It’s the beginning of another academic year and A&F has been working hard on various projects and improvements for the TU community. From the opening of a new café to finalizing the campus Master Plan, these eight employees sure have been busy! Read on to find out just what your colleagues have been working on.
Acclimating to a new job can be stressful, but OHR’s Staff Mentorship Program offers the perfect solution for making the adjustment. The program was relaunched earlier this month, following a one-year hiatus.
“It wasn’t yet the program that we needed it to be, so we took the time to research best-practices and find out what was or was not working,” said Noll. “We ended up discovering that the majority of mentors felt that they were not as effective as they could be, simply because they didn’t know exactly what they should be doing; likewise, new hires felt they weren’t getting what they needed.”
In an effort to combat such setbacks, the new Staff Mentorship Program now offers the New Hire Track, in addition to the Professional Track. In the New Hire Track, one or two employees within a division are assigned the role of mentor for their new hires, while the enhanced Professional Track is available to all employees seeking to promote personal and professional growth and development. In the Professional Track, mentees are matched with a mentor that can best assist them in a particular area of interest.
The Staff Mentorship Program now offers more resources, including a detailed workbook for mentors to go over with their mentees. What’s more, an instructor-led workshop has replaced the e-learning workshop to allow the face-to-face contact that participants requested.
“Now mentors can come with their mentees to learn about each other and grow as they become more connected to the university- that’s really what the program is all about.”
In keeping with their training mission of “bridging the divide between the world of technology and the University community,” OTS Training began developing a course on technology and related skills for new hires. The team started the project last winter and plans to have the course available on Blackboard by January 2016.
“The New Hire Orientation Training course will be available to all new hires to help them get up and running with the technology available to them at TU, which in turn will make them more efficient and effective in their positions,” said Caravello. “The course will also be available to existing employees who wish to brush up on their skills.”
The course has been created in a blended learning format, using self-help documents, videos and e-learning formats to easily explain various commonly used technologies within the TU workplace. Some of the technologies and services that will be covered in the course are included below. Don’t forget to check out the Blackboard course when it comes available this winter!
- Software Center
- File Delivery Service
- Managing your NetID
- File Management
- Storage Devices
- Communication Toolkit
- An interactive tour of OTS resources
- Wireless Networking
- Safety Online
- Support Options
Just a few months ago, the campus received revamped OneCards with the TU 150 years logo placed proudly on the front. In addition to sporting a fresh new look and feel, the cards feature an added benefit: they double as debit cards for those with PNC accounts. But distributing over 20,300 new OneCards for the campus went far beyond updating the design. Starting in January 2015, the OneCard office worked alongside TU and two other vendors to get the plan in motion.
“It was all about getting everyone on the same page with a reasonable turnaround,” said Smith. “First, blank cards had to be made, and then all existing OneCards had to be subbed out. And even before the new cards could be distributed, it was necessary to make sure the barcodes worked everywhere on campus, from the dining and residence halls to the library.”
Understanding the many steps of the recarding process may make some think twice about misplacing their new OneCard. But no need to worry if you do. “The former cards could only be re-issued 10 times. Now we can re-issue a card up to 99 times! This may seem a little extensive, but you’d be surprised by how often people lose their cards.”
The Tiger Installment Plan (TIP) replaced the Nelnet Deferred Payment Plan this summer after a group of senior managers decided to go with an in-house plan.
“We saw an opportunity to further utilize TouchNet, which is the software package used by our current gateway payment system,” said Ruby. “And this new payment plan works pretty seamlessly.”
Instead of making a balloon payment, TIP allows students or parents to spread tuition payments between as many as four months or as few as two via check or credit card with a minimal enrollment fee. Since the beginning of the fall term, over 2,000 students have now accessed TIP to help with their tuition payments.
“One of the most common concerns for college students and their parents revolves around how to pay for everything,” said Ruby. “TIP is available to make the financial aspect of attending a university a little less stressful. We’re just happy to be a part of that.”
The recent hype about Burdick Hall has focused on the upcoming expansion and renovations. But the current building will become more than just an updated athletic facility. The addition of two generators will allow Burdick to act as an emergency center following the project’s completion in fall 2017. The estimated costs for this project, including the purchasing of the generators, related equipment and cabling, construction and installation totals a quarter of a million. Luckily, allocated state funding will cover up to $300,000 for the generators and associated costs. In return, the state may access Burdick when the governor has declared a state of emergency for Maryland as long as it is not being used as an emergency shelter by TU.
