Address to the University Senate

President Barchi and fellow Senators.  We welcome you today to our Newark campus, where we live the idea that a university with first-rate ambitions can have no campus with second-rate achievements or third-rate expectations.

This campus is on a journey from excellence to preeminence as quickly and intensely as the entire university’s.

That is the journey that meets our commitment to the highest standards of One Rutgers.

That is the journey that fulfills the university restructuring act, which mandates that each of our university’s three campuses have more direct responsibility than at any time since our Newark campus joined the university in 1946.

And that is the journey our leaders across Northern New Jersey are expecting.

The new state law designates eight surrounding counties to be constituents of this campus – eight counties comprising 47 percent of the state’s population.  That’s not the exclusive constituency of this campus, to be sure.  Our students come from every part of New Jersey and from across the globe.

But yes, the leaders across New Jersey’s most populous region want this campus to achieve no less, aim for no less, and be perceived as no less, than any other part of this university.   This, they continually tell us, was their intent with the new law and their personal vision now.

It’s great to have such support.  But even if our leaders didn’t have our backs, this Rutgers-Newark community – a stunning array of academic superstars who cram these 38 acres with electrifying scholarship and rankings at the top of their fields – would demand no less of itself.

Fellow Senators, let me make this clear.   Our quest for academic excellence on this campus is by no means mutually exclusive of our embrace of Rutgers-Newark’s historic role as a driving force of opportunity, upward mobility and civic engagement, especially with our great city.  The partnership between Rutgers-Newark and Newark itself is unbreakable and we will make it stronger.

This campus is the embodiment of a grand, almost unique experiment:   Pairing world-class scholarship with breakthrough opportunities for our diverse student body.  We are, and must always be, an educational escalator to the American dream.  

But let’s make sure the ride is real, not just an ideal.   If nothing else, we stand for the proposition that equality for all students cannot exist without quality for all students.   The American dream we offer resides on the cutting edge of change and the leading edge of scholarship.  It embodies access and excellence, social progress and academic prowess, and a commitment to furthering One Rutgers standard of excellence while serving the magnificent mosaic of our world.

Here’s some of what we’ve done over the past year to help make that happen.

We are completely overhauling the organizational and physical infrastructures of this campus that had been in disrepair for a generation.  No university finds that a glamorous task – how easy it would be to pass up, sweep it under the rug.  But how can we leaders in higher education offer a ride to an American dream if it is reduced to a Hollywood set on the outside… with a crumbling infrastructure inside?

Irresponsible.  Immoral.  And I won’t have it.   

We are repairing our infrastructure as quickly as we can.   We are renovating classrooms and teaching laboratories as swiftly as we are permitted.  We are planning a new $60 million science building.  We are designing a new $71 million mixed-used building consisting of classrooms, offices and dorm space, increasing dorm space on campus by 25% – so much for the notion that we’re just a commuter campus.  We opened a new million dollar chemistry teaching lab last fall, and we start building a new biology teaching lab this summer.   

In many ways, we’re almost a new campus organizationally.   

The Chancellor’s office hadn’t had an internal budget process.   That has changed.   Our human resources department didn’t have full-time leadership.  That is about to change.   A new task force is determining how we can be more intentional with our diversity and impact deeply our students’ development as professionals.

Visitors to campus could hardly find our admissions office, and when they did, they happened upon one of our less attractive buildings.  Today, Admissions has its own showcase right in the heart of our campus, with brand new marketing support.    We have passed 12,000 students for the first time in campus history at the same time we have bolstered academic excellence.    And listen to this: Applications to Rutgers-Newark are now up 21 percent over last year!  At the same time we have, through new intervention strategies, decreased students on probation by 13% and decreased academic dismissals by 21%.

Our deans, along with other campus leaders, have worked to create the first academic plan that anyone on our campus seems to remember.   President Barchi, we believe our plan will help you enormously in the strategic planning for the entire university.  Though we’re an ambitious and scrappy community here on your Newark campus, indeed we are One Rutgers ….. and we cherish it.

We are implementing this academic year a new undergraduate curriculum developed and approved on this campus by the faculty.  Our pre-professional office has been revolutionized in support of our students.

We have rebuilt our graduate school practically from scratch – in less than a year’s time.  Our campus didn’t even know for certain who were members of the graduate faculty.   Today, people know.  They know our graduate school has a new dean and the most outstanding new faculty who have come here from the finest universities in the world.  

We already have a number of graduate and professional programs ranked in the top 10, but wait until you see what we have in store in the future.

This  campus is on the move!   

Look at the rankings.  In three separate surveys of national universities, where Rutgers-Newark was judged on its own, we rank #1 for diversity, #2 for best bang for the buck and #8 for social mobility.   Again, that’s just this campus, one campus among hundreds across the country.   And we soared in this year’s U.S. News ranking from 143 to 115, one of the most dramatic improvements on the list.   How remarkable when you consider that institutions we leaped over – and are closing in on – are much larger and wealthier.   We’re not stopping now.

Members of the University Senate, I can’t say it enough.  Our vision at Rutgers-Newark is equality and quality.  Access and excellence.  Social progress and academic prowess.  And who better embodies those values than our alumni, who include Victor Costa.   Victor, would you please stand?

Victor grew up in Elizabeth, New Jersey, with Portuguese as his first language.  He is the first college graduate in his family – a family to whom he is deeply devoted, so he set his sights on nearby Rutgers-Newark and hoped he could afford it. 

