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Vanguard Series: Leaders in Higher Education

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This edition of NJBIZ's Vanguard Series looks at some of the unsung heroes of higher education in New Jersey.

Among the dozens of profiles by reporter David Hutter include stories about people working on the front lines to uncover the mysteries of science, including brain activity and its role in memory and better understanding the genes that cause cancer.

There are multiple stories of people devising innovative ways so students from low-income and underserved communities can affordably go to college.

And then there’s the tale of the school that was able to pull off the chance-of-a-lifetime experience of getting Bon Jovi to play at its commencement celebration.

All in all, this Vanguard Series section provides an interesting snapshot of many of the developments going on at campuses throughout New Jersey. These are people and accomplishments worthy of note and we are glad to bring them to you.

We hope you enjoy The Vanguard Series: Leaders in Higher Education.


Howard Burns
Editor, NJBIZ

Tara Alvarez
Tara Alvarez
New Jersey Institute of Technology

The director of New Jersey Institute of Technology's Vision and Neural Engineering Laboratory, Tara Alvarez and her collaborators at NJIT and pediatric facilities around the U.S. are developing and testing instruments to detect and treat one of the primary symptoms of concussion, an eye motor disorder known as convergence insufficiency in which the muscles that control eye movements do not coordinate to focus on near objects.

Two colleagues, Drs. Christina Master and Mitchell Scheiman, published a paper in 2017 that found about half of children who suffer a concussion from a sports injury also have convergence insufficiency.

Alvarez and her colleagues created a portable medical device that can be brought to sports arenas to measure the severity of a brain injury.

“We currently have condensed our equipment to a rolling cart, which is currently at Saint Peter's University Hospital and Children's Hospital of Philadelphia to assess our techniques to identify the severity of concussion,” Alvarez said.

“Our equipment is also used at the VA medical center in Albuquerque, N.M., funded through a Department of Defense grant to study veterans who have blast injury,” she added.

Alvarez and colleagues Scheiman, John Vito d'Antonio-Bertagnolli and Chang Yaramothu have formed a company called OculoMotor Technologies Inc. to develop and commercialize their intellectual property to help assess and rehabilitate binocular dysfunctions such as convergence insufficiency.
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New Jersey Institute of Technology

The director of New Jersey Institute of Technology's Vision and Neural Engineering Laboratory, Tara Alvarez and her collaborators at NJIT and pediatric facilities around the U.S. are developing and testing instruments to detect and treat one of the primary symptoms of concussion, an eye motor disorder known as convergence insufficiency in which the muscles that control eye movements do not coordinate to focus on near objects.

Two colleagues, Drs. Christina Master and Mitchell Scheiman, published a paper in 2017 that found about half of children who suffer a concussion from a sports injury also have convergence insufficiency.

Alvarez and her colleagues created a portable medical device that can be brought to sports arenas to measure the severity of a brain injury.

“We currently have condensed our equipment to a rolling cart, which is currently at Saint Peter's University Hospital and Children's Hospital of Philadelphia to assess our techniques to identify the severity of concussion,” Alvarez said.

“Our equipment is also used at the VA medical center in Albuquerque, N.M., funded through a Department of Defense grant to study veterans who have blast injury,” she added.

Alvarez and colleagues Scheiman, John Vito d'Antonio-Bertagnolli and Chang Yaramothu have formed a company called OculoMotor Technologies Inc. to develop and commercialize their intellectual property to help assess and rehabilitate binocular dysfunctions such as convergence insufficiency.
Rutgers University-New Brunswick

As director of the Energy Storage Research Group at Rutgers University, Glenn Amatucci leads faculty, researchers and students in developing and advancing new energy storage device chemistries enabled by advancements in materials science.

“Our staff and students have brought new insights on the specific challenges in order to fully utilize existing state-of-the-art materials utilized in [lithium-ion] batteries today,” Amatucci said. “These challenges occur within the very dynamic nature of the atomic structure of electrode materials used within such batteries, which evolve every time one charges and discharges a battery.”

This effort was conducted through an Energy Frontier Research Center, a nine-year, $25 million U.S. Department of Energy program that assembles a handful of interdisciplinary researchers from across the country.

“The identification of the specific challenges at the atomic level allows one to subsequently design targeted material chemistries, which address these challenges,” Amatucci said. “Once developed, the materials will be adopted by battery manufacturers and incorporated within their products to provide a battery that generates more energy per weight and volume, and lasts longer. As such, the impact is a smaller, lighter battery that can be recharged many more times.”
New Jersey Institute of Technology

Treena Arinzeh, a professor of biomedical engineering at New Jersey Institute of Technology and director of the tissue engineering and applied biomaterials laboratory, recently won a $100,000 grant from Philadelphia's University City Science Center's QED Proof-of-Concept Program.

