February 20, 2020President's Post #156: Welcome Middle States
Dear Students and Colleagues,
The Visiting Team from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education will arrive on Sunday evening to begin its on-site review of Ramapo College. Following the Team’s review of our Self Study: Reaffirming Our Promise, its members requested a series of sessions with specific stakeholders for their visit on February 24 and 25. These sessions include Small Group Sessions, Large Group Open Forum Sessions, and an Exit Report Session. Your engagement throughout the Team’s visit matters.
Small Group Sessions (45-60 Minutes)
The Visiting Team has requested several small group sessions.
- These small group sessions are focused on the seven Middle States Standards of Excellence as well as on a range of special topics.
- Invitations to participate in these sessions have been distributed over the last 10 days.
- If you have been invited to participate in one or more of these small group sessions, please treat that invitation as a high priority. For example, faculty that may be teaching a class that overlaps with a portion of the prescribed session time, are asked to make efforts to participate in the session by either joining it midway or departing it prior to its conclusion.
Large Group Open Forum Sessions (45-60 Minutes)
The Visiting Team has also requested large group open forum sessions with stakeholder groups. These large group open forum sessions are scheduled as follows:
- Open Session for Students on Monday, February 24 at 3:15PM in Friends Hall (SC 219)
- Open Session for Employees with a Focus on Staff on Tuesday, February 25 at 11:00AM in Friends Hall (SC 219)*
- Open Session for Employees with a Focus on Faculty on Tuesday, February 25 at 3:15PM in Friends Hall (SC 219)*
*Staff and Faculty may attend either employee session.
Exit Report Session (30-45 Minutes)
On the final day of the visit, the Team Chair will provide an oral exit report, which is open to the entire campus, on preliminary findings as follows:
- The exit report session is on Wednesday, February 26 at 9:30AM in Pavilion I and II.
- Again, the exit report session is open to the entire campus.
- For each of the seven standards, the Chair will indicate whether or not, in the judgment of the team, the College appears to meet the standard. The report may offer recommendations for improvement or requirements if non-compliance is indicated.
- The report may also identify the College’s significant accomplishments, progress, or exemplary or innovative practices for each standard.
- Following the conclusion of the report, there is no opportunity for questions or further interaction between the team and the College.
Your Engagement Matters
In addition to participating in some of the sessions above, your meaningful engagement in the team’s visit can be enhanced by asking yourself:
Thank you for helping the College ensure a successful visit.
Peter P. Mercer
January 17, 2020President's Post #154: Ramapo's New Transit Link
Dear Students, Colleagues, and Friends,
Happy New Year!
Publicly available transportation to Ramapo has been a significant need for too many of you and for far too long. As the only state college in New Jersey that has not benefitted from direct public transportation, this lack of access has made it extremely challenging for students and others who regularly rely on New Jersey Transit and other transit links to become a part of our campus. In fact, Dashboard 2021, which tracks progress under our Strategic Plan: Fulfilling Our Promise, calls for “The establishment of a public transit link to campus by 2021.” I am pleased to share that we are officially ahead of schedule and moving full speed ahead.
Starting Tuesday, January 21, the College will debut the Ramapo Roadrunner Express, a free shuttle service that provides a more direct and timely connection between Ramapo College and Garden State Plaza, a major public transportation hub in New Jersey.
The Ramapo Roadrunner Express will operate Monday through Friday with 5 round trips per day for students to connect to and from Garden State Plaza. It will provide one stop at Bergen Community College and a direct link to buses that travel to the Westfield Garden State Plaza from many areas of Bergen, Passaic, Essex and Hudson counties including Hackensack, Union City, Weehawken, Fort Lee, Paterson, Passaic, Clifton, Bloomfield, Rutherford and more.
The following members of Ramapo College have been tireless in their pursuit of this link and their efforts are to be commended:
- Patrick D. O’Connor, Director of Government Relations
- Christopher D. Romano, Vice President of Enrollment Management and Student Affairs
- Edward “Eddie” Seavers, Associate Director of the Center for Student Involvement
It was through their persistence, advocacy, and diligence that this transit link was achieved.
Please join me for a brief launch ceremony and ribbon cutting of the Ramapo Roadrunner Express on Tuesday, January 21 at 10:45AM in the game room of the Bradley Sports and Recreation Center.
I look forward to bearing witness to how the Ramapo Roadrunner Express will provide greater access to a Ramapo education and, in so doing, move us exponentially forward in fulfilling our promise to our students and our obligations as a state college.
Peter P. Mercer, President
November 13, 2019President's Post #153: Fall 2019 Communications Meetings
On November 13, 2019, President Mercer joined members of the administration, faculty and staff for Communications Meetings. A summary of those meetings follows:
Dr. Stefan Becker, Provost and VP of Academic Affairs, welcomed the group.
Canvas: New Learning Management System
Provost Becker shared that Canvas will replace Moodle as the College’s learning management system (LMS). He noted the findings and recommendations from the Task Force for Online and Hybrid Learning, the LMS Task Force, and the Instructional Design Center.
The Provost advised that faculty can begin building their courses now in the Canvas sandbox and the Instructional Design Center is available to provide training and assistance. In addition, the gradebook is a wonderful new feature in Canvas and faculty are encouraged to use it. Canvas can begin being used in winter and spring 2020, Moodle will be retired in summer 2020.
Provost Becker noted that, at the heart of student success and engagement, is the experience that students have in the classroom. This experience is defined by how instructors connect with students, the nature and quality of assignments, the opportunities for dynamic feedback, and the organization of course material. A strong LMS helps shape this experience and replacing our LMS helps advance Fulfilling Our Promise Objective 3.1: To facilitate curricular innovation and to ensure that curriculum remains relevant, founded in the liberal arts, attuned to students’ needs, and responsive to the economic environment; and Objective 3.3: To optimize technology and software to automate functions and expand the capacity of existing systems for reporting and assessment.
Canvas also fosters innovation by enabling a number of different options for content delivery, assignment development, and research exploration. The system features the ability for instructors to develop modules with a variety of tools and apps designed for communication and collaboration.
Provost Becker shared that an Academic Masterplan is under development. The goal of the plan is to provide concrete curricular direction and objectives for the next 5 years. It must take into account the interests and needs of Ramapo’s diverse faculty and students, now and in the immediate future, and it must feature the evaluation of current programs and consider the development of new programs.
