President's Address to the University Community

April 24, 2013

Photo: Mike Peters

Good Afternoon.

Welcome to the Kasser Theater on this beautiful spring day. We have caught the season at that glorious moment when everything is beginning to bloom, a time of pied beauty, as the poet Hopkins put it, when skies are couple-colored. The burst of color on the campus seems very much in harmony with the variegated liveliness of our multi-faceted community, where everyone and everything seems noticeably to pick up speed at this time of year. Unfortunately, the stately tulips blooming around the seat of government in Trenton are less indicative of coming fruitfulness. The proposed fiscal year 2014 budget is neither tall nor colorful and is, in fact, flat for the second year in a row, and follows upon years of very significant cuts that began in Governor Corzine’s administration.

For the twelve senior public institutions, those institutions for which the state bears primary responsibility for support, the direct operating appropriation was $956 million in FY 2006, serving 152,000 students. In the proposed FY 2014 budget, direct operating appropriations for these institutions is proposed to be $716 million, to serve over 183,000 students. That constitutes, since 2006, a 25 percent decrease in funding to serve a 20 percent increase in students. The situation of decreasing funding and increasing enrollment is even more severe than the numbers would suggest when the effects of inflation and mandatory cost increases are factored in. In the proposed budget for fiscal 2014, operating support per full-time equivalent student at Montclair State drops to only $2,400, and, as will be eminently evident on the face of it, since it costs significantly more than that to educate a student at a university for a year, there continues to be increasing pressure on tuition, which is not desirable in a public institution.

In addition, there continues to be a complete absence of policy in how state appropriations are allocated across the state’s colleges and universities, resulting in significant, unjustified, and irrational disparities in the appropriation per student from one institution to the next. Unfortunately, it appears that yet another year will go by without any attention to this very fundamental problem, which was clearly addressed by Governor Kean’s Task Force in 2010.

Given this reality, as we pursue our plans for the growth and development of the University, it is of great importance that we use our available human and other resources as effectively as possible for our most important purposes. Enrollment growth provides important revenue to the University and the opportunities for economies of scale, but, at the same time, tuition increases must be kept as low as possible if we are to remain accessible and affordable to a broad range of students. For example, because of changes in the rules governing Pell grants, we actually lowered our summer session tuition. It is also important that we continue to increase the amount of revenue that comes from sources other than the state and traditional tuition and fees. Entrepreneurial activities, grants that provide indirect cost recovery and that support graduate students, increased gift income from alumni, corporations, foundations, and friends, and business partnerships of various kinds are increasingly important to our ability to provide the range and quality of programs needed by our students and the state.

On the potentially very good news side of the state funding equation is the opportunity for the first time in a quarter of a century for state support for the capital facilities of New Jersey’s colleges and universities. As you are aware, New Jersey has been unique in the nation in providing no support to build facilities on college campuses, or to maintain or renovate the assets that already exist. All of the new construction and repair and renovation have been paid for directly by student tuition and fees, and this circumstance has been one of the major drivers of the state’s comparatively high public tuitions.

This past year, Governor Christie and the Legislative leadership worked together to propose a capital plan that included a voter-approved $750 million bond act and the reauthorization of four other bond initiatives, making available up to $1.6 billion to provide matching grants to colleges and universities to build, equip, and expand higher education facilities. If used wisely, that investment has the potential to provide critically needed facilities across the state, benefiting hundreds of thousands of students.

There has been a very rigorous competitive application process for these funds, and preparing those applications was a very time-consuming process for many people on this campus over the past couple of months.I want especially to recognize Vice Presidents Bressler and Shannon and their staffs, as well as Deans Prezant, Chrite, and Gurskis, and, most especially Deborah Gaines, Executive Director of Strategic Communications, and her hardy team, who worked days, evenings, and weekends under very constrained deadlines to enable the University to prepare very high quality applications. The University has applied for support for many important projects, including the Center for Environmental and Life Sciences, the School of Business, the School Communication and Media, major renovation projects for College Hall, Life Hall, and the Richardson/Mallory/Science Hall complex, and a number of significant technology infrastructure projects. Now we must await the result of what will be a rather complex deliberative process taking place within the political arena.

