President's Address to the University Community

April 23, 2014

Photo: Mike Peters

Good afternoon. I welcome you to the long-awaited arrival of spring, marked by our campus daffodils and tulips, I welcome you to the light at the end of the tunnel of this academic year, and I welcome you to my speech. It is very nice of you to keep coming back each year.

All of us, one way or another, have talked and read about the transformations occurring both in the larger world and in higher education, and I focus on that subject today because it is particularly relevant to Montclair State University, an institution that is growing rapidly and that has embraced intentional and planned transformation. Embraced it, not just because a university with a big mission and a small budget cannot afford to take anything for granted, but also because we value the path of exploration, because we know for a certainty that the future will not be the past, a simple truth that so many find difficult to grasp, and because we want to be the best at what we do, and to do our best for those we serve.

Absolutely central to our transformation and to the realization of our individual and institutional potential are two critical elements. The first is collaboration: the creation of initiatives and programs that incorporate both the internal and external relationships necessary to transformative scholarship and research and to connecting excellent educational experiences for our students to organizations, schools, and communities beyond our own boundaries. The second critical element is communication: the intentional and strategic effort to reach more people, for their benefit and for the benefit of our work. So, today, I will discuss some specific examples of where new initiatives at collaboration and communication are happening in the University, using this occasion to give us the chance to see ourselves from a somewhat different perspective and, hopefully, to energize our sense of the possible. At the outset, I apologize that the constraints of time dictate that these comments must be exemplary rather than comprehensive and that many notable accomplishments and efforts will be left out.

I start with an example in the traditional area of language study, where faculty and staff have taken on the challenge of not letting the study of modern languages and all the cultural and intellectual richness associated with it fade into the sunset, as English becomes the world language in both academic and business fields. There is little in our environment that guarantees that the study of modern languages will retain its vitality, and, indeed, as the University enrollment grew quickly over the last decade, majors in modern languages were not sharing in that growth. Consequently, two years ago, when the language and linguistics faculty had the opportunity to move into the wonderful new facilities of Schmitt Hall, they took that opportunity to revitalize and strengthen their programs. The state-of-the art translation and interpretation laboratories have made possible the development of new programs and have supported the acquisition of federal grants and the University’s ability to address U.S. Department of State priorities in language acquisition. A newly revived German major, developed by Professor Thomas Herold and an Arabic major, in development by Mazooz Sehwail, will join French, Italian and Spanish to provide students with five modern language major options, as well as Latin, a somewhat less modern language, and opportunities to study Chinese, Hebrew, Japanese, Portuguese, and Russian.

The language programs, chaired by Professors Lois Oppenheim and Linda Levine, have reached out to the diverse communities and high schools of northern New Jersey. Last spring, the French program hosted nearly 400 students for a day of French language and culture activities, and this spring, the program registered 470 students representing 22 area schools. With funds from the Santander Bank, the Spanish program brought 750 high school students from 16 schools to see a production of the play, La Gringa, and to converse with the author. In the fall, the Italian program offered Italian Teaching Day to 103 teachers from seven states, and this spring, the program hosted 350 students and teachers from 16 high schools at Italian Culture Day. All of these activities are supported by the Admissions Office with initiatives that have resulted in increased interest in our language programs among area high school students and teachers. It is not enough to offer excellent educational programs; we need to make sure that prospective and current students know about those programs, and we need to work at acquiring external support for our efforts. In addition to departmental leadership, such programs require committed faculty and staff participation, and I recognize the efforts of Professor Anne Edstrom of Spanish, Professor Kathleen Loysen of French, Dr. Mary Ann Re of the Coccia Institute, and Professor Victoria Larson of Classics and General Humanities. I would also note the very successful efforts of the Linguistics faculty, under the leadership of Professor Eileen Fitzpatrick and Instructional Specialist Jennifer Perlis to expand the high demand program in American Sign Language.