Provost Becker commended the many new curricular initiatives that have bene brought forward. He highlighted several new programs that launched in fall 2019, are planned for fall 2020, and several that are still in development.
Provost Becker went on to report that curricular development and program review go hand in hand in advancing our Strategic Plan: Fulfilling Our Promise. He highlighted specifically, that these initiatives advance Objective 3.1: To facilitate curricular innovation and to ensure that curriculum remains relevant, founded in the liberal arts, attuned to students’ needs, and responsive to the economic environment, and Outcome 3a: New academic programs are evaluated and offered, as appropriate. He added that Dashboard 2021 also tracks program review in Indicator 36.
Chris Romano, Vice President of Enrollment Management and Student Affairs, advised that the College received the highest number of applicants for the Fall 2019 class and enrolled 1,030 students, which exceeded our goal. The goal for next year is to grow modestly and bring in 1,050 students.
VP Romano thanked Peter Rice for his efforts in recruiting the Class of 2023. He commended him as the face of Ramapo Admissions from 2008-2019 and wished him the best in his new role with Institutional Advancement.
VP Romano noted that the College’s recruitment and retention activities are driven by Fulfilling Our Promise. He noted specifically that strategic enrollment management practices drive Outcome 1a: Strategic management of student enrollment in line with the College mission, program capacities, and budget and demographic projections. He noted that 20 of NJ’s 21 counties are represented in the Class of 2023. The College continues to enroll a strong percentage of students from Bergen County which is, in fact, among the most heavily recruited counties in the country. The College also welcomed students from NY, CT, PA, KY, MO, NC, and NH. In addition, international students join Ramapo from Belgium, China, Georgia, Nepal, South Korea, and Spain.
Also driven by Fulfilling Our Promise and tracked in Dashboard 2021, VP Romano advised that the College has also made real strides in enrolling a diverse student body. VP Romano thanked the Office of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Compliance for its support at Open Houses and other recruitment events.
VP Romano went on to note the top ten majors at Ramapo are: Music, Marketing, Communication Arts, Accounting, Elementary Education, Psychology, Computer Science, Biology, Nursing, and Undeclared. He noted that Elementary Education is a new major and has seen considerable enrollment. This marriage between program development and enrollment is noteworthy and is tracked in Dashboard 2021 via Indicator 37: Total number of new major programs/new transfer, freshmen, or graduate students enrolled per year in major programs established since Fall 2017. Growth in undeclared students, he added, is a positive sign for Ramapo because we have a very successful track record of advising and assisting these students in a small class environment toward major programs. Undeclared students benefit from faculty mentoring and the College’s low student: faculty ratio.
He closed by highlighting important admissions dates and elements of the changed competitive landscape of recruitment in light of the repeal of NACAC ethical guidelines. Significant dates include: November 1 for early Admissions; December 15 for Early Action, Priority Deadline, Nursing and Biology; February 1 for new student deadline; March 1 for Generic Transfer Nursing Applications; May 1 for all Adult, Transfer, and Re-Admit Applications. In addition, he reviewed the following fall 2020 graduate admissions dates adding that 4+1 programs in graduate studies are yielding strong enrollment.
Middle States Self Study
Dr. Stephanie Sarabia and Dr. David Nast, Middle States Steering Committee Co-chairs, and Dr. Michael Unger, Director of Assessment, provided an update on Middle States. Our evaluation team chair, Dr. Ron Nowaczyk, President of Frostburg State University, visited campus earlier this month and provided constructive feedback. He stressed the following:
- the self-study report is very well-written,
- Dashboard 2021 should be the college’s signature element.
- Middle States is looking for trend data and systematic, direct assessment being used to inform decision making across campus
Employees across campus are encouraged to tell their stories of using data to inform decisions/ improvements. These stories can be submitted online and may generally apply to decisions made on issues such as general education, the student experience, and administrative assessment.
Submit Your Story Here: https://www.ramapo.edu/self-study
Dr. Unger provided an overview of the General Education program noting that the program was significantly redesigned around keystone courses, and keystone and distribution categories.
He shared an example of assessment and trend data relevant to GE noting that such trend data has informed decisions on curriculum development and delivery ultimately leading to measured improvements in student learning.
Dr. Dorothy Echols Tobe, Chief Planning Officer, presented on Dashboard 2021. She described Dashboard 2021 as a visual mapping of the College’s Strategic Plan: Fulfilling Our Promise. It includes 63 indicators that are mapped to the goals, objectives, and outcomes in the Plan. She reiterated with attendees the format of the Dashboard noting that the inverted pyramid links the goals to indicators and tracks them year over year. She noted that the indicators are updated as data becomes available and notices of those updates run in the Daily Digest and elsewhere.
Awareness across campus of our progress under Fulfilling Our Promise is imperative to our shared success and to our accreditation. We should be looking at these indicators and using these indicators to inform our unit planning, allocation of resources, and other decisions, she said. She also advised that Dashboard 2021 is posted on the Strategic Plan website and is linked to from the websites for Institutional Research, Institutional Effectiveness, and in SPOL.
Visit Dashboard 2021 Now
Dr. Echols Tobe went on to highlight a few examples from the Dashboard noting that the source of the indicator data is cited in each indicator. Those sources are varied and include National Survey of Student Engagement, Faculty Survey of Student Engagement, the College FactBook, Audited Financial Statements, etc.
Kirsten Loewrigkeit, Vice President for Administration and Finance, provided the Capital Update. She noted that the 2013 Campus Facilities Master Plan is consistent with our Strategic Plan goals but does merit a refresh just as our Strategic Plan was refreshed in 2018.
VP Loewrigkeit encouraged the audience to listen to the sound of construction nearby noting that it is the sound of progress on the Library renovation and the new Learning Commons.
Loewrigkeit also described the Lodge Court Renovation noting that it was advanced two years ago and is in keeping with providing student-centered areas on campus.
Dr. Peter P. Mercer, President, thanked the presenters. He shared that Ramapo was recognized in the top 3 in New Jersey for job placement success of its graduates by Zippia.Com. He stressed the importance of this type of recognition in a competitive market.
President Mercer also commended our student athletes, advising that the Men’s Cross Country Team recently won the NJAC Championship and the Women’s Volleyball Team won the ECAC Tournament Bid.
