Being Who We Are and Proud of It

When I was in graduate school, my faculty advisors were eager to see me pursue a faculty position at a research university. I had some publication and scholarly presentation success as a graduate student, and my dissertation, Academic Entrepreneurship in Higher Education: Institutional Effects on Performance of University Technology Transfer, was a hot topic at the time as many universities were seeking to be the one who commercialized or spun off the next Gatorade, Google, or cure for cancer.


My choice for a first academic job following graduate school, however, was at Indiana State University, a regional state institution. My professors couldn’t quite understand why I would choose to work at a university that valued teaching before scholarship, and where they perceived my ability to publish in competitive outlets and land large grants would be harder.


Whereas I was comfortable with that choice (which did not, as it turned out, hurt my scholarly productivity and grants attainment), what I hadn’t anticipated was how pervasive a sense of being “less than” permeated the institution. What I commonly heard was, “Well, we aren’t IU or Purdue.” Yet, we weren’t sure who “we” were, a common challenge of regional state universities. For some, we aspired to be more research oriented like our sister regional Ball State. For others, we aspired to be instructional innovators, seeking to place good teaching at the top of our food chain like some regional state institutions, particularly those that enrolled large numbers of historically underrepresented or marginalized students.


Regional state institutions commonly struggle with identity, precisely because they aren’t generally sure who they are, and thus coordinating energy can be more challenging. Since arriving at William Paterson, what I most commonly hear has been twofold, namely “Rutgers gets all the attention and most of the money, and why can’t we be more like Montclair?” There is often pointing to this or that choice that we did or did not make in the past, typically framed from a belief that what Rutgers or Montclair did or does is something we should do too.


This particular topic is on my mind because I recently attended the inauguration of Jonathan Koppell, the new president at Montclair. Wearing my orange tie proudly, and my own bling on my gown, and sandwiched between the presidents of Kean and TCNJ for 3.5 hours, I learned a lot. First, Montclair does have a lot to be proud of and at some level there is envy by others. Second, we aren’t Montclair and shouldn’t try to be. We are William Paterson. But who are we exactly? Here are just a few thoughts:


  • A university with no mega classrooms.
  • A university with a year-long, cohort-based integration mechanism called Will. Power. 101 and 102.
  • Likely the fastest-growing university in New Jersey enrolling adult students.
  • Likely the largest producer of nurses in the state once the national data comes out later this year.
  • Likely the institution in New Jersey that closed student achievement gaps between white students and students of color the most this past year.
  • Damn scrappy and proud of it.

At Indiana State, the sense of inferiority disappeared the moment we experienced enrollment growth for the first time in years, driven by a strategic plan that put students first. It generated excitement. Our WP Strategic Plan, just approved by the Board of Trustees, our new Student Success Team approach, our “how” branding to be integrated with our new marketing firm as mentioned by the President in his Monday message, and a new and expanded team in Admissions, position us well for growth. But it will take effort and coordinated action. In Academic Affairs, I am excited to work with departments, colleges, and the Faculty Senate on such things as certificate opportunities, expanded free materials in courses, faculty as mentors, teaching innovation, and ensuring our program array is well-aligned with student needs, among other efforts. And, by the way, I hear what Montclair fears is what we have achieved with 2000-plus new students enrolled in our online programs who otherwise would not be here, a growing number of whom have some college and no degree—exactly the group the state most wants addressed.

Academic News

Academic Affairs Presentation Recording and PowerPoint. The presentation by Provost Powers and the deans of Business, Education, Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, and Science and Health on September 9 is available on the Provost’s Office website, along with some valuable materials on the four pillars of the Strategic Plan.


Wellness Day – October 13. The first annual Wellness Day experience will be held on Thursday, October 13. There are no classes scheduled on this day and all faculty and staff are invited to participate in a mix of in-person and online workshops and activities. The focus is on our wellness as well as that of our students. Information is posted to the Provost’s Office website.


What Works Conference, Monday, December 12. The second annual What Works for Student Success Conference will be held on December 12. More information will be coming soon, including a call for proposals. Details will be posted to the Provost’s Office website.


New Bachelor’s in Social Work Provisionally Approved to Move Forward. We are pleased to relay that the new Bachelor’s in Social Work is formally underway thanks to provisional approval by its accrediting agency. Considerable interest exists among students in this program and it is well matched for our mission.

Fact and Figures from Fall 1 Census

+3.8 percent: WP freshmen cohort retention rate increase.


1.5-2.0 percent: A good annual increase in retention for a university our size.


104: The reduction in the number of students who left WP prior to obtaining their degree between this year and last year (i.e., our attrition went down).


+2.6 percent: The increase in the six-year graduation rate.


Congratulations, everyone!


From the 1937-38 Paterson State Teachers College Bulletin (the oldest catalog found in the Cheng Library archives):


What Our Students Need Through the College’s Educational Programs


  1. To attend a college where tuition and fees are low.
  2. To live at home, thereby saving a large portion of college expense.
  3. To maintain home and community associations while at the same time making new contacts with high school graduates within a large area.
  4. To receive the benefit of close personal contacts with faculty members.
  5. To find or continue local employment, or to continue home duties.
  6. To take advantage of excellent opportunities for the development of leadership through student activities.

The Provost’s Office is Lissette, Claudia T., Claudia C., Jonathan, Kara, Sandy, and Josh. You can reach us at 973.720.2122 • [email protected]

Office of the Provost | 973.720.2122 | [email protected]