Address to the Campus: Oct 1, 2012

We have arrived at a momentous time for Rutgers University and for our campus of this world-class institution.  This is one of those times when what we do during this academic year really will make a difference to the future of our campus.  Rutgers has a new president, Robert Barchi, whom we met early last month at Convocation.  The state passed legislation that will make Rutgers University much bigger next year, returning medical education for the first time in over 40 years.  We have substantial and excellent new leadership on our campus, including a new dean of the Graduate School, a number of new associate deans in the colleges and schools, and some relatively new team members in the chancellor’s office.  President Barchi announced last Friday that, as I promised last winter, Rutgers will soon open a national search for the chancellor position of our campus, the first such leadership search in at least 30 years.  He also announced last week that a provost position will be created on this campus.  We are now working out a process for that appointment.

We must define our future within these realities while creating some new realities of our own.  We must, in a phrase, build a path to our future.  How do we do this?  First, we celebrate our pride in who and what we are.  Second we recognize that based on the incredible talent this campus has and the boundless energy we can bring to the task, we can, and we are currently, building that path to the future.  And finally, we define that exciting future at the end of that path we are building.

First, we affirm our pride in being an integral and important part of Rutgers University. Some of our value to our students and our faculty comes from being an integral part of an AAU institution and a world-class university that bears the proud name of Rutgers.  That we are an important part of Rutgers University and proud of it is being celebrated by new banners around campus and red ‘R’s in many windows (we have more of those if you would like one for a window near you!).

We have a vision of excellence for our campus that I know you share.  Our campus of Rutgers University is a rare fusion of academic values:  world-class scholarship with access and extraordinary opportunity for students.  Our campus, adjusted for size, is second to none within Rutgers, but different, with our own specialties and character.  We are an urban campus striving to take full advantage of our location, a location that uniquely enables our particular schools and colleges to reach for their own maximum potential.  We are excellence in education, excellence in scholarship and excellence in opportunities for our students. That is a vision worthy of a campus within a world-class university and it is those values we bring to our students, our faculty, and our communities.  This character of our campus was recently recognized by the Washington Monthly   -- whose ranking system was praised by the NewYork Times columnist Joe Nocera on Saturday -- that ranked us second in the nation among research universities in "best bang for the buck" and eighth in social mobility.

Let’s review some of our Excellence in slides:

In addition, I want to mention some other important developments.  From the College of Nursing under the excellent leadership of Dean Holzemer: the opening of a major clinical and training operation with FOCUS, only a few blocks from here.  Dean Clear has partnered the School of Criminal Justice with other universities in the state and obtained $4M in support from the Lady Sunshine Foundation and the Ford Foundation to open college courses in prisons across the state.  Vice Chancellor Alec Gates is leading the New Jersey LSAMP(Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation), a $5M National Science Foundation  grant headquartered on our campus and partnering with several other universities in NJ, to the best record nationally of building pipelines of students in underrepresented groups in science and math disciplines, a phenomenal accomplishment.  A collaboration between the Dept. of Psychology and the Center for Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience has produced a new multimillion-dollar, state-of-the-art facility for brain imaging here on campus, the only such facility in Rutgers.  Under the leadership of Vice Chancellor Marcia Brown, our new child care center is thriving, now with a waiting list.

I wish I could bring the spotlight on even more of the highlights from our campus community.  You all bring your talents and your energy on behalf of our students and the spectacular scholarly productivity that characterizes this campus.  Whether you are staff, student, or teacher/scholar, thank you for what you do.

We must define our future where we can and not let others define it for us.  We are a campus of Rutgers with a strong sense of place and history in the city of Newark.  Our future in the 21st century is as the leading multicultural campus in the country, particularly bringing academic excellence to the diverse communities of all of Northern New Jersey.  We must set our expectations high.  Too many urban campuses or universities are content to play a second-class role in higher education or to strive for mediocrity.  You know examples.  In contrast, we must bring to our students and to the state the highest level of excellence that we can achieve.

We can, and we are currently, building that path to the future.  Building paths always starts with a plan and with a foundation.

First, the plan:

In February I initiated a comprehensive planning process for the entire campus.  This has proceeded as planned with each dean (Deans Clear, Farmer, Lewis, Holzemer, Holzer, Shafer, and later Shiffrar after she started her deanship) engaging her/his college/school in an academic planning process that I brought together in a retreat in April.  In addition, your leadership (including Executive Vice Chancellor Dawkins, Vice Chancellors Gunkel and Gates, and Assistant ChancellorTamasco) has developed plans for deferred maintenance including classroom renovations, marketing and admissions, future capital projects, student services, and development.  Progress is being made on all these plans.  Vital to this progress has been the establishment and effective functioning of the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee, created as I promised in February, consisting of all the academic deans and key members of the chancellor’s office.  This planning also revealed a need to restructure our human resources department, a process that is currently underway.  The plan for our campus calls for a doubling of external funding in five years.  To do so requires adequate support to those writing for grants.  Therefore we are taking a close look at processes in our grants office and anticipate some clarity in process that will benefit all.

