Aerial shot of Montclair State University's campus.

Remarks to Faculty and Staff at the Start of the Fall 2022 Semester

Posted in: News for Faculty & Staff, News for Students, Speeches

Office of the PResident

Thank you. It’s great to be with you. I think I’ve finished my probationary period. They’re letting me stay.

I’m very excited to start another school term. I always think it’s funny when we say welcome back or something like that. It’s not welcome back. Well, for some of us it’s welcome back, but there have been a lot of people who’ve been here all summer long. So for those of you who were off doing exciting adventures elsewhere, welcome back to you. For those of you who have been working through the summer to get the campus ready for welcome back, welcome to the fall semester – the beginning of another exciting term.

Welcome to the New School Year

I don’t know about you, but the return of the students always just fills me with energy. It’s an exciting time of the year.

So obviously, for me it’s a bit of a moment of reflection having finished one year here. And now I get to count in years, no longer in months that I’ve been here.

And I will say, I knew something about the quality of the institution. I knew something about how good the programs were and the things that you all do, and the things that our students do.

One of the things that’s really impressed me and now I come to appreciate as the distinctive quality of Montclair State University is just the level of commitment, the level of passion for the university, which comes through not just to me, but to anybody who steps foot on campus. And I was reminded of this once again just a few days ago when I got to meet some of our new students and their families dropping them off.

While they’re bringing their mini fridges and toaster ovens and comforters and stuff into their dorm rooms, they get bothered by the president of the university, which I think they like. And they’re also like, “Who is this guy talking to me? And do you have your pillow?” But to a person, the families all comment on the climate of the campus and how it feels and how nice everybody is and how welcoming everybody is. And a lot of credit goes to our student development team and the housing team, and the great job that they collaborating with facilities do to pull off the logistics. Many people said, :You know, this is way better than when I moved my other kid into I won’t name schools, but other New Jersey institutions, like you guys, really have it down.” And my favorite one was like, “And you have a tent, there’s a tent for us.”

They were blown away by the tent. But every person that comes to this campus is impressed by the nature of the community that we have and the feeling that they get talking to staff, faculty, other students, and I’ve had many visiting students who look, who say, “You know what caused me to come here? I looked around and everybody, they were smiling and they were friendly and they seemed happy to be here.”

That enthusiasm, obviously I couldn’t have guessed that from afar, and now I think of that as being sort of an essential quality of our institution. And it’s funny, right? Because the refrain that I often get from people is, “Montclair. I had no idea.” Joe Brennan says that should be our slogan.
“Montclair. I had no idea.” It’s not a terrible slogan, except it would be better if they did have some idea.

So we’re going to work on that too, but in the interim, it’s a good working slogan.

Reflecting on World Events

Anyway, here we are, gathered together. Yes, it’s the start of another year. It’s also September 2022, and it is a moment for us in the world.

I said it to the students this morning and I say the same thing to you. I think it’s foolhardy – even as we celebrate all the great things that we’re doing here, and as we are happy about being part of this community – it’s foolhardy, not to also recognize that we’re in a moment of tumult and uncertainty.

Happily, we are to some degree, and I don’t want to exaggerate this, but to some degree post COVID (we’ll come back to that in a moment), but certainly we’re able to have a conversation where the first question out of our mouths, isn’t “COVID what’s next?”

So that’s good. But our country is still fraught, right? We’ve got a lot of division. We’ve got uncertainty. I’m not, I don’t think, being melodramatic when I say a lot of us have questions about the state of American democracy and what our future is.

We have a whole lot of public policy challenges, including just in the last couple weeks, a question which centers on the efficacy of our institution, right? And the debt relief that was adopted by the Biden administration. Again, I’ll talk about this in a second. And from my point of view, amazingly a topic which doesn’t get enough attention because there’s so many other things that rear up on a daily basis, the small matter of whether or not our planet will be able to sustain human life in the years ahead.

