Aerial shot of Montclair State University's campus.

President Jonathan Koppell Opening Day Remarks to Faculty and Staff

Posted in: Speeches

Office of the PResident

I love that video. Everybody have goosebumps from that? I’ve seen it now more than once and I still love it. So that’s what we’re about. Being supportive, being collaborative, being diverse. This is a place of opportunity, as I just said to the students gathered on the quad. Tremendous opportunity. That’s who we are. That’s what everybody in this room, everybody – and shout out to the balcony up there. Hi, guys! – and everybody on the livestream is about. Everybody here plays a role in creating the university that those students and faculty are talking about. Just an amazing place, preparing young people to make a difference in the world.

And I couldn’t be more proud to work here with all of you. The purpose of this gathering is to give you an update on some of the things that have been happening, some of the plans we have for the coming year, and I’m going to try and jam as much into this as possible and be aware of the time. So, if I speak too quickly, reading prepared words, it’s because I’m eager to get to your questions, and we’ve got so, so much that we want to talk about.

So, it’s conventional in universities to say welcome back as the fall semester begins, which is fine, for those who have been away. But not everybody was away! We were very much present during the last three months, and it’s been busy. A few things have happened. There was the small matter of getting a complicated merger of two higher education institutions done. That involved passing legislation in Trenton. It involved regulatory approval. It involved financial arrangements. We are not done yet, but an incredible amount was accomplished.

We finalized budgets. We hosted our first ever pre-college sessions for high school students. Major work on facilities on campus underway – a lot more to come, we’ll hear about that. Preparing to welcome 22,000 students, the most students ever enrolled at the university. That takes some preparation.

And part of what happens is capturing everything that has gone on in the year before. And I want to call out something that usually gets, I think, improperly put towards the end of remarks, and I want to call it out early, which is to capture just how much has been achieved in terms of our growth as a research institution.

So, I think everybody knows that we became an R2 designated institution in 2019, which was nice recognition of where we’ve come. But that momentum has increased dramatically. In fiscal year ’23, just in terms of external funding, which is only one measure of research performance – and I always hesitate to lean into it even though it’s something that people do – because it’s imperfect. But the university recognized 92 new awards representing $21.6 million in external new external funding and an annual expenditures in excess of $30 million. Those are both much higher numbers than we’ve ever recorded before. So, first of all, shout out to our Vice Provost, Stefanie Brachfeld, who’s done a great job in that area. Partially doing a great job capturing just how much activity we have, which we weren’t doing as much as we could have. But most importantly, just a huge, huge appreciation for the faculty who are out there doing incredible work, applying for grants, involving students in this research. That’s what makes the qualitative experience of being a student at a research university different, not necessarily better, but certainly different than being at an institution that is not actively engaged in the process of inquiry. So, I didn’t want to leave this to the end. This is an increasingly important part of our activity on campus. We’ll talk about how we’re investing in that moving forward. But the proof is in the accomplishment that we are more than capable and more than achieving as a research university right alongside our goals as an accessible, inclusive public serving institution.

So even though everybody was working hard, I hope that at least over the summer, there was an opportunity to be with family and friends, to recharge the batteries before we jump into a busy fall semester. I would be remiss if I didn’t welcome a few new faces in the room. First of all, we’ve got lots of new faculty and leaders. Obviously we will recognize them in a moment.

But we also have our friends, colleagues, the faculty and staff of Bloomfield College of Montclair State University who are with us today. Let’s give a big welcome.

And a welcome to those watching at the Bloomfield campus, from the Montclair campus – not the main campus, the Montclair campus.

We are excited. It’s always great to start the year with the sense of possibility that the new students bring to the campus. But I’d be obviously dishonest if I didn’t also say that we gather at a time of trepidation. Higher education is getting more attention in a negative way or certainly in a more controversial way than I certainly can recall in my life. In addition to the sort of political questions, there are questions around the value of a college degree. There are questions around the role we play in society. And just yesterday, we saw, again, that our campuses are not oases, protected from the same dysfunction and dangers that afflict society. Our hearts are broken by what occurred at Chapel Hill and a few days earlier at Edward Waters University in Jacksonville, Florida.

Two things. First of all, obviously, this is not normal, not acceptable for a society to experience catastrophic violence on a day to day basis, and we shouldn’t be inured to it. We shouldn’t grow used to it. We have to be angry. We have to be outraged even as we are distressed.

