New director envisions plans for ‘TU 2020’
The new Director of Leadership and Civic Engagement Christopher Jensen started on Aug. 1. His previous job was as the coordinator of the Leadership and Volunteer Center at Oakland University in Michigan. He made the move to the Baltimore area for the director position after living near the Detroit metro area for the last 20 years.
Over the summer, Jensen and three other candidates prepared 30-minute presentations as part of the on-campus interview for an open forum for anyone to meet the candidates and for them to share their vision of leadership and civic engagement as it pertains to the TU 2020 plan.
What will be your role be at Towson?
My role here will be working a lot with the leadership program, the environmental but also the part that I was working at Oakland was working with the faculties. How do we help faculty incorporate service into the curriculum to the academic mission, learning objectives for their course.
What other experience do you have with leadership and civic engagement?
Interestingly, my first job after undergraduate I worked with a fraternity. But my first job at a university was the coordinator of Greek life and community service. So for fraternities and sororities one of their missions is service, participating in the community, but also with the service mission there working with the American Red Cross, Working with United Way, working with Easter Seals, in Flint, Mich….They did projects within the community and then with St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.
What was so strong at Towson that brought you to a whole new city?
I think that [it was] this position, this opportunity, the passion about leadership, the passion about civic engagement, here especially with the environmental, and helping students. When you think about the purpose of higher education from the beginning it was intended to create better citizens. And so education, part of it is you become more educated about the issues not only for your career, but for your life. And so this position allows me, and allows the staff, and us, and Towson University to help students connect themselves .academically, yes, we’re going to prepare you for a great career, but once you leave Towson you’re going to be a part of a community…And part of the education is that you become a good citizen once you leave the institution. You’re actively engaged in the community. We know there’s issues…We need people that are engaged. We need smart people that are involved in those issues to help alleviate those from society.
What does your position entail?
As the director, I’m the director over the whole leadership and civic engagement office. And so there’s two coordinators right now… the environmental conference that we have on campus, and so we’ll be directing that, and then we do a TEDx, and then we’ll also be directing the StrengthsQuest initiative on campus that Dr. Moriarty set up.
What do you think your strong points in your presentation over the summer were pertaining to TU’s 2020 plan that got you here at Towson today?
What I was focusing on there was that President Loeschke, she has that 2020 plan, and connecting that to it and part of it that I was really trying to do and hopefully what made the difference there between me, was that there’s the research that’s out there. Knowing again the research the theory of how service, how connecting student, student development is important to that but then also the practical. I also had the practical side being the assistant director for leadership and volunteer center and service learning. I’ve set up the events I’ve had the programming and so both having the education component, the theory and the practical aspect of it, I think that provided a good balance for me working with students and faculty at Towson University. I think also with the vision component there is passion about this work. Pretty much I’ve done some type of service, some type of leadership my entire career in higher education and so the building blocks the stepping stones for this position helped out there. And then I think the vision of just understanding the need for this work that needs to be done. There’s a lot that needs to be done and I’m willing to do it.
Any new initiatives?
I would say this year it’s going to be really important to continue the work that has been set down from the years that Dr. Moriarty’s been putting in and the past interim coordinator and Darcy, who’s one of the first directors that was here…
I can’t say there’s going to be a lot of new initiatives. Part of this office was just the office of civic engagement and so the leadership was there that was growing because we did the TEDx conference, which is pretty much a leadership conference talking about the issues. With the StrengthsQuest that will be sort of now I will be the key person for the StrengthsQuest that will be happening on campuses that all the RAs, all the orientation leaders are doing and so making sure that that is implemented and assessed for its effectiveness. So it’s not new but it’s been repositioned into this position.
What do you most look forward to?
Why I got in higher education, why I care about this is making sure that the students will become great citizens but have a great educational experience. I know the purpose of education, we want you to graduate. That’s why you’re at Towson University to get that degree. But while you’re getting that degree what other experiences, what other student engagement are you a part of and so what I look forward to is just providing students, for me the student civic engagement aspect of it, the leadership aspects that when the students get the degree they have that foundation educationally that they can use that then and think about ‘okay how am I going to be able to be a leader in whatever field I’m going to be in.’ How am I going to be a good citizen how am I going to be engaged civically in my communities that I’m a part of. Hopefully we can create that conversation for students when they leave Towson with that degree and that diploma and wherever they go in the state, or world, they have that background that they can say not only do I have the education but I’m going to be a strong leader and I’m going to be a great citizen.
Anything else you’d like to say?
I’m excited about this opportunity. I appreciate the opportunity to have this position and just look forward to meeting as many faculty, staff and students and connecting them to the programs and services that we provide.
Compiled by Brandi Bottalico