COVID-19 is a rapidly growing threat to communities around the world. It is powerful and relentless—but it is not unbeatable. To confront and combat this microbial enemy, Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences (RBHS) has established the Center for COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness (CCRP2). Designed to be an institutional hub for COVID-19 research activities and public outreach, the center brings the best Rutgers has to offer—world-class clinical and technological infrastructure, cutting-edge research programs, and respected scientists—to help conquer the defining crisis of our time.
Rutgers has emerged as a major participant in the anti-COVID-19 battle through its collaboration with molecular research company Cepheid on a recently evaluated point-of-care test for the virus. David Alland, chief of infectious diseases at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School and director of the Public Health Research Institute, helped develop the test along with his colleagues Padmapriya Banada and Sukalyani Banik. This groundbreaking diagnostic test will enable decentralized testing for COVID-19, even in physicians’ offices, permitting physicians to make rapid decisions about quarantine, hospitalization, and treatments. “The test performed even better than our expectations,” Alland says, “and we are encouraged about the potential to help control the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Alland recently added a new role to his many responsibilities at Rutgers, serving as the first director of the CCRP2. In a statement announcing the new center, RBHS chancellor Brian Strom, Rutgers University–New Brunswick chancellor Christopher Molloy, and David Kimball, senior vice president of Rutgers’ Office of Research and Economic Development, praised Alland’s work in epidemiology. “We have no doubt that CCRP2 will be a nationally renowned center not only related to COVID-19 research, but also other serious infection-related research and preparedness,” the three said in a statement.
Although RBHS is a hub of cutting-edge medical research, it is encountering the same challenges that face health care providers nationwide. In a recent statement, Strom described a dire need for key medical supplies, especially personal protective devices for medical professionals as they provide treatment and conduct studies. The Rutgers COVID-19 Response Fund directly supports RBHS’s efforts to combat this horrific pandemic. Donations to this fund can be made quickly and easily, and will support clinical care, research, and education at RBHS, the state’s leading academic medical center.
“Dollars to support these areas of research are urgently needed and can’t arrive fast enough,” Strom says. Emphasizing this unprecedented level of urgency, he encouraged all community members to rally behind “our scientists, physicians, nurses, and medical students (as they) continue responding heroically to the spread of COVID-19.”
Rutgers has created a new center to coordinate the university’s myriad research and public health and outreach efforts to combat COVID-19.
“Given our expertise and the health needs at the state and national levels, we are excited to announce the establishment of the Center for COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness to address SARS CoV-2, the causative pathogen of COVID-19, and other emerging pathogen threats,” said Brian Strom, chancellor of Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences (RBHS) and executive vice president for Health Affairs.
The center’s goal is to serve as an institutional hub for Rutgers’ COVID-19 research activities and information dissemination.
David Alland, director of Rutgers’ Public Health Research Institute and chief of infectious diseases at New Jersey Medical School, will serve as the director of the new center, which will operate within the Rutgers Institute for Infectious and Inflammatory Diseases (i3D). He will work closely with a scientific advisory board that will provide input and guidance. Alland is internationally recognized for his pioneering work on the epidemiology, diagnosis, treatment and molecular evolution of M. tuberculosis, and he has been a leader in the development of rapid diagnostic tests for infectious biothreats. His lab also played a crucial role in evaluating a new test for SARS CoV-2.
“I’m very excited about this opportunity and look forward to working in every way possible with the Rutgers research community as well as external stakeholders and partners,” Alland said.
Institutional resources from RBHS, Rutgers’ Office of Research and Economic Development and Rutgers-New Brunswick will be made available to the new center in an effort to secure external funding for additional research.
Over the last several months, Rutgers has rapidly responded to the COVID-19 pandemic using strengths that collectively are unique to the university. These strengths include the Rutgers Institute for Infectious and Inflammatory Diseases (i3D), a global leader in infectious disease research; NJMS/i3D biosafety level 3 laboratories that are equipped to study dangerous pathogens; world-class, health-related schools that include medicine, nursing, pharmacy, public health, dentistry and health professions, in addition to several renowned centers and institutes; world-class engineering, computational sciences, social sciences, business, law, artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities; and the Rutgers Institute for Translational Medicine and Science, which facilitates clinical and translational research via several research cores.
