Advancing Academic Excellence Across Rutgers
August 31, 2023
As the fall semester begins, I would like to recall a few of the many academic achievements that continue to elevate Rutgers. As many of our programs continue to rise in national rankings, we also recognize that academic excellence is often found in the details behind or beyond the headlines. We find it in the vibrancy of our classrooms and the care of our course design; in our labs, libraries, studios, and clinics; in the teaching, training, and mentoring to which the faculty and staff devote their efforts.
Our scholarly distinction is well reflected in our faculty, who lead at all ranks and whose dedication and creativity inspire students and colleagues alike. 2023 continues to remind us of the breadth of expertise that characterizes our colleagues. I am delighted to recognize our newest members of the National Academies, and to redouble our commitment to working with the chairs, deans, and provosts and chancellors to ensure that we open as many pathways to distinguished national recognition as we can. Each year, one of my proudest moments is calling out our institution’s year-end Excellence Awards that recognize exceptional scholarship and service by Rutgers faculty. 2023 also marks the 80th anniversary of grants from the Research Council, which have continuously funded ground-breaking scholarship by Rutgers colleagues on challenging problems in the sciences, social sciences, humanities, and creative arts. In the past year, Rutgers faculty, centers, and institutes were awarded more than $929 million in sponsored research funding, a ringing endorsement of their extraordinary quality and the impact that our work is having in all fields, from the creative arts and humanities to climate science, cancer research, and community engagement.
Our culture of collective academic excellence best flourishes when we advance collaborative scholarship and new structures of collegiality and inclusivity that can foster innovation. Our Strategic Diversity Hiring program has supported vital new research communities in the pathbreaking areas of Prevention Science and Sustainability (RU-Camden); Urban Environments, Health, Climate Change, and Environmental Justice; Housing and Health Equity (Rutgers Health); Fair and Responsible Data Science; and Race, Racism, and Intersecting Inequalities (RU-New Brunswick), and Identities, Injustice, and Power in the Latinx Diaspora and Building Capacity in Data Science and Computational Science (RU-Newark). My chancellor colleagues and I are happy to report that this year alone more than 50 new faculty scholars will join our Rutgers campuses through such programs and the intentional, committed efforts of our search committees, and academic leaders.
This year we will launch the EVPAA’s new Roadmaps for Collective Academic Excellence Initiative, a five-year, universitywide endeavor that would spark large-scale convergence between our academic and research programs and thereby accelerate both student and faculty success in truly transformative ways. Roadmaps projects will be rooted in the chancellors’ own campus-specific strategic goals in key areas, such as data science and AI, climate change, climate action and energy innovation, emergent health needs of society, and community engagement, among several others. Launched in close partnership between my office and the chancellor’s leadership teams, provosts, and deans, the Roadmaps projects will prioritize new landscapes for strategic growth at interdisciplinary intersections that will help us further strengthen our academic standing and magnetize Rutgers to attract the next generation of leaders among both students and faculty. Coordinated, purposeful funding across units will allow schools and departments to assemble major new clusters of faculty, design innovative academic programs that can prepare our students for success in a rapidly changing world, and anchor new and reimagined institutes and centers with a sharply-focused mission and inclusive research infrastructure. Planning for Roadmaps will be led by the chancellors during the course of the coming academic year, and we look forward to sharing news of their milestones as their plans progress.
I am heartened to see many faculty scholars already leading programs that bridge the divide between academics and research in profoundly impactful ways. These and other examples inspire and inform our commitment to Roadmaps and its goal of fostering more large-scale collaborations across the university. In Camden, Professor Grace Brannigan (Physics) will soon launch Codes4Life (C4L), a training grant that will link genetics and protein sciences and develop future scientific leaders as they make new discoveries critical to human health. Rutgers–Newark’s highly innovative “Everyday Data” course, pioneered by Professor Nicole Richardson has drawn students from all areas of study and sparked conversations about data literacy, ethics, privacy, and the information economy that are vital to a social moment in which AI is becoming increasingly ubiquitous and ever-more powerful. In New Brunswick, Professor Kristin Dana directs Socrates: Socially Cognizant Robotics for a Technology Enhanced Society, a program that integrates robotics with psychology, neuroscience, and urban policy planning via research workshops and industry partnerships, interdisciplinary courses, and a certificate program. Stories recounted by the many predoctoral and postdoctoral fellows of the New Jersey Alliance for Clinical and Translational Science at Rutgers Health showcase their remarkable cross-disciplinary research and training, reaching a staggering diversity of clinical areas of urgent needs.
In my role as the institution’s chief academic officer, I coordinate with the four chancellors and convene the provosts from all campuses in academic strategy roundtables to review opportunities for synergy, exchange effective practices, and consult on continuous academic improvement and collaborative academic pursuits. These efforts take many forms, some highly visible to the community, others less so. Within the past two years, the EVPAA’s collective on Academic Planning, Assessment and Accreditation has worked in partnership with academic leaders and faculty across Rutgers to strengthen our policies and streamline processes that will ensure successful new academic programs and revitalize existing ones. Our support procedures now stimulate continuous academic development and preserve healthy coordination and co-existence of academic programs across the units. As a complement to this more efficient and transparent planning process, I have also charged a Council on Online Education to develop a supporting framework for robust, coordinated online programs that will promote student access and success, and expand enrollment in ways that are integrally aligned with the priorities of the academic units.
Our academic program innovation, exciting recent hires, and notable faculty accomplishments underscore a principle that I believe forms the bedrock of academic transformation at any research-intensive institution of higher learning, including Rutgers. This transformation arises from a virtuous cycle across three foundational components: faculty scholarship, academic programs, and student success—the last component acting as the key north star that guides our institution’s purpose. And in our concerted engagement around this work, I share my gratitude with each of you, as you begin another year of inspiring teaching, research, and service to our disciplines and to the ideals that hold so much meaning for all of us.
Prabhas V. Moghe, Ph.D.
Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs