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 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.



Every April during National Student Employee Week, universities and colleges across the country recognize outstanding student employees on their campuses. The student employees in our Division perform invaluable services to our office and our clients. They allow our professional staff to do our jobs better. I hold a special place in my heart for our student employees because I was once a Division student employee.



National Student Employment Week is April 13-17, 2015. I encourage you to find time to celebrate and acknowledge your student staff. The Division will host lunch for our students and some have even been nominated to receive the Career Center’s Student Employee of the Year Award (fingers crossed!)

This semester the Division recognizes:

Julie Knight is celebrating her first year as the Research Manager for the Division of Innovation and Applied Research’s Regional Economic Studies Institute (RESI).


“I like that there is never a dull moment and the workdays, as well as the past year, have flown by,” she said.


Each day, Julie manages a number of research projects for a wide range of clients. Some of her day-to-day tasks include conducting research, meeting with potential and existing clients, creating and updating project timelines, and troubleshooting problems that arise on projects.   Knight said she looks forward to working with Division colleagues on future projects.


“It is a supportive work environment and we are all working towards a common goal,” she said.  “I enjoy working collaboratively with other groups in the Division as alternative perspectives have been helpful.”


Prior to RESI, Knight served as a Research Associate at Cardiff University. In this position, she conducted externally funded research on economic geography focusing on theory and real-world applications. This position taught Julie how to independently conduct large research projects, become detail oriented, problem solve, manage her time, and interact with a diverse research team.   Julie participates in a number of activities outside of Towson University.


“On a professional level, I have taught classes in the interdisciplinary Global Studies program at Loyola University of Maryland,” she said. “In addition, I am in the process of writing a book with my former colleagues from the UK on my PhD findings. On a personal level, I enjoy travelling and reading.”


Raquel Frye, RESI Managing Director, said Julie is a great addition to RESI.


“She has brought a new perspective, breadth, and depth to our service offerings,” she said. “Her positive personality and can-do attitude has ensured a seamless transition to our team. We are happy to have her on board.”


We value Julie’s contributions to the team and are excited about what lies ahead.



This winter, staff from the Center for GIS and RESI took on a data visualization project for the Johns Hopkins University and the associated anchor institution strategy entitled Homewood Community Partners Initiative (HCPI). The partnership is built around stakeholder engagement with the vision of a “vibrant urban center,” a “livable community,” and ongoing community projects in ten neighborhoods and one commercial district surrounding the Johns Hopkins Homewood campus.



HCPI3The TU team selected Tableau business intelligence software for the project. Tableau is focused on “making databases and spreadsheets understandable” and allows for the creation of charts, tables, and maps that are dynamic and interactive. For this effort, HCPI wanted to create themed dashboards that reflect the conditions, trends, and progress toward goals in several focus areas: public education, commercial development, the housing market, quality of life, and JHU community influence. HCPI plans to use these dashboards to share information with their partners and as an aid in planning and decision-making.


To build these dashboards, our team collected and processed data from a variety of sources such as the American Community Survey (Census), Baltimore City Department of Planning, Open Baltimore, the Maryland State Department of Education, and several HCPI partner organizations. Although the dashboards feature far more charts than maps, GIS played an integral role in the project. In many cases, we obtained tabular data for Baltimore City or Maryland and then geocoded the records to determine which fell inside our specific interest area, or to make calculations by specific neighborhood. Using GIS capabilities in conjunction with Tableau allowed a great degree of flexibility and customization in the data presentation.


A few reflections on using Tableau for this project:

  • The visualizations are dynamic in the sense that as more years of data are added to the underlying spreadsheets, data points and totals will change, and the axes will expand.
  • We can maximize use of space by building charts that contain selectors that allow the user to switch between years, or other aspects of the data, or both.
  • While Tableau’s mapping capabilities are somewhat limited as compared to other mapping-specific software, we were able to build focused, interactive maps into the dashboards. These allow users to zoom in and out and identify on a data layer.
  • Every visualization—maps included—has built-in tooltips so users can hover over areas and see numbers and information from the spreadsheets.
  • Creating the dashboards has been an iterative process of exploring the data and experimenting to determine which techniques best illustrate trends in data, or best fit a particular metric.
  • While experimenting with color schemes and switching among the template chart types is quick in Tableau, adding final touches to produce a finished look can be time-consuming.

While the HCPI dashboard is intended to be internal, we are excited to share a few screenshots of the work we’ve done to help the partnership track and evaluate progress toward their goals.







This Thursday, April 2nd, the Student Launch Pad will be hosting our semi-annual Entrepreneur Fair! Joining us in Freedom Square, in the heart of campus, will be the Office of Civic Engagement & Leadership, as well as the American Marketing Association. With this collaborative and exciting event, we hope to create awareness of the Entrepreneur Experience at Towson and expose students to everyday entrepreneurship! This semesters fair will feature a variety of activities and challenges for students. Civic Engagement will be facilitating a ‘Campus Conversation’ on the freedom square chalkboards, asking the question, “What everyday problems do see that should have been solved by now?” We will then ask students to come up with innovative and entrepreneurial solutions to these issues. Students, faculty, and staff can also join the conversation online.
Other activities include a brand memory challenge, a paper airplane throwing competition, difficult rounds of entrepreneur trivia, and an As Seen on TV pitch contest. And of course, what good is a fair without a treat—the Entrepreneur Fair will feature a snow-ball stand where students can mix and match to create their own signature flavor!
Last semester’s fair was a huge success for the Student Launch Pad and we hope to draw just as many students this Thursday, in Freedom Square. Come see what entrepreneurship at Towson is all about at the Entrepreneur Fair!


