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Taking Flight – November 2018

deanphotonewsletter2016Message From the Dean

We are Parker. Now, with that said, let me explain what I mean. As you’ve no doubt heard, our College has been renamed in honor of Greg Parker. We are now the Gregory M. Parker College of Business, or just the Parker College for short. Mr. Parker has given us $5 million, which we will invest in programs that will benefit our students, our faculty and that will help to build our reputation overall. This is a big deal for us, and I hope you are all excited to be a part of the Parker College of Business.

But, if all we do is change our name, then we will miss an extraordinary opportunity. As I often say, we are building something here at Georgia Southern. Yes, we’re building a successful business school that is growing in prominence, reach and reputation. But, that is just part of the story. We’re also building a network of engaged alumni, who appreciate the quality of their education and the opportunities it has afforded them. These alumni also understand the value of the Georgia Southern experience, and so, they are interested in hiring Georgia Southern graduates; they are interested in hosting internships and connecting with students. We are building the machinery that will create a lifetime of engagement across every level of professional tenure, from student to CEO. All are connected by the common thread of a Parker College education and work ethic. We’re building a culture of aspiration, innovation and results. We want to be the best, anywhere in the world. And because we’re not the largest, the oldest, nor the richest, we have to work to be better, more innovative and more productive. So, we’re taking a different approach in scholarship by focusing intently on research that matters. We’re innovating in pedagogy and student experience; it’s why nearly half of our graduates now do internships and why we’re investing so heavily in student research, professional development and travel. The results are reflected in the stories of those who hire our graduates and find them to provide such a strong return on investment. Finally, we are building an organization that provides excellent customer service. We want everyone who steps on this campus to be overwhelmed by the energy, enthusiasm and can-do spirit that greets them. We want to solve problems, open doors, and beckon more people to enter in and be a part. It’s good for them; it’s good for us, and it’s good for the whole economy of our state and region.

So, this naming gift is a big deal, and it is very important. But, the name change is only the beginning; the real value will come through what follows it. We want to leverage Mr. Parker’s gift, along with his presence, his ideas, and the example of his organization to innovate, to grow and to build a business school that others will want to imitate. To put it bluntly, we want to change the world for the better by doing what we do in newer and better ways. We want to create a model that others will follow as a result, and we believe this partnership with Greg Parker will accelerate that progress. I believe that’s why he invested in us, and I believe that is the potential of our opportunity. So, if that sounds good to you, if that sounds like a ride you’d like to take, then I encourage you to jump on board. The momentum is building, and the future is bright. We are Parker!


Georgia Southern University Announces Outstanding $5 Million Gift to the College of Business

The Georgia Southern University Foundation, Inc. received a $5 million gift, the single largest gift in University history, for the College of Business from Greg Parker, president, founder and CEO of The Parker Companies in Savannah. The University System of Georgia Board of Regents approved the name of the Gregory M. Parker College of Business at Georgia Southern University.

Parker is known for his commitment to technology, innovation and charitable giving. The new name ties the College to a successful entrepreneur and to a powerful brand that is associated with high-quality service and products.

“At Georgia Southern, we’re focused on student success and meeting the workforce needs of our region and the state,” says Georgia Southern University President Shelley C. Nickel. “This bold investment in our students will increase that effort and provide even greater opportunity for the leaders and entrepreneurs of tomorrow.”

“This $5 million gift signifies a new partnership between The Parker Companies and the College. It will enhance the quality of teaching and learning and scholarly activities while raising the profile of the Parker College of Business and Georgia Southern University across the region, state and nation,” adds Allen C. Amason, Ph.D., dean of the College. “This partnership is a significant step forward in preparing more highly qualified students for the workforce.”

With a diverse student population that is representative of Georgia’s population, the new funding will establish the Parker Business Scholars Program, Parker Business Scholarship Fund and Parker Faculty Support Fund, allowing Georgia Southern students to excel in the areas of professional development and scholarship. In addition, faculty research remains at the forefront of the College’s dedication to current trends in business and teaching.

“By making this gift to the College of Business at Georgia Southern University, I hope to make a lasting impact on the business community in coastal Georgia,” states Parker. “I truly believe in education’s power to transform lives and have a strong commitment to giving back to the community.”

