The merry revelry of December may be over, but the new year brings new holidays: Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Proposed in 1968 and officially designated a federal holiday in 1983, MLK Jr. Day was codified as a state holiday in all fifty states in 2000. The third Monday of January (January 19 this year) is designated to honor King and his legacy of challenging racism and the status quo power structure through peaceful protest and civil disobedience.


Martin Luther King Jr.’s Advocacy for Economic Causes
While King is best known for his civil rights work, he has shaped other areas of society as well. As an academic and an author, King was an advocate for anti-poverty and economic causes. In his writings, King supported demand-side economic policies—using government policies to bolster consumer income and consumer spending to support economic growth. King often linked civil rights with economic injustice. As King writes in Stride Toward Freedom, his memoir of the Montgomery Bus Boycott (an excerpt of which is available online via Stanford University’s Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Papers Project), “I had also learned that the inseparable twin of racial injustice was economic injustice.” Similarly, in his Nobel lecture, King states, “Just as nonviolence exposed the ugliness of racial injustice, so must the infection and sickness of poverty be exposed and healed—not only its symptoms but its basic causes,” once again linking the civil rights movement with economic issues. The message from this speech, however, was not unique to just King’s philosophies or actions in the sixties. In fact, the full title of the famous March on Washington (the event where King gave his “I have a dream” speech) is the “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom,” indicating the importance of fiscal policy and economic issues to the Civil Rights movement as a whole.


Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial in Washington, D.C. - Photo credit: National Park Service (NPS)

Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial in Washington, D.C. – Photo credit: National Park Service (NPS)

Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, Volunteering, and Economics
Given King’s role in the history in the United States, it is not surprising that there are numerous programs and events to celebrate MLK Day. In addition to attending events such as concerts, many individuals mark the day by participating in the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service, designated as such by Congress in 1994. These days spent volunteering and contributing to the community have an immense impact. In addition to the strengthening of civic engagement and service learning that takes place from these activities, volunteering’s contribution to society can also be quantified.


As shown by annual data from the Corporation for National and Community Service (the federal organization that oversees programs such as AmeriCorps), the value of a volunteer hour in 2013 in Maryland was $25.43 per hour.  And 28.5% of Maryland’s 5.9 million residents—that’s almost 1.7 million people—participate in volunteer activities, which reached a value of $3.9 billion over the course of 2013. Data are also available for Baltimore. In 2013, over 592,000 volunteers completed 65.2 million hours of service, valued at $1.5 billion for the year.


Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial in Washington, D.C. - Photo credit: National Park Service (NPS)

Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial in Washington, D.C. – Photo credit: National Park Service (NPS)

The work of Martin Luther King, Jr. had an immense impact upon the course of history in the United States and continues to be felt today. Although it is clear that there is still much work to be done, activities completed on the MLK Day of Service are a fitting tribute to King’s message of social justice.


Through the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) Sparks! Ignition Grants for Libraries program, and a partnership with the Eastern Shore Regional Library and the TU Library, TU’s Center for GIS has begun to explore possibilities for mapping library data and putting GIS decision-making tools into the hands of library planners. If you’re new to GIS, here’s a brief explanation.


In October, staff from TU’s Center for GIS (CGIS), along with Deborah Nolan, TU’s Dean of University Libraries, met with representatives from nearly every Eastern Shore county library system to discuss challenges, data, and ideas for using spatial data to assist in library planning, development and outreach. One of the most compelling outcomes from this focus group session was the commitment of these library professionals to providing educational opportunities and outreach to underserved communities in their areas. Access to spatial data was of particular interest here, not only for the potential to discover populations not currently using library services, but also to learn more about local segments of the community and the types of resources and classes that would be relevant.


The group felt that potential exists to employ GIS data and tools to:

  • Get a more comprehensive picture of the needs and wants of the community
  • See where customers are coming from and see where to target outreach
  • Plan for future research database investments, collections, and branch locations
  • Better serve to changing customer base
  • Discover and connect with underserved communities
  • Perform targeted marketing

Unsurprisingly, all agreed that resources have been stretched even tighter in recent years, and any potential GIS tools need to be easily accessible and maintainable. To that end, in the next phase of the pilot project the team will be exploring web-based mapping tools and GIS data resources to determine the potential for libraries to map their own data, and overlay it with demographic and other available data about the areas they serve. We are excited for the opportunity to collaborate with library professionals and help facilitate innovative solutions to the challenges faced by libraries every day.

