The opening of the fall semester at Montclair State University arrived with a multiple-day celebration for students spread across campus. With a Ferris wheel soaring above the residence halls and music and carnival games on the quad, the University marked its 115th year and record-setting student enrollment bursting in Red Hawk pride. The University welcomed not only its more than 22,000 Red Hawks but also 900 students attending the newly united Bloomfield College of Montclair State University.
Staff and faculty joined the festivities on August 29, gathering together at the Alexander Kasser Theater for a traditional town hall meeting that highlighted collaborations taking place by Montclair and community partners to create a university that is preparing young people to make a difference in the world.
Hundreds of those students gathered around President Jonathan Koppell on Red Hawk Day, an event designed to showcase the range of student interests. Montclair is a place of opportunity, he told them: “Take a moment. Imagine what that future could be. Use your time at Montclair to prepare yourselves.”
Montclair’s reputation as a university with a public purpose was reflected in some of the opening activities, including a day of community service. Students helped on a Habitat for Humanity building site in Paterson and distributed and sorted instructional materials at the Sonia Sotomayor School in Passaic.
Other activities have centered on building a sense of belonging for first-year and returning students on both campuses – Montclair and Bloomfield. And on Red Hawk Day, the quad was a sea of the University’s signature red – and during the community lunch, where staff, faculty and students mingled – a smattering of white shirts proudly worn by faculty of Bloomfield College of Montclair State University, highlighting the merger of the two higher education institutions.
“I think the world is normal again,” Koppell remarked about the students’ return to campus, where their energy, enthusiasm and motivation are palpable. “The campus doesn’t feel complete without all of you here.”
In preparation for their return, the campus was busy all summer. For the third consecutive year, the University was welcoming its largest-ever incoming class, boosting total enrollment to more than 22,000 students. To get students ready before school even began, Montclair offered special early and pre-college experiences.
“We simply have no choice in my view, but to demonstrate that Montclair State University is a diverse public-serving institution dedicated to the twin ideals of inclusion and excellence,” Koppell said during his opening day town hall address.
It’s a pivotal time to build on the University’s strong foundation, Koppell told faculty and staff. Highlights include momentum in research among faculty and students, international recruiting efforts, and a focus on student well-being and mental health services. A commitment to student success is credited with boosting student retention and degree completion, with Montclair students now out-performing their anticipated graduation rate at one of the highest clips in the nation.
In addition, two new colleges were created out of the College of Education and Human Services: the College for Community Health to address the urgent challenge posed by health inequity in New Jersey and beyond; and the College for Education and Engaged Learning to examine what learning looks like in the 21st century. A new School of Computing launching within the College of Science and Mathematics speaks to one of the most in demand occupational areas in the coming years, Koppell said. Construction plans are also underway for new labs to facilitate the growth of STEM programs.
For students, these first days of fall 2023 have centered on the fun and games, line dancing, amusement rides, and the making of new friends before the academic work begins. On Red Hawk Day, the paths in the center of campus were lined with 100 tables, with students already involved in clubs, fraternities, sororities, sports teams, cultural and political organizations, to name just a few, inviting new students to join them.
A voice floated from the Amphitheater, a freshman singing to empty seats. “As soon as I saw it, I knew I had to sing there,” said Aura Gallanar, a Theatre major from Maryland who carried on unruffled despite the hundreds of academics headed to the town hall passing behind her. “The energy here is super friendly and welcoming.”
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