Another example of comprehensive program development is the area of Child Advocacy and Policy. In this case, an entirely new interdisciplinary field was developed focused on the important current issues related to the well-being of the child in society, blending aspects of psychology, law, sociology, and social work, and creating a model that has been adopted by over 40 other higher education institutions. This year, the BA in Child Advocacy and Policy enrolled 136 majors, several certificate programs enrolled over 200 students, and the Master of Arts in Child Advocacy grew to 124 students, making it the largest graduate program in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences and one of two fully on-line programs at the University.

The success of the program rests strongly on its substantive relationships with state agencies and community organizations dedicated to the welfare of children and adolescents. Currently, the Center manages four grants from the New Jersey Department of Child and Families, including three awards totaling nearly $2 million to provide training to child welfare professionals in various dimensions of child advocacy and policy. In addition, through a partnership with Rutgers University, a grant provides a residential summer program for young adult recipients of New Jersey Foster Care Scholarships.

The force behind this extraordinary growth and development was Professor Robert McCormick. Robert’s sudden passing in January has been a great loss for the University, and, in recognition of his contributions over his 42 years at Montclair State University, but especially for his ground-breaking work in the area of Child Advocacy, on April 3rd of this year, the Board of Trustees renamed the Center for Child Advocacy as the Robert D. McCormick Center for Child Advocacy and Policy.

Collaborations that extend beyond the University are also at the heart of some of the University’s most important externally funded projects. In one example on the research front, Professor David Rotella, the Sokol Professor of Chemistry, recently began work on a $2.5 million, five-year federal grant from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency to synthesize inhibitors of the botulinum neurotoxin, a major bioterrorism concern. The project is a collaborative effort, and our scientists will be working with scientists at the U.S. Army Research Institute for Chemical Defense, Brookhaven National Laboratory, the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, the Naval Research Laboratory, and two pharmaceutical companies, Ossianix, headquartered in Ireland and Hawaii Biotech. Internally, Professor Rotella’s laboratory will also work with Professor John Siekierka, the Director of Montclair State’s Sokol Institute for the Pharmaceutical Life Sciences, to test selected new compounds for their toxicity against normal cells, a key piece of information needed by the larger consortium.

The College of Education and Human Services has fostered a culture of seeking external funding in order to enhance the capacity of the faculty and professional staff to support important educational and research initiatives and to deepen the College’s capacity to contribute to community initiatives and to be a change agent in helping to create a healthier, better educated, and more just society. The College was successful in raising over $4 million to support their work this year, and they have submitted close to $7 million in additional proposals for next year and have already received $3.6 million in new awards. The bulk of this work is highly collaborative and community-oriented in its focus.

For example, a $1.4 million grant was awarded by the National Science Foundation, Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program to recruit, prepare and support new science teachers for New Jersey’s high-need K-12 school districts. This project represents a strong collaboration between the College of Science and Mathematics and the College of Education and Human Services, an initiative that I hope will be a model for growing cross-University collaborations. Under the direction of Professor Sandra Adams, from the Department of Biology and Molecular Biology, with co-leadership by Professor Douglas Larkin from Secondary and Special Education and Dr. John Berger from the County College of Morris, the project has a special emphasis on the preparation of teachers in chemistry, physics, and physical science for high schools that serve large numbers of minority students and students from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds. A second component of the project is to provide the Noyce Scholars with an experience that offers them a vision of the range of science-related careers available for their future students, and that component of the program will be coordinated with partners in local biotechnology, pharmaceutical, and manufacturing companies.

The College of Science and Mathematics, under Dean Prezant’s leadership, has embraced a collaborative approach to enhancing educational opportunities for its students. For example, newly-developed agreements include one with NJIT which will enable Montclair State students to have access to engineering programs and NJIT students to have access to Montclair State’s innovative PhD program in Environmental Management. An agreement with the Essex County Environmental Center will give Montclair State students access to six miles of the Passaic River for water quality and river ecology studies. A new five-year BS/MS program with Seton Hall University will enable Montclair State students to graduate with a BS in Biology and an MS as Clinical Nurse Leaders. A joint program with St. Peter’s University will enable St. Peter’s undergraduates to complete a master’s degree at Montclair State in Computer Science, and an agreement with the SUNY College of Optometry will offer Montclair State Biology majors an accelerated path to pursue doctoral training in Optometry. Reaching out to sister institutions in the region and creating educational pathways that build on distinctive institutional strengths will enable Montclair State University to provide richer educational opportunities for our students. There is no downside to well-conceived and well-managed partnerships. Trying to go it alone in today’s world means seriously limiting one’s journey.