And second, I want to make sure that folks who are here today recognize that we are doing everything in our power to prepare for this. Chief Barrett and others led an exercise in the spring to practice, unfortunately, for such instances. We will do more of that in the coming year, and we are looking at every aspect of campus operations to think about how we can ensure that this is a safe campus.

The reality is, however, we are part of a world. The world doesn’t stop at the entrance to this campus, and so what is out there affects us. If you want to understand why iI believe it’s our responsibility to be a force for change in the world, one of the reasons is because we are not immune to the world. So, if we want to take responsibility for our own safety, that means taking responsibility for what’s going on in the world.

And so, the stakes have never been higher to show what this university is capable of.
We simply have no choice, in my view, no choice but to demonstrate that Montclair State University, as a diverse, public serving institution, dedicated to the twin ideals of inclusion and excellence, can and must serve as an engine of a more just, more prosperous, society. That is our assignment. And we are doing it, but it’s not a matter of maybe we’ll do it. We simply must succeed.

A year ago, I talked about creating the university of our imagination, and so much of the things that we’ve talked about are coming to fruition. That’s some of the highlights I want to talk about, and I want to talk about some of the ways that we’re going to implement the initiatives that we’ve undertaken to deliver transformational opportunities while we’re doing those things.

Now, there’s a lot of this that’s not so sexy, not so inspirational, but the reality is, if you have big audacious projects and big audacious ideas, you need to have a high performing organization.
You simply have to operate at a rapid clock speed and you have to be capable of implementing change in a rapid fashion. And to do that, first of all, you need a great team. I’m excited to welcome a lot of new faces to campus. I’ll introduce some new members of the leadership in a moment. You may have noticed that we’ve had a lot of different engagements with consultants over the last three months. We’re going to do more of that. Basically, what we want to do is bring in outside eyes and ears to look at how we do things, ask questions, basically say, could we do things better? Could we do things in a way that other people are doing them that seems to work?
And that’s not a criticism. It’s simply saying are there opportunities to improve? Some people ask questions, what are they saying? We don’t know how to do our job? No. We’re saying maybe there’s a way to empower people to be more effective. Maybe there’s a way to give more resources, more tools or to remove the impediments that keep people from being effective. That’s what we’re trying to do.

And we need to have the right people to lead that process. I told you when I started here not that long ago that hiring a provost would be the most important thing I did in my early days, and I certainly am pleased that Junius Gonzales, now a year into his position, has done great things at Montclair. I want to acknowledge what Junius has done. And so many things from looking at the general education curriculum to looking at the way that we structure our faculty engagement, I mean, the whole structure of the academic programs and probably most importantly leading a terrific group of deans, who are doing a terrific job of injecting energy and enthusiasm, and creativity into their respective colleges. I should mention that Junius was asked to join the board of directors of the American Association of University Administrators so obviously we’re not the only ones who think he knows something about leadership in the university context. Congratulations, Junius.

Hopefully, some of you have met, by now, Ben Durant. Ben joins us as our interim Chief Operating Officer and Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration. But I think of Ben as our city manager. We are basically a big complex municipality in our own right, and we have to be organized to be effective and that means coordinating across all areas. So Ben’s charge is to bring consistency, efficiency and coordination across the key administrative areas including HR, IT, facilities, business services, finance, to make us work as one organization. It’s a big assignment, but I’m delighted that Ben has come to us.
Another critical addition to the team is Rita Walters, who joined us, I think it’s about four weeks ago, as our new Vice President for Development and Alumni Engagement. This is an absolutely critical position. I believe that we have an enormous opportunity to increase philanthropic investment in this university. We are an example of what is right and what works. People say that they want to invest in those things. Okay. So, we need to put out the opportunity to invest in Montclair and invest in our students, faculty and staff, and I know Rita believes that there is a huge opportunity for us to further that investment. Nothing could be more critical.

James Solodar also comes to us to provide strategic leadership for the university’s budget. We’ll be talking about the budget. Our project is not only to use money wisely but to create a budget structure which empowers people to be entrepreneurial and creative and to take the university to a level where we are successful beyond the external investment that comes from this state. I’ll come back to that in a moment.

Finally let me recognize Aylin Solu Brandon, our university registrar. So not everybody knows what the registrar does, but the idea is that we should have systems that eliminate barriers to student success. Right? So we often talk about preparing people for college and teaching students how to navigate us. Well, how about if we made us easier to navigate? Wouldn’t that make sense? So that is our goal in so many areas.

