The Road to Towson University

Towson University Junior, Kelly Betts. (Photo by Kayla Gowan | TU Student)

Kelly Betts is a junior at Towson University. But the road to finding her place at Towson was a long and difficult one.

Watch Kelly’s story about finding her way to Towson University here:

Read more about Kelly’s journey here.


Why You Should Shop At MOM’s Organic Market

MOM’s Organic Market Employees (Photo by: Kayla Gowan/Towson University Student)

When you’re shopping for produce, you may wonder why the organic fruits and vegetables cost so much more. Just from the looks of them, they don’t appear to be any different than the regular fruits and veggies; but there’s actually a big difference. Shopping organic has a direct impact on your health and on the environment.

MOM’S Organic Market is a specialty, family-owned grocery store, located in Maryland, New Jersey, Virginia, Washington D.C. and Pennsylvania. Their main focus is to protect and preserve the environment.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, organic produce must be grown without synthetic pesticides, synthetic fertilizers or genetically modified organisms. Organic meat has to come from animals that were raised in a natural setting, didn’t receive any antibiotics or hormones, and were fed 100 percent organic feed.

MOM’s Organic Market only sells organic produce. MOM’s Organic Market doesn’t carry any products with artificial colors or preservatives, high fructose corn syrup, or meat or dairy with antibiotics or growth hormones. According to their website, when considering new items to sell, ingredients are closely reviewed. If the product can’t be verified as certified organic, MOM’s will not carry the product.

“I shop exclusively at MOM’s Organic Market. I love knowing that everything I buy at MOM’s will be free of harmful hormones and pesticides,” said Melissa Rust, 32, a frequent shopper at MOM’s. “Their mission is to protect and restore the environment and you can see evidence of this everywhere in the store. I like knowing that just by shopping with them, I’m helping to reduce pollution and preserve our environment as well.”

At MOM’s, there’s something for everyone with a selection of pasta, crackers, cereal and baked goods made in gluten-free facilities. Many of their products are also free of common allergens such as soy, dairy, and nuts.

“The thing that I really love about MOM’s is how much care we put into our produce and fresh foods. If the product doesn’t look perfect – we won’t sell it,” said Sean Finsterbusch, an employee at MOM’s Organic Market. “That’s why we like to say that you can ‘shop blindfolded’ at MOM’s and still be happy with what you go home with. We always make sure that the products we have on the floor are the best ones available.”

MOM’s commitment to green, sustainable living goes far beyond the plate. They support the wind and solar power industry. They use ultra-low watt LED lights, and motion sensor lights with dimming controls in their offices and restrooms help reduce consumption. MOM’S power down all unnecessary lights and equipment when not in use. They even offer an electronic car-charging station in their parking lots.

In 2005, MOM’s launched a comprehensive storewide effort to eliminate unnecessary plastic waste in every way possible. First, they eliminated plastic bags from all stores and introduced a bag credit for customers who use reusable bags. The next step was to ban bottled still water.

“I’ve been working at MOM’s for almost five years, and it’s because I find this company very admirable. Our commitment to preserving the environment is at the center of what we do,” said Andrew VonParis, an employee at MOM’s. “For example, we don’t sell plastic water bottles simply because our founder noticed how much plastic from them was going to landfills. Those water bottles made up five percent of our total profit, and he got rid of them anyway. It’s reasons like that I’m proud to work here.”

Buying organic is more than just pricier produce or shopping without pesticides. It’s a movement towards a healthier you, a more sustainable environment and a better future.

To learn more about MOM’s Organic Market, visit

USM Goes Wild at the Maryland Zoo

The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore hosted USM Goes Wild for the University System of Maryland on Thursday, April 27, 2017.

This event was designed for alumni, students and friends of University System of Maryland Institutions to be able to visit the Maryland Zoo after hours for $5 each.

“We created this event for students, alumni, family and friends to have a chance to connect with each other during a fun afternoon at the Maryland Zoo,” said Olivia Orth, Alumni Relations and Social Media Coordinator at Towson University. “We wanted to do something different while creating a memorable evening for everyone.”


Twelve institutions are connected through the University System of Maryland, including Bowie State University, Coppin State, Frostburg State, Towson University, Salisbury University, University of Baltimore and University of Maryland. Each university held an individual booth at the event where students could check in and receive name tags, t-shirts, and other gifts with their university logo.

“The first 50 students from each university got a free ‘USM Goes Wild’ t-shirt, and we had so many extras that we eventually offered them to all students,” said Zoe Sparer, Towson University student volunteer. “It was really fun to surprise the students with free shirts when they weren’t expecting them. Everyone was really grateful.”


The zoo offered discounted beer and burgers for students at $5 and free train and carousel rides to all USM students all evening.

“I was incredibly excited to get tickets to the USM Goes Wild event. I’ve been wanting to go to the zoo for a long time, but between tickets and food, it’s just too expensive on a college student budget,” said Malvika Parishaar, Towson University student. “It was an amazing opportunity to be able to visit the zoo with all my friends for under $20. I can’t wait for the next event.”


There Maryland Zoo offers many attractions, including Penguin Coast, the African penguin exhibit, which houses over 70 penguins, Polar Bear Watch, Maryland Wilderness featuring the Children’s Zoo, and the African Journey.

The Zoo’s animal collection encompasses more than 1,500 birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles, representing nearly 200 species.

“This was a unique experience for students and faculty to visit the zoo during its ‘after hours’,” said Alyssa King, a volunteer at the Maryland Zoo. “I find that the animals are more social as it gets later in the evening, so hopefully everyone was able to take advantage of seeing them awake and lively.”

