An Honest Assessment and Bold Planning

Robert Barchi


Nick Romanenko

During the past year at Rutgers—a historic time in which we welcomed our colleagues from the former University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, joined the Big Ten Conference and its academic counterpart, the Committee on Institutional Cooperation, and embarked on major construction projects on all campuses—our university community worked collectively on developing a framework for our future.

Our universitywide strategic planning process challenged us to address difficult questions. Where do we want the new Rutgers to be five years from now? What steps are necessary to raise Rutgers to the highest ranks of public universities? How should we achieve our ambition for academic prestige and our longstanding commitments to diversity and opportunity while also expanding our commitment to the health needs of New Jersey?

This yearlong conversation has been lively—even heated at times—but it has always focused on ensuring Rutgers achieves its enormous potential.

During the campus discussions, taking place in a host of venues, we have been as frank about our weaknesses as we have been proud to point out our strengths. We have earned a well-deserved reputation among the nation’s best universities through our arts, humanities, and natural science programs; our graduation rates have been steadily improving; and our exceptional diversity is a differentiating strength. But we can’t ignore these facts. The national rankings for our campus in New Brunswick, which is a member of the Association of American Universities, have been declining. Our per capita faculty productivity trails our peers. Student satisfaction with the Rutgers experience is below our expectations. And we rank near the bottom among our peer institutions in endowment, fundraising, and alumni participation.

The process of asking hard questions and thinking boldly about our future enabled us to develop a comprehensive five-year strategic plan for Rutgers that will be presented to the Board of Governors for final approval in February. Our plan honestly assesses our needs, evaluates our assets, establishes ambitious yet realistic goals for improvement and growth, and demands accountability across all units. While the plan is designed specifically for Rutgers, it was developed while considering the broader challenges facing higher education, including declining state appropriations, rising student debt, changing workforce needs and student interests, and growing demands for physical and technological upgrades.

Thousands of stakeholders participated in the planning process—alumni, students, faculty, staff, governing board members, and statewide leaders. Based on their thoughtful contributions, we have identified four strategic priorities (including building faculty excellence and transforming the student experience), five foundational elements essential to our success (for example, maintaining a strong core of sciences and humanities and increasing our financial resources), and five integrating academic themes to leverage our interdisciplinary strengths (such as creating a sustainable world through innovation, engineering, and technology, and improving the health of individuals and populations).

These goals and initiatives are captured in the overarching ambition we have set for Rutgers: to be broadly recognized as among the nation’s leading public universities: preeminent in research, excellent in teaching, and committed to community.

Our strategic vision recognizes that although each geographic campus (Camden, Newark, and New Brunswick) and Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences share the Rutgers name and are committed to academic rigor and cross-campus offerings, they are also distinctive in their own right. We will thus challenge each to develop individual strategic plans this spring, leveraging their own attributes within the framework of the university strategic plan.

I invite you to visit to read about our strategic plan, and I welcome your feedback. Together, we can help Rutgers achieve greatness and provide a leading voice for the future of higher education.