This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services Sparks! Ignition Grants for Libraries.


The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 35,000 museums. Our mission is to inspire libraries and museums to advance innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement. Our grant making, policy development, and research help libraries and museums deliver valuable services that make it possible for communities and individuals to thrive. To learn more, visit www.imls.gov and follow IMLS on Facebook and Twitter.



2014 was a successful and busy year for the Division of Innovation and Applied Research! We worked with strategic partners across business, government, education, and nonprofit sectors to develop collaborative solutions that address our community’s critical issues.


Our projects helped these stakeholders make informed decisions about topics ranging from the economic impact of legislation to the best practices for education issues. We even launched two new programs, the TU Professional Leadership Program for Women and the Student Launch Pad.


2014 also marked the 10 year anniversary of our Division. Below are a few highlights from our first 10 years:


Our latest annual report, Why We Do What We Do: 2014 Report, offers more in-depth information about these stories and why we offer the programs and services that we do.


frank bonsal


Since the turn of the second Millenium, the onslaught of the dotcom bubble, and the rise and scale of the Internet, thousands of businesses have been born in order to solve real problems in education using technology, software and web services. The volume and ease of doing so has increased markedly since broadband and web services have become more commonplace, since the cost of doing so has diminished considerably, since the institutional end user base is finally starting to catch up with the consumer side of the end user equation. Teachers, administrators, technologists, parents and others have jumped into the problem-solving, company-building thesis. The barriers to starting a technology-enabled business are fairly low on the whole. But where do you start?

Where Do You Start?

Start with the right questions graphic

First, you do NOT start an edtech business because:

  • it’s cool or in vogue
  • you can raise capital pegged to an idea using a 10 slide pitch deck, or
  • you think it’s a get rich quick scheme.

You do it because you firmly believe you can make a difference. You do it because the problem you are solving keeps you up at night and awakens you in the morning. You do it because you are the only person alive who can get it right and to NOT do it feels criminal. You do it with rational acknowledgement that the education industry is not for the meek. It spurns or eschews the faker, the taker, the ‘quaker’ and rewards the persistent, the agile, the genuine entrepreneurs, investors and advisors who are in for the long haul in a trillion dollar industry screaming for needed innovation and productivity.

Will You Need Outside Capital?

know the national investor ecosystem graphic

Sometimes—a single digit percentage of times — a business requires significant amounts of capital to go to market or get to scale more quickly. Early revenue edtech companies that intend to bring quality wares to institutions must have enough front-loaded capital to build an outside sales force behind the right product and marketing mix. As a discerning entrepreneur, you must choose your capital partner carefully, at the right time and be able to build board governance and chemistry in such a way that all parties win.

build relationships with VCs

The 13 firms listed above have collectively invested in over 150 for-profit education companies since 2009. You will note the left-to-right stage continuum that aligns with generalized west and east coast tolerances for risk. You will also note what is deemed The Capital Chasm, where companies must glean enough traction and cash reserves to get to expected milestones for early and growth stage investors. One rule of thumb is to have enough capital from early/inside investors to sustain three selling seasons to hit the necessary milestones before adding new investors to the syndicate.

Where Should You Build Your EdTech Company?

choose your ecosystem wisely

Where you lay down the initial footprint of your business is certainly more flexible than ever before. However, there are distinct advantages to edtech hubs from incubation through growth stage scale that warrant choosing wisely. Talent, customers, funders, policy expertise, research are all reasons to carefully discern where you scaffold a growing workforce and grow a unique company culture that withstands the inevitable highs and lows of a startup.

There are a Dozen or more evolving U.S. EdTech Hubs

which education innovation cluster?

