Rowan recovery and return

Rowan recovery and return

Dear University Community,

Video message from Dr. Ali Houshmand“We did it!” The exclamation point in that phrase could be multiplied by dozens and it still wouldn’t come close to conveying how proud and grateful I am at the end of this academic year. And by academic year, I mean the many months of achievements and successes that we had since late last summer, including:
  • being named the nation’s fourth fastest-growing public research university
  • earning U.S. News & World Report recognition among the nation’s best publics (#79), best among all national institutions (#166), best for veterans (#121), best value (#120), best for undergraduate engineering (#21) and best for undergraduate business (#260).
  • increasing Rowan’s tally of prestigious Fulbright, Goldwater and Boren and NSF CAREER award winners
  • forming historic research partnerships with agencies and institutions in India and Israel
  • winning the New Jersey Athletic Conference Cup for overall excellence for the third time in four seasons
As you can see, it’s important that we remember what preceded mid-March 2020—and keep in mind that the accomplishments above are just highlights of so much more that we did together. For all of it, I offer great thanks to our University community (this video recaps my appreciation and thoughts about the future). Because we started the academic year with our reliable vigor and focus, we were able to adapt, innovate and finish strong, even while distanced from each other, our campuses and all that we knew as routine work and life.

Pride points since mid-March
The global pandemic has demanded change virtually everywhere. The shift to remote instruction and work changed a lot about Rowan, but it didn’t change our commitment to excellence, to collaborate and to serve. Our faculty and professional staff continued teaching and mentoring. Our managers and support staff maintained business operations, technology and facilities. Rowan student and professional nurses, engineers, counselors, physicians, teachers and crisis management professionals responded to great need. And I am especially proud of our students’ and staffs’ diligent work to provide life-saving devices and service amid the COVID-19 pandemic, including:
  • intubation shields, sanitizing solution and facemasks to protect health care professionals
  • community testing to diagnose COVID-19 infections
  • Rowan Medicine physicians providing health care services in-person and through TeleHealth, and keeping the public informed and up to date
  • Rowan experts consulting on statewide public health response and recovery teams to bring New Jersey back, healthy and vibrant, stronger and more resilient than ever.

Planning for the new academic year
I’ve said many times in the last several weeks that without students, our campuses are just a collection of lifeless buildings. While uncertainty remains a big factor for late summer and fall schedules, we do know that students—both new and returning—want to be at Rowan. Enrollment numbers, applications and interest in housing continue to be high. It is too early to say how we will welcome students back, but I am eager to do so.

This is what we know:

Health and safety

  • We will follow the state’s reopening plan.
  • Safety is our priority. We are responsible to care for each other. We must and will protect the most vulnerable among us.
  • We will have capacity to conduct testing for COVID-19 in collaboration with our county public health and private partners.
  • Fall 2020 will be unusual. We are preparing for all living and learning scenarios. We have teams working on every aspect of reopening, from academics to housing to student life.
  • Monitoring the health of the community is key. This may include checking in at events and tracking individuals’ temperatures each day. We are creating a training course for people to learn how to become contact tracers.
  • As long as state and federal guidelines permit, we are planning to offer all formats: face-to-face, remote and hybrid formats — ensuring safe delivery of experiential in-person courses and also providing options for those wishing for remote delivery and hybrid.
  • Our academic team will continue planning and revising throughout the summer to help ensure a smooth semester start for instruction, advising, research, academic activity and events.
  • Quality and access remain our priorities. We will not sacrifice them, nor will we burden students with the costs to maintain them as we recover from the pandemic.
Institutional imperatives
  • We will continue to communicate regularly to keep the Rowan community and public informed as much as we are able amid the unknown.
  • We will make decisions with science and medical information, with compassion and with determination to lead in the public’s best interests.
  • We will remain committed to serving New Jersey and being the economic engine of the region. This may be the most trying and challenging part of exhibiting leadership in recovery. However, we will do it so that generations to come will find in Rowan University the means to better themselves and their families and improve the world around them, especially in unforeseen and difficult times.
Difficult finances
  • We have long been a higher education leader, partly because of our fiscal strength, public-private partnerships and the independence we have developed by increasing alternate sources of revenue and support. This leadership pace may slow down a bit, but it will continue.
  • We are reducing expenses throughout the institution by putting on hold for the immediate future nearly everything that is unrelated to our core mission to educate and serve students. Every budget expense is being scrutinized. And, except for a few instances, hiring is halted, as well as major facilities projects, organizational changes that incur expense and professional travel, among other items.
  • Rather than raise tuition and fees at the inflation rate, we are freezing them at last year’s level.
  • We will end this fiscal year with an estimated $33 million shortage in revenue because of cuts in state funding and the room and board refunds/credits we issued to students, among other things. We expect to enter FY21 in July with further pressure on the state from the lack of tax revenue. It is likely our state support will drop precipitously.
  • We are modeling various budget scenarios that range from temporary reductions to long-term austerity.
  • We will do more with less.
  • We will continue to build confidence in Rowan University.
  • We will be good neighbors, partners and stewards of the public trust, always seeking to make this world a better place, equipping and encouraging others to join us.
Thank you for your continued support. At the end of this unprecedented era, I look forward to saying once again, “We did it!” Together. And, again, with gratitude and pride.

Very truly yours,

Ali A. Houshmand, Ph.D.