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President's Post 120: Fall 2017 State of the College Address

On October 11, 2017, President Mercer delivered his State of the College Address. Below is a summary of that address.

Over the years, these addresses have been shaped, in part, by the political and economic climate. The Newfoundland phrase “stunned as me arse” is used by my fellow Newfies to imply incredible stupidity or foolishness. While the expression is apropos of nothing in particular, it is interestingly being used more frequently these days.

Over the course of the last decade, we have made considerable progress on several of our goals while remaining true to our liberal arts mission. For example:

 Enrollment

In undergraduate enrollment, this year’s freshmen class is 41% non-white.

2007 Total Headcount/% Non-white 2017 Total Headcount/% Non-white
5393/20.2% 5618/31%

In graduate enrollment, we have also made tremendous strides.

2007 Total Headcount/% Non-white 2017 Total

Headcount/% Non-white

309/11% 502/23.8%

Endowment

Our endowment has nearly tripled during the last decade. Our endowment is small in light of our youth, but in 2007 it was valued at $6.5 million, now it is $18.2 million and our scholarship program continues to grow as a result of excellent investment returns and new endowment gifts. Our endowment supports 424 scholarships and awards this year. Students, get your scholarship applications in by the deadline of November 6th. Also, the Ramapo College Campaign for the Learning Commons continues to advance as a result of the generosity of our Board Members and Alumni. The most recent gift of $750,000 from alumnae, Marilyn J. Clark, brings the current total to just over $7 million. There is an additional $2.3 million in pending gifts. The Case Statement for the Learning Commons Campaign will be available in November and will allow us to reach more constituents to secure their support.

Value of Liberal Arts

It is difficult these days to hear such scrutiny of our sector and of our mission. But it is so satisfying when prominent people counter that narrative. For example, Guy Berger, a LinkedIn economist said, “There is a real concern that these labor-market-oriented degrees that focus on specific technical skills are not (as) durable.” Quartz magazine reported that Berger believes that “cross-functional skills” like management and analytical know-how are more adaptable across a range of work environments. As technology changes the nature of work across nearly every industry, it’s important to have a wide range of such talents, rather than a narrow subset applied only to a particular sector that may not look the same in the near future (or, indeed, exist at all).

Rankings

Over the past decade, higher education rankings outfits have also grown. We went from really just US News and Princeton Review to now Colleges of Distinction, College Choice, Military Friendly, Kiplingers, Niche, and many others. The Student Loan Report actually just recognized Ramapo as one of the top 2 schools in NJ for offering part-time work opportunities to students.  And, Ramapo is ranked #62 out of 500+ public colleges that offer quality, well-paying, part-time jobs to students.

Operational Transformations

Among the many ways the College has responded to and even anticipated change over the past decade, we can look to the emergence and/or transformations of some areas. For example:

  • Human Resources is now home to Office of Learning and Development
  • Graduate Admissions & Adult Degree Completion
  • Center for Student Involvement
  • Honors Program
  • Office of the Ombuds
  • Roukema Center for International Education
  • Grants and Sponsored Research
  • Alumni Affairs
  • Center for Reading and Writing
  • Krame Center
  • Government Relations
  • Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Compliance

Title IX

Kat McGee, Director of Title IX, participated in a meeting on September 15 with Senator Menendez discussing Title IX, campus sexual assault, and the short/long term impacts of revoking current Title IX guidance. The meeting with the Senator was also attended by our partners with NJCASA, Family Service League/SAVE of Essex County, and representatives of Rutgers University’s Violence Prevention and Victim Assistance Initiative and Center on Violence Against Women and Children. During the meeting Kat shared that Colleges handle many other campus safety concerns (stolen laptops, roommate brawls, arson) and we use the same the “preponderance of the evidence” standard for all policy violations. Regarding Title IX and the news from the DOE, campus received a message from Director McGee, Chief Morgan Agard, Dean Van Der Wall, and Vice President Romano yesterday reinforcing our policy to use the preponderance of evidence standard and detailing our support services.

VP Romano has been invited to serve as 1 of 10 individuals across the country to sit with the acting director of the Office of Civil Rights, Candace Jackson, to discuss the future of Title IX since the rescinding of the 2011 Dear Colleague Letter where the Acting Director can hear directly from practitioners.

Provost Search

Yvette Kisor, Professor of Literature, inb the Salameno School of Humanities and Global Studies will chair the search and we anticipate bringing finalists to campus in late March.

Strategic Plan

While we have made much progress on our current Strategic Plan, there is remaining work to be done. Rather than develop a new plan, I feel strongly that a refinement and extension of our current plan will serve the College well.

Shared Governance Task Force

The Shared Governance Task Force will be presenting its preliminary findings and recommendations to multiple audiences later this month including the Faculty Assembly, Communications Meetings for faculty, staff, and managers, and the Student Government Association, among others. All of us are encouraged to participate in those presentations by asking questions and proving feedback.

