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Our Team

Karina Holyoak Wood

Karina Holyoak Wood

Executive Director

Karina Holyoak Wood is the founding executive director of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program at the Community College of Rhode Island. She has led this small business growth and economic development program since March, 2016, during which time it has served to support over 450 Rhode Island small businesses to increase their revenues, create new jobs, be a force for good in their communities and help grow the local economy of the Ocean State.

An experienced and energetic leader, with a background in communications, advocacy and government relations, Karina is passionate about improving quality of life in Rhode Island by fostering local entrepreneurial and community development.

Karina holds an MA in English Literature from Clark University, Massachusetts, and a BA from Sheffield University, England. She is a 2023 recipient of the PBN Leaders & Achievers Awards, and a 2021 PBN Women in Business Award Winner, Social Services/Nonprofit Industry Leader category. Other awards include Providence Monthly’s “Ten to Watch” and Providence Monthly’s “Most Outspoken”. GoLocalProvidence named her one the “9 Toughest Women in Rhode Island” in 2017.

A native of Birmingham, England, Karina came to the United States in 1991 to attend graduate school. She made Providence, Rhode Island her home in 1997, where she has raised two daughters, and currently resides. Reading, writing, running, traveling and real estate are among her interests.


Thao Dang 2

Thao Dang

Outreach and Alumni Director

Thao is passionate about promoting positive community growth and she firmly believes that a community that learns together, grows together. She is a creative strategist who strives for social impact and community inclusivity. 

Thao has over 18 years of experience in the service and operations sectors. Growing up, she supported her family's small businesses in multiple areas of operations. While working with her family, she took a special interest in business risks and management. Eventually, she decided to leave her family business and pursue higher education with the curiosity to explore and learn business innovation. Thao is a proud Alumna of CCRI. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from Johnson and Wales with a BA in Business Administration. Obsessed with solving business problems using advanced technology, she is currently pursuing her Master in Business Analytics at Providence College. 

Prior to rejoining Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses, Thao held multiple operations management positions at Brown University and was a catalyst for change on operational efficiency and organizational inclusivity. She’s a Changemaker Fellow at Social Enterprise Greenhouse. 

To her two children, she’s known as “the best Asian mom” for her cooking. Her pho, a Vietnamese soup, is famous in her circle of friends and family. An avid reader and a nature explorer at heart; you can catch her at local libraries and trails across Rhode Island. An advocate for work life balance, she’s currently working on a family-fun activity book with her former CCRI professor, Dan Novak.


Suzan Erkeskin

Program Manager

Suzan brings extensive professional experience across diverse industries, coupled with her pride as a CCRI alumna and a Bachelor's degree in Business Management from Johnson & Wales University. She has been recognized as a distinguished member of the Kappa Beta Delta National Business Honor Society for her exceptional academic performance and dedication to the business realm.

Suzan's passion for personal growth and leadership is evident through her participation in the renowned NEW Leadership New England program at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics. This esteemed initiative has equipped her with invaluable skills to excel in her professional endeavors.

Since 2018, Suzan has been an invaluable asset to the 10,000 Small Businesses CCRI team, actively supporting classroom activities and program management. Her expertise and dedication have made significant contributions to the organization's ongoing success. Suzan strongly believes in the vital role entrepreneurs play as the courageous pillars of the economy, and she takes great pride in being part of the 10KSB community.


Andrés Escobar

Associate Director, Outreach & Alumni

Andrés oversees the relationship between the program & our alumni. He has a passion for connecting with people and a talent for leveraging data-driven insights to inform institutional decision making. He has broad experience with driving successful outreach and engagement initiatives, innovative programming, and strategic partnerships. He is dedicated to fostering meaningful connections, facilitating growth, and centering racial equity and diversity in his work.

In addition to his contributions at Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses, Andrés works to diversify the educator workforce throughout the state. He currently resides in Rhode Island with his partner and their puppy, Mocha.

Peter Gray Background

Peter D. Conopask

Lead Faculty / Senior Business Advisor 

Peter is the founder of Make IT Happen!, a business advisory that is focused on delivering cost effective leadership, process improvement, business model and human capital development for companies that want to improve their performance in the marketplace.

Peter’s industry experience includes management and technology consulting in discrete and process manufacturing, distribution, healthcare, textile, chemicals and plastics, software development and scientific research. Besides his consulting background, Peter has served as a Vice President and Chief Information Officer for several private and public international corporations. Earlier in his career, he served as the Director of Management Consulting for Ernst and Young in Providence, RI and founded Accsys, Inc. a software development and consulting company.

