Bios

Rex LaMore

Rex LaMore is director of Michigan State University’s Center for Community Economic Development and a member of the faculty of the Urban and Regional Planning Program. Dr. LaMore has over 35 years of experience in community and economic development and has focused his career on the unique challenges of revitalizing distressed communities and policies and practices related to promoting equitable and sustainable development.

LaMore provides leadership in a number of federal, foundation, and privately funded research and outreach partnerships. In 2011, under LaMore’s leadership, the MSU Center for Community and Economic Development was designated by the U.S. Department of Commerce, Economic Development Administration, as a University Center. The University Center for Regional Economic Innovation (REI) multi-year initiative is creating a robust knowledge economy network to support the co-creation, co-application, and dissemination of innovative economic development tools and strategies.

In addition to directing the Center, LaMore’s current research is focused on a variety of community and economic development areas, including ending the practice of private property abandonment, the role of arts and culture in entrepreneurial creative capacity, and sustainability in community planning and development. He teaches honors sections in MSU’s Honors College and environmental planning courses, and co-teaches MSU’s Urban Planning Field Practicum course for undergraduate and graduate students. A number of his publications, research reports, and handbooks are available at www.ced.msu.edu.

As the architect of the 1992 Outreach Partnership Act with Senator Don Riegle of Michigan, LaMore’s work has affected the nature of university-community partnerships nationwide. In 1995 he was the national recipient of the Community Development Society’s Distinguished Service Award, in recognition of his leadership and sustained commitment to excellence in community development. In 2008 he received the prestigious Educator of the Year Award from the Michigan Economic Developers Association and in 2011 was recognized by his peers at MSU as a University Distinguished Academic Specialist.

LaMore is the past chairperson and current vice-chairperson of the Williamstown Township Planning Commission, which recently adopted the state’s first “Green Zone” land use classification. This innovative zoning classification is designed to preserve environmental, social, and economic sustainability along a segment of the historic Grand River corridor. LaMore was elected to the Board of Directors of the Michigan Association of Planning in 2012.

Dr. LaMore received his B.S. and M.S. degrees at Michigan State University and his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan.

Robert E. Brown

Robert E. (Bob) Brown is an Associate Director for University-Community Partnerships, Michigan State University Outreach& Engagement. He brokers, facilitates and participates in university/community partnerships that are scholarly, community-based, collaborative, responsive, and capacity-building for the public good. He also develops undergraduate and graduate level curriculum on community engagement. Brown specializes in:

  • Co-creating systemic engagement platforms to link science and community wisdom for transformational change
  • Creating iterative, strategic action across community and academic networks
  • Multi-level logic modeling to articulate interconnected pathways of change
  • Framing and operationalizing engagement within developmental and ecological contexts
  • Co-creating collective impact with engaged practitioners by combining human development, community development, and economic development

Prior to working at MSU, Brown worked in the United Way System at United Way of Genesee County, United Way of Muskegon County, and United Way of Michigan. He has also worked in Michigan's aging network and Michigan's food bank network. He is a past board member of the Michigan Association for Evaluation. He has a master's degree in public administration from Western Michigan University. Brown lives in Flint, Michigan with his wife Johanna and their son Desmond (who's excited about being in the 2nd grade).

John Melcher

John Melcher is the Associate Director of the Michigan State University Center for Community and Economic Development[External Link]. He has over 25 years of experience in conducting research and outreach in community and economic development focusing on issues associated with distressed communities. His work engages faculty researchers and community stakeholders in developing regional knowledge economies, asset-based development and asset-building policy development, and community economic development. He has served on numerous community and university committees and has taught courses on community development, economic development, and research writing in the Urban and Regional Planning Program. He earned a B.S. in Urban and Regional Planning and M.S. in Resource Development from Michigan State University.

John has been actively engaged in economic development for over 25 years and has participated in numerous research and outreach initiatives focused on regional economic development planning. Serving as the Associate Director of the MSU Center for Community and Economic Development he is a principle member of the U.S. Department of Commerce, Economic Development Administration University Center for Regional Economic Innovation, a federally funded project focused on transforming regional economic development planning in the 21st. Century. John also serves as member of a targeted regional exporting partnership to advance exporting by small and medium size businesses in Michigan also funded by the US Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration.

Jennifer Bruen

Jennifer Bruen is the EDA MSU University Center Regional Economic Innovation Center Project Coordinator. Over the past five years she's managed grant-funded community and economic development projects for universities, regional planning organizations and communities across the state of Michigan. As a member of the Michigan Association of Planning's (MAP) Government Relations Committee from 2007-2010 she gained valuable experience in researching and developing Michigan regional planning and economic development tools and policies. Bruen has eight years in retail and in service related business management. She is a member of the Zoning Board of Appeals in her own community and regularly volunteers for her Downtown Development Authority. She earned a BA in Anthropology at Indiana University and an MS in GIS and Urban and Regional Planning. She also holds a Graduate Certificate in Historic Preservation.

Kassandra Ray-Smith

Kassandra Ray-Smith is secretary at the Center for Community and Economic Development. She provides administrative and functional support. She has an associate’s degree and has worked at MSU for over 30 years.

John H. Schweitzer, Ph.D.

John H. Schweitzer, Ph.D., is a professor in the Center for Community and Economic Development and an adjunct professor in the National Collaborative for the Study of University Engagement and the School of Planning, Design and Construction at MSU. He uses his knowledge of the social science research process to study the impact and effectiveness of educational and social programs and policies. His research interests include the measurement, study, and strengthening of the sense of community of residents in urban neighborhoods in order to promote empowerment and pro-social behaviors such as voting, recycling, volunteering, and participation in community-based organizations. Current projects include an evaluation of an effort to stimulate the knowledge economy in upper Michigan, a study of outreach and engagement in tenure and promotion processes, and an examination of the impact of the built environment on outdoor exercise. He has served as a Fulbright lecturer in Singapore and as a consultant/evaluator for numerous city, state, and federal agencies. In addition to teaching a variety of courses in statistics, research methodology, educational measurement, and program evaluation, Schweitzer has formally served on doctoral and master's committees for over 100 graduate students in 21 different departments at MSU, and he has informally assisted a similar number of graduate students with various aspects of their research.