In August 2011, the state relocated about 660 student workers from Ocean City, MD to Burdick Hall as Hurricane Irene struck the coast.
“The student workers stayed for three days and the power went out the very first night,” said Holbrook. “Only the emergency exits and signs remained lit- there really were a lot of issues.”
Now Burdick will be better equipped for similar situations with the addition of the new generators.
“Keeping in mind the safety of each individual and the TU community as a whole, it’s important that people are aware that the Burdick facility will also double as an emergency shelter in the future.”
The SaferMobility app became available for TU community members last May, following a collaborative effort between the TUPD and SGA. The app contains three basic features: real time video, mobile escort and instant message. Users may create a profile accessible by the TUPD during an emergency situation.
When placing a call to the police communication center, a video box pops up, allowing the TUPD officer to see what users see.
“The benefit of real time video is that if activated quickly enough, the video may capture an incident or theft as it is unfolding,” said Johnson.
The mobile escort feature triggers an audible alarm while connecting to the police dispatcher in real time video. This feature provides an added measure of safety when walking alone in a dark parking lot or across campus.
The app’s instant message feature allows you to communicate directly with the police dispatcher. According to TUPD Captain Karen Johnson, this feature has a few benefits.
“Firstly, anyone with a hearing impairment may use this feature to effectively communicate during an emergency situation. Or in an active shooter situation, for example, you can use instant message to communicate so as not to alert the shooter of your location by using your voice. TUPD officers will still be able to survey the scene through Real time video, but your sound will stay muted.”
To learn more about the SaferMobility App, check out this video created by the SGA.
Anyone passing through Stephens Hall recently may have noticed the Enactus Café, a “grab-n-go” style eatery. The new café is used as part of the curriculum for the College of Business & Economics and is jointly run between Chartwells and the Enactus student group. Enactus group members Redate Haile, Biruk Lulseged, Alex Poniatowski, Megan Price, and Meredith Price have found this learning opportunity to be one of a kind.
“We’re getting real world business experience that goes far beyond what we learn in a classroom. We’ve been involved in every decision from writing the menu to taking responsibility for the financials and even hiring.”
Running a business is a balancing act, but Chartwells has made sure the students understand their expectations as an actual up and running business.
“It’s been really interesting having those real world conversations and showing the students how to make smart business decisions,” said Cubbler. “But at the end of the day it’s a mutual partnership, and we make decisions together. This has been my first venture with students and I’m learning from them too. It’s a win-win situation, that’s for sure!”
Towson University is the second-largest public university in Maryland with a current enrollment number of 22,285 with a projected increase to 25,000 by 2029. As enrollment rates continue to rise, the campus must continue to grow and adapt accordingly- thus the need for the Master Plan.
“I have found the Master Plan process to be an incredibly valuable exercise on multiple levels,” said Arnold. “From hearing from the end-users and the community on the pros and cons of life at, and adjacent to the university to evaluating opportunities for exciting and innovative changes to our campus, we’ve learned to step back and take another look at things we see every day.”
Updated every five years, the current Master Plan was set into motion in November 2014 and will be finalized next month. An overall theme guiding the plan is based on the three Cs: capacity, connections, and community.
“We want to know what we are doing well and what issues we need to address, but it’s student capacity that drives what we need,” said Phillips. “Basically everything we do is geared towards accommodating that number without overburdening any areas. It’s all about striking a balance between what we need and our responsibility to the environment.”
While trying to accommodate the large campus community, emphasis is also placed on connecting the different parts of campus.
“We also want to connect to outside areas, such as downtown Towson. It is important that we find a safe pathway for students through partnerships with others in the community.”
Community, the final third of the triage, is not only about improving and encouraging residential collaboration, but also about creating a sense of unity among TU community members.
“We want to create place-making-spaces, which are those types of spaces that students gravitate toward and enjoy hanging out. What we’re really just trying to make is something that says ‘This is Towson University.’”
Written by Amy Juskus
Photos by Kanji Takeno