President's 2016 Report to the University Senate

September 23, 2016

INTRODUCTION

A few weeks from now, the University will mark its 250th birthday, culminating a memorable and momentous year for Rutgers. We have spent the past year revisiting our progression from a small private institution to a major public research university with a statewide footprint, national presence, and global impact. Our history has been examined in books, at conferences, on film, in library and museum exhibits, and on the web. Distinguished figures such as U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor have honored the occasion with visits to the University. 

Most memorable of all, President Barack Obama came to Rutgers not once but twice—first to the Center for Law and Justice in Newark, where he discussed criminal justice reform and highlighted the University’s leadership in this area, and then to a packed High Point Solutions Stadium, where he delivered the 250th Anniversary Commencement address to the Rutgers Class of 2016. “America converges here,” he said. “And the history of Rutgers mirrors the evolution of America—the course by which we became bigger, stronger, and richer and more dynamic, and a more inclusive nation.”

In these and other ways, we have honored Rutgers’ remarkable heritage during this anniversary year. Just as important, we have used this time to continue building the new Rutgers envisioned in our strategic plans. As you will read in this report, we have been focused on improving the way students interact with the University—from financial aid and student accounts to transportation and housing to academic advising and public safety. We are also working to strengthen the diversity of our faculty and to better mentor and retain the scholars we recruit to Rutgers. What’s more, we are creating a dynamic infrastructure of state-of-the-art academic buildings, expanded research computing capacity, and more streamlined administrative structures and processes. 

Across Rutgers, there is growing excitement about the Nursing and Science building on the rise in Camden, the progress of the Express Newark collaboration, the emerging master plan for Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences, the Chemistry and Engineering buildings taking shape on the Busch Campus, and the first new academic building to open on the historic College Avenue Campus in more than half a century. And the arrival of exceptional new leaders has brought optimism to Rutgers Athletics as we begin the Scarlet Knights’ third year in the Big Ten.

Of special note, this year we began the multi-year implementation of Rutgers Health, the clinical arm of the University that will include all of our outward-facing clinical care programs. With a unified clinical group practice of more than nine hundred health care professionals at Rutgers, and partnerships with affiliated hospitals and providers in the region, we will provide the citizens of New Jersey and beyond with state-of-the-art care that not only addresses their medical problems but also maintains their health and wellness. Rutgers Health will, when fully implemented, become one of the nation’s largest academic health care provider organizations. 

As this report makes clear, we can take pride in what Rutgers has accomplished in the past twelve months and, indeed, over the past 250 years. But this is no time to rest or slow down. Achieving our aspirations for Rutgers’ future will demand much more hard work and thoughtful planning as we seek to be recognized as among the nation’s leading public universities: preeminent in research, excellent in teaching, and committed to community.

RUTGERS' MILESTONE ANNIVERSARY

As I noted earlier, Rutgers will officially mark its 250th birthday on Thursday, November 10. To celebrate this milestone occasion we will welcome a wide array of outstanding Rutgers alumni to speak about their careers on what we are calling “A Day of Revolutionary Thinking.” That night, we will put an exclamation point on the year-long anniversary observance with fireworks displays in New Brunswick, Newark, and Camden. Please join us for these celebrations of the best of Rutgers.

From the Rutgers 250 kickoff event at Old Queens to the special concerts and conferences throughout the year to the first-ever universitywide Rutgers Day activities that attracted more than 100,000 people to our campuses, it has been a spectacularly successful commemoration. Adding to that success, this summer we learned that our commemorative book, Rutgers: A 250th Anniversary Portrait, earned a Gold Award from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. For all these achievements we can credit the cooperation of staff, students, and faculty across Rutgers. A perfect example of this teamwork was the three-year campaign to bring President Obama to Rutgers, which involved the Rutgers 250 Office, the Federal Relations Office, and the Office of the Secretary, as well as the New Jersey Congressional delegation, members of the Rutgers Boards, and Rutgers University Student Assembly and its 2015-16 president, Matt Panconi (and Matt’s grandmother!). Then, after we learned that President Obama was coming, Executive Vice President Tony Calcado and University Secretary Kim Pastva led a team from a broad range of departments to pull off the event with less than four weeks to plan.

Between now and November 10 there will be more opportunities to celebrate our anniversary and look forward to what the future holds. I warmly welcome all members of our community to take part in the ongoing 250th Anniversary Presidential Symposia on the Future of Higher Education. The second symposium in the series will highlight “Transformational Science” and will be held next Wednesday, September 28. Our keynote speakers will be Rush Holt, CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and former U.S. Congressman, and Eric Green, director of the National Genome Research Institute. The third symposium, scheduled for October 26, will focus on “The Future of the Humanities” and will feature humanist and philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah and Pauline Yu, president of the American Council of Learned Societies.

IMPROVING THE STUDENT EXPERIENCE

One of our top priorities for the coming year, building on the strategies laid out in our University Strategic Plan, will be to strengthen the atmosphere in which our students live, study, work, and socialize. We are listening closely to our students in order to improve the way they experience Rutgers.

Student Experience Improvement Initiative

Our strategic plan emphasizes the importance of making the Rutgers student experience as positive as possible, including student interactions with our student-service offices and processes. The Student Experience Improvement Initiative undertaken during the 2015-16 fiscal year is a comprehensive effort to study and then improve our processes in the areas of enrollment, admissions, student financial aid, student accounts, and the registrar. The consulting firm Deloitte collected data and interviewed many students, faculty, and staff about their experiences with our systems in order to identify problems that we should address. Some of the findings in the consultants’ report were things we already knew: for example, it is way past time for us to move on from an academic support system programmed in the outdated language COBOL.  Another problem is that our systems are not integrated; they operate in silos. 

This year, we will begin to implement the report’s recommendations. This effort is being led by a steering committee with representation from Camden, Newark, New Brunswick, and Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences. Hundreds of people have been involved in examining the findings and determining how we can best address the problems.

Our first priority will be to bring Financial Aid and Student Accounting up to current-day standards, making sure that both the information systems and the support staff work in tandem, with cross-training so each staff member can answer student questions even if they are not specific to that person’s job. We are also improving the website so that students can confidently use self-service options for paying their term bill or checking their account. 

Within the next two years we intend to give students as many self-service options as we can, and we plan to create one-stop offices so that students who need help can come to one place for everything from financial aid and student accounting to housing, registration, and other services.

Aligning Services with University Resources

As we continue to align our capital projects with the University’s Strategic Plan and Physical Master Plan, a major goal is to make certain that all construction—current or planned—contributes directly or indirectly to enhancing the student experience. This means not simply building new classrooms or academic buildings but also examining the way we use our existing facilities to ensure that all of our systems—housing, scheduling, registration, and transportation—are tightly coordinated to optimize convenience for our students.

Creating better course availability that is closer to where students live, making sure they can take critical courses they need to graduate on time, and providing transportation that is comfortable, accessible, and reliable are just a few of the important ways in which Rutgers can improve the student experience.

In order to accomplish this, last year we developed a Transportation Master Plan for both Rutgers–New Brunswick and Rutgers–Newark. When implemented, this plan will include a realignment of the bus and rapid transit systems and the expansion and realignment of the parking system, bikeways, pedestrian walkways, the bridge and river walk, and the transit hubs envisioned in the Physical Master Plan.

