DaraiusAs we reach the halfway point of the 2015 spring season, several things have transpired.  First, American Pharaoh has a chance to become the next Triple Crown winner, the Orioles can still win the World series, Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn have separated (who did not see that coming), and bicyclists in Lycra shorts and brightly colored jerseys have been racing down the roads of Maryland with their two-wheeled machines.  Many cyclists navigated the roads of Maryland the Friday before Preakness Saturday as part of National Bike to Work Day.  Numerous jurisdictions and associations sponsored events to encourage and rally those individuals who rode their bikes to work that day.  Now I could wax nostalgically about my days of biking in California and the extensive bike path systems that were prevalent in most California cities, but the purpose of this blog is to discuss the benefits and the economic impacts of bicycling, not to reminisce about my past.


There are numerous health benefits of biking, such as reduced risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, and other chronic diseases; reduced health care costs; and improved quality of life.  Biking benefits the environment as well—using a bike for trips under three miles has the biggest environmental impact, as these trips in car are the least fuel efficient and produce high levels of emissions.  Further, in congested areas, going by bike may be quicker.  One need only see the bike messengers whizzing about the city streets to understand that concept.


bikingAccording to a University of Wisconsin study, 48 percent of adults engage in some sort of bicycling activity.  If we look at bike commuting by state, only 0.20 percent of Maryland commuters bike to work (41st in the nation), versus 3.1 percent in Washington, DC (first in the nation). I suspect that much of the riding in Maryland is recreational rather than to commute to work.  Moreover, biking vacations are third to camping and hiking activities in the US and I imagine that holds true for Maryland as well.  For Marylanders, there are plenty of places to enjoy biking, including the C&O Canal, the NCR Trail, and the Great Allegany Passage, to name a few.  Interestingly, several breweries have set up near riding areas, so that cyclists can enjoy a cold one after a ride without having to go far from the trail.  Numerous jurisdictions have been much more deliberate about implementing long range biking transportation plans by developing dedicated lanes or widening shoulders.


So what are the economic impacts of biking in Maryland?  Based upon data from Wisconsin and focusing on the retail establishments, the economic impact of bicycling in Maryland is probably around $70 million per year and supports 1,200 jobs.  This does not include any employment or output generated as a result of bike tourism or related activities, which in many estimations could triple the above data in terms of impact.  So today when you are driving home and you see a bicyclist, please give him/her at least three feet (as it may be me), and know that their riding helps our economic growth.


This week, Towson University kicks off a 13 month celebration in recognition of our 150th anniversary!  The celebration will include signature events, visiting scholars, unveiling of new creative works, presentations, displays, and many opportunities for the community to get in on the action.  Here are some ways you can get engaged:Towson Memories   Towson University 150th Anniversary

Share a memory

The TU150 website has a great tool for sharing a memory, picture, or even video.

Attend an event

From TU night at the Orioles to a special 2015 Economic Outlook Conference there are events for every age and interest.

Look around!

TU150 is going to be everywhere.  The buildings around campus are being wrapped inTU150banner TU150 banners, students graduating this year will have special TU150 regalia, and there are even banners lining Lombard and Charles Streets.

Beef up on your TU knowledge

Our TU Archives department is incredible, and they’re really shining these days.  They have put together an interactive timeline that gives you more info than you ever wanted to know.

While there is plenty of fun to be had during the #TU150 it’s also a time for the university and its alumni, students, friends, and supporters to reflect on the past and look towards the future.  What will TU look like in 2066?  What will be our academic program offerings?  How will our faculty teach and interact with students?  What will be the residential student experience?


Don’t miss out on the celebration—after all it will be another 50 years before we do it again!


Oh, and did I mention there are lots of great sponsorship and support opportunities?

This month, we added our first new resident member to the Towson University Incubator (d/b/a TU Incubator) since we moved to our new location at 7400 York Road. This is an important community milestone for both the incubator and our new member, Communication APPtitude.