Next, the Foundation.

When building foundations, one must pay particular attention to the fundamentals upon which everything else will depend.  For our campus, one of those fundamentals is that enrollment must remain strong.

To address this fundamental building block, we have given our Office of Admissions a new home, eliminating the limitations of its former location in a relatively inaccessible, poorly marked, and unattractive building with almost no parking, unsuitable to attracting new students to enroll.  Today our admissions office is in the center of campus in attractive, well-marked quarters in Englehard Hall with convenient parking, so that Jason Hand and his colleagues can more effectively carry out the mission to attract great students to this campus of Rutgers.  And a new marketing campaign has begun, the first serious marketing campaign for our campus in memory, created by our new campus marketing committee (including Alex Gates, Jason Hand, Gerald Massenburg, Irene O’Brien, Helen Paxton, Chris Pye, Betsy Rowe, and Dan Stoll.)  For the first time, you will see visible signs of Rutgers University, Newark around northern New Jersey over the next few weeks as a physical manifestation of the committee’s work. We worked hard to improve the look of our campus, such as with the new banners on the streets surrounding campus.  In addition, some of our signage around campus had become rather shabby.  Therefore we have removed some decrepid signs and replaced others.

Let me review for you some of the other building blocks that we have been working on.

We are addressing fundamental student needs both to attract students to our campus and to provide them with the first class education that we promise.  First class educational facilities are high on that list of needs.  Therefore, this past summer, we gutted and rebuilt one of the most decrepit and long-ignored chemistry teaching laboratories in Olson Hall; the result is a modern, wonderful new classroom and the first classes of chemistry students to use this laboratory are learning there this semester.  This new laboratory is designed so that you can see into the lab from the foyer on the Smith Hall end of Olson, so take a look at what is going on!  We will do the next major teaching laboratory renovation next summer in Boyden Hall for biology students.  In addition, we designed and have begun construction on a new simulation facility for nursing students.  We have under construction a new state-of-the-art distance-learning classroom for the law school in support of its re-accreditation this coming spring.  These efforts represent a multimillion-dollar investment directly for students’ needs.

We are strengthening student services that support our students in their academic careers.  The Office of Academic Services in Hill Hall is being rehabbed to make it more inviting and functional to students – and look less like a minimum security prison, as we strengthen advising to support increased retention and improved graduation rates.   We have added two staff positions in instructional support to address a chronic inability in the past to meet academic needs.  We are adding space to Counseling Services so they can better serve student needs. 

One of the most powerful academic experiences a student can have is to engage first-hand in research.  We had an exciting summer for a number of undergraduates who did research under the guidance of individual faculty members.  For example, some of our students went with Dr. Gary Farney to Italy to begin an archaeological dig of an ancient Roman villa near Rome (pictures).

For the first time, six Rutgers-Newark students, who otherwise would not have been able to do so, were supported by scholarships from private donors to pursue their research projects in a variety of fields this summer. We are directly connecting undergraduate education with the research mission of our campus, a strength that sets us apart from the undergraduate experiences at the non-research universities and colleges in the state.  As promised, I personally supported two of those scholarships.  And since we do not forget about you students when you graduate, we have a great Career Development Center under Tom Hopkins now located in recently remodeled space to serve you. 

We have a focus on graduate education that is a growing and is an increasingly important part of our mission.  Graduate students should take note that we have a revitalized Graduate School with an office in Conklin Hall thanks to our new dean, Maggie Shiffrar, who is developing a much more effective support structure for graduate students and graduate programs than we have ever had in the past.  We have co-localized the Division of Global Affairs in a cluster with the other interdisciplinary Ph.D. program, American Studies, next to the Graduate School in Conklin Hall, creating a graduate center. To meet the needs of graduate students who would like to live on campus, a very large project has begun to turn the historic building at 15 Washington (between here and the business school) into new residences for over 300 students, and in the rest of the building, new classrooms, and new facilities for programming such as Alumni Relations, Communications, Human Resources, and Career Development.  Executive Vice Chancellor Kemel Dawkins is shepherding this project, with anticipated completion in 3 years. 