As an immediate and important first step in this process we formed a New Brunswick-based Scheduling, Registration, Transportation, and Housing Efficiencies Task Force in April 2015. I asked the task force to examine how the University uses the teaching space we have, to review our methods for scheduling and registering courses, and to recommend steps to best coordinate the key services that significantly affect the student experience. This summer I received an interim report that outlined many of the critical problems with our current systems and offered short- and long-term recommendations for improving the services we provide to our students, and we immediately began to implement a number of the most critical recommendations.

Some of the task force findings offer valuable insight into the traveling patterns of our students and can inform the way we schedule and register courses. This type of data is crucial to optimizing the transportation system and allows us to significantly reduce the amount of travel for our students by simply moving a course to a campus that serves the most students, factoring in a student’s residential location when scheduling courses, and providing students with suggested schedules that limit the amount of travel required.

Based on these findings, last spring we designed and put into use protocols that consider each of these factors and coordinate class scheduling, classroom assignment, and first-year student housing assignment to maximize convenience for students on the campus bus system. Based on this action, we expect to see an 8 percent reduction in course-related student travel, or about 20,000 fewer trips per week, for the fall 2016 semester.

Other long-term solutions offered by the task force will require more time to implement, such as an entirely new scheduling system, which will be the first change to our home-grown scheduling software in 30 years. 

Another solution we are actively pursuing is the construction of a pair of large “telepresence” classrooms that will allow students at different campuses to take the same course together without travelling to a single location. Students in either location will see a live or life-size, high-definition streaming display of the instructor, as well as their fellow students, and will be able to interact with the instructor and with fellow students miles away. We have seen the value of this approach on a small scale in the law school, which implemented synchronous learning in its Newark and Camden locations during the past year. 

In New Brunswick, the pilot for fully integrated telepresence classrooms will be ready in January, with a lecture hall on Busch Campus and one on Cook Campus. Once completed, these classrooms will be able to seat 280 people between the two campuses. We are looking at large-enrollment courses, from general psychology to microeconomics to theater appreciation to organic chemistry, to find those that will work best for this technology, and recruiting members of our faculty who will embrace the opportunity and adapt their curriculum to fit the telepresence approach.

Moving forward, we have a three-year plan to establish one telepresence classroom at every university and campus—Newark, Camden, RHBS, and all the New Brunswick campuses. We are currently exploring lecture halls to fit-out in both Newark and Camden in the next cycle of classrooms. The implementation of these classrooms will make Rutgers the first university to adopt synchronous technology on a scale this large and will considerably improve course accessibility for our students. 

I expect to receive the final report from this task force later this fall, and I am confident that enacting the remaining task force recommendations will substantially improve these key services for students.

Academic Advising

During the strategic planning process, we stressed the importance of strengthening academic advising as another critical component of improving the student experience at New Brunswick, Newark, and Camden.

A key step in that process is the introduction of a new advising platform, Student Success Collaborative–Campus (SSC), which will be fully implemented at each university by January. This new platform uses a “predictive analytics” engine that relies on ten years of secure, historic student information to help advisors look at current undergraduates in relation to former students with similar academic profiles in an effort to help them make more informed educational choices.

SSC is able to isolate the specific junctures where students would most benefit from targeted academic support and help identify students at risk of non-retention and non-graduation before these risks materialize in the form of transfer, dropout, academic probation, or dismissal. This tool will ensure that our students are effectively progressing toward their degrees and drastically improve our ability to provide academic support and enhance the educational experience of our students.

Keeping Our Students Safe

A critical aspect of the student experience is the sense of security the University provides. We understand that the safety of the Rutgers community is paramount, and we are committed to giving our public safety staff the resources they need to conduct their vital work to the best of their abilities, with transparency and accountability.

Perhaps the most valuable resource we can provide our law enforcement is the personnel needed to ensure the safety of our community. Over the past year the University has increased the number of public safety personnel—including thirty-one police officers and fifty-two security officers hired, trained, and assigned to patrol. This increase not only gives our public safety officers more visibility in the community but also allows Rutgers to increase patrols around campus and in off-campus areas that house many of our students.      

To enhance safety and security, Rutgers has strategically placed patrols where they will be the most effective. Members of the community will now see “more feet on the street” and an increased police presence in academic and residential buildings such as 15 Washington at Rutgers University–Newark or The Yard at Rutgers–New Brunswick. Officers will be able to patrol neighboring communities better with the addition of new three-wheeled vehicles that will allow them to cover larger areas and respond more effectively to emergencies. We have already seen a real difference with these new initiatives, most notably a 28 percent decrease in violent crimes in the 5th and 6th wards of New Brunswick last year and more and more students taking advantage of public safety services—with patrols responsible for eighty-four security escorts and over four thousand assists to the public during the year. Officers in Camden continue to patrol the campus and its neighborhood via foot, bicycle, and car.

Public Safety has also made significant efforts to improve the services and tools needed to protect the public, including upgrading the 9-1-1 telephone system to improve the handling of emergency calls and identification of emergency callers.

Additionally, with funding from the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office, we have implemented a program that outfits Rutgers University Police Department (RUPD) patrol officers with body cameras worn on the front of their uniforms. Officers will wear these cameras and turn them on whenever they are interacting with the public on patrol. RUPD supervisors will be able to review the videos recorded by these cameras, along with the dashboard cameras that have been on our patrol vehicles since 2001, to document and assess what happened during a service call and, as needed, to improve police procedures. Our officers will also be able to use the body cameras to help in collecting evidence and in pursuing investigations.

Working in partnership with several Rutgers student organizations, the RUPD has established a pilot “Text to RUPD” program as a means of communicating non-emergency concerns or requests for assistance. A student, faculty, or staff member can now contact the Rutgers police in Camden, Newark, or New Brunswick by text message. The RUPD monitors the system at all times and can receive both text and picture messages and communicate back by text as needed.

A critical part of our public safety efforts is the commitment to end sexual violence. Following Rutgers’ leadership role last year in piloting a campus climate survey on sexual violence, we have been working across the University to eliminate all forms of sexual violence. For example, Rutgers University–New Brunswick introduced the website endsexualviolence.rutgers.edu and provided a web-based education program titled “Not Anymore,” covering issues such as consent, healthy relationships, reporting options, and bystander intervention.

Listening to the Voices of the Community

We take pride in the student diversity at Rutgers, and we continue to be recognized as one of the most diverse universities in the country. With diversity comes a wide array of ideas, opinions, and experiences, and we must constantly examine the meaning of diversity and how it is playing out in our community and in our daily interactions.

With this objective in mind, during the past year each chancellor assembled committees to study various aspects of diversity within each university community. At Rutgers University–Newark, Chancellor Nancy Cantor created a Commission on Diversity and Transformation composed of faculty, students, and staff that will generate knowledge and suggestions regarding curriculum, scholarships, initiatives, and spaces for both intragroup solidarity and inter-cultural engagement. At Rutgers University–Camden, Chancellor Phoebe Haddon convenes a Committee on Institutional Equity and Diversity—composed primarily of faculty members—to engage in research, advocate for various constituencies, act as a resource for faculty hiring, and advise the chancellor on ways to improve faculty diversity. At Rutgers University–New Brunswick, Chancellor Richard L. Edwards established the Task Force on Inclusion and Community Values, comprising students, faculty members, and senior administrators. He charged the group to solicit student viewpoints regarding the climate of inclusion and racial discourse, to define core values for creating a safe and inclusive community, and to recommend changes reflecting these values.

