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President's Post #144: Spring 2019 Communication Meetings

The President and the Senior Cabinet hosted Communications Meetings for all employees on March 27, 2019. A summary of the meetings is provided below. The slide deck for the meeting is available here (Comm Mtg PPT March 2019). 

President Mercer began the meeting by highlighting the College’s Strategic Plan Fulfilling Our Promise and noting that the agenda items today are driven by the Plan’s goals of 1) Increasing Student Success and Student Engagement, 2) Cultivating and Supporting Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, 3) Advancing Innovation, and 4) Improving Long Term Financial Strength.

National Trends in Higher Education (slides 2-5)
Peter P. Mercer, President

President Mercer described three national trends in higher education that the College must be in a position to manage. First, he noted that the pool of traditional students continues to shrink but a slight uptick in non-traditional adult learners is anticipated. He stressed the importance of the College’s efforts to build articulations with high schools and county colleges, and to grow our degree completion programs.

Second, President Mercer described the recent and continued growth in online enrollment across the country highlighting a recent report released by the NCES that found that about one in six students in higher education in the United States are enrolled exclusively online. He stressed that Ramapo’s capacity to compete in this market must be strengthened and that strengthening will need to include enhancements to our online infrastructure, increases in our online and hybrid offerings, and reallocation of resources to support students that enroll online.

Third, President Mercer called attention to declining state funding of higher education. From 2008-2018, N.J. cut its funding of higher education by 23.5%. Citing a report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, President Mercer read, “Most Americans believe state spending for public universities and colleges has, in fact, increased or at least held steady over the last 10 years, according to a new survey by American Public Media. 27% thought it was up, and 34% thought that it had stayed the same. They’re wrong. States have collectively scaled back their annual higher education funding by $9 billion during that time, when adjusted for inflation. Ten years ago, students and their families paid for about a third of university operating costs. Now they pay for nearly half.” He added that, in light of declining state support paired with rising expenses, shrinking enrollment, and affordability concerns – we must be nimble and we must innovate and do things differently. We will need to make cuts and increase revenues. “Revenues grow over time and we accept that, to an extent. So, I have asked each Vice President to identify 5% and 10% cuts to their division budgets. This is an exercise that my office is also participating in and will represent both shared sacrifice and opportunity across the College,” he said.

Higher Education in the State of New Jersey (slides 6-9)
President Mercer then provided an overview of the new State Plan for Higher Education, Where Opportunity Meets Innovation: A Student-Centered Vision for New Jersey Higher Education, and the outcomes-based funding formula therein. The funding formula, he noted, does not place any clear value on quality, graduation rates, affordability, or growth in access and attainment among traditionally under-represented populations. These are among Ramapo’s most significant points of pride and yet the funding formula sadly does not reward any of these hallmarks of a Ramapo education. As a result, at this time we do not stand to benefit from the funding formula.

President Mercer also noted that recent legislation that caps baccalaureate degrees at 120 credits (of which Ramapo was exempted in light of our 4 credit structure) and associate degrees at 60 credits may disadvantage Ramapo’s capacity to recruit transfer students. For example, an associate degree holder enrolling at Ramapo will need to complete an additional 68 credits to earn their bachelor’s degree as opposed to only needing 60 credits to earn that degree at most of our institutional competitors. The 60 credit cap, when tied to our 128 credit structure, also disadvantages transfer students from a financial aid perspective.

FY20 Budget and Beyond (slides 10-18)
Kirsten Loewrigkeit, Vice President of Administration and Finance
Vice President Loewrigkeit outlined the Fy20 Budget. She highlighted that the College has been communicating about its structural deficit for several years in multiple mediums including but not limited to Communications Meetings, the Annual Budget Hearing, the State of the College Address, and at a range of Board of Trustees Committee Meetings. A structural deficit, in short, is when long-term spending exceeds the projected long-term revenues that will be generated by operations. She noted that, while the College has taken steps to mitigate the deficit (leveling its debt, increasing graduate enrollment, growth in auxiliary revenues), we cannot resolve it without significant change in how we operate.

VP Loewrigkeit went on to review financial results trending and described the current budget process which is projecting a loss of $6 million. She described the State budget detail noting that Ramapo’s appropriation, as proposed, may be less than last year. VP Loewrigkeit presented a series of items for consideration that are aimed at shifting our practices and planning for long term results. She highlighted that the budget process must involve stakeholders across the college so that strategies that explore staffing levels, organizational structure, SPIF awards, deferred maintenance, new program development, etc. are advanced when appropriate and implemented well.

VP Loewrigkeit closed by sharing a quote about change that she shared when she interviewed for the Vice President position. Noting that she loves change when she’s involved in it, she cited Socrates, “The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”

Academic Innovation (slide 19)
Stefan Becker, Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs
Provost Becker advanced VP Loewrigkeit’s report reinforcing her point that addressing the deficit and ensuring long term financial strength can only be achieved when stakeholders involve themselves in strategies that increase revenues and cut expenses. He repeated that the College is facing a significant shortfall unless we start doing things differently and doing it now. We do not want to be on the path of mounting debt that has forced some colleges to close programs or even their operations all together. Moving forward on the path that we are on now is no longer an option if we want to ensure financial stability he said, adding though that the good news is that we are still able to take the right steps and steer our institution in the right direction; but it is not an automatic process. It will require thoughtful considerations and, above all, it will require us to come and stand together to make it happen.

If you are facing a budget crisis, Provost Becker said, there are only two things in principle that you can do. You can increase the revenue and you can cut the expenses, and we need to do both. He noted that the majority of our revenue comes from our students via tuition or room and board. To increase it, we need to attract more students to Ramapo. Our admissions team is highly engaged but the competition for students is very stiff; one of the main arguments for students’ choice today is money. The quality of the education students receive at Ramapo is superior and most valuable and not to be infringed on, but it is not enough for us to rest on.

Provost Becker noted that we will advance strategies that increase enrollment in high-in-demand graduate programs (nursing, business, education, social work). These programs are already successful in generating revenue but we need to step that up even further. We need to understand that these programs are not only supporting themselves or their school; they support all of us here at Ramapo. If you are here working in one of these programs, know that we all see, acknowledge, and appreciate the difference you are making for us as at Ramapo and that we are counting on you to step up to the challenge even further.

Referencing back to national growth in online enrollments mentioned by President Mercer, Provost Becker stressed the importance of launching Ramapo Online. This requires us to build first-class courses, develop the infrastructure, offer 5-6 start days per year, and begin with nursing, business, and maybe education. He also described the potential for the College to become a broadly recognized hub for Data Science. Name recognition in this area will not only affect enrollment in the Data Science program but in Ramapo programs across disciplines. A rising tide lifts all boats, he said.

Provost Becker also advised that delivering our courses online does not exclude delivering our courses elsewhere. Establishing satellite instruction on county college campuses will be a sustainable practice for the College, he said. Provost Becker also shared that he is working with the deans to fill our courses and to expand our portfolios as professionals, as faculty, and as leaders.

Enrollment Realities and the Future (slides 20-37)
Christopher Romano, Vice President of Enrollment Management and Student Affairs
Vice President Romano thanked the Provost for his remarks about doing things differently and innovating in our enrollment strategies with a focus on transfer students. He noted that the size of the first year class has increased from 931 in 2015 to 946 in 2018, new transfer students increased from 555 to 577, graduate student enrollment increased from 365 to 565, and degree completion students increased from 82 to 101 during this same timeframe. We have been able to achieve these numbers in part thanks to new graduate programs, the launch of a Transfer Advising Corps, and increased involvement by faculty, staff, and students in recruitment and yield events.

VP Romano shared that the enrollment goal for first year students in fall 2019 is 1000. Plans are in place to meet this goal through increasing the size of the nursing program, increasing yield, and focusing on out-of-state students. He noted that increasing yield (meaning those we accept to Ramapo say yes to us) requires every employee’s support. From simply saying hello to tour groups on campus to ensuring your office is welcoming contributes to yield. He went on to commend Vince Tomaselli, Public Safety Officer, noting that he receives so much positive feedback from prospective students and their families about the warm welcome they received from the Guard Booth. However, he said, he also receives feedback from families that paints a different picture when describing a lack of service orientation from other units on campus. Please keep this in mind, he cautioned: Most applicants apply to 12 different schools and gain admission to nine of them. A prospective student’s experiences with each of you on our campus are more often than not what can make a student choose Ramapo for their undergraduate education.