The Parker Business Scholarship Program (PBSP) will provide personalized professional development and educational enrichment opportunities to a select group of students in the Parker College of Business. Implementation of the PBSP will begin in fall 2019 and include specialized coursework, unique professional development opportunities and other experiential learning activities. The Parker Companies, along with the dean of the College, will have direct involvement with the PBSP students.

The Parker Business Scholarship Fund will enable recruitment and retention of greater numbers of the best and brightest students and will attract students with the potential for competitive offers from other universities, making the Parker College of Business a destination of first choice for students across the state and region.

The Parker Faculty Support Fund will support faculty members and their research. Research is essential to the academic reputation of the College, to the scholarly currency and prestige of the faculty, and to the overall value proposition of the College as a leading academic institution.

About Parker’s

Parker’s is strategically redefining America’s convenience store industry, offering customers high-quality products, freshly prepared food and superior customer service at 54 retail stores throughout southeast Georgia and South Carolina. Headquartered in Savannah, Ga., Parker’s has a commitment to exceeding customer expectations and has repeatedly been recognized as one of the nation’s leading convenience store companies. Food service is a specialty, featuring Parker’s Kitchen favorites like hand-breaded Southern Fried Chicken Tenders, tender bone-in chicken, made-from-scratch mac ‘n’ cheese, a breakfast bar and daily specials. The company’s popular PumpPal loyalty program, which includes more than 150,000 members, has saved Parker’s customers more than $10 million to date.

Parker’s also gives back to every community where stores are located through the Fueling the Community Program, which donates a portion of the profit of every gallon of gas sold on the first Wednesday of the month to area schools. In addition, the company endows the Parker’s Emergency and Trauma Center at Memorial Hospital in Savannah, and spearheads an Anti-Litter Campaign in Savannah. For more information about Parker’s, visit

Alumni Spotlight – Tonya Luehrsen

Tonya Luehrsen (ACCT, 1992) is the accounting director in the State of Georgia’s Department of Community Supervision (DCS). She reports to the chief financial officer (CFO) and supervises the accounting staff. She also oversees all accounting functions for the department and prepares the financial data for the year-end close. Tonya has worked in DCS since its inception in 2015. Before that, she worked in the accounting profession in three other state agencies and the private sector.

Moving from the private to the public sector was not without its challenges. First of all, was the 33 percent pay cut. Through hard work and making herself an integral part of her agency’s accounting functions, Tonya now exceeds her previous salary. In 2014, she had to go from a position as an accounting manager to interim CFO for an agency during the year-end close. Tonya was suddenly completely responsible for all of the agency’s financial data and some of its budgeting and purchasing functions. She had to quickly learn many things with which she was unfamiliar, but she persevered and, in the process, expanded her area of knowledge related to how the State of Georgia functions. Fortunately, Tonya enjoys solving problems and producing accurate financial information for the state. She also likes sharing her knowledge with others.

While at Georgia Southern, Tonya was an active member of Pi Sigma Epsilon, a professional business fraternity, serving as the formal dance chair her senior year. The club, along with a public speaking class, enabled her to break out of her shell and boosted her self-confidence. Tonya credits the Parker College of Business with providing her with opportunities to increase her confidence by encouraging her to speak out and express her opinions and to make suggestions. She also learned business ethics, team work, multi-tasking, and organizational skills along with how to meet deadlines. Tonya believes everything she learned from the Parker College of Business and Georgia Southern have made it possible to be where she is today.

Recently, Tonya has successfully become a Certified Governmental Financial Manager (CGFM). To date, she considers this as her proudest accomplishment. In the future, Tonya hopes to retire as a CFO of one of Georgia’s state agencies.

In her spare time, Tonya enjoys traveling with her fiancé. She has purchased a second home in Statesboro so that they can easily attend Eagle football games in the fall.

Georgia Southern, Ocean Exchange Announce Winner of Annual BIG Pitch Award

The Georgia Southern University Parker College of Business and the Business Innovation Group (BIG) awarded a grand prize of $10,000 to Vita Inclinata Technologies LLC, a team of innovators from Seattle University, for the 2018 BIG Pitch Award.

