Melanie Obitz-Bukartek, Ph.D.
Melanie Obitz-Bukartek, Ph.D.Founder and CEO

Melanie is an award-winning teacher and writer who helps people of all ages experience and leverage the transformational benefits of writing. She first built The Collegiate Writer to guide high school students in crafting effective college application essays. Melanie is now developing the College Essay App to provide students with 24/7 access to high-quality, research-based writing instruction to better accommodate the busy schedules of high school students juggling multiple commitments. She has taught writing at the college level and was previously a district-wide literacy coordinator, school-wide literacy coach, and classroom teacher. She holds degrees in Education from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania and Johns Hopkins University, and a Ph.D. in Curriculum & Instruction from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Valerie Earnshaw, Ph.D.
Valerie Earnshaw, Ph.D.Research Advisor

Valerie, a renowned social psychologist and researcher, lends her expertise to College Essay App’s research-based foundation and pursuit of non-dilutive funding. Over the last decade, Valerie has led and co-led research teams that secured over $11M in grant money, and published 144 peer-reviewed articles, with national and international presentations. Val holds degrees in Psychology from the Pennsylvania State University, plus an M.A. and Ph.D. in Social Psychology from the University of Connecticut. Currently, an Associate Professor at the University of Delaware, Valerie has previously held research positions at Yale and Harvard.

Brandon Drew Shields
Brandon Drew ShieldsBusiness Advisor

Brandon is an accomplished Product Group Owner in the Credit Card and Unsecured Lending Business at TD Bank, with previous leadership roles at JP Morgan Chase & Co and DuPont. He leverages his diverse experience as a former U.S. Marine Corps Officer and MBA graduate from the University of Wisconsin-Madison to provide valuable insights to College Essay App. Brandon helps prioritize initiatives and balance the needs of the business and its products. With his exceptional leadership skills and expertise, he ensures optimal use of resources to support the development of this groundbreaking app.

Afua Branoah Banful, Ph.D.
Afua Branoah Banful, Ph.D.Product Strategy Advisor

Afua brings her experience as a management consultant—supporting organizations to address complex people, technology, and process challenges—to College Essay App. She is the founder of Sound Health Advisory, an independent strategy consultancy in Washington D.C., and AnetaEd, an EdTech platform that allows kids to independently navigate aggregated content. She was previously a Managing Director in Corporate Strategy at the Advisory Board Company, leading product development and launch of health IT solutions for value-based care. She holds degrees from MIT in Materials Science & Engineering and Economics, and a Ph.D. in Economics from Harvard University.

Ryan Welte
Ryan WelteChief Operating Officer

Ryan is a seasoned management consultant with five years of experience at RSM, where he played an integral part in transformational initiatives and mitigating operational challenges for various industries. A second-year MBA student at Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, Ryan contributes his exceptional collaboration skills to a range of College Essay App’s high-impact projects, including market research and product development. His ability to foster strong working relationships and his unwavering commitment to excellence make him an invaluable asset to the team. Ryan will join Deloitte Consulting as a Senior Consultant in their New York City office after graduation.

Jeffrey Ng
Jeffrey NgChief Product Officer

Jeffrey is a highly skilled consultant with a focus on strategy and technology, who consistently delivers first-rate results. During his six-year tenure at Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC), he partnered with large companies to enhance their cybersecurity and digital capabilities, igniting notable growth and bolstered resilience. Jeffrey is enrolled in a dual-degree MBA and MS Design Innovation program at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. He brings extensive experience in advising startups, software product development, and team management while leading College Essay App’s design, development, and testing of the prototype and minimum viable product (MVP).