President's Address to the University Community

April 27, 2011

It is with pleasure that I greet you on this April day and hope that you all feel, as do I, the wonderful, energizing gift of spring. Just when the burdens of the year were beginning to get us down, here comes the sun, the blooms, the green that says "Go!" and, today, the taking of a moment to eat some ice cream and to glance backwards over our shoulders and see behind us with some surprise and justifiable satisfaction the accomplishments of the year.

In addition to a re-born earth, April also always brings us the full-blown and rather less glorious commencement of the annual New Jersey budget battle, which, this year promises to provide drama that is heightened, even by this state’s standards. The higher education budget proposed by Governor Christie and most likely to be adopted by the Legislature, although this cannot be certain at this time, carries this year’s level of appropriation into next year, in other words, a flat budget.  We will continue to push for additional funding as the budget moves through the legislative process, but after several years of painful cuts in operating support for state colleges and universities, a level budget could actually represent a first step in restoring at least some minimal adequacy to higher education funding in New Jersey.

As you know, the senior public institutions in New Jersey are woefully underfunded. The proposed budget for the next fiscal year for the nine state college and universities, including Montclair State, provides operating support approximately equal to what it was in 1997, when the sector enrolled 28,000 fewer students. If we look at what has happened just over the last decade, in the 2001-2002 academic year, the state provided Montclair State $4,500 in operating support per full-time equivalent student. In the proposed budget for the 2011-2012 academic year, operating support per FTE student will drop to about $2,500. When the effects of inflation are also included, the level of support is so low as not to be justifiable or reasonable by any standard.

As in the past, the lack of state support for higher education will not deter the University from moving forward on its long-term strategic goals. From FY2001 through FY2011, the University’s operating budget more than doubled, growing from $141 million to $316 million. This increase reflected enrollment growth, an increase in full-time faculty positions and academic programs, and enhancements to information technology, facilities, academic support services, and student housing.

With level funding next year, we will continue to focus on using available resources as wisely and efficiently as possible and on generating additional revenue from non-state sources wherever feasible. To the greatest extent possible, we will observe the following principles:

  • Budgets will be developed with a long-term perspective and will protect core academic programs.
  • We will continue to recruit highly qualified faculty in response to continued enrollment growth.
  • We will provide the facilities and equipment necessary for high-quality academic programs.
  • We will protect the workforce of the University, which is responsible for our extraordinary achievements of the last decade.

At the same time, we will continue to exert budgetary discipline by following such principles as:

  • exercising rigorous review before filling any vacant position or creating any new position;
  • applying rigorous standards to every hire and personnel action;
  • using every instructional, administrative, and student service resource as efficiently as possible;
  • improving both academic and business practices, seeking out additional efficiencies that will also yield greater quality;
  • challenging ourselves to find mission-appropriate activities that generate additional revenue; and
  • eliminating programs and activities that, while beneficial, constitute areas for which there is less demand, or where we cannot achieve high quality, or that are lower institutional priorities.

I have asked department chairs, deans, directors, and vice presidents to exercise very thorough and careful budget discipline in regard to everything from course offerings, class sizes, and scheduling to expenditures for any non-essential activities or materials. The FY2012 budget process has 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.

One of the characteristics of Montclair State University has been our effort to maintain a unified, coherent, and integrated university, even as we grow and develop, and not to devolve, as is so often the case in large universities, into many disaggregated parts simply co-existing within the umbrella of a university, but essentially unrelated one to the other. For that reason, I want to review today several of the significant areas of activity that have been taking place over the year across the institution.

These activities share a common goal: to position the University, its programs, and its faculty and staff to be prepared to meet the challenges of a rapidly evolving higher education environment within a context in which we can no longer rely on the historical patterns of financial support. These efforts are often not visible or well understood across the full campus community, but they should be, because we all need to be building the same University, and each unit and division of the University needs to be leveraging its strengths and efforts with those of other units.

Beginning with the School of Business, under the leadership of Dean Chrite, it has focused its attention on a number of critical areas that will enable it to meet more effectively the needs of students and their potential employers and to compete successfully in what has become a very crowded and competitive management education marketplace. The School undertook a comprehensive and strategic review of its undergraduate and graduate curricular structure, with the goal of developing a curriculum that is more integrated, more dynamic, and that fuses academic rigor with market relevance. The School developed an integrated core curriculum at the undergraduate level and built essential professional development and experiential learning activities into the curricular sequence. At the MBA level, they created a cohort experience, enhanced the global component of the curriculum, and, responding to the needs of some returning students, included a pre-program refresher session.