He also announced that “Confronting the Climate Crisis: Ramapo’s Reckoning with Reality,” will be on Wednesday, November 20th from 9AM to 3PM, provisionally, in Trustees Pavilion 2 & 3.
11.13.19 Full Slide Deck
November 4, 2019President's Post #152: 2019 Founders' Week
Dear Students, Colleagues, and Friends,
This will certainly be a historic year for many reasons: first we welcomed 1,037 first-year students, the largest in Ramapo’s history; then we broke ground to completely renovate the College’s library and create a new 80,000 square foot Learning Commons; and now we are launching new academic programs including a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Science in Data Science. All of this is happening as Ramapo celebrates the 50th Anniversary of its founding in 1969.
Today I write to encourage your participation in as many of the Founders’ Week programs as possible. The 50th Anniversary Task Force has worked to create a wonderful schedule of events that will be appealing and informative for all of us. Many of the activities are highlighted below and more details can be found on our website: www.ramapo.edu/50/calendar.
Best wishes for a great Founders’ Week.
Peter P. Mercer
50th Anniversary Photo Exhibit
November 4 – 8 @ 10:00am – 4:00pm*, York Room in Birch Mansion
Enjoy a multimedia history of Ramapo College since its inception in 1969 through photos, artifacts, and memorabilia. *November 4 & November 6, open until 7:00pm
Colloquium Series – The School of Humanities and Global Studies
November 4 @ 4:00 pm – 5:30 pm, Padovano Commons
Join Professor Paul Elovitz for his lecture entitled “My Half Century Love Affair with Ramapo College.” Professor Elovitz is Ramapo’s only Founding Faculty member who is currently still teaching at the College. When he interviewed for a faculty position back in 1969, Ramapo only had four employees. Come hear Professor Elovitz speak on the history of Ramapo and his journey, which fulfilled his dream of teaching in a caring, student-centered community. A light reception will follow.
Open Mic: Performances through the Decades
November 5 @ 9:00 pm – 11:00 pm, Padovano Commons
Co-sponsored by Ebony Women for Social Change and open to all! Bring your friends and enjoy performances from fellow Ramapo Students.
Founders’ & Pioneers’ Day
November 6 @ 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm, The Arch
Show your school spirit and wear maroon or your 50th Anniversary gear at the Founders’ Day Celebration. Festivities will include a photo booth, caricaturists, games, and music. The annual ceremonial cake cutting will take place at approximately 1:30 p.m. Special details will be shared about a 50th Anniversary Time Capsule to be buried in 2020 and not opened until 2045. Light lunch and refreshments will be served.
50th Anniversary Millicent G. Anisfield Lecture Series
November 6 @ 4:00 pm – 5:30 pm, Trustees Pavilion
Learn about “The Legacy of George Potter and the Evolution of the College Presidency” at the inaugural event of the series featuring President Peter P. Mercer and President Emeritus Robert A. Scott, and moderated by Thomas W. Dunn.
Ramapo College Alumni Educator Reception
November 7 @ 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm, Sheraton Atlantic City Conference Center Hotel
Ramapo College alumni attending the NJEA Convention are welcome to attend a reception to reconnect and learn more about Ramapo College’s graduate programs for educators.
First Generation Celebration Day
November 8 @ 1:30 pm – 3:30 pm, Alumni Lounges
Please join us for a celebration of the success of first generation students, faculty, and staff at Ramapo College. We will explore an asset based narrative about the experiences of first generation students through inspirational storytelling.
November 8 @ 10:00 pm – midnight, Friends Hall
Open to all, come out and enjoy some nostalgic activities and decompress on your Friday night!
RCNJ Salutes its Veterans
November 9 @ 8:00 am – 4:00 pm, West Point Military Academy
Join the Ramapo community as we head to Michie Stadium. Your ticket includes round trip bus transportation, a fully catered brunch and great seats to see the Army Black Knights take on the UMass Minutemen. There will be special recognition of Ramapo’s veteran alumni attending the event. (Ticket purchase required)
October 23, 2019President's Post #151: Employment Success among Ramapo Graduates
Dear Students, Colleagues,and Friends:
Zippia.com, a website dedicated to providing job seekers with potential career resources, recently reported that students who select Ramapo College of New Jersey have an excellent chance of obtaining employment after graduation. In fact, among the 30 New Jersey colleges and universities evaluated by Zippia, Ramapo was ranked #3 with a 93.1 percentage rating!
Using IPEDS and College Scorecard Data, Zippia.com searched for the colleges in each state with the highest listed job placement ratings, looking specifically at employment levels at year 10 after students have graduated. IPEDS, the Integrated Postsecondary Education System used by the National Center for Education Statistics, consists of twelve interrelated survey components that are collected over three collection periods each year. The College Scorecard Data is provided by the U.S. Department of Education to increase public transparency on how well different schools are serving their students.
I’d like to extend my commendations to all who help contribute to our students’ successes with a special thanks to our Cahill Career Center team who work diligently to establish partnerships and internships with a variety of employers across the region and beyond.
September 25, 2019President's Post #150: Fall 2019 State of the College Address
Below is a summary of President Mercer’s Fall 2019 State of the College Address.
This is my 29th State of the College Address and over time, certain patterns emerge. Among them is that money is at the root of mostly everything. Current funding remains inadequate. We are all looking over our shoulders. The money in your pocket never looks as good as the money in someone else’s pocket. The New York Times recently reported that one quarter of all private colleges in the U.S. are running in a deficit position—they are not bringing in as much as they are spending and they are depleting their endowments to balance their budgets. This is not sustainable. It signals a pending implosion. Higher education institutions, including Ramapo, must operate more efficiently and more strategically and doing so cannot wait until the next academic year. Innovative programs and practices that deliver on our mission, are inclusive, and are informed by data are essential to our continued progress and success.
Progress on Fulfilling Our Promise
Dashboard 2021, the mapping of our progress under our Strategic Plan: Fulfilling Our Promise, has been updated to now reflect our Year Over Year progress on the majority of the 63 indicators therein. You can find it online. Overall, we have a good story to tell regarding our effectiveness under year two of the Plan.