Board of Trustees Officers

At its September meeting the Board of Trustees elected a new slate of officers. It has been rewarding for me to work with a Board that is so dedicated to advancing the mission of the College. Chair Ruotolo’s term expired and succeeding him is William “Bill” Dator as Chair, Susan A. Vallario as Vice Chair, Gary L. Montroy as Secretary, and David G. Schlussel as Treasurer.

College Faculty and Staff Recognition

Culling together the good news and achievements of our students, faculty, staff, and alumni for these addresses is such a rewarding experience as well. A few examples follow of how our colleagues are making their marks in the state and beyond.

NJ: Finalists for the NJ March of Dimes Nurse of the Year have been announced and among them are four members of Ramapo. Congrats to Professor Elaine Patterson, and alumni Wendy Dabney, Stefanie Giddens, and Olga Barry.

NJ: Tamika Quick, Assistant Director of Equity and Diversity Programs, has been named to the Board of Directors for the ACE Women’s Network-NJ.  According to ACE, the group is a diverse group of women committed to the goals of identifying, developing, encouraging, advancing, linking, and supporting women’s leadership in higher education.  Tamika is lending her efforts to the Communications and Programming Committee.

NJ: The Russell Berrie Foundation awarded VP Davey and JoAnne Zellers a $1 million grant to design and create an Institute for Making a Difference at Ramapo College which will provide many opportunities for our students to have paid internships at not-for-profit organizations.

NJ: Last month, the Governor appointed Gina Mayer-Costa, Director of Environmental Health and Safety, to the Public Employees Occupational Safety and Health Advisory Board. The Board assists the Commissioner of Labor in establishing standards for the occupational safety and health of public employees. Gina is the sole representative for higher education.

NY, NJ, PA: Barbara Harmon Francis, Director of EOF, was elected as the 1st Vice President for the Tri-State Consortium of Opportunity Programs in Higher Education.  This is a two year position.  Barbara has been serving on the Tri-State board for 10 years.  The Tri-State Consortium of Opportunity Programs in Higher Education is a not-for-profit association of volunteer members in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.  It represents educational institutions, state education agencies and others involved in the administration of state-supported educational opportunity programs in post-secondary education. At these institutions, the opportunity programs serve tens of thousands college students from educationally and financially disadvantaged backgrounds.

TX: Professor Ira Spar has been appointed to the Advisory Board of the Terrorism Transnational Crime and Corruption Center at George Mason University. Professor Spar will work with Dr. Neil Brodie, Senior Research Fellow, School of Archaeology, University of Oxford and Dr. Nathan Elkins, a numismatist from Baylor University in identifying and documenting the likely geographic provenance of specific looted Mesopotamian artifacts, he will also review team findings concerning the current status of antiquities trade and strategies to disrupt it.

NY: Ben Neill headlined with Carol Szymanski ​“New Sounds Live” presented by Arts Brookfield  from Oct. 6-11 at The Winter Garden in New York.

NY: Distinguished Concerts International New York City announced in the spring that Dr. Lisa Lutter and the Ramapo College CantaNOVA were invited to participate in a performance of The Music of Eric Whitacre at Lincoln Center on Monday, April 16, 2018. Dr. Johnathan Griffith, artistic director for the concert series, said “CantaNOVA received this invitation because of the quality and high level of musicianship demonstrated by the singers as well as the exceptional quality of their audition recording. It is quite an honor just to be invited to perform in New York. These wonderful musicians not only represent a high quality of music and education, but they also become ambassadors for the entire community. This is an event of extreme pride for everybody and deserving of the community’s recognition and support.” Canta NOVA will spend 5 days and 4 nights in New York City in preparation for their concert.

WASHINGTON, DC: The Center for Student Involvement was selected for the fourth consecutive year as a Lead Institution by NASPA (National Association of Student Personnel Administrators.)  Ramapo is one of less than 100 colleges and universities which have earned this recognition for making civic learning and democratic engagement a part of every student’s college education.

WASHINGTON, DC: Professor Amruth Kumar joined Ramapo in 1993.  He has been named a Distinguished Member by The Association for Computing Machinery in recognition for his individual contributions to the field of computing, and for having advanced the science and education of computing in a significant way. In 2008, he was awarded a roughly $401,000 grant from the National Science Foundation. In less than 10 years, Amruth has managed to double that amount. This year, as the Principal Investigator, Professor Kumar secured a nearly $1 million dollar grant from the National Science Foundation to provide scholarships to Computer Science students who demonstrate academic talent and have a strong financial need.

WASHINGTON, DC: Ramapo’s American Chemical Society Student Chapter (aka the Chem-Biochem Club) won the Outstanding Student chapter award from the ACS.  This is a national award and is the highest honor given to student chapters.  This is a first for Ramapo.  They also were given the “Green Chapter Award” by the ACS for the second year in a row.

CA: Beth Walkley was invited to serve on a roundtable for Adaptive Insights. Participants learned from Beth and others how to implement the system further into our financial planning processes.

