Welcome to the New Academic Year!

Sent Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2018

To the Campus Community:

It is my great pleasure to welcome you to the start of the 2018-19 academic year! Some of us are returning to campus while others are experiencing Rutgers University–Camden for the first time. All of us are part of an active and supportive community of close to 7,600 motivated students; faculty committed to excellence in research and teaching; dedicated staff; and more than 55,000 proud alumni.

Together, we are witnessing a remarkable moment in the history of Rutgers University–Camden. Our national reputation as a center for research, student life, and civic engagement is on an upward trajectory. Our faculty continue to produce cutting-edge research at a level that, for the size of our campus, is placing them among some of the most productive scholars nationwide. Experiential learning opportunities are growing and reflect the diverse career and service interests of our students. All of this contributes to Rutgers University–Camden’s success in preparing the next generation of civic and professional leaders for society.

I would like to offer a few illustrations of the impact of our burgeoning stature. Just last week, Washington Monthly magazine rated Rutgers University–Camden fourth among “Best Bang for the Buck” universities in the Northeast, and 15th among America’s master’s-level universities. While any ranking is unable to truly capture an institution’s value, this Washington Monthly report is an affirmation of our heritage of helping all of our students to succeed.

Our reputation has attracted 16 extraordinarily promising full-time faculty members to our campus this academic year, including our new School of Nursing dean, Donna Nickitas. These scholars join our existing complement of research, clinical, and dedicated part-time faculty who work with our students every day.

Rising awareness of the tremendous value of the Rutgers University–Camden experience also has attracted close to 7,600 undergraduate and graduate students – a new record for our institution. During the past week, I had the amazing experience of welcoming more than 1,200 of our new students. They twice filled the Gordon Theater to capacity during the Raptor Welcome on Aug. 30, and they raised the roof with their cheers. On Aug. 31, hundreds of our new students joined Camden Mayor Frank Moran in a Day of Service that was an affirmation of our shared values in, and commitment to, civic engagement.

Our hallmark combination of innovative faculty sharing creative insights with our students is a true strength for Rutgers University–Camden, catalyzing an intellectual and social atmosphere that is enriched immensely by the illuminating perspectives that come from our diverse community. Rutgers University–Camden today reflects the cultural and social mosaic of both New Jersey and our nation. It is a point of pride that Rutgers University–Camden is a place where families from across New Jersey and from around the world can access the Rutgers experience and become well-prepared to achieve their goals.

As we welcome our largest-ever undergraduate class to Rutgers University–Camden, embrace our new graduate students, and greet our returning students, we remain committed to ensuring that our essential character as a personalized and supportive campus is preserved.

To that end, we have opened the One-Stop Student Service Center on the main level of Armitage Hall. By bringing together critical student services such as the registrar, financial aid, parking, and student accounting, students will be able to maximize the efficiency of their time while receiving effective service.

The Artis Building at Fourth and Cooper Streets is a 170-year-old building that is about to be rejuvenated: the venerable row home has been renovated to accommodate the Department of Childhood Studies, which includes the nation’s first Ph.D. program in this emerging academic discipline.

Similarly, the former Carnegie Library located at 101 Cooper Street in Johnson Park – a building that traces its origins to the start of the 20th century – is about to become the focal point for cutting-edge, 21st-century learning as the home of the new Digital Commons at Rutgers University–Camden. Digital Commons combines the Digital Studies Center and our writing lab to provide students with a 360-degree perspective on effective communication in the digital age.

Additionally, the lower level of the Science Building is being renovated into laboratory space to meet the growing demand for our chemistry programs.

While enhanced space to accommodate our academic programming is important, we remain committed to providing our students with the support they need to achieve their personal and professional goals. Programs like the Education Opportunity Fund, the Honors College, and the Leadership Institute – just to name a few – exemplify our vision of helping students to succeed with the resources needed to push them to their fullest potential. I encourage our students to utilize the wide range of opportunities available to them in areas such as academic coaching, student health, disability services, tutoring, and mentoring. These services help students make the necessary connections important to achieving academic and personal success.

Experiential learning is another resource woven throughout much of what we do at Rutgers University–Camden. Graduate and undergraduate students alike have access to an impressive portfolio of opportunities that deepen their mastery of academic subject areas, build leadership capacity, and establish credentials for success in careers, graduate programs, and civic duty.

I mentioned previously that our faculty are prepared to serve as mentors to our students. The ability for any of our students to engage in path-defining research by working alongside our professors is exceptional. Internship and clinical opportunities at multinational corporations, local organizations, and entities of every kind of complexity and size deliver the possibility to sharpen classroom skills in a real-world setting. Through our Learning Abroad program, students can enjoy an immersive global experience often embedded within their coursework during a 10-day period that eliminates the need to cast aside personal obligations for a semester or a year.

Rutgers University–Camden is a model for civically engaged learning, and for good reason. Our civic engagement programs are woven intrinsically within our academic programs. They help to strengthen communities and uplift families, while providing students with unparalleled contexts to explore their personal, academic, and career growth.

For these reasons, I strongly encourage every student to engage in at least one of these life-changing learning experiences.

Throughout the 2018-19 academic year, we will continue our efforts to enhance every aspect of our campus life. Our national search for a dean of our Faculty of Arts and Sciences accelerated during the summer. The search committee, which is co-chaired by Provost Michael Palis and Dr. Jane Siegel (professor, FASC-criminal justice), is working to identify candidates who will build upon the momentum established by the FASC faculty and staff under the leadership of Dean Kriste Lindenmeyer. Dean Lindenmeyer will return to the faculty in January.

As set forth in our strategic plan, Rutgers University–Camden will continue to grow our graduate programs at both the master’s and doctoral levels. During the past several months, a review of the graduate programs that are offered by the Graduate School, the School of Business, and the School of Nursing identified opportunities for growth in critical areas that will also equip our students for future employment and lifelong learning. This fall, Provost Palis and the deans will begin to implement some of those ideas. Similarly, our Law School is working to develop new programs while it continues to build the stature of the juris doctor program.

As our work proceeds, our new semester already has a wide array of activities planned, including a public lecture by Colson Whitehead, the author of the book The Underground Railroad, on Wednesday, Sept. 26. Through the Rutgers Reads program, our first-year undergraduate students are all reading this book and will have an opportunity to meet and interact with the author. A significant exhibition, “Digital Trash,” debuts in the Stedman Gallery on Wednesday, Sept. 5. Alumni will return to campus for Homecoming 2018 on Saturday, Sept. 29. Check the campus website for continuous updates on our many events and download the Rutgers–Camden app.

I hope that all of our students will celebrate the new academic year by participating in the many exciting activities planned for the start of the semester during Welcome Week.

I offer my best wishes for a richly rewarding and successful year and look forward to seeing you on campus.

Phoebe A. Haddon, J.D., LL.M.

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