She will use the grant to help commercialize technology that reduces recovery times and costs associated with bone graft procedures. NJIT also is contributing $100,000 in project funding.

“The bioactive composite matrix is a technology that promotes bone growth,” Arinzeh said. “It's all synthetic, so it's safe and relatively inexpensive as a bone graft substitute that can improve patient outcomes and recovery time.” The innovative work actually started many years ago, when she and others identified specific compositions that promote stem cells to turn into bone cells. Arinzeh's research expertise is in regenerative medicine, where she develops biomaterials that act as scaffolds to support and promote stem cells to turn into different cell types.

The earlier work was supported by the National Science Foundation and further developed and supported by the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation.

“The QED has provided funding so we can conduct preclinical studies to support an application to the FDA for 510(k) clearance,” she said. “The 510(k) clearance is a mechanism that allows for medical devices to be cleared for human use without having to go through extensive clinical trials. We are looking to either license the technology and/or form partnerships with large companies to move the technology forward into the market place.”
William Paterson University

Empathy makes the world a more livable place and Cris Beam, a professor of English at William Paterson University, delves into the subject in her latest book, “I Feel You: The Surprising Power of Extreme Empathy.”
“I noticed more than three years ago empathy was a buzzword,” she said. “… I had spent a lot of time in courtrooms and classrooms and noticed empathy was being discussed. “Babies are born with empathy,” Beam added. “They are born with mirroring instincts. Learning how to stand in another person’s shoes comes later in development. … We believe that people can get better at empathy through modeling.”
“I was writing in the pre-Trump era,” she said. “We have a government who looks unempathetic from the top-down perspective. We have a president who is all about greed. He carries notecards to learn to be empathetic.”
But, Beam says she is wary of corporations teaching empathy.
“When we are shopping online, we buy dog food and an article pops up with an advertisement for dog food,” Beam said. “Corporations are calling it empathetic marketing. Corporations consider empathy a skill that can be monetized.
“We are teaching empathy so we may see a more empathic generation coming up,” she said.
Camden County College

Camden County College students can thank Frank Caranci for saving money: The auxiliary services coordinator not only achieved cost savings by striking a deal with food-service provider Sodexo USA, he also assisted in negotiating a con-tract with bookseller Barnes & Noble that offers more than $10,000 in annual scholarships so students with financial hardships get help buying textbooks.

Caranci also established a shuttle service between the Camden and Blackwood campuses so students can complete their programs and helped establish free parking in the Camden garage.

He said he wants to ease the financial burdens on students, which coincides with the college’s mission to provide a high-quality, accessible and affordable education.

“The high-quality education offered at CCC comes as a package: academic excellence in the classroom along with all the support services to foster education,” Caranci said. “The accessibility and affordability of these support services provide the opportunity for our students to meet their full potential by allowing them to adjust their focus where it needs to be.

“Financial burdens, time constraints and some of the stresses of planning ahead have been lifted with these initia-tives.”
Seton Hall University

Professor Sulie L. Chang, director of neuro-immune pharmacology at Seton Hall University, conducted research to un-lock secrets of the brain to understand addictive substances.

Chang’s work bridges the fields of immunology, pharmacology and neuroscience to explore how systemic infectious diseases modulate the brain-immune axis, possibly leading to opioid- and alcohol-use disorders. Her leadership has unlocked more than $20 million in federal grant funding from the National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation.

Her research uses mouse models showing how binge exposure to ethanol enhances the adolescent animals’ sensitiza-tion to treatment with morphine.

“We have chosen the mouse as the experimental model for our alcohol/opioid studies because this species has been extensively used in the study of human diseases, tissue regeneration and cell differentiation,” Chang said. “The mouse species is suitable for brain research, and will allow us to investigate mechanisms underlying binge drinking leading to opioid use disorder at molecular, cellular and behavior levels.”

One grant from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism examines how binge drinking impairs the body’s ability to repair the blood-brain barrier after damage caused by brain trauma, HIV infection, bacterial diseases and other pathological challenges.
William Paterson University

Bhanu P.S. Chauhan helped spur development of William Paterson University’s new master’s degree in materials chemistry.

Launching in September, it is the first such degree in New Jersey. The program features a research-based curriculum geared to applications in the technology, communication and computer industries.

Chauhan’s research is in nanotechnology, at the heart of materials chemistry, and includes creating new nanomaterials with unique and useful properties.

As he explains: “Nanomaterials are one-billionth of one meter. Nanoscale is close to molecular scale. Nanoscale is a size where the average property of matter has a significant effect on the property of the matter in terms of surface area, size, selectivity and assembly.

