In Rutgers strategic plan, health a main Camden goal

Rutgers president Robert L. Barchi said that improving community health would be a goal for Rutgers-Camden.
Rutgers president Robert L. Barchi said that improving community health would be a goal for Rutgers-Camden. (APRIL SAUL / Staff Photographer)
Posted: February 06, 2014

NEWARK, N.J. Rutgers University's board of governors on Tuesday approved a five-year strategic plan that, among other things, outlines the mission of each of its three campuses.

"Rutgers University-Camden excels at engaging its student body and the surrounding community," the plan reads, noting especially the campus' "educational and economic impact in South Jersey and Delaware Valley."

The 15-member board formally approved the plan Tuesday afternoon at a regularly scheduled meeting. It had been presented a draft in December.

The plan lays out broad areas to focus on, such as increasing faculty size and research output, and improving graduation rates.

Robert L. Barchi, the university's president, announced the strategic planning process shortly after arriving in 2012. The process began that December, with surveys, focus groups, and town hall meetings to gather information.

While Camden and the other two campuses must now develop specific goals, "let's be very clear that Newark and Camden were intimately involved with the generation of this plan," Barchi said in an interview. He envisioned a focus on health education at Rutgers-Camden.

The last time Rutgers underwent the process was in 1993, with that plan approved in 1995. In this iteration, it took "a zillion hours," Barchi told reporters before the board meeting. A consulting firm was paid about $3.4 million to assist in the process, he said, with $750,000 of that paid via a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Rutgers' goal, as established under the plan, is "to be broadly recognized as among the nation's leading public universities: preeminent in research, excellent in teaching, and committed to community."

Rutgers-Camden had already begun a campus-specific strategic planning initiative in the wake of a merger proposal in which it would have become part of Rowan University. The proposal eventually was dropped amid stiff opposition from students, faculty, and alumni at Rutgers. Barchi asked Wendell E. Pritchett, chancellor of Rutgers-Camden, to put that initiative on hold during the university process.

Now that the university plan has been approved, Pritchett said, the campus will begin its process again, adapting the university plan. The first meeting is to be held Wednesday. He said the plan will be complete before he steps down at the end of the semester.

Barchi and Pritchett both said that one of the most important results of the university plan is its outline of the role of Rutgers-Camden.

"Before Bob came here, we were very confused about our relationship among our campuses, and between the campuses and central administration," Pritchett said in an interview. "This document provides a lot more clarity about those relationships."

Barchi said that improving community health and wellness will be a goal taken on by Rutgers-Camden through its nursing school, a new nursing and science building, partnerships with Rowan, and "a much closer relationship with Cooper" University Hospital.

Barchi wants to expand the overall university's faculty by 150 tenure-track members, including the creation of at least 30 endowed professorships. How those new hires will be allocated among the New Brunswick, Newark, and Camden campuses is still to be determined, Barchi said.

Other goals of the university plan are similarly open, awaiting the individual campus plans.

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