That’s the stakes. People always say, “Save the planet.” Somebody made this point to me a few years ago. People always say, “Save the planet.” I was like, you know what, the planet’s going to be here. The planet will be here. The question is whether we’ll be able to live on it, you don’t have to save the planet, save humanity, right. Save the other species that share this planet with us.

So, yeah, that’s sort of out there, too. And so you say, “Well, that’s great. That’s a real feel-good way to start the talk.” But the reason I say that is I am concerned about those things. I do think we have to be attentive to them.

I really do think that part of the animating rationale for this institution and what we’re doing has to be the response to those realities. It has to be, and for us to not be cognizant of, and indeed thinking about our response to those circumstances that would be irresponsible, and it would be inconsistent with our mission as a public serving institution.

Responding to the Big Issues

I want to talk about a couple of ways or a few ways in which I think we are being responsive to those circumstances.

I won’t be able to touch upon everything and I don’t want to. I want to try and be more succinct than I sometimes am, um, and create an opportunity for a conversation. So I’ll be as brief as I hope I can be.

So a couple things. Let me start with the issue of debt. I could spend the next half hour enumerating the ways in which I think the discourse around the debt relief is incredibly stupid. I won’t do that. I think it’s mistaken. I think it’s mistaken in the sense of the assumptions about the profile of people who have borrowed money. I think it’s mistaken in terms of the arguments made about what the economic implications will be of that debt relief. So I think there are a whole bunch of mistakes. But my biggest objections: I think it misses the point. It misses the point in the sense that it’s not fully grappling with the challenge that students face when trying to embrace the possibilities of achieving a college degree.

Part of that challenge is financial. There’s no doubt about it and trying to make college affordable. And that’s much more than the sort of standard responses like, “oh, it’s bloated administration. Oh, it’s bloated salaries.”

All these things are sort of dumb mischaracterizations. But to my mind, the biggest issue is that students don’t have a clear pathway, a predictable pathway to getting a degree. And the reality is that the vast majority of students, even students who graduate with some debt, have no problem repaying that debt, if they are able to get a degree.

And so the part of the conversation that is most misguided is the emphasis on, “Oh, you know, of course, Jimmy is now getting his loan really because he got a poetry degree and he’s a barista, right?”

That’s a myth. The vast majority of outstanding debt is possessed by people who don’t have a degree. That’s the issue, right? And the vast and or, and the majority of PE expenditures in the history of the program have gone to people who do not now have a degree. That’s the issue.

Now, there are some questions about expense and so on. I’m not saying they’re irrelevant. I’m saying, where should the focus be? We are the case for an institution that takes that problem seriously, and so are a lot of institutions.

Largest Freshman Class

Let me take a step back. So this would be our largest for those of you who are not math majors, that would make this now our largest first-year class ever joined by approximately 1,200 new transfer students. Also our largest number in that category ever, which wouldn’t necessarily be the case, but it does result in us having the largest student population in the history or the university closing in on 22,000 students.

A good part of the credit goes to our incredible admissions and enrollment team led by Wendy Lynn Cook. Fantastic job really being creative, coming up with new ways of giving financial aid that really meets students’ needs and our Communications and Marketing team getting the message out there. So it’s more, “Yeah, Montclair is really great.” Not “I had no idea.”

So that’s part of it, but the really essential part of it is that our students are succeeding, that they’re graduating at a rate that exceeds other New Jersey institutions, and even in some ways more pivotally, they’re graduating and succeeding at a rate that far exceeds what expectations might be based on a demographic profile, which of course is a big ingredient in predicting student success.

They’re doing so because they’re getting support in every direction that they turn to on this campus. We have staff that are committed to their success. We have a fantastic EOF program. We have a fantastic set of summer bridge programs. We’re meeting students sooner. I got to meet high school students, part of the Hispanic Institute who are excited about going to college and they’re getting ready now. So we’re doing all those things. We have a faculty that I hear from our students are encouraging and supportive and stimulating, and always ready to answer a question when our students come. I am deeply appreciative of that. And the reason why those families and those students are willing to invest in sending themselves or sending their loved ones here is because they have a level of confidence that students will succeed here.