The School has also begun to work intensively on repositioning the brand or the identity of the School of Business within the overall University effort being led by University Advancement. There are a lot of business programs out there, and the School’s ability to create an identity and leverage it in this marketplace will be essential if it is to achieve its strategic goals. Consequently, they have begun focusing on issues related to how they launch new initiatives, market their programs, position and support faculty, and articulate an unambiguous value proposition.

The School has also made a significant effort to expand beneficial and reciprocal partnerships with public and private sector organizations. Examples of such activities include Lemonade Day, bringing an introduction to entrepreneurship to over a thousand children in Essex County; a partnership with Prudential in the School’s inaugural case competition; the creation of apprentice-type programs for students with area businesses; and increasing the School’s consulting engagements, for example the engagement with Smash burger (a new burger chain) on market positioning.

These curricular and outreach activities have relevance for the whole University beyond the School of Business. Their curricular changes will have an impact on other programs and also provide interesting models for colleagues to consider and opportunities for curricular integrations beyond the School of Business. Their outreach to organizations and businesses in the community open doors through which the initiatives of other programs may enter.

Indeed, in working with Prudential, for example, the School of Business is trading on an extremely positive relationship that the College of Education and Human Services has nurtured with that corporation over many years. And they should trade on it. Indeed, every time one of our programs works with an external organization, they are carrying with them the reputation, not just of their particular program, but of the whole University, and they are creating an opportunity, not just for their program, but for the whole University. In a similar way, the School of Business has pursued its work cognizant of the fact that in strengthening its academic foundations, the School is building on a legacy that is consistent with the aspirations and the quality of the whole University.

Historically, the excellent reputation of Montclair State has been buttressed by its long-standing reputation for having superb programs in teacher education. Today, the University has expanded its reputation by its strengths in other programmatic areas. However, it is still the case that, when it comes to national rankings, Education is the one area where we are regularly recognized as among the best in the country.

The College of Education and Human Services is, of course, justifiably proud of its reputation, but the members of that College are aware of the fact that they need to continue to work hard to retain and to improve on their current standing and the quality of their programs. When the College works at that goal, it is elevating its own endeavors, but it is also elevating the reputation of the whole University; we all get to bask in the glow.

Under Dean Cutler’s leadership and in pursuit of the College goal to be among the best in the nation at what it does, the College has placed particular attention this year on doctoral education. The reputation of the College’s programs and faculty, together with the innovative high quality of its new doctoral program in Teacher Education and Teacher Development, brought in over 100 applicants from across the country for the second year cohort. The College selected 15 outstanding applicants from the pool, and all of them have accepted our offer of admission.

In addition, the PhD in Counselor Education has also accepted 15 exceptional students from a large pool of applicants for its third cohort. Within a few years, these programs will have a major impact on New Jersey leadership in the fields of counseling and teacher education and development. They will also expand the University’s reputation as a doctoral granting University, which will enhance recruitment for other existing and potential doctoral programs.

Looking realistically at the very significant changes occurring in the master’s level marketplace, the College of Education and Human Services has begun a rigorous effort to expand its models of program delivery to reach students in new ways and in more places. These new models include both the development of on-line programs and face-to-face programs offered in ways that are more convenient and better tailored to the schedules of working adults. Some examples include a master’s degree in Reading and a certificate in working with English Language Learners delivered in Paterson for cohorts of teachers and certificate and master’s degree programs for principals and supervisors in Colts Neck, Boonton, and other school districts. These programs provide models that may be viable for other programs across the University, and they also open doors through which other University programs might enter.

Overall, the quality of the College’s programs has enabled its graduates to win significant recognition, for example, one the graduates from the new Master of Public Health program has been awarded one of two prestigious fellowships with the University of California San Diego Medical Center, from among 130 national applicants. Every time a Montclair State University student gets accepted to a prestigious graduate program or wins a prestigious fellowship, it increases the plausibility of candidates from all of our programs for these opportunities.

