Address to the Campus: Jan 30, 2013

Good afternoon, fellow members of the Rutgers-Newark community.   Today I speak with you to celebrate the momentum of our campus.   Over the past year, the people who make these 38 acres come alive with the American dream – students, faculty members and staff members – have built a new foundation for a thrilling and united future. 

We are a scrappy lot here at Rutgers-Newark.   As we dare to dream, we accept no artificial limits on our dreams.   So let us take another step together toward reaching them.   Join me, now, to reflect on where we’ve been this year, and to suggest what might come next for our campus in this era of transformation.  And make no mistake:  For our community, this is an era of transformation. 

First, we’re in the midst of a transformation of our entire university under a reorganization plan mandated by state law.   Especially at this vital juncture, Rutgers is fortunate to have a visionary leader in President Barchi.

Secondly, we’re in the midst of a transformation of our campus itself.  We’re strengthening the academic programs at Rutgers-Newark dramatically as they move higher in the echelons of national renown. 

And thirdly, we have begun to transform the quality of life on our campus and are looking at new ways to partner with the great city in which we live.  

Let’s begin with our place in a reorganized university.  For our purposes today, I won’t review for you all the details of the state law or the many hours that people from our campus, from other Rutgers campuses and from UMDNJ invested in preparing for this reorganization.  Our campus is not merging directly with UMDNJ.  But here’s the bottom line for Rutgers-Newark.   In plain language, the law mandates that our campus ask the legislature for state funding directly rather than have the university as a whole ask on our behalf.  

But I want to be equally clear about this:  I believe passionately in President Barchi’s vision of “One Rutgers.”  We burst with pride on this campus over being members of a world-class research university, one of only 62 universities in the prestigious Association of American Universities, and now part of the Big 10 as well.

We also cherish Rutgers-Newark’s ranking as the nation’s #1 national university in diversity in U.S. News & World Report – and our # 2 ranking nationally as “best bang for the buck” in the Washington Monthly.

Two qualities of our campus – our upholding of the Rutgers standard of excellence and our commitment to serving the magnificent mosaic of our state and nation – go hand in hand.  In combination, they become the ultimate source of pride for us at Rutgers-Newark, bar none. 

As we see it, equality for students cannot be achieved without equal quality for students.

So we’ve moved quickly to transform our campus in the spirit of One Rutgers standard of excellence.   With the legislature having given our campus more say in its own affairs, we have an increased responsibility to be our own toughest critics and most rapid responders.

And while Rutgers-Newark is terrific, we still have an obligation to do even better.  Complacency is the enemy of momentum.  

For starters, we are taking our campus’ unparalleled record of diversity to a new level – symbiotic with enhancing the academic experience.   A committee chaired by Kyle Farmbry, the associate dean of our Graduate School, is developing new ways to incorporate the discussion of diversity on our campus, beginning with orientation and continuing throughout the Rutgers-Newark experience.   The committee is also examining how we can support research by faculty and students on the impact of diversity in the extraordinary education our students receive and how to enhance that advantage.

To be certain, progress never comes with the wave of a wand.  Nor can it be sustained by the words of inspiration alone.  True progress – that which endures – comes through sound management.

Think about where our campus stood last academic year.  Many critical functions had been neglected for years.  Some buildings seemed steps away from crumbling.   And relations between the top administration of our campus, and the central administration of Rutgers, were too often rocky.   That didn’t serve the best interests of our campus or of Rutgers.

Today, good relations with Rutgers’ central administration have helped us win support for a number of campus projects, such as the new admissions office and a new distance learning classroom in the law school.  And today, we have made responsible management decisions to put our money where it matters most urgently. 

Too many of our classrooms date to the early 1970s and sadly look it.  We’re renovating them as quickly as we can.   Too many of our teaching laboratories have not kept up with the times.  We have initiated a program of renewal to bring all teaching facilities into the 21st century. 

A new million dollar teaching laboratory in chemistry opened last fall, and a new biology teaching laboratory will be constructed this summer.  This year we will also remodel classrooms, including the large lecture hall in Ackerson and a major classroom overhaul in Hill, under the direction of Betsy Rowe.

We have gained the first level of approval for a major new building for our campus, Life Sciences II, filled with research and teaching laboratories.   It’s the cornerstone of our plan to contribute to the economic development of this great city more than our campus ever has before.  We intend to develop a Rutgers presence in University Heights Science Park based on new faculty in Life Sciences II with an interest in developing start-up companies that will accelerate Newark’s economic revitalization. 

