Laurie Baefsky
Executive Director

Laurie Baefsky has developed and led arts integrated educational initiatives over the past 15 years. As executive director of ArtsEngine and the Alliance for the Arts in Research Universities (a2ru) housed at the University of Michigan, she works locally and nationally to support and strengthen arts and transdisciplinary arts endeavors in higher education. She is currently PI on a three-year Mellon Foundation-supported research initiative, SPARC — Supporting Practice in the Arts, Research and Curricula.  

Laurie joined ArtsEngine and a2ru in August 2014, having previously served as grants manager for the Utah Division of Arts and Museums in Salt Lake City, where she oversaw the annual distribution of $1.3 million in state and federal funding for individuals, organizations, communities and educators. A skilled grant writer herself, her efforts have resulted in over $5.3 million in arts funding through grants from federal, state and private sources.

From 2007-11 Dr. Baefsky established the USU ArtsBridge program at Utah State University, connecting university students with area schools and community organizations through arts-based interdisciplinary engaged learning initiatives. During this time she also directed professional development efforts for northern Utah schools under the Beverly Taylor Sorenson Arts Learning Program, working with this state-funded interdisciplinary public schools initiative as lead coordinator of professional development for Utah’s northern region schools.

She is an advocate for placemaking and creative venture, having worked as a creative consultant with the Virginia Arts Festival to secure national support and build capacity for community revitalization efforts through the arts in southeastern Virginia. Laurie currently serves as a member of the committee of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine on the Integration of the Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine with the Arts and Humanities at the Undergraduate and Graduate Level. Locally in southeastern Michigan she is on the board of trustees for the Ann Arbor Summer Festival, and member of the Cultural Leaders Forum of the Ann Arbor Arts Alliance.

Laurie began her career as a classical flutist and music educator, with degrees in flute performance from Stony Brook University, University of Michigan, and California State University, Fullerton. She has appeared with the Minnesota Orchestra, Utah Symphony, New World Symphony, and as a tenured member of the Virginia Symphony for 15 seasons. As a chamber artist, her performances have ranged from Symphony Space and Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, NYC to northeastern Morocco and Umbria, Italy. Laurie previously taught music and interdisciplinary courses for eight summers at the Virginia Governor’s School for the Humanities and Visual & Performing Arts at University of Richmond, and served as applied music faculty at multiple colleges and universities throughout southeastern Virginia.


Deb Mexicotte
Managing Director

Debra Mexicotte received her BFA and MA in Theatre from Case Western Reserve University and the University of Michigan, and worked in local and regional theatre as a designer and painter before starting her career in higher ed. She has spent her career at the University of Michigan working to partner with students and student organizations to help them achieve their highest developmental aspirations. Deb was named Student Organization Adviser of the Year in 1999. Most recently, she spent eight years as the Program Director for Arts at Michigan, a co-curricular arts engagement program at UM. She is also the current President of the Ann Arbor Board of Education and has served the community as a Trustee since 2003.


Maryrose Flanigan
a2ru Associate Director


Maryrose Flanigan is the associate director of the Alliance for the Arts in Research Universities (a2ru), where she oversees a network of about 35 U.S. research universities to advance arts-based initiatives in higher education. She previously served as division coordinator for Literature and Arts Education at the National Endowment for the Arts from 2010-2016, where she coordinated the Art Works grant category, the creative writing and translation fellowships; Poetry Out Loud; and the NEA Big Read. With degrees in creative writing, poetry, and French from American University, John Carroll University, and a language certificate from Sorbonne University in Paris, France, she has also served as associate editor for Office of Communications and Public Affairs (OCPA) at the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), in Washington, D.C.


Gabriel Harp
a2ru Research Director


Gabriel Harp is the Research Director for a2ru, where he leads the Mellon SPARC project and a2ru’s research agenda. The SPARC project makes use of hundreds of interviews with faculty and administrators from over 35 research universities—as well as supporting materials and documents—to identify and highlight patterns and practices for arts-driven research, collaborative know-how, curriculum, and organizational design in higher education. Prior to joining a2ru and returning to the University of Michigan, Gabriel lived in the San Francisco Bay Area leading strategic foresight, organization change design, large-scale social science research initiatives, arts research, and software design projects for the Institute for the Future, ecoAmerica, XPLANE, Microsoft, Intel, WattTime, GE, CoClimate, The World Health Organization, the California Community College System, and Nokia. Gabriel also spent four years teaching and leading experimental art, design, technology, and public policy labs in Bangalore for the Center for Study of Science Technology and Public Policy (CSTEP), the Center for Knowledge Societies (CKS), and the Srishti Center for Experimental Media Art (CEMA). Gabriel was originally trained in evolutionary ecology and behavior while studying the evolution of sex and parasitism in freshwater snails and floral evolution in flowering plants.


