Archive | April, 2011

Did You Know…

The Maryland Charities campaign awarded Towson University the Schaefer Cares Award for the highest growth in participation during the fall 2010 campaign. Under the direction of Vice President James P. Sheehan, who served as the responsible TU executive for the campaign, Towson increased participation by 84% over the previous year. The effort raised nearly $50,000 for local charities, including the Towson University Foundation. Below, Vice President Sheehan and TU Coordinator for the Maryland Charities Campaign Sherry McKendry accept the award.

 

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Landscaping Tips from Landscape Services Manager Paul Thomas

After a very harsh winter, spring has finally sprung! Here are a few of the gardening tips I’ve amassed over more than 35 years of keeping the university’s grounds beautiful.

Lawn Care

Maintaining a decent lawn in our area can be very difficult because our area is located in the transition zone for grass plants. This area presents many challenges to lawn care, including heat, drought, disease and humidity. Unless you have an irrigation system and use fungicides monthly, you will always have challenges to lawn care and even if you do these things, there’s no guarantee that it will prevent problems. That being said, there are many things that you can do to increase your chances of having a healthy lawn. Here are my tried-and-true tips:

  1. Use a blended turf-type of tall fescue seed for your lawn. This reduces the chance of disease and decreases your chance of having problems associated with drought.
  2. Always mow your lawn to a 2 ½ inch height all season long. This reduces weed problems and protects grass from the drought issues that shorter grass often has.
  3. Fertilize your lawn three times per year—in early June, mid-September, and mid-November.
  4. To prevent crab grass from growing during the summer, use pre-emergence herbicide (such as Scotts with crabgrass control) in early spring. If you do this, however, you should avoid over-seeding your lawn in the spring, as the crab grass control will prevent grass seed from germinating.
  5. Speaking of which, do any over seeding and lawn repair in early to mid-September. Establishing seed at this time is much less of a challenge than it is in spring.
  6. Irrigate your lawn as needed, aiming to soak the lawn about one inch deep each week. It’s best to water thoroughly and infrequently.
  7. Soil acidity, or PH, is very important since it affects the way grass can absorb nutrients. Have a soil test done every two or three years to assure your PH is at an optimal level—between 6.0 and 7.2. You can do this yourself using soil test kits, which are available at most gardening centers.

Pruning

It always surprises me to learn that many people are afraid of pruning, or think that pruning trees and shrubs is not healthy for the plants. Quite the contrary, pruning is very beneficial and can actually enhance the life and promote flowering of your trees and shrubs. Since requirements for specific shrubs and trees can vary widely, I recommend that gardeners reference a book or online resource such as http://www.garden.org/ when it comes to pruning. However, here are a few good rules of thumb:

  • Prune your plants to remove deadwood, maintain shape and elevate lower branches. As a rule of thumb, you should prune flowering shrubs only once, right after they flower. Pruning too late (such as in July) can remove flower buds, thereby hindering flowering the following spring.
  • Prune deciduous trees in the winter (during their dormant season) to thin and shape the tree; prune year-round to remove deadwood and repair damage.
  • Prune evergreens in early summer or winter time; use the clippings for holiday decorations!
  • Perennials usually require very little pruning—simply cut them down after they begin to die in late fall.
  • Annuals benefit tremendously from pruning (pinching) and fertilizing weekly to keep the blossoms full and promote flowers.

Fertilizing

Fertilizing is another beneficial practice to keep your trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals healthy.

  • In general, I fertilize shrubs about every two years or as needed depending on their growth. The same goes for perennials.
  • Annuals should be fed every time you water using your choice of liquid fertilizer at ½ the recommended rate on package (I find that most companies recommend using too much).
  • Trees generally do well on their own but if they need a boost, have them fed by a commercial lawn or tree company. This way you get the best results for your money. Each feeding is good for between two and three years.

If you have any questions about the above recommendations or just have a question in general about gardening, please feel free to send me an e-mail at pthomas@towson.edu. Happy gardening!

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Earth Week Wrap-Up

It’s no secret that TU is going green, and this semester is no different. Last week, TU was named to Princeton Review’s List of Green Colleges for the second year in a row! In honor of that announcement and the culmination of last week’s Earth Day events, here is a wrap-up of sustainability programs, events and competitions held on campus this semester:

All-StAR Report

From 2009 to 2010, TU increased its recycling rate by more than 2%. Although this statistic may seem small, it equates to a decrease of nearly 400 tons of trash.  Perhaps even more impressive is that over the past year the university achieved a decrease of 17% in the total amount of all solid waste (trash and recyclables) generated on campus. According to Sustainability Director Jack Nye, this reduction is important because “A decrease in total solid waste results in less trash and recyclables that need to be transported and disposed/processed, which advances the ultimate goal of reducing campus operating costs and carbon emissions.”