Each of these groups has examined diversity and inclusion from a different vantage point, and their work will offer meaningful steps to ensure that we build on our success and adjust our strategies to respond to the ever-broadening definition of diversity.

We must also realize that examining our current diversity in isolation would only give us a superficial understanding of the dynamics at play within our community. We must also understand and appreciate the history that has shaped today’s community. The need to understand our origins as an institution has never been more evident than during this anniversary year. As the celebration commenced, many members of the community began to question what pieces of Rutgers’ history should be celebrated and prompted the University to conduct an honest reflection on our roots.

To this end, Chancellor Edwards convened the Committee on Enslaved and Disenfranchised Populations in Rutgers History and charged it with uncovering the place of African Americans and Native Americans in the founding and evolution of Rutgers. Teams of faculty, graduate and undergraduate students, and experts such as our university archivist have conducted careful research and have located important documents that address questions about this part of our history. After the committee’s initial findings are presented later this fall, Rutgers will develop appropriate means of preserving and recognizing the history that is being brought to light.

New Divestment Policy

Sparked by student and faculty activism, Rutgers has a history of leadership regarding social issues—including being one of the first institutions to include the concept of social injury in its investment policy. Last year, through the work of a committee that included faculty, students, and administrators, the Boards of Governors and Trustees agreed to a new policy to guide in determining whether to recommend divestment from specific companies, industries, or regions. The new policy outlines a formal process for considering divestiture requests with specific principles to be applied to all such recommendations:

  • The divestment must be consistent with the fiduciary obligation of the boards;
  • The behavior or product in question must be antithetical to Rutgers’ core mission or values;
  • The entity to be divested must have sole or shared responsibility for the concern identified; and
  • The concern must reflect the consensus of the Rutgers community.

If these and other criteria are met, including due consideration by an ad hoc committee, the governing boards’ Joint Committee on Investments can make a divestment recommendation to the boards, which continue to hold final authority over such decisions. I am grateful to all those individuals who have advocated for or assisted in developing our new policy.

INCREASING STUDENT ACCESS AND ACHIEVEMENT

Reflecting on Rutgers’ history has helped remind us that few universities combine such a deep and proven commitment to access and inclusion with so strong an ambition for academic and scholarly distinction. We especially see those characteristics reflected in the students who come to Rutgers each year.

Our Undergraduate Student Profile

Earlier this month we welcomed our newest undergraduate students, including 8,300 members of the Rutgers Class of 2020 and 4,750 transfer students. One-third of the first-year class, more than 2,800 students, are the first in their family to attend college. Approximately 50 percent of first-year students are African American, Latino, or Asian. Substantial growth in the size of the first-year classes in Newark and Camden, combined with important gains in student retention in New Brunswick, has led to an overall enrollment growth of more than 1,700 students.

Our enrollment growth is due in part to our efforts over the past four years to raise the academic profile of the student body through a number of strategies, not least the recruitment of outstanding first-year students and the creation or expansion of distinctive honors programs across Rutgers. The effect this is having on student interest in Rutgers is clear, as the number of first-year undergraduate applications rose again this year, by more than 4 percent, on top of the previous year’s nearly 12 percent increase. Among international students the increase is even more robust: applications rose by 12 percent this year, on top of the previous year’s 41 percent jump. And as interest has increased, so has the academic achievement of our incoming students.  Average SAT scores for incoming first-year students at Rutgers University–New Brunswick and Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences have increased by nearly 50 points over the past five years.

We expect the academic profile of these students to continue rising in the current admissions cycle as Rutgers–New Brunswick joins in using the Coalition Application—a new application shared by ninety-two of the nation’s top schools such as Stanford, Cal Tech, Michigan, Virginia, and all the Ivy League institutions.

We also see improvement in many key indicators of student success, including our graduation and first-year retention rates. The latest numbers show that 91.3% of our students return after their first year, and that at Rutgers University–New Brunswick, 77.2% of our students graduate within five years—a figure that is above the average rates of our peer public institutions in the AAU and Big Ten.

Honors Programs

As more and more outstanding students are choosing Rutgers, we continue to strengthen our honors programs.

This month Rutgers University–Newark welcomed its second cohort of students for the Honors Living-Learning Community (HLLC), which is revolutionizing the concept of an honors college. The HLLC identifies the homegrown knowledge of talented students, relying not on indicators such as SAT scores or grade point averages but on a holistic assessment of talents and characteristics associated with a student’s ability to thrive in college and contribute to the greater good. HLLC students pursue an interdisciplinary curriculum centered on “Local Citizenship in a Global World” and receive personalized academic advising and mentoring. They also receive a residential scholarship and engage with the world through internships, research assistantships, and local or international service opportunities. Early in 2017 we will break ground for a state-of-the-art residential facility for up to four hundred HLLC students, with spaces for classes and collaborative learning.

The Honors College at Rutgers University–Camden began its 20th year this month with the largest incoming class in its history and total enrollment of 525 students. Originally limited to students matriculating directly from high school, the Honors College this year admitted a select number of transfer students with exemplary credentials and invited a small number of rising sophomores to join after an outstanding first year at Rutgers. Honors College students complete an engagement requirement every semester that involves both service to the campus and community and participation in student life. They also pursue academic “commitments”—second majors, minors, and departmental honors—or undertake academic “enhancements,” such as undergraduate research, internships, and the United Nations Summer Study Program. As part of a university emphasis on global education, this year’s entering Honors College students in the Camden College of Arts and Sciences and in the School of Business–Camden will receive subsidies for participation in a short-term learning abroad program, starting in their fourth semester.

Last September we opened the New Brunswick Honors College, complementing the honors programs in our undergraduate schools in New Brunswick, which continue to flourish. The inaugural class was drawn from applicants to the undergraduate schools across Rutgers–New Brunswick. They represent some of the best and brightest high school graduates from New Jersey and across the nation. First-year Honors College students live and learn alongside faculty fellows, taking honors seminars and a common mission course on social innovation in a state-of-the-art facility on Seminary Place dedicated to the cross-pollination of ideas and collaborative projects among students from a wide array of schools and majors. Last year’s inaugural class performed exceedingly well: 31 percent earned a 4.0 grade point average last semester, and 70 percent earned a 3.5 GPA or better for the year. Recruitment to the Honors College this year has yielded another outstanding cohort of entering students for 2016-17, with average SAT scores 600 points above the national average for college applicants.

Access and Diversity Initiatives

President Obama’s declaration in his Rutgers Commencement address that “America converges here” gave powerful testimony to the rich diversity that has made our University so strong. We take pride in our diversity and continue working to strengthen programs that serve the needs, hopes, and potential of our increasingly diverse student body. We saw this commitment validated last year when the White House recognized a multi-institution initiative led by Rutgers University–Newark to increase Latino students’ pursuit of STEM fields, declaring it a “Bright Spot in Hispanic Education.” The program, the Garden State Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation, is led by principal investigator Professor Alexander Gates. Rutgers–Newark is one of more than 250 colleges and universities designated by the U.S. Department of Education as Hispanic-Serving Institutions—a designation whose criteria include at least 25 percent enrollment of Hispanic undergraduates and a high level of students with financial need.