He closed by sharing that other enrollment strategies employed include a four year freeze on tuition for out-of-state students which has helped drive their enrollment numbers up from 307 in 2017 to 388 in 2019 and that concerted efforts to enhance relationships with the county colleges have been yielded articulation agreements, partnerships, the presence of Ramapo transfer advisors at county colleges, and…enrollments.

50th Anniversary (slides 38-45)
Cathy Davey, Vice President of Institutional Advancement
Vice President Davey shared with attendees that the College’s 50th Anniversary is being leveraged and celebrated to enhance the Ramapo’s  reputation and visibility across stakeholder groups. She praised the members of the 50th Anniversary Task Force for their collaboration and time commitment. She added that we will celebrate 50 years of who we have proudly become today as well as our brand promises of who we are proud to authentically be for our students as we move forward.

While some new events/programs will be introduced, VP Davey noted that the Task Force is mindful of budget constraints and existing strengths and, as such, is expending much of its efforts in using our existing programs as hallmarks for the celebration. The Task Force Committees include foci on Scholarly Programs, Community Relations, Marketing and Communications, and Student Programs. She went on to highlight the good will among the task force and several of the programs noted below with emphasis on a new brand/marketing campaign, lecture series, service projects, and the groundbreaking of the Learning Commons.

Discrimination and Complaint Processing (slides 46-52)

Nicole Morgan Agard, Chief Equity and Diversity Officer

Chief Morgan Agard began by noting that she has been asked by persons across campus to clarify the NJ Law Against Discrimination and the State Policy Prohibiting Discrimination. Protected categories include creed (faith, religion), nationality, ancestry, race, sex/gender, sexual orientation, atypical hereditary cellular or blood trait, genetic information, gender identity or expression, service in the armed forces, disability, and marital status. She described zero tolerance on matters of discrimination and the potential outcomes of related violations.

Chief Morgan Agard walked attendees through the steps employees must take when there is a report of discrimination. She closed by noting that mandatory diversity training for staff will be held on June 4.

Announcements (slide 53)

President Mercer thanked Vice Presidents Loewrigkeit, Becker, Romano, Davey and Chief Morgan Agard for their presentations and encouraged attendees to involve themselves in addressing our budget challenges.

He closed by sharing the following timely announcements:
• Graduating Senior Christina Dwyer is the College’s most recent Fulbright Scholar. Dwyer will spend a year as an education and literature scholar in South Korea.
• The President’s Staff Recognition Awards are now accepting nominations thru to April 26. Apply online at or take a paper nomination form with you today.
• The Middle States Self Study Town Hall will be an opportunity for all stakeholders to hear what we’ve learned from the self-study process and to share your thoughts. The Town Hall will take place on April 17 at 2:30PM in the Trustees Pavilion.
• Later in April we hope you will join members of our Planning Office and assessment committees including CWAC, GECCo, AAC, and SRAB for roundtable information sessions on planning and assessment.

Question and Answer

Categories: Uncategorized

President's Post #143: In Memoriam of Professor Joe Johnson

Dear Students, Colleagues, and Friends,

I regret to report the passing of founding faculty member Joe Johnson. Professor Johnson died on February 17.

Born in Harlem in 1940, Professor Johnson joined Ramapo in 1971. Two years later, he earned his Master’s in Applied Linguistics from Columbia University. In the 1970’s he taught in and advised students in the then emergent African-American Studies Program. In the 1980’s, he initiated and served as co-director of the Kenya Study Abroad Program and, for the next several decades, he was an active founding member of the Minority Faculty/Staff Association. During his career with Ramapo as Associate Professor of Literature, he taught courses in Poetry, African American literature, Multicultural literature and American popular literature and culture. Professor Johnson also mentored countless students and stayed in touch with many successful Ramapo alumni.

Professor Johnson authored three books of poetry and countless literary reviews. His poems have appeared in numerous anthologies. He was a principal in Reed, Cannon and Johnson publishers alongside contemporaries Ishmael Reed and Steve Cannon. He authored Heat and Hot and he was selected to write the introduction to Calvin Hernton’s collected poems: Medicine Man. Professor Johnson was published in the Neworld Review, and in the popular anthology, The Poetry of Black America, among other publications.  He performed his very popular poem, “If I Ride This Train” on the Smithsonian-Folkways CD New Jazz Poets USA and he participated in the Meet the Author Ramapo Cable TV Series.  In 2016, he and fellow poet Harry Lewis were interviewed by Local Knowledge Magazine. In the interview he discussed his poem “100 Blocks” and shared his perspectives on writing and poetry and their intersections with race and the modern world. He retired from Ramapo in September 2017.

Professor Johnson is survived by his daughter, Circe Johnson-Flenga, who often strolled with her mom and dad on the campus she grew so fond of, his son, J. Johnson, his family, and all of his friends at Ramapo. For information regarding a memorial for Professor Johnson on March 13 from 3:30-5PM in the York Room of the Birch Mansion, please contact the Minority Faculty and Staff Association care of Professor Warner Wada. Professor Johnson will be honored, as well, as part of the College’s 2019 Remembrance Day Ceremony.

Our sympathies are with the Johnson family.

Peter P. Mercer

Categories: Uncategorized

President's Post #142: State of The College Address (February 2019)

President Mercer delivered the spring 2019 State of the College Address on February 6, 2019. A summary of that address follows:

The state of the College is strong but we are on a precipice of sorts. The State budget looms ahead as does the release of the Secretary of Higher Education’s Plan. We continue to grapple for our share of students as well and their financial need continues to grow. Indeed, our reputation is strong, but fragmentation within the State, including now four designated research institutions and legislation that favors 60-credit associate degrees, place challenges on our capacity to continue to compete successfully in a shrinking market.

(Transcript not available.)

This is the time for us to innovate.

With respect to our academic programs, I am pleased to share that we have several new developments. We understand that we must continually evolve and actively strive for student success, and for that reason our exploration of fully-online programs continues. This is a re-envisioning of our delivery and one that will not only help us meet the needs of today’s students who often rely on the flexibility and convenience of online learning, but also, frankly,  provide a new revenue stream for the College, consider firstly the potential growth to our summer enrollment. Programs in nursing, business, and education have been tapped to be our first step into this arena, and we expect to launch the first fully-online program for a Fall 2019 cohort.

In addition to online programs based on our current offerings, during this academic year we launched:

  • a new Philosophy major;
  • a new Sustainability major;
  • Management, Marketing, and Finance majors;
  • a minor in Museum and Exhibition Studies; and
  • a certificate program in Spanish for Healthcare Professionals

There are several other new programs under various stages of development as well. This is important. It is what we need to do. As a member of the N.J. President’s Council, I see our peers presenting new programs but look behind the curtain a bit and many times they are actually introducing old win in new bottles. That’s not good enough. We must be introducing new ideas and new programs.

Among the four goals of the College’s Strategic Plan: Fulling Our Promise is to “Advance Innovation as the College’s Promise and Obligation to its Students, Community, and the State of New Jersey.” Fulfilling Our Promise is accompanied by a visual mapping of indicators tied to the goals and outcomes in it. This mapping, Dashboard 2021, features approximately 60 indicators that will be updated annually and made available to the campus. Dashboard 2021 represents not only our attentiveness to advancing the College under the new strategic plan but also our institutional commitment to assess and continually inform that advancement.

Turning now to Middle States, we are engaged in the MSCHE Self-Study process.  Working Groups have submitted the second draft of the self-study document which is currently under review by the Steering Committee.  They look forward to presenting the Self-Study draft document to the Ramapo community during the month of April for everyone’s review and feedback, and I mean everyone. The chair of the Middle States visiting team will be on campus in the fall followed by the entire team in the spring of 2020; and I have already received suggestions about who will chair the team.

