Aerial shot of Montclair State University's campus.

President’s Address to the University Community – September 3, 2019

Posted in: Speeches

Photo of Dr. Cole speaking before a packed house at Kasser Theater

Opening Day Address to the University Community
President Susan A. Cole

September 3, 2019

I quote from Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress by the Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker:

We are born into a pitiless universe, facing steep odds against life-enabling order and in constant jeopardy of falling apart. We were shaped by a force that is ruthlessly competitive. We are made from crooked timber, vulnerable to illusions, self-centeredness, and at times astounding stupidity.

Yet human nature has also been blessed with resources that open a space for a kind of redemption. We are endowed with the power to combine ideas recursively, to have thoughts about our thoughts. We have an instinct for language, allowing us to share the fruits of our experience and ingenuity. We are deepened with the capacity for sympathy – for pity, imagination, compassion, commiseration.

And, so says the optimist Pinker, we are able to “eke out victories against the forces that grind us down, not least the darker parts of our own nature” and make progress. But we look about us, and we are depressed because we find ourselves living through a period where we are bombarded with the ugly images and sounds of regressive thinking, and, as Pinker notes and as we know, “the appeal of regressive ideas is perennial.” But the optimist Pinker says, joined here by the optimist Cole, we have the resources to press forward in the face of regression and to make “the case for reason, science, humanism, and progress.” Right here, in the community of a university, is where we can find those resources to make that case. And so, for that reason and others, I offer a warm welcome to all of you at this opening of the 111th academic year of Montclair State University, our home base where we nurture the resources, the people and the platform that enable us to contribute to the work of making the case for reason, science, humanism and progress.

That work is never the effort of one person alone or one year. It is sustained across years, and decades, and even centuries, and, central to its core, it is given momentum and meaning by the flow of tens of thousands of students through the doors of this academy on their way to the future. While many institutions are struggling to maintain enrollments in the face of population demographics that show a steady decline in the number of high school graduates, Montclair State University continues to attract a large pool of richly diverse, talented and motivated students, as evidenced by the approximately 16,000 completed applications for undergraduate admission received this year, to fill approximately 3,100 freshmen and 1,500 transfer places.

The class of 2023 is an academically prepared group of students who are diverse by every interpretation of the word. Geographically speaking, the applicant pool hailed from 43 states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, and nearly two dozen foreign countries. Twenty-three percent of enrolled freshmen will join us from counties in the south or central parts of the state, as the University’s applicant pool continues to expand in significant ways beyond the more traditional northern New Jersey counties. African American students comprise 21% of the incoming class and more than 30% of the class identifies as Hispanic, both groups exceeding their percentage in the general population.

This class is ready for the rigors of a Montclair State education. The grade point average of admitted students continues to move steadily upward, as does the rigor in students’ high school curricula. Now in its second year, the Presidential Scholars Program is playing an important role in attracting diverse and talented students to our campus. With 341 Presidential Scholars enrolled in the inaugural freshman class last year, this year we have seen that number grow by 35% to 461 students entering as Presidential Scholars with top-tier credentials. Offers of admission to the program were made solely on the basis of academic merit and resulted in a final class of enrolled Presidential Scholars, 50% of whom are students of color and a whopping 80% are women.

Among the whole class of freshmen who have selected majors, the top choices of major are the nationally predictable Psychology, Biology, Business Administration, Computer Science and Justice Studies, and a large number of students also continue to express an interest in pursuing teacher certification in their academic disciplines. These are fields of study that entering students know about, and we are proud of our large and strong programs in these areas, but engaging more students in the rich array of majors and educational opportunities offered by the University that they may not know about when they enter the University, or that they may not have been encouraged to think about by family or school advisers, is an important goal. It is, therefore, significant to note that over 900 entering freshmen who have not yet selected a major were admitted to University College where, under the leadership of Associate Provost and Dean David Hood and an expert professional staff, they will have advising and support to explore, select and transition to a major consistent with their abilities and their educational and career goals. Among those 900 pre-major students are those for whom Chemistry or Mathematics, History or Medical Humanities, Public Health or Nutrition and Food Science, Economics or Philosophy, Nursing or Graphic or Product Design might be exactly the right field of study. University College is providing a growing number of ways in which the faculty and departments in all of the colleges and schools can engage with these hundreds of students who are looking for the right academic home for them within this large university. Programs and departments are encouraged to contact Dean Hood and explore how to engage with these students or expand the engagements they have already begun.

