All top-tier MBAs with professional writing and coaching in their background as well as determination as they withstood being trained by Kathryn who is unapologetically ruthless, our advisors give their all to help clients realize their business school dreams. To ensure they're able to give their all to clients, they work with no more than 6 clients at a time; many work with only 1-3. Our advisors are why our success rate is what it is.
With former top business school Career Management members as well as an award-winning author who was formally trained at Harvard and USC to build his creative writing chops, our leadership team can't imagine a more rewarding way to spend their days (and often nights) than providing clients the support they need to move from square one to business school. They too are why our success rate is what it is.
In 2009 Kathryn Lucas founded Square One Prep, an MBA Admissions firm that has partnered with 900+ clients and sustained a success rate that no other firm matches.
With a Bachelor of Architecture degree from Auburn University, after which she practiced architecture for seven years, and an MBA from Wharton, Kathryn ventured into MBA Admissions in early 2003 when she became a GMAT preparation consultant at Veritas Prep. Later that year, she joined the commercial development team at Forest City Ratner to help manage the development of Atlantic Yards/Barclays Center, a $4 billion, 7 million square foot, Brooklyn-based project designed by Frank Gehry. She dedicated herself to that endeavor until June 2007, when she left the world of development to write a book, It Is What It Is, published in July 2008. Inspired by how her book motivated people to introspect, face challenges, and dream big, she then re-joined Veritas Prep as an MBA admissions advisor so she could continue to help people assess their lives and reach for their ambitions. Not long after, realizing that her approach to partnering with applicants was distinct and unusually successful, she started Square One.
Kathryn’s approach involves providing expert, hands-on advice with wit and candor, thereby making the notoriously grueling application process enjoyable for clients. She's also ruthless and trains her team to be equally supportive and relentless in their effort to guide their clients to craft customized, authentic applications that make the admissions committees feel something and want to know more.
In addition to being involved in all PREMIUM partnerships (we have two services: PREMIUM and PREMIUM NEED-BASED), Kathryn also conducts 100% of the firm's free consults. She'll tell you what she believes the truth is, based on her empirical data and experience. Sometimes what she says will align with what you want to hear (and you'll think she's amazing!), while at other times what she says may lead you to want to throw your phone and end the call! But you can trust that she is trying to offer you supportive candor.
With expertise in creative writing, academic coaching, and marketing, Kathryn has personally guided 220 clients, with a success rate of 97%. Simply put, she loves helping folks make their aspirations come true.
Kathryn is also a member of AIGAC (Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants). When she isn’t busy helping her clients manifest their career dreams, she enjoys practicing yoga, traveling, dancing, trying to learn French, training for half-marathons, and exploring artists in the electronic music space.
Samuel Johnson, Square One Prep’s Lead Editor, is an award-winning writer and producer who has been working with writers to help make their writing pop since he ran his high school comedy magazine… Working alongside Kathryn, he uses his creativity, sense of humor and eye for detail to review every piece of Square One Prep client writing to ensure it shines the best light on clients’ applications and sets them apart from the pack.
Samuel graduated from Harvard in 2007 with a degree in Russian Literature—his favorite authors are still the Russian greats—and from the feature film producing MFA Program at USC in 2009. While at Harvard, Samuel was a writer and editor of the longest-running comedy magazine in the world, the Harvard Lampoon, for four years and became its Vice President his senior year. He also wrote and produced a musical comedy as part of Harvard’s “Arts First” Festival. At USC, Samuel was awarded the Jack Oakie scholarship for excellence in comedy screenwriting and a second-year production grant for a short film he wrote.
Since graduating, Samuel’s writing has appeared in the Huffington Post and Nat. Brut as well as on Cartoon Network and Pixl TV. He continues to write screenplays which have been selected by such organizations as the Cinestory Foundation Fellowship, the WeScreenplay screenplay competition, the StoryPros screenplay competition, and Shriekfest Film Festival.
For the last eight years, Sam has worked with students applying to MBA and other graduate programs to craft the most compelling essays possible. He approaches each student as a unique individual—as there is no cookie-cutter method of writing a winning MBA essay! He has read and edited thousands of essays.
Samuel speaks French, Mandarin and Russian and will talk your ear off about movies if you let him.
Wendy Bagdi-Durrua is one of Square One Prep’s Career Narrative Experts. She brings to Square One clients her passion for coaching and mentoring, helping others develop personally and professionally to achieve their goals
With corporate experience across finance and audit, marketing and customer experience strategy, client relationship management, investor relations, business development and program management, Wendy offers a broad perspective to her clients. In addition to working for American Express, General Motors and PwC, Wendy has worked with non-profit organizations and small businesses. Leveraging her expertise transitioning across organizations, industries and disciplines, Wendy guides her clients to define their professional journey and vision in order to communicate their story in a thoughtful, authentic and credible way.
Wendy graduated with an MBA from The Wharton School and a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Boston College’s Carroll School of Management. She is a member of the Wharton MBA resume review team and participates in the Boston College mentorship program. She received her diploma in coaching from New York University.
When not coaching, advising or taking classes for her own development, Wendy enjoys entertaining, travel and outdoor adventures and spending time with her husband, family and friends.