Notwithstanding minimal state support, Montclair State University has continued to win national recognition for excellence in a variety of fields. To mention only a few:

  • U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks the University in the top tier of Northern Regional Universities and ranks the graduate program in elementary education among the top 20 in the country.
  • The School of Business was again included in The Princeton Review’s Guide to The Best 296 Business Schools.
  • The U.S. Green Building Council, The Princeton Review Guide to 322 Green Campuses, and Sierra magazine’s “Coolest Schools” included Montclair State in their rankings of America’s greenest campuses.
  • The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education Magazine has placed Montclair State on its list of “Top 100 Colleges for Hispanics” for 14 years in a row and awarded us the highest ranking in New Jersey.
  • Diverse Issues in Higher Education named Montclair State a “Top Degree Producer” in its ranking of institutions that confer the most degrees to minority students.
  • G.I. Jobs magazine named Montclair State a “Military Friendly School” for the fourth straight year.
  • With the University welcoming one of the largest contingents of Fulbright Scholars from overseas in its history, the U.S. Department of State recognized Montclair State as a Top Producer of U.S. Fulbright Scholars.
  • The University was again named to the President Obama’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll in recognition of performance in co-curricular and curricular community service, volunteerism, and community engagement.
  • The Heights residence complex was named the state’s Leading Public-Private Partnership by the New Jersey Alliance for Action for its contribution to New Jersey’s economic recovery.

The University’s growing reputation is reflected in admissions numbers for the fall class that look extremely promising. Completed freshman applications to Montclair State are at record numbers, and the early action program saw a 32 percent increase in applications. Our goal is to increase the freshman class by 600 this fall, for a total of 2,800. Even with the larger projected class, the average GPA of accepted freshmen for Fall has risen slightly to 3.35 compared to last year’s 3.30 average, with average GPA for the early action admits rising from last year’s 3.6 to 3.65. Undergraduate Admissions is completing the third year of a three-year recruitment plan that focuses on continuing to increase geographic and ethnic diversity and places less emphasis on SAT scores and greater emphasis on each student’s academic performance in rigorous high school coursework. Of particular note in the admissions picture is a 21 percent increase in Hispanic applicants this year over last year and a 35 percent increase over 2011. This very pronounced growth in Hispanic applicants is moving the University quite close to qualifying for the status of a Hispanic Serving Institution under federal guidelines.

To support our students, funding for financial aid for undergraduate students continues to increase. Overall, approximately 11,000 students, or 76 percent of undergraduates, received aid in fiscal year 2013 that totaled to about $117 million. These numbers are particularly important when we realize that 42 percent of freshmen entering the University last fall who applied for financial aid came from families earning less than $50,000 a year. Of the aid provided to students, $49.2 million is in the form of grants from federal, state, University, and University Foundation sources; $64.5 million is in the form of federal loans; and $3 million comes from campus employment.

Increases in student borrowing are a concern, although our students’ default rate is currently less than half the national rate. As reported by the federal government in its recent College Scorecard, the combined average indebtedness for resident and commuting students who have taken out loans at the University is $19,500. However, it is interesting to note that resident students who borrow and graduate in four years have a lower average indebtedness of $17,706. As a result, continuing the University’s aggressive efforts to increase the numbers of students who graduate in four years is very important. The longer students take to complete their degrees the more debt they acquire and the greater risk they run of exhausting their eligibility for federal and state aid programs. Montclair State's six-year graduation rate has continued to climb slowly but steadily, with the latest data showing a 63.2 percent rate. This year, we estimate that the University will grant 4,320 undergraduate and graduate degrees. That number is a startling 63 percent higher than the number of 2,648 that we granted just 10 years ago in 2003. Our first-year retention rate this year remained close to stable at 81.6 percent. However, our fall to spring retention this year was 95.5 percent, the highest first semester retention rate in 17 years of record-keeping. We are hoping that will translate into an increased retention rate this coming fall. In addition, the total number of students on probation at the end of the fall 2012 semester dropped by 26 percent over the prior fall.

The goal of student success, as measured by retention and graduation rates, is a responsibility of the whole University, and we absolutely must continue to give it our critical attention. In that regard, a number of new policies were introduced this year, including mandatory advising initiatives and more rigorous procedures for how students are admitted into majors and minors and how, and when, they make changes. The University Academic Advising Committee, co-chaired by Professor Sangeeta Parashar of Sociology and Dr. Michele Campagna of the Center for Advising and Student Transitions, has worked to enhance the quality of advising and to introduce new resources for faculty, professional advisors, and students, including an online advising manual and updated four-year plans for all of our schools and colleges. Our job is straightforward. Educate more students, do it in better and better ways, and graduate them in four years, or as close to four years, as is possible.

