Towson Joins EcoLeader Program

Towson University is one of the first campuses to join the National Wildlife Federation EcoLeaders Program to help further assist the next generation of conservation and sustainability leaders.

The NWF EcoLeader program is an online community that allows the next generation of conservation leaders to access resources to get campus projects started and network with other students.

“The EcoLeaders program is an online platform for exploring environmentally related careers and launching and sharing environmental projects,” said graduate assistant for the environmental initiatives department Daniela Beall. “This program will help foster and support students who are interested in leading an environmental project.”

Beall was invited to participate in a NWF working group in the fall of 2016 to help develop their “campus partner” package. Soon after the package was fully developed, TU was invited by the NWF to be one of the first campus partners.

EcoLeaders is a resource for students to expand their involvement with environmental projects within the campus and around the nation.

“Students, faculty and staff at Towson have free access to EcoLeader career planning tools, and free registration to the annual EcoCareers conference, that would otherwise have a fee associated,” said Courtney Meadows, a TU Eco-Rep program member. “They also get a 50 percent [$15] discount on a EcoLeader Certification by leading a personal environmental project with help from EcoLeaders, it is a great experience and resume builder to have. While EcoLeaders is all about the environment, it deals with all aspects of it, allowing a student to focus on the area they care about.”

Students are responsible for developing projects within the EcoLeaders program. Students can input their ideas and work towards the environmental issue they truly want to help with.

“The Office of Civic Engagement & Social Responsibility and the Office of Sustainability are happy to work with students to help them succeed with their projects/initiatives,” Beall said. “The Office of Civic Engagement & Social Responsibility will host its third annual Retreat for Environmental Action next fall, which serves as a launchpad for student-led projects.”

Beall also helped to start Eco-Reps when she was an undergraduate. Eco-Reps are a group of student peer-educators who work towards promoting sustainability on campus.

“Eco-Reps work to share their enthusiasm and appreciation for the environment by educating the TU community about sustainability practices,” Meadows said. “The goal is to develop a culture of sustainability on campus where students, faculty and staff understand, practice and celebrate sustainable values in ways that transfer into their communities beyond TU.”

The Eco-Reps program holds a number of activities throughout the year and try to get students, staff, and faculty involved with furthering campus conservation and sustainability.

This fall, Eco-Reps got involved with the Project Green Challenge, a national effort to help make students be more aware of their environmental impact.

In addition, every spring, Eco-Reps participate in RecycleMania, a national recycling competition intended to raise awareness about waste reduction and to promote recycling.

“We also bring nationwide projects to Towson and try to get students involved in them,” Meadows said. “Through all this they can learn about how their daily behavior is affecting the environment and how they can do little things to help the environment.”

Various student organizations at TU are working to promote environmental awareness and conservation efforts so that students can play an active role in making TU a green campus.

“One of the main reasons that many people aren’t doing more for the environment is that they don’t realize the importance and effects their behaviors have,” Meadows said. “By increasing student awareness, we can improve in sustainability areas that rely on the students’ part, like recycling, composting, reducing waste production, etc.”

“We might even be able to reach beyond, by creating an environmentally conscious student body more big scale “green” projects can be put underway if the students support it.”

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Urban Farm Looks to Put in Orchard

Students and faculty are hoping to plant an orchard at the on-campus urban farm this spring, with the goal of increasing campus sustainability and carbon neutrality.

The orchard, which is pending approval from the President’s Council this semester, would be established next to the TU Urban Farm outside of the Administration building.

The farm’s 1,000 square foot vegetable garden is run by student-volunteers and faculty members, and it is home to multiple crop beds and fruit trees that help provide food to the Towson community.

English professor and TU Urban Farm faculty advisor Ben Warner helped start the farm for student involvement purposes in 2009, and the farm had its first growing season in 2010.

“I think that the farm offers a great learning opportunity,” said Megan Arnold, TU Urban Farm student vice president. “I didn’t have much gardening experience before I joined the group and now I know a little more about what a weed looks like and about the work that goes into growing my own food.”

The farm redistributes the produce through Dining Services and directly to students, staff and faculty. Its goal is to work toward community involvement and providing a more local and sustainable food source to TU’s campus.

