Harnessing Rutgers’ Creativity and Resilience for Charting Our Institutional Course

Dear Faculty Colleagues,

Like all universities, Rutgers has endured unprecedented challenges this Spring to its teaching and research missions. The disruptions of COVID-19 are still with us and call on our resilience and faith as we continue to imagine better days. But our strength lies in the example we have set for our faculty, staff, and students, including responding to the pandemic with extraordinary creativity and commitment.

Rutgers' geneticists have received global visibility for their Coronavirus testing, which has been employed widely across the nation and here at home. Other faculty teams have received several RAPID grants from the National Science Foundation in areas such as computational modeling of quarantine measures and virus tracking through large-scale data analysis, and our office has partnered with RBHS and the Office of Research and Economic Development to help Rutgers–New Brunswick better address the challenges of the pandemic. I also am delighted to announce that we have supported 12 projects this year through the Center for COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness (CCRP2), a vital hub at Rutgers for COVID-19 research and information dissemination. The funded projects range from new computational tools for structural design of therapeutic molecules to telehealth interventions for autistic adults, approaches to COVID-19 vaccine design and its transdermal delivery, and virus-deactivating face masks.

We have also led and funded a second series of 10 social science grants that focus on significant new studies on migrant detention, deportation and COVID-19 transmission, COVID-19 in New Jersey prisons, parental stress and child abuse, K-12 teacher responses to online learning, AI, pandemics and mental health, and mental health interventions for college students, among many other issues of national importance. Researchers in Anthropology, Sociology and History have come together to form the Society and Pandemics Working Group, sponsoring seminars on the systemic, legal, economic, and racial implications of COVID-19, as well as teaching resources and the student experience in the midst the pandemic. In the Humanities, New Brunswick faculty at the Center for Cultural Analysis have partnered with the New Brunswick Theological Seminary on a project funded by the Henry Luce Foundation that will support immigrants, refugees, those formerly incarcerated, and other vulnerable populations affected by the pandemic.

The onset of the pandemic also caused a huge disruption in our delivery of education. Abruptly and with little prior preparation, our faculty did a remarkable job rising to the challenge of offering remote instruction in the Spring. Today, many of you remain actively engaged with formal training in instructional technologies, aided by many of your departments and schools. With a view to capture some of the most innovative instructional spirit of our faculty, we recently offered a new initiative on Innovations in Education and Teaching Pilot Grants. These awards will be supporting innovative projects that enhance our ability to deliver high-quality educational experiences with an emphasis on areas of instruction that pose particular challenges in a remote landscape. We are pleased to announce that we were able to fund 12 exciting projects.

As we enter the Fall semester together, this vital research and teaching will continue despite the many logistical and fiscal difficulties that confront us. In the face of the unexpected and unforeseen circumstances that were thrust upon us, each of these initiatives align with the values of leadership, interdisciplinarity, and collaboration that I articulated for our campus last fall in my statement on a Vision for Faculty Excellence at Rutgers–New Brunswick. And as I look to the new academic year, I also am focused on two pivotal directions for our campus. First, we will continue the work by specialized faculty working groups, in partnership with the New Brunswick Faculty Council, to address our gaps in faculty development and other areas of institutional deficiency that were highlighted in the faculty survey this Spring. Second, we remain committed to the important and long overdue work of dismantling the racist structural barriers at the university by magnifying our diversity blind-spots and making earnest progress toward meaningful inclusion in our academics and research.

The pandemic of 2020 has brought into sharp relief the pernicious epidemic of racism and injustice. Here, too, Rutgers–New Brunswick faculty have led us forward as we wrestle, both collectively and individually, with the legacy of discrimination, appropriation, and exclusion that have saddled the world we know today. Thanks to their award-winning scholarship and their extraordinary dedication to institutional work, we see how many paths can lead us forward toward extirpating racism from its foundations and implementing concrete, meaningful and enduring change in our culture. To ensure that Rutgers–New Brunswick remains vigilant and dedicated to this change, my office is reflecting on a series of new initiatives as "calls-to-action." These initiatives will zero in on the more underrepresented areas of academic research and seek to overturn our uneven record of recruitment and advancement for our minority students and faculty of color. These efforts will need the collective energies of the campus, and we will draw on the insights of our Rutgers diversity advocates and champions and leverage guidance from the Division of Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Engagement. Together we will listen, we will assist, we will speak out, and we will work alongside one another to chart goals with authentic values and sustainable purpose. Please write to me with your thoughts as we incubate our priority work. We look forward to working together with you on these crucial projects.


Sincerely,

Prabhas V. Moghe
nbprovost@rutgers.edu