In the several colleges and schools, there have been a number of significant accomplishments and developments during the year. Many of you do not always know about the exciting work being done by your colleagues in the building just next door to yours, so I present some brief and impressive highlights, and I encourage you, if you are intrigued by what you hear, to follow up with your colleagues directly. Let me remind you that you do not require an up-to-date passport to visit another department, school or college. Your MSU ID will get you in anywhere on campus.

In the College of Science and Mathematics a recent agreement with Seton Hall University has, for the first time, created an avenue to nursing careers for our students, an opportunity that students have been requesting with increasing interest in recent years. The program will enable students to earn both a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Montclair State and a Master of Science in Nursing from Seton Hall. At the end of this five-year program, graduates will be eligible to take the appropriate exams for RN licensure.

The very successful Science Honors Innovation Program, now in its third year, has again been supported by both Merck and Roche with a quarter of a million dollars. This program, which is our first effort at an upper division honors program, supports exceptional undergraduate students in the sciences, and the participants are actively publishing with their faculty mentors, presenting their work at professional conferences, and achieving acceptance into strong graduate programs.

In partnership with the University of Massachusetts – Boston, led by Professor Mika Munakata and Dr. Jackie Willis, and in collaboration with Professors Monica Taylor and Emily Klein in the College of Education and Human Services, the College of Science and Math received a five-year $1.3 million grant for the Wipro Science Education Fellows program to support the development of teacher leaders among experienced K-12 science teachers. Wipro is a leading global information technology company.

The College also hosted two major conferences this year. The fifth Passaic River Symposium attracted over 350 attendees and included participation by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. An International Conference on Sustainable Development examined the new paradigm for research, education, informed decision-making, and development of science-based policy represented by sustainability studies.

Faculty in the College of Science and Mathematics also had a very successful year in acquiring substantial research grants. Among these, I would note the following impressive examples from a longer impressive list:

  • Professors John Siekierka and Dave Rotella, in the Sokol Institute for Pharmaceutical Life Sciences, have again received support, now totaling over $500,000, from the pharmaceutical company Celgene to examine novel Celgene inhibitors in the search for potentially new therapeutics for the treatment of diseases such as elephantiasis and river blindness that affect millions of people.
  • Professor Stefanie Brachfeld of Earth and Environmental Studies was awarded $184,000 by NASA for the second year of a project to synthesize basalts of Martian composition and subject them to various experiments.
  • Professors Eric Forgoston and Lora Billings of Mathematical Sciences were awarded $279,000 by the National Science Foundation to study infectious disease outbreak, spread, and extinction in metapopulation models.
  • Professors Nina Goodey, James Dyer, and John Siekierka of Chemistry and Biochemistry and Associate Director Cigdem Talgar of the Research Academy for University Learning were awarded $166,000 by the National Science Foundation to create and implement inquiry-based learning modules in Experimental Biochemistry courses.
  • Professor Pankaj Lal of Earth and Environmental Studies was awarded $350,000 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to analyze the impact of woody biofuel development on rural communities in the southern United States.
  • Donna Lorenzo, Director of the Health Careers program, was awarded $250,000 for year one of a five-year award for the University’s Upward Bound program, which supports the academic development of low-income and first-generation students.
  • Professor Sandra Passchier of Earth and Environmental Studies was awarded $119,000 from the National Science Foundation to investigate the advance and retreat of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet.
  • Professors Ashuwin Vaidya, Arup Mukherjee, Philip Yecko, and David Trubatch of Mathematical Sciences were awarded a grant of $171,000 from the National Science Foundation to acquire a Particle Image Velocimetry system, which is used for a variety of studies involving complex fluids.
  • Dr. William Thomas, the Director of the University’s School of Conservation received the Lowell Thomas Award from the Explorer’s Club of New York for his ethno-ecological research in Papua New Guinea.

The College also introduced new Bachelor of Science, Master of Science, and combined BS/MS degrees in Sustainability Studies, as well as a new concentration in Information Technology within the Master of Science in Computer Science. So, all in all, under the leadership of Dean Bob Prezant, a fruitful year for the College of Science and Mathematics, which, I might add, with rapidly growing interest by students in pursuing programs in the sciences, is plum out of space and eagerly, and not all that patiently, awaiting construction of the planned new Center for Environmental and Life Sciences.

Over the past year, the School of Business has been focused on two significant new programmatic initiatives that will continue to shape the trajectory of the School for the future. First, the Feliciano Center for Entrepreneurship was established with a $1 million gift from Mimi and Edwin Feliciano, and its mission is to support the preparation of students for success in the global economy. By combining innovative coursework, experiential and online learning, exposure to leading entrepreneurs and business leaders, and sustained interaction with committed and experienced project advisors, and under the leadership of Dennis Bone, who, as many of you know, joined us this year from his position as president and CEO of Verizon New Jersey, the Center will familiarize students with the concepts and realities of new venture formation. 

