Camden campus chancellor chosen as president of city outreach group


With goals to improve K-12 education and health care in cities, the chancellor of Rutgers-Camden was elected president of a coalition that pays attention to pressing needs of their surrounding communities.

“As you well know, in a lot of urban communities like Camden, the public schools are very bad. So we have been trying to figure out ways to improve public education in our communities,” said Wendell Pritchett, the newly elected head of the Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities.  

As an organization that includes representatives from 75 colleges in urban and metropolitan areas, the coalition aims to engage other organizations within the communities they work with to follow their lead.

“We will also be sharing ideas with governments at the state and federal level to hopefully get some support for new programs,” Pritchett said.

He said healthcare would be a major focus of his new leadership role.

“In almost every one of our communities, there are large hospitals ... and there is a big challenge with improving healthcare in poor cities,” he said.

Presidents of the colleges and universities that are a part of the coalition voted to elect Pritchett, who will serve a one-year term, said Bobbie Laur, coalition administrator.

“Everyone, myself included, is excited and honored that he has agreed to lead the coalition as we continue to try to be relevant and help our communities in these challenging economic times,” she said.

Laur said Pritchett has a proven track record of good work during his four years on the coalition’s executive committee, referring to a recent study he spearheaded that evaluated member universities and their communities.

“Its called the CUMU Impact Report and it focuses on evaluating the impact the universities are having on the areas they are in. ... It was conducted under [Pritchett’s] leadership,” she said.

This is not the first time someone from the University has been elected president of the coalition, said Mike Sepanic, associate chancellor for External Relations at Rutgers-Camden.

The last president was Steven Diner, a professor in the Department of History at Rutgers-Newark and former Newark campus chancellor.

Sepanic said the University is excited to have a faculty member in a leadership position in the coalition.

“Rutgers-Camden embraces the opportunities for innovative learning and service that our civic engagement initiative offers,” he said. “Our campus is proud that the CUMU membership respects Chancellor’s Pritchett’s leadership in this area and we look forward to sharing new ideas for service learning with the members of CUMU and other organizations.”

Aside from community outreach, Laur said the coalition holds a yearly conference for member organizations and also publishes The Metropolitan Universities Journal.

“[The conference and the journal] are probably the biggest outputs of the coalition in the past year. ... They are important in bringing together faculty, researchers, administrators, as well as community partners to talk about the issues of the day,” she said.

Laur said Pritchett shares the coalition’s vision of improving economically disadvantaged areas.

“I think Wendell is going to be a great advocate,” she said. “He understands the challenges faced by urban and metropolitan universities and I think he is the perfect person to help elevate these issues on a national scale.”


By Domenic Ruggeri

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