ONTARIO: John Woods joined the College in 2006. As Ombudsman he has spent the past decade working quietly, unobtrusively, but effectively in mediating conflicts and disputes. I am pleased to share that at the National Bar Association’s 92nd Annual Convention in Toronto in late July, John was awarded the Association’s Presidential Award for Outstanding Service in dispute resolution.

Student/Alumni Leadership and Engagement

There is never enough time in any address to cover the breadth and depth of our student’s engagement. A few examples follow:

The Student Emergency Relief Fund Committee which is led by the Student Government Association but comprised of faculty, staff, administration, and students is a wonderful demonstration of Ramapo Values. As a campus wide initiative, it was established in collaboration with the Civic and Community Engagement Center and the Office of Equity and Diversity Programs. The Student Emergency Relief Fund Committee was established to assist currently enrolled students who are facing issues of food insecurity. The Committee has already raised $2,250. Applications for these emergency relief funds are accessible through the SGA and through Equity and Diversity. The Committee is also keen to establish a food pantry on campus in the spring and that request is currently under review by the Space Management and Allocation Advisory Committee.

Leaders in Service turned 8 this year. The fall 2017 cohort includes 44 first-year students who participated in the off campus civic engagement activities including volunteer service on environmental and home building projects, social engagement with residents of health facilities, and mentorship with migrant agricultural families.

Student Affairs is proud to announce the opening of the Office for Violence Prevention, located in C215 and C216 (across from the Women’s Center).  The office focuses on education and prevention activities for students related to sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking.

As part of Disabilty Awareness Month, The American Sign Language Club and Young Leftists and Progressives have collaborated to deliver “Who Did Helen Keller Grow Up To Be? A Conversation About Disability Activism” on October18 at  5:00PM . Disability Awareness Month & Queer and Trans History Month Keynote Speaker: Kay Ulanday Barrett will speak on October 25, 2017 – 2:00 PM Friends Hall

Today is Pride Fest. In celebration of National Coming Out Day today marks Ramapo’s first ever Pride Fest.   LGBTQA+ friendly and advocacy groups joining us today at 3pm at the Arch include Garden State Equality, the Pride Network, Ramapo Pride, The Women’s Center, Office of Equity and Diversity, Diversity Peer Educators, and others.

Also on display today in the Grove is the Clothesline Project, a visual display dedicated to raising awareness about the reality of violence in our society. It is composed of t-shirts created by survivors of violence, or in honor of someone who has experienced violence. Each t-shirt reflects the personal experience of its creator and may occasionally have some graphic material on them.  The Clothesline exhibit follows last month’s Send Silence Packing Display, a national awareness campaign facilitated by Active Minds.  Send Silence Packing was an exhibition of 1,100 backpacks representing the college students lost to suicide each year.  Since 2008, Send Silence Packing has been displayed at over 200 stops and traveled to more than 38 states across the country reaching almost 1 million students.  Ramapo, which has its own Active Minds chapter celebrating its 10th year on campus, was honored to have been selected for a second time to host the exhibit.  The program included remarks from immediate past chair of the Board of Trustees George C. Ruotolo and the presentation of a Senate Resolution by the State of New Jersey by Senator Sandra Cunningham that praised Ramapo for its service, leadership, and commitment to programs committed to mental health and suicide prevention.

Athletics has taken a lead and has implemented NCAA Drug Testing for athletes this year.

Our Men’s Basketball Team is ranked second in the nation.

Social Science contract major Mindy Gorin just began her study of law at Michigan Law School.  She intends to research aspects of discrimination as it pertains to gender and law.

International Studies major Jimmy Grissman was selected to receive a Global Health Fellowship with the UN Foundation.

Students Reeve Olivia Harden and Cassandra Fenton will be presenting their work at COPLAC this weekend at Mansfield University in Pennsylvania.  Once again, our students are showcasing their intellectual talents across the country.

Alison Banks-Moore, the Chief Diversity Officer for Blue Cross-Blue Shield and alumna, is chairing a new Foundation Mentorship Program that invited student scholarship recipients to be paired with a member of the Board of Governors who will serve as their mentor for junior and senior year.

Best friends in Disney’s “Descendants 2” are at a relationship crossroads halfway through the musical when they break out in song – “Space Between” – co-written by North Arlington native and alumnus Stephen Conley. Also, Samantha Simone, Theater program alumna from the class of 2015, in her third year of the MFA program in Acting at Columbia University, was cast recently in CBS television’s series “Blue Bloods,” for which she received SAG (Screen Actors’ Guild) membership.

Ramapo’s Student Health Center is now an HIV testing site as designated by the Department of Health.  The College can now routinely offer free HIV testing to students directly in the Student Health Center as opposed to scheduled visits from off campus agencies.  The funding for the service comes from the Federal Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Modernization Act of 2006.  Ramapo College is one of only 5 colleges in New Jersey to offer this service.

