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.


Bobbie Laur


In early 2015, Chad Nazworth was selected as the full-time Coordinator of the Towson University Student Launch Pad — one of the key drivers of the TU Entrepreneur Experience. In this role, he oversees the development and promotion of Launch Pad programming and events, which officially launches this coming Fall. Chad and his colleagues on the Entrepreneurship team create workshops that help students develop business ideas and innovation skills.


Chad said he is excited to see entrepreneurship thrive on campus.


“Students are already doing big things like creating apps or launching businesses,” he said.  “I am looking forward to finding new and creative ways to support them during their time at Towson and beyond.”


Frank Bonsal, director of entrepreneurship, welcomed Chad with enthusiasm.chadnazworth


“We were fortunate to bring a recent TU alum onto the evolving Entrepreneurship Team with enough intellectual horsepower, passion, and charisma to duly represent and grow Student Launch Pad, moreover the broader TU Experience. Chad has quickly become a linchpin part of a collaborative team.”


Prior to working with Student Launch Pad, Chad studied economics and international studies at Towson University. As a student he was heavily involved in campus programming and served as the director of the Campus Activities Board.




On Tuesday March 17, 2015, Towson University hosted the 4th annual Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation (DLLR) Division of Labor and Industry’s Employment Rights & Safety Forum. Newly appointed DLLR Secretary Kelly Schulz welcomed the crowd on behalf of Maryland Governor, Larry Hogan.


This annual event provides the workforce with information on compliance, safety, and employment law regulations. This year it brought together over 300 policy makers, safety managers, business owners, public safety leaders, workforce development experts, and labor professionals.


The morning plenary speaker was Dr. Bob Emery, Vice President for Safety, Health, Environment, and Risk Management at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. His keynote titled The Power We Hold: Communicating Effectively addressed:

  • Understanding the importance of communication as it pertains to safety.
  • Advantages and disadvantages of the different ways managers communicate.
  • Basic techniques that can be used to improve the transmission of safety information.

The afternoon plenary speaker, John Gilstrap, New York Times best-selling author and safety expert drew upon his experience as a fiction writer and his knowledge as a safety practitioner to address how anticipation forms and plays a major role in management decisions.


“The Division of Labor and Industry Forum is  our signature outreach event  and one that allows us to connect with the people we serve. Our goal is to be transparent and share new and pertinent information related to safety, employment law and wages. We intend to continue to have informational speakers and workshops so that attendees get total value for their attendance. We look forward to hosting the annual Employment Rights & Safety Forum each year, and we hope that Towson University is able host our 2016 Forum,” says Interim DLI Commissioner Craig Lowry.




With a record number 600 total attendees from private enterprise, education, the non-profit sector, and all levels of government, the TUgis 2015 conference began with several exciting plenary speakers. Towson University’s interim president, Dr. Timothy Chandler and Lt. Governor Boyd K. Rutherford delivered opening remarks. Rutherford shared the Hogan administration’s plans to integrate StateStat into business improvement processes, and implement geospatial technology as a part of the newly established Heroin and Opioid Emergency Task Force.


Keynote speaker, Dr. Christopher Tucker of the MapStory Foundation, gave a highly engaging presentation on how humanity’s perspective on change over time (and space) has evolved, beginning with early lunar and solar calendars, and moving through the quest for longitude, land surveying, expanded understanding of synchronicity and the space-time fabric, and modern GIS and GPS technology. The intention behind MapStory is to function as way to visualize change and engage in problem solving. MapStory acts as a companion to Wikipedia, which is specific to sharing spatial knowledge, and also as a storytelling community that is directed and shaped by the interests and passions of its members. Dr. Tucker concluded with an invitation to all to “join the community, and make it your own.”


Chris Tucker of MapStory was the keynote speaker for the TUgis opening plenary

Chris Tucker of MapStory was the keynote speaker for the TUgis opening plenary


The Center for GIS was heavily involved in this year’s conference. Managing Director, Ardys Russakis, served on the TUgis Advisory Committee and delivered the closing remarks at the plenary session. Nearly every member of CGIS staff participated in a presentation.


