New Towson University president eyes brand makeover

"The reality of Towson outstrips its reputation." New president wants to elevate TU reputation

As a university professor, Kim Schatzel studied and taught marketing strategy.

Now, as president of Towson University, she's taking on her greatest marketing project: rebranding Maryland's second-largest institution of higher education.

"The reality of Towson outstrips its reputation," said Schatzel. "People know the Towson of the last 150 years. They really don't know the 2016, contemporary story of Towson. So that's a huge priority for me."

The 60-year-old former professor of marketing arrived at Towson in January. She is to be inaugurated as the university's 14th president on Friday.

She has hired the Columbus, Ohio, firm Ologie to perform an identity audit of Towson.

The institution began as a state teachers college 150 years ago — and is still known for turning out educators. But it has grown to 23,000 students in seven colleges, pursuing bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees.

Towson produces more health professionals than any other university in Maryland. It's Baltimore County's third-largest employer.

"We haven't been effective, and we haven't emphasized the telling of the story," Schatzel said.

Schatzel's own story begins in the late 1970s at the former Ford Motor Co. assembly plant in Edison, N.J. She was the first woman in her family to graduate from college — Washington University in St. Louis — and the plant's first female foreman.

"The very first day, my boss told me that it was unnatural for me to be in manufacturing — he used the phrase 'unnatural' — and that I was taking a job from a man who needed it to support his family."

She worked next at automotive-parts supplier BorgWarner Inc. in Michigan. When BorgWarner and Chrysler Corp. decided to sell off their powdered-metal companies in the 1980s, she found investors, merged the companies into ICM/Krebsoge and manufactured furnace-hardened car parts.

With Schatzel as CEO, she said, the company grew into the largest powdered-metal manufacturer in the country.

Schatzel stepped down after five years and the birth of her second child. She then flew around the country touring doctoral programs, and settled on Michigan State University. She spent her next years in Michigan rising from marketing professor at the University of Michigan-Dearborn to dean, then eventually becoming provost and executive vice president at Eastern Michigan University.

"She's just a very talented woman," said Daniel Little, chancellor at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, where she worked as a professor and dean. "She understands the leadership of a university is partly about the management of the university and also developing great relationships with the community."

Eastern Michigan University is about the same size as Towson and was also founded as a teachers college.

Eastern Michigan spokesman Geoff Larcom said Schatzel "distinguished herself as a very strong leader" there.

Recruiters pitched her the job at Towson, and she beat three other finalists. The University System of Maryland Board of Regents named her president of the university in December.

"She's a gem," said David Nevins, a 1976 Towson graduate who served more than a decade as a regent. "The board found somebody who is a wonderful blend of both non-traditional and traditional."

Schatzel now lives three miles from campus in Ruxton with her husband, who works in marketing. Her adult son also works in marketing.

Her daughter is the only one who's not in the family business — she's an economist.

"We're working on her," Schatzel said.

Schatzel uses phrases such as "value proposition" and "talent-pool providers" when she discusses Towson.

"She's very businesslike," said Baltimore County Councilman David Marks, who represents Towson. "Her meetings are very focused. … She's very efficient."

In evenings, she prefers to walk past the intramural sports fields and watch games.

"She was taking selfies with the students," said Makensey Schuchart, a sophomore from York, Pa.

Schatzel is the fifth woman to lead Towson. First was Sarah Richmond, who served from 1909 to 1917, before women could vote.

The most recent was Maravene Loeschke, a beloved drama teacher and administrator of 30 years, who died in June 2015 from cancer.

"There's a legacy of women in this role. ... It's very cool," Schatzel said. "This will be, as far as I can recall, the first time I will not have been the first woman."

Schatzel's annual salary is $373,613 a year. She also gets a $35,000 annual housing allowance and $12,500 vehicle allowance.

Towson's growth has at times caused tensions with its neighbors, who have complained of parking problems, rowdy students and bright lights.

Schatzel said she has attended neighborhood association meetings to improve relations between the university and residents. She said she plans to strengthen partnerships with local businesses.

Community relations aside, Schatzel plans to devote attention to elevating the university's brand.

"Towson needs better marketing," said Nevins, the former regent. "Towson, at its core, is a much finer institution than its reputation."

The university's reputation of affordability and proximity drew students such as Naomi Nyarkoh, who was lounging in Freedom Square on Wednesday afternoon.

"The tuition is a little cheaper than the University of Maryland," said Nyarkoh, a 34-year-old nursing student from Ghana. "I could save $60 a class."

Jasmine Nganje, a junior from Prince George's County, said the school "was close enough where I could go home, but far enough where my mom wasn't coming to see me every weekend."

Schatzel sees the fact that Towson graduates more health care professionals than any other Maryland university as an opportunity for branding that can elevate the university's reputation.

"That's going to attract and retain great faculty, get the great students and have legislators consider us" for funding, she said.

"There's so much latent potential."

tprudente@baltsun.com

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