Chancellor Diner's 2009 Address to the Campus
November 10, 2009
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Good afternoon, everyone. This is the eighth year that I am delivering this address to the campus, and each year I agonize over whether I really have anything new to say. Every year I talk about four distinctive features of Rutgers University-Newark: our historic commitment to opportunity, our unique diversity, our urban engagement, and our achievements in research. While the topics remain the same, we are actually doing many new things in each of these areas.
I’ll begin by saying that Rutgers University-Newark is becoming a national model of how a major research university can engage with its urban community and use its diversity to advance teaching and research. The American Council on Education (ACE), which represents the interests of all American institutions of higher education, has had a leadership development fellows program for many years. The fellows attend three, weeklong, intensive seminars in which they study issues of higher education to prepare them to become the future deans and presidents of universities. ACE fellows have for many years analyzed case studies of hypothetical institutions. Last year, the leaders of the fellows program decided, for the first time ever, to study an actual institution, and they selected Rutgers University-Newark. To date, Rutgers University-Newark is the only institution ACE fellows have studied. In late August, all of the current ACE fellows spent a full day on our campus to inaugurate a four-month study of Rutgers University-Newark that they will complete in early January.
Sparked by the fellows' visit, an editorial appeared in The Star-Ledger in early September which read, in part:
"The Newark campus of Rutgers University has something to teach the world … [Rutgers University-Newark] has built on its multicultural strengths to better connect with Newark and ensure a healthy dynamic between university and community … The campus also is the place to be to see the world of the future … [Rutgers University-Newark] is nothing less than a model mosaic, showing us, and the world, how we fit together."
In March, at ACE's upcoming national conference, I will be participating in a session, along with representatives from two other universities, which will highlight how our respective institutions balance the tensions between access and quality in higher education. So the word is indeed spreading.
Rutger University-Newark was listed in a recent survey as one of the top 25 universities that are "good neighbors" in their urban communities. A year and a half ago, the National Faculty Scholarly Productivity Index, an index that examines the research accomplishments of faculty members in doctoral institutions, ranked Rutgers-Newark 12th in the country among small research universities. (Small research universities are defined as institutions of higher education with 15 or fewer Ph.D. programs.) Unlike the usual reputational studies where leaders of institutions opine on the best schools in the country, the Faculty Scholarly Productivity Index applies an algorithm to determine productivity based on the number of professors in a given doctoral program, the number of books and journal articles the professors have written, the number of times other scholars have cited the professors’ work, and the awards, honors, and grant dollars the professors have received. I'm also pleased to tell you that at the last meeting of the Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities, a group of approximately 100 schools that are deeply committed to engagement with their home communities, there were 18 presentations by Rutgers University-Newark faculty and staff, more than any other institution. So it’s clear that the word is getting out, and Rutgers University-Newark is getting a reputation for being a very special place.
Moreover, the areas in which we are a national leader - civic engagement, racial/ethnic and religious diversity and socio-economic opportunity - are becoming increasingly important in the nation as a whole. President Barack Obama and others have expressed concern that our society has become too focused on the individual, without enough commitment to public service and to society as a whole. Many people have suggested that colleges and universities need to play a central role in fostering a sense of civic responsibility among college students and citizens. The Corporation for National and Community Service was created for exactly this purpose, to foster civic responsibility by encouraging volunteer service. As you know, civic engagement through teaching and research is central to the urban mission of Rutgers University-Newark.
The issue of diversity remains very prominent, and often very divisive, in our society. Indeed, racial, ethnic and religious diversity has created tensions throughout American history. Although we describe ourselves as a "nation of immigrants," nativism has always been powerful in our country. Just look at President Barack Obama's speech on health care. When he stated that illegal immigrants would not be covered by health care, Congressman Joe Wilson screamed, "You lie!" Why is it that immigration, of all issues, brings out that kind of emotion and anger?
Every period of heavy immigration in American history has seen vigorous anti-immigrant movements, and we are seeing that again. I am fond of saying that this campus is the future of America. It is a model of the best of what racial, ethnic and religious diversity can produce - a community where everyone belongs, and where students learn vast amounts from representatives of all the cultures present on campus. So I think for that reason, too, we are getting national attention. National attitudes towards cities are also changing. I'm old enough to remember that in the 1970s, some policymakers and commentators said that we should let our cities fade away because there was no future for them. New York City was bankrupt, and many people were saying, "Who would want to live in New York City?" Now it's "Who can afford to live in New York City?"