Our two major construction projects, Life Sciences II and 15 Washington St. – the latter of which will add dorm space for more than 300 graduate students – represent an investment of more than $130 million in construction in our city.

Your academic experience is the highest priority for all of us.   That’s why our deans, along with other campus leaders and me, have worked to create the first academic plan that anyone on our campus seems to remember.  The plan gives us direction and prepares us for President Barchi’s strategic planning for the entire university and the more detailed strategic planning that will occur on each campus and in each unit thereafter. 

We have also created a state-of-the-art Admissions office, the lifeblood for any campus.  Our old admissions office was located in one of our least attractive buildings with inadequate signage and scant parking for visitors.  We have provided new resources to our admissions team led by Jason Hand, including a new office in an ideal location in Engelhard, with new marketing support.  

And listen to these results:   undergraduate applications to Rutgers-Newark are up over 20 percent compared to this time last year and our first-year applications for next fall have already exceeded the total first-year applications for last fall!

Our graduate school had been so long neglected, the campus did not even know for certain who were members of the graduate faculty.  In addition to fixing that, Dean Maggie Shiffrar and her team have extended health insurance coverage for graduate students, created professional development workshops, increased opportunities for graduate students to attend conferences and this March the first thesis competition will be born in which graduate students will compete for prizes for best presentation of their scholarly work.

Let’s keep the momentum going.   We must resolve that our graduate students receive the support, training opportunities and services that the graduate school in New Brunswick offers its graduate students.  Again:  One Rutgers.

A year ago I challenged our campus to double external funding.  To support that effort, we are completing a comprehensive study to improve operations in our research office.  We also discovered that through prior local administrative action, our research office had been formally cut off from the support of the Rutgers University research administration.  Yet all this time we have continued to pay for support we are not getting.  This is being fixed. In addition, we are converting grant submission from paper to electronic, creating new texts about the university for investigators to use in their proposals, and alerting faculty to new grant opportunities electronically.  Much more is about to come.

We have set a high priority on campus security through direct oversight at the highest levels of our campus.   Leading the effort from my office is Executive Vice Chancellor Dawkins, working with Chief Lattimore.  They have come up with several recommendations that we are implementing now.

First, we must meet the urgent need to move officers to on-campus patrols.  Therefore, our police department is doubling the number of uniformed officers patrolling between the hours 7:00 pm and 11:00 pm.  The number will rise from seven officers to fourteen.

We are creating several new patrol routes to supplement existing routes.  Our routes will be patrolled by officers riding in vehicles, on bicycles and Segways, and on foot.

We’re adding a detective to the night shift forces who will support investigative activities.

And during the evening, vehicles will travel around the campus with their non-emergency lights flashing to ensure they are more visible.

In other ways, too, we are making the governance of our campus more responsive.  I recently announced the creation of a new office of external relations for our campus – responding to the new state law that requires us to ask for funding from the state directly.   Last week, Steven Goldstein, our new associate chancellor for external relations, whom many of us knew from his social advocacy, joined us. 

As we welcome new talent to the campus, we also salute those who have helped to build it.  We honor the long service of Carol Martancik to this campus, most recently in leading our HR office. HR needs on campus are such, however, that we have converted this position to full time and are currently searching for a suitable leader in this post.  Let us also thank Marie Botticelli and Marty Ryan who have recently, or are about, to retire after many years of service to this campus as well. Stacia Zelick, Marie's successor as Newark Computing Services director, already has been busy meeting with constituents here on campus and with her OIT colleagues in New Brunswick to identify how best to infuse a higher level of services for all computing services users -- faculty, staff, and students.  And we are using this time of transition to understand much better operations such as capital projects, and deferred maintenance, a task I have charged to Chris Pye in his new role as acting associate vice chancellor of facilities, and I expect him over the next few months to assess and recommend best practices for our facilities operations.  Finally I must with regret announce the retirement of Dr. Minoo Varzegar; she turned PALS around and has created a very successful unit for our campus, but must now leave us for personal reasons.

So let the message resound from Newark to New Brunswick to the 49 other states and the many countries from which members of our community come:  This is a campus on the move, and we’re attracting some of the most extraordinary people you’ll find on any campus in the country.  And who better to represent that story than some of the people with us today.