Turning back to Innovation, I am pleased to highlight a few of the recent innovative contributions of our faculty:

  • Professor Iraida Lopez has been selected for a 2019-20 Fulbright Scholar award which will allow her to teach postgraduate courses in Fall 2019 at the University of Chile and the Catholic University of Chile. Our track record with Fulbright scholars is truly impressive and speaks to the talents of our faculty.
  • Professor Amanda Roberti will receive the Carrie Chapman Catt Prize for Research in Women and Politics. The prize comes with funds for research on a project on conservative women state lawmakers and abortion regulations.
  • Professor Naseem Choudhury set up a new virtual reality lab on campus. The lab is an interdisciplinary effort (with psychology, neuroscience, computer science and visual arts) to train students in creating interactive three-dimensional stimulus environments within which responses can be recorded.  This is a dynamic testing and training environment that offers students the option to develop and carry out experiments that are not available using traditional techniques. The future integration of VR technology with brain imaging provides our students with experience in a cutting edge and innovative technologies that makes them competitive for entry into graduate and professional programs.
  • Professor Ashwani Vasishth f brought Dr. Biswajit Mohanty to campus several months ago to discuss local grassroots movements in India. The discussion illuminated the adverse impacts of the forces of globalization that act upon local communities and to better understand the innovative ways in which communities of the rural south there react to and resist these adverse pressures.
  • Professor Paul Reck sponsored “Driving While Black in New Jersey.” Seton Hall Law Professor Mark Denbeaux, several of his former law school students including Marquis Whitney, Jason Castle, Anthony Osei, and a study participant, Tevin Bell, presented their research on racially and geographically selective police stop and ticketing patterns of motorists in Bloomfield, New Jersey. A fascinating discussion that helped us understand the broader phenomenon of racial profiling in the United States, including how it occurs, why it occurs, and what the consequences are for those targeted as well as the society as a whole.
  • A collaborative effort between SSHGS, TAS and SSSHS, the Cahill Center, Study Abroad and the Grants Office yielded a new Certificate in Spanish for Health Care and Human Services. The program is funded by a $155,000 U.S. Department of Education grant and I want to recognize Professor Natalia Santamaria and all involved in that work.
  • Professor Michael Edelstein earned a $294,000 grant from a Hawaiian non-profit to study the Native Hawaiian geothermal psycho-social health impact. I have tremendous admiration for anyone who can secure a research grant in Hawaii.
  • We are awaiting the final budget approval of about $400,000 from the NJ College and University Sexual Violence Awareness and Response Grant Program from the Department of Justice. Congratulations to Kat McGee, Marie Attis-Springs, Claudia Esker and the others who worked on this grant.
  • Professor Kathy Hajo has had additional grants funded for the Jane Adams Papers
  • Professor Sandra Suarez earned additional funding for the Upward Bound Math/Science Program.
  • Associate Dean Kathy Burke earned a National Institute for Health grant for her work with the Ramapough Nation on health intervention.
  • The Cahill Career Development Center received a $3500 grant from Enterprise Holdings Foundation to increase student engagement. Enterprise, a longtime partner of the Career Center, has over 20 Ramapo alumni working for their company in various capacities.


In 2019, the Berrie Center for Performing and Visual Arts is celebrating its 20th anniversary. The Center was the first building on our campus with a $1Million donation behind it.  The Center will host the Les Paul Festival, which is generously supported by the Les Paul Foundation,o n  February 16 and will feature guitarist Bill Frissell and Grammy-award nominated hip-hop producer and 2014 alum Brandon Korn. Concurrently, our art galleries will be filled with exciting and provocative work in our semester-long exhibition curated by gallery director Sydney Jenkins.  Entitled !!!PUBLIC ART??? INQUIRIES, ENCOUNTERS, the exhibit will include graffiti art by Lady Pink, works on monuments by Howard Skrill, and a series of lectures, performances, protests, and provocations around the campus, including a dance workshop from Black Lives Matter choreographer/activist Shamell Bell at the Arch on April 4. The very next day, our Theatre Program will present Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the Sharp Theater. There is a nice symmetry here that the production will be directed by Professor Terra Vandergaw, who directed the same play as the first production on the Sharp Theater stage in 1999.

The College’s 13th Annual Diversity Convocation and Pre-Convocation Luncheon will take place on Wednesday, February 13th. Convocation will feature Emmy Award winner John Quińones, from the ABC News Program “What Would You Do?”  In addition, the Pre-Convocation Luncheon will feature Guest Speaker, Dr. Kevin Kumashiro, award winning author and education consultant.  All are welcome and there is no charge to either event, but seating for the Luncheon is limited.

As mentioned in the Fall, plans are currently being finalized for Diversity & Implicit Bias Training for all Staff, including Administrators, to take place in late May or early June. The training will be mandatory for all Staff and will last a minimum of two hours.  The training will be similar to the one provided to Faculty in April of last year and it will be offered at least two different times to accommodate employee schedules. A Bias Reporting Form has been set up online on the EDIC website. Individuals can now report claims of Bias on campus anonymously. In addition, the Bias Response Team that was announced last fall will have its first meeting within the next few weeks.

Banner 9 is fully live with Banner 8 having been decommissioned as of the start of the year and the Ramapo College “BUG” (Banner User Group) had its inaugural meeting in early January and will continue throughout the year. ITS has also been instrumental in advancing Mobile Print campus wide.  You can send an email to and print the attachment in any computer lab, including in the Fishbowl, by swiping your Ramapo ID. ITS is also rolling out a new help desk ticketing system that will greatly increase the visibility of requests and provide feedback to clients at every step of the resolution process, with the ability to create requests with an email, from a web site, or even an app on your phone.  WiFi upgrades will be coming to Overlook over spring break and once Overlook is complete, The Village is up next, with WiFi upgrades planned there for the summer.

The College was recently inspected by NJ Department of Environmental Protection for compliance with hazardous and medical waste. The College was found to be in full compliance. In addition, we completed a Public Employee Occupational Safety and Health (PEOSH) safety consultation to assure safe roof work for employees. All of the recommendations from that consultation are now in place.

Other physical enhancements to campus include Ramapo’s much anticipated Dunkin’ which officially opened in the Fall semester, after a complete renovation of the Adler Cafe over the summer break.  The grand opening was held on November 28th and for the total of four weeks that Dunkin’ has been open, here are the results: 13,939 Total Customers serviced, 4,860 Donuts purchased, and $61,385 in Gross Sales. What I like most about this bit of news is the anecdote that opening Dunkin’ was not born from an institutional desire to get you to spend more money, but rather to simply spend the money you were already expending elsewhere here on our campus.

The Potter Library moved to its temporary location in Linden Hall over the winter break and opened on time on January 22nd. The lovely renovated space is fully open, providing all regular Circulation and Research Help services, computer labs with new printers, group study rooms, study spaces, Interlibrary Loan, and print book collections. If you have not yet walked through the space, do so. The beauty and ease of it exceeds its transitional status.  The Gross Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies is on the 1st floor and The Center for Reading and Writing is on the 2nd floor.

Further, the Learning Commons project is currently on schedule and hitting all of its milestones. The 90% Design Plans are currently under permit review by the DCA, and bids for the interior demolition work in the existing Potter Library building were received on January 17th.  Contract award is expected by February 15th, with construction activity starting by the end of February.  You will witness the building peeled back to its studs, it will be transformed, but it will also be noisy. The Learning Commons Campaign has now reached more than $9.5 million in gifts and pledges toward our goal of $15 million. I am most grateful to the Board of Trustees for their 100% participation in the campaign and their $1 million Challenge Grant to attract new alumni donors who have never given a restricted gift before.  We also are working with our Campaign Cabinet on a special 50th Anniversary Appeal to support the Learning Commons at the $50,000 level.

This year nearly $1Million will be awarded in student scholarships, faculty support and college support through endowment income and annual scholarships. Students receiving more than 480 named scholarships will be honored by the Foundation on April 9th at the Annual Scholarship Dinner.  Further, we are pleased to share that total gift income for both current operations and capital purposes, as reported on the Voluntary Support for Education (VSE) / CASE Higher Education Survey grew by 25.2% from 2017 to 2018.

The Student Governors and SGA will be hosting our Annual Day of Giving next week. An interesting factoid, February 12th, 1969 was actually the date the Ramapo College Board of Trustees met for the first time but they didn’t actually know that they were the Ramapo College Board of Trustees at that time because the college was not yet even officially named. Student Governors, Jennifer Noctor and Ryan Greff, are working with the Foundation to organize this effort which begins February 12 and will run just beyond February 13. Faculty and staff may wish to know that anybody who donates by February 13 will be entered into a raffle for a parking space.

The Commerce and Industry Association of New Jersey recently recognized Ramapo College and the Foundation at its 5th Annual Best Practices Conference saluting innovation in the workplace.  Our Allocations Grants Program was cited for its innovative way to create “workplace heroes at all levels.”  This program provides an opportunity for faculty, staff or student organizations to advance a project with an emphasis on leadership, engagement and diversity.  In the last five years, grant awards have increased by more than 30%. The successful spring grant recipients will be announced on February 28th.

As part of Ramapo’s continued commitment to addressing campus sexual violence, the College applied and was accepted to join NASPA’s Culture of Respect Collective. The Collective is an ambitious two-year program that brings together institutions of higher education who are dedicated to ending campus sexual violence and guides them through a rigorous process of self-assessment and targeted organizational change.  The program is grounded in an expert-developed public health network, cross campus collaboration, and peer-led learning to make meaningful programmatic and policy changes.  As part of our participation, we will receive strategic support and technical assistance throughout the process, as well as detailed documentation of campus-initiated changes that support survivors, prevent sexual violence, and communicate that violence is utterly unacceptable. Ramapo College of New Jersey will be connecting with 40 other institutions, both national and international, in this third cohort of the program.

