Excited to Support Dreams
Charles “Chuck” A. Wright III beams when talking about his new role leading fundraising and alumni engagement efforts at Rutgers University–Camden. “I love the focus here on underrepresented and first-generation students,” Wright says. “These students have big dreams and they go after them. To be able to support their dreams is exciting.”
Wright began his tenure on May 15 as Rutgers–Camden’s vice chancellor for advancement and as a Rutgers University Foundation vice president for development, which includes serving on the Foundation’s executive leadership team. His career path has included leadership roles in higher education fundraising at The College of New Jersey, Peirce College, Villanova University, and Widener University.
“Chuck is a consummate fundraising professional, known for his warmth and ability to connect with people,” says Kimberly A. Hopely, Rutgers executive vice president for development and alumni engagement and president of the Foundation. “With decades of experience in higher education advancement and nonprofit development, Chuck is a proven leader with strong relationships in Philadelphia and South Jersey.”
Rutgers–Camden Chancellor Antonio D. Tillis says, “He is the ideal leader to advance our university’s priorities in annual giving, alumni engagement, and corporate relations. He is a proven innovator who will engage our network of more than 55,000 alumni—along with our nonprofit and corporate partners—in ways that enhance the academic excellence of Rutgers–Camden while promoting educational access and successful outcomes for our students.”
Previously, Wright served as chief development officer at Philabundance, where he drove the Philadelphia-based hunger relief organization to exceed its annual fundraising goal with months to spare in the fiscal year. “I am truly grateful to Chuck for his incredible work this past year at Philabundance,” says Loree D. Jones Brown, CEO at Philabundance and a former chief of staff at Rutgers–Camden. “As the region’s largest hunger relief organization, fundraising is a critical part of the work we do, and Chuck helped to put our team into an even stronger position moving forward. We wish Chuck all the best at Rutgers and are happy he will be a partner already working with Philabundance to provide food to the community, including the pantry at Rutgers–Camden.”
A native of Pittsburgh who graduated from Villanova University in 1990, he worked for his alma mater in admissions and then development roles, ultimately serving as Villanova’s associate vice president for development. His most recent higher education role was at The College of New Jersey as chief development officer and associate vice president for college advancement.
Wright has long been committed to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion in higher education, and often has mentored professionals of color who work in advancement roles. “Inclusion needs to be embedded in everyday life,” he says. “I think it’s important to be open and inclusive in conversations and invite folks to the table who may have different opinions.”
In 2020, the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) District II Board honored his efforts by creating the Charles A. Wright Opportunity and Inclusion Award. The annual award recognizes advancement professionals who display leadership in fostering inclusion and diversity within the profession, on their campus, or within the surrounding community.
At Rutgers–Camden, he follows Endia DeCordova in the vice chancellor for advancement role. DeCordova has been named Morgan State University’s vice president for institutional advancement and executive director of its foundation.
Wright says he was excited that his first day at Rutgers–Camden coincided with commencement ceremonies celebrating the Class of 2023. He says he plans to meet with as many Rutgers–Camden alumni as possible as he digs into his new role. “I’m really looking forward to engaging them in the life of the institution,” Wright says.
By Christina Hernandez Sherwood
Dr. Niranjana Rajan-Mohandas was struggling to find the right person to fill an open medical assistant position. A pediatrician who earned her medical degree at the Rutgers New Jersey Medical School in 1994, she wanted someone motivated and bright.
Then it clicked. “I needed a gap-year student,” says Rajan-Mohandas, who has operated Plainsboro Pediatrics—a busy suburban practice in Plainsboro, New Jersey—for 21 years.
Gap-year students—college graduates taking a year before going to medical school— were Rajan’s ideal candidates. The new hire would get the hands-on clinical experience that’s a key part to the medical school application process, while the doctor would get an employee who was interested in learning more about the medical field. “This is a pool that would provide me with highly motivated and intelligent people who wanted to be in health care,” Rajan-Mohandas says.
To find an excellent candidate pool for her position, Rajan-Mohandas reached out to Tracey Hasse, senior program coordinator at the Rutgers Health Professions Office, an undergraduate office within the Rutgers–New Brunswick School of Arts and Sciences. Hasse included the job listing in her regular weekly email to some 3,000 Rutgers students and recent alumni.
Within three days, Rajan-Mohandas had received 20 resumes. “They were all amazing,” she says.
‘I do want to be a pediatrician’
Rajan-Mohandas eventually hired 2022 Rutgers graduate Drashya Shah, who started working as a medical assistant at the pediatrician’s office in June. Shah applied to several gap-year positions but said the job at Rajan’s practice was her first choice. She had a hunch that she wanted to pursue pediatrics once in medical school, but she didn’t have the hands-on experience to be certain. She wanted to be sure before investing a lot of time and money in medical school.