A key to ensuring diversity is to increase access and affordability to underrepresented and traditionally disadvantaged populations, and the University has made a significant commitment to those students, most notably with new tuition programs in both Newark and Camden.

This year, Rutgers University–Camden drew national attention in launching the “Bridging the Gap” tuition program, which offers grants to families with an adjusted gross income (AGI) of $60,000 or less, covering all tuition and general campus fees not already covered by federal and/or state grants. Additionally, families with an AGI of $60,001 to $100,000 will receive a grant covering 50 percent of their remaining tuition and the general campus fee after any other need-based federal and/or state grants are applied. 

“Bridging the Gap” dovetails with Rutgers–Camden’s suite of strategies to improve college access, which have a special focus on helping residents of Camden. To cite one program, the Hill Family Center for College Access was launched through the generosity of Rutgers–Camden graduates Washington Hill (an international expert on high-risk maternal-fetal medicine) and George Hill (a pre-eminent biomedical researcher), twins who grew up in Camden. In the past five years, the center has already helped more than 1,000 local high school students with college preparation workshops, advising, tutoring, mentoring, and help with completing the FAFSA.

Rutgers University–Newark’s “RU-N to the TOP” program covers tuition and fees for Newark residents who are accepted at Rutgers–Newark and have a household income of $60,000 or less. This program also provides that same offer to low-income students statewide who transfer to Rutgers–Newark after earning an associate's degree from one of the state's community colleges. In addition, all students admitted to Rutgers–Newark’s Honors Living-Learning Community receive 100 percent residential scholarships covering the full cost of room and board. The Atlantic magazine highlighted this tuition program in a May 2016 article praising Rutgers–Newark’s commitment to recruit students underserved by other institutions.

Programs such as these are real ways that the University is making college more affordable for students and increasing access and opportunity for underrepresented populations. Both programs closely align with foundational elements from the University Strategic Plan to build an inclusive, diverse, and cohesive culture, and align with the University’s enrollment goals. In the new first-year class at Rutgers–Camden, for example, enrollment of low-income students increased by 70 percent, and first-generation college students by 41 percent.

We do not anticipate increasing enrollment at Rutgers University–New Brunswick due to the limits on its infrastructure—specifically in transportation, housing, and classroom availability—but Rutgers–New Brunswick has committed substantial resources to increasing and supporting student diversity through both existing programs such as the Office for Diversity and Academic Success in the Sciences and new efforts such as the RU 1st initiative.    

The Rutgers University–New Brunswick RU 1st program provides support and programming to first-generation, high-need, and underrepresented students. The program targets approximately 8,000 students in New Brunswick who receive Pell grants but do not receive the enhanced academic support provided by programs such as the Educational Opportunity Fund. Support includes dedicated administrative staff with access to centralized academic data so that students can get the information they need, a dedicated advising team to improve student success, and high-impact programs and courses that engage students in an effort to increase retention. In addition, students will have the opportunity to take two transition courses: the RU 1st Generation Transition Course, which helps first-generation underrepresented students adjust to Rutgers’ academic rigor as they move from high school to undergraduate study, and the Post-Baccalaureate Transition Course, which prepares students for life after college with topics such as financial literacy, career management, and preparation for graduate school.

Let me also reiterate that our commitment to opportunity extends most certainly to our nation’s veterans and service members as they transition from military life. We take pride in the programs that serve the needs and aspirations of our student veterans, and which continue to earn national recognition for Rutgers as a military-friendly university. It is gratifying to note that Rutgers University–Camden was recently named a Purple Heart University by the Military Order of the Purple Heart, the first college or university in New Jersey to earn this distinction.

The Rutgers Future Scholars (RFS) program provides another important pathway to a college degree for 1,800 young people from low-income families in our host communities of Newark, New Brunswick, Camden, and Piscataway. This is a milestone year for this nationally praised program, which offers mentorship, college preparation support, college credits, and the promise of a tuition-free Rutgers education for those who earn admission. When the first cohort of two hundred Future Scholars (fifty from each community) entered the program as rising eighth graders in 2008, they were given red T-shirts declaring them the Class of 2017. That group has now reached, for many, their senior year of college—and seventy-five of those young women and men are here at Rutgers, nearly at the finish line. Each one of them will be the first in his or her family to earn a college degree.  They are emblematic of a very successful RFS student body. Those who stay actively engaged in the program have a 98 percent high school graduation rate—compared to 75 percent for economically disadvantaged students nationwide—and have a first-year retention rate more than ten percentage points above the national average for all college freshmen. Half of all RFS alumni are enrolled at Rutgers, with another 30 percent attending other four-year institutions and 20 percent enrolled in community college. They are making good on their promise to work hard, and Rutgers—along with other members of the higher education community—is honoring its promise to them.

Beginning this past summer through the generosity of benefactor and retired chairman of Merck, Roy Vagelos, Rutgers Future Scholars has expanded to include young people in Rahway. The first RFS class in Rahway numbers fifteen rising eighth graders. We look forward to seeing these students join their counterparts from our host communities in pursuing the dream of a college education—and, even better, a Rutgers degree.

Rutgers Future Scholars is one of many ways the University is committed to expanding hope and opportunity so that every young person can, through access to higher education, work hard to reach his or her greatest potential. In that vein, I want to applaud Rutgers–Camden’s collaboration with the Educational Testing Service in hosting “Bright Futures: Improving Education and Transforming Outcomes for Girls of Color,” a two-day symposium probing how to address educational disparities and their long-term educational and economic consequences.

CELEBRATING AND MAINTAINING ACADEMIC EXCELLENCE

In the imperfect but unavoidable world of national and international rankings, a variety of measures is used to assess the excellence of academic programs, schools, and faculty. This year once again has proven that ours rank among the very best.  

How Others View Rutgers

Although more useful to gauge the overall perception of the University rather than actual achievement, many independent rankings place Rutgers among the top in the nation in a range of academic disciplines, including the following: 

  • Our undergraduate Social Work major is ranked #3 in the nation by USA Today—behind only the University of California-Berkeley and New York University.
  • USA Today ranked Rutgers #4 in the nation for students who are seeking to pursue an undergraduate major in Public Health—behind only the University of California-Berkeley, the University of Southern California, and Johns Hopkins University.
  • USA Today also places Rutgers University–New Brunswick #2 in a ranking of the best places in the country for undergraduates to study the health professions. We rank higher than any other AAU or Big Ten institution.   
  • U.S. News and World Report rankings of graduate programs rated our Women’s History program #1 in the nation, our School Library Media program #2 in the nation, our Gender and Literature and Sociology of Culture programs #6 nationally, and Discrete Mathematics and Combinatorics #8. In all, more than twenty of our graduate programs were ranked in the top 20 nationally.
  • Philosophy continues to be ranked #3 in the nation by one international survey and #3 in the English-speaking world by another.