A contestant in the Fall 2014 Entrepreneur Fair airplane contest

A contestant in the Fall 2014 Entrepreneur Fair paper airplane throwing competition



As a consultant working with many clients in developing an information technology system or software application, there is a critical phase in the product life cycle that is almost always overlooked. The process of project initiation.


Project initiation is the process of defining the who, what, where, when, and why.  It provides the business a high level road map defining what the system or application is to accomplish. It  defines who will be the leaders of the project, why the organization is doing the project and when in the life cycle of the business do they wish to have this project completed. This phase provides the information in making a decision to proceed or stop the project before resources are allocated. By bringing all stakeholders together, this ensures that the project will meet the business needs and be aligned with the business strategy.


More importantly, this phase of a project is the opportunity for the business to align its strategic objectives with the right tools. Technology for most businesses is a tool. An like all tools, you need the right tool to complete the job. Implementing a new system without the strategic view of the business, could result in a negative return on investment and failing to deliver a good, product or service.


During this phase it is a great time to document the following:

  • How the business flows.
  • Where data is stored and who has access.
  • Are there duplications?
  • How old are the current systems?
  • What experience are you providing to your customers?

There is an old saying; you can’t automate what you can’t document.

susan steward


As Sun Tzu stated in The Art of War, “Supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.” In other words, perhaps a low-key approach is better to begin than an extremely head-on one. Starbucks’ “Race Together” campaign is an example of the latter. Was Howard Schultz’s idea of “Race Together” bad in and of itself, or was it the execution of the idea? Starbucks has been practicing “conscious capitalism,” for years with campaigns such as employee benefit programs and job creation campaigns. So, what is this idea of “conscious capitalism” and how does this campaign seem different?

Let’s start with the campaign: Was it the idea or the execution that was flawed? One could easily say both. Twitter is bound to find any potential flaws in corporate logic, so companies must practice what they preach. This week posted an article highlighting the lack of diversity statistics on Starbucks’ corporate website. Starbucks’ lack of transparency with company diversity left consumers feeling uneasy about Starbucks’ motives for “Race Together.” From a strategic standpoint, how could “Race Together” go right? Let’s examine some of Starbucks’ previous tactics and how they could foster the organic growth of “Race Together.”


RaceTogether1_bottom_3Starbucks provided free insertions about “Race Together” in USA Today to promote conversations. Why do most of us talk about anything at any time? Because we read about it somewhere! Good debates need material, so providing individuals with the tools to promote discussions is a great execution strategy. Corporations can come together to help bring about social change. The partnership with USA Today promotes the idea without the need for corporate branding. Why not also look to brands with other big corporate names with locations where people congregate and access to research materials is plentiful, such as Barnes and Noble?


Corporations can let the media pick up what they are doing without being too overt. For example, Starbucks is part of Fair Trade USA. So is Dunkin Donuts, but neither company is using their coffee cups to advertise the fact. Instead, Starbucks takes a subtler approach with in-store posters to promote the initiative. A company practicing something it believes in shouldn’t make it feel forced, but let the conversation flow naturally. Through this natural progress, a company can achieve the initial goals without alienating customers.


So, what is conscious capitalism?

The Harvard Business Review summed it up best in 2013: “‘Conscious Capitalism’ is a way of thinking about capitalism and business that better reflects where we are in the human journey, the state of our world today, and the innate potential of business to make a positive impact on the world.” How did Starbucks’ campaign seem different? The overt method by which Starbucks initially promoted “Race Together” failed to achieve the objective. As The Economist pointed out, Americans felt Starbucks was doing it “for its own economic gain.” For years, Starbucks has been doing things in the name of conscious capitalism, but hadn’t heralded their efforts so publicly. Promotion and social change can be a delicate balance, but it’s not unobtainable. Other brands have managed to combine these objectives—for example, Dove and its “Real Beauty” campaign. Perhaps Starbucks could take the lessons learned by Dove’s and other companies’ more overt campaigns as examples for how “Race Together” could have been more successful. In other words, Mr. Schultz—great idea but poor execution.



The Towson University Center for Professional Studies is working with the National Association of Workforce Development Professionals to hold the first Mid-Atlantic Leadership Academy for Workforce. The program kicked off at the end of January, and we were very grateful the weather cooperated!  Last month we held a webinar on the topic of Servant and Situational leadership. Our guest speaker was Josh Davies, who has been a key player in the workforce development industry throughout the country, and is the CEO of The Center for Work Ethic Development, based in Denver, Colorado. During the webinar, Josh talked about the attributes he thought made a successful leader. I found his insights really interesting and energizing, and wanted to share them with you.


Here are the tips Josh presented:


1. Be explicit – Don’t use words like “maybe” or “probably.”


2. Raise your expectations – Here he discussed a gas station/convenience store company called QuikTrip. The company has high expectations for employees, and they have met the challenge, giving QuickTrip very high levels of customer satisfaction. Additionally, QuikTrip has become one of the Fortune Magazine 100 best companies to work for.


3. Be authentic – This is a theme that was all discussed by Katty Kay when she delivered a keynote address for the Towson University Professional Leadership Program for Women and emphasized how important this is, especially for women leaders.


4. Give powerful recognition – When you give recognition make sure you explain what it’s for, why it’s important, and give it quickly.


5. Trade screens for faces – This is definitely one I need to be mindful of! It can be so easy to fire off emails, sometimes we forget the value to take the time to meet in person.