The following is the President’s Spring Address delivered on April 24, 2019.
As Coleridge says in Christabel:
‘Tis a month before the month of May,
And the Spring comes slowly up this way.
But, it is making its appearance now, so welcome to spring at Montclair State University. The foliage is blooming and so are we, so let me, though I am nothing at all like Richard III, get the winter of my discontents over with first, and then we can move on to the good stuff.
As you know, I have been strenuously advocating for many years for the development of a rational plan for the state’s investments in public higher education and for reform of the state’s Tuition Aid Grant program (the TAG program). The state’s operating support for Montclair State University is shamefully low, and the entire appropriations structure across the senior public institutions is grossly inequitable. Even the Secretary of Higher Education has acknowledged that there is no clear policy rationale that can explain or justify those inequities. And there are also gross inequities in state financial aid support for students from one institution to the next, inequities that particularly disadvantage students in the public sector, the very sector for which the state holds prime responsibility. The current Director of the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority, which has responsibility for the TAG program, has acknowledged that the financial aid grants as they currently exist are, in many ways, just random numbers on a piece of paper. Prior state administrations, going back decades, have shown little interest in correcting these very serious structural problems for the senior public universities and colleges, but there is some hope that the current administration may be willing to address these issues.
That process began this year with the production of a plan for higher education introduced by the Governor and the Secretary of Higher Education. There are a variety of perspectives one could bring to the creation of a new vision for public higher education in a state. We have seen some states focus heavily on economic development or on the growth in available seats or on enhancing research capacity, or on specific workforce needs. In the plan presented by Governor Murphy and Secretary of Higher Education Zakiya Smith Ellis, which is called Where Opportunity Meets Innovation: A Student-Centered Vision for New Jersey Higher Education, the direction they appear to be taking is, as the title indicates, a very student-centered approach strongly focused on under-served students and on moving those and other students successfully and timely to acquisition of a degree. As a first step, this year, they have proposed the reallocation of some funding and the addition of some new funding to provide operating increases to the senior public institutions based on three specific measures: first, the total number of degrees granted; second, the total number of lower income students enrolled, as measured by Pell eligibility; and third, the number of degrees granted to under-represented populations, specifically African-American and Hispanic/Latinx populations.
On the basis of those measures, Montclair State University was granted the largest state appropriation increase among all of the institutions in the state. That’s the good news. The social justice criteria of the new plan in fact meshed with Montclair State’s long-held institutional values and mission. However, the bad news is that the funding made available for the increases in state appropriations for the senior public colleges and universities was so limited that the effect was minimal. Under this plan, Montclair State was proposed to receive a total additional appropriation of $3.74 million, which is an amount equal to about 8/10ths of 1% of our annual operating budget. And that was the largest amount received by any institution. Of course, we have yet to see what will come of the budget deliberations which will continue over the next couple of months, and that $3.7 million number could go up, stay the same, go down, or any number of other things could happen.
But at least, and at long last, an actual discussion has begun in Trenton, and, over the next nine months, it is the Secretary of Higher Education’s intent to pursue continuing work toward a rational state funding formula and rational reform of the TAG program, with a goal of having that work inform the Governor’s FY ’21 budget. So, I remain optimistic, both about this year’s budget and the future, vowing to live long enough to see actual progress.
While the Governor and the Secretary of Higher Education have been creating their plan, at the same time, at the University, the Provost has been leading a campus-wide effort to articulate Montclair State’s next 2025 Strategic Plan. That Plan, as developed by the University community, is, as it happens, quite consistent with the statewide plan. The University’s Plan has three major themes: fostering student transformation; growing through diversity and access; and creating knowledge through research and scholarship. Overlying those three themes is a commitment to student success, and underlying the goals inherent in those three themes is a commitment to the use of entrepreneurial strategies. The Committee on University Effectiveness has completed its review of the most recent draft of the Plan, and the Provost is preparing the next iteration of the document incorporating comments and suggestions from the Committee. That draft Plan will be posted on the web shortly for all members of the University community to review and to make any comments or suggestions they may wish. Subsequent to review of those comments, the Provost will, once again, prepare another iteration of the document which I will review, and, when I think it is ready, I will forward it to the Board of Trustees for the Board’s consideration and action. Assuming all goes smoothly, we should have a final approved Strategic Plan in our hands at the beginning of the coming academic year.