Of the 19 indicators used to measure effectiveness on Goal 1: Increasing Student Success and Engagement, we have data on 15 of them. Of those 15, 11 are clearly moving in the right direction and I want to applaud the efforts that have been underway to positively move the needles related to the development of student’s critical thinking skills and participation in co-curricular activities, as well as our graduation, retention and residency rates. Areas that may require more considered attention include our securing of competitive grants and continuing to grow our commitment to faculty-student research.
Of the 16 indicators used to measure effectiveness on Goal 2: Cultivate and Support Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, we have data on 13 of them. Of those 13, 12 of them reveal positive progress. This includes participation in trainings, the value students and faculty place on international and intercultural experiences, and retention and graduation rates for non-White students. Our concerted efforts on Goal 2 will be further informed by an imminent Action Plan from the Goal 2 Implementation Team due to repor ton October 1.
Goal 3 of the Strategic Plan is to Advance Innovation. Goal 3 has 11 associated indicators and we have data available for 9 of them. Of the 9, I am happy to recognize steady growth in our work with high profile employers and alumni, and in how we optimize technology and software in our operations. One strategy on this front that is already bearing fruit was a year-long campus wide software consolidation project which created a global catalog of all software which has helped us identify redundant as well as underleveraged software tools. In addition, learning of employee sentiment as well as a need for clarity across our stakeholder groups, the facilities website has been revamped with a gallery of project photos and personnel profiles aimed at introducing and better recognizing the team of hardworking men and women who make up our Facilities Department.
Where we need to see greater traction on innovation is in how we bring a Ramapo College education to more students despite a shrinking pool of potential applicants and being mindful always of affordability. Growing our partnerships with county colleges can expand access to a Ramapo College education and grow our market share without having to put affordability in jeopardy. In addition, looking across disciplines and programs, we are well served to re-imagine how we present our academic programs…case in point:
Digital Humanities: Recognizing a shift in how the humanities are being taught and cultivated, Dean Susan Hangen and members of the HGS faculty launched Advancing Digital Humanities at Ramapo College to revitalize humanities majors at Ramapo College by integrating Digital Humanities (DH) skills throughout the curriculum. By learning to use a variety of technology tools to undertake humanities-based research, students in humanities majors will graduate with marketable job skills related to public communication and the analysis and presentation of data. Our full-time faculty in HGS also recognized that they needed to gain expertise in this area themselves. In order to incorporate technology into the humanities curriculum, faculty are learning to use digital platforms such as Tableau to build digital archives, websites, and create textual analysis.
HGS received two external grants of $7,000 each, from Bringing Theory to Practice, and $40,000 from the Booth Ferris Foundation, to deliver this needed faculty training in Digital Humanities over the course of Academic Year 19-20. By 2021, we anticipate that 20 HGS faculty members will have gained some skills in this area and will integrate Digital Humanities based assignments into some courses in all majors in HGS.
Of the 17 indicators used to measure effectiveness on Goal 4: Improving Long Term Financial Strength, we have data on 6 of them—this is largely because we are awaiting the winter conclusion of the Audit cycle. Those 6 indicators demonstrate a cautiously stable outlook, they point to our strategic stewardship of campus resources and our fundraising goals being on track, they also reveal that tangible influence in Trenton on our appropriation is difficult to grasp, especially in light of the Governor’s sequestering of the additional $1M we were successful in lobbying for this year. Despite this, we balanced the budget. Operational strategies to get us there have included a hiring freeze on all non-faculty positions, removal of desktop printing, an overnight travel suspension, a larger incoming class, and cuts to operational budgets.
Beginning in Spring 2019, VP Romano began working with the administration of Rockland Community College to develop a program where students that enrolled at Rockland Community College could choose to live on Ramapo’s campus. After the initial agreement was signed, Dean Melissa Van Der Wall, Director of Residence Life Lisa Gonsisko, and Area Director Kevin McDaniel worked with the Rockland team to arrange for all logistics.
The initial goal of 12 students from Rockland in residence has expanded to 16 Rockland students living on campus in our first semester pilot. The students receive live-in support from a Resident Assistant from Rockland and have access to a Ramapo-sponsored shuttle for transportation to Rockland Monday-Friday. Early numbers report that there are approximately 20 students interested from Rockland in residing at Ramapo in Spring 2020.
Enrollment One-Stop Center
After a review of previous year data on students that intended to enroll at Ramapo after August 1, the offices of Admissions, Financial Aid and Student Success created a one-stop enrollment center model to provide comprehensive student services to students that applied to Ramapo later in the summer (primarily transfer, adult and readmit students). Previously, these students would have worked with various offices at various times to create their student schedule, receive their financial aid package and receive orienting for the semester.
In this new model, all those offices were co-located in the McBride House and students received full services in one location. Between August 6 and September 10 (which is when the model operated), there were 124 one-stop appointments made. 113 students attended and 104 of those attendees are enrolled and began the fall semester last week. This is an extremely high conversion and enrollment rate for late applicants and the model will guide enrollment operations in coming cycles.
Professor Leah Warner has won a national teaching award for her work on developing the Social Science Inquiry course, using her Honors syllabus as the example. The 2019 Teaching Innovation Award through the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues “recognizes effective courses, assignments, or classroom activities addressing social issues.” I’d like to also recognize Professor Warner and share that she established a new endowment with proceeds from her reader, “Social Problems: A Supplementary Reader to Race, Class and Gender Anthologies.” A Social Justice Book Award will be given to students based on financial need and merit.
Context: Ramapo defines human diversity as including but not limited to age, ethnicity, race, gender, religion, physical or mental abilities and disabilities, socioeconomic status, viewpoint differences, sexual orientation, gender identity, and national origin. Ramapo defines inclusion as the active, intentional, and ongoing engagement with diversity.
Sponsored by EDIC, Diversity Day will take place on October 2.
Center for Autism Inclusion
I am pleased to share that the College, with support from the Foundation, is exploring the establishment of a new Center for Autism Inclusion. An important component of the Center will include working with faculty on the development of a Certificate Program in Applied Behavioral Analysis.
