences and seminars. She also sits on the advisory board of Third Way’s Capital Markets Initiative where she educates policymakers on the complexities of the global financial markets and provides guidance on laws affecting the investment management industry. Amanda takes great pride in the outcomes she has helped clients achieve: from defining their business strategies to navigating the many laws governing investment management, and ultimately creating successful businesses that provide attractive returns to endowments, foundations, public pension funds, governmental entities and other institutional investors while providing companies with efficient access to capital that can be used to fund acquisitions,operational improvements and innovation. Amanda holds a BA from Duke University and a JD from the University of Virginia School of Law. She resides in New Jersey with her husband, son and daughter.
Adam Quinton is Chief Financial Officer of Nopsec and is responsible for financial planning and forecasting, budget management and investor relations. He is Founder/CEO of Lucas point Ventures and an active investor in and advisor to early stage companies. His investments include The Muse, Rapt Media, VenueBook and Snaps. Adam is a Board member at Thrive Metrics. He serves on the Advisory Boards of leading Board and executive search firm RSR Partners and San Francisco based SwoopTalent. He is and member of and/or advisor to several angel groups including Astia Angel where he is a founding Angel and sits on the Astia Global Advisory Board. In the not for profit space he is a Trustee of International House New York and a member of their Executive Committee. He is a Board member at the Center for Talent Innovation. Adam has over 25 years of investing and management experience most recently at Bank of America Merrill Lynch where he was Managing Director and head of Global Macro Research. He was a top ranked sell side investment analyst in the UK, Asia and the US. Additionally he is an Adjunct Professor at Columbia University, School of International and Public Affairs where he is a Capstone workshop advisor and member of the Management and Gender & Policy faculties. He holds a MA in Natural Sciences from Cambridge University and an MBA from Cass Business School, London.
Janice K. Smith is the Chief Administrative Officer and General Counsel of NLabs Inc., a New York based incubator founded by Allen Salmasi. NLabs is currently incubating two mobile app companies and a biopharma company. Prior to joining NLabs, Ms. Smith worked at Overseas Shipholding Group, Inc. as Senior Vice President, Chief Risk Officer, and Head of Government Affairs where she lead the company’s enterprise risk management function. Ms. Smith also managed the company’s “internal review board,” a senior level management committee with oversight over multi-billion dollar strategic projects, and directed the company’s political lobbying activities. Prior to OSG, Ms. Smith was a Corporate partner at Proskauer Rose, LLP where her practice focused on representing public and private company and private fund clients in all aspects of corporate transactional activities, including mergers, acquisitions, financing and joint‐ventures. Prior to joining Proskauer, Ms. Smith was a Counsel in the Corporate Department of O’Sullivan Graev & Karabell, LLP and an Associate in the Corporate Finance Group at Weil, Gotshal & Manges, LLP. Ms. Smith earned her juris doctor degree from Fordham University School of Law in New York where she was a member of the Environmental Law Review and a bachelor of business administration degree from Iona College in New Rochelle, New York. Ms. Smith is admitted to practice in New York and Washington D.C. Ms. Smith has been recognized as a Super Lawyer in the area of Corporate Finance.