Cities are especially attractive to young people today. They like the intensity and excitement of the urban life, especially when compared to the low density communities in which many of them grew up. And there is a growing national interest in Newark. Newark unfairly has been a symbol of urban decay since the civil disturbances of 1967. But now Newark is revitalizing, and Mayor Cory Booker has brought a great deal of attention to the city of Newark. Not all of that attention has been positive. Some of you have probably seen the Brick City television documentary series. I believe it presents an extremely distorted picture of Newark. Even still, the fact remains that someone thought that a five-hour documentary on Newark was worth doing and that people would watch it.
So now let’s turn to what’s happening right here on campus. We have an all-time high enrollment, 11,500 students this fall and probably more in the spring. When I came here 11 years ago, enrollments were declining because students and their parents were scared of Newark. That is in the past. Newark is no longer intimidating. In 2006 we had 10,200 students. We have grown by 1,300 students in just three years.
We’ve had some significant leadership changes on the campus. John Farmer Jr., the new dean of our law school, is a towering figure in the legal profession and particularly New Jersey -- former attorney general, chief counsel to Governor Christine Todd Whitman, senior counsel and team leader of the 9/11 Commission. William Holzemer, the new dean of the College of Nursing. is one of the most renowned nursing scholars in the world. He is particularly known for his work on urban health issues, and HIV in particular. Bill comes from one of the top nursing schools, the University of California in San Francisco, and is a member of the National Academy of Nursing and also the National Academy of Medicine. So we have wonderful new leadership in the College of Nursing as well. We also have a relatively new Vice Chancellor for Development, Irene O’Brien. Fundraising is critically important to us. Irene spent many years here in various fundraising roles before going to Fordham University. She has both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Rutgers-Newark, and I am so pleased that she is back with us. We are in the midst of a search for a new dean of the School of Criminal Justice, and we will be bringing finalists for that position on campus very shortly. We are fortunate to have Bonita Veysey as our acting dean. Finally, with deep regret, I have to tell you that a fixture of this campus, Executive Vice Chancellor Gene Vincenti, has decided to retire after working here 34 years. Gene will be retiring at the end of June and will be very hard to replace. I do want to express my thanks to him.
Now let me brag about some faculty accomplishments. I know I’m going to offend some because this is just a sampling of the achievements of our fabulous faculty. Let's start with Annette Gordon-Reed of our history department, author of The Hemingses of Monticello and other works. The Hemingses of Monticello has won, thus far, the Pulitzer Prize in History, the National Book Award for nonfiction, the George Washington Book Prize, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, the Fredrick Douglass Book Prize, the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic Book Prize, the New Jersey Council for the Humanities Book Award, and the Library of Virginia Literary Award. In recognition of her extraordinary scholarly achievements, she was recently named Board of Governors Professor of History.
But there are lots of other faculty achievements to report:
- Glenn Shafer from the business school was awarded an honorary doctorate in economics from the University of Economics in Prague.
- George Farris from the business school won the Technology Innovation Management Research Award from the International Association for the Management of Technology.
- Jim Finckenauer from the School of Criminal Justice received the 2009 Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences International Section Award.
- Alex Hinton from the Department of Sociology and Anthropology received the Robert B. Textor and Family Prize for Excellence in Anticipatory Anthropology from the American Anthropological Association.
- Marc Holzer, the dean of the School of Public Affairs and Administration, received the Distinguished Research Award from the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration and the American Society for Public Administration.
- Frieder Jäkle from our Chemistry Department has received the Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel Award from the Humboldt Foundation.
- Jayne Anne Phillips, director of our Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program, was named a finalist for the National Book Award for fiction and was awarded the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize for fiction, both for her novel Lark & Termite.
- Eva Pastalkova, postdoctoral research associate in the Center for Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience, was named one of two winners of the Peter and Patricia Gruber International Research Award for Young Scientists from the Society of Neuroscience and was a recipient of the prestigious New York Academy of Sciences Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists.
- Jim Goodman, Annette Gordon-Reed, and Jan Lewis, all from our History Department, were elected fellows of the Society of American Historians.
- Mark Weiner from our law school received a Fulbright Fellowship to study in Iceland.
- Kyle Farmbry from the School of Public Affairs and Administration was named one of 30 Fulbright New Century Scholars.