We know from data gathered through the NSSE studies, that Montclair State students, particularly at the upper division, do not always feel as challenged or as engaged in their programs as we would wish them to be. The College of Humanities and Social Sciences, led by Dean Morrissey, has focused attention on this issue over the past year and worked on a number of initiatives that they hope will better engage undergraduate students in their academic studies.  In particular, the College has targeted undergraduate research experiences, providing travel funds for students who read conference papers at regional and national conferences and increasing participation in the MSU Student Research Symposium.

That extremely successful Symposium took place on Saturday, April 16, and over 250 students from throughout the University filled University Hall with the largest Student Research Symposium ever held on this campus. This event was a very successful cross-college collaboration, with student researchers from every college and school presenting posters and reading papers on subjects from “Internet Addiction: is it Time to Unplug?” to “The Sovereign Credit Crisis in the Euro Zone” to “The Role of PC12 Cells in Neural Experimentations” to “The Migration of Zooplankton.”

Another collaborative initiative led by the College of Humanities and Social Sciences is the launching of the Montclair Book project, geared to providing an integrated reading experience for incoming students in Writing and New Student Experience and engaging the campus more generally in a discussion of the book in various courses and extra-curricular settings.

Other College initiatives geared to increasing students’ academic achievement outside of class include the initiation of a language immersion area in the resident halls. The College has also begun the development of BA/MA programs that offer the opportunity for stronger students to achieve a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in five years, and the BA/MA in Psychology, one of our largest majors, is now in the final stages of curricular review.

Strengthening enrollment in the College’s graduate programs has been a challenge, and the College has begun to turn its attention to those graduate students seeking professional and work-related credentials, encouraging program development and curricular changes providing a more focused student experience with clearer professional outcomes. The College has also begun to expand on-line graduate and post-BA offerings and specialized programs offered off-site.

The College of Science and Mathematics, under Dean Prezant’s leadership, has been focusing heavily this year on strengthening its research activities, from consideration of ballast water treatment in the Great Lakes to neural cell proliferation to epidemiological modeling and ancient ice rafting. The College is working hard at establishing a successful track record in federal grant acquisition and in building partnerships with science-based corporations in the region.

A particular focus of the College’s work has been on strengthening its programs and reputation in areas related to the environment. In October, the new PSEG Institute for Sustainability Studies was launched with a major international conference which brought scientists and policy leaders from across the U.S. and Europe to Montclair State, and the PhD program in Environmental Management continues to attract increasing numbers of well-qualified students.

As one mark of the growing success of the College of Science and Mathematics’ effort to make the expertise resident at the University better known in the region, a number of members of the College have been invited to hold seats on councils and committees within the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, including Dr. Michael Weinstein and Prof. Paul Bologna’s appointments to the Ecological Process Committee; Profs. Mark Chopping and Gregg Pope’s appointments to the Climate and Atmospheric Sciences Committee; Dr. Kirk Barrett to the Water Quality Committee; Prof. Dibs Sarkar to the Emerging Contaminants Committee; and Dean Prezant was named to the seven-member state Advisory Commission directed to recommend solutions to chronic flooding in the Passaic River basin.  Service of this type on important state-wide initiatives is critical, both for the expertise it provides to the consideration of important public policy issues and for the recognition it brings to the quality of the faculty, research, and programs of the University.

The College of Science and Mathematics has also, this year, begun the implementation of a critically important and very exciting project, the development of a Math Emporium. This project, based in part on a successful initiative at Virginia Tech and several other emerging models around the country, has the capacity significantly to expand the modalities we are able to use in the teaching of mathematics and assuring the quantitative literacy of all of our students, which is so important to work and life in today’s highly complex technological world.

The College of the Arts, led by Dean Newman, has, in many ways, focused, like the College of Science and Mathematics, on expanding and solidifying its reputation in the region and nationally, although admittedly the disciplines in the two colleges are somewhat different. The faculty has worked hard at maximizing the opportunities for students’ work to be seen or heard in important places and, as a consequence, the programs in the performing arts continue to win awards and be recognized in national venues.

