After reading Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s book The Black Swan,  I was much impressed, as has been nearly everyone who has read it.  And I hastened to rethink my forecasting work in the light of the potential for the exceedingly rare, but vastly important events (“outliers” in more common parlance) that he named “black swans.”  But in the end, I found little of relevance to the public policy arena.   But let me explain. Among other duties, I forecast child care enrollments and costs for the State of Maryland’s State Department of Education, the lead agency for the Child Care Subsidy program locally. This program provides subsidies to low income families to help them afford safe and educationally beneficial child care.   These enrollments and costs have been pretty stable over the years, which is certainly a desirable thing for forecasters. Factors affecting general enrollment levels include, at a minimum,

  • black-swanmothers’ behavior in providing for their children (a constant), and using the subsidy program to help them (a process about which we know little);
  • the capacity of private child care providers to supply care at the rates the State is willing to pay (reasonably predictable);
  • the capacity of state staff to handle the applications and redeterminations that give families access to the program (again, reasonably predictable); and
  • the State economy and supply of jobs for the mostly minority users of the program (reasonably predictable in the short term, in the long term much less certain).

The trouble with black swans is their color, of course—which is to say, their great rarity. One can study the history of any public program for some time without seeing them at all. When one does appear, there is little, usually, to be learned about where or when the next sighting will occur.


One of the most important origins of black swans is the invisible interaction of many of those fickle actors, clients, customers, people in short. Hence the uncertainty in the list above. Hence the strange crashes of the stock market such as the “flash crash” of May 6, 2010, when trillions of dollars of market value disappeared in a few seconds, only to reappear shortly thereafter. Hence the mystery of how people become aware of the operations of a public program they can use to protect their children. How do they react to rumors of changes in the program?


A child care black swan (well, more of a “gray” swan) appeared in Child Care Subsidy automated system records for March of 2011. For a reason never clearly explained, State payments to providers soared upward 30% that month compared to the average payment in months both before and after, even after normal adjustments for seasonal effects. The best guess: providers and staff, influenced by rumors of an approaching freeze on admission to the program, accelerated invoicing and reduced the backlog of applications ahead of the change.


Given that no one suffered much from this gray swan, and given that it was associated with a real policy change, we can be aware of a possible recurrence. But what can we do to predict other such outlier events?  Very little, I’m afraid, for such is the nature of black, and even gray swans. It would seem that putting a great deal of effort into worrying about, and investigating possible black swan events in the public arena—unlike in the equities markets—may not be a fruitful use of taxpayers’ funds.



In any business environment employees have different ways of solving problems. Defining clear processes will document each step in solving those problems, saving both valuable time and money. Process documentation can take many forms, including data flow diagrams and process modeling. Through data flow diagrams (DFD), they provide a visual view of how information flows through a system or process. Through process modeling, the company’s AS-IS (or current) and TO-BE (or future) processes are documented in easy to understand language. What does all of this mean? and Which model should I use?


Which Model is Right for My Problem ?


The first step is to define the problem. Are your current processes slowing down output? If the answer is “yes,” then a Process Model should be created to document the sequence of steps/processes that occur to produce the product or service. If the answer to the question is about wanting to know how data flows, then the Data Flow Diagram is the correct tool.


Choosing A Process Model


The second step is to choose between In the AS-IS model, you are documenting how the process currently flows. Sometimes this is useful to see how the process may have evolved over time. Each area within the process may have made individual changes and that change is only known at the lower level. Documenting the AS-IS process may reveal a different process than perceived.


The TO-BE model, is either modified from the AS-IS or a TO-BE model can be created without any knowledge of how the current process is being performed. It answers the “what do we want it to be?” question. If you find the current process is working relatively well then you may only want to make minimal changes. Starting with the AS-IS flow and making modification would be the correct solution. However, if you wish to start with a completely new process, then developing the TO-BE model from scratch is the right choice.


Selecting Data Flow Diagrams


Data Flow Diagrams is used to visually represent the flow of data. In its purest form, DFD’s illustrates how data is moving throughout an information technology (IT) system and/or process, such as the flow from databases to users to output reports. They can also be combined with process models to illustrate both how the process flows and where data is flowing through the process and IT systems involved.


