Our People

The team of professionals at Riley Baker is passionately committed to your academic success. Together, we represent more than 95 years of experience with college preparation and admissions. And we’re ready to get to work for you.

Stacey_400 px

Stacey Riley Baker
B.A., English/Creative Writing, DePauw University, 1991
M.S. Ed., College Administration, Northwestern University, 1992

From her undergraduate days as a peer advisor and student admissions counselor at DePauw to her professional experience evaluating and selecting candidates for admission to Northwestern University and the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, Stacey has spent virtually her entire life in the world of admissions, where her successes led her to pioneer the unique four-year program that is now Riley Baker's hallmark. Students and parents alike find Stacey to be eminently relatable, warm and trustworthy, an attentive listener who can be counted on for straightforward assessments and recommendations. Stacey's skill at navigating the college journey means students typically choose to begin work with her in the freshman year of high school.

Matt_New2_400 px

Matt Baker
B.S., Education, University of New Hampshire, 1994
M. ED., Special Education, University of New Hampshire, 1998

As a former teacher (in Westport, Connecticut, and Northfield, Illinois), college counseling intern (at the Francis Parker School), and Division I athlete and assistant coach (lacrosse), Matt has an experiential understanding of the pressures students confront in school as well as in selecting a college, stresses that are often multiplied for the student-athlete. Matt's calm nature and play-by-play approach prove very reassuring to students as they formulate and execute winning application strategies. Still a competitor at heart, Matt spends his free time running, skiing, coaching soccer and teaching his daughters to conquer the black diamonds. Students usually team up with Matt beginning in the freshman year of high school.

Dan_400 px

Dan Hales
B.A., Economics, Hillsdale College, 1993
Certificate in College Counseling, UCLA Extension, 2010

Since Dan joined the Riley Baker team in 2010, he has logged thousands of miles exploring and assessing colleges across the country--often as many as 50 a year. An astute observer and intuitive communicator, Dan interacts with students on each campus to gather their true impressions and experiences so he's confident in the recommendations he makes to each of our students, whether they're seeking a targeted pre-professional education or an enriching liberal arts experience. An associate member of the Independent Educational Consultants' Association (IECA), Dan has a talent for working with international students and those interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs.

Barb Perce_REV_400px

Barb Perce
B.S., Political Science, Miami University, 1989
M.S.W., Loyola University, 1993
Certificate in College Counseling, UCLA Extension, 2014

With a Master's Degree in Social Work and a College Counseling Certificate from UCLA-Extension, Barb’s experience as part of the Riley Baker team since 2012 make her an ideal consultant for getting the job done thoroughly and efficiently. Her calm, yet enthusiastic manner assists in guiding students through the college search and application process with ease. Barb loves to travel and visits 25-30 college campuses per year. She has experience working with a variety of students, including artists, musicians, engineers, business majors and recruited athletes, along with international students locally and abroad. Barb focuses on the individuality of each student and loves finding that perfect fit for them. Barb also specializes in the college transfer process and is a professional member of the IECA. In her free time, Barb's favorite activity is spending time with her family boating on Lake Michigan.

Carolyn_400 px

Carolyn Duffy Marsan
B.A. English Literature/Speech Communications, Boston College, 1986
M.S.J. Journalism, Northwestern University, 1987
Certificate in College Counseling, UCLA Extension, 2016

Carolyn’s goal is to help minimize anxiety around college admissions by helping students find a variety of schools that are a good fit academically, socially and personally. An award-winning journalist, Carolyn enjoys working with students on their college essays and views this part of the process as an opportunity to teach them how to write engaging stories about their experiences, opinions and goals. She loves tapping into the creativity of her students-- not just those applying to arts programs but also those who are pre-med, pre-law, business-minded or still undecided. Carolyn is one of the few IECA members who is qualified to work with graduate school students. She has experience helping successful applicants draft personal statements for medical, law, business school and other Master's and PhD programs.

Ana Costello_400px

Ana Costello
B.S., Psychology, Villanova University, 1997
M.A., Counseling, University of San Diego, 2000

Ana has extensive experience in the college application review process after working at Villanova University for 14 years, originally serving as the Western Regional Representative and more recently as an Associate Director of Admission. With a background in counseling and college student development, Ana began her career in higher education working in the California State University system and Scripps College. Ana is an attentive listener and shows compassion and patience while working with students. A mother of four, Ana enjoys family road trips and time spent at the beach.

Susan Brady

Susan Brady
B.A., Economics, Miami University, 1992
Certificate in College Counseling with distinction, UCLA Extension, 2021

Blending her 15 years of experience in financial planning with a passion for helping students make informed decisions, Susan is a resourceful project manager with the proven expertise to synthesize moving parts into a strategic college plan. Susan stands out for her even-keeled disposition and high level of organization, recognizing the college application process can be stressful. Susan has guided a variety of students towards remarkable college journeys. 

Her commitment to touring renowned institutions and uncovering hidden gems throughout the country provides valuable insights into a wide range of colleges and the evolving landscape of college admissions.

