July 19, 2019 | 87° F

Deans dance off in charity competition

Photo by Nelson Morales |

Deans Tim Grimm and Eve Sachs waltz their way through the College Avenue Gym to “When Winter Comes” Monday during “Dancing with the Deans.”

Administrators and students took their dance skills to the stage together Monday at the College Avenue Gym, raising money for students who are have insufficient funds to purchase nutritious food.

Eighteen couples of deans and students competed in four categories of dance — waltz, tango, swing and salsa.

From those 18 couples, four — one from each category — were chosen to compete in the final competition by a panel of judges including Barry V. Qualls, vice president of Undergraduate Education; Lea Stewart, the dean of Livingston campus; Carla Yanni, the assistant vice president for Undergraduate Academic Affairs; Randy James, an associate professor in the Mason Gross School of the Arts; and Sandra Rocio Castro, the senior program administrator of the Center for Latino Arts and Culture.

Marques Johnson, a Residence Life coordinator, and Grant Junno, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, won the overall dancing award performing their swing routine.

The event raised nearly $1,600, all of which was donated to an emergency assistance fund, said Diane Bonanno, the executive director of Rutgers Recreation. The fund will be used to help students who have difficulty purchasing food.

Kathleen Decker, the program coordinator for Rutgers Against Hunger, said the occasion was impressive because those involved used an original idea to accomplish the program’s goals.

“It was a unique and different creative way to raise awareness for [the problem] students [have],” Decker said.

“Dancing with the Deans” worked as a fundraiser for underprivileged students while also bridging a gap between the students and the deans that oversee them, Bonanno said.

“The first purpose is to raise funds for students who are having difficulties purchasing food,” Bonanno said of the event. “[The] second is to get to schedule and collaborate on some large events with faculty and students.”

The event was not intended for students who simply run out of money at the end of a given week. Rather, it aimed to help students who cannot afford to go to school, keep a roof over their head or buy food, even if they are employed, Bonanno said.

Robert Gatdula, a School of Engineering senior and Decker’s dancing partner, said the event was fun and a great event to expose people to dancing and charities.

“Dancing With The Deans” allowed faculty members and students to switch roles, with students from various dancing clubs becoming the instructors by teaching the deans to do the dance routines, Bonanno said.

Jacquelyn Litt, a Douglass Residential College dean, said the occasion was a great community-building event with a good cause. The deans took the dance-off seriously, with many practicing up to two weeks prior to Monday night.

“It was a lot of fun to support the cause,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to do the Charleston, and it was a fun to do with the students.”

Gabriela Figueredo, a School of Arts and Sciences junior and Litt’s dancing partner for the night, said she practiced eight hours with Litt before the show.

“It’s a really cool idea and I like that it’s helping students,” Figueredo said. “It was great to see students and deans working for other students.”

Litt said she learned the steps quickly, even though she did not have a background in dancing.

Matt Matsuda, the dean of the School of Arts and Sciences Honors Program, said the event was successful because it was able to get people from different groups involved for a common cause.

“This was a great idea for a program to get dancers, administration, deans and recreation to help students,” he said. “[It’s a] great example of something everyone can take part in.”

Matsuda, who practiced for two weeks, said he thinks events like this one are very important considering the tough economic situation people are in. The hope is that the money earned can help students through the years.

Daniel Costa, a Mason Gross School of the Arts first-year student, said he enjoyed the event because it reminded him of the ABC show it was modeled after.

“It’s a cool event — like ‘Dancing with the Stars’ but on a college campus,” he said.

Jentora White, an Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy graduate student, said the occasion helped highlight how people from different circles could cooperate efficiently.

“It was showcasing students working with faculty,” she said.

By Richard Conte

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