Founded on the belief that you’re only as good as your people, we have tirelessly sought talent with diverse backgrounds and assembled a cast of characters that keeps winning business from the most sophisticated clients. And as diverse as we are in composition, we are unified under an operating philosophy that creates game-changing insights for our clients. We’re onto something good here.
Alex HefnerManager | Consumer Insights, U30 Health
Blake KinserAssistant Manager | Programming & Analytics
Bryden BanisterSenior Manager | Consumer Insights
Caleb BoazVice President | Services & Experiences
Cheryl DagesSenior Vice President | Field Services
Emily HerndonManager | Consumer Insights
Greg SchellSenior Manager | Programming & Analytics
Janet ShomakerGeneral Manager
Jeff PhillipsDirector | Operations & Technology
Joe RoulierSenior Manager | Consumer Insights
Lauren Santi KosmalskiVice President | U30 Health
Nick HelleDirector | Analytics
Scott EllisSenior Manager | Finance
Tina JonesSenior Manager | Field Services
Valerie CliftVice President | Retail & Tech
Manager | Consumer Insights, U30 Health
Alex is a sophisticated combination of unlike elements – extreme creativity combined with an absurd penchant for detail, flavored with an old soul sensibility, and leavened by growing up with two parents deeply entrenched in the medical field.
The result? A researcher with an instant ability to add significant value to U30’s work with our pharma clients by leading patients and medical practitioners through conversations that many others would find difficult and intimidating. Alex has been having these kinds of chats her whole life. And she brings this valuable background to every patient and HCP interview she leads and every report she writes.
See where this is going? Yeah, so did we, and we couldn’t be happier to have Alex and her unique combination of skills in our ranks. Guaranteed you’ll be feeling the same.
Arbitrary Facts about Alex
- Alex has always had a passion for art, especially drawing and painting
- Taste in music is reflective of her old soul, with favorites ranging from Nat King Cole to The Smiths
- Visits a new National Park every year with her family
- Appeared briefly on “Chasing Nashville”, a reality show that chronicled the pursuits of young Appalachian musicians!
Our chief thinks big, and that can be seen through his client track record and the staff he’s assembled. Ashley leads the charge in every single way. Whether developing new research plans to help clients explore new strategies, or getting his own hands dirty guiding primary research, his presence is felt throughout every stage of U30’s great work. We’re the company we are today, because of Ashley.
Since 2001, Ashley has piloted U30 through the development of proprietary panels for some of the world’s leading marketers, and has led ground-breaking strategic projects that have brought clients to their feet. Prior to his post at U30, Ashley served as Vice Chair of LearningSoft Corp; EVP Marketing & Sales at Digital Entertainment Network (DEN); EVP at Channel One Network; EVP & Publisher at Whittle Communications; SVP, Group Account Director at Bozell. The list goes on, but we don’t need to go any further to show you why he’s well suited for the job.
Arbitrary Facts about Ashley
- Believes you can get just about anything done in 12 hours
- He’s solar powered – there’s nothing better than a day on the lake or at the beach
- Loves Texas music…
- …and the Georgia Bulldogs
Assistant Manager | Programming & Analytics
Know what a cria is? Blake does. It’s a baby llama, and his family has been raising them for decades. We’ll spare you all the amazing llama puns, but what we will tell you is how growing up in animal husbandry has shaped Blake into one of the most hard-working, self-motivated, and humble members of our team.
With qualities like these, it’s no wonder Blake is such an amazing fit to lead some of our most critical functions at U30. Blake’s background in statistics, his attention to every single detail, and an unmatched work ethic means projects run more smoothly, efficiently, and thoughtfully than ever before. And if there’s a last minute request that comes through, he’s going to attack it head-on and with a servant’s heart. Because that’s just what you have to do to get the job done.
At the end of the day, Blake knows the end product is worth it, but there’s going to be a lot of time – and heart – that’s put into getting it done right. And Blake’s response to all that effort? “No probllama!” Sorry, we just had to do it once.
Arbitrary Facts about Blake
- Kidding aside, Blake specializes in llama social interaction
- Avid golfer and certified fitter by the likes of Callaway, Titleist, and Taylormade
- He’s not just for the llamas. He also has 110 gallons-worth of aquariums!
- If he’s not on the farm or golf course, he’s out on the river kayaking!
Senior Manager | Consumer Insights
Bryden often has a unique take on things … probably because she’s been viewing the world from a different angle most of her life.
See, Bryden spent a lot of time going backwards as a champion backstroker on the varsity swim team at braniac Trinity University in San Antonio. And her natural inclination to approach things from a different perspective pays big dividends helping develop insights for U30 clients.