Passionate about combining formal and experiential education, Peter has developed and delivered curricula in management and technology at several Universities. He has also served as the Assistant Director for a University based Student Entrepreneurship Center where he implemented an accelerator program where students can work on their business models for academic credit.


Sandra McNamara

Business Advisor

Sandra McNamara has over 15 years of experience in the marketing and business fields with public and private companies, as well as with government agencies both in her native Colombia and in the United States, having worked very closely with the Rhode Island Small Business Administration. Mrs. McNamara serves as a business advisor for the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business program at CCRI. She also currently works as a business consultant for the Rhode Island Small Business Development Center hosted at the University of Rhode Island. Sandra was also highly involved with the Center for Women and Enterprise where she served as an instructor for business planning classes and as a marketing consultant for 11 years. Through her former position as Director of Marketing and Training for the SBDC at Johnson & Wales University, her role as instructor for the Center for Women and Enterprise and her job as business consultant for the RISBDC at URI and Goldman Sachs at CCRI, Mrs. McNamara has implemented numerous business-related workshops and has worked with hundreds of entrepreneurs in the art of business plan writing and strategy implementation.


Deb Pine

Business Advisor

Deb Pine is a transformative leader and experienced entrepreneur with a track record of successfully starting, building, and optimizing business value. A seasoned business executive, she has held leadership positions in large corporations in both the consumer and business-to-business sectors. She has served in the C-suite for early-stage companies and is an angel investor in several new ventures. Deb was on the founding team and was COO for, a curated online e-commerce site that was acquired by Japanese online retail giant Rakuten. Earlier in her career, Deb co-founded and led PreVision Marketing, a customer marketing and technology firm that was ranked on the Inc. 500 list of fastest-growing companies and the Software 500 representing leading technology providers.

With a passion for advising and supporting entrepreneurs, Deb has mentored start-up teams as part of MIT’s Venture Mentoring Program, Harvard’s Arthur Rock Center for Entrepreneurship, and RIHub’s Venture Mentoring Services.

Prior to joining Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses, Deb served as the AVP of Corporate Education and the Executive Director of the Center for Women and Business at Bentley University. She earned her M.B.A. from Harvard Business School and graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.


Cecile M. Roberti

Financial Statements Workshop and Module 3 Faculty

Cecile M. Roberti is a Professor of Accounting and Taxation in the Department of Business and Professional Studies at the Community College of Rhode Island. In addition to being an instructor she has been involved in curriculum development, learning outcome and assessment, accreditation and strategic planning for the college. She also served as the department chair.

Cecile was awarded the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP) International Teaching Excellence Award, the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP) Teaching Excellence Award for Region 1, and the NISOD Excellence Award for teaching and leadership excellence at Community Colleges.

Cecile is a faculty member in the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program facilitating the accounting and finance curriculum at both the Rhode Island and the National sites.

Cecile is a licensed Certified Public Accountant. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from Bryant University where she majored in accounting and a Master of Science degree in Taxation from Bentley University.

Previously, Cecile held the positions of Senior Tax Specialist at Fleet Financial Group, Corporate Tax Manager at International Data Group, Inc. and Senior Tax Consultant and Senior Auditor at Deloitte Haskins and Sells. She was also a self-employed CPA providing full accounting and tax services to small businesses.

Cecile is a member of the Rhode Island Association of Accounting Professors and the Teachers of Accounting at Two Year Colleges.

Maria Coclin

Maria Coclin

Financial Statements Workshop, Module 3, You Are The Lender Clinic & Module 8 Faculty

Maria Coclin is a graduate of Boston College, holding a Bachelor of Science with a major in Accounting and a graduate of The University of Rhode Island holding a Masters of Business Administration. Maria holds her CPA, Series 6, 63 and 7 licenses, and is currently the Department Chair and a full-time faculty member in the Business and Professional Studies Department of The Community College of Rhode Island.

Maria is also the Chief Financial Officer of Coclin Associates, Inc., a company she co-owns with her husband. Coclin Associates Inc. provides internal audit, federal and state compliance, and information technology services to bank and credit union clients. Previously, Maria was the Director of International Finance at Fidelity Investment in Smithfield, RI and a Senior Accountant with Ernst & Young. Maria is a member of The Rhode Island Society of Certified Public Accountants.