Those accomplishments have led to increasing student applications from highly qualified candidates and that in turn, of course, leads to yet more accomplishment. Both Theatre and Dance were recognized, for yet another year, for national excellence in arts education, and student performers were featured at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Our program in Broadcasting has long been among the best in the region, and our Musical Theatre program auditioned over 400 students for 25 places. Our students in Industrial Design have recently won national awards, and, again, that significantly helps us build the reputation and visibility of all of our programs in the visual arts.

Beyond those initiatives in pushing forward both the quality and reputation of the Arts programs, the College has been deeply engaged in considering how best to organize itself as a very distinctive entity with a focus on professional programs within the larger arts and sciences environment of the University. The newly established John J. Cali School of Music has served as a model for other College programs, and this year faculty in Communication Studies, Broadcasting, and Film have been working together on the development of a model for a new School of Communication and Media Studies. At the heart of their work has been the creation of a new approach to the curriculum that integrates the experiences of students across all of the communications and media disciplines with a focus on changes in these fields and emerging technologies. 

While all of this activity has been happening in the academic units of the campus, Vice President Pennington has engaged the division of Student Development and Campus Life in working on initiatives that create a campus environment that gives our students the best chance to succeed in their academic programs.

These initiatives are heavily data-driven and they are based on three over-riding objectives: first, to recruit and admit to the University a broad range of highly qualified students fully reflective of the society we serve; second, to do everything in our power to give those students the support they need to convert that admission into the timely acquisition of a degree; and, third, to enable those students to develop intellectually, socially, and in respect to their characters in ways that will enable them to have lives in which they are capable of taking care of themselves, capable of taking care of others, and capable of contributing productively to society.

In support of those goals, the Office of Undergraduate Admissions has reevaluated the University’s admissions policies, and, after much research and testing, they have developed a system of reviewing applicants that places less emphasis on the SAT and greater emphasis on each student’s academic performance in high school, thus acknowledging that the academic record acquired by a student throughout four years of schooling serves as a better predictor of student success than four hours spent taking a test.

By relying more heavily on a student’s grade point average and the rigor of a student’s coursework, and evaluating other success indicators such as a student’s performance on the Writing section of standardized tests, we believe we will bring in new classes of students who are more engaged and better prepared for college-level work. It is important to remember that in the Admissions process, our professionals are culling through a universe that consists of over 10,000 applications in the course of a year, but our experience shows that the easiest way of accomplishing that task is not necessarily the best way.

In a related effort, the Office of Financial Aid put significant effort this year into making a successful conversion to the Federal Direct Loan Program and into reassessing how the University is using the funds available for scholarships to assure that all available dollars are being used most effectively to recruit qualified students and to support them throughout their time at the University.

The Division of Student Development and Campus Life continues to increase its initiatives in intrusive advising, and now, having data to show that its programs geared to freshmen retention and success have had a positive impact, they are beginning the development of programs geared toward sophomores.

More attention by the colleges and schools to provide better and more intrusive advising by the academic programs for students in their majors and especially at the junior and senior levels is absolutely critical. It is an area where there is considerable divergence in quality across programs, and the Office of Institutional Research is developing some reports that will enable each department to see clear data about how well they are doing at graduating their majors.  It will also identify those programs whose successes may be replicable.

On the softer side of student development issues, the annual CIRP study always tells us interesting things about our incoming freshmen. This year, we find once again that our incoming male students continue to rate themselves more highly than our female students on just about everything, including competitiveness, computer skills, physical and emotional health, mathematical ability, popularity, self-understanding, intellectual ability, and social self-confidence. Clearly, as a society, we have not yet created an environment in which our daughters are getting the same degree of encouragement as our sons. I do not believe that we have any studies that would tell us whether or not our students’ years at the University impact those self perceptions by gender, but it would certainly be interesting to know.

Interestingly, the CIRP study also reveals that over one-third of our entering students have an above-average interest in spirituality, and, to meet that need, this spring a Center for Faith and Spirituality was opened in the Student Center to provide an environment in which all Montclair State student religious, spiritual, and cultural groups can meet for prayer, meditation, and interfaith dialogue.

In a similar vein, we will have approximately 5,000 students living on campus this fall, and the Office of Residential Education and Services that looks after their needs combined efforts with the College of Education’s Department of Counseling and Educational Leadership to establish a campus Mediation Center. The Center is staffed by graduate students and its goal is to help undergraduates understand how to live with other people, working through differences, minimizing conflict, and focusing on building community. The Center has had good success in its first year in resolving roommate conflicts and reducing the number of room changes. And in what will be an increasingly used methodology for the University, the Center is currently developing a Blackboard course on how to live with a roommate for prospective residential students to take prior to arriving on campus.