For a more individual look at a small selection of incoming freshmen students:

Israa Assaf is entering as a Family Science and Human Development major. She graduated from Wayne Valley High School with a 3.79 GPA. In addition to her studies, Israa participated in the We Act Club, a group dedicated to uplifting local communities, and the Peer Leader club. She also volunteers as a teacher at the Special Needs Sunday School at the Islamic Center of Passaic County. Her goal is to become a school counselor. She was particularly attracted to Montclair State’s diverse and inclusive environment, and she says, “I want my students to look at me, and see themselves. Someone they can look up to, and someone who can protect them.”

Maggie Aube has had her sights set on Montclair State for years. She is entering as a Theatre Studies major after graduating as one of the top students in her class at Woodbridge High School. Maggie has been an active member of her school and community theater, served as president of the Drama Club, vice president of the concert choir, and as a volunteer for the Community Emergency Response Team and Relay for Life, for which she received the Mayor’s Youth Volunteer Award in 2018.

Elisabeth Point Du Jour is entering as a Chemistry major, through the Health Careers program, with a goal of becoming a transplant surgeon. She graduated in the top 2% of her class at Alexander Hamilton Preparatory Academy with a 3.7 GPA. Elisabeth came to the U.S. from Haiti at a young age and took full advantage of the academic opportunities available to her. She served as the vice president of the Student Government, was a Chemistry tutor, and a member of the School Improvement Panel, meeting with members of the Board of Education to discuss proposals for academic improvement. Additionally, Elisabeth was part of the Union County Student Training and Enrichment Program, where she participated in hands-on activities focused on leadership, personal growth and civic engagement.

Nicole Hayden is entering as a Child Advocacy and Policy major. She graduated from Lindenhurst High School in New York with a 3.9 GPA, and is one of our first National Student Scholars, a new University program that offers in-state tuition rates to exceptional out-of-state applicants. Nicole took a rigorous program of Advanced Placement courses and was also part of her school’s Symphony and Chamber Orchestra, Marching Band, Peer Leadership program, Student Council, Yearbook Club, International Club and National Honor Society.

Jordans Hertilien graduated from Hillside High School with a 3.5 GPA and is entering University College where he will be on an exploratory path to identify the right major field of study. He is a well-rounded student who took eleven Honors and AP classes, while participating in the Newspaper Club, the Track team, the Poetry Club, the Academic Decathlon, the National Honor Society, his church’s Youth Choir, and the C5 Georgia Youth Foundation, a 5-year leadership development program.

Alan Reyes is entering as an Economics major, with a goal of pursuing a career in law and politics. The child of a refugee who escaped the Salvadoran civil war, Alan has always been motivated to match the work ethic of his single mother of four. He received the highest SAT score in his class at Thomas Jefferson Arts Academy, where he took honors and AP courses and cultivated his love for the arts.

Eseohe Igbinowanhia Ronald graduated from Irvington High School with a 4.0 GPA and is entering as a Nursing major. She participated in the JROTC program and Special Olympics, the Future Business Leaders of America, Student Council and the African-American Heritage Club.

So, here they come, as they do every September, over 4,600 new freshmen and transfer students. And now that they have been admitted and enrolled, the job for every one of us is to do all that we can to assure that they succeed and that they graduate from the University in a timely way with a rigorous education and a diploma that will be a meaningful asset for them as they seek to realize their life goals.

