Obama team looks to U. for transition tips


As the country cools down from a heated election season, the University is able to say it helped President Barack Obama understand the dynamics of technology, the humanities and education.

Dean of the School of Communication, Information and Library Sciences Jorge Reina Schement, and University affiliates Heather McKay, Clement Price, William M. Rodgers III and Ellen Goodman were asked to join Obama's transition team, according to a Media Relations news release. Most of their work surrounded the ways in which telecommunications can be used as a system outreach during the economic downturn.

"The vehicle to receive information has changed," said Price, a University Professor on the Newark campus and head of overseeing the transition of the National Endowment for the Humanities. "It's no longer lectures, books or symposia. But things like the Internet that can be publicly reached."

The transition team was organized to support the orderly transfer of executive power after the general election as well as prepare suggestions for Obama's presidency, according to Change.gov.

Schement's work on the team involved the drafting of three papers that explored the potentials of telecommunications as a universal service, he said.

As an advisor to the Federal Communications Commission, Schement suggested strategies that would enact policies committed to reaching those people with less accessibility to education, such as the poor, minorities, the disabled and single mothers, he said.

As part of this effort, Schement said he suggested a rethinking of subsidiaries and programs for such people.

As the Director of the Sloan Center, McKay said she composed a policy brief for the FCC transition team, co-written by University Professor Eileen Applebaum, on computers and distance learning as an educational training tool for low-skill adults.

This paper focused on improving skills and education, and creating greater competition in the work force, she said.

"The paper suggests ways to reach people that are cost effective," McKay said. "With such a huge percent of low-literacy in Americans, the internet is an ideal way to teach people in their homes, without paying for teachers and buildings."

While both Schement and McKay were on the FCC, Schement said it was an honor they were selected.

"The fact that there were two people on the FCC transition team means Rutgers had a lot of influence in this process," he said.

Reanalyzing the use of telecommunications was also a part of Price's position on the team. But he said he suggested the use of technology as a means to access local level communities about the NEH.

"In recent years, the [NEH] became detached from academic communities," Price said. "And that's a shame."

The NEH needs to communicate with local councils and communities to ensure the survival of the humanities, he said.

Price said he also had the responsibilities of landscaping the policies, funding and staff of the NEH for Obama as well as outlining recommendations for the next chair of the Endowment.

But a lot of his work, he said, was toward ensuring funds for the NEH.

"In the face of severe economic crisis, I hope Obama will realize that the humanities and sciences are the most important sectors for lifelong lessons, historically relevant advancements of mankind and exploration of race and race relations," Price said.

Goodman worked on the transfer to digital television, which will take effect Feb. 17, according to the release.

Professor Rodgers transition team work focused on the impact of the economic downturn on workers, according to the release.

Both Goodman and Rodgers were unavailable for comment at press time.


Sara Gretina

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