‘We’re never done’: Schatzel talks equity, campus development, strategic plan in Q&A

By: Caitlyn Freeman, Editor in Chief and Stephanie Samsel, News Editor

As the first month of the fall 2022 semester comes to an end, The Towerlight sat down with President Kim Schatzel as she wraps up her sixth year of leadership to discuss her presidency and the campus overall.

Below are the transcribed questions and answers:

The Towerlight: Going into this semester, what are your top three goals for the overall campus and your strategic goals? 

Schatzel: So from strategy standpoint, in terms of advancing the university, we’re really focused on moving towards R2, which is a Carnegie Classification of high research. Friday, [..] we brought before the [University System of Maryland Board of Regents] a motion to change our mission to move from applied research to general research. That would also include being able to provide Ph.D. programs. And we started that conversation when we started the strategic plan to really take a look at the research enterprise of the institution.

We’re the second largest university in the state. We have an outstanding faculty as well as students. We already offer doctoral programs. So to be able to elevate that side of the institution was really just a real natural next step for us. It also aligns us with the new USM strategic plan, which highlights research. So now we’re aligned in terms of the USM, and we’ll be working that way.

The second is always to be able to open up campus and to be able to have the students come back and enjoy […] I’m having a good time getting around and getting able to see students more and more to be able to see them walk around campus and go to the union or to stop in at various places. I really enjoyed sporting events as well as fine arts performances. So that’s been a great source of joy for me is to be able to have everybody back to be able to do it and just get the campus that energy. I mean […] the energy levels [are] just up again.

And then we’re just preparing for the governor’s budget, which will be dropped in January. So we’re right now aligning in terms of of budgetary requirements that we have going forward to be able to do that which is pretty typical. So all those things are kind of typical for us to be able to work on, but those are the three most major things that that we’re doing right now.

The Towerlight: According to data TU released, the campus is expected to be majority-minority within the coming semesters. What are your thoughts on this and do you think you will need to adjust your leadership and strategic plan to address the changing student population? 

Schatzel: This has been a trajectory we’ve been on since the beginning of my presidency. When I started as president, I did a listening tour. And one of the things that I was told across the board was the fact that because of their demographic, their identity that there were students that didn’t feel welcome and felt that because of their identity or the demographic that they had barriers or obstacles they had to overcome in order to fully realize their potential that others didn’t. And that’s wrong. I mean, it’s just from morally as well as ethically; it’s just wrong for that to be able to happen.

[…] I made it a priority of mine. And when I became a president, we began the Office of Inclusion and Institutional Equity. We hired the first vice president of that office reporting to the president, which is was not typical and still is not typical. And it was the first one hired within the University System of Maryland. So that was the beginning point. And I always like to say that we’re never done. I mean, it’s a continuous process to be able to do that.

I feel really strongly, the fact that a diverse and inclusive campus is a requirement for a high-quality education. You can’t be in a classroom that’s not diverse and inclusive and feel like you’re getting the kind of excellent education that you want at a university level. So it’s important from that perspective. If our students graduate knowing how to thrive and support others to thrive inclusively, they’ll just be better prepared to lead in a majority-minority environment, in a global environment. So we’re preparing leaders of the future, I think, in a way that needs to be done.

And we have the responsibility to be able to ensure that we provide a teaching and learning environment where our students can realize their full potential. So, it’s very important to me personally, it’s very important to the campus. It’s also important to Maryland. Maryland is a majority-minority state, so our campus looks like the citizens of Maryland, and, as a state institution, we’re fulfilling our mission. And we’re just honored to do so and humbled to do so.

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The Towerlight: Recently, we marked a year since the on campus shooting, since then, there’s been a lot of concerns among students regarding the safety of campus. What has TU done to address these concerns?

Schatzel: So one of the things that we did is that we took a look at security, just physical security on the campus itself. And one of the things that we made the decision to do was to be able to limit access to the garages. The garages were fully open 24/7. And they were monitored, I’m not saying that they weren’t monitored, but the fact of the matter is that they were accessible.

