Rutgers-Camden chancellor: Our city is rising, and we’re helping to make that happen

By Phoebe A. Haddon, July 22, 2019

An era of unprecedented growth is happening in Camden. Our city is rising, energized by a collaborative partnership between public and private entities that are transforming the lives of families and their neighborhoods.

Education has always been a critical part of this transformation. I am reminded daily that it is the fundamental key to unlocking many of the social and economic challenges that we face in all our communities, especially urban centers such as our host city of Camden.

As a public university, we at Rutgers University–Camden know of our unique ability – and civic responsibility – to be a force for comprehensive and lasting change. At the core of our mission is an ardent imperative to join with our neighbors in this region to employ our problem-solving capacities and address the challenges we face.

We are doing this by focusing on our vital investment in the “eds and meds” as an economic engine for the city and the South Jersey region. We understand the collective power of universities, health systems, and research institutions working together to provide education, medical services, and breakthrough research. The potential impact of this investment is profound.

I am proud to say that Rutgers University–Camden has stepped up to the challenge. We have been at the heart of Camden’s rising, empowering the region through the work of our students, faculty, alumni, and staff – with learning and research experiences that uplift communities.

Rutgers University–Camden completed more than 372,000 hours of service to the community during the 2017–18 academic year. That service included more than 22,700 hours of pro bono legal services provided by our law students. More than 4,400 Rutgers–Camden students earned course credits in 179 engaged civic learning courses during that time.

We also worked to increase access and affordability by developing Bridging the Gap, an innovative financial aid program that helps many New Jersey residents reduce the cost of tuition – in some cases, by 100 percent. In fall 2018, more than 600 incoming students benefited from the program that closes the gap between federal and state sources of financial support, and the remaining balance of tuition and general campus fee. A total of $1.4 million in Bridging the Gap support went to 2018-19 incoming students.

At Rutgers–Camden, we continue to underscore our commitment to educating Camden residents as well. This is a crucial element in the revitalization of any city. Among our many pointed efforts, we co-created the Camden College Access Network, a collaborative enterprise to raise the number of Camden residents with post-secondary degrees from 10 percent to more than 50 percent by 2023.

The Hill Family Center for College Access at Rutgers University–Camden serves as a go-to source for pre-college support and guidance for local students, families, and schools. The center offers one-on-one support and mentoring, tutoring, post-secondary education advising, and college preparation workshops for high school students. It also offers assistance for parents and legal guardians to be active participants in the post-secondary transition of their children.

We currently support 250 promising eighth- through 12th-grade students from Camden in Rutgers Future Scholars, a pre-college scholarship program that provides funding and guidance from middle school through college.

There’s more on the horizon. Rutgers–Camden also earned a total of $5 million from the New Jersey Department of Education’s 21st Century Community Learning Centers program to support partnerships with schools in North and East Camden. The grant funds cutting-edge educational initiatives such as Camden Ignite, an innovative expanded-learning program that sparks student discovery in the arts, sciences, literacy achievement, and athletics, in addition to providing mentoring and college exposure. Our work in the arts is helping to reimagine illegal dumping sites into community gathering spots anchored by public art, thanks to a $1 million Bloomberg Philanthropies grant to the city that is supporting a project led by Rutgers–Camden and Cooper’s Ferry Partnership.

Rutgers University–Camden is undoubtedly a strong anchor institution in Camden and southern New Jersey – and a nationally recognized, award-winning innovator in civic engagement. We are committed to continuing this work with our neighbors and with other colleges and universities here at home and across the nation.

It has been said that the surest way to predict the future is to invent it. Camden is rising, but it’s not by chance nor happening overnight. It has taken a great deal of imagination, investment, cooperation, and effort to get where we are, and we look forward to embracing the challenges that lie ahead, alongside other partners dedicated to supporting our community.

Phoebe A. Haddon, J.D., LL.M. is chancellor of Rutgers University–Camden.