In a second initiative, building on the work by Professor Ross Malaga and Dr. Nicole Bryan on the use of analytics to combat human trafficking, the School is focused on establishing a reputation as a leader in the area of corporate social responsibility. Specifically, the School is engaged in innovative programmatic and research endeavors aimed at identifying opportunities for public and private enterprises to engage with stakeholders at the intersection of technology, analytics, globalization, and the social good. For example, the School is working to assist Fairtrade International (a global NGO) to anticipate violations of child labor and forced labor agreements in commodity sectors that are at risk for non-compliance, such as cocoa and cotton production. The School is also assisting local producers and suppliers in better planning for fluctuations in supply and demand and other variables in order to minimize reliance on child labor and forced labor during peak production periods. Both of these initiatives clearly represent very exciting new directions for the School of Business. 

Over the past 12 months, the School of Business also has focused on the implementation of new degree programs. Accounting, Law and Taxation is now a full and separate undergraduate major, and a new combined five-year bachelor’s/master’s degree program in Accounting has also been implemented. A new undergraduate concentration in Sports, Events and Tourism is eliciting strong interest from prospective students and related industry. The School also successfully launched a new weekend MBA program in Secaucus this year.

School of Business faculty have had a distinguished year in research and scholarly efforts, including, to mention only a few examples from a much longer list, Professor DiGabriele’s work in accounting, Professor Kessler’s work in occupational and organizational psychology, Professor Hermann Sintim-Aboagye’s work in developing African nations, Professor Hill’s work in marketing strategies, and Professor John Wang’s work in information systems. I offer my congratulations to Dean Chrite and the whole School of Business for a very exciting and productive year.

The College of the Arts enjoyed a vibrant year under the new leadership of Dean Dan Gurskis. The Communication Studies, Broadcasting, and Filmmaking faculties merged to form the new School of Communication and Media. The realization of this newly created School and its new curriculum, including its newest concentration in Sports Media and Journalism within the BA in Television and Digital Media, is the culmination of more than three years of intensive collaborative work. The result is an innovative, challenging, and relevant course of undergraduate study that effectively re-invents communication and media education at Montclair State. The School has already built productive relationships with several media partners, including NJTV, WNYC, and WBGO and a wide range of smaller media organizations throughout the state.

The faculty in the Art and Design programs are expanding their global initiatives, including highly successful, faculty-led field trips and study abroad courses. This year’s Fashion Studies field trip took students to Paris and Antwerp; Graphic Design students participated in a London tour, and the Montclair in Kingston Summer Study Abroad entered its third year.  

The Dance division received several generous grants and recognition from the American College Dance Festival, where they shined this year, and professional performance experiences increased for students at the Cali School of Music, including the first in a series of regular performances at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Hall.

At the College of Education and Human Services, the graduate program in elementary teacher education was ranked #18 in the 2014 U.S. News and World Report rankings of America’s Best Graduate Schools. This is the fourth year in a row it has been ranked in the top 20 in the nation, placing ahead of programs at Harvard, NYU, and the University of California-Berkeley. Montclair State’s teacher education programs have also been prominently featured as exemplifying best practices in widely distributed reports by the American Association for Colleges of Teacher Education and by Teachers for a New Era. In this regard, Montclair State was selected to participate as one of four New Jersey universities in a prestigious Woodrow Wilson Fellowship to design and implement a teacher education program that will prepare new math and science teachers for the State and serve as an innovative model for teacher education programs across the nation.

The University has also been invited to engage in efforts to create a Promise Neighborhood in Paterson. The College of Education and Human Services will lead a University partnership with the Community Development Corporation in Paterson to create a web of support services for children and families to ensure their health, welfare, and educational success.

In the area of scholarship and research, some notable achievements include:

  • Gerard Costa, Director of the Center for Autism and Early Childhood Mental Health, was awarded $1.5 million by the New Jersey Governor’s Council for Medical Research and Treatment of Autism to provide oversight and supervision to statewide research efforts related to the treatment of autism.
  • Professor Mark Kaelin of Health and Nutrition Sciences was awarded $240,000 from the National Institutes of Health to prepare teachers to offer a middle school epidemiology curriculum.
  • Professor Robert Reid of Family and Child Studies was awarded $335,000 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for the fifth year of a project that provides community-based substance abuse and HIV prevention services to under-served and at-risk African-American and Hispanic youth in Paterson.
  • Professor Alina Reznitskaya of Educational Foundations was awarded $170,000 for year one of a three-year sub-award from the University of Ohio to produce a professional development program in dialogic teaching.
  • Professor Stephanie Silvera of Health and Nutrition Sciences was awarded $138,000 by the National Institutes of Health for the first year of a four-year project to examine disparities resulting from unequal access to cancer screening across socioeconomic and racial groups.
  • The Center of Pedagogy, under the leadership of Dr. Jennifer Robinson, received a grant of $203,000 from the Foundation for Newark’s Future in support of the Newark-Montclair Urban Teacher Residency, a major College effort to help reform urban education through professional development for teachers and school administrators.
  • Among a number of other projects, and under the supervision of Dr. Eden Kyse, the Center for Research and Evaluation on Education and Human Services was awarded $321,000 to conduct a baseline evaluation of  Eat, Play, Live…Better, a partnership initiative that combines new and existing efforts to encourage and enable Montclair residents to live healthier lifestyles.

In addition, a number of other faculty and staff were responsible for significant scholarly work, publications, and recognition, including Professor Bree Picower for her work on social justice education, Professor Tyson Lewis for his work on the aesthetics of education, Professors Katrina Bulkley and Zoe Burkholder who were both recognized in Education Week as prominent national scholars in regard to issues related to K-12 and higher education, Gregg Festa, Director of the ADP Center for Teacher Preparation and Learning Technologies for his work in education technology, and Professor Harriet Glosoff, who was named a Fellow of the American Counseling Association.

The College of Education and Human Services implemented a new Bachelor of Science in Public Health, an area where we expect robust growth, and, at the doctoral level, this September, the College will be admitting its first class into the new PhD program in Family and Child Studies. All in all, a busy and very productive year under the leadership of the College’s new Dean, Francine Peterman.

The College of Humanities and Social Sciences, the largest of the University’s colleges and schools, housed one of our two new fully online degree programs, the master’s program in Child Advocacy and Policy. In addition, this fall, the University initiated a pilot joint classroom project, “U.S. in the World: Turkey, Europe and the Middle East,” under the aegis of the U.S. State Department’s eDiplomacy Project. The project was designed to bridge political and cultural gaps between two international allies by allowing students at Bilkent University in Turkey and students at Montclair State to interact in real-time in a joint classroom setting despite the 6,000 mile distance between them. In another similar initiative, the Modern Languages and Literatures Department developed a joint online teaching project with Israel’s Kibbutzim College, which includes teaching by means of Second Life, an online virtual world. Both of these initiatives reflect a very promising direction for global collaboration by the University. I am a strong proponent of using the potential of rapidly developing technology to expand our collaborations with partner institutions around the world. While we will still work at expanding and deepening our on-site relations with global institutions, those initiatives will always have cost constraints, and technology gives us very rich opportunities that we are only beginning to exploit.

Under the leadership of Dean Morrissey, the College of Humanities and Social Sciences has also moved forward with the establishment of an external advisory council as a platform for greater alumni and community engagement, focusing its attention on fundraising dedicated to scholarships, internships, and other experiential learning efforts that will enhance students’ future employment options.

In other news, the College continues to experience enrollment growth, with especially welcome growth at the graduate level. A three-year process of renovation, remodeling, and related moves has finally allowed the College to consolidate its departments and programs into three principal spaces: Dickson Hall, Schmitt Hall, and 1515 Broad Street, which is the location for our programs in Communication Sciences and Disorders and the Montclair State Clinics for Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology. These programs will shortly be expanding their growing clinical services to the community by partnering with the New Jersey Hearing Aid Program, in coordination with the New Jersey Department of Human Services and the Sertoma/Hearing Charities, to provide low-income individuals access to needed hearing aid devices and other related services. I would note that Preceptor Maris Appelbaum was named a 2012 Best Audiologist by Hearing Review.

The College also moved forward this year with a number of program developments, including a reinstatement of the Bachelor of Arts degree in German and the development of two five-year combined B.S./M.S. programs in Psychology and in Spanish.

The College faculty has been meeting with increased success in attracting external research funding, which in turn has allowed the support of more students and enhanced both graduate and undergraduate student research opportunities. Some recent successes by Psychology faculty include:

  • Professor Jennifer Pardo’s award of a $400,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to continue her research on acoustical-phonetic form variation during conversational interaction.
  • Professor Ruth Propper’s award of $94,000 for year one of a four-year grant from the U.S. Army to determine factors and conditions underlying cognitive and perceptual biases that negatively impact performance.
  • Professor Robert McCormick’s receipt of a $980,000 sub-award from Rutgers to provide training for employees of the Division of Youth and Family Services, as well as $233,000 from the New Jersey Department of Children and Families for a post-baccalaureate certificate in Child Advocacy.

