Our Team

Staff

Phil Shellhammer – Executive Director

Phil Shellhammer – Executive Director

An accomplished business executive and serial entrepreneur, Phil leads the Office of Entrepreneurship & Innovation. Phil’s unique blend of experiences allows him to pursue his passion to help other entrepreneurs in their journey from idea to launch. Phil also serves on the boards of Arkansas Athletes Outreach (AAO) and Students Acquiring Knowledge through Enterprise (SAKE).

Deb Williams – Senior Director, Operations & Student Programs

Deb Williams – Senior Director, Operations & Student Programs

In her role, Deb creates opportunities to connect students to initiatives that give them a practical application for what they learn in the classroom and during workshops or trainings. She oversees the Venture Intern Program and the execution of the Heartland Challenge, a global high-growth startup competition that brings graduate student entrepreneurs to the NWA region. Deb holds a master of science in Counselor Education from the University of Arkansas and is originally from the great state of Iowa.
Justin Urso – Director, McMillon Innovation Studio

Justin Urso – Director, McMillon Innovation Studio

Prior to joining the McMillon Innovation Studio, Justin was a full-time entrepreneur who built several start-ups and small businesses in the NWA community. His experience includes being an MBA graduate from the University of Arkansas Walton College of Business, working in the headquarters of three CPG companies, and being a full-time dad and educator in the height of the covid pandemic. Justin is passionate about education, finding the next great innovators and entrepreneurs, solving problems, and spending his free time with his family exploring the outdoors.

Student & Community Programs

Jessica Andrews – Associate Director, McMillon Studio

Jessica Andrews – Associate Director, McMillon Studio

Jessica facilitates opportunities for students and the community to solve problems using human-centered design. She also leads the studio’s Design Teams program and the undergraduate certificate in Organizational Innovation. Prior to joining the UofA, she spent nearly 10 years working in the nonprofit sector, most recently as the CEO at 7hills Homeless Center. Jessica has an MBA and MPS from the University of Arkansas. In her spare time, she enjoys being outdoors, traveling, reading fantasy and science fiction, and experimenting with art and design.

Jason Riley – Program Manager, Venture Internships

Jason Riley – Program Manager, Venture Internships

Jason oversees the Venture Intern Program. This program matches talented undergraduate students from the University of Arkansas with startups, entrepreneurship support organizations, and investor networks within the community. Jason is a native of Little Rock and holds a B.S. Degree from University of Central Arkansas and Master’s Degree in Education from the University of Arkansas.
Maddy Stricklen – Heartland Challenge Program Manager

Maddy Stricklen – Heartland Challenge Program Manager

Maddy is a Fayetteville local whose journey at the OEI started with a pitch competition. Now she manages competitions for the office, including the Heartland Challenge and the Seed Funding Pitch Competition. Maddy has experience in event planning and loves to get creative in her role with graphic design. When she's not in the office, she loves dancing, drawing, cooking, and scrapbooking.

Laura Moix – Program Manager, BioDesign Sprints & Graduate Entrepreneurial Fellows

Laura Moix – Program Manager, BioDesign Sprints & Graduate Entrepreneurial Fellows

Laura brings extensive experience supporting the academic success, professional development, and personal well-being of students on a journey to become leaders in their field, while cultivating an inclusive, equitable culture throughout the student lifecycle. She works with the Northwest Arkansas BioDesign Sprints and Graduate Entrepreneurial Fellows Program. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in German, European Studies & International Relations and a Master of Arts in German Literature from the UofA.
Hilola Tuychieva – Project Manager, Events

Hilola Tuychieva – Project Manager, Events

An experienced manager, Hilola is passionate about linking business and education to support student success. She joins OEI after working with the U of A Graduate School of Business Administration Office. She holds a BA in Foreign Languages from Central Asia and is a graduate of the Walton College of Business, where she focused in Supply Chain Management.
José E. Cartagena Ortiz – Instructional Designer, Training & Workshops

