Meet the Staff

Catherine HokeDefy-Students-1Defy-Students-1

Founder & CEO

Catherine Hoke

Founder & CEO

Catherine started Defy in 2010 after founding and leading the Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP), a nonprofit organization that serves men throughout the Texas prison system. At PEP, Catherine developed the vision, recruited and worked closely with the Governing Board and three Local and National Advisory Boards to execute the vision, led a staff of 25, raised a $2.5 million privately funded budget, taught PEP’s curriculum to men in prison, oversaw all activities with the prison system, and served as an advocate to external constituents. Under Catherine’s leadership, PEP was recognized for its innovation and results by NBC Nightly News, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Economist, National Public Radio, Entrepreneur Magazine, and Deal Maker Magazine.

Prior to PEP, Catherine built a network of more than 4,000 CEOs and entrepreneurs during her career in venture capital and private equity. She sourced $32 million in equity investments in three technology deals at Summit Partners, a Palo Alto, California-based firm. Catherine then served as Director of Investment Development at American Securities Capital Partners, a New York City-based private equity firm. She graduated with a degree in Business Administration from University of California, Berkeley.

A three-time marathon runner, college rugby player and varsity rower, and California State Women’s Wrestling Champion, Catherine still loves training and competing in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu and submission grappling. As a French Canadian-born daughter of an entrepreneurial immigrant, Catherine was an ESL student and appreciates good grammar. She’s surprisingly domesticated and feels the need to regularly experiment in the kitchen.

Graham AskewDefy-Students-1Defy-Students-1


Graham Askew

Chief of Staff

Graham has spent more than 25 years providing strategic thinking, leadership, and management of complex projects and programs. He has been responsible for building and coordinating diverse teams as well as improving systems and processes in the fields of engineering, electronics, and software development.

After leaving the Royal Navy following 12 years of service as an engineer, Graham lived in Spain and France, where he worked in the superyacht industry for ten years as a project manager with Ocean Marine Yachting and e3 Systems. Recruited by Aspen-based E|S|C in 2001, he moved to Colorado and spent the next seven years in operations, design, and client management roles. Graham moved to the Bay Area in 2008 to work as an operations manager for AudioVisions. Graham has made Northern California home since then, apart from ten months in Switzerland managing the annual Haute Route cycling event.

Sarah BedyDefy-Students-1Defy-Students-1


Sarah Bedy

Program Manager, Prisons – LA

Sarah received her Bachelor’s in Political Science from the University of Michigan and went on to pursue a Master’s in Public Policy at George Mason University.

Sarah began her career as a community organizer in Toledo, Ohio where she recruited and trained diverse stakeholders to identify community problems and advocate for solutions. Sarah has worked as a Membership Manager at a national fair lending coalition, and most recently designed and managed a program to strengthen the parliament and political parties of Macedonia, while serving as Program Manager, Central & Eastern Europe at the National Democratic Institute in Washington, D.C.

As a volunteer, Sarah has coordinated an afterschool program for homeless teenagers and mentored a teen in the foster care system.

Matt BellerDefy-Students-1Defy-Students-1


Matt Beller

VP, Post-Release Programs

Matt is a seasoned operations executive with more than 15 years of experience leading cross-functional teams to produce high results in program development, multi-site operations management, strategic planning, and large-scale project management. At The College Board, Matt was responsible for reengineering the SAT division’s 32 million dollar consumer product portfolio, and led marketing operations for a global crisis communications campaign for enhanced SAT security and registration requirements.

Most recently, while serving as Director of New School Program Operations at BASIS Independent Schools, Matt led new school growth and operations, managing the complete life cycle of developing a new independent school from initial site selection to school launch. Additionally Matt managed day-to-day operations of the organization’s national network of schools.

Matt received his Bachelor’s in Political Science from Hunter College.

Jeremy BoumanDefy-Students-1Defy-Students-1


Jeremy Bouman

Executive Director, Nebraska

Jeremy grew up in Queens, NY and later in northern New Jersey. Because he holds a deep faith in individuals’ abilities to transform their lives, each step of Jeremy’s career advanced his capacity to empower those seeking to reinvent themselves.