- Clement Price, Director of the Institute on Ethnicity, Culture and the Modern Experience, has won several awards: the Three Doctors Champion of Education Award, the Interfaith Dialogue Center Education Award, the New Jersey Network Governor Thomas H. Kean and Governor Brendan T. Byrne Civic Leadership Award, the Marion P. Thomas Charter School Civic Leadership Award, and the Gail F. Stern Award from the New Jersey Historical Commission.
- The Constitutional Litigation Clinic in our law school won the Clinical Legal Education Association Award for Excellence in a Public Interest Case or Project. The case involved asylum seekers in the United States who were severely abused while prisoners of the U.S. government in a privately-run prison. Under the guidance of Professor Penny Venetis, they won a ruling from a federal judge that established their right to sue in U.S. courts under international law -- a major accomplishment.
I could go on and on but I think we all get the idea. This is a first-class faculty doing cutting edge work and getting recognized across the academic world for its accomplishments.
We are all worried about money these days, and you’ve heard President McCormick say we are going to have to develop other revenue streams. We are indeed doing that. We have been very successful in private fundraising. This has been a particularly good year for the campus and its units. We have also had a dramatic increase in federal and foundation grants. In fiscal year 2008, we had slightly more than $19 million in grants. In fiscal year 2009, we had more than $26 million. That’s an enormous jump forward and another indication of the caliber of our faculty and the energy faculty members are putting into bringing in alternative sources of revenue.
We need to do more with revenue-generating executive education programs. The business school has pioneered this effort for many years through its Executive MBA program. The law school now is heavily invested in providing continuing legal education for the legal profession in New Jersey. Currently, the Institute on Education of Law and Policy is offering ethics training for principals in schools across the state. The School of Public Affairs and Administration has had a variety of revenue-generating programs and is looking to establish some overseas as well. And there are lots of other examples all across Rutgers-Newark.
In the area of undergraduate education, some very exciting things are happening. The Faculty of Arts and Sciences, under Dean Yeagle’s very capable leadership, has approved most elements of a new undergraduate curriculum. The basic concept of the curriculum is to reduce the number of core courses required to fulfill one’s major to allow room for a required second concentration. So students will study two subjects in depth rather than just one. This is enormously exciting and will make the education offered here really distinctive. I look forward to seeing it implemented.
Under Gary Roth’s leadership, the graduate school has added a dozen or so programs that will dovetail nicely with the new undergraduate curriculum. Students with a high GPA may use certain courses in their senior year towards both their undergraduate degree and a master’s degree. In this day and age, with the importance of graduate degrees in the workforce and the high cost of education, it will enable many of our students to get both a baccalaureate and master’s degree in five years.
There are also a few issues in undergraduate education that need our attention. One of them is the ongoing question of six-year graduation rates. A new study that is getting a lot of media attention is very critical of American higher education for the amount of time it takes students to graduate. A small study group headed by Assistant Chancellor Mark Winston is starting to look at our graduation rate. There are many aspects of the six-year graduation rate that are inapplicable to us. Fifty percent of the students we graduate don’t start here. They start at community colleges or other four-year institutions and transfer here. Consequently, they are excluded from the six-year graduation rate cohort, which only looks at students who enroll as freshmen. We have a lot of students who come from economically-challenged backgrounds. Many drop out or convert to part-time status to earn money. While all of these factors must be considered, there definitely are things we can do to improve the graduation rates. For example, we can begin collecting data on why students fail to re-enroll. We are going to start looking at those issues, and you’ll be hearing more. We also need to explain our graduation rate better so people see that we are much more efficient than what that single number might suggest.
This year’s faculty fellow in the chancellor’s office, Suzanne Piotrowski, is taking a look at what we do in community-based learning, instruction that takes advantage of the learning opportunities in the communities surrounding the campus. This kind of instruction is a distinctive feature of Rutgers-Newark, but we’ve never looked at it systematically or pulled together in one place data of this kind. We’ve never examined how we can enhance it and encourage more faculty members to take advantage of community engagement in teaching.
