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New Chapter Begins with Optimism

At Town Hall, President Koppell encourages campus community to join together in meeting challenges of the moment

Posted in: Homepage News, University

wide view of Dr. Koppell speaking on a raised platform surrounded by faculty in the conference center
Montclair State University President Jonathan Koppell held a Town Hall for faculty, staff and student leaders on Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021.

The Montclair State community came together on Wednesday, August 4 for a Town Hall with new President Jonathan Koppell, who, as he takes the reins as the ninth president of the University, displayed a spirit of optimism in taking on the challenges of the global pandemic and the “circumstances in the world on which we gather.”

Koppell addressed a mask-wearing audience of some 400 faculty, staff and students from a stage set in the middle of the University Hall conference center. It was the second Town Hall Koppell hosted since he was appointed president in July, and for some in the audience, it marked the first time they have come together with colleagues since COVID-19 altered such assemblies.

“We gather at a difficult time,” Koppell acknowledged. “The world is fraught. There’s all kinds of things going on that are cause for concern in terms of the environment, in terms of our politics, in terms of our culture. We feel enormously divided as a people.”

But despite the challenges, Koppell says he is optimistic about the future. “I think we as members of communities of higher education, as people who are committed to making universities work, to seeing students succeed, we have the power to be the antidote, or at least part of the antidote to all of those ills.”

“One of the reasons I love to be on campus and one of the reasons I love being with students and people who are associated with universities is that it is a fundamentally optimistic environment,” he said. “I do believe optimism is probably the most important attribute to have in a moment like this … the belief that tomorrow can be, will be, better than today, that a year from now will be better than it is now, that a decade from now will be better. That is fundamental to solving problems.”

The Town Hall was among the events of a busy first week for the new president. Since taking office on August 2, Koppell has met with many members of the University community, and joked that signage for this week’s freshman orientation sessions has been helpful to him as he learns to navigate the campus.

Koppell answered a range of questions, issues that touched on community engagement and partnerships, research, online modalities, diversity, graduate student life and mental health.

In answer to a question on COVID-19 protocols for the University moving forward, the president nodded to the necessity of coming together in community.

“We have lost sight of one of the most critical elements of living collectively, which is that we produce public goods and the public good that I’m committed to preserving is our ability to gather together. That means that we have to do things that allow us to gather together, whether that’s wearing masks, getting vaccinated, taking tests regularly,” he said.

“We all have learned over the last couple of years how much we value the ability to be together and how people pay a price when we cannot. And so we’re going to make decisions based on that premise, that we are a community, communities create public goods together, and that you don’t allow one set of individuals to presume that other individuals should bear the cost of their choices.”

The community can expect to see more of Koppell as he crisscrosses campus. “I like interacting with a lot of people,” he said. “I like engaging with the academic enterprise to hear what people are working on, what projects they’re doing, what their goals are.”

President Koppell’s Town Hall is available on the University’s YouTube channel.

Photos from the Town Hall Meeting

Koppell standing on a raised platform in the middle of a crowd
Koppell takes questions from the audience.
Koppell at edge of stage focused on faculty member who's asking a question
Koppell takes questions from the audience.
Faculty members stands in a seated crowd, speaking into a microphone
Koppell takes questions from the audience.
Koppel standing on platform taking a selfie with an audience
Koppell takes a selfie with the masked crowd at the end of the Town Hall.
Koppell standing in the emptied audience area speaking with three students, all masked
Koppell speaks with Student Government Association leaders after the Town Hall.

More Photos from Dr. Koppell’s First Few Days

Foreshortened view of Koppel speaking with staff
During his first week, Koppell, shown here and below, in a meeting with University College staff, has been crisscrossing the campus for small group meetings to learn about academic projects underway.
wide view of Koppell in large conference room in College Hall with University College faculty and staff.
Koppel receiving a gift from staff member
When Koppell visited with Athletics staff, Athletics Director Rob Chesney presented him with his own framed jersey, sporting No. 9, since Koppell is Montclair State’s ninth president.
wide view of president's conference room with Koppell and the University Deans
Meeting the deans of the colleges and schools.
Koppell sitting at conference table with deans
Talking with the deans. Pictured (L to R): University College Dean David Hood, College of the Arts Dean Dan Gurskis, Koppell and Graduate School Dean Scott Herness.
Dr Koppell speaking with staff members in corridor next to cubicles
Executive Director of the Center of Pedagogy Jennifer Robinson (left) welcomed Koppell to campus.
Koppell standing in office corridor with employees, shaking hands
During the Town Hall, Koppell says his leadership style includes being out on campus. “I like interacting with a lot of people. … I like engaging with the academic enterprise to hear what people are working on, what projects they’re doing, what their goals are.”
Koppell and Katrina Bulkley walking down University Promenade in front of Dickson Hall on a sunny day
Koppell walks across campus with College of Education and Human Services Acting Dean Katrina Bulkley.


Story by Staff Writer Marilyn Joyce Lehren. Photos by Staff Photographer Mike Peters.

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