The TU Innovates blog is written by staff members of the Division of Innovation and Applied Research at Towson University. Drawing upon diverse strengths, experiences, and unique approaches to problem-solving, our team creates innovative and research-driven solutions for partners across Maryland’s public, private, and non-profit sectors.

Ellen Bast

Ellen Bast

Research Assistant

Ellen is a research assistant at the Regional Economic Studies Institute. She performs primary and secondary data collection and analysis and provides assistance with report writing. Ellen’s posts focus on the economics of current events and are influenced by her interests in the arts (especially ballet!) and the goings-on in Greater Baltimore.  Read Ellen’s Posts

Frank Bonsal III

Frank Bonsal III

Director of Venture Creation

Frank Bonsal is Towson University’s director of venture creation and leads TU Incubator. For 25+ years, Frank has served as teacher, coach, mentor and investor of people, teams, and companies. He also mentors or advises at various East Coast accelerators and incubators and keeps turning over stones, as some of them have a lucky stripe. Frank’s posts focus on EdTech, business development, and entrepreneurship.

Read Frank’s Posts

David Cross

David Cross

Assistant Director of Venture Creation

David Cross is the assistant director of venture creation. With over 30 years of experience in economic development, technology transfer, commercialization, and entrepreneurship, he manages the daily operations and programming of the TU Incubator. Read David’s Posts

Kathleen Crostic

Kathleen Crostic

Partnerships Manager

Kathleen Crostic is the partnerships manager in the Office of Partnerships & Outreach. She is responsible for developing and supporting partnerships across the university and providing support to meet the mission of TU being an engaged university. She is also responsible for building new partnerships and supporting the data collection efforts through the BTU framework. Kathleen’s posts focus on partnerships and community outreach. Read Kathleen’s Posts

Raquel Frye

Raquel Frye

Technical Advisor

Raquel Frye is a technical advisor for the Regional Economics Studies Institute and a lecturer in the Department of Economics at Towson University. An enthusiast of economics and economic education, Raquel’s posts focus on analyzing the economics of policies and current news stories (with a little econ humor thrown in for good measure). Read Raquel’s Posts

Sharyn Grove

Sharyn Grove

Associate Director, Office of Partnerships & Outreach

Sharyn Grove is the associate director of the Office of Partnerships & Outreach. She manages a range of graphic design, marketing, and outreach campaigns and initiatives tied to the Division’s strategic plan, as well as providing staff training and ongoing management of Salesforce. Read Sharyn’s Posts

Daraius Irani, Ph.D.

Daraius Irani, Ph.D.

Vice President, Innovation & Applied Research

Daraius Irani, Ph.D. serves as vice president of Innovation and Applied Research. He fosters the development of partnerships between business, government, and education that contributes to the economic vitality of our region. He also serves as chief economist at the Regional Economic Studies Institute and is often called on by state agencies, private companies, and local governments to provide insight on proposed policies, development, and economic forecasting. With a passion for all things economic, Daraius’s posts focus on a wide range of topics from immigration to bicycling. Read Daraius’ Posts

Tracy Jacobs

Tracy Jacobs

Director, Osher Lifelong Learning Institute

Tracy Jacobs is director of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, which offers classes and activities for individuals, aged 50+. She supports Osher memberships, assists with curriculum development, and manages marketing efforts. Tracy’s posts focus on Osher and the importance of lifelong learning in enriching a person’s life. Read Tracy’s Posts

Julie Knight, Ph.D.

Julie Knight, Ph.D.

Director of Research

Julie Knight, Ph.D. is director of research for the Regional Economic Studies Institute. Dr. Knight’s expertise includes methodology creation and implementation, competitiveness assessments, and regional economic development capacity. Her posts focus on global economics and regional economic development issues from around the world. Read Julie’s Posts

Bobbie Laur

Bobbie Laur

Associate Vice President, Outreach

Bobbie Laur serves as associate vice president of outreach.