It’s important to recognize in the academic affairs space we are welcoming 42 – that’s a big number – 42 new full time tenure track faculty, as well as two new post docs. Any new faculty members in the room right with us? Welcome! Everybody give them a hug when this is done.
For those fletch fans out there. Nobody? Come on! You’re old like me. You should get that! Thank you.

And two new deans to lead our new colleges, Dr. Rashid Ahmed is our inaugural dean for the College of Community Health and Dr. Vincent Alfonso is our inaugural interim dean for our College of Education and Engaged Learning. Welcome to both of them.

Let’s talk about these two new colleges. Very exciting. Dividing the College of Education and Human Services into two entities was an interesting thing, by the way, the opposite of what most places are doing. We have to consolidate! We have to mush things together to be more efficient! Efficiency is part of the goal here, and we’ll talk about that. But quite frankly, substantive impact is a bigger goal. And i think that we can create more than enough economic efficiency while creating two new dynamic colleges, first a College for Community Health that will bring together multiple departments on campus to address the urgent challenge posed by health inequity in New Jersey and beyond. We can and should be a leader in the health space, and I’m very excited by what that college will become and what it will stand for.

Meanwhile, the College for Education and Engaged Learning has to represent everything that is the DNA of Montclair state University. I still believe that in our hearts, we are Montclair Normal College or Normal School, and that’s what we need to be, and there is no greater need in the world than to figure out what engaged learning looks like in the 21st century. So, I’m extremely excited about what these two new colleges will become, how the faculty will use their creativity and the opportunity to design a college from scratch; how we’ll put that into practice. What a great moment for the university.

We also have the new School of Computing launching within the College of Science and Mathematics. Like the College for Health and Education, it speaks to one of the most in demand occupational areas in the coming years. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that employment in that area will be four times that of any other area. So, if we are going to be preparing people to be employed in the years ahead, having that be an ingredient in their education is obviously critical to be responsive.

And finally, there’s one new college under the heading of Montclair State University – not exactly new, of course, except the name is new, and that’s the aforementioned Bloomfield college of Montclair State University. I can’t stress how much work went into this, and I really want to express appreciation for so many people, the legal, the HR, the financial…the aspects of this were quite complicated. A little more complicated than I realized. Full disclosure. But I want to express my appreciation to our new Chancellor, Marcheta Evans, who is with us here.

She did an incredibly bold thing in pursuing the merger for Bloomfield, knowing that it represented a change to Bloomfield status, to her status, to a lot of people’s status. But it was necessary to advance the mission of Bloomfield college to serve students who were not otherwise being served. And let me express a particular part that’s overlooked. This is a very good deal for us because we also get Marcheta as a member of the senior leadership of this university. She’s an extraordinary leader, an extraordinary advocate for students, and an extraordinary dance instructor. She will be teaching everybody the Bloomfield shuffle, which is going to become a new job requirement at Montclair state University. The President is exempt.

Anyway, as I said, we knew this was going to be a challenge to merge Bloomfield into Montclair, but it was critical. As i’ve discussed in other venues, Bloomfield is the only Predominantly Black Institution in New Jersey, and it was simply unacceptable given everything I said about our role in society, simply unacceptable to say, oh, well, that’s too bad that students who are now finding pathways to higher education simply won’t have that path available. That would be a contradiction to everything I said before.

But this is uncharted territory to put together a public and a private university and we got it all done from a legal point of view and a transactional point of view, but now the – in some ways, the more interesting part and in some ways, the harder part – starts, which is the design phase. How do you have a liberal arts college that offers an intimate student-centric, differentiated experience embedded within a large comprehensive public research university where the students get the best of both worlds, where there is something that is particular to the Bloomfield experience but our Bloomfield colleagues and our Bloomfield students feel like and very much are part of the whole?
I am confident that we will figure this out, and it will be a model that others will look to. As you open up the pages of – pages, I know that’s dated, right? – of the Chronicle of Higher Ed or Inside Higher Ed literally every week there’s a new college closing. And by the way, some colleges should probably go out of business. Not the end of the world. Right?

