As president of a major anchor institution in the state’s largest city, Bloom has been head of an school that’s tried to empower unrepresented, first-generation lower-income, typically minority New Jerseyans — especially in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math. Bloom himself has been intimately involved in the STEM field for years. This endeavor dovetails nicely with state and local efforts to improve the state’s workforce and strengthen the economy. Bloom and Newark Mayor Ras Baraka carried out a series of education programs for city residents, and at the state level he has been involved in a number of training programs. In addition, the campus has undergone a major facelift in the past decade, becoming an integral part of the city’s revitalization. With a pandemic and ensuing recession that’s been shown to take a massive toll on communities of color – both in infections, fatalities and economic hardships – using higher education as a means to level the playing field for people of color and disadvantaged residents has become a far greater priority. The massive pivot to online learning has added an array of costs, Bloom has warned, and like the rest of the nation, budgets will be tight.
Bonilla-Santiago is the founder of the LEAP Academy University Charter School, which has written a success story in Camden. New Jersey’s oldest charter school has achieved 100% graduation and college placement for 17 years in a row. LEAP graduates have gone on to school such as Princeton University, the University of Pennsylvania, Brown University and Cornell University. Many also attend Rutgers University, with whom LEAP has a partnership. Bonilla-Santiago herself is a Board of Governors Distinguished Service Professor, Graduate Department of Public Policy and Administration at Rutgers. Now, LEAP is adapting its successful urban learning formula to Puerto Rico, opening a K-9 school for 600 students on the island. Bonilla-Santiago received a B.A. from Glassboro State College, now Rowan University; an M.S.W. from Rutgers University; and an M.A. in Philosophy and Ph.D. in Sociology from City University of New York. She has also completed post-doctoral studies at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and is the author of several books, the most recent being “The Miracle on Cooper Street: Lessons from an Inner City.”
As New Jersey’s Secretary of Higher Education, Bridges has had his hands full with COVID-19 since his appointment in November 2020. When he started, New Jersey’s universities conducted business largely remotely, with the state entering a second wave of outbreaks and the vaccine still far off for most people in the state. Less than a year later, most college campuses look quite different, with large numbers of students and staff on campus and mostly vaccinated, though still masked. More broadly, as secretary, Bridges — a former senior executive at the United Negro College Fund — is responsible for policy development and coordination of higher education activities for the state, including financial support for institutions amid the ongoing pandemic. Many universities have jockeyed for state and federal aid as all types of revenue collapsed due to social distancing practices. He’s also coordinated key policy proposals which his boss, Gov. Phil Murphy, has campaigned on, like the Community College Opportunity Grant which subsidizes two-year degrees, plus another two years paid for by the state to cover the cost of a full, four-year degree.
As executive director of the New Jersey Council of County Vocational-Technical Schools, Burke provides advocacy and support for career and technical education in New Jersey. She successfully pushed for the Securing Our Children’s Future Bond Act, approved by voters in 2018 to expand the state’s 21 county vocational-technical schools with innovative new programs (and more students) to meet critical workforce demands. She and the Council work closely with the educational leaders and the business community to prioritize career-focused learning for over 35,000 high school and adult students and align career programs with employer needs. Career, technical, and skill-based classes are desirable, according to the annual PDK Poll on public schooling: in fact, the demand for such classes outpaced preference for more advanced academic classes by more than three to one.
