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President Richard L. McCormick Describes 'A Year of Transformation' for Rutgers in Annual Address

September 16, 2005

NEW BRUNSWICK/PISCATAWAY, N.J. – Calling the 2005-2006 academic year “a season for giving special attention to undergraduate education,” Rutgers President Richard L. McCormick today stressed initiatives in this important area during his third Annual Address to the University Community.

McCormick also highlighted emerging academic programs, as well as efforts to enhance the effectiveness of fund raising and communication with Rutgers’ many constituencies. Rutgers’ 19th president urged his audience –university senators, governors, trustees, students, faculty, staff, alumni and invited guests attending the first University Senate meeting of the academic year – to “join me in making [undergraduate education] the major focus of our collective and collegial efforts. All our missions matter, but this is a season for giving special attention to undergraduate education,” he said.

McCormick addressed a gathering of more than 500 in the Multipurpose Room of the Rutgers Student Center on the College Avenue campus in New Brunswick. The speech, titled “A Year of Transformation,” was carried live via Webcast and by RU-tv – the campus cable television system. Members of the overflow crowd watched on screens in the adjacent student lounge and in the center’s Red Lion Café. His remarks and a question-and-answer session were piped outside the building as well.

The president spoke at length about the recommendations in the Report of the Task Force on Undergraduate Education, issued in July. The creation of the Rutgers College of Arts and Sciences to bring together all arts and sciences faculty and students in New Brunswick/Piscataway was among recommendations in “Transforming Undergraduate Education” and has been the subject of discussion throughout the university community.

According to the task force, the new college would enable the university to build on the strengths of the liberal arts colleges and to make their academic programs available to students throughout the New Brunswick/Piscataway campus.

Speaking of the task force’s recommendations, McCormick assured the audience, “That’s all they will be until they have been widely discussed for many months and by every element of our community.” He added that alumni associations are also reviewing the report and that open forums have been scheduled on each campus in New Brunswick and Piscataway. He urged every school, college, department and student governing association to hold discussions of the report. “Let’s have an exemplary discussion, in the best Rutgers tradition. Our undergraduates deserve it.”

The possible restructuring is just one element of the task force’s report for transforming undergraduate education at The State University of New Jersey. Another is to increase undergraduates’ exposure to the research of Rutgers’ world-class senior faculty.

“For undergraduates, a research university offers boundless possibilities,” McCormick said. “Because of its large size, it may not be for everyone, but for tens of thousands of students who choose to come to Rutgers, there is opportunity to study hundreds of subjects with faculty who are creating knowledge, not just transmitting it; faculty who share with their students the excitement of creation and discovery; and who open up for them worlds of understanding about where knowledge comes from and how it is used.

“Our students will spend the rest of their lives creating and applying knowledge,” McCormick continued. “We get them started here at Rutgers. But the riches of research universities are not always readily accessible to undergraduates, and these institutions can be organized in ways that make them inhospitable to undergraduate learning. Research universities like ours have to work constantly to make sure that their promises to undergraduates are kept.”

McCormick observed that the transformation is also occurring on the Newark and Camden campuses, under the respective leadership of provosts Steven Diner and Roger Dennis. In Newark, a task force report on undergraduate education is forthcoming, a comprehensive review of undergraduate admissions has been completed and a reassessment of basic instruction in writing and math is under way, he said.

The president added that Rutgers-Newark’s Honors College is expanding, a new undergraduate major in public service is being established and that next fall, a new residence hall for 650 students will be ready and will include, for the first time in Newark, living and learning communities for students with special interests.

In Camden, McCormick said, freshman seminars are now being taught by senior faculty, an internship program that combines academic and service learning has been created, and new grants for undergraduates to conduct research and to travel to professional conferences have been funded.

Further, the Camden campus has expanded dual degree programs, allowing students to get a head start on graduate degrees, and established joint degree programs in law and osteopathic medicine. Plans are in the works to build a new undergraduate dorm as well.

McCormick, who became president in December 2002, also referenced three new initiatives. He cited Rutgers’ program to enroll students from New Jersey whose colleges and universities were closed by Hurricane Katrina. Approximately 60 students have enrolled.

He spoke of the creation of the Rutgers Institute for Improving Student Achievement, based at the Graduate School of Education and headed by William L. Librera, New Jersey’s former commissioner of education. The institute will serve as a hub for the university’s many partnerships with public schools and school districts, as well as local governments, business and funding organizations. It will create programs aimed at increasing student achievement in a wide range of urban, rural and suburban districts across the state.

McCormick also discussed the agreement to hire Lipman Hearne, a Chicago marketing firm, to engage in a multiyear effort to enhance communication and clarify Rutgers’ mission among its various constituencies.

Contact: Steve Manas
732-932-7084, ext. 612
E-mail: smanas@ur.rutgers.edu