By: Sam Shelton, Senior Editor
Towson University President Kim Schatzel believes in her team. Be that team an assembly line of workers, a conference room of administrators or a squad of players from her high school basketball days, she trusts the people around her and hopes they will succeed.
These days, that includes 23,000 recently-adopted students.
“It’s the people that you have to count on to get things done,” Schatzel said. “People have always been really important to me within organizations… I always feel that if you sit down and you have great people and everyone gets to talk, which we do, we’ll come up with a really good solution.”
Officially inaugurated as TU’s fourteenth president on Friday, Schatzel has been active around campus since she assumed the position in late January. During that time, she’s been conducting a university-wide listening tour about campus climate, looking for ways to improve Towson’s marketability and working toward making the University into a more inclusive and diverse community.
In her eight months in office, the businesswoman-turned-academic has focused on creating a vice president for inclusion and institutional equity position to oversee diversity initiatives around campus, starting an identity audit under communication strategy TU Matters to Maryland, which will analyze how the university is perceived, and bolstering Towson’s relationship with Greater Baltimore. Going forward, Schatzel said she will continue toward realizing those priorities among others, including building a “world-class Career Center.”
“It is time for Towson University to take a leadership role in examining and advancing what is now career education,” Schatzel said in her inaugural address.
Prior to coming to Towson, Schatzel grew up in northern New York City and later Rockland County, New York — where she became a Spring Valley Senior High Tiger — before finding her way to Washington University in St. Louis for college. From there, she got a job in the private sector and launched a career in business that culminated in entrepreneurial success with a multinational industrial firm.
In 2000, Schatzel began her career in higher education as an assistant marketing professor, and later dean of the College of Business and Economics, at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, before becoming provost at Eastern Michigan University in 2012.
Following the resignation of University President Susan Martin, Schatzel assumed the EMU interim presidency in July 2015.
“I’m not scared of anything,” Schatzel said. “The worst you can do is you make a mistake. You clean it up and you do it again… I have a phrase that, ‘Perfect is the enemy of good.’ Sometimes you wait until something is perfect and then by the time that happens, the moment is gone. The opportunity is gone. So, if it’s good enough, start, and we’ll figure it out as we go.”
During her TU inauguration, University System of Maryland Board of Regents Chair James Brady credited Schatzel’s success to insight and an abundance of energy, which he referred to as “necessary for leadership.”
“For those of you who have not run into her, I suggest you check your itinerary, because she has been everywhere,” Brady said.
And she’s been snapping selfies with eager students along the way. For the woman who often says her office in the Administration Building is too far away from the students of central campus, social media outlets like Twitter and Instagram help keep her connected.
“Pictures are just so easy to show a moment and communicate a feeling,” Schatzel said. “It’s a more informal way to talk.”
The fifth female president of Towson University, Schatzel said that she was pleasantly surprised to learn that she would not be the first woman to lead TU, a role she was accustomed to filling in the private sector.
During her first day at her first job out of college, working as a management trainee at a plant that made Ford Pintos, Schatzel’s boss told her that he thought it “unnatural” for a woman to do a job that ought to belong to a man with a family.
Schatzel’s inauguration comes almost four years to the day since the University’s last president, President Emerita Maravene Loeschke, was formally inaugurated on Sept. 14, 2012. If there’s one thing Schatzel hopes to inspire, in her female students especially, it’s confidence.
“Take risks and try things that take you out of your comfort zone,” Schatzel said. “It’ll make you stronger, and if people tell you that you can’t do something, double-down and do it. There’s a lot of people out there to support you.”
Outside of meetings and university politics, Schatzel enjoys cooking at home with husband Trevor Iles, who now fills dual roles of adjunct marketing professor and TU’s “first guy,” and doting on their three dogs, Max, Anson — both West Highland White Terriers, or Westies — and Annie, a Maltese, who are constantly decked out in TU gear.
Schatzel and Iles recently spent their 33rd wedding anniversary at the football team’s Sept. 10 home opener, where the Tigers won 35-28 over Saint Francis.
The win was a “big present” from the team, according to Schatzel.
Together, Schatzel and Iles have a daughter, Katie, a son, Matthew, and a daughter-in-law, also named Katie, who were present to see her formally accept the presidential medallion and ceremonial academic mace, artifacts that symbolize the president’s power.
The ceremony, introduced by Grand Marshal Victor Fisher, an associate anthropology professor, included words of greeting and congratulations from members of the university community and performances of “It Takes a Whole Village” and “Light of a Clear Blue Morning” by the University Chorale. Members of the TU marching and symphonic bands supplied processional pieces as students and local delegates filed in and out of SECU Arena.
Before Schatzel began her inaugural address, USM Chancellor and former TU President Robert Caret charged her with the responsibilities of growing the university and working toward the best for her students.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” he said. “It is my pleasure to again present to you Dr. Kim Schatzel, the fourteenth president of Towson University.”