President Barchi's Report to the University Senate
President Robert Barchi
Report to the University Senate
September 27, 2013
Introduction and Overview
Today, I am pleased to deliver the first University address to our recently expanded Rutgers, which now includes 65,000 students, 9,000 faculty, and 15,000 staff members. Many people doubted that the successful integration of Rutgers and the former University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey would even be possible, and few believed this monumental undertaking could happen so smoothly. But, thanks to the tireless efforts of the twelve integration teams that spent more than 100,000 person-hours planning and executing this unprecedented integration and the diligent work of our financial teams and bond counsel, we successfully combined legacy UMDNJ units with longstanding Rutgers entities to form the new Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences on July 1. I will have more to say about this important topic later in this report.
While it ended on an overwhelmingly positive note, the past academic year was one of unusual highs and lows, with many challenges, both anticipated and unexpected. Yet, I am convinced that out of the resolutions to these challenges emerged a stronger and more resilient institution.
Superstorm Sandy damaged our campuses and brought tragic personal loss to our extended family, but it also united our community as we came to the aid of one another and extended a hand to the less fortunate residents of our state in the storm’s aftermath. Events in our basketball program caused us to question our ethical framework and internal controls, but led us to a more rigorous process of self-assessment and to the implementation of much-needed reforms that will extend across the University structure. The unveiling of our comprehensive strategic planning process disclosed areas of tension, both within and among campuses, but hard work and ongoing conversation have led us to a better understanding of who we are and of our unique campus strengths and goals, and have offered us a shared vision of our future as a University. The mandate to bring the former UMDNJ into Rutgers presented us with huge logistical, financial, and organizational challenges, but also provided Rutgers with an opportunity for a transformation unprecedented in the recent history of higher education.
Simply put, this may be the most exciting period in our school’s history—a bold statement, considering our origins date to before the American Revolution. In addition to the integration of the healthcare sciences, we are embarking on the most comprehensive strategic plan in our history. Our current capital projects will redefine the face of our campuses, and our physical master plan will provide the framework for decades of future capital investments. With our entrance into the Big Ten and the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC), Rutgers enjoys a new national visibility, aligning us more closely with our peer institutions.
The true measure of a great university, of course, is the quality and strength of its academic community. This year our incoming undergraduate class retains its remarkable diversity and achieves the highest combined SAT scores of any entering class. During the last academic year, our students won a record number of Fulbright fellowships, two Gates-Cambridge Scholarships, two Goldwater Scholarships, our second consecutive Truman Scholarship, and our first Luce Scholarship. Four members of our faculty—the most of any public research institution in the nation—were elected to the National Academy of the Sciences, and others were awarded prestigious international awards, including the coveted Wolf Prize and Japan Prize. Just this week, four members of our Rutgers family received the MacArthur “Genius Award,” including a faculty member in the Department of History in New Brunswick, who was recognized for her work combining archival research with ethnography to explore the care and treatment of individuals suffering from chronic and debilitating illnesses in Botswana. By any measure, our academic star shines brightly.
These are just a few examples of our scholarly excellence. With highly rated programs in medicine, dentistry, nursing, and other health-related professions combined with our existing world-class programs in the humanities, the natural and social sciences, business, and engineering, our faculty have greater opportunities to collaborate with colleagues, and our students have the chance to pursue new fields of study, research experiences, and joint degree programs, enabling them to tailor their educations to their own interests, talents, and passions—and in accordance with emerging industry trends.
We have recruited nationally recognized leaders to guide this new organization, including chancellors for Rutgers-Newark and Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences, deans for the Schools of Social Work and Pharmacy, a new director of intercollegiate athletics, and a new senior vice president for finance. This year we will conduct national searches for the next chancellor for Rutgers-Camden and the executive dean for the School of Arts and Sciences at Rutgers-New Brunswick. The new Rutgers has all of the key elements necessary for a truly great research university: a comprehensive range of programs across the disciplines; state-of-the-art facilities for teaching and research; and the strongest students, the finest faculty, and the most dedicated staff and administrators.
As a lifelong academic, I look forward each year to the fall semester and the return of the students, the seasonal ebb and flow that reminds us of the university’s promise and potential. Last year was no exception, though it offered the added pleasure of meeting new colleagues and students, and exploring the various corners of Rutgers. But the pace of this introduction to Rutgers changed suddenly with the onslaught of Hurricane Sandy. The Rutgers Office of Emergency Management began tracking and making preparations for Sandy’s potential impact on October 23rd—a week before the storm made landfall. With over 55,000 full-time students, faculty, and staff, and with hundreds of service units, Rutgers is an enormous enterprise, and mobilizing an emergency response to a natural disaster is a massive undertaking. Considering Hurricane Sandy was the worst storm ever to hit the Mid-Atlantic States—a 940 mile diameter storm with wind gusts reaching 100mph, a storm surge of 12.5 feet, and the lowest barometric pressure reading ever recorded in New Jersey—Rutgers’ response to the storm was impressive. Despite 94% of New Jersey having lost power and New Brunswick having no potable water for two days, our staff maintained essential services across the Rutgers campuses and acted quickly to meet the needs of residents and minimize property losses. While our extended University community suffered injuries and even deaths, our students, faculty, and staff suffered no storm-related fatalities.
