President's Address to the University Community

April 18, 2012

Good afternoon. It is a pleasure to be with you on this wonderful spring day to take a few moments to reflect on the accomplishments and challenges of this past academic year. Throughout the year, during the miniscule interstices of time between my various responsibilities, very often at about 3:00 a.m. when I can’t sleep, I take the opportunity to read.  Not memos or reports or legislation or contracts, but actual books. I like to keep my hand in, as it were, so I don’t forget how to do it. Recently, I read a very astute satire by the Ukrainian writer Andrey Kurkov called Death and the Penguin, which brought together two of my particular interests, the interaction of government and media, on the one hand, and penguins on the other.  The book begins with a preface that perfectly describes how I often feel, as President of Montclair State University, when interacting with our friends in Trenton.  In case it is not clear, I am the militiaman, not the major, in this tale.  It goes like this:

A Militia major is driving along when he sees a militiaman standing with a penguin.
“Take him to the zoo,” he orders.
Some time later the same major is driving along when he sees the militiaman still with the penguin.
“What have you been doing?” he asks. “I said take him to the zoo.”
“We’ve been to the zoo, Comrade Major,” says the militiaman, “and the circus. And now we’re going to the pictures.”

From my perspective, not only is that little anecdote about miscommunication, it is also fundamentally about the misalignment of mission and expectations. The Major’s goal is to get the penguin confined within a highly regulated place, with a safe but very limited quality of life, while the militiaman assumes that the penguin can and should be free to expand and enhance its quality of life. Not to push the metaphor too far, this year, as in prior years, we have taken our amazing penguin of a university to the zoo and the circus and we will certainly soon be wanting to take him to the pictures. So I would like to spend just a few minutes talking about the State budget situation for higher education, which has become an all too familiar story for Montclair State and our sister penguin institutions.

When Governor Christie initially announced his proposed Fiscal Year 2013 budget in February, we were cautiously optimistic that operating support for higher education would be increased after many years of cuts or zero increases. Unfortunately, the numbers in the budget did not accord with that positive outlook, and the fact is that the proposed budget is flat for FY 2013. We will continue to advocate for higher education as the budget deliberations go forward in the Legislature, both in terms of operating appropriations and an even more important possible initiative for capital funding. Since the Governor continues to be consistent in his statements about the importance of investing in New Jersey higher education, and since the Legislator has expressed concurrence with that view, I continue to believe that there is reason for some optimism.

As it currently stands, the higher education budget proposal for the twelve senior public institutions next fiscal year provides operating support approximately equal to what it was in 1997, when these institutions had close to 40,000 fewer students, and that is before factoring in the negative effects of inflation. Despite the poor state support for higher education, we will continue, as we always have, to move forward on our long-term strategic goals. With the percentage of total revenues derived from State appropriations declining from 50 percent a decade ago to under 25 percent today, finding mission-appropriate activities that generate additional revenue from non-State sources becomes more important than ever. We must also:

  • apply rigorous standards to every hire and personnel action;
  • use every instructional, administrative, and student service resource efficiently;
  • continuously improve both academic and business practices; and
  • seek out additional efficiencies that will also yield greater quality.

I have asked department chairs, deans, directors, and vice presidents to exercise very thorough and careful budget discipline over everything from course offerings, class sizes, and scheduling to expenditures for any non-essential activities or materials.

The University’s FY2013 budget process has already begun and will continue over the next two months with the participation of all of the University’s many units. Please feel free to bring any ideas and questions you might have to your division and department heads. We will remain committed to the following principles to which we have been adhering consistently over a number of years:

  • budgets will be developed with a long-term perspective and will protect core academic programs;
  • we will continue to recruit highly qualified faculty to meet continued enrollment and program growth;
  • we will provide the facilities and equipment necessary for high-quality academic programs; and
  • we will protect the workforce of the University, which is the repository of the talent and energy that has driven the University’s accomplishments.

Related to this last point, I have heard over recent weeks concern expressed about the pace and, in some cases, the substance of the state-wide negotiations process. That process has moved more slowly than many of us have wished, although it has begun to gain some momentum now.  The parties have begun meeting regularly and are narrowing the issues before them. I have no doubt that negotiations will ultimately be resolved and equitable agreements put in place because that is what our negotiations history has been and that is what is in the interest of all parties. The leadership in the Governor’s Office of Employee Relations, which is responsible for the conduct of negotiations, is competent, experienced, and reasonable, as is the leadership on the union side, and I think we can rely on them to conclude negotiations in a satisfactory manner.