DIVERSITY AT RUTGERS UNIVERSITY-NEWARK
Now, let’s turn to one of my favorite features of our campus, our diversity. For the 13th year in a row, we were named, by U.S. News & World Report, the most diverse national university, and we continue to be very proud of that. We are doing a great deal to take advantage of this recognition. I think many of you have heard me say that when students tell us what they most like about our institution, the single most common thing they point to is our student diversity and how much they learn from all the cultures present on campus. We don’t want to leave that to chance. So, for the second year now, Assistant Chancellor Mark Winston and Professor Sherri-Ann Butterfield are conducting professional development seminars for faculty. Faculty can come together and share experiences and explore how we can use this enormous resource we have in our classrooms to increase learning. We should not leave this dialogue among cultures to chance. We should infuse it into relevant courses and into the curriculum. How do we get students to talk about the cultures and backgrounds they bring into our classrooms? How do we make the most of our diversity? This is a learning resource most universities don’t have to nearly the same extent. So we should make the most of it.
On the research side, we have the Center for Immigration, headed by Professor Tim Raphael. There is also a new program on the study of immigration in the Division of Global Affairs. Mark Winston has also established a new center on the study of diversity in the Dana Library, which will examine what happens when people of different backgrounds interact and come together and live with each other.
This year we were awarded a major grant from the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation. The goal of this program is to increase the number of underrepresented minorities, particularly African Americans and Hispanics, in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Professor Alec Gates, chair of the Department of Earth and Environmental Science, working closely with Dean Yeagle and his staff, wrote the proposal that created an alliance in New Jersey of nine schools, funded by the National Science Foundation at $1 million a year for up to five years. Rutgers-Newark is the leader of this nine-school consortium. Each institution participating in the program has to commit to double the number of underrepresented minority students majoring in the science and math fields.
In addition to the diversity that comes from racial, ethnic, and religious backgrounds, we continue to be a primary institution for students of low-income backgrounds. Last year, 48 percent of Rutgers-Newark undergraduates qualified for need-based financial aid, the highest percentage of all three campuses of Rutgers. The percentage of students qualifying has actually increased slightly over the last five years. So we are still fulfilling the historic mission of this campus as a place to make opportunity available to students from poor and modest backgrounds.
While our U.S. News & World Report ranking is based entirely on our undergraduate student body, our graduate student population also has extraordinary racial and ethnic diversity. Forty percent of students in the Graduate School are African American, Hispanic or Asian, as are 61 percent of students earning a master of public administration, 60 percent of criminal justice master’s students, 38 percent of law students and 63 percent of students in the Ph.D. in urban systems. Our Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program, headed by Jayne Anne Phillips, has become a national model of diversity in a field where minority students are very rare. These percentages are an extraordinary achievement.
Perhaps the hardest challenge of all is recruiting a diverse faculty. This has been a banner year in that respect also. Fifty-nine percent of the new faculty members joining us this year are non-white. That is the highest of all three campuses of Rutgers. Thirty-seven percent of new faculty members appointed this year are female. Of the 34 new faculty hired, 19 were born and grew up outside the United States in 11 different countries. So we really are recruiting a very diverse faculty from all over the world and from different racial, religious, and ethnic backgrounds.
In a questionnaire we give our graduating seniors, we ask whether they would recommend Rutgers-Newark to someone else going to college; if so, why, and if not, why not? I read those responses to this open-ended question every year to figure out what is really on the minds of students who graduate from Rutgers-Newark. More than 25 percent of the responses mention the racial, ethnic, and religious diversity of the campus and how valuable it is to students. I want to read a couple of this year’s responses.
- "Rutgers-Newark will not only enrich your knowledge in the major you are focusing in but it will expand your knowledge about different cultures and traditions."
- "Rutgers-Newark is incredibly diverse, and therefore, you’re able to be exposed to people of other religions, ethnicities, and walks in life, and learn to interact with them, a trait that is needed in the work place."
- "Rutgers-Newark is a very diverse college, which is quite helpful to all races, particularly immigrants like me and my relatives."
- "I love the diversity of this campus. As an immigrant, it gives me confidence."
- "I have the opportunity to meet people of all origins and learn about them and their cultures."
So if you don't believe me, believe the students. This is really an extraordinary experience for our students. It is with good reason that The Star-Ledger points to us as a national model. We should take pride in that.
Let me also say some more about our engagement with the city of Newark, our broader urban engagement, and some of the recent academic initiatives that result from it. We have a relatively new Center for Urban Entrepreneurship & Economic Development headed by Professor dt ogilvie. That center, supported by a nonprofit equity fund, is engaged in getting businesses started on Halsey Street. MBA students taking courses in entrepreneurship work with business owners who want to apply for financial support from the fund to develop business plans. We are gathering on this campus a cluster of some of the world’s greatest scholars in entrepreneurship. We are becoming the premier place in the country to study entrepreneurship. And what better place to study entrepreneurship than Newark?