He arrives at Defy from Creighton University in Omaha. In his nearly seven years at Creighton, he oversaw a staff of 28 development professionals who secured in excess of $15 million annually from prominent philanthropists in Nebraska and around the US. His service to faith-based higher education includes work as Vice President for Institutional Advancement at Dana College in Blair, Nebraska. He served in fundraising capacities for the ELCA Foundation in Delaware and Maryland, as well as Lutheran Social Services of New York.

Prior to joining the nonprofit sector, Jeremy was partner and vice president of New York Telecom and Senior Account Executive of Cortel Business Systems. His entrepreneurial background in the private sector and subsequent 15 years committed to serving marginalized and vulnerable people drew him to Defy’s innovative mission. He has also served as a board member for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society – Mid America Chapter.

Jeremy earned a bachelor of arts degree with an emphasis in journalism from Susquehanna University in Pennsylvania, and a master of science in leadership from Creighton University.

Elisa BrookeDefy-Students-1Defy-Students-1


Elisa Brooke

Volunteer Relations Assistant, LA

Elisa is pursuing her Bachelor’s in Communications at California State, Northridge.

She has worked as an Office Manager both for a Los Angeles M.D., and for the Malibu Chamber of Commerce. In these roles, Elisa represented the Chamber on numerous community boards and coordinated projects with Malibu City Hall. Additionally, Elisa played a key role in the successful launch of a new office, and implemented programs and polices addressing: training, compensation, and new hire orientation.

While at Capstone Turbine, Elisa served as a Communications and Process Specialist, where she created an online training program for 95+ global client corporations. She also managed all internal communications, created marketing collateral and managed an employee volunteer program.

Denis CalabreseDefy-Students-1Defy-Students-1


Denis Calabrese

Chief Strategist

Denis most recently served as President of the Laura and John Arnold Foundation for six years, a $1.8 billion foundation employing strategic entrepreneurial philanthropy to address some of society’s most complex and urgent challenges. In his career as a public policy expert and strategic communications advisor, Denis founded and led a national consulting firm, advising clients ranging from Fortune 500 businesses and international law firms to professional associations and prominent individuals including federal elected officials and CEOs. He began his professional career as the chief of staff for a United States congressman. Denis is also an entrepreneur with multiple successful business startups to his credit. He graduated with a degree in economics and political science from Rice University and taught a course on policy and political communications at his alma mater.
Rudo ChaseDefy-Students-1Defy-Students-1


Rudo Chase


Rudo Chase was born in Georgetown, Guyana and lives in Newark, NJ. He joined Defy as an EIT in 2015 and completed the program as the first-place winner of our Brown Belt competition in June of 2016. Rudo has been volunteering with Defy ever since and is looking forward to providing support to our EITs and guiding them along their entrepreneurial journey. He runs his own property management business in Newark and is passionate about real estate, helping others, and spending time with his three children.
Mariah DickinsonDefy-Students-1Defy-Students-1


Mariah Dickinson

Executive Communications Director

Mariah received her Bachelor’s in International Relations from American University.

Following graduation, Mariah spent 2 years with Teach For America, as a special education teacher on the Texas-Mexico border.

At the nonprofit education start-up, The Future Project, Mariah served as DC Deputy Director, co-leading the first operating year, planning and executing 5 major events, creating a national system to track program progress and assisting with the grant process.

Most recently, while serving as a Senior Consultant for Booz Allen Hamilton, Mariah managed tasks and project execution for the Director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA); managing relations with Department of Defense, industry, and academia.

Veronica EnsignDefy-Students-1Defy-Students-1


Veronica Ensign

Executive Director, Bay Area

Veronica received a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of San Diego and a Master’s in International Development from Tulane University. In 2006, Veronica founded Running Chicken, a small nonprofit that supports community-based development initiatives in a high poverty farming community in Western Kenya. From 2008 through her joining Defy in 2016, Veronica served as Chief Development Officer at Pivot Learning Partners in San Francisco. Veronica’s expertise includes frontline fundraising both domestically and internationally, translating big ideas into compelling narratives that capture funders’ imaginations and catalyze investments in well-designed, outcome-driven work.
Chris FaganDefy-Students-1Defy-Students-1