In addition to these discipline-specific rankings, U.S. News and World Report’s new rankings of best colleges show improvement across Rutgers. Among regional north universities, Rutgers University–Camden moved up from #36 to #32; among national universities, Rutgers University–Newark improved from #140 to #135 and Rutgers University–New Brunswick rose from #72 to #70. Among public national universities, Rutgers–New Brunswick ranks #25.

Faculty Honors

Our students can only be as successful as the efforts of the faculty behind them, and Rutgers faculty remain in the most elite of company in all aspects of their work. I am in constant admiration of the dedication our faculty members have for their scholarship, their students, and the University. It is critical that Rutgers provide the resources and support structures to help our faculty excel. 

There is perhaps no honor in academia more satisfying than being recognized by your peers through induction into a preeminent society or winning a prestigious award in your field. Our faculty continue to be a source of pride for the University as many have been awarded some of their disciplines’ most distinguished honors. Here is a sampling of these honors from the past year: 

  • Professor Alexander “Sasha” Zamolodchikov, of the Department of Physics in the School of Arts and Sciences–New Brunswick, was elected to the National Academy of Sciences.
  • Professors Joachim Messing and Richard Ebright of the Waksman Institute of Microbiology were awarded membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
  • Dr. Jeffrey Carson, Provost of RBHS, and Dr. Sherine Gabriel, Dean of Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, were elected as members of the Association of American Physicians.
  • Professor Akhil Sharma, assistant professor of English at the Newark College of Arts and Sciences, earned the International Dublin Literary Award, considered among the most prestigious prizes in the world for fiction.
  • Mathemetician Henryk Iwaniec of the School of Arts and Sciences–New Brunswick received the 2015 Shaw Prize in Mathematical Sciences, an international award honoring scholars who have made significant breakthroughs in their field.
  • A. Van Jordan, Henry Rutgers Presidential Professor at the Newark College of Arts and Sciences, won the 2015 Lannan Literary Award for poetry.
  • Paul Lisicky, assistant professor of English at the Camden College of Arts and Sciences, was named a Guggenheim Fellow for general nonfiction.

In addition, Rutgers is proud to welcome alumnus and 2016 Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Gregory Pardlo, who has joined us as an assistant professor of English for creative writing at Rutgers University–Camden.

Retaining and Attracting Preeminent Faculty

During the strategic planning process it became evident that in order for the University to become a preeminent public research university, we would have to strengthen some of our largest academic disciplines and maintain our prominence in disciplines where we already rank among the best in the world. A key strategy to accomplishing this goal is to ensure that we are attracting and retaining distinguished faculty members in key disciplines and providing resources to incentivize early-career and promising faculty members.  

With this in mind, the University committed to a five-year plan to create thirty new Henry Rutgers professorships for senior faculty recruitment, and twenty-five new Presidential term chairs specifically designated for the recruitment, recognition, and retention of exceptional mid-career faculty. The University is well on its way to completing both of these initiatives, as we have filled or are in the process of filling twelve Henry Rutgers Professorships and nine Henry Rutgers Term Chairs since the beginning of these initiatives two years ago. Looking forward to next year, we have allotted six professorships and four chairs.

These professorships and chairs span a wide range of disciplines and schools from professorships in global health, poetry, and geophysics to chairs in digital film, comparative sexuality, and biomedical ethics. These areas represent strategic disciplines that will add substantial value to the University’s academic profile.

Humanities Task Force

A strong core of sciences and humanities is one of the foundational elements of our University Strategic Plan, and we take pride in Rutgers’ highly ranked programs in history, philosophy, English, and women’s and gender studies. We want to make sure we maintain—or improve—our reputation in these areas. The humanities are not simply useful in building our national standing; they are essential to our mission as a public research university. Last year I asked Senior Vice President Barbara Lee to convene a Task Force on the Humanities, with representation from Newark, New Brunswick, and Camden, to examine where Rutgers stands and how to maintain or build the strength of our humanities programs. 

The task force convened numerous times over the past year, tackling many difficult issues and recognizing different concerns at each location. Over the summer I met with the committee members three times, and we had enormously productive conversations about the issues at Rutgers University–Newark and Rutgers University–Camden as well as those at Rutgers University–New Brunswick. I look forward to reviewing the final task force report this fall.

Strategic Plan Committees

The University Strategic Plan asserted that the forces that are reshaping higher education “will require an assessment of the relationship between our traditional academic structures and the demands of tomorrow’s scholarship and pedagogy.” The strategic plan called for two long-range tactical committees—one focused on the optimal organization of academic units within Rutgers, and the other focused on the impact of technology on the educational model at the University.

The Committee on Academic Unit Organization presented an interim report to me this past March that outlined the completion of Phase 1 of the group’s work: data collection, analysis, and assessment. Conversations with the committee and its chair, Professor Linda Brzustowicz, have been very promising, and I look forward to the final report and recommendations from the committee later this fall. I anticipate that the conclusions of that report will examine the academic organization of Rutgers within the context of our peers and aspirational peers, as well as the opportunities and challenges that are specific to Rutgers. Upon the report’s completion, I am confident that Rutgers will have a roadmap for academic organization that will foster collaboration, spur new and innovative research, and allow the University to effectively function in the evolving 21st century landscape of higher education.    

The Committee on the Near- and Long-Term Impact of Instructional Technology, co-chaired by Professors Susan Albin and Darrin York, presented me with a draft report this summer. The committee gave recommendations in three key areas: Instructional Advancement, Teaching and Learning Spaces, and Organizational Accountability. Within these areas, the committee presented recommendations that would keep Rutgers at the forefront of innovative teaching technology and ensure that we are using the most advanced resources to educate our students. The committee will release its report to the community later this fall. I plan to begin implementing many of the report’s recommendations in the coming year.  

Research Computing

Given the vital importance of advanced computing to faculty research, Rutgers made a commitment to enhance our computing capabilities with the launch of the Advanced Research Cyber Infrastructure Initiative in 2014. Last year Rutgers obtained $10 million in funding from the New Jersey Higher Education Leasing Fund to acquire a large-scale computational platform that more than doubles the University’s computing power. The platform, called Caliburn, is accessible by faculty, students, and researchers for advanced research and instructional computing. This system, with an architecture unique in the world, has been ranked as the 8th most powerful supercomputer among all U.S. academic institutions by the independent organization Top 500, and it immediately allows Rutgers to compete with the top academic systems in the country.

New University Diversity and Inclusion Office

It is not only the scholarly prominence of its faculty members that makes a university great—it is also the rich experiences, cultures, and ideas that each faculty member contributes to the university community. Although Rutgers is a national leader in regard to the diversity of our students, we are far less successful in recruiting and retaining diversity within our faculty. Despite many efforts to attract and retain promising underrepresented faculty members, we continue to lose these talented individuals to other elite universities.

Inclusion and diversity are not achieved passively; there must be an intentional effort within a university community to ensure that both are tightly woven into its culture. We realized this during the strategic planning process and placed the creation of an inclusive, diverse, and cohesive culture as one of the foundational elements of our strategic plan, along with recommendations to enhance faculty diversity and build on the rich diversity of our student body.    

