TU seeks campus input with Diversity Task Force focus groups

By Sean Welsh on March 6, 2019

Fostering a diverse and inclusive campus is a priority at Towson University, and the strategic planning behind it involves input from students, faculty and staff.

Towson University President Kim Schatzel has outlined the diversity and inclusivity of TU's campus as one of her presidential priorities.

And in order to ensure that the strategic plan behind that priority lives up to its mission, a Diversity Task Force has developed campus-oriented focus groups this spring to garner feedback from TU students, faculty & staff to better inform the process.

The first of the focus groups gets underway in March.

“We want to hear your voice, your thoughts,” said Dr. Leah Cox, TU's Vice President for the Office of Inclusion & Institutional Equity, who is overseeing the Task Force. “We want to hear how you feel we can build the TU we will all be proud of, that will be inclusive, diverse and equitable.”

This academic year, TU welcomed it's most diverse freshman class ever — racial or ethnic minorities made up 46 percent of the incoming class in the fall.

Additionally, faculty, staff and students can all celebrate the university's zero minority achievement gap. At TU, the minority student population enjoys the same academic success as the entire campus population — both carry a 72 percent graduation rate.

But there is still work to be done.

The Task Force will host focus groups around education & scholarship, recruitment & retention of faculty, staff and students, as well as campus climate.

“All are designed to provide feedback to the people on the task force so we can come up with strategies to make improvements, so we are leaving the university in a better place than when we started,” said Task Force member Lisa Simmons, a lecturer in the College of Business and EconomicsBusiness Excellence Program. “We are helping everyone who comes behind us, so we can make sure campus is as inclusive as possible.”

Join in

Participate in an upcoming focus group

Focus groups are broken down by audience — students, faculty, staff — and by topic — Education & Scholarship, Recruitment, Retention and Campus Climate. Sign up for one today.

In addition to the focus groups, the Task Force “will be doing a lot of looking inward,” said member Tim Bibo, director of the university's Office of Institutional Research.

The Task Force will assess internal data and results of campus climate surveys, as well as external data and other universities’ best practices.

Task Force member Gilda Martinez-Alba, Assistant Dean for the College of Education, and TU's Provost Fellow for Diversity and Inclusion, said it is “an exciting time to be a part of this.”

“This is a year-long process we started at the beginning of last year,” Martinez-Alba said. “We get to interact with people all over campus who have been selected by this group.”

The focus groups are open to campus, as well, set up to be specific for different community groups to foster in-depth discussion.

Dr. Cox said the discussions will revolve around a variety of topics: “How do our students, faculty and staff experience the climate on campus? What’s needed to ensure this is a welcoming environment for all? How intentional are we in our recruitment and retention of our faculty, staff and students?”

And participants will help lead the conversation — which will help lead TU's strategy moving forward.

The goal is that this plan will be measurable, said Task Force member Felicity Knox, library associate in TU's Special Collections and ArchivesAnd we will be able to say, this is what we aspire to, and this is how we will get there.

And starting this week, you can join in by taking part in one of the upcoming focus groups.

This story is one of several related to President Kim Schatzel’s priorities for Towson University: Diverse and Inclusive Campus and Strategic Plan Alignment.