The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

For more information on upcoming events at Towson University, visit


Matthew Nanasi, Coffee Master


By Kayla Gowan

Matthew Nanasi, 22, started as a barista at Starbucks in May 2016, quickly rose to a shift supervisor and is currently working toward his next title, coffee master.

Nanasi began as a patron of Starbucks, so he had a general understanding of the company. Each new barista at Starbucks learns about the company’s core product – from the history of coffee to the way coffee is roasted and prepared.

“There was an intense learning process, between becoming familiar with the different types of coffee and all of the lingo used at the store,” Nanasi said. “I got accustomed to it pretty quickly, but it was overwhelming to say the least. Each customer knows precisely what they want and you need to know how to make it, or else.”

After six months with the Starbucks company, Nanasi’s managers began noticing that he had a knack for coffee making. His interest in coffee and dedication to learning about the product made him an easy choice for his first promotion.

“There is so much work that goes into making the drinks, between grinding the coffee, preparing the drinks and selling them, you need to have a strong understanding and familiarity of the product,” Nanasi said. “I love being able to do something I enjoy while being immersed in the coffee culture and learning new things each day.”

According to the Starbucks Corporation, they are a company that focuses on promoting their “partners,” or employees. They are constantly looking for talent and making new challenges accessible to capable partners. Starbucks makes resources available to each partner about new information within the company and encourages them to take an interest in the corporate side.

When positions opened up for a shift supervisor in January of 2017, Nanasi was the first choice at his store. When hearing about the position, Nanasi approached his manager to inquire about being promoted, and she had already started his application. Nanasi was required to get a food manager safety certification, and then began his training as a shift supervisor.

“The training process was ‘sink or swim.’ We had a few practice shifts with me running the store operations, then I was on my own,” Nanasi said. “It was a big change because suddenly all the responsibility was on my shoulders. My main goal each night was to leave the store in a place where the next person would have a better day.”

Customer satisfaction has always been a priority for Nanasi. If a guest comes into the store for the first time, he will ask them questions to find out which roast would be best suited for them and tailors the drinks to their liking.

The next goal in Nanasi’s future is to become a “coffee master.” This is an official Starbucks role where partners study Starbucks core coffees, or coffees that are offered year round. The Coffee Master program acknowledges their knowledge and skill with the special designation of an embroidered black apron after they pass written and taste tests.

To become a certified coffee master, the partner must learn the origin and history of the Starbucks company and all core coffees. Then, they must sample each coffee and prepare a coffee tasting for a panel of professionals. With the coffee tasting, they must match a food item with the drink and serve them to the panel. If they pass the exam, they earn the black apron.

This special designation is to make partners and customers aware that this person knows all the essential functions of the Starbucks company and has detailed information on all types of coffee and food pairings.

“I’ve been looking forward to becoming a coffee master since my first day at Starbucks. It is the highest honor among partners and I’m excited to share my passion and knowledge of coffee with our guests,” Nanasi said. “This is the challenge that I’ve been waiting for and I can’t wait to show off my black apron.”

Spring in Bloom Early at Rawlings Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

By Kayla Gowan 

The Rawlings Conservatory and Botanical Gardens is one of Baltimore’s hidden gems.

Located in Druid Hill Park, this conservatory is home to hundreds of flowers and plants, ranging from orchids to desert cacti.

“We have over 75 volunteers year round,” said Cynthia Arnold, 43, a volunteer coordinator at the Rawlings Conservatory. “There’s always something in bloom, even during the winter. Tropical plants require a climate around 72 degrees and frequent rain. Desert plants require 90-plus degrees with little rainfall. This requires meticulous care provided by our volunteers.”

Originally established in 1888 as the Druid Hill Conservatory, the Howard P. Rawlings Conservatory has grown from the original Palm House and Orchid Room to include three greenhouses, two display pavilions and outdoor gardens. The Rawlings Conservatory is currently the second-oldest steel framed-and-glass building still in use in the United States.

The mission of the Rawlings Conservatory and Botanic Gardens is to foster an appreciation and understanding of plants from around the world. There is no charge for admission, but the conservatory recommends a $5 donation. The buildings create an appropriate environment for plants from tropical, desert, and Mediterranean environments.

“The conservatory offers a special event called ‘Plants and People’ every Sunday which is open to the public,” said Eric Schaper, 34, a volunteer tour guide at the Rawlings Conservatory. “The programs are led by master gardeners and offer an interactive opportunity for visitors to learn about gardening, plants and conservation.”

The Tropical Forest greenhouse displays the plants that originate in the tropics. Plants on display include parts of Africa, Asia, Australia and other tropical islands. Tropical plants receive 12 hours of light per day and direct light from the sun, so they requires rain, high humidity and consistently warm temperatures.

“I visit the botanical gardens about once per week,” said Amanda Scarborough, 20, a student studying illustration at the Maryland Institute College of Art. “The conservatory allows students to set up their easels and draw or photograph the plants, so I come here for most of my projects.”

The Desert greenhouse shows plants that can endure the harsh and windy conditions of the desert where temperatures can reach 125 degrees Fahrenheit and fall as low as 10 degrees at night. With little to no rainfall, desert plants must make special adaptations in order to survive.

The Mediterranean greenhouse replicates the dry summers and foggy winters of the Mediterranean basin. In the summer, when the land is warmer than the water, the moisture in the air immediately evaporates, creating a warm, dry season. This greenhouse showcases rosemary, bay trees and geraniums.

This spring, the Rawlings Conservatory will display their annual bulb show. This showcase features tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, desert plants and more. The show begins April 8 and runs until the April 23.

For more information, visit