Moving to technology, central to Vice President Chapel’s agenda has been the Bell Tower Initiative, which, when completed, will provide all members of the University community with a suite of current, Internet-enabled applications that will enhance and expand the way we work and provide timely and accurate information to inform our planning and management decisions. As many of you are aware, this extremely complex and challenging program has not proceeded according to plan.

Last October, following a rigorous evaluation of the implementation process, we decided to terminate our vendor and refocus our plans and approach to the project. We are close to bringing on a project executive director with strong experience with an administrative system implementation of this scope and complexity and a new vendor. Although it has been frustrating that we have faced these challenges, it is important to recognize that substantial progress has been made, and we continue to be very confident that the PeopleSoft product, once implemented, will serve us well, and that the University is well positioned for success when the project resumes.

In other IT areas, the Enterprise Software Services group, led by Carolyn Ortega, joined forces with the Center for Academic Advising to develop the Student Academic Monitoring Program. This application, which won an exemplary advising services award from the National Academic Advising Association, ensures that both students and advisors can have a common understanding of students’ academic standing in their coursework and receive timely notification of any academic issues.

The University’s mobile computing capacity continues to grow as the Enterprise Technology Services group, led by Jeff Giacobbe, proceeds with the second phase of the Campus Wireless project, which is nearing its half-way point. In those buildings in which this service has been activated and fully tested, members of the University community enjoy access to all networked information services and applications using any mobile computing device. The second phase of the project is scheduled for completion this June. 

As has been noted, there has been an increased focus on the development of online courses and fully online degree programs during this academic year. The Technology Training and Integration group, led by Yanling Sun, has supported these efforts with the successful transition to Blackboard 9.1, which features many social networking and Web enhancements.

IT is also working closely with Provost Gingerich and Associate Provost Joanne Coté-Bonano to design the online course templates and methodologies required to launch our first fully online degree programs. Yanling’s group has led a pilot video-on-demand service that provides for easy integration of rich media content and videos into online courses, and they are supporting the University’s efforts to test the Moodle open-source learning management system, which represents an alternative that eliminates the high annual license and maintenance fees associated with Blackboard and provides for a greater range and flexibility in the tools available to develop course content.

As our use of online instruction increases at a rapid pace, it is critical that we monitor closely the quality of those efforts. To that end, the Office of Institutional Research, under the direction of Steven Johnson, administered a very large online course evaluation effort this past fall, working with 42% of all academic departments and interdisciplinary programs, to evaluate 30% of all course sections and reaching out to 27% of all course registrants.

Findings indicate that 73% of students rated overall online instruction highly. Further, on the assessment front, the Office of Institutional Research facilitated the first administration of the Collegiate Learning Assessment instrument for our freshmen and seniors. This effort will yield combined freshman-senior reports that will focus on gain. The findings will be analyzed and ready for our spring 2012 Middle States Periodic Review Report (PRR).

Despite the fact that virtually all of our students have access to computers, student demand for loaner laptops on campus continues to grow. To meet that demand, Summer Jones, the Interim Director for Technology Support Services, has expanded both the Library and the University Hall laptop lending programs. And, beginning this month, the Solutions Center has launched a nifty mobile application that will allow students to check the availability of computers in the labs from their laptop or smart phone. Additional printers and print depot work stations were also added to our public computing facilities to meet demand during the busiest times of the semester. The students’ appetite for these computing services just seems to grow – the more we provide, the more they use, and the more they want, so the more we provide, and on and on.

Vice President Bressler and the staff in University Facilities have also managed to keep reasonably busy chasing campus demands. We began the academic year opening the new 300-bed Francis A. Sinatra Hall, and, as you can see, The Heights, our new 2,000-bed student residential community is close to completion and will be ready this summer for in-coming students.

