President's Response to Academic Unit Organization Recommendations

October 27, 2017

Members of the Rutgers Community,

Last spring, I shared with you the final report of the Committee on Academic Unit Organization, which emerged as a key project from the University Strategic Plan. As I said then, I charged this committee to examine how best to organize our academic units, to recommend possible realignments to enhance collaborations, and to consider potential new schools that would align us more closely with other great public universities.

The committee’s report made several major recommendations, and I write today to share my response and plans for pursuing and implementing their proposed initiatives. Below are the specific recommendations from the Committee as they appear in the executive summary of the final report, followed by my responses.


Robert Barchi


Committee Recommendation: Existing academic strengths, together with our global programmatic footprint and physical location within a major multicultural region of the US, create a strategic opportunity for Rutgers to become a significant intellectual and institutional player, filling a role that extends, even re-imagines, our land grant mission in the areas, primarily, of global health, sustainability, security, and economics and finance. A new school would draw from our present faculty and add to them; it would foster collaboration and provide incentives for innovative teaching, research, scholarship and engagement. The structure of this school would be novel. It would not reside within a single campus, but, exist as a pan-University school. The new school would not absorb existing programs; rather it would articulate with them – providing opportunities for collaboration – and it would expand opportunities for students, faculty and staff. The school would strengthen the global focus of the entire University.

President’s Response: The committee makes a strong case for the value of an academic entity with a focus on global issues, but questions remain about its major research areas, possible duplication of existing programs, and how it would be structured. I will ask that Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Barbara Lee form a task force to conduct a more detailed exploration of the scope and structure of such a school within our University. I will ask for a feasibility study to completed by this committee by May 2018.


Committee Recommendation: Core to the identity of Rutgers is the community outreach mission as a land grant institution. However, multiple outreach activities are scattered throughout the four campuses of Rutgers, often acting in an uncoordinated fashion and missing important potential synergies. A high-level permanent group charged with leveraging these activities across units promoting effective communication across units, the Rutgers Engagement & Outreach Committee, would increase the impact and visibility of our outreach work. The Committee would report to the President and be charged with harmonizing and maximizing the impact of engagement and outreach throughout the state and beyond. Critical to the success of the Committee would be adequate resources to support the staff needed to achieve the communication and coordination mission, to increase the local, national, and international visibility of our outreach efforts, and to provide seed funds to initiate new outreach activities, particularly programs that span units and promote collaboration.

The current Rutgers Cooperative Extension is a critical outreach and engagement activity that is intimately tied to our history as a land grant university. Through the Cooperative Extension, Rutgers has a well-established local presence in every county of the state. The type of community engaged scholarship and practice that reflects the values of Extension now extends well beyond the traditional agricultural roots of the program. The expansion of Extension to a University-wide unit would marry the extensive presence of the current program with a more diverse set of community engaged activities, creating significant synergies and providing a platform to inspire civic engagement across units while supporting outreach and engagement strategy already in place. The program director would have responsibility for Extension activities across all units on all campuses, would report to the President’s Office, and would be a key member of the proposed Rutgers Engagement & Outreach Committee.

President’s Response: Establishing a central pathway of scholarly outreach activities has great merit, and we ought to continually look for opportunities to expand our outreach and demonstrate our value in New Jersey. This is especially true in our current political climate when the contributions of universities to their communities and the value of research universities are facing fresh scrutiny. However, the decentralized nature of our University would make this recommendation difficult to implement from a single centralized office. I recommend that the chancellors explore the creation of Engagement and Outreach committees in their respective units, and I further ask that they work closely with the Rutgers Cooperative Extension as a model for engaging our communities with research.


Committee Recommendation: Providing a quality undergraduate education is a core mission of Rutgers. While our rich history defines us, it also has created complex organizational relationships that serve to unnecessarily complicate and fractionate the undergraduate experience, particularly on the New Brunswick campus. The New Brunswick Gateway would serve as a common point of entry for nearly all New Brunswick incoming students. A non-degree granting administrative unit, it would be responsible for overseeing a unified admission process, non-major advising, and general education course offerings that would continue to be taught by faculty from the existing schools. Students would enroll in the Gateway, where they would complete a common year experience and the prerequisites needed to declare a specific major, at which time (but after no more than two years) they would enroll in the specific school offering that major. Students applying to Rutgers could be initially accepted into both the Gateway and the school housing their intended future major; however, transit through the Gateway would ensure a comparable core educational foundation for students across schools, facilitate early student changes in educational objectives, and provide a unifying experience that would build a sense of student identification with “One Rutgers”. This new structure would allow for a more streamlined and cohesive student experience while preserving the rich history that has produced the wide array of undergraduate degree granting schools present on the New Brunswick Campus. Embedded within the Gateway would be a pilot Program for Self- Directed Education that would explore the feasibility of providing students with the flexibility and advising to select from the tremendous curricular offerings across schools and campuses at Rutgers, to create a customized program of study that is coherent and rigorous, yet personalized to their interests.