But some institutions serve a distinctive role. Right? They offer a learning environment that is distinctively suited to particular students. And when they go away, those students are excluded.
So you look around and see what kinds of institutions are closing, for the most part, it’s rural, it’s religious, it’s minority serving. And students do well in those environments for different reasons, and so when they disappear, they, first of all, leave communities shattered, but they also leave students without a place where they’ll thrive.

So, what we’re doing here is incredibly important, and we simply will work through it until we have a design that I think we’re all proud of. I can’t wait to see what the Bloomfield faculty and staff come up with in conjunction with folks here at Montclair. I think we can do something quite spectacular.

Okay. People want to hear about budget. They say they do but then I see their eyes glazing over. So let me talk about the budget for a minute. A couple of things that I want to emphasize: the good news is, first of all, the investment in higher education in New Jersey was solid and actually went up some. The place where it went up, not as much as we would have liked, let’s be honest, right. The place where it went up was in the outcomes based allocation of funding for higher education.

I will not get into all the different streams of funds that go into higher education. It’s arcane and complicated. But the outcomes based allocation is a relatively small but growing piece of the pie which rewards institutions based on their performance, hence the name. Clever, huh? And particularly their performance of serving underrepresented students and having positive educational outcomes for minorities that are not conventionally well served in higher education.

We should be really proud of this. That’s really good for us, right? It’s really good for us because we do better at that than anybody in this state. That should be an applause line. That really should. And by the way, not an applause line for me, an applause line for you.

So just let me underscore this, and you can say, this is going to be my glass half full way of saying this. There’s a half empty way of saying it too. If you take all the money that’s appropriated to the universities and that’s a lot of politics, it’s a lot of who do you know, and it’s a lot of accumulation over time. We get 6% of that. If you take the money that’s dispensed based on performance, the outcomes based allocation, we get 13% of that. So that’s pretty good.

The state also increased funding for the Garden State Guarantee, which for those of you who don’t know, there’s funding for students to cover their cost of tuition. The state increased the income level of eligibility for that to $100,000 of family income, so that’s going to help a lot of our students as well. That’s a huge win.

We would have liked to have seen adjustments to the base appropriations for universities. Montclair, partially because we’ve just grown so much in the last 20 years, is underfunded on a per student basis relative to other universities. So an outcomes based competition for funds is interesting because it treats the competition as if the playing field were level, but some institutions are coming from a historic position of disadvantage. Is this sounding familiar to anybody, by the way?

So we would like to level that starting point, but we shouldn’t, like, curl up in a ball and say, woe is us. There’s lots of investment in Montclair, probably the most exciting news over the summer from a budget point of view was that the state made awards under a $400 million debt offering to invest in infrastructure in higher education. Right? Here’s where you get into stuff.

There’s operating budget, and there’s capital budget. $400 million was allocated to build stuff that higher education institutions need. And we, like every other institution, had to compete for a share of that $400 million. I’m pleased to tell you that, of the $400 million, $69 million was allocated to Montclair State University.

I’m doing percentages. So any math people? Oh, that’s lame. 17%. 17%. Not bad. So higher than 13%.

Two things that that’s going to do. First, we will be constructing a significant – I don’t know exactly how significant because we’re trying to figure out how many pieces of funding we can put together – but a significant interdisciplinary sciences building that will allow us to increase the number of students we serve through our STEM programs.

The boundary constraint right now is on how many students we can enroll in STEM programs and, quite frankly, on the ability to bring in new research projects is our lab space. And so, we expect that, through the new interdisciplinary science building that will be constructed, we will have capacity for at least a thousand more students. It’s extremely important that we do so as an HSI, majority-minority institution, that we have opportunities for those students to enter STEM fields.

The other $9.2 million will pay for technology and wireless upgrades that dramatically improve both the Montclair and Bloomfield campuses. These things will get underway immediately and you will see the impact hopefully in the very new future.

Investments like these – and it’s really important – investments like these are critical to upholding our mission of excellence and our achievement as a research university. And they’re not optional. Right?
This is really important. People are like, well, why would we spend millions of dollars a year? In order to get that money, we have to spend a bunch of money. That’s how it works. Why would we do that when the operating budget is so tight? I’ll talk about that because it is tight.
And the answer is because the minute you compromise on your aspirations as a research university, the minute you say, well, we can’t afford that level of excellence, given the population of students that we serve, it immediately says, the aspirations for one set of people in society need to be lower than the aspirations for another set of people in society. And that is simply unacceptable.