This impressive facility has two major structures, each with four large wings that will be separately named. The upper Heights also includes a beautiful dining facility. And with this facility, I think we have accomplished all the new residential structures we will build for the time being, although we will continue the phased renovation of our older structures. Starting with the opening of the Village at Little Falls in fall 2005, with the opening of The Heights this fall, we will have added 3,131 beds to the campus over a period of six years. That is a lot of sleeping capacity.

In the late fall of 2010, we completed the College Avenue Promenade Project, restoring and improving the sites surrounding Panzer and the Cali School of Music. This major site improvement, which is still getting a few finishing touches, has enhanced the main University entrance from Normal Avenue to the Red Hawk Deck, improving pedestrian pathways to the Kasser Theater and College Hall and beautifully rebuilding the Freeman, Russ, Chapin Quad.

The extraordinary new 40,000-square-foot facility for the Center for Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology opened its doors at 1515 Broad St. in Bloomfield, and in January 2011, renovations were completed on the lower level of the Speech Building to accommodate the needs of our growing program in Fashion Studies. The renovation and addition to Finley Hall, which is converting that facility into a home for Modern Languages and Linguistics, should be completed this December. A portion of the third floor of that facility will house the developing Math Emporium.

The new facilities for the School of Business and the new Center for Environmental and Life Sciences are both advancing toward bidding and construction and are scheduled for completion for fall 2013. In order to service these additional new facilities and as our existing co-generation plant reaches the end of its useful life, we are working on a new public/private partnership under the New Jersey Economic Stimulus Act that will build a combined heating and cooling power plant and all the associated campus infrastructure. This project will make a huge difference in providing cost effective and more reliable heating and cooling to both our new and older buildings.

CarParc Diem, the most beautiful Spanish mission-style parking deck in America, opened this year with its 1,500 parking spaces. We are now also the proud owners of the former site of Ward Trucking on Clove Road, just north of the Village and just south of Route 46, which has added 18 acres of property contiguous to our campus. Over the summer, the largest portion of this site will be paved and striped to provide more parking, and the shuttle buses will provide convenient access to those lots.

Additionally, this summer, we will, as always, undertake a number of campus-wide renovation projects based on the priorities that have been set by the various academic and administrative units and University Facilities. So, as has been the case for a number of years, we will continue to build, renovate, repair and improve University facilities, and although, without any capital support from the State going on for over 20 years now, we cannot keep up with the demands and needs of all our programs, we are nevertheless making significant progress and exploiting any possible opportunity to provide the infrastructure necessary to support our programs and services.

What I have just provided are merely glimpses at some of the excellent work that is happening across the campus. As I said earlier, it is important that we all know as much as possible about all these activities so that we can leverage and support our campus-wide investments and efforts. It is clear that all of these important initiatives require resources and support, and, consequently, as the share of total University revenue derived from state appropriations has declined from 55% in 1995 to less than 26% in 2010, with Vice President Shannon’s leadership, we have redoubled our efforts to attract other sources of funding from alumni, corporations, foundations, and friends and to increase acquisition of funding from federal and state agencies for programs and research. Among our successes this year were a number of very large grants:

  • Our new PSEG Institute for Sustainability Studies received over $600,000 from the PSEG Foundation.
  • The New Jersey School of Conservation, the University’s environmental education and field research campus, led by Dr. Bill Thomas, was awarded a $2.65 million competitive grant by the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities. The grant will allow the installation of a 300,000-watt solar farm, to be operational in late 2011. The solar farm will meet all of the School of Conservation’s electricity needs as well as generate excess power for use by local utilities. 
  • The Association of Performing Arts Presenters and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation awarded the University $250,000 to integrate the innovative work of Peak Performances artists into the curricular life of the campus. It is worth noting that the programs presented here in the Kasser Theater under Jed Wheeler’s direction have received substantial recognition by The New York Times over 30 times this year. There is no other performance venue in the State that receives anything close to that kind of recognition, and students have had the opportunity, throughout the year, to work with these professional companies in master-classes and workshops, to perform with them, to assist in production, and to attend open rehearsals.
  • The University received a $260,000 grant from PNC Bank to partner with Sesame Workshop to prepare teachers in seven counties to provide financial literacy education to pre-schoolers. This grant was particularly exciting because I got to meet Elmo, and I have the picture to prove it.  I have also now learned how “to save, to spend and to share,” which, according to the educational materials, apparently is best done by having three separate jars, so I have ordered some jars for our Vice President for Finance and Treasurer, Don Cipullo.
  • Merck and the Roche Foundation have provided $280,000 over several years to fund a new honors program for upper division science majors called SHIP, the Science Honors Innovation Program.
  • Members of the faculty have been increasingly active and successful in attracting a number of major grants.  For example, in Earth and Environmental Studies, Prof. Stefanie Brachfeld received a $451,000 grant and Prof. Mark Chopping a $182,000 grant, both from NASA.  Prof. Elena Petroff from Biology and Molecular Biology received $350,000 from the NIH, and Prof. MeiYin Wu, also of Biology, received $673,000 from the U.S. Department of the Interior and the EPA.  Prof. Jennifer Brown of Family and Child Studies has now received over $400,000 from the NSF, and Prof. Philip Yecko of Mathematics received a $226,000 award also from the NSF.