“We have no doubt that our new center will be nationally renowned not only as related to COVID-19 research but also other serious infection-related research and preparedness,” said Bishr Omary, senior vice chancellor for Academic Affairs and Research at RBHS.
Story originally appeared in Rutgers Today.
The Class of 1971 leads the effort to honor one of Rutgers’ most pioneering graduates.
From his vantage point during Rutgers University–New Brunswick’s Alumni Weekend, Jim Savage saw a dramatic multi-year effort come to fruition. Savage RC’71 watched as scores of visitors, many for the first time, took in the beauty and meaning of the recently unveiled Paul Robeson Plaza.
Rutgers is in the midst of celebrating 2019 as the centennial year of Paul Robeson’s graduation. Three years ago, the Class of 1971 Campaign Committee began raising funds for a coinciding gift—knowing it would materialize well before their 50th anniversary when classes typically make high-profile donations.
“We had a sense of urgency,” says Savage, who led the committee’s drive to create the plaza. “It’s time to restore the legacy of this great Rutgers alumnus. Robey was not only an amazing athlete and performer; he was an activist in the truest sense of the word—a proud American and a citizen of the world.”
Featuring eight granite panels detailing the story of Robeson’s life, the open-air architectural gem enriches the College Avenue Campus, thanks to leadership from the Class of 1971, intensive crowdfunding by the Rutgers African-American Alumni Alliance, Inc., and the work of many other impassioned community members. Susan Robeson, granddaughter of the famous graduate, played a prominent role in the plaza’s official April 12 dedication. And during the ribbon-cutting, Savage stood proudly at her side.
Story originally appeared in Rutgers Magazine
For Sam Adepoju, receiving a Rutgers Assistance Grant meant the difference between a dream deferred and a dream fulfilled. As a first-year student at Rutgers University-Camden, Adepoju was not sure where the money for tuition would come from. His family, who emigrated to the United States from Nigeria in 2000, had limited funds available to help Adepoju pay for college.
“I had no idea how it would work out,” Adepoju recalls. “But I got a Rutgers Assistance Grant, and that prevented a dream deferred. I wouldn’t have been able to go to school without it.” His dream? To go to medical school and become a surgeon.
Adepoju, who will graduate in 2020, is just one of about 11,000 undergraduate students universitywide who received a Rutgers Assistance Grant in the past year. Beginning in academic year 2020-21, the grants will be known as Scarlet Promise Grants and will be the focus of efforts to raise a $3 million endowment to help support the grants in perpetuity.
The renewed focus on this grant program grew out of two task forces commissioned by Rutgers’ Board of Trustees – the Task Force on Student Aid and the Task Force on Philanthropy. The student aid task force found that a growing number of students are unable to complete their degrees because of limited resources, while others can graduate but leave college saddled with significant debt.
As a result, the board is undertaking several initiatives to address these financial challenges and to seek more significant private support for need-based grants and scholarships. For instance, the trustees agreed to establish an annual Trustee Challenge in support of need-based aid, with three trustees kicking off the challenge by making gifts of $100,000 each to support a new Scarlet Promise Grants endowment. Going forward, the board and Rutgers University Foundation will work to raise $3 million for the endowment within 10 years.
The trustee gifts, announced at the board’s meeting on June 20, were made by Mary DiMartino DC’85, chair of the board until June 30, 2019, and her husband, Victor DiMartino CC’82; James Dougherty RC’74, GSNB’75, vice-chair of the board; and philanthropy task force chair Ken Johnson ENG’66 and his wife, Jackie Johnson. DiMartino, Dougherty, and Johnson join other trustees who have made leadership gifts to a variety of university causes that speak to their deep commitment to Rutgers.
As the first in their families to go to college, DiMartino and her husband understood the sacrifices others made to help them achieve their dreams. “We were thinking of ways to give back,” she says, “and that coincided with the work the Board of Trustees was doing to address student financial need. It’s humbling and exciting to know that we’ve benefited from the support and generosity of others, and now it’s our turn to give back and help others as they pursue their dreams of a college education.”