“Nanomaterials allow one to create hybrid of systems where one can enhance the advantageous features of compo-nents and create a material which will be unique in property profile. In the case of nanotechnology, you control the outcome by controlling the size, shape, and composition at nanoscale.

“Our work is to make the nanoparticles, which will catalyze new transformations and make existing transformations more efficient. You create a green system in such a fashion so you produce more products and your catalyst is more effective. Your selectivity is increased.

“We are looking at creating a catalyst that will produce the least amount of waste and be selective, will be recyclable, and provide the opportunity to create a new type of transformation.”

Stockton University

Caitlin Clarke, sustainability coordinator at Stockton University, started a trading post on campus in a shed near student housing to offer sustainable shopping through a thread exchange and thrift store.

It also offers camping and tool rentals, and a reskilling workshop series that teaches students how-to functions like changing a tire, making a fire or pitching a tent.

“A professor wanted to do a tool library about renting tools,” Clarke said. “I wanted to keep goods out of the landfill. I wrote an internal grant at Stockton University to pay students to run the shop. I hired three students to work on build-ing the interior of the space, soliciting donations, and we opened in March after spring break.”

“People go through clothes quickly,” she continued. “The clothing industry is pretty unsustainable. A student employ-ee did a workshop on how to make a shopping bag out of an old t-shirt. We have more workshops planned for the fall.

“We did partner with the Wellness Center for the thread exchange for students in gender transition. That was a re-warding partnership. We provide services if students go through a hardship such as losing everything in a fire. I partner with Migrant Worker Outreach to help that population.”
New Jersey City University

Natalia Coleman leads New Jersey City University’s research laboratory and works on understanding the regulation of one of the most commonly mutated genes in cancer.

Working with NJCU undergraduate students, Coleman’s lab has demonstrated that the Ras-GTP concentration in breast, prostate and lung cancer cell lines is significantly decreased by using compounds that block N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors. These compounds already are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for neurodegenerative diseases and can be redirected to the cancer treatments.

“Everyone who one way or another can relate personally to cancer wants to stop it,” Coleman said. “For some time now, my students and I are talking about creating a charity to perhaps be called Generation Without Cancer. As scien-tists, we work on uncovering any useful data on cancer cells involving how these cells operate/proliferate. We main-tain the hope and aspiration that our work might help to bring insight on cancer biology, which could lead to the devel-opment of new viable treatments.”

Coleman credits her NJCU undergraduate students for evaluating the viability of five different cancer cell lines after treatment with different NMDA receptor antagonists.

“We also have preliminary data on Ras-GTP regulation by an NMDA receptor antagonist,” Coleman said. “To draw a solid conclusion, we still have to perform a number of experiments and investigate which downstream modulators are involved in this regulation.”

Coleman believes their research data will provide meaningful insight on Ras signaling in cancer and its link to NMDA receptors.
Camden County College

Melissa Daly oversees and manages the Camden County College Foundation, whose mission is to raise funds to sup-port the college.

In her 14 years at the college, Daly has assisted in providing thousands of students with millions of dollars in scholar-ships.

This past year, the foundation awarded about $250,000 in scholarships and more than $100,000 in funding to other re-stricted programs, including athletics, adult basic skills, allied health programs, lecture series and more.

Daly helped plan and execute the college’s 50th Anniversary Gala in April, which raised more than $130,000 for the foundation.

“It was a great opportunity to plan a large celebration, and the community was very responsive and supportive,” Daly said. “The goal was to raise over $100,000, and we certainly met our goal.”

This is in keeping with the college’s mission: to provide a high-quality, affordable and accessible education.

“A scholarship to Camden County College, which is already incredibly affordable by today’s standards, can make the difference in whether or not someone makes the choice to attend college,” Daly said. “While many students receive financial aid, not all students are eligible, so scholarships are a huge help for that population. A scholarship here can truly be life-changing.”
County College of Morris

As chairman of the Department of Engineering Technologies and Engineering Science at the County College of Morris, Venancio Fuentes oversaw the implementation of an engineering design and advanced manufacturing program with the Morris County Vocational School District.

Students can earn up to 30 credits through the program, and classes already have reached full enrollment for the fall, Fuentes said.

And given its success to date, there are plans to expand offerings. A robotics program is set to begin in 2019.

“We have 120 high school students in these courses,” he noted. “We joined the High Schools United with NASA to Create Hardware program. Our students are making parts that go to the space station. They learn to use machines in the shop. We worked that into the program.”