Chris Fagan

Recruitment Associate

Chris received his Bachelor’s in Psychology from the University of Buffalo and a Master’s in Nonprofit Leadership from Fordham University.
While in college, Chris was an HR Intern at the City of Buffalo City Hall, and the Mercantile Adjustment Bureau.
At NYU’s Silver School of Social Work Chris worked as a Research Assistant, coordinating outreach and conducting interviews to gather and report relevant data.
Most recently, Chris worked for Henry Street Settlement where he began as an Employment Coordinator, assisting participants with job readiness skills while developing relationships with employers, attending career fairs and hosting recruiting events. Later, Chris became the organization’s first Coordinator of College Success. There, he focused on screening, matching and on-boarding students and employees, attaining 15 placements per quarter among 18-24 year-old clients.
Chinue ForemanDefy-Students-1Defy-Students-1


Chinue Foreman

Volunteer Relations Assistant, NYC

Chinue received her Bachelor’s in History from Barnard College.

While in college, Chinue served as a Student Admissions Representative, providing administrative support and coordinating events. She also interned at the Athena Film Festival, managing student outreach, and promoting the Festival via social media engagement.

Most recently, Chinue served as Program and Development Assistant at the John A. Reisenbach Foundation, where her work included: planning and executing social and fundraising events, managing and engaging the Foundation’s social media community, restructuring the donor database and providing high-level administrative support.

Nadine Friedman-RobertsDefy-Students-1Defy-Students-1


Nadine Friedman-Roberts

Volunteer Relations Manager

Nadine is a nonprofit administration scholar specializing in gender equity through an intersectional framework. She holds a Master of Public Administration from Baruch College, where she developed a screenwriting mentorship program for girls in alternative-to-detention programs.

Her writing and video work on gender, race, and pop culture has been published in Salon, Bitch Magazine, Biographile and The Daily Beast. Nadine has also worked with progressive organizations such as Berlin-based Dropping Knowledge and Arts in a Changing America, a national project filling the urgent need to engage, from an arts perspective, the United States’ dramatic demographic transformation. Nadine is currently completing a book of essays and photographic portraits of individuals living with Multiple Sclerosis throughout the United States.

Melissa Gelber-O’DellDefy-Students-1Defy-Students-1


Melissa Gelber-O’Dell

Director, Prison Engagement and Admissions

Originally from New York, Melissa Gelber-O’Dell received her BA from Franklin and Marshall College in Government and Women’s Studies and a Master’s degree from New York University in Social Work and Public Policy. She spent seven years at the Center for Court Innovation working to provide new opportunities to individuals involved in the criminal justice system and increase the efficacy of the judiciary. Most recently, Melissa served as the Program Director of the Community Assessment and Services Center, a large-scale reentry resource hub, assisting clients on probation returning from incarceration. Melissa is also an adjunct lecturer in the MPA program at San Francisco State University and is the Chairwoman of the Board for NYC TOGETHER.

As a criminal justice reform advocate, Melissa is passionate about Defy’s mission. In her role as Director, CEO YNL – California, she works to connect Entrepreneurs-in-Training to Defy’s programming and expand pre-release operations on the West Coast.

Megan GoddardDefy-Students-1Defy-Students-1


Megan Goddard

Program Manager

Megan recently graduated from New York University (NYU), with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and Social Entrepreneurship. From the young age of 17, Megan developed a fascination for the criminal justice system and prison reform efforts in America. During her college career, Megan gained experience as a Workshop Facilitator on Rikers Island, as a Communications Intern with the Reset Foundation, and as a Programs Intern with Venture for America. Her passion for entrepreneurship and for helping people with criminal histories naturally led her to Defy Ventures, where she interned on the Learning Team before joining the Program team full-time. Megan is thrilled to be living her dream, working closely with the Entrepreneurs-In-Training and helping them find success in their professional and personal lives.
Bill HobbsDefy-Students-1Defy-Students-1


Bill Hobbs

Bay Area Program Manager, Prisons

Bill received his Bachelor’s in Business Administration at Thomas College and a Master’s in Public Administration from Golden Gate University.

For 21 years, Bill worked in the California prison system as a Correctional Counselor and Supervisor. In addition, Bill served as an adjunct professor at Palo Verde Community College for 11 years, teaching Effective Communications to community students and inmates housed at Ironwood and Chuckawalla State Prisons.

Charles HokeDefy-Students-1Defy-Students-1


Charles Hoke

Vice President of Development & Growth

Charles oversees all of Defy’s outward-facing initiatives and programs, including fundraising, volunteer and donor relations, and strategic growth initiatives. He develops strategy and infrastructure, and is building a team of charismatic go-getters who love to rep Defy.

