Community colleges merge into Rowan College of South Jersey

A pair of South Jersey community colleges have merged, creating Rowan College of South Jersey, a regional, dual-campus college, RCSJ announced this week.

The merger of Rowan College at Gloucester County and Cumberland County College became effective Monday, marked by a ceremony on the Deptford Township campus.

The merger, which also includes an expanded 10-year partnership agreement with Rowan University, is the first of its kind of New Jersey, RCSJ said in a news release.

“The joining of these two schools to create one Rowan College of South Jersey is exactly the right thing to do,” state Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford) said in a prepared statement. “The students and residents will benefit from increased academic offerings and the opportunity for a seamless transition into Rowan University. I applaud the leadership of Gloucester County and Cumberland County for taking the initiative to make higher education more affordable and accessible for their residents.”

Frederick Keating, president of Rowan College at Gloucester County, will be RCSJ’s first president. Gene Concordia, chair of RCGC’s board, will become the chair of the RCSJ board.

“I am extremely honored to have the privilege to serve as Rowan College of South Jersey’s first president,” Keating said in a statement. “This pioneering, hybrid institution provides students with more choices, including the option to pursue advanced degrees at Rowan University and other four-year universities, without ever leaving the Rowan College of South Jersey campuses.

“Thanks to close working relationships and affiliations with local chambers of commerce, business and workforce development, students and employees have the chance to further enrich their educational goals. Rowan College of South Jersey is prepared to meet the needs of South Jersey students.”

RCSJ said it hopes to be a catalyst for economic growth as part of an “Eds, Meds and Commerce” corridor along Route 55.

“With this merger, community college has been redefined in the state of New Jersey — redefined in the country,” U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross (D-N.J.) said in a statement. “It’s our aim to make higher education more affordable and accessible. We are doing it smarter; we are doing it more cost-efficiently. That is why we are here today. It’s a great day for education.”

The new school will offer more than 120 degree and certificate programs, including nine online-only educational paths. It will also offer education, medical and workforce training programs. In addition, all students will have access to the “Rowan Work & Learn” program and “3+1” partnership with Rowan University, among other opportunities.

“Although Rowan College of South Jersey and Rowan University remain independent from each other, the region will benefit greatly from our commitment to the partnership,” Rowan University President Ali Houshmand said in a statement. “Our goal is to provide a variety of pathways to quality degree programs that are affordable, relevant and accessible to all. In turn, and over time, lives will change, businesses will prosper and our local economy will grow.”

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NJIT renames College of Architecture and Design for Hilliers, icons in profession

New Jersey Institute of Technology announced Tuesday it is renaming its College of Architecture and Design for renowned architects J. Robert and Barbara A. Hillier, in recognition of a gift from the Hilliers that represents the largest donation in NJIT’s history.

The gift will provide support for student scholarships, faculty development, state-of-the-art technology, physical space improvements, high-impact educational experiences and curricular innovation.

The J. Robert and Barbara A. Hillier College of Architecture and Design at NJIT was formally announced on campus following NJIT’s undergraduate commencement ceremony at the Prudential Center in Newark.

“The Hilliers are icons in the world of architecture, and we are incredibly proud to have this school carry their name,” NJIT President Joel S. Bloom said.

“Their involvement with and support of NJIT have been extensive and incredibly valuable over the course of many years, and this gift will have a transformative effect on our students, faculty and research within the areas of architecture and design.”

During the 1990s, the Hilliers’ firm designed the architecture school at NJIT that will now bear the Hillier name. The project incorporated open and closed studios; an exhibition and conference gallery; high head-room space for construction, structural and materials testing; and long views of Newark and Manhattan.

Illuminated at all hours to allow students to work around the clock, the building is referred to as “the lantern on the hill.” It won the firm a New Jersey Chapter Design Award from the American Institute of Architects.

NJIT President Joel Bloom alongside J. Robert and Barbara A. Hillier, center.

“NJIT is very forward-thinking in everything that it does. I believe that architecture needs to look forward as a profession, more today than ever before. This inspired us to think that NJIT would be a good place to support the future of architecture,” J. Robert Hillier said.

“Our hope is that this support will improve access to architectural education and advance architectural research at NJIT, which is a major research university. This gift really matters to NJIT, and that means a lot to Barbara and me.”

Barbara Hillier agreed.

“I think the leadership at NJIT is very special,” she said. “They have been looking for ways to enhance the programs they have, not just in architecture, but in other disciplines as well. And they really embrace all of their students and provide them with a very strong education from which to launch their careers.”

The Hilliers, both architects, are co-founders and principals of Studio Hillier LLC, located in Princeton. Their precedent firm, Hillier Architecture, was the third-largest strictly architectural firm in the country and was identified by the magazine Architectural Record as one of the best-managed firms in the U.S.

Their interdisciplinary design firm counts hospitals, corporate headquarters, universities, independent schools, arts centers and museums, and residential properties among its many projects around the world. The Hilliers have received more than 300 state, national and international design awards for their commitment to “place, sustainability and the built environment,” while also offering expertise in master planning, urban land use strategy and historic preservation.

Among their many notable commissions are the 5 million-square-foot Sprint world headquarters in Overland Park, Kansas, the Sydney Harbour Casino in Australia, the Las Colinas Convention Center in Irving, Texas, and the World Headquarters for GlaxoSmithKline in London. The firm was also the executive architect and interior designer for the Louis Vuitton Tower on 57th Street in Manhattan. Their historical restoration work includes the U.S. Supreme Court Building in Washington and the Virginia State Capitol.

In the educational arena, the Hilliers have worked for over 100 colleges and universities, including Princeton, Yale, Cornell, Columbia and Brown of the Ivy League, as well as Duke, Howard, Penn State, Mount Holyoke and Bryant University, where they designed the original Tupper Campus.

Their firm has designed 17 private international schools and has done several buildings on the campuses of the Peddie School and the Lawrenceville School. In their hometown, they were responsible for the design of the Princeton Medical Center in association with HOK and the Princeton Public Library, one of approximately 40 libraries they have designed across the country.

Like his late father, James Hillier, the director of research for RCA, who developed the first working electron microscope as a graduate student, J. Robert Hillier is a recipient of an honorary degree from NJIT. He also received the NJIT President’s Medal for Lifetime Achievement in 2009 and the AIA’s Michael Graves Lifetime Achievement Medal in 2007. He was named New Jersey’s Entrepreneur of the Year by Inc. Magazine in 1989.

As a member of the core faculty at Princeton University’s School of Architecture, J. Robert Hillier has lectured extensively throughout the United States at schools of architecture and to AIA chapters. He is a member of the board of overseers of the Foundation at NJIT and has served on the board of visitors of the university’s Albert Dorman Honors College since 1996, when he was its first chairman.

Barbara Hillier has received many honors for her architectural work, including numerous AIA awards and the distinguished Chicago Athenaeum American Prize for Architecture. She has lectured and served on design juries at the University of Virginia, the University of Pennsylvania, Cornell University and Temple University, among other academic institutions. Her work has been featured in such prestigious publications as the New York Times, Architecture + Design and Metropolis.

The College of Architecture and Design at NJIT was established as the New Jersey School of Architecture in 1973, in response to an AIA National Advisory Committee recommendation to build a public school of architecture in Newark, and with approval from the New Jersey State Board of Higher Education.

The college was granted accreditation in 1978 and has since expanded its academic and research offerings with undergraduate degree programs in architecture, interior design, digital design and industrial design, and graduate-level programs in architecture and infrastructure planning. It continues to play an integral role in architectural and design education in New Jersey and the region.

NJIT Provost and Senior Executive Vice President Fadi P. Deek said the gift will have great impact.

“The Hilliers’ generosity will have a lasting impact on the quality of architecture and design education at NJIT for future researchers, practitioners and leaders,” he said. “Their gift will allow us to further invest in people, faculty and students, while also promoting innovative programs and research.”

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Liberty Science Center names Genius honorees for 2019, unveils new Strides in STEM award

Liberty Science Center has announced the 2019 honorees at its upcoming annual “Genius Gala,” including the product designer who first proposed using the hashtag symbol on Twitter.

The Jersey City-based institution said in a news release Friday that this year’s gala will honor four Geniuses:

  • Chris Messina, who came up with the idea of marking groups on the social media platform more than a decade ago;
  • Martine Rothblatt, founder, chairwoman and CEO of United Therapeutics, creator of five FDA-approved drugs, and a pioneer in pig cloning, as well as co-founder of Sirius XM; and
  • Drs. Sally and Bennett Shaywitz, co-founders and co-directors of the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity, who have conducted groundbreaking research on the learning disorder.

The science center will also honor “Project Runway” host Karlie Kloss with its first-ever Strides in STEM Award, recognizing her work with her nonprofit, Kode with Klossy, which she founded in 2015 to help young women pursue their technology passions.

“Our 2019 Genius Award winners and our first-ever Strides in STEM honoree are five visionary women and men of science who are busting paradigms,” LSC CEO and President Paul Hoffman said in a prepared statement. “Each personifies what it means to be a genius and a catalyst for change; each is using his or her exceptional intellectual and creative abilities to disrupt and innovate both in their respective fields and for the betterment of humanity; and each recognizes the importance of ensuring the next generation of science and technology superstars have access to the tools they need to succeed.”

The black-tie gala will be held May 13 at the center in Jersey City, with funds raised benefiting the center’s exhibitions and programs. More than 700 industry leaders and philanthropists are expected to attend.

The corporate chairs for the event are:

  • David M. Daly, president and chief operating officer, Public Service Electric & Gas;
  • Michael J. Inserra, senior vice chair and Americas deputy managing partner, EY; and
  • Chirag Patel, co-founder and co-chairman, Amneal Pharmaceuticals.

The co-chairs are:

David Barry, CEO and president, Ironstate Development Co., and CEO and president, Urby; Sheri B. Bronstein, chief human resources officer, Bank of America; Brian Carlin, CEO, Wealth Management Solutions, JPMorgan Chase & Co.; Jennifer A. Chalsty, director, advisory council, James Buchanan Brady Urological Institute, Johns Hopkins University; Kevin P. Conlin, chairman, CEO and president, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey; Michael DeMarco, CEO, Mack-Cali Realty Corp.; Matthew D. Ellis, executive vice president and chief financial officer, Verizon Communications; Joe Hand, EVP, global human resources and corporate services, Celgene Corp.; Dr. Robert J. Hariri, co-founder and vice chairman, Human Longevity Inc., and founder, chairman and CEO, Celularity Inc.; Barbara G. Koster, senior VP and chief information officer, Prudential Financial Inc.; Bruce L. Levy, CEO and president, BMR Energy; Laura Bilodeau Overdeck, founder and president, Bedtime Math, and John Overdeck, co-founder and co-Chairman, Two Sigma; Andrew Penson, founder and managing director, Argent Ventures; Carlos Rodriguez, CEO and president, ADP; and Gregory Tusar, co-founder, Tagomi.

For more information on the gala, click here.

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Longtime journalist, pollster named to lead Stockton’s Hughes Center

John Froonjian, a longtime journalist and manager of the Stockton Polling Institute, has been named interim executive director of the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at Stockton University, the college announced Monday.

Froonjian, whose appointment took effect Saturday, replaces the previous interim executive director, Michael W. Klein, who took over in January 2018.

He became the founding manager of the polling institute in September 2012, and has been a researcher at the Hughes Center since 2011, as well as an adjunct professor of journalism.

“John’s polls have represented the views of New Jersey residents on topics of vital interest in the state,” Stockton President Harvey Kesselman said in a prepared statement. “His broad knowledge of South Jersey issues and politics will enhance the mission and reach of the Hughes Center in the region and the state.”