The University has grown and developed over the years. Not that long ago in our history, most people thought of Montclair State as a teacher’s college. With our current stature as a New Jersey Public Research University and our national designation as an R2 doctoral and research university, much has changed. But not everything. Montclair State has always differentiated itself as an institution intent on successfully providing a comprehensive and rigorous higher education to a population of students that is, in every way, truly reflective of the diversity of the society we serve. We have always cared about student success, and we have always cared about creating a supportive environment for teaching and learning. That has not changed, nor should it change with our more intensive engagements in research. That deeper research engagement gives us yet another resource we have to provide even better educational opportunities for our students and new avenues for successful completion of meaningful degrees.

To support our work in the core institutional goal of student success, Associate Provost Hood has worked with a team of people to introduce Navigate, a new software platform designed to help academic advisors, faculty, and all student support professionals to engage more effectively with students, to identify students who need attention, and to track student trends, allowing us to be more effective in the allocation of our resources and programs. The project leaders were Dr. Danielle Insalaco-Egan and Dr. Allyson Straker-Banks, the Technical Lead was Klavdiya Hammond, Technical Support was Puja Roy, Workflow and Training was covered by Courtney Cunningham and Amanda Carcione, Analytics by James Davison and Dr. Emily Isaacs, Communications by Dr. Daphne Gaulkin, and Functional Lead was Nicole Weir. Phase 1 of the Navigate launch went live this summer for professional advisors. Phase 2 will be implemented this fall for faculty users, and Phase 3 will be implemented in the spring for others who provide a wide range of student support services. The point of this technology is to create a consistent, university-wide academic advising, faculty and student services communication network. From department, to college, to university function, from faculty advisor to college advisor, to financial aid advisor, to registrar, to bursar, to Dean of Students, to housing advisor and more, the program will provide a richer and more accurate information and service platform for every person engaged in advising a student and, consequently, clearer, more consistent, and more accurate advice for the student. As the implementation of Navigate moves forward this year, I urge each of you to discover its potential and to let it help you contribute to the success of our students.

Even more important than new software, this year also brings new faculty and staff to the University, including a new class of 16 tenured or tenure track faculty. To introduce a few among them:

Professor Michael Bixter received his PhD in Cognitive/Experimental Psychology from Stony Brook University. He joins the Department of Psychology from two postdoctoral positions, the first in research on cognitive aging at the Georgia Institute of Technology and the second in identification of longitudinal predictors of academic success in college students at Arizona State University. Professor Bixter’s multi-disciplinary research focuses on understanding how decisions are made about delayed and risky rewards, how decisions are made in small-group environments, and how cognitive behaviors develop across adulthood. He also has an interest in advanced quantitative and statistical methods, such as dyadic and small-group data analytic techniques, multilevel modeling, and longitudinal growth curve modeling. His work has been published in a number of important journals.

Professor Nicholas DeMaison received his PhD in Musical Composition from the University of California at San Diego. He joins the faculty of the John J. Cali School of Music as its new director of Orchestra Studies. Prior to coming to Montclair State, he was the music director of the orchestra and concert choir at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute as well as the director of the New York City-based Wavefield Ensemble. A former conducting student of Pierre Boulez, Gustav Meier and Peter Eötvos, he is actively engaged as a guest conductor. His discography includes recordings with the International Contemporary Ensemble and the Anagram Ensemble and, as a composer, he has written for opera, chorus, large ensemble, chamber ensemble, electronic instruments and film.

Professor Mary Elizabeth Duffy received her DNP from Columbia University and joins the School of Nursing from prior academic appointments at Columbia University and Rutgers University. She is a clinical expert in cardiac care, having worked as an advanced practice nurse in academic medical centers for over 12 years. In these positions she created new roles for advanced practice nurses that resulted in significant improvements in quality and efficiency of care. Her expertise includes management of persons with heart failure, pre-heart transplant evaluation and procedures in the cardiac catheterization laboratory. Her research and presentations focus on improving outcomes by expanding nurse practitioner scope of practice in acute cardiac settings.