After obtaining his MBA from the University of Alabama (Roll Tide!), Charles arrived in New York to work in financial services. He started his career as a High Yield Research Analyst and later worked in High Yield Sales & Trading. Charles served as one of Defy’s most active volunteers until 2014 when he left finance behind to join the Defy Ventures staff. His passion for problem solving, underdogs, and fighting injustice attracted him to the opportunity to help redeem one of America’s highest failure rate industries. It also attracted him to the woman he married: Defy’s founder and CEO, Catherine Hoke.

John HubersDefy-Students-1Defy-Students-1


John Hubers

Senior Advisor

John brings more than 25 years of leadership experience spanning organizational development, management consulting, information technology, and systems design and implementation. Most recently, he served as the COO at Single Stop, a $30M national anti-poverty organization in the social innovation sector. There, John oversaw all operational, fiscal, technological, and strategic efforts of the organization while also leading the work that fueled the continued growth and national expansion of the programs.

Prior to that, he served on the Executive Management Committee as Director of Operations and Knowledge Management at Millennium Promise/Malaria No More, an initiative founded by Prof. Jeffrey Sachs at Columbia University to address extreme poverty at the global level. John oversaw operations and multi-sectoral relationships in over a dozen countries in sub-Saharan Africa in one the most ambitious and complex anti-poverty strategies ever undertaken.

John’s previous experience includes executive management, consulting, and operational and information systems leadership roles in the for-profit, government, and nonprofit sectors. He has overseen business operations as well as technology in multiple contexts and on a global scale. John is trained in finance, econometrics, and management. He has completed graduate and post-graduate programs, both domestically and internationally, in organizational development, political economy, and international affairs.

Julie JacksonDefy-Students-1Defy-Students-1


Julie Jackson

Vice President of Learning

Julie Jackson-Forsberg is Defy’s Vice President of Learning. With twenty years’ experience in education, specifically devoted to underdogs, Julie is dedicated to helping people maximize their potential. Her experience is concentrated in instructional program development, curriculum, and data analysis. Prior to joining the Defy team, she served as the Chief Academic Officer of the Public Preparatory Network of charter schools, the founder and Managing Director of Critical Thinking Works, an education consultancy; and the founder and Head of School for Oracle Charter School in Buffalo, New York, a college-preparatory charter high school. Julie has an Executive MBA from the Rochester Institute of Technology, Saunders School of Business; she is a past Fellow of the Peabody Professional Institute in Charter School Leadership at Vanderbilt University; she has completed coursework in Educational Leadership and Administration through George Washington University; MA work in English / Composition Studies through Northeastern University; and a BA in Creative Writing and Chemistry through Hamilton College.
Louis KanganisDefy-Students-1Defy-Students-1


Louis Kanganis


Louis oversees administrative, finance and technology functions for Defy.

He has held C-level positions for a number of startups in the online media, e-commerce and systems/software industries for which he has raised in excess of $15 million of seed and growth capital. In 2001, he founded and then served as CEO for Spring Street Networks, a VC-backed provider of private-label online personals solutions for a network of more than 200 media companies including AOL, Primedia, Hearst Newspapers, RealNetworks, and others. With a database of more than 3 million registered members, Spring Street was sold to a competitor in 2005.

Louis also has more than 10 years of experience in the securities industry as an analyst, portfolio manager and private investor for PaineWebber, Schroders PLC, and Steinhardt Partners, among others. During that time, he had direct P&L responsibility for assets in excess of $400 million. His primary investment focus was on the technology, internet, media, and cable sectors. Louis has an MBA in Finance from Columbia University and a BA in Geophysics from Columbia College.

Ping LieuDefy-Students-1Defy-Students-1


Ping Lieu

Program Associate Trainee

Ping was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. He was recently released after serving 13 years in the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. While inside he earned an Associate Degree in Business, was certified as a law clerk by the state of California, and hopes to continue his education now that he is released.

Prior to coming to Defy Ventures, Ping worked in product development and marketing, creating campaigns and developing growth strategies in the fitness industry.