The eighth annual Ocean Exchange, hosted in Savannah, Georgia, featured the fourth year of the BIG Pitch Award, which is given to collegiate innovators who have created sustainable solutions.

Vita Inclinata is a small defense company focusing on stabilization control of moving objects such as hoisting systems and crane operations. The company is a leading developer of chaotic motion control systems, providing counter swing systems to military agencies, private contractors and local governments for improved human safety and operating efficiency.

“Vita’s Load Stability System has the potential for huge impact,” said Allen C. Amason, Ph.D., dean of the Parker College of Business. “Certainly they are to be applauded for developing a device that will actually save lives. The pitch was compelling, and they’ve come a long way already. So we’re happy this award will help them make the next big step in development. We’re honored to be a part of such a significant event.”

In addition to Vita Inclinata, seven additional collegiate innovators presented sustainable solutions to a distinguished group of conference guests representing business and industry, entrepreneurs, academia, government and non-governmental organizations.

Schools represented in the finalist round were from NYU, Yale, Brandeis, UC Santa Barbara, Texas State, Boston University, Virginia Commonwealth, and the Monterrey (Mexico) Institute of Technology and Higher Education with solutions in fields of energy, robotics and agriculture/aquaculture.

About Ocean Exchange

Each year, the Ocean Exchange seeks innovative, proactive and globally scalable sustainable solutions with working prototypes and applications that can cross industries, economies and cultures, in a competitive process in which two $100,000 and one $10,000 awards are granted to early-stage companies.

About BIG

BIG at Georgia Southern, located in downtown Statesboro, is the business outreach arm of the University, committed to developing a vibrant entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystem for the southeast region. BIG provides resources for students and entrepreneurs to gain skills and training necessary to understand business principles, experience how businesses operate, and successfully launch new enterprises.

College of Business Hosts 12th Annual Southeast Georgia Community Bank Symposium

Georgia Southern University students, faculty and nearly 70 bankers from community banks around southeast Georgia came together Nov. 1 on the Statesboro Campus for the 12th annual Southeast Georgia Community Bank Symposium at the Nessmith-Lane Center.

The symposium provided an informative and educational program on issues and concerns impacting the national and regional banking industry and the economy as a whole.

“It was great to have an outstanding group of bankers on the Georgia Southern campus for our symposium,” stated Don Cox, Ph.D., BB&T Distinguished Chair in Money & Banking. “In addition to the event sessions that provided valuable and timely information to the attendees, it was an opportunity for some of our finance students to interact with the bank executives in a professional setting.”

Junior and senior finance students led a panel and spoke about their outlook on careers in the banking industry. The panel included a discussion of the importance of experiential learning for both companies and students with the College’s Director of Experiential Learning and Student Engagement Danielle Smith.

Cox, and Michael Toma, Ph.D., director for the Center for Business Analytics and Economic Research at Georgia Southern, provided a look at national economic trends and data and a more focused look at key economic data from the heart of Georgia and Coastal Georgia, respectively.

Allen C. Amason, Ph.D., dean of the Parker College of Business, presented on strategic thinking, highlighting the fundamental constructs in strategic thinking with specific takeaways for bank leaders.

Synovus Bank Market Intelligence Manager Cal Evans provided a presentation on sector and capital market trends, illustrating which markets continue to show strengths, warranted fears, where sector opportunities can be found and how to align lending strategy with regulatory guidance.

For more than ten years, our forensic interview and interrogations class taught by Don Berecz, senior lecturer with the School of Accountancy, has visited Southeast Bulloch High School to conduct mock employment interviews. Students earning their Fraud Examination Certificate apply the concepts learned in the classroom and put them into practice while also helping high school seniors become more comfortable with the interview process and interviewing, in general.

With the help of their Southeast Bulloch County English teachers and as part of the career development section of the class, the high school seniors created résumés and completed applications for jobs that they would like to have. Each high school student chose the job for which they would interview and then tailored the résumé to that specific job. Some examples of jobs the students interviewed for were welder, receptionist at a hospital and fast food manager, among others. Our students, who are seniors getting ready for employment positions themselves, then conducted interviews based on the jobs the high school students identified. Our students prepared an evaluation of the high school students’ résumé and applications, appearance, confidence, comfort, attitude, expressiveness and oral communication skills.