The new solid waste statistics are reflected in the university’s 2010 All State Agencies Recycle (All-StAR) report, submitted to the state earlier this spring. The annual report tracks recycling and refuse statistics in several categories, and historical data from the report shows an upward trend in the university’s recycling rate following the implementation of the single-stream RecycALL program in 2008. That year, the university’s recycling rate was 22.61%; in 2009, the recycling rate increased to 25.24%, and last year it was at an all-time high of 27.42%. The recycling rate is measured by dividing total Maryland Recycling Act (MRA) recyclables collected by total solid waste generated. For more information on campus recycling, and to read the All-StAR report in full, go to www.towson.edu/recycling.

Environmental Conference

Towson University’s third annual Environmental Conference was held Monday April 18, 2011 in the University Union. More than 300 students, faculty, staff and community members attended the annual conference, which included nearly 20 sessions on topics ranging from community-supported agriculture to sustainable business practices. For more information on the conference, go to http://www.towson.edu/studentaffairs/civicengagement/environmentalInitiatives/environmentalConference.asp. See photos from the conference, as well as photos from the Earth Week Art Contest and videos from the Conserve Video Contest, at facebook.com/TowsonGoesGreen.

RecycleMania Competition

For ten weeks this spring, TU tracked and submitted weekly recycling and trash statistics as part of the annual RecycleMania competition. The university’s goal for this year’s competition was to reduce the overall solid waste stream by promoting conservation practices. That goal was achieved, as the university experienced a 13% reduction in the solid waste stream from the 2010 to 2011 competition. This achievement was fueled by a nearly 16% reduction in trash during the competition weeks, which is consistent with the downward trend in trash waste demonstrated in the 2010 All StAR report. For more information on the competition, go to www.towson.edu/recyclemania.

Recycling Drop-Off

More than 100 students, faculty, staff and community members dropped off hard-to-recycle items like personal electronics, light bulbs, batteries and more at the university’s annual recycling drop-off Wednesday, April 20. The drop-off collected nearly 5,000 pounds of electronics, nearly 200 pounds of batteries, and more than 20 pounds of lightbulbs for a total of nearly 5,400 pounds of recyclables diverted from the landfill! This is more than double the amount collected at last year’s drop off. For photos of the drop-off, go to facebook.com/TowsonGoesGreen.

For more information about Towson’s green initiatives, including a series of case studies on campus sustainability projects, go to www.towson.edu/gogreen.

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Five Questions on Campus Construction with Director of Architecture and Engineering David Mayhew

David Mayhew has been the Director of Architecture and Engineering at Towson University for 12 years. As construction across campus ramps up for summer, we caught up with David to see how the projects are progressing and what future projects are in store for TU.

What construction projects are currently underway?

While everyone sees the major projects on campus, there are usually more than 50 active projects underway at any given time.  Many are smaller interior renovation projects that most of the campus community is not aware of.  The most visible projects currently underway on campus include:

  • College of Liberal Arts Building – opening summer 2011
  • West Village Commons Building – opening summer 2011
  • West Village Garage – opening summer 2011
  • West Village Housing: Phase 2, Barton and Douglas Houses – opening summer 2011
  • Campus Utilities Expansion – completed fall 2011
  • New Campus Entrance – completed spring 2012
  • Tiger Arena – opening summer 2013

How are these projects progressing? Are they up to schedule? Ahead of schedule?

All of our projects are currently on schedule.  We have allowed time over the summer for move-in and commissioning, so we have some flexibility, but all of our new buildings will be ready for the fall semester.

What features will enable these projects to achieve LEED certification?

All of our major new construction projects will receive a minimum of LEED silver certification.  Features that contribute to this certification include energy-efficient air conditioning and heating systems, energy-efficient lighting, and the use of recycled materials, green roofs, environmentally friendly landscaping and storm water control.

What are the next major projects planned for the university? How will they affect vehicular and pedestrian traffic on campus?