In Fall 2018 and for the third semester in a row, the All-Greek GPA average, All-Greek Women’s GPA average, and All-Greek Men’s GPA average was higher than the undergraduate average. Further, in the fall, the Greeks completed 5,278 hours of community service and raised over $17,000 for numerous causes.

In November, the Civic and Community Engagement Center hosted the annual OXFAM hunger banquet.  The event explores the global issues of food insecurity, poverty and injustice. Approximately 101 students and staff attended the dinner this year.  The participants experienced world poverty firsthand through a simulated event whereby they were placed in high, middle or low class income brackets and experienced classism while partaking in a meal.  The participants experienced the imbalances of food distribution and access to food and processed how they felt going through the simulation as the event transpired. The College has almost doubled the number of participants who experience the dinner, as the 2016 dinner had 60 participants. The event also offered discussion around Ramapo’s We Care Program (food pantry and student emergency relief fund), as well as the Hunger Free Campus bill promoted by Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin.

In January, 10 students and 1 trip leader, attended the CCEC’s first-ever Alternative Winter Break to India.  In the city of Bengaluru, the students worked with and learned from some of the most dynamic non-government organizations advancing equity and human dignity in South India.  The students also worked with Fireflies, a center promoting Earth spirituality, the resolution of ethnic violence and deepening civil society in India.  Students drove through a safari and a forest that is home to wild bison, tigers, and elephants.  There was still 10 that returned.

On January 20, students and staff from the Center for Student Involvement attended the Apollo Uptown Hall: Unsung Champions of Civil Rights from MLK to Today where they participated in interviews and panelists discussed Dr. Kings’ legacy and its impact on modern social justice movements.

As I mentioned earlier, the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education hosted three forums about higher education in New Jersey to help inform the state plan. According to OSHE, the forums focused on affordability, preparation for post-college employment, and student success. SGA President, Stephan Lally, served on the panel at Rowan University on November 19, 2018 and the College hosted a live stream of the event.

On November 10, 2018, the College Programming Board and Student Government Association hosted the College’s most successful concert to date.  A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie (known as “A Boogie”) performed in the Bradley Center to a sold out student crowd of 1300 individuals.  A Boogie is an American rapper, singer, and songwriter.  In the weeks leading up to the event, the Center for Student Involvement hosted 2 student auditions for the house DJ and opening act.  A student was selected to be the house DJ for the event where music was offered while students were welcomed to the arena and in between sets.  Omiette Allisson, a junior majoring in Music with a concentration in Music Production and a minor in Music Industry, competed against 9 other student acts and was selected as the opening act for A Boogie.

Implemented with the Registrar and ITS, the Center for Student Success is developing customized degree plans for all first-year students using U. Achieve software.  Faculty will be invited for continued training through the Academic Advisement Council and their Unit Council meetings.

Via our Transfer Advising Corps (TAC), Enrollment Management, Student Success and Admissions continue to focus on advancing the College’s efforts to partner with county colleges in order to facilitate a seamless transfer of students from the Associate’s degree to the Bachelor’s degree.  This semester, we have added both Raritan Valley Community College and Hudson County Community College as our newest partner institutions in the transfer advising corps model.  In this model, we continue to have a Ramapo staff member spend one day per week at the county college building brand and meeting with students in an attempt to increase the number of transfer students from each partner school.  This has also been identified by the new Secretary of Higher Education as a key priority and so Ramapo is positioned well to support this state initiative.  VP Romano and I are also in conversations to begin advancing this work with Passaic County Community College this spring.

A special acknowledgment to our Public Safety, Facilities and Housekeeping teams who helped when a pipe burst on Jan 24th and flooded parts of the 4th and 3rd floors of Gwing. Residents of Gwing greatly appreciate the work of Public Safety, who was on site within minutes of the alarm, Facilities for the repair, and Housekeeping for the spectacular cleanup, as well as the Dean of Students and the Registrar who found alternate classroom and lab spaces for us. After the cleanup, the TAS lab staff made sure that all equipment was up and running and safe to use.

The Honors Program took four students to the National Collegiate Honors Conference in Boston in November. Junior Finance major Stephanie Guzman won second place in the national poster competition. Her research examined the use of migrant labor in the US agricultural industry. The Honors Program is sending fifteen students to Nepal for the first Honors Alternative Spring Break, and taking ten students to the Northeast Regional Honors conference in Baltimore in April.

The President’s Committee on Campus Sustainability is launching a survey to assess the opportunities and possibilities open to the College in our campaign to become a leader in sustainability. The College is participating in the 2019 RecycleMania Contest, to improve our recycling rates and to reduce the volume of solid waste and trash we are generating.  It would be really helpful if we could all pay particular attention to how much stuff we throw away and how effectively we recycle.

Professor Neriko Doerr has launched a Fair Trade Campaign, with help from Professor Ashwani Vasishth and the support of the President’s Committee on Campus Sustainability. They will be hosting a series of events–starting with a film screening during Valentine’s Day week. Students, staff and Faculty can now share rides using Wheeli, a Ride Share App and your Ramapo College email address. For any questions, concerns or suggestions with regard to sustainability at RCNJ, send an email to

The Krame Center for Contemplative Studies and Mindful Living has been working to imbue mindfulness and stress-reduction strategies for Ramapo Faculty, Staff and Students. Everyone is welcome to the free weekly meditations in ASB 420. There are now 5 and 30 minute meditations being held in classrooms.  To support faculty, there is a Mindful Fellows Program with the deadline for sign ups this week and convening group meditations beginning next week.

Finally, the Ramapo Staff Association is continuing to undertake efforts to build community and staff cohesion and provide professional development activities.  In January, RSA partnered with Human Resources to host “Personality Styles at Work” and RSA extends an invitation to all to join them at Biggie’s tomorrow after work for Happy Hour.  See you there.

Question and Answer

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President's Post #141: December Communications Meetings

On December 5, 2018 President Mercer hosted Communications Meetings for staff, faculty, and managers. Following a call for agenda items that was issued the weeks prior, the President and others across campus, spoke with attendees on the topics of: State-wide Initiatives Affecting Higher Education; Advances in the Office of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Compliance; the Academic Vision for Student Success; Dashboard 2021, a Visual Mapping of Strategic Plan 2018-2021: Fulfilling Our Promise; the Middle States Self Study and Reaccreditation Process; A Capital Projects Update; and a Preview of 50th Anniversary Planning.

A summary of the meetings follow.

State-wide Initiatives

President Mercer described the 120-Credit legislation noting that Ramapo, the College of New Jersey, and Richard Stockton University were recently advised that they are not required to meet the mandate. President Mercer advised that he is co-chair of the Transfer Committee of the NJ President’s Council. He described the reverse transfer legislation noting that Ramapo’s first Reverse Transfer Agreement has been established with Bergen Community College.

President Mercer also described a recent visit to campus by Secretary of Higher Education Zakiya Smith Ellis and Deputy Secretary Diane Gonzalez. The two Office of the Secretary of Higher Education (OSHE) officials met with students, faculty, and staff as part of their tour of campus. 

President Mercer outlined the Governor’s Economic Development Plan and the emergent themes of the Strategic Plan for Higher Education. He shared that Ramapo has provided feedback on the draft plan encouraging the inclusion of additional indicators related to competitive grant awards, student loan default rates, EOF graduation/retention rates, state investment per FTE, and internship and cooperative education rates. He noted that the emergent plan seems to be heavily focused on the delivery of vocational skills and workforce training.

President Mercer also shared data from OSHE which pointed to trends in earnings, educational attainment. He noted that the state’s 65×25 initiative aims to foster equitable economic growth by improving college completion and increasing adult enrollment. He added that Ramapo’s role in supporting such growth and remaining competitive will rely on continued advisement, retention, and graduation rate successes, as well as on strategic growth in our adult and online programs, and increasingly nimble delivery of our curriculum.


News from Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Compliance (EDIC)

Nicole Morgan Agard, Chief Equity and Diversity Officer, described some of the changes at the College since the establishment of EDIC. She highlighted structural changes and the professional talents that comprise the Office. In addition, she described initiatives and collaboration with Human Resources and others to broaden job postings and diversify candidate pools, to foster training and community building, and to build relationships with student organizations.


