How Towson University Foundation grants create opportunities for students

April 3, 2019

Learn the back stories of four Towson University programs boosted by TU Foundation grants.

TU Foundation grants enable successful programs

At Towson University, dynamic work is being done every day by students, faculty and staff to not only enrich the academic experience, but also to improve the lives of those in our communities.

There are many ways TU can support world-changing initiatives, including through the Towson University Foundation.

Towson University Foundation, Inc. was established in 1970 as a non-profit 501(c)3 corporation, allowing donors to make tax-deductible contributions in support of TU scholarships and fellowships, faculty development, research, outreach projects, academic and other programs.

“The work being performed every day both on and off Towson University's campus by our students, faculty and staff is changing our communities for the better,” TU President Kim Schatzel said. “And that work is only elevated by the generous contributions from our donors through the TU Foundation. The momentum of our work and our community partnerships is growing stronger, galvanizing TU's efforts as an anchor institution in the Baltimore region.”

This year, the TU Foundation provided grant funding for four programs developed on campus.

For alum and donor Molly Shock '75, she saw an opportunity as immediate past president of the TU Foundation to use unrestricted donations to impactfully enhance what TU was offering students, faculty and the surrounding community.

“We felt we could do it and we should,” Shock said. “This was a way to make our presence felt a little more, in a meaningful way.”

The Foundation received 34 applications for funding and carefully evaluated the submissions using a rubric that was developed to assess specific outcomes and objectives for the various proposals.

“The projects were so interesting. It was not easy,” she said.

The Foundation was intentional about selecting programs that enhanced student learning and advanced TU's eight Presidential Priorities. Through this type of philanthropic effort, TU is able to enhance and expand programs, or initiate new endeavors that assist the university in achieving its mission as a first-choice, anchor institution.

Making public speaking easier

Tigers nervous about an upcoming speech or wondering how to give the most effective presentation now have a resource on campus: The Public Communications Center (PCC) at Towson University launched in July 2018 to help students overcome and understand challenges related to public speaking.

The PCC was awarded $25,000 through the inaugural 2019 TU Foundation Grant Awards. Jennifer Potter, associate professor and chair of communication studies, says the award will help the foundation make a broader impact on campus and in the community.

“The PCC offers services to TU students, faculty and staff, and to the larger Baltimore community,” says Potter. “We offer individual appointments and workshops for students, conference presentation appointments for faculty, and development workshops for staff.”

The center offers peer-to-peer and faculty-to-student tutoring for oral presentations and other public speaking demands. "Our primary audience is students--where we can help students with topic development, outlining, delivery, visual aid creation, and speech anxiety," says Potter.

The funds from the TU Foundation will support student worker stipends and a marketing effort to raise awareness of the center.

“The grant will enable us to be able to pay our student peer mentors as student staff members,” says Potter. “Currently, we have a staff of nine peer mentors and we hope to continue to grow.”

Located in the Stephens Annex 118, near the Media Center, the PCC's spring 2019 student mentors include a diverse group of undergraduate and graduate students with majors ranging from communication studies to political science and instructional technology.

“It is awesome to have a PCC on campus where students can work with their peers to improve their skills in a friendly environment,” says Christeen Fernando, a PCC student consultant, in the center's blog. “Having strong public speaking skills can be essential to sharing your ideas effectively, building your confidence, and inspiring others with your words.”

Taking things to the next level

Department of Management professor Jan Baum and the Center for Innovation + Entrepreneurship also received a TU Foundation grant. The center was established to nurture and commercialize talent contributing to regional economic and social development.

The College of Business & Economics and the CIE have already made great strides in promoting entrepreneurship and helping students from all majors explore opportunities. The foundation grant will open the door even further.

“The generous grant from the TU Foundation is going to take the center to the next level,” says Baum. “Our traction and student engagement are steadily growing, and this funding will help us engage even more students in entrepreneurship programs on campus, offer bigger competition prizes, and support our leading-edge peer mentorship program.”

The center is open to all majors in all colleges— specifically working to empower women and minorities—connecting them with TU’s alumni network and introducing leading-edge entrepreneurial practices to prepare them for success in the business world.

Helping homeless to hear

Department of Speech-Language Pathology & Audiology  associate professor Jennifer Smart received an award for Hearing Healthcare for the Homeless: An Outreach Program.

“This grant will give audiology faculty and doctoral students first-hand experience treating individuals with hearing loss at the Helping Up Mission,” Smart said. “Being able to access services and hearing aids at no cost will improve the quality of life for people being treated.”

The funding will allow TU faculty and students to offer hearing services to the participants of Helping Up Mission (HUM) in Baltimore City.  All participants diagnosed with hearing loss will be offered new, digital hearing aids and a year’s worth of replacement batteries at no charge.

The program will provide unique learning opportunities for students in a non-traditional learning environment with a diverse population.

The program will be offered by TU audiology faculty and students, providing additional learning opportunities for students in a non-traditional learning environment with a diverse population. The project will help students and faculty better understand homelessness, recovery and how audiologists can help improve quality of life for individuals from diverse backgrounds. Students will discover how an outreach program is created and functions, the importance of hearing healthcare and the benefits of improving the quality of life in people experiencing homelessness.

Offering one-of-a-kind college readiness

With college preparedness starting earlier and earlier, Towson University is working to help students understand how to succeed about life after high school.

The College Readiness Outreach Program (CROP) sends Towson University students to four Baltimore City high schools to talk to ninth graders about a number of issues, including: finances, career exploration, success, college life, diversity and other topics important to life after high school.

For program coordinator India Leach, coordinator of outreach and retention for TU’s Student Success Program, the most important thing about CROP is that it’s not about saying “go to college,” but it’s about understanding what life is like after high school.

“That's our moral obligation,” Leach said. “We don’t go in there and say, ‘Hey, go to Towson University.’ Our students go in there and say ‘What are you going to do once high school is over, and what does that look like for you.’”

CROP has been implemented in four Baltimore City high schools — Reginald F. Lewis High School, Carver Vocational Technical Senior High School, Vivian T. Thomas Medical Arts Academy and Augusta Fells Savage Institute of Visual Arts. 

Along with the four initial schools, six additional city schools have expressed interest in hosting CROP at their location. And despite the pressing need for these services, no other Maryland university provides this type of program.

When Leach started at TU, CROP didn’t have any funding. So with the help of the TU Foundation grant, along with two other grants CROP has received, Leach is hoping that the funding will help the program be institutionalized. She’s also hoping to expand it by one day offering CROP programs to older high school students.

“I’ve done college advising in Baltimore City for the past 10 years… so I know there is no other college doing this type of program,” Leach said. “This program allows the opportunity for our students to go work with inner city youth and share in their experience, which is so incredibly valuable.”

This story is one of several related to President Kim Schatzel’s priorities for Towson University: Culture of Philanthropy.