Rutgers University-New Brunswick Strives to Make Students Feel at Home - Higher Education
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Rutgers University-New Brunswick Strives to Make Students Feel at Home

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Because of its longstanding commitment to providing access to minority undergraduate and graduate students, Rutgers University-New Brunswick was ranked as one of Diverse’s Top 100 producers of undergraduate and graduate degree programs.

Of the 50,146 undergraduate and graduate students who attend the flagship state institution, 39.4 percent identify as White, 24.4 percent as Asian, 7.6 percent as African-American, 12.3 percent identify as Latino and 0.1 percent as Native American. In addition, 77 percent of undergraduate students receive financial aid.

“I think we are in a very unique situation being located where we are in the state of New Jersey, which is a very ethnically and culturally diverse state,” says Dr. Felicia McGinty, Rutgers’ executive vice chancellor for administration and planning. “But I think it’s more than that. It’s not just our location, it’s the fact that when students come here, they feel a sense of community because we really celebrate that diversity and make room for the multiple identities that our students bring here.”

Dr. Felicia McGinty

The university’s new tagline, ‘There’s a U in Rutgers,” embodies the university’s initiative to be a more diverse and inclusive campus, according to university officials.   

“Essentially we are saying come as you are and we will help you curate that experience,” says McGinty. “We want you to feel welcome and connected and so whoever you are, you are part of Rutgers.”

Through various initiatives such as the Rutgers Future Scholars and the Educational Opportunity Fund, Rutgers offers support to first-generation and low-income students.

As part of a pre-college initiative, Rutgers launched the Rutgers Future Scholars program for underserved middle school students in the New Brunswick, Piscataway, Newark and Camden areas. For five years, the selected students are provided with mentors and tutors. At the end of their high school career, if they are accepted into Rutgers, the students are given scholarship money that covers four years of their education, according to the program’s website.

Out of the 183 students who participated in the scholars program during its first year in 2008, 163 were enrolled in a higher education institution and 98 of them were accepted into Rutgers and given the full-ride scholarship, according to the program’s website.

The Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) focuses on providing students with help during their college transitional process. The program provides academic and financial support to local New Jersey students, and about 600 students participate each year, according to the program’s website.

“Everything we do is really centered around making sure that students know that they are a valued member of our community and that they are not an imposition,” says McGinty. “This is their university.”

Rutgers also has many organizations on campus to support their student body, including the Asian American Cultural Center, the Center for Social Justice Education and LGBT Communities and the Paul Robeson Cultural Center.

Since Rutgers is the eighth-oldest higher education institution within the United States, students recently expressed concern with the institution’s lack of acknowledgement of its past history.    

In 2016, during Rutgers’ 250th anniversary, students approached administration and said, “We are celebrating the 250th anniversary, but we are really not talking about Rutgers’ involvement in slave trading and dispossessing Native Americans from their land,” according to McGinty.

After the students challenged the school, former Chancellor Richard L. Edwards created a committee to conduct research on Rutgers’ involvement and history with slavery. Through their research, it was discovered that a slave laid out the foundation for the Old Queens building, the oldest building on campus, and some of the founding fathers were slaveholders.

“This work shows that we are not afraid to look at ourselves and our early history,” Edwards said at the time. “We are a large public university that is one of the most diverse in the country and we think we need to understand our history and not be ashamed of it, but to be able to face it in a forthright way.”

Alongside their research, Rutgers’ published the book Scarlet and Black, Volume 1: Slavery and Dispossession in Rutgers History to further highlight their discoveries.

Through Rutgers’ acknowledgement of its past, three campus buildings were named after individuals who have impacted the history of the institution in different ways.

The walkway from the Old Queens building to the Voorhees Mall was named Will’s Way, after the slave, Will, who helped lay out the building’s foundation. A residential building was renamed the Sojourner Truth Apartments, in honor of an abolitionist who was owned by the family of Rutgers’ first president. Rutgers also renamed its library the James Dickson Carr Library, after its first African-American graduate.

“I think what’s special about Rutgers is that we are a place that is both historic and progressive,” says McGinty. “You walk on this campus and we are 253 years old and we were one of the original eight colonial colleges. And at the same time, we are one of the most progressive places that you’ll find. So what’s attractive, I believe, to students is that they can experience inclusion and they can experience that from a personal standpoint and they can also explore it from an academic perspective as scholars.”

This article appeared in the August 23, 2018 edition of Diverse and is one in a series of profiles about some of the institutions that made our Top 100 list.

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