Bryden’s been a world traveler since starting at U30, executing in-home ethnographies for U30 clients all across North America, Central and South America, and Asia. She’s deep into food, beer and restaurant categories with U30 clients Johnsonville, MillerCoors, Frito-Lay, Outback and Carrabba’s.
Bryden has a personality as unique as her name. She’s never met a stranger, and she’s the life of every party!
Arbitrary Facts about Bryden
- College swimmer and diver
- Preacher’s kid. And proud of it!
- In her spare time, she’s Swim Coach at inner-city Emerald Youth Foundation
- She has a unique name. And a personality to match!
Vice President | Services & Experiences
At U30, we believe people with diverse interests and passions make the most interesting and passionate researchers. Caleb maxes out on those characteristics.
Prior to joining U30, Caleb was deep into CrossFit … in fact, he even owned his own CrossFit “box”. On weekends, Caleb and his band, Teen Spirit, play to packed houses, and Caleb is his band’s virtuoso lead guitarist and lead vocalist. And Caleb is a self-taught “fixer-upper” and just finished a complete renovation on an historic Knoxville home.
Caleb brings that passion to every client and every project he works on. His incredible work ethic enables him to do exceptional work on many U30 clients, as diverse as MillerCoors, H&R Block, Outback, Carrabbas, Bonefish, Merck, and Lyft. Thank goodness for cross-training!
Arbitrary Facts about Caleb
- Strength and conditioning coach (benches 310 and squats 380)
- Terrible Towel-carrying Pittsburgh Steelers fan (Truth be told, he owns four.)
- Spends weekends running ridiculous mileage – like a recent Chattanooga-to-Nashville relay race
- Asks for “double bacon” when ordering breakfast
Senior Vice President | Field Services
Cheryl is our in-house recruiting machine. No one seeks out and locks down great research participants like she does.
Thanks to her years of experience, thousands of personal interviews, and a general lack of a single shy bone in her body, Cheryl is the perfect person to lead our recruiting charge. Her ability to find the Right Consumers, regardless of how tough they may be to find, sets the tone for each project and ensures our work is off to a great start. With so many recruiting interviews under Cheryl’s belt, she’s frequently brought on to join our fieldwork teams for ethnography and other projects where interviewing is leveraged.
Prior to joining U30 in 1996, Cheryl was Marketing Director at Whittle Communications where her duties included creating innovative media concepts and content plans for major advertisers. Prior to Whittle, Cheryl was a key player at a local Fox-TV affiliate.
Arbitrary Facts about Cheryl
- A wine aficionado (Formerly 100% white wine… now 100% red)
- Voted “Most Likely to Know Everything About You”
- Will find a way to include her son in every conversation
- Tried to recruit Usher for one of our panels… he politely declined
Manager | Consumer Insights
Insurance expert, corporate training professional, champion baker and bakery owner, game show winner, extraordinary conversationalist…. How can any one person have so many diverse experiences and talents? And how to harness all that at U30???
The thing that drives Emily is she has always been intensely curious and passionate for experiences. Learn more. Absorb more. Experience more. It’s her hunger to dig deeper, learn things others don’t know, and understand the “whys” that sets her up perfectly for U30 stardom.
Emily is a whirlwind of activity, insights and hilarity putting her diverse talents and razor-sharp intellect to work with myriad brands under the Merck umbrella, plus MillerCoors and Kerrygold. There’s no limit to where her curiosity and smarts will take her. And no limit to the value she’ll add to your business.
Arbitrary Facts about Emily
- U30’s Game Show Queen. Emily has appeared on … and won money and trips on … Jeopardy!, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, and Wheel of Fortune
- Weekly volunteer at the Humane Society of the TN Valley
- An 80’s child with a LOVE for the neons
- Greater Knoxville Cake Baking Champion; you should see her designs. No, we’re not joking.
Senior Manager | Programming & Analytics
What do social hierarchy theory, computer programming and statistics have in common? Greg knows them all and better than pretty much anyone else.
Greg manages a number of U30’s core disciplines including online survey programming, quantitative analytics and modeling, website development, normative database management, and many others. Greg is also the author of U30’s highly discriminating screening tool that identifies personality characteristics that have proven to be exceptional predictors of great research participants.
Before joining U30, Greg was in academia at The University of Toronto focused on personality assessment and interpersonal expectancies. You better believe we’re taking advantage of this brain. You’ll want to, too.
Arbitrary Facts about Greg
- Rubik’s Cubes are no match for Greg. His fastest time to solve? A blistering 3 minutes!
- Knows all the lyrics to “Oh Canada” (but won’t sing them …publicly at least)
- Plays a mean bass guitar
- Frequent visitor to Reddit
Janet was the visionary for U30’s inception. Now, she’s the foundation that keeps it standing strong.
