By Allie Ward
“Hey, Dean Campbell! Uh, I mean, Tony?”
For new coordinator of campus activities Nick Barbati, a day at work isn’t just a day at work. Barbati, who graduated just last year, was hired directly out of school to come back as a staff member.
“The funniest thing is that I still refer to all my old teachers as ‘Doctor’ or ‘Professor,’” Barbati said. “Tony Campbell will always be Dean Campbell to me!”
Barbati isn’t the only one. Many alumni have found their way back to the University, whether directly after graduation, or later on down the road.
Dr. Pamela Brown, professor of journalism and director of the law and justice program, graduated in 1973. After pursuing graduate school and a job at a newspaper, she came back to teach.
“What was weird for me was that there was one student who I had classes with as an undergrad: He was a freshman when I was a senior,” Brown said. “And when I came back to teach, I had him in my class!”
Situations like this are bound to happen on a smaller campus like Rider. In fact, the size is one of the things Brown loved most about the school.
“There’s a certain feeling of community that makes a lot of students want to stay,” she said.
Barbati agreed, and added that coming from a huge high school to the intimate setting on campus was significant.
“I really wanted to be here, coming from a high school where I had no involvement,” he said. “I love the inclusiveness.”
This raises an obvious question: What is it about Rider that draws people back? Is it the campus, the people or the atmosphere? According to Barbati, it’s, well, everything.
“I fell in love with Rider,” he said. “I wanted to stay here and continue to contribute to the positive energy.”
While in school, Barbati was notably involved with the Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) and now serves as its faculty adviser. He also served as the vice president of the Student Government Association (SGA).
“The absolute best part of working here, for me, is the chance I get to work with the student groups and organizations,” he said. “I love planning events alongside students so they learn what I learned.”
Brown feels a special connection to the students on The Rider News, because she spent “many nights, staying up late” working on the paper as a student.
There are alumni representatives in a variety of academic departments, including Geological and Marine Sciences, Accounting, Education, Communication and Journalism, and Philosophy.
On the Princeton campus, Professor Marvin Keenze, a 1959 grad of Westminster Choir College, has been a faculty member for more than 30 years.
“When I went to school, the founder, John Finley Williamson, was still here,” Keenze said. “I’ve been teaching at Westminster since 1976; this is the 32nd year I’ve been hanging around and I’m not going anywhere.”
The fact that there are all of these alumni still at the school helps make the atmosphere so special. Being able to relate to professors and have one-on-one conversations is what sets Rider apart. The environment is more reminiscent of a neighborhood than a school.
Brown said that she appreciates the size of the academic departments because she can see her students outside of class, whether in Cranberry’s or walking around campus.
More than feeling a special connection to his students after being at the school for so long, Keenze claimed a “sense of legacy.”
“I can relate to them,” he said. “I’ve spent over 50 years with the school. I look out my window at the quad and see ghosts walking around.”
Barbati said he is “extraordinarily happy” to have received his position here and that he “couldn’t be more proud.”
“At the end of the day, when I’m here for so many hours, it just doesn’t feel like work,” he said. “It means the world to me.”