Chief Morgan Agard noted that plans underway for completion in spring 2019 include: Establishment of a College-wide diversity plan; formation of an advisory diversity committee; creation of a bias response team; and the integration of bias training and reporting systems. She encouraged attendees to save the date of February 13, 2019 for the Annual Diversity Convocation featuring journalist/correspondent John Quinones.


Academic Vision: Student Success

Stefan Becker, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, briefly described some of the factors that are shaping his academic vision for the College. He expressed that his vision continues to be informed as he experiences life at Ramapo and learns more from the students and his colleagues about the College’s strengths and opportunities as they relate, in part, to growing our online offerings, establishing cyclical program assessments, internationalizing our curriculum, and advancing new programs. Provost Becker also stressed the importance of all employees seeing themselves and one another as valuable and integral to advancing the College.

Strategic Plan 2018-2021: Fulfilling our Promise

Brittany Williams-Goldstein, Chief of Staff and Board Liaison, provided an overview of the new Strategic Plan and the draft Dashboard 2021. She highlighted that the decision to refresh the Strategic Plan was advanced via the Shared Governance protocol. She briefly described the four goals of the Plan and outlined the components of Dashboard 2021. Chief Goldstein noted that Dashboard 2021 includes approximately 60 metrics or indicators that are linked to the goals, objectives, and outcomes of the Strategic Plan. Dashboard 2021 will generally be updated biannually and will be made available to the campus online. In addition, info sessions on Dashboard 2021 will be delivered in the coming weeks.



Middle States Self Study

Stephanie Sarabia, Associate Professor of Social Work, and David Nast, Director of the Office of Specialized Services, described progress thus far on the Middle States Self Study. A first, rough draft of the self-study has been generated. As co-chairs of the Middle States Steering Committee, Sarabia and Nast highlighted important deadlines and described upcoming opportunities for broad campus engagement in the reaccreditation process.


Capital Projects Update

Kirsten Loewrigkeit, Vice President for Administration and Finance, shared with attendees news of recent capital projects. She highlighted the addition of lounge spaces on campus, the refurbishment of the Fishbowl, upgrades to classrooms, the opening of the Padovano Commons, and the temporary relocation of the Potter Library to Linden Hall. VP Loewrigkeit also recognized the efforts of the many college and dining services employees who contributed to the recent successful grand opening of Dunkin’ in the Adler Center for Nursing Excellence.



50th Anniversary Planning

Cathy Davey, Vice President for Institutional Advancement and Executive Director of the Ramapo College Foundation, and Eddie Saiff, Dean of the School of Theoretical and Applied Science, described the planning efforts underway to celebrate the College’s 50th Anniversary. As co-chairs of the Task Force, Davey and Saiff noted that the year long celebration is an opportunity for the College to commemorate academic excellence, foster intellectual exchange, broaden our community impact, and promote student success. A Task Force of student, faculty, staff, and others has been established and is already developing strategies to ensure that their efforts are founded on strong communication, collaboration, and coordination across campus.

Question & Answer


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President's Post #140: New Jersey Employees Charitable Campaign

Dear Colleagues,

As the holidays approach we are often reminded of those less fortunate than ourselves. I personally encourage you to make a difference in the lives of others by participating in the New Jersey Employees Charitable Campaign (NJECC). NJECC gives over 100,000 state employees the opportunity to conveniently make charitable contributions to over 1,100 participating charities.

New Jersey State employees may designate their contribution to a specific agency or agencies. Ramapo College is listed this year on page 35 of the code book #6508, as well as several other charities which coincide with our mission. A donation to the College may also be specifically designated to the Emergency Student Relief Committee, the Library/Learning Commons, the Gross Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies, scholarships, etc.

Your pledge and the pledges of thousands of fellow state employees will help communities across the world, as well as New Jerseyans in every part of the state.

You may find specific details about how to participate in the 2018-2019 NJECC at the following link: or by contacting Elaine Himmelberg, Ramapo College NJECC campus Coordinator, at ext. 7498 or

Pledges must be submitted by Wednesday, December 19, 2018.

Again, I encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity to demonstrate our commitment to providing basic human services to all members of the community. Thank you, in advance, for your consideration and generosity.

Peter P. Mercer, President

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President's Post #139: In Support of One Another

Dear Students, Colleagues, and Friends:

It seems that hardly a day passes without reports of a tragic and angst-producing incident. This morning’s news from California of a gunman who opened fire on patrons of a bar largely populated by college students is the latest horror story in what feels like a relentless barrage. As a college, we can and must support each other as we grapple with these realities.

As you navigate daily the turbulence of these times please also know that you are never alone and you are never without support. Ramapo College has dedicated resources to promote a safe and healthy campus for all of our members. I urge you to tap into these resources. They include, but are not limited to our:

Directing your energies, attention, or need for assistance to these offices is encouraged. Let me be clear though that the support provided by these offices is only strengthened and sustained by the support we provide one another as peers, as colleagues, and as a community, on a day-to-day basis inside our classrooms, our dining spaces, our residence halls, and our social environs.

Reach out to one another. We all benefit from human kindness and empathy not just in times like these but throughout all of our days as we continuously mature and develop as engaged and responsible citizens.

Peter P. Mercer

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President's Post #138: Black Solidarity Day

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff:

Please join the Black Student Union and Equity & Diversity Programs in acknowledging Black Solidarity Day on Monday, November 5, 2018.

Black Solidarity Day was created in 1969 as a day of national observance by African-American men and women. It occurs the Monday before elections and focuses on the values and goals of education within the black community. It continues to be a day of discussion about how we all affect each other’s lives.

Following in tradition with preceding years, an “Honoring Our Ancestors Vigil” will take place on campus. At 12:45pm participants will begin gathering on campus and will proceed through the academic buildings ringing a small bell to call participants together.

The group will then depart from the Arch at 1pm and be escorted by Public Safety as they walk to the Hopper Slave Cemetery across Route 202 where a vigil will be held.

There will also be a banquet to conclude the day’s events at 5pm in the Alumni Lounges. Assemblyman Gordon Johnson, Assemblyman Jamel C. Holley, as well as Dr. Pargellan McCall, who was active in the Bergen County Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s will be in attendance.

Peter P. Mercer, President

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President's Post#137: Attack on Tree of Life Synagogue

Dear Students, Colleagues, and Friends:

On behalf of all members of Ramapo College, I join in deploring the hateful and horrific killings at yesterday morning’s services at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. We must all redouble our efforts to eradicate the scourge of anti-Semitism and all forms of religious hatred.

Please consider joining the Ramapo College Hillel at the Arch on Monday, October 29 at 1PM where its members will host a candlelight Kaddish ceremony.  In addition, visit our Gross Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies which has abundant resources to support its mission to promote an understanding of the pernicious consequences of anti-Semitism, racism, ethnic hatred, other forms of bigotry, and violations of human rights.

Peter P. Mercer

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President's Post #136: President's State of the College Address

Below is a summary of the President’s State of the College Address from October 2018.

Due to transcription challenges, some elements of the address are not available. We apologize for this inconvenience.  

The State of the College is fragile.

My assessment of the state of our college runs parallel to my assessment of the country as a whole.  Consider for example, the national unemployment figures which are at a fifty year low.  At Ramapo we have the largest class ever in 50 years.  Yet the financial strength of the country and the College belies an underlying fragility.

All institutions, since they are the product of human endeavor, are potentially fragile if fundamental values go unobserved and hard lessons go unremembered. I ask you to cast your mind back to June 16, 1858.  Abraham Lincoln delivered a speech accepting the Republican nomination for election to the US Senate.  The title of his address, which I am borrowing today, was “A House Divided Against Itself Cannot Stand”.

Transcript not available.

The issue then was enslavement, the ownership of a trade in human beings, almost all of them having been brought from Africa.  I suggest to you that in a real way, our issue today is also enslavement.  We can effectively enslave even our colleagues by propagating beliefs and engaging in practices which constrain their ability to achieve self-fulfillment.  Sadly, this modern forma involves enslavement of both the victim and the perpetrator.

I intend to begin by identifying some disturbing incidents that have been reported on campus in recent weeks…

Transcript not available (President Mercer described two recent reported incidents of racism on campus noting that they are being investigated. He also recognized students and their placards in the audience. The placards featured messages such as “Ramapo recruits us, then forgets us”).

I unequivocally condemn acts of racism and homophobia and any other form of bias against a member of the college because of their personal characteristics and beliefs.  Anyone who is found to engage in such behavior and is unwilling to recant will have no place at this college and will be assumed to have resigned their membership here.  There is only one class of membership at Ramapo College and all members must be valued equally.

