Our Team

Lorraine Serra Founder + Director

Lorraine Serra is the Founder and Director of Portfolio College Counseling (PCC). The services offered by PCC are inspired by her nearly four decades of experience as a design professional, business owner, and educator. Lorraine balances her dedication to mentoring young people with an innovative approach to help students bring their artistic, academic, and career goals into focus.

Holding a Certificate in College Counseling with Distinction from UCLA, an MA in Graphic Design from Savannah College of Art & Design, and a BS in Visual Arts from Purchase College, Lorraine is a demonstrated expert in her field. She is an active member of several professional organizations, including HECA, and NACAC.

In 1983, Lorraine founded Chiaro Design, a multidisciplinary creative services firm specializing in packaging, type, and print design. She taught at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York and continues to lecture, publish articles, and present workshops for college-bound creative students and their families. Lorraine judges student portfolios for the National Scholastic Art Awards and is the recipient of a Puffin Foundation Grant. PCC has offices in Connecticut and Washington.

DAN GUNN Portfolio Advisor

Dan Gunn is an artist, writer, and educator. He received an MFA in Painting and Drawing from the SAIC in 2007, where he has been an Adjunct Assistant Professor since 2010. At SAIC, he has taught high school, undergraduate, and graduate courses in contemporary art history, theory, painting, and drawing. In 2021, his work was included in The Regional, the first major multi-museum survey dedicated to contemporary artists based in the Midwest. It opened at the Contemporary Art Center in Cincinnati and traveled to the Kemper Museum in Kansas City. He was awarded residencies at the Wassaic Project (2022), the University of Arkansas (2019), Anderson Ranch Art Center (2018), and Skowhegan (2012). Gunn’s work in painting, wood sculpture, and ceramics uses the imagery, aesthetic, and craft traditions of the American Midwestern vernacular.

MARK FITTON Portfolio Advisor

Mark Fitton is a Brooklyn-based artist and educator. He received a BFA in Photography from Parsons, The New School for Design. For several years, Fitton worked professionally as a freelance photographer in the fashion and beauty industry.  Additionally, Fitton has a decade of experience in arts higher education, assisting prospective students in developing their work for strong college-level portfolios. Fitton continues to have an active fine art practice, specializing in portraiture and narrative-based photography.

BRANDY FRANSEN Portfolio Advisor

Brandy Fransen has worked in international higher education and admissions for over twenty years. She was raised as a third-culture kid in Latin America before moving to the United States to attend art school. Brandy has a BFA in Graphic Design and worked as a designer before transitioning to international admission.

She attended and later worked at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) as their Director of International Admission. During her twelve years there, she led workshops and conducted tutorials on “How to Prepare a Dynamic Portfolio.” She has conducted hundreds of interviews and portfolio reviews with students applying to art schools. She later worked as Director of Operations at Linden Educational Services, leading educational tours in China and India. In 2015, Brandy began working at Rollins College in Winter Park, FL, as the Senior Associate Director of International Admission. She has been a private advisor for students seeking guidance and portfolio curation for the past five years. Many of her students have successfully been admitted to their preferred art school or creative program.

ABBY GASKIN Portfolio Advisor

Abby Gaskin is a fashion designer, fine artist, and entrepreneur and is currently a graduate student in Japanese language and culture at the University of Toronto. She attended Parsons School of Design in New York City as a Fine Arts major with a background in painting and drawing, but after being exposed to the process of clothing construction, she realized that fashion design and garment development would be her specialty. After earning a Fashion Design BFA, she gained experience in designing, creating, and consulting through involvement in various New York Fashion Week shows and interning at luxury brands such as BODE. Abby showcased her own collection on the runway at Hong Kong Fashion Week 2019 as a ReDress Design Awards finalist (the world’s largest sustainable fashion competition). She worked as a womenswear designer at UNIQLO headquarters on the women’s knitwear and lounge clothing design team.

In 2022, Abby decided to combine her passion for studying Japanese and working in fashion by deepening her study of the Japanese language. Abby has previously worked with portfolio clients, launched a notebook company, Kanji Knit, and designed custom garments for clients under her own label.

DEBRA SOKOLOW Portfolio Advisor

Debra Sokolow is an artist and educator. She has designed and developed discipline-based visual arts programs with an expertise in architecture and design. Sokolow’s background in art education allows her to guide teens and adults in the successful development of art and design portfolios for college admissions and career advancement. Sokolow exhibits her artwork locally and nationally. Her artwork ranges from realism to abstract expressionism and includes a variety of media exploring light, form, and space.

