Members of the BIF Student Experience Lab team come from diverse backgrounds and represent a spectrum of design, research and communication skills. By all accounts a motley crew, the team leverages their unique skill sets to bring a fresh, multi-disciplinary perspective to their work.

BIF Student Experience Lab Team

  • Chris Finlay
    Chris Finlay oversees work in the BIF Student Experience Lab. Chris came to BIF from New York City, where he most recently served as a managing partner at DMD Experience Design, a boutique innovation consultancy that works with organizational leadership on user-driven product and service development. For most of his career, Chris has focused his work on creating meaningful change in the world by leveraging the power of people, business and design to create innovative products and services. Chris has a BFA in graphic design and advertising from the School of Visual Arts, and a Master of Business and Master of Design in Innovation Planning at the Illinois Institute of Technology. He has also studied at the Culinary Institute of America.
  • Nallieli Santamaria
    Nallieli Santamaria is a Research Strategist in the BIF Student Experience Lab, where she is committed to reshaping the conversation around higher education reform using the power of the student voice. Prior to joining BIF, Nallieli was a Strategist at Avenue A | Razorfish and Modem Media (now Publicis Modem) where she helped clients build great brands and engage consumers wherever they lived in the digital world. Nallieli leverages a multi-disciplinary background in human-centered design, strategy, and organizational behavior to create systems, products and services that delight and empower consumers. She holds a Masters in Design Innovation Methods from the IIT Institute of Design, a Masters in Organizational Behavior from New York University, and a Bachelor in Psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles.
  • Alex Troitzsch
    Alex Troitzsch is a design strategist in the BIF Student Experience Lab. Alex worked in many international multidisciplinary teams as an innovation strategist and system designer. Particular interested in the design and innovation process, related methods and frameworks, product, system and process design as well as business model innovation and innovation performance assessment. Fluent in English, German and French.
  • James Hamar
    James Hamar manages BIF’s digital media assets, he creates audio and video pieces for BIF’s Innovation Story Studio and helps tell the stories of the participants in our BIF Experience Labs. Additionally, James serves as a research assistant for BIF's Student Experience Lab. James got his start as a producer with APC and advocated 3d modeling technology to replace traditional photography for product display to enable use of media-rich web tools and applications.
  • Jeff Drury
    Jeff Drury is the digital man-in-command at BIF. All the amazing stuff you see on this website…well, that is Jeff. In addition to his work at BIF, Jeff is an adjunct professor in both the FAV department at the Rhode Island School of Design and the film studies department at Rhode Island College.
  • Melissa Withers
    Melissa Withers is the Executive Director of the Business Innovation Factory. In addition to her work overseeing day-to-day operations at BIF, Melissa plays an active role in projects conducted in the BIF experience labs. Melissa previously served as Director, Communications and Market Development for the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation, where she led the development of the state's innovation programming. Prior to joining to returning to Rhode Island in 2004, Melissa served as assistant director of communications and public affairs for Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she managed a suite of nationally recognized outreach programs for scientists, high school students and teachers, and policy leaders.


  • Barry HastingsElizabeth Richards
    Elizabeth Richards is a freelance education consultant who is committed to work that empowers urban students and informs the dialogue on equitable access to quality education. Prior to her work with BIF, Elizabeth worked as an Action Researcher for the Central Falls School District, conducting research that documented student needs and used them to leverage changes in district-wide policy. Additionally, she has worked with several local arts and education organizations, focusing on the needs, access, and recruitment of struggling urban students. Elizabeth's work is informed by her background as an urban educator, teaching English in the middle and high school classroom. She holds a Maser's Degree in Urban Education Policy from Brown university, and a Bachelor's Degree in English and Education from Vassar College.


  • Barry HastingsBarry Hastings
    Barry’s background is in strategy. Having gained exposure to the craft at Fallon Worldwide he went on to hone his strategic skills at the Miami Ad School. Following tenures at DDB Chicago and trend firm Iconoculture Barry leveraged his advertising and branding background into developing brand and product innovation strategies, first at FutureBrand and later BrandImage. In particular, Barry’s strengths are in brand strategy, research, consumer trends and brand ideation. He has worked with clients such as the Chicago Bears, JCPenney, USG, General Mills, Target, Starbucks and SAB Miller. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Mass Communications from the University of Minnesota and a Masters in Design Methods from IIT’s Institute of Design.
  • Amy SpragueAmy Sprague
    Amy Sprague is Strategy Lead at Bao Design Lab, a non-profit incubator developing solutions for challenges at the Base of the Pyramid. Previously, in the Markets and Enterprise Program of the World Resources Institute, she worked in small business development in emerging markets and Base of the Pyramid business strategies. As part of this work, she led Latin America-wide initiatives and managed programs in Mexico and India to help small, environmentally-friendly businesses improve to attract investors and succeed. She has a Master of Design Methods from the Institute of Design at the Illinois Institute of Technology and an M.A. in Latin American Studies and M.P.Aff. from the University of Texas at Austin.

San Francisco

  • Margo HorowitzMargo Horowitz
    Margo Horowitz is a San Francisco based designer who provides expertise in analysis, design, and planning. Her work includes the design and research of products, services, interiors, and furniture. Recent projects include work with the California Cancer Registry, McDonald’s Corporation, Steelcase, the MacArthur Foundation, Life Fitness, and GE Healthcare. She is familiar with what needs to happen at each phase of the design process, but specializes in defining and designing the user experience. Her work reflects her continuing interest in the interchange between research, design and culture as well as her belief in the importance of sustainable and human centered design practice. Margo obtained a degree in industrial design at the University of Michigan, and continued her education at the Institute of Design at Illinois Institute of Technology, where she received an MA in human centered design and was awarded the IDEO Fellowship for her studies.
  • Amanda McKownAmanda McKown
    Amanda McKown is a design strategist. She helps companies grow in a healthy and sustainable way by bringing a human centered perspective to business planning and implementation. She has developed strategies for Fortune 500 companies including Liberty Mutual, worked in IDEO's Transformation practice, using a design led process to manage large scale change, worked as a strategist at SYPartners, making strategies actionable and studied in the design planning masters program at the Institute of Design in Chicago. She brings spirit to her work environment and believes humility and true listening skills are two of the most honorable traits.