Given its unprecedented scope, Hurricane Sandy naturally exposed holes in our safety nets and response plans, despite years of planning and preparation. For that reason, on the day all campuses returned to normal operating status—less than one week after the storm’s landfall—I asked Jay Kohl, Vice President for Administration and Public Safety, to assemble an Emergency Preparedness Task Force to review our emergency preparations and to draft a comprehensive report documenting our response and detailing recommendations to improve future responses. The task force’s 275-page report details the coordinated efforts of the many University units and individuals, whose dedication and service helped limit the impact of this devastating storm. The report also offers specific and actionable recommendations for improvements to our response systems and procedures in preparation for future events: from designing business continuity plans to coordinating emergency power; and from strengthening our IT infrastructure to designating work sites for essential personnel. For me, however, the most important item is, perhaps, the most fundamental: communication. During future emergencies, we simply must do a better job keeping of our University community informed. Fundamentally, we need to ensure that our units are better able to communicate with one another and that centralized messages and decisions are disseminated to our emergency responders and to faculty, staff, and students on the ground. When the loss of power, cell-phone coverage, and Internet access hamper basic communication, we must have back-up methods to coordinate our internal efforts and communicate those efforts to the rest of our Rutgers community. All of the task force recommendations are now moving toward full implementation.
Anyone not aware of the yearlong integration process with the former UMDNJ might have thought that new Rutgers facilities simply appeared across the state on July 1st. The new Rutgers signage proudly displayed on the buildings that house units from the former UMDNJ is merely one of the countless transitions that happened seamlessly on the first day of the formal integration. Of course, the fact that this integration seemed to occur so smoothly from the outside was the result of meticulous planning by the more than 300 members of the twelve integration teams, under the steadfast leadership of Dr. Christopher Molloy, who worked tirelessly up until the last minute on the inside. Though you will likely never know the names of all of the dedicated faculty and staff who also worked tirelessly last year, we all owe a tremendous note of gratitude to our colleagues for successfully laying the foundation for the new Rutgers.
This group managed the many processes and decisions, large and small, that lay along the critical path. The issues they dealt with ran the gamut, from the size of the diplomas to be issued to graduating students to the complex task of refinancing the debt associated with what was essentially a multi-billion dollar corporate merger. Strategically guided by our CFO, Bruce Fehn, Rutgers issued $827 million par value of general obligation bonds with a purchase premium of $62 million on June 13, 2013 at near record low interest rates. These bonds allowed us to defease and refinance the existing legacy UMDNJ debt, to capitalize approved new construction projects, and to restructure existing Rutgers debt at a lower annual cost to the University. The restructuring elements of this debt offering alone will save the University nearly $90 million in debt service over the life of the bonds. While all of the hard work leading up to July 1st paid off as the day came and went without a hiccup, we are far from done. Much hard work remains ahead during the next 12 to 18 months, as we move from two universities successfully “bolted together” to a fully integrated, single institution.
In the new Rutgers, the State of New Jersey now has the comprehensive research university it deserves and, perhaps, the one it should have always had. Like many of our peer AAU institutions, Rutgers can now offer outstanding programs in medicine, dentistry, nursing, pharmacy, and other health-related professions to go along with our existing top-rated programs in the humanities, the natural and social sciences, business, and engineering. And we will now be able to offer exciting new joint degree programs and academic combinations that allow our students and faculty to flexibly respond to emerging trends in both higher education and industry. We can now imagine programs in the medical humanities or music therapy, for example, to complement our existing world-class programs across the disciplines, from Pharmacy to History and English, and from Public Health to Dance and Philosophy.
As a medical researcher and a physician, I am perhaps most excited by our expanded capacity to take research from the lab, move it through clinical trials, and place the results in the hands of healthcare providers to administer potentially life-saving treatment. We are now better positioned to compete for funding from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health that will support life-changing research in the health sciences. We are also better positioned to partner with the pharmaceutical, biotech, and other healthcare industries vital to the state’s economy, working through public-private partnerships to facilitate the development of new treatments and diagnostics. Eventually Rutgers Healthcare will provide a vehicle for integrated healthcare delivery that will allow us to move the results of that work to patients, benefitting citizens throughout the region and around the world. The Rutgers-UMDNJ integration has not only transformed higher education in New Jersey, it has also reshaped the landscape of healthcare delivery in the state.
The new Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences is a large and complex organization that includes a broad range of educational programs, clinical practices in a variety of disciplines and specialties, multiple hospital affiliations, and extensive clinical and basic research programs. The successful leader for this new entity will have to be extraordinarily versatile, broadly exposed, and deeply experienced. A tall order indeed. Our search for a founding RBHS chancellor attracted a strong pool of nationally recognized healthcare leaders. We are delighted to have successfully recruited our top candidate on this list, Dr. Brian Strom, M.D., M.P.H., of the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine. He will begin his duties as the inaugural Chancellor for Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences on November 1.
Dr. Strom is an extraordinarily gifted scholar, physician, and academic leader. I cannot imagine a person more suited to take on this daunting, yet immensely exciting, challenge. He literally founded the field of pharmacoepidemiology—the application of epidemiologic methods to the study of drug use and effects. As the author of the field’s first major reference work, he did, in fact “write the book” for the discipline. At UPenn, Dr. Strom developed a university-wide program in public health, established a pioneering masters program in clinical epidemiology, and oversaw a multi-institutional program called Bridging the Gaps, which addresses the needs of underserved populations while training community health and social service professionals. Throughout his career, he has continued to practice medicine in his specialty of general internal medicine. Among his many awards and honors, he was elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences in 2001. He is currently Executive Vice Dean for Institutional Affairs at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine and Senior Advisor to the Provost for Global Health Initiatives. An internationally recognized scholar and physician, an award-winning educator, and a visionary academic leader with a deep understanding of the landscape of 21st-century medical education, Dr. Brian Strom is the ideal chancellor to establish RBHS as a model for research and education in the biomedical and health sciences.