The United States Office of Educational Technology and Digital Promise have been actively tracking and supporting regional education innovation clusters the last several years. I was fortunate enough to attend a cluster convening in Pittsburgh in August 2014. The breadth and individualization of the various clusters is both fascinating and inspiring. There truly are hundreds of very mission-driven people working to establish healthy places from which to improve education and entrepreneurship.

Why Maryland is a Prime EdTech Hub

consider maryland graphic

My bias toward Maryland if not the Baltimore metro area is warranted and represents one of the many great ecosystems or clusters from which to grow a thoughtful edtech company. A sustainable edtech ecosystem must have the following four attributes, no one more critical than the other:

  1. TALENT (engineers, designers, operators, practitioners, experts in finance, education marketing and sales, policy, and research)
  2. CUSTOMERS (LEAs, universities, schools, government agencies, teachers, parents)
  3. FUNDERS (foundations, angel investors, economic development capital, venture capitalists)
  4. MENTORS, critical for the incubation and seed stage companies with an ever-growing number of first-time entrepreneurs.

Should You Choose a Design Lab, Accelerator, Incubator, or a Combo?

start with edtech design

There are several very capable education design labs or studios in the Bay Area, New Orleans, Washington, DC, Philadelphia and Boston. The design thinking ideology can be the absolute best way to design, build and test a new and innovative solution or business model.

test and accelerate with an incubator graphic

For those solutions somewhat further along or that might require a shorter gestation period, an accelerator or more edtech-focused incubator might be the best fit. Imagine K12, Kaplan EdTech Accelerator, and LearnLaunchX are the three leading edtech accelerators, but each is less than five years old. There are more mature, successful industry-agnostic tech accelerators that could be worth the 6–7% dilution, too.

Your Most Logical Source of Capital

your #1 source of capital

The best way to launch a company is with a customer (or two or three) that pays you a fair price to pilot, deliver and support a quality product or service. While the ‘consumerization’ of education rightfully continues to be tested, the business model that most often bears out is a business-t0-business or B2B model where the person (or unit) most frequently ‘writing the check’ is not the same person receiving the service or product. What ever route you take, the emphasis must be on the end user from a genuine perch that imbues and endorses empathy. In the end, let not the imminent challenges or failures ahead deter you, because, as was writ by a sage 20th century academician, “hardship often prepares an ordinary person for an extraordinary destiny.” Best of luck building the wardrobe through which you find your edtech Narnia.



For me, as a ballet dancer, one thing above all signals that the holidays are here: not Black Friday, not the return of the red cups at Starbucks (but check out my previous blog about the pumpkin spice effect), not decorations or window displays, or even ugly sweaters, but rather the arrival of Nutcracker season.


But what business does The Nutcracker have on an economics blog? After all,  The Nutcracker is a story ballet based on E.T.A. Hoffman’s story The Nutcracker and the Mouse King and set to Tchaikovsky’s score. The ballet is a holiday tradition performed by ballet companies large and small around the United States.


Clara dances with her nutcracker  Photo credit: Rebecca Stansfield

Clara dances with her nutcracker
Photo credit: Rebecca Stansfield


And this is where the economics comes in. Ballet companies (and, increasingly, a wider range of dance companies as well) supply The Nutcracker productions. Audience members create demand through ticket purchases for these generally well-received productions. In fact, dance companies typically take in enough revenue from The Nutcracker to sustain them for the rest of the year, when smaller productions or more experimental works are presented.


But it is not just ticket sales that contribute to The Nutcracker’s economic impact for dance companies and the community. Numerous events, such as Nutcracker teas, are also popular and well-attended. Nutcracker-themed gift shops are also common fundraisers for companies. And as this Washington Post article shows, Nutcracker-related partnerships between the Washington Ballet and DC businesses bring in approximately $200,000 for the company, excluding ticket sales.


However, not all of the economics is strictly related to company operations. The littlest cast members—the party girls and baby mice—can have a big impact as well. Friends and family often attend multiple shows to see the youngest dancers perform. When these outings are combined with dinner out, flowers for the budding ballerina, parking at the theater, et cetera, a significant amount of dollars is injected into the local economy.


