Kara McGrane joined The Institute as a Research Assistant in June 2018. She works under the supervision of the Executive Director on community-based and client projects by way of data accumulation, qualitative research, and analysis. She supports the Institute with event logistics as well as administrative functions.
Kara is a graduate of Maynooth University with a Master’s degree in Geography and of Syracuse University with a Bachelor’s in International Relations and Political Science. During her time at Syracuse, she studied abroad at Syracuse University Florence, Syracuse University Strasbourg, and University of Lower Silesia. She was awarded the Spector/ Warren fellowship: The Holocaust, Lessons for the Classroom by Syracuse University in 2016.
Upon graduating from Maynooth University she received First Class Honors and was awarded the Best Performance in the MA in Geography for having the top grade in the cohort and on the MA Thesis. Her thesis focused on the intersection of race, place, landscape, community, and interaction via case studies of traditional and modern public commemoration in Philadelphia.
Kara has completed internships at the Mandel Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) and at the Irish Housing Network (IHN). While at USHMM she conducted research for and helped coordinate academic programs. At the IHN she took part in projects involving field work such as service mapping, stakeholder interviews, and landscape observation. She also served as a teaching assistant for Syracuse University’s study abroad program at University of Lower Silesia.
Ooms is responsible for all facets of research,organizational strategy, and management. Ooms is an active principal investigator in all Institute research. Ooms has been nationally recognized as a leader in regional economic development. She turned that skill into a research institute to help other regions develop and prosper. Her strategic skills have allowed The Institute to expand its services to the private and non-profit sectors for research and analysis in community health needs assessments, strategic planning, market and feasibility studies, and economic impact analysis. Ooms’ leadership has expanded The Institute’s work to other states. Under her direction, The Institute has completed over 100 client and community based studies. These studies have resulted in new jobs, new programs, sustained initiatives, and new legislation throughout Pennsylvania and in New York. Ooms also serves on a number of local and regional non-profit boards.
In 2016, Ooms was named Innovator of the Year by the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Business and Industry for the development of the Connect program for entrepreneurs, the United Way’s Poverty to Possibility Initiative, replicating the Lehigh Carbon Community College SHINE model to Luzerne County, and the development of the regional energy economic development strategy.
From 1997 – 2004, Ooms served as President/CEO of the Inland Empire Economic Partnership (IEEP), Riverside, CA and of its two sister companies – The Inland Empire Tourism Council and the Inland Empire Foundation. IEEP is responsible for the regional marketing, attraction, and recruitment of new business to the region, the expansion and retention of existing business, film, tourism, high tech regional development, a workforce collaborative, regional visioning & planning, legislative advocacy, and the Small Business Development Center.
As President/CEO, Ms. Ooms completed a reorganization of the company resulting in new programs and services, financial stability and increased prominence in the community. In the period of 1997-2003, IEEP had 70 successful business attractions and retentions resulting in over $730 million in new investment into the region creating over 9,500 jobs. The region had over 5,000 film shoots, demonstrating a little over $425 million in regional impact in the same period. In 1999, she was awarded "Management Leader of the Year," by the A. Gary Anderson Graduate School of Management, and in 1998, 1999, and 2000 was a recipient of the "Women of Distinction" award given by the Business Press. During her term as CEO, IEEP’s membership grew by 10% and maintained an average membership retention ratio of 93%. IEEP evolved to include a high technology development program and coordination of the region’s workforce collaborative to bring education and business partnerships to benefit employers, employees, and students as well as the Tourism Council and Foundation. Ms. Ooms is a cum laude graduate of the University of Scranton with a BS in Public Administration and an MBA in Finance.
Senior Research & Policy Analyst
Andrew Chew joined The Institute team in 2013 as Research & Policy Analyst. In 2016, Chew was named Senior Research & Policy Analyst. Mr. Chew is responsible for coordinating many of The Institute’s research projects on a day-to-day basis. He is responsible for research design, overseeing data collection and analysis, visual communication of data using maps, charts, tables, and infographics, and writing and editing various studies, reports, and plans. Chew’s most important priority in his role is to ensure that The Institute produces research and analysis products that are of excellent quality, scientifically rigorous, and useful in creating positive outcomes for The Institute’s clients and the community as a whole.