  • Phil Reese presented with Jackie Takacs of the UMD Sea Grant Extension on the creation of the Stormwater Management and Restoration Tracker (SMART Tool), an application that allows citizens to the public to submit information about voluntarily installed stormwater best management practices (BMPs) that would otherwise not be tracked by county and municipal agencies. These small-scale residential stormwater BMPs are perceived to have an insignificant impact, but when aggregated by SMART Tool, significant reductions can be measured.
  • Michael Bentivegna, Melanie Bruce and Tim Hutchinson spoke about their most recent efforts on the Maryland Emergency Management Agency’s Osprey Dashboard EOC, which is used to view real time statewide data for power outages, weather, traffic, and local government feeds.
  • David Sides presented with Leo Fothergill of the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) Office of Safety on a stormwater compliance trackingapplication designed to monitor and depict MTA’s progress toward achieving NPDES impervious runoff and nutrient reduction goals.
  • I presented along with Wangui Muthaka in support of her capstone project. Wangui, a graduate student from the TU Department of eBusiness and Technology Management researched how GIS is able to enhance traditional logistics analysis and trade area decision making.
  • Bryan Brick shared insights on his efforts to develop a tool to view NETS business establishment data using the D3 visualization library and Backbone MV framework.

Bryan Brick presented on NETS business establishment data


TUgis 2015 also marked the debut of CGIS’s new marketing materials, including a new table display and informational collateral. The entire CGIS team collaborated on the development of our new messaging and it perfectly describes how we partner with business, government, and non-profits to utilize data to the fullest potential. We strive to help our clients map their data, visualize patterns and trends, and work toward solutions.


Ardys Russakis at the CGIS booth speaking with TUgis attendees

Ardys Russakis spoke with TUgis attendees at the CGIS booth

Bobbie Laur


She may have started her job last month, but Chunta Rivers is far from a rookie. With over 14 years of experience in business development, Chunta brings a wealth of experience from the continuing education and adult learning sector.  Her role in the Center of Professional Studies (CPS) will include developing new relationships within corporate, government, and healthcare sectors to provide continuing education and workforce development courses aimed at addressing critical skill gaps.


“I’m confident that we can successfully position Towson University’s Center for Professional Studies as a valued education partner, given our respected track record of developing and offering high-quality courses directly linked to the skills our region’s employers and workforce need,” she said.


Associate Director Aaron Guy said Rivers hit the ground running in her new role. “Within her first week in this role Chunta began connecting with businesses and setting up information sessions with many of our region’s biggest employers,” Guy said. “We know she will be an asset and key role in the progression and continued success of CPS.”


Prior to joining CPS, Chunta worked as a Manager of Local Corporate Accounts at DeVry University and as an University Rep at Grand Canyon University. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing from North Carolina A&T State University.



This signature event is an opportunity to connect with faculty from TU’s academic departments and innovative programs to explore, start, or expand partnerships and collaborations.  Our exhibitors will showcase programs and research that address critical workforce shortages, improve K-12 access and completion, promote health and well-being and advance sustainability initiatives.  The 2015 exhibitors include:

  • 3D Object Lab
  • Accessible Technology-Driven Health Solutions
  • Ailey Camp and Art Summer Camps
  • Alcohol Tobacco & Other Drugs (ATOD) Prevention
  • Applied Research and Technical Services for Business, Government, and Non Profit Organizations
  • Continuing Education, Customized Training, and Workforce Development
  • Deaf Studies Outreach Programs and Undergraduate Research
  • Glen Arboretum
  • Kinesiology Research: Implications for Exercise Performance and Public Health
  • Marketing Research for Community Organizations and Small Businesses
  • New Approach to Professional Development for Teachers
  • Promoting Food Access and Food Equity for All
  • Towson Theatre Infusion & Reading Encouragement Program
  • TU Entrepreneur Experience
  • TU Professional Leadership Program for Women


To learn more and have a great networking opportunity as well, join us on April 28th from 12 noon – 2:00 p.m. in the Minnegan Room at Towson University.  We will even throw in lunch on us! Mix-and-mingle with our exhibitors and find out how you can tap into the resources of the university! Register here.


A big thank you goes out to our supporting sponsor and partner, Baltimore County Department of Economic and Workforce Development.



The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute added Tracy Jacobs to its team in February.  In this new role for Osher, Tracy will assist with curriculum development, manage marketing efforts, and support and cultivate Osher membership.


“I look forward to being engaged with the members and the instructors,” she said. “Classes start this week and I’m very excited to meet everyone as well as sit in on the some of the amazing classes.”


Jacqueline Gratz, Director of Osher, is thrilled to have Tracy on the team.


“Tracy is well credentialed for the diverse tasks of Assistant Director of Osher,” she said. “She has a solid background in marketing, administration, management and programming in college settings.  She is also a visual artist and teacher. She is a multi-talented/skilled professional, who possesses the qualities needed to assist in carrying out the mission of Osher.”


