Rutgers University is ready to deliver.
That’s the message University President Robert Barchi had for the assembled legislators, staff, faculty, students, media and public during the Integration Day ceremony for Rutgers and the University of Medicine and Dentistry New Jersey.
“Gov. (Chris) Christie had a powerful vision and he worked with the legislators to make that vision become a reality,” Barchi said. “There’s no reason New Jersey can’t have one of the better higher education systems. Now, there’s no excuses. Anything less than a world class institution can not be tolerated. Rutgers is ready to deliver.”
With that, the new Rutgers University was born.
The step forward that has been talked about for years became a reality today (Monday). At midnight, Rutgers acquired seven of UMDNJ’s eight schools, creating Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences.
UMDNJ’s University Hospital became an independent institution, and the School of Osteopathic Medicine was transferred to Rowan University, which is now a designated research university.
Rutgers, a member of the Association of American Universities, jumps into the top 25 among colleges and universities across the country, Christie said during his appearance at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School Monday.
“This is a very historic day for the state, and a very historic day for Rutgers,” Christie said. “We had talked this issue out, with former governors, former legislators, current legislators who were talking about this for the third or fourth time. There comes a point when you have to stop talking and you have to start doing.
“The Board of Governors made a wise choice when they selected Bob Barchi. What he’s accomplished is nothing short of extraordinary.”
Barchi was named Rutgers president 10 months ago, two months after Christie sstated the merger had to be complete by July 1, 2013.
“In the beginning, I was under the impressions Rutgers and UMDNJ were at odds, but once we got on track, UMDNJ and Rutgers lined up and I saw something entirely different,” Barchi said.
Barchi said all Rutgers University facilities would be open to UMDNJ students, including athletic facilities and other facilities outside the medical and sciences programs. He also said Rutgers will continue to focus on areas outside those two programs.
“We are not going to let other areas slip even a fraction,” Barchi said. “We’re thinking about the university at large and what we want it to look like.”
UMDNJ Accelerated Program students Stephanie Martinez and Harpreet Kaur were excited for the merger. They were among a group of students that helped unfurl the banners for the various schools that make up Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences.
Martinez originally wanted to attend Rutgers, but was unable to, and Kaur graduated from the university in May and attempted to get into Rutgers’ Nursing School before attending UMDNJ.
“When we started (UMDNJ) in August, no one was sure what was going to happen,” Martinez said. “It’s exciting that we’re going to get our degrees from Rutgers.”
“UMDNJ is a smaller school, so we’re definitely going to get more resources now,” Kaur said.
Resources that could help the two students improve their education.
“The real gems in UMDNJ will now shine brighter,” Christie said. “We’re supporting rapid growth throughout the state.”
Christie appeared alongside State Sen. Joe Vitale (D-Middlesex); Assembly Speaker and U.S. Senate Candidate Sheila Oliver (D-Essex); Deputy Assembly Speaker John Wisniewski (D-Middlesex); Barchi; and new Vice Chancellor for Interprofessional Programs at Rutgers and former UMDNJ President Denise Rodgers.
Sen. President Stephen Sweeney participated in the Integration Ceremony for UMDNJ and Rowan on Monday.
At Rutgers, Vitale expressed hope that the merger would help improve the ability to diagnose Autism.
“One in 49 New Jerseyans are on the Autism spectrum,” Vitale said. “The diagnosis of Autism is increasing each year. With this merger, we’re bringing together the best minds to identify genes. We’re applying science in real time to people’s lives.”
“This new institution makes us enormously proud and positions us to be prepared for the changes coming under the Affordable Care Act,” Rodgers said. “It enables us to take a leadership role in healthcare nationally.”
Wisniewski, a lead sponsor on the New Jersey Higher Education Restructuring Act that set up the merger, received a round of applause when he noted the job ahead.
“So much more needs to be done. Success requires the Board of Governors and Board of Trustees to work together to craft a solid vision for Rutgers,” Wisniewski said, referring to Sen. Sweeney’s proposal to eliminate the University’s Board of Trustees. “I am a proud graduate and I stand ready to help Rutgers.”
“We’re positioned to be a leader in the field with great minds and highly motivated students,” Oliver said. “This is historic for the state.”