The Mouse King and the Nutcracker battle in a production of the Nutcracker  Photo credit: Rebecca Stansfield

The Mouse King and the Nutcracker battle in a production of The Nutcracker
Photo credit: Rebecca Stansfield


Let’s not forget about the older dancers.


Of course, professional dancers receive paychecks for their work in The Nutcracker. But these dancers have a more interesting way of impacting the economy. One of the most coveted rites of passage in the ballet world is the pointe shoe, the torturously beautiful specialized satin and paste slippers that allow ballerinas (and in rare cases, danseurs) to ethereally rise up on their toes. Professionals and advanced students have to purchase these shoes (or have them purchased for them, depending on the company arrangement). And pointe shoes are expensive (not to mention accessories, like ribbons, elastics, toe pads, lamb’s wool, or Band-Aids). A single pair can cost between $50 and $120 depending on the brand, and professionals can go through multiple pairs in a single show. Multiply this by the number of dancers en pointe in the cast, and that’s a lot of shoes…and a lot of money. In fact, the New York City Ballet has an annual shoe budget of $650,000.




The Nutcracker is a holiday tradition whose influence transcends the boundaries of the stage. And much like the Sugar Plum Fairy’s magical dance, its economic impact, particularly to local economies, is reason for applause as well.



As a new member of the RESI team, I had my first experience at the annual Economic Outlook Conference on Monday, November 17, held on-campus in the West Village Commons. In addition to the economic outlook presentation and forecast, the theme of this year’s conference was the impact of craft brewing in Maryland.


After registration and a networking breakfast, the day officially began with Daraius Irani’s presentation “The Economic Recovery: Late to its Own Party.” As the title suggests, the presentation focused on how, even though the U.S. and Maryland economies are no longer in recessions, economic conditions are still subpar due to a lackluster recovery. For example, though Maryland has regained all of the jobs that were lost during the recession, these jobs are skewed towards low-wage, often part-time opportunities. Understandably, the RESI economic forecast was not exactly brewing with good optimistic news (excuse the puns, they are just inevitable).


Set up for the Economic Outlook Conference


This year’s forecast predicts that employment growth will not exceed 0.5% annually from 2014 to 2017, which is not exactly great news for the state. One of the questions we get asked frequently is how accurate our forecast can be. When RESI reexamined our forecast from last year’s conference to compare it to the actual data from the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation (DLLR) RESI’s forecast was under by only 152 jobs. Yes, RESI predicted that last year would end with 2,921,819 Maryland residents employed on average in 2013, and DLLR’s actual tabulations from the Local Area Unemployment Statistics program were 2,921,970 residents employed on average in 2013. I don’t know about you, but I consider that to be pretty accurate.


The morning keynote by Lester Jones, chief economist with the National Beer Wholesalers Association (can we say dream job) provides an overview of the beer industry in the United States and explained how various economic conditions—for example, changes in consumer preferences for high quality beer—and political factors—changes in federal law and tax credits for craft brewers, for instance—have shaped how people make and drink beer over time.


It was then time for the day’s panel discussion, titled “Craft Beer: Passing Fad or Resilient Economic Development Tool?” Panelists included Jake Day, President of the Salisbury City Council, Maureen O’Prey, historian and author of Brewing in Baltimore and contributor to the documentary Brewmore Baltimore, JT Smith, Executive Director of the Brewer’s Association of Maryland, and Kasey Turner, founder and COO of Jailbreak Brewing Company in Laurel, Maryland. The panelists discussed how craft brewing has impacted their respective fields of expertise or professions, and came to the conclusion that, while craft brewing has had a large positive impact in Maryland thus far, there are ample opportunities for growth.


Fred Crudder of Heavy Seas, RESI Chief Economist Daraius Irani, Baltimore historian Maureen O'Prey, Jailbreak Brewing Founder and COO Kasey Turner, Salisbury City Council President Jake Day, and JT Smith of the Brewer's Association of Maryland

Fred Crudder of Heavy Seas, RESI Chief Economist Daraius Irani, Baltimore historian Maureen O’Prey, Jailbreak Brewing Founder and COO Kasey Turner, Salisbury City Council President Jake Day, and JT Smith of the Brewer’s Association of Maryland


Fred Crudder, director of marketing and hospitality at Baltimore’s Heavy Seas Beer, delivered the afternoon’s keynote address, “My Worst Day is Better than Your Best Day.” Crudder’s talk began with the story of how he found himself working in the beer industry and then at Heavy Seas in particular. He then extoled Maryland’s craft brewing industry, both in terms of the role it plays in the state and in terms of the high-quality beer that is produced. Crudder’s talk included a beer tasting of Heavy Seas Gold Ale.


