Published March 1, 2022

A Message from Josh Harraman, Ph.D.

Vice President for Alumni Engagement, Annual Giving, and Advancement Communications

I hope this message finds you and your loved ones healthy, happy, and safe.

This fall, Rutgers University welcomed all members of our community back to our university locations. From our students, faculty, and staff to our alumni and friends, Rutgers looks like Rutgers again. Throughout the previous 18 months of mostly online interaction, our commitment to the Rutgers community and the world remained steadfast. The circumstances that we and the rest of the world experienced over the past year and a half were taxing in many ways, but they strengthened our resolve and reaffirmed who we are as an institution.

We want to thank you, our donors, for your unwavering support during this period. You helped us accomplish vital work ranging from educating the next generation of leaders to fueling our researchers’ landmark discoveries.

Your gifts have provided the means to explore problems facing society today and discover solutions. Here are just a few critical initiatives your gifts helped make possible:

  • A Rutgers study finds that variations in autism prevalence occur at the community level.
  • Rutgers researchers have linked the genetic disorders Fragile X and SHANK3 deletion syndrome—both associated with autism and health problems—to walking patterns by examining the microscopic movements of those wearing motion-sensor sneakers.
  • A new Rutgers program paves the way for economically disadvantaged students to attend medical school and pursue careers in primary care and service to urban communities.
  • Honors College–New Brunswick students aim to revolutionize the technology of targeted nutrient and drug delivery for infants.
  • In his second address to the University Senate on September 24, President Jonathan Holloway announced the university’s commitment to a Climate Action Plan and the formation of the Office of Climate Action that will lead the university’s efforts to achieve carbon neutrality by 2040.

Our work during the pandemic reaffirms our status as one of the nation’s preeminent comprehensive public research universities. The thoughtful contributions of donors like you allow us to build on our proud history and play a role in bettering the world.

The following report highlights a few of the Rutgers successes you and other donors make possible. Although space prevents us from discussing 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. Your gifts ensure that opportunities, breakthroughs, and success stories arealways possible at Rutgers.

I wish you a joyous holiday season and a happy, healthy, and safe new year. Thank you again for your support for Rutgers University.

Scarlet Promise Grants

In the year since Rutgers President Jonathan Holloway called for broad support for Scarlet Promise Grants, donors gave more than $10 million to empower tomorrow’s leaders.

In the year since Rutgers President Jonathan Holloway called for broad support for Scarlet Promise Grants, donors gave more than $10 million to empower tomorrow’s leaders.

On his first day as president, July 1, 2020, Holloway called on the Rutgers community to support the grants, which provide need-based financial aid and emergency support to more than 9,000 students annually. Since his call for support, more than 3,500 donors contributed to Scarlet Promise Grants with gifts ranging from $5 to $1 million.

“There is no greater calling for university communities today than to make sure our students can pursue an excellent, life-changing education regardless of economic challenges,” Holloway said in launching the campaign. “Every dollar contributed to the Scarlet Promise Grants is a declaration of faith in the transformative power of a Rutgers education.”

“My grant took a lot of pressure off me,’’ said David Zhu, a student in the School of Arts and Sciences at Rutgers University–New Brunswick who received a Scarlet Promise Grant. “With it, I could focus on school and not have to work all the time.”

“This is a victory for our students and for Rutgers,” Holloway said. “Empowering great students from every point on the economic spectrum to attend a school like ours is a hallmark of excellence in higher education. And this is a victory for the Rutgers community—a wonderful display of unity, principle, and character.”

Tidal Marsh Research

Rutgers researchers have discovered that New Jersey’s tidal marshes, where the ocean meets the land, are not keeping up with sea level rise and could disappear by the next century. The findings, which include potential solutions for preserving these marshlands, appeared in the journal Anthropocene Coasts. “Faced with sea-level rise, a marsh has two options—it can either increase its elevation at a rate equal to that of sea-level rise or it can migrate inland,” says lead author Judith Weis, a professor emerita of biological sciences at Rutgers–Newark. “Otherwise, it will be submerged and drown.”

Tidal marshes are vital habitats for many aquatic organisms such as fishes, crabs, and shrimp, as well as birds and mammals, and provide a buffer against storm surges, winds, and flooding. The marshes also absorb pollutants such as toxic metals and nitrogen.

The research team reviewed previous studies of coastal marsh systems in New Jersey, focusing on the Meadowlands, Raritan Bay, Barnegat Bay, and Delaware Bay. For each marsh system, they examined horizontal changes—changes in marsh area over time—and vertical changes in elevation. The researchers found that most marshes throughout the state are not increasing their elevation as rapidly as sea level is rising. The rate of sea-level rise in the mid-Atlantic is higher than the worldwide average for various geophysical reasons.

Read more about this important study and learn how donor support helps make it possible.

Epilepsy Breakthrough

Donor support fuels critical research that can have a tremendous impact on real people facing serious health concerns. Research at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School has created new hope for epilepsy patients.

A combination of electroencephalogram (EEG) data and clinical observations can help determine whether patients will respond to treatment, according to a study published in the journal Epilepsia. The researchers used a new statistical model that is 80 percent accurate in distinguishing between drug-resistant and drug-responsive generalized epilepsy.

“Traditionally, we had few tools available to help us predict whether a patient will do well and remain seizure free or continue to have seizures despite treatment with medications. This is difficult for patients to hear, especially when they are learning about their diagnosis for the first time,” says Brad Kamitaki, a neurologist at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School who treats epilepsy patients in New Jersey. “Epilepsy patients need to know more about their prognosis, and any additional information we can give them about their disease is valuable.”

About 3.4 million people in the United States, including 470,000 children, have epilepsy, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Antiseizure drugs limit the spread of seizures in the brain and work for about two-thirds of people with epilepsy. While other options include surgery, those with generalized epilepsy are not candidates for this treatment.

Thanks to donor support, Rutgers can deliver on its reputation as an academic, health, and research powerhouse. For more information on this study and other breakthroughs, please stay connected to Rutgers Today.

Student Food Pantries

Across the nation, food insecurity has posed a significant barrier to student success. Some students arrive on campus without a steady and healthy source of groceries or meals. Managing life as a student can be challenging under these conditions. Donors lend a helping hand to food-insecure students through support for Rutgers’ four student food pantries.

Since the pantries began opening at Rutgers, they have been available to any student facing food insecurity. Students can visit the pantries once a week or whenever they need help. The pantries stock their shelves with food and toiletries through donations generated by food drives, student efforts, and private giving. Recently, Rutgers donors rallied on Giving Tuesday to support the food pantries, ensuring that Rutgers can continue to meet students’ food needs.

Due to the primarily remote nature of instruction over the past year, visits to the pantries have declined. However, that decrease is not an indication of decreased needs. As we fully repopulated campuses this semester, visits steadily increased. The four pantries expect this pattern to continue, underlining the ongoing need for support.

Research suggests that nearly half of all college students worry about where they will find their next meal. Donor support for Rutgers’ food pantries gives students the food security they need to stay focused on their studies.

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.

Earlier this year, 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, are on the autism spectrum. An estimated 50,000 children with autism “age out” of the K-12 education system each year in the U.S., 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 who are on the autism spectrum.

Make a Difference

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