Reaching for Greatness

Robert L. Barchi, President
As published in the Fall 2012 issue of Rutgers Magazine

Hello, Rutgers family and friends! As a Jersey boy from Westfield, I consider it a privilege to be joining this community at such an exciting time in its remarkable history. I have immersed myself in Rutgers over the past several months, and as much as I thought I knew about the place, I have grown even more impressed by the strength and breadth of this university.

As you know, the past year at Rutgers was full of uncertainty. State policymakers spent months debating proposals for restructuring higher education, including some that would have made it harder for Rutgers to truly serve the entire state. But now we have a clear path—and the state has given us an even bigger mission. The restructuring bill signed by Governor Christie in August (which still awaits approval by our governing boards) not only preserves all our campuses, but also integrates most of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey into Rutgers beginning July 1, 2013. Rutgers is one university with vibrant campuses and stellar faculty in Camden, Newark, and New Brunswick, and when we add medical education to our portfolio, we will be able to make an even greater contribution to New Jersey and to society. (Rutgers and its fellow institutions will further benefit from passage of the $750 million higher education facilities bond issue that will come before New Jersey voters this November.)  

Rutgers’ expansion comes at a time of challenge for universities across America. People are questioning the public benefit of higher education, and in the face of competing priorities and dwindling tax revenues, state funding support has been shrinking in recent decades. It has become clear that the business plan for higher education that worked for a half-century after World War II simply will not sustain us in the years ahead. We need a fundamental change in the way we teach, do research, and finance colleges and universities.  

I strongly believe that the solutions will come not from the large private universities, where there are
multi-billion-dollar endowments that buffer them from the financial realities that the rest of us face. I believe the innovations and solutions will come instead from the land-grant state universities that have an explicit mission to educate the citizens of their region for informed participation in democracy, to train the leaders of commerce, and to produce the intellectual discoveries that will drive their economies. More specifically, these solutions will come from those state universities that have done the hard work of being smart with their finances, honing their academic mission, and improving the quality of their research. That’s Rutgers.  

We have hard work ahead of us in putting together the new Rutgers in a way that will strengthen both the university and the state. We are already among the best in disciplines such as philosophy and mathematics and history, and we already do a lot for New Jersey in areas like marine science and teacher preparation. Rutgers now has the chance to achieve the ranks of the truly exceptional. If we do this right, we can become one of the best public universities in the nation.  

I look forward to alumni input in this work. You have valuable perspectives from your time at Rutgers and from your experience in the world. I hope to gain from your ideas as we chart Rutgers’ future—including a strategic planning process I will announce in the near future. I also hope we can count on you to help us reach the billion-dollar goal of the Our Rutgers, Our Future fundraising campaign, which will benefit all of us. With your help, we can capitalize on all our assets and achieve greatness.