As a medical assistant, Shah answered phones, scheduled appointments, and performed other administrative tasks. But her favorite part of the job was the clinical side: taking patient histories and vital signs and administering tests for flu and other illnesses.
Shah says her time at Rajan’s office has taught her the importance of communication and empathy in medicine, as well as the strong element of teamwork. But perhaps her most important insight: she’s now fully confident in her decision to pursue medical school and children’s health. “I do want to be a pediatrician,” Shah says.
Shah says she loved watching the connection Rajan-Mohandas made with her patients, who could remain in the pediatrics practice from birth to early adulthood. She noted the strong educational component to pediatrics—the integral duties of keeping patients and their families informed of best practices in healthy diet, mental health, vaccinations, and other public health issues. “A primary care physician, especially a pediatrician, has knowledge in a bit of everything,” Shah says, “and that is what allows her to provide the best quality of care for her patients.”
Shah plans to remain in her role at Rajan’s office until May, when she will leave to attend medical school. Shah, who is from South Brunswick, says she hopes to practice pediatrics in her home state one day. (That would be a step in the right direction for the state, which experts estimate will have one of the highest primary care physician shortages in the country by 2025.)
Supporting Aspiring Medical Students
A gap year is a brilliant way for pre-med students to gain experience and enjoy some breathing room between graduating and entering medical school, says Dr. Steven Stylianos RC’78, a pediatric surgeon who helps mentor students through a virtual shadowing program coordinated by the Health Professions Office. A gap year helps prepare them for the challenges they’ll face as medical practitioners, building their confidence upon entering medical or dental school.
“The experiences you gain that year—whether it’s at a job, volunteering, becoming a paramedic or an EMT—will make you better prepared for the next step,” says Stylianos, surgeon in chief at NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital. “The gap year allows you to enjoy your years of college. In your junior year, you’re starting to think about entrance examinations and applications. It’s an onerous procedure. So if you can push that off a year, you can enjoy college more and gain experience.”
Connecting Rutgers students who are aspiring physicians and dentists with local, hands-on clinical experience is a major part of the Health Professions Office mission. Doctors and dentists contact the office for help filling positions such as medical scribe or dental assistant. Some of these are full-time roles intended for gap year students, while others are part-time for current college students. “It becomes a mutually beneficial relationship,” Hasse says. “The doctor gets quality candidates, and the students gain clinical experience that they need to apply to medical and dental school.”
Along with linking students to job opportunities, the Health Professions Office also runs a popular alumni shadowing program and facilitates phone mentoring between students and far-flung alumni. Each student enrolled with the office also receives guidance from an adviser on course selection and prerequisites, medical school test resources, letters of recommendation and more. “We meet with students regarding their strengths and weaknesses,” Hasse says, “and how they can make themselves a better applicant in their pursuit of medical and dental school.”
Stylianos pioneered a Zoom version of this shadowing program for pre-med students in fall 2020 at the height of the pandemic. This experience inspired him to create a fund that would help students pay for costs associated with applying to medical school—costs not covered by traditional financial aid. His high school friend and college roommate, Dr. Rich Carlino RC’79, RWJMS’84 also contributed to the fund.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been harder than ever for the Health Professions Office to find in-person clinical opportunities for students. Rutgers alumni or local doctors who are interested in working with the office to provide these experiences can email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 838-445-5667.
Gift Establishes Cognitive Neurology Professorship
The Rutgers University Board of Governors has approved the creation of the Daniel Schneider, M.D. Endowed Early Career Professorship in Cognitive Neurology. Made possible by a generous gift of $750,000 from Schneider’s estate, which is directed by his mother, Penny Moreno, the gift will go toward retaining and recruiting early career scholars in the field of cognitive neurology. The professorship honors the legacy and life’s work of Moreno’s son, Daniel, who began his career in the Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School’s Department of Neurology.
Schneider served as an assistant and then associate professor in the departments of Neurology and Psychiatry, establishing himself as an outstanding educator, a trusted adviser, and a caring clinician. He won numerous teaching awards and served as director of several neurology clinics.
“I wanted to give back in his name and to support the department that supported him so much,” Moreno says. “I don’t want him forgotten. He was too young. He had too much potential.”
Even when he became ill with pancreatic cancer in 2019, Schneider continued teaching, learning, and caring for more than a year, meeting with patients via telehealth appointments, a practice he continued until the month before his death in February 2021. At the time of his passing at age 46, he was director of Rutgers’ clinics for deep brain stimulation, behavioral neurology, and functional neurologic disorders.
Schneider was fascinated with the human mind from an early age and studied psychology in college. During his medical training at the State University of New York at Buffalo, he became interested in movement disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease. That interest spawned a unique six-year medical residency for Schneider, who spent three years in neurology and three in psychiatry, before completing his fellowship at Columbia University.