President’s Response: The report makes a compelling argument for the potential value of a centralized, non-degree-granting unit for incoming Rutgers-New Brunswick students. In my view, the potential benefits of a centralized Gateway program for the student experience in New Brunswick deserve careful consideration. As this proposal involves only Rutgers-New Brunswick, I will ask Chancellor Dutta to form a task force that explores this idea further with input from his faculty deans and leadership, and to make the final recommendation on any implementation.


Committee Recommendation: The modern concept of design is as a broad discipline devoted to applying design-based approaches to solve diverse problems. Demand for design professionals who are comfortable working in a range of industries is rapidly growing. Rutgers currently has strengths in many components of design, but these strengths are distributed across many programs housed in different units, with little overall interaction. Rutgers Design would leverage these existing strengths, providing a structure for coordination, collaboration, and further growth in relevant areas. Rutgers Design will offer new educational and career opportunities for students, create novel academic initiatives and interdisciplinary research, and serve as the hub for innovative partnerships between Rutgers and the public and the private sectors. Our location, close to the vibrant design communities in New York and Philadelphia, adds further possibilities for synergies, as do our already established ties to local institutions with strengths in component areas. A variety of administrative structures are possible to meet the objectives of this proposal; further analysis with experts and stakeholders is needed to determine the optimal design for Rutgers.

President’s Response: This proposal makes a strong argument for an academic entity on design, but leaves open questions of structure and scope.  Following the committee’s recommendation for “further analysis with experts and stakeholders,” I will ask Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Barbara Lee to form a task force, which will report back to me by the end of the academic year, charged with identifying the best administrative structure for a design program and conducting a thorough assessment of the value of such a program at Rutgers University.


Committee Recommendation: The geographically distributed nature of Rutgers creates significant barriers to collaboration and interactions across campuses. Even within a campus, the scope of Rutgers can make finding faculty members with related interests a challenge. The Virtual University would serve as a comprehensive online clearinghouse to facilitate cross-unit collaborations in teaching, research, and service activities. Key to this endeavor would be a database of faculty interests and expertise, a robust telecommunication infrastructure to support distant interactions in research and teaching, mechanisms to encourage cross-unit collaborations, and an administrative structure to oversee the program. The Virtual University would exist in parallel with current administrative structures, with the goal of facilitating bottom-up, interest-driven, interactions between faculty members. The Virtual University would leverage geographically dispersed faculty to create vibrant academic communities across many diverse interest areas that would far exceed the size that could be developed locally with currently allocated resources.

President’s Response: A database of faculty interest and expertise would be a tremendous benefit to facilitating collaboration. The Rutgers University Office of Research and Economic Development (ORED) has already been working on initiatives that would aggregate faculty research interests. ORED has previously established a Business Portal that allows companies and other users to identify faculty expertise as well as connect with staff professionals who can identify specific university research resources. In addition, the Office of the Secretary of Education for the State of New Jersey recently has begun a similar statewide effort, called the Research Asset Database, with the goal of creating a database of faculty research and publications across the major research universities in New Jersey. Part of this initiative will involve the development of a university-wide Rutgers-focused database. As Rutgers is already moving quickly in this latter effort, I have asked Chris Molloy, Senior Vice President of Research and Economic Development, to continue to lead the development of this database for our research community.


Committee Recommendation: The non-traditional student (NTS) population on the New Brunswick campus is significant in size (approximately 2,800 students), comprised of those who have successfully met the admissions standards for programs on the flagship campus. It is a social imperative, as well as an accreditation necessity, for Rutgers University to provide guidance for these highly motivated students, just as we do on the Camden and Newark campuses, so they may achieve degree completion in a timely manner. The current unit dedicated to serving the needs of NTS in New Brunswick is the University College Community (UCC). Advising records from that unit show that while some NTS successfully navigate the degree programs offered on the New Brunswick campus, there is a significant population for whom logistic, not academic, barriers are overwhelming. Meetings with the academic deans of the various schools in New Brunswick have identified issues that can be addressed through expansion of select services dedicated to NTS campus-wide. The expanded services should be housed in a unit named University College (UC-NB) in order to standardize the titles of the units serving NTS across the entire Rutgers system. UC should have a visible presence on the New Brunswick campus and a place for NTS to gather. It should also have an adequate number of staff who can provide pre-admission transfer evaluation for the various schools in New Brunswick and offer advising about which majors can be completed with night, weekend, or online courses. Providing in-depth advising is critically important to ensuring that incoming NTS have appropriate expectations for degree completion. The unit can also advocate for select majors to expand their night, weekend and online offerings, to expand academic opportunities for NTS and address the needs of this underserved population.

President’s Response: Here the report calls attention to an issue of inclusivity in our community and the need to ensure a positive student experience for the wide range of students we serve. As this proposal primarily concerns New Brunswick, I have asked that Chancellor Dutta convene a task force to recommend concrete improvements to the non-traditional student experience in New Brunswick. I should also note that some challenges related to scheduling can be addressed through the new universitywide scheduling platform that will be launched in Spring 2018.