Meanwhile, as all the planning processes have been ongoing, the University has continued to use its resources as effectively as possible to realize our mission and our potential. Most significantly, this year was the successful inaugural year of University College, under the leadership of Associate Provost and Dean David Hood. University College was designed for the approximately 2,000 students each year, primarily freshmen and sophomores, who have not selected a major. Those students used to be considered the “undeclared,” a negative non-identity. They have now been given identity as University College students, and the concept inherent in University College is to provide a very intensive and guided experience for students to explore their options, talents, and interests, and to help them prepare appropriately to transition to the right major for them, without losing time to degree. By March of this year, University College staff had successfully guided about 550 of its initial student cohort to a major and a new academic home in one of the colleges and schools across the campus. University College’s “Major Madness” program led up to a “signing day” in March, where students who were ready to transition to their major were celebrated and welcomed by the Deans of their new college or school.
One of the creative efforts throughout the year was called “Crash a Class,” in which faculty members welcomed any University College student to sit in on classes in over 156 different course sections, so that they could experience personally what study in that field was like. We are very grateful to the professors who opened their classes to permit students to have this experience. A few examples of the courses that students were invited to crash were: Race, Ethnicity and Media in the School of Communication and Media; Genetics in the Biology Department; and Business Cycles and Forecasting in the Economics Department.
This year was a tremendous learning experience for the new College, which has expanding plans for the coming year. Simultaneously, this year also saw the establishment of student advisement and career development units in each of the University’s colleges and schools. While working in collaboration with the Provost’s office, University College and each other, each of those individual college advising units has been developing programming to meet the particular needs of its students. For example, the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, with leadership from Acting Associate Dean Leslie Wilson and Assistant Dean Courtney Cunningham, implemented a Mentor Collective pilot program, training more than 100 CHSS juniors and seniors to serve as mentors to 260 incoming freshmen, about half of the College’s entering class. The student mentors helped the freshmen identify and access the University resources that they needed and provided a welcoming point of peer contact. The students in the pilot mentoring program achieved a 97% fall-to-spring freshman retention rate, as well as higher GPAs than the non-participants. The outcome measures for this program are extremely promising, and an important goal for the College in the coming year will be to expand the program to reach all incoming Humanities and Social Science freshmen.
Given the growth in enrollment and programs at the University, this year’s major investment in expanding our advising resources has been critical to attainment of our goals for retention and timely degree completion, and continued evidence-based expansion of these programs will continue into the coming years. Along with the work in advising structures, the University is beginning to give renewed attention to the overall structure of our undergraduate degree requirements and programs. At the top of that list will be the long overdue reconsideration of the General Education program and the basic question of how best to tap the much expanded instructional programs and resources of the University to provide an integrated and rigorous course of study that incorporates the larger educational principles of general education, a major field of study, and the opportunity for intellectual exploration and second majors or minors, in 120-credit degree programs that can be completed by the vast majority of our students in four years of full-time study. It is no longer tenable, affordable for students, or educationally justifiable to accept a situation in which the majority of our students need five or six years to complete their undergraduate degrees. Between improving our advising programs and re-engineering our academic programs, we need to provide the academic pathways that best serve our students and enable their timely acquisition of meaningful degrees that will give them a foundation for achievement in their careers and their lives.
As we develop new or revise existing undergraduate degree programs, we need, each time, to ask the question as to whether or not the program represents the best four-year educational opportunity for the students that we can provide within the bountiful academic resources of the University. We should not be bending program structure to meet our own rigid rules when those rules compromise the students’ educational experience. We are beginning to see more flexible and creative thinking about these issues in new programs. In a very recent example, the College of Education and Human Services has developed a highly innovative and collaborative new degree program under the leadership of Prof. Jaime Grinburg from the Department of Educational Foundations. The BA in Educational Foundations for Elementary Teachers seeks to answer this question: ideally, what kind of educational preparation should a teacher in the K-6 grades have? What kind of preparation, for example, would you want your children’s teacher to have in grades K-6? Putting their focus on the best possible answer we could provide to the question, Prof. Grinburg, working in collaboration with faculty in several colleges, created a program that offers, within four years and 120 credits, solid grounding in the disciplinary areas of mathematics, science, history and language, as well as professional preparation in pedagogy, curriculum and child psychology, and that meets all the requirements for teacher certification. That program has the potential to make a profound impact on the future preparation of elementary teachers.