Of course Ramapo may not be of the world but we are in it and we have seen a remarkable display of division during the last several weeks.  Reason has been in short supply, having given way to bare knuckled partisan politics.  Much has been written about the potential demise of the United States Supreme Court. I am not so pessimistic.  Note for example that when Judge Kavanaugh was sworn in, Justices Kagan and Ginsberg made a considerable effort to attend the ceremony.  It is well known that the late Justice Scalia was a very close personal friend of Justice Ginsberg despite their profound intellectual differences.  In his words: “If you can’t disagree ardently with your colleagues about some issues of law and yet personally still be friends, get another job.”

We have to make a choice.  We can follow the example of the Supreme Court and conduct ourselves respectfully, avoiding ad hominem attacks and undermining ideas instead of individuals or we can descend into the infernal domain of insinuation, partisan disparagement and pusillanimous rumor mongering.  Again, it is a matter of choice.

For me as your President, the choice can be difficult as it is for many of you.  If I am told that the environment at Ramapo is toxic, I must resist the temptation to respond reflexively and defensively.  I need to learn what the lived experience of others is and has been and seek to change what needs changing.  And some things are more difficult to change than others.  But I have to try.

In the past several days I have spoken to many about these issues.  I have concluded that the College is not broken but some significant tuning and the replacement of some component parts are needed.  In particular we need to improve the effectiveness of our communications starting with me but not ending there.

Transcript not available.


The salaries of some members of Cabinet were brought to par with median salaries of like positions across the NJASCU institutions. These adjustments were advanced with support of the Board of Trustees and the decision to do so was after the union contracts were settled.


80 applications for the position were received. Of the applicants in the pool that reported their ethnicity, nearly one third of them were persons of color. Ethnicity was not attributed to specific applicants but was provided in the aggregate to the Committee, to EDIC, and to MFSA. The search firm, Witt Keiffer, advised that this representation exceeded national rates. The finalists, which indeed later presented as all white, were selected based on being the most compelling applicants and that determination was made by the Search Committee of faculty, staff, and students in a manner that was blind to applicant ethnicity.


Institutional Research (IR) reports that the diversity of all full-time faculty and staff is 28.3%. There is still work to be done.

Post Address Note: Between FY14 and FY18, the growth in terms of full time employees by ethnicity  at the College has been roughly:

  • -33% in American Indian/Alaskan Native
  • 10% in Asian/Pacific Islander
  • 2% in Black/Non-hispanic
  • 4% in Hispanic
  • 0% in unknown
  • 1% in White/Non-hispanic

Among full time employees, we’ve outpaced white non/hispanic growth in 3 of 5 categories.

IR reports that the year to year retention rate of employees is 99.4%. Nationally the average total turnover rate reported for higher education employers in 2015 was relatively flat at 12.8 percent, according to Compdata Surveys’ national survey. Although we anticipate that our turnover rate is low in comparison to national rates, my colleagues and I join you and we are keen to continue efforts to foster inclusivity, stability, and morale among students, faculty, and staff.


The Strategic Plan has been revitalized to guide us through the next several years. The focus of the plan is innovation. Its development followed the Shared Governance Protocol and worked very well. Fulfilling our Promise will include a dashboard of indicators and roundtable information sessions will be forthcoming. Thanks to Aaron Lorenz for his leadership of the Extension Task Force and all the faculty, staff, and students who served, please stand to be recognized. Fulfilling Our Promise does require us to shift our resources in some areas, this is true integrated planning and budgeting. For example, we will be shifting resources to our equity, inclusivity, and diversity efforts.


The Office of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Compliance is exploring the idea of establishing a Bias Committee on campus, one that would be responsible for reviewing complaints of bias brought by students, faculty and staff. Some of our sister institutions have such mechanisms and we are working with them to learn more.


The Name Committee continues its work to bring awareness and understanding to name assignment concerns for students from an international, transgender, faith and spirituality, legal, family dynamic, and other related perspectives.  The work of the committee invites all members of the College to express and identify themselves for who they are, which may not necessarily be according to one’s name assigned at birth.  The Committee continues its efforts to work with students who are using names and pronouns that differ from the academic rosters.  During May’s Commencement Exercises, for example, the Committee offered a service to interested students to have their Reader Cards updated so that the name that they use was announced as they process across the stage.  This service was offered for both the undergraduate and graduate ceremonies.


In the past, Ramapo College had one off-campus shuttle, managed by the Center for Student Involvement.  The shuttle ran between campus and the Ramsey 17 train station weekday mornings, primarily to serve commuter students who use public transportation.  During weekday afternoons and evenings and on weekends, the shuttle included a few local stops (shopping centers, shopping malls, restaurants), primarily to serve residential students.  A frequent concern expressed about the prior shuttle schedule was that on weekday afternoons and evenings, commuter students had a significantly longer trip to the train station.  The additional local stops more than tripled the time it would take to get to and from the train station. The Center for Student Involvement added a second off-campus shuttle – one serving just Ramsey 17 (known as The Train Shuttle), and one serving all other local stops (known as The Area Shuttle).

A “two shuttle model” aids commuters, and also significantly benefits resident students.  The Train Shuttle dedicates its routes to only those commuting to public transportation and the Area Shuttle serves primarily resident students with local shops on the route.

Transcript not available.

The addition of a second shuttle has permitted us to include more restaurants and shopping centers.  In addition, the Area Shuttle schedule includes stops at two medical offices. Students who are in need of off campus resources for medical or psychological concerns will now have greater options for treatment and transportation.


We would like to remind the community that PSA has changed its name to the Ramapo Staff Association (RSA) — and that it is an advocacy and community building group designed as a resource to share information about the institution, support the interests of staff, provide social events and discuss trends in higher education as well as new techniques, policies, and procedures as they affect work. Additionally, RSA is designed to enhance connectivity among its membership while supporting institutional quality and organizational cohesion. The RSA membership is comprised of unionized and non-unionized staff, however, it does not engage in matters that are the purview of collective bargaining.


Under the We Care program, stemming from the Center for Student Involvement and the efforts of the Student Government Association, the Food Pantry, located in ASB 130 is open for use. Are students Jaime Velasquez or Stephan Lally here? Their efforts were exhaustive in bringing the pantry to fruition.


SGA is also working on an initiative to promote the use of Open Educational Resources on campus. Text books are expensive and, this initiative, in partnership with the Provost and the Faculty Assembly, is to be commended.


Led by Human Resources, the programs offered have focused on 360 performance assessment, skill building, leadership, managing conflict, etc.


The Padovano Commons was recently dedicated and serves as a place to foster community and friendships. At the dedication, Distinguished Professor Anthony T. Padovano said (the full breadth of his remarks are available here):

“What we need most in life is one another. We are at our best when we reflect, with those we care about, on what gives us meaning and how well we give ourselves to it. The Padovano commons is where we join with and share friendship and a meal with those who became friends along the way…We cannot meet regularly at meals with one another without friendship growing between us… May we find each other often in the sharing of bread together. May this happen many times in this Commons. May what is most common about this place be the friendships that are nourished here.”

I can only echo this sentiment and remind everyone that the Commons has a bifurcated structure for faculty/staff use during the day and student use in the evenings. Some level of overlap, however, should be expected, as academic symposia or programming hosted there may be of interest to both groups.

Transcript not available.


The College recently hosted Secretary of Higher Education Zakiya Smith Ellis and Deputy Secretary Diana Gonzalez.  Among the topics we discussed with the OSHE were access and attainment in NJ (TAG, EOF, Upward Bound), 128 credit legislation, and the desire to have the state appoint diverse trustees to the Board which is a concern preeminently held by the Board itself.

In addition, we agreed that the state’s focus on two year colleges should not be at the expense of the senior institutions. To this end, Ramapo must continue and expand our efforts to partner with our two year colleges. From the colleges where we have placed an onsite advisor, we have seen double digit growth in enrollments. Our Transfer Advising Corps program, where we have Ramapo staff members physically working on the campuses of partner community colleges, continues to achieve significant results.  This fall if we aggregate applications and deposits from the four schools where the advisors were, we were up 11% in applications and 26% in deposits.   This contributes to our 12% increase in transfer enrollment compared with last year.

Transcript not available.

Just two weeks ago, VP Romano and I attended the inauguration of the new Rockland Community College president and on the 20th of September we began having a Ramapo advisor on their campus as well. We must grow our presence at these institutions and explore, in earnest, opportunities to deliver Ramapo instruction on other campuses. We have little choice here, we must be entrepreneurial in this regard.