Froonjian spent 32 years with the Press of Atlantic City newspaper, including covering the State House and serving as an investigative reporter and city editor. He said he hopes to expand the center’s civic engagement activities through panel discussions, candidate debates and more.

“We find inspiration in the record of former Congressman and Ambassador Bill Hughes,” he said in a statement. “He was a national leader on the environment, coastal issues, criminal justice, law, economic development, transportation and so much more. These issues remain vitally important to New Jersey.”

Froonjian has a master’s degree from Rutgers University-Camden and is scheduled to receive his doctorate from Stockton this May.

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Nonprofit Profile: Schools That Can, creating real-world educational opportunities

In brief

Where: Newark; national nonprofit in New York City.
Serving: STC Newark serves 35 schools, part of the nearly 200 district, charter and independent schools from cities nationwide participating in the STC network.
Key member: Erin Sweeney, executive director.


Schools That Can was started over 15 years ago by volunteers and school leaders who wanted opportunities to share K-12 educational best practices across the district, charter and independent school divide. STC Newark was one of the first regional offices and began with three schools.


Expand high-quality, real-world, hands-on learning that prepares students for post-secondary success, makes lessons relevant and makes school fun. Schools complained that education was becoming more about testing and less about allowing students to engage with material.


  • Career Skills: Work with high schools to prepare students for post-secondary career success;
  • Building Real-World Learning: Work with grades K-8 to develop maker space and hands-on opportunities to introduce students to new careers and skills;
  • Professional Learning Groups: Work with teams of educators throughout each city to solve common challenges by implementing school-specific solutions.


STC Newark is a leader in assisting K-12 district, charter and independent schools with expanding real-world learning opportunities for their students. We directly and indirectly serve thousands of Newark students by working with their school leaders and teachers in a variety of programs to build out a culture of real-world learning. 

STC convened a group of school leaders and community members from across the country to create the Real-World Learning Rubric, a tool that helps schools assess their progress in six dimensions of real world learning, ranging from how creatively they use resources to how well schools build and sustain partnerships with area employers to how inclusive their curriculum is of real world examples and hands-on projects.


STC Newark has gone through a period of growth rooted first in more sustainable and diversified fundraising. This included securing new foundation and corporate grants, developing new fundraising events, increasing our individual giving, securing our first government grant and receiving revenue for some of our more specialized programs.


STC has been especially grateful to the Institute for Ethical Leadership at Rutgers Business School — its Prudential Nonprofit Executive Leaders and Victoria Emerging Leaders Fellowships have helped create communities of supportive nonprofiteers, especially from the Newark area. Other resources include the Dodge Foundation’s Board Leadership Program, New Jersey Council on Grantmakers’ events, resources from the New Jersey Center for Nonprofits, training opportunities with the Support Center and legal advice through the ProBono Partnership.


One of the biggest challenges to nonprofits in New Jersey (and specifically in Newark) is saturation. There is often duplication among nonprofit organizations trying to address the same issues in similar ways. This adds to the daily challenge of fundraising. With the saturation of organizations comes an oversaturation of asks being made constantly to corporations and potential individual donors. The competition for limited dollars will always be a reality in the nonprofit sector, but can be even more challenging with the increase in number of organizations. 

Conversation Starter

Reach Schools That Can at:, or 973-262-3123.

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Come together: At Princeton, combining AI with science could change research methods in myriad fields

Princeton University professor and molecular biologist Bonnie Bassler works on bacteria. As she describes them: They’re simple, ancient organisms.

But maybe not as simple as you think.

Because what Bassler and her Princeton research cohort have discovered is that what drives the ability of bacteria to infect us is a surprising level of teamwork and communication.

“So, they wait and they grow — they count their numbers,” she said. “Then they all launch their virulence attack in synchrony so they can overcome host defenses.”

Yet bacteria are simple — single-celled organisms that predate all of the planet’s other organisms.