Being able to visualize the work flow, whether it is process or data-driven, promotes the discussion, do improvements need to occur? and/or is the work/data flowing efficiently?



Frank Bonsal


I am one of those visual + kinesthetic learners — fortunate enough to have a large whiteboard occupying most of a wall in my office at TU Incubator, where I can draw, write, think, erase, repeat. I also appreciate color and simplicity, although I have taken no formal design instruction. With respect to the above, elementary image, this morning was one of those curious times when I was thinking about the definition of ‘EdTech’.


As many in my network have heard me drone on, you do not go into education in any manner unless you have four key principles at the fore. I opined similarly in a previous post here, and nearly a year ago, posted here the traits of a great education entrepreneur. Point being, you cannot fake it in education. It’s just too hard, too heart wrenching, too ‘grit-requisite’ (likely not an OED entry). But, now I’m going after EdTech. So, what’s the diff?


The four ‘P’ words below compose EdTech

1. People

Passionate, purposeful, empathetic humans are the indelible part of learning that can never be wholly extracted or delivered by an algorithm or a series of code strings. A person’s ‘Why’ drives everything s/he does and is the intrinsic motivator that yields greatness. Sometimes gut and intuition trump everything else.


2. Pedagogy

The How, the systems, the delivery, the assessment, the outcomes; this is where we must focus after aggregating the right people. Nothing about technology in isolation solves problems. Only application. Theedtech next ten years will be all about training professionals to adequately use technology — and then get out of the way. Millenials need less training on tech.


3. Persistence

We cannot hit consistent outcomes, if we do not persist, which is guided by purpose, catalyzed by goals, objectives, hitting milestones, failing and succeeding. Yes, G-R-I-T. Yes, tenacity. Yes, thick skin. Yes, listen. Ben Franklin, a classic entrepreneur, stated “Energy and persistence conquer all things.” Okay, maybe luck and timing play a hand, too, but it’s amazing how both improve when you persist.


4. Performance

Evidenced-based or outcomes-based education is all the rage. Or, has it always been? Yes, we must know how we’re doing, whether we are an administrator, a teacher, a student, or even a parent. How do we measure performance, effectiveness, efficacy? What is our peg? Parent or guardian level? School? Local? State? Nation? OECD? Mediocrity belongs neither in the classroom or nor in building education technology solutions nor as an investor in the same.


N.B. There’s another ‘P’ word called Policy that I omitted. Policy is like bathwater: on the front end it’s cleansing and feel’s good but by the time the water cools down and the dirt settles to the bottom, you’re ready to drain it and start over or get out.


Now, for the ‘capitalization’ bit.


You see, to this former middle school English teacher, EdTech is a metaphor, a proper noun, a compound word emphasizing all that is education innovation, reform, and productivity, all that is guided and facilitated but not commanded by technological solutions. EdTech is six simple letters compressed with very deep meaning. EdTech is a very impactful metaphor. EdTech is good to great. EdTech is my passion and my purpose. I shall persist.



With three golf majors in the books and Tiger Woods’s career seemingly stalling, this might be a good time to examine the economics of golf. While there has been much discussion in the popular press about the demise of golf as a sport, and while we are bombarded with the rhetoric of how bad golf viewership, participation, and spending are in the post-Tiger world—is it really that bad, and are there forces that can save it?



Photo Credit: Flickr

The golf industry was a $68 billion industry in 2011. The sport has contributed nearly $3.9 billion to charities, and it has generated $167.8 billion in total economic impact. In Maryland, the size of the direct golf industry is about $730 million, its total economic impact is around $1.3 billion, and it employs nearly 15,000 individuals working in everything from real estate to golf course operations.
Many in the broadcasting field have lamented the loss of Tiger Woods as a regular contender in tournaments. This loss has manifested in significantly lower television viewership. It has been estimated that when Tiger is not involved in a tournament, viewership falls by about 25 percent. On the retail side, stores such as Dick’s Sporting Goods have laid off 2 percent of their PGA staff and missed $34 million in sales in the first quarter of 2014.



