Archive | February, 2012

Susan O’Brien: TU’s Unofficial Photographer

By Joanne Bracken

Susan O’Brien can’t remember exactly when she became interested in photography, but it was long enough ago that her equipment has evolved from a 35mm camera with film to a digital one!

Over the years, Susan’s interests have changed and grown. In the early days, her main interests were nature photography and taking candid pictures of her family. She even took pictures for university publications while working at TU in Design & Publications, now known as the Design Center.

Back in the 1980s, with her husband working in TU Athletics, she was given the opportunity to take pictures on the field at the Towson football and lacrosse games. After her son and daughter were born, and they started participating in recreation council sports, she developed her skills even more as an action photographer.

Susan O'Brien

It was unusual to find Susan at her children’s sporting events without her camera. Susan’s son Kyle, 23 and daughter, Sarah, 21, were involved in a variety of sports from a young age. While Sarah focused mainly on horseback riding and thoroughbred racing, Kyle participated in football, lacrosse and wrestling.
But taking pictures of her children each week, playing the same position, and doing the same thing, grew old. This prompted Susan to start photographing other children on the team, which she then gave to their parents.  Some parents asked specifically if she would take pictures of their children and she gladly did without charge.

“I have a hard time charging people I know for anything,” Susan said. “Taking pictures is something I just love to do. I have always felt that if you take something you enjoy doing and make it into a business, it will stop being fun.”

Susan’s son Kyle recently finished his sixth and final year of football at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, and on two occasions in the past few years when William and Mary played Towson, Susan was able to take pictures on the field. She took pictures for Towson, her alma mater, but snuck in a few pictures of her son here and there.

In an effort to stay unbiased during the games, she wore neutral colors (but caught heck from her son for unknowingly wearing JMU colors at this year’s game!), and hid her emotions when William & Mary made a big play. Several of her recent photographs have appeared in Towson’s football Media Guide and programs, as well as on the Towson Athletics website.

“The trick to taking good action shots is to anticipate what is going to happen,” Susan said. “You have to plan ahead and take some practice shots on someone else beforehand. Sometimes it works out, and sometimes it doesn’t. But you learn each time. Working with digital makes it a lot easier because you can delete the pictures that don’t turn out to your liking.”

Now that her son’s football career is over, Susan will get back to nature photography, or taking pictures of her daughter’s horses, until perhaps she becomes a grandmother and her grandchildren start participating in sports! Despite the changes in the subjects of Susan’s photos one thing always remains: her love of capturing a great photograph.

An action shot by Susan O'Brien


Taken by Susan at a home game against William & Mary


Comments Off

The University Budget Office Gives Back

By Donna Auvil

It is said that “charity begins at home, but should not end there.”  This is a philosophy that the University Budget Office (UBO) staff firmly believes in.  Though only a department of six, the amount of charity fundraising and volunteering that is done is amazing! 

Since the sudden loss of our beloved Ron Garrison in March 2005, Ron’s “girls,” Deanna Martinez, Donna Auvil, Cathy Mattingly, Dorothy Proctor and TU Retiree Anna Herr, have held many successful fundraising events to support the Ronald E. Garrison Memorial Endowment Fund.  With the help of newer members in the office, and so many others in the Towson Community, we have held successful Bull Roasts, Happy Hours and even an Evening of Song with Gary Rubin, Vice President of Institutional Advancement. 

The purpose of the endowment is to offer scholarships to students who have run out of other options.  Ron always believed that every student deserves an education and this endowment helps them achieve that goal.  The UBO staff always reminds people about his endowment fund when it is time for the University’s charitable giving campaign.  Keeping Ron’s memory alive and supporting his endowment is something that we will never stop doing.

Associate Director Brian O’Connell and his family also support an endowment with the University.  The Patrick John O’Connell Memorial Scholarship was established in 1980 after the tragic loss of Brian’s brother, Patrick.  Patrick was a Mass Communications major, finishing his freshman year when he died suddenly in a car accident. 

Brian and his family established the endowment in Patrick’s name to provide a scholarship to the “most promising Mass Communications major with a special interest in broadcast journalism, visual media, journalism, advertising or public relations with a GPA of 3.0 or higher.”  The endowment has been funded by family, friends and generous TU employees, current and former.  It is presented each semester and has been received by over 60 students since its inception. 