Counseling Services is pleased to launch its new ENHANCE program. The Program provides additional services, beyond what is required by disability law, to students who are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders.  An increase at Ramapo in students with Autism Spectrum Disorders prompted Counseling Services, with assistance from the Office of Specialized Services, to create a program that aims to establish a dedicated way for more strategic attention to be directed to students.  The program is led by Ms. Suzanne Calgi, LCSW.  Students who enroll in the fee-based program experience support with social challenges, coaching around communication difficulties, individualized therapy without any session limits, tools for building healthy relationships, mentoring, skills for working within a group, and adjustment coaching for those students living on campus.

The College is providing all students, faculty, and staff with the LiveSafe app – a safety tool that provides a quick, convenient, and discreet way to communicate with Ramapo College Public Safety.  The app provides for emergency contact to Public Safety, allows for sending messages to the Public Safety Desk, and allows for tracking of a person while on campus to and from locations through the assistance of a person in the Contacts of the subscriber in the form of a buddy.

All first-year students now have three advisement meetings in their first year with their assigned advisor starting at Orientation and continuing until they transition to faculty advisors as sophomores. In our first year of implementation in fall 2016, the Center for Student Success had 618 more student appointments, which was a 36% increase over the prior year. As part of the Academic Advisement Council, the Center for Student Success looks forward to continuing to foster Ramapo’s culture of academic advisement for student Success.

Curriculum and Faculty

Among some of the curricular advances and many faculty achievements, I’m pleased to highlight the following:

The College launched the MS Accounting Program this fall and exceeded its targets in its first year.  The goal was to enroll 13 students in the first year and we have 24 students enrolled.

The Eastern Economics Association has returned to ASB, and it represents an interdisciplinary effort, with ASB Professor Alex Olbrecht as Executive Director and SSHS Professor Kristin Kenneavy serving as Conference Coordinator.

This past summer ASB became a signatory on Principles of Responsible Management Education, a United Nations Global Compact initiative to promote ethics, social responsibility, and sustainability in business education, as manifest in curricular, extra-curricular, and faculty research activities

Recipients of the 2017 Foundation Faculty Research Challenge include:  Professors Nikhil Varma, Gilad Cohen, Lisa Cassidy, Naseem Choudhury, and Thomas Owen.  This evening at my home, my wife, Jackie, and I will have the opportunity to recognize all of the many faculty and staff members who have applied for grants last year to support our students, fund special programs or advance research. You should know that 66 individuals applied for grant funds last year both internally and externally thru the Foundation.

Professor. Sandra Suarez’s TRIO Grant for Upward Bound to prepare at-risk high school students for college success in math and science was funded for 5 years at nearly $1.4 million.

Professor Angela Cristini was awarded a $200,000 grant from Reed Academy for “Greens Do Good” that will involve research by Professors Yan Xu, Ashwani Vasishth and Mike  Edelstein, as well as a conference with Professor Julie Norflus-Good and her education students.

Professor Dean Chen (Political Science/International Studies) was awarded a Fulbright and is teaching in China at Jilin University for the 2017-18 year.

Professor Stephanie Sarabia has soon to be published, Impact of Adult Roles on Maturing Out of Substance Use Among Sexually Diverse Women in the Journal of Mental Health in Social Work;

Professor  John McTighe has a new book coming out entitled “Narrative Theory in Clinical Social Work Practice”, published by Springer.

Professor Kathleen Ray has in press, “Developing a problem-solving treatment for gulf war illness: Cognitive rehabilitation of veterans with complex post-deployment health concerns” in the Clinical Journal of Social Work.

Professor Peter Heinze recently published “Teleology and the Collective Unconscious” in Semiotics 2016.  It compares Jungian and Freudian perspectives while also critiquing some aspects of contemporary relational analysis.

Professor Eileen Klein published, “Using Social Support for LGBTQ Clients with Mental Illness to be Out of the Closet, in Treatment and in the Community” in the Journal of Gay and Lesbian Social Services.

Professor  Henri Lustiger-Thaler edited a 2017 book, “Witnessing Unbound.”  The work helps inform our cultural understanding of the multiple experiences of the Holocaust.

The Law & Society faculty worked to recently publish the spring 2017 Ramapo Journal of Law & Society, a journal that allows undergraduates from across the country to publish their research.  The faculty are working with the student editors on the fall 2017 issue – please look out for it.

Business and Infrastructure

In September, the Department of Human Resources launched the Learning, Development & Performance website and developmental training opportunities for all employees.  Our Learning and Development initiatives are focused on (1) cultivating Ramapo’s workforce and enhancing Ramapo’s organizational culture through professional development programs; (2) assisting individuals in developing their interpersonal and supervisory skills; and (3) improving the quality of work life and job satisfaction for employees. Learning & Development opportunities are available for individual employees or can be scheduled as a group or unit-based developmental opportunity.

The Budget Office completed the transaction detail implementation pulling detailed information from Banner into Adaptive, and continues to train users. The office has also begun the implementation of helpful dashboards in Adaptive Discovery.