Before his release, Ping spent his free time tutoring others for their GEDs, was a Defy EIT at the California City Correctional Facility where he was a semi-finalist in the Business Pitch Competition, and returned as a peer facilitator to guide and support future EITs on their path to entrepreneurial success.

Dave LongDefy-Students-1Defy-Students-1


Dave Long

VP, Prison Engagement

Dave started his career as a Correctional Officer at Chuckawalla Valley State Prison and was most recently Warden at California City Correctional Facility, one of Defy’s CEO YNL locations.

Dave helped pioneer the first distance learning, face to face, and online college programs in California prisons. He has been a steadfast believer in providing people in prison with innovative programs to help them successfully reintegrate into society upon parole. Dave is responsible for manage Defy’s relationships with prison officials and helping further our engagement with state systems.

Dave hails from Tehachapi, California, and is married with six sons.

Ugo MachucaDefy-Students-1Defy-Students-1


Ugo Machuca

Employment Manager, NYC

For the past sixteen years, Ugo has been passionately involved in working for and on behalf of at-risk populations. One of his proudest accomplishments was helping to start a youth diversion program called Convicts Reaching Out to People (CROP) at Lancaster State Prison where he served a life sentence of 28 years. Ugo collaborated with youth-focused nonprofit organizations across the U.S., as well as with diverse law enforcement agencies, to bring youth into the prison to participate in CROP’s powerful presentations.

Since his release in 2009, Ugo has been employed at the Catalyst Foundation as a certified HIV counselor, at Homeboy Industries as a STAR-program coordinator, and as a Case Manager for Friends Outside Los Angeles County, Dad’s Back! Program.

Most recently, Ugo worked as a Program Manager and Co-founder of the GYST (Get Your Stuff Together) program at Youth Mentoring in Los Angeles, where he lead employment readiness workshops, provided one-on-one case management and built workforce pipelines with local businesses on behalf of individuals with barriers to employment.

Julianna C. McCorkleDefy-Students-1Defy-Students-1


Julianna C. McCorkle

Prison Program Manager

Julianna is a Massachusetts native who moved to New York City to attend Barnard College. There she studied Political Science and Biology while working in an ecological genetics lab. After college she worked as a paralegal at a law firm that catered exclusively to tech start-ups.

Julianna has interned at several non-profit organizations including the League of Women Voters, Human Rights Watch, and the Democratic National Committee. Eventually she hopes to go to law school and serve incarcerated people as a public defender.

Danielle McMorranDefy-Students-1Defy-Students-1


Danielle McMorran

Executive Relations Manager & Emcee

Danielle facilitates Defy’s in-prison events and focuses on development opportunities nationally.
Prior to joining Defy, Danielle served as Director of Development and Public Relations at the Williamson County CASA, in Franklin, TN, where her work involved fundraising and increasing mission awareness through social and mass media, event planning and public speaking.
Danielle received a BA in Mass Communications and Speech Communications from Ouachita University in Arkansas, and studied for one year at Seinan University in Japan, working as an English teacher for Japanese students and professionals.
Maria MorenoDefy-Students-1Defy-Students-1


Maria Moreno

Nebraska Program Manager, Prisons

Maria received her Bachelor’s in Political Science from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Over the past 10 years Maria has served in a variety of roles in organizations addressing social justice, community development and community engagement issues.

Most recently, Maria worked as Country Manager & Interim Volunteer Program Manager for the FutureSense Foundation in Cambodia. At FutureSense she managed day-to-day operations including developing sustainable community health and education programs, organizing logistics over 11+ project sites, cultivating strong community relationships, monitoring evaluation of projects, and developing and managing budgets.

Shanda PierceDefy-Students-1Defy-Students-1


Shanda Pierce

Event Planner, West Coast

Shanda has worked as a Marketing and Events Coordinator in Southern California since 2011.
At Saint John’s Health Center Foundation, Shanda managed the planning and production elements for fundraisers, benefit concerts and pop-up events including: Avon Walk for Breast Cancer, The Chautauqua Educational Retreat, and The Power of Pink Benefit Concert.

While at the United Way of Greater Los Angeles, Shanda was responsible for the creation and execution of all brand management and marketing events including: Homewalk, the Annual Philanthropy Awards, the Annual Tocqueville Gala and LA Youth Vote.

Shanda received her Bachelor’s in Communication and Fine Arts from Loyola Marymount University.

