A National Case Study of Rutgers in Newark

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How did Rutgers University in Newark become a long-distance learning lab for 31 representatives of the nation's higher education institutions?

When the American Council on Education (ACE) went looking for a diverse environment that could serve as a case study for fellows in its midyear seminar, the organization tapped Rutgers in Newark. It was a match made in pedagogical heaven: the university received valuable input from academics nationwide, and ACE fellows had the advantage of studying an actual institution in real time. The idea was for the fellows to research the chosen facility and develop proposals based on the seminar's themes of leadership, diversity and change in higher education as they apply to several nontraditional student populations.

Working with background information Rutgers supplied, the participants brainstormed with the participation of Newark Chancellor Steven J. Diner - himself an ACE fellow a quarter of a century ago - and Sherri-Ann Butterfield, associate professor of sociology and a faculty fellow this year in the chancellor's office.

"The fellows offered us the perspectives of outsiders, seeing us with fresh eyes," Diner said. The chancellor said he was impressed with the fellows' grasp of the campus's historical mission of serving lower-income and first-generation college students, and their ability to link those factors to today's student populations.

The findings will allow ACE to fine-tune the case-study process for next year, when Rutgers again will be a featured participant. ACE represents presidents and chancellors of all types of U.S. degree-granting institutions, more than 1,600 in all.