Maria resides in Cranston, Rhode Island with her husband George and two children.


Jill Guindon-Nasir

Module 4 Faculty

Dr. Guindon-Nasir has over 25 years of experience in International Business, and has a passion for learning, leadership, service excellence, transformation, and sharing her knowledge with others. Dr. Guindon-Nasir spent over 16 years with The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, holding various positions, such as Vice President of Global Business Development & Healthcare Advisory Services for The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center. She was responsible for the Leadership Center’s Business Development, Financial Requirements, Client Relations and Curriculum Development.

Dr. Guindon-Nasir attended Johnson & Wales University, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Hospitality Sales & Meeting Management. She received her Masters of Business Administration from Marymount University and her Masters of Education degree for The University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Guindon-Nasir received her Doctor of Education degree from The University of Pennsylvania, The Wharton School of Business-CLO Executive Program, in Work-Based Learning Leadership.

Dr. Guindon-Nasir has taught at the College level, for over 23 years; which enables her to share her real-world business experiences with her students. She is currently an Assistant Professor of Management, with CCRI.

Melanie Cluley

Melanie Cluley

Module 5 Faculty

Melanie is highly experienced Human Resources professional with over 25 years of expertise across various industries, she currently serves as the Human Resources Director and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion chair at Southcoast Health. She holds a Master of Business Administration from Bryant University and a Bachelor's degree in Comparative Histories, Ideas and Cultures from the State University of New York. Her extensive professional qualifications include a SHRM Inclusive Workplace Culture Specialty Credential and certification as a Training Professional through the Association for Talent Development.

She is also a Gallup Strengths Coach, helping individuals and teams to unlock their full potential. Outside of work, she serves as a Board member for the Groden Network's Cove Center and was formerly the Board Chair for the Rhode Island Higher Education Training Consortium. She is an avid traveler who enjoys immersing herself in international experiences to learn about other cultures. Her innate curiosity about the world fuels her passion for lifelong learning.


Christopher Ratcliffe

Module 6 Faculty

Christopher Ratcliffe is the co-founder of Triple M Productions, a marketing and management consulting firm founded in 2002. He has extensive experience in the broadcasting industry, including years as a national and local advertising sales manager. Chris also served as the vice
president of MGP Media, a unit of Merv Griffin Productions from 1998-2002.

He was selected as a RI Campus Compact, Presidential Faculty Fellow in 2011, authoring a study on the non-proficiency of RI high school graduates titled Not College Ready. Chris is also the author of a book that chronicles the journey of Boston Marathon bombing survivor, Jarrod Clowery, titled Tuesday Will Come. He currently teaches management and business strategy at Bryant University.


Jeshua Zapata

Digital Marketing Clinic Faculty

Jeshua facilitates our new Digital Marketing Clinic, and is the co-founder of Xzito, a full-service agency that partners with leaders to execute brand engagement and revenue growth strategies. He holds a Business Administration degree with a focus on Computer Information Systems, a minor in Communications, and a Masters' Certificate in Project Management. With two other partners, he founded Xzito in 2004. Xzito has become an award-winning marketing consulting agency that partners with senior leaders to implement marketing & sales platforms and campaigns to scale revenue by leveraging independent sales networks. Jeshua actively contributes to his community through public speaking, coaching, and advisory roles. He is also a 10,000 Small Businesses graduate, Cohort 1.

Jerry Falcone

Jerry Falcone

Module 7 Faculty

Jerry has been an adjunct professor for the Business Department at The Community College of Rhode Island for over 25 years. He has taught classes in Principles of Management, Management Strategy, Marketing, Financial Accounting, Managerial Accounting, Small Business Administration, and Introduction to Business.

Jerry currently serves at the Director of Quality Assurance at Atlas Global Solutions in Sutton, MA. In this role he is responsible for all Quality Assurance functions in 3 US and EU sites as well as Creating and Implementing Training and Development Programs. Jerry has over 30 years of experience as a business professional with proven abilities in creative leadership, strategic planning, team building, and determining effective functions for operations to improve productivity, motivation, quality and efficiency.

He has held a variety of senior management positions throughout his career including General Manager, Director of Operations, Plant Manager, Manager of Manufacturing, Plant Superintendent and Production Engineering Supervisor; but he actually began as an hourly worker and advanced to a CEO/minority owner of a Small Business that he helped grow from a small job shop into a World Class enterprise.

Jerry holds a Master of Business Administration and a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Providence College.