While many of our projects are finishing up this summer, the utilities expansion and new entrance project will continue to affect vehicular and pedestrian traffic for the rest of this year. This summer we will begin construction on the Tiger Arena and a major renovation to Richmond and Newell Halls. Later this year we will begin construction on a new Public Safety Building located next to General Services. These projects will all require fenced-off construction areas, but fortunately they are each located on the edge of campus and will not affect traffic and circulation as much as other major projects like CLA.

How will these projects benefit the TU community (including faculty, staff, students, alumni and community members)?

The major benefit and purpose of most of our projects is to provide the additional space and resources necessary for our growth.  Our campus population has grown by 25% over the last several years and we need the additional academic space, housing, dining, and parking to accommodate it.  We are also advancing the campus master plan to create a more beautiful, efficient, and pedestrian-oriented campus.  We are creating state-of-the-art buildings in which our faculty, staff and students can work, live, and learn.  We recognize how disruptive construction can be to campus life, but hopefully the results are well worth it.

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Parking Services Gears up for Virtual Permits

Beginning this summer, cars on TU’s campus will no longer bear the trademark hang tags that dangle from the rearview mirrors of student, faculty and staff vehicles.  That’s because Parking and Transportation Services is implementing virtual parking permits for the 2011-2012 academic year.

Under the new program, permit holders will no longer receive tangible parking permits to place in their cars. Instead, individuals will use the Parking website to register the license plate numbers of any vehicles that they bring to campus. According to Parking & Transportation Services Director Pam Mooney, the new system allows permit holders to avoid the hassle of transferring a parking permit between cars.

“It’s a lot easier for permit holders because they aren’t going to get a ticket for forgetting to put their permit on the mirror,” Pam said. “As long as they’ve got the car registered in the system, they’re good to go.”

Pam says the great thing about the program is its versatility. Drivers no longer have to pay for visitor passes when they bring rental cars to campus—they simply have to register it online or call the Parking & Transportation Services Office, who can register it for them over the phone. But don’t think that multiple vehicle registrations means the ability to have multiple cars on campus at one time—enforcement under the new system is tighter than ever.

The virtual permits work hand-in-hand with license plate recognition (LPR) devices that enforce parking regulations. The devices are mounted on parking enforcement vehicles and used to scan license plate numbers as the vehicles drive through campus parking lots and garages. The scanned license plate numbers are cross-checked with the parking database to determine if each vehicle is associated with a valid permit for the parking area that it’s in. If the vehicle does not have a permit or is not in the proper location, the system signals the enforcement officer, who writes a ticket. If there are two vehicles located on campus for one permit holder, the system will signal the enforcement officer, who will cite both vehicles and tow at least one of them.

“Enforcement is way quicker and much more accurate with the LPR,” Pam said. “Right now it takes between three and four hours for an enforcement officer to check a garage on foot. Once we have LPR, it’ll be about an hour to an hour and a half. Better enforcement means better parking availability for paid permit holders.”

In addition to being easier to enforce, the virtual enforcement system reduces printing and mailing costs associated with the permits. In the past, Parking & Transportation Services printed approximately 20,000 permits per year and mailed between 10,000 and 12,000 of those. Though there will still be some printed permits for vendors and TU vehicles, Pam estimates that the printing and mailing costs of permits will be reduced from about $25,000 a year to less than $2,500.

The buying process for the virtual parking permits will remain the same for faculty and staff, however students will now be able to purchase permits as early as May and use their Bursar’s Account for the purchase.

“The goal is to make parking more convenient for permit holders and more efficient for the university,” Pam said.  “That’s the crux of everything we do.”

For more information on campus parking initiatives, go to http://www.towson.edu/parking.

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Did You Know…

The composting program in Newell Dining Hall is removing nearly 8,000 pounds of food waste from the landfill each month. The program, done in conjunction with Waste Neutral, enables unwanted food to be picked up from campus, composted and returned to campus as gardening material. The process reduces the waste stream and saves costs associated with landfill tipping fees.

Today is Earth Day. Stay tuned to next week’s blog for a recap of Earth Week events!

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TU Branded App Available for Download this Summer

Coming to Towson University? There’s an app for that—or there will be very soon, compliments of a new partnership between the university and Blackboard Mobile Central. The subdivision of the campus learning management system develops mobile-ready applications that give users quick access to campus resources such as maps, directories, and news. According to Director of Information Technology Support Centers Matt Wynd, this type of TU-branded app has been a long-requested product on campus.