Jeanette PineiroDefy-Students-1Defy-Students-1


Jeanette Pineiro

Event Planner

Originally from New York City, Jeanette graduated from Cornell University with a degree in Development Sociology and Communications. After graduation she spent five years in Miami working for a young event management company where she was responsible for all day-to-day operations and events with local television stations around the country. It was this experience that first sparked her interest in working with start-up companies. Returning to New York City, Jeanette now serves as the Event Planner & Program Assistant managing the implementation of Defy’s in-person, experiential training.
Cindy RansomDefy-Students-1Defy-Students-1


Cindy Ransom

Family Coordinator

Cindy received her Bachelor’s degree in the Fine Arts with a minor in Interpersonal Communication from the University of Central Florida in 2003. She is currently seeking her Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy and joins Defy Ventures as their Family Coordinator.

Prior to becoming a mother of two, Cindy worked at Disney in entertainment as a character performer in Florida and received intensive training in the world’s leader of guest service and satisfaction. She lived in California for 12 years and worked as an associate producer for television on various networks such as Disney, PBS and Spike TV. In those jobs, she enjoyed getting to know people from all walks of life.

Due to her personal interest in positive psychology and solution-focused concepts, Cindy brings with her an enthusiasm and an optimistic approach. She focuses on highlighting people’s strengths, sense of resilience and enjoys collaborating with others.

Reid RansomDefy-Students-1Defy-Students-1


Reid Ransom

Lead Software Engineer

Reid began his career in the entertainment industry working for shows on MTV and Comedy Central. He went on to edit branded content for The CW/Microsoft, NBC/Walgreens, E!/Volkswagen and many others. He has developed software to improve post-production workflow and deliver video content more efficiently. His apps have been used to back up footage for the BET Awards and rescue corrupt footage for many networks.

Recently he developed a web application that enables major movie studios to manage their content across digital distribution platforms like iTunes and Google Play.

Reid earned his Bachelor of Science degree from Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

Luis SpencerDefy-Students-1Defy-Students-1


Luis Spencer

Prison System Engagement Advisor

Luis S. Spencer began his corrections career in the Massachusetts Department of Corrections in 1980 as a Correction Officer. In 1982 he enlisted in the United States Air Force where he received an honorable discharge in 1985 as Sergeant. He returned to the Massachusetts Department of Correction as a correction officer and quickly advanced through the ranks of Sergeant, Captain, Director of Security, and Deputy Superintendent. In 1995, he was appointed Superintendent of MCI-Lancaster, a Co-Ed minimum/pre-release facility. Following this assignment, he was assigned to MCI Plymouth, Old Colony Correctional Center and MCI Norfolk, the state’s largest facility. In 2008, he was promoted to Assistant Deputy Commissioner of the Southern Sector overseeing nine correctional facilities and their Superintendents. He was later appointed Acting Deputy Commissioner of the Prisons Division and in May 2011 he was appointed to lead the Massachusetts Department of Correction as the Commissioner. He served in the position for three and half years.

As a member of the Association of State Correctional Administrators since 2011, he has chaired the Information Sharing Committee, and served as a member of the following committees: Substance Abuse/Mental Health, Administrative Segregation/Restrictive Housing, PREA, Re-entry and Community Corrections, and Performance Measures. As an ASCA Executive member he served as the ASCA Northern Directors President. He has also been a member and Chair of ACA’s Commission on Accreditation for Corrections, and a member of the Standards Committee.

In addition, his experience includes coaching and mentoring young student athletes, teaching leadership and life skills through youth and high school athletics. Other law enforcement experience: Police officer (10yrs).

Marina ThompsonDefy-Students-1Defy-Students-1


Marina Thompson

VP, Talent Acquisition

Director of Talent Acquisition, Marina leads recruitment initiatives for Defy nationally. Most recently, Marina served as Director of Human Resources and Organizational Development at Lantern Community Services. While at Lantern, Marina managed recruitment efforts for 15 Supportive Housing sites, professional development trainings and had oversight of engagement and employment practices. Prior to Lantern, Marina served as Executive Deputy Director of Workforce Innovation at New York City’s Children’s Services (ACS), with a focus on recruitment, retention and developing formal pathways from school to work in the field of Human Services. Her twenty-year career in Recruitment, Human Resources, Employee Engagement and Executive Coaching also includes positions at the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and consulting roles for IT and Property Management firms. Marina received her B.A. from William Smith College, additionally she has completed coursework in Social Work at Yeshiva University’s Wurzweiler School and holds a certificate in Coaching For Improved Work Performance from Fordham University.
Kathy TorresDefy-Students-1Defy-Students-1