On the subject of partnerships, an exciting and highly innovative partnership has been launched by Dean Gurskis between the College of the Arts and Atlantic Health System, one of the largest non-profit health care systems in New Jersey. The focus of the partnership will involve collaborations between arts faculty at the University and Atlantic healthcare professionals in explorations of the role of the arts in health care and health education and research, and it will examine the ways the disciplines of art and medicine can contribute to each other, for example, in the uses of art therapy in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease or the applications of sports medicine to the training of dancers and performers. The partnership will provide enhanced educational opportunities for students to understand the human intersections between the arts and medicine, including internships and introduction to career options, and opportunities for training, research, performance, exhibitions, and the development of observational skills.

In the rapidly changing field of Journalism, the University’s new School of Communication and Media will be starting a new BA in Journalism this coming September. And I would interject a note here that the John J. Cali School of Music and the School of Communication and Media are both academic units that offer integrated programs built on a common core without the silo-effect of departments. While the new Journalism program will have a strong liberal arts base, as well as programming in the traditional areas of writing, reporting, investigative research, and interviewing skills, it will also focus on the tools and versatility needed to create and deliver content across print, audio, video, and a wide range of developing social media platforms. The School’s WiredJersey.com website (check it out) will give students the opportunity to report and edit web content, and students will have access to the resources and programs of the Center for Cooperative Media, including the New Jersey News Commons (check that out, too), and the Center’s 75 media partners, as well as internship opportunities with CBS News, CNBC, News 12 New Jersey, NJTV News, and WABC-TV.

The Feliciano Center for Entrepreneurship, under the direction of Dennis Bone and Sharon Waters, represents a similar academic innovation. The certificate program offered for the first time this year by the Center through the School of Business represents a sea-change in the design of academic programs in Business. The structure and sequence of the courses and the coordination among the multiple faculty members teaching in each course has established a new and interesting instructional methodology. The faculty members in the program are facilitators of a dynamic entrepreneurial process that, as a matter of design, fosters engagement between our students and the external marketplace in ways that are scalable and transferrable. Perhaps even more important, the Center has reached out across the campus and is working with faculty and students in Modern Languages, in the Arts, and in the Sciences, blending the concept of entrepreneurial skills with a widening range of disciplines beyond the School of Business.

The School of Business has also implemented a complete revision of their undergraduate curriculum under the leadership of Professors Rich Peterson and Richard Lord, as well as Professor Subramanian and the School’s department chairs. The new curriculum has several important aspects. Among these, again, is an integrated core which relies on significant and substantive coordination among the faculty across the various disciplines. In addition, the new curriculum has integrated the use of cases developed by faculty members from the perspectives of the several business disciplines, and the curriculum includes wholly new courses based on the changing needs of the business environment, such as a course in data analysis and communications. A very important new component of the program focuses on students’ career development and preparation for success after graduation. What was a variable and rather hit or miss approach to career preparation is now an 18-month program that is fully integrated with the curriculum.  This undergraduate curriculum initiative will have a profound impact on the education of thousands of students and will contribute not only to genuine interdisciplinarity within the School, but also the opportunity to create deeper and more organic connections between the School and the external business community.