“Many movement disorders have overlapping neurological, cognitive, and psychiatric manifestations, and broad training endowed him with the skills to have a holistic approach to patients with neurodegenerative diseases,” says Suhayl Dhib-Jalbut, chair of the Department of Neurology at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. “His loss was as impactful to us as to his family.”
Read a story about Schneider that ran on the Rutgers Foundation web site in April 2022.
A Day in the Life of a Rutgers Future Scholars Superstar
Although Esmeralda Diaz-Calderon will graduate from Rutgers University–Camden in May after going straight through in four years, her connection to the university dates back nine years. A Rutgers Future Scholars participant since she was in the seventh grade, the Camden resident credits the program, which allowed her to attend tuition free, with helping her to prepare for college and to excel, which she has certainly done.
She will be the first in her family to graduate from college. (Her parents immigrated from the Dominican Republic to Camden in 2000, the year before she was born.) A double major in criminal justice and political science, she traveled to London, Dublin, and Belfast for a Learning Abroad course in March 2022, and, in May, she’ll travel to Amsterdam for another course. She says in kindergarten she decided that one day she wanted to become an attorney. In August, she’ll follow up on that dream when she begins law school at Drexel University in Philadelphia on a full scholarship.
What’s a day in her life like in her final semester as a Rutgers–Camden student? We asked her to share an account of a busy day. Here is what she did on Wednesday, March 29, 2023.
By Esmeralda Diaz-Calderon, as told to Sam Starnes GSN’04.
I wake up and think about my day. I need about half an hour to get started. After a while I get up and just throw my hair in a bun and put on clothes and go to the gym.
I arrive at the Salvation Army Kroc Center, which is near my home where I live with my parents, in the Cramer Hill section of Camden. I do cardio for an hour. I’ve been doing that every day, seven days a week, for a year and a half. I’ve lost 125 pounds from two years ago.
I go home and take a long shower, do my makeup, my hair, and pick out my outfit. It’s a ritual I do every day.
I arrive at campus and go to the cafeteria and sit at the red tables until my friend Nathan gets out of class and meets me about 11. That’s my homework time. I check my email, review my homework, and do anything I have to do for school.
Nathan comes over and we eat lunch and talk. I also chat with multiple miscellaneous friends who pass by.
I clock in online to my job as a Rutgers Future Scholars cohort adviser. I mentor about 15 Camden ninth graders in the program. I reach out to them via text to see how they’re doing in school and if they need any help or anything. I also have to prepare lesson plans because we go into the schools to teach lessons about college prep and college readiness.
I’ve been working as a mentor in the program for all four years that I’ve been a student at Rutgers–Camden. I love it. I’m very well-connected to my scholars. They always text me right back. It’s like I’m an older sister to them. They all call me “Miss Ezzy.”
I enjoy it because feel like I am returning the favor that the Rutgers Future Scholars program did for me. It essentially just got me ready for college. From the age of 13 to the age of 17, I was here every summer, and I knew the campus like the back of my hand by the time I got here. They helped me with my FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), with tutoring, and with applying for college. They helped me with literally everything. Even when I was a student here, they helped me with my LSAT (Law School Aptitude Test.)
I go to my “Ethics of Criminal Justice” class with Dr. Nathan Link, a professor of criminal justice, in the Fine Arts building. I’ve learned a lot from him. He’s awesome. We are reading a book he assigned called Locked In, and I’m learning a lot about prosecutors and how the amount of discretion they have can impact communities of color. I believe want to become a prosecutor after law school.
After class, I go to the Starbucks in Campus Center. I order my favorite, a grande vanilla latte with sweet cream foam and light ice.
I have a meeting with Dr. Beth Rabinowitz, a political science professor. I’m doing an independent study with her on nationalism, and I’m reading her writing about it. I’ve taken three classes with her. She’s one of the smartest people I’ve ever met in my life. I look up to her as a mentor, and she supported me when I applied to law school.
I leave campus and drive straight to the Cherry Hill Mall, where I’m due at work at the Sephora store at 5 p.m. I work until 9 p.m. on Wednesday. My specialty is fragrances because I can smell lots of perfumes without getting a headache. I’ve got a little encyclopedia for perfumes. I also help with skin care products. I started there in August 2021 and worked through December 2021, but I took time off when I did an internship with the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General in the spring semester of 2022. I went back to Sephora in February and plan to work there through the summer until I go to law school. While I’m at the mall, I get a smoothie—the vanilla blue sky. That saves my life.
I get home and have a bite to eat and take a shower and do my skincare routine. I do a little bit of homework and make sure I’m ready for my classes for the next day.