I would also note the significant scholarly achievements of members of the College faculty, including Professor Johnny Lorenz of the English Department for his work in translation of Brazilian and Portuguese literature; in Anthropology, Professor Frances Rothstein received the Conrad Arensberg Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Field of Anthropology and Professor Julian Brash was elected President of the Society for the Anthropology of North America; Professor Debra Zellner, who was elected to the presidency of the Eastern Psychological Association; and many others whose recently published books were prominently on display at the reception last week for faculty and staff authors.

This spring, the Graduate School initiated two fully online, degree granting programs, a Master of Arts in Educational Leadership and a Master of Arts in Child Advocacy. These graduate programs are coordinated through the Extended Learning and Special Academic Programs unit but reflect a University-wide collaboration to which many have contributed. The Graduate School expects to expand the reach of both of these programs beyond New Jersey to the additional 6 states for which we have received regulatory approval. Of particular note is the academic strength of both of these programs that reflects the excellence we expect for the preparation of our graduate students.

The representative body for graduate education at the University is the Graduate Council. Under the leadership of its Chair and Vice Chair, Professors Quinn Vega of the Biology Department and Jessica Restaino of the English Department, the Council this year completed an almost two-year effort to reconsider its mission, to strengthen its commitment to serving as an effective representative voice for matters related to graduate education, and to create an active and vital forum for recommendation and action necessary to support the work of The Graduate School and to advise Dean Ficke. The Council’s work this year encompassed a number of significant areas, including admissions policies, curricular reviews, doctoral program policies, and issues related to the creation of a vibrant graduate culture on campus.

The overall management of the complex processes related to the administration of The Graduate School has benefited enormously over the years from the steady and experienced hand of Amy Aiello, who serves as Executive Director for the Graduate School and Graduate Operations. I extend my particular appreciation to her and to the whole staff of the Graduate School under Dean Ficke’s leadership.

All of the work of the various colleges and schools represents the efforts of talented people, and continued renewal and expansion of our faculty and staff is the one activity that will have the greatest impact on defining the future excellence of the University. We are now in the final stages of the annual process of recruiting new faculty members, and I am pleased to report that we expect approximately 31 highly qualified scholars to be joining us in the fall from some of the nation’s most distinguished institutions. There are also several new people who have joined us during the course of this year:

  • Dr. Frederick Bonato, our new Associate Provost, comes to us from Saint Peter’s University where for twenty years he served in various roles, including Director of Faculty Research and Sponsored Programs, chair of the Psychology Department, and professor. He also serves as the editor-in-chief of Aviation, Space and Environmental Medicine and as an executive officer of the Eastern Psychological Association. Fred earned a PhD in Experimental Psychology from Rutgers University.
  • Suzanne Bronski, our new Director of Media Relations, comes to us from the Robin Hood Foundation in New York, where she served as Manager of Communications and Marketing. She brings to the University close to thirty years of experience in the field of public relations and communications in both the public and private sectors. Suzanne earned an MBA from Rutgers University.
  • Gilbert Rivera, Associate Vice President for Human Resources, who many will remember from his prior 15 years of service at the University, returned to us this year after a three-year break as Vice President of Human Resources at Passaic County Community College. Gilbert earned an MA in Public Administration from the City University of New York.

As I noted earlier, in regard to admissions, financial aid, and activities to support student success, much happens beyond the classrooms and other learning environments to assure the education and successful graduation of students. We are fortunate in having a committed division of Student Development and Campus Life that is continually working at improving its understanding of students’ needs in a range of areas that are instrumental to student success. Most recently, the division was successful in acquiring an assessment grant from the Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education to support initiatives related to the assessment of student learning. 

The division was kept busy this year with a number of both anticipated and unanticipated events.  In the latter category was, of course, Hurricane Sandy, which necessitated the relocation of 300 students from the Clove Road properties to temporary housing for five days when their power failed, and then, of course, the re-relocation of the students back to their original housing, as well as the temporary housing of 385 commuter students and dozens of faculty and staff members when their homes had no power, public transportation was unavailable, and gasoline was in short supply. The division is still housing 126 AmeriCorps volunteers who are working to rebuild communities devastated by Sandy. 

