eft, Bishar Jenkins Jr., a senior at Rutgers University–New Brunswick; center, Rahimah  Faiq, a senior at Rutgers University–Newark;  and, right, Justin Schulberg, a senior at Rutgers–New Brunswick.


Left, Bishar Jenkins Jr., a senior at Rutgers University–New Brunswick; center, Rahimah Faiq, a senior at Rutgers University–Newark;  and, right, Justin Schulberg, a senior at Rutgers University–New Brunswick, were among the 11 students who met with members of Congress.

Marty Katz

When it comes to state and federal policymaking and support from our partners in government, Rutgers has had a pretty good five-year run. The university advocated for and is benefiting from the legislation to integrate most of the former University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey into Rutgers; the passage of a $750 million higher education bond act; the creation of a $25 million pool of tax credits for financing upgrades in athletics facilities; and the continued support for day-to-day issues confronting Rutgers. The state’s federal delegation—U.S. senators Robert Menendez NLAW’79 and Cory Booker as well as New Jersey’s 12 members of the U.S. House of Representatives—have supported the university’s federal grant  applications and other efforts that have helped boost Rutgers’ total federal funding to $700 million.

But, the university didn’t do this alone. It takes the commitment and advocacy of everyone, from the chair of the Board of Governors to our newest students. Student efforts were on display this spring when 11 students from Rutgers University–New Brunswick, Rutgers University–Newark, and Rutgers University–Camden boarded an early-morning train, sat in meetings with most of our U.S. senators and representatives, participated in the Rutgers 250 congressional reception at the United States Botanic Garden, and ended their very long day around 2 a.m. when they departed on a delayed Amtrak train.

The group—which included Justin Schulberg, president of the Rutgers University Student Assembly, and Rahimah Faiq, the president of the Rutgers–Newark Student Governing Association—made the case for the grant and loan programs that are essential to the more than 80 percent of Rutgers students who receive help financing their educations. 

They were respectful but forceful; they were polite but compelling. They put human faces on otherwise abstract programs and acronyms that from afar might not mean much to elected officials. But when sitting across the table from such informed and engaged Rutgers students, government representatives have to realize that taking action is the difference between a dream fulfilled and a dream deferred.

We have a long tradition of public engagement at Rutgers, and our students are among our very best advocates. After their appearance in Washington, they left little doubt.

Peter J. McDonough is the senior vice  president for external affairs at Rutgers.