She oversees two externally-focused teams—Office of Partnerships & Outreach and TU Incubator—whose collective focus is to match the expertise and resources of the university with external partners—business, government, non-profit sectors and community organizations—throughout Greater Baltimore. With a passion for marketing, community engagement, and higher education policy, Bobbie’s posts focus on trends, issues, and best practices in those areas. Read Bobbie’s Posts

Larry Martin

Larry Martin

Managing Director, Information Technology Services

Larry Martin is the managing director of Information Technology Services. He manages business analysis, proposal development, budget management, project management, and business management for IT Services. Larry’s posts focus on a variety of topics related to project management, business analysis, and IT Planning. Read Larry’s Posts

Katie Menking

Katie Menking

Research Associate

Katie Menking is a research associate for the Regional Economic Studies Institute. She has numerous roles, including conducting research for potential and current projects, primary and secondary data collection and analysis, and report writing and editing. Read Katie’s Posts

Christina Nemphos

Christina Nemphos

Research Associate

Christina Nemphos is a GIS specialist at the Center for GIS. She performs GIS data analysis; works on map development and creation; and develops customized GIS curriculum. She is currently pursuing an M.S. in Social Science to apply her interest in GIS to anthropology and environmental issues. Christina’s posts focus on all things GIS. Read Christina’s Posts

Ardys Russakis

Ardys Russakis

Executive Director, Applied Research & Technical Services

Ardys Russakis serves as executive director of Applied Research & Technical Services and is the managing director of the Center for GIS (CGIS). Ardys plays a major role in strategic planning for business development and fiscal management for CGIS and assists with expanding Towson University’s role as a state and regional resource for GIS services, applications, and training. Ardys’s blog posts focus on GIS technology. Read Ardys’s Posts

Michael Siers

Michael Siers

Senior Economist

Michael Siers is a senior economist at the Regional Economics Studies Institute. He is charged with designing qualitative and quantitative research methodologies to better understand impacts to the Maryland and regional economies. Michael’s posts focus on RESI projects. Read Michael’s Posts

Vicki Simek

Vicki Simek

Associate Director, Continuing Education

Vicki Simek is the associate director of continuing education at the Center for Professional Studies. She is responsible for program development, management, marketing, and outreach for non-credit, certificate-based, professional development courses. Vicki’s posts focus on continuing education as a driver for workforce and professional development. Read Vicki’s Posts

Arthur Smith

Arthur Smith

Digital Content Manager

Arthur Smith is the digital content manager in the Office of Partnerships & Outreach. He writes and edits website, blog, and email marketing content; implements digital marketing campaigns; provides analysis and recommendations for marketing campaigns and business development activities for the Division, its partners, and clients. Arthur’s posts focus on Division news. Read Arthur’s Posts

Bailey Susic

Bailey Susic

Project Manager

Bailey Susic is a project manager at the Center for Professional Studies and is the program manager of the Professional Leadership Program for Women. She is responsible for training, project management, client relations, and business development. Bailey’s posts focus on training and leadership development programs. Read Bailey’s Posts

John Spears, Ph.D.

John Spears, Ph.D.

Senior Human Services Consultant

John Spears, Ph.D. serves as a Senior Human Services Consultant at the Regional Economics Studies Institute. An expert in research, policy analysis, and data management, Dr. Spears provides support for the Maryland State Department of Education’s Division of Early Childhood Development. There he handles policy analysis, budget forecasting and some ad hoc reporting. Most recently, he performed an analysis of the fiscal impact of recent CCDF policy changes on the Child Care Subsidy Program. Read John’s Posts

Justin Venters

Justin Venters

e-Learning Specialist

Justin Venters is an e-learning specialist at the Center for Professional Studies. He develops creative e-learning solutions for clients and consults on online course development, graphic design, script writing, and instructional design. Justin’s posts focus on e-learning trends and non-traditional solutions. Read Justin’s Posts