By Lauren Lavelle
After a year of unexpected change and transition for Rider, President Gregory Dell’Omo provided faculty and staff with a series of updates regarding university finances, enrollmet, academic affairs and several other entities that will make up the academic year at the 2018 Opening Fall Convocation on Aug. 30.
Dell’Omo began his discussion with an update on the sale of Westminster Choir College (WCC). Despite push back from parents, students and faculty from the choir school, Dell’Omo maintained the decision to sell the Princeton campus to Kaiwen Education, a former construction company turned K-12 academy, is in the “best interest of both Rider and Westminster.”
“This will help secure a long, prosperous future for both institutions,” Dell’Omo said of the sale. “We’ve reached an agreement with Kaiwen Education and we’re working on that transition with them over the next year. The goal being, Rider removes itself and Kaiwen takes ownership.”
He praised Larry Livingston, the newly-appointed WCC interim president, for his help with the months-long transitioning process.
“We could not imagine a better person to help lead this process through the operations, academic and accreditation sides,” Dell’Omo said.
Dell’Omo also announced the WCC choir will travel to Beijing in the fall to perform at multiple showcases including the 2018 Beijing International Chorus Festival and the Forbidden City Music Hall. The group will also visit the performing arts component of Kaiwen Academy.
“Kaiwen Education is funding most of this,” Dell’Omo said. “It shows that this relationship is beginning to evolve.”
This year, Rider will welcome nearly 3,600 new and continuing students. Of these students, between 920 and 940 of them are incoming freshman, a significant drop from last year’s freshman class which clocked in at 1,005. The 2018 freshman class is also one of Rider’s most diverse, with 46 percent of students representing underrepresented populations.
WCC’s freshman class exceeded the anticipated goal of 35 students and will be welcoming 45 incoming students this semester.
DonnaJean Fredeen, provost and vice president for academic affairs, announced the introduction of several new undergraduate and graduate programs as part of Rider’s curricular revitalization.
“We anticipate that, by the spring semester, we will be through the entire approval process,” Fredeen said.
The new undergraduate programs include manufacturing engineering, cybersecurity, exercise science, mechatronics, software engineering, game and interactive media design and dance science. The new graduate programs are information systems, dance therapy, higher education analytics and teacher education STEM.
According to Dell’Omo, Rider closed out the 2017-2018 academic year with a balanced budget and a $95,000 operating surplus. He credited the financial success to stronger enrollment and a profitable year for housing and dining.
“We actually had almost $2.6 million more in housing and dining revenue for the university,” Dell’Omo said.
As for fundraising, 2017-18 was Rider’s most successful year to date with $13 million in gifts and pledges. The sum included $1.6 million for endowment commitments and $2.5 million for scholarship funding.
Dell’Omo also announced Rider is in the beginning stages of a fundraising campaign that will take place over the next five to seven years.
The campaign, which supports endowment scholarships, capital projects and the Rider fund, raised $20 million toward its $80 million goal in its first year.
“A tremendous amount of work has been taking place behind the scenes during the past year to set the stage for this important fundraising initiative,” said Kristine Brown, assistant vice president for university marketing and communications. “This quiet phase is designed to establish a successful foundation for what we know will eventually be a substantial and transformational fundraising campaign.
Various construction projects are currently underway on the Lawrenceville campus, including significant changes to the Bart Luedeke Center (BLC) and several residence halls.
Mike Reca, vice president for facilities and university operations, told the audience, if all goes as planned, the BLC will be ready before the start of classes on Sept. 5.
“We will be able to walk through those front doors before classes start,” he said.
Wright and Ridge residence halls were renovated during the summer months. Changes to the dorms included expanded bathrooms, new tiling, flooring, furniture and lights.
Reca said three additional residence halls, Kroner, Delta Phi Epsilon and Lake House, are next in line for renovations with construction beginning this winter for Kroner.
“In the last three years, we’ve invested $6.6 million into our residence halls,” Reca said. “We’re on the precipice of spending another $6.6 million to improve another 300 or so beds. This is going to help all that recruitment and retention.”