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Who We Are Our Team

Our Team

Mike Pierce, Executive Director

Mike is Executive Director and co-founder of the Student Borrower Protection Center. He is an attorney, advocate, and former senior regulator who joined SBPC after more than a decade fighting for student loan borrowers’ rights on Capitol Hill and at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. For the past three years, Mike served as the founding Policy Director and Managing Counsel at SBPC.

Before he left government service to start the SBPC, for seven years, Mike was the CFPB’s lead subject-matter expert on higher education and consumer protection. He advised all aspects of the Bureau’s work related to student lending, servicing, debt collection, and oversight of for-profit colleges. From 2015 to 2017, Mike also served as a Deputy Assistant Director of the Bureau, leading the day-to-day operations of the Bureau’s Office for Students and Young Consumers.

Prior to joining the staff at CFPB, Mike served as a policy advisor to Congressman John Sarbanes (MD-03), where he assisted in the passage of legislation creating the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program and worked on the 2008 reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. 

Mike’s work on behalf of student loan borrowers has appeared in national print publications and broadcast media, including The New York Times, BBC, National Public Radio, Politico, and The Washington Post.

Mike holds a bachelor’s degree in public policy from George Washington University, and a JD from the Marshall-Wythe Law School at the College of William and Mary. As a law student, Mike worked in the Office of Federal Student Aid at the U.S. Department of Education.

Winston Berkman-Breen, Deputy Director of Advocacy & Policy Counsel

Winston Berkman-Breen is the Deputy Director of Advocacy & Policy Counsel at the Student Borrower Protection Center. Prior to joining the SBPC, Winston was the Director of Consumer Advocacy and Student Loan Advocate at the Department of Financial Services. In this role, he proposed and advanced consumer protection policies and advised on consumer matters across the agency’s business units, including regulatory action and enforcement investigations, with a particular focus on student loan and debt collection policy. He also served as a point of contact for individual consumers seeking assistance, and worked closely with advocacy organizations in New York and across the country.

Prior to joining DFS, Winston worked in legal services, with a focus on affirmative and defensive litigation related to debt collection, student loans, and foreclosure. He was a Justice Catalyst Fellow and Staff Attorney with the Consumer Protection Unit at the New York Legal Assistance Group, and was a Fellow with the Project on Predatory Student Lending at the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School.

Amy Czulada, Outreach & Advocacy Coordinator

Amy Czulada is the Outreach & Advocacy Coordinator at the Student Borrower Protection Center. Previously, Amy was a Research Analyst at 32BJ SEIU in New York City. Prior to her work at SEIU, Amy was heavily involved in research and activism around wage theft in the greater Denver area and was also part of the Sanctuary movement in Denver. She graduated with her master’s degree in International Studies from the Josef Korbel School at the University of Denver and has a bachelor’s degree English and Spanish from La Salle University, Philadelphia.

Ben Kaufman, Head of Investigations & Senior Policy Advisor

Ben Kaufman is the Head of Investigations and Senior Policy Advisor at the Student Borrower Protection Center. Prior to joining SBPC, Ben worked as a Director’s Financial Analyst at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and in investment banking at JPMorgan. At the Bureau, Ben focused much of his work on student loans, for-profit colleges, and income share agreements (ISAs). He also served on a cross-bureau working group on credit cards.

Ben earned his BA and MA in Public Policy at Stanford, writing undergraduate and graduate theses on issues in consumer finance. Ben’s masters thesis evaluated changes to the CFPB’s regulation of payday lending during the tenure of Acting Director Mick Mulvaney, and his undergraduate honors thesis analyzed the budgetary tradeoffs and life-cycle wealth generation effects associated with reverse mortgages. He has interned in the U.S. Senate, at Apple, and at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.

Amber Saddler, Counsel

Amber Saddler is Counsel at the Student Borrower Protection Center. Prior to joining the SBPC, Amber was the Dorot Fellow at the Alliance for Justice. In this role, she researched and prepared reports on the records of potential judicial nominees, monitored Congressional proceedings for confirmations to the federal judiciary, and wrote about Supreme Court and lower federal court decisions affecting civil rights and access to justice issues. Amber joined AFJ after graduating from the Howard University School of Law in May 2020. As a student-attorney with the Howard Clinical Law Center, she represented low-income adults charged with criminal misdemeanors in the District of Columbia Superior Court and advocated for education policy reform for Prince George’s County Public Schools in Maryland. She also spent semesters working on education law and policy at KIPP DC and the Office for Civil Rights at the Department of Education. Prior to law school, Amber worked on policies to improve higher education access and quality at a consulting firm off Capitol Hill, investigated for The D.C. Public Defender Service, and designed programming to support low-income students in the Washington metropolitan area with education non-profits, including AmeriCorps.

