This past Monday was supposed to be Dr. Kim Schatzel’s first day in the office as Towson University’s new president. Then snow happened — the type of winter storm she was undoubtedly accustomed to in Michigan, but probably wasn’t expecting some 500 miles away here in Maryland.
In hindsight, it was just as well, since Schatzel isn’t much of a “sitting in the office” type of person anyway.
“I plan to walk around a lot and listen a lot,” the 59-year-old New York native said last week when asked what she plans to do first. “Now that I’m here, I’ll get to meet and talk to people, eat dinner on campus, and ask a lot of questions. I’m pretty externally oriented.”
So earlier this week, as 30 inches of snow blanketed Towson and the region, Schatzel was out and about, assessing conditions firsthand, talking with maintenance crews and TU police, and conferring with her top staff about when it would be safe to allow students to move in and start classes.
For Schatzel and her team, it was all about putting student safety first. Chat with Schatzel for a few minutes and you’ll sense immediately that the “student experience” is her top priority.
Towson University is Schatzel’s first gig as a permanent university president. Previously she had served as interim president at Eastern Michigan University (EMU) since last July, and as provost and executive vice president of academic and student affairs since 2012.
Prior to joining EMU, Schatzel held several positions in the College of Business at the University of Michigan-Dearborn from 2000 to 2012, rising to interim dean in 2007 and dean in 2008. Before transitioning to her higher ed career, Schatzel was an entrepreneur and business person, serving as founding president and chief operating officer, and later as CEO, of a multinational firm that employed more than 1,500 people on four continents.
Throughout her professional career, Schatzel has always been a big believer in the “power and positive impact” of public higher education, which she knows “can be transformational for people.” That belief – combined with Towson’s commitment to academic excellence, support for faculty research, research opportunities for students and engagement in the community – is what first brought Schatzel to TU last November after she was contacted about the opening.
A few weeks later, Schatzel was appointed as Towson’s 14th president and, after a brief visit to campus in December, was ready to hit the ground running this past Monday. Of course, that was all before “Jonas” arrived last weekend.
Fortunately for her, Schatzel actually arrived in Towson last Thursday afternoon following an eight-and-a-half hour drive from Michigan. She was on campus in time to catch the men’s basketball game at SECU Arena and meet “Doc” for the first time. She later displayed a photo commemorating that special moment on her personal Twitter account.
Yes, Tiger Nation, our new president is quite active on social media!
That desire to connect and communicate is a big part of who she is. In fact, Schatzel is a bit of a modern day renaissance woman. In addition to her business acumen and higher education experience, “I’m also a really good cook,” Schatzel said proudly. “I make a ‘to die for’ pot roast. And I like to fix things.”
To relax, Schatzel practices yoga and enjoys running.
“Our campus is a really nice atmosphere for running,” Schatzel said. “I like to run in charity 5K’s. I’m already signed up to run in a St. Patrick’s Day 5K this March, so I guess I’ll need to start training! And I like to listen to music when I run.”
What’s on the iPod?
“Lady Gaga, jazz, and old Beatles.”
Schatzel is an early riser, awake by five every morning to catch up on emails and social media while enjoying her coffee. She is more likely to respond to emails during the first hour of the day than at night, preferring that her staff spend evening time at home with their families rather than respond to emails from the boss.
For now, and for most of the spring semester, Schatzel and her husband will call the Towson University Marriott home, until they’re able to settle into a house of their own in a community close to campus. She is especially eager to experience the many great things Towson and the greater Baltimore area have to offer, including that St. Patrick’s Day 5K.
After all, she always intended to hit the ground running.