Saluting Diversity in Higher Education:

A 2014 College Presidents Roundtable

Saluting Diversity in Higher Education: A 2014 College Presidents Roundtable

According to the American Council on Education, “Diversity enriches the educational experience; promotes personal growth and a healthy society; strengthens communities and the workplace; and enhances America’s economic competitiveness.” Appropriately, this is an area where colleges and universities are leading the way forward, embracing the idea that “diversity in their student bodies, faculties, and staff is important for them to fulfill their primary mission: providing a quality education.”

To learn more about best practices in this area, COMMERCE assembled New Jersey’s top higher education leaders for a College Presidents Roundtable on “diversity.” The following participants were able to discuss and describe the importance of diversity in higher education, and how their schools are benefiting from a culture of inclusion:

● Berkeley College President
Dario A. Cortes, Ph.D.
● College of Saint Elizabeth President
Helen J. Streubert, Ph.D.
● County College of Morris President
Edward J. Yaw, Ed.D.
● Fairleigh Dickinson University President
Sheldon Drucker, B.B.A.
● Felician College President
Anne M. Prisco, MBA, Ph.D.
● Georgian Court University President
Rosemary E. Jeffries, RSM, Ph.D.;
● Montclair State University President
Susan A. Cole, Ph.D.
● New Jersey City University President
Sue Henderson, Ph.D.
● New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) President
Joel S. Bloom, Ed.D.
● Ramapo College of New Jersey President
Peter P. Mercer, Ph.D.
● Rutgers, The State University of NJ President
Robert L. Barchi, M.D., Ph.D.
● Thomas Edison State College President
George A. Pruitt, Ph.D.
● Union County College President
Margaret M. McMenamin, Ed.D.
● William Paterson University President
Kathleen Waldron, Ph.

Berkeley College- Dario A. CortesBerkeley College
By Dario A. Cortes, Ph.D., President
Diversity in education is critical because students need exposure to and interaction with different cultures to be successful in a global economy that’s changing more rapidly than ever before. Employers look for graduates with a deep understanding of cultural diversity and a readiness to address the opportunities and challenges presented by globalization. Fortunately, a focus on diversity is nothing new at Berkeley College, where varying viewpoints, cultural exchanges, social interactions and academic discourse all contribute to a practical, well-rounded education for today’s world. The student body at Berkeley College is made up of nearly equal groups of Hispanics, African- Americans, Caucasians, and students of other back grounds. International students represent 11 percent of the student population, and come to Berkeley from 98 countries. Faculty with international credentials, students of diverse ages, and a large veteran and military population also enhance student exposure to diversity. Other initiatives, such as Berkeley’s Center for Global Studies, Model UN program, and degree programs focusing on international business, all contribute to preparing students for success in a global marketplace.

CSE-Helen_J_StreubertCollege of Saint Elizabeth
By Helen J. Streubert, Ph.D., President

At the College of Saint Elizabeth (CSE), diversity is an important part of our mission, to be “a community of learning in the Catholic liberal arts tradition for students of diverse ages, backgrounds and cultures.” With a student body representing 40 countries, minorities and Catholic, Hindu, Jewish and Islamic faiths, our college is a microcosm of the world. As such, we provide an educational opportunity to fully engage our students, faculty and community members with each other as global citizens with reverence and service to the common good. Whether you are one of our many first-generation college students, a visiting scholar, or esteemed faculty member, we take seriously our responsibility for educating one another. CSE creates special initiatives focusing on service in the spirit of social responsibility, so our students become citizens with compassionate hearts who are prepared to serve in the world community. We embrace the role that multicultural and intercultural competencies play in the transformation that occurs through education. Through respect for and promotion of spirituality, we seek to eliminate prejudice, racism and intolerance in the world. CSE celebrates diversity, preparing students to become critical thinkers who learn today, so that they can lead tomorrow and change the world.