Luis Bellon is on the Career Narrative Expert Team at Square One Prep, where he works zealously with clients to help them explore career options and craft visions that are ambitious, grounded, authentic, and of course admissions committee-proof. He loves learning from and educating his clients, all of which occurs due to the tough questions he asks that lead clients to do research, introspect, and come back to discussions having learned more about themselves and what they do or don’t want to do.
With a B.S. in Civil Engineering and an M.E. in Coastal & Oceanographic Engineering, both from the University of Florida, Luis spent 10 years managing large scale projects in the heavy civil and marine construction industry prior to earning his MBA from Berkeley-Haas and receiving his certification in Advanced Leadership and Coaching from the Berkeley-Haas Center for Executive Education. He was a lecturer of Leadership Communications at the UC Berkeley-Haas School of Business from 2014-2017 and today runs his own executive coaching firm.
Luis speaks English and Spanish, both with native proficiency.
Viewing physical conditioning as the bedrock for personal growth, when he isn’t busy guiding clients, Luis travels the world to surf, climb, and mountaineer.
Horatiu Stefan is committed to helping his Square One clients reach their potential. As one of our career narrative experts, he loves helping his clients articulate their unique stories and personal brands in authentic, engaging ways. Beyond showcasing skills and experience, Horatiu guides clients to thoughtfully and strategically bring their passions, values, and goals to life in career narrative.
With a BA in Economics and Political Science from Swarthmore College / LSE and an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management, Horatiu has had extensive cross-industry and cross-functional international business experience. He’s held various strategic, operating, and advisory roles with Fortune 500 multinationals and Silicon Valley startups including Deloitte, eBay, Mercedes-Benz, Samsung, Aetna, Starwood Hotels & Resorts, Homejoy, and Serviz.
Horatiu has also been involved with MBA admissions consulting and MBA recruiting throughout his career. He played a key role in scaling Samsung’s MBA recruiting strategy at Top 10 MBA programs and most recently served as Associate Director of Career Development at the USC Marshall School of Business, where he guided a highly-diverse international student population through all things career planning and development.
Fluent in Spanish, French, Italian, and Romanian, Horatiu lives in an old loft in downtown Los Angeles, but his heart is in Tokyo…his ‘happy place’. When not enjoying chocolate, raspberries, medium-rare steak, or Trader Joe’s Key Lime pie, he’s working on a book of Tokyo street photographs or scouring the web for deals on Margiela kicks.
Walter G. Rendon, Square One Prep’s Chief of Staff/Operations, brings 20+ years of experience across education and financial services as a team builder, collaborator, communicator and strategy builder to support our team and clients.
Walter is passionate about enabling others’ success through education. From 2007-2020, he did just that through various roles within the New York City Department of Education, from Program & Data Manager to Curriculum Developer, Community Outreach Lead, and Educator. Concurrently, he founded and led RENDON | Strategic Advisors and Educational Achievement, LLC through which he helped for profit and non-profit ventures in the education space sustainably grow. His work led him to become a Founding Board Member of School in the Square as well as sit on the Governance Committee and chair the Finance Committee of Neighborhood Charter Schools of Harlem and the Bronx.
Prior to his education-focused entrepreneurial and Board endeavors, Walter spent a decade working in finance in New York City, first, in Sales Management at Merrill Corporation and then within the Global Equity Research Department at Credit Suisse First Boston as sell-side Special Projects Manager.
Walter has a BA in Political Science and Sociology from State University of New York in Albany and an MA from New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. He’s also completed Project Zero – Intelligence, Thinking, & Learning at Harvard Graduate School of Education and speaks Spanish.
When Walter isn’t busy ensuring our business runs smoothly so our clients receive the support they need from our team to realize their business school aspirations, he is happiest spending time with his son, Orion, and daughter, Olivia. He also loves long-distance hiking, mountain biking, and museum-hopping, especially to see contemporary visual arts.
Jenny Han, our Business Manager and Interim Chief of Staff/Operations, manages the advisor and career narrative expert teams to ensure they have daily (and at times minute-by-minute!) support they need to guide clients. She is more than prepared to do it as a graduate from the US Military Academy at West Point where she studied Spanish and Business Management.
After graduating, Jenny served for five years in the Army as a Medical Service Corps Officer, where she deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. In the United States, she served in Washington state and North Carolina as an operations officer, executive assistant, and human resources officer.
Since completing her military service, Jenny has worked in outside sales and support roles in recruiting, investment banking, and technology. First, she joined Tech Qualled, a training company that enables military veterans to transition into high-tech roles through its Launchpad Academy. As the Partner Success Manager there, she reinforced client relationships and expanded the network of companies interested in hiring from the program. After two years, she joined the boutique, Manhattan-based firm, Evercore, supporting the FinTech-focused team of investment bankers. Following that role, she worked as a Strategic Growth Account Executive at Twilio, a cloud-based customer engagement platform that allows companies to interact with their customers around the globe.
Jenny lives in New York City with her six-year-old son, Miles. In her spare time, she enjoys distance running, sewing, and exploring the basics of computer programming. She has a passion for travel, and has spent significant time in Brazil, Ecuador, France, and Spain.