Caldwell has been executive director of the FDU Rothman Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship since October 2018. With a pandemic raging through the state, he turned his attention to the mental health of students and others trying to cope with a dramatically changed world. Caldwell’s “Self-Reflection Map” was designed to help individuals take regular stock of their emotional well-being. In addition, he has advocated for policies that would improve the fortunes of business across the demographic spectrum. Caldwell is also the author of “Intelligent Influence: The 4 Steps of Highly Successful Leaders and Organizations” and has more than 15 years of experience as an entrepreneur and 20 years of experience as a management consultant and executive coach. His professional background includes roles as a senior manager at Deloitte Consulting, deputy commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs and executive director of the Newark Alliance.In addition, Caldwell holds a BA in Economics from Princeton and an MBA in Finance from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
George Calhoun and Steve Yang
Under the leadership of Calhoun and Yang, Stevens Institute of Technology and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute were recently awarded the first-ever National Science Foundation grant to create an industry-university cooperative research center devoted specifically to financial technology and science. The Center for Research toward Advancing Financial Technologies, or CRAFT, underscores the nation’s strategic investment in managing risks and unintended consequences of the emerging – and yet unknown – challenges facing the high-tech financial services industry.Calhoun has spent 25 years in the high-tech segment of the wireless communications industry. He is a co-founder of InterDigital Communications Corp., where he was involved in the pioneering development of digital cellular technology, including the first systems based on TDMA technology (the architecture underlying approximately 80% of today’s cellular networks). Most recently, Calhoun was the chairman and CEO of Illinois Superconductor Corporation a public company focused on the application of high-temperature superconducting materials and advanced signal processing techniques to the suppression of interference in wireless networks. Yang is an Associate Professor at Stevens’ School of Business He holds a Ph.D. in Systems and Information Engineering from the University of Virginia with a concentration on Financial Engineering. His research has been founded by a variety of NGOs, government agencies and industry firms. Yang has worked with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and Treasury Department as either a research consultant or visiting scholar.
Capuano took over the reins as the eighth president of Fairleigh Dickinson University in July 2016 and assumed the challenge of overseeing a new strategic plan that had started the year prior, when he was university provost and senior vice president of academic affairs. Under his leadership, FDU has created more centers of excellence, embarked on a historic capital campaign, and maintained a strong focus on its goal of fostering access and affordability for students from all walks of life. In his prior position as university provost, he helped assemble a leadership team in the School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, which resulted in consistent enrollment growth and full accreditation with the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education. FDU said Capuano was instrumental in securing a large gift to support the university’s new Daniel and Martina Lewis Center for Healthcare Innovation and Technology, an important development given recent events.
Cavalieri, the dean at Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine, is also a professor of medicine and osteopathic heritage endowed chair for primary care research. He was the founding director of the Center of Aging, which has grown into the Department of Geriatrics and Gerontology-New Jersey Institute for Successful Aging at Rowan. Under his guidance, the school has gained attention (and recognition from US News & World Report) as one of America’s best schools for geriatric medical education for the past 17 years. Cavalieri is currently facilitating the school’s undergraduate medical education curriculum, class size expansion, and an additional location of the medical school. Cavalieri served as secretarial appointee of the National Academic Affiliations Council with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and chair of the board of deans with the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine.
Conway became the chancellor-provost of Rutgers University-New Brunswick role on July 1, 2021 after serving as the campus provost. This new position combines elements of the chancellor’s portfolio with those of the provost’s to establish a clear focus on academic excellence for students and faculty. The new role will support and advance academically centered leadership in New Brunswick. Conway, previously dean of the Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology and an internationally recognized child psychologist, has emphasized creating an academic home where all members know they belong so they can achieve their goals. As provost, she embraced a commitment to building a diverse and inclusive environment for faculty, staff and students, including recruitment of faculty from under-represented demographics and ensuring pathways to success for talented students from diverse and at-risk backgrounds.
Cornacchia is the 22nd president of Saint Peter’s University. Under his leadership, Saint Peter’s has expanded its undergraduate and graduate programs, initiated the institution’s first doctoral programs and established a School of Nursing along with the Caulfield School of Education. While higher education has been faced with unique circumstances due to COVID-19, Cornacchia showed his vision in July 2020 when he announced that construction will soon begin on a new six-story residence hall with anticipated completion by fall 2021. “Saint Peter’s is committed to re-emerging from this challenging time even stronger and more resilient than before,” said Cornacchia “The construction of this residence hall will be a critical addition to our campus to position the University for future success. We actively encourage our students to live on campus as it can significantly enhance their experience through increased opportunities for participation, personal growth and independence.”
Custard was tapped in 2015 to head the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce Foundation, which aims to bridge students in K-12 and higher education with the state’s workforce needs. Through its flagship program, Jobs for New Jersey Graduates, the foundation is aimed at preventing high-school drop-outs, and steering those students toward full-time jobs or post-secondary education. Just glance at her resume and her commitment to education is obvious. Custard currently serves on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Education, Employment and Training Committee, the We Raise New Jersey Coalition, New Jersey’s STEM Pathways Network, NJDOE Career and Technical Education Advisory Council, NJBIA’s Post-Secondary Education Taskforce and is also a member of the Burlington Township School Board.