With an appreciation for the impact of education, Susan gives back to the community by evaluating essays for a national scholarship foundation. In her free time, Susan is also a soccer mom and burgeoning pickleball player.

Hilary Holder

Hilary Holder
B.S.J., Journalism/Political Science, Northwestern University, 1994
M.A., Communication Sciences & Disorders, Northwestern University, 1999
Certificate in College Counseling, UCLA Extension, awarded with distinction, 2022

Hilary has more than a decade of experience as the Director of Admissions & Financial Aid at two independent day schools in the Chicagoland area. She is committed to developing meaningful relationships with families, understanding learning organizations, and working tirelessly to find that “just right” fit for students. Hilary began her career in education as an LD Resource Teacher following the completion of a master’s degree; she also holds a B.S. in Journalism from Northwestern University and draws on that experience to help students brainstorm, develop, and revise their written work. In her free time, Hilary enjoys spending time with family, taking long walks with friends, cheering on the Wildcats, and exploring new destinations. An associate member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA), Hilary specializes in college counseling and independent day school admissions.

Kim Bell_400px

Kim Bell, Consultant & Essay Specialist
B.A, English, The University of Iowa, 1996
M.ED., English Education, The University of Minnesota, 1998
M.A, Creative Writing - Poetry, Boston University, 2003

After twenty-two years of teaching teenagers how to express themselves and their ideas in writing, Kim specializes in guiding students through the college process. She especially enjoys helping students with the essay writing portion of the application. She has won several awards for her teaching and writing, including being named a Golden Apple Teacher of Distinction and Teacher of the Year (more than once). More importantly, she has devoted her life to working with adolescents. With warmth, patience, and enthusiasm, Kim helps students identify potential schools that will provide opportunities for personal growth, intellectual exploration, and skill development. She also teaches them how to shape their most meaningful experiences and attributes into richly detailed, polished admissions essays. She is happy to meet students at any point on their journey, whether they are just beginning the college search process or they are ready to draft essays. When she is not writing or editing, Kim likes to run, play tennis, read really long novels, and challenge her husband and two daughters, Charlotte and Amelia, to fierce ping pong matches.

Rebecca Marcus

Rebecca (Becca) Marcus

BA, English Language and Literature, Barnard College, 2014
MA, Secondary English Education, Teacher's College of Columbia University, 2018

Becca has worked in education as an admissions professional and award-winning educator for the past decade. She began her career in the Barnard College admissions office in New York, then continued serving as an admissions professional along with teaching English, coaching rowing, and doing college essay advising at independent schools in New Jersey and Connecticut. Becca's approach to college counseling is shaped by a desire to listen carefully and advise with both patience and sensitivity in order to make the college process fulfilling for both students and their families.

Becca is particularly energized by guiding students to realize what they truly want out of their college experience and helping them to represent themselves in their application essays with both authenticity and confidence. In her free time, Becca loves competing in master's rowing, crossword puzzles, baking, and going on long walks with her son and husband.

Deneen Brennan_Cropped

Deneen Brennan

B.A. Liberal Arts, Psychology/Spanish
DePauw University, 1989
Certificate in College Counseling, UCLA Extension, awarded with distinction, 2022

As an undergraduate at DePauw University, Deneen developed a deep appreciation for higher education. As a first-generation student, Deneen quickly learned how to balance her academics with a scholarship, grant, student loan, and three work study jobs. Post-graduation, Deneen put her degree to work in the non-profit counseling realm before becoming a medical sales representative. Twelve years interfacing with over 500 accounts proved her ability to comprehend intricate information and focus on achieving outcomes. Deneen’s passion for working with teens is demonstrated in her 20 years of volunteer work at four Chicagoland hospitals.

Deneen is committed to assisting young adults in uncovering the best fit for their higher education. Skilled in building confidence and rapport while reducing anxiety, Deneen is a great fit for those who are undecided and those who are razor-focused on a few schools that they may miss terrific opportunities waiting to be discovered.  As a mother of two, Deneen loves to cheer on her daughter’s FC United soccer, all sports at UVA, Notre Dame, and her alma mater, DePauw University. Traveling and biking are her favorite pastimes.

Kendell Anderson

Kendell Anderson, Essay Specialist
B.A., Rhetoric, University of California, Berkeley, 1991

After many years in the fields of marketing and career coaching, Kendell is passionate about the art of communication. As a dedicated essay specialist, she works with students to showcase their strengths in their personal statements and supplementary essays. Kendell recognizes the challenges placed on today’s teens, to know what they want at such a young age and to articulate that vision in a succinct and meaningful way. It can be a daunting task. Kendell helps clients evaluate their experiences, both successes and setbacks, to convey how they intend to grow in their college years. She is committed to helping students craft genuine essays that accurately reflect who they are and what they can contribute to a college or university. Kendell loves writing, editing, cooking and winemaking. She and her husband recently launched their eldest to college and still have a high schooler at home.