In the development of another collaborative and innovative program, Prof. Jeff Gatrall, coordinator of the Russian program in Modern Languages and Literatures, oversaw the development of the BA in Medical Humanities. Montclair State joins Baylor, Vanderbilt and Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis as the only U.S. universities with such an undergraduate degree program. Offered for the first time this year, the program already has 42 majors. The field of Medical Humanities provides a program of study focused on health-related policy and current issues such as patient rights, end-of-life care, disability studies, reproductive autonomy, genetic counseling and alternative medicine, as well as studies related to the representation of diseases and mental health disorders in literature and mass media, and it is a gateway to a wide range of occupations and to advanced professional degrees in medicine, nursing, law and health-related business. The degree program takes full advantage of its home in a comprehensive university and draws extensively on the intellectual resources of a very broad range of programs, including Anthropology, Philosophy, Biology, Social Work and Child Advocacy, Psychology, Sociology, History, Religion, Writing Studies, Communication Studies, Modern Languages, Public Health, Nursing and Music Therapy.
In a collaboration between the Feliciano School of Business and the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, led by Vice Dean of the School of Business, Kimberly Hollister, and Assistant Prof. of Italian, Enza Antenos, a new BA in Language, Business and Culture was developed and approved to be offered this coming fall. The 120-credit carefully structured program is designed to provide students with competency in cultural studies and cross-cultural communication, with core understanding of the business disciplines in accounting, economics, finance, technology and international business, with advanced-level competency in one of five languages, and with a required international experience. This innovative program prepares students with both the hard and soft skills needed in today’s global business environment, and it represents a new approach to program development.
In another innovative initiative, Associate Professor Devon Johnson and Instructional Specialist Tom Miller from the Marketing Department developed a new Professional Selling and Sales Management Certificate program, which will have its formal launch this coming fall. Students, however, have already embraced the program and voted with their feet, with several having already completed its requirements and with 41 students currently enrolled in the first course. What is particularly noteworthy is that the certificate program, which focuses on analytical, leadership, customer service and communication skills, is open to students from any major and is designed to be an additional qualification that students can present to prospective employers. The Certificate was developed by the faculty in coordination with a group of sales professionals from ADP and with information gathered from other employers, including Enterprise and Northwestern Mutual.
Before we leave the subject of undergraduate education, I want to say a word about Intercollegiate Athletics. Student athletics has been part of the institution’s educational philosophy from Montclair State’s inception in 1908, and our current Intercollegiate Athletics program has a long tradition and has always been both well-regarded and competitive, bringing home many conference championships and competing in national playoffs. As the University has been transformed in recent years, it was definitely time to consider the future direction of the program, and, this year, I established an Advisory Team on Intercollegiate Athletics, chaired by Trustee Ralph LaRossa and comprised of a mix of internal and external experts. The deliberations of the Team resulted in four major recommendations:
- The University should maintain its status as a Division III institution and its commitment to the philosophy of Division III, keeping program focus on the educational success of student athletes, their character development, and their preparation for successful careers.
- The University should implement a plan that will strategically and incrementally improve its stature in Division III, increase its participation in NCAA championship play, and achieve regional and national recognition as a top Division III university.
- The University begin a national search immediately for a new Athletic Director.
- As the University undertakes a greatly enhanced initiative to market and brand the University, major consideration should go into the substantial development of the IA program’s ability to contribute in significant way to that initiative.
I strongly support these conclusions, and the advancement of the Intercollegiate Athletics program at the University will be very much a part of our institutional agenda going forward.
Moving to the University’s growing agenda in research and graduate education, three years ago, Montclair State was first recognized as a Research 3 Doctoral university, and, in February of this year, the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education designated Montclair State as a Research 2 Doctoral institution. As one consequence of these changes, Montclair State is no longer ranked by U.S. News as a Regional Master’s institution, but has been moved instead to the category of National University, where we are now ranked among the 189 national public universities.