ITS has been navigating the College through a series of upgrades and implementations. As a business partner, our ITS Team:

  • started the implementation of moving from Banner 8 to Banner 9
  • implemented Handshake, the replacement of the Archway in Cahill
  • implemented AIM online software with OSS
  • is implementing uAchieve  and uAchieve Planner degree audit and planning software with Registrar and Student Success
  • with Financial Aid, upgraded AppWorx (Automic) and automating Financial Aid Daily Banner Job Processes
  • Developed Spaceman online space planning application in concert with Planning and Facilities

For client services, major projects completed over the summer by ITS included:

  • Upgrades of the computers in 7 labs, swapping out slower hard drives for SSD drives, replacing monitors
  • Working with facilities to provide desktop power outlets for student laptops and other portable devices.

During the “summer vacation” our facilities team was hard at work:

  • Nicole Jones refreshed the Campus Classroom recycling plan.
  • Ed Roessler and Joe Castoro implemented a new wildflower meadow at the north end of the athletic fields.
  • James Sanders is rebuilding the veggiewatt from the ground up using his diesel mechanic skills.
  • Also, with an enhanced level of cooperation between facilities and Student Involvement, this year’s new students were greeted with a “Welcome” sign for move-in day painted on the hill by the Bradley Center. I’m told that facilities, and more specifically our Grounds crew members, were excited to be involved, and recognized for their efforts. The team also helped lay out the plan for the class picture on the band shel
  • Chuck Jurgensen and Doug Lawrence hiked a 100 mile section of the Appalachian Trail in Maine.
  • New exterior seating has been installed near the arch and in the grove.
  • Capital is seeing the wrapping up of the Padovano Commons project, slated to open in late November, and the finalization of the programing for the Library Learning Commons project. The group is now turning its attention to the transitional plan for the Library and other spaces while we transform the existing Library.
  • We also saw the retirement of Dick Roberts after 47 years with the College this summer. Dick’s legacy will persevere, as he has been integral to the foot print of the College and much of its development over those many years.

 Q&A

 

Categories: Uncategorized


President's Post #119: Tragedy here in the United States and Abroad

Dear Students and Colleagues,It seems that seldom a week or even a day passes that we are not additionally weighed down by tragedy here in the United States and abroad.

Whether it is the horror of a mass shooting, the disastrous wake of a hurricane, or simply the unsettling ambiguities that confront daily our way of life, please know that none of us are alone in navigating these realities.

As a College, as a home, and as an employer, Ramapo is a place that is small enough to be described affirmatively as “relational” and yet is also large enough to be “complex.”  This is important because, just as you find your way at Ramapo by trusting in the good will of others, exercising  critical thinking, demonstrating respect, and building relationships that reveal truths beyond your own lived experiences, you will, or more importantly, we will find our way.  I believe that we can emerge from this as a more compassionate, just, and connected community.

Counseling is in Building D, room D-216 and  is available to all students. All  of our counselors are professionally trained, and sessions are confidential and free.

In addition, the Daily Digest is replete with opportunities for engagement and relationship and community building as are your classes. You are also invited to join me and others today Thursday, October 5 at noon in the Arch for a moment of reflection and silence.

Peter P. Mercer
President

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President's Post #118: A Path Forward

Dear Colleagues and Students:

The Provost and I met with faculty this week via Unit Council meetings and open sessions. The purpose behind our attempt to meet with as many faculty as we could was to go over some of the important tasks which the College must accomplish, to share our desired timeline, and to receive feedback.

The search for Provost Barnett’s successor will begin immediately. I expect to have the committee established by next week. It will consist of one faculty member from each school, one Vice President, one student, one member of the Board of Trustees, and one administrative facilitator. At its September meeting, the Board of Trustees approved a bid waiver for the recruitment of a search firm to help us with a national search with the intention to have a new Provost in place by July 1, 2018.

Searches for Deans. In order to provide some latitude to the new Provost, I will recommend to the Board that the deanships in TAS, SSHGS, and CA be filled by “interim” deans through to June 30, 2020. The new Provost will then have the opportunity to get a year under his or her belt in 2018-19. The searches for the Deans could then be formally carried out in 2019-20.

College Senate. In light of the tasks already before us, the pending review by Middle States, the implementation of the new General Education curriculum, feedback from some of you, and the ongoing deliberations of the Shared Governance Task Force (SGTF), I will defer the advancement of a College Senate. Once the SGTF has delivered its report outlining the Principles of Shared Governance, discussion on the broader structure(s) for shared governance at RCNJ should commence.

