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MEET OUR TEAM

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Mary Ellen Simoni
Director & Founder

Before founding Ivy Options, Mary Ellen Simoni, a graduate of Cornell University, worked in leadership roles at top-ranked universities in the United States and Europe. Her role as Director of Stanford University’s undergraduate admissions operations in Europe and North Africa enabled her to uniquely understand the world of international university admissions. Mary Ellen founded Ivy Options in 2012, and has helped hundreds of students achieve their university aspirations in the US, UK, Europe, and Canada. Clients worldwide seek Ivy Options’ advice based on Mary Ellen's reputation for successful bespoke counseling services. Mary Ellen‘s oversight of all our counseling activities ensures that every student benefits from her expertise.

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Katrina Lilly
Resume & Essay Editing Specialist
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Laura Waft
Senior Advisor

Katrina assists students with creating professional resumes and polishing their essays. She is also a certified Strong Inventory interpreter. Prior to joining Ivy Options in 2016, Katrina managed the human resources departments of two mid-sized companies in the US and worked as an independent benefits consultant for an international textile firm. Katrina is a graduate of the University of Virginia with a bachelor’s degree in psychology.

With an MBA from the University of Chicago and a BBA from the University of Michigan, Laura has been part of the Ivy Options team since 2017. Prior to this, she worked for 12 years in international banking. As a senior counselor, Laura has helped Ivy Options clients secure acceptances at leading universities such as Stanford, MIT, Penn, Brown, Georgetown, Duke, UC Berkeley, Cambridge, LSE, UCL, and the University of Toronto. She has also helped students gain full-ride scholarships to USC and Boston University. Laura has recently shifted to an advisory role, guiding our counseling team and providing editing services and profile support to students.

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Daniel Cho
Admissions Advisor

Daniel has been part of the Ivy Options team since 2019. He holds a bachelor’s degree in history from Swarthmore College and previously worked as an admissions counselor at Yale-NUS (acceptance rate 5%), a liberal arts college started by Yale University and the National University of Singapore. Prior to joining Ivy Options, Daniel worked in business analytics for Unilever in New York City.

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Carole Laugier
Admissions Advisor

Prior to joining Ivy Options, Carole worked in the US, UK, and UAE as a creative director, foundation trustee, and university lecturer. She works with students applying for a variety of programs including those preparing their art, architecture, design, and maker portfolios. Carole received her BFA from the University of Notre Dame and her MA from UAL: Central Saint Martins. Based in London, she manages Ivy Options’ UK office and has helped students secure acceptances to many top universities in the US, UK, and Europe, including creative degree programs at Harvard, Yale, MIT, NYU, Parsons, CalArts, UCL, King’s College, UAL, and City & Guilds.

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Maya Fernández
Admissions Advisor
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Anna Manafova
Admissions Advisor

A graduate of Cornell University’s School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Maya has worked as an admissions officer at New York University and Cornell University. Through her time teaching mathematics and working in the Special Education Department at Dubai American Academy, Maya has become skilled at supporting students of all learning styles both in and out of the classroom, adapting her approach to each individual. She is fluent in Spanish and French and enjoys helping students work toward their university goals.

In addition to admissions advising, Anna also serves as Ivy Options’ career specialist, Myers-Briggs Certified Practitioner, and Strong Inventory interpreter. Having worked for Ivy Options since 2020, Anna especially enjoys helping students identify meaningful careers and develop creative personal projects. Anna graduated from Stanford University with a master's degree in international policy. Prior to joining Ivy Options, Anna supported students on their admissions journey pro-bono for over four years. She also studied and worked in both research and journalism and published a book about the Middle Eastern energy sector.

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Riwa Dabbagh
Admissions Advisor

Born and raised in Washington, D.C., Rita graduated from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and has a Master's in Management Information Technology from George Washington University. She is trilingual and initially pursued a career in IT in the UAE and the UK. Riwa joined our counseling team in 2021 after spending many years as an applicant interviewer for Georgetown University and completing the University of Pennsylvania's rigorous US university admissions course. Riwa specializes in applications to US pre-med programs, and medicine and law in the UK. She is very excited to help students realize their dreams.

