NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ–Eight months into his tenure as Rutgers Chancellor, Deba Dutta spoke about the past and present of the university, and its hopeful future improvements.
Dutta started the February 28 speech described the most recent achievements and milestones like the university’s 250th anniversary, new buildings, and the name change of locations to acknowledge important African-American figures.
The speech then moved forward to talk about what Rutgers needs to do to thrive in the future.
“The next ten years is likely to be the most consequential for this university for a long time to come,” said Dutta.
He identified five things he feels Rutgers needs to do in order to improve: catalyzing a surge in funded research, recruiting and retaining top faculty, becoming the institution of choice for students across the country, maintaining connections with alumni and stakeholders, and building enduring connections with the state.
Rutgers is ranked with the best schools in the country and in the top 100 in the world, Dutta said, but he also pointed out it has the lowest percentage of out-of-state students in any of the schools in the Big 10 atheletic conference.
The four-year graduation rate is also just 60%, which is very low when compared to other top institutions, Dutta said.
There’s room for improvement, according to Lauren Olsen, from the office of enrollment management in Rutgers-New Brunswick.
“I view it as a space to grow,” said Olsen. “From the bottom you can only go to the top. I think it’s a really good opportunity to focus on the areas that we need to improve and grow in and use that and focus our resources in those areas to move up the ranks.”
Dutta spelled out four steps to increasing undergraduate enrollment: expand active learning courses, expand internship opportunities, increase study abroad programs, and reduce travel between classes.
Other Big 10 institutions like Ohio State, University of Michigan, Michigan State, and Penn State constantly outrank Rutgers in important categories like enrollment and alumni donations, Dutta said.
The goal in the next ten years is to catch up with the aforementioned universities.
A diverse student body doesn’t mean a diverse staff, said Dutta. There is a plan to invest in the construction of new buildings and state of the art facilities in the near future in order help recruit and retain the best faculty.
He also expressed his desire for faculty to become more involved in policy-making and funding discussions.
The steps to recruiting and retaining faculty was to have a 50% increase in engineering and computer science staff, commensurate increases in complementary disciplines, and to give special attention to underrepresented demographics.
Rutgers being a research institute is important to its identity and its success, said Dutta, adding that the variety of education and research is what attracts a diverse student body.
“Our faculty, our research scholars, our students are engaging in creating new knowledge,” said Dutta.
When asked what the biggest takeaway should be from the speech, Dutta said the importance of dreaming and planning for the future. Increasing the total number of students enrolled is what his administration is working on at the moment, and everything else will take time, according to Dutta.
“I really like his enthusiasm, and the experience he brings to the institution,” said Olsen. “I think he’s poised to be a change agent at the University and kind of shake things up.”