Fuentes is no stranger to working on projects related to space exploration. Prior to joining CCM, Fuentes worked on one for Kearfott Corp. updating navigation systems for the space shuttle.
New Jersey Institute of Technology

Dale Gary, a professor of physics at the New Jersey Institute of Technology’s Center for Solar-Terrestrial Research and director of the Owens Valley Solar Array, was invited to present his findings on last September’s spate of solar-flare activity at the Triennial Earth-Sun Summit in May in Leesburg, Va.

The primary goal of his research is to understand the basic physical processes that take place in the solar atmosphere, those that lead to powerful bursts of radiation and those that happen as a result of the energy release in the flare.

“The radio observations that we do, using the new capabilities of our instrument, are important because they for the first time directly reveal how high-energy particles at the sun are distributed in space and time,” Gary said. “Knowing where the particles are produced and how they move from there to other regions of the sun is important to under-standing how they eventually escape and propagate to Earth.”

Astronauts traveling to the moon or Mars will be exposed to particles, so NASA will have to work out procedures for protecting these space travelers as well as alerting them when dangerous events occur on the sun.

“Our research can help in forecasting such events, as well as determining how dangerous the event will be once it is underway,” Gary said.
Princeton University

Khristina Gonzalez, Princeton University associate dean and director of programs of access and inclusion, played a leading role in the creation, implementation and management of initiatives to enhance the experience of students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds and historically underrepresented groups.

Gonzalez strives to make sure students from all backgrounds have access to a Princeton education. And this year, Princeton graduated its most socioeconomically diverse class ever.

Based on feedback from students, Gonzalez developed programs designed to provide students with mentorships and connect them with people who could help them achieve their goals. She helped expand the Freshman Scholars Insti-tute, an eight-week academic and co-curricular program for incoming first-generation and lower-income students, and created the Scholars Institute Fellows Program, a four-year mentorship community for historically underrepresented students.

“The key is that we listen to our students about their experiences and use their insight to develop new programs and policies to meet their needs,” Gonzalez said. “Most recently, in addition to the work that we’ve done at Princeton, we’ve partnered with administrators from a group of over 30 other highly selective colleges and universities to share what we’ve learned and develop a set of national best practices for supporting and empowering our students across the country.”
Ramapo College

As director for the Center of Health and Counseling Services at Ramapo College, Judith Green helped secure a nearly $1 million state grant for housing for students who are recovering from drug and alcohol use.

The Roadrunner Collegiate Recovery Program will start in fall 2018, offering a comprehensive program that includes recovery housing for up to 10 residential students and additional resources.

“We have a lot of services in terms of alcohol and other drug prevention,” Green said. “Then-Gov. Chris Christie man-dated that all four-year state colleges needed a drug recovery program by fall 2019 if they had at least 25 percent of students living in residence halls.

“Our allied program will consist of Ramapo College faculty, students and parents who are trained to help students deal with stress in a healthy way, and be cheerleaders for students in recovery,” she said. “They will help work with the counseling center to destigmatize addiction. Having a recovery program fits in line with being stigma-free. Ramapo Col-lege mentors have been in recovery for a long period of time.”
Kean University

Ed Johnston brings history to life through augmented and virtual reality. He has conducted research involving resur-recting historical sites using these technologies.

The assistant professor in the Michael Graves College in the Robert Busch School of Design collaborated with students, faculty and community volunteers to film a 360-degree VR experience of the 1774 wedding of founding father John Jay to Sarah Livingston – daughter of New Jersey Gov. William Livingston – at Liberty Hall on the Kean campus.

“Kean has a rich history tied to Liberty Hall,” he said. “While working on another visualization project related to acces-sibility at the museum, I was walking through the different rooms and we stopped in the Great Hall. Bill Schroh (direc-tor of museum operations at Liberty Hall Museum) mentioned that the wedding had happened in that very same room, and I thought to myself that it would be exciting to recreate that experience in such a way that the audience feels like they are present in that moment.”

Johnston also worked on Augmented Asbury Park, an award-winning project that reconstructed key historic land-marks on the Asbury Park boardwalk. Similar to the Liberty Hall wedding, the free mobile experience allowed users to interact with historic structures from a long-ago era.
The College of New Jersey

Spurring innovation is the reason for Maker Space, an interdisciplinary high-tech prototyping facility that enables stu-dents to design and build products.

John Kuiphoff, an associate professor in the Interactive Multimedia program at The College of New Jersey, weaves technology into his teachings and oversees the facility that features 3-D printers, laser cutters, milling machines, elec-tronics and emerging technologies.

Even with these tools, Kuiphoff considers the most important attribute of this space to be a supportive community that welcomes students with all skill sets and interests to tinker and share knowledge. Kuiphoff wants to expand the space because it attracts students from many different disciplines, and is able to do so in part from a donation from the TCNJ 2021: Bolder, Better, Brighter initiative that enabled it to purchase equipment.

