Innovative gamification project teaches team leadership

When COVID-19 forced Towson University to turn to remote teaching, Mariana Lebrón, associate professor of leadership and management, encouraged her students in a YouTube video to think of the new learning space as a creative challenge.

“Since we last saw each other, things have changed quite dramatically,” said Lebrón in the video. “The theme for the rest of the semester will be re-imagining teams in our new virtual world. It will take the ability to think outside the box.”

Lebrón has implemented gamification projects into her recent curriculum. Not only do the projects teach students to work in a team, the final products will help organizations and companies strengthen teams in the workplace.

“With the changing multigenerational workforce, gamification is growing as a unique leadership strategy to engage employees more effectively in recruitment, training, and retention,” said Lebrón.

Lebrón designed the project with the help of Rebekah Swab, assistant professor of management, and industry partner Ryan Bruns, a board game executive, to represent key characteristics of effective teams in common board game elements.

Last fall, Lebrón had just 12 students involved in the project. This spring, she has 70. But the recent challenges posed by social distancing measures have not discouraged the 16 teams from making games. In fact, the circumstances forced the students to create inside a unique modality, and they rose to the occasion.

One of the teams from the Spring 2020 term created a game titled “Treasures of Carias,” in which four archaeologists search for ancient Greek artifacts. It involves the use of unique software to create a virtual playing platform.

“I have a background in e-sports and `tech, so when COVID-19 posed a challenge, I stepped up to transition the game from physical to virtual,” says Joshua Finkelstein, a business management student graduating this year, and “Treasures of Carias” co-creator.

“One of the biggest challenges for everyone on my team was getting from the conceptualization stage to implementation,” he says.

Many of the students’ games facilitate team building by creating roles for the players, in which each has a certain part to play to progress to different stages. Others, like “Emergency Landing,” require participants to communicate actively in order to escape the secluded island.

“The game reflects the way our team worked together to create the final product. It required honesty and feedback, and it would not be the same without all five of us working on it,” says Taylor Sigur, a business administration major with concentrations in leadership and management, and who is graduating fall 2020.

“Creating this game taught me valuable lessons about myself,” says Sigur, who helped design “Emergency Landing.” “I realized that I have qualities of a leader, and team members value my opinions and feedback.”

Additional contributors include students in the business administration/management and leadership major who co-created:

“Treasures of Carias:” Giovanna Barbaro, Julia Atayi, Brian McKenna, Anthony Vendettim

“Emergency Landing:” Thomas Vondersmith, James Pine, Payal Patel, and Victor Batista.



by Jenna Harrity ‘20

Five students earn scholarship awards at Sales Competition

For six years, the Strategic Sales Competition has provided students an opportunity to gain valuable sales experience and the chance to network with local sales professionals from top companies. This year, though taking a new virtual format, proved no different.

Five students won scholarship money in the sixth annual Strategic Sales Competition on Friday, Oct. 23.

Three of the student winners, Charlie Gilbert, Anya Lacey, and Brady Bayles, will represent TU at the National Shore Sales Competition in March. The other scholarship winners were Michael Carter and Lauren Fluck.

Prior to this year’s competition, contestants received product information to prepare for a 20-minute, one-on-one sales meeting with a potential “buyer.” The contestants present the “need” for the product, propose a solution to the buyer’s need, address the buyer’s concerns, and potentially make a sale. The meeting is recorded and streamed to several judges who score each student’s execution of the stages of sales process.

This year, all 24 judges and six “buyers” were sales managers and recruiters from 14 companies in the area, including McCormick, Stanley Black and Decker, and Sherwin Williams.

“The feedback from the sales professionals in attendance was very positive,” says Plamen Peev, associate professor of marketing. “According to them, the virtual format of this year’s competition reflects the current realities their companies face and may well be a big part of the future of the sales profession going forward.”

by Jenna Harrity ‘20

CBE management professor and students are recognized state-wide

CBE professor of management, Joseph Zuccaro and over 130 CBE students are being recognized state-wide by the Regional Manufacturing Institute (RMI) for one of two “People’s Choice Awards” as “Champions of Maryland Manufacturing.”

RMI awarded both Zuccaro and the students in his management and leadership principles course for their research in Maryland manufacturing, surpassing 17 other organizations nominated. The recognized project required students to work in teams to study and interview various manufacturing companies.

“The purpose of this project is to learn about the individual companies and manufacturing in the state, but secondary objectives include learning to use the business resources in Cook Library, navigating LinkedIn, and networking,” Zuccaro says.

