We recently sat down with Lisa Plowfield, the new dean of the College of Health Professions at Towson University, to see how she was settling in on campus. Involved in higher education since 1993, she previously served as chancellor at Penn State-York, and has had stints as the College of Nursing dean at Florida State and as director of the University of Delaware’s School of Nursing.
Although it has just been a couple of weeks, how has your time been at Towson?
Each day has been extremely informative. I’ve been meeting a lot of people for the first time, and learning about Towson processes and the culture here. The students haven’t been on campus and that’s been a little bit difficult, because everything has been so quiet. But I’m enjoying the process of learning how I best fit in with the College of Health Professions, and how I can make further in-roads to do things that I feel are important in higher education for the benefit of our students and faculty.
Looking at issues of student success, looking at quality indicators of education, I’m really interested in undergraduate research. I’m looking for mechanisms for which our college can enhance our current education programs through student and faculty research. It’s an area of great need, and I’ve had great success working with undergraduate research in the past, so I’m really excited about seeing where that might go here at Towson.
Are you excited for the students to get back on campus?
I’m very excited for the students to get back. During the interview process I didn’t get a chance to meet with any of the students because I was here during the end of the semester. We’ve had two graduate assistants in the office, and I always enjoy talking to them and hearing about their programs and what they’re excited about. Students will lend greater authenticity to the Towson culture that I can’t pick up in other ways. Being new means reading a lot of documents, sifting through paperwork and going through a lot of questions. But there is only so much you can read, because you have to feel that vibrant student environment to feel the true essence of Towson University.
You’ve spent an extensive part of your career in higher education. Can you tell us more about your background?
Even though I’m in higher education, you never really stop being a nurse. I came from a blue-collar family where going to higher education wasn’t seen as valuable; having a job was seen as valuable. So I didn’t go to a university to begin with, I went to a two-year nursing program because that would give me a job in two years coming out of high school. But in my heart I always wanted to teach. So I became a nurse, but the only way you could teach nursing was if you had a doctorate. Well, I didn’t even have a bachelor’s. I had to go back to school, and after I worked a few years I had financial funding. I kept going on, and I happened to get into neurointensive care after a few years, and I absolutely love the neurotrama side of things. It was a phenomenal experience, but I still wanted to teach. I continued to go back to school, and specialized in trauma and critical care nursing at the University of Maryland at Baltimore. Then I went for my doctoral degree at the University of Virginia. And as much as I always enjoyed my time nursing, I had that passion to teach and that is what I chose to do.
What are you hoping to bring to the College of Health Professions?
I hope I bring some excitement for serving the students well, excitement for undergraduate research and finding ways to support faculty through that. I also think there needs to be more of a faculty work/life balance, I don’t think that’s stressed in higher education. When I was interviewed I could hear some faculty asking questions surrounding those areas, and I’ve had experience in wanting to retain faculty, especially good strong faculty, instead of moving on to other institutions. So I feel like I bring a seasoned approach to faculty work/life balance and making sure our faculty is here because they want to be here, they can be successful here and they can serve the students well. When you have all that going — strong faculty satisfaction and strong student satisfaction — you have a really exciting work environment and I like having that excitement on campus.
What would you like the Towson University students, staff and faculty to know about you?
There is always an open door, and there is someone who wants to listen and pay attention to what their needs are as I work to help grow the College of Health Professions.