The past year was a particularly challenging one for our Department of Intercollegiate Athletics. The events that unfolded in the late fall and spring of last year emphasize the need to maintain vigilant oversight on high-risk areas that currently exist in our sports programs and throughout the University, even as we undertake new initiatives and set new goals. It goes without saying that the events leading to the termination of our former men’s basketball coach have no place at any institution, and most certainly not at Rutgers, a university with such a proud history of diversity and tolerance. We simply will not allow members of our University community, particularly our students, to be treated without the respect and dignity they deserve. But these events point to another more systemic fault that we must address—our failure as an institution to take the immediate actions that many involved with this case knew to be the right course of action from the outset. People are fallible, and at a university as large as Rutgers, there will, no doubt, be occasions when actions fall outside the values and expectations of our University community. As a University, we must have the mechanisms in place to identify and monitor areas and situations where such risks are particularly high and where inappropriate actions could harm individuals, affect our community more broadly, or damage the institution. When such events occur, the necessary protocols must be in place to address them fairly, with due diligence, and decisively. Most importantly, in the end, we must do what is morally and ethically right, not what is merely procedurally or legally expedient. While no one individual can know all that goes on at this University of nearly 100,000 people—essentially a large and sprawling city—I pledge to you that I will continue to focus my attention on making sure that continuous monitoring systems are in place throughout the University, systems that will reduce the chance that we will ever revisit the events of last spring. Finally, I want to assure you that we are streamlining our protocols and procedures for reporting up to the appropriate oversight authority any behavior or conduct—by individuals or groups—that puts any member of our community at risk.
To provide us with an independent assessment of our internal policies and procedures and to provide recommendations for how to improve them and for new structures where needed, the Board of Governors hired the law firm of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, LLP to conduct an independent external review last spring. Their report, issued in July, offers detailed recommendations for improvements to our policies and procedures, including the creation of a university-wide risk assessment plan and the establishment of more formal coordination among human resource professionals across the institution. Enterprise risk management is a concept that is now virtually universal in the business and corporate world but only recently recognized as best practice within the world of higher education. To the extent that most people think about them at all, the terms risk management and risk assessment are likely to have a negative connotation. But, for large institutions like Rutgers, these terms bespeak a set of guidelines and practices tailored to high-risk areas that will help us best manage the inherent risks that unavoidably accompany the daily operations of a complex enterprise. They allow us to better monitor potential failure points within our university structures and develop coordinated, actionable plans for instances when issues do arise.
Of course, one of the best forms of risk management is hiring highly qualified people in leadership positions, giving them the resources they need to succeed, and creating clear mechanisms for continuous feedback on their progress. In this regard, we are particularly pleased to have Julie Hermann join the Rutgers leadership team as our new Director of Intercollegiate Athletics. A gifted athletic administrator and a dynamic leader, Julie also has a long track-record of building programs and structures that ensure that student athletes have both the support they need to succeed and the ability to report problems or issues they are having when they struggle. In her previous position at Louisville, Julie established an innovative student-athlete support program that integrates all the elements critical to student athletics, and she is implementing a similar program at Rutgers. As an added benefit, this program will safeguard against the kinds of abuse that surfaced during the incidents last year. Julie has also embraced the recommendations from the Skadden Report, including completing the implementation of reforms proposed in 2008 by the university-sponsored Athletic Review Committee, which advocated for closer oversight of the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics by the University administration. With the support of her dedicated staff and coaches, including our new men’s basketball coach, Eddie Jordan, Julie will provide the structure to ensure that our student athletes continue to be successful.
Julie’s leadership of the Athletic Department is critical for Rutgers as we transition into the Big Ten next year. She was deeply involved in moving Louisville from Conference USA to the Big East, and from the Big East to the Atlantic Coast Conference, and her experience and leadership success in transforming large collegiate athletic programs will help guide our program through conference realignment. Like our peers in the Big Ten, Rutgers is committed both to excellence in athletics and excellence in the classroom, and we take great pride in our student athletes’ Academic Progress Rate (APR) scores, which are among the best in the nation each year. And, like me, Julie is committed to ensuring that our athletic programs continue to focus on the academic performance and progress of our student athletes.
Hurricane Sandy also briefly interrupted preparations for our University strategic planning process, which became a focal point for the Rutgers community last year, a process we will be continuing this fall. It struck me in the months that followed that our response to Hurricane Sandy offered a material reminder of the importance of the strategic planning process. Though it might seem odd to draw comparisons between the concrete preparations for storm response and the conceptual planning that will guide our University looking forward, both expose inherent interrelationships between all areas of the Rutgers community. Both demonstrate that, while ours is an enormous enterprise, it is essential that the University’s campuses and units work in concert and with common purpose. Both underscore the need for careful planning and shared vision, commitment, and responsibility. Finally, both demonstrate the central importance of clear, open, and bilateral communication, something we too often take for granted. I look forward with renewed energy to the coming academic year, to building on the accomplishments of last year, and to our continued work together to create a University Strategic Plan that will provide a shared vision for Rutgers as we build toward the future.