In its two years of existence, the University’s Center for Autism and Early Childhood Mental Health has emerged as a major center for these issues in the state, having been selected to serve as the Coordinating Center for autism research in the state, overseeing and offering support, providing networking opportunities and promoting collaboration for and with nine clinical university- and hospital-based research sites throughout the state. Funded under an original grant from the Governor’s Council for Medical Research and Treatment of Autism of the New Jersey Department of Health, this year, the Center received an enhancement award of $1.35 million, bringing the five-year grant funding for the Center to over $2.8 million. In addition, the Center received a two-year, $720,000 grant from the New Jersey Department of Children and Families to create the “Keeping Babies and Children in Mind” project, which offers infant and early childhood mental health training and supervision to multidisciplinary professionals in the 10 counties affected by Superstorm Sandy.

Under the direction of Dr. Gerard Costa and Associate Director Kaitlyn Mulcahy, the Center has expanded its array of professional development and training programs for the community and is taking the lead in developing a national curriculum framework in infant and early childhood mental health. Two conferences sponsored by the Center keep the world beyond the campus focused on the University’s work, including The Global Prenatal Initiative, in association with the United Nations, addressing the importance of prenatal and perinatal practices, and the annual Todd Ouida Children’s Foundation Conference, addressing the importance of the professional development of early childhood practitioners. Clarity of mission, combined with effective outreach to the community and collaboration with others in the field, both regionally and nationally, is at the heart of the rapid growth and success of the Center.

That kind of clarity of mission and a focus on excellence also underlies the success of the University’s programs in Communication and Speech Disorders. Following closely on its successful reaccreditation in 2012, with leadership by recently-retired professor and dean, Claire Taub, and Professors Janet Koehnke and Joan Besing, the Doctor in Science program in Audiology, this fall, became the University’s 4th PhD program, the only doctoral degree in the field in the state of New Jersey. Perhaps most significant about the approval of this new PhD program is the manner in which it occurred and what that says about the University’s recognition and stature in the State. In contrast to the furor and hysteria created by the approval process for Montclair State’s first doctoral program, the EdD in Education in 1998, and the first PhD program, the PhD in Counselor Education in 2008, this time, the program glided through the statewide approval process. We now have active doctoral programs in six fields: the PhD in Environmental Management, led by Professor Dibs Sarkar; the Doctor in Audiology and the PhD in Audiology, led by Professor Else Wambaq; the PhD in Counselor Education, led by Professor Harriet Glosoff; the EdD in Math Education, led by Professor Mika Munakata; the EdD in Teacher Education and Teacher Development, led by Professor Ana Maria Villegas; and the PhD in Family Studies, led by Professor Jon Caspi.

Beginning with the first two in 2003, during the ten-year period from 2003 through 2013, the University conferred 98 doctoral degrees. This May 2014, Dean Joan Ficke reports that the Graduate School will present 31 candidates for doctoral degrees, a milestone that reflects our deepening institutional commitment to advanced study as well as achievement of the Carnegie classification standards as a Doctoral Research University, for which we hope to be recognized in the next Carnegie review. This success was, in large measure, a communications success. We communicated, communicated, and communicated who we are as an institution as distinct from who we were.

At the heart of communication in today’s world are, of course, social media and the technology infrastructure on which they are reliant. This year, the division of Information Technology, under Vice President Ed Chapel’s leadership, completed a design for a new, high-performance network infrastructure to replace, over an 18-month period, the wired and wireless network that has been running at the university since 2003. In the 20th century, which is rapidly fading into history, anything that was 11 years old would be considered brand new, but in our racing 21st century, 11 years old is ancient, and planning for this new network was made necessary by the various mega-trends that are transforming society in general and higher education in particular. The enterprise networking team, under the direction of Jeff Giacobbe and Minto Gill, oversaw the design process in consultation with many, and among the areas they had to assess were developments and their cyber-infrastructure implications in mobility, social-media, cloud computing, software as a service, big data and analytics, the proliferation of high definition audio and video communications, and the “bring your own device” phenomenon (BYOD, as distinct from the old BYOB, which was considerably less expensive). With these ever-increasing demands, our current network infrastructure was approaching the breaking point, and so the work was urgent.