But for the UBO volunteerism and charity giving doesn’t stop at endowment funds!  Did you know that Dorothy Proctor has donated her hair twice to Locks for Love and is currently growing her hair for another donation?  Locks for Love is a public, non-profit organization that provides hair pieces to financially disadvantage children suffering from long term illness that has caused hair loss.  Hair donations must be at least 10 inches long in order to make the wigs for the children. Dorothy is also an avid supporter of land conservation trail rides.  She allows horse riders on her property and has ridden in events herself to raise funds.

Our newest UBO staff member, Angie Hall, has been involved with the Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks (B.P.O.E.) for the past 22 years!  She works with several of their Youth Outreach Projects, such as Elks Camp Barrett, and helps provide youth services from dances to car washes.  Some of the Community Outreach Programs Angie is involved in make food baskets during the holidays and plan free events for children at Easter, Halloween and Christmas.  Angie also reaches out to our veterans from Walter Reed Medical Center by hosting them for dinners at the Elks lodge.  In addition to involvement with the B.P.O.E. Angie has been a Girl Scout leader for 8 years.

Whether it’s collecting Yoplait Pink lids for breast cancer, supporting family members who participate in the Polar Bear Plunge for Special Olympics or simply volunteering at Towson University graduations and athletic events – the University Budget Office never stops giving back!  If everyone gave back just a little, what a wonderful world it would be!

Leave a Comment

Have You Been Recycling Lately?

It’s that time of year again … time for RecycleMania, that is! For the seventh consecutive year Towson is participating in RecycleMania, along with hundreds of schools across the country. The competition’s goal is to raise awareness about recycling and promote sustainable practices on college campuses.  Recyclemania lasts eight weeks, from February 5 to March 31, and in the first week of the competition alone, TU recycled 22,500 pounds of material. As TU enters its third week of competition remember to continue recycling and track our official progress on the RecycleMania website ! To view last year’s statistics visit TU’s RecyleMania page. Let’s bring home an award for the Tigers!

Comments Off

University Store Goes Bagless

By Stacy Elofir

Gasp!  No bags at the University Store?  What if it rains?  What about the families and the armfuls of swag that they purchase?  How will they carry everything? 

In fall 2011 I was approached by the SGA to support efforts to get a little greener here on campus.  What could we do as the students’ University Store to make an impact on the initiative?  Last year, the Ustore went “bagless” for two weeks with little trouble or complaint from our customers.  We offered inexpensive re-usable bags and were pretty proud of ourselves, but we wondered if two weeks was enough of a commitment.

Other universities across the country have gone bagless and in California you are charged.  I said “Charged!?… For a bag!?”  This would encourage me to carry my own bag if I had to pay five cents each time I was forgetful.
The SGA took the idea to the students and across campus in the form of a survey.  The survey was given to 511 people and the results positively supported the removal of plastic shopping bags.  The SGA then crafted Resolution #17, or the Bagless Initiative, in favor of having bags available for only the first and last two weeks of the semester.

The University Store is promoting bagless shopping this semester.

Well, February 13,2012 marked the beginning of the third week of class and the beginning of, you guessed it, the Bagless Initiative.  What will this mean to those of us that shop at the Ustore?  It means you will no longer be asked at the register, “Would you like a bag?”  It will be assumed that you do not.  I will make sure the cashiers have a double secret stash of emergency bags and if a customer really needs one all they have to do is ask.  But you do have to ask!
Help us to support SGA Resolution  #17 and our  efforts to get a little greener! When you stop by to see us, please ask yourself, “Do I really need that bag?”
If you’re interested in reading more about going bagless, click here!
Leave a Comment

A&F Staff Prepare Women to Fight Back

By Susanna Craine

The three determined coaches who teach the Office of Public Safety course called Rape and Aggression Defense (R.A.D) are eagerly looking forward to their next class in April. The R.A.D. is offered on campus to all female students, faculty and staff. If the instructors had it their way, every woman on campus would participate in the program before they finish their stint at TU. 

On a campus that is 61% female including students, faculty and staff, that would potentially be about 15,000 matriculates.  In reality, we could never handle teaching that many students, but Corporal Larry Bell believes deeply that women would be both safer and more confident if they invested their time in the class.  It would increase their strength, agility, and astuteness.  His wife took the class and he hopes his three daughters will do so in the future.

TU Public Safety Executive Administrative Assistant, Jean Comer-West, has taught the class since 2003.   Her oldest daughter has taken it and returned numerous times to tape the class to demonstrate to students how they are handling themselves.  Jean says she has never regretted a minute of the extra time she must spend on campus in this service.  Every class has been different but always rewarding.