As the president of Rider University, Dell’Omo has his work cut out for him. With the school still reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic, Rider is projecting to operate at an almost $22 million deficit for the 2022 fiscal year. In a recent Zoom video on the school’s website, he stated there has been a 27% drop in residency for Rider, which adds up to about a $60 million loss in revenue. But the Rumson-born and raised Dell’Omo was optimistic about the future. One of the main points of his presentation was bringing in prospective students and putting a new aggressive recruiting strategy in place. “We put together a much more focused funnel development team that’s been established to further spin the student search process, name purchases and identify pipelines for prospective students within the recruitment funnel,” Dell’Omo said. As a part of this initiative, Dell’Omo said there will be an increase in program-specific campaigns sponsored by the university, proven value messaging and “a lot more work in the area of in-person engagement.” Under Dell’Omo’s leadership, Rider introduced Lifting Barriers, a series of new measures intended to strengthen the overall value of a Rider education, including a 22% reduction in annual undergraduate tuition, as well as robust support for career preparation and academic success.
John Farmer Jr.
Farmer took the helm of the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University in 2019, replacing the late Ruth Mandel after her retirement. Eagleton is perhaps the go-to source of insight for the Garden State and nationwide political landscape. Farmer, having been governor of New Jersey for 90 minutes in 2002, senior counsel on the 9/11 Commission and attorney general under Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, boasts a wealth of experience in government, politics, law and education. The academic institute branches out to an array of centers, such as the Center for American Women and Politics, which focuses on studying and promoting greater female participation in public life, the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling that gauges both state and nationwide opinion on public issues, and the Center on the American Governor, which researches and examines the role of the state executives in politics and government.
In a unanimous decision, the Stevens Institute of Technology board of trustees in July voted to reappoint President Nariman Farvardin to a third five-year term, extending through June 2026. Since his initial selection as Stevens’ seventh president in 2011, the university has experienced consistent and reliable growth characterized by: a 64% increase in undergraduate enrollment coincident with a 145-point increase in the average SAT score of the first-year cohort; a 50% increase in graduate FTE enrollment; a 101% increase in the number of underrepresented minority students in the undergraduate cohort; a 91% increase in the number of women undergraduates; a 97% increase in research funding; the successful completion of a $200 million fundraising campaign; a modernized and expanded IT and campus infrastructure; the opening of a state-of-the-art academic building in 2019; a new residential and university center opening in 2022; and a strengthened financial profile. This year alone, Stevens also nabbed spots on several lists, including U.S. News & World Report’s best colleges list, (No. 80 nationwide) and Princeton Review’s 287 Best Colleges list (which isn’t numbered). Princeton Review also ranked Stevens at No. 9 on its Top 20 list for best career placement.
Aaron Fichtner and Phil Linfante
Fichtner became president of the New Jersey Council of County Colleges in 2018. Linfante serves as the organization’s chairman. Both have some work to do. A report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research released on Feb. 16 details the dip in enrollment that institutions of higher education are experiencing nationwide. While the decline is widespread, its steepness varies greatly depending on the type of institution. Elite private institutions saw just a 0.1% dip in enrollment for fall 2020 according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center; public community colleges faced a 10.1% decline in enrollment for fall 2020. New Jersey’s dip in community college enrollment was approximately 13% according to Fichtner. This drop came as a surprise, as community college enrollments typically increase during economic downturns. But far-reaching public health concerns differentiated this economic downturn from previous events; and the demographics of two-year institutions show that this decline has likely had an effect on vulnerable communities above all. “Community colleges as you might imagine disproportionately serve students who are working, students who are first-generation, students who have challenges and barriers to higher education. The pandemic has made it much, much more challenging to continue their education. Whether it’s because of job loss or the digital divide, the transition from high school to college was very much disrupted,” Fichtner said.