  • Moving to a review of the past year, the University continued to be recognized nationally for excellence in a variety of fields. For example:
  • The Heights residence complex was honored for its contribution to the state’s economic recovery and was recognized as the state’s Leading Public-Private Partnership project by the New Jersey Alliance for Action.
  • U.S. News & World Report rankings continue to name our graduate teacher preparation program as one of the top 20 in the nation, and once again named Montclair State a top-tier regional university.
  • The U.S. Department of State recognized Montclair State as a Top Producer of U.S. Fulbright Scholars, as the University this year welcomed its largest contingent of Fulbright scholars from overseas.
  • Montclair State was ranked in the top 2 percent nationally as a producer of undergraduate degrees for minority students by the magazine Diverse Issues in Higher Education.
  • For the 14th year in a row, The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education Magazine named the University one of the “Top 100 Colleges for Hispanics” in the nation, giving Montclair State the highest ranking in New Jersey.
  • For the third consecutive year, the University was selected by G.I. Jobs magazine as a “Military Friendly School.”
  • The University was once again named to Princeton Review’s Guide to Green Colleges.
  • Our First-Year Writing Program, under the leadership of Professor Emily Isaacs, was awarded a Certificate of Excellence from the Conference on College Composition and Communication.
  • And the men’s soccer team was ranked fourth in the nation by the National Soccer Coaches Association and, for the first time in the history of the program, played in the national championship. And talking about final fours, in addition to the soccer team, we should also note that the School of Business student team made the final four in this year’s New York Regional CFA Institute Research Challenge, besting 20 other teams with their presentation on MICROS Systems.

As a reflection of our continuing growth in reputation, the University’s enrollment grew to 18,500 students this year, almost 5,000 more students and a 35 percent increase over the year 2000. More significantly, the University granted close to 4,000 degrees last year, about 1,200 more degrees and a 70 percent increase over the number granted in the year 2000. Next year, we anticipate that the University’s enrollment will rise to approximately 18,900 students. It is very important to note that increasing enrollment numbers do not just reflect new students. They also reflect the result of our vigorous efforts at retaining current students, which should continue, with our continuing efforts, to be reflected in improved graduation rates.

Completed freshman applications for fall 2012 are at record numbers, and the popularity of our early action program grew significantly this year, with a 100 percent increase in early action applications. As part of the effort to continue to improve academic quality, the acceptance rate for the early action group was a very selective 33 percent. The average SAT for students in this group was 1680, and their average GPA was 3.6.

Montclair State’s six-year graduation rate remains far above the average of our national peer institutions, with 62.3% of our 2005 cohort graduating within six years. That is an improvement over 61.9 percent for our 2004 cohort. Our first-year retention rate also rose this past year. In addition, the total number of students on probation at the end of the 2010-11 academic year dropped by 3 percent compared with the previous academic year, and the percentage of first-year students on probation dropped by 1.2 percent. The numbers of students suspended and dismissed dropped dramatically, by 14 percent, and 35 percent respectively.

With the creation of the Center for Advising and Student Transitions and the Office of Academic Success and Retention Programs, and with increased reliance on research-based and data-driven approaches, we have bolstered our advising programs and our efforts to support student persistence to graduation. Examples of new programs include Step Up, a program that connects students with learning support and supplemental academic advising when their GPAs fall between 2.0 and 2.3, and the Academic Power Hours that bring learning support services to University Hall on a weekly basis for the benefit of academically at-risk populations.

Changes in Financial Aid protocols are also supporting improvements in student persistence, delivering a significant increase in need-based aid to students who are at risk of leaving the University as a result of financial hardship. This year saw a 25 percent increase over last year in University and University Foundation-generated financial aid for students, as last year’s $4.6 million in University aid grew this year to $5.7 million. New collaborations among Financial Aid, Student Accounts, Residential Education and Services, and the colleges and schools resulted in better identification of students in need of assistance, so that they could be reached by the appropriate support services and retained. The Financial Aid Office has also implemented a system for monitoring the academic progress of students who are at risk of losing financial aid eligibility so that they can be referred to the Center for Advising and Student Transitions for academic intervention. In one very significant indicator, the U.S. Department of Education recently issued the two-year draft annual cohort default rate for fiscal year 2010, and the loan repayment default rate for Montclair State graduates dropped from 3.7 percent to 2.9 percent. This significant decrease means that our graduates are having success in securing employment, which is particularly impressive during such difficult financial times.

On the academic front, there have been a number of significant developments and accomplishments in the several colleges and schools.

The big news in the College of the Arts is the approval by the Board of Trustees of a new School of Communication and Media, effective July 1, 2012. The new School is designed to provide state-of-the-art professional programs in a wide range of existing and rapidly emerging communication and media fields. Combining our current programs in Communication Studies, Broadcasting, and Filmmaking with new initiatives, the School will offer interdisciplinary undergraduate degrees in Communication Studies, including a new offering in Health Communication, in Communication and Media Arts, in Television and Digital Media, with concentrations in Television Production, Electronic Journalism, Documentary, and Audio/Sound Design, and in Filmmaking. The School will also offer the current master’s degree in Public and Organizational Relations. A search for a Director for the School is currently underway.

