When Opportunity Knocks: New Era Marks the Further Enrichment of the Student Experience

Richard L. McCormick, President
As published in the Fall 2007 issue of Rutgers Magazine

It has been going on in New Brunswick for well over two centuries: the annual arrival of new undergraduates at Rutgers. This month, more than 5,800 women and men begin their undergraduate careers On the Banks, and I can’t wait for them to get started. Each of them—including 4,100 enrolling in the newly constituted School of Arts and Sciences and 700 in the newly named School of Environmental and Biological Sciences—will benefit from our dramatic reshaping of the academic structure and many new options, all undertaken to enrich their experience.

They will share in a broad and rigorous core curriculum that helps define a Rutgers education. They can live at home, off campus, or on the Busch, College Avenue, Cook, Douglass, or Livingston campus—and even switch campuses from year to year—and be able to take advantage of any program offered in New Brunswick. We will give them help and encouragement to conduct their own research, building on the success of our Aresty Research Center for Undergraduates. And before they graduate, we will provide the opportunity for a capstone experience that draws upon all they have learned.

Rutgers is a great public research university, and our students should engage in its intellectual life from their first moments on campus. Our optional First-Year Seminars inspire them to do just that. Choosing from among more than 100 fascinating topics, our newest students will learn from full-time faculty in small-enrollment courses—for example, Paul Clemens offers insights on the Leopold-Loeb case, Lisa Klein on alternative energy, and Abena Busia on the African immigrant experience. I am especially excited by this initiative, which will forge strong bonds between students and professors, and I will teach a seminar myself on higher education in the 21st century.

This new era on the New Brunswick Campus also marks the debut of Douglass Residential College, providing the benefits of the great traditions that made Douglass College so important in the intellectual development of thousands of successful women. I am especially grateful for Dean Carmen Twillie Ambar’s leadership and vision, which helps ensure that Douglass students have a deeply rewarding and meaningful experience.

While the most dramatic changes are taking shape in New Brunswick, our Newark and Camden campuses are also enriching undergraduate education. Provost Steve Diner and the faculty are weaving Rutgers–Newark’s urban setting into the curriculum, prompted in part by the large increase in students choosing to live on campus rather than commuting to it. In Camden, where undergraduate education has always been a core strength, Interim Provost Margaret Marsh and the faculty have expanded undergraduate research opportunities by connecting more students to the research work of their professors.

Rutgers plays a deeply valuable role in advancing new knowledge and serving New Jersey and the nation, and I’m proud of our research excellence. But every September—this one especially—is a welcome reminder that the fundamental connection between student and professor remains at the heart of this institution and of every great university.