R. Barbara Gitenstein, the president of The College of New Jersey, is retiring at the conclusion of the 2017-18 academic year, the Ewing school announced late Tuesday.
When she retires in June 2018, Gitenstein, the first woman to serve as president of TCNJ, will have served in the office for nearly 20 years, the third-longest tenure in school history.
“With deep respect and admiration, the board of trustees has accepted President Gitenstein’s intention to retire,” Board Chair Jorge Caballero said in a prepared statement. “Under Dr. Gitenstein’s leadership, the college has continued to pursue a path of excellence, and we have much to be proud of.”
Gitenstein became president on Jan. 1, 1999.
“This was not a decision I arrived at easily, but the timing is right for the institution, for my family and for me,” Gitenstein said in a statement. “It has been the highlight of my professional career to have served as president of this extraordinary institution.”
Gitenstein said in a news release that the transformation of the college’s academic program that took place early in her presidency, highlighted by new opportunities for student-faculty mentorship, set the foundation for her accomplishments in office.
“We sought to reinforce the relationship between faculty and students,” she said. “Through the transformation, our faculty thought deeply about their research and how they could engage students in it so that students could learn by serving as junior colleagues while conducting research.”
She also talked about her emphasis on four-year graduation rates, which saw TCNJ improve from a 58 percent mark for the Class of 1999 to a 75 percent rate for the Class of 2016. TCNJ ranks fifth nationally among public colleges in four-year graduation rate, according to the release.
“Time to degree matters,” Gitenstein said. “Students who finish in four years will pay less, borrow less and get started in their careers more quickly. State support per degree is less, and graduates begin contributing to the state sooner, both financially and socially.”
During Gitenstein’s presidency, the TCNJ campus has also transformed, with ground broken on six academic buildings, the opening of two residence halls and the renovation of nine others, as well as construction of a new library, renovation of the student center and the completion of the mixed-use Campus Town project.
Gitenstein also led TCNJ through its first comprehensive fundraising campaign, which achieved both its $40 million goal and a $5 million stretch goal.
She also created both an Office of Anti-Violence Initiatives and a Title IX office, and implemented other safety initiatives and training, particularly in the wake of a Department of Education investigation on sexual assault that came to light shortly after her arrival.
“I have been blessed to work with extraordinarily talented leadership teams, faculty and staff,” she said. “Everything that we accomplished, we accomplished together.”
Caballero said board Trustee Susanne Svizeny will chair a Presidential Search Committee comprised of campus stakeholders.
“We look forward to identifying the 16th president of The College of New Jersey to lead us through the institution’s next chapter,” he said.
Gitenstein plans to join AGB Consulting, a Washington, D.C.-based higher education consulting firm, after her retirement.