Exciting things have been happening for entrepreneurship at Towson University. Last week, Acting President Timothy Chandler cut the ribbon to the Launch Pad Loft, officially opening the doors to our brand new space. Student’s from all disciplines are invited to the Loft—located on the fourth floor of Cook Library—to meet with a Launch Pad Specialist and expound on all their innovative ideas and creative musings. It is our hope that this space will become a crucial workspace for student entrepreneurs and serve as a hub for enterprise creation and development.


During Thursday’s Kick Off event, the Student Launch Pad Team was joined by members of Towson University’s faculty, staff, and administration–many of which have been integral in the creation of the Student Launch Pad through committee work. These committees showed their dedication to student entrepreneurship by securing our space in the library, gathering funding from across the university, and outlining workshops and programs for students. We are very thankful to our committee members for their support and commitment to student success in entrepreneurship.

Launchpad Opening0003

Towson University Student Launch Pad Ribbon Cutting (From left to right: Enactus Student Members; Towson University’s Acting President, Timothy Chandler; Frank Bonsal III, Director of Entrepreneurship; Dyan Brasington, VP, Division of Innovation and Applied Research) – Photo credit: DeCarlo Brown


The Launch Pad Loft is accessible to all students via open office hours, listed on our Facebook, and by appointment. Students that come into the space can meet with a Student Launch Pad specialist and work through their idea using the Business Model Canvas. This open source tool is helpful to people at all stages of their entrepreneur career as it allows you to describe, design, challenge, invent, and pivot your business model. We use this tool in conjunction with the Lean Start-Up Methodology to present entrepreneurship to students in a way that is accessible and approachable–rather than as a project that is quickly stalled by complicated business plans and theory. Our method encourages students to start now and get out of the building with their idea (a phrase heard often in the Lean Start-Up world). It is our hope that by opening the doors to the Loft, we will be opening a new door to student success through entrepreneurship.



As the days get shorter and the temperature cools, as flannel, scarves, and boots reenter wardrobes and flip flops are buried in the bottoms of closets, it is abundantly clear: fall is upon us. And this change can mean only one thing: the much-anticipated return of pumpkin spice season. What began when Starbucks introduced its pumpkin spice latte in 2003 has blossomed into $308 million of pumpkin-themed sales annually. And what better way to analyze this phenomenon than with the economist’s toolbox?



Image credit: Wikimedia


The central theme of economics is scarcity: limited resources despite unlimited desires. And pumpkin spice lattes are a prime example of a scarce resource. While it is possible to buy pumpkin year-round thanks to the modern market, and pumpkin spice lattes are just a combination of coffee, milk, and syrup (that you can easily make at home regardless of the time of year), the return of the pumpkin spice latte at Starbucks is a national news event. This restriction on the supply of pumpkin spice lattes, self-imposed though it may be, results in over $80 million in sales for Starbucks in a single season. Which means, with that decision, they are single-handedly making pumpkin-flavored goods seasonal and scarce.


Also paramount to the field of economics are the laws of supply and demand, and the pumpkin spice craze lends itself nicely to these concepts. The law of supply states that a good’s price and the quantity supplied are directly related—that is, producers are willing to make more of a good when it is more expensive. Put another way, as a good becomes more expensive, more producers are willing to enter the market and supply the good. And think about what has happened with pumpkin-themed goods: over a decade ago, Starbucks alone introduced the pumpkin spice latte. And now, there is pumpkin-spiced everything on the market: pumpkin beer, pumpkin candles, pumpkin dog treats, pumpkin spice beef jerky, and even pumpkin spice deodorant.


Image credit: Starbucks

Pumpkin Spice Latte – Image credit: Starbucks


The law of demand states that a good’s price and the quantity demanded are inversely related—that is, as a good becomes cheaper, the quantity demanded of the good increases. One of the determinants of demand—the factors that change the amount of a good that consumers are willing to buy at a constant price—is the tastes and preferences of consumers. In other words, they are willing to pay relatively more for things that they like and less for things that they dislike. Given the resounding popularity of all things pumpkin spice-themed, they can be grouped into the former category. There is even empirical evidence to support this theoretical argument: the United States Department of Agriculture’s analysis shows that seasonal demand increases retail prices for pumpkins.


