Our Team

Helping people make better decisions about careers and education wouldn't be possible without our great team at Optimal. We're a bunch of self-described nerds, overachievers, and board game enthusiasts who get excited about solving hard problems and making sure our products live up to our promises.

CEO

Sung Rhee

Sung Rhee

Pronouns: He/Him/His

Understanding the difficulties of obtaining a quality, affordable education is what inspired founder and CEO Sung Rhee to found Optimal in 2004. He saw a need to create sites dedicated to providing transparent, data-driven information to empower people to make better decisions for their education and careers. He knows prestige doesn't always translate to quality, and Sung doesn't want to see students get a raw deal.

Outside of work, Sung enjoys playing basketball and adding to his collection of Gundam figurines. A fun fact about Sung is that he was a cartoonist for The Harvard Crimson during his college years.

Sung has been featured in several publications, including GeekWire and 425 Business Magazine. Additionally, the CEO Perspective he authored provides a more in-depth look into his background and how Optimal came to be.

Writing & Editing

Our writing and editing team has over 50 years of combined experience and writes the articles, student guides, and other resources across our websites.

Bailey Fletcher

Bailey Fletcher

Editor

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Bailey Fletcher

Bailey Fletcher

Editor

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Bailey came to Optimal with experience as an academic editor, where she was helping authors around the world publish their manuscripts in prestigious journals. In her current role, Bailey edits our content for grammar, flow, and tone and manages our comprehensive style guide. She has always been passionate about the pursuit of higher education, especially for the sake of knowledge. Bailey graduated from University of Oregon with a degree in Folklore, which she studied due to her fascination with what is meaningful to people. Outside of work, Bailey enjoys studying Spanish and Italian, photographing wildlife, writing historical fiction, and singing/songwriting.

Taylor Nichols

Taylor Nichols

Data Reporter

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Taylor Nichols

Taylor Nichols

Data Reporter

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Prior to joining Optimal, Taylor spent six years writing for higher education newspapers and magazines. Through this experience she gained a unique perspective on college students' needs and challenges. She now uses this background to generate creative article ideas and produce insightful content for our site. Taylor holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism with a News/Editorial focus from Western Washington University. When Taylor isn't writing, she enjoys hanging out with her cat, listening to 90s hip hop, and visiting any place that has palm trees.

Jennifer King Logan

Jennifer King Logan

Writer

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Jennifer King Logan

Jennifer King Logan

Writer

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

A seasoned veteran of the publishing industry, Jennifer enjoys exploring education-related topics and writing informative content about higher education for our program and resource pages. Before joining Optimal, Jennifer worked in content development and creation for two of the largest higher educational textbook publishers in the U.S. Her recent experience pursuing an online Master of Arts in Marketing through Southern New Hampshire University only furthered her enthusiasm for distance learning. Jennifer also holds a Bachelor of Arts in Graphic Design from California State University Fullerton. In her free time, she enjoys fiction writing, painting, upcycling furniture, and traveling.

Michael McCarthy

Michael McCarthy

Writer

Pronouns: He/Him/His

Michael McCarthy

Michael McCarthy

Writer

Pronouns: He/Him/His

Drawing upon his 11 years of experience in writing and editing, Michael creates content for multiple facets of our site. His ambition as a writer is to present prospective students with the information they need to make good choices when selecting a college. Michael holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from DePaul University, a Master of Arts in Teaching from Washington University, and a Master of Arts in International Relations from the University of Chicago. Outside of work, Michael can be found teaching and training in krav maga or volunteering with Seal Sitters, an organization in West Seattle that seeks to protect marine mammals resting on shore.


Product

Our product team publishes our college rankings, collects feedback from our users to improve our websites, and creates the features and visual design you see across our websites.

Rachel Hansen

Rachel Hansen

Business Strategist Lead

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Rachel Hansen

Rachel Hansen

Business Strategist Lead

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

In her 10 years at the company, Rachel has been a key driver of content growth and business strategy for our products. After graduating from Westmont College, Rachel worked directly with students as an SAT coach and writing tutor. As someone well-versed with the college search process, she is proud to expand the reach of websites like ours, which equip students to make well-informed decisions about their educational options. In her free time, Rachel enjoys reading books and spending quality time with her family, including her two young boys.

Madeline Miller

Madeline Miller

Product Manager

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Madeline Miller

Madeline Miller

Product Manager

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

As a Rankings Strategist, Madeline is constantly working to enhance our ranking offerings by researching new data sources and focusing on student needs. She is a strong believer that providing students with the right data can be incredibly helpful for the college decision making process. After graduating from Dartmouth with a Bachelor’s in Cognitive Science, Madeline gained experience working in an academic library in the scholarly communication and digital library departments. In her free time, Madeline enjoys hiking, Nordic skiing, and playing flute.


Content and Marketing

Our content and marketing team works with journalists, colleges, and other organizations to share our resources with their audiences. They also figure out what topics we should cover and how to best improve our articles to be more helpful to prospective and current students.

Brian Hepp

Brian Hepp

Marketing Manager

Pronouns: He/Him/His

Brian Hepp

Brian Hepp

Marketing Manager

Pronouns: He/Him/His

In his 11 years in marketing, Brian has worked in several different industries with the common thread of helping connect people to their passions, whether that be through a music license or a college degree. At Optimal, he manages the outreach team, sharing our resources with the relevant audiences including news outlets, students, and organizations. He also supports our data collection efforts to ensure we have the most accurate and timely data for our sites. Brian holds a drama degree from Kenyon College, and in his free time spends countless hours exploring the music world through live shows, music blogs, and wandering through record stores. He also enjoys the Seattle culinary scene, paddleboarding, and playing squash.

