Nucleus Strategy

Nucleus builds evidence-based, human-centered strategy for products, brands, organizations and social impact.


Nucleus Strategy

Nucleus builds evidence-based, human-centered strategy for products, brands, organizations and social impact.


We thrive on opportunities to help partners realize their program goals and help the most people in the most important, meaningful and lasting ways.

We are pattern recognition experts who deliver evidence-based strategy that is informed by ambition, gives wing to innovation and delivers value to the organizations we serve and the people they serve.

Our collaborative was founded on the principle that understanding behavior, designing insightful frameworks, and implementing creative solutions are strategic endeavors. We are strategists for the simple reason that creativity requires seeing both what exists today and what doesn’t yet and mapping the steps, stretches and leaps required to bridge from here to there.

We partner across categories, with organizations interested in creating change. For nearly 15 years we’ve provided evidenced-based strategic support and action roadmaps to forward-thinking organizations, helping them advance their missions, build capacity and create meaningful value.

Turing business problems into value-generating, long-term possibility requires a tailored approach. To see examples of how we’ve done it, please reach out and we’ll be delighted to share case studies and the details of our methodology.


Our Team

Our Team

Our Team

Our Team


Elizabeth Talerman

Partner, Brand and Organizational Strategy

A tool-builder and teacher, Elizabeth works with organizations to establish meaning, clarify purpose, streamline decision-making and turn strategy into action. Her background in marketing, communications and brand building, assist her in identifying patterns that lead to the insights necessary for creating binding connections, accelerating growth and catalyzing change for organizations.

Elizabeth has spent more than 30 years working with forward thinkers spanning both the commercial and social impact sectors. A serial entrepreneur, before launching a strategy practice in 2002, Elizabeth was founder and CEO of Agile Industries, a pioneering digital marketing agency. She’s also held senior positions in advertising at Ogilvy & Mather and at The Harvard Business School as Marketing Director.  She began her career in direct marketing analytics and project management.

Elizabeth teaches in the School of Visual Arts Brand Masters program and is a frequent lecturer at Barnard College. She taught for 5 years in Columbia University’s Strategic Communications masters degree program and served 16 years on the board of Virginia Commonwealth University Brandcenter.

She is a member of the board of directors of Mohawk, North America’s largest privately held fine paper company, an advisor to Populist, which helps non-profits and social enterprises around the globe bring life-changing products and services to market and was a delegate to the Dubai Expo 2020 Innovation Lab.


Gena Cuba

Partner, Design Research and Strategy

Gena is a design strategist whose over 15-years of experience and work focuses on re-framing large, complex problems in surprisingly simple ways. She spends her time carefully observing and inquiring about the curiosities that we call home, community, work, and care. Through ongoing investigations of cultural habits and individual motivations, Gena’s work turns observations into empathetic diagnosis and clear roadmaps of action.

Gena has worked in partnership with collaboratives including UNICEF, IDEO, Dalberg Design Impact Group, IDEO.org, Pepsi Innovation and Populist that use human-centered principles to guide the development of strategic systems, employing visual design as a strategic instrument to help clients innovate, activate, and proliferate. With a background in visual design and a masters degree in brand strategy, she believes that design should be unique to the place it inhibits and arrived at through cross-disciplinary inputs.

Throughout her career, she has been honored with awards including The Paula Rhodes Scholar from the School of Visual Arts, Visual Art Scholarship by Peck School of Arts, the Frederick R. Layton BFA Award, and has been published in the Communication Arts Arts Design Annual, Step Design 100, Black Book AR 100, and Graphis Annual. Gena teaches at the School of Visual Arts and Parsons School of Design.



Partner, Communications Strategy

Grant has spent the past 10 years impassioned by engaging interdisciplinary approaches to define and resolve problems of poverty, especially those that touch on human behavior. He’s a partner at Nucleus Strategy and the founder of their impact arm (Populist) that drives social impact with evidenced marketing methods.

Prior, Grant served as a senior strategist at Ogilvy & Mather, where he worked for clients from IKEA and Coca-Cola to BlackRock and Unilever. He's also worked in the social sector for organizations including Ashoka, Virtue Ventures and PSI.

Today, Grant serves as an advisor to the global violence prevention group Over Zero, is a faculty member for the PopTech Social Innovation Program, and a recipient of the Zuckerman Fellowship at Harvard’s Center for Public Leadership. He’s contributed to publications including the Stanford Social Innovation Review, the Harvard Kennedy School Review, Forbes, Fast Company, and NextBillion, and is the author of "Demand for Health Services: A Human-Centered Design Field Guide" for UNICEF’s global health programming. He most recently worked with a UN refugee agency in Jordan and Lebanon to improve emergency registration systems by better understanding frontline experiences.

Grant graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from the George Washington University where he studied International Development and International Economics. He is currently an MBA candidate at Harvard Business School and an MPP candidate at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.


Liza Ezbiansky

Research Director

At Nucleus Strategy Liza designs research to understand how people think about topics, categories and brands. She uses her training in clinical and organizational psychology to facilitate working and research groups. An education in cognitive science shapes the way she approaches data, a background in computer science helps her to understand and integrate technologies, and long experience in consumer insights keeps her focused on solutions that are effective. This human-centered, multi-faceted approach results in meaningful insights and strategies that reflect behavior and predict motivation.

Liza began her career in internet start-ups, writing code and developing technology systems to improve user interaction and define metrics associated with customer behavior.  She began to explore the strategic implications of data at Theory Research, a consumer insights consultancy she co-founded in 2003, where she led research to develop brand and innovation strategies for companies including Hershey Foods, Jim Beam Brands and Discover Financial. Adept at adopting new technologies and integrating research practices, Liza is facile with a variety of research tools and methodologies. She works with large brands, small businesses and nonprofits alike, applying her understanding of research, brand strategy and consumer mindsets to effect positive change.