By 11, I’m in bed, where I watch TikTok, TV, and YouTube. By midnight, I’m asleep. It has been a long day and I’m tired. I’m looking forward to graduating and later in the summer moving to Philadelphia, where I’ll live while attending law school.
The Day in the Life series details the challenges and hectic daily itineraries of Rutgers students in programs that benefit from donor support, such as the Scarlet Promise Initiative and Rutgers Future Scholars.
Scholarship Awarded in Honor of Federal Judge’s Slain Son
Rutgers Law School student Starr Vega was named the first recipient of the Daniel Anderl Memorial Scholarship, created in honor of Judge Esther Salas’s son, who was murdered by a disgruntled attorney at their home in 2020.
Anderl was 20 years old and planned for a career as an attorney when he was shot and killed. His father, Mark, was wounded in the attack. The scholarship created in his memory provides a $5,500 award to a Rutgers Law student. “Out of this senseless tragedy, we see light and we see this ability for students to go on and get an education in memory of my son,” Salas said in an episode of the Rutgers Law School’s podcast, Power of Attorney. “Daniel’s senseless murder made sense of his life because Daniel lived every day like it was his last day. He enjoyed life.”
In the podcast, Salas, who earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Rutgers College in 1991 and a juris doctorate from Rutgers Law School in Newark in 1994, talks about overcoming roadblocks to the bench, her only son’s murder, the scholarship in his name, and the law she fought for to protect judges.
Vega, a third-year law student who earned a bachelor’s degree from the Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Science in New Brunswick in 2019, is a senior notes and comments editor for the Rutgers University Law Review. She also served as a student liaison to the New Jersey Association of the Federal Bar and a Minority Student Program Teaching Fellow. In addition, she’s worked as a summer associate at Riker Danzig and Chiesa Shahinian & Giantomasi law firms.
Salas presented Vega with a “Love is Light” necklace in her court chambers last month after she was named the scholarship recipient.
The scholarship award will alternate each year between Rutgers Law campuses. A Camden student will receive the award next year. Funded on an endowed basis, the scholarship will assist generations of students.
The endowment is made possible by many New Jersey lawyer cosponsoring associations and their members: Rutgers Law School–Newark Alumni Association, American College of Trial Lawyers-New Jersey State Committee, The Association of the Federal Bar of New Jersey, New Jersey Women Lawyers Association, WIN: Women in IP Network, Hispanic Bar Association of New Jersey, and the Historical Society of the U.S. District Court of N.J.
Three other fully endowed scholarships have been established at Anderl’s former grammar and high schools in New Jersey and at Catholic University in Washington, D.C., where he finished his sophomore year at the time of his death.
Salas became the first Hispanic magistrate judge for the U.S. District Court in New Jersey in 2006. In 2011, she was nominated by President Barack Obama and confirmed to her current position as U.S. District Court Judge for the District of New Jersey.
Engineers of the Future
Making the transition from high school student to college student is both a rite of passage and also a challenge. To expand opportunities among students pursuing an engineering degree, Rutgers School of Engineering’s Engineers of the Future program includes a summer preparatory residency for incoming Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) and Engineering Opportunity Program (EOP) students.
The residential EOF Summer Institute gives students early exposure to School of Engineering academics, introduces them to a supportive community and network of resources to help them navigate the engineering curriculum, and provides each student with a personalized, holistic plan for success.
“The most exciting thing to me about the EOF summer program is seeing the difference in our students between move-in orientation and the closing program symposium,” says Michael Brown, access programs assistant dean and director of School of Engineering’s EOF/EOP program. “Our students walk into the program with little knowledge about the Rutgers student experience—and often questioning their ability to attend college or an engineering program.”
He adds, “By the end of the program, they’re presenting research projects to the engineering community, navigating engineering resources independently, and have created a network of friends, mentors, and advisors. This growth marks the beginning of a new life trajectory for both the students as well as for their families.”
A Bridge to a Community
Prior to her first year, biomedical engineering major Anmarie Aquino took part in the EOF Summer Institute Program. In summer 2022, she returned to the program as an EOF summer counselor. Helping to connect students with the EOF community was just one of her responsibilities. She worked to “make sure the upcoming freshmen were safe and helped them adjust to college life and blossom into the aspiring engineers they are today,” she says. “I enjoyed seeing their growth throughout the summer.”
For mechanical engineering major Layla Morisseau, the summer 2022 program gave her experience with college level work and living before her first semester. “It really helped me adjust and prepare me mentally for the work to come,” she says.
A Bridge to Lasting Connections
Like Aquino, fellow EOF summer counselor Maniyah Dixon was pleased to be part of the Summer Institute students’ growth. “They come into the program and by the end of the month they gain so many important skills, such as time management, stress management, and study skills,” says the mechanical engineering major. “They learn how to navigate different curriculum sites and had built relationships with their advisors, who they knew they can go to with any problems—even those not academically based.”
Most important, she says, students “learn to depend on each other if they need to, and that they have a support system as well as a family at Rutgers while they are away from home.”
Dixon—who plans to apply to be a summer counselor again in 2023—notes that the students especially enjoyed and valued the connections they made with the many student organizations that were present, and with new friends in EOF.
They also connected with her. “To this day some students still ask me for advice,” Dixon says. “I didn’t expect this, but I’m happy they’re comfortable enough to reach out to me when they need help.”
Brown says the Engineers of the Future program plays an important role in the lives of the engineering students. “As a program we are most proud that our students have faced numerous challenges and overcome the odds to join us at SOE,” he says. “On the journey to graduation, they will continue to face barriers, but with the support of our office and peers we know they can persist. We have a proven track record of high program completion and graduation rates. These are amazing students who will land amazing jobs with top companies.”
The School of Engineering’s Engineers of the Future program includes New Jersey’s Educational Opportunity Fund which gives financial and academic assistance to low-income New Jersey residents with demonstrated potential and academic and/or creative promise who meet financial requirements to receive grants from the state-funded program, while the Educational Opportunity Program serves students in underrepresented populations who may not qualify for EOF but who are eligible for the same services and support.
This story originally appeared on the Rutgers School of Engineering news page.
A Week of Rutgers Giving Days
On Rutgers Giving Day last year, more than 8,000 donors gave to a wide range of programs across Rutgers. This year, the Rutgers Foundation hopes to build on that momentum by offering a full week of Giving Days opportunities from Monday, March 20, through Friday, March 24, to give to and to get involved with Rutgers.
“This year’s event is expanding to five Rutgers Giving Days to highlight causes across the university over the course of the week,” says Rutgers University Foundation President Kimberly A. Hopely. “As a top 20 public university, our reach is extensive and merits a full week for stakeholders to explore where and how they support areas meaningful to them.”
Hopely says the focus of Giving Days is to engage our supporters who are dedicated to the core values of Rutgers: a commitment to driving inclusive access to academic excellence; a belief in a culture of respect for others and instilling in our students a commitment to community through service and experiences; and a commitment to the common good through the excellence of our health systems, scholarly research, and outreach programs. “We are excited about extending this opportunity for our scarlet community to give to Rutgers—to give through Rutgers—to make a difference,” she says. “It is astounding when you think about what will be accomplished, the lives that will be touched, and discoveries that will be made as a result of this effort.”
A new feature this year of the expanded Giving Days is an emphasis on opportunities for alumni and friends to get involved in ways beyond making a financial donation. “You can give your time, expertise, or resources to make a difference at Rutgers in your own way,” Hopely says.
To join in Rutgers Giving Days, participants can:
- Make a tax-deductible gift to their favorite Rutgers area at givingdays.rutgers.edu.
- Spread the word on social media by using #RUGivingDays.
- Click on the “Get Involved” button to explore ways to connect with the university.
Rutgers Giving Days events will be virtual and not in person, with many opportunities to connect with Rutgers. Although donors can support the cause of their choice any day throughout the week of Giving Days, each day’s message will have a focus:
- Monday, March 20: Universitywide initiatives of academic excellence, beloved community, and the common good
- Tuesday, March 21: Academic units in New Brunswick, Newark, and Camden
- Wednesday, March 22: Scarlet Knights NCAA Division I Athletics
- Thursday, March 23: Rutgers Health
- Friday, March 24: A Last Opportunity to Join in Giving Days
For more information, or to make a gift or get involved, please visit givingdays.rutgers.edu.
Rutgers–New Brunswick Is Named a Top Producer of Fulbright Recipients
By Megan Schumann
Rutgers University–New Brunswick has been named a top producer for the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, as announced by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and recognized in the Chronicle of Higher Education.
The university has 19 grant recipients this year, including six from the School of Graduate Studies. The recognition is given to colleges and universities in the United States that received the highest number of applicants selected for the Fulbright U.S. Student Program and requires schools to have at least 10 students offered Fulbright grants.
The distinction is shared by some of the nation’s most elite institutions, including Princeton University, Brown University, Georgetown University and Harvard University.
“I am very proud Rutgers has once again joined our esteemed peers in being among the top producers of Fulbright recipients,” said Rutgers President Jonathan Holloway. “More importantly, I am thrilled for our newest talented Fulbright students and excited for them to embark on these life-changing opportunities.”
The Fulbright program is the U.S. government’s flagship international educational exchange program. Under this year’s awards, Rutgers-New Brunswick students conduct research, teach English and advance their education at host institutions in Austria, Kazakhstan, Taiwan, Indonesia, Spain, Colombia, Portugal, Turkey, Spain, Sweden, Zambia and South Korea.