More important than ranking categories, the new R2 designation will have an impact on many important aspects of the University. It will enhance our competitiveness and ability to attract external research grants, improve our ability to recruit high-quality faculty, postdoctoral fellows and graduate students, augment the University’s appeal to industry partners who are considering engaging in research and development projects, and boost our ability to inspire donors. The R2 reclassification was supported by an institutional record high in extramural funding, $17.85 million in awards in FY ’18, the fourth consecutive year of award growth. Some examples of this excellent work over the past year include the following, and please note how collaborative they are:
- In a project led by the Provost’s office and team leaders Joana Dos Santos, Associate Director of Facilities Learning and Development, Prof. Tyrone Cheng, Chair of the Department of Social Work and Child Advocacy, and Prof. Saliya Desilva, Chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, the University received a grant for the Montclair State University New Jersey Department of Labor Apprenticeship Program. This program will expand upon the University’s apprenticeship programs in Facilities and develop new programs in Social Work and Child Advocacy and Chemical and Medical Technology. Montclair State was the only 4-year university to receive an award from the New Jersey Department of Labor, and the employer model apprenticeship program in Facilities was the first to be developed in the state.
- Douglas Larkin from Secondary and Special Education and Prof. Sandra Adams from Biology received a 5-year, $800,000 grant from the National Science Foundation for a project that will study five-year science teacher retention rates in New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin in an effort to identify and describe best practices.
- Professors Michelle Zhu and Bharath Samanthula from Computer Science, Prof. Pankaj Lal, from Earth and Environmental Studies, and Prof. Nicole Panorkou from Mathematical Sciences were awarded a three-year, $1.1 million grant from the National Science Foundation for a project designed to nurture the next generation of innovators by advancing student learning in STEM + Computing through a seamless integration of earth and environmental science, mathematics, and computer science in grades 5-7.
- Elaine Hitchcock of Communication Sciences and Disorders received a sub-award of $271,097 for the first year of a five-year $1.4 million National Institutes of Health ROI grant in collaboration with New York University designed to conduct the ﬁrst randomized controlled trial comparing the efﬁcacy and efﬁciency of speech intervention with and without real-time visual biofeedback.
- Yang Deng, from Earth and Environmental Studies, received a $189,543 award in collaboration with the National Research Centre of Egypt from the highly selective U.S. – Egypt Science and Technology Joint Fund. The project is related to innovative green water reuse and wetlands.
- Eden Kyse, Director of the Center for Research and Evaluation on Education and Human Services received a three-year $122,200 sub-award from the New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety for a project, funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, that will develop an Integrated Drug Awareness Dashboard (IDAD), synthesizing previously separate datasets from multiple state agencies to create a clearer picture of the opioid epidemic across the state.
Of course, we can’t get grants if we don’t apply for them, and in FY ’18, University researchers submitted 158 proposals totaling $66.8 million.
In addition to federal grants, the scholarly, research and outreach activities of the faculty are supported through national fellowships, corporate and foundation grants, state grants, and partnerships with other organizations. This year, for example:
- Jeff Miller from the English Department was awarded a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities to support a book-length critical edition of the earliest known version of the King James Bible (which you recall he discovered to worldwide notice a few years ago).
- Funding from both PSEG and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection enabled Prof. Pankaj Lal to establish a new Clean Energy and Sustainability Analytics Center. The Center will provide research and education in the area of clean energy policies and technology.
- Supported with a $375,000 grant from the New Jersey Department of Education, Dr. Jennifer Robinson and the Center for Pedagogy in the College of Education and Human Services is leading an initiative, in collaboration with the Newark Public Schools and the American Federation of Teachers, to create Teacher Academies at East Side and University high schools in Newark. These Academies are designed to enable high school students to learn about and begin preparation for a teaching career, with a goal, ultimately, of increasing the diversity of the teacher workforce.
- With support from the STEM education nonprofit, Math for America, Jacalyn Willis, Director of Professional Resources in Science and Mathematics, will be leading a collaboration with Princeton and Rowan Universities, piloting the newly-created New Jersey STEM Innovation Fellowship, which will prepare 30 New Jersey public school math teachers to use new methodologies to improve math education in the K-5 grades.
As we continue to develop our research infrastructure and processes, this year, the University succeeded in negotiating a new and more favorable agreement with the federal government in regard to the amount of funding provided for the overhead costs that support our research programs. Achieving that result was a team effort, including Associate Vice President for Finance, Mike Galvin, University Controller, Lillian Nash, Director of Research and Sponsored Programs, Ted Russo, and Dean of the College of Science and Mathematics, Lora Billings. The new methodology will result in increased reimbursement by the government for research-related costs for utilities, space, and administration, and will be more in line with the methodology that prevails at other major research universities.