“It is a great opportunity for students to get hands-on experience growing their own food and become more connected to their food and where it comes from,”  said Elena Sachs, co-president of the Student Environmental Organization. “It also provides a great community space for people to come together and work toward a common goal and share in the benefits by enjoying the food that is harvested together.”

Warner hopes that those involved will also form a connection with the sustainability ethic of the TU Urban Farm. Implementing the new orchard is aimed to help improve the campus’ focus on sustainability in the food system.

“I think that by teaching others about our sustainability efforts, they start to think more about how their own actions affect the environment,” Arnold said. “The part of the TU Urban Farm that I really love is the sense of community that it offers. We really try to make the farm an area where everyone can pitch their own ideas. Plus, getting your hands in the dirt while chatting with a friend is a great way to unwind after a long week of classes. And a great way to get to know other people.”

The TU Urban Farm and the possible addition of an orchard will help further the goal of creating a more sustainable campus.

“The orchard will increase the food access, thereby reducing indirect emissions accrued during the food distribution food supply chain,” said Campus Planning and Sustainability Manager Patricia Watson.

The orchard also is aimed to benefit the students involved in the farm by expanding their knowledge and experiences with farming and sustainability.

“I think that [the orchard] will give all the farm members and visitors new opportunities to learn about maintaining the trees,” Arnold said. “It’s very different in that these trees are perennial, so we need to learn how to take care of them and prune them for long-term growth. That’s a little bit of unchartered territory for us, which is exciting.”

According to Sachs, the orchard will also become another important local source of nutrition that will “reduce the distance and amount of fossil fuels that our foods typically require to make it to our plate.”

“The idea is that by implementing native trees and pairing them with partner plants that naturally aid their growth, we will be creating a self-sustaining system that is lower maintenance than typical gardens,” Sachs said.

The SEO is waiting for the space, designed by a Baltimore Orchard Project representative, to be approved by the President’s Council this semester and hopefully planted in the spring.

The American College and University Presidents’ Climate Committee also assists in providing guidance on issues related to TU’s carbon neutrality goal.

“[The ACUPCC] has been predominately focused on energy, transportation, waste, outreach and education, and the curriculum as it relates to sustainability,” Watson said. “Food topics have recently emerged as an issue for this group.”

The orchard and expansion of the TU Urban Farm will be a contribution to improving TU’s carbon neutrality and community involvement.

“The hope is that this will become a community space where students and faculty can come together and participate in creating a healthier and more environmentally friendly campus,” Sachs said.

Week of Events Honor Military

Towson University’s Military and Veterans Center hosted the “Week of Valor: Reflections of Vietnam” for students to honor those who have served and are currently serving our country.

Among these events were a live museum, a dialogue highlighting the life of women during the war, an obstacle course, an appreciation banner and screenings of the films “Platoon” and “GI Jane.”

Benz Armstrong, director of military and veteran services, said that this week of events was held with the purpose to “raise awareness within our TU community to remind us that we shall never forget.”

“We would like to honor those that paid the ultimate sacrifice, and still continue,” Armstrong said.

The Vietnam live museum put visitors in an interactive environment within the jungles of Vietnam during the war. People could hear the sounds of the war, feel the bamboo and even look at the different artifacts from both the Viet Cong and the U.S.

“From talking to students this week, they are very excited and eager to learn more about [the Vietnam War] because it was a war that they understood when the U.S. went in two different directions of pros and cons,” Armstrong said. “It’s important because these things might not be talked about within our history books; we tend to forget things that aren’t always brought up to our attention because there’s so much going on.”

Jane McCarthy was a nurse in Vietnam during the war. She came to Towson Wednesday to talk about her life as a female warrior and the challenges she faced while in the military and thereafter.

McCarthy grew up in a small town in Massachusetts, and went to nursing school in Boston at the Massachusetts General Hospital School of Nursing in the 1960s. During this time, McCarthy lost many friends in the war and decided she wanted to do something to help.

“I would be a nurse soon and I thought, ‘What would have more purpose than to go into the army and take care of the wounded?’” McCarthy said.

She worked in Bethesda at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in the recovery room and intensive care unit. After a few months working there, McCarthy was out on order for her last year to go to Vietnam.