County College MorrisCounty College of Morris
By Edward J.Yaw, Ed.D., President
As the world and our country continue to become smaller and more diverse, a broader understanding of others is necessary to promote personal growth and a more just society. At County College of Morris, we have focused not only on building a diverse college community but also on enriching the educational experience of students. As a result of receiving a Bildner New Jersey Campus Diversity Initiative Grant in 2002, we were able to significantly increase the integration of diversity and global awareness into courses throughout our curriculum. Based on that success, we were selected last year as the only college in New Jersey to take part in the national Bridging Cultures initiative to develop ways to better incorporate diversity, civic engagement and democratic thinking into teaching and learning. Most recently, as part of that initiative, we launched the Legacy Project to share the interdisciplinary lessons of historical movements and other cultures. Our mission in higher education is not solely to provide students with an education but with the ability to view the world through the eyes of others. By doing so, they become better citizens and, in the process, learn more about themselves and their place in the world.

FDU Sheldon DruckerFairleigh Dickinson University
By Sheldon Drucker, B.B.A., President
It is said that variety or diversity is the spice of life, but in truth diversity is the essence of life and one of the most fundamental things we have in common— we are all different. Diversity matters in higher education because diversity matters everywhere. At Fairleigh Dickinson University, we have a rich legacy of celebrating all kinds of diversity: from diversity of race and religion to diversity of ideas and information. Fundamental to this central value is our strong reputation for providing access for students from varied economic, ethnic, racial and religious backgrounds, as well as diverse geographic areas. This melting pot on our campuses provides a microcosm of the globally connected society that our students must understand how to navigate. We also believe that a comparable diversity in the faculty, administration and staff provides effective role models for the values we embrace and important views that need to be considered in our planning efforts. Further and perhaps even more strategically, our core mission of preparing world citizens through global education provides an umbrella of diverse learning experiences and activities infused with multinational and multicultural perspectives that prepare students to extend their horizons from their neighborhoods to the world.

FELICIAN-Anne M. PriscoFelician College
By Anne M. Prisco, MBA, Ph.D., President
Diversity in an educational setting is much more than fulfilling quotas. It is the means by which we establish the foundation of teamwork and mutual respect, build strong community relationships and prepare students to enter the workplace with a sense of fairness and tolerance. As a Franciscan institution, the very core of Felician College’s mission is to serve a diverse population and to provide a quality education that will enrich the lives and promote personal growth of every student. Our college strives to foster a moral and inclusive campus culture that embraces the diversity of the larger society. Felician opens its doors to both traditional and adult students of all interests and backgrounds, and provides a wide range of courses that help nurture and enhance student talents in an everchanging economic environment. Our academic programs also have been tailored to accommodate veterans and working parents, as well as professionals who are advancing their careers or making a career change. What sets Felician apart is its attention to student needs: small classrooms, various on- and off-campus programs and work opportunities and curriculum-based internships that afford students the opportunity to gain valuable insight into life beyond the classroom.

Georgian- Rosemary E. JeffriesGeorgian Court University
By Rosemary E. Jeffries, RSM, Ph.D., President
University life has changed considerably when compared to past decades, but the benefit that diversity brings to Georgian Court University remains constant. Throughout our 105-year history, GCU has always been a place to celebrate differences and to share new perspectives. In recent years though, we have attracted an increasingly diverse field of students across race, ethnicity, age, socioeconomics and now that we are fully coed—even gender. Classroom discussions and student life are also made richer by the presence of newcomers (many of them athletes) from places like Portugal, Serbia, Ecuador and England. Just as valuable are the viewpoints of our adult learners who juggle jobs, parenthood and life’s obligations, as well as those who hail from urban cities throughout New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, and those who bring unique insight from places like Augusta, Georgia, or Evansville, Indiana. Ultimately, the GCU commitment to diversity—in enrollment, in global partnerships and in volunteer outreach beyond our own borders—teaches a lasting lesson. Diversity broadens our frame of reference, and underscores how our Mercy core values—respect, justice, service, compassion and integrity—resonate without regard to our race, gender, economic standing, our native language or whatever place we call home.

