Kim E. Schatzel's first job out of college was working as a foreman on a Ford Pinto assembly line in Michigan.
After years in business and education, her next job will be president of Towson University.
Schatzel — who worked her way up from the assembly line, built a career in business and then switched to academia — will take over the administration of the state's fastest-growing campus on Jan. 25. She is currently provost and interim president of Eastern Michigan University.
"I'm very excited about the mission of Towson. Also, just the quality of programs and academic quality," said the 59-year-old, whose appointment was announced Friday by the University System of Maryland.
Schatzel replaces Timothy J.L. Chandler, who has led the university as interim president since the resignation of Maravene Loeschke last December. Loeschke died of cancer in June.
Schatzel will arrive at a Towson during a time of change. As the university celebrates the 150th anniversary of its founding as the State Normal School, it continues to grow. Already the second-largest public university in Maryland, Towson's student body is expected to increase from about 22,300 students to 25,000 students in the next few years.
"I'm excited to meet her," said Kurt Anderson, a senior who is student government president. "This university has grown and changed a lot, and for the better. This is an exciting time to be at Towson and for a new university president to come in."
Towson — like other universities across the country — has grappled with calls for focusing on diversity and improving the experience of students who are minorities. Last month, a group of students calling themselves Occupy Towson led an eight-hour protest in the president's office that culminated in Chandler's agreeing to a list of student demands.
Chandler's pledges included working to increase the number of tenured faculty members of color, adding cultural competency courses and creating a no-tolerance policy on use of racial, sexual and homophobic epithets.
Schatzel said she can't yet say how she will handle those pledges when she becomes president. "That's something that I want to learn more about when I come to campus," she said.
She offered general support for having a "diverse and inclusive" campus. "I firmly believe that a diverse campus is necessary for a high-quality education," she said.
Makya Purnell, a student involved with Occupy Towson, said Friday on Twitter that activists were concerned about what would happen with a new president. She wrote that she's confident that Schatzel "will be just as supportive … maybe even more so. I'm excited to see what she will bring to the university." Purnell declined an interview request.
Schatzel comes to Towson amid an embarrassing episode for the university. The diving team coach was indicted recently on criminal charges after student-athletes found a cellphone recording them in their locker room. The university has said little about the incident, and some students and parents have complained over the handling of the matter.
Schatzel will also have to confront some growing pains.
The university's growth has, at times, sparked tensions with residents of the surrounding community, which also is booming with new development — including apartments targeted at college students. Some neighbors have complained about bright lights from sports fields shining into their homes, rowdy students disturbing neighborhoods late at night and students parking in residential areas.
The university is updating its master plan with goals including developing the campus responsibly with more classrooms, dorms and recreation spaces; improving transportation and parking options; and defining the edges of the campus.
Schatzel said her dual experience in higher education and in business will help her navigate issues such as the university's growth. She said she's comfortable working with neighboring residents and local government leaders to manage growth so it helps those both on and off campus.
Her private-sector experience — she was CEO of an automotive components company that supplied Ford and Chrysler — also will help with understanding the needs of regional employers who rely on the university to produce entry-level employees, she said.
"I have a foot in both worlds, so to speak," she said.
Robert L. Caret, the chancellor of the University System of Maryland, said he's pleased with the selection of Schatzel, who was chosen from a pool of about 70 applicants.
Caret said he and the system's regents were impressed with Schatzel's energy and her openness to new ideas about running a university. She was one of four finalists.
"She's not one who looked into doing things how they've always been done," said Caret, who served as Towson's president from 2003 until 2011.
Caret said he hopes Schatzel will work to expand Towson's research programs, which he sees as one of the next big steps for the university.
He noted that Schatzel comes from a university that's similar to Towson, which makes her "a great fit." Eastern Michigan is about the same size, is a state school and also was founded as a teachers college.
She was named interim president at the university in Ypsilanti in July and had served as provost and executive vice president of academic and student affairs since 2012. She's credited with boosting undergraduate enrollment and working to improve student retention at the school.
In a letter to students, Caret said a reception for Schatzel would be held on campus in the coming days.
Schatzel will receive an annual salary of $369,000, plus a $35,000 annual housing allowance and a $12,500 vehicle allowance. While Schatzel serves at the pleasure of the system's Board of Regents, she is guaranteed three years of her salary if she is terminated for any reason other than cause, according to Anne Moultrie, the university system's vice chancellor for communications.
Once Schatzel takes over, Chandler intends to return to his previous position of provost and vice president of academic affairs, the university said.
Anderson, the student government president, praised Chandler for his leadership during his time as interim president.
"He's got this way of balancing student needs and all different stakeholders in a way that always works," he said.