Adding to the stress on current systems, the University’s fall 2014 enrollment is likely to exceed 20,000 students, our physical plant is expanding to include three major new buildings – the School of Business, the Center for Environmental and Life Sciences, and the new School of Communications and Media, each of which will be home to research agendas and curriculum-related activities that are predicated on state-of-the-art, highly scalable, and high-performance network capacity. In addition, through the OneMontclair program and other initiatives, such as the transition to the Canvas learning management system, the University is adopting many feature-rich, student- and customer-centric software applications that rely on social media-based collaboration and communication technologies and pervasive, high performance mobile networking to provide the University community with the academic and administrative services they demand.

Looking more closely at some of these applications, the divisions of Information Technology and Academic Affairs, working closely with the Academic Technology Committee, this year, successfully completed the implementation of the new Canvas learning management system to replace the Blackboard system that had been in operation for nearly ten years. This spring, Canvas got a robust trial run, utilized by more than 200 faculty members in 400 courses, enrolling more than 8,000 students, and I appreciate the efforts of those early adopters. As of fall 2014, the Blackboard learning management system will be fully decommissioned. With the help of many others, recognition for leadership in this extremely important effort goes to Dr. Yanling Sun, the Director for Technology Training and Integration, Associate Provost Joanne Cote-Bonanno, and Professor Enza Atenos-Conforti, the Chair of the Academic Technology Committee. The transition to the Canvas cloud computing solution places Montclair State University at the forefront of innovative technologies for instruction.  In addition to its performance advantages and the powerful tool it provides to facilitate consultation and collaboration among students and faculty, it is a more cost-effective technology solution.

Canvas has a user-friendly and intuitive interface, offering useful features such as an integrated media recorder for videos or audio, collaborative work spaces for groups, real-time web conferencing with audio, video and whiteboard capabilities, powerful authoring tool sets for both instructors and students, an interactive grading system which allows for teacher feedback and annotations, robust course notifications, graphical analytics reporting, and highly effective file sharing and communications, and the students love it. For members of the faculty who have not yet completed the Canvas training, I urge you to do so well in advance of the fall term. Some departments have requested and received training for their departments as a group, and IT will be glad to arrange that service, in addition to the other workshop opportunities they are offering.

In terms of specific new applications of social media, the Graduate School provides an excellent example. Since incorporating social media outreach into their ongoing recruitment methodologies, the Graduate School Facebook page has seen close to an 800 percent increase in traffic. Prospective students not only seek out educational institutions on social networks, but they also start building their substantive relationship with the institution online before transitioning into an offline connection. With this start, utilizing a variety of social networks, the Graduate School’s long-term strategy will focus on increasing enrollment and retention numbers by developing a robust communications plan that incorporates all aspects of online and offline marketing.

Similarly, by maintaining an active presence across multiple popular social media platforms, the Office of Undergraduate Admissions, under the leadership of Lisa Kasper, is able to establish meaningful connections with prospective students, their families, and high school personnel. Prospective students and parents now know that connecting with the University on Twitter or Facebook will get a timely response, during the workday, in the evenings, and over weekends. As a communication platform, social media supplements the broader Admissions outreach plan, timing messages to coincide with emails, postcards, and events on campus. Real time public documentation of events, posting photos and text online through various social media sites showing the excitement of Open House and Accepted Student Day programs even as they are happening, validates the experience for the participants and communicates it rapidly to others.

The Undergraduate Admissions Office recently launched the Rocky on the Road campaign, with our iconic red hawk hand-delivering decision letters to accepted students across New Jersey. Photos and posts on-line following Rocky's adventures were some of the University’s most highly viewed, and those posts elicited many invitations for Rocky to come to high schools across the state. The use of tools, such as Facebook, Insights, Klout Score, and Hootsuite Analytics, is now an integral part of the way Admissions functions, enabling the professionals in that unit to track their performance, as well as to measure the quality and timeliness of their message content.

