The Interview USA
Towson University
Vice President of Student Affairs

Vernon Hurte

The Higher Education (HE) landscape is constantly changing, as are the students joining university communities every year. Approaching Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) with a flexible attitude can strengthen our capacity to address the challenges facing students in ways that fit their real-life experiences.

Max Webber, Co-Host of The Interview, sat down with Vernon Hurte, Vice President of Student Affairs at Towson University (TU), to chat about how a multipronged student-centric approach can impact student safety and inclusion.

Vernon's Journey

Max: Let's start with a brief introduction to Towson University. 

Having recently been noted as the number one public university in Maryland by the Wall Street Journal, we’re no longer a hidden secret. TU was founded as a teacher's college, but today, we offer majors across various disciplines. We’re committed to supporting holistic student success and inclusion for our 20,000-student body. We’re also one of few university institutions that doesn’t have an achievement gap; this is a point of great pride for us.

Max: What drew you to the world of HE?

I’d say my own undergraduate experience; I’m an alum of Bowie State University. My experience was phenomenal, from my time in the classroom to living in residence. The sense of care was evident. I had initially planned to study Aerospace Engineering, but as I learned more about HE as a professional field, I made the decision to shift to a Psychology major. 

Max: What’s your biggest focus when creating a sense of student safety on campus?

It’s essential to think about how we define safety. There’s a broad definition across the student body, whether related to physical safety on campus or mental safety more generally. We’re very intentional about our campus safety. As an urban community, we partner with our public safety department, neighborhood associations, Baltimore County, and local businesses through the Council Chamber of Commerce. When it comes to mental safety, students need to feel connected and cared for. When considering how we build an ethic of care that is felt by our students, we have two key priorities: emphasizing student health and well-being and effectively leveraging the student voice. 

Max: How do you ensure all students are aware of key messaging and initiatives?

We take a multipronged approach that starts with students. I meet regularly with our student associations and leaders to inform how we approach Student Affairs. We want to know what they’re hearing from their peers to be at the forefront of our work. Technology is another key part of this process. We view our website as a one-stop shop for sharing key resources and intentionally use our social media channels to elevate the accessibility of information for our students. My mantra for the team is: We always want to be where students are. This means we need to stay informed, nimble, and flexible to identify the best places and platforms to share our messaging. 

Max: How are you approaching the issue of hazing?

We’ve been lucky not to have an issue with hazing at TU, but I’m aware it’s impacting other campuses. With this in mind, we’re taking action to expand our hazing prevention efforts beyond the measures we already have in place. Education and prevention work is critical to getting this right; we want to be proactive, not reactive, to issues facing our students.

Max: How are you engaging students at scale to raise awareness around hazing?

We often communicate through campaigning. Collaboration with key campus partners is also productive in addressing the scale issue. We support and empower departments across the university to share in the process of communicating important messaging and resources. We also see a real opportunity to partner with our academic colleagues and embed messaging in the curricular experience. Sharing information in the classroom environment broadens our reach – they are the spaces where all students are actively engaging.

Max: Are you looking for new ways to engage students in critical topics?

We approach this from the perspective of improving our connection with students. We look to other campuses to see how they’re using technology. We’re also leveraging the student voice to better understand what technologies they find most useful. A great example is using text; we’ve had far more success communicating with students via text than email – this is what it means to meet students where they’re at.

Max: What is the best piece of advice you’ve received across the course of your career?

I’d love to share two. Firstly, never discount the importance of being a good listener. As a leader, it’s your job to leverage the best in people – you can’t do this effectively if you’re not actively listening. Secondly, is to stay flexible and nimble; these are a must to be truly student-centered in the face of an ever-changing landscape. Every year, we welcome a new cohort of students, and every year, our campus is different. If we lead with flexibility, we can ensure our practice is always student-centered.

Curious to see what the future of training looks like?
Max Webber
Max works closely with people leaders and change-makers in our professional services markets. If you're looking to feature on The Interview, or simply want to learn more about GoodCourse, then get in touch at max.webber@goodcourse.co
GoodCourse

The future of training is here, are you ready for it?

Tired of chasing your learners to complete dull training? Let's speak today👇
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.