The Center for Student Involvement is working with the SGA, BSU, and other members of the College to provide hurricane relief efforts for the Bahamas. I’d like to share a message from former Ramapo College President Rodney Smith who is now President of the University of the Bahamas, “Raging flood waters and winds devastated our University of the Bahamas North in East Grand Bahama. Our newest building, Hawksville Hall Residence has been gutted. All of our computer systems and infrastructure have been compromised. Our faculty, staff, and students have lost loved ones, their homes, and their sense of stability. We appeal to you to give in support of our relief and restoration for the Bahamas and our UB North faculty, staff, and students.”
While efforts here are just beginning, we know that long-term assistance will be needed. Initial efforts will focus on fund raising, as money is what is most needed in the beginning stages. Information will be shared shortly on the website for the Civic and Community Engagement Center (CCEC).
Cahill and the Civic and Community Engagement Center, via the We Care program, have begun arrangements to launch the first-ever clothing closet located in ASB. The clothing closet provides students with free, professional business attire. A Fall clothing drive is currently taking place through September 27, 2019. Donations can be brought to C-209 and must be professionally cleaned. Ridgewood Moving Services implemented a program called “Dress for Success” where they accept donated clothing and have partnered with Ramapo to help stock the closet. The program accepts suits, dresses, blazers, dress pants, cardigans, dress, shirts, blouses, ties, and non-wire hangers as well as any item from wardrobe of Dean Ed Petkus.
Student-led Social Good
ASB’s Enactus student organization, advised by Dr. Tammi Redd, completed several projects in fulfillment of their mission to apply business concepts in the service of social good; highlights included marketing and fundraising efforts for the Strengthen Our Sisters women’s shelter, a campus-wide k-cup pod recycling effort, and a textbook drive to help reduce the burden of textbook costs for Ramapo College students. All of their projects resulted in measurable outcomes in media exposure, funds raised, and donation of goods and services.
Recovery Housing and Support
In 2015, then Governor Chris Christie signed a bill which ordered that all public, 4-year colleges with a residential population of at least 25% of its total enrollment were to establish a recovery housing and associated recovery program by Fall 2019. The Roadrunner Collegiate Recovery Housing and Program opened its doors on September 1, 2019. The RCRP Support Group of allies and mentors will begin their training session in the coming days. Anyone interested in enrolling in the program or serving as an ally or mentor, should visit the Center for Health and Counseling Services website for more details.
We also will award the first two scholarships for students in the new Addiction Recovery Program, one for housing and one for tuition. This generosity will come from parents whose son attended Ramapo and lost his life to an addiction. They have established an endowment in his honor and memory and generously wish to assist Ramapo with this important program.
Student on-campus Employment
Minimum wage will go up twice this fiscal year. Ramapo committed to fully fund minimum wage positions and not do what several other schools have opted to do (which is only fund 85% of minimum wage). Instead, we determined it was in the best interest of all students to limit students to one job on campus. This way, we are able to ensure that new students and others who need to find on-campus employment are not disadvantaged simply because upper class students have been here longer and have taken up more than one position on campus.
I read, and perhaps so have many of you, the recent piece in The New York Times, “I Was a Low-Income College Student. Classes Weren’t the Hard Part.” I share this because the College made this decision mindful that some students would be more impacted by this decision than others. To this end, there is an exception process built in so that if students need, not just want, two positions, they can appeal through the Cahill Center.
Alumnus Michael Simon, who lives in Oregon and recently visited campus, established a new endowment for a student who is a strong advocate for the LGBTQ+ community and an active student leader.
The School of Contemporary Arts continues to focus on increasing equity, diversity, and inclusion. The Center’s new director, Lisa Campbell, has introduced more diverse programming in order to bring new artists and audiences, including more of our students, to the Berrie Center for performances. This year’s offerings include Gettysburg by Theatre Nohgaku, which blends Japanese No theatre with a story of the US Civil War, the Sons of Serendip in December, and the Paul Taylor Dance Company next spring.
The Theatre Program is also spearheading an initiative to discuss race, casting, and representation by bringing in SUNY New Paltz Professor Martine Kei Rogers Green, president of the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas, as a Schomburg Scholar, including a public talk on November 22. Rogers Green will also visit with students, staff, and faculty and provide a report on our casting practices and programming with an action plan for the future.
The Upward Bound Math Science program, under the direction of Professor Sandra Suarez, received a $40,000 supplement grant this year which allowed five students from Paterson Public High Schools to conduct research with TAS faculty. The students presented their research at conferences and participated in a STEM symposium for Paterson high school students. Two of the students that participated in the research are now students with us, Jae’l Rumph and Za’Hir Stevenson. Jae’l was also the first student in the Upward Bound Program to participate in the College’s Alternative Spring Break to Costa Rica, where she worked at the Natuwa Macaw Sanctuary helping to rehabilitate animals.
This summer, the Upward Bound Program also hosted two American Chemical Society/Project SEED internships, during which two Paterson Public High School students conducted research with Professor Catalin Martin on the use of a method known as the Langmuir-Blodgett technique for depositing monolayers of metallic nanoparticles, which can later be used to measure chemical structure. Both students will continue their research this fall and participate in the Society’s Symposium at Seton Hall later this month.
Before and After
From a state of disrepair due to water damage and mold, to an impressive temporary home, and now the groundbreaking for the new Library/Learning Commons. Thank you to the many faculty and staff that joined us for the Groundbreaking Ceremony. The highlight of the day was sharing the news that Vice Chair of the Board Susan A. Vallario and her husband, Nick Vallario, will provide an additional $1 million for the Learning Commons. To respond to this additional gift, the Foundation is inviting 20 donors to respond with gifts of $50,000 for the Learning Commons in honor also of the College’s 50th Anniversary. Already – three wonderful donors have responded and one of them, Mariyln Clark, has given a gift of $1M.
We have now secured more than $10 million in gifts and pledges, of which nearly $5 million is in hand and ready to be applied to capital construction costs.
The Groundbreaking Ceremony also provided an opportunity for Senator Cardinale, Assembly Members Schepisi and Johnson to speak on campus and share their enthusiasm Ramapo. Senator Cardinale specifically said that Trenton needs to pay more attention to the State entities that are doing all that is needed (that’s us), he indicated that too much time is spent on the entities that are failing (that’s not us). Both members of the Assembly committed to seek more funding for the College beyond the $15 million secured for the Learning Commons. This public show of support is a dramatic shift from a decade ago when my conversations with the legislature had to start with advising that Ramapo was, indeed, a public state College.