There is also a new center on urban health that is being developed by Dean Holzemer in the College of Nursing. At the request of Dr. Clifford Janey, superintendent of the Newark Public Schools, we established a research collaborative here on the campus to conduct rigorous independent research on questions of importance in the Newark Public Schools. The business school also has a new center on ethical leadership. It is concerned with the responsibility of leaders in the public, private, and not-for-profit sectors to the needs of their communities. The School of Public Affairs and Administration has established an affiliation with the Public Technology Institute, an entity that explores the use of technology to help municipal governments address the needs of residents. It also has launched a new undergraduate major in public service that is unique in the country. And it continues to offer an Executive MPA program at city hall. The president of the city council and a deputy mayor were among the first graduates of this program. They rave about their experience as students in this program.
Students in our Ph.D. program in American Studies are deeply involved in public history programs and in research connected to the Newark community. Our Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program, consistent with its theme “real lives, real stories,” undertakes public readings, essay contests, and readings in public schools. Last year, the Newark Housing Authority and Rutgers-Newark co-hosted a public housing summit at which scholars and housing directors discussed how they could help each other. The Cornwall Center for Metropolitan Studies has been conducting detailed surveys on the health status and disease prevention behavior of Newark residents, and also on the impact of hospital closings. The Cornwall Center has also provided research and technical assistance to the Office of the Attorney General regarding the reentry of formerly incarcerated women.
I would be remiss if I did not point out that in about three months, February 20th will be the 30th anniversary of the famous Marion Thompson Wright lecture series put on by Professor Clement Price and his institute. This truly has become a national model of how you can make history accessible to scholars, students and a public audience, all in one place and all at the same time. The Marion Thompson Wright lecture demonstrates that history can be studied not only for its own sake but also to help build a sense of community and purpose within our city.
I would also add that two days from today, the Institute on Ethnicity, Culture, and the Modern Experience will be co-sponsoring a very special program at The Newark Museum in honor of the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth - a "town hall meeting" on "The Humane City: Race, Ethnicity & Freedom in Urban America." I know this is going to be another exciting program that again brings the community together with the campus.
There are many other academic initiatives that don’t fall under the category of community engagement. Let me just mention a few:
- The business school has a new major in supply chain management.
- The Division of Global Affairs has a new Center for the Study of Emerging Threats in the 21st Century.
- The Dana Library, under Mark Winston’s leadership, has a data services program that provides assistance to any faculty or group needing help in the management and retention of large data sets.
- The College of Nursing has established a new Center on Patient Safety.
- The business school is on the verge of establishing a new executive global MBA program that will involve six or seven universities around the world. Students will actually study at multiple universities in short intensive programs to become better business leaders for the expanding global economy.
Going back to the subject of urban engagement, while most of our engagement with Newark and the surrounding communities is directly connected to our teaching and research, Rutgers-Newark has also sponsored programs of direct service to the community. Under the leadership of Vice Chancellor Marcia Brown, we have launched the Newark Mentoring Coalition, which brings together approximately 100 organizations that mentor young people. The coalition will focus on training and assessment to improve the quality of tutoring and mentoring services provided to our youth. While lots of people want to do mentoring, many do not know where the needs are or how to mentor or tutor effectively. We are hopeful the Newark Mentoring Coalition will dramatically increase the impact of mentoring in the city of Newark.
For many years, Diane Hill has led "RU Ready for Work?" This program, funded by the city of Newark, helps prepare Newark high school students for the work force. A number of those students are now students at Rutgers-Newark. Yes, they are ready for work, but they are also ready for academic work. Diane has done a wonderful job with that program.
Our students are also showing their commitment to community service. Jason Khurdan, a recipient of the 2008 Chancellor’s Community Engagement Awards, formed an organization to tutor and mentor students in Newark. He persuaded 20 other students to join him in this endeavor. It’s a model of what we would like to happen as part of the out-of-classroom experience at our institution.
I quoted earlier from the questionnaires we give our graduating seniors. In prior years, while many of the students talked about the value of our diversity, few mentioned Newark with any fondness. I’m happy to report that the students' sentiments towards Newark are changing. More and more students are saying they really like being in a city and value the learning opportunities it affords them. Here are some examples:
- "I have really come to appreciate the location of the university. There is so much rich history and beautiful architecture here, and you can’t ask for a much better location when it comes to traveling in and out of New York City for projects and events."