The urgency I feel about our strategic planning process reflects my conviction that there is something unique about the current moment. Although a well-worn phrase, I believe we are at a tipping point in the academy. Higher education is hardly immune to the forces battering all sectors of the national economy, and these forces will lead to dramatic changes in our institution as well. Enrollment capacity, market demand, reputation and branding, muscular endowments, and the relative affluence of their student bodies may insulate many private institutions from these market forces for a time. But with diminishing resources, the steady rollback of state and federal funding, and undersized endowments, large public research universities will feel the pressure of these forces first. Even now, university administrators and boards have been grappling with the early impact of a radically shifting financial landscape, as they struggle to stabilize their institutions in the face of slashed state revenues, increased overhead—epitomized by our increased reliance on technology—and the emergence and proliferation of for-profit and online institutions of higher education.
For most of us, the scenario I just described is a familiar and disheartening refrain. But, as someone who has dedicated his entire life to higher education—as a teacher, researcher, and administrator—I can tell you there is no place that I would rather be right now than this University. Rutgers now has all of the pieces necessary to become a great public research institution. We should not just seek to survive in this unstable environment; we should lead the way toward a more sustainable and productive educational model, while preserving the core of our academic mission and educational values. With the commitment of our entire University community, we can meet the challenges facing the modern university, making Rutgers a central voice and an exemplary model for higher education’s future. The strategic planning process creates a forum in which these difficult issues can be addressed. The ultimate end result will be practical and actionable. It will forecast a broad vision that is both ambitious and realistic; set the strategy for achieving our aspiration to be a top-tier public research institution; identify key areas of excellence and differentiation; and it will provide a blueprint for raising Rutgers’ visibility as one of the nation’s finest universities.
More than anything else during my first year as president, I have enjoyed the countless opportunities I have had to meet members of the University community and to discuss with them their personal ambitions for this institution. I realize that discussions of this sort, particularly when they have not been a regular part of an institution’s culture, can uncover areas of unresolved anxiety. Only by meeting these issues head-on and working through them together can we lay a solid, cohesive foundation for real planning and progress. While such discussions are not easy, frank and open dialogues have set the stage for constructive conversations going forward. I have been gratified by the thoughtful, energetic, and civil discourse taking place in all corners of the University, and I am confident that this collective process is beginning to crystallize a unified sense of mission and goals.
As you know, we created a range of options and opportunities to engage the University community last year, from town halls and focus groups to faculty forums and University retreats. We conducted online surveys and sent out email updates, and we posted the outcomes of our collective work and survey results on a website dedicated to the Strategic Plan. Your collaboration has given direction to our strategic plan, and, with a full calendar of meetings and events scheduled this fall, we will bring the first phase of this process to closure in December. I want to thank all who have worked so hard thus far, and those who are serving on the committees exploring and fleshing out elements of the plan this fall. Your efforts will enable us to submit the final University Strategic Plan to the Board of Governors and the Board of Trustees in early December. Beginning in January, the individual campuses and Schools will then begin developing their own strategic plans that use the larger University strategic plan as a lens with which to bring their own particular unit and departmental plans into greater focus.
A key point of focus during the planning process has been discussions about the distinctive visions of the individual campuses. To establish a collective vision for Rutgers, we first had to understand unique, campus-level differentiation and distinction. From often spirited conversations emerged a clearer self-assessment of the missions of Rutgers-Newark, Rutgers-Camden, and Rutgers-New Brunswick. The impact of these collective campus visions is perhaps best illustrated in Newark. Only after several community discussions that articulated a unified sense of community direction were we able to target and successfully conclude a search for the next Chancellor of Rutgers-Newark. The Rutgers-Newark community described their campus as offering a unique fusion of world-class scholarship, a commitment to the urban environment and educational partnerships, and extraordinary student access and opportunity. A national leader in diversity, the Rutgers-Newark community sees itself as a cosmopolitan campus that capitalizes on its proximity to New York City, excels in scholarship and community service related to issues of urban transformation, and provides outstanding educational opportunities to a mostly working-student population. Rutgers–Newark prides itself on being an urban research university that creates rich opportunities for educational and social mobility for its diverse student body. It was this vision that attracted Dr. Nancy Cantor and led her to accept the position as the next chancellor.
As a university leader of considerable renown, Dr. Cantor’s professional career is founded on the belief that the work of the modern research university must extend beyond its traditional boundaries to tackle the “‘messy’ intractable problems that are best addressed through many disciplines with many partners, on campus and off.” During her distinguished career as a scholar and administrator, Dr. Cantor has demonstrated a deep commitment to higher education’s public mission, for which the Carnegie Corporation recognized her with its Academic Leadership Award. Her experience and expertise make her an ideal leader for Rutgers-Newark.
As a scholar, Dr. Cantor is an internationally recognized social psychologist, whose research has focused on “understanding how individuals perceive and think about their social worlds, pursue personal goals, and how they regulate their behavior to adapt to life's most challenging social environments.” Among her many laurels, she has been elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, and to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. As President of Syracuse University, she spearheaded efforts to advance the university’s engagement in the community, creating real-world examples of how public and private research universities can act both as engines of prosperity and as agents of social mobility and social change. Prior to her appointment at Syracuse, Dr. Cantor served as chancellor of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at the University of Michigan. She has extensive experience in public higher education, and I could not be happier that she has agreed to lead Rutgers-Newark, a campus with much promise and potential for growth.
