Russell W. Mills, Ph.D.

Position: Senior Director


Dr. Russell Mills is the Senior Director of the Center for Regional Development at Bowling Green State University (BGSU). His work at CRD focuses on local economic development, improving air transportation access to communities, and examining the implications of automation on workforce and economic development. Dr. Mills is also the Principal Investigator for CRD’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) University Center program that provides technical assistance, data, analytics, and applied research to local businesses and economic development professionals as well as CRD’s Rural Universities Program grant from the State of Ohio. He has expertise in economic impact analysis, demographic and economic data analysis, and policy analysis and received grants from the Economic Development Administration (EDA), Transportation Research Board’s (TRB) Airport Cooperative Research Program, the Dirksen Congressional Research Center, the Social Science Research Council (SSRC), and the IBM Center for the Business of Government.

Prior to his appointment at BGSU, Dr. Mills worked as a policy analyst at the Federal Aviation Administration in Washington D.C. where he developed and evaluated agency-wide reauthorization proposals for political and policy implications and coordinated with internal and external stakeholders to ensure communication of proposals to Department of Transportation, Office of Management and Budget, and Congress. Dr. Mills is the Vice President of the Ohio Aviation Association and a member of the University Economic Development Association (UEDA), Ohio Economic Development Association, and Northwest Ohio Regional Economic Development (NORED).

Dr. Mills has a B.A. in political science from Westminster College in Pennsylvania, a MPA from the University of Vermont, and a Ph.D. in political science from Kent State University.  

Nichole Fifer, Ph.D.

Position: Assistant Director


Dr. Nichole Fifer is an experienced analyst, program evaluator, and project manager. She has a diverse background in higher education, agency, and the non-profit sector. Her work at CRD focuses on issues surrounding community health and wellbeing; public/social service delivery, access, impacts, and equity; and quality of life focused economic development. She seeks to aid in regional development through fostering collaborative and strategic community level planning, facilitating collaborative and inclusive community level decision making, and providing programmatic evaluation and assessment services. Her recent projects at CRD include an assessment of the social and quality of life impacts of transportation access in Northwest Ohio, a health focused community level strategic plan for Williams County, and an assessment of the Pathways HUB program to prevent infant mortality.

Prior to joining the CRD, Nichole was the Director of the Public Policy Program and an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Washington and Jefferson College (W&J), where she also served as the Advisory Board President for the Pennsylvania Center for Energy Policy and Management (CEPM). In addition to her position at W&J, Dr. Fifer has also taught in accredited graduate programs including the MPA program at BGSU, the MPPA program at Northwestern University.  Prior to her academic career Nichole served as a Political Affairs and Public Relations officer for the US National Park Service. During her service she was the recipient of four public service awards including the National Partnership Award. She is a member of the American Evaluation Association (AEA), The Ohio Program Evaluation Group (OPEG), Indiana Evaluation Association (IEA), and the US Association for Energy Economics (USAEE).

Dr. Fifer holds a Ph.D. in Public Policy and Administration from Wayne State University, as well as an MPA in Environmental Management from BGSU.

Deminique Heiks

Position: Economic Development Program Coordinator


Ben Hooper

Position: Economic Recovery Program Coordinator


Lisa Lawson-LaPointe

Position: Rural Development Program Coordinator


Vijaya Dasigi

Position: Assistant to the Senior Director


Vijaya comes with several years of budgetary and office administration experience and serves as the Assistant to the Senior Director, Budgets and Operations at the Center for Regional Development. She monitors and manages the Center’s budgetary and day-to-day operations. She has worked at the Office of Residence Life at BGSU before joining the CRD team. She worked at Georgia State University prior to her move to Bowling Green, Ohio.

Faculty Research Fellows

Justin Rex, Ph.D.

Position: Research Fellow


Justin Rex is an Assistant Professor of Political Science in the Department of Political Science at Bowling Green State University. He teaches courses in the Master of Public Administration Program as well as undergraduate courses in Public Administration and Public Policy. He is also a Researcher Fellow at the BGSU Center for Regional Development. 

He received a Ph.D. and M.A. in Political Science from Wayne State University. He received a B.A. in Political Science, a B.A. in Sociology, and a minor in Economics from Bowling Green State University. Previously, he worked as an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Shawnee State University, a Senior Lecturer in the Irvin D. Reid Honors College at Wayne Sate University, and as a researcher in the Center for Urban Studies at Wayne State University.

His research and teaching interests are in Public Policy and Administration, American Government, and Law. His current research examines federal regulatory policy, specifically the role of agency capture at the federal banking regulators before the 2008 financial crisis as well as the regulation of white collar financial crime. His law-focused research examines Supreme Court first amendment cases as well as regulation in the areas of food, consumer transactions, and advertising. He has also published articles on the US Presidency about the president’s ability to control the public policy agenda and the implications of this control for the balance of power between the president and Congress. 


  • Regulatory Policy
  • Financial Regulation
  • The Presidency
  • Law
  • Program Evaluation


  • Ph.D in Political Science, Wayne State University (2013)
  • M.A. in Political Science, Wayne State University (2010)
  • B.A. in Political Science, Bowling Green State University (2008)
  • B.A. in Sociology, Bowling Green State University (2008)

Graduate Research Assistants


Maddi Georgoff

Position: Graduate Research Assistant

Baffour Koduah

Position: Graduate Research Assistant


Summer McVicker

Position: Graduate Research Assistant


Ian Reineck

Position: Graduate Research Assistant


Danny Schlingman

Position: Graduate Research Assistant