From my own K-12 learning and teaching experiences, I remember well the emphasis on ‘the Three Rs’: Reading, wRiting, and aRithmetic. Candidly, these curricular and life skills emphases have not changed much in several decades, come to think of it, since Johannes Gutenberg’s 14th century innovation — but the ‘HOW’ has changed, indelibly so. The Internet, mobile devices, and the infusion of permeable, dynamic content and aligned data-driven goals are now the norm, not the exception. Combine this with the need for verbal acuity, moreover the ability to read and write, and you have the bedrock of success in life. Take ~90 seconds or so to watch or listen to part of the video embedded below.

communication apptitude logo



inventorsCommunication APPtitude co-founders Beth Lawrence and Deena Seifert are certified speech therapists who have derived a more facile, more effective way to enhance verbal outcomes. The Company avails web-based, IP-protected, application-driven approaches to literacy and vocabulary instruction that use unique visual and auditory prompts that only a digital medium can provide. There are currently two apps in use with others in development: InferCabulary and WordQuations. Today, these apps are solely available in the Apple store but with near-term plans to be on Android if not become a web platform that is device agnostic.



frank bonsalFor me, this is a milestone post, as Communication APPtitude represents a new resident member in a new iteration of TU Incubator, a Baltimore County entrepreneurship hub via a partnership between Towson University and Baltimore County Economic and Workforce Development. We are beginning to congeal a unique edtech ecosystem in Greater Baltimore — and Towson University is a critical ‘node’ in its evolution (yes, think open source javascript). Stay tuned for more news on this front, and please welcome Beth and Deena to our growing community of edupreneurs and wish them luck in helping tens soon hundreds of thousands of future learners.

Selecting the right IT certification really depends on where you ideally want to end up. Knowing the role or position you would ultimately like to land will greatly determine the path you need to take to get there.


The world of information technology is quite vast and a crucial part of all of our daily lives. Information technology is now comprised of an ever-expanding list of subfields and specialty niches within the industry. Some of the primary subfields of information technology focus on databases, networking, security, internet applications, software development and information systems management. It is also important to note that none of these subfields operate in a silo. Anyone studying or working in any one of these areas will face concepts or scenarios affecting all other areas to some degree. Therefore, being competent in any of the aforementioned IT subfields, means you have at least a basic understanding of matters in other areas.

Where Do I Go From Here?

For someone entering into information technology this may be a daunting question, but this is where knowing yourself and your basic technical skill set comes into consideration. Knowing your personality, your strengths and your weaknesses, and the type of work environment you thrive in, will help you determine what type of certification you need.


Do you see yourself configuring firewalls and routers, or setting network wide accessibility permissions and controls? Then you may need to pursue a networking related certification like the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA).


Are you comfortable focusing on logical computing procedures and writing code for application development? Then you should pursue a programming language certification like C++ or Java.


Would you like to investigate system risks and vulnerabilities, and implement ways to reduce and mitigate such threats and susceptibilities? Pursue a security related certification like CompTIA Security+ or CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner.


Selecting an IT certification is a blend between having an idea of where you would like to end up, knowing your technical skill set and playing into it. Our entry level 3-cert IT program takes students through the fundamental information technology concepts in CompTIA A+ and Network+, then allows them to choose their own path to either pursue networking via the Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician (CCENT) course, or the security path via the CompTIA Security+.


Towson University Continuing Education and Professional Studies Can Help


Register For our next 3-Cert: CompTIA A+, Network + and Security+ course on June 29


Register For our next 3-Cert: CompTIA A+, Network + and CCENT course on June 29


For our largest competition to date, we are very proud to announce the winners of the 2015 Business Plan Competition. SeeFuture, a career development platform for college students with mentoring, company training, and recruitment tools for employers built in, has been named the winner of the Professional category. New to this year’s competition was a Student category, with ShapeU being name the winner. ShapeU has built an online platform to connect social exercise and professional personal training.


The competition finale was held at Towson University’s Minnegan Room at Johnny Unitas Stadium and began with eight finalists conducting private presentations. Q&A sessions by the panel of four judges followed. The 2015 competition’s judging panel consisted of:


The prize packages are valued at approximately $20,000 and include a monetary prize, a 90-day stephaniepicResident Membership to TU Incubator, a graphic design package by 99designs, and marketing services package courtesy of Odd Brain Creative.The goal of the annual competition is to encourage and support entrepreneurship and innovation in the region and this year we were especially excited to recognize student entrepreneurs for their innovative thinking. Two of the five student category finalists represented Towson University, while the remaining teams were Johns Hopkins University students. We were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to showcase some of our talented finalists with video interviews conducted by Offit Kurman and Citybizlist.We are deeply appreciative of the time and dedication demonstrated by our participants and the generosity and support offered by our sponsors and partners. Thank you to the 2015 Business Plan Competition sponsors:


  • M&T Bank        
  • McCormick & Co.        
  • Vince Talbert       
  • SC&H Group·        
  • Carrollton Partners
  • Odd Brain Creative
  • Offit Kurman
  • SCORE of Greater Baltimore
  • 99designs
  • Baltimore Citybizlist (media sponsor)

With a university-wide commitment to Entrepreneurship, Innovation, and Applied Research, it was exciting to welcome Frank Bonsal to the team in 2013 as the university’s first Director of Entrepreneurship.   We knew that under his leadership, we would expand programming opportunities for students, grow our TU Incubator, and create new partnerships with businesses and economic developers to create an entrepreneurial hub in our region.


