The Johns Hopkins Gazette: October 25, 1999
October 25, 1999
VOL. 29, NO. 9


Graduate Division Earns Distinguished Service Award

IT capstone program given award for helping inner-city businesses

By Neil A. Grauer
School of Professional Studies

Johns Hopkins Gazette Online Edition

Providing valuable technical assistance to the smaller members of the Baltimore region's business community as well as its mega-firms has earned a distinguished service award of appreciation for SPSBE's Graduate Division of Business and Management's Information and Telecommunication's Capstone Program.

Baltimore Advisors, a nonprofit organization that offers business management services to small inner-city companies, bestowed its distinguished service award on Carol Keyser, director of the IT capstone program, and her department. Baltimore Advisors, an affiliate of the Boston-based Initiative for a Competitive Inner City, honored the IT program for the assistance its graduate students have provided to promising inner-city companies that have been identified by Baltimore Advisors as enterprises with potential for creating jobs in their neighborhoods and economic growth for the city.

In the capstone program, the final-year "thesis" for IT master's degree students involves obtaining hands-on experience by providing hundreds of thousands of dollars in technical assistance to area companies. Such major firms as AlliedSignal Technical Services, GE Information Systems and BGE have benefited from capstone program projects.

Keyser says that the IT program's "informal partnership" with Baltimore Advisors "is a win-win situation because the students get to work with inner-city businesses, and the businesses are able to use the services we do for them right away."

Since April 1997, the IT program's students have worked with eight inner-city companies, such as Reese Press, a printing firm whose automated business data base was created by Hopkins students.

Baltimore Advisors is a private-sector initiative whose primary purpose is to create jobs for inner-city residents by helping businesses in their neighborhoods grow and prosper. "Our philosophy is that inner-city businesses only become viable if they are genuinely profitable, without continuing subsidies," says Mary Page Michel, principal of Baltimore Advisors. "We help these businesses identify and tap their competitive advantages, then seek to integrate the urban economy with the regional and national economies."

"As a nonprofit consulting firm, we rely on corporate partners to assist our small staff, and Johns Hopkins University has played a key role in our success over the past five years," Michel says.

The clients that Baltimore Advisors have steered toward the capstone program "are all Baltimore City-based, growing companies that want to double their revenues in the next three to five years but have an information systems problem standing in their way," Michel explains.

"One of my client companies said that the work the students did would have cost the firm more than $35,000. In addition, it would have taken the company months to find the right firm to do the work that the students did.

"The students in the Hopkins program are technically superb, and they place a great deal of emphasis on ensuring that there is an exchange of information so that the client understands how to implement the recommended changes. This education of the key people in the company is what most consulting projects forget--and what makes the Hopkins program so effective and important for our companies," Michel says.

Award-winning Gaithersburg Web Site Was IT capstone project

A top prize for graphic design, editorial content and overall communications excellence has been awarded to the city of Gaithersburg's Web site, the enhancement of which was achieved through the work of information and technology graduate students in SPSBE's Graduate Division of Business and Management.

The 1999 APEX Grand Award to the Gaithersburg Web site was the only Nonprofit Small Office honoree out of 355 entries in the Web and intranet sites category of the APEX Awards competition sponsored by Communications Concepts, a Springfield, Va., firm that publishes Writing That Works magazine and provides services that seek to help publishing, public relations and marketing professionals to improve their publications and communications programs.

Gaithersburg developed its municipal Web site in the fall of 1996 and then used two groups of Hopkins IT capstone students to work on improving it as their spring/summer 1997 projects. Two more capstone teams helped enhance the site as their spring/summer 1998 projects.

The site's URL is