This year’s Economic Outlook Conference was an engaging experience. Though the economic forecast may have matched the dreary weather outside, the energy in the room more than compensated for the somber economic outlook…and the craft beer samples didn’t hurt either. Cheers to another great conference!



The past few weeks have been a busy yet exciting time for the TU Incubator and Entrepreneurship team. We had the pleasure of attending JA Jams, an upscale concert event organized to increase awareness and fundraising support of Junior Achievement of Central Maryland. VIPs gathered at the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall to also honor Frank Bonsal III, a Maryland venture capitalist and Director of Entrepreneurship at Towson University. Frank’s list of contributions to furthering entrepreneurship in the region is nearly endless; Frank has served on numerous nonprofit boards, provided early stage investments to education technology (EdTech) and service companies, and advised innovative entrepreneurs, most recently in his role at TU.


JA_group photo

Stephanie Chin, Chad Nazworth, Frank Bonsal III, and Zach Jones – Towson University’s Entrepreneurship Team


Earlier this year, Frank’s father, venture capitalist Frank A. Bonsal, Jr., was also recognized for his contributions to entrepreneurship and the success of Maryland incubators and awarded the Robert A. Spar Hall of Fame Award. Perhaps most excitingly, to cap off the night, attendees reveled in the opportunity to enjoy the live musical talent of Kenny Loggins, and the TU Entrepreneurship team surely did cut loose, footloose.


Kenny Loggins at the Junior Achievement Awards

Kenny Loggins at the Junior Achievement Awards


On November 12, we then had the opportunity to attend one of the biggest entrepreneurial events in Maryland, TEDCO’s annual Entrepreneur Expo. The Expo was a full day crammed with breakout sessions, fireside chats, pitch sessions, show & tell, and two keynote speakers- David Rose and Paul Reed. Governor-Elect Larry Hogan was present to check out the lively tech community. The big names were present, such as Under Armour, as well as individual entrepreneurs with a desire to learn more, network, and perhaps even find an investor or mentor along the way. TU Incubator and other Maryland incubators in MBIA were present, and the 2014 Expo even included a session on incubators, accelerators, and coworking spaces. This year’s event was particularly interesting for me, for I was not only gleaning information to bring back to TU Incubator but also for Student Launch Pad and all the student entrepreneurs we have interacted with over the Fall semester.





There are two root ways in which K-12 education can be wholly brought into the 21st Century: 1) Change the System or 2) Change the Effectiveness of the People in the System. Technology and web services will likely be a necessary tool in either case.


1-AMDZcqOO9IgMsk5l1rv5VAI first met Nicole Tucker-Smith, Co-Founder and CEO of Lessoncast Learning, at a Baltimore edtech meetup celebrating the early edtech ecosystem work we had begun in Maryland, what was a precursor to EdTech Maryland’s evolution. Prior to that, I had met another Lessoncast co-founder and Nicole’s husband, Khalid Rudo Smith, at an ETC Baltimore mentor meeting. Stating Nicole and Khalid as a dynamic duo does not do them justice. Below is a conversation I had with Nicole about Lessoncast, and how her approach to teacher professional development, moreover education is both different and lasting.


Frank: Nicole, what drove you to leave a profession in which you were seemingly successful and found harmony?



I’ve left the traditional path for educators, but I don’t think that I will ever leave education. Whether I’m a teacher, a principal, a district leader, or founder of an edtech company, I’m still serving the education profession. I left my position with the school district because I believed that there were innovative ways to improve teaching and learning, and making those innovations a reality required going outside the bounds of traditional schooling. In leading professional learning for a turnaround middle school, I realized the painful inadequacies of typical professional development (PD). If we truly want to improve how students learn, then we need to provide better options to help teachers learn new practices, share their expertise, and grow professionally. In developing the Lessoncast process, I saw the impact and potential for improving professional learning opportunities for educators. I felt that the best way to scale that impact was to found a startup.


