Tanya Poppleton, the new director of campus safety at the University of Toronto Scarborough, is a 25-year safety and security veteran who is committed to equity, diversity and inclusion.
Throughout her decades-long career, Poppleton has adopted a range of training programs aimed at advancing equity, inclusion and diversity (EDI) principles. They ranged from formal training – including unconscious bias training – to making sure books and other learning materials are made available to staff.
“We were always looking for ways our security staff could embed EDI principles into everything we did, especially in our daily interactions with our community,” Poppleton says.
“When it came to unconscious bias training, this meant having our staff understand what it means and how it manifests, so, when they’re out on patrol for instance, knowing how they should approach members of our community in a way that is meaningful and respectful.”
Poppleton joins U of T Scarborough from Ryerson University, where she recently managed the campus’s security response team as well as the overall security infrastructure and emergency response plans. She also managed Ryerson’s first community engagement campus safety office, which included bringing innovative community safety programs to campus.
Poppleton says the security industry has evolved since she first started in the field, including the way staff are trained and the overall philosophy behind community safety.
“Back in the ’90s, the bulk of training would have been on how to take a report, first-aid, CPR and many programs related to the use of force application,” she says.
“Probably one of the biggest changes within the security industry has been this shift in thinking away from a primarily combative, us-versus-them approach, to one that’s more focused on developing relationships with community members.”
During her time at Ryerson, Poppleton placed an emphasis on embedding security staff within the university community, altering uniforms to make staff appear less like law-enforcement officers and being welcoming and inclusive.
“We wanted our staff to truly understand the community they were serving,” she says.
Poppleton has also worked for a private security company and served five years in the Canadian Armed Forces. A self-defence instructor, she teaches continuing education courses on issue and emergency management.
Poppleton says she’s looking forward to working to working with the safety and security staff at U of T Scarborough.
“The campus safety office is doing amazing work, and there’s a great range of experience and expertise in the team,” she says. “I’m always looking to improve – even if it’s something that’s working well, just looking for ways to be creative with those services and how we offer them to better suit our community.”
Poppleton, who is scheduled to begin Jan. 4, takes over from Gary Pitcher, who will be retiring in February after eight years in the role as director of campus safety, issue and emergency management.
She says she’s been flattered by the warm reception she’s received.
“When the announcement went out, I started getting congratulatory messages from folks across UTSC – many from people I’ve never met – welcoming me to the campus, which is amazing.” she says.
“I’m really looking forward to joining the community because it really feels like I’m joining a great family.”