In addition to developing and growing academic programs, Dr. Cantor will oversee the ongoing major capital projects at Rutgers-Newark. Over the past five years, we have invested over $130 million in building projects on the Newark campus, and, with projects already underway, we will be investing an additional $130 million in the next two years. The continued growth of the Newark campus is not only essential for Rutgers, it is critical to the economic and social vitality of the City of Newark. For example, the $70 million “mixed-use,” residential facility for graduate students on the historic Washington Street site will infuse this downtown neighborhood with renewed energy. And facilities like the new Life Sciences II building will ensure that these graduate students—the future leaders of their fields—will have the cutting-edge research and learning spaces they require.
If there was ever any doubt among state officials about the dedication of our colleagues in Camden to Rutgers or about the commitment of Rutgers to its Camden campus, it was put to rest during the past 18 months, when members of the Rutgers-Camden community—led by Chancellor Wendell Pritchett—offered forceful articulation of their integral place and role in the University. Chancellor Pritchett represented Rutgers-Camden throughout the legislative process, both in public meetings and in behind-the-scenes negotiations. Under his leadership, Rutgers-Camden has expanded its student population and grown its faculty, established vibrant academic programs, and made critical improvements to the campus infrastructure, ensuring that the University enjoys a strong presence in southern New Jersey. My admiration for Chancellor Pritchett’s steadfast and visionary leadership made accepting his decision to return to the faculty following the current academic year difficult for me. It will be a challenge to find someone with either his energy or leadership, but I am committed to an exhaustive national search to identify the best individual to lead Rutgers-Camden next year.
The intense debates at Rutgers-Camden during the legislative process formed the basis for that community’s campus vision during our planning process this year. Rutgers-Camden describes itself as providing a close-knit educational environment that actively engages with the surrounding community. The campus’ size fosters an intimate, collegial environment. It boasts the highest percentage of small classes at Rutgers and a smaller student-to-faculty ratio than New Brunswick. While enrollment has undergone a 20-percent increase since 2007, the campus remains committed to its small, liberal arts feel. Deeply involved in supporting the people of Camden and the surrounding region, its Office for Civic Engagement has instilled a pervasive ethos of civic engagement into the curriculum. Our new chancellor must ensure that Rutgers-Camden continues its role as an economic and social driver for the city and region. We will find a new chancellor who, like many of Camden’s faculty and students, sees the tremendous potential for growth. In support of near-term program growth on the Camden campus, we are finalizing plans for a new education building to house the School of Nursing and other infrastructure projects along Cooper Street.
Similar to discussions on the Newark and Camden campuses, the New Brunswick community continues to engage in energetic conversation about the future direction of Rutgers. An area of concern that has surfaced during these discussions focuses on the role of the humanities and the natural sciences in the new Rutgers. Because of the integration that led to the large-scale creation of the Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences, many faculty and students have concerns that the new RBHS will receive greater attention at the expense of existing areas of excellence in the humanities and the natural sciences. Our evolving strategic plan, however, already illustrates that this will not be the case. As a community, we clearly demonstrated the foundational importance of a strong science and humanities core to Rutgers’ success, to its national reputation and standing among its AAU peers. Already ranking among our most distinguished departments nationally, these central arts and sciences academic units must be nurtured so they maintain their national prominence. Because intellectual literacy in these areas is essential to the education of any well-rounded Rutgers graduate, educational facilities to accommodate these areas are one of our highest priorities.
To keep the School of Arts and Sciences focused on continued excellence—a goal crucial to the success of Rutgers-New Brunswick—we are undertaking a national search for a new executive dean this fall. We have been fortunate to have had the steady leadership of Richard Falk in the interim, and, under his direction, SAS has kept important projects and initiatives moving ahead. Now, I look forward to our identifying a strong academic leader whose national reputation and leadership experience signal the centrality of SAS to Rutgers’ core mission and commanding presence among its peers.
We have made a major commitment to the health sciences, and continued focus on quality and productivity in the new RBHS programs will certainly play a significant role in our future plans. With more demand for technologically competent citizens and entrepreneurs, our engineering programs will also require thoughtful development. And in other schools and programs—like our School of Environmental and Biological Sciences—the emphasis has to be on improving quality and impact against the backdrop of constrained growth. We have much to gain from a more interdisciplinary approach across our campuses to both research and education.
Our commitment to the humanities and natural sciences is reflected in the capital investments we are making across our campuses, from the Chemistry and Chemical Biology Building on the Busch campus and the state-of-the-art College Avenue Academic Building, to the new Life Science II Center on the Newark campus. In New Brunswick, major capital construction projects will transform the historic campus in the coming years, while ensuring it maintains the character of its liberal arts roots. Our goal is to provide the facilities our world-class faculty deserve—including offices, labs, and classrooms—while preserving both the history and the traditional character of this Revolutionary-era campus. Fittingly, our newest, most advanced facility on College Avenue will face the oldest historic building at Rutgers—a bookend across the Voorhees Mall to the Old Queens Building. In the coming months, I look forward to watching one of the landmark buildings at the new Rutgers take shape across the green from the window of my Old Queens office. For me, the building is itself an illustration of my philosophy of higher education: we must continue to innovate, using technology to help push the boundaries of existing fields of study and to investigate emerging fields, while continuing to build on the strong foundations provided by the traditional disciplines in the liberal arts.