Walter Suskind, Deputy Director of Communications, Digital Strategy

Walter Suskind is the Deputy Communications Director in charge of social media and the SBPC’s digital presence. Prior to joining the SBPC, Walter worked at Edelman, a public relations firm, where he led client work for a wide array of companies and organizations, helping build and launch campaigns and support reputation management.

Before working at Edelman, Walter spent nearly five years working at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau where he served as a spokesperson in the Bureau’s Office of Communications. At the Bureau Walter helped to support press and external engagement efforts for the Office for Students and Young Consumers. Walter worked with divisions across the Bureau, supporting major rulemaking and enforcement announcements, handling media outreach and stakeholder engagement. Outside of work, Walter is a leading disability advocate, having formed the organization SibStrong which works to empower and support siblings of people with disabilities across the age spectrum. Walter received a bachelor’s in international relations and Spanish from Pennsylvania State University. 

Claire Torchiana, Counsel

Claire Torchiana is a Counsel at the Student Borrower Protection Center. Prior to SBPC, Claire was an Equal Justice Works Fellow at Housing and Economic Rights Advocates (HERA) where she focused on issues around federal student loan debt. She engaged primarily in direct legal services; in addition to impact litigation and policy advocacy. Prior to working at HERA, Claire provided direct services for a year at her law school’s Community Law Clinic, in addition to completing internships at the California Attorney General’s Office; the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office and the National Housing Law Project in San Francisco. Claire earned her J.D. at Stanford Law School.

Moira Vahey, Director of Communications

Moira Vahey is the Director of Communications at the Student Borrower Protection Center. She has served in a range of strategic communications leadership roles across government and mission-driven organizations, including the White House, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), and the Pentagon.

Moira was a political appointee in the Obama Administration and served as communications director and policy advisor at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, as well as press secretary for telecommunications and technology policy at the U.S. Department of Commerce. During her time at the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, she served in public affairs and policy positions including acting communications director, senior spokesperson, community affairs lead, and senior advisor for the Bureau’s fintech program. She managed engagement with industry, consumer advocates, and reporters from top media and financial outlets, authored agency publications, and managed the rollout of many high-profile announcements, such as the agency’s first enforcement actions against financial institutions and the rollout of critical market-wide mortgage protections in the wake of the nation’s housing meltdown. She has been quoted on breaking news matters in outlets including The New York Times, PBS, NBC News, NPR, and the Wall Street Journal.

Most recently, she served as communications director at the Pentagon’s Digital Defense Unit where she oversaw media relations, intergovernmental communications, and digital engagement. Moira also served in media relations and policy roles at national nonprofits including the Progressive Policy Institute and Free Press.

Kat Welbeck, Director of Advocacy & Civil Rights Counsel

Kat Welbeck is the Director of Advocacy and the Civil Rights Counsel at the Student Borrower Protection Center. She was previously an Outreach and Engagement Specialist in the CFPB’s Office of Public Engagement and Community Liaison. Prior to her work at the Bureau, Kat taught fourth grade in Houston, TX as a Teach for America Corps Member.

Kat currently serves as a DC Program Director of Rising Leaders, Inc., a nonprofit mentoring program that empowers middle school students through high-quality mentorship and leadership development training. Kat is also the Director of Engagement on the Rising Leaders, Inc. Board of Directors. She holds a B.A. from Princeton University and a J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

Persis Yu, Policy Director & Managing Counsel

Persis Yu is the SPBC’s policy director and managing counsel. Persis is a nationally recognized expert on student loan law and has over a decade of hands-on experience representing student loan borrowers.

Persis was previously a staff attorney at the National Consumer Law Center and the director of its Student Loan Borrower Assistance Project, where she led a team of attorneys to advocate on behalf of low-income student loan borrowers. She co-authored NCLC’s legal treatise, Student Loan Law, and was a contributing author to the treatises Fair Credit Reporting, Consumer Credit Regulation, and Unfair and Deceptive Acts and Practices.

Prior to joining NCLC, Persis was a Hanna S. Cohn Equal Justice Fellow at Empire Justice Center in Rochester, New York. Her fellowship project focused on credit reporting issues facing low-income consumers, specifically in the areas of accuracy, housing, and employment. Persis is a graduate of Seattle University School of Law, and holds a Masters of Social Work from the University of Washington, and a Bachelor of Arts from Mount Holyoke College.

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