Tanya Poppleton brings decades of experience in role as director of campus safety at U of T Scarborough

Tanya Poppleton
U of T Scarborough's new director of campus safety brings a wealth of experience and a commitment to embedding equity, diversity and inclusion principles into staff training (Submitted photo)
Article Date

Don Campbell

Tanya Poppleton, U of T Scarborough’s new director of campus safety, brings more than 25 years of experience and a commitment to embedding equity, diversity and inclusion principles into staff training.     

Poppleton joins UTSC 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 ever community engagement campus safety office, which included bringing innovative community safety programs to campus.

Throughout her decades-long career Poppleton has also adopted training programs dedicated to equity, inclusion and diversity (EDI) principles. This ranged from formal training – including unconscious bias training – to making sure EDI books and learning materials from experts were made available to her 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,” she 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 has witnessed the security industry evolve quite a bit in the decades since she started, particularly in the way staff are trained, as well as 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.”

I’m really looking forward to joining the community because it really feels like I’m joining a great family.

During her time at Ryerson, she oversaw that shift in practice by placing more of an emphasis on embedding security staff within the university community itself, altering uniforms to make them less law-enforcement in appearance, and to be more welcoming and inclusive.

“We wanted our staff to truly understand the community they were serving,” she says.

Prior to her role at Ryerson, Poppleton worked for a private security company, and served five years in the Canadian armed forces. She’s also a self-defence instructor and teaches continuing education courses on issue and emergency management. 

Poppleton says she’s excited by the opportunity at U of T Scarborough, particularly being on a campus surrounded by the Highland Creek valley. She’s also looking forward to working with the safety and security staff.

“The campus safety office is doing amazing work, and there’s a great range of experience and expertise in the team. 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 2021, 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’s been flattered by the warm reception she’s already 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.”