Kuiphoff values students being able to transform an idea into a tangible object.

“A nursing major uses the laser engraver to burn her illustrations onto bone fragments,” he said. “A computer science student used a 3-D printer, electronics and a sewing machine to create the perfect pair of headphones. Two interac-tive multimedia students developed a mixed reality, projection-mapped mechanical pinball machine that bridges the virtual and physical worlds.”
Berkeley College

Matthew LaBrake headed the Virtual and Augmented Reality Task Force that led to the establishment of the Virtual Reality Faculty Interest Group, which integrated VR technology into the Berkeley College curriculum last semester.

A senior director of online library and technology services, LaBrake said he has already seen benefits as students have been more engaged through an experiential learning experience they could not otherwise receive in a traditional classroom setting.

Virtual reality is emerging as a breakthrough technology and LaBrake wants Berkeley students to benefit from it.

“Last year Walmart used VR to train employees in preparation for Black Friday, and states more than 140,000 employ-ees will experience this new training tool by the end of 2018,” LaBrake said. “Students will see this technology in their future careers; providing them with the opportunity to experience it early on could give them an advantage in the job market when they graduate.”

LaBrake cites early research showing a correlation between the use of virtual reality and increased student motivation, inquisitiveness and retention of information. And he sees endless possibilities in preparing students for career success through such things as taking them on a virtual field trip to North Korea, seeing surgery performed from the perspec-tive of a doctor and practicing public speaking techniques in front of a computer-generated audience.
New Jersey Institute of Technology

Eon Soo Lee, an assistant professor in mechanical and industrial engineering at New Jersey Institute of Technology and principal investigator at its Advanced Energy Systems and Microdevices Laboratory, secured a $50,000 New Jersey Health Foundation Innovation Grant to develop a nanotechnology-enhanced biochip.

The biochip will give doctors and patients in a range of health care settings the ability to detect deadly diseases such as ovarian cancer and pneumonia early in their progression.

“This research is targeted to develop innovative biochips to diagnose complex diseases with a simple and accessible way of platforms, and the background technologies range from microfluidics to nanofabrication and biomedical sci-ence,” Lee said. “From a young age, I have long been imagining an innovative scholastic engineer with a heart full of academic enthusiasm, pioneering challenges and an entrepreneurial future. I thought this next-generation healthcare device will be the perfect fit for my direction.”

His next step is securing investors to take the biochip into the marketplace. Lee has started a company called Abonics Inc. to get investors for the technology and help market it with his team members.
Kean University

Jenny Li, a professor of computer science at Kean University, is being honored in 2018 for undergraduate research mentoring from the National Center for Women & Information Technology. Hers is one of four awards given nationally each year.

Li, an accomplished researcher and author who has written papers in technical journals and holds more than 20 pa-tents, has provided support to hundreds of young girls and women in the technology fields. She coordinated the Fourth Annual National Center for Women & Information Technology-NJ’s Aspirations in Computing Awards in April at Kean. More than 100 New Jersey high school and university students were recognized at the event, including two na-tional winners.

“We are trying to encourage women to go into computer science because they are 50 percent of users,” Li said. “… We recognized 30 winners and 16 runners-up in high school and one winner and two runners-up in college. We received nearly 200 applications so we are doing pretty well compared to other states.”

NCWIT relies on industrial sponsors and Li said she hopes to attract more next year.
Princeton University

Yueh-Lin “Lynn” Loo co-founded Andluca Technologies to commercialize the smart window technology developed in her organic and polymer electronic laboratory.

This is one step toward developing solutions to ensure America’s energy and environmental future through her work as director of Princeton University’s Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment.

As the Theodora D. ’78 and William H. Walton III ’74 Professor in Engineering, Loo helped develop a new type of smart window that promises to cut energy costs and make spaces more comfortable.

Her innovation originated from her multiyear research effort and hallmark research paper, “Pairing of near-ultraviolet solar cells with electrochromic windows for smart management of the solar spectrum,” published in July 2017.

“Our team has designed a self-powered smart window that allows the user to control the amount of the light and heat coming into buildings,” Loo said. “Powered by a transparent solar cell developed in our laboratory that sits over the same footprint of the smart window, this technology can increase occupant comfort and decrease energy consump-tion associated with heating, lighting and cooling in buildings.”
Seton Hall University

Judith Lucas, associate dean and associate professor in Seton Hall University’s College of Nursing, has more than 30 years of clinical experience in issues related to community nursing, assisted living and nursing homes, and 20 years of grant-funded research in gerontology with a focus on nursing home care of older adults with dementia.