People are being more and more discriminating about how they want to invest their resources. So what you’re starting to see in higher education is sort of a tale of two cities. You’ve got some institutions that are growing like ours, and there are a couple of others in New Jersey that are in the same instance. And then you’ve got others that are going in the other direction because there’s not a level of confidence.

So we can’t just say this is a foregone conclusion and people are going to keep coming here, actually having, you know, 400 additional students. I’ve said this in every meeting I have with the team, that actually increases the challenge of us continuing to succeed in the same way.

I’m very excited by some of the things that are some of the things that are going on.

Student Success as Montclair Mission

I think I said here last year that I knew it’s weird to know in advance that the most important decision I’m going to have to make in the first year would be getting a new provost. I couldn’t be more pleased with how that one turned out.

Provost Gonzales has embraced, because he knows very well this as a central part of his mission, which is to up our game. And so we’re looking at everything, how we teach, how we advise, how we coach students to push even further. And I can tell you, we had an approximately 82% retention rate; that’s what most people look at. It’s kind of funny. The first to second year retention rate is sort of the standard metric by which people judge student success. We’re about 82%, not bad, not bad. And I am generally a glass half full kind of guy. So I’ll say that, but it does mean that 20% of our students didn’t return who started last year.

That’s not so good. We’re going to get it to 85%. And then I’ll say we had to get 88%. Then I’ll say, we need to get to 90%. We’re going to keep working at that. And we’re going to think of it in the whole way. So I’m very excited looking at, as students say, Dr. S, and we’re looking at everything we do in SDCL to figure out how can we be supportive of students, reconfiguring the set of programs to create an Office of Student Belonging, so that there’s a level of comfort and place that our students enjoy, which is just as vital to the success as their performance in the classroom. That will be a central focus for us. It is our response, and this is what I mean by “criticize what we create.” It is our response to the idea that colleges are indifferent to the outcomes for their students.

I think it is our response to the idea that college isn’t worth it, that the degrees don’t matter, that it’s a waste. That’s not what our alumni tell me. And I don’t know what your, I don’t know what your experience is.

It’s a sense of community, a sense of public good, a sense that we can’t only be concerned with self-interest, that we have to think holistically. There’s an irony, right? Because there is, there’s a way in which the culture of individualism and liberty like that. We think of that as being essential to this country’s politics and political philosophy, but what’s gotten lost is the other essential part, which is the ability to act collectively and collaboratively. And so I think we can be a counter argument that says, yes, individualism matters. Yes, the individual spirit must be cultivated and supported.

Individual abilities must be celebrated and rewarded. But if we’re going to achieve anything, even individually, we have to have a strong community. So that starts internally to our own community.

Addressing the Pandemic

I will say a word about COVID because I think it’s important to note the reason why we got through the last year without going remote and the reason why we had relatively modest challenges on our campus was because we were able to behave as a community. We didn’t have a lot of fighting about masks and so on. We had very good compliance with our vaccinations. We had cooperation between management and labor to come up with agreements that worked for everybody. It was really a powerful illustration of what collective action yields.

And of course we know that in other parts of the country and other parts of the world, we didn’t have collective action and we had very different outcomes. So here we are today. I’m cautiously optimistic that the policies that we have in place are going to work. But we are carefully paying attention to the variables that I said we would pay attention to. What are the hospitalization rates in the county? What is our ability to deal with a wave if it comes about? What are the transmission patterns on campus? And we will continue to do so.

I think that the key is: let’s try to remain wary and ready to act as a community if we do. Because we saw the results of that and I think we should all be pleased that the results have us here today. Now acting as a community means building a place where everybody feels comfortable and appreciated and has opportunities. I think that there’s a moment we have now, with some of the normalcy being achieved, to look carefully at how we function as a community.