Victor is a brilliant young man, a tireless young man, so not only did we give him a scholarship through our Honors College, he also held three jobs while he was a student to pay for his Rutgers education.   He majored in Mathematics and Music – he plays four musical instruments.  He minored in Portugese and Biology.  He was President of our campus chorus and active in our premed society.   Talk about left brain-right brain!  

He graduated with a 3.93 and with four awards, including the Dean’s award I was thrilled to present him.   Today, Victor Costa is studying at UMDNJ to be a physician, which means he’ll soon be part of the Rutgers community again.  

Thank you, Victor!   

Fellow Senators, Victor’s story is the story of Rutgers-Newark.   This campus gave Victor access to the American dream, and he grabbed it and soared.  And as Victor would be the first to tell you, his achievements are not the exception to the rule here at Rutgers-Newark.  They’re emblematic.  

Listen to this example courtesy of our undergraduates.   Every year, the Federal Reserve Board holds a competition among 100 universities across the country, the Fed Challenge, testing knowledge and innovation in economics and monetary policy.  The Rutgers-Newark team – and I’m talking about students just from this campus – reached the national finals four times in the last seven years, and last academic year placed second only to Harvard.  

Now walk across the plaza from our economics department to our Law School, ranked #3 in the country for public service, whose alumni walk the halls of power in New Jersey and nationwide.  Just ask two of our law school graduates, United States Senators Bob Menendez and Elizabeth Warren.

Upstairs from the law school?   Our School of Criminal Justice, ranked #7 in the country and closing in on the top spot with innovative programs that reinvigorate the possibilities of a saner, safer civilization.

Across the plaza?  Our School of Public Affairs and Administration, with its own highly ranked programs – and the school was only founded in 2006.

Cross over University Avenue and you find the world-renowned Center for Molecular & Behavioral Neuroscience, the hotbed of neuroscience in all of Rutgers and the home of the winner of the €1 million Grete Lundbeck European Brain Research Foundation Award.

A couple of blocks down?   The Newark home of Rutgers Business School, ranked #7 nationally for quantitative analysis, #10 nationally in graduates who are Fortune 500 CEOs, and the #3 MBA program in the New York City region, the business capital of the world.

Circle back and you'll pass two standouts among the constellation of standouts in our graduate school – our MFA program in creative writing, a living hall of fame of some of the most honored authors and poets in America, and our Institute for Jazz Studies, the premier jazz archive in the world.

Continue toward the College of Nursing, again, top-ranked in its field, with more fellows of the prestigious American Academy of Nursing than any other nursing program in New Jersey.   We wish all the best to nursing colleagues as they join Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences.

And when you return to the center of our campus, you'll be surrounded by a community that has had a 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.  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.   And on and on and on.

This is what the real Rutgers-Newark brings to our AAU university.  We’re proud that two AAU reports went out of their way to include our campus specifically.  As we see it, our campus and our university don't have modestly intersecting circles of excellence, but overlapping circles in our immodest mission of preeminence.   

We at Rutgers-Newark have revved up the campus engine to help Rutgers ascend.  But rest assured, this campus will never never forget its commitment to both academic prowess and social progress.   The Washington Monthly ranks Rutgers-Newark #17 among hundreds of national universities for social mobility.   Remarkable?  Certainly.  But we have an obligation to do even better, for complacency is the enemy of progress.

So I pledge to you today, we will do even more to share our power with the people.   We will build on our record of personal engagement with our students, of civic engagement with our city, and of mutual engagement to improve the world.   

In the past few months alone, our Law School's community law clinic negotiated the contracts for a French pharmaceutical research company to establish its North American headquarters in Newark, bringing new jobs and services to the city.   

Our Business School houses the New Jersey Small Business Development Centers, based on our Newark campus with a focus on our city and county, with a dozen other centers across the state.   

Our Cornwall Center for Metropolitan Studies helps to secure funding for a host of economic development initiatives in Newark.  

Our School of Public Affairs and Administration now offers programs in governance at City Hall and at the Essex County Building and in Trenton, partnering with our leaders to improve delivery of services.  

And our School of Criminal Justice houses the Newark Violence Reduction Initiative, helping to reduce gun violence.

Just last week, here on campus, Mayor Cory Booker and I, along with our police chiefs and other top staff, held a summit to map out new ways in which our campus and the city will work together to make our community even safer.  Mayor Booker and I will hold a town meeting on campus next month to describe the progress.   Today I can tell you some of the new steps underway.

Our police department is doubling the number of uniformed officers patrolling between the hours of 7:00 pm and 11:00 pm.  We are creating several new patrol routes, 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.  New Brunswick has given us a helping hand to temporarily bolster our daylight patrols, while we move our officers to evening patrol.  And we are intensifying coordination with our neighbors – NJIT, UMDNJ and Essex County College – to improve policing of University Heights.

As our campus surges forth, we will take our city with us.   As our city surges forth, it will take our campus with it.

Members of the Senate, as we heard earlier through Victor Costa’s story, Rutgers-Newark opens a world of excellence and possibilities of which so many of our students have dreamed, right at their doorstep.

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

While today we have powerful scholarship, tomorrow we will be the leader showing how access, paired with superb scholarship, changes student lives forever.   

And while today we seek increased recognition from the university and resources from our state, in future generations we will all embrace how giving this campus a fair shake and a fair share helped Rutgers become the leading public university in America – and helped people across our city, state and nation reach the America of their dreams.

Thank you.

 

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