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Archived Speeches


State of the College Address

September 17, 2014


It would be easy to conclude from surveying the popular media that higher education generally is in a desperate state. For example, this month’s Atlantic magazine has emblazoned on its cover the apocalyptic question “Is College Doomed?” It tells the story of the Minerva Project, whose aim is to replace the liberal arts college.

The author, one Graeme Wood, states that Minerva’s long term goal “is to radically remake one of the most sclerotic sectors of the U.S. economy, one so shielded from the need for improvement that its biggest innovation in the past 30 years has been to double its costs …”
Stuff and nonsense – Wood, it pains me to say, is actually a Canadian apparently of the sort who tosses off observations about the U.S. without much investigation or reflection. He is also a 2001 graduate of Harvard University, an experience which apparently has not worn well, at least for him. Doubling of costs over 30 years – since 1984 – pick an item – a restaurant meal, a pair of shoes, an automobile – and compare their cost profile over 30 years. Consider also higher education’s unending strata of accountability compared with most other field of business endeavors and our institutional adaptability has been remarkable. Of course we can do better and, yes, the environment is fiercely competitive but the broad brush doomsday scenarios are over the top and tiresome. Or as one might say in Newfoundland, only a “dotterel” would accept them at face value.

We continue to work at keeping our financial house in order as the College moves ahead on many fronts. Allow me to highlight some of our more recent successes.

Some of you may have noticed that we are growing increasingly visible with our legislators. Last week, we hosted Senate President Stephen Sweeney and Senator and Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, at a ceremony honoring the memory of those lost on 9/11. The Senators also toured the G Wing renovations, which are funded, in part with bond referendum monies and the Senators and I discussed the importance of another bond issue and more comprehensive approach to funding capital expenditures, as well as operating expenses at New Jersey’s public colleges.

This week I visited Senator Booker’s office in Washington, D.C. to make the case for federal support for public bus service to the College so that students from urban centers throughout the region can reach Ramapo. I am hopeful that something will come of these efforts in the relatively near future to help us meet our strategic goal of increasing diversity among our students.

Tomorrow, Governor Jim Florio will speak at the College in honor of Constitution Day and the 350th anniversary this year of the State of New Jersey. He will speak at noon at the Berrie Center’s Sharp Theater, and I encourage you to attend.

On October 8, State Senator Sandra Cunningham, chair of the Senate’s Higher Education Committee, will visit and speak during a campus-wide Voter Registration Drive. Students, faculty and staff will have the opportunity to hear the Senator speak and register to vote at the Ramapo Arch from 1 to 2 p.m. We hope you can join us.

And on October 23, Ramapo College will hold its first-ever “RCNJ at the Statehouse” trip, a full day of activities to better acquaint students with our State government and issues affecting higher education. The trip will be held once a semester to ensure as many students as possible have the opportunity to participate.

We have also seen considerable developments to our physical campus. The third and fourth floors of G Wing are now open as well as renovated B Wing. A good amount of old furniture (desks, bookcases, etc.) from these wings were “free-cycled.” On Friday of last week, the Paterson School District brought a very large trailer to campus and picked up these goods. Special thanks to Steve Sondey, Claudy Jordain, and Aidan Murray for their support of this initiative.

The ground floor of the Adler Center for Nursing Excellence will have a gender neutral restroom. The space is scheduled for occupancy by April ’15. There will also be a gender neutral restroom and a Family Attendant room on the first floor of G Wing. Both spaces are scheduled for occupancy by the fall ’15 semester.

Also, the College Commons Working Group is now working with Ikon5, an architectural and engineering firm, on the site plans for the renovated carriage house.

Our impressive facilities are here to serve one purpose, student learning and our students continue to impress.

We received the largest number of applications and are home to the largest freshmen class in Ramapo’s history this year. This increase in demand has also yielded an increase in our average SAT score, has enabled us to maintain diversity at 30%, and has fostered an increase in out-of-state enrollment. We have also exceeded our graduate enrollment goal. In its first year, the MA Special Education program has even exceeded its targets. CIPL also exceeded revenue targets and has now generated positive revenue for the College for the first year.

This year will mark the first graduating class with Career Pathways in the Anisfield School of Business and the College is now launching the second Pathways program in the Salameno School of Humanities and Global Studies. I look forward to providing this meaningful program in all of our schools at some point.