Campus Climate Survey

I’m excited that we are launching a campus climate survey to look at issues around diversity, equity, inclusion, to get a sense of how the campus works. You’ll be hearing more about that. We want that to be very inclusive, as one would hope, to get a lot of different voices about how this is working. I’m very pleased that Dr. Ashante Connor is going to provide leadership for this survey. And we’re going to be doing that over the next several months. There will be a quantitative component, but I’m particularly interested in a qualitative component where people have a chance to articulate what their experiences have been, good, bad, somewhere in the middle.

So we get a sense of how this campus works and whether or not everybody feels like they have a voice and their presence here is appreciated. And just to be clear, that doesn’t mean that everything’s on pause for a year and we’re not going to do anything. I think there are opportunities, there are opportunities to address issues, and to take action even before we get the final report from the consultant that’s working with us, which is called SOVA. So we have to start with our own campus community and we’re going to be attentive to that, see how we can make it more inclusive. But I actually think part of what we can do that has impact beyond our own little beautiful community is being more engaged in the community at large. And you know, that’s something that I feel very strongly about.

Programs Gain National Attention

I’m so excited about the things that already happened. I mean, I started making a list of the things that I’ve learned about, which when I was with you last year, it’s sort of a funny thing, like I don’t know, like see a couple of things on the website, but I don’t really really know. But now I’ve become more familiar with the University and I just get so excited when I get to talk about it. And what a thrill to see some of the programs that we do gaining national attention. So many of you probably read about the Red Hawks Rising program in Newark that the Secretary of Education was lauding. For those of you who don’t know, this is a partnership with the Newark Schools and the American Federation of Teachers to encourage and support high school students to go to college, to study to be teachers and put them on a trajectory to go back and teach in their own neighborhoods. Fantastic program. I particularly like it.

But I particularly like that because it gets back to our roots, right? We are still Montclair Normal School and ultimately, our origins lie in a vision that a university could make a difference by preparing teachers. But of course it doesn’t stop there. We’ve got programs from Nursing that are out in the community all the time. I got to be on the Today Show with our first-year nursing grads. That was different. By the way, I had no idea. I show up at Rockefeller Center and I thought we were just going to be sitting in this studio and I’m, I can’t like, I date myself. I’m like, where’s Bryant Gumble?

And they’re like, yeah, Jane Pauly and Bryant Gumble aren’t here anymore. I’m like, Oh. Sort of disappointing. But I get there. It’s funny. I’m like, I think we’re just gonna go and sit on a couch and there’s a whole graduation set up in the middle of Rockefeller Plaza with, you know, stage and anyway, and it was funny cause the producers are like, “How do we do this? Do they walk up?” And I’m like, “Chill out. I know how to run a graduation.” I got this. But no, that really actually was true.

We’ve got our Center for Autism and Early Childhood Mental Health doing fantastic work. Again, some of these things that not everybody gets to see, a Center for Audiology and Speech Pathology, which is an incredible resource for the community. Those are services that are often not covered by insurance or are not readily accessible. Even if people can pay for it with insurance or Medicaid, there are no providers that will accept those things. And so they can’t get it. The Center for Water Science is doing important work, students getting hands-on learning opportunities as they address the critical issue of water safety.

I could go on at great length. The cool thing, from my point of view is that when I’m out in Paterson, where as I’ve talked about, we’ve spent a lot of time in Paterson and I think there’s a huge opportunity for us to be difference makers, real difference makers in a city that has a lot of energy that has a lot of possibility, but has a lot of challenges. They lack what is usually called an anchor institution. But beyond that, they lack somebody who’s trying to pull all those things together and to really make the different initiatives because this is not a dead city. This is not a place where people don’t care. There’s actually a ton of activity in Paterson, all kinds of nonprofits, all kinds of civic groups, people who are passionate about improving the city, people who are passionate about improving their own lives, but there’s nobody who’s taken responsibility for knitting those things together.

Building Community Partnerships

That’s an opportunity for us, for us to show what a university can do, if we bring our own activities to bear, and if we try to pull together the things that are already going on. So there’s going to be more announcements in the weeks ahead, but I couldn’t be more excited by what’s going on there. I have to give a shout out to Bryan Murdoch who I think many people know. Bryan’s done a phenomenal job for many years leading the charge on communicating. So Bryan’s done a fantastic job and I’m really excited that we’re able to elevate that work. I’m delighted to announce that Bryan is now going to be Associate Vice President for Community Partnerships.