So we made changes to the pattern of parking within the garages themselves so that it’s limited to members of our community, in terms of having access to be able to do that.

So that was one the second thing that we did was we partnered with Baltimore County and provided grants that we’ve continued to be able to have increased patrols within the core of Towson itself, and we plan to be able to continue doing that. So those are the two major things that we’ve done in that arena.

The Towerlight: Has the additional overnight BCoPD officers been effective in stopping on and off campus crime? 

Schatzel: I think it was important for us to be able to partner with the county versus not. So when we talked about ways that we could partner with them, this was a suggestion that came up, was to be able to do it. It’s Thursday, Friday and Saturday night[…] Where there, you know, there’s just more people out to be able to afford for them. There’s police shortages within the state too. I mean, when we’re talking about a lot of different shortages, we’re looking at law enforcement.

So we were asked to be able to have to step forward and be able to support it, we wanted to be able to do it. You know, we have very good relationships with the county. We have very good relationships with with Baltimore County Police. We wanted to step in to be able to do it, and it’s worked out well to be able to do that

The Towerlight: When this funding was announced, there was some outcry from students about their tuition dollars going towards increased funding for police, especially with Towson being a majority-minority campus. What is your reaction to this?

Schatzel: I always think the fact that, in terms of talking with the students and in terms of talking with it, you’ll really get mixed messages from that. On one side, there’s ‘we need to be able to have good law enforcement and good patrols.’ But in dealing with that, we have the fact that on this campus, in particular, community policing is the method that’s used, which is very, very different. So I think that [TUPD Chief Joe Herring], in terms of working with Baltimore County, has really struck the proper mode where we want to have community policing related to this.

And so the visibility of the police and the training that they receive, we spend a lot of time talking about and spending money in terms of strategies to de-escalate situations. So I think having that type of training and support of the law enforcement, both on the campus and off, is critical to make sure that we don’t have the concerns […] surface again.

The Towerlight: The campus is undergoing a lot of changes both physically and structurally, what project are you most excited about?

Schatzel: I have to say, right now, it’s the College of Health Professions. And the reason that I say that is really threefold.

First of all, it’s the first time in our history that we’re going to have instruction and research of that college under one roof. We’re the largest provider of health care professionals in the state of Maryland, and we don’t have a building right to be able to house that instruction, that research. Faculty that are in that area and researchers in that area will tell you the fact that interprofessional education is really important. As it stands right now, we don’t have the facilities to really support that at the quality level that we would want it to be. We do an outstanding job, and having that one building is really the thing that we’re looking to be able to do. So I’m really excited that will being able to provide that.

The other thing that’s going to be interesting about the building is the fact of where it is. […] It’s on the north side of campus. It’s really tall. So you can see it from Towson itself. We designed it to be tall. When we were designing the building, I wanted it to look more like a hospital to have that kind of visual look to it to be tall and and be a landmark to the campus, to Uptown, Towson. It’s also going to have entrances on the north side. So it will be our first building that doesn’t feel like the back of the building is facing the outside of campus. So the main entrance is going to face the north. So we’ll face Towson. There’ll be an entrance on the south side, but the main entrance will face outward, and it’ll be the first building that we have that really does it. The Union does that too, where it has the entrance facing that way but this will be the first academic building.

So it’s a really important academic building for us. In terms of students, and research and instruction. But it’s also important in terms of where it’s positioned and how we’ve positioned it itself. And it’s very much state of the art in terms of the simulation labs that are being placed in there. There’s a rooftop garden that will be a meditation garden as well. […] the building is an extraordinary contemporary design.

The Towerlight: What is one issue on campus that is really important to you and why? 

Schatzel: Mental health without a doubt […] We’ve done a lot in terms of being able to provide that support. We’ll continue to grow our resources to be able to support our students. And that’s one area that we can’t do enough. And I think there’s a realization about the impact, and the pandemic brought forward even more, but mental health on the campus […] is very much a priority for us.

Editors note 9/20/22: this story has been edited to amend grammatical errors within the transcription. The Towerlight regrets these errors.


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