About Us

Commence! advisors provide pro bono, adult, professional, individualized college counseling services to students raised in inner-city, often non-English speaking households. The overwhelming majority are the first generation in their families to apply to and attend college. We aim to level the playing field for these students applying to our   nation’s top colleges offering need blind admissions.


Elise Epner (Cornell, BS, U Chicago MA, U Penn, J.D.): After working as a litigation attorney, law school professor and English teacher, Elise founded a private college and graduate school admissions consulting business (www.eliseepner.com) and is a Professional Member of the IECA and the CT and MA bars.


Dr. Beth Posner (RPI, B.S., UPenn, DMD): From her long-time involvement in public
education—as VP of Curriculum for Fairfield PTA Council, VP HS Scholarship Foundation of Fairfield, and Building and Space Committee member, mentor to Bridgeport elementary and high school students and more—Dr. Posner has been an advocate for education for over 20 years.



Joanne Lippman (Washington University, AB, Univ. of Miami School of Law, J.D.): Joanne worked in Development at Yale University and the Joseph Slifka Center for Jewish Life at Yale and then went on to begin her own grant writing consulting business working for not-for-
profits in Fairfield County. Joanne is a member of the CT Bar.


Ellen Wulf (UConn. BS, MS.) Ellen is a speech and language pathologist with thirty-five years of experience working across the disciplines with a wide range of high school students in the Fairfield Public Schools. She has been an elected town official, advocating for educational budgets and policies at the local and national levels, and is a volunteer tutor at Mercy  Learning Center, assisting women with GED preparation.


Educational Advisor:
Mary Pat Underhill (UVA B.A., NYU M.B.A., Fairfield U. Teaching Cert., Sacred Heart U. Admin. Cert.): Years ago, Mary Pat transitioned from nurturing products at Proctor and Gamble and James River Corp. to nurturing students. As English Department Coordinator for CHS and AP English teacher, Mary Pat took great pride in the tremendous improvement in student performance, tripling the number of students succeeding on the AP exam in the last six years. Currently, Mary Pat is a District School Support Team Leader for the Bridgeport Public Schools.

Advisory Board

Rachel Feintzeig, Wall St. Journal Management Reporter
Diane P. Freedman, Professor of English, University of New Hampshire
Nancy Larsen, Headmaster (ret.), Fairfield Ludlowe High School
Shauna Kay Nugent, Harding HS ‘10, Cornell ’14, City Year, NY Corp Member
Ben Riordan, Managing Director, Prime Buchholz & Associates
Ellen Simmonds, Director of Administration, Norwalk Grassroots Tennis
Mary Tinti – Former Fairfield elected official & education advocate
Megan Toal, MD Pediatrics, NY Presbyterian, Weill Cornell Hospital
Michael Strauss, Chief Investment Strategist & Chief Economist, Commonfund
Roger Cole, President, Harvard Business School Club of CT
Robert Arnold, CEO, Family Centers
Molly Posner, Site Director, Oakland, CA, Breakthrough Collaborative
Martha Y. Small, MD, Pediatrician, Pediatric Health Care Associates
United Way of Coastal County, Fiscal Agent

Community Partners

The College Place, Bridgeport,CT
College Access Alliance of Bridgeport
Administrators and Teachers, Central High School, Harding High School
Family Centers, Greenwich, CT
Maximino Medina, Partner, Zeldes, Needle and Cooper, Attorneys, Bridgeport, CT
Dr. Evan Pitkoff, Executive Director, Cooperative Education Services, Trumbull, CT
Norwalk Grassroots Tennis (NGT), Norwalk, CT