These grants, totaling to close to $6.3 million, represent only some among the many successful grant initiatives by the University community.

I am also very pleased that a number of our graduates and friends have chosen to honor their former faculty and mentors at Montclair State by making generous gifts that will support our facilities, programs, and students. Those so honored this year include:

  • Former students, family, and friends of Professor Teresa de Escoriaza, who was a beloved Spanish professor here from 1929 to 1959, raised funds to name a seminar room for her that will be located in the newly renovated Finley Hall.
  • The Coach Jerry Edwards Athletic Endowment Fund was created by former student-athletes, including several members of the undefeated 1960 football team, to honor their late coach and mentor. So far, the group has given almost $50,000 for an endowed fund to benefit athletics programs.
  • Dr. S. Marie Kuhnen was an alumna from the class of 1941, a much admired biology professor, and the first chair of Montclair State’s Biology Department. In addition to funds she left the University in her will, her former students, colleagues, and friends have made donations to create the S. Marie Kuhnen Scholarship in her memory.

Planned giving is another growth area for the University, and this year, the University received a number of significant estate gifts and pledges from retired professors and alumni. And, in a new development, it is now possible to make a contribution to the University online via our Web site, which will be a great boon to our annual giving program. We anticipate that the online option will increase our alumni participation rate by making giving easier.

This year’s Annual Dinner, always the highlight of our fundraising season, will be held tomorrow night in the University Hall Conference Center, and the theme is “Our Students Are Your Business.” Our honoree will be Douglas Kennedy, the president of the New Jersey division of Capital One Bank. Mr. Kennedy is not only one of the state’s most successful banking executives, but he has been a member of our Board of Trustees for more than a decade and currently serves as Board Chair.

This year we have significantly increased student participation in the Annual Dinner. Doug Kennedy and several other executives at Capital One Bank trained ten School of Business students in the art of networking, and these students will be practicing their skills, acting as hosts and interacting with the guests throughout the evening.

In addition, a group of students from an advanced studio design class worked under the direction of Prof. Winfield Parsons to design and execute the fabrication of the complete setting for the Dinner, turning the University Hall Conference Center into a cityscape, with a 360-degree skyline and lighted centerpieces. And, of course, no University event would be complete without the participation of the wonderful performers from the College of the Arts. Students from our superb Musical Theater program will be providing their highly exuberant entertainment at tomorrow night’s dinner.

Why do I stress all this information about fundraising and grant getting? Back in the old days, public universities could depend largely on government for the funds necessary to implement their missions. It used to be quite normal, when new programs or other initiatives were started, for funding for them to be forthcoming from the state. In today’s world, if I went to Trenton to ask for funding for a new program or for expansion of a program with high demand or for any of the campus initiatives I have spoken about, the folks in Trenton would look at me as though I were crazy or just recently arrived from Mars. In today’s world, fundraising and grant-getting are absolutely critical to our ability to support our programs, our faculty, and our students.