The Student Experience at Rutgers
We are a research university, meaning we see our mission as producing knowledge and fueling innovation. But our scholarship and research cannot come at the expense of our ability to transfer that knowledge to our students, the future leaders who will apply that knowledge and innovation as they move into the workforce. We need to create a cohesive student experience that will equip our students to make the most of their time at Rutgers, helping them to find a balance between their rigorous education and their social and personal growth. But we also need to create opportunities for them to blend the three. We are continuing to develop programs like the Aresty Research Center and the Byrne First-Year Seminars that introduce students to research from the outset of their academic careers, so they come to understand themselves as integral to the intellectual life of a research university. We need to continue to develop internship, externship, service learning, and experiential learning opportunities, so they can see how their education applies in practice.
Perhaps more than any current initiative at the University, the Rutgers Honors College will enable us to address a number of the central challenges already identified in our strategic planning process: attracting, recruiting, and retaining the state’s most promising undergraduate students; reducing student-to-faculty ratios and promoting and fostering student-faculty interactions in the educational process; bridging the divide between traditional classroom study and practical, experiential learning from the beginning of students’ academic careers; and creating dynamic, flexible curricula for twenty-first century education that allow students to explore emergent fields and specialties while developing the broad base of knowledge necessary for future success. The Honors College is designed to attract the most academically gifted and talented students to the University, to immerse them in primary scholarship from day one, and to provide them with the finest, research-intensive education available. In addition, in-residence faculty, with their families, will help create a 24/7-intellectual environment. Alongside the rich academic structure at the center of the Honors College will be onsite co-curricular and extracurricular enrichment opportunities designed to create a well-rounded and complete student experience for the Honors Scholars. The Honors College will provide a nexus for our finest students and provide a framework for them to take advantage of the boundless opportunities available at the University, in turn, allowing these students to model for others the success that accrues from dedicated study, intellectual curiosity, and the steady persistence required for research.
The Honor College facility being constructed on the College Avenue Campus might be best described as a traditional residential college updated for the 21st-century, a complex of buildings, complete with terraces and an Honors College courtyard, that will combine student housing with state-of-the-art learning spaces. The complex will house the administrative offices, as well as faculty apartments, so students are provided with continual informal learning opportunities. The upper floors of the buildings will house student residences, but they will also include study lounges and small seminar rooms. A cafe, a configurable multi-purpose room, a music room, and additional study lounges will help shape the living experience, merging the classroom and the social in an atmosphere of constant learning. The Honors College facility, which, with the College Avenue Academic Building, will open in time for our 250-year anniversary celebrations, will serve as a microcosm of the future of student experience at Rutgers, a space that blends the components of what are often described as student life and academic life to advance the education of our students.
Of course, our commitment to enhancing the student experience is embedded in investments we are making across the University. We recently hired Dr. Felicia McGinty as our new Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, and she has been conducting internal assessments of the units under her purview to best coordinate our many student affairs programs and units. We have, in fact, been moving purposefully through all areas that influence the student experience. For example, we hired Rick Hearin as our new Executive Director for University Career Services, and he has completely restructured that unit to better prepare our students for the workforce, starting at the beginning of their academic careers. At the same time, he has been forging ties with corporate employers, creating strong networks for our students when they begin seeking employment, and he and his team are building a large infrastructure of internship and externship programs to help transition our students from the classroom to the workplace. We are building a state-of-the-art facility for University Career Services in the new Gateway Building to best provide the services our students deserve. We hired Bill Welsh, a nationally recognized leader in disability services, to lead a University-wide effort to ensure that our campuses provide welcoming environments for students, faculty, and staff with disabilities. To further promote undergraduate research, the Aresty Research Center doubled the number of research opportunities for undergraduates last year, and, with exciting collaborations like our Aresty-Byrne Seminars, we are providing new avenues to engage our students in research from the moment they enter the University. And, with the new algorithms being implemented in our Office of Scheduling and Space Management, we are making sure that our undergraduates are able to move more efficiently toward degree.
Diversity at Rutgers
The wide breadth of religious, racial, and ethnic affiliations, the range of class and economic backgrounds, and the differences in cultural and sexual orientations at Rutgers are a differentiating strength for this University and a crucial part of our legacy for the generations to come. While Rutgers has an impressive range of academic and educational diversity initiatives across our campuses, we lacked a comprehensive structure at the level of the Office of the President to assist in coordinating and advancing these efforts. Last fall faculty and staff raised concerns that we were not doing enough to attract and retain a diverse faculty, student body, and staff; nor were they satisfied that we adequately supported initiatives in the areas of diversity and inclusion. As president, I agree that we should showcase and continue to strengthen our institutional diversity, one of the defining characteristics of Rutgers and an attribute that sets us apart from almost every other public research university in the nation.
Acting on these considerations, I established the Office of Diversity and Inclusion last year to provide a robust organizational structure and institutional focus for diversity initiatives, and I appointed Dr. Jorge Schement as the first Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion. The former dean of the School of Communication and Information and a scholar whose academic career has focused on issues of access and inclusion for minorities and marginalized groups, Dr. Schement brings to this position a wealth of personal experience, professional expertise, and leadership experience. He will work in consultation with the entire campus community, and he will reconstitute the University-wide Council on Diversity and Inclusion, which will help shape the direction of this new office. On each campus, we are also creating Vice Chancellors for Diversity and Inclusion, who, while reporting to their respective Chancellors, will work directly with Dr. Schement to further intra- and inter-campus diversity and inclusion initiatives. I also look forward to continuing the regular personal meetings with the various diversity advisory boards already serving the Office of the President to help me focus our resources to promote diversity and inclusion initiatives.