The pumpkin spice craze has a huge impact upon the U.S., both economically and more generally. As the Buzzfeed lists, Twitter handle, and Tumblr hashtag show, consumers are excited by and respond well to pumpkin-themed goods. And luckily for everyone, the trend shows no signs of slowing down or decomposing like a Jack-o-lantern in November.



Since 1995, RESI has been hosting the Economic Outlook Conference – that’s the same year many of the freshman at TU were born! Our team in RESI and OPO have been busy preparing for this year’s conference – creating, promoting, producing, designing, meeting, emailing – but the best part about preparing for this year’s conference is that Jade, Mikey, and I have been able to taste-test a few beers. You heard right! Our conference theme focuses on the economic impact of the craft brewing industry in Maryland, so it only seems right that we get to indulge in a few local beers, right?
This year, in addition to Dr. Daraius Irani’s 2015 Economic Forecast, we will show short screenings of Brewmore | Baltimore – a recently released documentary chronicling the rich history of the beer industry in Baltimore, hear from Lester Jones, Chief Economist of the National Beer Wholesalers Association, and we will end our event with an optional beer tasting from our friends at Heavy Seas.


There are 2 ways you can reserve your seat to the EOC!


Interested in bringing your clients/staff/colleagues?

Consider purchasing a table package. The table package includes 8 seats and recognition in the program as a table sponsor. The table package is $349, which is a $50 savings in ticket costs.


Want to purchase an individual ticket?

Individual tickets are for sale for $50. Each ticket includes breakfast, lunch, and access to the materials presented.


Not quite sure if you want to attend? No problem! Come to our FREE happy hour at Union Craft in Baltimore next Thursday (October 23rd) and let us convince you. Your first beer is on us!



Some might find this statement a bit directionally challenged, but an upcoming trip to Australia has captured much of my attention and time in recent weeks and caused me to worry about all that I don’t know about where I am going. As a life-long learner, someone who has a long and rich professional experience, and a person who works in a University for gosh sakes, this situation of focusing on what I don’t know is making me a bit insecure.


Earlier this year I was asked to teach a Master Class (not my day job) in Australia on building relationships between universities and economic development organizations, as part of their National Economic Development Association’s (EDA) annual meeting. Like many might be, I was flattered by the invitation, but quickly dismissed it because of expense, time, and other responsibilities at work and at home; you name it, I had an excuse. Once I got through this most pragmatic and un-inspirational line of thinking I realized that what I had before me was the opportunity to express on an international stage, what I have been advocating, researching and believing through many years of education and professional development; that is the importance of making connections, and bringing resources to bear that will provide opportunities for people to have meaningful work and a good quality of life.


Wow, summing it up this way is scary and feels like a big responsibility and a daunting task, but I believe that is ultimately what economic developers strive to do. Isn’t it? What I don’t know is if my perspective or world view of ‘what economic developers do’ is in sync with the world view of Australian economic developers. What if I am way off base? What if they think my idealism is preposterous? That being said, I have met a few Australian economic developers and want to note that they are a very friendly bunch and would probably offer a beer before they would throw rotten tomatoes at you and your ideals.




On this journey I am representing the International Economic Development Council (IEDC), an organization that has been the bedrock of my professional development and where I have made the most valuable professional relationships; and Towson University, my employer and a very special organization that values international students and faculty, outreach and creating new partnerships. While I am thinking about the honor and opportunity to represent them, my brain keeps getting dragged back to the practical…whatever will I pack? After all, their seasons are upside-down.


Leading up to this journey I have done research on the conference location of Darwin, Australia which is at the “top end” of the Northern Territory and has quite the history of surviving catastrophes such as a terrible bombing during WW II, and being hit by a devastating cyclone Tracy, almost wiping Darwin out in the early 1970’s.



Image credit: Queensland Australia &


Not to be envisioning the next catastrophe, but nowadays they have a tourist attraction inviting you to swim with saltwater crocodiles to see if you can survive. Oh my! Flaming the fear, my colleagues at the university have been sending me, in various vivid formats, information about all the deadly vipers, spiders, jelly fish, sea snakes, crocs and other life threatening opportunities that await an unknowing traveler there. I have even been introduced to a game App developed in Australia by a transit authority called “dumb ways to die”. Really, look it up. Talk about feeling insecure!