Photo Credit: Flickr

Two trends seem to be at play: the loss of Tiger as a contender and a decline in rounds played. The decline in the number of rounds played may be attributable to the time it takes to play a round, which at some courses approaches six hours. The number of rounds played last year was 462 million, the lowest since 1995. There has also been a 35 percent drop in participation of those aged 19 to 35. Fewer people are watching golf and fewer people are playing golf, which has translated in a drop in sales for many of the golf retailers. In addition, more golf courses closed (150) than opened (14) in 2013.


Is there a bright ray of sunshine in this otherwise dark and gloomy prognosis? The answer is yes—participation of women aged 6 to 17 is actually growing. Moreover, due to recent efforts by the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) in increasing the purse and number of events, viewership has increased by 31 percent between 2010 and 2014. The hope for golf may not lie in the resurrection of Tiger Woods’s career but the growth in the careers of young LPGA players such as Lydia Ko or Gee Chun, the recent winner of the 2015 U.S. Women’s Open at Lancaster Country Club in Lancaster, PA.



Continuing education courses are a great way to take career advancement into your own hands. Besides financial obligations, finding the time to complete such courses can be a challenge. That’s why we have put together this list of 5 ways to find time and stay motivated:


1) Look for options that allow online classes

When class times don’t fit into your schedule, it’s easy to make excuses. Fortunately, online courses are becoming more and more prevalent. With online courses you can decide when and how often you participate, which makes it much easier to manage your time.


2) Block off a consistent time in your calendar for studying

Try your hardest to minimize distractions by going to a quiet location. If internet is not needed for what you’re doing, turn off the wifi so you’re not bombarded with status updates. By sticking to your schedule, and minimizing distractions you’ll see a drastic change in performance.



3) Utilize your lunch time at work

For some people, the amount of time required away from their family to study or attend classes is a turnoff. Try finding time within your work day to study. If you have an office, close the door during lunch and focus just on your coursework. By doing this, you’ll free up precious time in the evening, just for family fun.


4) Find someone who will check up on you and hold you accountable

If you are the type of person that gets sidetracked easily, find someone who can keep you on track. Set up weekly meetings with him/her either in person or over the phone. Topics should include assignments and goals from the previous and upcoming week. This method works especially well if both of you have goals you’re striving to reach.


5) Remember what motivates you

Focus on the reason why you are interested in taking continuing education courses. Is your intention to make more money so you can better support your family? Do you want career advancement? Whatever the reason, find the time to focus and accomplish your goals with continued education



Are you ready to take the next step towards career advancement? TUCEPS has courses available in the fields of Business Management, Information Technology, and Health & Medical. Click here to view course options.

frank bonsal


In late August, I return to the classroom as a lead (or, in this case, co-lead) teacher after a fourteen year hiatus. — Pause — “14 year gap?” — Pause some more. — “What gives?”


The truth is, I need to breathe deeply and exhale before adequately attempting to explain.
First, to me, teachers (and entrepreneurs) are heroes, exemplars of what is right about humanity, guides for the future of the same. I consider the preparation and guidance of tomorrow’s doers, thinkers, and leaders the most important endeavor that a human can undertake. I posit the role of teaching as one of the most noble, impactful professions that a person can enter, sustain, and exit. And, with Bachelors and Masters degrees pegged to this very profession and with over a decade of teaching experience, I willingly left this role in 2001 to broaden the ‘impact wingspan’.


That’s right, my story is one of education impact broadly writ, from different angles, with different levers, with varying degrees of innovation and empathy, but with a steadfast focus on the end user. In my case, that end user shifted from the learner to the entrepreneur and now is somewhat of a melding of the two.



This fall semester, in a more curricular tip-off of Towson University’s 150th Anniversary year, I am co-teaching a brand new course (ENTR 110: “Creativity and Idea Development”) to undergraduates as part of a new non-business entrepreneurship minor, hosted and accredited by the College of Business & Economics. Yes, my honor. Yes, my privilege. Yes, I am excited. And, yes, I have plenty of anxiety, too. But, it’s absolutely the right time to jump back into the teaching & learning foray.