The implementation of those recommendations began with the appointment of Senior Vice President Barbara Lee last year and the placement of a university-wide reorganization of institutional diversity and inclusion under her purview. Since assuming her position, Dr. Lee has coordinated diversity initiatives throughout the University and—in coordination with the initiatives laid out in the strategic plan—last fall presented me with a proposal for a five-year plan to invest nearly $22 million to recruit, retain, and mentor diverse faculty. I have approved that plan, which includes resources for departments to create diverse candidate pools for faculty recruitment, an annual symposium on diversity, an inclusion and diversity research portal, and a mentoring program that will aid in faculty retention.

The diversity hiring program approved last year resulted in the addition of twenty-five new faculty members who are from underrepresented populations, and the chancellors are continuing to work with their deans to ensure diverse faculty candidate pools.  We have made a good start, and we plan to build on this initiative in subsequent years.

BUILDING ON OUR MOMENTUM

Historic changes over the past four years—including the integration of the former University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey into Rutgers, passage of the Building Our Future Bond Act and the transformative construction projects it has funded across Rutgers, and completion of a strategic plan, a physical master plan, and a billion-dollar fundraising campaign—have created enormous forward momentum. All indications show that both the perception of Rutgers and the reality of our positioning within American higher education have never been better, and we must continue to capitalize on that momentum.

Integration’s Positive Impacts and Synergies

Following the enactment of the 2012 New Jersey Medical and Health Sciences Education Restructuring Act, Rutgers University and the former UMDNJ began an unprecedented integration process that will provide enormous benefits for Rutgers and the state as the University continues to build on the newly formed infrastructure. Other benefits are already being realized, such as those we are seeing through the merging of several of our schools. These mergers allow the University to combine resources and create efficiencies, reduce redundancy within administrative functions, provide more opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration among academic units, and boost the rankings of our programs.  

Take for example the consolidation of the former UMDNJ School of Nursing and the College of Nursing at Rutgers in 2014. The consolidation had a direct impact on our U.S. News and World Report ranking, which jumped from 79th among graduate schools in 2011—as Rutgers’ College of Nursing—to 25th in 2015 as the new School of Nursing. Additionally, this year U.S. News’ first-ever ranking of doctor of nursing practice (DNP) programs ranked the School of Nursing 17th out of 149 schools. The School of Nursing also achieved a #19 ranking for its master of science programs out of 259 schools.

We anticipate improvement in both efficiency and rankings resulting from the law school merger that took effect last fall, creating Rutgers Law School.  I am also confident that we will see similar progress as we merge the Graduate School–New Brunswick with the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences to form the Rutgers School of Graduate Studies—a plan that awaits approval this fall by the University Senate and Board of Governors. This proposed merger will create a more unified, integrated, and robust infrastructure that will support education and enhance opportunities for inter-disciplinary training. Once completed, the Rutgers School of Graduate Studies will house sixty-seven Ph.D. programs (with a total of approximately 2,800 Ph.D. students) and fifty-two master’s programs (with a total of approximately 1,700 master’s students). 

Such milestone achievements as the integration and our entry into the Big Ten have sparked greater interest in Rutgers, and the past year has yielded a 43 percent jump in the number of news stories citing Rutgers, from 503,000 to more than 880,000, and the overwhelming majority—92 percent—have been either positive or neutral. Just as important, this upward trajectory was true even before the first reports that President Obama had accepted our invitation to speak at Commencement.

Growing Research Funding

In creating a truly comprehensive research university, the integration has also had a major impact on Rutgers’ research productivity. The research and sponsored program awards to Rutgers have increased by 4 percent this past year; added to the 18 percent increase in fiscal year 2015, that is an impressive two-year annual average of 10 percent at a time of challenging grant support nationally. RBHS has achieved significant increases to its research funding each of the past three years, reaching $222 million in FY15 and $293 million this past fiscal year. As a point of reference, Rutgers is now earning more than double the amount of research awards compared with where the University was ten years ago. The most recently available data ranks Rutgers research expenditures in the top 20 public universities in the nation.

Most of the credit for this success goes to our faculty. Thanks to their strong efforts, Rutgers achieved a 14 percent rise in the number of applications submitted and a 34 percent increase in the dollar amount of grant submissions last year. We also saw a 4.5 percent increase in patent revenues from their discoveries. We want to build on that momentum. Last month, under the leadership of Senior Vice President Chris Molloy, the Office of Research and Economic Development made it easier for faculty members to find and apply for grants by introducing researchportal.rutgers.edu. We intend this to be an easy-to-use, one-stop shop for all research-related needs, from finding funding opportunities to developing and submitting proposals to managing awards.

We are committed to both grow and diversify our research funding portfolio. In the past year, although state research awards to higher education decreased, our federal research funding increased by 11 percent; foundation grants increased by 14 percent; and, after five years of essentially flat levels, corporate-sponsored research awards rose by more than 30 percent for the second year in a row. Within the federal funding, increases this past year came not only from healthcare agencies like the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration but also from the Department of Justice and the Department of Agriculture. Moreover, over the past two years we have built a strategic alliance with a corporate partner that is drawing on the expertise of both our engineering faculty and our dental faculty—a collaboration that is a direct benefit of integration and one that can serve as a model for future strategic corporate research alliances.

Rutgers Health

Three years after the establishment of Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences, RBHS has become a fully integrated part of the university. Two very different academic institutions, each with its own mission, budget model, human resources protocols, research apparatus, and information technology infrastructure, have been blended to form one powerhouse entity. As of October, through the initiative led by Mike Gower and Michele Norin, we will finally operate under a single administrative system.  Meanwhile, RBHS has, under Chancellor Brian Strom, eliminated an annual operating deficit (inherited from the legacy UMDNJ) of more than $40 million through improvements in fiscal management and the faculty’s generation of additional revenue from grants and clinical care.

This is an ideal time to develop the full potential of our health care-related assets across the University in order to provide New Jersey residents direct access to the very best clinical care, delivered by those who themselves are doing the cutting-edge research on new therapies to treat illness and new methods to maintain wellness. Bringing research and education together with clinical care enables us to bring the most modern concepts for a particular disease from the research lab to the patient office or bedside.

Earlier this year, the Rutgers Board of Governors approved the establishment of Rutgers Health, the bringing together of all clinical care elements throughout Rutgers. This includes both medical schools; both nursing schools; our schools of dental medicine, pharmacy, health professions, social work, and applied and professional psychology; Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey; and University Behavioral Health Care. Rutgers Health will be a single brand for all our health care services. It will be overseen by a Rutgers Health Council with representative membership from all of these clinical units, which will identify and recommend clinical initiatives and develop the policies and procedures needed to execute them.

Within that broader brand, the board also approved creation of the Rutgers Health Group, an integrated multi-specialty faculty practice of more than nine hundred providers that will partner with patients, hospitals, and community clinicians to deliver high-quality health care in clinical settings throughout New Jersey.  Rutgers Health Group will operate as a separate, nonprofit subsidiary of the University to administer our academic clinical practice, including billing and revenue collection. Unlike most other practice plans in the country, the Rutgers Health Group will team physicians with dentists, pharmacists, nurses, psychologists, and physician assistants, working together in an interdisciplinary way.