AP Photo/Rob Griffith

AP Photo/Rob Griffith


Admittedly, from this side of my iPad screen, ‘dumb ways to die’ is safe and fun to play. Also, insecurity about what I don’t know aside, it is too late to cancel my reservations. …… Hey, wait just an upside-down minute. Turning it around, think about all that I can learn, because of all that I don’t know. Hmmm… from this new perspective, things have finally begun to Look Up for my trip to the Down Under. More when I’m back.



The Race to the Top (RTTT) grant has come to an end (see CAIRE and the Race to the Top and Evaluating the Implementation and Utilization of the Race to the Top Projects). This project has been a part of the Center for Application and Innovation Research in Education (CAIRE) for the past four years. As with any project that we spend a long time on, we are sad to see it go, but are very proud of the work accomplished. RTTT provided the CAIRE team with many opportunities to use our skill sets, both individually and collectively.


Over the last several months the CAIRE team evaluated the impact and utilization of several individual RTTT projects. Surveys were a large part of the data gathering process. Each project had its own unique survey, and our team took much time and skill in creating surveys that would yield the data necessary to provide information to contribute to the decision making process.


Throughout the entire RTTT project, CAIRE evaluators used personal interviews to gather information that can only be conveyed through direct contact with those people “in the trenches”. Talking directly to both Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) employees and local education agencies (LEA) employees, yielded useful impressions and a deeper insight into the success of a project that cannot be conveyed through surveys or test results.


Data Analysis
After obtaining survey results and interview results, the CAIRE evaluators carefully analyzed those data sets quantitatively and qualitatively. Researchers compiled the data, developed themes, and presented the data that indicated trends and direction.


By using our skills to develop insightful and meaning surveys, conducting thorough interviews and analyzing copious amounts of data, the CAIRE team presented our findings and recommendations to MSDE as they move to the 21st century with the Maryland Career and College Readiness standards.



A few years ago, I wrote a piece on the economic impact of the Orioles’ opening day. Little did I know that I would be following up with an analysis of postseason play. While I do not want to get ahead of myself, the prospect of—wait for it—being in the World Series confers additional economic impacts. October could be an economic boom to Baltimore City.


In postseason play, the percentage of out-of-town visitors increases at each game. Moreover, the closer the race, the bigger the crowds at local watering holes and hotels. Based upon some prior studies, we estimate that each playoff game that the Orioles participate in during the post season will support 50 annual FTE jobs, $3.3 million in state GDP, and about $350,000 in state and local tax revenues.


For cities in the postseason play, there are some additional economic benefits beyond the traditional ones mentioned above. Interestingly, these additional benefits may be driven by psychological factors. Some studies have indicated that postseason appearances actually increase productivity. An early study in this field determined that home teams’ victories actually resulted in increased production, while losses resulted in increased workplace accidents. Because of the timing of postseason play, a winning season may result in increased holiday spending by the fans. Finally, there is some evidence that charitable giving is higher in cities as a result of postseason appearances.


While the economic benefits of postseason play will be driven by increased hotel activity, restaurants, and paraphernalia as Baltimore is hosting some of the games, Baltimoreans will also be more productive, be less prone to workplace accidents, give more to charities, and spend more money over the holidays as a result of the Ravens postseason play. When the Orioles win the World Series, Baltimoreans may even see an increase in personal income. Regardless of these economic benefits, it will still be great to see a sign on I-95 reading, “Welcome to Baltimore, home of the World Series Champions, the Baltimore Orioles!” However, these impacts do not include the lost productivity due to the spike in absenteeism during the playoff. So, as they say, “Play ball!”



Acknowledgement: EdTech Maryland and the proposed future of education innovation and excellence in Maryland would not be possible without the following leaders: Andrew Coy, Jen Meyer, Jan Baum, Michael Baady, Frank Bonsal III, John Cammack, Bill Ferguson, Tom Sadowski, Katrina Stevens, and Vince Talbert.