Professor Eli Lee received his PhD in Chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley. He joins the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. Before coming to Montclair State, he was a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Postdoctoral Researcher at Berkeley and a visiting assistant professor at the University of Puget Sound. Dr. Lee’s research is on the biophysical understanding of lipid membrane-protein interactions. He has a distinguished research record with publications in premier journals. His work with cutting-edge, single-molecule imaging and fluorescence spectroscopy has revealed the organization of living cell membranes involved in brain function. At Montclair State, he plans to develop more advanced imaging methods, which have therapeutic applications in the pharmaceutical and life sciences industries.

Professor Sze Yan (Sam) Liu received her PhD in Epidemiology from Brown University. She joins the Department of Public Health from her position as a research scientist at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Prior to that, she was a Kellogg post-doctoral Fellow in Health Disparities at Harvard University and a research associate at the Harvard University Center for Population and Development Studies. Professor Liu has published her research in highly regarded Public Health journals. Her scholarship focuses on the impact of social policies on health disparities, including research on the causal effect of police brutality on emergency department use in New York State, the association of structural racism and maternal morbidity, and the risk of hospitalization among low birthweight infants enrolled in different versions of Medicaid.

Professor Joshua Lupinek earned his PhD in Sports Marketing from the University of Minnesota. He joins the newly created Department of Hospitality and Tourism, coming from four years at the University of Alaska. His research expertise is in sports marketing, brand communities, social network analysis, fantasy sports and virtual reality. At the University of Alaska, he founded the University of Alaska Virtual Reality Lab and is planning a similar lab at Montclair State.

New faculty always represent an expanded opportunity for collaboration with new colleagues, and I hope you will all make an effort to get to know them. As we welcome these and all our other new faculty members to the University, we have already approved about 30 searches to begin this fall for new tenure track faculty positions for the next academic year.

New administrative and professional staff have also joined us this year, and a few of those include the following:

Dr. Peter Kingstone joined the University in July as Dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. He comes to Montclair State after seven years at King’s College London where he co-founded the Department of International Development and served as Head of Department and Professor of Politics and Development. Prior to his time at King’s, he was a member of the political science faculty at the University of Vermont and the University of Connecticut, where he was also the director of the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies. Dean Kingstone earned his PhD in Political Science from the University of California, Berkeley, and is the author of three books, including Crafting Coalitions for Reform: Business Preferences, Political Institutions and Neoliberalism in Brazil (Penn State University Press) and The Political Economy of Latin America: Reflections on Neoliberalism and Development after the Commodity Boom (Routledge).

Carly Graham Garcia joins the University as Executive Director of the Feliciano Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. She holds a BA from Georgetown University and an MBA from New York University and comes to us from her position as Head of External Affairs for Google in New York City.

Chelsey Watts also joins the Feliciano School of Business as Director of Global Programs and Partnerships. She received a BS in Business Administration from High Point University in North Carolina and an MS in International and Comparative Education from Stockholm University. Chelsey most recently was the assistant director for Global Education Partnerships at Virginia Tech and was previously at the Booth School at the University of Chicago and at the University of Liverpool.

In June, Robert Chesney was appointed as the new Director of Intercollegiate Athletics, overseeing Montclair State’s 18 NCAA Division III men’s and women’s teams, comprising 475 student athletes. Over more than 30 years at Montclair State, as a student-athlete, coach and administrator, Rob Chesney contributed to the department’s many notable successes and has now been charged with the responsibility to move the University’s successful athletics program to take its place as one of the top DIII programs in the nation.

New students, new faculty and staff, and, ahead of us, a year of development of new programs. Among these initiatives, the Department of Theatre and Dance is continuing its work to reinvigorate the Theatre Studies programs at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Students will have two new options available to them, a combined BA/MA in Theatre Studies and K-12 teacher certification. At the graduate level, the department will offer a new certificate in the Theatre of Diversity, Inclusion and Social Change.