Women taking the R.A.D. class participate in similar exercises to the one pictured above. (Image courtesy of OK Mixed Martial Arts)

Corporal Bell and Ms. Comer-West were joined by Corporal Kia Williams last year.  The trio of determined Public Safety employees is a potent one.  They have shared hours of time, two of them for over ten years, learning and teaching the basic concepts of R.A.D:  risk awareness, risk reduction, recognition and avoidance. 

Once the theoretical part of the program is over, the tough part begins.  Corporal Bell dons a red protective suit and each class member must practice, practice, practice the physical defense portion of the program.  They are observed, taped, coaxed, and encouraged.  Being videotaped allows the women to have a different perspective on how they are approaching the “aggressor.”

“The process is both exhausting and exhilarating,” says Comer-West.  “I love teaching this class and passing on what women need to know.  I pray they never have to use the information, but I’m thrilled to watch our students wake up to how they should handle themselves.  I will be doing this as long as I am standing!”

Watch for Daily Digest notification of how to sign up for the class in April.  Though students have the top priority, faculty and staff may register too.  No one will fail and everyone will be the better for it!

Comments Off

Tip of the Month: How to Use Windows 7 Desktop Gadgets

Gadgets are mini-programs that provide information at a glance such as, OTS Alerts, weather and news. Windows 7 comes with certain gadgets, but you can also download more from the Microsoft website.

To add gadgets to your desktop:

1) Right-click on the desktop and click on Gadgets.
2) Select the gadget for your desktop
3) Click and drag the gadget to your desktop. For more information on the specific gadget, click on Show Details.
4) Right-click on gadget and click on Options to change the gadget settings.

To remove gadget from desktop:

1) Hover over the gadget and click the Close icon (red X).

For additional tips and training from the Office of Technology Services, go to

Comments Off

Energy Stewardship at TU

By Dennis Bohlayer

Stewardship: I have always liked using this word to describe the responsible management of the things entrusted to our care, whether it’s money, people, grounds, vehicles, buildings, and even energy.

 The sad truth is that we have not been very good stewards when it comes to energy conservation and management.  Our culture has been that energy is “free” or the costs associated with energy waste are “insignificant.”  Thankfully, the new TU2016 Plan puts forth sustainability and energy conservation as university-wide goals. 

 So where are we today?  Here are some of the positive things as I see them: 

 1.  Automated HVAC Control System 

Over the past decade we have been steadily investing in the digital control of all new heating, air conditioning, and ventilation (HVAC) systems.  This new HVAC system is completely web-based, giving Facilities Management the ability to control and monitor HVAC systems from any web browser, on campus, at home or on the go with their smart phones.  Now our maintenance personnel can readily see from floor plan and equipment graphics what issues might confront them first thing in the morning well before any calls come into our Work Control Center.

A screen shot of the automated program used to control HVAC systems across campus.

 2.  Computer Power Management

Back in late 2006, in cooperation with the Office of Technology Services (OTS), Facilities deployed PC power management software across the campus network that manages the power states of PCs during periods of inactivity.  Soon, a more up-to-date version of this software will be deployed over the campus’ inventory of approximately 5,000 PCs. 

 3.  A Campus-Wide Lighting Replacement/Retrofit Program 

In April 2011, we initiated the replacement or retrofit of over 35,000 lighting fixtures and the installation of 9,300 lighting sensors that automatically turn off the lights when the controlled space becomes unoccupied after a period of time.  This $5.2 million project will be completed in April 2012 and will save the university more than $900,000 each year in energy costs.

 4.  Central Plant Chilled Water Generation Expansion

A few years ago, we expanded our central utility plant, increasing our chilled water capacity from 1,500 to 6,000 tons.  Using central chilled water gains greatest efficiency, lowers maintenance costs, and eliminates the need for separate equipment at each building. 

 5.  Creating More Energy Efficient Buildings: Old and New

 Our newest buildings incorporate more energy efficient architectural, mechanical, and electrical systems into their design.  For example the new LEED Gold Certified West Village Commons receives its chilled water for cooling from a chiller using magnetic field-supported bearings, which are more efficient than conventional chillers.  As we have performed smaller renovation and equipment replacement projects in our existing buildings, we have included energy efficiency into our equipment selection process such as installing variable frequency drives (VFDs), which run equipment only at the speeds necessary, not at the higher constant speed seen with older equipment. 

 As you can see, we’ve been doing some very good things, but there is so much more to be done. Many cultural challenges to energy stewardship still remain. We still need to overcome the naysayers and the idea slayers and convert the “care-lessers” into caring.

 Energy stewardship?  It’s simply a matter of will. Please do your part to help!