MSU-SusanColeMontclair State University
By Susan A. Cole, Ph.D., President
As a large public university, Montclair State has as a core value the creation of an educational community that reflects the society we serve, and, as a consequence, our student, faculty and staff populations mirror the ethnic, gender and economic diversity of the world in which our students will live and work. There are two characteristics that our alumni consistently mention when they are asked about what was most valuable to them in their Montclair State education. The first is the quality of the education they received, which they credit with enabling them to compete successfully with graduates from any institution. The second characteristic they mention is the vibrant diversity of the university community, which they credit with enabling them to feel at home in the world wherever their lives and their work take them. In this century’s shrinking world, we must give students a rich understanding of cultural differences, of the varied experiences that come with socio-economic disparities, of the often different perspectives on reality held by men and women and by those on opposite sides of international or religious or political boundaries. Not to do so would be to fail utterly in our educational responsibilities.

NJCU-Sue HendersonNew Jersey City University
By Sue Henderson, Ph.D., President
Diversity matters because a diverse student body, faculty and staff provide a broader educational experience both in traditional liberal arts learning and in preparing for jobs, professions and effective citizenship in a multiracial society. At NJCU, diversity- related educational goals are central to our mission. We are an educational and cultural anchor in Jersey City, which is one of our nation’s most diverse cities. Our student body, which includes students from 37 countries, and our faculty and staff reflect that diversity. Many of the strategies we use to encourage diversity include expanded outreach to the surrounding community through such programs as “Campus Without Borders,” which offers students opportunities to experience the broad diversity of the local and New York regional communities. NJCU also sponsors numerous joint programs with ethnic organizations in the community, inviting prominent representatives of those groups to share their personal experience and serve as role models for our students. In addition, we offer academic programs, including study abroad, that address the global reality within which we all have a place and mission. The broader the personal experiences of our students and faculty, the more able they will be to succeed personally, and to make valuable contributions to society.

NJIT- Joel S. BloomNew Jersey Institute of Technology
By Joel S. Bloom, Ed.D., President
Diversity in higher education is an economic necessity. Today’s global marketplace depends on innovation by professionals in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). New Jersey alone needs to fill 269,000 STEM-related jobs by 2018. Yet the numbers of women and minorities in STEM careers falls short of what we need. In our knowledgebased economy, we need to encourage more women and minorities to consider the STEM fields as a career choice. NJIT has a long tradition as a school of opportunity, providing a first-class education to a diverse student body. We’ve found that campus diversity enriches the academic experience, preparing students for the global marketplace, and encouraging innovation and creativity with new perspectives and ideas. At NJIT, we work to engage underserved groups through programs that attract urban, K-12 students to the STEM fields. These programs are one reason why NJIT ranks among the top 20 universities in the nation for graduating minority engineers and computer scientists. While at NJIT, our students conduct research, gain industry experience, and become inventors and entrepreneurs. Many graduate with patents, high-paying jobs, and even their own start-up businesses. Our graduates’ success combined with affordable tuition ranks us first in the nation for college value.

Ramapo-Peter-PRamapo College of New Jersey
By Peter P. Mercer, Ph.D., President
Last year, a group of 25 Ramapo College faculty, staff, and students defined “diversity.” While the definition was initially sought to provide clarity in our new strategic plan, the variety of perspectives and opinions was illuminating and the exercise was transformational in shaping our culture. Our strategic plan codifies this goal through four aims: creating a safe and supportive environment for all; retaining a diverse student population; delivering programs that demonstrate the value of self-awareness, examination of multiple perspectives, and respect for others; and recruiting and retaining employees who reflect and are committed to diversity and inclusiveness. Diversity at Ramapo College encourages us to push boundaries as individuals, as teams, as future leaders, and as members of a community to demonstrate empathy and self-awareness. Further recognizing the many benefits diversity brings to the undergraduate experience, we have increased the diversity of our freshman class by nearly 50 percent over the past three years. We have also set an ambitious goal: By 2018, 50 percent of our undergraduate major programs will include an international experience (study abroad, service learning abroad, foreign language study, etc.). It is my goal to ensure our students, faculty, and staff collaborate to foster a campus climate that views the acknowledgement of differences not as divisive, but instead as a means to deeper understanding and greater appreciation for one another.