Rooted deeply in education, Frank began his career as a teacher.  During the past decade he took his passion for teaching to the marketplace and has spent his time mentoring, launching, and supporting EdTech companies.  He’s a recognized leader in the EdTech community and a key voice in helping to create an EdTech hub in Maryland.


Frank is all passion all the time and this video gives just a glimpse into all the incredible things he and his team are doing to help students, faculty, and companies turn their ideas into businesses that change our community and world for the better!


The Regional Economic Studies Institute (RESI) , partnering with HR&A Advisors of Washington, D.C., is currently conducting a study on behalf of the Maryland Center for Construction Education & Innovation (MCCEI) . The aim of the study is to understand the gap between the demand from the Maryland construction industry for Bachelor’s degree holders and the number of Bachelor’s degree graduates in the construction/built environment field that academic institutions in Maryland produce. This study builds on MCCEI’s study published in 2012 entitled “The Critical Path,”  which outlined the major trends of the construction industry in Maryland.

To complete this research, the project team created and implemented a comprehensive methodology using the following methods:

  • A review of the existing data,
  • A survey of the firms in the construction industry in Maryland,
  • Interviews with firms in the construction industry in Maryland, and
  • Interviews with in-state academic institutions offering Bachelor’s degree programs in the construction/built environment field.


Using these methods, RESI and HR&A Advisors began conducting this research in September 2014. Shortly after analyzing the survey responses, the project team quickly noticed that several major employers in the construction industry in Maryland were hiring a large number of construction/built environment graduates from the same out-of-state schools. To gain a better understanding of the what these out-of-state schools were doing to attract students to their programs and to have out-of-state employers recruit their students post-graduation, RESI added onsite visits to these best practice institutions to the project. These onsite visits served to reveal what makes their Bachelor’s degree programs in the construction/built environment field special.


In total, RESI visited four out-of-state institutions including Drexel University, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Penn State–Harrisburg, and the Penn College of Technology. Each institution—as well as their numerous program offerings—had its own unique characteristics that would be attractive for incoming students. Each program provided its students with a unique advantage that would enable their graduates to be marketable in a competitive labor market post-graduation. The overarching similarity amongst these programs was providing their students with access to industry representatives in a number of ways, starting at the beginning of the program. This industry engagement enables the students to understand what aspects of the industry that they were interested in (or not interested in) as well as make contacts and effectively network themselves to potential future employers. How these individual students function as employees in the Maryland construction industry is unknown. However, many Maryland construction industry firms regularly attend recruitment events at these institutions, supporting the notion that their alumni are transitioning to employment well.


The remainder of the study will focus on conducting a gap analysis and, specifically from these visits, forming recommendations to make the construction/built environment programs at in-state academic institutions more attractive to new students and to make their graduates more attractive to employers. The long-term aim is to retain the talent educated in the state in the Maryland construction industry.

As continuing education at Towson University continues to evolve to serve Maryland and the region better, a new website has been created. Some of the goals of the new site include:

  • To promote a robust catalog that includes over 20 programs aligned with the workforce development needs of the area and in the fields of business, information technology and health/medical
  • To reach a wider audience that has a desire to grow professionally.
  • To provide updates on course offerings, industry news, certification requirements, tips for preparing for exams and ways to leverage professional experience, all on our Continuing Education blog.
  • To highlight the talented group of professional experts that developed the courses from the ground up.

In addition to our new web presence, the physical presence has shifted. In the training center, there is over 1,200 square feet of dedicated classroom space that includes state of the art computer labs, outfitted with ample equipment for our IT students to have hands on experience with computer building and repair, cyber-security and forensics, and system networking utilizing Cisco routers and servers.


Visit the new website to view a complete listing of courses, register for courses, sign up for our newsletter, and meet our instructors.

website screen shot





Most of the time when articles are written about college affordability, they tend to focus on the negative aspects. Given the surplus of bad information, this is not entirely surprising. As a glass half-full type of person, I thought it was due time for some uplifting information. Two weeks ago, Stanford made an exciting announcement. The University said that tuition would be entirely free for students whose parents make less than $125,000 per year (this was $25,000 higher than the previous threshold). The school also announced that room and board would be free for students whose parents make less than $65,000.