On the anticipated side was the planned and successfully implemented new food court in the Blanton dining hall space. Called The Plaza, it houses branded retail outlets, including Dunkin’ Donuts and the first Guy Fieri on Campus in the nation. If you interested in putting on some calories, feel free to give it a try.

The wonderful coaching staff and dedicated scholar-athletes of the University’s outstanding Division III Intercollegiate Athletic program, once again, have given us every reason to be proud this year. The five fall sport teams—football, men’s and women’s soccer, field hockey, and volleyball—produced an amazing 78 percent winning record, which far surpassed any other school in the New Jersey Athletic Conference. Leading that charge was the field hockey squad, which put together the best season in its history as Montclair State advanced to the NCAA national championship game for the first time and finished the year at 22-2. Men’s Soccer reached the Elite 8 in the NCAA Tournament, while the women’s soccer team won the NJAC championship for the second time in its history and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

The winning trend continued into the winter season as women’s basketball had a season for the ages, undefeated in the regular season, capturing the NJAC championship, and advancing to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history. This spring, of note so far, softball is ranked number one in the nation, having posted the longest winning streak in Montclair State history. Women’s lacrosse is the number two seed in the Skyline Conference tournament, and men’s lacrosse has the top seed in the Skyline Conference. What is particularly noteworthy is that, in addition to success and good sportsmanship on the field, the University athletes also excelled in the classroom, with 75 student-athletes named to numerous All-Academic Teams and three student-athletes earning Academic All-America honors.

Our coaches have won numerous honors as well:

  • Field Hockey Coach Beth Gottung won 2012 NJAC Coach of the Year and 2012 National Field Hockey Coaches Association South Atlantic Region Coach of the Year.
  • Women’s Basketball Coach Karin Harvey won 2012-13 NJAC Coach of the Year.
  • Men’s Lacrosse Coach Chris Kivlen won 2012 Skyline Conference Coach of the Year.
  • Softball Coach Anita Kubicka won 2012 NJAC Coach of the Year and NFCA East Region Coaching Staff of the Year.
  • Women’s Soccer Coach Pat Naughter won 2012 NJAC Coach of the Year.
  • Women’s Lacrosse Coach Nicol Parcelluzzi won 2012 NJAC Coach of the Year and 2012 Skyline Conference Coach of the Year.

Although Ed Chapel, Vice President for Information Technology, enjoys breaking his bones in a good game of ice hockey and frequently can be seen limping around campus on crutches, on the whole, the division of Information Technology tends to be more intellectually than physically athletic. Among its accomplishments this year, IT and the Enrollment Management team reconfigured the Student Information System to provide several new automated services to facilitate the student advising process.

IT has also been providing the support necessary for the University’s growing online, hybrid, and distance-learning programs, including a fully online faculty development program that provides an overview of teaching and learning online, an introduction to the various pedagogical considerations involved in the delivery of an online course, an orientation to online best practices, and guidelines for integrating appropriate instructional technologies to facilitate and enrich online and hybrid teaching and learning. Over 140 faculty have participated in that program to date.

IT has also supported our growing engagement in international video conference-based distance education technologies, including the eDiplomacy project with Turkey that I mentioned earlier, a project in Health and Nutrition Sciences with Bournemouth University in the United Kingdom, and, closer to home, Dr. Jackie Willis of the College of Science and Mathematics recently hosted five New Jersey School Districts for a total of 24 classes about the rain forests of Costa Rica using videoconferencing that reached more than 650 students in grades K through 9. As our online offerings expand and as students seek greater flexibility in accessing course-related software and as the types of devices they use to access those resources proliferate, the virtualization of computing laboratories becomes a necessity. Beginning this term, IT launched a virtualized computer laboratory pilot, giving students 24/7 access to standardized software that is available in our public computing labs. The availability of course content is another key element to foster effective use of online resources, and, among New Jersey institutions, the University and its students have logged the highest utilization from the NJVid cloud-based video content storage and streaming service.

The Information Technology Division continues to develop the infrastructure necessary to foster the growth and development of the University’s network-based information services: enhancing wireless infrastructure; increasing bandwidth; upgrading Network Access Control technology; increasing storage capacity for email, user home directories, and department file shares; and expanding data forensics capabilities.

In regard to the important OneMontclair project, the initiative to replace and transform the University’s information platforms, under the direction of Sam Bakane, we are beginning to see progress. The new Budget and Planning system was implemented this month.  Training is on-going, and the FY 2014 budget will be up on the new system. Detailed planning for the replacement of the Finance, Human Resources, and the all-important and complex Student Information systems is in full swing. A new chart of accounts and Finance system is scheduled to be operational in July 2014, and it will be followed by an HR system in December 2014, and the Student system in December 2015. 

