Slew of changes on South Jersey college campuses

Frederick Keating, president of Rowan College at Gloucester County, shares the stage with the roadrunner mascot.
Frederick Keating, president of Rowan College at Gloucester County, shares the stage with the roadrunner mascot. (RON TARVER / Staff Photographer)
Posted: July 03, 2014

Gloucester County College is no more.

In its place stands a new name, playing off the brand name of a nearby university and reflecting the growth of the community college: Rowan College at Gloucester County.

Lawmakers and county officials joined the college's administrators and staff Tuesday for a celebration of the school's new branding. Among the speakers: State Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D., Gloucester), State Sen. Donald Norcross (D., Camden), Rowan University president Ali A. Houshmand, Rowan trustees' chair Linda Rohrer, and Rowan College president Frederick Keating.

The new name was one of several higher-education changes that took effect Tuesday. July 1, the start of the fiscal year, also saw a series of transitions at Rutgers-Camden: a new campus chancellor, a new law school dean, and the integration of a nursing school absorbed by Rutgers last year.

The renaming of Gloucester County College fulfilled an agreement signed in January to bring the two schools closer.

County college students will be offered "conditional acceptance" to Rowan University, so their associate's degree credits transfer seamlessly to bachelor's degree programs at the four-year school.

Also under the agreement, Rowan faculty will teach some classes at the county college campus in Sewell for those students who have transferred to the university from the two-year school but prefer to stay on the county college campus.

A student who was not accepted at Rowan University could enroll at the community college, spend two years there meeting course and grade requirements, then be automatically accepted into the four-year school.

"Today is a day when we welcome a new era in postsecondary education in Gloucester County," said Virginia N. Scott, a trustee of the community college.

"With this unique collaborative partnership between Rowan University and Gloucester County College, the door is open to thousands of students who will seek higher education in a more affordable, accessible location, paving the way for four-year degrees with easy transfer of credits."

A student transferring to Rowan University for the last two years of a bachelor's degree will save 45 percent on costs vs. a student spending all four years at the university, said its president, Houshmand.

"This is a partnership. This is not a takeover by any stretch of the imagination," he stressed.

At Rutgers-Camden, meanwhile, Phoebe A. Haddon assumed her post as the new chancellor. On her first day, she decided to take a walk to familiarize herself with her campus, of which she is now the CEO.

"That was a tremendous opportunity for me to put together all the things that I've learned about day by day over the last couple of months," Haddon said. "I also discovered buildings I had not even imagined were here."

Before coming to Rutgers-Camden, Haddon was dean since 2009 of the law school at the University of Maryland. She earlier spent 28 years teaching at Temple University's Beasley School of Law.

Administrators, faculty, and even some students were around, she said Tuesday afternoon, so she stopped to talk to everyone she came across.

"This campus has a great reputation for being friendly - super friendly - very collegial, and closely knit, and it really came across in the walk," Haddon said.

The walk was the highlight of her day, she said, taking her from about noon to 1:30 in the afternoon. Other parts of her day were similar to what will fill the coming weeks: meetings, briefings, reports.

"We're a public institution, and the state budget was just on the minds of everyone, so one of the first things we did was talk about the budget and the implications of the budget for our campus," Haddon said. Her staff held a briefing, and Haddon said the budget will have "no surprises, and no negative effects" for Rutgers-Camden.

One person Haddon will meet with in the coming weeks is John Oberdiek, the new acting dean of the law school at Rutgers-Camden.

Oberdiek takes over from Rayman Solomon, who is now provost of the campus. The transition was easy, said Oberdiek, who had already been vice dean and had prepared for the change over the last few months.

"Programmatically, very little has changed today from yesterday except I have a new title," said Oberdiek, who has been appointed to the position for two years. In that time, he will oversee a merger with the law school at Rutgers-Newark.

That merger is "the single biggest thing on the horizon," Oberdiek said.

Also Tuesday, Rutgers-Camden's nursing school merged with the nursing school in Stratford from the now-defunct University and Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. That merger was approved by Rutgers' board of governors two weeks ago.

"Uniting the nursing programs and nursing faculty . . . will transform nursing in southern New Jersey by providing programs that are more coherent, efficient and cost effective," the board of governors resolution read, "as well as ensuring continuity for students and building on existing collaborations in southern New Jersey."

"The merger will enable the School of Nursing-Camden to better fulfill its teaching, research, and service mission," the resolution read.

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