McCarthy was stationed at the 95th Evacuation Hospital in Da Nang, Vietnam. She explained the process of how she would treat the wounded and those who would not survive while a nurse in Vietnam.

While in Vietnam, McCarthy applied to a couple of colleges, but got no response from the army.

“I hand-wrote an eight-page letter to Ted Kennedy, my senator, and six days later the chief nurse came running down and she said, ‘Lieutenant McCarthy, go pack your bags. You’re out of here.’ And that was my goodbye party from Vietnam. I was glad to get out, but there was no welcome home.”

McCarthy got accepted to Indiana University. When she came home from Vietnam, she felt very lost and had a hard time transitioning over to typical civilian life again. During her time at Indiana University, she said she got seriously depressed.

“I had classic PTSD before it was discovered,” McCarthy said. “I would sleep every other night. When I did sleep, I dreamt about being in Vietnam and it was very scary.”

Over time, McCarthy said she has felt very appreciated and is proud of what she did as a nurse in Vietnam.

“I still go home to march in the Memorial Day parade to remember the high cost – to remember all those that sacrificed their lives and hopefully to remember to help us from doing it again,” she said.

Going from being in a war scene to coming back to basic life can be a difficult transition for many veterans.

According to Armstrong, the Military and Veterans Center works to help military and veteran students “transition into student civilian life through providing resources and services readily available to them.”

This “Week of Valor” was held not only to honor those who have served and currently serve, but also to spread awareness of the sacrifices and difficult lives veterans live.

“It helps the community get a very small glimpse of military culture and the sacrifices of those made,” Armstrong said. “If we could help spread awareness in our community, then our students could be more humbling or be more aware of the sacrifices that we chose to defend our great nation. And that hopefully, in the future, it would be easier for traditional students and the military and veterans to coincide and bridge that gap of understanding and inclusion and things that President Schatzel’s top priorities are when she talks about inclusion and diversity.”

Record Number of Students Study Abroad

The Towson University Study Abroad Office received a “Going Places!” award from partner CISabroad in June 2017 for their actions to “broaden academic perspectives, encourage student development and promote global awareness through its innovative work in education abroad.”

“We signed a commitment called Generation Study Abroad, which is a national campaign through the Institute for International Education,” said Associate Director of Study Abroad Katherine Villamar. “We signed that commitment in 2014, and we pledged to increase our number by 40 percent by the year 2020, and we met that goal last year actually, so we’re three years ahead of schedule.”

222 students studied abroad in the summer semester of 2017. This was Towson’s largest group ever to study abroad in a single term. Through a focus on increased funding, access, curriculum and integration, TU has pushed students towards studying abroad.

Senior Amanda Jean Thomas studied abroad in London during the minimester 2017 term on the Corporate Communication in the UK faculty-led program. Thomas is one of four peer advisors in the Study Abroad office.

“I think some of the biggest factors going into more students studying abroad is the office’s initiative to try and break down a lot of myths students have about studying abroad,” Thomas said. “Many students think that it’s too expensive when it doesn’t have to be a costly experience to have. We offer over 700 program options including out TU Exchange programs which cost Towson tuition and fees to study for a semester or academic year overseas.”

The study abroad program at Towson, TU Abroad, focused on increasing participation specifically from underrepresented students as part of their initiative to increase the number of students abroad. These students include first-generation college students, students with disabilities, people of color, certain majors, athletes, non-traditionally aged students, students coming from community colleges, students who have children and LGBTQ+ students.

There is also a new scholarship called the TU Institutional Diversity Study Abroad Scholarship to encourage diverse populations to study abroad.

Faculty-led programs are popular among students because of their short length and ability to fit into student schedules. They can be as short as a week during spring break or as long as six weeks in the summer or winter. According to Villamar, last year there were over 20 faculty-led programs.

These programs help increase the ability of students in specific colleges to go overseas. Study abroad participation has tripled in the College of Education, and nearly doubled in the College of Health Professions.

“Having gone on a faculty-led program, for me, the appeal was that it was a short term program,” Thomas said. “I didn’t have to take a full semester out of my academic plan to go abroad. For intensive majors and minors that require a strict academic plan on campus at Towson, short-term programs can be the best way to get to experience going abroad. They are also a little more structured, often having excursions to the tourist attractions in the country the program is in.”