Our visibility in Trenton and elsewhere has helped us bring in our largest class in history. This fall, we welcomed 1,028 first year students to Ramapo College. This group was recruited from 7,329 applications, which was the largest applicant pool in Ramapo’s history, representing a 6% increase over fall 2018. The incoming class of 1,028 also represents the largest class in our history, a 9% increase over the fall 2018 incoming class. Congratulations to the Admissions Office for their work in enrolling this class.
Fraternity and Sorority Life
Greek Life initiatives have also contributed to our enrollment and student success. The College has 24 active Greek Life chapters reporting through to four councils and Greek students comprise 10% of the undergraduate population.
In Fall 2018 our Greek community completed 5,278 hours of community service and raised $17,000 for charitable causes. In the Spring of 2019 and, for the fourth semester in a row, the all-Greek GPA average of a 3.11 has exceeded the all-Ramapo GPA. In recognition of their contributions to campus and community, on May 6, 2019, the College held a ribbon cutting ceremony to commemorate the installation of Greek Banners at the Laurel Hall Basketball Court.
The banners were installed as a way to highlight the presence of fraternity and sorority life on campus and serve as a symbol of the four pillars of Greek Life: leadership, scholarship, service, and brotherhood/sisterhood.
This is the 17th consecutive year that the College received the Governors Occupational Safety Award. This award is given to organizations for achieving a lost-time incidence rate of 3.0 or less for the calendar year. Our lost-time case incident rate for 2018 was 0.63. This rate is the lowest on record at the College and can be attributed to proactive risk assessment and swift mitigation. A few recent examples…the College replaced chains with gates to guard the openings to service pits. Railings were installed on roofs of several buildings on campus to protect from falls. Also, buildings and walkways are routinely inspected and work orders are submitted for repairs—witness the campus paving improvements that occurred over the summer.
Recent Scholarly Presentations, Awards, and Publications
Congrats to Professors Paramjeet Bagga, Scott Frees, John McTighe, and Stephanie Sarabia for recent conference presentations.
Congrats to Professors Martha Ecker, Eva Ogens, Dolly Sacristan, and Mia Serban for their recent peer-reviewed publications.
Professor Eric Wiener led a team including Professors Ashwani Vasishth, Maisha Amen, Ronald Calderon, and nine students enrolled in majors from four schools to the Madre de Dios region of the Peruvian Amazon for an immersive experience with Amazonian people and ecosystems. Students completed independent study projects whose topics included sustainable wildlife management, native community cohesion, traditional use of forest plants, children’s health, natural medicinal practices, and connections between food and indigenous culture.
Ramapo will host its First Annual Fulbright Day today 3:30-6:30 p.m. in the York Room. At the event, you can learn about student and faculty opportunities and experiences with the Fulbright program and meet Ramapo’s current Fulbright Language Professors. Yolanda Hsieh from Taiwan is teaching Chinese; Sarra Safhi from Morocco is teaching Arabic, and Roberta Berlingo from Italy is teaching Italian.
Greff Congressional Award
Alternate Student Governor Ryan Greff is receiving the Congressional Award on Saturday. Congressmen Donald Payne Jr. and Tom Malinowski will present Ryan with a gold medal. The gold medal represents exemplary achievement in Voluntary Public Service, Personal Development, Physical Fitness, and Expedition/Exploration.
Lally is Newman Fellow
SGA President Stephan Lally joined the 2019-2020 cohort for the Newman Civic Fellowship, which is a national program that recognizes and supports community-committed students who are change makers and public problem-solvers.
Under President Lally’s leadership the SGA has embarked on the We Care program, is advancing state designation as a hunger free campus, and are championing the Open Educational Resources initiative in partnership with the Office of the Provost and the Library.
TAS Alumni in Medical Schools
Thanks to Professor Rena Bacon who has been tracking the success and the diversity of our recent graduates as they pursue medical and dental and professional schools. Daniel Pleskowicz was accepted early decision program to Rutgers Medical School, Amran Hussain to Hackensack Meridian Medical School, Henry Herrera to Touro School of Osteopathic Medicine, Laur Thau to Cooper Medical School, Nicolette Ivaz to Touro School of Osteopathic Medicine, Pritha Agarawaal to New England School of Osteopathic Medicine, Kira Abrams to Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine, Eman Al Yousefy and Brendan Fu to SUNY Optometry, and Randy Chaiz to Temple University Dental School.
Over the summer, Middle States Steering Committee Co-Chairs Stephanie Sarabia and David Nast, along with John McTighe, Gurvinder Khaneja, Mike Unger, and many others, have been working on further developing the draft of our Self-Study.
On October 30, the chair of the MSCHE visiting team Dr. Ronald Nowaczyk, President of Frostburg State, will be on campus and offer feedback on the Self-Study. The Steering Committee will host a Middle States Town Hall in November and the final draft will be formally submitted during winter break. The entire MSCHE Evaluation Team will visit from February 23-26, 2020.
On September 4th we launched the 50th Anniversary Celebration Help us celebrate by wearing Roadrunner spirit wear or Maroon for our Maroon Mondays, Founders Week in November will feature a presentation by Professor Paul Elovitz, “My Half-Century Love Affair with Ramapo College, a lecture moderated by Board of Governor and Former Trustee Tom Dunn, entitled the “Legacy of George Potter and the Evolution of the College President.” I am happy to share that President Emeritus Robert Scott will join me for this lecture.
Award Winning Collateral
As you exit this afternoon, please note the display of Ramapo materials. These materials are the product of our in house marketing team which includes design professionals and several talented Ramapo students. These materials, along with our customized acceptance videos, have all been develop din house and have all won competitive awards from Graphic Design USA and American In House Design.
Question & Answer
September 4, 2019President's Post #149: Welcome to Academic Year 2019-20
Dear Students and Colleagues,
Welcome back to our returning students, faculty, and staff, and welcome to the Class of 2023!
Yesterday, I enjoyed participating with so many of you in Opening Convocation. I am pleased to share that visiting author Camron Wright remarked to me several times how impressed he was by the caliber of student dialogue and engagement with his book, The Rent Collector. In the pages therein, Wright wrote, “But as a wise and great teacher once explained so patiently, all good stories – stories that touch your soul, stories that change your nature, stories that cause you to become a better person from their telling- these stories always contain truth.”