The university’s newest Fulbright recipients include Columbus, N.J., native Amna Ahmed, a 2022 graduate of the School of Arts and Sciences and the School of Management and Labor Relations. Ahmed is pursuing a master’s degree in international relations and political science at Koç University in Istanbul.
Her work studying migration and displacement feels even more relevant to her now following the devastating earthquakes in Turkey and Syria that claimed more than 20,000 lives. Although she is based miles away, she said the impact of the destruction is inescapable.
Before the pandemic, Ahmed, a first-generation student, worked with Palestinian and Syrian refugees in Jordan, an experience that inspired her to apply to the Fulbright program.
“Studying in Turkey was an opportunity to further understand the refugee experience,” Ahmed said. “The pain that people go through here shouldn’t be normalized. Before war, displacement and now climate change, these people lived in beautiful countries and homes. Hearing the stories from the earthquake breaks my heart, but I hold on to hope that by raising awareness and working together, we can make a difference. The support we can provide through donations and direct aid is essential right now, especially after the earthquake.”
Administered by the Institute of International Education, each of the roughly 2,000 grants issued annually cover the cost of a student’s travel, housing and living expenses for a year in the nation where they will be teaching or studying.
“The Fulbright scholarship has propelled approximately 300 outstanding Rutgers-New Brunswick students to success, and we have been a top Fulbright producer for the better part of the past two decades. This speaks to the brilliance and dedication of our students, the quality of a Rutgers-New Brunswick education, and the integrity of our culture of elevating the common good through scholarship and service,” said Rutgers-New Brunswick Chancellor-Provost Francine Conway.
Rutgers has a history of success in the Fulbright competition, which is a direct result of the impressive accomplishments of so many students and the support that exists at the university to prepare recipients, said Anne Wallen, director of the Office of Distinguished Fellowships, which guides undergraduates through the scholarship and grant application process.
The university has been a top-producing Fulbright school nine times in the past decade, with about 300 Rutgers-New Brunswick students honored since the scholarship began more than 75 years ago. Of 19 awards offered to Rutgers students this year, 16 were accepted.
“The Fulbright program itself carries the weight of being the state department’s flagship cultural exchange program,” Wallen said. “Scarlet Knights are competing at a national and international level to be recognized with this honor.”
Wallen attributes the university’s commitment to student representation and student success. Both the Office of Distinguished Fellowships and GradFund—a service offered by the School of Graduate Studies that helps graduate students apply for research fellowships and grants—partner with dedicated campus community members to recruit students, provide feedback and support on essays and applications and write letters of recommendation.
“The Fulbright application process itself is beneficial for students regardless of whether they win,” said Chuck Keeton, academic dean of the School of Arts and Sciences Honors Program, who has helped students with their applications for more than a decade. “Students learn something about themselves, how to articulate their goals and express them in writing and how to advocate on their own.”
As part of efforts to encourage students to pursue the Fulbright, the office has developed a course – new this year and launching in April – through the online learning system Canvas to further guide them through the application process.
Another Rutgers Fulbright recipient, Eleanor Meli, graduated in May 2022 with a major in history from the School of Arts and Sciences and earned a master’s degree in social studies education from the Graduate School of Education.
At Rutgers, Meli taught a first-year interest group seminar and tutored student-athletes, preparing her to teach English in Cambodia. Each day she learns something new, she said.
“Everything is completely different from what I am used to,” said the Morristown, N.J., native, whose free time is spent bicycling around her local town and taking Khmer language classes. “It’s the experience that I wanted.”
Nearly 5,000 miles away from her California home, Serena Lückhoff is a grant recipient in Austria who graduated in 2022 with a double major in cognitive science and German. As a combined award winner, she gains a unique experience teaching English while pursuing research and taking university courses.
“It was a life-changing experience moving across the country to attend Rutgers,” the 22-year-old said. “I had independence and came into my own through personal growth for the first time. I am applying those learned skills now.”
At Rutgers, the former Aresty scholar had opportunities to work on multiple research projects, which helped her figure out her passions.
Now, philosophy of language, philosophy of science and phenomenology are among Lückhoff’s research interests. She is tackling an ambitious research topic: “Quantum Mechanics as a Linking Theory between Science, Philosophy, and Literature,” and spends time alongside her international classmates she now calls friends by studying in various cafes throughout Graz.
“We’ve seen remarkable impact from Rutgers Fulbright recipients both on campus and around the world,” Wallen said. “Seeing what this cohort accomplishes in the future is going to be incredible.”
Students or alumni interested in applying for any fellowships at Rutgers can contact the Office of Distinguished Fellowships. Graduate students or graduate alumni interested in applying for fellowships can contact GradFund.