Middle States Self-Study. Our accreditation was last reaffirmed in 2015. Middle States is scheduled to conduct its next self-study review of Ramapo in 2019-20. The development of the self-study will launch in January 2018 with an announcement regarding the appointment of co-chairs for this exercise to be shared later this fall. The timeline below provides more detail:

October 16, 2017: MSCHE Town Hall Meeting – Standards Update
November 6-8, 2017: MSCHE Self-Study Workshop – 2014 Standards for Accreditation and Requirements of Affiliation
December 2017: RCNJ Self-Study co-Chairs appointed and steering committee populated
December 6-8, 2017: MSCHE Annual Meeting
January 2018: RCNJ Self-Study launched
January 2019: Self-Study completed and transition to completion of final report
June 2019: Completed RCNJ Self-Study delivered to the chair of the MSCHE Visiting Team
Fall 2019: MSCHE Visiting Team at RCNJ
Spring 2020: MSCHE Reports RCNJ Accreditation Status and assessment of the Self-Study

We look forward to a robust academic year and to your feedback and contributions on these and other fronts.

Peter P. Mercer, President
&
Beth E. Barnett, Provost

Categories: Uncategorized


President's Post #117: DACA

Dear Students, Colleagues, and Friends:

Your news feed, if it is anything like ours, is barraged by headlines that routinely describe significant changes to national policy.

Among these changes, in recent weeks, we have been privy to announcements that portend revisions to Title IX and that end protections for undocumented students. Please know that, as your College President and your Student Government President, our commitment to fostering diversity, inclusiveness, and equity at Ramapo College remains steadfast.

The Trump Administration recently announced plans to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. In the spring of 2017 we worked together to enumerate a set of principles for immigrant and undocumented students at Ramapo College. Despite the planned rescission of DACA, those principles remain intact. In brief, they include:
– maintaining a student’s privacy;
– not allowing officers from Immigration and Customs Enforcement physical access to College land to the fullest extent allowable under the law;
– prohibiting any College employee from inquiring about the immigration status of any individual on campus;
– prohibiting housing discrimination based on immigration status;
– demonstrating public support for undocumented and DACA students’ equal access to in-state tuition, financial aid, and scholarships.

DACA resources are available at www.ramapo.edu/international/immigration-updates/. In addition, the College’s Office of Equity & Diversity Programming and the Faculty Resource Center also maintain valuable information related to DACA.

President George W. Bush, said, “Immigration is not just a link to America’s past; it’s also a bridge to America’s future.” Nearly 26,000 DACA program participants call New Jersey home. Together, we are working with our congressional delegation, professional associations, and personal networks to ensure that these talented young persons can stay in this country and contribute to its future.

Peter P. Mercer
President, Ramapo College of New Jersey

Stephan Lally
President, Ramapo College Student Government Association

Categories: Uncategorized


President's Post #116: Welcome to Fall 2017 at Ramapo College

Dear Students, Colleagues, and Friends:

Welcome (and welcome back) to Ramapo College of New Jersey!

I often get a chuckle from the annual Mindset List issued by Beloit College. Included among the 60 items on the list for the Class of 2021 this year are:

  • Women have always scaled both sides of Everest and rowed across the Atlantic.
  • Men have always shared a romantic smooch on television.
  • They are the first generation for whom a “phone” has been primarily a video game, direction finder, electronic telegraph, and research library.

While these three characteristics, at first consideration, may seem a tad banal, they are representative of broader and deeper truths. First, regardless of gender, race, religion, disability, etc., our students arrive at Ramapo with a tenacious and inspiring belief in their own capacity. Second, they overwhelmingly bring with them a penchant for acceptance. And third, they are relentlessly connected to information in ways that make navigating volumes of stimuli both challenging and nuanced. So, students, you are wondrous creatures, and the Ramapo College administration, faculty, and staff are here to celebrate your tenacity, encourage your open-mindedness, and facilitate your intellectual growth.

We spent much of the summer preparing for your arrival and, in so doing, doing what we do best—serving as the state of New Jersey’s designated Public Liberal Arts College.  A recent article in The Atlantic asserted that a liberal arts education provides a path for an increasingly diverse array of students who seek to be “difference makers in society.” For example, at Ramapo, our Student Relief Committee was established by students last spring to assist their peers who are facing issues such as homelessness, food insecurity, and other financial hardships.  All students are encouraged to click here to complete the Committee’s brief Needs Assessment Survey, the results of which will be used to guide institutional decision making processes regarding housing, a food pantry, public transportation, etc.

Ramapo’s steadfast commitment to the liberal arts, academic excellence, small class sizes, faculty/student mentoring, access and affordability, and civic engagement were recognized recently by College Choice. An independent authority, College Choice ranked Ramapo among the top three colleges in the state, with Princeton University and Stevens Institute of Technology taking the top two spots, respectively.

So, while there is much to celebrate at Ramapo, there is also a tremendous amount of achievement in the offing. I look forward to your contributions to the College in the weeks and years ahead and I thank you in advance for your tenacity, your open-mindedness, and your appetite for learning.

Peter P. Mercer
President

Categories: Uncategorized


President's Post #115: Ramapo Ranked Top 3 in NJ

Dear Students, Faculty, Staff, and Friends:

It appears that Ramapo College is finally shedding the dubious distinction of being New Jersey’s “best kept secret.” Last week, College Choice’s ranking of the 20 Best Colleges in New Jersey, placed Ramapo third behind only Princeton University and Stevens Institute of Technology, respectively. As both of these institutions are private, Ramapo was also ranked by College Choice as #1 among nine of the public colleges ranked in New Jersey.