We will be launching what we’re calling the Community Action Nexus, the purpose of which is to be an interface, an interface between the community and the University where we have one, basically one central place where folks from the outside can come in, say, “Here’s what we would like to accomplish. Can the University help us?” And where people inside the University can be aware of what each other is doing and have a resource to help you all connect with the community. Because that’s not always such an easy thing to do if we are going to be serious about serving the community.

And that’s what this is about. It’s not using the community as a laboratory. It’s not a test bed. It’s not a data set, right? It’s us serving the interest of the community, using our capabilities to do so. If we’re going to be serious about that, you actually have to build some infrastructure to support it.

You have to teach people how to do it right respectfully. And you, you have to cultivate relationships with the community, build the trust that makes real partnership possible. So that will be a central part of what the University is.

Great things happening in Paterson. Some of the things that are already already happening, you know, Dr. Reid and Garcia-Reid have done interventions in Paterson. There’s a lot of different programs. We’ve done educational programs in Paterson. We will become a central player in the revitalization, resurrection really, of Hinchliffe Stadium. And the museum at Hinchliffe Stadium will essentially become part of Montclair State University. There will be much more to say about what happens in that community. But it’s not like we’re only going to be in Paterson, right?

This notion that we will support healthy communities. This will be a hallmark of this university. And we will show that communities can be stronger, can be brought together. They don’t have to be divided if you are focused on that as your goal. And of course, a big project, that’s an expression of that commitment is our relationship with Bloomfield College. Again, we are closing in, so we’ll be able to do announcements, so I can’t make any big whizbang announcements right now except to say this: the futures of Bloomfield and Montclair are intertwined. And it would’ve been highly irresponsible for an institution with the mission that we’ve articulated to serve the public interest, to see Bloomfield College founder, an institution that is the only predominantly black institution in New Jersey that has a tradition and a legacy of serving the public interest. We just couldn’t let that happen. And we have fantastic partners at the college, very willing, very creative, very committed to figuring out how to make this integrated notion work. The president of Bloomfield, Marcheta Evans, has become a very close co-conspirator for me and is going to be a huge asset to the University. We will be able to do that in a way that not only maintains the legacy of Bloomfield, but the important part is it makes us an even stronger institution innovating, in the higher ed space, showing that there are different ways to have educational impact, different ways to maintain alternative models under one umbrella university. So I’m very excited, very excited about that. And I feel confident in that and the State of New Jersey feels confident in that.

So there, for those of you who are not big state budget followers, you’ll note that the state invested $12.5 million, technically in Bloomfield College, but what it was, was an investment in our partnership. It was an investment in us. It was a belief that we have a path forward for Bloomfield and the students that Bloomfield College serves. So, I think this is going to be an exciting next chapter, as I say, there will be more to come on that front.

Finally, when it comes to addressing the breakdown of community in society, I think part of what’s been lost is a commitment to public service and a commitment to, frankly, democratic institutions. And so we have to, we have to be a bulwark, and this sounds melodramatic, I realize this, but we have to be a bulwark for democracy.

Leader in Public Service

It’s as simple as that. And so part of the reason why I want us to be a leader in public service is because cultivating a generation of young people who believe public service is an indispensable part of their lives is about building a cadre of people who are the backbone of a healthy American democracy. And by the way, I didn’t make that up. That’s what George Washington said when he argued for there being, basically, a public service university. And so I’m excited that we’ll be launching our own cohort of the Next Generation Service Corps. This makes us a partner in a now 13-university network of institutions. This is something that comes out of work that I did at Arizona State University, where we launched the first public service academy in the country, actually delivering on this idea that George Washington articulated and then worked with the Volcker Alliance, a nonprofit started by, New Jersey boy, former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker, who recently passed away.