This year marks the College’s 50th Anniversary (join me for the official launch today at 3:00 pm in the Grove) and it presents us with unique opportunities to reflect on our past and to craft the future story of the College. To adapt Wright’s sentiment, I wish you all a year that is replete with stories- stories of learning, of change, of courage, of discovery, and of growth. However, I advance this wish realizing that this year, like any other, will also bring stories of confusion, hardship, and challenge.
Ramapo College is a small campus that is truly knitted together by relationships. These relationships are indeed the source from which our individual and collective stories emerge. Please join me in honoring that source during the 2019-2020 academic year with an open mind and an attitude of care and respect for one another.
Peter P. Mercer
August 5, 2019President's Post #148: A Look Ahead to Our 50th Anniversary Year
Dear Colleagues and Friends:
This year marks Ramapo College’s 50th Anniversary and, thanks to the efforts of the members of the 50th Anniversary Task Force, the year ahead will present us with valuable opportunities to reflect on our history, celebrate our present, and envision our future.
Just as public higher education has evolved since the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, so too has Ramapo College. Founded in 1969, the Birch Mansion and the 300 acres of land surrounding it became the property of the people of New Jersey, and Ramapo College was thusly established. In fact, our current Board of Trustees Chair, William F. Dator, worked then to establish Mahwah as the College’s home.
From our early days in which we primarily offered experimental educational structures and programs to enrolled women who wanted to return to work and veterans who just returned from war, Ramapo College has grown to now be home to over 6,000 traditional and adult students who come to us to pursue their undergraduate and graduate degrees. In fact, our incoming freshmen class, the class of 2023, is the largest in our history and its members are among the most academically prepared and diverse.
I look forward to the year ahead as it is sure to bring with it a healthy mix of challenge, reward, and reflection. We will move into year two of Fulfilling Our Promise, we will welcome an accreditation team from Middle States, we will break ground on the new Learning Commons, and we will continue to innovate in ways that ensure our future while honoring our past. I hope that you will join me and members of the 50th Anniversary Task Force in embracing it all.
A few highlights of the year-long anniversary program are captured below. For more detailed information, visit the 50th Anniversary website and stay tuned.
Ramapo College Anniversary Launch
The Launch will feature special remarks, 50th anniversary branded merchandise and giveaways, and provide attendees with a more detailed glimpse into the exciting year ahead.
- Wednesday, September 4, 2019, 3:00 p.m., The Grove
Learning Commons Celebration
From the groundbreaking ceremony to placing the last beam of new steel, join us for these milestone occasions to herald in the new Learning Commons.
- Groundbreaking Ceremony: Wednesday, September 4, 2019, at 4:00 p.m., Site of the Learning Commons
- Topping Off Ceremony: Wednesday, March 25, 2020, at 3:30 p.m., Site of the Learning Commons
Maroon Mondays provide an opportunity to show your Ramapo Pride and be entered to win prizes by wearing Ramapo College or maroon gear.
- Most Mondays, September 9, 2019 through June 29, 2020
Employee Service Awards
The 2019 Employee Service Awards will recognize the service anniversaries and retirements of our colleagues, as well as offer a special tribute to our Quarter Century Club members.
- October 16, 2019, 2:30 p.m., Alumni Lounges (SC156-157)
Each School, as well as the Library, will host a colloquium in the evening (times are to be announced) at the Padovano Commons throughout the year.
- Monday, November 4, 2019, at 4:00 p.m.: The School of Humanities and Global Studies presents Dr. Paul Elovitz’ “My Half-Century Love Affair with Ramapo College.”
- Thursday, February 13, 2020: The School of Social Science and Human Services
- Thursday, March 26, 2020: The Anisfield School of Business
- Thursday, April 23, 2020: The School of Contemporary Arts
- Tuesday, May 5, 2020: The School of Theoretical and Applied Science
- Date to be determined for the Potter Library presentation
Look forward to a week long program brimful with student-led events and activities including the curated Photo Exhibit: A Pictorial of the History of Ramapo College, a Birthday Cake Cutting, an Alumni and Parent Reception in Atlantic City, and a Salute to Ramapo Veterans/Tailgate Celebration at West Point.
- Monday, November 4, 2019 through Saturday, November 9, 2019
- Dates, times, locations to be announced
50th Anniversary Lecture Series
This four-part Lecture Series is designed to take a deeper dive into the history of Ramapo College.
- Part I: Wednesday, November 6, 2019, at 4:00 p.m. in the Trustees Pavilion, Professor Emeritus Tom Dunn will moderate “The Evolution of the College Presidency” with Keynote remarks by President Peter Mercer and President Emeritus Robert Scott
- Parts II-IV: Details to be announced
50 vs. 50: Ramapo College and Stockton University
Check out these athletics match-ups as Ramapo and Stockton celebrate their 50th anniversaries, bring on the athletic rivalry in this 50 vs. 50 home-turf athletics series!
- Saturday, October 5, 2019, 1:00 p.m.- Women’s Soccer
- Saturday, October 26, 2019, 3:30 p.m.- Field Hockey
- Saturday, January 25, 2020, 1:00 p.m.- Men’s Basketball
- Saturday, January 25, 2020, 3:00 p.m.- Women’s Basketball
- Spring Athletics dates to be announced
50th Anniversary Celebration Dinner
This formal evening will celebrate and recognize the College’s past and present.
- Wednesday, April 29, 2020, at 6:00 p.m. at Indian Trail Club, Franklin Lakes
I look forward to recognizing and sharing this milestone in our history with all of you.
Peter P. Mercer
July 1, 2019President's Post #147: 2019 Commencements
Congratulations to the Ramapo College Class of 2019! Every year, it is a humbling honor to preside over the College’s commencement exercises.
The weather agreed with our plans on Arching Day, May 16, and it was a pleasure to join so many of our graduates and their loved ones at events including the Academic Achievement Awards, the Students of Color Rites of Passage Pre-Commencement Ceremony, the Nursing Pinning Ceremony, and at the display of undergraduate research and senior thesis projects. Further, the Farewell Reception that followed at the Bradley Center was a sublime opportunity for staff and faculty to take pictures with many of our graduates and to wish them well.