To support the School of Communication and Media, the University recently completed a major technology upgrade of our DuMont Television Center into a state-of-the-art, high-definition studio, and radio and sound studios, as well as two multi-platform newsrooms that will be ready by September on the 3rd floor of the newly renovated Schmitt Hall. The University has established formal relationships with NJTV, providing the broadcast home for the New Jersey nightly news program, as well as with WNYC for their New Jersey focused programming. Additional investments in faculty, facilities, and professional partnerships and initiatives in all areas of media will continue to round out the scope of the School as it develops.

The Cali School of Music had a successful year, making full use of the Leshowitz Recital Hall, and offering about 200 performances that attracted more than 10,000 attendees. The College has also been actively expanding its international linkages with universities in Europe, South Korea, China, Hungary, and New Zealand, and the Department of Art and Design has successfully established one of the University’s first joint academic programs with an international institution, specifically a BFA program in Graphic Design and Industrial Design with Seoul National University of Technology. It should also be noted that The Fashion Studies program had a full year’s occupancy of its wonderful new facilities, and student demand for admission to the program continues to grow.

The excellence of the programs of the College of Education and Human Services was once again recognized by the recent selection of Montclair State to participate in 100K in 10.  Funded by the Carnegie Corporation, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Google, and The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, 100K in 10 has a mission to recruit, prepare, and retain 100,000 new STEM teachers in ten years. Montclair State is one of a small number of institutions and the only New Jersey institution selected for this initiative, which also includes Stanford, New York University, and the University of California at Berkeley.

The College of Education and Human Services continues to receive significant recognition, both in New Jersey and nationally, for the Newark-Montclair Urban Teacher Residency Program, which is funded by a five-year, $6.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education. This innovative, apprenticeship-based, teacher preparation program for carefully selected individuals with a deep commitment to teaching in Newark is modeled after medical residencies.

The College also opened its newest center this year, the Center for Autism and Early Childhood Mental Health, which will serve as an educational and community hub for clinical treatment, professional development, training, and research.

I am particularly pleased by the College’s efforts to contribute to the University-wide focus on improved advising for undergraduate and graduate students. New initiatives include the development of a mechanism to share information and resources across departments, the creation of an online tracking system to improve communication between faculty members and professional advisors regarding student advisees, and the scheduling of mandatory advising information sessions for all first-year undergraduates.

And, finally, we have the pleasure of congratulating the College on receiving the final State approvals for a new PhD program in Family and Child Studies, which will admit its first class in September 2013.

In the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, the Departments of Linguistics, Modern Languages and Literatures, and Spanish and Italian all moved to beautiful new facilities in a completely rebuilt Schmitt Hall, where state-of-the-art technology and specialized laboratories will permit major advances in language and linguistics teaching and learning and support the active research programs in which these departments are engaged.

The College of Humanities and Social Sciences continued its pursuit of excellence in undergraduate instruction, significantly expanding undergraduate participation in research, with a record number of students submitting papers to the Undergraduate Research Symposium.  Students from nearly half of the College’s departments and programs have read papers at national and regional conferences during the last academic year, including the National Conference of Undergraduate Research. 

In the College of Science and Mathematics, the Red Hawk Mathematics Learning Center, more familiarly known as the Math Emporium, successfully opened this spring under the direction of Catherine Holl-Cross, with a pilot program for 330 students in two math courses. The Center’s excellent facility occupies the north end of the 3rd floor of the recently renovated Schmitt Hall. It not only provides a highly cost-effective model for basic instruction in mathematics, it has also proved to be an inviting, effective, and engaging place for learning, with students often arriving early and staying late after each class. The pilot term has been running without a hitch, and preparations are underway to serve 2,000 students in five math courses this coming fall.

Funded through two National Institutes of Health awards, the Center for Quantitative Obesity Research, directed by Prof. Diana Thomas, was recently initiated. The Center will facilitate the application of quantitative methods that promote collaborative, interdisciplinary research into obesity-related health issues and that translate research findings into clinical applications to improve the health of individual patients. The Center is the first site in the world to focus quantitative analysis specifically on obesity.

With an eye toward nurturing the next generation of technology pioneers, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority has entered into a partnership with TechLaunch, LLC to create the state’s first technology accelerator — here on the campus of Montclair State. The accelerator model has achieved notable success in other states by offering technology-focused entrepreneurs an opportunity to showcase their products and ideas in a highly intensive, mentor-driven, and boot camp style environment. TechLaunch expects to host 12 companies in the first year.

In another major College initiative, the New Jersey School of Conservation received a $2.6 million grant from the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities to install a solar field. One-third of the new capacity was installed at the School in Sussex County and the remainder on our main campus at the Ward Trucking site. These solar fields will produce over 300 kilowatts of electricity and substantially reduce the University’s carbon footprint.

There is a good deal of good news from the School of Business. After a number of months of deliberation, planning and negotiation, the University is close to reaching an agreement for a long-term lease on 150,000 square feet on four contiguous floors of the Overlook complex to build out as a new permanent home for the School of Business. Overlook is the very large building with the green roof contiguous to the north border of our campus, and what the Overlook building overlooks is, in fact, the MSU campus. The facility will provide very beautiful, high quality space, terrific visibility, and ample parking for the School of Business, and it will essentially become the University’s new northern boundary with direct access to Route 46. The University has been looking longingly at that building for a couple of decades, but access to it has not been possible. With a very recent change in view by the owner, and, after considerable analysis, it became clear that a long-term lease option provided a number of significant advantages over the originally planned new construction. Should the potential agreement be consummated, the current schedule suggests that the School of Business could be occupying their new space by September of 2013.

Over the past year, the School of Business has overhauled its undergraduate curriculum and MBA program to reflect an innovative integration of study across disciplines, problem solving, communications, and globalization. The new undergraduate curriculum is defined by an integrated core curriculum that more accurately reflects real-world business interactions and offers better development of communication and data-analysis skills. The new MBA program has migrated to a cohort-based program, offered in a sequence of shorter, intensive half-semester courses that will foster a stronger community and more opportunities to choose among elective offerings. These curricular changes are part of the School’s effort to connect their students more actively with the marketplace as part of their core academic experience. Most recently, for example, 50 undergraduate students in a capstone strategy class spent a full semester engaged in solving real-world business problems with several firms in New Jersey. As part of their marketing course, a similar group of students engaged with the Smashburger chain to provide advice on how the company can enhance its market share. 

In the Graduate School, the focus this year has been on enrollment planning and growth, new program development and assessment of curricula, and initiatives to enhance the environment for graduate education at the University. The Graduate School has moved into the new age of social media with Facebook, Pandora and Twitter, and is receiving a good response from prospective students. The School has been particularly focused on strengthening its relationships and synergies with the Graduate Council and the graduate program directors to maximize the positive impacts that can flow from more rigorous workforce data analyses, utilization of electronic data systems, and improvements to policies and processes governing graduate admissions and the support and success of graduate students.

A major new initiative which I am pleased to announce today will be the creation, within the Graduate School, of the Office of Extended Learning and Special Academic Programs, with the promotion of Jamison Bilella to head up this enterprise as Associate Dean. Jamie will continue to have responsibility for Summer and Winter Sessions, as well as the other programs he has managed, such as the Gifted and Talented Program, but his responsibilities will be significantly expanded to head up what is planned as a very entrepreneurial, business-based revenue-generating unit with responsibility for development, marketing, recruitment, and operation of on-line programs, post-baccalaureate credit and non-credit certificate and other programs, and a broad range of extended learning programs. These programs will be designed to increase incremental net revenue to support the University’s core instructional and research activities and to provide a sustainable competitive advantage for the University in ways that are consistent with our mission and of high quality. The first visible initiative of this new unit will be the planned launch of two fully on-line masters programs in January 2013, the MA in Educational Leadership and the MA in Child Advocacy. There will now be a clear University structure to support the special program efforts of the academic units, to assure the success of those efforts, and to maximize the revenue that can be returned to our departments and colleges.

In the area of scholarship and research, the achievements of the faculty and professional staff have been impressive on a number of fronts, and there has been a noticeable increase in the dissemination of scholarly work in numerous important publications and venues. Provost Gingerich and Dean Hunt will once again be holding a special event on April 23rd and producing a handsome brochure celebrating the faculty’s major publications. A very few notable achievements from this very large body of accomplishment include: Meredith Monk’s CD, Songs of Ascension, featuring the Montclair State University Singers under the direction of Prof. Heather Buchanan; Prof. Zoe Burkholder’s Color in the Classroom: How American Schools Taught Race, 1900-1954, Oxford University Press; Prof. Jonathan Greenberg’s Modernism, Satire, and the Novel, Cambridge University Press; and Prof. Meiyin Wu’s Wetland Plants of the Adirondacks, Trafford Press.

  • As of this date, the University has attracted $14.8 million in new research grants this year. Among many others, I would note the following examples:
  • Jennifer Goeke of the Curriculum and Teaching Department received a five-year $1.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education for curriculum development related to the preparation of middle and secondary educators. 
  • Linda Wise of the Early Childhood, Elementary Education, and Literacy Education Department received $688,000 from the Paterson Public Schools District to prepare three cohorts of Paterson teachers.
  • Dibyendu Sarkar, Yang Deng, and Sudipta Rakshit of the Earth and Environmental Studies Department won a two and half year research grant of $344,000 from DuPont to develop an innovative environmental remediation method to address multiple contaminants in groundwater.
  • Nicole Bryan of the Management department was awarded a $100,000 grant from Microsoft as part of a major Microsoft initiative to understand the role of technology in human trafficking.