- "The fact that the university is not as secluded as other campuses is a positive. We interact with the city of Newark, and the students get a taste of the culture connection that makes the U.S. so unique."
- "The multiculturalism of the school should be publicized along with the community surrounding the campus. As a student you could still enjoy the city and the stores along with the food and community while at the same time only being on a break from classes. The surrounding community was all within walking distance.”
- "[I really like the university’s]… ties to the community and community service."
- "… the fact that it is located in such a business-oriented area, having so many buildings and companies located here can definitely benefit recently graduated students or undergrads looking for an internship."
- "It's a diverse, safe, city atmosphere."
I was especially happy to see the word "safe." Statistics show that our campus and the surrounding neighborhood are very safe, but that is not the popular image of Newark. So I was especially glad to see this comment. In any event, the word is spreading, and our students are starting to recognize how exciting the Newark environment can be.
The last thing I want to talk about is facilities. The biggest news is that our new business school building at One Washington Park has opened. If you haven’t been inside it, please visit. It is a spectacular building and has won the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects Gold Award for design. It dramatically places the business school right on Broad Street, in the middle of downtown Newark. The new location symbolizes the centrality of the university and business school to the business life of this city, and it has been very warmly greeted by city leaders for those reasons. It also has been designed with lots of open space, so whenever you walk through, day and night, you see many students just lounging in the building. This was not the case before, because the business school’s former home did not lend itself to that.
The presence of the business school at One Washington Park also now creates considerable foot traffic on Washington Street and University Avenue just north of the campus. Before the building opened, there were very few people walking on those streets. This of course is one of the reasons the state supported the business school’s relocation, to help spur the redevelopment of the north end of downtown Newark. Some of the lawyers at nearby firms complained to me that they don’t have access to the café. They heard the food was excellent, and were eager to have an attractive place to eat nearby. We’ve corrected the problem, and they can now eat there. So the business school’s move has already had a tremendous positive impact on the neighborhood.
The School of Public Affairs and Administration also has a new building. Formerly the Management Education Center, it is now called the Center for Urban and Public Service. There was a wonderful dedication of that building last week. Dean Holzer and his colleagues understood that building in ways I never did. They decided to have a party on three tiers with the atrium in the middle. The whole atrium came alive. Some community-oriented projects, including the Newark Schools Research Collaborative, will be located in that building as well.
The College of Nursing, at long last, will be consolidated into one building. Right now it's split between Conklin and Ackerson Halls. Dean Holzemer is thrilled about the consolidation.
There are many other space reallocations that are still in process, including a new home for the Division of Global Affairs and a possible new home for the Admissions Office. One of the unfortunate things about the campus is that Admissions is located in a building that doesn’t make the best first impression, although that does not seem to have hurt our enrollment. So we are looking at alternatives that would create a much more attractive and engaging place for prospective new students to visit. We are also submitting plans to the Board of Governors for a new undergraduate residence hall. The new residence hall would be a mixed-use project that would include retail businesses and parking on the Essex Street parking lot, behind 15 Washington Street, right near the new business school building. We also want to renovate the Talbott Apartments, which were originally built for graduate students, to accommodate a greater number of first-year students. One of the commitments we made when we moved to One Washington Park was to fill much of the space between One Washington Park and the rest of the campus. We do not want One Washington Park to be thought of as a satellite campus. The proposed residence hall on the Essex Street parking lot will be an important step in that direction. We are also continuing to work with a developer to renovate 15 Washington Street, the old law school building, as graduate student apartments, retail establishments and probably some office space. All of this is in the planning stages. If successful, it will further help to fill in the space between the traditional campus and One Washington Park.
If there are any students here today, you will be happy to know that the parking deck we acquired on Washington Street, across from the Newark Light Rail, will be available soon. We acquired it more than a year ago. Unfortunately, long-term leases for many of its parking spaces had to expire before we could use the deck. There were also renovations needed. So the Washington Street deck will be available for student parking starting next fall.
I would like to end this report by sharing my thoughts on the future. The budget remains worrisome for all of us. The lack of state funding for higher education is very troubling. We will have to find ways to work around it. But nonetheless there is great energy on this campus among our faculty, our students, and our staff. We are gaining national and local recognition for our role as a leading urban research university and for the unique quality of education we provide because of our extraordinary diversity. The city of Newark’s image is changing, and it is changing for the better. So for all these reason, I think the best lies ahead.