Now the big gorilla:  the New Jersey Medical and Health Sciences Education Restructuring Act.  This will be a follow-up to the email messages I sent to you this summer.

We have a talented leadership team on this campus that worked very effectively with me both in public and behind the scenes to make this legislation work for our campus during these turbulent times.  The team included the dean and associate dean of the Rutgers School of Law-Newark, the dean and associate deans from the Faculty of Arts and Sciences-Newark, and key faculty members.  The Newark Faculty Council and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences took important stands.  As a result many of the more egregious provisions (to our campus) were removed from the final bill. We all owe an enormous debt of gratitude to this leadership team who worked tirelessly for weeks, often late into the night and straight through weekends, in Trenton, in New Brunswick, in Newark, and forever on the phone and by email.

Under the legislation, all but one part of UMDNJ will merge as a new unit into Rutgers that will be called the School of Biomedical and Health Sciences.  That unit will have its own chancellor.  Our campus will continue to have our own chancellor.  The New Brunswick campus will get its own new chancellor, at the same rank as the other three chancellors, which will put our campus on a more equal footing within the university.  All chancellors will report directly to the president.

The legislation gives us a new campus Advisory Board, which we have begun to build, that is intended to be an advocate for our campus. Among other duties, this board will propose capital projects and bonding for Rutgers University, Newark to the Board of Governors and propose an annual budget for Rutgers University, Newark to the Board of Governors.  This means the leadership of our campus will be working with three boards simultaneously.

One of the positive effects of this legislation on this campus that we are working to make a reality is a closer relationship with the schools and colleges of UMDNJ.  I have already been in conversation with the President of UMDNJ, Dr. Rodgers, and together we will work to develop new, effective interfaces, particularly with the portions of UMDNJ in Newark, to mutual advantage.  We are also looking at other areas in which we could cooperate more fully including security. Our campus has a number of members on the Rutgers-UMDNJ Integration teams, and discussions are now taking place between FASN and the School of Health Related Professions at UMDNJ and between the nursing schools on both campuses.

Let me expand my remarks here to community.  First I note that our immediate neighbors the CHEN (Council for Higher Education in Newark) institutions (UMDNJ, NJIT, Essex County College and us) are meeting again after a hiatus of more than a year.  We are developing agendas that we can work on together to mutual benefit.  These four institutions and a number of community partners continue work on University Heights Science Park, a technology park being further developed in University Heights, a few blocks up the hill.  BioTrials, a company new to our area, is expected to establish a clinical research operation there in a new building in the park.

Future

With the foundations in place, what about the future of our campus?  What should we strive to achieve at the end of the path we are building?

First and foremost, we must strive for excellence in our education and research programs, building some of them into powerhouses that sit on top nationally while reflecting our uniqueness.  We have programs that are already among the best in the country, such as the MFA in Creative Writing, Supply Chain Management Executive MBA, Criminal Justice, and programs in the School of Public Affairs and Administration, giving us a good start on that part of our future.  We need to build a few more of our programs that are already good into programs of high international standing.

Our School of Law-Newark should once again be one of the top-ranked law schools in the country.  This requires investment from Rutgers University.  Rutgers deserves such a law school. The current students and past law school graduates very much need a top-ranked law school to support their career aspirations in this competitive age.

We should strive to better understand our diversity and translate that diversity to empower our students.  We should become the leader in the US in that endeavor.

We should become even stronger in advancing our students from matriculation to graduation.  National rankings already say we are very good at doing this.  Let us become the best in the US and show the rest of higher education how to both provide access and to nurture success for our students.

This community needs us to catalyze economic growth.  I propose a model that has been repeatedly validated across this country: the development by faculty members of start-up companies who offer jobs, jobs for which the higher ed institutions of Newark could train applicants from the local community.  We are actually well positioned, should we decide to do this, to develop such an approach here.  It is happening across the river in NYC; why not in Newark?  The higher ed bond issue in November, if passed, could provide us funding to complete the Life Sciences building, creating room to hire additional scientists, over and above those we currently have.  If we can get new lines and those new hires engage in work with great potential for tech transfer, there is room in Science Park right here in University Heights to incubate start-up companies (NJIT already has a large presence there.) To prepare ourselves for this possibility as well as to strengthen the campus, we are enriching plans for the Life Sciences II building because any projects for the bond issue must be “shovel-ready” to compete for funds from the bond issue, should it pass.

Yes, this is a year of great challenges.  We do not know yet how all of them will be resolved.  However, many of our challenges are already the subject of action plans and great progress is being made. While the other challenges we face are considerable, I have complete confidence that your talents and energy will build our path to our future.

Thank you.

 

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