In the U.S., North America, and around the Globe, education innovation clusters are popping up across the landscape to solve the 21st century’s toughest learning challenges. Some of these economic development clusters, moreover entrepreneurship hubs, will lead in ways that others cannot. Maryland is one of them.
Maryland, My Maryland


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An Overview. A couple of years ago, a few gray-haired, mission-driven Baltimoreans began to meet on a patterned basis to discern what we could do to induce and replicate education innovation and productivity in Baltimore, Maryland and the Mid-Atlantic region. The interest grew virally to a point where a more formal task force made sense, and the Greater Baltimore EdTech Advisory Task Force was born. The task force met for a year and included over forty people and four committees, was led by an executive committee of 10 community leaders, including yours truly, and chaired by Andrew Coy, Executive Director of the Digital Harbor Foundation. We tested the market by hosting with EdSurge the inaugural Baltimore Tech for Schools Summit in February 2014. We discerned there were identifiable, sustained pockets of PK-20 innovation in the city and around the state and that it was time to congeal, laud and replicate success accordingly. With the learner or education professional at the fore, it was time to matter-of-factly connect the dots and layer effectiveness thereon. We announced EdTech Maryland at the Tech for Schools Summit and have been building momentum ever since. A June 2014 article by GettingSmart’s Tom Vander Ark endorsed and encapsulated our efforts and attributes.


Image: 39 Things We’ll Miss About Patriarchy, Which Is Dead, by @kstoeffel, New York Magazine

Image: 39 Things We’ll Miss About Patriarchy, Which Is Dead, by @kstoeffel, New York Magazine

‘Mind’ the Patriarchs.
As positive and fired up as we were for this endeavor, we also knew we needed to deal with the inevitable patriarch problem. We knew or thought that the old guard simply would not or could not dig in for a twenty year ecosystem build that was not controlled by certain entrenched leaders. We knew that a smaller metropolitan region must be cognizant of and interoperate with existing ecosystem assets. In short, learning from and lauding the past, we set out to grow an open, inclusive, grass roots approach to education innovation.


We also needed to start with the right full-time person who could catalyze the effort. With a deep background in teaching, media and advisory services all pegged to the education mission, Katrina Stevens was the logical, most energized and connected candidate for the role of executive director. Below is a recent dialogue I had with Katrina.


Inaugural logo (hashtag) of EdTech Maryland

Inaugural logo (hashtag) of EdTech Maryland


Frank: What is EdTech Maryland?


Katrina: EdTech Maryland is a nonprofit enterprise whose mission is to drive and support excellence in education innovation and to foster an ecosystem that includes all stakeholders. EdTech Maryland has three main initiatives: 1) a research consortium, 2) convening and supporting events, and 3) some minor policy advocacy.


Frank: What are some differentiating qualities to Maryland’s education ecosystem? How does EdTech Maryland plan to laud and capitalize on these? Why now?


Katrina: Maryland, more than any other ecosystem I’ve seen, truly cares about the double bottom line — yes, we do believe that it’s important for companies to be sustainable — but it deeply matters to this community that these solutions improve student and teacher outcomes. EdTech Maryland will identify effective solutions and help to scale them so that more students and professionals benefit.


The Greater Baltimore region already hosts business and social enterprise incubators that support economic growth at scale. We rank in the top few states in the country for excellence in education. We’re also unique in that within a short distance, we have a broad range of schools — public, private, urban, suburban, and rural — each with their own challenges. This makes us an ideal region for documenting how innovative practices lead to improved outcomes in different groups of students.


Our capacity as a collaborative community is unsurpassed. When entrepreneurs come here — and we’ve already had two companies move from NYC — the local entrepreneurial community embraces them and opens up their rolodexes. To get things accomplished, we frequently pool resources to make something happen.


Frank: Where do you start building EdTech Maryland — and why?


Katrina: In some ways, we’re tackling the difficult problem first. We know we can continue to serve as a convener, to host events that support our mission, which we’ll do. What’s much more difficult however is figuring out how to design and implement short cycle feedback systems to help the larger edtech community understand where products are in their development and what degree of promise they hold. We need to broaden the definition of research to incorporate the rapid iterations happening in the startup community and the changing needs of our students. Partnerships with higher education and districts will be key to our success.


Frank: Who are the key players?


Katrina: We need partners from all elements of the larger ecosystem: the business community, higher ed, districts, independent schools, government, incubators/accelerators, parents and other community organizations. We have begun partnerships with Towson University and Johns Hopkins and are pleased to have the Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore in supporting our early development and operations needs. The EdTech Maryland Executive and Advisory Boards will soon be announced, as will our follow-on Tech for Schools Summit, which was so popular with educators earlier this year.