Dougherty, a longtime donor to Rutgers and member of the board’s philanthropy task force, says he decided to make his gift in support of the Scarlet Promise Grants to help more students afford a Rutgers education and to express his appreciation for his own experience at Rutgers.
“As an undergraduate, I received many forms of need-based aid and scholarships, including the Educational Opportunity Fund grant,” Dougherty says. “Not having debt from my undergraduate years enabled me to go on to veterinary school, start a practice 33 years ago, and become successful to the point where I can pay this back to other students at Rutgers who find themselves in similar situations.”
Moreover, by helping students in need of financial assistance complete their studies, Dougherty says, the university is cultivating individuals who will have a positive impact in New Jersey and around the globe.
Ken Johnson, who chaired the board’s Task Force on Philanthropy, said the findings of the student aid task force heightened his awareness of the tremendous need for more financial assistance. He added that he and his wife wanted to be among the first to make a leadership gift toward the grants as a means to inspire others to give.
“The need for student financial aid is enormous,” he said, “and we hope our support will allow more students to pursue a Rutgers education, which is far more valuable than its actual cost.”
To encourage other donors to give toward Scarlet Promise Grants, Rutgers University Foundation will designate need-based aid as a top fundraising priority.
“Providing talented students, regardless of their means, with access to higher education is a hallmark of the world’s best colleges and universities,” says Nevin E. Kessler, president, Rutgers University Foundation, and executive vice president, development and alumni engagement.
“Making higher education affordable is an issue of national importance, and aligns with the first part of Rutgers’ mission: to provide for the instructional needs of New Jersey’s citizens through its undergraduate, graduate, and continuing education programs,” he adds. “Scarlet Promise Grants open the door to higher education for bright students who might not otherwise be able to attend Rutgers.”
About 75 percent of Rutgers undergraduates receive some financial aid; about 25 percent receive Rutgers Assistance Grants, which were created in the 1990s to bridge a gap between the amount provided by the New Jersey Tuition Aid Grant and the cost of tuition. The Rutgers grants are designed to help the university’s students continue to be students, says Jean McDonald-Rash, associate vice president for enrollment services at Rutgers.
“Rutgers grants are important in a number of ways,” McDonald-Rash says. “State and federal grants may cover tuition but not other student expenses, such as room, board, and books, so Rutgers grants can help with those, as well as with tuition.” The grants are especially helpful for students who face a life-changing event, such as the loss of a parent or a job, she adds.
Originally posted on Rutgers Today, Published June 2019
Rutgers University–Newark received welcome news in May when Prudential, a corporate stalwart in Newark, committed $10 million to the university’s Honors Living-Learning Community (HLLC), which represents a novel approach to honors education and student development. The gift, the largest ever for Rutgers–Newark, will underwrite the Prudential Scholars Program, providing scholarships to Newark residents enrolling in the HLLC to pursue a bachelor’s degree. Throughout their undergraduate experience, Prudential Scholars will learn from myriad leaders in Newark, including those at Prudential, who will help students develop the entrepreneurial skills and build the social networks necessary to thrive as change agents in Newark upon graduation. As a culminating experience, Prudential Scholars will take a capstone course that addresses entrepreneurship as a means to solving urban challenges such as environmental sustainability, affordable housing, and local business development.
“The Honors Living-Learning Community has emerged as a national model for identifying and cultivating local talent to be the changemakers we need in Newark as well as in cities like it across the country,” said Nancy Cantor, the chancellor of Rutgers–Newark, addressing a standing-room-only crowd assembled in the iconic 15 Washington Street Great Hall, including Rutgers president Robert Barchi, Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka, and Prudential vice chair Robert M. Falzon. “We could not be more grateful for this gift,” she said, “and for the opportunity to partner with Prudential in this new way.”
The HLLC, a community of 220 students that will occupy a new facility on Washington Street in the fall, emphasizes cross-cultural, intergenerational living to facilitate its innovative, community-engaged curriculum, augmented by a network of academic, financial, and emotional support. The first cohort of Prudential Scholars is expected to enroll in fall 2020, following an initial year of awareness building and recruitment for the program.
Story originally appeared in Rutgers Magazine