Matt says that the university’s desire for a mobile presence extends almost as far back as the development of mobile devices themselves. Recognizing that there was a need for the campus community to access just-in-time information like a phone number or the location of guest parking, in November 2005 OTS began working to reformat common resources into a mobile-ready web format. They started with the campus directory but the project was time-consuming, and they were barely able to finish before the iPhone was released and the industry trend changed from mobile-ready

A look at the branded Blackboard Mobile app for Duke University. Towson’s app will have a similar structure.

websites to dedicated applications or “apps.” OTS began exploring the university’s options for developing such an app, but the market was still new, and many apps were only compatible with a single platform or device.

That single-platform approach changed when Blackboard came out with Mobile Central, a product that allows universities to place key resources and information into a branded app that’s accessible across multiple mobile platforms. Developed by students at Stanford and acquired by Blackboard in 2009, Blackboard Mobile is specifically geared toward higher education, with built-in hooks that allow customers to launch the app’s various components much faster than a typical development cycle. Though not fully compatible with all mobile devices, various components of the app are compatible with the iPhone, iPod Touch, Android, BlackBerry and the mobile web—making the app accessible to a wide audience on campus.

“They’re multi-platform, so even when trends evolve, they will still be able to address a much larger community,” Matt said. “Blackboard is the first company to fully develop this type of solution for the higher ed community.”

Realizing that the product might be an ideal solution for the campus’s long-identified mobile resource needs, this fall Matt and Senior Blackboard Administrator Patricia Halstead set up Blackboard Mobile demonstrations with nearly 30 stakeholders across campus. The product immediately generated buzz, with a majority of attendees indicating that they not only wanted to purchase the product, but wanted to do so as soon as possible. At around the same time, Matt got a call from a Student Government Association (SGA) representative who heard about the demonstrations and wanted to express the SGA’s support for such a product. Momentum was building, and the university purchased Blackboard Mobile this January.

“There was a general consensus that this was the right time and the right company to get a mobile presence developed in a timely fashion,” Matt said. “They gave us a great way to move forward quickly, cost-effectively, and without the resources necessary to create something in-house.”

OTS is now in the process of building a team of campus stakeholders to guide the development of the app. The team will meet regularly to give Patricia, who is leading the product implementation, direction on which of the app’s 14 components should be launched first. Some components, like the map, directory and an athletics section showing game schedules and scores, are fairly straightforward and expected to be launched late this spring or early this summer. Other components that display campus news, events, and even course listings are more labor intensive and may take a while longer. The stakeholder group will work with OTS to weigh campus needs against development time to create a useful app that’s accessible for free download this summer. From there, Matt says the product will evolve and grow with the campus.

“It isn’t a situation where we decide what components we want and then are done forever,” Matt says. “We’ll keep refining and improving things as they go on.”

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University Store Launches New Customer Loyalty Program

For the first time in the University Store’s history, customers are being rewarded for their spending. In January, the store unveiled Tiger Rewards, a loyalty program aimed at keeping University Store customers coming back.

“I have a lot of shoes,” University Store Director, Stacy Elofir said. “I was at Famous Footwear and noticed they have a rewards program; pretty much every store now has something. I thought, ‘why not us?”

The program is very simple: customers who want to become loyalty members create profiles on the University Store website. Then they log into their profile and use their phone number to sign up for the loyalty program.

“Doing it online just makes everything easier, and makes it possible to be a loyalty member from anywhere…We could have members in California,” Stacy said.

Once a customer is signed up, the rewards begin. Loyalty members receive 5% back on all purchases made at the store. Members earn one point for every dollar spent and every dollar received through textbook buybacks. Points are eligible to be redeemed toward University Store gift cards 30 days after the purchase in which they were earned (200 points = $10 gift card, 500 points = $25, 1000 points = $50 and 2000 points = $100). Best of all, the points and gift cards never expire and anyone can become a loyalty member.

“We wanted to make it as simple as possible,” Stacy said. “It’s available to anyone who would shop at the store, whether you’re a student, alum, faculty, staff member or just someone who likes Towson merchandise.”

The University Store is hoping the simplicity of the loyalty program will bring more customers to the store and keep university merchandise business on Towson’s campus. Stacy cited examples such as Arizona University, which had between a 5 and 10% increase in sales after the launch of a similar program. It’s too early to tell if the University Store will have the same success, but Stacy is optimistic.