In another step forward, Montclair State University has now been fully integrated into the “Research with NJ” online database, joining New Jersey’s five other research universities—New Jersey Institute of Technology, Princeton University, Rowan University, Rutgers University, and Stevens Institute of Technology. Research with NJ is a collaborative effort by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority and the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education to forge stronger connections between New Jersey’s research universities and industry. Research with NJ showcases New Jersey’s experts in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The database includes researchers’ professional backgrounds, publications, and achievements and is structured to encourage university collaborations with entrepreneurs and businesses that lead to innovative products and business initiatives. Montclair State currently has 346 researcher profiles and approximately 5,500 discrete publications and research studies entered in the database, which can be accessed at www.ResearchwithNJ.com.
In advance of that statewide project, Montclair State had successfully launched its own institutional repository, the Digital Commons, which provides free, worldwide access to the scholarly and creative work generated at the University, including research papers, conference proceedings, theses and dissertations, and the newly added category of research data. Since its launch, more than 3,000 items have been uploaded to the repository, and downloads have exceeded 18,000, coming from 138 countries from New Zealand to Iceland.
And speaking of compendiums of research accomplishment, the new 2019 volume of University Authors has been published, and, as we can see the approach of summer on the horizon, it is always an excellent source of suggestions for some beach reading. For example, you might like to dip into Prof. Marissa Silverman’s Gregory Haimovsky: A Pianist’s Odyssey to Freedom, published by the University of Rochester Press; or, if you prefer to listen to some piano music of an evening rather than read about a pianist, you might want to dive into Prof. David Witten’s new disc, The Eclectic Piano Music of Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, on Albany Records. Or, if you are baffled by your students or your children, you might want to have a look at Prof. Christopher Salvatore’s Sex, Crime, Drugs and Just Plain Stupid Behaviors: The New Face of Young Adulthood in America, published by Palgrave Macmillan. Dive into University Authors, discover a colleague you may not have known that you have, and emerge enlightened.
Continued expansion of our research enterprise is, of course, dependent on a robust array of well-enrolled master’s and doctoral programs, and both will be necessary to assure the maintenance of our status in the next Carnegie reclassification, which occurs in 2021. Over the next year, Vice Provost for Research and Dean of The Graduate School Scott Herness will continue to lead the effort to develop the University’s policies, practices, and culture in ways that are characteristic of a productive and high-functioning doctoral research university. That work will entail strengthening the pipeline of funded research, supporting the enrollment and success of graduate students, and creating high quality graduate programs for which there is demand. Assisting him in this effort will be the new Associate Dean of the Graduate School, Dr. Nelly Lejter, who joined the University this past January. Dr. Lejter brings extensive experience in graduate programming, and she will work closely with the faculty and college and school deans in curriculum development and the promotion of faculty and research accomplishments. Originally from Venezuela, Associate Dean Lejter, received her PhD in Sociology from Brown University.
This year saw the development of several very forward-looking master’s programs that will be offered in the coming year, and, again, I call your attention to the collaborative nature of these programs. The new MS in Computational Linguistics, developed by Prof. Anna Feldman from Linguistics and Prof. Jing Peng from Computer Science, is an interdisciplinary program that combines elements of linguistics, software engineering, artificial intelligence and electrical engineering. Professionals trained in this field help machines process human language and help linguists understand language through computer models. It is the most commercially viable branch of linguistics, with hundreds of companies in the U.S. working on computational linguistics or the related field of Natural Language Processing.
The Master of Arts in Social Research and Analysis, developed by Associate Professor Chris Donoghue from Sociology, will train students to use qualitative and quantitative data, gaining skills in primary and secondary data analysis, survey research, interviews and focus groups, and data and text mining in order to develop evidence-based solutions to real world problems.
The new MS in Applied Mathematics, developed with leadership by Associate Professor Eric Forgoston, will provide students with a broad background in mathematics that can be applied in a wide range of industry settings. Students will master the use of the software and hardware tools of numerical and scientific computing and the capacity to evaluate the utility and effectiveness of mathematical models in solving problems and to communicate the results of mathematical investigations in a manner appropriate to the audience.