Zucarro’s course gave students the opportunity to learn more about the local manufacturing industry as well as network with RMI members who lead various Maryland manufacturing companies.

RMI says recognizing “Champions of Maryland Manufacturing” is a key part of the group’s image campaign to put a face on the next generation of manufacturing.

As a part of the integrative program, management and leadership principles students analyzed manufacturing companies from sectors prevalent in Maryland, including chemical & petroleum, electronics, fabricated metal, food &
beverage, leather products, machinery, nonmetallic minerals, paper & packaging, plastics & rubber, primary & metal, printing, textiles & apparel, and transportation.

The hands-on program was designed to benefit both the manufacturing ecosystem and the aspiring business leaders, says Zuccaro.

“Since a majority of TU students are from Maryland and remain in the state upon graduation, it benefits them to know about the major industries present in the state and the career opportunities they offer,” Zuccaro says.

“It also makes sense to promote these industries and make employers aware of the local, motivated talent available for their workforce.”

In addition, Zuccaro’s course enabled the students to ask industry professionals how they handle a variety of relevant issues including COVID-19, technology, and diversity. Students are learning how to navigate virtual networking, which is an increasingly essential skill.

“Students are working hard to use virtual networking tools like LinkedIn to identify managers at the selected companies,” Zucarro says. “It can be very challenging to get through to people, especially during the pandemic”

RMI says Zucarro is changing the next generation of business leaders. Students in Zuccaro’s class will take away a broad understanding of the importance of manufacturing to both the State of Maryland as well as the nation, while planting a seed that a manufacturing career can be rewarding in many ways.

by Jenna Harrity ‘20

11 Questions with Patrick St. Clair ‘16

Council Chair, CBE’s Young Alumni Advisory Council

Learn more about CBE’s Young Alumni Advisory Council and their popular Skills to Pay the Bills workshops from Patrick St. Clair, Council Chair of YAAC

Q: What is the role of CBE’s Young Alumni Advisory Council?

A: The Young Alumni Advisory Council strives to use our unique perspective as recent graduates to help the college teach and grow the next generation of business leaders. We also recognize that the connections we make in college don’t end at graduation and work grow a sense of community within CBE alumni and create opportunities for them to engage with their college.

Q: Who is a “young alumni” and how can they get involved with YAAC?

A: A “Young Alumni” is anyone who has graduated within the last 10 years from the CBE. For those who are interested in our group or in getting involved with the college in other ways. I encourage you to reach out to the Council at or to Lisa Michocki at

Q: How did you first get involved with YAAC?

A: I was fortunate enough to be one of the original members of YAAC when it was founded in 2016 and chosen to be its chair in 2017. As someone who was involved with the college as a student and remained connected as an alumni through mentoring students and guest speaking to classes, I was excited to give back to the community that had given me so much.

Q: What are your future plans for YAAC?

A: These past 5 years have been a learning experience for everyone. This group is a first of its kind not just for the CBE but for the University as a whole. And for many of its members, it is their first experience being on an advisory board. It’s been my priority to discover how a group of passionate young alumni can best impact the college, finding success in consulting on some of the CBE’s newest endeavors and planning events for both students and alumni. Looking to the future I’m focused on growing awareness of the group and recruiting the next generation of young alumni to take the council far into the future.

Q: Can you tell us more about the Skills to Pay the Bills workshop series?

A: Skills to Pay the Bills has been an annual event put on by YAAC since 2019. The event puts business leaders in front of students to facilitate interactive workshops teaching the soft skill that they think is most impactful to growth.

Q: What student needs do Skills to Pay the Bills workshops aim to fill?

A: The event aims to accomplish three things. 1.) Show students how paramount these skills are to their personal and professional growth. 2) Provide opportunities for students to work on these skills with their peers and industry leaders. 3) Provide resources for students to continue growing those skills after the event ends.

Q: What has been the most popular topic among students?

A: The Topic of Communication has been covered from many angles and is always a highly attended workshop. Some of the past communication workshops have included the power of word choice, how to de-escalate conflict, and how to communicate effectively with those you report to.

Q: What kind of feedback have you received from students who have attended a workshop?

A: Each year when students actually show up, actively participate, and stick around after the event to speak to presenters and YAAC members I am reassured this is a topic that students agree is important. The times that we have missed the mark is when we didn’t make the content engaging. With so many events for students to choose from, those that succeed provide more than a power point and free pizza, and that has been our goal since the beginning and remains our goal today.