Among other notable faculty and staff achievements:

  • Robert Aldridge of the Cali School shared with his librettist a Grammy for Best Contemporary Classical Composition for the opera Elmer Gantry Bob will be leaving us for Rutgers next year, and we wish him well at his new institution.
  • Danné Davis of the Early Childhood, Elementary, and Literacy Education Department was named 2011-12 Multicultural Educator of the Year and awarded the G. Pritchy Smith Multicultural Educator Award by the National Association of Multicultural Education.
  • Gregg Festa, Director of the College’s ADP Center for Teacher Preparation and Learning Technologies, was named to Tech & Learning magazine’s list of the 10 Most Influential People in EdTech for 2011.
  • Ana María Villegas of the Curriculum and Teaching Department was named a fellow of the American Educational Research Association in February 2012.
  • Raul Galoppe of the Spanish and Italian Department and Peter Siegel of the Anthropology Department both won Fulbright Awards, to Argentina and Holland, respectively.
  • The Star-Ledger named Julian Keenan of the Psychology Department one of “New Jersey’s 20 Biggest Brains.”
  • Associate Dean Lynn Schneemeyer and John Siekerka of the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department were inducted into the New Jersey Inventors Hall of Fame.
  • In a first for the University, John Siekierka and David Rotella of the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department will participate in an early-stage, drug-discovery program in partnership with Celgene Corporation to assess the effectiveness of a collection of propriety kinase inhibitors as treatments for diseases like elephantiasis and river blindness, which affect millions of individuals.
  • Agatha Jeffers and Marion Mogielnicki of the Accounting, Law, and Taxation Department and Richard Lord and Susana Yu of the Economics and Finance Department, all received Bright Ideas awards from the New Jersey Business and Industry Association.
  • Coach of the Year awards were won by Porscha Dobson for Women’s Outdoor Track and Field, by Beth Gottung for Field Hockey, and by Nicol Parcelluzzi for Women’s Lacrosse.

A number of major changes have taken place across the University in the last year. Certainly, the most visually prominent of these was the successful opening in September of the largest student residential project ever built in the state of New Jersey, The Heights, housing 2,000 students and transforming the north side of the campus. For the first time in the history of this institution since its founding in 1908, we do not have a student housing shortage. With the new facilities at The Heights, I think we have all the new residential structures we will build for the time being.  Between the opening of the Village at Little Falls in 2005, Sinatra Hall in 2010 and the opening of The Heights, we have added more than 3,100 beds to the campus over a period of six years.  We are also continuing the phased renovation of older structures. Blanton Hall, a thirty-year-old facility, is undergoing major renovation, including the dining room, where a new retail food service experience will be created for our students and others in the community. Blanton will be ready for occupancy again in September.

Coupled with improved attention to the commuter population through the Center for Student Involvement, all students now have an opportunity to enjoy an active life on campus seven days a week. Various studies clearly show that student engagement in activities on campus strongly supports their success inside the classroom and contributes to their overall growth.

The University’s Living and Learning Community Program also experienced expansion this year. The program offers students an opportunity to live with a community of students pursuing a common area of study. For example, this year, new residential communities were begun for 45 students in the Business program and 18 students majoring in languages. Next year, the College of Education and Human Services will create a community for approximately 30 students in Teacher Education. These communities complement longstanding and even larger programs already in place in the College of Science and Mathematics and the College of the Arts. Next year will also see the creation of a substance-free living community, which will serve as an important resource for students in recovery.

On the business systems front, the OneMontclair initiative, which replaced the Bell Tower initiative, is moving forward with a renewed focus on organizational change management and a business process review and redesign that will inform the suite of software applications to be installed and guide the plan for their implementation. This program represents an enormous opportunity for the entire campus community, as well as significant challenges, forcing us to assess how we conduct business and to identify where our services or processes require improvement.

The University’s online learning capabilities have advanced significantly during the past year.  Our Instructional Design team has worked with close to two dozen faculty members to create the foundational courses necessary to launch two fully online degree programs in January 2013: Educational Leadership and Child Advocacy. Other programs are in planning and development. Our Instructional Design team is using an online course content development model and an online course template that includes social-interaction strategies to promote active learning, collaboration, and critical thinking. The Instructional Design team, which has recently been enlarged, has also produced a faculty development program, “Empowering Teaching Online,” that provides faculty members with an overview of online learning, an introduction to various pedagogical considerations, an orientation to best practices, and guidelines for integrating appropriate instructional technologies to facilitate online and hybrid teaching and learning.  These resources are reinforced by the website “Instructional Design Services,” which provides advice on how to become a successful online instructor.  On the student side of the equation, the Instructional Design team has created a Web resource to explain what is involved in online learning to help students assess whether it is right for them and to offer strategies and tips that will help them become successful online learners.

