Meet a MAMBA: Jasmine Touton

Touton thumb.jpg

A Californian headed east for her education, and never went back. Now, this writer-turned-design-thinker loves Baltimore so much, she started her own neighborhood-based blog that chronicles "a journey of discovery" where people "dodge drunks, watch out for flying orange crushes, and know that Natty Boh is always winking down on you."


Where are you from?

Originally, I'm from San Luis Obispo, California


What degree(s) do you hold and from what college(s)?

I hold a Journalism degree from American University in Washington, D.C.


When did you arrive to Baltimore?

That's complicated. I lived here briefly for a year after college (2008-2009) and then moved back to Washington, D.C. I moved back to Baltimore in 2011.


Of all the neighborhoods in Baltimore, what drew you to Canton?

Proximity to the water was probably my main draw. Other neighborhoods like Federal Hill have that, but seem too crowded. Also, while you definitely cannot get here very easily without a car, once you're in Canton for the weekend, you can leave your car parked and walk everywhere. I love that I can stroll to a coffee shop, go spend the afternoon in the park, and visit friends that are a few blocks away.


What inspired you to create and edit the "Stay Classy, Canton" blog?

I've always worked to some degree in social and digital media. I was working for a local consultancy at the time, running several blogs for the organization. I would always "talk neighborhood" with my colleague and friend who also lives in Canton. We began to realize that there were a lot of odd things and fun events going on in Canton that no one ever knew about. We thought about it and decided there was no reason we couldn't be the ones to solve that problem.


When did the blog launch?

August 2012...we're heading into two years live!


Has anything surprising or interesting come out of managing your own blog on the topic of Canton?

I don't know if it is surprising, but I think what is wonderful about the blog is how much more involved in my community I am now. We also use the blog as a vehicle to encourage others to get more involved in the community. Now that we have over 4000 followers on Facebook alone, community leaders and business owners often reach out to us because they just want to talk, get our opinions on Canton, and get to know what our purpose is. Those new connections help me feel a lot more grounded in my community, and are particularly important to me as a transplant from across the country. 


What surprises you the most and what distresses you the most about Baltimore?

Most surprising about Baltimore is how friendly and helpful neighbors really are, especially if you take the time to get to know them. We watch every day as people reunite lost pets with their owners, hold fundraisers for local charities, or simply give their neighbors a good recommendation. 

What distresses me most is probably the enormous income disparity, particularly between the well-defined neighborhoods in Baltimore and the resulting misunderstandings. Our neighborhoods can be these wonderful, useful networks we take pride in, but I wish all city residents would remember they don't live in a silo from the rest of Baltimore.


What's your 9-5 job?

I used to be a digital/social media and communications consultant. Right now, I am helping define the media and marketing strategy of a medical/tech start-up: Quantified Care.


What from your professional and/or educational life seemed missing that you started to consider graduate education?

I wouldn't say anything was missing, per se, save for a few business managing and design techniques I didn't learn in my undergrad education. More so, I saw an opportunity to build up my experience and skills in a unique way. I've always been the de facto connector between a creative team of individuals, and the business management/account management teams. Finding a program to help me define myself further in that role was important to me. 


What sold you on the Hopkins-MICA MBA/MA program?

I think it was the opportunity for two degrees and the access to two world-class institutions (and all the resources that come with them). I also really liked that all of the curriculum was loosely based on the concept of Design Thinking. 


So far, what aspects of it have you found most rewarding and most challenging?

It's been most rewarding to meet a group of twelve other like-minded individuals from different backgrounds and learn from the skills they have to bring to the table. It's been most challenging to deal with the fact that we are still only the second cohort to go through this program, and there definitely are some kinks to still work out.


What's your definition of "design leadership"?  Describe how the Hopkins and MICA components of the curriculum interact/complement one another:

Design Leadership is the commingling of modern management techniques with the perspective and empathy that a designer typically brings to a challenge. As Hopkins and MICA students, we attempt to marry the soft and hard skills that design thinkers employ with the business dilemmas we are presented with at JHU. As program participants, its up to us to take on the design leader role as we work with students from different backgrounds at JHU. 


Where do you see your career going once armed with this education?

I'm enjoying the start-up world right now, so I may stay within it in the hopes of managing a team of creative individuals while bringing my digital marketing expertise to help develop a business. I'm also interested in working with a creative consultancy that employs the techniques of design thinking or working with a larger company in the role of product innovator. 


Describe your perfect Baltimore weekend:

Wake up. Run with my dog through Patterson Park. Stroll down to the local coffee shop and grab a Chai. Meet at a friend's backyard or roof deck and grill. Go to Rash Field in Federal Hill to play some sand volleyball. Head to a free, outdoor concerts, and share a picnic with my friends and neighbors. 

Mr. Boh, the iconic logo of National Bohemian Beer high atop the former National Brewery, keeps an "eye" on Canton (foreground), the Inner Harbor (middle ground), and downtown Baltimore (background).

Mr. Boh, the iconic logo of National Bohemian Beer high atop the former National Brewery, keeps an "eye" on Canton (foreground), the Inner Harbor (middle ground), and downtown Baltimore (background).