Thank you to Stephanie Sarabia, David Nast, and more recently Michael Unger for their efforts on our accreditation. The Self Study process is a tremendous endeavor across the college. Please stand if you are a member of any of the Middle States working groups or committees. Last spring, Ramapo began the reaffirmation process by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.  Middle States accepted our Self-Study Design which describes our intended outcomes, working groups and their charges, and the time line for the self-study process.

The Steering Committee also launched the Self-Study 2020 webpage to both keep the Ramapo College Community informed and to elicit feedback from everyone within the community.  The webpage has a comments/feedback button to submit feedback at any time during our self-study.  Upon Middle States approval of our Self-Study Design, Working Groups began meeting to execute their charge and produce the first draft of their respective chapters of the Self-Study as well as the supporting evidence, which is due on October 15, 2018.  After that time, the Steering Committee will provide a first review of the entire Self-Study document and deliver feedback to all Working Groups.

During the Spring 2019 semester, Working Groups will submit additional revised drafts for not only Steering Committee review, but also the greater Ramapo community for comment prior to its finalization and submission to Middle States.  Our first visit from Middle States will be the Chair of the Peer Review Committee in the fall of 2019 followed by the entire committee for the site visit in the spring of 2020.


The Office of Institutional Research shared that our four-year graduation rate for the year 2018, measured by the fall 2014 cohort, is 61%!  That marks a 2% increase over last year’s four year graduation rate and, most importantly, ties the highest graduation rate that we have had in the last decade.  Further, that achievement is on the largest class we ever enrolled, which speaks to the efforts to increase graduation rates as part of the Strategic Plan. This is a testament to the culture of student success that we’ve created at Ramapo and I can share that this has caught the attention of HESAA which is working with the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education on a Master Plan for higher education.


This fall semester, we enrolled 946 first-year students, the second largest in our history and a 3% increase over last year’s class.  This crop was selected from 6,943 applications (3.3% more than we received in fall 2017). This year’s incoming class is 38% non-white. As we completed the 14-18 strategic plan, we were at 565 graduate students enrolled in our programs.  As you recall, the Strategic Plan goal was for 8% of our total enrollment to be in graduate studies.  This semester, 9.3% of our total enrollment is graduate.


The College has won some impressive awards and accolades recently.

  • Ranked #1 Best Dorms in NJ by Niche
  • Best College for the Money, Money Magazine
  • Forbes America’s Top Colleges
  • Kiplinger’s Personal Finance Magazine Best College Value
  • US News & World Report, regional rankings
  • Princeton Review
  • CIANJ Best Practices Award for Foundation Allocations Grants Program
  • Military Friendly School
  • College of Distinction
  • We were also ranked the 4th hardest college in NJ to get into (after Princeton, Stevens, and TCNJ) by, this is a ranking that for many of us I trust brings with it mixed responses as we engage more fully in discussions about access
  • The Marketing and Communications team has won 5 W3 Awards: 1 Gold and 4 Silver for the Customized Acceptance video, Make Ramapo Your Choice,and the redesigned Transfer Website (;


I want to highlight that the Ramapo College Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) is celebrating its 50th anniversary.  The entire campus is invited to join the November 3rd celebration at 5:00pm in the Pavilion.  Tickets to the fundraiser can be purchased by going online to the EOF website.


In the past three weeks, we have connected our students with our growing career opportunities both on and off campus. Highlights include:

  • Withum, a nationally ranked accounting firm, chose Ramapo College to pilot a case study competition for teams of 1st and 2nd year students. The winning student received $1000 in cash and a guaranteed second-round interview.
  • Unilever and Google invited Ramapo students to participate in open houses for summer internships.
  • Through Handshake, the new career management system, 6,400 employers posted over 13,000 job and internship opportunities since January 2018. This volume nearly doubles the connections that we provided to students just one year ago.


Our iPASS (Integrated Planning and Advising for Student Success) Grant funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation started through EDUCAUSE concluded over the summer. Through our participation as one of 24 funded colleges, we became national leaders in the movement for student success and have had our work featured in White Papers, Case Studies and journal articles. Special thanks to Project Leads, VP Romano and AVP Connell as well as Tracey Bender for her coordination of several of the initiatives, Jill Pierson, Fernanda Papalia and Jessica Steinheimer for their work implementing UAchieve our new Degree Audit and Planning Software, Robin Keller, Pratik Surti and Sandy Cohen for their partnership in information technology and to Michelle, Barbara, Dee and all of our Advisors / Student Development Specialists who have embraced using technology to transform how we work with students.


The US Department of Education awarded Ramapo College $150,000 to develop curriculum for the Certificate in Spanish for Healthcare and Human Services. Natalia Santamaria Laorden is the Project Director for this grant and she developed the proposal with the assistance of Angela Cristini, Claudia Esker,  Susan Hangen and Ben Levy .

Cathy Hajo, with assistance from our Grants team, secured a new NEH Grant for $300,000 to continue the Jane Addams Papers Project. ($250,000 is an outright grant with a $50,000 match component for which there are donors to meet that.)

Professor Jun Zhang (who also goes by Felix) is a Fulbright FLTA scholar and is teaching Chinese at Ramapo this year.  He holds a Ph.D. in linguistics and is a faculty member at Anhui University in China. He is serving as a cultural ambassador from China and making many presentations on campus this semester.


SSHS also welcomes a Fulbright Scholar, Dr. Francesca Scafuto, Fulbright scholar, from the University of Naples, Italy.  Dr. Scafuto’s research is in the field of psychology where she addresses research-action projects like “Youth and urban planning: how active citizenship works,” a project funded by the Ministry for work and social policy. This project achieved results of common planning of ideas for urban regeneration of secondary school students, using instruments such as oasis games, community maps, participative theatre.

SSHS also welcomes Adrielle Matos, a psychology scholar from Brazil whose recent publication includes a chapter, “The School Psychologist in Higher Education: promoting an expanded view on student assistance” in the book “School and Educational Psychology.”

Mia Serban recently published, “Stemming the Tide of Illiberalism? Legal Mobilization and Adversarial Legalism in Central and Eastern Europe,” in Special Issue: Legal Change in Post-Communist States: Courts, Police and Public Administration, eds. Peter Solomon and Kaja Gadowska, Communist and Post-Communist Studies 51(3).

Psychology students Sarah Keir and Samantha Stolker will be presenting their research, on The effect of test anxiety on performance in timed and untimed problem-solving tasks, at the New England Psychological Association’s annual conference in  Worcester, MA.  Both Sarah and Sam are part of Prof. Choudhury’s Neurodevelopmental lab.

Psychology students Shane O’Sullivan, Can Ozer, and Sarah Keir presented their research at the New Jersey Academy of Science in June.  They were awarded 2nd place for undergraduate research.  The presentation was on Cortical ERP’s for Attention Under Passive, Active and Covert Conditions in Adults with High, Moderate and Low Self-Reported Deficits of Attention.  


Ben Fine received an award for Outstanding Computer Science Teaching from “The Conference of New Jersey/New York Computer Science Chairs”.

Sandra Suarez won a $40,000 supplement and a 4.25% increase to our Upward Bound Grant to enhance STEM preparation in computer science. Much of the funding will provide resources for Upward Bound students to engage in research with TAS faculty.

Of 80 2018 nursing graduates, 79 have taken the NCLEX (National Nursing Boards) and 76 have reported to us that they have passed.


Graphic design student aide, Melody Lenda, was asked to submit and present her poster at an upcoming COPLAC conference and will be accompanied by her mentor, Janelle Ferraro from Marketing and Web Administration.

Ben Neill performed ITSOFOMO: In the Shadow of Forward Motion, his 1989 multimedia collaboration with David Wojnarowicz, at the Whitney Museum September 14-16.

Joel Weissman did a Digital Atelier Residency at the William Paterson Center for New Art, using state of the art automated manufacturing tools to carve a large-scale sculpture of a meteorite on Mars. The digital 3D model came from NASA and was created by the Opportunity Rover.

Theater alumna Samantha Simone earned her MFA in Acting from Columbia University last spring and is currently a regular on the CBS series Blue Bloods.

“Deep End,” the web series developed in Communication Arts faculty member Kelly Dolak’s class last spring, was nominated for New Jersey Web Fest Awards in three categories including Best Drama Series and Best Actor for senior Richard Bruno. It won the award for Best Editing by students Michael Nowicki, Christopher Heinz, Andrea Castro, Kyle Faber, and Stephen Rosado. The award ceremony was in September at the Claridge Theater in Montclair. This was not a student festival – most of the other nominees are working professionals in film, television, and web series. Dolak reported that “The festival coordinator was shocked when she found out that this was a student project.”