Edgar Cardenas
a2ru Mellon Postdoctoral Research Fellow


Edgar Cardenas received his PhD in Sustainability from Arizona State University. His dissertation, entitled Art-Science for Sustainability, focused on coupling sustainability science with the arts with the objective of bolstering more creative problem solving in sustainability. The culmination of this work resulted in both a written dissertation and a solo thesis exhibit. As a social scientist, Dr. Cardenas focuses on social creativity and small group dynamics, exploring which processes and mechanisms foster creative collaborations. As an interdisciplinary artist, he investigates the ecological, cultural, and technological subtleties of human/environment relationships. He has exhibited internationally at both art and science venues and has been published in art and science journals as well.

In addition to his research and art practice, Dr. Cardenas has also developed, organized, facilitated, and led several artists-scientists collaborative projects, as well as moderated panels on this topic. Dr. Cardenas also holds an MA in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from the University of New Haven with a focus on organizational development and conflict management.


Mark Jones
Living Arts Program Director


Mark has most recently served as an Academic Program Officer in the Center for Engineering Diversity and Outreach, Managing a wide variety of academic, personal and professional development programs as well as serving as an academic coach for the M-STEM academy. He has worked as an Assistant Professor of Music at Alcorn State University and the University of Tennessee at Martin teaching applied trumpet, music theory, music appreciation and brass methods courses. He has also performed with many orchestras and brass ensembles throughout the mid-west, south and Mexico.

He holds a bachelor degree (BM) from the University of Akron, a Masters (MM) and Doctorate (DMA) from the University of Michigan and a Performance Certificate from Northwestern University.


Amy Tackitt
Program Coordinator


Amy Tackitt received her Bachelor of Music in cello performance from the University of Michigan where she studied with Anthony Elliott, Erling Bengtsson, and Richard Aaron. Before returning to Michigan to work for ArtsEngine and a2ru, she served seven years as Program Coordinator of the Community Music and Dance Academy and Curry Summer Music Camp, the two community outreach programs housed within the School of Music at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona. Amy is currently the Administrator for the Major Orchestra Librarians’ Association, an organization of over 300 member organizations from around the world. She has played in many summer festival and community orchestras throughout the country and served as chair of the orchestra committee for two years while playing in the cello section of the Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra. Prior to serving at Northern Arizona University, she spent two years as Assistant Orchestra Librarian for the Houston Symphony in Houston, Texas.


Ruth Marsh
Living Arts Program Assistant


Ruth is the program assistant for both Living Arts and Lloyd Hall Scholars. Prior to working for Living Arts, Ruth was the administrative assistant for Festifools, a wonderful puppet parade that descends on Ann Arbor every April Fool’s Day.



Sisi Reid
Executive Intern

Sisi Reid is a theatre artist who uses spoken word, poetry, song, and movement to tell stories. She often explores topics about the African Diaspora and Black girlhood/womanhood. She has performed at various theatres in D.C., University of Maryland, and abroad in London. Sisi is also a youth worker and teaching artist who most recently spent a year working with the Latin American Youth Center in Riverdale, Maryland doing after school and summer programming. She attended a2ru’s 2015 Emerging Creatives Student Summit PULSE: Creative Collaborations for Cities in Flux and worked as a program assistant for the 2016 a2ru Emerging Creatives Student Summit RISE: Forging Resilient Cities. Her drive is fueled by connection, community, and healing.


Student Workers

Bryce Bizer

Bio coming soon!


Dylan Hancook

Based out of Ann Arbor, Dylan attends the University of Michigan where he is pursuing a B.A in Screen Arts & Cultures.
He has since become producer/director for M-Agination Films, writer/director for Zoorp sketch comedy, cinematographer/editor for Filmic Productions, and videographer for Arts Engine. His professional experience includes creative production internships at DigitasLBi Troy (GMC/Buick), Viewpoint Creative Boston (A&E, NBC, HBO, Vice), and Spectrum Health Grand Rapids. 
Dylan Hancook is currently working in commercial, music video, and short form narrative filmmaking. His recent projects include the “A Send-off: Michigan Bicentennial Commencement” which played at the famed Big House,  “Cheater” which won 3rd place overall and the audience award at the YPSI 24 hour film competition, “Roll Call” which won 1st prize overall at the Spotlight Film competition, and “EchoMe Launchspot” which won best live action spot overall at the 2016 Boston Brandathon. He is currently shooting of a 30-minute narrative film entitled “Chasing the GOAT”, which will premiere in the Traverse City Film Festival in July 2017.
He enjoys stand-up comedy, backcountry hiking, and talking in third person.


Noshin Khan
Program Assistant

Bio coming soon!


Darin Martin
Living Arts Graduate Student Intern

Darin Martin is a first year master’s student in the University of Michigan’s School of Education, where he is pursuing a Master’s of Arts degree in Higher Education with a focus on Management and Organizations and Student Access and Success. He completed his BA in Music and Performing Arts Management through the University of Michigan. Darin also serves as a Graduate Student Instructor for the Michigan Marching Band, and a life member of the honorary band service fraternity, Kappa Kappa Psi.



Jazmyn Rivera
Program Assistant

Jazmyn Rivera is a sophomore in the college of LSA looking to pursue a degree in computer science. Outside of her time in ArtsEngine, she is a part of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers and oSTEM.