This ranking is a point of pride for many reasons but chief among them is that it was made possible through our collective, multi-pronged, and ongoing efforts over the years to:

(1) Increase the College’s visibility through enrollment and marketing strategies

Did you know? Ramapo College recruits from all 21 counties in New Jersey and from our neighboring states. In the fall 2016 incoming class, Ramapo enrolled students from 20/21 counties, 10 other states, and 6 foreign countries.

(2) Maintain affordable tuition

Did you know? Over the last five years, Ramapo College has maintained the lowest average tuition increase of all senior public colleges in New Jersey.

(3) Invest in high quality instruction

Did you know? Ramapo College has, over the years, reallocated resources to ensure that instruction and academic support receive an increasing share of the operating budget. In addition, recently surveyed alumni overwhelmingly report that the mentoring and individualized attention they received while at Ramapo were hallmarks of their undergraduate experience.

Certainly, ranking agencies and media attention will ebb and flow, but what will undoubtedly remain constant is our shared commitment to proudly serve as New Jersey’s designated public liberal arts college.

Please join me in sharing this news. A detailed press release is available here.

Congratulations and thank you!

Peter P. Mercer
President

Categories: Uncategorized


President's Post #114: Charlottesville, VA

Dear Students, Colleagues, and Friends:

I was disheartened to learn of the events that took place this past weekend in Charlottesville, VA. Innocent lives were lost, and many others were injured, as a result of the act of an individual who, along with several others, came to Charlottesville with hatred and bigotry in his heart. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims, as well as with those who were injured in this tragedy.

Ramapo College condemns and rejects all acts of intimidation, racism and bigotry. We remain committed to promoting and fostering diversity and inclusion throughout the College. We will continue to educate ourselves with the aim of eliminating ignorance and bias and enhancing our understanding of and respect for everyone regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sex, sexual orientation and religion.

If at any time you are a witness to, or learn of an incident of bias on our campus, please contact a member of Public Safety immediately at 201-684-7432 or contact the Office of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Compliance at 201-684-6693 or at diversity@ramapo.edu.

Peter P. Mercer
President

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President's Post #113: The Approach of Fall

Dear Students,

I look forward to welcoming you to campus for the fall 2017 semester. I write to update you on some important items to prepare you for your arrival on campus.

For the fall semester, please allow extra time for your travel and commute to campus due to significant road work and consequential detours and delays. Bergen County began its Route 202 Culvert Replacement Project this summer. The College was advised by the County that the project necessitates a full road closure of Route 202 from Darlington Avenue to just south of Ramapo’s South Entrance. While access to the College’s South Entrance remains open during the project, travelers coming from the south have to follow an extensive and inconvenient detour route.  A map of the detour route is available at ramapo.edu/about/visitors/drivingdirections/.

Once you arrive on campus, you may notice some recent enhancements. Among them are new outdoor seating areas in the Grove and along the Student Center corridor, a temporary home in H-Wing for the Salameno Spiritual Center which is undergoing repairs, the presence of the recently approved Mission and Values plaques across campus, and the ongoing installation of solar panels in our parking lots.

This summer also brought accolades to the College from external entities such as:

  • The encore designation of Ramapo as a College of Distinction for its “student engagement, faculty competencies, vibrant campus and community activities, and successful outcomes.”
  • A National Science Foundation Grant award of $999,999 for “Priming Computer Science Students for Success!” to serve students who demonstrate academic talent and have strong financial need.
  • Excellence Award recognition by the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators of Ramapo’s Peer Facilitation Program as a “transformative, innovative, and data-driven program.”
  • The College’s designation by Money Magazine as a “Best College for Your Money.”

These feathers in our cap are rounded out by the recent publication of George Anders’ “You Can Do Anything: The Surprising Power of a ‘Useless’ Liberal Arts Education.” Anders, a Pulitzer Prize recipient, chronicles the essential economic and social value of the liberal arts in today’s society, advising students to “Come at your career with a pioneering spirit, and you gain the confidence of steadily building up your strengths. Just as important, when unexpected change happens, you have the experience and the temperament to make the most of whatever comes next” (p. 16).

I, along with the faculty, staff, and your peers, look forward to your imminent contributions to Ramapo College of New Jersey and we applaud the “pioneering spirit” that brought you to us.

Peter P. Mercer, President

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President's Post #112: Students, Faculty, and Staff Excel

Dear Friends,

It was my pleasure to participate in the Monday, June 26 meeting of the Board of Trustees. The Board approved the FY18 Budget which is the product of cross-divisional collaboration, innovation, and strategic management of resources. The FY18 Budget also demonstrates the value we place on remaining a liberal arts college with a consistent and preeminent focus on teaching and learning.

