Rutgers–Camden Presents Models of Achievement at National Urban Universities Conference

Dana Redd and Phoebe Haddon

Rutgers–Camden Chancellor Phoebe Haddon and former Camden Mayor Dana Redd (left)

By Jeanne Leong

A national conference of higher education leaders committed to urban growth recently learned about the innovative programs in place at Rutgers University–Camden when the Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities (CUMU) convened its annual conference in Philadelphia during Oct. 21 to 23.

Titled “All In: The Urban Mission,” the conference explored the role of universities as anchor institutions in America’s cities. During a special plenary session for university presidents, Rutgers University–Camden Chancellor Phoebe A. Haddon and Dana Redd SBC’96, former Camden mayor and current CEO of the Rowan University/Rutgers–Camden Board of Governors, delivered a thought-provoking look into the evolution of the close partnership between the city and the university.

In the session “Transforming a City Invincible: Leveraging Anchor Institutions in the Remaking of the City of Camden,” Redd shared with an audience of more than 30 university leaders her experience when she took the helm as mayor of Camden in 2010. “At that time, Camden was ranked second among the top ten most dangerous cities in the United States,” said Redd. “That’s no longer the case, I’m happy to say.”

“To begin tackling the enormous challenges facing Camden, as mayor-elect I asked the chancellor of Rutgers–Camden to co-chair my transition team comprised of business, government, community, higher education, nonprofit, and faith-based leaders,” said Redd. “The transition team produced a number of policy recommendations which the city was able to enact during the early years.

“Next, I engaged Rutgers–Camden, in particular the Senator Walter Rand Institute for Public Affairs and the Rutgers School of Business–Camden, to secure foundation funding, and to develop and facilitate a capacity-building retreat for my administration in 2010. That retreat positioned my administration to ‘rapidly respond’ to the changing external environment during the years we had to significantly downsize government due to budget deficits while still maintaining essential functions.”

A Rutgers–Camden alumna and a former New Jersey state senator, Redd credited the city’s revitalization to the support of steadfast Camden anchor institutions such as Rutgers‒Camden and Cooper Medical Center, and local, state, and business leaders ‒ all working together to advance the city and strengthen economic opportunities for its residents.

“The collaboration with Rutgers was very strong,” said Redd. “We moved forward to make sure we set the stage for where we were going and how we were going to communicate, not only internally, but externally, with stakeholders from throughout the state.”

“I am grateful for the incredible support that I have received as an alum of Rutgers–Camden, as mayor, and in my current role as CEO of the Joint Board,” concluded Redd.

“Camden is rising,” said Haddon, who noted that Rutgers University–Camden works with city schools to provide Camden families with college readiness support and initiatives that enhance the city’s K-12 programs. The Rutgers–Camden chancellor added that faculty research is applied to assist efforts that support communities in the city and the South Jersey region, while students participate in civic learning programs that provide exceptional learning experiences while working in partnership with local organizations and communities.

Provost Michael Palis, Wendell Pritchett, and Temple Provost JoAnne Epps with Pedro Ramos at the 2019 Annual Conference

Provost Michael Palis (right) with fellow panelists Penn Provost Wendell Pritchett (second from right) and Temple Provost JoAnne Epps and moderator Pedro Ramos (left).

Those endeavors were further spotlighted during a special tour of Camden for interested CUMU participants. Nyeema Watson, associate chancellor for civic engagement at Rutgers University–Camden, led a capacity group of higher education leaders on a tour that visited a health care clinic operated by the Rutgers School of Nursing–Camden in the Centreville section of Camden; Joseph’s House, a residence that provides support for the homeless and that incorporates the work of Rutgers–Camden students; and a Camden public school, where Rutgers–Camden’s Office of Civic Engagement and Center for the Arts offer after-school programming for city children.

Also at the CUMU conference, a panel of provosts from prominent Philadelphia-area universities discussed “Academic Leadership and the Urban Mission,” and included Rutgers University–Camden’s Michael Palis along with the provosts of Drexel University, Temple University, and the University of Pennsylvania. The session, moderated by Pedro Ramos, CEO of the Philadelphia Foundation, addressed ways in which universities serve their communities.

Rutgers–Camden was a co-sponsor of the CUMU conference, which is held in a different city every year.

At the conference, Rutgers University–Camden thought leaders hosted sessions to share expertise and experience on a variety of important issues:

“Rutgers University–Camden is a national model for civically engaged learning among America’s urban universities,” says Haddon. “We were pleased to share our best practices with our colleagues from across the nation.”

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