At Rowan, Christie and Sweeney tout collaboration

Gov. Christie (left) and New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney talk about how Republicans and Democrats worked together on education matters, in this screen grab from a state video titled "This Is the Good Stuff."
Gov. Christie (left) and New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney talk about how Republicans and Democrats worked together on education matters, in this screen grab from a state video titled "This Is the Good Stuff."
Posted: October 04, 2013

GLASSBORO A slew of state officials and Rowan University administrators gathered Wednesday afternoon on the school's main campus for a ceremonial groundbreaking, marking the start of work on a new engineering building funded in part by a $46 million state grant.

The event also served as yet another stop on Gov. Christie's election-year travels across the state touting his education credentials and bipartisanship.

The Republican governor and State Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D., Gloucester) took turns pouring praise on each other for their joint efforts on the Rowan project and other initiatives.

"Together, we're going to change the face of the state of New Jersey in such a positive way," Sweeney said, describing his goal for higher education:

"Put [New Jersey] right back where it belongs - number one in the nation, and number one in the world as an educated workforce."

Christie followed Sweeney's lead.

"We've taken some bold steps to do the right thing," he said, praising both the capital project financing and the recent higher education restructuring.

Referring to the gridlock in Washington, Christie held up New Jersey politics as an example of "how to get the job done the right way."

The two shook hands, joked about their disagreements, and stood shoulder-to-shoulder for the ceremonial shoveling of dirt.

On Tuesday, the governor had been in Mahwah for a groundbreaking ceremony at Ramapo College. His other recent stops have included the New Jersey Institute of Technology and Rutgers University's College Avenue campus in New Brunswick.

In Glassboro, hundreds of students, faculty members, and administrators stood in a dense crowd outside Rowan Hall, which houses the College of Engineering, cheering as Christie and Sweeney congratulated university officials, including president Ali A. Houshmand, board of trustees chairwoman Linda Rohrer, and Henry Rowan, the industrialist-philanthropist for whom the university was named in 1997.

Construction on the new building will not begin until next fall, said Donald Moore, vice president for facilities and operations.

Three years from now, if all goes according to plan, the space will have been transformed into a second, 90,500-square-foot building for the College of Engineering at a projected cost of $71 million.

The second engineering building is one of 176 higher-education infrastructure projects at Rowan and elsewhere being funded from a $1.3 billion state pot that includes $750 million approved last year in a bond referendum.

Rowan has begun searching for an architect for the building; about 50 firms attended a meeting Tuesday, and proposals are expected in two to three weeks, said Moore. The proposals will be culled to a short list of finalists, and a firm will be chosen by November or December, he said.

Construction should begin next fall and be complete by the fall of 2016, Moore said.

At Rowan, the state funding will also seed a new building for the Rohrer College of Business, which is receiving $40.4 million in funding.

The school is currently housed in the oldest classroom building on campus, built in 1923. Designed for 500 students, it now is crammed with more than 750.

The business school project is about one month ahead of the new engineering school building, Moore said.

Rowan is to receive nearly $118 million from the state construction fund, making it the second-largest beneficiary. (Rutgers University will receive more than $357 million across its campuses.)

The $750 million bond referendum - the first statewide voter-approved capital construction funding since 1988 - has been touted by Christie and legislative leaders as evidence of their support for higher education.

The stated criteria to get the funding include promoting workforce readiness, improving technology education, and "promotion of industry clusters, job and business opportunities in areas designated by the state for growth."

Current enrollment at Rowan already maxes out available space, administrators said, and Houshmand hopes to dramatically expand enrollment, including doubling the size of the business and engineering schools.

"There was definitely a sense of frustration with no solution in sight" two years ago, said Tony Lowman, the dean of the College of Engineering.

Now a solution is at hand, the politicians and administrators said at the ceremony.



Construction cost for Rowan's new engineering building.


Schools across the state breaking ground on new projects.


Total amount to fund new school projects across the state.



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