RUTGERS- Robert L. BarchiRutgers, The State University of New Jersey
By Robert L. Barchi, M.D., Ph.D., President
When I came to Rutgers, I was immediately impressed by the tremendous diversity on all of the campuses. That diversity—which represents a wide range of religious, racial and ethnic affiliations; economic backgrounds; disabilities; and cultural and sexual identities—is a considerable strength for Rutgers. We should focus on the recruitment and retention of a diverse faculty, staff and student body, and support additional initiatives in the areas of diversity and inclusion. As members of the Rutgers community have stressed on a variety of occasions, we should be showcasing and strengthening our institutional diversity, and for this reason I appointed Jorge Reina Schement to the newly created position of Vice President for Institutional Diversity and Inclusion in July 2013. After broad consultation with the campus community, Jorge will reconstitute the University-wide Council on Diversity and Inclusion, which he will chair, and which will meet with me at least twice each year. With this office, we are creating Vice Chancellors for Diversity and Inclusion on all campuses—Camden, Newark, New Brunswick, and Health Sciences—in order to further diversity and inclusion initiatives at the campus level. While reporting to their respective Chancellors, the Vice Chancellors for Diversity and Inclusion will also work directly with the Universitywide diversity office. Once these new structures have been in place for two years, we will conduct a formal evaluation to assess their efficacy and implement any needed changes.

TESC-George A. PruittThomas Edison State College
By George A. Pruitt, Ph.D., President
Minorities currently comprise approximately 36 percent of the population of the United States and more than half of all babies born in America in 2011 were members of minority groups. Our population is also characterized by an increasing number of older citizens as the baby boom generation ages. If institutions of higher education are to prepare our citizens to join, or continue to participate in, today’s workforce, those institutions must provide access to learning opportunities that expose students to diversity in race, ethnicity and age. They must be able to take into account a variety of backgrounds not only among their students, but also among the entities that will employ them. In addition to being given a solid grounding in the specific disciplines pertinent to employment in a given field, those who are enrolled in today’s colleges and universities must be educated to think critically; appreciate differences in culture, age, gender and ethnic background; and work productively with others who may differ from them in a variety of ways. In preparing individuals to participate in today’s global workforce, institutions of higher education must instill in their students a global perspective founded on an appreciation and understanding of the diversity that has become a hallmark of our country’s population.

UCC- Margaret M. McMenaminUnion County College
By Margaret M. McMenamin, Ed.D., President
At Union County College (UCC), diversity is inextricably linked to our mission, which is to “transform our community, one student at a time.” With campuses in the cities of Elizabeth and Plainfield and in the own of Cranford, we offer opportunities for students throughout Union County and beyond. UCC embraces students who are underprepared for college along with NJ STARS students, who receive a scholarship for graduating high school in the top 15 percent of their class. Underrepresented groups comprise two-thirds of our student body, and UCC qualifies nationally as a Hispanic Serving Institution based on its population of Latino students. We are committed to embracing an environment that supports equitable education for all of our students, and emphasizes respect for various cultures and individual differences. With more than 40 student clubs and organizations, UCC encourages students to participate in community service activities that lay a foundation toward their becoming socially responsible citizens.

WPU- Kathleen WaldronWilliam Paterson University
By Kathleen Waldron, Ph.D., President
At William Paterson University we have a long-standing commitment to diversity; this commitment is part of our mission, vision and core values. In today’s rapidly changing and increasingly global, interconnected world, intercultural understanding is critical for our graduates. Our faculty and students are among the most diverse in New Jersey; in 2012, more than 40 percent of both our enrolled students and our faculty were minority group members. By providing our students with a diverse campus environment, they learn from each other and from our faculty, which prepares them well for a diverse workplace, as well as to be citizens in their communities .We are proud to have been recognized by Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education as one of the top 100 colleges and universities for four-year, full-time undergraduate and graduate enrollment of Hispanics, and by Diverse Issues in Higher Education, which named William Paterson University a “Top 100 Degree Producer” for conferring the most undergraduate degrees on minority students. In addition, our College of Education received a “Best Practices Award in Support of Global Diversity” from the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education in recognition of the integration of diversity awareness into its teacher education programs.

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