Sokolow is the recipient of a California Arts Council grant and a Fulbright Memorial Fund Scholarship. She is actively involved in community-minded arts organizations. Her passion is to inspire students to explore new methods of design that strengthen artistic skills and enhance creative design solutions.

ALLISON WARREN Portfolio Advisor

Allison is an artist, designer, educator, and business owner. She is a textile product designer and owns a studio that produces textiles primarily for the interior design trade. Before this, Allison made fabric-based sculptures and drawings and exhibited them at venues such as the Banff Centre (Ontario, Canada) and The Drawing Center (New York), and received critical acclaim from curators at the Houston Contemporary and the Whitney Museum of American Art, among others.

Allison holds an MFA in Painting from Cranbrook Academy of Art in Detroit and a BA from UC Berkeley in Rhetorical Writing. As former faculty at SAIC, she taught in the foundations and fiber departments, helping students to refine their techniques and concepts in drawing, painting, textile, color, and sculpture. Also, at SAIC, Allison worked in admissions and reviewed creative portfolios and written statements of prospective students across the country. Prior, Allison taught at the University of Illinois, where she managed teams of instructors to deliver the architecture foundations design program there.

JENNI SARIKAS Client Manager

A musician and creative writer, Jenni began college as a Music Education major at the University of Tampa but soon felt the pull of songwriting and the music business. She completed a BA in Popular Music Studies at William Paterson University of New Jersey. She worked in music publishing as an intern and then took a risk and followed her true passion for songwriting. She earned a master’s degree in Songwriting from Bath Spa University in Bath, England.

Jenni has continued writing songs, released a full-length album of original songs, and periodically releases new work. Along with music, Jenni has always enjoyed research. She often found herself exploring college programs just for fun! Jenni is a member of NYSACAC (New York State Association for College Admission Counseling). At Portfolio College Counseling, you will find her working behind the scenes to provide students with up-to-date access to college and application information, as well as onboarding for their personalized application trackers.


Rebecca is a Brooklyn-based writer, editor, and educator. She graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles with a BA in English Literature and spent several years working in their Office of Admissions. After teaching English in a public school in Madrid, Spain via a government grant, she moved to New York, where she teaches English Literature, Math, and Spanish. She specializes in working with students with learning disabilities and practices alternative teaching methods that emphasize engagement, multidisciplinary work, and creativity. A musician and creative writer herself, Rebecca is passionate about helping fellow artists uncover their unique voices and land their next steppingstone in the world.


Christine Pakkala is the author of the Last-But-Not-Least Lola series and Jasmine and Maddie from Boyds Mill Press. Her essays and articles have appeared in numerous magazines and journals, including Salon, BrainChild, Serendipity, and Ladies Home Journal. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop (MFA, Poetry, 1993), she was the recipient of a Fulbright grant to translate modern Finnish poetry. Christine has taught 7th and 9th grade English and currently teaches at the Westport Writers’ Workshop. She received a Scholastic award for excellence in teaching. Christine has worked as a freelance editor and writing coach for more than ten years, helping clients achieve professional, academic or personal writing goals.

Design Advisors

Portfolio College Counseling’s Design Advisory Group is a network of exceptionally talented design students and professionals. Our advisors mentor and inspire our students, the next generation of design leaders.

Natalia Trevino Amaro Fashion Design

Natalia graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology with an AAS in Fashion Design. She participated in the international program and spent her first year at Polimoda in Florence, Italy, and studied in NYC for her final year. She currently runs a self-titled company, creating hand-made clothing and accessories with an emphasis on sustainability. She also post videos on YouTube every week about life, business, fashion school experiences, Q&As, and a lot more! If Natalie not sewing or editing videos, she is most likely playing piano, reading, or hanging out with her dog.

Fran Beallor Painting and Drawing, Portfolio Development

Fran Beallor is a professional artist and arts educator whose specialty is helping students develop their artwork for art high schools and colleges. She teaches privately and in small groups. Fran knows the value of one-on-one teaching; she focuses on technique and loves to share her expertise with students, who appreciate her style of encouragement and enthusiasm. She has also taught art at public and private schools in NY and for corporate students online.

Fran’s art has been exhibited at numerous museums and galleries. She has work in the 9/11 Museum in NYC and Copelouzas Museum in Athens, Greece. She was awarded first prize in the 2020 Morgan Library Museum Online Portrait Competition and had a solo show at El Barrio’s Artspace in NYC. Her schooling includes Pratt Institute, Antioch College, Brooklyn Museum Art School, and Art Students League.

