Higher Ground

Robert L. Barchi, President
As published in the Winter 2013 issue of Rutgers Magazine

“It’s time to take Rutgers to a higher level.” When I began meeting alumni, faculty, students, and staff last September, I repeatedly heard some version of that aspiration. Rutgers should be among the best research institutions in America, they argued, but for various reasons, the university wasn’t getting there.

Now there can be no doubt: Rutgers is moving up.

Thanks to Governor Christie, the legislature, and our governors and trustees, nearly all of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) is being transferred to Rutgers University. Come July 1, within Rutgers will reside the medical and dental schools and clinical practices that are such a critical part of a truly comprehensive research university. We will have the expertise of UMDNJ’s outstanding faculty in the same house as our own exceptional faculty. In federal research funding alone, this integration will move Rutgers into the top 25 among all universities nationwide.

Adding to this supremely good news, New Jersey voters have approved statewide bond funding that will help construct sorely needed academic buildings on our New Brunswick, Newark, and Camden campuses. Thank you for your part in getting this important measure passed. Moreover, in accepting an invitation last November for the Scarlet Knights to join the Big Ten conference in all sports, we aligned ourselves both academically and athletically with an outstanding group of institutions, almost all of which are research-intensive state universities like Rutgers.

All of these developments—adding medical and dental education to our mission, gaining new state investment in our camp­uses, and joining the Big Ten and its academic counterpart, the Committee on Institutional Cooperation—are powerful expressions of confidence in Rutgers. They have positioned us to fulfill the ambitions so many in our community have had for so long. But these achievements must become part of a unified vision for Rutgers’ future.

Last month, I launched a strategic planning process to develop a clear vision and strategy for reaching our enormous potential. We need the input of the entire community, including alumni, students, governing board members, faculty and staff, and public officials. In these next few months, through surveys, interviews, departmental meetings, and other forums, we will challenge you to share your deepest thinking about our future. By the end of 2013, we will lock in a universitywide strategy for the next decade. This strategy will then inform unit-level planning across Rutgers and will also form the context for a new facilities master plan.

Our plan must be realistic, achievable, and inspiring. I’m not saying, let’s make Rutgers number one in the nation, or even number three or number five. Instead, I want Rutgers to become what it very nearly is already: a great state university and a groundbreaking research university—one of the finest in America. If that means we’re number 22 or 15, so be it. My focus will be not on rankings but on results.

I want Rutgers to be New Jersey’s partner in developing a world-class economy that creates solid, high-paying jobs—many of them filled by our own graduates. I want everyone in the state and far beyond to recognize the outstanding education we provide at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Equally important, I want to instill in everyone at Rutgers immense pride in what we are accomplishing and what we stand for. We are one Rutgers, diverse and globally engaged, already a leader in so many areas—philosophy, chemistry, childhood studies, dance, urban planning, criminal justice, women’s history. With your help, we can reach even higher.