For our students, this exercise was nerve racking since many have never been in the interviewer’s seat. Some of the topics the students cover in the Forensic Interviews class include verbal and nonverbal cues, preparing interview memoranda and obtaining and preparing legally-admissible admission statements.

Recently, the Forensic Interviews class had been focusing on how to read nonverbal language. While the high school students were not aware of the goals of this exercise for our students, the mock interviews allowed for genuine and unbiased answers from the interviewee. The interviews started as most interviews do with the “Tell me about yourself” question, also known as a norming question, to get the interviewee comfortable, and for the interviewer to judge how the person behaves when giving truthful information. From there, the interviewer asked about strengths and weaknesses and why the student chose a particular field, among other questions. Victoria Liggett, a senior accounting student stated, “By observing nonverbal behavior, I [could] tell when a student [was] not answering honestly, or the student was simply answering with short answers that didn’t give any real information.”

A learning outcome of the Forensic Interviews class is to learn how to convince the interviewee to open up by gaining their trust and understanding. According to Victoria, “Being able to converse with the students and get them to open up to a complete stranger so that we could get to know them was the real learning opportunity. This exercise was [a] good [experience] because it taught us how to handle sometimes awkward conversations and how to keep a conversation going when people don’t want to talk.”

This experiential learning activity has also been conducted at Statesboro High School and will expand to Portal High School in spring 2019. “It’s obviously a win-win for everyone involved,” states Berecz. “We’ve gone full cycle and have had at least one high school student that was interviewed, then applied to our Fraud Examination program, end up in our course, and go back to the high school to be the interviewer.”

Finance Students Present at 1906 Society Gala

During the 1906 Society Gala on Friday, November 9, several finance students who participate in the Southern Investment Association (SIA), represented the Parker College of Business and presented the investment strategy used within the student organization’s portfolio. While there, Franklin Winbone, William VanSant and Wesley Martin were able to network with University and Parker College of Business donors and alumni.

Francesco Tonin, Ph.D., of Bloomberg, joined by his colleague Ryan Mahon, spoke to the Georgia Southern University Finance Association as a part of the Fall 2018 Guest Speaker Series on Wednesday, October 24, 2018. Tonin is currently an FX and economics market specialist for Bloomberg. Prior to joining Bloomberg, he was the North American head of FX Structuring at Citigroup. In addition, he has held positions at Morgan Stanley, Deutsche Bank and Credit Suisse. Before rejoining industry, Tonin held a faculty position at the University of Padua in mathematics. His educational background includes a BS in mathematics from the University of Padua, an MBA from Columbia and a Ph.D. from the University of Turin.

Ryan, a Bloomberg relations specialist, briefly discussed the company and its impact as well as the functionality of the Bloomberg terminals after which he introduced Tonin.

Tonin discussed the impact of the trade war (tariffs) between the U.S. and China on the individual economies, equity markets and currencies as well as its global impact on emerging markets. His presentation was supported by a plethora of data, graphs, charts and news articles, which were directly drawn from the Bloomberg terminals. For example, he discussed the amount of tariffs implemented since June 2018 in total dollar amounts as well as relative to GDP and GDP growth in the U.S. and China, the supply chain of major U.S. firms and how they might be impacted by the tariffs, the performance and volatility of major equity indices, as well as the impact of the current tariffs on the yield curve. At the end, he answered several questions from the students and provided a personal outlook on the trade war with China.

Bloomberg is a global information and technology company in the financial services/financial information industry. In fewer than 40 years, it has become a giant in its industry. The firm employs more than 19,000 individuals worldwide in nearly 200 locations. The firm offers its proprietary Bloomberg Terminals but also delivers news, technical support, research and a variety of other products. For more information about Bloomberg, visit, or, for Bloomberg Careers, visit

Georgia Southern’s Q2 Economic Monitor Reports Economy Up, Employment Growth Slowing

Georgia Southern University’s latest Economic Monitor, which analyzes Q2 2018 data and identifies trends affecting the regional economy, reports that Savannah’s three-county metro economy shows tourism growth leading the way, while retail sales, port activity and overall employment also contributed to area growth.