Rutgers-New Brunswick Undergraduate Recipients
- Amna Ahmed, International Studies and Human Resources Management, School of Arts and Sciences Honors Program, School of Management & and Labor Relations, 2022 (Turkey)
- Assata Davis, Political Science, School of Arts and Sciences, 2022 (Colombia)
- Gabrielle Jacob, Public Health, Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Sciences; Master of Public Health, School of Public Health, 2022 (South Korea)
- Clare Kelly, Political Science, School of Arts and Sciences; Social Studies Education, Graduate School of Education, 2022 (Taiwan)
- Aditi Kiron, Mathematics, School of Arts and Sciences, 2022 (South Korea)
- Caleb Kuberiet, English and Political Science, School of Arts and Sciences Honors Program, 2022 (Spain)
- Serena Lückhoff, Cognitive Science and German, School of Arts and Sciences Honors Program, 2022 (Austria)
- Eleanor Meli, History, School of Arts and Sciences; Social Studies Education, Graduate School of Education, 2022 (Cambodia)
- Jake Rattigan, Psychology and Economics, School of Arts and Sciences, 2022 (Spain)
- Sofia Ribeiro, Education, Graduate School of Education, 2022 (Portugal)
School of Graduate Studies Recipients
- Andrew Aldercotte, Ecology and Evolution, Study/Research Award, Open Study/Research Award (Indonesia)
- Stephanie Dvareckas, Art History, Study/Research Award, Open Study/Research Award (Kazakhstan)
- Arielle Friend, German Literature, Study/Research Award, Fulbright-IFK Junior Fellowship (Austria)
- Eva Mann, Anthropology, Study/Research Award, Open Study/Research Award (Indonesia)
- Michael Monzon, Entomology, Study/Research Award, Open Study/Research Award (Sweden)
- Anissa Speakman, Anthropology, Study/Research Award, Open Study/Research Award (Zambia)
Story originally appeared in Rutgers Today.
A Day in the Life: Kenya Johnson
Kenya Johnson’s college path started in 2016 when she enrolled at a private university where she realized in her first year that she and her family could not afford the tuition despite receiving some financial aid. To avoid being burdened with enormous student loan debt, the Newark native returned home and earned an associate’s degree at Essex County College while working part time. She then enrolled at Rutgers University–Newark in fall 2020 as a transfer student and has benefitted from financial aid, including a grant from Rutgers’ Scarlet Promise Initiative program.
Johnson is on track to finish her degree this semester, and she already has a job waiting for her after she graduates. The senior majoring in leadership and management in the Rutgers School of Business will join Prudential in Newark in July as an insurance and retirement associate. This role is part of a leadership development program that will allow her to work in different areas of the company before settling into a permanent position. She learned about the opportunity as a fellow in the Braven Leadership and Career Accelerator program, which has a partnership with Rutgers–Newark and Prudential.
What’s a day in Kenya Johnson’s life like as a Rutgers–Newark student? We asked her to share an account of a busy day. Here is what she did on Tuesday, February 7, 2023.
By Kenya Johnson, as told to Sam Starnes GSN’04
I woke up with my dog, Ginger, a 13-year-old Shi Tzu, at the foot of my bed. I’ve had her since I was 12-years old. She barked at me, which is how she tells me she’s ready to go out. I take her out and give her water and feed her. That’s the first thing I do every day.
After Ginger is happy, I make myself some tea and eat a cereal bar and some fruit and start to get ready for my day. My classes on Tuesdays are not until late afternoon and at night, but I always have a meeting of some kind in the morning to prepare for before I am due at work.
I attended a Zoom meeting from home with a staff member from the Student Life and Leadership Organization to plan for upcoming events for P.E.Y.T. Womyn, which stands for Pretty Educated Young and Thriving. I’m on the executive board, and our goal is to empower women on campus and support them with events. We have an event coming up about self-care, and we also have a community engagement day. I enjoy these events and getting to know and supporting others on campus. I’m also active in the Rutgers Undergraduate Women in Business group.
After my meeting I walk to campus, which is a 10-minute walk from the home where I live with my parents and brother in University Heights, just up the hill from campus. (My brother Christopher Johnson also is a Rutgers–Newark student.) I occasionally take the RU–N shuttle bus, but today it was a nice day, and I don’t mind walking.
I start work in the Office of Enrollment Services in Blumenthal Hall, a federal work study job I’ve held for a year. I work in the call center department, which involves answering the phone and handling questions and concerns about financial aid, billing services, and other issues. I take down students’ information and document their requests and help them find solutions.
The phone is always ringing, and lately, more people are coming in the door. One day last year I fielded more than 50 calls. I’ve learned a lot in this job, including how to handle a lot of tasks at one time, and also how to balance work and school. I’m also learning about how to work with people from different backgrounds and personalities. You have to be patient and try to understand what the person is going through. I’ve learned a lot about effective communications.