As a corollary to this faculty practice, we are also establishing the Rutgers Health Network, based on ongoing or new relationships with affiliated hospitals, medical groups, community clinics, wellness centers, and other health care providers. Over time, with our partners, we will become one of the ten largest academic health systems in the country. We will be looking at health care policy; at finding the best ways to deliver health care from an economic point of view; how to use genomics and cutting-edge science to deal with clinical diseases; and how to use informatics and the massive data we have available to prevent illness in the first place.

I truly believe that in the not-too-distant future, people will look to Rutgers Health as one of the nation’s most powerful translators of new knowledge into health care for the betterment of our citizens.

Forging a New Path for Athletics

This has been a pivotal year for Rutgers–New Brunswick Athletics. In December, Patrick Hobbs joined Rutgers as our Director of Intercollegiate Athletics. An experienced and highly regarded leader, he immediately set out to rebuild our major sports program leadership. Athletic Director Hobbs brought Chris Ash to Rutgers from national championship-winning Ohio State to serve as head football coach, and he recruited Steve Pikiell as the Scarlet Knights men’s basketball coach after a very successful tenure at Stony Brook. These appointments have created a sense of excitement and enthusiasm as we begin our third year in the Big Ten Athletic Conference. Although football and basketball struggled in 2015-16, Rutgers proved itself ready to compete in this elite conference with standout performances by our Scarlet Knights men’s and women’s soccer teams in the fall, wrestling in the winter, and men’s lacrosse in the spring.  The women’s soccer team finished #4 in the nation, wrestling #10, men’s lacrosse #17, and men’s soccer #23.

Through a combination of smart fiscal management and increasing revenues from the conference and from ticket sales and merchandise licensing, Rutgers Athletics continues to move closer to budget neutrality in accordance with the business plan that I put in place four years ago. The subsidy from the University budget for athletics at Rutgers University–New Brunswick has declined from $46.9 million in fiscal year 2013 to $36.3 million in FY14 to $23.8 million in FY15, and we are committed to eliminating the direct institutional support by 2021, when Rutgers begins to receive a full share of Big Ten conference revenues.

The Big Ten ranks among the best athletic conferences in the nation, and in order for Rutgers to compete successfully across all sports, we must ensure that our student athletes have the resources they need. Athletic Director Hobbs has embraced the challenge of raising the $100 million that will be required for new or expanded athletic facilities, and during his first six months at Rutgers, he reached the midway point in that fundraising effort. The R Big Ten Build plan includes a multisport training complex for basketball, wrestling, and gymnastics, a lacrosse and soccer training complex, a football training complex, and expansion of the Hale Center. Rutgers is deeply grateful for the State of New Jersey’s commitment to this project in the form of $25 million in tax credits proposed by Senator Ray Lesniak and his bipartisan co-sponsors and signed by Governor Christie.

Fundraising

Rutgers’ forward momentum has also excited our donors, and under the leadership of President Nevin Kessler, the Rutgers University Foundation recently concluded the second best fundraising year in Rutgers’ history, raising $165.2 million in fiscal year 2016. But our ambitions are higher than ever, and the Foundation staff—along with its Board of Overseers and academic leadership across the three universities and RBHS—is committed to raising increasing levels of private support from a larger number of donors. Toward that goal, the Foundation and Alumni Relations will engage in a strategic planning process with one overriding goal: to enhance the fundraising culture at Rutgers.

As part of the plan, the Foundation will look at the lifespan of our donors, focusing greater attention on the early stages of our donors’ careers when they are students and young professionals, integrating the resources of Annual Giving, Alumni Relations, and Development Communication to ensure that they stay connected to their alma mater and to each other. At the major and leadership gift levels, the Foundation will focus on donors and potential donors to its six targeted campaigns, including the honors programs in New Brunswick, Camden, and Newark; athletic facilities; building a healthy New Jersey; and university-wide goals of increasing undergraduate scholarships, graduate fellowships, and professorships. Special efforts are under way to engage the Board of Overseers in expanding the number of major and leadership donors to Rutgers. In addition, implementation of a grateful patient/family program in RBHS and continued investment in the Foundation’s new international development and alumni relations program should begin to yield results in expanding both total giving and the number of donors to Rutgers. 

REIMAGINING THE INFRASTRUCTURE OF THE UNIVERSITY

More than $1.5 billion in new construction across Rutgers during the past four years flowed directly from our strategic plan, with the help of partners like DEVCO and state support from the Building Our Future Bond Fund. This year we will begin to develop the vision outlined in the Physical Master Plan that was approved in 2015. These efforts are in addition—and complementary—to the capital projects and renovations that are already under way across Rutgers. And the infrastructure we are redesigning is more than the buildings on our campuses—it is also the fiscal and administrative tools to achieve these goals. We are committed to assuring the stability of our bottom line with smart management of our financial resources, and to completing the redesigns of our budgeting and administrative systems so that we can operate at maximum effectiveness and efficiency.

Capital Construction in Progress

Rutgers University–Newark: To support the Express Newark initiative, Rutgers is renovating 45,000 square feet of space on multiple floors of the former Hahne’s department store just east of the Rutgers University–Newark campus to create portrait and print studios, galleries, and media labs. Express Newark will support publicly engaged scholarship in collaboration with artists, schools, and other institutions in the city. Also in Newark, we will complete the second phase of the Life Sciences Building project, which will expand the imaging suite and vivarium facilities and include space for the Biology, Chemistry, and Neuroscience departments. In advancing the Physical Master Plan for Newark, during the next two years we will focus on the core of the campus and expansion of New Street, including Dana Library and the Paul Robeson Campus Center.

Rutgers University–Camden:  The long-anticipated Nursing and Science building at Rutgers University–Camden has been under construction this year and will be completed next spring, giving us state-of-the-art teaching resources, including specialized simulation spaces and discovery labs. We have already begun using the newly renovated and restored former Red Cross building on Cooper Street as the Rutgers–Camden Alumni House and development offices. The next steps in the Physical Master Plan call for working with public/private partners to support a new Business School.

Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences: Among the RBHS projects under construction last year were the 57,000-square-foot addition to William Levine Hall at the Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy, including two auditoriums, four large classrooms, and four collaborative practice simulation laboratories; and three projects at the School of Dental Medicine that will add clinical teaching space, renovate laboratories, and create a new central sterilization facility. All these projects will be completed during the coming year.

Over the past year we undertook an RBHS-wide planning exercise to define its future space requirements and long-term capital needs in both Newark and New Brunswick, evolving from the University’s Physical Master Plan. A consultant team of experts in planning, architecture, and health care facilities has been meeting with Chancellor Brian Strom, the RBHS Physical Master Plan steering committee, and other internal and external stakeholders, including the administrative teams of both cities.

Chancellor Strom has looked at the challenge of integrating disparate pieces not only among the former UMDNJ facilities but also those of legacy Rutgers that are now part of RBHS. We recognize that the planning process has to account for some variables still to be determined, such as the long-term disposition of University Hospital in Newark, and must respond to changes in medical pedagogy whereby medical students today are exposed to clinical care training from the start. As we expand the RBHS footprint and establish the Rutgers Health brand, we also seek to take greater advantage of Rutgers’ proximity to and partnership with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick. The RBHS master plan is still in formation as we continue important conversations with municipal officials, hospital leaders, and the Rutgers Board, among others. The final plan will be presented to the Board of Governors this year.