Kathy Torres

Finance and Operations Manager

Kathy manages payroll, accounts receivable/payable, and purchasing for Defy Ventures. She also sets student entrepreneurs up on QuickBooks and assists them with their bookkeeping. She brings to Defy 10 years of bookkeeping and administrative experience in for-profit and nonprofit organizations.
Sean VolinDefy-Students-1Defy-Students-1


Sean Volin

Program Director, In-Prison Program, NY

Sean has more than 15 years of experience and leadership and has globally led implementation and management of Supply Chain Management (SCM) and Operation solutions requiring collaboration of multiple factories, configuration centers, third party suppliers and various stakeholders. Sean’s experience spans demand planning, supply planning, fulfillment, logistics, sales and operations, planning systems technology, financial planning as well successfully developing and leading cross-functional teams.
Jason WangDefy-Students-1Defy-Students-1


Jason Wang

Executive Relations Manager

A former DEFY EIT and 2 time start-up founder, Jason joins Defy with experience in business development, management consulting and product/relationship management. In 2009, Jason Founded and served as CEO of Wang Innovations, designing 3-D computer simulation models, developing client sales strategies and supporting the design and implementation of statewide juvenile justice policy in Texas. Jason went on to work at Ericsson as a Business Analyst and Project Manager.

Most recently, Jason was Founder & CEO of Byte Size Moments, in Dallas, Texas, where he expanded service offerings to 2,600 e-commerce sites, engaging 7 million customers annually.

Jason received both a Master’s in International Business and an MBA from the University of Texas.

Elizabeth WeinbergDefy-Students-1Defy-Students-1


Elizabeth Weinberg

Senior Director, Donor and Volunteer Engagement

Elizabeth is an expert in fundraising, marketing, management, and volunteer engagement. Organizations that have benefited from her expertise include the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, City Harvest, Inc., the Environmental Defense Fund, and Turnaround for Children, Inc.

Elizabeth is devoted to improving the lives of economically disadvantaged men, woman, and children, and to ending racism and sexism.

She holds a B.A. from the University of California, Irvine and an M.P.A. from the Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service at New York University. She is a board member at L.A.C.E.R. Afterschool Programs.



Catherine Hoke

Founder & CEO

Catherine started Defy in 2010 after founding and leading the Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP), a nonprofit organization that serves men throughout the Texas prison system. At PEP, Catherine developed the vision, recruited and worked closely with the Governing Board and three Local and National Advisory Boards to execute the vision, led a staff of 25, raised a $2.5 million privately funded budget, taught PEP’s curriculum to men in prison, oversaw all activities with the prison system, and served as an advocate to external constituents. Under Catherine’s leadership, PEP was recognized for its innovation and results by NBC Nightly News, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Economist, National Public Radio, Entrepreneur Magazine, and Deal Maker Magazine.

Prior to PEP, Catherine built a network of more than 4,000 CEOs and entrepreneurs during her career in venture capital and private equity. She sourced $32 million in equity investments in three technology deals at Summit Partners, a Palo Alto, California-based firm. Catherine then served as Director of Investment Development at American Securities Capital Partners, a New York City-based private equity firm. She graduated with a degree in Business Administration from University of California, Berkeley.

A three-time marathon runner, college rugby player and varsity rower, and California State Women’s Wrestling Champion, Catherine still loves training and competing in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu and submission grappling. As a French Canadian-born daughter of an entrepreneurial immigrant, Catherine was an ESL student and appreciates good grammar. She’s surprisingly domesticated and feels the need to regularly experiment in the kitchen.

The diverse team that powers Defy brings a variety of expertise to the organization, from entrepreneurship to technology to nonprofit program management. Defy is a lean, results-driven institution with a team who’s committed to and passionate about our mission. A specialized roster of consultants compliments our small full-time staff and collaborates with us to create transformational opportunities. We work exceptionally hard, play whenever we can, and, above all, value the heart behind the Entrepreneurs-in-Training, volunteers, and supporters who share in our mission.