As our founder, Janet successfully launched U30’s proprietary consumer panel business in 1995, spearheaded our online research division in 1999 and ensured all learnings drove insights. It’s because of Janet that we operate under a whatever-it-takes mantra that inspires, drives, and defines our work to this day. Janet now heads up our human resources, oversees all administrative undertakings, and keeps us true to our core.
Prior to founding U30, Janet was VP & Publisher at Whittle Communications, Marketing Director & Associate Publisher of The Larger Agenda Book Series, and Manager of America Travel Magazine. It’s thanks to Janet’s countless hours behind the focus group glass that we got our start. We are eternally grateful.
Arbitrary Facts about Janet
- As the Cherokee Indians of her native western North Carolina would say, Janet is the “adanvdo” (the “spirit”) of U30
- Horse trader by nature – personal philosophy is “Change Is Good!”
- University of Tennessee grad and great party giver (who always knows how to assemble the Right group of friends)
Director | Operations & Technology
If Jeff were a politician, his platform would be No Detail Left Behind – the mantra that drives his work performance and ensures every detail of each client’s projects work perfectly.
Jeff’s core expertise is in research projects with lots of moving parts. He specializes in technology-heavy qualitative methodologies like In Home Use Tests, Virtual Focus Groups and Consumer Communities, where protocol is paramount. Jeff is a veteran online community manager with experience administering communities and forums both domestically and internationally. U30 clients including Johnsonville, Merck, H&R Block, Lyft, Hallmark and Wrigley have all benefitted from Jeff’s dogged pursuit of the details.
Jeff holds a BS and an MBA. And he was an NCAA soccer defenseman at Emory & Henry College. Now, details are his passion. For him, the details game is “joga bonito”.
Arbitrary Facts about Jeff
- Managed the Tennis Center at Kiawah Island Resort before coming to U30 – pretty great training for great client service!
- A self-proclaimed database of movie knowledge (just try to beat him at IMdB Bingo or 6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon!)
- Avid snowboarder
- Named his cat after a president… Richard Nixon
Senior Manager | Consumer Insights
Playing elite level hockey and being one of five highly competitive brothers breeds an ultra competitive spirit and a deep commitment to team. It also means you’d better keep your head on a swivel!
If we’re all products of our environment, Joe’s environments have taught him to be extremely aware of everything going on around him and to be a very adept and intuitive listener. Think those traits have research potential? You bet they do!
Joe’s keen eye for detail and conscientious style make him an exceptional contributor around U30, particularly with our quantitative work. From survey and data accuracy, to digging deep for context in the numbers, to finding nuance and insight in open ends, Joe plays a major role.
Don’t let Joe’s calm demeanor fool you. Inside burns a fierce competitor … someone driven to excel. When you need someone taking a shot for you, you’re going to want Joe on your team.
Arbitrary Facts about Joe
- Two-time University of Miami, Ohio intramural hockey champion
- Undefeated Monopoly champion. His token? Has to be the Thimble.
- Can quote every word from hockey film, “Miracle”
- Considered the greatest hibachi chef in America not currently employed at a hibachi restaurant (Thanks Mom!)
Lauren Santi Kosmalski
Vice President | U30 Health
We almost didn’t let Lauren leave the building after her first interview at U30. Problem is, no one could catch this former track champion, and she got away. But an hour later we caught up to her and offered her a job!
Lauren heads U30 Health, an entire group we formed because of Lauren’s exceptional work with our pharmaceutical clients. Lauren is a master ethnographer and an extremely talented analyst and authority on both qualitative and quantitative methodologies. She is also renowned for creating beautiful and highly impactful deliverables that bring complex stories to life and help clients understand their target audiences in ways they never did before.
Prior to focusing in the pharma category, Lauren produced outstanding work for a wide variety of U30 clients, including Frito-Lay, Wrigley, National Geographic, S.C. Johnson, Nissan, Banana Republic and The Clorox Company.
Before arriving at U30, Lauren worked in Stockholm, Sweden for the Stockholm Professional Basketball Club and was Web Guide Partner for AB Svensk Filmindustri (aka the Swedish Film Industry).
We sure are glad we caught Lauren. Our clients are too.
Arbitrary Facts about Lauren
- A super jock growing up, Lauren is a former Tennessee state champion in both track and gymnastics
- She also was an NCAA cheerleader at the University of Alabama
- Married to a former professional basketball player – though basketball is the one sport she didn’t play!
Director | Analytics
Knowing numbers is great, but knowing how to turn them into an artistic story is even better. That’s Nick at his best.
With a strong background in statistics, Nick provides support to all quantitative studies at U30, from design and sampling, to analysis and reporting. He has extensive experience running the analysis across a range of study types, including conjoint, MaxDiff, penalty analysis, price sensitivity, cluster and factor analysis, brand trackers, and many others. But Nick isn’t just great with numbers. He can then pair the analysis with a graphical overlay that really brings insights to life.
