Published January 27, 2021

Something big is afoot at Rutgers.

In late 2018, long before the word “pandemic” entered everyone’s vocabulary, Rutgers University issued a challenge to its world-class faculty and staff:

Bring us your most imaginative, disruptive, and visionary proposals for bold initiatives that will positively transform our community and change the world. 

Our community delivered. 

Today we’re proud to announce Rutgers Big Ideas. These 12 transformational projects embody the best of Rutgers’ creativity, innovation, and vitality, while also championing the university’s diverse community.

“Most important, these Big Ideas have the capacity to improve the human condition,” says Rutgers University President Jonathan Holloway. “By leveraging Rutgers’ standing as an academic, health, and research powerhouse, our university is poised to lead the nation and world toward a more just and sustainable future. These projects could not come at a more critical time. At what may seem to be a dark hour in human history, Big Ideas promise to light a way forward.”

Twelve sounds like a neat and tidy number. But back in 2018, the call for proposals resulted in more than 200 collaborative ideas, ranging from cutting-edge cancer treatment to socially engaged art and a self-cleaning tissue dispenser.

Forty teams went on to pitch their large-scale, forward-thinking projects at a symposium on October 4, 2019. There, hundreds of community leaders, philanthropists, and innovators gathered to learn more about how Rutgers was making the world a better place and fueling widespread, equitable societal change. They offered their input, which guided what came next.

In 2020, as much of the world turned inward in the wake of COVID-19, the Rutgers community continued to think big. Rutgers chancellors and academic leaders met repeatedly to discuss and refine the 40 proposals and incorporate the feedback that our community provided. President Holloway reviewed the team’s recommendations and supported the vision and aspirations reflected in their choices.

From those deliberations emerged 12 Big Ideas that affirm Rutgers’ status as a world-class university devoted to the greater good. Driven by faculty and researchers across disciplines, divisions, and locations, these 12 interdisciplinary projects boast the potential to move the needle on critical issues of our day: public health, climate resilience, social justice, access to education, the human microbiome, artificial intelligence, and much more.

Rutgers Big Ideas

  • Dreams Fulfilled
    Making a Rutgers education accessible, affordable, and successful for students
  • Minds and Machines
    Using science and responsible innovation for public good in the age of intelligent tools
  • Earth 2100
    Improving planetary stewardship through science and technology
  • Art Matters
    Creating a center for socially engaged art and design

Toward a Brighter Future

While the selection of these 12 Big Ideas concludes more than two years of effort, the work is just beginning, in many ways. We now embark on the process of providing each Big Idea with the support necessary to bring these projects to life.

“The solutions to the complex issues confronting us today will require interdisciplinary research, creative thought, and concerted action,” says Nevin E. Kessler, president, Rutgers University Foundation, and executive vice president of development and alumni engagement. “We are grateful to the faculty and university leadership, students, alumni, donors, and supporters who have collaborated to advance Rutgers and tackle these grand challenges.”

Ongoing success will require investments of time, energy, expertise, and philanthropy. The tools are ready; the big thinkers are eager; the blueprints are drawn. It’s time to move Rutgers and our world forward.

To learn more about Rutgers’ Big Ideas initiative, please visit

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