The new Contemporary Arts Degree Completion Program launched this semester with a full cohort of 16 students. The program uses the Contemporary Arts Contract major to offer a track in Professional Communication designed to build skills in the areas of written, oral, and visual communication.

And, the College was presented the Starfish Rising Star Award for the year 1 launch of Connect Advisement and Early Alert Software on Campus.

External recognition of our shared achievements has also been strong. We have increased a spot in the US News and World Report rankings and we were recently recognized as a “Public Ivy.”

Our visibility externally has also strengthened thanks to a purposeful and thoughtful social media strategy. Increases in our social media activity have been substantial and have included the #homesweetpo campaign, #capsoffRCNJ campaign from Commencement 2014, and a Twitter chat with Convocation speaker Sonia Nazario.

One additional note that I am particular pleased to share is that the Student Government Association has elected its first female president, Lauren Fuhring. Congratulations, Lauren.

In Academic Affairs we also have much to celebrate. Dr. Charles Steindel joined the Economics Faculty as a “Scholar in Residence”. Charles was formerly Chief Economist at the New Jersey Department of Treasury and before that he was a Senior Vice President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

The College reached an agreement with the New Jersey Small Business Development Center (NJSBDC) to open an affiliate office in ASB. The NJSBDC provides assistance to small business owners and entrepreneurs in New Jersey. In exchange for the support the College will provide to the NJSBDC of Bergen County (office space, clerical support, etc.) all Ramapo students and faculty will be able to take advantage of the Center’s seminars and consulting services at no charge.

In Nursing, Assistant Dean Kathy Burke was named an AACN/Wharton executive fellow and Professor Maisha Amen completed the Iron Woman competition on Sept 7 at Sandy Hook.

Dean Rosenberg has joined his family in publishing a chapter entitled “American Horror Story: Asylum and the Power of the Mad Monster” in Monsters in Society (Dauber (ed.), Interdisciplinary Press 2014).

The Gayle and Paul Gross Foundation recently awarded a $250,000 challenge grant to the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies. In recognition of this gift, the Center is now called the Gross Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies.

Professor Ira Spar helped in the development of the new “Assyria to Iberia at the Dawn of the Classical Age” exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. In addition, the fourth volume to Professor Spar’s Cuneiform Texts in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which he co-authored with Michael Jursa, was just published.

Dean Stephen Rice and Professor Meredith Davis have received for a third time a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to conduct two summer workshops for K-12 teachers on the history and culture of the Hudson River Valley.

Professor Ben Neill received a grant award in the amount of $46,000 from the Rockefeller Foundation MAP Fund, for new performance works for his new music/theater piece called “The Demo.”

Our talented CA faculty have also been busy. Fall 2014 marks the kickoff of the new Ramapo College Concert Band under the direction of Dr. Chris Wilhjelm. Open to all students, the band meets on Tuesday evenings in the H-Wing Auditorium.

In June, Professor Mack Brandon directed a choral performance with an eighty-voice chorus at the Tumon Bay Music Festival in Guam. In other news from Guam, Professor Lisa Lutter received the island’s highest award, The Ancient Order of Chamorri (pronounced like Samurai), which recognizes persons who are not native to Guam, “who shall have contributed substantially to the betterment of the people of Guam, or who shall have demonstrated real and sympathetic interest in the people of Guam, its history, cultures, traditions and problems.” Professor Lutter is one of four persons in the past four years to be recognized with this honor, which is awarded by the Governor and Speaker of the Legislature jointly.

Professor Warner Wada has been invited to photograph all of the buildings designed by LeCorbusier in Ahmedabad and Chandigarh, India, using his pinhole camera technique, in a special documentation and exhibition initiative between the Ahmedabad Textile Mills Association and Ramapo College.

Professor Ann LePore is featured in the group exhibition, “Thou Art Mom,” opening tomorrow, September 18, at Pierro Gallery in South Orange.

As mentioned earlier, our students continue to push boundaries. A few examples:

Senior Danielle Corcione had her program proposal titled, “Diversity in Higher Education: A Student Perspective” accepted to present at the National Collegiate Honors Council in Denver, Colorado November 5-9, 2014.