So we are now part of an alliance of universities that includes, obviously, ASU, Georgia State, Indiana, Penn State, I could go on with the list, all committed to building public service. We are going to be leaders of that initiative, which in my mind, will reach all 50 states by 2030. And we’re doing so building on a legacy of public service that we have here, not only this new program, but we are one of the leading programs in the Bonner program. We have multiple AmeriCorps programs. And I really do think, again, it traces back to our history as a normal school that is preparing people for serving as public educators. And so in this, in this set of ways, we are asserting what it means to be committed to community, what it means to be committed to the collective good, what it means to be committed to public service and at its core, what it means to be committed to democracy.

Strengthening the Institution

I do feel that in this way, we are responding to the challenging moment in a very palpable fashion. We can’t do any of this if we’re not attending to the strength of the institution. I recognize that. And all of this is exciting and we’ve got a lot of wheels turning and plates spinning, and choose the metaphor that works for you. That’s good. And adding hundreds of new students is good, but if this institution isn’t strong enough to withstand it, then you ultimately are self defeating. So we have to be attentive to the strength of the institution. We’re trying to make some changes on an organizational level, look at everything we do, every process, every procedure, strip it down, see how we can do things better, more efficiently, more effectively.

We are currently searching for a reconfigured leader of our administrative services. We have taken the position of the vice president for finance, and we’ve created a senior vice president for finance and administration. We’re searching right now, somebody who has the overarching responsibility to make the University work as efficiently and effectively as possible to support all of you in the work that you do. Whatever you do, however, from a structural point of view – and it pains me to say this because intellectually, I’m a public administration guy, political science, I believe in structure and process – but ultimately the people are more important than the structures. And the way that you support people is more important. So we want to be really attentive to supporting people and adding the talent.

We run a lean – I said this, when we were talking about the budget – we run a lean organization here. That’s important, right? That’s important. Because it goes back to what I first said, how do you make student success possible? Well, you keep it affordable even as you drive quality up, all right, there is such a thing as too lean right? You can’t run people to the point where they’re no longer effective because it’s self-defeating. And so we have to make sure that we are in the right spot. We were very pleased that actually with an intellectual argument – I really think that mattered, I know that sounds Pollyanna-ish as a political person – but with an intellectual argument paired with good old political activism, we were able to secure an investment from the state legislature that works out to $3,750 per student, which is more than we were getting before.

So that resulted in a $12 million increase from what the budget said. We did OK. We did OK. But it’s going to have to change if we are going to achieve all the things that I’ve been waxing rhapsodic about, it’s gonna have to change further and here’s the great part: we can address those needs and be innovative in who we serve simultaneously. The thing that I think is greatest from somebody who is responsible for the success of the University, is that our goals align. So yes, we want to be economically viable. We want to have the money to pay people. We want to be able to do those things. How do we do those things? We do those things by supporting student success.

Because if we retain students and graduate them, they’re paying and then I can pay all you. So that’s fantastic. And so all the things that we need to do in order to serve people, actually align with our mission. And so just some of the things that we are, some of the things that we are doing, I think are going to put us in a strong position, both as a university, but also economically. So we often talk about student success and how do you prepare students to be successful at the University? But we don’t talk enough critically about how we change ourselves to meet students where they are. It’s always about the students evolving. It’s never about us evolving, which I always think is funny. People talk about all the barriers, well, maybe we should eliminate the barriers instead of teaching people how to jump over them.

Montclair Unbound

So the initiative that we call Montclair Unbound is about changing the way we deliver educational programs to our students to meet them where they want to be. So maybe not every student wants to come to campus every day for class and maybe not every student wants to study exclusively online. Well, why can’t we mix those things together? I don’t see any reason. Well, we’re not set up to do that, which is true. Well then where you’re going to need to change. So that’s what that initiative is about. Are we organized intellectually to answer the questions and offer the programs that our students want to see and our community partners want to see? Do we have it right? Maybe not. That’s why I’m so gratified that the provost organized a committee to look at our education and health offers and then say, maybe we should restructure that a little bit.