Capital Projects and the Physical Master Plan
Perhaps nowhere is the changing nature of the University more apparent than in the red construction fences and the cranes that now dot the landscape of our campuses. We are in the midst of what is, without question, the most comprehensive capital construction period in our University’s history, with one or more major projects on all five campuses in New Brunswick/Piscataway and on our campuses in Newark and Camden that have just been completed, have already broken ground, or are about to begin construction. We have seen the Livingston Campus transformed in the past three years. Most recently, the Rutgers Business School, which serves as an entry to the Livingston Campus, opened its doors on the first day of school this fall. We just celebrated the opening of the beautiful new Mortensen Hall on the Douglass Campus only days after the groundbreaking for the new Institute for Food, Nutrition, and Health on the Cook Campus. And, of course, visitors to the historic College Avenue Campus can’t miss the construction sites for the new Honors College, the new Academic Building, and the new residence facility.
These are just a few examples of the ambitious new building projects underway on the New Brunswick/Piscataway campuses, and they will join projects like the new Nursing Science facility in Camden and the Life Science II Center in Newark in creating the face of the new Rutgers. With our projects that are currently in the construction pipeline alone, we are investing $71 million in student services facilities and $671 million in facilities dedicated to research and teaching.
Much of this building has been made possible through the $750 million bond referendum to finance construction at New Jersey’s colleges and universities that passed last year and the additional $550 million in previously allocated state funds released for major capital projects. New Jersey was one of only five states in the nation that had not funded higher education construction in the last 10 years, and this bond act comes at a critical moment for Rutgers, as we look to continue the momentum generated by the integration with the former UMDNJ. But these capital projects are also being funded through the generous support of foundations, nonprofit organizations, and private donors, signaling that the state and its citizens understand what our University community has always known: Rutgers students, faculty, and staff are a great investment in the economic, social, and cultural success of New Jersey—and well beyond.
Alongside our major capital construction projects, which will include much needed classroom space, we have been renovating existing classrooms across all of our campuses. This summer we transformed the former Tillett Dining Hall on the Livingston Campus to build more than 18,000 square feet of state-of-the-art classroom space, adding more than 1,400 seats—the largest infusion of classroom space in New Brunswick-Piscataway since 1964. These classrooms are outfitted with the latest digital technology as part of a four-year, $4 million campus-wide initiative being led by our Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate Academic Affairs to overhaul the technology in all of the general purpose classrooms on the New Brunswick-Piscataway campuses. Moreover, this initiative includes a so-called “ever-greening” component, to ensure that our teaching and learning spaces remain on the cutting-edge.
We have taken two important steps to make sure that our individual capital investments are best coordinated with our strategic plan and the needs of Rutgers as a whole. First, we have established a Capital Project Advisory Council, which I chair. This council now reviews every major capital project prior to seeking approval from the Board of Governors to proceed with design and construction. It considers the goals of each project, its relevance to the University’s needs and to the strategic plan, and its funding model and business plan. Second, we have begun developing a comprehensive Physical Master Plan, which will link directly to the strategic plan and will guide our capital investments going forward. This plan will be closely tied to the new strategic plan and will reflect ongoing campus discussions about the organization of tomorrow’s university. We will ensure we are considering building efficiency in our planning and are moving in a direction that is more sustainable and environmentally conscious. We will examine building scale and design so that what we build fits with the existing architecture of this historic campus, visually unifying the University.
We are also evaluating growth patterns at the department and school level, investigating trends in class sizes and classroom pedagogy. Such demographic data will enable us to incorporate the right sized classrooms in the right locations, optimized for the kinds of teaching our faculty will be doing tomorrow. And we will look at the density of residential living on the different campuses, to ensure that students are able to find appropriate housing where they choose to live. Perhaps most importantly, we will develop an actionable plan that will use technology to gather information on registration, scheduling, transportation, and housing and predict trends and patterns that will better enable us to bring classes and services to our students and faculty, instead of moving our students and faculty to those classes and services. The old Rutgers was known for its bus system. The new Rutgers will create a different student experience, one that focuses on the strength of our faculty, the quality of our facilities, and the excellence of our research and teaching. One that moves knowledge and information rather than people.
Rebuilding University Infrastructure to Support Progress
For Rutgers to realize its potential in the coming years, we will need additional resources and funding, both scarce in today’s educational and economic climate. State appropriations for public universities have declined precipitously over the past couple of decades. Yet, as a state university, Rutgers understands its responsibility to provide the highest quality, most affordable education to the residents of New Jersey, and we need to control increases in tuition, so this financial burden does not fall solely to our students and their families. Yet, the cost of providing a quality education continues to climb. Much of the expensive infrastructure and technology we take for granted in research and education today did not exist even ten years ago, and we have to keep pace with these advances and the capital, operating, and evergreening costs they bring. Our success will depend on exploring new ways to generate the support our academic enterprise requires, while at the same time seeking ways to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our University so that we can continue to direct more of our limited resources to innovative educational and research activity.