Neither Undergraduate Admissions nor Graduate Admissions could function anymore without digital media and web communications experts. And, today, social media is integrated throughout the University’s communications functions, with various departments and divisions of the University sponsoring more than 50 Facebook accounts, 30 Twitter accounts, 15 Instagram accounts, 15 blogs, and numerous YouTube accounts.

The University also benefits from social media activity by others, and, to understand the power of that fact, it is worth noting that when the University’s singers were scheduled to perform at Madison Square Garden, information about the event was tweeted to the 150,000 Madison Square Garden followers. When Food Network’s Guy Fieri, host of the show Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, tweeted about the opening of his eatery at Montclair State, he reached over one million of his followers, and TV celebrity Ellen DeGeneres tweeted about a Montclair State student appearing on her show to her 23.5 million followers.

Just ten years ago, if the professionals in University Communications suggested that they wanted to get a message out about Montclair State to 23 million people, we would have responded that the only way to do that would be to transmogrify the University into a spaceship, propel it off into the universe and leave, tucked under a rock on the vacant remaining hilltop where once the University stood, a little note bidding farewell and indicating that we were seeking a greener planet. Then the reports – University feels unloved, runs away from home – might have reached millions, but probably not. Today, Director of Media Relations Suzanne Bronski stays poised to move in a millisecond because we can reach millions in planned and unplanned ways for better and for worse in a millisecond: better might be – university scientists confirm discovery five minutes ago of a cure to the common cold; worse might be – university’s new science building disappears suddenly at dedication ceremony through previously unidentified geologic fault. Good or bad – everyone can know everything right away, and we may want everyone to know right away, and we need to be ready.

Whatever we may think of the phenomenon, we are out there and we have to be out there, increasingly stressing our IT infrastructure, and both staying abreast of, and creating, the rapidly-emerging communication innovations. We can’t be mooching around on MySpace, when it’s Snapchat and Tumblr that’s happening.

And talking about not mooching around, this past fall Montclair State University surpassed our target for entering students with an additional 824 new freshmen, yielding a total fall 2013 entering freshman class of 3,054 students. When 1,478 new transfer students are added to the mix, that is a total of over 4,800 new undergraduate students entering the University for the first time last fall. Providing for those students requires a deeply collaborative effort by just about everyone who works here. From providing the academic counseling and the right courses at the right times, to supporting financial aid needs, to supporting the housing or transportation programs utilized by students, to meeting their healthcare needs, and to presenting them with a vibrant university experience, it takes a well-prepared organization flying in formation.

Once this academic year started, the offices of Student Leadership, Commuter Students, Weekend Programs, Greek Life and the LGBTQ Center generated approximately 880 programs, training and group sessions. The Student Recreation Center produced 660 activities and experienced more than 200,000 student visits. This year also saw the University’s largest residential population with about 5,000 students on campus, and the Residence Life staff produced another 500 programs for them. The department of Intercollegiate Athletics hosted more than 140 home contests along with selected NCAA and New Jersey Athletic Conference Championships. The University Health Center, Counseling and Psychological Services, the Disability Resource Center and the Women’s Center made more than 100 presentations and provided thousands of consultations during the year. The Dean of Students staff intervened and assisted hundreds of students in need of help.

Auxiliary Services facilitated the sale of about 5,000 meal plans including close to 1,500 voluntary plans. The dining halls served an average of 6,200 daily meals. The Conference Center and Student Center facilitated student programs that included dances, dinners, lectures, and various activities that you or I might find unusual. Through it all, the University Police Department worked to keep the students and all of us safe in an exciting and vibrant community. Recruiting students is only the beginning of the process; doing what is necessary to enhance their academic experience and ensure their engagement and connection to the University requires collaboration by departments across the entirety of the University, and our success at the effort is entirely dependent on the quality of that collaboration.

Once they are here – fed, housed, parked or transported, happy, and safe – the job becomes ensuring the delivery of excellent educational opportunities that lead to timely graduation. In that regard, our strategic plan sets forth several specific goals: by 2016, the first year retention rate should increase from the current level of 81 percent to at least 88 percent, and the overall six-year graduation rate for students who entered the University as first time freshmen should increase from the current level of 63.4 percent to at least 70 percent, accomplished through major improvements in the four-year and five-year rates. This year, the University continued to make progress toward these goals in efforts that touch upon multiple facets of the University experience.