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Heather Amiji
Admissions Advisor

Heather joined the London office in 2022 after working in advisory and investment management in five different regions, including the Middle East. Heather has worked at a senior level for both multinational and boutique firms and has been an active leader in global community and networking organizations. Through her various mentoring roles, she has expertise in the IB, A-Level/GCSE, and American high school curricula. Heather holds an MBA from London Business School and a BA in Economics & East Asian Studies from Bucknell University. Heather ensure that her students hone their stories through unique work experiences, personal projects, and community service.

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Anthony Greene
Admissions Advisor and Testing Strategist

Originally from New York City, Anthony joined Ivy Options in 2019, bringing over two decades of experience in classroom teaching, university consulting, and tutoring to his clients. He started his international education career in South Korea in 2010, working with the country's elite students. He distinguished himself by coaching students to achieve higher marks on standardized tests and matching them with their ideal universities. He loves working with students of all academic backgrounds and has consistently helped applicants gain admission to Ivy League and top 50 universities. Anthony holds a Bachelor's degree in history from Fordham University, a Master's degree in education from the New York City Teaching Fellows Program, and a Master's degree in history and education from Columbia University's Teachers College. In addition to admissions advising, Anthony is a specialist in GRE, GMAT, SAT, and ACT test preparation. He also tutors students in various forms of writing.

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Valery Lacoste
Admissions Advisor and Testing Strategist

Before coming to the UAE in 2017, Valery taught mathematics and science in the United Kingdom and Canada. She has an AP Calculus certification and is an Assessment Specialist & Mathematics Teacher for the UAE’s Ministry of Education, where she is responsible for creation, delivery and analysis of mathematics assessments for the Elite Stream of students. Valery holds a degree in Health Sciences (with concentrations in mathematics, chemistry and physics) from CEGEP Lionel-Grouix, Canada; a BEd in Secondary Education (with concentrations in Mathematics and History) from McGill University; and a Master of Mathematics and Statistics from the American University of Sharjah. Valery enjoys helping students understand and apply mathematical concepts and is a specialist in the Canadian university application process. She is also a specialist in GRE, GMAT, SAT, and ACT test preparation, and tutors students in mathematics.

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Sofie Smith
Admissions Advisor
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Tara Oswald
Admissions Advisor and Testing Strategist

Sofie is originally from Sweden and has been teaching in international schools for more than 25 years. She is a graduate of LSE and the University of Nottingham. As a teacher of History, English and TOK, Sofie has worked in schools on three continents in a variety of teaching and leadership roles. As an admissions advisor, mentor, teacher, and IBDP Coordinator, she has supported students in exploring and refining their academic interests and building a strong profile for university applications.

Tara has joined Ivy Options after over 25 years as a teacher and administrator in the US and Dubai. As a former English teacher, she enjoys working with students to find their own voice. She is excited to bring her experience in all levels of schooling and a wide expanse of activities and athletics to support students in finding their future paths. She is also a specialist in GRE, GMAT, SAT, and ACT test preparation. Tara has taught AP courses for 15 years and holds a Bachelor's in Elementary Education, a Master's Degree in Communication, and an M.Ed. in Educational Leadership.

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Stuart Grabia
SAT/ACT Instructor
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Ammarah Soofi
SAT/ACT Instructor

Stuart graduated from the University of Alberta, and was a high school mathematics teacher in Canada for more than 16 years before coming to the UAE in 2016. He then worked as a curriculum specialist for the Ministry of Education in Dubai. At Ivy Options, he helps students prepare for SAT and ACT mathematics and also tutors in both the American and British mathematics curricula. Stuart thoroughly enjoys helping students reach their academic goals.

Ammarah has been with Ivy Options since 2019 as an SAT/ACT/SSAT instructor and has also taught Chemistry (AP/IB), Biology (AP/IB), and AP Calculus AB. She is a passionate educator with a STEM background and holds a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry and biology from Brock University and a Master of Science degree in neurochemistry from McMaster University. Located in Canada, Ammarah offers tutoring online.

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Nadine Brits
Office Accounts and Billing
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Trudie Coburn
Office Manager

Nadine has been part of the Ivy Options team since 2021 and heads up our billing and accounting functions as well as assisting with client communication. Nadine's previous roles include administrative and accounting support and working as a teaching assistant. She is originally from South Africa and has lived in  Dubai since 2008.

Originally from South Africa, Trudie worked in the banking industry for over 10 years and helped run a family-owned business as bookkeeper and office administrator for many years. Trudie oversees our administrative and accounting team and provides support to our admissions advisors and tutors.

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