By 2022, Athletic Training certification will require a master’s degree, and, in advance of this new requirement, the program has created a new MS in Athletic Training, which has admitted its first class this fall.

Over this academic year, the College of Science and Mathematics has plans in place to develop a suite of 4+1 combined bachelor’s/masters degrees, pairing an undergraduate science discipline with an MBA, in collaboration with the Feliciano School of Business.

This past spring, the School of Nursing received phase 1 approval for its application to establish a pre-licensure MSN degree program designed to serve students with baccalaureate degrees in non-Nursing fields, such as Biology, Nutrition, Exercise Science and Public Health. The phase 2 application was submitted during the summer, and the School of Nursing is planning to admit the first cohort of 20 students into the program in summer 2020.

A major focus for The Graduate School in academic programs this year will be the creation of a team to partner with the Division of Communications and Marketing to advance online graduate initiatives, including identifying new markets, creating degree completion programs, and charting a clear direction for online program development.

Continuing our successful enhancement of the University’s physical campus resources, the most significant new addition to our academic facilities this year is the completion of the first phase of the renovations of Richardson Hall. The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and the Department of Physics and Astronomy have taken occupancy of their new laboratories and offices on the 2nd floor. It is a superb remake of the space. If you know and like any of your colleagues from Chemistry or Physics, ask them to give you a tour. You’ll like it.

In other facilities projects, the massive renovation of College Hall is moving well, on time and on budget, with project completion scheduled for the summer of 2020.

However, most significant in regard to campus infrastructure is something that all of you will use, but most of you will never notice. This year will give us the first full year of utilization of our amazing new energy infrastructure and Microgrid, the brain child of Vice President Shawn Connolly. Montclair State is the first university in New Jersey, and one of only a small number of universities in the country, with an innovative Microgrid that can function independently and generate its own power, basically guaranteeing that the lights will never go off. I will spend a moment of time on this subject because this infrastructure is extremely critical to the University today and to all our ambitions for the future.

Following the historic 2012 Hurricane Sandy and the massive statewide interruptions to the power grid that it brought, we realized that we needed to begin to think about making the campus power-independent. The first step was completion, in 2013, of a new, modern co-generation facility, replacing a power plant that was at the point of failure at the end of its useful life. The problem with standard power plants is that they’re inefficient because, to create electricity, they use a fuel – gas, oil, coal or nuclear power – to create steam that then drives a turbine. In the process, the system generates an enormous amount of useless heat, making it only about 30-35% efficient at best. The benefit of our new plant is its efficiency: it harvests that heat through a Heat Recovery Steam Generator and uses that steam to power chillers and boilers to provide campus-wide cooling and heating in addition to generating electricity. The result is an increase in efficiency to upwards of 80%, dramatically reducing our carbon footprint.

Of course, all power plants need upkeep, and, in May 2016, while the gas turbine at the University’s new plant was offline for annual maintenance, a car struck a power pole near the University, taking down one of two electricity feeders from the local utility, PSEG, to the campus. At this point, the campus was still fully powered from a second feeder, which operates in parallel. But then what can only be described as a quintessentially New Jersey event occurred. That remaining second feeder was taken out by a large turkey vulture which sat on a nearby power line, opened its wings, and bridged two lines causing the line fuses to blow. This left the campus with no electrical power except emergency generation for the most critical needs. It also, of course, was the sad end of the turkey vulture. May it rest in peace. Almost totally without power, the University was forced to postpone final exams and extend the academic semester, inconveniencing students, staff and University operations.

Vice President Connolly refused to be defeated by a turkey vulture. The Red Hawk in his soul spurred him into action, and he developed a bold plan which the University adopted to create a campus-wide Microgrid that would be local, independent and automated – able to isolate itself from the regional electric grid. The automation features of the Microgrid allow it to input electrical load data, respond to off-campus power disturbances in milliseconds, and determine how much, when and where the Microgrid supplies power or needs to take additional power from the local utility. It is protected by a layered set of cybersecurity measures, further helping ensure no power interruptions.