IT has completed the second phase of the campus wireless build-out, which offers access to the University’s information resources on any mobile device from any building. The third and final phase of the wireless project, which will provide pervasive wireless connectivity in all of the University’s outdoor spaces, should be completed by next fall. IT also completed the University’s first foray into public cloud computing services, successfully migrating all faculty and staff from MeetingMaker to Google Calendar. They are currently evaluating the adoption of additional services available through Google Apps for Education such as Gmail for student use and Google Docs for document sharing and collaboration.

The University remains committed to providing computing hardware that can support the latest applications and media, and with that goal in mind, IT is implementing the third iteration of the University’s computer lifecycle replacement program. Last summer saw the replacement of all of the computers in our laboratory facilities with high-capacity and feature-rich Lenovo and Apple laptop and desktop machines. In January, we began replacing faculty and staff computers. When this cycle ends, we will have refreshed approximately 3,500 computers.

IT also initiated a program to improve the management of printing services, the PaperCut print-management solution, which permits students to use our laboratory printers from anywhere on campus, manage their print jobs, and monitor both the costs and the carbon footprint of their printing activities. Preliminary data indicate that the PaperCut solution has yielded a 30 to 40 percent reduction in paper and toner consumption, and it has also eliminated lines in the laboratories because students no longer need to use a lab machine to print on a public laboratory computer.

Also on the technology side, the Office of University Communications launched a completely revamped athletics website, which is the first in a series of new websites that will be implemented this year. The site features a bold design and improved navigation as well as live statistics, a mobile version, newsletters, and social media.

On the less publicly exciting, but nevertheless highly critical infrastructure side of the campus, we are commencing our second major project under the New Jersey Economic Stimulus Act, a $90 million project to construct a combined heating and cooling power plant and distribution system to serve the campus. The University’s cogeneration plant is at the end of its useful life, and this new public/private partnership will enable us to replace that infrastructure without a financial investment by either the state or the University and assure that we can provide cost-effective and more reliable heating and cooling to all of our buildings.

This year, as in the past, we will undertake a number of campus-wide renovation projects based on the priorities set by academic and administrative units and University Facilities. Although we have gone without capital support from the state for over 25 years, to the extent permitted by budgetary considerations, we will continue to build, renovate, repair, and improve University facilities. However, the highest priority we have is for a statewide higher education capital initiative that will provide resources to meet our facilities needs. First on that list of priorities is a new science building, a Center for Environmental and Life Sciences. That 98,000 square foot facility, estimated to cost about $55 million, is designed and ready to build as soon as funding is identified. The facility will house classrooms and laboratories for instruction that allows for “real world” experiences for our students in environmental management and pharmaceutical life sciences, as well as critically needed laboratories for university/industry collaborations. It will also provide space for the PSEG Institute for Sustainability Studies, the Passaic River Institute, and the Sokol Institute for the Pharmaceutical Life Sciences, and it will have the necessary laboratory facilities to advance faculty research in parasitic diseases, oncology, virology, site decontamination, biodiversity, and other fields, all of which are currently constrained by space limitations.

Beyond the new science building there is a long waterfall of connecting projects. Once the School of Business vacates Partridge, Partridge can be renovated as a one-stop integrated student service facility. That will enable the renovation of Morehead for the non-specialized space for the new School of Communication and Media, which will, in turn, release space in Life Hall for needed space for Theatre and Dance. The renovation of Partridge will also make available a portion of College Hall, which will make possible the provision of permanent space for the Graduate School and related operations. The development of the Ward property will enable us to empty the maintenance buildings near the Red Hawk Deck, which will enable us to renovate that space for the Art and Design programs in the “dirty arts,” which in turn will enable us to renovate Calcia for the “clean arts.” It is an excessively complex mosaic, but, one by one, we knock over the dominoes and get the job done.

Several times today in talking about facilities and programs, I have mentioned Schmitt Hall, which will be dedicated tomorrow in recognition of that generous benefactor, who, as it happens, is here with us today. A native of New Jersey, Conrad J. Schmitt graduated from Columbia High School in South Orange/Maplewood with a deep love for foreign languages, and there was no doubt that he would continue his language studies in college. He transferred from Middlebury College to Montclair State and flourished under the tutelage of beloved teachers like Teresa de Escoriaza and Germaine Cressey. He later observed that “learning from them had a lifelong impact” on him. Following his graduation, magna cum laude, from Montclair State in 1958, Conrad taught modern languages at area high schools and colleges, including Montclair State. After a rewarding career in teaching, he joined the McGraw-Hill Book Company, where his responsibilities included research, editing, production, marketing, and sales in both domestic and international markets. The author or co-author of more than 250 foreign language textbooks for all levels of instruction in Spanish, French, Italian, and German, Conrad has lectured to teacher groups in every state in the country and many countries abroad.

