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: Senior Project Manager

Deminique Heiks is the Senior Project Manager at the BGSU Center for Regional Development. Her work at CRD focuses on economic development planning, data visualizations, and GIS mapping. She has spent much of her career working to address community challenges, like barriers to employment and homelessness. Deminique is serving her third appointment as a member of the Governor’s Council on Juvenile Justice. She has an MPA from Bowling Green State University.


Maddi Georgoff

Position: Community Placemaking Program Coordinator

Maddi Georgoff is the Community Placemaking Program Coordinator at the BGSU Center for Regional Development. Her role bridges the work of CRD and Center for Public Impact by providing support for the students engaged in the Reimagining Rural Regions (R3) Initiative. She is also passionate about program evaluation and served as a Graduate Assistant on the Stronger Pathways and TPS Community HUB evaluation projects before joining the CRD team full-time in her current role.

Maddi has experience in program development and implementation, with a proven track record in non-profit and higher education sectors. Prior to her work at BGSU, she created a Title I Parent Engagement program for Toledo Public Schools and later became a Community Engagement Manager for the Girl Scouts of Western Ohio.

Maddi received both her Master's Degree in Public Administration (2021) and Bachelor's Degree in Sociology (2015) from BGSU. BGSU has provided Maddi with leadership opportunities since 2011 when she first became a Civic Action Leader (CAL) in the former Office of Service-Learning (now the Center for Public Impact). During her time as a CAL, Maddi developed the university's alternative breaks program (BG Alternative Breaks) and later served as an Orientation Leader. She is a 2015 Newman Civic Fellow and recently received the MPA Community Service Award for her work in graduate school.


Ben Hooper

Position: Economic Recovery Program Coordinator

Ben Hooper is the Economic Recovery Program Coordinator for the Center for Regional Development (CRD) at Bowling Green State University (BGSU). Beginning in October 2020, Mr. Hooper was hired to lead CRD’s efforts of supporting the economic recovery of the 29 county CRD region following the COVID-19 fueled economic downturn. Leaning on his decade of experience as an economic development practitioner, Mr. Hooper’s work with CRD includes program administration, research and analysis, and survey design and implementation, all with the goal of supporting economic resiliency, recovery and growth efforts throughout northwest Ohio. In his short time with CRD, Mr. Hooper first completed an economic snapshot of each of the 29 counties, highlighting data points germane to each county’s economic recovery tracking that will be updated bi-annually. Mr. Hooper conducted a wage, benefits, and training survey and issued a final report for Logan and Union counties, helping to ensure up-to-date information is available to each county’s economic development partners and the private sector as they collectively seek to meet the unique post-COVID workforce challenges facing communities across the country. Mr. Hooper is also heavily involved in the new Reimaging Rural Regions (R3) Initiative by supporting the local steering committee in program creation and execution in the City of Van Wert. The R3 Initiative focuses on assisting rural communities in developing strategies to attract and retain their workforce by focusing on quality of life and the amenities unique to each town that help create a sense a place for everyone in the community. Mr. Hooper moved back to the Toledo region after working for four years in Arizona because of his deep desire to make a positive difference in the lives of the residents of the region in which he grew up.

Prior to joining CRD, Mr. Hooper was the Economic Development Coordinator for the Town of Prescott Valley, Arizona, specializing in commercial and retail business attraction. Under his leadership, Mr. Hooper successfully aided in the development or redevelopment of over 300,000 square feet of retail space across 23 new businesses. Mr. Hooper’s activities in Prescott Valley included analyzing business sector-specific datasets and trends to craft appropriate business attraction strategies, database management and lead tracking, convening a variety of stakeholder meetings and conferences, and tailoring processes and materials to respond to the needs of public and private sector clients. Mr. Hooper spent a great deal of time in the Phoenix market, building relationships with retailers, brokers, and developers which proved extremely valuable in attracting many of the new businesses that located or expanded into the Prescott Valley market.

Before moving to Arizona, Mr. Hooper served as the Redevelopment Coordinator for the Revitalizing Auto Communities Environmental Response (RACER) Trust. Following the bankruptcy of General Motors, the RACER Trust was created to provide continued environmental remediation and position for responsible redevelopment, the properties that General Motors shed from its portfolio as part of its reorganization. Mr. Hooper worked throughout multiple communities across 14 states, primarily in Michigan but also throughout the northeast and midwest. During his time with the RACER Trust, Mr. Hooper met with a variety of elected and appointed officials as well as private company officers, worked collaboratively to organize public and private events, conducted database design and management, and completed in-depth research projects, all with a focus of redeveloping RACER properties to the benefit of communities negatively impacted by the bankruptcy. During his tenure at RACER, he aided in the redevelopment of multiple industrial properties resulting in the actual or pledged creation of over 10,000 jobs and the injection of over $1 billion of planned or actual investments into distressed former General Motors’ communities.

Mr. Hooper received his Bachelor’s in Political Science from the University of Toledo and his Master’s in Urban and Regional Planning from Eastern Michigan University.


Lisa Lawson-LaPointe

Position: Rural Development Program Coordinator

Lisa worked in the non-profit sector for more than 20 years prior to coming to Bowling Green State University. In that time, she worked on important issues such as teen pregnancy prevention, equal housing opportunity, access to healthcare, the social determinants of health, and many other community development concerns. She is an adept grant writer and trainer/presenter having conducted hundreds of presentations over the years.


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 Assistants and Student Staff


Marcus Goolsby

Position: Graduate Research Assistant


Alyissa Horn

Position: Graduate Research Assistant

Baffour Koduah

Position: Graduate Research Assistant


Catherine Krempasky

Position: Research Assistant


Nico Marchitello

Position: Graduate Research Assistant


Jon-Luke Martin

Position: Graduate Research Assistant


Vanessa Oz

Position: Graphic Design and Marketing Specialist


Connor Prusha

Position: Graduate Research Assistant


Emma Snyder

Position: Graduate Research Assistant