Access and inclusion can’t come with a sacrifice on expectations, standards or aspirations. And so, we have to do both.

Not doing both, in my opinion, and not trying to do both is a failure from the starting point. So these are critical investments for what we are doing. There’s been a lot of conversation, as you all know, a lot of conversation about affirmative action and the Supreme Court’s rulings that affect Harvard and so on and so on. That’s important. I don’t dismiss that at all, but if all of our attention is on how we give out a small number of – I say – golden tickets to a very small number of elite institutions and we don’t ask the question, what are we doing to create parallel opportunities of excellence for the vast, vast majority of people who aren’t going to those institutions, then we’ve completely missed the ball.
Right? That’s what our mission is. Nothing wrong with focusing on that question. It’s an important question, But I believe that what we are doing is fundamentally more important.

By the way, I should mention, very appropriately, in a few weeks, we will formally rename Science Hall Irvin D. Reid Hall in honor of our former President Dr. Reid. The reason why that’s appropriate is – and some of you are here – it was Dr. Reid who led the charge to make Montclair State College into Montclair State University. Keep that thought in mind when I come to a topic about how we talk about ourselves later in my remarks.

Now, I want to be transparent about these investments because as I say, some people say, well, I don’t understand. How can you be spending millions of dollars on a science building when we’re facing increasing expenses? Which we are. Right?

We think we’re going to have higher labor costs, based on the negotiations that are taking place, higher health care expenses and of course, higher inflation. I already got done telling you that our state appropriation is flat. And so we’ve got higher expenses coming in all ways, shapes and forms. By the way, I want to make an important shout out. We’ve got a whole lot of folks working every day without a contract, until we have a contract. So I appreciate everybody’s leap of faith to say, we’re going to do this, do it right. Major appreciation to all of our employees who are working without a contract.

By the way, it’s not one side that’s responsible for the contract being done. I want to be clear about that. But I think I speak for everybody here when I say, it would be a good idea to get that done and have a little bit more certainty about the terms that we’re working under for the next four years.

All this would be challenging enough were it not for the fact that people are expecting universities to do more. The most obvious expression of that is mental health, which 30 years ago nobody would have expected the university to be responsible for mental health services for all students, let alone to provide it at scale. But if we’re serious about student success and we’re serious about the welfare of our students, it’s simply unacceptable to ignore that. So that’s a huge increase in cost even as we’re struggling to deliver in an economic way everything that we already have to do.

This is the balancing act that we have, to spend enough to provide exceptional services to take care of our students, but not spending one nickel more than we need to which drives up the costs.
So we’re trying to find that balance. We’re taking some measures to strike it. Earlier this summer, the board approved a significant increase in tuition for instate full time undergraduates, which is about $500 a semester more, a total annual cost of $14,767, which is really high for us but still puts us in the bottom third of institutions in the state.

Clearly, the model of how we balance tuition and financial aid is going to have to evolve as we evolve as a university. We will be spending at least 22 million, probably more than that, on financial institutional aid. That is coming out of our budget. We are doing everything in our power including launching a platform called ScholarshipUniverse to increase our students’ access to funds. The philanthropic work that Rita will be leading is aimed at helping students succeed. That’s the key.

But at the same time we’re also trying to be smart. There will be lots of chatter about, oh, there’s a hiring freeze. It’s not a hiring freeze. No hiring freeze. By the way, if you hear a rumor and it sounds kind of sketchy, it probably is. Send me an email. I’ve learned amazing things when people tell me the rumors about all the things I’m planning to do.

What we’re doing, we’re being kind of critical. We’re looking at every position that we’re adding and we’re trying to be smart. And we’re going to have more clarity in the months ahead. So we’re just trying to be conservative for the next few months until we know where things stand.

Let me be clear. We’re in a really good place. You’ve seen some of our peer institutions struggling. You’ve seen them hemorrhaging students. We’re not in any remotely close place to those institutions, because we’re trying to be smart. Right? That’s the key.

And we’re trying to diversify our revenue and think intelligently about how we’re going to look in the future and so I want you to feel good about where we are but I also want you to understand why we’re doing the things that we’re doing.

And we have the results to show for it. Let’s talk about student success and enrollment for a minute. Every area of the university has things to be proud of, extensive research projects, every area from art to addiction to child advocacy, national recognition, groundbreaking programs, all kinds of amazing things. Again, I want to emphasize: excellence, not at the expense of exclusion.
That’s the key.

We have renowned scholars on our campus. Our chemistry student, Marisa Messina was named a Goldwater Scholar this year. Jason Strother, an instructor in our School of Communications and Media, was a 2023 Fulbright scholar.
We could list all of these achievements. The linkage between the two, the excellence and accessibility, that’s what’s fueling our growth. Students and families who understand the value that we provide are coming to us in record numbers. For the third year in a row, we have the largest incoming class in our history, well over 23,000 students when you account for both Montclair and Bloomfield. We don’t know exactly until Census Day.

Notably, we have an increase in the number of international graduate students, and I think we will see more international students in the years ahead as our partnership with INTO, a global organization, comes into fruition. I talked to our Vice President for Enrollment last night on the phone from India. She’s probably going to come back with a couple plane loads of students, knowing Wendy. But she said that the interest in Montclair was exceptional and that the organization said they’ve never seen another university with the same level of interest entering markets for the first time. I think we’re going to be in a very strong position.

We also have an opportunity to reach students who are not being served by other universities.
Again, don’t get fooled by the headlines that say we’re all going to die. We have the largest rate of growth in New Jersey, second only to NJIT, our partner. We’ll come to that in a moment.

I also want to point out something that doesn’t get talked about enough, which is – we often talk about new students, but I’m, in some ways, more excited about our returning student numbers. Last year, our fall to spring retention was 92%. That’s a huge achievement, a big gain.

And let me just tell you something. It’s so exciting. This is the largest returning undergraduate class that we’ve ever had at the university. And we graduate a little over two thirds of our students, which is among the top in the state. And I’m very proud of that. But it still means that a third of the students who start with us don’t finish. So, when we think about the metrics of success, continuing to drive that higher, that the students who come to Montclair stay here and succeed, that’s extraordinary. And then not just graduate but do great things and take full advantage of all the opportunities that are being presented to them.

One of my favorite parts in the Red Chair Video is when Professor Laura Nicosia says, you can be rigorous and warm, you can be rigorous and caring. That needs to be our mantra. And I think it is. Right? The students all reflect that.

And we’re constantly thinking about how to do it better. Last year, the academic excellence coaching program was launched, which saw some adjunct faculty becoming coaches, including many male, black and latino students, that have a lower rates of success. Through active listening and a willingness to understand their challenges, these coaches were empowering students to address anxiety, time management issues and the difficult balancing of responsibilities that so many of our students are dealing with. And we already saw an impact with increased GPAs and better use of Montclair resources in areas of counseling and tutoring and so on and so forth.
It’s just a really great example of how we can be better. We want to do a better job of capturing data on our students, to fully understand what the experience is. Yes, we can better use tools like Navigator, but the Workday Student project that you’ve heard so much about, which is a multi-year project, that idea is ultimately about student success, to see abnormalities in student behavior, to find when people are getting off track and intervene immediately.

We are 1 of 20 schools implementing the entire suite of Workday programs. This is a campus-wide transformation project.

I mentioned mental health. So much happening there. Academic research says about 60% of students are experiencing some mental health challenge. So, we don’t have a choice, in my opinion, of intervening. I was really excited about the work of our SDCL team. We received a grant of $850,000 from the office of higher education to expand mental health resources. Yes. And we’re taking advantage of an interesting telehealth initiative called “Uwill” which is increasing access to our students. By the way, the funding also includes Pebbles. So, just in case you were worried about pebbles getting enough kibble. The state is kicking in for Pebbles apparently.

This is why we did the Campus Climate Survey, to understand what is the nature of the campus where are things working well, where are things working less well? How can we intervene? You will hear in the weeks ahead some of the steps we’re taking based on the Campus Climate Survey. We’re going to have meetings on a college by college basis and doing much more.

The last major area I want to talk about is community service. As you know, something that I feel very strongly about is that the university must be designed to engage and serve the community. We’ve had a lot of history doing that, so this is not something that’s new since I came to Montclair State University. But we’re trying to organize it in new ways and with new projects that highlight everything that we’re capable of.

One initiative is in Paterson, the One Square Mile program, which is supported through a significant million dollar investment from The Dodge Foundation, and we think there will be more.
The idea of one square mile is that you can work together with community partners to identify challenges and identify opportunities, draw upon the full capacity of the university and coordinate activities to make a bigger difference. We’ve already seen the beginning of an ESL program at East Side High School and, indeed, East Side is going to become a full blown community school in partnership with Montclair State University.