Q: How have the workshops evolved since they started?

A: Our first year the workshops were led by members of YAAC and the Advisory Board, after seeing the success from that first year we have worked to grow its impact by bringing in the best and brightest from the Baltimore community to speak to students on what topics they feel are the most crucial for their personal and professional success. We also work to understand what the most relevant skills are for the current workplace. This year the workshops revolve around succeeding in a virtual setting and how to have your opinion heard as policies and changes are being made.

Q: What changes have you made to the workshop with the move to virtual job recruitment?

A: Obviously the event will not be in person this year and will held over Zoom. Our challenge is to not let that impact our ability to engage students. We have worked to find relevant topics to today’s challenges including a workshop all about how to start your career (or internship) virtually. Additionally we want students to realize that it wasn’t just students that were forced to move to virtual but professionals as well. So the event will be set up just like the trainings that many of us professionals now participate in to further our own education.

Q: What other resources are available to students through YAAC?

A: Every member of YAAC joined because they have a passion for the CBE and the students within it. And while we are usually working to create programs and events for the student population as a whole we also have a passion for having an individual impact through mentorship and leveraging our networks to open up opportunities. Students looking to connect can learn more about the members on the CBE’s website and can find all of us on LinkedIn!

by Elizabeth Bailey

Largest TU alumni gift has wide-ranging benefit.

Towson University alumnus Fran Soistman Jr. ’79 has been a proud Tiger for more than 40 years. In 2015 he received an honorary doctorate degree from TU that read, in part, “He approaches complex issues with the university’s best interests at heart—unfailingly thoughtful, inclusive and focused on the ultimate goal.”

With a recent $5.4 million gift—the largest from an alumnus/a in TU history— Soistman, a nationally recognized expert and top executive in the health care management sector, has continued to demonstrate his boundless affection for his alma mater. His first gift to TU in the late 1980s was followed by many additional contributions totaling more than $600,000 in support of projects and initiatives across the institution.

“Over the past 30 years, I have had the pleasure of establishing multiple endowments and supporting a number of important initiatives at TU. Given the university’s strong momentum and significant opportunities to advance its ambitious vision, I thought that it was the right time to make a substantial commitment to TU’s future,” he says. “I hope it inspires others to support the university. My goal is that a fellow alum will quickly follow my gift with an even larger gift.”

President Kim Schatzel thanked Soistman for his generosity.

“Dr. Soistman’s gift is a remarkable extension of his legacy of generosity towards his alma mater. With this gift, Fran will help ensure that the university continues to attract talented students and provides enhanced resources to faculty and staff to support outstanding world-class research, teaching, and student success,” President Kim Schatzel said. “His gift is historic, and Fran’s leadership over the years has been extraordinary. And this gift further demonstrates that — as the largest gift ever given to Towson University by an alum.”

Soistman is the Founder and President of Healthcare Management & Transformation Advisory Services LLC. He retired as CVS Health-Aetna’s executive vice president and president of government services in 2019 after serving as Executive Vice President at Coventry Health Care and President and CEO at HealthAmerica.

Throughout his career, Soistman has remained strongly connected to TU. He has served on the Towson University Board of Visitors (BOV) since 2002 and as chair from 2016-18. He also served as a director on the TU Foundation – one of his earliest volunteer roles with the university.

His $5.4 million gift to TU will benefit athletics, the College of Health Professions, the College of Business & Economics and programming to advance equity, diversity and inclusion.

A “healthy” gift for future leaders in healthcare and business

After spending most of his career in executive leadership positions in healthcare, it is appropriate that a portion of his gift will also support the construction of a new building for the College of Health Professions—a $173 million, 229,000 square foot home that will prepare students to become future health care leaders in Maryland and beyond.

“With the graying of America—the needs are only getting greater,” he says. “The pandemic pointed out our vulnerability as a nation and woke us up to the importance of health professionals as frontline and essential workers. Our CHP students have been scattered over a 2-mile radius for decades. It’s important that we bring them all under one roof.”

Soistman’s gift will also fully endow a wide range of scholarships in the College of Business & Economics, where he received his bachelor’s degree in accounting and finance, thus ensuring TU business students will reap the benefits of Soistman’s generosity annually.

“Business is the economic engine for Baltimore, the state of Maryland, and the entire region,” Soistman notes. “We produce many talented graduates. We need to continue to invest in this area.”

(from the Towson University newsroom)