Cutting this Gordian knot will require us to move purposefully on multiple fronts, including doing more with what we already have. We will need a more transparent budgeting system that appropriately aligns revenues and expenses at the unit level. With that in mind, we are implementing Responsibility Center Management (RCM), a budget system that gives units down to the department level more control over their own revenues and expenses, allowing them to better control costs and best direct funds toward the programs and initiatives they with the most success and potential. While we will continue to work collectively to provide more resources for our University programs and departments, we have to rely on these programs and departments to better understand the costs involved with their areas so they can focus and allocate their resources more effectively. Success here demands clear mechanisms for predicting and sharing both revenues and expenses at the unit level.
As Vice President for Finance and Administration, Bruce Fehn has ably managed both of these areas for the past five years. Even prior to July 1, this was a monumental task. Our $3 billion operating budget and the addition of the financially complex biomedical and health science units in RBHS mandate that we divide this position, so one position can focus on this complex and substantial financial operation. After this re-organization, Bruce will take full responsibility for a greatly expanded facilities and administration organization. After an intensive national search, we recruited Michael Gower in the new position of Senior Vice President for Finance and Chief Financial Officer, and he will be tasked with completing the implementation of our new RCM system and with overseeing the restructuring of our budgeting and allocation systems. Mr. Gower has more than 30 years of experience in university and medical school business management, and he comes to Rutgers from Yeshiva University, where he served as vice president for business affairs and chief financial officer for the last five years. Previous to that time, he led senior financial management teams both in the public university sector and the healthcare sector.
During the first years following the integration, one of our greatest challenges will be coordinating the many comprehensive services systems within the new Rutgers, many of which are simply out of date. From human resources to classroom scheduling to facilities management, we will be conducting thorough reviews of our internal systems and benchmarking them against our peer institutions and according to industry standards.
One of the first areas of focus is information technology, the backbone for any modern enterprise. Hurricane Sandy exposed serious vulnerabilities in our aging IT infrastructure, including the need to coordinate emergency power, harden secure pathways, and provide additional system redundancies. Further examination revealed that many of our systems were simply inadequate, systems cobbled together over the years from a hodge-podge of technologies, and that lacked clear protocols for large-scale upgrading and replacement. With this in mind, I have appointed a taskforce of our University technology leaders to review our IT infrastructure and to come up with an actionable plan both to systematically bring our current technology up-to-date and to provide a practical plan to ensure we do not fall behind again.
Supporting the New Rutgers
This month I announced that we topped the $800 million mark in our drive toward the $1 billion goal of the “Our Rutgers, Our Future” capital campaign. In spite of the difficult challenges that Rutgers faced last year, our generous supporters contributed a banner $132 million last year. These are important milestones, and we have much for which to be thankful, particularly the generosity of our loyal donors. Notwithstanding this generosity and the dedication of our Foundation staff, we simply have to do better, particularly in regard to engaging with our greatest resource: the more than 400,000 Rutgers alumni around the globe.
Rutgers’ efforts to encourage philanthropic support and to coordinate our engagement with our alumni and the friends of Rutgers are centered in the University Foundation. I am pleased to report that Mr. Nevin Kessler—currently Vice Chancellor for University Advancement and President of the North Carolina State University Foundation—will join Rutgers next month as President of the Rutgers University Foundation and Executive Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations. I would like to thank Ron Wilson, the former chairman of the Board of Overseers who acted as interim President of the Foundation following the retirement of Carol Herring, for his strong leadership during this transition. Mr. Kessler has a long history of fundraising success. Under his leadership at North Carolina State, the foundation launched an ambitious $1.5 billion capital campaign, and in the 2012-13 fiscal year alone, the foundation raised $198 million in gifts and pledges, a 78 percent increase over the previous year and the third consecutive record-breaking year for foundational giving at North Carolina State. He also helped secure the largest private gift in the school’s history, a $40 million donation to endow the university’s College of Management. Most importantly, Nevin has a strong record of generating higher participation rates among alumni, a critical factor in establishing a strong endowment and in better engaging our alumni as partners in Rutgers future success.
Our Initiatives for the Coming Year
During the coming year, we will focus on completing the many projects already underway. We will submit the final version of the University-wide strategic plan to the Board of Governors in December, and the campus and school strategic planning will immediately follow. The Physical Master Planning process will continue throughout this academic year, and you will be receiving updates as well as invitations to participate in the coming weeks. Although “day one” of the integration is behind us, we will be working for at least another 18 months to complete the integration at all levels. In parallel with these efforts, we will continue to focus on modernizing our support services, improving service to the end user and reducing costs. We will complete the formal evaluation of our IT infrastructure and Enterprise Resource Planning platform, and we will present our plans to modernize these systems to the board in the first quarter of 2014. We will present our final plan for introducing a University-wide enterprise risk management program to the board this fall, and we will target full implementation for early in 2014. The budget conversion process to Responsibility Center Management will continue, and we will complete the allocated cost mechanisms this fall and phase-in the system for budget preparation in the coming year.
In an effort to get our searches for senior academic leaders underway, committees will begin the process of identifying a new chancellor for Rutgers-Camden, an executive dean for SAS, and a dean for the Graduate School of Education, and we will take up the search for the dean of the Business School in January 2014. As you can see, the current academic year promises to be as busy, exciting, and productive as the previous one, and I look forward to working together on the many initiatives underway. With our 250th anniversary fast approaching, Rutgers is now a comprehensive research university, and, with the strong foundation we are establishing, it is poised to realize its potential as one of the great national and international public universities.