When Microsoft went looking for a starting point to do biology research faster, that’s where it started. It also started with Princeton, a powerhouse in both biology and computation research.

Microsoft came to the institution with a proposal to be its first academic partner to utilize a platform it calls Station B, an automation, machine learning and cloud computing technology that aims to not only expedite lab workflow, but help extract more information for analysis.

Bassler’s Princeton lab is now partnering with the tech company to more rapidly build artificial DNA constructs that it uses to better understand how bacteria know when they’re alone as opposed to in groups, how they behave differently and how they count their numbers. Among other things, Microsoft’s AI tools may help determine more about the mechanisms behind biofilms, slimy bacterial material that grows on surfaces such as medical stents.

Like most biomedical labs in academic settings, there’s a tenet of research and discovery involved in these studies that stays wise to how it may lead to real-world medicine one day. 

And the potential for lifesaving therapies with this is reason for excitement. Because, if you could disrupt the communication relays involved in bacteria’s ability to infect people, that could open up a new realm of antibiotics, Bassler said. That’s something sorely needed as more resistances develop to the current slate of antibiotic options.

“Everyone wants products, medicine out of this,” Bassler said. “There’s a path that you have to take that we’re on — you make discoveries and, eventually, built on that, the applications get made. With this, hopefully we can make those discoveries faster. Then, ultimately, you may shorten the path to product.” 

Besides having an eye on potential application of enhanced bacterial understanding in the biotech community, Bassler sees a capacity for vastly different scientists to find efficiency in the machine learning and other technological aspects featured in this collaboration.

Just the idea of group behavior being decoded on the primordial level of bacteria might itself have profound implications for scientific fields such as cancer research. Bassler would be hard-pressed to find a discipline this thinking doesn’t permeate.

“I’m a little biased, right? It’s my life’s work,” she said. “But I think my life’s work has gotten really far out of this lab. … And it’s not supposed to just stay in my lab, it’s supposed to go out everywhere. That’s the democratization of science.”

Ned Wingreen, another Princeton professor involved in the project, said physicists such as himself are eager to have easier access to the artificial DNA constructs biologists are capable of assembling today for experiments.

Ned Wingreen, a Princeton University professor, is eager to have easier access to the artificial DNA constructs biologists are capable of assembling today for experiments.

The role of Wingreen and other theoretical types in this project is to come up with models to improve outcomes after the geneticists figure out what reagents go into creating an organism and the computer scientists figure out how a robot can assist in that. 

“One of the most exciting things in biology in the past decade is you can engineer organisms that are different from natural organisms and, therefore, learn how they work,” Wingreen said. “But it turns out that doing that is something of a dark art.”

It takes at least a decade of graduate school and postgraduate education to master the engineering of organisms as Bassler and her student lab associates have, Wingreen added.

“We’re hoping this tames that dark art and puts it in an automated context for someone who did not spend those particular 10 years of their life in a bacterial genetics lab,” he said. “Then people without that background can still ask exciting scientific questions and have the machine generate what’s needed to answer them.”

The end goal is to reduce the overhead required for academic researchers as well as companies doing all sorts of analysis.

As Bassler said, scientists are do-gooders. But her lab — one of the world’s premier bacteriology genetics labs — stands to gain as well. They view a more seamless process as having the potential for transformative progress in their own research projects, too.

When in the highly technical process of building DNA constructs for experiments, Bassler’s lab ends up taking only what works and moves on.

“But there could be patterns in the constructs and clones that don’t work as well,” she said. “The real goal then is to learn more about how and why things work. Maybe by a robot keeping track of all that information and data using machine learning algorithms, scientists going forward can do fewer experiments that don’t work and design experiments that do work even better.” 

So, when that science-fiction reality sets in, when robots are communicating in labs like Princeton’s and completing certain tasks that right now only skilled scientists can perform, Bassler and her team won’t be taking days off. Instead, she plans on moving on to even more exciting work.

