As the third president of the County College of Morris, Iacono is partnering with the nonprofit New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Program to place a priority on manufacturing education and skilled vocational and technical training. “Our work is to help others to do their work better,” Iacono said. “We love manufacturing and that is why we are here to support manufacturing.” Iacono said he wants to prepare college graduates for careers in manufacturing, supply chain, logistics, transportation, and other in-demand fields. Toward that end, he is tying his college curriculum with the needs of companies in his coverage area to prepare his students for the open jobs of today. Iacono is also committed to focusing on enhancing the college’s role as a community partner to ensure it is assisting as many people as possible with realizing their dreams for a better future.He is a strong supporter and an active member of the New Jersey Council of County Colleges to advance its mission of strengthening and supporting the state’s network of community colleges. Bracing for “severe cuts” in state funding, in May Iacono had to announce an unspecified number of part-time staff employees were eliminated and some full-time employees whose jobs cannot be done remotely or where department staffing needs have changed were furloughed. Iacono also implemented other cost-cutting measures and halted “all but the most essential hires,” freezing discretionary spending, and suspending programs and activities that “cannot occur in a remote/online environment.”
Along with the Eagleton poll at Rutgers University and the Monmouth University Poll, the Fairleigh Dickinson University poll ranks among the most widely watched measures of public opinion. Amid perhaps the most unusual presidential campaign in history – and with a gubernatorial election coming next year – all three surveys will play an important role in state and national politics. Jenkins is the director of PublicMind, the research center at FDU that conducts the poll. As a professor of political science, her research interests focus on youth politics and the role gender plays in U.S. politics. Jenkins is the author of Mothers, Daughters, and Political Socialization: Two Generations at an American Women’s College, published by Temple University Press in 2013 and is a co-author of A New Engagement? Political Participation, Civic Life and the Changing American Citizen, published by Oxford University Pressin 2006.
Barbara George Johnson
The John S. Watson Institute For Public Policy isn’t just a think tank, says Johnson, who’s served as its executive director for a decade. It’s a think-and-do tank. Rather than focusing on abstract, theoretical issues, the institute tackles real-world solutions to practical issues in the urban education and health spheres. The Watson Institute’s education policy and practice initiative hosts a conference for New Jersey’s urban mayors, superintendents and school board representatives, educating them on how the policies affect education in their municipalities. It helps them use research to promote innovation and sustain improvement in urban centers around the state. Her abilities in these areas will make her one of the key voices in how New Jersey’s urban and lower-income, typically minority communities, can navigate their reopenings from the COVID-19 pandemic. Both the virus and the ensuing economic recession have hit these communities particularly hard.
Kennedy is the CEO of the New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Program, which claims credit for more than $1 billion in product and services sold. His job — setting the organization’s strategic direction while striking partnerships and developing new initiatives — has taken on new urgency since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The outbreak exposed vulnerabilities in the state’s manufacturing sector, gaps that Kennedy has been warning about for years. NJMEP will be the foremost organization in promoting new manufacturing in the state to ensure that New Jersey can meet the next public health challenge with products made close to home. Backed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, NJMEP provides workforce development programs, supports entry-level training, provides credentials to state residents and offers employment to New Jersey’s underserved residents, such as veterans. Kennedy’s work focuses on what is one of the state’s most pressing issues: narrowing the skills gap and aiding in the expansion of the state’s talent pipeline.
Kesselman helped establish Stockton University Atlantic City in 2018. The campus includes a 56,000-square-foot academic center, a residential complex with 535 beds and a parking garage. The project developer, AC Development Corp., was supposed to launch Stockton Phase II – a $64 million, 400-bed dormitory across from O’Donnell Park in the city’s Chelsea neighborhood, however, that a groundbreaking was scheduled for late March that was canceled due to the COVID-19. Then in August the University received approximately $6.4 million in COVID relief funds and a further $4.6 million in funding reappeared in the governor’s 2021 budget address after being cut in the spring as the state responded to fiscal uncertainty amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Kesselman will be instrumental in getting the project moving again as he said it is important to the overall economic expansion of Atlantic City as well as beneficial to the university.
Unanimously selected by Monmouth University’s board of trustees, Leahy joined the West Long Branch institution as president in August 2019. Monmouth reached its highest U.S. News & World Report ranking, jumping five places from 28 to 23 in a single year, and welcomed its most diverse and academically prepared class—boasting the highest grade point average of any incoming cohort—in the school’s history. On the graduate level, Leahy has championed Monmouth’s third doctoral program, Doctor of Occupational Therapy, which will enroll its first cohort in 2021. Leahy has also focused on expanding student access to academic excellence, increasing the financial aid budget to the highest level in the university’s history to $79.2 million, a 7.9 percent increase over the previous year. And he launched a President’s Relief Fund to provide direct aid to students economically impacted by COVID-19, before the federal CARES Act was signed into law. With the full support of the Board of Trustees, Leahy has engaged Monmouth in national conversations on racial justice and had the University remove Woodrow Wilson’s name from its signature administrative center, and established a permanently endowed Diversity Initiatives Fund, with an initial allocation of $3 million. As president, Leahy has significantly restructured the academic alignment of the university, promoting the provost to a senior vice president position, and added deans and departmental leaders to the president’s cabinet, to expand the range of academic perspectives in the strategic decision-making process.
Roughly 17 percent of Newarkers had an associate degree or higher in 2015, compared to 37 percent nationally. With more than half of all jobs requiring a higher education credential, for Newark to thrive, its educated numbers needed to go up. Enter the Newark City of Learning Collaborative, an initiative aimed at increasing the proportion of Newark residents with a higher education credential or degree to 25 percent by 2025. Reginald Lewis served as its executive director until this past spring when he took over as executive director of the Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership at Seton Hall University. The center is a nonprofit organization established to “advance the awareness, understanding and practice of servant leadership by individuals and organizations.” Before making the transition, Lewis was among several educators appointed by Gov. Phil Murphy to implement a plan to invest $20 million in the state’s higher education system.
COVID-19 has no doubt detracted from the allure prospective students feel toward traditional college campuses, within reason: Some universities across the country have reported high COVID-19 transmission rates among on-campus students this fall, and it’s hard to socially distance when the social opportunity of dorm rooms and the cafeteria surrounds you. Enter (for some students) community college, where distancing is easier without dorms and a category New Jersey still boasts plenty of top-tier institutions. Linfante is the chairman of the New Jersey Council of County Colleges, the organization supporting New Jersey’s community colleges. Pre-COVID, NJCCC said that 45 percent of all students earning bachelor’s degrees in New Jersey completed courses at community colleges during their academic careers. Given the current pandemic and likely post-pandemic economic fallout, one can imagine it might be more in the coming months or years: according to the American Association of Community Colleges, enrollment in community colleges peaked during and directly after the Great Recession in 2009.
Marsh was tapped in early March to head the South Jersey campus for New Jersey’s largest university and replace the outgoing chancellor Phoebe Haddon, just before the pandemic began to truly take hold of the state. She formally took the helm as the interim chancellor of Rutgers Camden on July 1, having previously held the post between 2007 and 2009. Marsh previously divided her time at the Rutgers Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research at the New Brunswick Campus one the one hand, and dean of the Rutgers University-Camden Faculty of Arts and Sciences between 1998 and 2011. With more than 6,000 students and nearly 700 academic and administrative staff, the university is one of several anchor institutions in one of New Jersey’s poorest cities, all part of a collective effort to remake Camden. The city has rebranded itself in the “Eds and Meds” sector of health care and higher education. In addition to Rutgers, that includes Cooper University Health Care, the Cooper Medical School, Rowan University, Camden County College and the Virtua and Lourdes Health Systems. All told, they account for 40 percent of the jobs in Camden.
Peter Philip Mercer
Mercer, who has been president of Ramapo College since 2005, recently helped institute test-optional admissions for the 2021-2022 admissions cycle. The college found that high school grade point average was a more reliable predictor in student success than traditional SAT/ACT scores, Mercer said in an announcement last month. “Our decision to shift to an SAT/ACT optional admissions practice recognizes this fact and furthers our long-held practice of considering the whole student (academic performance, extracurricular activity, lived experiences, civic engagement, etc.) when making admissions decisions,” Mercer said, noting that Ramapo has long employed a holistic model for review of all prospective students. The new test-optional admissions policy, he said, will further enhance the model. In 2019, Mercer guided Ramapo in creating a new transfer initiative with Hudson County Community called The “Archway to Ramapo College” program, which allows students who earn an associate’s degree at HCCC to transfer to Ramapo, streamlining their pathway to a bachelor’s degree.
According to one insider, Mercer “has totally transformed Ramapo from a commuter school to a residential school and has put the school on a national map. He has a lot to be proud of in his two decades there,” this person said. “He’s the funniest academic guy I’ve ever met in my life, too—he’s a bowtie wearing comedian, and an A+ guy.”
Jeffrey Alan Miller
Miller is a professor of English at Montclair State University and was named as a 2019 MacArthur Fellow – commonly known as a “Genius Grant.” The MacArthur Foundation noted that Miller is “shedding light on the emergence of key ideas about the role of faith in daily life and government among Reformation and Renaissance scholars.” His studies of John Milton and others add important context to the debates that influenced those authors. “Miller’s analysis of Milton’s reading lists, notes, and unpublished or unfinished manuscripts has revealed the evolution of Milton’s thinking on religious, governmental, and intellectual issues over time,” the foundation explained. “For example, scholars have long argued that Milton’s various litanies of ‘belated’ reading—sources he claimed to have read or discovered only after his own thinking on an issue was settled—were merely rhetorical devices he employed to support his arguments in a given text.” The MacArthur honor followed his being awarded two fellowships by the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Nyre is a year into his job as Seton Hall University’s 21st president, and he’s spent half of it in the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic. Though new on the job, he’s done an impressive job steering the university through COVID-19, according to one insider. “He’s ahead of other schools in terms of how he’s trying to manage the process, keeping faculty and students safe but also keeping the school functioning.” Nyre joined Seton Hall from the same post at Iona College, which he led for eight years.