I’m sure most of you have heard something about the coming opening of the Charles J. Muth Museum at Hinchliffe Stadium which is one of the only negro league stadiums in the country and we’re getting amazing recognition everywhere from “The New York Times” to “GQ.” How about that? And it’s supported by Chuck Muth, an alum who grew up in Paterson, went to school No. 5 right next to Hinchliffe Stadium. It’s an amazing opportunity, an incredible opportunity for all students of all majors who will work at the museum, to have business opportunities there, learning outreach opportunities there. It’s fantastic.
By the way, while we’re talking about baseball and stadiums, you might not know that we are undertaking a renovation of Yogi Berra Stadium on our own campus, and one thing that’s cool about this, we’re doing it in partnership with NJIT. NJIT is investing half of the capital needed to renovate the stadium.

I think that’s a tremendous model for higher education. And we are super excited because we don’t view this as a baseball stadium. The Vice President and I were just talking about how we can do student events there, how we can engage the community there. We think that the stadium is going to become a huge asset for the university. Maybe not 365 days a year but a lot. We’re very excited about what that’s going to mean. The fact we’re doing it in partnership with another university is fantastic.

One other thing that happened over the summer, we hosted two national gatherings of public service initiatives. First, the Bonner Summer Leadership Institute gathered hundreds of students here from across the country, engaged in service and leadership, and literally days later, the Next Generation Service Corps, a public service program launched with the Volcker Alliance, something I worked on at my previous institution, both brought hundreds of students passionate about public service. We are going to be, I think, widely recognized as thee public service university.

It’s important that all of your work is captured both in terms of community engagement and service.
That’s why I urge you to participate in the launch of a tool called Collaboratory which is intended to capture all of your great work. It’s a database that makes it easier to connect with each other and easier to connect with the community.

We will have an internal university council and an external council to reach our partners in the community to make it easy both to talk to each other and to talk to people on the outside. We want to be one of the most permeable institutions of higher education that ever existed.

I think we’re already well on our way. We’re seen as an asset. People feel comfortable with us.
They reach out to us. I think that we’ve only begun to scratch the surface of what’s possible there.
And so, it’s really important that when we do that, people know what to call us and what we look like from an identity point of view.

So, you may have seen this starting to show up. This is our logo. I know if you walked around campus, you’ve got like 17 different logos. Even students have said to me, what’s the actual logo?
Pick a ling! This is it. And people say, well, why this? Why Montclair State University? Why is Montclair big and the State University this?

First of all, I think Dr. Reid was right that it was right to become a university and not a college.
And it meant something. I’ve already talked about that. So it’s sort of funny that, after all the fighting and all the politics and all of the drama to become Montclair State University and everything it stands for, we’re like, yeah, just drop the university part, call us Montclair State.
No! That’s important!

But also, I think there’s an opportunity to be more efficient, more distinctive and the name Montclair speaks very well for us. And here’s the way I think about it. If it’s good enough for Harvard, Stanford and Oxford to go by one name, it’s good enough for Montclair.

So, we will use this brand, this visual identity, Montclair State University and over the next few months, hopefully, all the different variations of our logo will slowly disappear, and we will frequently refer to ourselves just as Montclair. And we’re also going to save a lot of money on ink because of those words.

Okay. So i’m going to wrap up, take a couple of questions. There’s going to be a lot of food outside. One of the new exciting things that happened over the summer was Gourmet Dining came to campus. Our new food vendor. There’s a Starbucks coming. That’s what everybody wants to know. So, that’s big.

And now, it’s in my notes so i’m going to do it. Like the most inspiring thing ever to close on.
Here it is. We’ve had a lot of phishing attacks, so if an email looks suspicious, please do not
open it. Report it to IT. But we have had some breaches. So this is not a small thing. It’s not just us. It’s all over higher education. We’re all being attacked by these nefarious rogues.

So, let me stop there. So much going on. So much to be excited about. It’s all about the students we serve and the difference we can make in society. And so, I just ask that the energy level, the enthusiasm, just keep it going, because together we can do amazing things, and I’m 100% certain that when we gather again on this day next year, we will have an even longer list for me to drone on about. And so, that’s both a threat and a promise. But thank you very much.