Frank: Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur?


It’s no coincidence that my husband, Khalid, was the founding director of StartupWeekend Education. I saw the work that he was doing with other entrepreneurial-minded educators, and he encouraged me to recognize the potential of my ideas. I was tired of being bound by the institutional phrase “this is the way that we’ve always done things.” Together, we’ve turned a classroom-tested improvement process into scalable software as a service. Building the opportunity to share this service with other schools is exciting, invigorating, and scary all at the same time. But as Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Do one thing every day that scares you.” Done.


Frank: So, you founded Lessoncast to make a difference, to solve some problems in education. What are some impediments to teacher effectiveness at scale and how does Lessoncast address these?



One of the major impediments to teacher effectiveness is a 20th century mindset to professional learning for educators. When we use the term “PD,” many of us still envision a two-hour workshop where all of the teachers sit in a cafeteria and hear from an outside speaker. Rarely does this lead to changes in practice much less “effectiveness.” In the same way that we recognize diverse learning needs among students, we need to realize that teachers vary in their learning needs as well. Lessoncast employs technology to rethink professional learning opportunities for educators. We provide differentiated teacher learning experiences that are tailored for specific teacher learning communities (schools, districts, teacher preparation programs). Through our platform, interactive modules are available on-demand when they are most relevant, and as teachers engage in the learning process they actually create resources for other educators. We need teacher supports that are relevant to today’s classrooms and that capitalize on the power of digital technology.


Frank: What makes the Lessoncast solution unique and scalable?



We recognize that teacher education is a continuum. It starts in pre-service teacher preparation programs and spans induction and ongoing professional growth, not just for teachers but administrators as well. Lessoncast partners with programs and schools across this entire continuum, and we’re able to bring together the best of both worlds. Our Lessoncast tools enable us to build on the research-based methods used in teacher preparation programs to provide K12 educators with professional learning modules that are relevant, impactful, performance-based, and results-oriented. And, in the process, teachers create resources that showcase their professional voice and expertise.


Frank: Your co-founder is also your husband. You have two children. How do you balance the home and professional sides of life?



While leading a startup is a 24–7 commitment, I find it much easier to achieve work-life balance in this role than I did as an assistant principal. Being a school-based leader is not only around the clock, but it allows for very little flexibility in terms of scheduling and managing your time. Khalid and I joke that Lessoncast is our third child. We give lots of time and love to this third child, but not at the expense of our first two. If we did, then all would be for nothing. Keeping that in perspective and recognizing that we choose how we spend our time helps us to maintain that balance.


Frank: What excites you the most about what you do? What the least?



I’m excited about the real potential for major breakthroughs and making a difference for teachers and students. I enjoy meeting new people from national organizations, other companies, and educational institutions and learning from their experiences and challenges.


What excites me the least is the day-to-day accounting and invoicing, the financial realities of running a company. At the end of the day, we have to go beyond having a great idea to having a sustainable business. It’s a bold leap; now we just need to stick the landing.

N.B. Lessoncast is a Towson University Incubator resident member, and I am Director of Entrepreneurship at Towson University and Director of TU Incubator. Lessoncast is a recipient of 2014 Maryland TEDCO TCF award and a 2014 DILA Honorable mention.



What a rich journey I have had!  It really pays to be an economic developer, and to know others in this field because economic developers are a remarkable resource, one that has perspective on the whole of an economy and the unique character of a region. Further, they can personally connect you to the best resources available given your specific interests. This is how the second half of my time in Australia went.


Arriving in Townsville, my economic development host, Simon Millcock, who had visited Towson University previously and is active with the International Economic Development Council, had arranged several ‘behind the scenes’ meetings for me, targeting my interest in Edu-Tourism/Economic Development and sustainability as it relates to Towson’s partnership with the town of Port Deposit and our research of the Northern Map Turtle.


