The Student Launch Pad has been active at Towson University for two semesters now, during which we have had many opportunities to meet and engage with creative students with a passion for innovation and entrepreneurship. One such student is senior biology major Bobby Gattuso, who founded an innovative company called Hop Theory in 2013. Bobby is passionate about craft beer and sought to create a product that infuses ordinary beers to bolster their flavor and make them more palatable. Bobby developed custom sachets that essentially work like teabags. Each biodegradable sachet is filled with ingredients such as cascade hops, orange peels and coriander seeds. Pour any light, inexpensive beer of your choice over the sachet, let the ingredients infuse for at least three minutes and then BAM!—you got yourself a low cost, low calorie craft beer.

The Student Launch Pad has been working with Bobby to further develop various aspects of his venture and get his small business off the ground. He has since written a formal business plan, participated in the TU Incubator’s Business Plan Competition, and grown his network and connections. Another major accomplishment—Bobby successfully launched and received funding from a Kickstarter campaign. In 45 days on Kickstarter, 1,089 backers pledged $30,978 to help chadpost1bring his business to life!! Bobby’s work on Hop Theory is an exciting representation of the start-up process and the astounding things that students are able to accomplish. The campaign also generated some incredible buzz around his product and business. Multiple news outlets—including the Huffington Post, The Washington Post, Daily Mail, The Telegraph, The Mirror, Playboy, Geek, and Uncrate—contacted Bobby and posted stories about Hop Theory.

chadpost2In the next five years, Bobby sees Hop Theory evolving into a craft microbrewery which will complement their line of beer enhancing sachets. He also has an interest in exploring distillation alongside brewery operations. In the immediate future, Bobby will be working diligently with his production and distribution companies to fulfill orders from his Kickstarter campaign. He will also continue to explore and grow his business with assistance from the Student Launch Pad and the TU Incubator.

I’ll leave you with a quote from Bobby himself: “The time to take risk and follow your passion in business is now. No better way to start then by joining the Student Launch Pad here or TU Incubator!”


Keep track of Bobby and Hop Theory’s success of their website and social media — great things are surely in store.

When is “professional development” truly “development”?  What aspect of a professional should it develop?  In evaluating the worth of professional development, what outcomes indicate that it hit the mark?
Most of us have experienced professional development that developed only an active desire to flee the room.  The classic picture of professional development consists of rows of seats, a podium, and a presentation.  We can do better, and for Cisco Networking Academy instructors, we are doing better.


doodled-desksSix years ago, the Maryland State Department of Education identified Towson University as the Affiliate University supporting educational programs within the IT Career Cluster.  One of the primary responsibilities of that designation was the creation of appropriate professional development designed to support and grow those programs by nurturing a community of skilled instructors.


Employers in the IT industry have identified three elements basic to employee success:  communication, collaboration, and certification.  These “three Cs” need to be the focus of IT instruction, from high school Career Technology Education through college Computer Science.  No amount of technical knowledge will make up for an individual’s inability to provide appropriate credentials, work with others, or express ideas with clarity.  Thus, professional development provided to instructors needs to reflect these elements in both form and function.


Here at the Cisco Networking Academy Support & Training Center, our summer Instructor Institute works to meet these goals.  “Boot Camps” support instructor certification in the key industry sectors of hardware and software, networking, and security.  IT programs at the secondary level use industry certification achievement as a primary tool measuring student success; an instructor who has earned that certification is better prepared and able to help students achieve that goal.


1_jed_7oxTQvWenboAgfcMwgModeling communication and collaboration through professional development changes the delivery method as well as participant expectations.  Using a blended model of monitored remote and in-person experiences allows instructors to concentrate on development of engaging instruction while working with their peers.  Participants in most of our courses complete a guided overview of the technical concepts on their own prior to attending the in-person portion of the course.  They are tasked with arriving with questions; they are active participants in their own education, rather than passive attendees.


Instructors registering for Jason Kahler’s professional development offerings at the Center for Applied Technology South will work alongside several of his students.  These students are high achievers possessing multiple industry certifications, some of them already working in internships within the IT industry while still in high school.  They help instructors see course delivery from the student viewpoint, and they often introduce instructors to new concepts, such as integration of social media.  Jason also manages an instructor collaboration EdModo site, where participants share the ideas they have taken back to their classrooms.   The connections fostered by these interactions led to an “Academy Exchange” event where students from Baltimore City’s Carver High School Cisco Academy spent the day at CAT South, working and learning with Academy students.  CAT South students plan to visit Carver next school year.


Quality professional development is not training—it is rewiring.  Worthwhile professional development provides a valuable outcome, such as certification, and engages participants in developing relevant skills, such as collaboration and communication.  When it hits the mark, professional development actually adds value to the profession!

As a resident of Baltimore City, I would be remiss to not discuss the difficulties that my city has faced over the past month. The wrongful arrest (as described by the State’s Attorney General’s indictment of the six Baltimore City police officers involved) and eventual death of Freddie Gray brought a week of peaceful protests that, following Gray’s funeral on Monday, April 27, unfortunately sparked destructive rioting. By the end of that violent night, as I sat speechless watching news reports of neighborhoods mere blocks from my apartment, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake had instituted a citywide curfew and Governor Larry Hogan had declared a state of emergency.


baltimore-city-Clearly, the effects of the violence are far-reaching and can be difficult to identify. Since this is an economics blog, we’ll start there. The Small Business Administration estimated that damage to 285 businesses and 2 homes amounted to roughly $9 million, while the Baltimore Development Corporation, which oversees economic development for the city, estimated that 350 businesses were damaged. This $9 million estimate does not include other costs that are more difficult to quantify—for just a few examples, the presence of the National Guard on Mt. Royal Avenue, the police helicopters hovering above the city for a week at all hours, the lost wages of restaurant employees whose shifts were cut due to the curfew, the healthcare costs for individuals who were unable to get prescriptions from pharmacies that had been looted, and the lost ticket sales from the Orioles game played at Camden Yard without the fans.


However, I would also be remiss to not discuss another side of the effects: the value of the volunteer time spent cleaning up looted areas, the donations from local businesses to both these volunteers and the police officers patrolling, the community-building and sense of unity that arose from the clean-up efforts and embodied in the #OneBaltimore campaign, and the peaceful student protest that showed the city and the nation that young people have voices and can use them constructively.


The effects discussed above focus on what occurred during the curfew week. However “normal” life in Baltimore City feels currently, there are still vestiges remaining, and rebuilding will undoubtedly be an arduous process. Many of the areas most damaged by the looting (the Penn/North intersection or Mondawmin Mall) had to work especially hard to get these resources into these neighborhoods. And—while Target has long since reopened and CVS has indicated that it plans to rebuild—perceptions, impacts, and memories can linger and may inhibit building in the future. For example, Sandtown/Winchester, the neighborhood where Gray was arrested, had still been experiencing the effects of the 1968 riots even before tensions escalated in April.


There is no doubt that the road ahead is long. The unrest in Baltimore has changed the shape and discourse of the city and the nation. Hopefully, the rebuilding that the city now faces can be constructive, both with respect to the damaged buildings and the damaged spirits.

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.