And you know, I think we are going to make some changes based on the findings in that committee. And we’re going to look at whether we’re organized properly to maximize our impact and to meet students where they need to be and to support faculty where they want to be. Maybe we could be more attractive to international students. I think this is a fantastic destination for international students and yet we don’t have many. And that would be really important to building not only a financially stronger model, but also a more diverse campus community, which gives opportunities to learn from students from different backgrounds. So we’re going to figure out how to do that. We’re already engaging partners to help us identify international students.

Welcome New Faculty, Leaders

So these are the kinds of things that we’re going to do. And in order to meet those aspirations, we’re constantly adding new talent, new voices. The slides that you saw playing at the beginning, give you some sense of that. I asked just for some examples. So I got an example and I don’t know if he’s here. Is Christos Suriano here by any chance. I don’t know how he got stuck on my sheet, like a tough break for him, but Dr. Suriano joins us in neurobiology, just came from a post-doc at Princeton, a decent school down the road. He’s investigating the immune response. I’m going to read it because if I try and paraphrase, I’ll get it wrong. How the immune response to Adino-associated virus can disrupt neuronal structure and function. OK. That sounds good. But the other part that’s interesting is talking about RNA, the effect of RNA viruses. And what’s interesting is, you know this, this seemingly obscure intellectual stuff, that seemingly obscure stuff, that’s what led to the COVID vaccine. It seemed obscure 20 years ago. It doesn’t seem so obscure now.

So when we talk about community-engaged research and research that leads to solutions, I don’t want for a minute people to think, oh, well, there’s a lack of interest in basic research, there’s a lack of interest in the kind of work that I do. There are different ways that we arrive at solutions, and I’m excited about the growth of our research across the board in every area. And we’re going to continue that.

I also wanted to take a moment to welcome Dr. Pavel Lushyn to the campus. Dr. Lushyn is a former chair of the psychology department at the University for Education Management and the Academy for Educational Studies in Kyiv, a widely published author, a recipient of many medals from the Ukrainian government, a member of the National Academy of the Sciences in Ukraine, and unfortunately joins us because of the horrors going on in his country and the really shameful crimes against humanity that are being perpetrated on this nation. It is a very, in some ways, a very small voice that we raise by being able to welcome Dr. Lushyn to Montclair State University, but we are delighted that we are able to do that and thrilled to have you here, and obviously hope that in the future, you can return to your home in a different state. So welcome, welcome very much to the University.

Finally, we do have a great group of leaders, and I want to introduce one new leader that we welcome to the campus, Althea Broomfield-Michel. Althea joined us as our new University Counsel. She comes to us from Columbia University, actually Teachers College appropriately enough, and has a history before that working in New York City government. So she will not be impressed by our bureaucracy. We’re very excited to have Althea here and she’s embraced the challenge of making us more entrepreneurial, more responsive, more creative, more risk-taking, and you don’t get lawyers who like to take risks for anyone. So we couldn’t be more thrilled to have her as part of this team.

Privilege to Partner in Making Difference in World

I’m going to stop there and simply say I am so thrilled by what we’ve gotten in motion over the last year. Really what it’s done is to whet my appetite for the possibilities of working together. It’s a real privilege to be your partner, but more importantly, it’s a real privilege to be part of an institution that I think is poised to make a real difference in the world and show not just in New Jersey, but beyond what a university can be.

I started last year and I’ll finish this year by noting that this university is situated on the ancestral homeland of the Lenape people. And one of the things that I felt was important when I came to appreciate native American history in Arizona, was to connect what we were doing to that heritage and part of the way we honor that heritage and to appreciate the values and culture of those people is to embrace them in what we do.

And the emphasis on community, the care for our planet, the thought regarding the generations that come after us, these are all values that come through from those communities. And so we honor our history and we honor the challenges of that history by taking the strongest elements from them and manifesting them in what we do. And so, this is a start, but we’re going to continue to do great things together. And I can’t wait. I can’t wait to see what the future holds.

Thank you.

Watch the video here.