Lucas conducted research on the inappropriate use of antipsychotic medications in dementia care, utilizing and analyz-ing national data on federal policy changes to address targeted strategies implemented by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services since 2012 to reduce nursing home use of these medications. These reductions have led to sav-ing lives and reducing Medicare spending on antipsychotics.

With her research, publications and presentations at The Gerontology Society of America, the long-term care Division of Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services invited several researchers to participate on national planning calls as they developed their initiative to reduce antipsychotic medication use, publicly report antipsychotic medication use in nursing homes and improve care for persons with dementia.

Lucas has participated on a national panel of nursing experts to evaluate research and develop a toolkit of evidence-based nonpharmacological interventions and educational materials for nurses in long-term care and nursing education as part of a national initiative by the Division of Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
Rutgers University-Camden

Joseph Martin, a professor of biology at Rutgers University-Camden, led a research team that discovered two new bands of high-frequency electroencephalographic activity that could lead to better understanding about brain activity and its role in memory.

Martin said he believes the bands can be useful in clinical measurements of EEG, which doctors use to understand sleeplessness and wakefulness in patients.

Other EEG waves include the well-known lower-frequency alpha waves that were discovered in the 1920s and popu-larized for biofeedback in the 1970s.

“That is something we have in mind to study,” Martin said. “We want to see how aging affects these waves. We do not know for sure how long it will take to apply [research]. Depending on how much funding we get, we will move faster or slower. We are looking for funding and hopefully be able to advance these studies further.”
Raritan Valley Community College

Sheila Meiman directs Raritan Valley Community College’s prison education program, which helps educate those who are incarcerated so they can be productive once they finish serving their sentences.

“The degree within the prison is identical to the degree that students get on campus,” Meiman said. “The classes are the same. The grading is the same. When a person leaves a facility with an associate degree, it is indistinguishable from a degree you get from campus. We have 500 people in prisons who are taking these courses.”

Meiman works with colleagues at Princeton University and Cumberland County College who teach RVCC courses in-side prisons.

“We have also been working under the auspices of the National Science Foundation with Princeton to bring STEM ed-ucation inside the prison in a more robust manner,” she said. “Princeton researchers redesigned their labs inside the prison walls.”

Instructors teach business law, French, Spanish, American Sign Language, history, literature and appreciation of the arts. About 75 percent of incarcerated students have at least a 3.0 grade point average, she said.

Prisoners previously were prohibited from being admitted into the international honor society Phi Theta Kappa. But in a significant achievement, a group of on-campus RVCC students successfully lobbied to get those admittance rules changed.
Rowan University

Dr. Jocelyn Mitchell-Williams leads Cooper Medical School of Rowan University’s efforts in building a learning commu-nity where diversity is encouraged and celebrated. br/>
As associate dean for diversity and community affairs, Mitchell-Williams has established programs that support young-er students in the study of science and medicine – specifically those from underrepresented and disadvantaged back-grounds – and other student-led learning initiatives that are providing nonmedical services to Camden residents. br/>
JUMP High, which happens one Saturday per month during the academic year, enables local high school students who excel in math and science to visit the medical school for a day of hands-on learning from med students. It serves as a feeder program for Premedical Urban Leaders Summer Enrichment (PULSE), a six-week summer program for under-graduate students who are interested in pursuing health care professions. br/>
“This past May, two Camden natives graduated from CMSRU,” Mitchell-Williams said. “They would not necessarily have been in our medical school had it not been for our program. There are so many students who come from disad-vantaged backgrounds. We are giving opportunities to so many students. br/>
“We have connections with so many community organizations,” she continued. “We want to give these students the background that they do not necessarily have. They are getting something from this and giving their time back to the community. We are helping their academic portfolio. These are lessons they take with them.”
Kean University

David Mohney, dean of Kean University’s Michael Graves College, is overseeing a project to expand the school’s cam-pus in Wenzhou, China.

Wenzhou-Kean University opened in 2012, the brainchild of Kean President Dawood Farahi.

“Over the last year we finished a new business school, faculty housing [and] an expansion of dormitories that will add 2,000 beds that will be completed in September 2019,” Mohney said. “We began the construction of buildings in archi-tecture, design and computer science that [also] will be completed in September 2019.”

“The issue for the Chinese is that many of their best high school graduates go to Western universities,” he added. “Kean University supplies the faculty and the programs, and the provincial and municipal government provides the administration to run the campus.”

Wenzhou-Kean University boasts a growing enrollment, now at 2,000 students, most of whom are Chinese. They are being taught in English. The Middle States Commission on Higher Education has granted permission to Wenzhou-Kean to grow to 10,000 students.

