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Towson U’s new president needs to manage growth, diversity

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John Lee
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So, if you want to draw a crowd on a college campus, offer up free ice cream. Earlier this week, dozens of students lined up at the ice cream truck parked outside the Towson University Union It was one of the inauguration week events for University President Kim Schatzel. She was out there working the crowd and posing for selfies.

Schatzel will be inaugurated Friday as Towson University’s 14th president. She takes over as the university is seeing record growth and hearing from students who complain of racism and intolerance on campus.

Schatzel was appointed the president of the university in December and has been on campus since January.

Towson may have started as a teacher’s college, but Schatzel wants you to know it’s more than that now. It is the second largest public university in the state, and its biggest provider of health care professionals.

"There’s about 30,000 unfilled jobs within the state so our programs are providing a supply of students, graduates in those demand jobs," Schatzel said.

To give you an example of how much the university has grown, and is growing, Schatzel points to a new science building that is to open in 2020. It will replace one that dates back to the 1960s, when the university had about 3,800 students total. Today Towson has 3,800 students in science, technology and math majors alone. Schatzel says the university now has almost 23,000 students, and this year enrolled its largest freshman class.

"This year we have the largest enrollment we’ve had in eight years so Towson is really hot," she says.

Maybe not so hot though, if you live nearby. Only about a quarter of Towson’s students live on campus. Many of the rest live in the surrounding neighborhoods, creating the classic college town complaints of partying students raising a late night ruckus.

Taylor James, a senior and president of the Student Government Association, says students need to be schooled on how to behave and Towson residents should be happy about what the university offers; fine arts and ringing cash registers at local businesses.

"Students up late at night or the football games aren’t always as fun," she said. "But look at ways like how do we do this together, how do we make this something that is enjoyable for everyone here."

Schatzel says Towson plans to have 40 percent of its students in university housing within 10 years. The university’s master plan projects enrollment growth to 25,000 students in 2029.

While Schatzel was talking to students outside the University Union, the group Not at TU was inside spreading the word about its opposition to hate, bias and discrimination on campus. Tope Olunuga, a senior, says he can feel it.

"Just visual, you walk in to get food and you’re like, oh no. Honestly it seems small but it’s a very big concern," he said.

Last fall, two dozen black students brought to interim President Timothy Chandler a list of demands, including more minority faculty members and a zero tolerance policy on racial epithets.

Schatzel says Towson will soon have a vice president of inclusion and institutional equity who will report directly to her.

"We are looking at a relentless pursuit of a thriving, inclusive campus, and feel it is a prerequisite for a quality education," she said.

Schatzel spent two decades in business before becoming an educator. And she was interim president at Eastern Michigan University before coming to Towson.

State Senator Jim Brochin, who represents Towson, says Schatzel brings a real world, 21st century dynamic to the job, which, "whether people like it or not has to be included in colleges."

An important question for college students, he says, is "what are you going to do when you get out?" And Schatzel understands that, he says.

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