Student service professionals maintained oversight of compliance with the new requirement for freshmen to meet with advisors to gain approval for course selections prior to registration for their second and third terms of study, and this past fall, over 97 percent of the freshmen met with an advisor and went on to register for the next semester.  Students who have attained 45 or more credits, but have not selected a major, are now required to meet with advisors, and all students who acquire 60 credits must declare a major, and 100 percent compliance was delivered with these policies, as well as with mandatory orientation for transfer students, mandatory academic support for special admit athletes, which resulted in a 97 percent retention rate for these students, and mandatory academic support for freshmen in the Educational Opportunity Fund Program ,which has contributed to a 92 percent first to second-year retention rate for these students who come from the most disadvantaged socio-economic settings.

Once students have been properly advised in regard to their educational goals, it takes the full engagement of student service professionals and academic departments, working in tandem, to keep them on track to degree completion. A program of vigorous outreach, by faculty and by advisors, to students who fail to register works to eliminate barriers and get students registered. For those for whom financial need is the obstacle, a number of initiatives have been put in place to provide additional emergency financial resources and to expedite payment arrangements. These intensified efforts at systematic, intrusive student advising by all of the services associated with the division of Student Development and Campus Life and the division of Academic Affairs have required the development of new campus-wide collaborations and the introduction of new communication methodologies to enable us to reach more students more effectively without any increase in resources.

Even the construction of facilities present excellent examples of new collaborative ways of achieving the University’s objectives. As many of you are aware, the University’s co-generation plant had reached the end of its useful life, a matter of some penetrating significance to our ability to keep our doors open. As a result, we undertook a very major project to develop a new Combined Heating, Cooling and Power Plant and a thermal distribution system. This project was the second that the University implemented under a public/private partnership model made possible by the New Jersey Economic Stimulus Act. In partnership with Energenic-US, UMM Energy Partners was created, and this $90 million project included the design, financing, construction, and operation of a new energy plant and the installation of a new steam and chilled water piping system throughout the main campus, a project undertaken and completed while the campus was in full operational mode, running on the old system.

This year the new system is fully up and running after seven years of planning, design, business negotiations, approvals and construction, and all built without the necessity for any capital investment by the University or the state. The new plant is expected to remain viable, both functionally and financially for the next 30 years, accommodating the increased energy demands created by our new facilities and correcting many of the heating and cooling problems we have experienced in the campus’ older facilities. The plant annually provides 9.4 million ton-hours of chilled water, 230 million pounds of steam, 35.7 million kilowatt-hours of electric generation, and full thermal service to more than 25 buildings.

And, of course, the critical partnership we have been working toward for many years was a partnership with the State of New Jersey to support capital construction on the campus, and that partnership was finally realized in the Building Our Future Bond Act. The University was ready to take immediate advantage of the program, and construction contracts were awarded in August 2013 for the new Center for Environmental and Life Sciences and the new School of Business. Both of those projects are on budget and on schedule. They will be completed, commissioned, and ready for occupancy by summer of 2015. In addition, the renovation of Morehead Hall is proceeding well, and that facility will be ready for occupancy by the School of Communication and Media this summer. The architectural designs are advancing for the renovation of Partridge Hall, which will become a home for the Graduate School; the renovation of College Hall, which will house integrated student services, and for the School of Communication and Media’s new, 50,000 GSF building that will fill the space between Morehead and DuMont, in conjunction with the renovation of a portion of Life Hall.

We look out our window one day, and we see a new building emerging on the campus landscape, and we don’t always consider the number of people who contributed to the effort that resulted in that accomplishment. No structure gets built on this campus without the participation of many. A building such as the new science facility or the new School of Business is the achievement of the design and construction professionals in the division of University Facilities; the intense and detailed programming for the buildings by the science and business faculty and deans; the financial and business oversight by the professionals in the division of University Finance; the creation and review of pounds of contracts by the Office of University Counsel; the media and donor relations efforts by the Office of University Advancement, among many others. One weak link, one failure to collaborate well, and there is no building at all, or an unsatisfactory building, or a project that goes over budget or that doesn’t get built in a timely way.