Chew is well-versed a variety of research and analytic methodologies and has extensive experience in qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods research within a variety of social science , public policy, and urban planning contexts. His skillset includes survey design and implementation, focus group facilitation, content analysis, quantitative analysis using descriptive and inferential statistics, managing large and complex datasets, data mapping using Geographic Information Systems (GIS), and developing goals, objectives, and strategic recommendations.
Prior to working with The Institute, Chew held positions with the Somerset County (NJ) Planning Board and Lehigh Valley Planning Commission. Chew also served as a research assistant at TheLehigh Valley Research Consortium from 2008 to 2011. In that role, Chew collected, organized, and managed various datasets related to public policy, public health, and community engagement.
Mr. Chew is a magna cum laude graduate of Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania, with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science. He holds a Master of City and Regional Planning Degree from Rutgers University.
Director of Community Outreach
Susan Magnotta joined the team at the Institute in January, 2017 as the Director of Community Outreach. Susan is responsible for marketing, business development, fundraising and community outreach.
In her first year at The Institute, Susan redesigned marketing materials and began branding The Institute regionally. Her work has helped businesses and organizations connect with each other to develop more collaborative relationships, increased Institute client generation, increased task force engagement and Institute sponsorships. Magnotta also mentors marketing and communication interns at The Institute. Susan also prepares The Institute’s quarterly newsletter and is responsible for social media and mass marketing.
A graduate of Villanova University with a BA in English, she enjoyed a successful ten year career in pharmaceutical sales both in Harrisburg and in Northeastern Pennsylvania. She earned several sales awards and was recognized as a top 10% performer nationwide several times.
Following her pharmaceutical career, she helped with the launch of NEPA FamilyMagazine as editor and in advertising sales. Most recently, through grass-roots efforts, Susan started a local a field hockey organization with the mission of offering low cost, off-season playing opportunities to girls in the community so that no player would be left behind. This not-for-profit organization helped over 300 young girls experience field hockey in a variety of clinics, leagues and tournaments. She and her husband have five children and reside in Forty Fort.
Christopher Ritter was appointed Research Associate at The Institute in 2016. During his time here, Chris has served as a researcher for the several task forces engage in both qualitative research and analysis as well as public policy recommendations. Ritter served as the primary research on the Education and Workforce Development 2017 study on Career & Technical Education. Ritter completed the analysis and technical report resulting from The Institute’s fall 2016 Public Policy & Civic Engagement student poll, and has gathered and analyzed data for The Institute’s 2017 Indicators report. Ritter has also authored several QET articles. In 2018, Chris was appointed Research Analyst at The Institute.
Chris holds a J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania Law School, where he was an Articles Editor for Penn Law’s Journal of International Law and a member of the school’s Civil Rights Law Project. During law school, Chris also served as a Research Fellow with the University of Pennsylvania’s Perry World House for Global Engagement and as a Research Assistant with Penn Law’s Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law. His research interests include state-society relations, governance and political decision-making in economically disenfranchised regions.
Chris is also a summa cum laude graduate of the University of Scranton with a double major in political science and history. While at the University of Scranton, Chris authored a senior thesis examining the impact of globalization and its corresponding economic, cultural, and social impact on voting behavior and political decision-making as a member of the University’s Honors Program. During his time in college and law school, Chris also completed internships with the regional offices of Senator Robert P. Casey, Jr., Governor Thomas W. Corbett, and Judge James Munley of Pennsylvania’s Middle District.
Saidat joined The Institute for Public Policy and Economic Development as a Graduate Assistant in January, 2017. She is currently in her first year of the MBA program at Wilkes University and the first International Kirby Graduate Scholar of the Allan P. Kirby Center for Free Enterprise and Entrepreneurship (APKCFEE) at Wilkes University. Saidat is a 2015 graduate of Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (Lautech) Ogbomoso,Oyo State, Nigeria where she earned a degree in statistics and was valedictorian of her class of over 10,000 students.