Isa Hanssen Animation, Storyboarding, Character Design

Isa Hanssen is a narrative artist (storyboard and comics), indie game developer, and occasional writer. She is a Filipino/Mexican/American artist with a love for magical girls and mundane mythological weirdness.

Isa studied at the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) where she produced several films about girls fighting, and two games about the apocalypse. She has since worked for Tic Toc Games Studios, BOOM! Studios, and attended the Cartoon Network Story Academy.

Tommy Cheng Animation

Tommy Cheng is a Boston-based 2D animator specializing in Character Animation. He graduated from Lesley University in 2019 and joined Poke Gravy Studios, a boutique firm. Since then, Tommy has worked on a wide range of projects from music videos to educational films, for clients like Billy Ray Cyrus and the Boston Children’s Hospital. Tommy is currenlty an MFA Animation student at SMFA/Tufts University.

Artistically, Tommy is drawn toward narrative-based works with strong, clear messaging. He is a voracious reader, a dedicated consumer of film and television, and a foodie with an insatiable appetite.

Carley DiNovi Fashion Design, Textile Design

Carley graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology with a BFA in Fashion Design. During her studies, she interned for several lifestyle brands dedicated to celebrating self-expression through prints, textiles, and sustainable approaches. After graduating, she worked as a freelance designer in concept design, home textiles, and knitwear design and production.

Her love for fashion is based on the idea that it can serve as: “A voice for those too scattered for words, a daily report of one’s reflections, a link between curious minds, and a moving platform to promote progression.” She is currently pursuing an MFA in Art Therapy at Naropa University. Carley uses her metaphorical introspection and empathic sensitivity to guide the powers of self-expression to PCC students. Her personal artwork includes autobiographical illustrations with eclectic details and a progression toward abstract paintings with layered symbolism.

Veronica Drescher  Animation

Veronica Drescher is a 3D and 2D animator and storyboard artist. She is currently studying 3D Animation at Ringling College of Art and Design, where she is often producing animated shorts that usually involve animals in funny situations. Veronica is inspired by the antics of her own pets, and the world around her.

When she isn’t animating, Veronica can be found spending time with her cats, exploring the outdoors, or looking for inspiration in books, media and games.

Lauren Gaston Costume Design, Illustration

Lauren Gaston (she/her) works as a costume designer, illustrator, and entrepreneur. Her work has been featured by The Juilliard School and Time Lapse Dance in NYC, and the A.A. Bakhrushin State Central Theatre Museum in Russia. She is a co-creator of The Sustainable Production Toolkit, and a former LMCC Arts Center artist-in-residence, where she explored ways to animate and activate the climate movement on Governors Island. Most recently, Lauren served as Interim Director at the Broadway Green Alliance in NYC.

Umut Guney Architecture

Umut is from Istanbul, Turkey. He received a Bachelor of Architecture with high distinction from Syracuse University. He has interned at architecture firms in New York City, Washington DC, and Istanbul. He has experience advising and assisting students and peers as a peer advisor at Syracuse University School of Architecture and worked as an undergraduate teaching assistant for freshman architecture students. He says, “In my experiences, I realized that I enjoy advising younger students as I learn from their questions and thoughts.”

Since graduating from Syracuse, Umut collaborated with friends for an exhibition in Berlin, and participated in a design studio review as a guest critic. The pandemic offered him an opportunity to explore new ways of creating while adapting to changing conditions. Umut is pursuing a Master of Architecture at Yale University.

Iris Xie Graphic Design, Illustration

Iris Xie is set to graduate in 2023 as an undergraduate Graphic Design student at Iris Xie graduated in 2023 with a major in Graphic Design from the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), with strengths in illustration, typography, and traditional animation. Iris served as Creative Director at Brown Political Review and as a Resident Advisor for RISD Residence Life. Off-campus, she worked at several design internships and freelance assignments for companies such as Nickelodeon, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and Black Math, Inc.

Her works include narrative animation, comics, book design, editorial illustration, and branding systems. She is interested in blending effective concept-driven work with a strong aesthetic voice.

“My students always bring me fresh ideas and stretch my thinking and abilities as a counselor and designer,” says Lorraine. “I’ve learned a tremendous amount from the many young artists and designers with whom I’ve worked.”

Let's Connect

Finding the right college counselor is the key step in a successful college planning process. To help decide whether our services are the best path forward for students, we offer a 20-minute, complimentary phone meeting to introduce ourselves, get to know you and explain our process. Afterward, we’ll prepare a written proposal to outline our plan for working with you, that includes a suggested sequence and associated fees. Each plan for counseling is customized, based on the student’s abilities, skills and educational objectives.