Overdeck chairs the Overdeck Family Foundation, which seeks to enhance education both inside and outside the classroom for American students, and is the president of Bedtime Math, a nonprofit that ignites kids’ curiosity and learning by bringing recreational math to children through their parents. Her passion doesn’t stop when the kids turn to teens, though, but through their educational life: Overdeck is a trustee of Princeton University, Liberty Science Center, and The Pingry School, and serves on the advisory boards of Khan Academy, Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth (CTY), Stevens Institute of Technology, and Governor’s School of New Jersey.
Peebles is a professor emeritus at Princeton University and the recipient of the 2019 Nobel Prize for Physics. “James Peebles’ theoretical framework, developed since the mid-1960s, is the basis of our contemporary ideas about the universe,” the Nobel committee states on its web site. “The cosmic background radiation is a remaining trace of the formation of the universe. Using his theoretical tools and calculations, James Peebles was able to interpret these traces from the infancy of the universe and discover new physical processes. The results showed us a universe in which just five per cent of its content is known matter. The rest, 95 per cent, is unknown dark matter and dark energy.” Peebles was born in Winnipeg and attended the University of Manitoba before moving to Princeton, where he received a doctorate degree in 1962. He delivered his Nobel Lecture at Stockholm University in December 2019.
Repollet departed his post as the state’s education commissioner and took the helm of Kean University in May, as the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the nation, forcing millions of students into remote learning. He delayed stepping up to the post at Kean until Aug. 1, so that his department could piece together a reopening plan for the state’s 2,500 schools which serve more than 1.4 million students. And his department had to manage the abrupt closure of schools in mid-March as the pandemic began to sweep across the state, forcing them to shift to remote-only learning. Repollet will have to navigate a reopening amid the pandemic and the potential for a second wave of the virus. Classes at Kean University are slated to be done online-only until late September, at which point they’ll go to a hybrid of in-person and online. Dorms opened with reduced capacity, and limits on who is allowed to live on campus. Kean operated a drive-through testing site for Union County residents, the first such in New Jersey.
That’s continuing through the fall, and offers a chance for employment, academic, research and internship opportunities for Kean students. “Working together, this initiative can show immediate results to benefit not only the campus community but also the county and the state of New Jersey,” Repollet said in a late-August statement.
Sebastian became CEO of the New Jersey Innovation Institute, a corporation of the New Jersey Institute of Technology, after 15 years leading research at NJIT, during which time the R&D enterprise grew to over $110 million. That figure was good enough to place NJIT fifth among all polytechnic universities in the country and fourth among all universities in patent productivity. The NJII is providing government grant-funded research to local companies to help improve operations. And that kind of help will be even more important as the state pulls out of the pandemic-induced recession. Existing businesses will need assistance to adapt and new businesses will be emerging to fill gaps exposed by the outbreak.
Gov. Phil Murphy tapped Tilghman, president emerita at Princeton University, in the spring as the co-chair of the state’s 21-member Restart and Recovery Commission, which will gauge just how the state economy and its many facets can resume operations amid the disruption of a global pandemic. That includes how the state’s colleges and universities, of which the Ivy League school is among the most prestigious, will welcome back their students in the fall. “Frankly, I am a little concerned about the universities and the colleges restarting, those who are trying to start in person,” Tilghman said at a press briefing with the governor in late August. “It’s the wrong demographic. 18 to 22-year-olds, their prefrontal cortex is not fully developed and I think we do have to worry, to a certain extent. And that’s happening very, very soon.”
Todd Wolfson & Patrick Nowlan
The representation of 6,600 full-time faculty and graduate workers makes the AAUP-AFT Rutgers’ largest union, and makes its leaders Todd Wolfson and Patrick Nowlan influential figures. They stood up to past President Robert Barchi early on in the COVID-19 pandemic when he announced plans for substantial layoffs of part-time teachers and pay cuts to others. “The layoff of 20 percent of our Part-Time Lecturers (PTL) saves Rutgers a mere $5 million, while putting some of the most precarious workers on campus in a financial tailspin,” Wolfson said at the time. The union has given a rather warm welcome to new President Jonathan Holloway, who took the role a few months into the pandemic. “The values that Jonathan Holloway has expressed offer an inclusive vision for Rutgers’ future, in which students, faculty, staff, and the unions that represent them work together to fulfill the true mission of a public university: teaching, research, and service to the community,” reads a letter on the AAUP-AFT’s website. With Holloway only two months into his position, though, the durability of the relationship will likely be tested in the future.