Frank: Speaking of key players, why are you the one to connect the dots and further architect a robust edtech ecosystem in Maryland?


Katrina: My background provides me the good fortune to see the ecosystem from many different positions. The first 20 years of my career was spent in classrooms — I worked in higher ed, then was a teacher and administrator, working in both public and private schools. I also co-founded an edtech startup, have written about the edtech space for EdSurge, and have served as a consultant on a wide range of projects across the edtech ecosystem. My recent work as EdSurge Summit Director has taught me how to help entrepreneurs and educators work together so that everyone benefits, especially the students.


I’m passionate about helping bring people together across the ecosystem to work together toward common goals.


Frank: What does the Maryland education ecosystem resemble in 2020?


Katrina: I envision an integrated system where schools and entrepreneurs are working together seamlessly to provide better solutions for our schools. EdTech Maryland will become the gold standard for evaluating early stage products and innovative practices. Schools will trust our measurements and evaluations and will use them to make decisions about what will work best for their schools. We’ll also be the go-to place for anyone interested in finding out information about what’s important in the larger community. EdTech Maryland will serve as a trusted advisor for the whole community.


So, here we go with a Baltimore-based startup nonprofit whose sole mission is to enhance and imbue the best attributes of the learning and leading process in Maryland’s education ecosystem. With the energy, wisdom and productivity of Katrina and some of the players she is aggregating, odds are very good that Maryland’s education ecosystem is one to watch.



I often describe myself as a “self-proclaimed leadership junky.” What I mean by this is I’ve experienced the gamut of leadership programs from Leadership Washington to Leadership Maryland to Leadership Howard County to leadership programs specifically for Economic Developers.   Each of these leadership experiences has left me with a different gift and given me insights and tools I continue to utilize in my professional and personal life.


So, when our President Dr. Maravene Loeschke approached me earlier this year with an idea for developing a professional leadership program for women I didn’t have to think twice—I was in! But, before we took any formal steps, my campus colleagues and I knew we needed to ensure that a program like this was needed in our community. Thus we held a series of focus groups last spring aimed at determining a few things:

  1. Is there a need?
  2. If so, how should the program be focused?
  3. What should the key outcomes be?


I know I speak for all of my colleagues when I say that we were blown away by the response and feedback from the women and men that participated in the focus groups. The resounding message was ABSOLUTELY, a program geared specifically for women in the workplace was needed. Once we knew the need was there, our team got together this summer sifting through the feedback, learning from other experts, and getting our creative juices flowing, in order to build a unique program specifically tailored for ‘mid-level and more’ professional women. Not only will the program showcase experienced leaders, recognized experts, and leadership educators, it is designed so that after each session the participants can immediately bring something applicable back to their workplace. The program is exceptional and will be a very special experience for those who have the opportunity to participate. Here’s just a sampling of the topics we will be covering:

  • Communication: gender intelligence, projecting authority, and commanding respect
  • Navigating organizational culture and politics
  • Having the hard conversations and conflict resolution
  • Negotiating for yourself and your organization
  • Effective networking, expanding your reach, and building your
    executive presence
  • Creating your personal and professional road-map

Towson University’s Professional Leadership Program for Women is semester based and our first class will launch January 13th! The kick-off session will feature Confidence Code author and BBC lead anchor Katty Kay. Applications are now open and I encourage you to consider applying yourself or nominating a friend or colleague.



In what could easily be considered the most viral trend of the summer, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has garnered a lot of attention. ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis but commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, is a degenerative neurological disease in which the body’s motor neurons—those that go from the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body and allow for movement—are destroyed.


The ALS Association was founded in 1985 with the mission to “lead the fight to treat and cure ALS through global research and nationwide advocacy, while also empowering people with Lou Gehrig’s Disease and their families to live fuller lives by providing them with compassionate care and support.” Expenses for the ALS Association for fiscal year 2014 included research, patient and community services, public and professional education, fundraising and administration, totaling just over $26 million. The ALS Association’s total support and revenue for FYE 2014 was just over $29 million.


Enter the Ice Bucket Challenge. What began as an effort by a few families to raise awareness for this debilitating and lethal disease has exploded into a social media phenomenon, the scope and impact of which are unprecedented. The premise is simple: a participant that has been “challenged” by a friend has twenty four hours to donate $100 to the ALS Association or dump a bucket of ice water on her/his head, video the event, and share it on social media (Facebook, Vine, Instagram, etc.) while challenging three acquaintances to participate. The challenge has been modified somewhat and a wide range of celebrities—including Oprah, Lindsay Lohan, the members of Aerosmith, and Kermit the Frog—have accepted the challenge.



Towson Football Head Coach Rob Ambrose and Towson Athletics staff members Dustin Semonavick and Roy Brown take the Ice Bucket Challenge


However, not everyone has embraced this phenomenon. Critics argue that donations to the ALS Association, while a noble cause, could crowd out research or funding to other diseases that kill more people annually. Furthermore, some question whether much information about the disease is actually being disseminated, or whether participants are simply accepting the challenge in order to post a video on Facebook. Others note that using water for the challenge during intense droughts in the western United States is an unwise allocation of scarce resources. However, the ALS Association encourages “thoughtful” water usage in these areas, either by repurposing the water afterwards or making a donation instead.


Donations from the challenge, both from those that chose not to partake and from those that accepted and donated, have totaled $113.6 million as of September 16, 2014. This is a huge sum of money, especially considering that the typical budget for the ALS Association is about $25 million annually. In an interview about the challenge on the PBS News Hour, ALS Association president Barbara Newhouse stated that the funds raised through the Ice Bucket Challenge would be used for research, advocacy, and care and treatment of those currently fighting the disease.


For economists, the ice bucket challenge phenomenon helps to illustrate a whole array of economic examples such as: externalities (water usage), crowding out (donations declining for other causes), and how to encourage altruistic behavior. This challenge has certainly been a defining moment for a disease that had not been in the spotlight for quite some time. The Ice Bucket Challenge’s far-reaching impacts are unprecedented, and only time will tell how the increased publicity for the ALS Foundation will affect the organization. Though there are differing views on the merits and shortcomings of the challenge, one thing is clear: ice is back with this brand new invention.




Towson University’s Center for Professional Studies (CPS) is committed to developing quality courses that meet the current and future demands of our workforce. We have adopted a blended style of curriculum development that pairs our renowned faculty with leaders from industry to develop state-of –the-art professional programs. In 2012 we launched our flagship continuing education program, the Project Management Professional (PMP)® preparation course, which boasts our highest enrollment numbers over the last two fiscal years. We have continued to improve the course to fully align with the Project Management Institute, A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, (PMBOK® Guide) – Fifth Edition, Project Management Institute, Inc., 2013. In February 2014, we also delivered the first in-class session of this program, delivered by the developers of the online version of the course.

The success of our PMP® has been recognized by the Project Management Institute (PMI) and we have recently been awarded the prestigious designation as a Registered Educational Provider (R.E.P.).


So what is a PMI R.E.P.?
As stated on PMI’s website, “PMI R.E.P.s are organizations that we have approved to offer training in project management and issue professional development units (PDUs) to meet the continuing education requirements needed by PMI credential holders.[1] Towson University’s Center for Professional Studies took on the arduous challenge of carefully refining all the course content and materials so that it met all of PMI’s strict standards for R.E.P. status. In September 2014 our online and in-class Project Management Professional (PMP)® preparation courses were granted this respected status.


How does an R.E.P. impact a PMP program?
Prior to becoming a R.E.P. our program was primarily geared towards learners preparing to take the PMP® exam. However, we can now offer our program to current PMP® credential holders so that they may earn professional development units (PDUs) to keep and maintain their certification. All PMP® credential holders must earn 60 PDUs every three years in order to renew their certificate for another three year term. PMP® credential holders may now take our program and earn 23 PDUs towards the 60 needed for their certificate renewal.

We also have the opportunity to segment our online program into project management topics areas, and turn each topic area into a small course and offer PDUs for each segment. For example, we can take the Project Risk Management section of our program and segment it into its own course, offering credential holders 5 PDUs for this small course. This opens up a new professional market and gives us the opportunity to further expand upon the reach and credibility of our PMP® program.