Nick cut his teeth at U30 as a programmer before moving into his true love of analytics. And while he now leads the charge for all number crunching, he still stays actively involved in the day-to-day details to ensure data integrity and question effectiveness in our programming.
Arbitrary Facts about Nick
- NCAA All-Conference golfer
- Won the 2011 USTA Mixed Doubles State Championship, the Southern Sectional Championship, and then lost a 5-set heartbreaker in the National Championship match.
- Has a French bulldog named “Big Boi” (Yes…with an ‘i’)
Senior Manager | Finance
Think you’re funny? Even if you aren’t, Scott’s going to laugh at your jokes to make you feel good. What about when you’re in a pinch. Looking for someone to bail you out? Yep, Scott’s that guy, too.
The truth is, we couldn’t be more lucky to have Scott as U30’s good guy. But our King of Nice is also our King of Numbers. We don’t make it easy on him, but he’s the perfect team member to head up U30’s financials. From currency exchange rates to billing rates, payment terms to payables, Scott keeps us financially stable and emotionally…well…feeling pretty good about ourselves.
While you may not always see Scott front and center when you work with U30, know that because he’s so great, we can be great for you. A win-win for us. Squeaky clean books. Positive energy from Scott, to us, to you. You’re welcome.
Arbitrary Facts about Scott
- Loves numbers so much he keeps the books for local area not-for-profits on the weekend
- Operates life using his self-created 3F’s Mantra: Family, Food, Football
- Lives in a van down by the river. We’re kidding, but look at you paying attention the whole way through!
Senior Manager | Field Services
Nobody makes friends quicker than Tina. And that’s served her well a thousand times over as she works tirelessly to find the Right Consumers to participate in our panels and projects.
Nobody shoulders more at U30 and with an unshakeable good humor than Tina. In 18 years with U30, Tina has recruited consumers as disparate as high school soccer players in Tokyo, upper crust Moms in Dallas, and Spanish-dominant subway riders in NYC. Tina embodies U30’s commitment to finding the Right Consumers for our studies. That’s why she screens and screens and screens to make sure we get the Right Consumers for you.
With Tina, you gotta do more than just look good, you gotta be good to pass the Tina screen.
With a background in public relations and customer service (including work for Ralph Lauren), Tina is a communications machine. You’re only a stranger to Tina if you’ve never met her, but we can take care of that. You’ll fall in love with her, too.
Arbitrary Facts about Tina
- Former homecoming queen … just a few years ago.
- Enjoys reading murder mysteries and watching reality TV with her daughters
- Huge Tennessee Titans fan.
- The life of every party. Always has been. Always will be.
Travis is often referred to as “the face of U30” as he’s usually the first point of contact for new clients. But that’s okay, they’re not complaining.
Possessing an unparalleled talent for account management, Travis directs all U30 project traffic and more importantly makes sure each U30 client is extremely happy. His contributions don’t just end there though (actually, they don’t end at all). Travis’ guidance in both the quantitative and qualitative realms are extremely valuable to all U30 clients, as he has a natural gift for generating creative (sometimes radical) designs to approach an objective from a new or interesting angle and yield great results.
Travis began working with U30 in 2003 as a programmer of web-based methodologies. With his background in marketing and gift of always seeing the big picture, Travis now provides oversight on all U30-related projects and clients.
Arbitrary Facts about Travis
- Collected over 300 Starbucks mugs from all inhabited continents
- Still hasn’t learned to drive a stick shift
- Recipient of The University of Tennessee’s Torchbearer Award (the highest honor conferred by the university to a student for outstanding academics and community involvement)
Vice President | Retail & Tech
Some have the gift of gab, others have the gift of understanding. Valerie (or Val) has both. And she weaves them together beautifully in work for many U30 clients, including Lyft, Shaw Floors, Coca-Cola, Old Navy, MillerCoors, and Frito-Lay.
Val is a RIVA-certified moderator, and her experience runs the gamut from building and managing consumer panels, to executing qual studies including ethnographies, in-depth interviews, journals, focus groups, ideation sessions and various online methods.
One of Val’s greatest strengths is her diverse background prior to coming to U30. Mix 10 years of acting in New York with graduate work at Bank Street College of Education and the Hunter School of Social Work and you get a highly creative mindset and a finely-tuned sensibility for understanding consumers.
Arbitrary Facts about Val
- Has scuba dived in some of the world’s most beautiful waters
- Proud alumna of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts with a double major in Acting and English
- Enjoys crafting exotic flavored ice creams
- Favorite Girl Scout cookie is the Do-Si-Do