“Continued strength in the labor market lifted the index while the housing market mostly moved sideways during the quarter,” stated Michael Toma, Ph.D., Fuller E. Callaway Professor of Economics and director of the Center for Business Analytics and Economic Research (CBAER). “Overall, expansion in the regional economy continued at an above-average pace. However, expect slowing growth through the remainder of 2018.”

During the second quarter of 2018, the Savannah metro economy expanded at a rate of 1 percent, or 3.9 percent annualized. Approximately half of the lift in the index was provided by the tourism sector, a notable rebound from weather-related declines of about 3 percent in the winter quarter. Retail sales increased 6 percent, and port activity maintained year-over-year growth of 6.3 percent. Electricity sales remained flat, and consumer confidence in the south Atlantic states declined 4 percent, erasing the improvement in consumer sentiment during the first quarter.

Overall, area economic growth increased slightly in the second quarter, however, there is emerging softness in regional employment growth as well as other indicators of workforce utilization, including shortening workweeks and falling hourly pay. Throughout the rest of the year, the expectation is that regional economic activity will slow but remain positive.

Highlights from the latest Economic Monitor include


Tourism contributed largely to the lift in the Savannah Metro Business Index during the second quarter. Seasonal and inflation-adjusted hotel room rentals increased 8.2 percent, while airport traffic increased 11 percent.


Total employment reported in Savannah’s metro area was 179,800, up slightly less than 1 percent as compared to year-ago data. This extends the period of slowing employment growth dating back to 2015. Early data from the third quarter suggests continued sluggishness in employment growth.

Manufacturing is at a three-year high, adding 200 workers to stand at 17,700. Construction employment remained steady at 7,500, and local government employment fell by 300 workers. The leisure and hospitality industry employs 26,000 workers.


Regional employment increased by 900 jobs during the quarter; however, the data reported for the individual sectors of the economy, when taken together, suggests a loss in employment of about the same magnitude. The total and sector-level data have been generally moving together but trends in individual sectors have become more difficult to identify in quarter-to-quarter data.

Initial claims for unemployment insurance fell nearly 5 percent from the previous quarter. The number of claims remains about 10 percent below the amount normally expected given the size of the workforce and historical layoff rates. The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell from 4 percent in the previous quarter to 3.6 percent this quarter.


Seasonally adjusted building permit issuance for single-family homes fell 4.7 percent, consistent with the nationwide quarterly softness in the housing market.

Building permits issued for single-family homes fell from 522 in the first quarter to 513 in the second quarter. The average valuation of building permits for single-family homes dropped 0.7 percent, from $221,000 to $219,000.


The forecasting index increased 1.3 percent, or 5.3 percent, annualized, which represents a decline from the nearly 10 percent annualized growth rate of the previous quarter. The forecasting index increased on the strength of the U.S. leading index and relatively few layoffs in the regional labor market.

The Economic Monitor presents quarterly economic trends and short-term economic forecasts for Savannah’s Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). The quarterly report measures the heartbeat of the local economy, based on the analysis of economic data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, the City of Savannah, Georgia Power and the three counties in the MSA — Chatham, Bryan and Effingham.

The report is available for free by email. To subscribe, email

CBAER, a part of the Business Innovation Group in Georgia Southern’s Parker College of Business, meets the applied research needs of Savannah’s business and community organizations. Areas of concentrated research include regional economic forecasting, economic impact analysis, economic development and business expansion, tourism development, survey-based research and specialty reports on topics of state, regional and local interest.

Faculty/Staff News

On Wednesday, November 14, Kwabena Boakye, Ph.D., associate professor of quantitative analysis, presented, “Mindfulness: The Effect of Professionalism, Service Recovery and the Mediating Role of Service Experience in Ghana’s Healthcare Sector,” and Xinfang Wang, Ph.D., associate professor of quantitative analysis, presented her research, “Robust Network Design for Earthquake Preparedness,” during the second Research Seminar of the academic year.

Jackie Eastman, Ph.D., professor of marketing, was recently quoted in WalletHub about holiday shopping. To view the article, visit

Last updated: 3/12/2022