Published March 1, 2022
A Message from Francine Conway, Ph.D.
Chancellor-Provost, Rutgers University–New Brunswick
The new year always represents a new beginning for our community, and that feels especially true this school year as we prepare for a predominately in-person experience at Rutgers University–New Brunswick after nearly 18 months of mostly virtual interactions. While I am proud of our strong and steady commitment to excellence throughout the pandemic, I must say that it has been wonderful to see our alumni, friends, faculty, staff, and students in person, with a renewed appreciation for all our campus has to offer.
I am happy to share that over the course of this academic year, Rutgers–New Brunswick will unveil the Rutgers–New Brunswick Academic Master Plan, the product of an ongoing, intensive process to inform the direction of our academic enterprise over the next five years. It will serve as the roadmap for the institution’s future, clarifying strategies to accomplish the university’s academic mission. The master plan will focus on academic excellence and include the development of three components:
- A vision statement that lays out academic priorities for the next five years
- A plan for sustainable growth through an array of academic programs that reflect excellence and signature experiences
- A pathway for progress through innovative research, inclusive pedagogy, and public service that impacts the intellectual life of our faculty, students, and staff
The thoughtful contributions of donors like you allow us to build on our proud history and play a leadership role in bettering the world. Your involvement and investment will help us reach our new goals and ensure Rutgers continues to be a leader among its peers.
The following report highlights a few of the success stories that you and other donors have made possible. Although we do not have enough space to discuss every donor-supported fund, program, or research initiative, you can take pride in knowing that you make a difference no matter your area(s) of support. Thank you!
A Vital Source of Aid
When Rutgers students needed help the most, donors came together to support the School of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Emergency Assistance Fund. The fund, which provides financial assistance to undergraduate students who have exhausted all other avenues of support, is a lifeline for many. In academic year 2019–2020, more than $45,000 from the fund went to students who lost a caregiver to the coronavirus, faced homelessness, or suffered job loss themselves or in their immediate family.
Joseph Vasquez, an exercise science major, was one student who benefited from this assistance. Vasquez lost his father, who was his primary source of financial support, to COVID-19 in April. As a result, Vasquez is working to support himself as he completes his degree. Amid this tragedy, he lost his on-campus job because of the pandemic and had no other family members to offer financial assistance. But thanks to assistance from the fund, he can continue on his path to graduate in May 2021.
At a time of uncertainty, the SAS Dean’s Emergency Assistance Fund continues to provide a vital source of relief for students in need.
Rutgers Center for Adult Autism Services
The Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology created the Rutgers Center for Adult Autism Services (RCAAS) in 2016 to address a shortage of quality services that help adults with autism lead meaningful lives. The center also conducts research that informs the development of other programs for adults with autism.
In 2021, Rutgers opened the center’s new home on the Douglass campus to serve adults on the autism spectrum through vocational, academic, and recreational programs. The 10,000-square-foot facility is the first of its kind at a higher education institution in the United States.
The building creates an inclusive environment for all and addresses a growing need in the state and beyond. One in 32 people in New Jersey, and one in 54 people nationally, is on the autism spectrum. An estimated 50,000 children with autism in the United States “age out” of the K-12 education system each year, with few options available to support their continued development.
Amy Gravino, a relationship coach at RCAAS, was diagnosed at age 11 as being on the autism spectrum. “I only wish [RCAAS] had existed when I was growing up,” she says. “It might have spared me from so many of the hardships that I faced navigating life after college. The goal of RCAAS is not to tell students on the spectrum who they are, but rather to allow them to be exactly who they are.”
The generosity of RCAAS donors has reaffirmed Rutgers’ place as a national leader in research, professional training, and practical services in support of adults on the autism spectrum.
Gloria Steinem Endowed Chair
In 2017, following a $3 million fundraising effort supported by more than 425 donors, the Gloria Steinem Endowed Chair in Media, Culture, and Feminist Studies, the first academic chair to celebrate the vision of Steinem, became a reality. For the past three years, Naomi Klein has served as the inaugural chairholder.
Klein’s undergraduate seminars examined the ideas and implications of people as brands and studied the ways contemporary social movements are shaped by digital technology and marketing logic. Through more than 20 public events, Klein brought diverse leading activists and scholars to campus to explore topics such as climate change, big tech, disaster capitalism, and Indigenous knowledge. Some of Klein’s conversations are available to the public online.