On my lunch break, I walk to Halsey Street and buy some tea and come back and sit at a table on the second floor of Blumenthal Hall. I like to walk around then sit for a bit and take a break after a busy morning of answering phone calls.
I finish the afternoon answering the phone and taking down information from callers. It’s a hectic afternoon, and two-and-a-half hours go by fast.
I clock out and walk a half mile across campus to the Rutgers Business School tower at One Washington Park. Although it’s later in the afternoon, my day is only half done and my class time is just starting. I have two classes that start at four and run up to nine o’clock.
My “Business Strategy and Policy” class focuses on strategies businesses use. I’m part of a group focusing on a case where we are looking at Netflix versus Disney when it comes to their streaming services. Reading that case study was interesting. I’m looking forward to our presentation about it.
My class ends and I walk over to Starbucks to get a cup of coffee. Sometimes I get something to eat, but I don’t have much time until my next class. It seems like the minutes go by so fast.
At six, I’m right back in class. This time it’s my “Global Management and Strategy” course which meets until nine. We are looking at businesses from around the country and the world and studying how they operate. I like the articles the professor chooses for us to read, including a recent one that discussed the growth of Chick-fil-A during the pandemic. I feel fortunate that I’m able to learn about so many different types of businesses in my courses, and I know it will help me when I start my job at Prudential this summer.
I take the shuttle bus back home. I use the Transloc bus tracker app on my phone which shows me the exact location of the bus, so I know how long I have to wait.
Back at home, I visit with Ginger, thankful that my family helped take care of her during the day. I get a bite to eat, and take a shower. I look over my coursework and prepare for the coming days. I’ve got a microeconomics midterm coming up soon I need to be ready for, so I spend some time studying for it.
By now, I’m ready to relax and watch TV for a while. I watch an episode of 90 Day Fiancé, one of my favorite shows. Ginger lets me know with a bark that she’s ready to go to bed. I put her up on the end of the bed and she starts snoring. She is so funny to me.
I turn off the TV and pick up a book I started reading recently. I read for a while from Coretta Scott King’s autobiography, My Life, My Love, My Legacy. I didn’t know she had an autobiography until recently, so I picked it up. I knew a lot about Dr. King, but I realized with many public figures, we don’t know about the woman’s side of the story. I wanted to learn more about her.
It has been a long day, and I drift off to sleep with Ginger snoring at my feet. Tomorrow will be another busy day. I’m happy that I’m making progress on my goal of graduating and look forward to launching my career at Prudential this summer.
The Day in the Life series details the challenges and hectic daily itineraries of Rutgers students involved in the Scarlet Promise Initiative. This wide-ranging program provides equitable access to a Rutgers education and a bridge to success, giving each student the leg up they need to change the trajectory of their lives while offering them opportunities to better the world.
A Generous Tax Break
A change to tax laws allows those over 70 ½ to make charitable donations directly from their IRAs. It’s a timely change for some who may want to donate some of their savings to a charity or cause that they care about.
The law, the SECURE 2.0 act, was passed in December as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, which enhances charitable giving opportunities from Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs). “This change to the law can bring tax benefits to many of our generous donors who support Rutgers,” says Jeremy Scarbrough, associate vice president of Estate and Gift Planning for the Rutgers University Foundation.
Under the new law, charitably minded IRA owners can now maximize their charitable impact and minimize taxes by making Qualified Charitable Distributions (QCDs), which are tax-free transfers directly from an IRA to public charities. QCDs may now be elected as a one-time transfer of up to $50,000 to establish a charitable remainder trust or charitable gift annuity. (Please note that various restrictions apply in the case of a charitable gift annuity and charitable remainder trust. The QCD may not be elected to contribute to a previously funded charitable remainder trust. All charitable giving decisions should be made based on your specific circumstances and upon consultation with personal advisers.)
Since the amount donated will not count against taxable income for that year, a QCD can result in significant savings for taxpayers in higher brackets. Additionally, any money donated through this method counts toward satisfying required minimum distributions (RMDs), which means that donors can avoid paying taxes on withdrawals made from their IRAs while still allowing them to support charities or causes that they care about.
For example, a 73-year-old who has a required minimum distribution of up to $50,000 could use this election to satisfy that required minimum distribution, avoid taxation on the transfer, and create a charitable gift annuity paying 6.3 percent annually for life. “Our team is here to answer questions about this exciting new opportunity and to help our donors evaluate the possibilities,” Scarbrough says.
To learn about this new opportunity and charitable giving options, please contact the Estate and Gift Planning Office at Rutgers University Foundation at email@example.com or call 888-782-3666.