“It just unleashes the creativity of the scientists and really has the potential to introduce a fundamentally new way of doing science,” she said. “It can move science forward by a leap. That’s not lost on neither Microsoft nor us, even if we’re still at the beginning of this.”

Conversation Starter

Reach Bonnie Bassler at: or 609-258-2857.

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No mere fill-in: How Centenary’s interim president aims to have lasting effect in short-term job

When David Haney announced his resignation as president of Centenary University in October, the Hackettstown school moved quickly to fill the leadership void … at least temporarily. Board member Rosalind Reichard, herself a former college president, was appointed to the interim post, effective Jan. 1.

Reichard, who retired from Emory & Henry College in Virginia in 2013, had been on the Centenary board of trustees for about five years when she accepted the new challenge. While she told ROI-NJ she is not interested in the full-time job, she expects to guide the school for a year or more, even as it searches for a new leader.

And, while she may be an “interim” president, that does not mean she is not an active one. She shared some of her insights and plans for the college with ROI-NJ:

ROI-NJ: How did a former college president from Virginia become involved with a school in Hackettstown?

Rosalind Reichard: I joined the board of trustees when asked by former President Barbara-Jayne Lewthwaite, who received my name from the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry of the United Methodist Church. I was recommended by this group as a recently retired college president who had been active and effective in working with colleges and universities affiliated with the church.

I agreed to serve because of my deep affection for small, private colleges and universities like Centenary that seriously work to develop students who will make a difference in the world through active service and civic engagement.

ROI: How did you wind up moving from the board to the interim presidency?

RR: I was approached to become interim president by the chair of the board of trustees. I chose to accept the position because the university needed someone with university administration experience, and I care deeply about the institution.

ROI: Are you under consideration for the permanent post?

RR: I am not a candidate for the permanent presidency, because I retired from a college presidency six years ago, and I prefer to continue my retirement, while on an interim basis occasionally helping other colleges and universities who have a compelling mission.

ROI: How do you handle the presidency on an interim basis, then?

RR: In general, the role of an interim president depends on the needs of the particular institution. At Centenary, my role is to continue its development of innovative programs and to strengthen its financial profile.

An interim president must be ready to make changes that position the institution for success, and for new leadership. Examples of this may include restructuring academic programs and university departments. A longer-term president may hesitate to make some decisions because of a concern for maintaining support from all constituents.

ROI: How long do you expect to be on the job? And can you share where the search stands?

RR: I will serve approximately one year, depending on the start date of the new president. An optimal time for an interim president is six months to two years.

On March 21, the board of trustees approved a contract with the Association of Governing Boards to move forward with the search. The search process will be coordinated by a search committee consisting of trustees, faculty, staff and a student. The plan is for the search committee to begin its work in April, with the expectation that the finalists will visit the campus in September and the board will elect the new president at its meeting in October. The start date of the new president will depend on the candidate selected.

ROI: What’s next for you?

RR: When the new president is here at Centenary, I will return to Virginia. I will not serve on the board for at least a year after the new president is selected, (but) I will be available to the new president for advice, if she/he asks for my advice.

Gov. Murphy’s Bill of Rights

In March, Gov. Phil Murphy and Secretary of Higher Education Zakiya Smith Ellis announced their vision for higher ed in New Jersey, including a “Student Bill of Rights” that outlined access and objectives for the state’s students.

Murphy’s plan also included a task force dedicated to supporting the state’s students and a goal of 65% postsecondary attainment by 2025.

Here’s what Centenary University interim President Rosalind Reichard had to say about the plan, and what she sees as Centenary’s role in it:

“Gov. Murphy’s Higher Education Bill of Rights is a helpful and important road map to increase the postsecondary educational achievement of New Jersey’s citizens. Centenary is especially pleased to see the plan support enhanced partnerships and pathways for educational attainment, an area of strength for us. …

“Centenary is a leader in New Jersey in partnering with educational, business and community institutions at all levels to provide multiple educational pathways that are affordable and accessible to students of diverse backgrounds, experiences and learning styles.”

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