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Rutgers University – Newark Strategic Plan Revealed to Overflowing Live Audience

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Chancellor Nancy Cantor presented the Rutgers University – Newark (RU-N) Strategic Plan to a standing-room only convocation of more than 400 faculty, staff, students, and community members in the Paul Robeson Campus Center Essex Room on Monday, Sept. 22.

Titled, Rutgers University – Newark: Where Opportunity Meets Excellence, the plan articulates a vigorous embrace of RU-N’s historic mission as a diverse urban public research university and as an anchor institution in New Jersey’s largest city and cultural capital. The plan sets forth priorities to invest resources to build the university’s strengths in merging excellence and opportunity and, in the words of Cantor, to reinvigorate RU-N’s abiding “commitment to pushing forward ambitiously and assertively to be that diverse urban research institution that leaves no stone unturned in its impact – on scholarship, social mobility, urban civic life.”

After gathering to musical selections from the world-renowned RU-N Institute of Jazz Studies, the animated crowd heard Provost Todd Clear recount briefly the highly inclusive and democratic strategic visioning process that began soon after Cantor’s arrival at RU-N in January, 2014 and continued through the spring semester. He introduced Dr. Clement A. Price, Rutgers Board of Governors Distinguished Service Professor in the RU-N College of Arts and Sciences Department of History, who eloquently framed the plan in the context of the university’s history and the evolution of the Rutgers system. Oliver Quinn, Esq., who chairs the RU-N Advisory Board, reminded the gathering of the significance of the board’s creation and introduced Chancellor Cantor.

Energetically walking the audience through the foundational principles underlying the plan, Cantor hearkened back to the Civil War era and the Morrill Acts of the late 19th century that established the American system of land-grant colleges. She stressed that in light of growing disparities in wealth and persistent intercultural conflict around the world today, “Now, even more so than 150 years ago, we rely upon our colleges and universities to be engines of innovation and social mobility as well as educators of our democratic citizenry and partners for societal impact.” She went on to describe ways in which RU-N has embodied these principles from its founding and how deeply the university’s identity is tied to them, drawing illustrations from academic strengths across its schools and colleges, and underlining the ways that the diversity of RU-N’s student body has reflected the powerful role the university has played in advancing opportunity for succeeding generations, particularly first- and second-generation Americans.

Cantor then described the major priorities that arose from the visioning process: invest in collaborative academic and research programs, invest in our students, invest in our faculty and graduate and professional students, value our staff, invest in spaces and places, invest in anchor institution collaboration, leverage our diversity and build civic dialogue, and tell the RU-N story. Throughout, she identified a mixture of traditional and innovative metrics that will be used to measure progress in addressing these priorities, including some familiar forms of assessing areas such as academic quality and institutional performance, as well as innovative ways to assess vital but often unanalyzed areas of universities’ work, such as fulfilling their roles as anchor institutions in their communities.

Cantor finished by introducing Dr. Bonita Veysey, Interim Vice Chancellor for Strategic Initiatives and professor in the School of Criminal Justice, whom Cantor identified as the person who will lead initiatives over the course of the next year aimed at addressing the strategic plan priorities. Veysey emphasized the need for all members of the university community to be actively involved in the plan’s implementation. She gave examples of participation through multiple means, including tightly organized groups that will focus on particular challenges, such as identifying academic and research collaborations for seed funding; building operational bridges and breaking down barriers to increase organizational effectiveness; and implementing signature initiatives such as the interdisciplinary arts and humanities incubator to be housed in the former Hahne and Company department store building adjacent to campus, as well as the envisioned honors living-learning center that will emphasize “local citizenship in a global world,” in the words of the plan.

Veysey also explained that implementation of the plan will proceed according to the same principles of broad participation that guided the visioning process. Throughout spring 2014, that process involved faculty, current undergraduate and graduate students, staff, and alumni, as well as broad-based engagement with leadership bodies such as the RU-N Advisory Board and Newark Faculty Council, elected officials at all levels, private sector leaders, the Newark City Council, community education advocates, and nonprofit leaders. Members of these constituencies engaged in the process through a listening tour held by Cantor, a series of town hall meetings, and through intensive small group discussions called “charrettes,” a concept borrowed from the design disciplines in which people from diverse perspectives work collaboratively on problem solving. Planning activities were coordinated by the Strategic Planning Oversight Committee chaired by Provost Clear and Dr. Jyl Josephson, associate professor of political science, who represented the Newark Faculty Council in shaping the strategic planning process.  Other members of the committee included  Peter Englot, senior vice chancellor for public affairs; Marcia Brown, Esq, special assistant for government relations; Angelita Bonilla, director of housing and residence life; and Divij Pandya, president of the Rutgers University-Newark Student Governing Association.

The full text of the plan may be found at http://www.newark.rutgers.edu/strategic-planning. Also soon to be found at this website will be a video recording of the convocation.