By Nancy Elias
March 27th marked the feedback meeting of the charrette groups at Rutgers -Newark. A term used to describe the strategic planning groups, “charrette” takes after the French word meaning “little cart.” Referencing 19th century Paris in which professors circulated with little carts to collect final drawings from students, a charrette group calls for mutual collaboration and equal authorial power among the members of the group.
The 11 charrette groups at Rutgers University-Newark met once a week for three weeks, and in the hour that the group spent together each week, they discussed three questions: “What is higher education being called to do right now?,” “What is our story at Rutgers University-Newark?,” and “If this is our moment, what shall we do?” This feedback meeting compiled these results as well as facilitated an open discussion using these results as a springboard for more conversation.
“Today will be a vigorous discussion about Rutgers University-Newark digesting what we learned in the eleven charrette groups that participated in this process,” said Jyl Josephson, Associate Professor of Political Science and Women’s and Gender Studies at the meeting’s opening.
Using the conversations from his particular charrette group, Peter Hoontis, Associate Dean of Academic and Student Affairs at the School of Public Affairs and Administration shared that better work needs to be done in terms of marketing here in Newark.
“There are many pathways that bring us to this campus, but we don’t see our name anywhere,” said Hoontis
In addition to marketing, Hoontis spoke about the campus’s diversity and collaboration.
“We need to move from just talking about our diversity to actually practicing our diversity,” said Hoontis.
Ranked number one in diversity in the nation, Rutgers-Newark is more than just a campus housing people of different colors and backgrounds. Rather, these differences provide for a strong and unique international strength that should be taken advantage of.
“This campus has amazing stories to tell, stories that you would not find anywhere else and we do not do a sufficient job in telling these stories. We need to do a better job communicating who we are as well as our accomplishments here at Rutgers-Newark,” said Timothy Raphael, Director of The Center for Migration and the Global City and Associate Professor of Culture and Media at Rutgers-University Newark.
In terms of what Rutgers-Newark is, Professor Sherri-Ann Butterfield describes the university as “one that creates students that are both profession ready and have learned for the power of knowledge.”
“We don’t want students to just be career focused, for we produce amazing scholars and citizens here…we are a university with inclusive admissions and elite graduates,” said Butterfield.
Others went on to comment on the location of the university in the city of Newark. Director of the Honors College, Kinna Perry stated that, “students choose our campus because it is in Newark, and the city has a lot to offer.” Discussion was made regarding collaborating with the city in ways that will provide for students, facilitating real world experience as well as research opportunities, as well as helping the people of Newark.
In terms of location and how the university looks on the outside as well as on the inside, “a physical environment really does matter,” said Robert Puhak, professor in the mathematics department.
“There is large inequity between classrooms and both instructors and students would benefit from more evenly distributing resources around campus,” said Puhak.
More commented along the lines of appearance, stating that when students choose between Newark or New-Brunswick, it is looks that will catch our students and our programs that will keep them and so, more needs to be done to make Rutgers-Newark look as good as the programs it offers.
“Being located in the city of Newark, we’ve allowed the mass media to tell our story, but it’s our time to tell it ourselves,” said Clayton Walton, Associate Dean of Student Life and Director of the Paul Robeson Campus Center.
“In telling that story, we should encourage undergraduate research more than we have and ensure that college is affordable for our students,” said Walton.
The meeting recapped the major points that were shared during the charrette groups in the most succinct way possible, scratching the surface of what needs to be done and noting that this idealism is necessary over change that will occur gradually but surely as Rutgers-Newark works to re-brand itself.