Murray Sabrin and Scholar-in-Residence Charles Steindel hosted a panel discussion,  “The 2008 Financial Crisis: A Ten-Year Retrospective” on Tuesday Sept 25.  Panelists include Alan Blinder, of Princeton University and the Brookings Institution; Christine Cumming, formerly of the New York Federal Reserve; and Patricia Mosser, formerly of the U.S. Treasury.

Charles Steindel recently authored a new book, Economic Indicators for Professionals: Putting the Statistics into Perspective, published by Routledge

Rick Nuñez & Susan Eisner published “Establishing Innovation and Entrepreneurship Programs with Limited Resources,” which was accepted for publication in the Advanced Management Journal.

Mark Skowronski authored “Bringing the Law to Life in Human Resource Education” which was accepted for publication in the Journal of Human Resources Education.

Nikhil Varma authored “Investigating Circular Business Models in the Manufacturing and Service Sectors” accepted for publication in the Journal of Manufacturing Technology Management.


In addition to its expanded membership, the RSA is busy with other initiatives. They recently coordinated a hike at the Reservation and are working with the LDP program to bring forward additional workshops for employees. Would members of the RSA Executive Board please stand?

Transcript not available.


Ramapo serves as an Andrew Goodman Foundation (AGF) Vote Everywhere partner campus.  Claudia Wetzel and Elsu Mathew presently serves as the student on-campus ambassadors of the program at Ramapo.  Together, they are responsible for holding numerous voter registration and education events throughout the academic year.


Building Tomorrow is a non-profit organization that helps build schools for under-served children in East Africa.  In 2013, our Ramapo students were so inspired to help children in Uganda receive a quality education that they immediately organized efforts to have a Building Tomorrow chapter established and recognized at Ramapo.   We are among other colleges such as Purdue, UNC, and Notre Dame.  Ramapo has the only active chapter in NJ. Most of the early efforts for the Ramapo chapter were driven by Anthony Darakjy – who would later become our Student Trustee.


Brian Enriquez of Lambda Theta Phi Latin Fraternity, Inc. repelled off a building in Elmwood Park, NJ in order to bring awareness to autism. His peer from sorority life, Johanna Smith, also participated by raising money for the cause.  Held in April, this was a fundraising event through the Alpine Learning Group. “Individual courage” is referenced by the Alpine Learning Group as a hallmark to this event.


Three Ramapo College students were inducted into the New Leadership New Jersey class of 2018.  Sabrina Santamaria, Angie Montilla, and alumna Kristie Khoe were among a diverse group of women from 20 colleges and universities across NJ to participate in a residency program at Rutgers.


Sponsored by the New Jersey Secretary of State, Tahesha Way, Ramapo College continues to promote civic engagement by participating in the first ever New Jersey Ballot Bowl.  The Ballot Bowl is a campus-centric, student-driven effort to increase voter awareness and participation through registration drives.  At the end of the Ballot Bowl, the College will report our voter registration numbers to the coordinating office and the winners honored at a press event.


Dr. Rick Brown, Director of the Center for Student Involvement and Ms. Karen Booth, Assistant Director of Civic Engagement traveled to India and Nepal in August 2018 to plan for the addition of another alternative break winter and spring experience for our students.  While in Nepal, they hosted a dinner for Ramapo’s fall incoming Nepalese first year students.  As a result, we are pleased to announce that there will be three international Winter Alternative Break trips this year to Nepal, Costa Rica, and Ghana.  Interested students should e-mail


The Office of Specialized Services is happy to report that the OSS Student first-time college student retention rate from Fall 2017 to Fall 2018 is 95%.  This represents a 12% increase from Fall 2016 to Fall 2017.


The campus wide upgrade to Banner 9 is currently underway is expected to be fully live by mid-October.   Banner 9 provides a friendlier and more robust user experience, while maintaining the overall core functionality of Banner 8, so users do not need to relearn the system.  The staff in my office as well as those across campus have been to training and testing on the new Banner system. ITS advises to “just give yourself some extra time to get your work done until your fingers and eyes become used to the new design/format of the pages. It’s not scary.”

In Spring 2019, the Self Service portion of Banner will receive a similar upgrade, enhancing the student and faculty facing Banner experience.


The Linden Hall interior demolition completed and interior work has started for the Library functions to move in before the spring semester.

We are awaiting release of state grant funds for renovations to the White House to serve as Recovery Housing in fall 19.

The Dunkin’ project is on schedule for fall opening.

Athletic Field Synthetic Turf replacement is complete.

Learning Commons Addition and Potter Library Renovation is on schedule, and construction documents are being completed. The efforts to secure private support for the Learning Commons campaign is moving forward with more than $8.3 million secured in gifts and pledges.


Also, Christina Conner from the Library coauthored an article about her work with the American History Textbook Project. Re-Reading the American History Textbook in the Global Age. In Transformations: The Journal of Inclusive Scholarship and Pedagogy. A description of the work notes: “This article reconsiders the American history textbook as a pedagogical tool, arguing that with creative use, textbooks can be used to introduce students to historical thought and critical reading as global citizens.”


The Office of Budget & Fiscal Planning is pleased to announce that viewing budget availability, adjusted budget detail, encumbrance detail and encumbrance summary is now available in Adaptive Insights. This feature will help unit directors who need to review budgets and expenses for more than one unit. Data can also be viewed across several years in one report.


Kat McGee, Director of Title IX, and I recently testified before the NJ Senate Higher Education Committee at the Legislative Hearing on campus sexual assault.  Ramapo was one of three NJ colleges who presented to the Committee. Our testimony is available on my Post.

Transcript not available.

EDIC will be rolling out Sexual Harassment Training to all faculty and staff this year, starting with training to faculty this semester and training to all staff and Managers in the Spring semester.  The training for faculty is scheduled to take place on Wednesday, November 14th. More details will be provided within the next two weeks.

Thanks in large part to Dorothy Echols Tobe and Tamika Quick’s efforts, the ACE Women of Color Conference will be hosted by Ramapo on October 26.


This fall the College and Foundation deepened our partnership with REED Academy for Autism and REED Next through a grant from the NJ Department of Health Autism Registry and the Reed Foundation. We welcomed this fall to campus young adults on the autism spectrum and their job coaches to specially designed positions to gain valuable work experience and pre-vocational job training.


If you have noticed more alumni on campus lately, your observation is absolutely correct. With the help of our academic deans, there has been a significant increase in alumni activities.

Three upcoming alumni programs of interest include:

  • the November 3rd EOF Anniversary Celebration, the November 9th Alumni Directed main stage production of Frankenstein that will include a special alumni and parents dinner before the show,
  • a Victorian Holiday Weekend in Cape May at the end of November, and
  • a trip to Ireland led by Professor Emeritus Don Fucci in August 2019.


Categories: Uncategorized

President's Post 135: Dedication of Padovano Commons

Dear Colleagues, Students, and Friends:

On September 26, the Padovano Commons was formally dedicated.  Renovations to the Commons, which is housed in the old carriage house of the Birch Estate, were completed in the spring following lengthy but thoughtful planning and construction phases.

A working group assembled roughly four years ago included representatives of the faculty, staff, students, and administration and that group, recognizing the need for a campus space to foster academic culture and campus community, proceeded to generate a vision for the space that featured a bifurcated structure for faculty/staff use during the day and student use in the evenings. It also envisioned a coffeehouse like atmosphere with space for presentations, lectures, performances, and symposia, overlooking Cameron Pond.

With the Padovano Commons now open, thanks in notable part to the generosity of Dr. Anthony T. Padovano, distinguished professor of literature and philosophy, our campus has a dedicated space to come together as scholars, colleagues, and friends.

The Padovano Commons is open on weekdays from 8AM to 4PM for faculty and staff use, closed from 4-5PM for daily maintenance, and then reopens from 5PM to 1AM for student use. It is not available for external rentals. Requests to use the space on weekends can be advanced through Events and Conferences, and during exam periods its hours of operation will be extended.

At the dedication, Dr. Padovano said (excerpted):

“What we need most in life is one another. We are at our best when we reflect, with those we care about, on what gives us meaning and how well we give ourselves to it. The Padovano Commons is where we join with and share friendship and a meal with those who became friends along the way…We cannot meet regularly at meals with one another without friendship growing between us… May we find each other often in the sharing of bread together. May this happen many times in this Commons.  May what is most common about this place be the friendships that are nourished here.”

The full breadth of Dr. Padovano’s remarks are available here.I encourage you to read and reflect on them and come visit the Padovano Commons. Provost Becker and I will host joint open office hours for faculty at the Commons on October 3.

Peter P. Mercer, President

Categories: Uncategorized