Virtually honoring TU’s Community Partners

The annual BTU Partnership Awards honors four partnerships for their impact on Greater Baltimore

By Kyle Hobstetter on October 2, 2020

It’s been over four years since President Kim Schatzel launched BTU—Partnerships at Work for Greater Baltimore as one of her presidential priorities, with the goal of better supporting and telling stories about the substantial work being done between Towson University and its partners.

One of the key aspects of BTU is recognizing these 300+ partnerships that are providing vital research and positive impacts across Maryland.

On Tuesday, Sept. 29, Towson University honored four partnerships — from a pool of 14 — with the annual BTU Partnership Awards in a special live, virtual presentation held on the BTU website.

Live from her office, Towson University President Kim Schatzel welcomed viewers at home to the event, and expressed her appreciation for all the impressive work being done by the TU community and its partners.

“TU has long been working with schools, community organizations, non-profits, government agencies and businesses, but BTU has established a framework to support this work,” Schatzel said. 

“(BTU) has been developing strategies and systems to support the faculty, staff, students, and community partners collaborating to make impacts throughout Greater Baltimore, and has been elevating and telling the stories of this impactful work, and providing a "front door" to partners who want to begin or deepen their work with TU.”

Here is a look at those honored at the BTU Partnership Awards

Humanim & TU Human Resources

Staff Lead: Jen Stano, D.M., Office of Human Resources
Community Partner: Humanim  

The Humanim & TU Human Resources Partnership provides workforce training and employment pipeline opportunities—reinforcing TU’s commitment as an anchor institution.

The program has allowed TU faculty and staff in need of temporary administrative support to quickly meet their needs while providing experience in the workplace. And over the past four years, temporary employees at TU have successfully moved into full-time positions here, and at other anchor institutions.

“Thank you to Towson University and our partner Dr. Jennifer Stano, whose authentic passion around getting individuals into careers allowed for us to be innovative, creative and transformative,” said Kanika Feaster-Gordon, vice president of workforce development at Humanim.

“This award represents the many women and men who walk through our doors fighting for an opportunity and the work of our compassionate workforce development team.”

Currently, six TU offices have Humanim graduates in permanent administrative positions after completing their temporary assignments.

Not only is TU benefiting from Humanim’s thorough and high-quality training program, but members of the Humanim community get life-changing opportunities with steady and consistent employment. 

“Since 2015, the Towson University HR department has worked closely with Humanim to create employment opportunities for valued, brilliant and driven Baltimore residents,” says, Jen Stano, a senior HR partner at TU. 

“Their program not only provides technical and administrative skills. It provides confidence, it provides trust and it provides respect. Our HR department continues to be humbled and grateful to Humanim for providing us the opportunity to hire the best of what Baltimore has to offer.”

Empowering Secure Elections

Faculty Leads: Natalie Scala, Ph.D., College of Business and Economics and Josh Dehlinger, Ph.D., Fisher College of Science and Mathematics

Community Partners: Harford County Board of Elections, Anne Arundel County Board of Elections

Empowering Secure Elections is a unique partnership that identifies and mitigates potential cybersecurity threats during the voting process. TU developed training modules to educate Election Judges on these threats.

“Training a voter who signs up to be an election judge on the myriad of roles and responsibilities they have, not just on election day but before and after, is a huge challenge for every local ward,” said David Garreis, deputy director of the Anne Arundel County Board of Elections. 

“The partnership with Towson University has allowed us to leverage our online resources to reach election judges and teach them about an important aspect of this process, namely voter security in an era where elections are heavily scrutinized.”

All counties in Maryland employ the same process and equipment on Election Day, and polling places are arranged into five general sections or stations. Election Judges are assigned to each station, and a Chief Election Judge oversees the entire polling location.

Threats may emerge at any station at a polling place; threats may evolve from accidents or honest mistakes made by voters and/or Election Judges, or threats may emerge from those interacting with the process with malicious intent.

The developed modules train Election Judges to recognize that a threat may be present and equips them with the actions to take to mitigate the threat. This work specifically fills in the gap to provide a cybersecurity-specific training module for each of the five general stations at a Maryland polling place. 

“This project actually started as a student’s honors research thesis, and it has now grown from the small one student project into a multifaceted research effort that includes in-person voting, mail-based voting as well as poll worker training,” said associate professor Natalie Scala

“This work is possible because of our ongoing relationships with our great partners and Anne Arundel and Harford counties. And we are so grateful for their transparency and the commitment to keeping elections safe.”

Inside-Out Prison Exchange

Faculty Lead: Elyshia Aseltine, Ph.D., College of Liberal Arts
Community Partners: Baltimore County Detention Center, Harford County Detention Center

Inside-Out provides opportunities for TU students and incarcerated individuals to learn side-by-side while transforming views and opinions about crime and justice.

The core of the Inside-Out Program is a semester-long academic course, through which outside students and the same number of inside students attend class together inside a correctional institution to learn together as peers.

Currently, 11 faculty from across TU are trained in Inside-Out pedagogy and have offered (or will soon be offering) classes at Baltimore County Detention Center and Harford County Detention Center. Class topics include criminal justice, health/well-being, philosophy, theater, and communications. To date, four faculty have taught ten Inside-Out classes. 

After each class session, the program has the incarcerated students fill out a post-class evaluation. When accepting the award, Elyshia Asletine wanted to share what those evaluations said. 

“We want them to write about their experiences and reflect what the class meant to them, and we often get comments like thank you for treating us equally and not just as inmates,” Asletine said. “We get a lot of comments about how the experience is humanizing and how inside students feel this kind of reconnection with the human community that they thought might have been denied to them.” 

Harbor Scholars

Faculty Lead: Mary Stapleton, Ph.D., TU Center for STEM Excellence
Community Partners: Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore, Baltimore City Public Schools

The Harbor Scholars Program works with in-service teachers as they educate their students about our watershed and how they can connect with and impact environmental issues in their communities.

Joshua Gabriel, science director for Baltimore City Public Schools remembers the first time he met Mary Stapleton, Director of Bioscience Education and Outreach for the TU Center for STEM Excellence.

After she gave him a tour of the Center for STEM Excellence, she asked him two questions — “What do you need, and how can we help.” It was with those questions the Harbor Scholars Program was born.

“She worked with us to design a program, to help build teacher capacity and support the implementation of the meaningful watershed educational experiences in the fifth grade, save the Bay unit,” Gabriel said. “The Harbor Scholars Program is helping our fifth-grade teachers grow as environmental educators and our students take action to save the Bay. 

“They're not just learning about the Bay; they're doing something about it. And their teachers are helping them do it and customize their needs to match all the resources available from the entire waterfront partnership.” 

In addition to supporting teachers through an intensive summer professional development workshop, the Harbor Scholars program allows every student of participating teachers to visit Baltimore’s Inner Harbor on a field trip, providing them with an opportunity to study the Inner Harbor water first hand and connect what is happening on their school grounds with the ecosystem challenges facing the Chesapeake Bay.

“This is truly a unique program that is going to directly impact thousands of Baltimore City students,” Stapleton said. “We're looking forward to seeing the continued impacts of the Harbor Scholars Program in the fall, in the greater Baltimore community.”

This story is one of several related to President Kim Schatzel’s priorities for Towson University: BTU-Partnerships at Work for Greater Baltimore.