Nearly two years ago, in October 2013, I began a full-time position as Towson University’s first Director of Entrepreneurship. I wrote a post about the rationale here. It has been: 1) amazing to circle back to a dynamic learning community; 2) meaningful to distill experiences and avail scar tissue from the last decade or so as a venture investor; and, 3) rewarding, with a hard-working, youthful team, to pilot a new program (Student Launch Pad), revise and focus another (TU Incubator), and complete our fifth annual Business Plan Competition, an ever-improving experience for professionals and students. We disclose some of what we do in the video below.

And, all this programmatic activity dovetails extremely well into the non-business entrepreneurship minor and further imbues the spirit of entrepreneurship and social enterprise across all facets of the Towson University community — and beyond. But now, with a formal pedagogical tilt, I am really coming full circle, really delving back into where my career began, albeit in a different slice of the learning continuum.


So, here’s to the launch of ENTR 110, to the launch of the non-business entrepreneurship minor at Towson University, to the belief that many of the world’s most innovative and successful entrepreneurs just might NOT come out of a business school but could sure use the support of one. I don’t know where all this is going but the plane’s in the air and we’re assembling the tail. Or is it the wing? Wish us luck! #onward



The TU Incubator kicked off the month of July with our first ever ‘Meet the Mentors’ event. Incubator member companies gathered and mingled with our advisory board members and mentor network, giving the local community a glimpse into their exciting projects and products.


Our burgeoning mentor network is comprised of nearly 30 experts who graciously dedicate their time and talent to helping our companies grow. The mentor network includes 13 functional areas of expertise, and we’re always looking for folks (especially those who have lived and breathed entrepreneurship) looking to engage and share wisdom with our entrepreneurs.




Eric Allen provides a tour of

Incubator companies are able to leverage the know-how of various service providers, experienced and successful entrepreneurs, and a number of Education Technology (EdTech) innovators. We’re flattered they chose to spend their Wednesday morning with us, rubbing elbows and drinking coffee with some of the great entrepreneurs and innovators who continuously support TU Entrepreneurship.  We look forward to further facilitating the mentoring process between our talented experts and ambitious entrepreneurs. To learn more about our member companies and mentor network, please visit our website.


Newest incubator resident member, Communication APPtitude, demos 2 vocabulary apps for onlookers



The United States Department of the Treasury in Washington, D.C. Source: Wikimedia Commons



Paper currency (or, if we’re getting technical, cotton and linen currency) is an undeniable part of our day-to-day economic and financial existence, regardless of how often we may pay with plastic and how soon the world may seriously consider digital currency. Perhaps because of its conspicuous role or its symbolic significance, paper currency and whose images are represented on it has long been a topic of interest. Women On 20s, a nonprofit grassroots organization, has played an integral part in bringing attention to the lack of female representation on paper currency. Since 2014 the organization has been campaigning for a woman’s face on the $20 bill by 2020 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage. On June 17, the U.S. Department of the Treasury made a historic announcement: for the first time in more than 100 years, a woman will be featured on U.S. paper currency. More specifically, a woman will be featured on the upcoming redesign of the $10 bill.





$10 U.S. note (front) Series 1901; example of pre-Federal Reserve banknote Source: Wikimedia Commons

But first, some background. In 1690 the first paper currency was issued in what would later become the United States. The dollar was later adopted as the United States’ official unit of currency in 1785. Prior to the creation of the Federal Reserve System in 1913, U.S. paper currency came in numerous types and underwent numerous changes. The Federal Reserve System provided a more reliable monetary standard by establishing the Federal Reserve note, or essentially what we recognize as paper currency today. The first $10 denomination of Federal Reserve notes was introduced in 1914 and featured President Andrew Jackson. Alexander Hamilton, the first Secretary of the Treasury, along with the U.S. Treasury Building were first featured on the $10 bill in 1929. As you may recall from history and/or economics class, October 29, 1929, or “Black Tuesday,” ushered in the beginning of the Great Depression. The new design featuring notable symbols of the U.S. economy was intended to revive some hope in dark economic times.