In a state-wide initiative, Student Trustee Kevin Ng and Alternate Student Trustee Brandon Smith are connecting all of the student trustees in New Jersey. The goal of the initiative is to have a way for Student Trustees to communicate over the issues that state colleges are facing and to deliberate over how to best lobby for funding toward higher education.

In July, the College sent four students to Camp Pride, a summer leadership institute for LGBT students and allies that focuses on social justice action and inclusivity. Students returned from the camp with ideas on effective strategies toward helping Ramapo College sustain an LGBT-friendly climate. Student Vanna Garcia was selected to serve as a Pride Peer Leader for other students from around the country.

The Civic and Community Engagement Center hosted a successful Leaders-in-Service program. Over 30 first year students enrolled in the program, moved into the residence halls early, and engaged in a week of civic engagement activities and workshops.

The Center for Student Involvement hosted a tremendously successful Joint Student Leader Staff Training whereby over 200 student paraprofessional staff from Residence Life, CSI, CAAFYE, OSS, CHCS, Cahill, and SGA engaged in two-days of training about diversity, leadership, and communication.

Eddie Seavers, CSI, completed a year-long program leadership experience entitled Bergen LEADS. Eddie is the first Ramapo employee to participate in this highly regarded program.

It is no surprise that our impressive students go on to be impressive alumni. A few examples:

Theater program alumna Bethany Kay has a recurring role on this season’s “Boardwalk Empire.”

2014 Theater graduate Jessica Gouker is currently employed as Assistant Stage Manager for the National Tour of the musical “Beauty and the Beast.”

2014 Visual Arts graduate Jennifer Morrison participated in the June 2014 International Iron Conference in Riga, Latvia, with artists, professors, and students from around the world.

TAS reports that 50% of the 2014 graduates in Engineering/ Physics are in graduate school pursuing PhD’s on full scholarships at: Duke Medical, NJIT , Rutgers, and the University of Rhode Island.

Dr. Harshani Peiris, an RCNJ Bioinformatics Alumna recently published an article in an international peer-reviewed journal showing a correlation between immune system and tissue regeneration.

Dr. Garrett Dancik, an RCNJ Bioinformatics Alum, was the keynote speaker of the TAS Student Research Symposium (SRS) in April 2014. Garrett is now Assistant Professor of Computer Science/Bioinformatics, Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, Eastern Connecticut State University.

There is no slowing down at Ramapo either. This month is host to a series of diverse events on campus including but not limited to:

Ellie Krieger, Food Network Star and NY Times best-selling cookbook author, will deliver remarks at the Havemeyer Edible Garden dinner tomorrow night.

Ben Jealous, former director of the NAACP will speak on September 22 at 4:30 in Sharp Theater.

The Men’s Tennis Team will enjoy a Championship Ring Presentation on September 23 at 1pm in the Bradley Center lobby.

Rigoberta Menchú, 1992 Nobel Peace Prize recipient and activist for the rights of indigenous people in Guatemala, will deliver a lecture on the benefits of student engagement on September 24 at 1pm in H Wing Auditorium.

The President’s Advisory Council will meet on September 26 at 11:30am in the Alumni Lounges.

BMW North America President Ludwig Willisch returns to campus as a guest lecturer in the MBA program on September 30 in ASB.

I hope to see many of you at these and other events.

Thank you for your contributions to the college and thank you in advance, for another successful academic year.

Question and Answer

Archived Speeches (Details)
  • State of the College: February 2014  (PDF) (DOC)
  • State of the College: September 18, 2013 (PDF) (DOC)
  • State of the College: February 13, 2013 (PDF) (DOC)
  • State of the College: September 19, 2012 (PDF) (DOC)
  • State of the College: February 15, 2012 (PDF) (DOC)
  • State of the College: September 14, 2011 (PDF) (DOC)
  • State of the College: February 18, 2011 (PDF) (DOC)
  • State of the College: September 29, 2010 (PDF) (DOC)
  • State of the College: September 23, 2009 (PDF) (DOC)
  • State of the College: February 18, 2009 (PDF) (DOC)
  • State of the College: September 5, 2008 (PDF) (DOC)
  • State of the College Address: February 6, 2008 (PDF) (DOC)
  • State of the College Address: September 26, 2007 (PDF) (DOC)
  • State of the College Address: February 28, 2007 (PDF) (DOC)
  • State of the College Address: September 14, 2005 (PDF) (DOC)