The University’s new power plant combined with its Microgrid saves the University in excess of $4 million annually by lowering total energy costs and managing and controlling on-campus energy use. It can regulate how much power it purchases from the regional grid, and can actually sell power back to the grid when that is the best economic choice. By having the ability to export power back to the main energy grid, Montclair State is reducing its own energy use and becoming a more environmentally friendly and sustainable partner for its grid power provider, PSEG. What we have done here has caught the attention of a number of major universities who are interested in replicating our success. While I’m not sure he will be an Oscar nominee, here is VP Connolly in a feature role in a brief film, which, if not playing in your neighborhood theaters, is a big hit in conferences of facilities engineers:

As we are all aware, the University has grown and changed, and it is now critical to our continued success that we expand our connections and public presence more broadly than we have in the past. Among the most important of our constituents are our 130,000 living alumni, and keeping them engaged with the University through return visits to campus to visit classes, guest lecture, mentor students, attend cultural and athletic events, and remain in touch with their home departments, schools and colleges is critical to the University’s long-term strength. A number of academic areas have been quite successful in maintaining a rich engagement with alumni, but most have a way to go in establishing those connections. The Office of Alumni Relations is providing a new technology that will assist all units in the University to scale up alumni engagement. The software called PeopleGrove will be branded as MONTCLAIRconnect and will serve as a central portal for all 130,000 alumni. The new system will give us the ability to create groups organized around professional or other affinities, academic program affiliation, geography, and other interests. It will provide event information and a searchable directory. It will give all of us something we have lacked, which is a comprehensive, user-friendly system to enable alumni to alumni and alumni to faculty and program connections. There will be an initial rollout of the program to alumni this fall, and then a fuller implementation to all schools and colleges in the spring.

In addition, the Office of Communications and Marketing recently launched an outdoor campaign that will reach millions of commuters, including highway billboards and posters in eleven train stations on the Montclair-Boonton line. University banners have also gone up in the Montclair business district. And University Communications has also put an increasingly heavy emphasis on placing media stories about faculty research, scholarship and creative activity in both regional and national news outlets.

As we grow into our relatively new identity as a doctoral/research university, our most critical task will be to make that identity meaningful through significant connections, collaborations and contributions to the national and international research community and to the larger society that we serve. Those touchpoints occur in many different ways across the University, and there is very little that we do that cannot serve to advance that identity. A few examples of some current or developing initiatives that have different types of outreach and external partnerships and collaborations include the following:

Professors Eileen Murray and Joseph DiNapoli from Mathematics will be leading a team of researchers on a $1.7 million project, funded with a four-year grant from the National Science Foundation Discovery Research PreK-12 Grant program. These grants are awarded to projects that have the potential to transform the K-12 education system. The team will bring together the Montclair State team with researchers from SUNY – Buffalo and DePaul University in collaboration with Math for America and the New York State Master Teacher Program.

Student Green Teams sponsored by the PSEG Institute for Sustainability Studies, led by its director, Dr. Amy Tuininga, branched out this summer, advocating for communities to adapt greener lifestyles and for industries to innovate greener ways of doing business. They connected to scientists at Princeton’s Plasma Physics Lab, took their message global, joining sustainability initiatives at the United Nations, and dug in at the grassroots level in a city park. Community partners have sponsored teams of undergraduates who provide research, analysis and marketing to shift corporate culture. Outreach partners have included New Jersey Natural Gas, The City of Newark, Newark Science and Sustainability Inc., Sussex County Municipal Utilities Authority, FoamCycle, Prudential Global Investment Management and PSEG.