Villamar also talked about the fact that faculty-led programs help students get credits completed.

“When a student does a faculty-led program, they’re getting a Towson course, so it fits into their curriculum and they know exactly how it’s going to fit in,” Villamar said. “When they go on other types of programs, a lot of times the credits are coming in as kind of like transfer credits, and they have to get them approved. So, it’s just more straightforward in terms of credits.”

Other TU Study Abroad programs include TU exchanges, TU programs and non-TU programs.

The TU exchanges can be a semester or yearlong program where students pay Towson tuition to the University, and go study abroad at a partner institution. Towson has 18 of these exchange programs.

“This is a really nice option for students, who are very concerned about finances, because it’s not an additional term, they’re already going to be studying here for a fall or a spring and they’re paying their regular Towson tuition,” Villamar said. “This is a more independent model for students, but I think it’s a really great one, because they’re generally living with local students, you know, they’re taking classes with locals at a foreign institution.”

Thomas agreed; she also indicated the cost-effectiveness of the TU Exchange program.

“I think the TU Exchange programs appeal to students looking for the most cost effective way to go abroad as well as having total independence,” Thomas said. “With TU Exchanges, students are sent to a foreign institution to study and do as they please. There’s no built in excursions or anything like that, leaving their experience completely up to what they want to get out the their time abroad. They could be the only Towson student abroad or one of a few Towson students at that institution for the semester.”

The TU programs have a similar structure to the exchange programs, but the price varies generally between in-state and out-of-state tuition.

“We also have in this type of program, our TU Global internship program, where students can go abroad in the summer or for a semester, but generally they only do the summer, to intern abroad,” Villamar said. “We’re seeing a lot of students interested in that…. This is a really nice was to highlight yourself when you’re applying to that first job right out of college.”

Non-TU programs are programs offered through approved affiliate study abroad providers, and they help fill the gaps in areas of the world where TU doesn’t have its own programs.

TU Abroad has reached its target growth goal, but is continuing on doing outreach to encourage more students to study abroad.

“We’ve developed more of these faculty- led programs and had faculty doing more outreach within their departments,” Villamar said. “We created a new institutional diversity scholarship as part of our Generation Study Abroad Initiative. We’re doing more outreach with the Center for Student Diversity to try to diversify the types of students that are going overseas. We’re working with a lot of departments across campus.”

Thomas reflected on her own experiences studying abroad and indicated the positives that can come from it.

“Going abroad, there are the chances to do things you couldn’t do simply going to a country on your own as a tourist,” Thomas said. “You get to learn from professionals in your field internationally or take courses that are unique to the area in which you’re studying; things that you couldn’t do staying on campus all four years. You build connections with other students or faculty abroad which can help you in the future.”

Poet Javier Ávila Shares Latino Experience

Poet, novelist, storyteller and professor Javier Ávila presented his journey as an American Latino and how he has struggled with that identity at Towson University on Oct. 9.

“I was white, in Puerto Rico,” Ávila said. “Because in Puerto Rico if you have this skin tone or lighter, you are considered white and no one tells you that you’re not.”

Ávila taught English at the University of Puerto Rico for eight years until he moved to Pennsylvania and became a professor at Northampton Community College.

In 2015, he won the Pennsylvania Professor of the Year Award sponsored by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, and the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education. Ávila was the first Latino to receive this award.

Ávila didn’t realize he wasn’t white until he moved to Pennsylvania and someone told him that he was actually seen as brown. Even after that revelation, he still felt he was the same person with the same value.

“Race is a fallacy,” Ávila said. “It really is a concept created to keep us apart.”

Ávila has published 13 books, including poetry anthologies and novels. His bestselling novel “Different” became an award-winning motion picture entitled “Miente,” which was screened in over a dozen countries.

After 10 years in Pennsylvania, Ávila put together his personal experiences and views of race, culture and what it means to be Latino in America into a one-man show called “The Trouble with My Name.”

During his talk at Towson, Ávila engaged the audience as he told the story of his life and read his original poetry delivered with his satirical sense of humor.