Prior to joining Osher, Tracy has worked in Academic Affairs at Harford Community College as well as in the School for Professional and Continuing Studies at Maryland Institute College of Art where she was involved in both program management and marketing. She also served as an adjunct art instructor at Towson University for 6 years. She holds a B.A. in Studio Art from Middlebury College and an M.F.A. in painting from University of Maryland College Park.



Last year’s Business Plan Competition was met with great success, and we were proud to award incubator membership and prizes to Rehabtics, Tutela Bedside Technologies, and Zero Gravity Creations. This year’s competition is well underway, with the first round of competition coming to a close on February 23. Our team of judges surely has their work cut out with more than 40 executive summaries submitted in round 1! For the first time, our 5th annual competition features both a ‘professionals’ category as well as ‘student-only’ category open to students from local universities and colleges.



Overall Participants

Each year, we receive a variety of creative and innovative business ideas, and this year’s pool of participants do not disappoint. Among the executive summaries submitted are businesses ranging from makeup artistry services to production of affordable and accessible prosthetics for amputees. Business services, technology, consumer products, and healthcare IT, among others, are well represented fields in round 1 of the competition. Some participants even have an international focus for their businesses and hail from countries such as Israel and Pakistan.


Student Participants

With the addition of the ‘student-only’ category and continued success of the Student Launch Pad at Towson University, student entrepreneurs and innovators are in no short supply. Several active Launch Pad participants, such as Hop Theory and Echo Trades, are looking to further their business with the help of this year’s Business Plan Competition.


Finalists advancing to round 2 will be announced on Wednesday, March 11. Stay tuned to find out who makes the cut!



As of Thursday, February 26th 2015, let the scoreboard show one point for Net Neutrality and zero points for Internet Services Providers (ISPs). Last year I discussed the looming battle that was taking place between ISPs and millions of everyday internet content consumers, like you and I. An end to this battle was scheduled on Thursday, February 26th 2015, where like judges in a long 12 round boxing match without a clear knockout, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) had to decide on the fate of Net Neutrality. In a 3-2 split decision, the FCC ruled in favor of reclassifying broadband Internet (both wired and wireless) under Title II of the Communications Act.




How Does Reclassification Maintain Net Neutrality?

Prior to this ruling there were no real boundaries for ISPs when it came to how they can treat data traversing their networks based on the data content source. Meaning, an ISP if it so chooses, was able to slow down or throttle data from Netflix being delivered to an end user’s Roku player. Furthermore, not unlike the manner of a mafia pizzo, an ISP can strongly “encourage” content providers like a Netflix, that take up a lot of bandwidth, to pay a fee in order to guarantee that their movie streaming content makes it to the end user quickly and efficiently, without any lag or buffering. The FCC ruling for reclassification now allows for the government to look at the Internet as an essential utility, in a similar manner as it does for electricity and water.


ISPs like Comcast, Verizon and AT&T see this reclassification as a loss because under these new rules they will be forced to make their operations more transparent to not only the government, but also to the general public. They will now have to operate in an environment of strict regulation and can no longer even attempt to discriminate data traversing their networks based on the source. These new rules ensure that large content providers like Netflix and Hulu will not have to pony-up extra dollars to get their content to the end users, but more importantly, it ensures that new and smaller companies will not have to fear for their content being stuck in an Internet slow lane because they cannot afford to pay a ‘shakedown’ premium. Entrepreneurs and smaller content providers become the real winners in this reclassification. This new ruling maintains a level playing field where all data packets are treated equally. The internet does not need a ‘Data Caste System.’



Image credit: NPR Blog


The Fight Is Not Over

This battle victory for Net Neutrality does not mean the ‘war’ is over. Without a doubt ISPs, wireless providers, and possibly some congressional opponents will take these rulings to court. These opponents will argue that government should not have a hand in the operations of the Internet. It will be argued that the Internet worked just fine without government intervention and as such should remain this way. They will argue that the reclassification is placing the Internet into the antiquated Title II of the Communications Act, and as such will stifle business and innovation. And to some small degree they are right. However, in my opinion, the alternative path is much worse. The path where corporations are unregulated and free to make the rules, regardless of how that affects overall user experience and entrepreneurship. This is certainly not over and could potentially be a very long legal battle, but for now this is a victory worth celebrating. As FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler stated moments before the deciding vote, “The Internet is simply too important to allow broadband providers to be the ones making the rules.”