Whether we are building new facilities, creating new educational programs, embarking on research endeavors, or creating an enriching and supportive community life, to do it right, to do it in a way that use our resources most effectively and that best realizes our mission, it requires genuine collaboration and communication. I have said before, and since I have been here for close to 16 years now, much of what I have said, I have said before, but this bears repeating. The best resource you will ever have at this University will never be confined to your office, your laboratory, your brain. The very best resource you will ever have is each other. It is the gathering together of richly endowed minds, it is the collectivization of our individual areas of expertise that will make for great educational experiences, for path-breaking scholarship and research, for an excellent university.

The University is not a prison; we are not confined to our cells. The walls are coming down in every way in our world. The structures of government and culture may, by their nature, obsess over boundaries and borders, but the minds and innovations of people have made those divisions porous; every day more porous. The structures and culture of a university may also, by tradition, be comfortable with the boundaries and borders of departments and colleges, but it is time for us to capitalize on the riches we have here and think much, much less about our own programs and our own departments and our own colleges and our own spaces. Tomorrow’s world is coming into being in the interstices between our jurisdictions. Think of a paved city sidewalk. The slabs of concrete or bluestone are barren, the cracks between them teem with life.

There is a river. It is not the Passaic River. It is a river that does not flow within any time or any space. It is the river that flows between each one of us. Every crossing of that river requires some kind of death and some kind of birth. And so for one who sets foot on the far bank, there should be great celebration. Each time. Or to put the proposition as old Anthony put it to Mr. Pecksniff in Dickens’ Martin Chuzzlewit, ''We are the two halves of a pair of scissors, when apart, Pecksniff, but together we are something. Eh.” Think of that here on a large scale. Together, that’s some pair of scissors we would make. We would cut a pretty broad swath across this state and this nation to the extent that we are able to realize the potential of collaboration and fully utilize the opportunities inherent in the communication evolution.

I think I have made my point, but before I conclude this sermon, there are three people who are departing from the University who I would like to recognize.

As you know, Elrie LaBrent Chrite, Dean of the School of Business, is leaving Montclair State this summer to take up the position of Dean of the Daniels College of Business at the University of Denver. In his term as Dean of the School of Business, Brent provided excellent leadership in a challenging period of growth and change. Leaving now, just as much of his work is coming to fruition, including the new facility, was a very difficult decision for him, but the right decision from the perspective of his understandable need to be close to his family out west. I will very much miss working with Brent, and I know you will all join me in wishing him well.

It is also time to bid a more temporary farewell to Marietta Morrissey, who will be stepping down as Dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at the end of this academic year. Marietta also leaves the deanship with regret, but she, too, has family considerations that are pulling her westward. She hopes to be able to return to the College in fall of 2015 in her faculty appointment in the Department of Sociology, and we will be glad to welcome her back.

After 18 years of service, University Counsel Valerie Van Baaren has decided to retire at the end of June. I cannot imagine that there are many people in the University who do not know Valerie. If you don’t, then you are probably relatively new to the University or you have lived an impeccably untroubled institutional life. Valerie has been trusted and wise counsel to many people in our community, and she has been a highly valued advisor both to me and to the Board of Trustees. Over many years, I have seen her personal qualities of warmth and generosity in action, I have enjoyed her wry sense of humor, and I have particularly enjoyed the many occasions on which Valerie has surprised our opponents with the toughness that lurks beneath the genteel exterior. Valerie has been an outstanding advocate for the University and its people, and she will be greatly missed. We wish her the best in the next phase of her life.

And now, all that remains is for me to thank you most sincerely for your efforts and your extraordinary accomplishments this year. You are building a great university.Thank you.

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