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Rutgers-Newark Virtually Welcomes Its Newest Students

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One week prior to Rutgers University-Newark’s official start of the 2020 fall semester, nearly 2,500 students received warm greetings from Newark’s mayor and Rutgers-Newark’s leaders and representatives during the university’s annual new-student Convocation on Mon., Aug. 24. In addition to Mayor Ras J. Baraka, students heard from Senior Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Corlisse Thomas, Chancellor Nancy Cantor, Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Ashwani Monga, Executive Vice Chancellor Sherri-Ann Butterfield, and Student Governing Association (SGA) President Dylan Terpstra. The event also included pre-recorded messages from Lei Lei, dean of Rutgers Business School; Jacqueline Mattis, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences–Newark; Bill McCarty, dean of the School of Criminal Justice; Charles Menifield, dean of the School of Public Affairs and Administration; Timothy Eatman, dean of the Honors Living-Learning Community; Deborah Walker-McCall, associate dean of the Academic Foundations Center; and Laura Troiano, acting director of the Honors College.

The speakers delivered their words of welcome virtually to adhere to social-distancing and large-gathering guidance issued by New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy to help slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. This year’s Convocation theme, “Stronger Together,” punctuated everyone’s remarks.

Mayor Baraka congratulated Rutgers-Newark’s newest students “for getting into one of the most diverse institutions in the nation.” He reminded students that the power of Rutgers-Newark reaches beyond the city of Newark and impacts every corner of the United States. He encouraged everyone to get engaged and collectively help to transform society and make America a place that represents all people. Fittingly, Mayor Baraka shared his inspiring words in front of a portrait of the late Paul Robeson, a renowned African-American scholar, athlete, actor, singer, and global activist who graduated from Rutgers University in 1919.

Acknowledging the unprecedented times that currently exist, both in terms of the COVID-19 pandemic and the racial and social unrest, Chancellor Cantor urged students to use their diverse talents to help change the status quo and create a new normal. “You [are] pioneers, not only of a new educational landscape, but hopefully of a new social landscape that’s fairer, more just, more equitable, more full of opportunity for more people,” stated Cantor.

Similarly, SGA President Terpstra made an impassioned plea for fellow students to take advantage of all the opportunities Rutgers-Newark has to offer to equip them with the necessary skills and resources to change themselves and their communities. “This university will change your life if you let it,” he said. “Rutgers plasters the word ‘revolutionary’ all over the place, but it is you who need to make it revolutionary. It is you who [will] continue [to give] meaning to our school’s rich history in the struggle for social justice during your time here and after.”

Provost Monga heralded shoutouts to the academic deans while Executive Vice Chancellor Butterfield shared instructions regarding wearing mandatory face coverings, attending public health training, and honoring social distancing while in buildings like John Cotton Dana Library. Butterfield also urged students to familiarize themselves with the Returning to Rutgers plan posted at https://ipo.rutgers.edu/sites/default/files/2020%200813%20Rutgers%20OSHE%20Submission.pdf.

Recognizing that a 60-minute Convocation can only provide just a tiny glimpse of life at Rutgers-Newark, to gain more exposure to the campus experience and the city of Newark, Senior Vice Chancellor Thomas invited students to participate in the various events planned for the ensuing Weeks of Welcome (WOW). Scheduled through Sept. 18, WOW features a movie night, scavenger hunt, student organization showcase, dance party, student mixer, panel discussion, and much more. The calendar of events is posted at https://myrun.newark.rutgers.edu/wow.

Consistent with the “Stronger Together” theme, all speakers implored students to stay connected with their professors, school administrators, and each other. Judging from the spirited “chatter” that occurred during the livestream of the Convocation, the students were eager to do just that.

In her final words of encouragement, with a warm smile, Senior Vice Chancellor Thomas let each student know that “we see you; we hear you; we’re with you.” Here’s wishing Rutgers-Newark’s newcomers much success and a fulfilling academic experience.

The replay of the Convocation is posted here.