By Casey Gale
Rider’s 150th year is shaping up to be one of transitions, challenges and success.
President Mordechai Rozanski, along with Provost DonnaJean Fredeen and Vice President of Enrollment Management Jamie O’Hara, presented faculty and staff with a university update at the President’s convocation on the Lawrenceville campus, on Aug. 28. At the meeting, the administrators discussed transitions occurring on campus, enrollment numbers, university finances and the professional achievements of students and faculty.
Rider can expect to see some changes in the 2014-15 school year. Given that this is President Rozanski’s final year at Rider, the hunt for a new president is in full swing.
“The committee has been active since last spring, reviewing more than 130 individuals who applied or were nominated,” Rozanski said. This month, 44 of the remaining candidates will be narrowed down to a small group of the most qualified individuals, and the final interviewing of the candidates will begin.
Rozanski is not the only administrator stepping down this year. Robert Annis, dean of Westminster College of the Arts, will be retiring on Dec. 31. In addition to looking a new dean for Westminster, Rider is also searching for a dean of Business Administration to take the reins from interim Dean Anne Carroll this year, who took office when Steven Lorenzet departed.
There is a change in Rider’s landscape as well. Rozanski said that the Trigen plant is now fully operational and “ready to heat, cool and generate electricity on campus.” On the Westminster campus, the Marion Buckelew Cullen Center construction is complete, marking the first time Westminster Choir College has opened a new building in 35 years.
Many faculty members attended the presentation wearing shirts in support of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), and Rozanski ended his transitional speech with an update on the negotiations in progress between the AAUP and the and the administration for a new labor agreement. Discussions of the new agreement have been taking place over the past two months, and will continue into September. Though Rozanski said that the neogitations have been taking place during “a challenging time in our history,” he assured faculty and staff that he feels confident that the two parties will reach a fair agreement.
“We have a long history of successfully finding common ground and arriving at mutually agreeable solutions,” he said.
This year, Rider welcomes nearly 3,900 new and continuing students. O’Hara said that this year marked the largest application pool in the university’s history – 9,353 applicants – which was a 16 percent increase over last year. This increase in applicants allowed Rider to lower the acceptance rate from 72 percent to 71 percent. The university accepted 1,028 freshmen this year – 117 more than last year – and 245 transfer students. This is the largest freshman class since 2009.
O’Hara suggested that the upswing in applicants can be linked to the creation of new majors, like sports management and criminal justice (of the applicants, 43 percent applied to join the criminal justice major). Healthcare administration is the next proposed major, and will likely debut in Spring 2015.
Rozanski noted that the $4 million funding gap Rider experienced last year persists. Last May, he announced the lay-offs of five full-time staff members and three part-time staff members to assist in bridging this gap.
“We are making every effort to eliminate it,” said Rozanski.
On a more positive note, financial aid and fundraising is on the rise. This year, Rider provided more than $60 million in financial aid to 97 percent of students – a big jump from the $52 million distributed last year. The number of gifts and pledges rose by 43 percent this year to $9 million, and the annual fund was raised by 4.3 percent thanks to gifts from faculty and staff.
Accomplishments of Rider faculty and students were also highlighted during the convocation. In a presentation by Freeden, Dr. Sheena Howard, communication professor, was acknowledged for being the first African American woman to win the Eisner Award for her book Black Comics: Politics of Race and Representation. Among the other faculty members recognized were grant recipients James Riggs, Paul Jivoff and Roberta Fiske-Rusciano and recently published Jonathan Husch, Kathleen Pierce, Deborah Rosenthal, Susan Glazer and Patricia Mosto.
Student and alumni achievements were numerous this year, including Nathan Brewer, ’03, who was appointed assistant director of Broadway’s Aladdin and Madhupa Das, a senior education major, winning the 2014 N.J. Distinguished Student Teacher of the Year award.
Though negotiations continue and details of the school’s financial stability are uncertain, the administration ended on a positive note. Updates on the possible faculty strike as well as information on the funding gap will be provided in further detail this month.