Not long ago, when revising his estate plans, Conrad decided to include Montclair State. His bequest will help ensure that future students interested in language study will enjoy the same opportunities that made such a difference in his life. Tomorrow, we will celebrate the dedication of Conrad J. Schmitt Hall with Conrad’s family, lifelong friends, and classmates. Conrad, please stand. Your Montclair State extended family expresses its gratitude for your extraordinary generosity and vision. Thank you.

In a related development, on May 1, we will dedicate the Teresa de Escoriaza Seminar Room in Schmitt Hall, one of the loveliest rooms on campus. “Scory,” as she was affectionately known to her students, was a beloved Spanish professor who taught at Montclair State from 1929 to 1959. She was a magnificent teacher who influenced the lives and careers of generations of students, Conrad Schmitt among them. Almost 60 of her former students came together and contributed generously to create this permanent honor to her legacy of excellence.

This year, we launched a new initiative called The President’s Club to encourage and acknowledge individual leadership gifts to the University. Under the chairmanship of Greg Collins, Class of 1979 and a member of the University Foundation Board of Trustees, and a committee of alumni, parents, and friends, the Club recognizes individuals who contribute $1,000 or more to the University each year.  In its first nine months, The President’s Club counts 135 members, some of them among you today, whose combined gifts to the President’s Club total about $678,000. The donors have my sincere gratitude.

In the current environment, with embarrassingly low operating support and no capital support from the state, the support of alumni, foundations, corporations and friends has become increasingly critical. To help with that challenge, we now have professional and experienced development officers working closely with the colleges and schools, and there are several major gifts which may soon be announced.

In order to enhance the University’s public presence, we are working with a higher education strategy firm, Mind Over Media, to better understand and refine Montclair State’s identity in the marketplace. Thank you to everyone who participated in focus groups or responded to the online survey; your perspectives are necessary and important.

As we gear up for our work next year, we will be without the contributions of two long-term deans, of whom we have become quite fond, Dean Cutler and Dean Newman, but I am pleased to announce that we have completed the searches for their successors. Dan Gurskis will become Dean of the College of the Arts in mid-August. He comes to Montclair State from Brooklyn College of the City University of New York, where he is a professor and chair of the Dept. of Film and a special assistant to the president. In addition to his academic experience, Dan Gurskis has held creative and management positions in film, television, theater and advertising and is the author of numerous screenplays for film and television. His undergraduate degree is from the University of Pennsylvania in the History of American Ideas, and he holds a Master of Fine Arts in Theatre from Brandeis University. Dr. Francine Peterman will become the new dean of the College of Education and Human Services. She also comes to us from CUNY, in this case Queens College, where she is currently serving as Professor and Dean of Education. Prior to her time at Queens, she served in several positions at Cleveland State University, including Professor and Chair of the Department of Curriculum and Foundations.

As you know, the University’s new strategic plan was adopted during the fall, and now, through the collective efforts of the Committee on University Effectiveness, the University has committed itself to ensuring that divisional goals are aligned with the Plan. Student Development and Campus Life is the first division to create a set of measurable goals and a template for goal design that will be shared with other divisions. To facilitate the process, the Office of Institutional Research has assumed responsibility for implementing TracDat, a software application designed to collect and store information about assessment activities, and Institutional Research will also develop uniform procedures for assessing institutional effectiveness that all other divisions can use to achieve the goals articulated in our Strategic Plan.  The next step will be the incorporation of existing information on student learning assessment into TracDat to house all assessment data in one location, a task certain to simplify reporting on assessment of both student learning and institutional effectiveness as is required by Middle States for continued accreditation of the University.

In just a few short weeks, we will be marching quite literally through our six graduation convocations and grand commencement ceremony. We will again have a record-breaking number of graduates which is estimated to be somewhere around 4,000 recipients of baccalaureate, masters, and doctoral degrees. In addition to our deliriously happy students and their families, we will have with us a distinguished group of honorary degree recipients, and I express my appreciation to our Honorary Degree Committee for their work. The honorees this year are: Dennis Bone, the CEO of Verizon New Jersey who will be at the School of Business Convocation; Michael Cryor, who earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Psychology at Montclair State and who has had a very distinguished career, will be at the Graduate School Convocation; Jacques D’Amboise, the renowned ballet dancer and choreographer will be at the College of the Arts Convocation; Brian Lehrer, a highly regarded journalist and commentator and host of the WNYC program that bears his name, will be at the College of Humanities and Social Sciences Convocation; Gene Likens, the distinguished biologist and ecologist will be at the College of Science and Mathematics Convocation; Patrick McCarthy, the president of the Annie E. Casie Foundation, will be at the College of Education and Human Services Convocation; and, finally, at the Commencement, we will be joined by Victoria Kennedy, who serves on the boards of the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and who has been very active in regard to issues that affect women, children and families, including efforts to reduce gun deaths and injuries to children. I look forward to seeing all of you at Commencement as well as at your college convocations. As you can imagine, these events are very meaningful and important to our students, and there really is no substitute for your presence.