Liza graduated summa cum laude with a Masters of Arts in Psychology from Marywood University, where she studied clinical, social and organizational psychology. She received her B. A. in Cognitive Science, with a minor in Computer Science, from Vassar College.


Sarah Hermalyn

Strategy Director

As a strategist, Sarah's work focuses on truly understanding an organization's purpose, goals and vision so that everything her team produces delivers on those. She is passionate about helping brands tell their story. You may recognize some of the stories she's told for brands including the NBA, The New York Times and Dartmouth College.

Prior to her work in brand strategy Sarah held various positions in digital marketing and corporate branding at 2U, where she helped the then startup go from less than 100 employees to a publicly traded company. Her unique background in digital marketing combined with brand and design strategy has allotted her the opportunity to work across many industries from entertainment to hospitality to education.

Sarah holds a Master's degree in Branding from the School of Visual Arts and is a retired Division I college athlete. Throughout her career Sarah's work has been published in Forbes, FastCo Design, Communications Arts and Under Consideration. She was honored with the Brand Master award from the School of Visual Arts.

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Shazeeda bhola

Design Director

Shazeeda is a social good and branding professional who strives to provides platforms for untold and impactful stories with thoughtfulness and creativity. She understands that design and strategy are not separate roles or departments; rather, they are interlocked forces capable of establishing unforgettable brands. Her work spans a variety of social issues, including but not limited to international health, civil rights, sexual violence, and community development.

From website wireframes to world-class galas and everything in between, Shazeeda has lead creative projects an in-house designer and creative strategist for over six years at Ubuntu Pathways. She is most proud of her role in the organization’s rebrand—emphasizing its community-centric ethos, leveraging its unique development model across web and print, and communicating the complexities of extreme poverty in accessible and actionable ways. Her social impact work also includes a visual identity rebrand for the Joyful Heart Foundation, events and fundraising strategy with Keep a Child Alive, and research and writing for the Anti-Defamation League.

After earning her Masters in Branding from the School of Visual Arts, she’s determined as ever to build platforms for change, to create environments of learning, and to empower communities to make the world accessible and inclusive.


Miguèle Issa

Strategist / Designer

Miguèle is a branding professional who believes that thoughtful design and human-centric strategy can have a lasting positive impact on societies. Her work spans a variety of CPG brands in categories such as Home Care and Fem Care but also a variety of social issues including but not limited to the Syrian refugee crisis and the agricultural crisis of the Middle East.

Miguèle has lead creative projects as an Art Director at Leo Burnett Beirut and as a Marketing Manager at Lebanon’s largest independent social enterprise, arcenciel, awarded “Social enterprise of the year” by the Schwab Foundation, organizers of the World Economic Forum, in Davos in 2015. Her biggest accomplishments include founding the NGO’s Marketing Department, rebranding the social enterprise from the inside out, and creating strategies for programs and projects that not only highlight the unique business model and beliefs of the company, but that also speak directly to the end beneficiaries. From campaigns to creative fundraising events, Miguèle’s objective was always to create work that would produce measurable positive social impact.

After earning her Masters in Branding from the School of Visual Arts, she is even more committed to using creative thinking in order to someday shape brands that shape the world.

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Cathleen Bell

Senior Analyst & Writer

Cathleen is a writer and researcher with close to twenty years experience in both fields. Recently she created articles on topics from Costa Rican travel to early childhood pedagogy for an annual magazine for St. Hilda’s & St. Hugh’s School; spent six weeks with 12 women shopping for cars via an online focus group on behalf of Cadillac; ran a quantitative enrollment study for the oldest institution dedicated to women’s education in the US: Salem College in Winston-Salem, NC.

Currently, Cathleen is knee deep in data pertaining to millennials’ responses to nuclear threat communications as part of Nucleus Strategy. The author of seven novels as well as an active volunteer in her community, Cathleen is happiest when meeting deadlines and working collaboratively and flexibly as part of a team.


Saloni Soni

Senior Designer

As a designer, Saloni delivers sophisticated, timeless aesthetics as her work is rooted deeply in brand strategy and extensive visual research. Her approach has yielded high-concept, culturally relevant, lasting designs for brand identities, campaigns, products, websites, packaging, and print publications for companies around the world, including The Museum of Modern Art, Kimberly Clark, Mars Inc., Newstand, Catholic Relief Services, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Banco San Juan Internacional, To Whom It May Cannabis Chocolates, Novotel, Triumph, Haymarket Media Group, and Leela Group of Hotels.

Saloni’s work in communications, identity design and packaging design has received recognition and won awards from Print Regional Design Awards, Graphic Design USA, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, DY Works, and MIT institute of Design, where she graduated with a degree in Graphic Design. Saloni also holds a Masters in Branding from School of Visual Arts in New York City.


jennifer hersh

UX/UI Designer

Jen is a UX/UI designer with over 8 years of combined experience in UX/UI design, product design, and graphic design. She is fascinated by people’s digital experiences and with solving problems using research-driven design and technology. She is a problem solver and communicator, and speak the language of both creatives and coders. Her interests lie in UX/UI design, human-centered design, design strategy and design research. She is passionate about creating usable and delightful product experiences.

Jen holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Interaction Design from City University of New York Queens College and a Bachelor of Science in Speech and Language Pathology from Excelsior College. She is in the process of developing a mobile app that helps speech therapists track client progress.