Rutgers University–New Brunswick: At Rutgers University–New Brunswick, construction continues on two major academic buildings on the Busch Campus totaling $200 million and nearly 250,000 square feet: the Chemistry and Chemical Biology facility, which will be completed in fall 2017, and the Richard Weeks Hall of Engineering (summer 2018). More immediately, this month we opened the final two elements of the redevelopment of the seminary property and Lot 8 on the College Avenue Campus. At any given moment, more than 2,500 students and faculty are making use of the classrooms, lecture halls, and offices of the signature academic building overlooking Voorhees Mall. Close by are the new student apartments at The Yard on College Avenue, a fourteen-story complex notable for its outdoor jumbo TV screen, its sky lounge views of the Manhattan skyline, and an array of food and retail establishments. And just last weekend the ribbon was cut on the Kathleen W. Ludwig Global Village Living-Learning Center on the Douglass Campus, the new home of the Global Village Learning Community.

In implementing the Physical Master Plan for New Brunswick, we will first focus on Brower Commons and the Student Center, redeveloping that area in a targeted expansion using the Livingston redevelopment model as a guide. In the short term, this year we also will develop a student services building on Busch, placing services such as registration, scheduling, dining, cashier, and residence life in one location, with accessible parking and transportation.

University Libraries: The University has also launched an in-depth master plan for the university libraries. Libraries have changed their mission; we are looking to align them with what students want and need today, including better computing resources, collaborative areas, and other amenities. Individual projects have been identified and designs are under way for a new OIT computer center at Alexander Library in New Brunswick and a Professional Development and Scholarship Center in Dana Library in Newark.

Budgeting and Finances

During the past year the University fully converted to the new Responsibility Center Management (RCM) budget model. While no budget model is perfect—and there are still things to learn about how centers and institutes best work in relation to schools and chancellor units—RCM has already served the management of the schools and colleges well. We have learned a great deal from operating in this way, and the FY17 budget includes needed corrections and adjustments derived from real experience.

Looking back on the first year under the RCM budget model, I see many positive signs that the University is heading in the right direction. We will be able to report a small, but real, positive operating margin for the year, which includes a significant improvement of RBHS from a budgeted $18 million deficit to an actual surplus. It’s important to remember that just three years ago the RBHS annual deficit was more than $40 million. This margin will allow us to invest in new academic programs, increased student support, and augmented faculty recruitment.

Although funding from the state will remain flat for the upcoming year and recent wage increases for staff and faculty were 2 percent and 2.125 percent respectively, we still managed to keep tuition and fee increases at 1.7 percent for in-state undergraduates—the lowest percentage increase in the past five years. Much of this was made possible through careful organizational management and efficiencies created by redesign within our operations. I have made it a priority to improve the University’s financial situation by finding ways to improve organizational effectiveness, and these numbers validate our progress.

A key example of this prudent management occurred last March when the University issued $165 million in bonds whose proceeds were used to refinance outstanding debt, taking advantage of declining interest rates and achieving almost $17 million in net present value savings. Investors put in over $500 million in orders, and our borrowing rates were comparable to other higher education bonds with ratings in the double A category.

Other financial indicators also confirm that we are on the correct path. Moody’s and Fitch have reaffirmed our AA- ratings. Although Standard & Poor’s downgraded us last September to A+, citing as the primary reason weakening financial resources from the State and two years of operating deficits due to the merger, these numbers did not reflect our fiscal year 2015 financial performance—which showed real post-merger improvement. And, in reaffirming that rating this March for refinancing, S&P’s language was much more positive, indicating that the University had a “very strong enterprise profile.”

Upgrading Our Administrative Information Systems

Over the past year, Rutgers consolidated many of its administrative services in one location, 33 Knightsbridge Road in Piscataway, improving communication and collaboration among these units. Now we are in the process of consolidating and upgrading many of our administrative information systems to make it easier and more efficient to conduct everyday functions such as buying goods and services, developing budgets, managing grants, hiring faculty and staff, and paying employees.

The effort to refresh the institution’s Enterprise Resource Planning systems hit high gear last year. The initiative, now titled Cornerstone, is being led by Executive Vice President Michael Gower and Senior Vice President Michele Norin. Phase I of the implementation has been under way for the past year, and next month Phase II will begin. Major areas of focus have been:

  • moving RBHS employees into the same employee administrative system used for legacy Rutgers employees;
  • creating a new University chart of accounts; and
  • implementing a more responsive suite of online tools for financial reporting, budgeting, and budget planning. 

In addition, we are expanding the use of a streamlined, paperless system for procurement across Rutgers, and to better support faculty research, we have implemented several products for sponsored projects, pre-award functions, integrated financial management, and general research administration.

But that is just part of the story. We know we need a substantial upgrade of our system for collecting and sharing essential data for all our students—from enrollment information to health records to transcripts to tuition and scholarship accounts. We have reviewed the capabilities and limitations of our current Student Information System over the past year, and the next step is to select a new system that will work best for Rutgers.  

The Cornerstone initiative will continue in several additional phases over the next three years. These future steps include completing our business process reengineering, upgrading our Human Resources system to a more sophisticated platform, moving payroll to that platform, designing better management reporting tools, and as noted above, implementing a new Student Information System.

At the same time, we are making critical enhancements to other key administrative information systems. Three-fourths of our faculty and staff have already moved to a cloud-based environment for e-mail, calendaring, and file storage. The remaining 25 percent will be migrated this fall.

Also during the past year, we continued our efforts to increase the University’s network capacity by improving and expanding internal and external networking at Rutgers. We acquired additional bandwidth—10 gigabytes of public Internet services (giving us a total of 30 gigabytes), and 20 gigabytes of private internet service, building direct connections with key University business and content providers including Akamai, Apple, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Netflix, and Yahoo. We also replaced seventy building routers in preparation for connecting buildings at 10 gigabytes. We are now in the process of deploying a fully redundant wireless core service for all campuses, as well as upgrading and expanding the research network to 80 gigabytes, and expanding RU-tv to offer one hundred fifty channels, nearly 100 percent in high definition.

By making these strategic improvements in the University’s infrastructure—physical, fiscal, administrative, and technological—Rutgers can more successfully carry out our critical missions. These changes enable us to concentrate on the vital enterprise of preparing students for lives and careers of achievement, conducting groundbreaking research, providing outstanding clinical care, and serving society.

CONCLUDING THOUGHTS

A milestone anniversary is a good time to take stock and mark our progress against our plans. I believe that we are making progress on many fronts to become a tightly linked group of three top-tier research institutions, with a commitment to distinctiveness and excellence. We are determined to continue moving the needle in Newark, Camden, New Brunswick, and RBHS, with smart tactical investments in the short term and, more important, by building the best Rutgers possible in the coming years—with transformational student experiences; with research and scholarship that speak to critical global challenges; with health education and patient-centered clinical care that sets the standard for innovation and quality; with unique and interactive involvement with the urban communities and the state in which we live; and with a commitment to diversity and inclusion. We owe it to ourselves and to the legacy of those who have shaped Rutgers to do as President Obama advised, and make the next 250 years better than the last. Let’s keep up the momentum … !