Ávila grew up with a bilingual education. He spoke both English and Spanish, and he didn’t have a strong accent.

Ávila has experienced situations where people were surprised to hear how good his English was just because of how he looked. When he spoke Spanish around people who didn’t, he felt like he was seen in a completely different way.

“We live in a country where the official language is ‘none,’” Ávila said. “We have no official language, and yet, we can get in trouble if you are of a certain color, speaking a certain language, that’s been vilified.”

As a minority, Ávila battled others’ view of his name, physical appearance and accent.

“No matter who you are, someone already hates you without knowing you, for something that you are, something that you have or something that reminds them of something,” Ávila said. “That’s life.”

In the show, Ávila recited poems and stories of his family, and how important they all were to him. He said that if he had to pick a favorite, it would be his grandmother who had been part of the Puerto Rican Independence Movement.

Ávila said the FBI illegally followed his grandmother for years everywhere she went, even while her three sons were fighting for the U.S. – just because she was Puerto Rican.

Ávila, who only knew her as his loving “abuela” — or grandmother in Spanish — who cooked rice and beans for him, didn’t find out about her history until after she had died.

He also mentioned the he is inspired by his mother, who was the first in her family to go to college.

Ávila’s mother, a retired public-school teacher in Puerto Rico, was the main reason Ávila decided to become a teacher. His poem “Teaching Statement” is a tribute to her.

Ávila also talked about his beloved father. His father and two uncles had fought in Korea with the U.S. Military.

Ávila’s father was part of the “Borinqueneers,” a segregated unit composed primarily of Puerto Rican soldiers.

Later on, Ávila’s father was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his time as a fighting soldier. Ávila learned a valuable lesson about change over time from his father’s experiences.

“Even though change could happen slowly, it happens,” Ávila said. “It gives you hope. It gives you hope that one day perhaps we will live in a world where you don’t have to explain to people why you might get shot by the police if you don’t completely comply, or if you’re black or brown. Hope to live in a world where that is no longer a reality.”

Sophomore James Morton enjoyed the way that Ávila presented his and his family’s experiences as Latinos.

“It was a refreshing take, with humor and poems, on the struggle within the Latin American community,” Morton said.

Handshake Offers Firm Introduction to Jobs

Towson University’s new career portal, Handshake, is introducing students to job and internship opportunities to advance their career prospects.

Handshake, which replaced Towson’s old career portal, Hire@TU, on June 19, is an online job and internship database where students, career centers, employers and alumni can meet, talk and share opportunities.

According to Handshake, over 200,000 employers use the website to search more than 8 million students and young alumni from over 400 universities to find the best fit for many types of jobs.

Students can log into the database using their NetID and password by searching for Handshake on the TU website.

“I think the best feature of Handshake is the familiarity of the platform for students — the look and feel and approach taken with it,” Career Center Director Lorie Logan-Bennett said. “It’s familiar and easy for students. Also, it uses artificial intelligence to find the jobs that make the most sense for students.”

Handshake has simple, but powerful, search tools and alerts to help students narrow down their options from the more than 1 million jobs and internships posted by companies, nonprofits and government organizations, according to the Handshake website.

Users can customize the recommendations they receive based on their major, interests, preferred location and skills.

“The one thing I really like about Handshake is the algorithm that they use to match students to jobs and internships,” said Keith Jones, marketing and IT coordinator for the Career Center. “It learns the patterns of what you’re interested in and makes the user experience so much better.”

Students can quickly build a rich profile on Handshake that helps them stand out to potential employers. Students can also upload a résumé or cover letter, set up interviews, schedule a career counseling appointment, or RSVP for on-campus events such as job-related seminars, employment fairs and recruiting events.

Logan-Bennett said students can make themselves attractive to employers by understanding who the employers are and what they want.

She also suggested that students gain some applied experience outside of the classroom to better understand and develop the necessary skillsets, and to be able to talk about them in interviews and on their résumés.

“Another good feature is the list of qualifications,” sophomore psychology major Asia Dawson said. “Handshake reads your profile and lets you know what the employer is looking for and whether or not you have it. It helps you learn early on your chances of getting a particular job.”

Handshake was founded in 2014 and has since been innovating itself for the users’ best interest. Last week, they launched a mobile app where students can discover jobs and receive direct messages from employers.