As part of its outreach and service initiatives, the School of Nursing is actively participating in Nursing Now, a three-year global campaign to improve world health by engaging nurses in directly addressing 21st-century health challenges. The School’s specific focus, as part of this campaign, will be on service and education in the University’s surrounding communities. Their major initiative this year is called Stop the Bleed and Start the Heart, with a goal of educating 200 community members, as well as members of the University community, in the best procedures to control bleeding and to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) as a first responder in emergency situations.

Montclair State has been building a relationship with the University of Graz in Austria over many years. In addition to regular student exchanges, the Feliciano School of Business, through its Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, has successfully collaborated with Graz on a Transatlantic Entrepreneurship Academy and is now recruiting its next 2020 cohort. In addition, during the past year, the College of Science and Mathematics sent three faculty-led teams to Graz for scientific collaborations. For example, this summer, Professor Meiyin Wu from Biology worked with Professor Walter Gossler, a Chemist from the University of Graz, to quantify metal compounds in native New Jersey turtles.

This fall, the College of Science and Mathematics hopes to initiate a formal partnership with the Galapagos National Park and with the Universidad Internacional del Ecuador, providing educational and research opportunities for students and faculty in the biological and environmental sciences. For example, Professor Paul Bologna is in the planning stages of a marine biology field study for our students on both the mainland Ecuador coast and the Galapagos islands this spring, and the University’s Clean Energy and Sustainability Analytics Center (CESAC) is working with the university in Ecuador on a research project that would quantify the economic impact of the switch to biofuels on the Galapagos Islands.

In another international initiative, Professor Pankaj Lal, the director of CESAC, is the lead on an international team to provide management and policy prescriptions to combat land degradation in Rwanda, by restoring ecosystems and creating co-benefits such as sustainable agriculture, food security, improved human health, inclusive economic growth, improved employment, and mitigation of climate change. The research team includes the Inter-American Development Bank, United States Geological Survey, WWF International, Auburn University, University of La Plata and other experts from Rwanda and the U.S.

Substantive and sustained partnerships with carefully selected international institutions provide real educational opportunities for students, research opportunities for faculty, and build Montclair State’s international reputation.

Over the past decade, the Office of Arts and Cultural Programming, led by Jedidiah Wheeler with a talented staff, has made Montclair State’s Peak Performances series an internationally recognized forum for the creation and performance of cutting-edge new art. Right here, in the Kasser Theater where we gather today, some of the most profound and exciting contemporary artists have come to create and present new work. The program has given our performance students an extraordinary opportunity to work with and to learn from the best of contemporary artists. If one looks out at all the performing arts initiatives in New Jersey, it is this University’s performance work that is reviewed regularly in The New York Times, is recognized internationally, and, in that highest of all indicators, that actually draws audience from New York City, turning the notoriously elitist big city arts enthusiasts into a bridge and tunnel crowd. New Yorkers are getting on buses to come to see what’s on this stage.

Adding to a number of successful collaborations with other major performing arts organizations nationally, the College of the Arts and Peak Performances will be launching a new partnership with WNET’s new All Arts channel and digital platform to produce television programming originating from the Alexander Kasser Theater for a national audience. The professional television production staff will be supported by students from the School of Communication and Media. Beginning this year, the plan will be to air four to six productions per year, starting in late September with the world premiere of Falling and Loving, a collaboration of choreographer Elizabeth Streb, winner of a MacArthur Foundation Genius Award, and director Anne Bogart, based on work by playwright Charles Mee, which will be in performance here September 24 to 30. Tomorrow, the University’s George Segal Art Gallery will add to the event by opening an exhibition on the PopAction Performance Art of Elizabeth Streb. This new partnership with WNET will truly link Montclair State with the world, and, to close this Opening Day gathering, you will get to see a little preview of the soon to be performed and broadcast Falling and Loving, the dangerous, explosive, and extreme art of Elizabeth Streb.

Let it inspire us to work together to create our own exciting and extreme new academic year at Montclair State University as we continue to make the case for Reason, Science, Humanism and Progress!

Thank you.

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