Seem too good to be true? Let’s not get too excited. There is some fine print. Each student will still be required to pay $5,000 toward his or her education. However, to put it into perspective, the average Stanford undergraduate education costs approximately $65,000 per year. I don’t know about you, but as someone who is still paying off college debt (and will be for the foreseeable future) this kind of information makes me feel something like this:



RaquelPhotoOf course, you have to get accepted first, but this type of financial help is not just limited to this Ivy League school. Harvard, Yale, and Princeton all have similar financial incentives. According to articles I have read, most of these schools take this initiative because they want an economically diverse student population.

While the sentiment is noble, it is important to note that an essentially free education at these Ivy schools does not mean an easy ride. A recent story in the Boston Globe examined the hardships and cultural adjustments that lower income students, who are often first generation college attendees, deal with at these elite campuses. Fortunately, campuses and other organizations are recognizing these hardships and are being more proactive about acclimating such students. For example, The Bill and Melinda Gates foundation sponsors an online resource called I’m First, a resource which is intended to “celebrate first-generation college students and [is] supporting those who will be.” Regardless of their cultural assimilation, lower income students have extremely high graduation rates at these schools, a stark contrast to the rate at non-Ivy schools. In a world where education and opportunities are paramount to success, that is an incredibly uplifting statistic.



Having just returned from my fourth participation across six years in arguably the country’s leading education innovation conference, I am somewhat stunned by the pace of innovation. The ASU+GSV Summit has become the nation’s go-to dealmaking conference of the year. You want to meet with a senior level decision maker in the U.S. education industry? You want to see where education is headed in the U.S. if not globally? Go to Phoenix in April.

The last time I attended this education innovation summit was in 2012, as a full-time venture capitalist investing headlong in education technology out of a micro, institutional venture fund (<$50MM vehicle managed by a few FT principals investing ~$1MM bite size in Series A & B enterprise SaaS opportunities with largely proven teams and business models). The 2012 attendance was ~750 and it felt busy and big; the event was outgrowing the venue. The conference was on the grounds of Arizona State’s Skysong campus in Scottsdale. I watched the conference grow from 250 (#eisummit) to 750+ and backed away from attending as I re-calibrated professionally. Three years later, from a university entrepreneurship perch, working to patiently build out an innovation cluster in Baltimore and Maryland, I returned to chair a board meeting and make strategic connections.

In 2015, the “ASU+GSV Summit” (#asugsvsummit) is in its last year at The Phoenician with 2,500+ attendees. Now, I am full-time Director of Entrepreneurship at Towson University, the USM institution that launched in the 1860s as the Maryland State Normal School and has grown and adapted to become a ~20,000 FTE comprehensive university. I saw or met with a few other university peers (Hopkins, Rice, Penn, et al.) but was mostly there to chair a Center for Education Reform board meeting and soak up the innovation and warm climes.


In 2016, the Summit will be moved to a greater capacity location in San Diego. Apparently, The Phoenician is not large enough for a conference that sold-out a week or two before the event. Okay, what gives? Industry feeding frenzy? Maybe. Hearken back to the dotcom bubble? Maybe. In 1999–2001, I was teaching middle school English and history in Maryland, so my ability to glean a comparable correlation is not one-to-one. I did, however, glean a comment or two from summit participants that the bubble correlation was top-of-mind. However, I think this time is different. Maybe.

The conference was aptly reviewed by The New York Times, The Hechinger Report, and, of course, EdSurge. I pulled together a ground-based social media storyline here. What’s clear is that the education industry has reached big time investment and corporate interest but has not yet created waves of billion dollar companies. Oh, wait a minute, LinkedIn just acquired 10 year old Lynda.com for $1.5 billion. There’s the recent 2U IPO (2008 startup), the purchase of Renaissance Learning, and the recent Pluralsight financing, all enteprise value of a billion dollars or greater. Okay, so the industry is growing up. But what about impact? What about what the Summit Founders call “Return on Education” or ROE?

My greatest hope as the Summit evolves is that the ‘impact’ community who sponsored the 2015 summit will push for social metrics of success so that we can objectively understand how the industry is driving results in the ‘social + financial’ equation. There is no question in this end user’s mind about the maturation of the education industry (edtech) but there are lingering questions about the impact of its growth. Hence, my personal decision to think globally and act locally.

So, here’s to you, GSV Team, partners, sponsors, and speakers, for teeing up an amazing stage for education innovation. There is no better 2–3 day venue in which to see, hear, and meet with our nation’s education industry leaders. Wishing you the very best of luck in southern Cali.