“Serving as the inaugural Gloria Steinem chair has been both a deep honor and a thrilling adventure,” says Klein. “No warmer welcome could have been possible than the one I received from the Rutgers community—both faculty and students—and from the crew of feminist rabble-rousers who brought this chair into being.” Donors prioritized this important work and brought events to campus that fostered a dialogue with leading Rutgers scholars and the student body.
The Gloria Steinem chair is a collaboration among the School of Communication and Information, the Institute for Women’s Leadership, and the Department of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. The search for the next Gloria Steinem chair is underway with hopes that the holder will continue to bring Steinem’s vision to life and build upon Klein’s successful and transformative tenure, which was made possible thanks to the generosity of donors.
Rutgers Oral History Archives
Since 1994, the Rutgers Oral History Archives (ROHA) has recorded individuals’ stories about times of conflict, New Jersey history, and the history of Rutgers University. The archives was established by Rutgers’ Class of 1942 to document that class’s generation, but the scope of the program has expanded, thanks to the support of ROHA donors. ROHA’s website, ranked in the top 15 in the world for oral histories, contains a vast collection of interviews, each with a unique perspective. Most recently, ROHA began recording oral histories on the COVID-19 pandemic.
Shaun Illingworth, director of the archives, believes oral histories “democratize history,” enabling anyone with a story to contribute to it in their own words. Oral history provides historians with a unique way of gathering, preserving, and interpreting the voices and memories of communities and participants in past events.
The archives’ work will impact future generations. “We’re interviewing different groups of people, whether they are veterans or Rutgers alumni or health care workers during the pandemic, and we’re delving into all these important societal issues. We’re preserving these people’s memories and their life stories so that future generations may learn from them,” says Kate Rizzi, assistant director.
Donor support also enables ROHA to act as a research center, assisting in important work such as the Scarlet and Black project, and as a resource for undergraduate education. Students who work alongside Illingworth and Rizzi learn how to do interviews, process them, and understand how they are used.
Zimmerli Art Museum
“Art has a role to play in everybody’s lives,” says Amanda Potter, curator of education and interpretation at the Zimmerli Art Museum.
The Zimmerli invites everyone to discover the joy and wonder of art through engaging tours, family art workshops, and much more. In a community like New Brunswick, these offerings complement an already artistically vibrant community. “We hope to enrich what’s already here through unique experiences with our collections,” Potter says.
Thanks to the support of donors, the museum has continued to do just that, even during a pandemic. Early in the pandemic, the museum distributed more than 9,000 “Arts at Home/Artes en Casa” packets at New Brunswick’s four school-meal distribution sites. The kits provided students with opportunities for creativity and self-expression during a time of uncertainty.
As the pandemic continued, the Zimmerli’s staff created virtual experiences, which widened the museum’s reach. Many responded to these online offerings, bringing in participants from as far away as Estonia.
Providing virtual experiences, especially those that help families and children create art, is vital. Potter says that “a lot of the work we do is important to kids’ lives. Especially right now, just saying ‘it’s ok to play’ or ‘it’s OK to make a mess’ makes a difference.”
Donor support has fueled these efforts. “Without it,” Potter says, “we would offer fewer programs for youth and families, we would have less reach within the community, and we would have less ability to attend community festivals or to do school outreach. It would have a big ripple effect.”
While many Rutgers offices closed to in-person services and/or reduced staffing during the pandemic, Student Health actually saw an increase in the need for and use of its services. From mass COVID-19 testing and contact tracing to enforcing the student vaccine mandate, Student Health has been at the forefront of the university’s COVID-19 response team. Thanks to donor support, Student Health has been able to respond to this increase in demand for services.
For nearly two years, the office has focused on ensuring accessibility to all students. It implemented a HIPAA-compliant telehealth service so students can access clinical care online and transitioned educational workshops and group counseling sessions to online platforms. The Hurtado Student Services Fund and CAPS Fund (Counseling, Alcohol, and Other Drug Assistance Program and Psychiatric Services) power this work and provide the assistance needed to support students’ health, now and in the future.