Elsewhere among Mohney’s current priorities at Michael Graves, he is leading the five design and architecture pro-grams on the two Kean campuses with the goal of engaging the public in a meaningful way, raising public expectations about the quality of the designed environment so that his students are leaders in this effort.
Saint Peter’s University

Mary Kate Naatus, KPMG dean of the School of Business at Saint Peter’s University, was the founding director of the Ignite Institute, which works with nonprofit Rising Tide Capital Inc. to provide thought leadership, academic research, workshops, panels and entrepreneurial training.

“We were part of the Local Living Economy Summit, which was hosted to bring together local government leaders and real estate developers,” Naatus said. “We received funding support from [Jersey City] developer Silverman. We brought together anchor institutions and tried to curate a day of panels to identify the biggest challenges and prob-lems from the perspective of all stakeholders and devise an action plan.”

Within the last year, the institute received funding from PSEG and Investors Bank. Students go through a technical boot camp, learning website development, analytics, social media marketing and development of e-commerce plat-forms.

“They are interested in joining our master’s program because they understand consumer behavior from an analytical and psychological perspective,” she said.

Naatus also credits efforts by Saint Peter’s University President Eugene Cornacchia and Joseph Gilkey, the previous director of Ignite.
Stevens Institute of Technology

As an industry professor at the Stevens Institute of Technology and a practicing architect in Hoboken, John Nastasi fo-cuses on sustainability and resiliency in his teachings and architectural work.

Those areas have taken on a heightened emphasis since Superstorm Sandy devastated the East Coast in 2012, he not-ed.

“Our SU+RE House project kicked this effort off and has led to a series of projects, most notably, The Candela Lofts in Hoboken,” Nastasi said. “Candela is the first multifamily luxury condominium project in the United States to achieve Passive House Certification. With an energy consumption of 91 percent less than a typical condominium building, we are pioneering how people will live in coastal communities in both urban settings and shore communities.”

That kind of innovation is particularly practical in New Jersey, the most densely populated state in the U.S.
Fairleigh Dickinson University

Jessica O’Brien, associate dean of students for union and campus engagement, scored a coup for Fairleigh Dickinson University when she helped snag a very special Bon Jovi concert for the campus that garnered national attention.

With O’Brien leading the way, Fairleigh Dickinson won a nationwide contest to have Bon Jovi perform at the school’s 2017 commencement celebration.

“We entered it on a whim, then we started to generate steam,” O’Brien said. “It came down to us and Siena College. … We ended up winning but we had to keep it a secret until commencement.

“We were on ‘Good Morning America.’ It was a big deal and many networks across the United States covered it. I have had the pleasure of working thousands of events in my career. This was one of the most memorable events and it put FDU on the map.

“It was in every newspaper – regional and national newspapers,” she continued. “It was our 75th anniversary, so it was perfect timing.”
Rutgers University-Camden

Teaching Spanish and English to preschoolers opens a world of possibilities.

Silvia Perez-Cortes, an assistant professor of Spanish at Rutgers University-Camden, helped implement a pioneering bilingual preschool program at St. Anthony of Padua School in Camden.

“By exposing children to multilingualism from an early age we provide them with the opportunity of intellectual as well as emotional growth, which eventually leads to a better understanding of our increasingly diverse society,” Perez-Cortes said. “The program is thriving at the preschool level and will be implemented at the kindergarten level this fall. The plan is to expand it to new grades every year.”

U.S. Census Bureau data show 13.1 percent of Americans speak Spanish, making it the second most commonly spoken language in the U.S. behind English.

Perez-Cortes became involved in the bilingual project through the Office of Civic Engagement, which is led by Nyeema Watson, and attended an annual breakfast that connects community partners with professors who want to use their expertise. She met several members of the Catholic Partnership Schools, who were working to start the bilingual pro-gram.

For her efforts, Perez-Cortes earned a 2018 Rutgers-Camden Chancellor’s Award for Civic Engagement.
Thomas Edison State University

Stephen Phillips has spent the last year developing a customized competency-based education program at Thomas Edison State University that combines a self-directed learning experience with personal coaching.

With an eye toward launching in 2019, the program will help assess students’ level of progress in their newly acquired competencies rather than only grading them with a letter. The associate director for the Center for the Assessment of Learning, Phillips sees value in students being given an overview of their competencies as they seek employment.

For example, a student takes an accounting class, earns a “B,” learns to prepare a profit and loss statement, a balance sheet and a ledger.

Thomas Edison State then pairs students with experts who provide administrative and subject matter support.