Leave a Comment

Meet the Staff: Karen Stukes

By Briana Cabibbo

Many people’s careers follow a predictable pathway.  They begin working in a certain industry right out of college and work their way through the ranks, trying new positions out along the way.  But this isn’t the case for everyone – others seem to stumble into their current jobs, never really expecting to wind up there.  As Karen Stukes learned, that’s not always such a bad thing.

Years ago, Karen worked at McMillan Publishing in New York as an executive assistant to the president.  During her time there the company was faced with a lawsuit and an investigation determined McMillan needed to hire more minorities in entry-level positions.  The company asked Karen to help them solve this issue by taking on a new position.  She began working as a college recruiter, traveling to historically black colleges and universities looking for potential new employees to hire in entry level positions at the publisher. 

Karen Stukes

Throughout this experience at McMillan, Karen worked closely with an HR representative from the company.  The exposure to human resources through the recruitment position led to Karen developing a strong interest in HR.  Karen then left McMillan, pursuing her interest in HR and beginning her career in the field.  She first worked at a small consulting firm coordinating human resources before moving on to work at the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute (UMBI) in downtown Baltimore.  At UMBI Karen worked in several different HR capacities  for eight years before she took a job as operations manager at Towson University in June 2009.

In her role at Towson, Karen is in charge of personnel transactions for all employees, including data entry for regular and contingent employees.  Karen manages a team of six to ensure this work is accomplished.  Each person is responsible for data entry of different divisions throughout the university.

In addition to managing data entry, Karen is responsible for improving processes and systems in the department.  It’s her job to streamline processes so they are faster and more efficient.  Currently, Karen is working with the Provost’s Office on converting the contingent renewal process into an electronic process, as well as creating a new electronic processing system for faculty contracts.  These are just a few of the projects Karen finds to be the most rewarding part of her job.

“I like changing processes to make them more efficient and effective.  It helps out everyone that uses that process,” Karen said.  “I really enjoy working with my staff members and employees in different departments, like OTS and the Registrar’s Office, during the streamlining process and relying on their input and suggestions.”

In the end, Karen is grateful for the series of events that have led her to HR.  Since she’s started in the field she has truly learned to love the work she does and feels that she’s found “her niche,” which not everyone is able to say about themselves.

Comments Off

Did You Know…

TU is now a member of the Association for Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE).  AASHE is an organization dedicated to helping universities become more sustainable. They provide a number of resources from discussion forums to professional development. With the membership the university can now utilize the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS), which will allow TU to compare its sustainable efforts to other schools’ across the country. Best of all, with TU’s membership everyone at Towson can create an individual username for free, which allows you to access member-only areas on the AASHE website and receive member discounts. So visit and create one today! To learn more go to

Comments Off

Meet the Staff: Switchboard Operator Denice Elliot

By Carla Hall

One thing is for certain when you enter the Administration Building on the first floor.  Just look to your right and you will be greeted by a warm smile and the engaging charm of Denice Elliott. 

Denice began serving as a switchboard operator for Towson University’s Advancement Division in 2004.  Denice retired from Verizon in August 2002 and after 2 ½ years of the “good life,” she decided it was time to spread that contagious smile again.  She came to Towson with a wealth of knowledge that only 31 years of experience in the areas of telecommunications and customer service can provide.  In her last position with Verizon, Denice was expected to attend mandatory workshops and take classes to enhance their customer service skills.   She felt that her experiences at Verizon prepared her well for the position at TU. 

Denice Elliot

At Towson she handles a multi-faceted phone system, and greets and directs visitors, students, faculty and staff to their various destinations.  During any given day, Switchboard Services may handle over 200 calls and too many visitors to count.  On many occasions Denice is the first contact, face and voice of Towson for these visitors and callers.  Denice performs her daily tasks with flare and in excellence because she possesses a wide range of knowledge of TU, including all of the various departments, contacts and changes that affect the campus. 

 “Denice is such a sweet and caring person,” said Denice’s supervisor, Margret Perrera. “Denice always greets the students, visitors, faculty, and staff with a warm smile on her face or in her voice over the phone.  She will go the extra mile to get you the help or information you need.” 

When asked what she liked best about her position Denice said, “I get to meet a variety of people from all walks of life.  I am amazed by the complexity and variety of the questions that I am bombarded with every day … It affords me continuous knowledge and assists me in sharpening my skills to be better at my job.  I love all the people I have met since I have been here.”

So if you ever need direction on Towson University’s campus, or just need to see a warm smile, stop by the receptionist desk of Denice Elliott.  Denice’s positive contribution to the Towson University family is immeasurable!

Leave a Comment

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 27 other followers