Billabong Sanctuary
My adventure began with a stop at the Billabong Sanctuary, where I was hosted by director Bob Flemming. This sanctuary and educational place hosts nearly 600 school groups a year to learn about Australia’s natural habitat and the life of some of the very special species of Australia to include, birds, kangaroo, koala, wombats, dingos, and yes, some crocodiles. Importantly, The Billabong is home to many turtles who coexist in this sustainable environment.  The sanctuary has a wonderful function room where discussions and presentations can take place, and exceptional staff work with the student groups to give them a close up wildlife educational experience.


Bob, Simon, and I at the Billabong.  If you look closely on the ground there is a rope in an oblong circle that designates the track for their daily turtle races.

Bob, Simon, and I at the Billabong. If you look closely on the ground there is a rope in an oblong circle that designates the track for their daily turtle races.

Reef HQ, Great Barrier Reef Aquarium
This phenomenal facility is first an education and research facility, and also a tourist and community attraction.  Fred Nucifora, whose enthusiasm is infectious, was my host at Reef HQ.  As it turns out Reef HQ is working with faculty from around the globe, supporting customized curriculum for student exchange and research in marine life.  Their educational tools and technology are cutting edge and have given me many ideas to support the education/research/information center development planned for Port Deposit. Additionally, Reef HQ has a focus on turtles, has a turtle hospital, and supports sustainability research in the maintenance of habitat. Our interests are clearly aligned.

The Reef HQ is an incredible facility for education.

The Reef HQ is an incredible facility for education.

The Reef HQ has a unique focus on turtles.

The Reef HQ has a unique focus on turtles.


Museum of Tropical Queensland
The Museum displays the story of the HMS Pandora and hosts other exhibits both traveling and permanent.  Importantly, their outreach efforts into the community are excellent, giving the museum an educational and local appeal through its changing exhibits that reflect the community’s culture and character.  Tye was my host, and by the time we finished the tour, I was thinking anthropology could be a second career.


My last day in Australia ended with an evening in Brisbane which was celebrating the many cultures of the G20, as Brisbane is host to the G20 Summit that will begin there in the coming week. Using the theme, Colour Me Brisbane, the city was alive with colors, music, art and entertainment of all kinds.  What an auspicious time to be there, and a rich way to top my journey to the Down Under.


Brisbane Cityscape at Night

Brisbane Cityscape at Night

Today with a new smile, I turn my attention toward arriving at BWI; and in the American tradition, wish all my new friends who helped me learn and discover Australia, Happy Trails



We are once again busy preparing for this year’s Economic Outlook Conference. In past blog posts, I’ve written about all the work it takes to put together the outlook presentation and the extremely important part that students play in helping us put the event together. This year marks the ninth conference that I have been a part of. However, this year’s conference has the special distinction of being my very favorite one yet. I feel as though I have to preface that statement by saying that it has nothing to do with the conference-sponsored happy hour we hosted two weeks ago. In fact, this year’s theme, “The Economic Impact of Craft Brewing in Maryland,” is proving to be even more interesting than I expected.


In preparation for the event, we have been learning a little more about the craft brewing industry. For example, there’s a big decision to make when deciding whether or not to can or bottle the brew. There’s also a difficult trademark process, and cease and desist letters are commonplace. These are just a few of the topics that the panel will be covering. I’ve also learned that there are jobs such as Chief Economist at the National Beer Wholesalers Association (Where did I go wrong in my career?).


This year’s speakers are a diverse group of individuals with varied knowledge in the industry. We have a historian who specializes in the brewing industry in Maryland (She even has a book!) and the marketing director of local brewery Heavy Seas, just to name a few. In case that wasn’t enough, we’ll kick off the day with our own Chief Economist Dr. Daraius Irani providing us with the economic outlook for the year. Every year, attendees look forward to the insightful findings (and lighthearted jokes) that his presentation has become known for. During an election year, the economy plays a significant part in the outcome of elections. Dr. Irani will help to frame the current climate and outline what his expectations are for the economy in the coming year. Fortunately, the theme will play into whatever outcome is expected—here’s hoping we will be cheering for a positive outlook. Registration is still open, and we can’t wait to see you all there!