Foster heads The College of New Jersey in Ewing, a role which she’s held since 2018. Under her watch, the university pursued ambitious fundraising goals, boosted by a $5 million anonymous gift on July 1. In her focus on diversity, Foster launched the creation of a Division of Institutional Diversity, Equity and Inclusion; the formation of a Bias Response Team; and the development of new education and advocacy programs. A native New Jerseyan, Foster’s academic career has taken her across the Northeast over the past 35 years. Like universities up and down the state, TCNJ faced financial woes from the pandemic, as did its students. In June last year, their board of governors approved cuts to in-state and out-of-state tuition, so that the costs would stay flat that year. “Concern for our students and families, many of whom are directly impacted by the recession caused by the pandemic, was an important consideration in our budget process,” she said in a statement last year. And like many other universities, TCNJ is reopening its campus whilst putting forward a vaccine mandate for its faculty and students.
Carley Graham Garcia
As the executive director of the Felciano Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Montclair State University, Garcia sharpened the institution’s focus on promoting women in business and created a bond with the local community. Since the end of 2020, she has served as the head of external affairs at Amazon.com Inc., which has been expanding quickly throughout New Jersey. Garcia previously led external affairs at Google and advertising sales at Atlantic Media.
Givan is an associate professor of labor studies and employment relations at Rutgers University’s School of Management and Labor Relations. That academic background surely stands her in good stead in another role – president of Rutgers AAUP-AFT, the union that represents faculty at the state’s flagship public university. The union has tussled with administrators in recent years over spending priorities, a dispute that flared recently with the revelation that the Rutgers athletics program has run up $265 million in debt. At the same time, the school is freezing salaries and imposing furloughs in the face of tight budgets. Givan is and will be the voice of the faculty as the story develops. “We need to understand how this was allowed to happen,” she told NorthJersey.com. “Who’s responsible for it? What steps are going to be taken to make sure it never happens again? And we need a commitment to greater transparency going forward so that the entire Rutgers community and the people of New Jersey have access to the truth about what’s going on at Rutgers.”
The fourth president of Thomas Edison State University, having assumed office in 2018, Hancock is a nationally recognized leader in the administration and delivery of innovative education programs for adult students. Under Hancock’s direction the school established the TESU/NJ 3+1 Pathways Program, through which New Jersey community college students can transfer up to 90 credits and then complete the remaining 30 credits required for graduation with Thomas Edison. The program now includes more than 50 programs of study. In September TESU partnered with OneTen, a national coalition of executives who are working to upskill, hire and advance 1 million Black individuals into family-sustaining careers over the next 10 years. TESU joins leading local, regional and national education and skill-building organizations that help diverse talent identify, develop and build the skills to earn success. “TESU is committed to helping our adult learners find more equitable access to success and economic empowerment, and we welcome this opportunity to join a national initiative,” Hancock said.
Assuming the presidency in July of 2018, Helldobler is the eighth leader of William Paterson University. Just as COVID-19 began to take hold in the state, William Paterson introduced an MBA program that offers six degree options, 100% online. Students in this 30-credit program can choose from the broad-based MBA general track or from five specialized concentrations. After the establishment of the university’s new Center for Diversity and Inclusion, and the Black Cultural Center, Helldobler’s focus is overseeing a host of new diversity and inclusion initiatives across the institution, such as the newly launched Council for Equity and Justice, a Pre-Doctoral Fellowship Program to advance underrepresented faculty, and the 2021 Inaugural President’s Diversity Lecture. Helldobler is challenging the University to rethink systems that create barriers for underrepresented populations in higher education.
Houshmand has been Rowan University’s president since 2012, and he’s built his tenure on greater access to four year-degrees, greater affordability and expanding Rowan’s role as an economic engine in South Jersey, a region typically at a disadvantage to North and Central Jersey which enjoy easy access to New York City. On top of that, Rowan has established itself as a major research institution in the region over this past decade. His efforts were noted in May, when he was recognized as one of 50 NJBIZ Icon awardees, highlighting top business leaders across the state over the age of 60. Like many universities, Rowan has been challenged by the pandemic, taking a financial hit from the shift to virtual learning over the past year and a half, and dealing with the touchy subject of vaccine mandates among students and university employees. “We encourage all of you in our Rowan community to demonstrate care for yourselves, each other, and our respective extended families,” he said in a campus-wide email to university employees.