The School of Nursing successfully launched its new online MSN program, with concentrations in clinical trials research, nursing education, and, in collaboration with the Feliciano School of Business, in nursing administration. And, while we are talking about the School of Nursing, I would note that the School will be joining a national initiative to “Stop the Bleed,” a program to promote education in the American Heart Association’s CPR protocols. Most cardiac arrests and traumatic injuries occur outside of health care settings, and chances of survival after a cardiac arrest increase by three times if CPR is initiated immediately. So, we will all have a chance to learn CPR, and, hopefully, we won’t have to use it.
And this fall, the Department of Computer Science will launch a new MS in Cybersecurity, which is designed, with leadership from Professors Bharath Samanthula and Boxiang Dong, to offer students a graduate program that includes both theoretical, methodological and applied learning reflective of both the technical and managerial aspects of contemporary practice in the field. Coursework will enable students to develop a comprehensive understanding of Cybersecurity principles, investigations, system hardware and software, problem specification and analysis, solution design, implementation, and security validation. To support this and their other programs, the Computer Science faculty and students took enthusiastic possession this year of the new and extremely cool Center of Computing and Information Science.
And speaking of cool, the student Computer Club, led by student Sammy Samkough with the guidance of the Club’s faculty advisor, Prof. Dawei Li, held its first-ever Hackathon (called Hawkhack), in which students from any major formed teams and had 24 hours to build new software or hardware projects. The student work was guided and judged by a panel of industry experts from Google, UPS, Netflix, ADP, and BNYMellon. There were 148 student participants, about half of whom were from Montclair State, and the other half were from Rutgers, NJIT, Hunter College, 3 community colleges, and a few high schools. 46% of the student participants were Hispanic or African American and there was one bird.
Keeping pace with the development and evolution of the University’s academic programs, and, in order to provide a more effective base for on-going program development and related research and student support, a number of organizational changes have been planned and will take effect next year in the College of Education and Human Services. The programs in Counseling and in Educational Leadership will be divided into two separate departments, and the two departments housing Secondary and Special Education and Early Childhood, Elementary, and Literacy Education will be merged into the much more accessibly named Department of Teaching and Learning. The Feliciano School of Business will introduce a new Department of Hospitality and Tourism, and that department will be working on a new BA in Hospitality, Sports and Events, which they hope to have ready to offer in fall of 2020.
All of the efforts being generated, in instruction, research, advising and everything else that we do, require a highly effective administrative infrastructure. To that end, we are in the process of making a transition to Workday Finance, which will be the new platform for accounting, procurement, travel reimbursement, grants accounting, and other financial services and which will be integrated with the Adaptive Budget tools and the enhanced Workday HR system. This project is a major undertaking with many people from the divisions of Finance, HR, Budget and Planning and IT working as a unified project planning team, consulting and collaborating with end-users across campus, to create a unified Workday environment, with real-time processing and easy-to-use reporting. The overall project leader is Donna Sadlon, Associate Vice President for Enterprise Application Services in IT. A lot of work has already taken place, and I thank the team for the efforts to date and for their efforts in the coming weeks and months. The goals of the project are clear: revisit and improve our underlying work processes while we are configuring the technology; execute robust testing (and re-testing) of the system; and prepare great training materials for both central staff and end-users so the campus community can derive the benefits of the system. The anticipated, successful “go live” date is January 1, 2020. Go Donna!
In addition to the IT systems, and critical to the University’s success, especially in light of the continuing uncertainties and inadequacies in state funding for operations and student aid, the scope of our growing mission will require us to grow both the financial support for, and the public recognition of, the University. To support that effort, a reorganization building on past accomplishments has brought us two new and extremely important discrete divisions, in Development and in Communications and Marketing.
Colleen Coppla joined us in October as Vice President for Development, and she is heading up an energized fund-raising effort for the University. Private philanthropy will play an increasingly important role in the future of public higher education, including support from alumni, friends, corporations and foundations. In just two examples from this year, a major planned gift from a Professor Emerita will create a future endowment for the Music Therapy program. And a major bequest from the late Jean McVean, Class of 1947, will provide support for students and programs in Modern Languages. And this year’s Scholarship Dinner raised over half a million dollars to provide financial support for students, a need which is urgent.