On May 17, our undergraduates were celebrated at Prudential Center in Newark where more than 1,000 students listened to remarks by Keynote Speaker Tiki Barber, cheered on student speaker Riana Katz, and crossed the stage to earn their baccalaureate diplomas. A few days later, on May 23, our graduate students packed the Bradley Center and, accompanied by their graduate program directors, faculty, and staff, enjoyed an address by Keynote Speaker Senator Loretta Weinberg (D-37), and made their way across that stage to be ceremoniously hooded and presented with their Master’s diplomas.
I extend my sincere kudos to everyone that participated in the ceremonies and festivities and my thanks to the incredible family, friends, faculty, and staff that supported the Ramapo College Class of 2019!
May 6, 2019President's Post #146: Joint Letter on Immigration
Dear Students, Colleagues, and Friends,
I joined 23 of my presidential colleagues across the State of New Jersey last week in endorsing this letter to the 116th Congress of the United States to urge it to closely monitor federal policies and administrative actions that threaten the free flow of international students and scholars upon which many of our colleges and universities depend.
Joint Letter on Immigration
Issued to the 116th Congress of the United States
Endorsed and distributed by the Presidents of New Jersey’s Colleges and Universities: Bloomfield College, Caldwell College, The College of New Jersey, College of Saint Elizabeth, Drew University, Fairleigh Dickinson University, Felician University, Georgian Court University, Kean University, Monmouth University, Montclair State University, New Jersey City University, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Princeton University, Rider University, Rutgers University, Saint Peters University, Seton Hall University, Stevens Institute of Technology, Ramapo College of New Jersey, Richard Stockton University, Rowan University, Thomas Edison State University, and William Paterson University of New Jersey
As presidents and chancellors of colleges and universities throughout New Jersey, we are writing to express our concern about obstacles we are facing in our efforts to attract and retain international students, faculty, and scholars. Our schools vary in mission, size and the makeup of our student bodies, but we all depend on our ability to attract motivated students and scholars from throughout society and around the world. We believe our success in these endeavors plays an important role in building the State’s innovation economy.
Over the past several years, we have observed a disturbing increase in the number – and length – of impediments put in the path of our international students, faculty, and staff. Some of our schools have experienced decreases in foreign student enrollment and all of our schools have encountered an increasingly log-jammed immigration system that is impacting our ability to recruit, retain, and bring to our campuses foreign talent.
Simply put, as it becomes more difficult for foreign students and academics to study and work in the United States, many of them are turning to other options, weakening not just our individual institutions, but American higher education as a whole, and, by extension, our country’s global competitiveness.
- Administrative processing delays: In a number of recent cases, graduate students and faculty members have been forced to miss or defer entire semesters because their visa applications were mired in “administrative processing” at the State Department. Administrative processing is the time period outside of “normal” processing times in which cases that appear to meet the basic eligibility requirements are referred for additional background checks. Visa applicants are generally not provided with any explanations, nor are they told how long the additional processing may last. This situation creates untenable uncertainty for the visa applicant, the employer, and other affected parties, especially as anecdotal reports indicate an increase in the amount of time that cases are remaining in this category. This can be especially problematic for foreign students and academics, whose commitments in the U.S. align with an established academic calendar.
- Processing delays for Optional Practical Training: Optional Practical Training (OPT) permits foreign students studying in the U.S. to apply for “practical training” with a U.S. employer in a job directly related to their course of study. The program allows students to supplement their education with valuable experiential learning and on-the-job-training as they start their careers. Unfortunately, processing times for OPT applications have increased from a previous maximum of 90 days in 2016 to 3 ½ -5 ½ months today. Processing times in this range create an enormous burden for students. The consequence of these delays is that students are unable to begin their job or program on time and, in many instances, they may lose out on the position altogether. This harms not only the students, but also the employers seeking to hire qualified, U.S.-trained workers for a practical training opportunity.
- Increased Requests for Evidence: Over the past year, employers seeking to hire foreign-born employees have seen a dramatic increase in the number of “Requests for Evidence” (RFEs) from USCIS, particularly for H-1B visas, which allows U.S. employers to hire highly-skilled foreign workers in specialty occupations. We understand that USCIS has a responsibility to ensure that it has necessary information about eligibility; we do not doubt that some of these requests are warranted. The scope of the increase, however, is staggering. RFEs for H-1B visa petitions more than doubled between the third and fourth quarters of FY 2017. These requests delay the issuance of visas for employers by months and boost legal costs. Meanwhile, our professors and other employees are putting their lives on hold as they wait for start-dates.
The types of situations described above rarely make front-page news and the isolated impact of each example is certainly not as dramatic as the effect of higher-profile actions such as the rescission of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program or the travel ban. However, taken together, they create a frustrating and sometimes hostile environment for those wishing to live in and contribute to our communities. This cumulative effect is acutely felt at our colleges and universities, where we depend on the free flow of talent to help fulfill our teaching and research missions.
Our experiences over the past several years are reflected in the findings of two recent reports by the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS). The AILA analysis of USCIS data found that the total time it takes the federal government to process foreign visas has increased by 46 percent over the past two fiscal years. Meanwhile, the Council of Graduate Schools found that new enrollments of international students at U.S. graduate schools have fallen for the second year in a row. The CGS report comes on top of a 2018 survey by the Institute of International Education, which found that new foreign student enrollment for undergraduate programs in the U.S. has decreased by 8.9 percent since the 2015-16 school year.
Needless to say, we are very concerned about the findings in these reports. For decades, U.S. academia has been the envy of the world, in part because of our recruitment and acceptance of the finest applicants from around the globe. It has also been an engine of American innovation, bringing together talent from across the nation and around the world to work on the discoveries that fuel our most cutting-edge economic sectors. Our students, both foreign and U.S.-born, are able to learn from the world’s best professors and conduct research under the tutelage of the most creative minds in their field. These students, in turn, join the workforce, enter public service, and become educators or researchers themselves. Eventually, their children attend our colleges and universities, and become productive members of society.
As the 116th Congress moves forward, we ask that you closely monitor the policies and administrative actions that are threatening the free flow of students and scholars upon which our colleges and universities depend. We appreciate all your work on these issues and hope that you will continue to let foreign-born individuals on our campuses and throughout the State know that people of all backgrounds and nationalities will always be welcome in New Jersey.
Roukema Center for International Education at Ramapo College