“It’s been very successful so far — we’ve already had over 200,000 points accumulated by loyalty members,” said Stacy. “I think when you give back to your customers it will keep them coming back.”

For more information on Tiger Rewards, visit http://store.towson.edu.

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Tip of the Month: Using the Filter Feature in nVision

When you run multiple Excel nVision reports (like the DAT, DPR, DEN, or P), you’ve probably noticed the drop-down arrow next to the column heading on the transaction listing reports.  This arrow allows you to drill down your list of transactions by selecting only certain values of data, and it also enables you to do a quick sort of all of the data by the values in that column.  For example, since nVision brings back the latest list of transactions no matter what as-of date you select for the report, you can use the sorting feature to arrange all transactions by the date or journal date column. From there, you can delete any remaining rows that don’t correspond to the desired as-of date. Step-by-step instructions for using the filter and sort features are listed below.

To filter data:  

  1. Click the drop down arrow next to the column heading by which you wish to narrow your list.
  2. Uncheck the Select All box.
  3. Check the boxes next to the values you wish to display on your report. Make sure to uncheck any boxes next to values that you do not want displayed. Click OK. The spreadsheet will now only show rows containing the value/s you selected.
  4. If you like, you can further refine the data by adding filters to additional columns (for example, if you filter Source = PCD (pcard) and Period = 6 (December), the report will list all Visa procurement card transactions for December).
  5. To bring back the original set of transactions, simply click the drop down arrow again and check Select all.

To sort data using the filter arrow:

  1. Click the drop-down arrow next to the column heading by which you want to sort your data.
  2. Select Sort A to Z to have your data sorted in ascending order or select Sort Z to A for descending order.
  3. Click Ok. Rows of data will now be sorted as selected.

For questions about filtering nVision reports, please contact the PeopleSoft Financials team at 410-704-5599, option 2 or psteam@towson.edu.

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Bathroom Renovation Project Saves Energy

This winter, the University Union restrooms received a much-needed facelift that resulted in improved aesthetics and increased energy efficiency. The restrooms now use approximately 80% less lighting energy than before the renovation.

All six of the Union restrooms were renovated this January and February as a result of a scheduled building update. The restrooms—some of the busiest on campus—hadn’t been renovated in more than a decade, and the countertops, ceilings, and fixtures were showing signs of wear. Project Manager Jonathan Lindhorst was assigned to oversee the project and bring the restrooms up to current standards. He quickly realized that the project presented a great opportunity for energy reduction.

“I met with [Associate Vice President for Auxiliary Services] Joe Oster and took a look at some of the building systems to see what needed updating,” Jonathan said. “The original scope of the project didn’t call for lighting, but it was obvious to both of us that the lighting was in need of improvement. I immediately thought that this was a great opportunity for reducing energy.”

Jonathan approached Energy Manager Steve Kolb, who used industry lighting standards to develop photometric calculation drawings which laid out the appropriate lighting fixture type and placement for the restrooms. The new RT5 lights require fewer watts and contain less mercury while producing more output, resulting in a space that’s filled with white light as opposed to direct yellow light, which results in glare. Jonathan said the new lighting alone significantly changed the appearance of the restrooms.

“Lighting itself makes the single most important aesthetic difference in these spaces,” Jonathan said.

In addition to upgraded lighting, the restrooms now contain energy-efficient Dyson hand dryers, new silestone counter tops made from recycled materials, low-flow faucets, and dual-technology occupancy sensors that run off of noise, motion and heat. According to Steve, the best thing about these upgrades is that they improve the functionality for occupants.

“Many of these features are saving the university money, reducing our energy intake, and increasing the air quality, but even better is that they’re doing those things while improving convenience and aesthetics,” Steve said. “The Dyson hand dryers work much faster than older, less efficient models, and occupancy sensors are programmed in a way that when working properly, occupants will never see darkness – the minute their hand touches the bathroom door, the lights are already on.”

The project achieved an 80% reduction in lighting energy in each bathroom, resulting in financial savings of $3,600 a year. The lighting component of the project has a payback period of approximately two and a half years, and even better, Joe says he’s happy with the results.

“It was a nice upgrade to some of the most high-traffic restrooms on campus,” Joe said. “We did what we could within the budget and were able to clean them up and remove the eyesores. The lighting in particular is very nice.”

For more information on campus green initiatives, go to www.towson.edu/gogreen. For more information on campus construction, go to www.towson.edu/construction.

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