Getting those funds is greatly assisted by maintaining a very visible presence for the University and a strong reputation, and, every time one or another unit or member of the University community achieves recognition for the quality of what they do, they are making a contribution to the vitality and reputation of the whole institution. This year, there have been many such instances of recognition, and I will mention only a few here:

  • Montclair State was one of 12 colleges and universities selected to participate in a National Genomics Research Initiative by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and its Science Education Alliance. We are the only academic institution in New Jersey participating in the program, which has the goal of changing the way science is taught by giving students the opportunity to engage in authentic research much earlier in their academic studies.
  • The University was selected by the Woodrow Wilson Fellowship Foundation as one of the host institutions at which Woodrow Wilson-Rockefeller Brothers Aspiring Teachers of Color may pursue MAT degrees. Montclair State was one of just 27 institutions in the nation, and the only institution in New Jersey, selected for this status.
  • Our graduate programs in secondary teacher education and elementary teacher education were ranked in the top 20 in the nation in the U.S. News & World Report rankings of America’s Best Graduate Schools.
  • We received the Wisniewski Award from the Society of Professors of Education, an award given to an institution that has made “singularly significant contributions to the theory and practice of teacher education.”
  • Montclair State and the Newark Public School District were selected by The Council of the Great City Colleges of Education to receive the Dr. Shirley S. Schwartz Urban Education Impact Award for the Newark Public Schools-Montclair State University Partnership for Instructional Excellence and Quality Program.
  • Montclair State was named one of the “Top 100 Colleges for Hispanics” for the 13th year in a row by Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education magazine.
  • The Education Trust recognized Montclair State as one of the most successful institutions in the country in increasing the graduation rate of minority students and in reducing the gap between the graduation rates of minority and non-minority students.
  • The National Academic Advising Association recognized the University for its commitment to outstanding student advising services and programs.
  • The Princeton Review named Montclair State “A Best Business School” and included the University in the first release of its Guide to 286 Green Colleges.
  • Montclair State was named to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, the highest federal recognition a college or university can receive for its volunteer, service-learning, and civic engagement activities.
  • The University has made a serious effort to provide appropriate programming and services for returning veterans, and, for the second year, G.I. Jobs magazine named Montclair State as one of the top military-friendly schools in the nation, and the Military Times EDGE magazine named the University among the top 100 “Best for Vets” colleges or universities.
  • This year was also an outstanding year for faculty publications, including both articles in highly regarded scholarly journals and books, and these contributions to knowledge have a very positive impact on the University’s reputation in the academic community and in those professional arenas where that knowledge is put to practical use.

Looking to the future, it is time for us to refresh our consideration of what kind of university we want Montclair State to be. This question will be answered by our next strategic plan, which is under construction. A first draft of the Strategic Plan, “Draft A,” is currently being reviewed by each college, school, and administrative division, the University Senate, and the Graduate Council. Recommended revisions are due June 1, and, over the summer, those recommendations will be incorporated into a “Draft B,” which will be circulated in September for final campus review and subsequent adoption by the Board of Trustees.

As we gear up for the work of the future, our capacity to achieve our goals will be enhanced by the talents and energy of our growing full-time faculty and by several new administrative additions to the campus community, who have joined us this year and who I would like to introduce to you:

  • In University Advancement, we have two new Associate Vice Presidents, Carol (the Blaze) Blazejowski and Jane Boyle. Carol, who will focus on the marketing side of advancement, is a 1978 graduate of Montclair State, who returns to us from a successful career in women’s basketball, having served as President and General Manager of the WNBA’s New York Liberty. Jane Boyle, who will focus on the fundraising side, joins the University having served as Executive Director of Development for the Elizabeth Seton Pediatric Center in New York. In addition, Diane Reed has recently joined University Advancement as our new Director of Media Relations.
  • In Human Resources, Michael Owen joins us as Assistant Vice President for Employee Relations. Michael comes to us from Princeton University.
  • In Student Development and Campus Life, we have two new Executive Directors, Dominic Petruzzelli who will be heading up Residential Education and Services and Daniel Jean, who will be leading EOF and Academic Development. Deepak Munjal is our new Associate Director for Financial Aid Operations, and you should also be comforted in the presence of Michael Ricker who is our new Managing Director for Emergency Preparedness.

So, we have undertaken a considerable amount of work this year, we have accomplished a great deal of what we set out to do, and, of course, the more we do, the more there is that remains to be done. The truth is that each accomplishment inevitably yields the next opportunity. And seizing opportunities is who we are and what we do. Each spring, we celebrate our successes and then we look resolutely forward to what the future can hold for us. So, carpe diem!  Thank you for all your hard work this year, and let us go forth now to eat some ice cream!

Thank you.