José E. Cartagena Ortiz – Instructional Designer, Training & Workshops

José is a curious learner, art aficionado, avid walker and biker, passionate gardener, and adventurous traveler from Puerto Rico living in NWA. He holds a B.A. Ed. in Visual Arts Education and an M.A. Ed. in Instructional Systems and Educational Technology. With over twenty years of experience in both the public and private sectors, José is passionately committed to designing and delivering exceptional learning solutions centered on the needs of people.
Allie McMurry – Program Assistant

Allie McMurry – Program Assistant

Allie oversees our Office Hours program and provides administrative assistance to our Program Manager, Kristen Kiefer. She graduated from the University in 2021 with her degree in Marketing. When she is not in office, she is likely adding to her vintage collection or curating items for her vintage shop, Ephemeral Collections.

Business Incubation

Zoe Buonaiuto – Associate Director, Business Incubation

Zoe Buonaiuto – Associate Director, Business Incubation

Zoe supports OEI's community-facing business incubation programs including the Greenhouse Outdoor Recreation Program (GORP), Venture Mentoring Service (VMS), Startup Village, and the Bounds Accelerator. She joined the University of Arkansas after working for several years in fintech startups and investment management. She earned her undergraduate degree from UCLA and her MA / PhD from Princeton University.
Danielle Chaney – Sr. Program Manager, Entrepreneurial Ecosystems

Danielle Chaney – Sr. Program Manager, Entrepreneurial Ecosystems

Danielle supports OEI's mission to build a collaborative and cohesive entrepreneurial ecosystem across the state, acting as the resident expert on the new EcoMap resource hub and managing the publication of the Arkansas Capital Scan. A Maryland native, she holds degrees in Marketing and Supply Chain Management from the University of Maryland. In her free time, she enjoys cooking, baking, sewing, and being outdoors with her dogs.
Elizabeth Quinn – Sr. Program Manager, GORP Around the State

Elizabeth Quinn – Sr. Program Manager, GORP Around the State

Quinn began her career as an instructor at the U of A, but left to work for a startup focused on food-system based rural economic development. She spent the past several years scaling an e-commerce business owned by Arkansas regenerative livestock farmers. She transitioned to GORP to further economic development by building a program of entrepreneurial support for entrepreneurs focusing on improving access to and enjoyment of one of the state's greatest resources — it’s public land and waterways.

Marketing & Communications

Brandon Howard – Communications & Social Media Specialist

Brandon Howard – Communications & Social Media Specialist

Brandon is an experienced communications professional with an extensive background in print and broadcast media. He is an Arkansas native and a proud graduate of the University of Arkansas.
Josh Mast – Media Designer

Josh Mast – Media Designer

Josh is a multifaceted creative specializing in layout design and photography. A published poet and artist, he's responsible for many of the pamphlets and handouts we distribute and for some of the signage we use in our programming. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Photography from John Brown University.

Operations

Jerra Hill – Associate Director, Operations

Jerra Hill – Associate Director, Operations

Jerra assists with the operations at the Office of Entrepreneurship & Innovation. Originally from North Carolina, Jerra has been with the University of Arkansas for 11 years.
Sjah Gonzales – Assistant Director, Program Operations

Sjah Gonzales – Assistant Director, Program Operations

Sjah is responsible for program execution, process management and stakeholder engagement. She manages the daily operations within the Office of Entrepreneurship and leads the team in establishing a foundation for process improvement initiatives. Sjah holds a B.S.E. in Human Resource Development and has over 13 years experience in higher education.
Kristen Kiefer – Program Manager & Executive Assistant

Kristen Kiefer – Program Manager & Executive Assistant

Kristen plays a key role in the management of our off-campus facilities and offers essential support to our visionary executive director, Sarah Goforth. Kristen's professional passion lies in creating spaces infused with hospitality, fostering environments that kindle both personal and professional development. Stop by the Brewer Hub to meet Kristen and to learn more about our programs!