Strategic Plan Open House
Invitation to an Open House
Wednesday, September 30th
Free Period (2:30 to 4 p.m.)
Paul Robeson Campus Center PRCC Patio
(Rain location: PRCC “Student Street”)
Dear Rutgers University – Newark Community Members,
Welcome and welcome back! Amidst the numerous concrete tasks of starting a new academic year, we also get to step back a moment and take real inspiration from all the new faces joining us – from the nearly 3,300 broadly talented new students, pursuing undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees, and the energy of the nearly 150 new faculty and staff committed to our vision of a diverse, urban research university making a difference in the world. We also take note of how important our places – our community of Newark, our departments and programs, and all the physical spaces we are in – can be to inspiring all our best work, not to mention getting us through those myriad tasks.
In this spirit, I am writing today to focus our eyes on both the great new people among us and as well on the great new spaces and places that have come (quite literally in some cases) on-line anew this fall. When we did our strategic planning a little more than a year ago, we all agreed that a high priority for us (priority #5, but who’s counting?) was to “invest in the spaces and places where we live, learn, create, and engage the world.” With input and participation from across RU-N, we are doing just that and in ways big and small, all over our physical campus and the adjoining streets and spaces.
Perhaps the most obvious example is the historic renovation of the neo-classical building, 15 Washington Street, now home to 333 students, including 233 graduate and professional, and 100 undergraduate, students and where we are busy outfitting all the remarkable grand public spaces, including the truly magnificent Great Hall for performances, conferences, and lectures and other university-community public gatherings, such as the Creative Writing Program’s famed Writers at Newark series starting next January.
Thousands of us also will notice numerous upgrades to teaching, learning, and social spaces: dozens of classrooms have seen renovations from top to bottom – and no detail is too small to bring a space alive – so in many we’ve added new furniture (including some state-of-the-art moveable arm chairs), new electrical outlets for ease of plugging in, and new, actually readable, signage. You might not even recognize the interior of Stonsby Cafeteria and lounge, which have had a complete makeover, and all residence halls now have a new package distribution locker system. While these amenities might not seem central to our academic mission, never underestimate what they will do for our spirits!
Meanwhile, some of the renovations are decidedly about our intellectual life in a new more thoroughly connected world. We’ve begun to address in earnest long-standing information technology (IT) needs, including having added new high-definition projection screens in three dozen classrooms, upgraded networking in five dozen, 175 computer upgrades, and nearly 700 new indoor wifi access points—including completion of wifi availability in all residence halls. Staying connected outdoors has never been easier either, as we’ve collaborated with a coalition including the Military Park Partnership, Audible.com, Prudential, and NJIT to bring the nation’s fastest outdoor wifi to our campus (choose NewarkNet_Free_Wi-Fi from your wireless device). While you’re out and about, you might take advantage of our expanded Raider Dollars program enabling purchases at more local businesses in the Halsey Street area (and we hope you’ll come out to the Pop-Up Festival there on September 10th from 4:30 to 9:30 p.m.).
All told, this summer we’ve seen about $1,000,000 in classroom and another $1,000,000 in IT upgrades. For a complete list of physical and technical upgrades to RU-N over the summer, see our Strategic Plan Implementation website.
There is even more on the horizon: as you’ve probably noticed, construction has begun on Life Sciences 2 and renovations are well along at the massive, former Hahne & Co. building that will house Express Newark: A University-Community Collaboratory focused on the arts and cultural disciplines. Later this month, the Paul Robeson Campus Center (PRCC) will see upgrades to the game room and work will begin on an interfaith prayer space. And in the not-too-distant future, we’ll see our Social Justice Learning Community (newly mounted this fall with 30 fabulous students) evolve rapidly into an Honors Living-Learning Community with a new residence hall and academic space for 500 student members, including of course the extraordinarily talented next generation from right here in Greater Newark.
To make it easier to get all around our campus and to all the parking decks in its nearby environs, from the Golden Dome to 15 Washington and the Rutgers Business School in the late afternoon and evening, we’ve introduced a new shuttle route—the RUN Run—from 4 p.m. to midnight seven days a week (see route map and schedule). We even have an extended version of that route on a trial basis that loops to Newark Penn Station from 8 to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday. At the same time, we are talking to NJ Transit to team up in ways that can encourage us all to use the light rail system to ease traffic between Newark Penn and our campus area – we think this is a better, more sustainability-conscious, long-term approach to supporting our transportation needs. And, this fall we are beginning the design planning for a new “commuter hub” attached to Conklin Hall – a place for mixing, relaxing, and rejuvenating before and after a commute to RU-N.
Finally, since it’s a lot to take in and the full sense of it will only come alive as we talk and share our experiences of our great community, I want to provide an opportunity for one and all to do that, so we’re planning an open house event on September 30th during free period (2:30 – 4 p.m.) on the PRCC Patio (rain location: the PRCC “Student Street”) where I hope you’ll join me to see displays about many of these investments in our spaces – and gather to take a breath and relax together a month into a new academic year.
The opportunity to mix together informally is so important to the vision and spirit of RU-N that I hope you’ll all come out and join this fall gathering and that we can then make these gatherings a regular way to share new ventures happening here – so stay tuned for a follow-up open house later this fall semester where faculty, students, and staff engaged in our new cross-disciplinary and campus-community projects now underway with nearly $4.5 million in support from our Seed Grant Program and Initiative for Multidisciplinary Research Teams awards can inspire us further.
It is so exciting to see the vision we articulated together through strategic planning begin to materialize. Let’s keep our sleeves rolled up and our eyes on the prize – after all, “we are the ones”!