June 27, 2019 | 84° F

Dutta recounts his 1st year at Rutgers, plans to make the University more competitive

Photo by Casey Ambrosio |

University Chancellor Debasish Dutta spoke at his first “State of Rutgers Address” yesterday where he listed his goals for improving Rutgers over the next decade.

The Chancellor of Rutgers—New Brunswick, Debasish Dutta, gave his “State of Rutgers Address” yesterday in the east wing of the Academic Building on the College Avenue campus. He remarked on his time at Rutgers so far and his goals for the future in front of Rutgers’ faculty, staff, alumni and guests. 

In his first eight months, Dutta has overseen many important campus events and developments such as the multi-million dollar donation of art to the Zimmerli Art Museum, the tumultuous political changes affecting schools nationwide, including Rutgers, and the movement to increase the University’s student minimum wage.

Dutta can often be found attending campus events or visiting the dining halls for dinner where he and his staff engage students, according to Dr. Felicia McGinty, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs. 

“It's been exciting for me because he really is interested in students and in their experience,” McGinty said. “He’s been very interested in coming with me to meet students and attend programs. He has a great vision, a vision for moving the University ahead and living out our Land-Grant mission." 

Dutta began by describing the two portions his address would take: looking back on the history and accomplishments of Rutgers to date and looking toward the future of innovation and expansion. The past — which includes the University becoming a Land-Grant University, going public and entering the Big Ten — is something Dutta believes is important to understanding the current state of the University.

With Rutgers finalizing its transition into the Big Ten Conference, the chancellor remarked on how Rutgers has always fostered the spirit and academic excellence characteristic of the Big Ten and that the University will make a great 14th edition to the conference.

The former Purdue University provost did note that Rutgers had some areas to improve upon. Namely, the University is “dead last” in out-of-state student enrollment among the Big Ten. To combat this, Rutgers has taken up an aggressive marketing campaign both nationally and internationally to increase these numbers in the last year and a half. The enrollment numbers in this demographic are already up for the Fall 2018 term. 

Dutta also addressed the budget. He said that there has been a marked drop in state support for schools in recent years across the country. The chancellor was thankful that amid a slew of failing state budgets and slashed public grants, New Jersey has continued to provide Rutgers with adequate financial support and resources. 

With a total operating budget of $1.54 billion and 10,000 faculty and staff, he noted that it takes a lot to run the three campuses and several other locations where the University operates and that the University appreciates the consistent support from the state.

Fundraising is a major point of interest for the chancellor in terms of increasing Rutgers’ spending power. A good starting place would be the University’s approximately 500,000 alumni, who he thinks are not engaged enough by their alma mater. Dutta hopes to better connect with the alumni by fostering a greater sense of pride among students and promoting a college experience that will create a “lifecycle” of engagement where alumni are proud to be Rutgers students and stay involved in its affairs after they graduate.

Looking forward, Dutta sees great promise in the growth of Rutgers, particularly in the area of research. Rutgers has many research centers spread over its campuses that attract millions in funding and some of the best professors in their fields. The University brings in more federal research dollars than every other New Jersey school combined, Dutta said. His goal is to enter into the top 10 public universities in funded research. 

Rutgers is currently in the top 20, he said.

“We need to increase our large centers, institutes and networks. That is where the big money is going to come from. That is where federal research is headed,” Dutta said. 

He said students are well positioned to do all of this and that focusing on taking advancements in the lab to the market will help propel Rutgers forward as a public research university.

Dutta hopes to have a large increase in the University’s computer science and engineering capabilities. He would like to see a 50-percent increase in engineering and computer science faculty numbers, believing approximately 300 total would be a good number. This would put Rutgers on par with all the other renowned engineering and computer science universities in the country. 

With a four-year graduation rate of approximately 60 percent, and a one-year retention rate of about 92 percent, the chancellor says that Rutgers is exceptional among institutions of higher education, ranking top 25 in the nation and top 100 in the world. But there is always room for improvement, he said. 

Dutta sees four major areas the University should focus on moving forward — catalyzing a surge in funded research, recruiting and retaining top faculty, becoming the institution of choice for students and advancing Rutgers’ higher purpose, which will move the University up the rankings to one of the most respected and productive Universities in the world, he said.

“What is the state of Rutgers University? Here’s how I see it. We are at a moment of great consequence, my friends. I will say this — the next 10 years is likely to be the most consequential for this University for a long (time) to come.”

Andrew Petryna

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