In regard to the physical campus, as our co-generation plant reaches the end of its useful life, we are, as anyone walking on campus can see, advancing a major project to construct a new Combined Heating, Cooling, and Power Plant. The project includes the design, construction, financing, and operation of a new energy plant and the installation of new steam and chilled water piping throughout the campus. The plant will address the increased energy demands created by new facilities as well as many of the heating and cooling problems we have experienced in the campus’s older facilities. Construction began last April, and the project is scheduled to be completed early this summer. As sections of the project are completed, those areas will be re-landscaped, so, by fall, all the trenches, fences, and construction machinery related to the energy plant should be gone. I very much appreciate the patience with which everyone has dealt with the disruptions, as well as the oversight of the complicated logistics of the project by Vice President Bressler and his University Facilities team.

 

In the area of University Advancement, I am pleased to note the quality of University publications that has been recognized by the Association of Marketing and Communications Professionals. In a field that includes 6,000 entries each year, the University’s Montclair magazine and the new research newsletter Forward Thinking each received among the highest honors granted by the international MarCom Awards in 2012. The University Foundation has also increased funds raised this year to $7.8 million, as of the end of March, which is an increase over $5.6 million last year. The Foundation’s assets increased from $62 million as of the end of last year to $68 million as of the end of this February.

You know that all of the accomplishments I have mentioned today just scratch the surface of the full picture of the University’s work and achievements over the course of this year. All that I have reviewed today, and so much more, constitute the innumerable discrete activities that fill our days as a University community – advising a student, providing instruction, making curricular decisions, solving an engineering problem, coaching a team, implementing a new computing application, planning a budget, hiring an employee, renovating a lab, conducting research – the list is endless. All that each of us does constitutes the life of the University. It is natural that we become absorbed with all those discrete activities, that we think of them as our job, that they come to define our professional lives. When we see the results – the roster of graduating students, the courses taught, the papers and projects graded, the repaired HVAC system, the ball game won, the employee hired, the lab renovated, the experiment progressing, the new computer program implemented – it is natural that we think of those results as constituting the purposes of our professional lives.

All this is natural and it is important, but it is not sufficient. One likes to think that American higher education has a broad moral infrastructure. Closer to home, we at least like to think that Montclair State University has a moral infrastructure, a set of principles that inform all those activities that constitute the way we fill our days. Central to those principles is the concept that Montclair State University is, first and foremost and always, an educational institution. Well, yes, of course it is, you say, but I mean something more than the obvious. I mean that we are all educators, all the time in everything that we do. Whatever our role in the institution, we are all always, for better or for worse, educators. We are always modeling concepts and behavior, to our students certainly, but also to the watching world beyond the boundaries of our campus. In our classrooms, and well beyond our classrooms, we are always educating through our actions. We are setting standards of behavior; we are enacting models of citizenship; we are exhibiting the difference between critical thinking and the promulgation of ideologies, the difference between informed analysis and rant. We do this in our conversations, emails, casual and formal interactions, in our work in committees, in classrooms, in advising sessions, as we serve and assist students and each other, in our public presentations, and in the attitude and sense of purpose that we bring to those many activities that fill the days.

Whatever our specific responsibilities, we must remember that we are always teaching and that there is absolutely not a single interactive moment in the day when what we do is not influencing others. Every time we speak or act, we are teaching, and our students and our public is learning something. Because I think that in a very real way, this University community does have a very well defined moral center, I like to think that some of the unfortunate situations that have occurred at other institutions over the past couple of years could not happen here, or, at least, not if we remember to keep our responsibilities as educators always at the front of our mind.

So, in conclusion, I would note that, in Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel quotes Cardinal Wolsey as saying that “the making of a treaty is the treaty. It doesn’t matter what the terms are, just that there are terms.  It’s the goodwill that matters. When that runs out, the treaty is broken, whatever the terms say.” In that regard, the making of a speech is not unlike the making of a treaty. When I come each year in April and again in September to give this speech to the University community, it perhaps matters less what I say than that I come and say it, and that you come, with a generosity of spirit and good grace, to hear it. If we are able to leave from the giving and the hearing of this speech in goodwill, rededicated to our purposes as a community, feeling more hopeful and better about each other, then the time will have been worthwhile. It is the goodwill that matters. I know that I always feel better when we have gathered together, and I hope you do as well. And, if perchance you do not, which would be sad, then perhaps the ice cream which awaits us on the terrace will help.

Thank you all for your very splendid efforts this year.