Adrian Ramirez

Adrian Ramirez

Outreach Specialist

Pronouns: He/Him/His

Adrian Ramirez

Adrian Ramirez

Outreach Specialist

Pronouns: He/Him/His

As an outreach specialist, Adrian enjoys getting the word out about our content and resources. His background in content writing and customer support have helped him understand the best ways to connect with relevant audiences, whether that be students, schools, or journalists. Adrian is passionate about the education industry because he gets to support people who are working towards a better version of themselves. Adrian previously served in the U.S. Navy, and in his free time, he's either reading and learning how to write books, or enjoying the outdoors through hiking and biking.


Software Engineering

Our software engineers build our websites and the tools that let the rest of the team focus on helping our users.

Gustav Gennrich

Gustav Gennrich

Director of Software Engineering

Pronouns: He/Him/His

Gustav Gennrich

Gustav Gennrich

Director of Software Engineering

Pronouns: He/Him/His

As the engineering lead, Gustav ensures Optimal’s products deliver value to users as quickly and seamlessly as possible. He was drawn to Optimal’s small team and mission of helping others obtain a strong educational foundation. Gustav holds two bachelor’s degrees from University of Washington, one in Computing and Software Systems and another in Applied and Computational Mathematical Sciences. In his free time, he enjoys working with his hands and taking care of his family. Some of his favorite projects include constructing an elevator for his workshop, renovating a barn, and building a covered playground for his sons.

Samuel Arnett

Samuel Arnett

Software Engineer

Pronouns: He/Him/His

Samuel Arnett

Samuel Arnett

Software Engineer

Pronouns: He/Him/His

In his six years with the company, Samuel has supported several teams including accounts, business growth, and marketing. Currently, he works to develop and maintain our internal reports, administrative tools, and email management system. Before Optimal, Sam spent four years as an English teacher in Japan, allowing him to develop a greater understanding and appreciation of the education space. He holds a B.A. in political science from Transylvania University and an M.A. in East Asian Studies from Stanford University. Outside of work, Sam enjoys spending time with his spouse and son, tabletop board games, and pen-and-paper role playing games.

Mario Gonzalez

Mario Gonzalez

HTML/CSS Developer

Pronouns: He/Him/His

Mario Gonzalez

Mario Gonzalez

HTML/CSS Developer

Pronouns: He/Him/His

As a publishing developer for Optimal, Mario makes sure all of the content we produce goes live on our site for prospective students to access. He also handles any styling changes and content edits on our sites. Mario enjoys being able to work on the front facing side of our sites and derives passion from helping connect students to higher education opportunities and information. He strongly believes that everyone should have the ability to pursue a form of higher education, regardless of economic status or societal biases. Mario holds a Computer Science degree from Western Washington University and in his free time he enjoys ultimate frisbee, playing his ukulele, and cruising through town on his moped.


Accounts

Our account managers work directly with schools to advertise their programs to students with matching interests.

Alan Handford

Alan Handford

Account Lead

Pronouns: He/Him/His

Alan Handford

Alan Handford

Account Lead

Pronouns: He/Him/His

In his fifteen years at Optimal, Alan has developed strong relationships with Optimal's partners and employees alike. As the Account Lead, he works to support our partner colleges and bootcamps through campaign management and optimization. Alan is a graduate of Montana Tech of the University of Montana, with a BS in Liberal Studies. He was attracted to work in the education industry based on his belief in the virtue of free thought and personal improvement through discussion, dissent, and analysis. In his free time, Alan enjoys philosophical discussions - in his words, an honest and respectful conversation is about the best thing in the world. The meaning of the name Alan, swift and cheerful, is a true fit for Alan's character.

Data Researchers

We have a team of 60 data researchers that research over 40,000 college degrees each year.


Optimal Board Advisor

Richard Vedder, distinguished higher education change advocate, serves as a board advisor for OnlineU, advising on content and contributing editorials. As an advisor, he supports Optimal's core mission of adding data-driven information to the higher education space and setting students up for career success.

Views and opinions expressed in board advisor's writing are their own, and do not necessarily reflect those of Optimal.

Dr. Richard Vedder
Professor Emeritus at Ohio University, Author, & Higher Education Change Advocate
Athens, OH

Vedder is an esteemed figure in the higher education sector, with a Ph.D in economics from University of Illinois and an impressive tenure of advocating for higher education change. He writes frequently for numerous notable outlets including Forbes, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg Opinion, and Inside Higher Ed. He has also authored several books regarding issues within the higher education sector, including "Going Broke by Degree: Why College Costs Too Much" and "Restoring the Promise: Higher Education in America." Much of his writing challenges the current American higher education system and proposes solutions for economic, societal, and institutional changes.

Vedder served on the Spellings Commission on the Future of Higher Education, a group charged with recommending a national strategy for reforming post-secondary education. He also ran the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, an organization dedicated to researching public policy and economic issues relating to postsecondary education. Currently, he serves as a Senior Fellow at The Independent Institute, a research and educational organization that creates transformational ideas for today’s most pressing social and economic challenges.

CAREERS

At Optimal, we embrace a culture of growth, experimentation, and creativity. Our small and agile team allows all members to exercise great responsibility and freedom, leading each person to have a measurable impact on our business. We also offer unique benefits like tuition reimbursement and charitable donation matching. We enjoy solving hard problems as much as our wine and cheese parties and snuggling with our troop of quirky office dogs.

Equal Employment Opportunity Statement

Optimal's policy is to ensure equal employment opportunity without discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, disability, marital status, citizenship, national origin, genetic information, or any other characteristic protected by law. Optimal prohibits any such discrimination or harassment.