On Monday night we also recognized achievements by the Class of 2017, outgoing Student Trustee Stephen Geerlof, and immediate past president of the Student Government Association Erin McKenna. We also enjoyed an enrollment report describing the incoming class of 2021, and welcomed Karen Aguirre to the Board as alternate student trustee and Stephan Lally as president of the Student Government Association. The remarkable contributions of our students are made possible, in large part, by the many faculty and staff who serve them as mentors and advocates.

The excellence of our faculty and staff was also recognized on Monday night when the Board approved promotions to full Professor for Michael Bitz and Aaron Lorenz in the School of Social Science & Human
Services, and Gladys Torres-Baumgarten in the Anisfield School of Business. In addition, promotions to Associate Professor were approved for Roark Atkinson in the Salameno School of Humanities & Global Studies, Sarah Carberry and Julie Fitzgerald in the School of Theoretical & Applied Science,
Eileen Klein and Stephanie Sarabia in the School of Social Science & Human Services, David Oh in the School of Contemporary Arts, and Kathryn Zeno in the Anisfield School of Business.

The Board also recognized the recipients of the 2017 President’s Staff Recognition Awards. Rajesh Adhikari, Ray Fallon, Beth Foster, Deirdre Lynch, Paul Pittman, and the Wellness Coalition were commended for their leadership, service, and advancement of the Ramapo College values and mission.

Congratulations to all.

Peter P. Mercer

President

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President's Post #111: Our Values and Our Experiences

Dear Colleagues,

Today is the annual College picnic. In recent years, many of us have come together at the Trustees Pavilion for the tug of war tournament and the staff recognition awards, and to enjoy the general conviviality that comes with good food, fun activities, and the camaraderie of our colleagues. In addition, we also gather today to consider the challenges we confronted and the successes we shared this past year.

Earlier this academic year, the President’s Advisory Council, a body comprised of students, faculty, staff, and others endorsed the College’s Values Statement. Values statements formally and informally guide the members of an organization by elucidating the enduring beliefs that an organization holds in common.
The College’s Values Statement is:

Ramapo College is the Public Liberal Arts College of the state of New Jersey. The work of the College and its members is conducted with integrity. Our values are:
– Teaching, learning, and mentoring–we are actively engaged in and out of the classroom.
– Developing the whole person–we are scholars, we are creators, we are local and global citizens, and we are individuals.
– Respecting each other and our environment–we are an open, inclusive, supportive, and sustainable community.

Later this summer, you will see us replacing our old mission statement boards around campus with the College’s newer mission statement and our values statement. The importance of publicly stating our mission and values is more than just a symbolic reminder of that which unites us in our efforts to educate the whole student, but also a reminder of the commitment we make to our students and to each other and to which we can hold each other accountable. At the picnic, we will have mock-ups of these new posters on display.

Robert Frost described college as “a refuge from hasty judgment.” I enthusiastically accept that our values may mean something different to each of us, and that range of interpretation is, in part, what enables them to be so widely shared. For example, for some of us, teaching and learning occur through the delivery and absorption of a thoughtful curriculum, for others it may transpire in the privacy of a 1:1 counseling or advisement session, and for others it can manifest as constructive feedback from a colleague.

Student Government Association President Stephan Lally shared with my office that the Values Statement reminds students that they “are advocates, leaders, and innovators that have sought out a liberal arts education to make positive contributions to society,” adding that the Statement “drives home the point that we are a loving, open, stigma-free campus that fosters free thinking.”

In his role as President of the Faculty Assembly, Dr. Tae Kwak noted that the Values Statement “affirms that we are committed to actively promoting and defending diversity in order to enrich learning, foster community, and support meritocracy. It reflects the loftiest American traditions of Liberalism, advancing ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,’ as the foundation to cultivating successful global citizens.”

Eddie Seavers, President of the Professional Staff Association, expressed to me that “Ramapo College’s Values Statement invokes the commitment of professional staff contributing to the campus, local, and global community as individuals and as part of a team. We are simultaneously reminded of this privilege and responsibility as we develop all aspects of a student so that they may achieve success and positively impact the world around them.”

Indeed, we all have a responsibility to advocate, to defend, and to develop and, to do so, we must conduct ourselves with integrity. For me, reflecting on the past year both personally and professionally, this responsibility means demonstrating respect for one other as contributing peers and colleagues and concomitantly accepting one another as imperfect but well-intentioned members of an esteemed academic community.

As President of the College, I have witnessed how our values and the richness of their diverse interpretations have shaped so many of our achievements. To name a few: student recognition in academic and professional societies, excellence in undergraduate research, exceeding our capital campaign goals, besting many of our peers in retention and graduation rates, maintaining a bucolic campus setting and, year after year, exceeding our enrollment target for first year students. While these achievements are unquestionably worthy of mention here, the paths we have each actually pursued to reach them are the truly essential and largely unsung embodiments of our values. Today, we celebrate them and you!

See you at the picnic!

Peter P. Mercer
President

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