“Handshake is coming out early this fall with more favorite explore collections,” Jones said. “This helps for when students are unsure of what job to look for. Handshake will give you the opportunity to explore your interests and see the options related to your major.”

Towson’s Career Center keeps students updated by posting their many upcoming events to Handshake, including mock interviews with employers to help students practice for a true interview.

The Career Center will be hosting the 2017 Part-Time & On-Campus Job Fair on Aug. 29 in the University Union Potomac Lounge, and the 2017 Fall Career and Internship Fair on Sept. 29 in SECU Arena.

TU Wastes Less, Recycles More

You’ve just polished off a pizza from Pazzelli’s Pizza in the Susquehanna food court, but you’re not sure about how to properly dispose of that cardboard box.

Towson University is working to make sure everyone on campus knows what to do with their trash to reduce the University’s carbon footprint and learn to care about the surrounding environment.

“The current goal is for students to successfully and confidently put waste in the right place,” Campus Planning and Sustainability Manager Paddy Watson said. “Every time you don’t recycle, you’re telling the administration and your peers that it’s not important, and it doesn’t matter. And if you don’t care, why should they? I don’t think that’s the intended message, so we are working to set students up for success by hosting educational training sessions.”

Junior Keanu Jordan-Stovall said he’s pleased with the recycling in dining areas.

“I appreciate it because they have general waste, recyclables and composting,” said Jordan-Stovall, an economics and Deaf studies major. “That distinction is helpful. And in Paws, they have signs with the specific items that are sold in Paws, so people know how to dispose of them.”

Jordan-Stovall said he’d like to see Towson bring more awareness to recycling in residence halls.

“There are recycling bins on floors, but I think a lot of people just throw everything down the trash chutes,” he said. “So bringing awareness to recycling in buildings or making it more accessible could be one improvement.”

Last year, TU reduced carbon emissions by 44 percent and recorded a recycling rate of 35.6 percent, its best recycling rate ever. This year, campus is working to do even better.

With programs such as the Eco-Reps, a group of peer-educators who educate Towson about sustainability through presentations and outreach efforts, students can become more involved in the campus’ green achievements,

The university also has a Climate Action Plan that works to mitigate the campus’ carbon footprint.

“The campus works to reduce our carbon footprint through initiatives set forth by the President’s Climate Committee, which meets monthly to discuss our impact,” Watson said. “Currently, we are working to reduce the campus’ electricity consumption, improve building operations and metering, and reduce the impact made by commuters.”

TU’s American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) Committee is working on is expanding the number of solar panels on campus to reduce our demand on the grid.

Last summer, Towson installed about 4,000 solar panels on the roofs of the University Union, Union Garage and Douglass and Barton houses.

The committee is also working to divert edible food from being composted.

“We recently ran a composting pilot in two of the residence halls this semester: Douglass and Millennium,” Watson said. “For the standard, regular suites, we found that students were diverting one pound per week of compostable waste, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but if all students were to participate that would mean we could collectively divert over 20,000 lbs. (ten tons) per month.”

Towson’ buildings are also helping enforce green initiatives on campus. There are 9 LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) buildings on campus which are designed to be more efficient and environmentally friendly, according to Watson.

“All new buildings have LED lighting and automated controls to help conserve energy,” Watson said. “Three of these building have partial green roofs to help reduce the heat island effect and storm water runoff.”

Another green initiative TU is taking part of this year is donating items collected during move out to Ascension Lutheran Church on York Road.

“Ascension is going to host a community yard sale on June 3, with all proceeds going to the Assistance Center of Towson Churches for a special fund to assist those recently released from incarceration get back on their feet, thanks to Pastor Laura Sinche,” Watson said. “Every year we are able to divert around three tons of surplus food, clothing and household goods from the landfill with this effort.”

Anybody can play a part in taking care of the environment, Watson said.

“You don’t have to be a science major to clean a stream, donate an extra meal or host a clothing drive,” she said. “We all live on the same planet, share the same air and we are all in this together, so let’s use our time wisely and make a difference.”

“Overall, I think Towson is pretty environmentally friendly,” Jordan-Stovall said.