At The Institute, she works with the staff on community-based projects, research, data compilation, extraction and report generation under the supervision of the Executive Director. Sanni’s statistical analysis skills are exemplary and during 2017, Saidat has conducted descriptive and inferential analysis on a number of datasets for various client projects.
Prior to her work at The Institute, Saidat worked as a statistician at the corporate and strategic planning department of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) in Marina, Lagos State, Nigeria from 2014 -2015. Her duties included the extraction and analysis of maritime data using statistics software like Minitab, R and SPSS, and the creation of spreadsheets for data analysis and report generation. While at NPA, Saidat played an active role in the preparation of the organization’s annual forecast and budget analysis.
As a Kirby Scholar, she assists with client management for the Allan P. Kirby Center for Free Enterprise and Entrepreneurship. Saidat helps the Center on center related projects and research activities, assists andcommunicates with clients as required. She also works to promote entrepreneurial activities to students through classroom activities, external, and student activities.
As of December 2017, Saidat completed the X-Culture Global Collaboration Course/Competition. For two months, she worked across different cultures and languages as a member and coordinator of a global virtual team of students in France, India, and USA. She coordinated and worked with the team as global consultants to real-life worldwide corporate partners. Saidat was recently awarded three Dean's Award for best conference research paper, poster, and presentation at the 2017 Jay S. Sidhu School of Business & Leadership Research Day Annual Conference at Wilkes University.
Condo and Lazorick have been with The Institute for four years and two years respectively. Condo and Lazorick conduct back office operations such as data entry from surveys and assessments and implement verification processes. In addition, the administrative support team covers all reception and clerical support activities for all staff including meeting logistics.
Mary Ann Condo has 20 years of experience with Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania providing administrative support and five with Berkheimer providing basic accounting functions and administrative support. Monica Lazorick has 25 experience in commercial banking throughout Pennsylvania.
Both possess excellent computer skills especially as they relate to database management and a high level of attention to detail.
Joseph Gallo joined the team at The Institute in 2018 as a Research Assistant. He is responsible for providing research support for a variety of projects at The Institute, in addition to assisting with outreach and working with interns. He has experience in qualitative and quantitative research, as well as in analytical writing.
As a student, Joseph completed a policy research practicum for the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education in New Jersey and worked with the Township of Green Brook as a sustainability intern. He then participated in the Community Scholars program through the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey, and continued to spend the next year in the nonprofit sector helping a supportive housing organization.
Joseph graduated from Rutgers University in 2017 with a Master of Public Policy (MPP) degree. He also holds a BA in International Relations from SUNY Geneseo, where he wrote and presented an honors thesis about the role of global norms in causing the Arab Spring revolutions.
Data, Research, Intern & Administrative Coordinator
Jill Avery-Stoss joined The Institute in June 2018 to fill the newly-created role of Research, Data, Intern & Administrative Coordinator. She assists with the collection and management of data for purposes of ethical and efficient analysis. She visits partner campuses to market The Institute’s internship opportunities, and participates in event-planning logistical activities as well.
After studying English and Women’s Studies at Penn State University, Jill embarked on a decade-long journey of counseling and advocating for victims of sexual and domestic violence. During her time in this field, she also provided abuse-specific prevention education to audiences ranging from elementary students to individuals at the collegiate and professional levels.
Following her nonprofit career, Jill directed her attention to online content creation and editing. She produced hundreds of articles, press releases, and other copy on a wide array of topics. This work also includes the development of educational materials, such as benchmark-aligned passages and assessment items for high-school and university-level curricula. The experience directly impacts her regular review of documents to ensure their readiness for distribution and guideline compliance on behalf of the Institute.
Jill’s primary objective is to contribute to productive and proactive community impact. Her background and knowledge of underserved populations are ideally suited to the region’s development needs.