Would Sher Singh please stand.  Sher is a senior majoring in economics and mathematics and is a member of the Rutgers-Newark Fed Challenge team.  That’s the Federal Reserve Board’s competition among 100 universities across the country testing knowledge and innovation in economics and monetary policy.  Our team has reached the national finals four times in the last seven years, and last year placed second.  Sher actually coached the team this year when Professor John Graham was on sabbatical.   Thank you, Sher. 

Would Ashlee Wright please stand.   Ashlee is a junior at the Rutgers Business School, where she is majoring in finance and accounting.  She was the valedictorian at Newark Vocational High School and continues to be a star on our campus.   She is vice president of the National Association of Black Accountants and a fellow of the New Jersey Needs You Fellowship.   This summer, she will be doing her second consecutive internship at Price Waterhouse Coopers.  She also screen writes as a hobby.   Thank you, Ashlee.

Would Guillermo Padron please stand.  Guillermo is a senior majoring in computer science and mathematics, and what a story he has to tell.  He came here through our Educational Opportunity Fund program and is a standout in our Honors College.    He embodies the best of our campus’ commitment to academic excellence and giving back to the world around us.  He volunteers with children at the Don Bosco Youth Center in his hometown of Elizabeth, and intends to devote his career to changing people’s lives through technology.  Thank you, Guillermo. 

Would Olta Bejleri please stand.  Olta is a second-year student at our law school who fled to the United States at age 10 after her father survived an assassination attempt when he ran for prime minister of Albania.  Though Olta did not learn English until she reached our shores, today she is a member of the Rutgers Law Review and is working this summer at one of the nation’s most prestigious law firms.   After what happened to her dad, Olta had sworn off her one-time dream of public service.  But when she came to our law school, a national model for public interest work, Olta’s dream returned.  Thank you, Olta.

Would Kimi Takesue please stand.  Kimi is an assistant professor in our Department of Arts, Culture and Media, and a filmmaker with so many awards at this early stage in her career, it’s astounding.   She has won a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Rockefeller Media Arts Fellowship, an Eastman Kodak Cinematography Fellowship, a Ford Foundation Grant, a grant from the Arts Council of England, and the list goes on and on.  Her documentaries have been screened in film festivals around the world including Sundance, winning two Grand Jury Prizes and a Gold Medal.   She has been a visiting filmmaker at Yale and joins our faculty from Syracuse.  Thank you, Kimi.

Would LaToya Battle-Brown and Kyle Warren please stand.  LaToya is associate dean at our Business School and Kyle is associate dean at our College of Nursing.   LaToya and Kyle oversee student services at their respective schools – and the raves we hear are off-the-charts.  LaToya and Kyle, our students say, improve the quality of their lives every day, encourage them to think big, and motivate them to success.   That kind of caring, that profound level of personal attention, is a hallmark of this campus.  Thank you, LaToya and Kyle.

My friends, these esteemed members of the Rutgers-Newark community are no exceptions to the rule.  Ours is a story of excellence.   On our one campus alone, we have had aa       Pulitzer Prize winner and a Pulitzer finalist.   A National Book Award winner and another finalist.   A Shelley Memorial Award winner for poetry.  A member of the National Academy of Arts & Sciences.  A member of the National Institutes of Medicine.   The winner of the Grete Lundbeck European Brain Research Foundation Award worth €1 million.  Two winners of Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers from President Obama.   Three Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.  An artist all of whose major works are in MOMA and in other major museums across the globe.  Outstanding Young Scholar of the American Society of Criminology.    I could go on and on and on.

And in athletics, our director was named ECAC Administrator of the year.  Student Rachel Witt was named New Jersey AIAW Woman of the Year.

Most importantly, our academic superstars are one community with our students.   It makes Rutgers-Newark the gateway to a world of excellence and possibilities of which so many of our students have dreamed.

Just ask United States Senators Bob Menendez and Elizabeth Warren, both graduates of our law school.

As we look to our future together, we will demand the highest expectations of ourselves and those around us. 

While today we are the most diverse campus in the nation, tomorrow we will be the leader in helping society understand that diversity fosters excellence.

While today we have powerful scholarship, tomorrow we will be the leader in helping society understand that the excellence provided by Rutgers-Newark changes student lives forever.  

And while today we seek our fair share of recognition and resources from our university and state, tomorrow they will embrace the greatness of our campus both for its scholarship and for fostering social mobility.

When the total story of Rutgers-Newark is understood, our campus truly shines. Rutgers wins. Newark wins. New Jersey wins. Students, faculty, staff, all win as we grasp our future together.

 

Thank you.

 

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