Redesigns of paper currency have multiple aims, primary among those is updating security features to deter counterfeiting. Counterfeiting in America has occurred at least since the American Revolution and arguably reached its peak around the Civil War, with estimates suggesting that one in three bills was

$10 U.S. Federal Reserve note (front) Series 2009 featuring Alexander Hamilton Source: Wikimedia Commons

$10 U.S. Federal Reserve note (front) Series 2009 featuring Alexander Hamilton
Source: Wikimedia Commons

fake! In fact, combating rampant counterfeiting was the sole reason that the U.S. Secret Service was established in 1865. As technology continues to evolve, combating and deterring counterfeiting requires a combined effort from multiple governmental groups. Advanced Counterfeit Deterrence (ACD), an office within the U.S. Department of the Treasury, is responsible for coordinating among these groups and provides recommendations to the Secretary of the Treasury regarding which bill should be redesigned and when.



While many may have wanted to see a woman’s face on the $20 by 2020, the ACD recommended the $10 bill as the next note to be updated. (The $10 bill’s current design debuted in 2006.) The New Ten will depict the theme of democracy and is scheduled to be revealed in 2020. But who will be featured on the New Ten? While Susan B. Anthony, Sacagawea, and Helen Keller have all been featured on circulating U.S. coins, Pocahontas and Martha Washington are the only other women to have had the honor of being featured on U.S. paper currency—back in the late 19th century. Perhaps the face of the New Ten will be Harriet Tubman, who edged out Eleanor Roosevelt in Women On 20s’ poll for the new face of the $20 bill. The Treasury has yet to announce who will appear on the New Ten with Alexander Hamilton, but whichever woman is next to be featured will share the honor with some very “noteworthy” Americans.



One of the main goals of the Student Launch Pad at Towson University is to create a thriving culture of entrepreneurship among Towson students, faculty, and chadtoolsstaff—because we believe every student has the power and choice to be an entrepreneur and create their own opportunities. One of our newest initiatives that we will be kicking off in the fall is a new collaborative software called LaunchPad Central. We will be using this new method and set of tools to help students validate business hypotheses, test for value, and enhance the start-up process. This technology platform is a hub for students, mentors, and Launch Pad staff to collaborate on Lean initiatives and track progress of a startup or idea.
chadtools1We will integrate the software into the way we engage with students individually and as startup teams. As students work through the Business Model Canvas, they will report and illustrate their findings on and opportunities that support pivots and iterations of their initial hypotheses. Mentors and Student Launch Pad Specialists will be able to regularly track changes to students’ business model canvas—reviewing interview data and the results of business model experimentation. This software will help our students stay connected to their projects and track and legitimize the startup development process.
The LaunchPad Central software will also help us expand our offerings and collaborate more regularly chadtools2with faculty on student projects—specifically, faculty members in the College of Business and Economics that are spearheading the new minor in Entrepreneurship. This minor will be open to all non-business majors and will introduce students to creativity, startup basics, ideation, and entrepreneurial marketing. LaunchPad Central will boost our collaborative abilities by giving students and professors means to interact on a business plan or class project. It will increase team communication, streamline the business model review process, and drive course learning outcomes. LaunchPad is a new approach to teaching entrepreneurship, which builds student competence and develops entrepreneurial skillsets.



Towson University has long emphasized its responsibility to the community through its mission, its strategic plan, and the work of its students, faculty, and staff. In the aftermath of the unrest in Baltimore, these university-community partnerships are more important than ever.

Recently, the Governor’s Office and the University System of Maryland requested information from universities in the greater Baltimore area about how they are working in Baltimore City. Luckily for Towson, we are in the midst of collecting information about our university-community partnerships through a new support system that was approved by the Vice Presidents in the spring. You can read more about the system here.

Since we were already gathering information about faculty- and staff-led partnerships, we were able to quickly respond to this request by providing information about which partnerships are doing work in Baltimore City and who the partners are. This information will help the Governor’s Office and the USM see what programs are already in place to help the city rebound, where there are gaps, and where there are opportunities for growth.

This is just one way that the Towson University-Community Relationships and Partnerships Support System will improve partnerships at TU. This new system will help us to be more responsive to future requests for current information. It will provide partnership support across campus so that we can extend our reach and our impact on the community.