Our Moment to Reinvigorate and Reimagine Our Mandate

Dear Colleagues:

Welcome to a new Fall semester!  I hope you have had an opportunity to rest, reflect, and rejuvenate with your families over the course of the summer. Thank you for the warm welcome I have received during my first two months as your Chancellor.  As I have become more familiar with the university, I am even more eager to work with you to enhance the prominence and profile of Rutgers–New Brunswick at the state, national, and international levels. We have a lot to be proud of, remarkable strengths to build upon, and powerful stories to tell. 

The critical task before us is to transform Rutgers into an exemplar of what a public, land-grant research university can be in the 21st century. The land-grant mandate, as envisioned in the 1860s, was to provide educational opportunities to a much broader segment of American society in order to serve a growing, industrializing nation and to offer citizens a pathway toward greater socioeconomic mobility. However, today the public does not really think of the land-grant universities as “theirs”, or as institutions that contribute to their own lives, to their states and, indeed, to the nation as a whole.  It is time to reaffirm and reimagine our responsibility as one of the great and historic land-grant institutions, and to reinvigorate and translate Justin Morrill’s noble vision for contemporary times. Rutgers is well positioned to lead the way in this endeavor.  

I ask for your help as we shape Rutgers’ broad future. Public higher education in the United States is beset with challenges: too many state governments have frozen or even cut funding for higher education, the federal government continues to shield its support behind ever-more competitive grants, and parents demand high-quality undergraduate and graduate education at lower cost. Add to this the increasing competition from outside the country for the best students and scholars, and it is clear that we have our work cut out for us.  Although I firmly believe that American research universities can not only survive but indeed thrive amidst the challenges they face, too often, I think, we have been reactive rather than proactive.  For starters, such challenges must be met with “out of the box” thinking, by taking a hard look at how we can operate more efficiently and therefore more effectively, by redoubling our efforts in fundraising, and by communicating convincingly our value proposition with the public. Please join me in this effort.

As we continually strive to deliver on our mission, we must reaffirm the importance of excellence in our work. If excellence is not enhanced, it will decline. So, in times like these, we must not shrink from that challenge, but instead charge enthusiastically towards it, being certain that what we offer to our students, the academic community, and the public is the vital new knowledge that will change the trajectory of thought and inquiry in the wider world. We can only achieve that lofty goal with an unflinching commitment to giving our very best to all we do.

In the past two months, I have met outstanding faculty, extraordinary students, and talented staff members. I heard about their aspirations, about opportunities for innovation, and received many new ideas. I am organizing my office to take advantage of these ideas and opportunities. Provost Lily Young is eager to get back to her lab, and I have launched a national search for a Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs who will serve as the university’s Chief Academic Officer. I have also initiated the search for a Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation (VCRI) for New Brunswick, a new position in my cabinet. The VCRI will work closely with faculty to catalyze new areas of research, create conditions for innovation across disciplines, and ensure that we are well positioned to compete for emerging research and partnership opportunities. 

Friends, ours is an honorable calling at a critical time. Your efforts are crucial to helping us fulfill the great promise of the land-grant university in the 21st century. Whether your work touches on the student experience, the academic and research enterprise, or our community engagement efforts, your contributions and dedication are critical to the success of this institution. I thank you for your commitment to Rutgers, and I look forward to working with you in raising the university’s profile to even greater prominence. 

I am proud and humbled to have the opportunity to serve as your Chancellor. I will do all that I can to promote, nurture, and sustain the vibrant community that is Rutgers. I am eager to begin that by listening to and learning from you. Three receptions are being organized by the Chancellor’s Office and I hope you will be able to attend one of them.

With my very best to you for the new academic year,

Deba Dutta
Chancellor, Rutgers University–New Brunswick