Finally, before I release you to your well-earned ice cream, I want to say a few more general words about life in the University. One sometimes hears complaints about universities being run like businesses or being privatized, and these comments are meant to suggest that something is wrong.  I think we have to let go of such notions. There may be some who yearn for a small college of long ago, an idyllic setting where wise teacher and eager students sit under the shade of a tree and teaching and learning requires little more than a few books and time for discourse. It is a lovely picture, and there are still some small colleges that try to embody that model. But, I dare say, it is not what most of you have in mind professionally, and not what the vast majority of your students have in mind when they come to Montclair State.

When I first came to the presidency of Montclair State in the fall of 1998, this institution, just recently having advanced to the standing of a university, functioned with an operating budget of $122 million. This year’s operating budget is $330 million, a 270 percent increase, reflecting huge investments that have been made in academic programs, faculty, technology infrastructure, scientific equipment, facilities, and academic support programs and materials. The reality of the university of today is that it is a very large business and an exceptionally complex business, with many of the complexities forced upon it by external imperatives over which we have little control. Think of just a few areas. $150 million in federal and state financial aid annually flows through the University for the benefit of students, combined with another $5.7 million in University and University Foundation-generated financial aid. That is a huge business governed by volumes of federal and state regulations and requiring complex information systems and collaboration among aid officers, bursars, accountants, admissions officers, and academic officers, and it has to be run like a business, albeit a business with a heart, because the whole purpose of that business is to use those dollars as effectively as possible for the benefit of our students. Or, to provide another example, the provision of information technology resources to all of you for instruction and advisement, for research, for communication both within the University and with colleagues around the world, and for managing your operations, is a $12.1 million business. It is subject to massive and numerous business agreements and licensing and maintenance arrangements with hardware and software providers, with telecommunications enterprises, and centrally and decentralized in your colleges and divisions, it involves approximately 200 employees at the University with highly specialized and very distinctive skills and abilities. Every day you all want more of it and the ability to get more out of it, and you don’t like when it gets a glitch, and it has to be run like a business, albeit a business with a genuine service modality, because the whole purpose of that business is to use those dollars to facilitate the educational, scientific, and intellectual foundations of the institution.

The college of yesterday could, to a not insignificant degree, be run by committee. The university of today would perish in a day if anyone tried to run it that way. So what then is the meaning of collegial governance today, and how does a university benefit from the thoughtful participation of those who make up this very sizable community? In large measure, the answer to that question is as complex as the institution itself, but there is no question in my mind that it starts at the local level. Every program, every department, every service and administrative unit in the university has a governance role to play. So, let’s take for example the $32 million business that constitutes graduate education at the University. Every graduate program has faculty and other professionals who are responsible for it, and who must ask the right questions about it, make the right decisions and adopt the right policies and practices in regard to student admission, program development, course scheduling, student advising, graduate assistantships, acquisition of external support, utilization of facilities and equipment, and a myriad of other issues. From responsible engagement at the local level, individuals not only participate in shaping and defining the university, they also develop the experience and knowledge base to bring productive thinking to deliberative bodies beyond the local level, for example, to the University-wide Graduate Council, that is tackling similar questions and issues on a larger canvas. Ultimately, the members of that Council, through responsible engagement, develop the experience and knowledge base to make appropriate recommendations to those who manage the implementation of academic policies, the communications, technological resources, facilities, and service resources on which the graduate programs depend. It is an iterative and complex process, and, as scholars, you are especially able to appreciate that jumping in at the end of the day with an opinion is not going to be that useful to the University, as distinct from engaging with an issue at the place where it begins and developing an informed understanding of it. For those who truly want to be part of the collegial governance of the institution, there are innumerable opportunities to do so, if one is ready to accept that responsible engagement in governance must be thoughtful, organized, consistent, and of the kind that builds expertise and genuine understanding in a specific area. The complexity of the organism has grown well beyond the ability of any single person to be expert in all areas. So, I genuinely encourage you all to find your major areas of interest in this University and focus in on those, contributing sustained and responsible energy to help us all use our resources and talents in the best possible way to realize our mission—the education of students, the creation of citizens, and the advancement of knowledge.

I wish you all a successful conclusion to this spring term, and now, let us take our penguin to the pictures, and get some ice cream on the way.

Thank you.

Media: