Dominique Halaby, DPA
Director, Business Innovation Group
Dominique Halaby, D.P.A. is the Director of the Business Innovation Group (BIG) at Georgia Southern University. This includes the Center for Business Analytics and Economic Research, Center for Entrepreneurial Learning and Leadership, Small Business Development Center, EDA University Center, Innovation Incubator and Georgia Southern Fab Lab. In 2015, BIG was recognized as a Gold Award Winner in Entrepreneurship by the International Economic Development Council.
Dr. Halaby is also overseeing the development of Georgia Southern University’s City Center. The City Center is a joint initiative between Georgia Southern University, the City of Statesboro, and the Downtown Statesboro Development Authority to foster innovation and entrepreneurship in Bulloch County. In addition, he is working with the Hinesville Development Authority to construct a second City Center in downtown Hinesville.
Prior to joining Georgia Southern, he served as the Director of the Center for Community and Business Research at the University of Texas at San Antonio’s Institute for Economic Development. Dr. Halaby spent most of his recent career building a non-profit organization in the Rio Grande Valley (RGV) dealing with workforce and economic development. He successfully secured over $35 million in funding, including one of the largest federal training grants awarded in South Texas. Under his leadership, the organization was recognized in 2003 by the Society for Human Resource Management as The Best to Place to Work in Hidalgo County for companies with less than 100 employees. He was successful in achieving broad collaboration in the RGV among healthcare providers and educators to strengthen home-grown approaches to meet their skilled workforce needs, and in several community planning and antipoverty initiatives. These projects won awards as national finalists for the Economic Development Administration (EDA) Best Practices in 2003 and 2006, as well as being recognized by the Texas Workforce Commission as the Transitional Workforce Award recipient in 2004. In addition, Dr. Halaby served as Interim Director of the Rio Grande Regional Center for Innovation and Commercialization and assisted public universities in South Texas and new business ventures in accessing the $200 million Emerging Technology Fund.
In addition to serving on the APLU’s Commission on Economic and Community Engagement Executive Committee, Dr. Halaby currently serves as a board member of several other entities including the University Economic Development Association, Spaceport Camden and Statesboro Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Assistant Director of Research, CBAER
As a member of the Center for Business Analytics and Economic Research (CBAER) team since 2007, Ben McKay has led numerous research projects throughout Georgia. These projects include economic impact analysis, market research, survey research, data analysis, strategic planning and community needs assessments. These projects have been used by clients to secure external funding from public and private sources, increase their profile, identify market demand, determine project and policy feasibility, and aid in their efforts to plan for the future. Many of these projects have had positive job growth and retention as outcomes.
McKay currently holds a Master of Public Administration degree from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale and a Master in Business Administration from Georgia Southern University. Additionally, McKay has professional experience in state and local government as a manager in the private sector.
Hawes Hall 212
CBAER Senior Researcher
Dr. Michael Toma is the Fuller E. Callaway professor of economics at Georgia Southern University in Savannah. He specializes in macroeconomics and regional economics. He has a Ph.D. in Economics from George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia and joined Armstrong State University in 1997. He is a senior researcher with Georgia Southern’s Center for Business Analytics and Economic Research. He is the recipient of teaching and research awards and served as President of the Academy of Economics and Finance, an organization of academic economists and finance professors.
Area Director, Small Business Development Center
Valerie McElveen has deep Georgia Southern roots – as she received her MBA from the university in 2015 and she previously worked for the university as an accountant during 2012 and 2013. She is excited about returning to the GS family and being part of the SBDC statewide network.
McElveen brings a wealth of experience and knowledge about small business operation and growth to her role as Area Director. Her experience at the university and in the private sector is invaluable to the small business owners in Bulloch County and the surrounding area. She received her BBA in accounting from Eastern Michigan University and her MBA from Georgia Southern.
Santanu has lived in India, England and now in the USA. During this time, he worked with designers, craftsmen, engineers, architects and professionals of all these nations. Santanu gathered experience in print production, exhibition, retail, packaging, signage system, short films, interactive and game design. He speaks four different languages.
Santanu is a TEDx speaker and has presented various papers on design education, sustainability, mentoring and collaborative research in several distinguished national and international design conferences. He has received several national as well as international awards and grants during his career in the industry and academia. Some of the awards are GAMG (Georgia Association of Museums and Galleries) for designing a permanent exhibition on Bulloch County Military Heritage, American Graphic Design Awards, AAF–ADDY’s (American Advertising Federation), Adobe Design Achievement Awards, Awarded gold & silver medal for best display and design at the International Trade Fair and Awarded gold in International Cooking Competition. He has presented various papers on design education for the millennial generation, sustainability in design, collaborative research projects and mentoring in several double-blind peer-reviewed distinguished national and international design conferences such as AIGA, UCDA Design Education Summit, RGD – Design Educators Conference, Toronto, Mentoring Conference, New Mexico, The Learner Conference, New York, USG Teaching and Learning Conference, Athens, Design Principles and Practices Conference, Vancouver, Making Futures–International Research Conference, Devon, U.K., IDEMi–The International Conference on Integration of Design, Engineering and Management for Innovation. University of Porto, Portugal, Critical Thinking Conference, Teaching and Learning Expo, DDEI–Designing Design Education For India Conference, Pune, India and will be presenting his paper Thinking Through Making at the Design Principles and Practices Conference 2019, St. Petersburg, Russia.
Santanu was engaged in various design projects for well-known organizations like the United Nation (UN), United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Development Program (UNDP), Help the Aged, UK, Design C, J. Walter Thompson (JWT), Tesco Super Markets, Londis Super Markets, Day Lewis Pharmacy, Munro Pharmacy, Government of Madhya Pradesh, and Government of India.
Assistant Director of Entrepreneurship Education
Suzanne Hallman organizes and manages many of the Business Innovation Group’s student events and programs. She also recently received her National Business Incubator Association (NBIA) Incubator Management Certification.
Hallman studied HR management at Georgia Southern, receiving an MBA in 2003. She commuted to Savannah for work in staffing for five years while in college and after finishing her degrees. She began working for Northland Cable Advertising in 2007, helping companies build marketing campaigns. In 2010, Hallman helped her husband start a small video production company, Stouthouse Media. She used her business management and networking skills to help Stouthouse grow, gaining invaluable experience in entrepreneurship along the way. Hallman was hired in August 2013 as Business Advisor for the virtual incubator program, GENIE, at Georgia Southern University. She is excited about this opportunity to put her degrees and experience to work to help build the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the region.
Phil Boyum is a Business Analyst for BIG and is the Project Manager for GENIE – the Georgia Enterprise Network for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Partially funded by the US Economic Development Administration, GENIE is an interactive and collaborative technology platform designed to connect entrepreneurs, mentors, and business owners in a regional ecosystem focused on supporting local enterprises, developing homegrown talent, and growing the region’s economy. Phil joined the BIG team shortly after completing his MBA at Georgia Southern and holds an undergraduate degree from The University of Texas at Austin in Management Information Systems.
Phil has extensive experience in sales and marketing, journalism and radio, tourism and hospitality management, and construction. His career includes positions in sales and management with Marriott Corp. and Staff Leasing Inc. As an award-winning journalist, he created the first-ever joint news-program collaboration between a newspaper and radio station in the state of Georgia. In addition, he owned and operated his own home construction and property renovation business in Texas, before relocating to Georgia. Councilman Boyum is serving in his 9th year as the District 1 council member for the City of Statesboro and is currently the Chair of the Georgia Municipal Association Municipal Training Board. He is also in the process of completing the final few courses to complete his Georgia Certified Economic Developer training. Phil’s teenaged son, Spencer, is a wicked drummer whose set playing can sometimes be heard echoing off the walls of the buildings in Downtown Statesboro.
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Gloria Strauthers, SHRM-CP, RESE
Business Incubation Manager
Gloria Strauthers manages the Incubator Program. Since 2019, she has served as a SCORE resource partner offering business advisory services to the Business Innovation Group’s clients.
She is also Chief Executive Officer of Exodus Management and Consulting, LLC, a management consulting firm specializing in solving organizational challenges originating from disconnections between people and processes. She brings 25 years of impressive multi-industry experience to add value to organizations and individuals to ensure they reach goal attainment.
She was recognized as one of Savannah SCORE’s Top Five Business Mentors in 2020; while guiding small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs in business growth and development. As an Independent Certified Coach, Teacher & Speaker of the world-renowned John Maxwell Team, she assists individuals, organizations, and companies in achieving personal and professional growth.
Gloria is a decorated Air Force Veteran, a graduate of The The University of Southern Mississippi, The Community College of the Air Force, and Tougaloo College. Gloria is a Certified Human Resource Professional (SHRM-CP) specializing in Employee Relations, a Registered Environmental Services Executive (RESE), and a Certified SCORE Business Mentor.
Nancey Price oversees the daily administrative, fiscal and facilities operations at the Business Innovation Group. She received her BA in Women’s & Gender Studies from Mercer University in 2015, a Certificate in Public and Nonprofit Management from Georgia Southern University in 2017, and a Masters in Public Administration from Georgia Southern in 2019.
She was previously an administrative assistant at the Rural Health Research Institute, an NIH Center of Excellence, at Georgia Southern for two years before joining BIG in 2018. She uses the skills she learned while pursuing her MPA to build mutually-beneficial relationships between BIG and campus and community leaders while also serving as support for the various initiatives imperative to BIG’s success.
Outside of her official BIG duties, Nancey is a professional collage artist, performance storyteller, and writer. Her art has been featured in O, the Oprah Magazine and has been on display at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, the Averitt Center for the Arts, and the Jepson Center for the Arts in Savannah, GA.
James “Jim” Walker
Fab Lab Shop Manager
Jim Walker graduated with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Georgia Southern in 2019, and spent many hours between classes and study sessions working as a blacksmith and woodworker at the FabLab to help pay for college. Jim now works as the FabLab shop manager to support entrepreneurs and makers in the Statesboro Community. In addition to his duties as Shop Manager, Jim is often found in the Fablab working on any variety of projects, from hand forged architecture to CNC machining.
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As the Business Innovation Group’s Community Catalyst, Garrett works to develop the entrepreneurship ecosystem by connecting businesses with others in the space and assisting in taking full advantage of all the BIG has to offer.
Garrett Clark studied Civil Engineering at Georgia Southern University. After graduating, Garrett began his career working for Mitsubishi Power Systems Americas. As a Lean engineer, he further developed a problem-solving mindset through supporting MPSA’s strategic vision and business objectives by utilizing Lean initiatives and managing projects and teams across Turbine Assembly and Rotor Machining Operations. During his time at MPSA, Garrett developed a strong interest in business culture dynamics.
Garrett’s success at MHPSA led him to a leadership position within JTEKT North America where he directed a team whose primary focus was on key improvements and critical problem solving within the plant’s intricate value streams. During his time at JTEKT, Garrett gained a deeper understanding of the theories and application of Lean and the Toyota Production System while further developing his leadership abilities.
In order to fulfill Garrett’s Ikigai, he and his wife have embarked on a new venture to change the way retail businesses do business through the medium of an ice cream experience like no other. So far, they’re off to a successful start with an overwhelmingly positive response from the city of Statesboro where they have established the first Rolling Monkey Handcrafted Ice Cream.
Catherine Blake has a passion for sales, marketing, business development and a heart for encouraging others to be their personal best. Her professional expertise helps companies grow through strategic initiatives, execution, and hard work. Ms. Blake has deep experience with FORTUNE 500 companies plus start-ups and private ventures.
In 2019, Ms. Blake established the Institute for Executive Women which exists to provide professional leadership development and impact for all women. Through programs, seminars and coaching, the institute connects women to each other to develop community and encourage mentoring. Signature programs include the Executive Roundtable, Women’s Edition, and the Women’s Power Breakfast. The goal is to encourage and uplift women. 10% of revenues are donated to help women and girls around the world with a focus on those living in poverty, survivors of sex trafficking and entrepreneurs via microlending.
Hailing from Atlanta, Ms. Blake graduated from The Westminster Schools before venturing to New England. She is a graduate of The Harvard Extension School’s (CSS Certificate in Special Studies in Business Administration) program, Harvard University’s Division of Continuing Education and Pine Manor College, where she received her Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration (B.A.). In addition to running her business, Catherine has served as an adjunct professor in sales for six years at The University of New Hampshire’s Peter T. Paul College of Business & Economics where she founded The Center for Sales Excellence. Ms. Blake is a certified Dale Carnegie Trainer. She has furthered her professional refinement through The Emily Post Institute and The Protocol School of Washington. Locally, she is an instructor for the marketing management degree program for Savannah Technical College and program manager for Savannah State University’s Department of Journalism and Mass Communications.
Related to serving her community, Ms. Blake has carried the brand flame as Communications Chair for The Harvard University Extension School’s Alumni Association Board and as an Appointed Director for the Harvard Alumni Association. She has served on the board of directors for the New Hampshire Tech Alliance as the TechWomen|TechGirls Founding Chair, a group focused on STEM education, community and opportunity for women and girls. In previous years, Ms. Blake has served on the board of directors of several non-profits including The Boys & Girls Club, Girls Inc. and the NHSPCA.
Most recently, Ms. Blake was hired as the first accelerator manager for the Business Innovation Group (BIG) powered by Georgia Southern University. She is building the program from the ground up to support entrepreneurs with the goal of providing mentorship, access to capital, connections to investors and business partners.
Ms. Blake received the Outstanding Women in Business Award from The New Hampshire Business Review to “celebrate women who have truly excelled, not only in their professional lives, but as leaders and role models.” True to her values, Catherine Blake serves as a mentor to young, emerging leaders in her midst. She founded and led community group called “MarketPlace Connection” to raise the bar for ethics and integrity in the business world. Most recently, she has been sworn by the Juvenile Court Judge as a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) to help children find a stable, safe and loving home environment.
Last updated: 10/1/2021