Dr. Joe Brennan joined us in January as Vice President for Communications and Marketing, and he will be responsible for broadening the University’s public presence, both within and beyond New Jersey, and increasing the effectiveness of our marketing initiatives. In the highly competitive and information-deluged environment of the contemporary higher education marketplace, the University needs to achieve greater recognition of its scope and quality. We know what we have achieved at the University, and our reputation needs to catch up with the reality. The University has so many great stories to tell. Just to mention a few unique ones from this year:
The University’s Chief of Police, Paul Cell, was elected as President of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the world’s largest association of police leaders, serving members in more than 150 countries. In that role, Chief Cell was one of the representatives of the law enforcement community supporting the recent adoption of the bipartisan federal prison reform act, cosponsored by New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, providing for a reduction in sentences for non-violent drug offenses. So, our own Chief is now Chief of the Chiefs of the world, and, just to put that in perspective, he is the only person in the University who calls me “boss.”
Recognition of the quality of the University’s academic programs often comes through recognition of the achievement of students. At this year’s Television Academy Foundation’s College Television Awards ceremony held in Los Angeles, competing against the 600 submissions in eight categories by over 170 universities (including top programs from the University of Miami and the Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State), students from our School of Communication and Media won both the College Emmy in the news category for their program on hurricane recovery in Puerto Rico and the prestigious Bricker Humanitarian Award which recognizes work that highlights humanitarian issues. Montclair State was the only university to be honored twice.
On the very same weekend, the student newspaper, The Montclarion, was busy sweeping up New Jersey Collegiate Press Awards, with nine wins, including six first-place awards in news, feature writing, criticism, photography, editorial, and web presence.
The University supports an Office of Civic and Voter Engagement because we take very seriously our responsibility to encourage our students to exercise their citizenship responsibilities. I am very pleased to say that the University has earned designation as a Voter Friendly Campus through a program sponsored by NASPA, the National Association of Student Affairs Professionals, and the Fair Election Center’s Campus Vote Project. The University also won our “conference” in the 2018 New Jersey Ballot Bowl, sponsored by the Secretary of State, recognizing the University’s successful all-out push in last November’s election to register students to vote and to get them to the polls. The importance of continuing this initiative cannot be over-stated. Education in the electoral process and its importance should be part of the students’ overall educational experience every year they are at the University.
As we come toward the end of this spring’s review of the state of the University, it is appropriate to take note of some departures. This year, we say farewell to Rob Friedman, Dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, who is retiring to the sunnier climes of San Diego. We wish him well, and thank him for his leadership and contributions to the College over the past four years. We also say farewell to Vice President Jack Shannon, who will be leaving the University at the end of June to take up the position of President of Christian Brothers University in Memphis, Tennessee. It’s a little far south for a Jersey boy to go, but I am certain that he will do a splendid job in his new position. I thank Jack for his commitment and many contributions to the University over the past nine years, and I wish him the very best in his new position.
Every once in a while, the demographics of the University creates a retirement bump, and I want to take note of the unusually large number of long-serving members of the University community who already have or will be retiring this year after 25 or more years of service.
That list represents tremendous contributions to the University, and, on behalf of the entire Montclair State community, I thank all of these colleagues most sincerely for all that they have done. I want to take particular note of one among the many on that list, Prof. Lori Katterhenry, director of the Dance program, who will be retiring after 33 years of service. When Lori came to the University 33 years ago, the Dance program had nine students in it. Today, the program has about 140 Dance majors, students from all over the country apply for admission to the program, and the program itself is recognized, not only as the top dance program in New Jersey, but also as among the top ten dance programs in the nation. Today, in honor of Prof. Katterhenry and all the retiring faculty and staff who have provided decades of service to the University, our dance students will present Bill T. Jones’ amazing piece, “D-Man in the Waters.”
Thank you to these extraordinary students. We have built this University with sweat equity, amazing ourselves and others with what we have been able to accomplish. These students are also building their futures with sweat equity, quite literally, and they are amazing themselves and others with what they can accomplish. The effort that they make in developing their talents, and the effort that all of you make in building this great university, is the kind of work that is never finished. We keep pushing forward, and we do it together, each of us contributing to the sum of the whole. We do it one teaching and learning experience at a time, one scientific discovery at a time, one step and leap at a time, one student at a time, seizing each day to shape the future. Thank you to each and every one of you for being a part of this extraordinary journey.
Click on an image below to enlarge photo.