“The coach tells the students their competencies,” Phillips said. “The student is given an escalating level of interaction with the faculty. We give the student more of a chance to move forward and give them credit for their work. Once they finish the program, we will provide them with two transcripts.”
Rowan College at Gloucester County

Michael Plagianakos has helped spearhead programs in cooperation with the main campus of Rowan University to ex-pand college accessibility and affordability. Now, more students can earn a higher education without being burdened with debt.

Rowan Choice enables students to receive the full university experience at a reduced price. While living on Rowan’s main campus in Glassboro, students take classes at Rowan College at Gloucester County, save up to $10,000 for their first year of college and have the option to continue for a second year.

Another program, Rowan 3+1, offers even more savings on select majors for students not seeking a residential expe-rience. Students complete their first three years of coursework at RCGC and their fourth year at Rowan, earning a Ro-wan University bachelor’s degree for less than $30,000.

“These programs were created as a way for students to earn their degrees without a mortgage payment on their backs when they graduate,” Plagianakos said. “I envision the future of the students who take advantage of these pro-grams to be as close to debt-free as we can get them, with the opportunity to pursue careers or graduate degrees un-encumbered by loan debt, and hopefully achieve their dreams, both personally and professionally.”
Rutgers University School of Nursing-Camden is working with the Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine on the Geriatric Workforce Enhancement Program, which aims to educate students about care for older adults.

They are working at Northgate II, an apartment complex in North Camden that’s home to many senior citizens. The partnership provides the opportunity for students to understand critical concepts in health care.

“The faculty involved in the project have developed a system of mentorship for each student participant in order to ensure sustainability of the project,” said Marie O’Toole, senior associate dean of the Rutgers School of Nursing-Camden (pictured above). “No one profession or discipline has all of the knowledge and skills necessary to solve com-plex health care issues – especially in the elderly.”

The partnership is made possible by Elyse Perweiler at the Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine, pharma-cist Staci Pacetti, registered nurses Renee Cantwell and Margaret Avallone, and Northgate II’s Director of Social Ser-vices Marilyn Mock.
Seton Hall University

David Sabatino, an associate professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Seton Hall University, has produced groundbreaking research in the fight against cancer.

“Our biggest achievements over the course of the past year have been related to two critically important areas of can-cer research, namely gene therapy and immunotherapy,” Sabatino said. “In the area of gene therapy, we have devel-oped synthetic RNAs that target oncogenes in endometrial, breast, prostate and cervical cancers as well as in multiple myeloma leading to potent suppression of their expression, which ultimately resulted in potent cancer cell death ef-fects. Our cancer immunotherapy approach involves the generation of small, synthetic immunostimulatory peptides that function to boost our immune responses against targeted tumors, including liver cancers.”

Sabatino and colleagues were awarded a small research grant award last year from the National Cancer Institute based on their research in cancer immunotherapy.

“This was partly based on our research accomplishments with immunostimulatory peptides and we partnered with colleagues at Hackensack [University Medical Center] to develop a translational approach for applying them in cancer cell lines as well as in tumor-bearing animal models,” Sabatino said. “The latter is an important requirement in the po-tential clinical utility of our treatment strategy, which is the ultimate goal of our research mission.”
William Paterson University

Jim Samuel, a professor of marketing and management at William Paterson University, was the driving force behind the creation of a master’s degree in applied business analytics that launches in September, thanks to industry research and curriculum development he spearheaded.

Addressing global demand for professionals with advanced analytical skills to manage big-data issues, the program’s curriculum is unique in its interdisciplinary approach, requiring courses in math, computer science, statistics and busi-ness. Electives allow specialization in areas such as operations, marketing or finance.

“WPU College of Business spent a lot of time brainstorming this program, asking who is WPU?” Samuel said. “We took a look at what is happening at New Jersey colleges in terms of analytics. That framed our understanding of WPU as machine learning. We concluded there is a huge need in applied business analytics, which is not being touched upon. There are no other universities that offer this kind of program.

“On the market side we identified a huge need in the marketplace. We want to prepare our graduates to lead the workforce,” he continued. “Our approach was a closer-to-the-ground reality. What is it that will get our graduates em-ployed? Analytics as a domain can be applied anywhere: biosciences, the stock market, social studies. The greatest need we sensed is in the area of applied business analytics – managers who need to apply analytics to such areas such as machine learning. This curriculum is relevant to the workplace for at least a decade so graduates can hit the ground running.”
Stockton University

Sgt. Tracy Stuart of Stockton University’s police department spent a year organizing the 2018 National Detector Dog Trials, which the school hosted.

The event brought about 100 officers and their K9 partners to the Stockton campus for explosives-, drug- and cadaver-detection competitions. Not only did Stuart run the multiday event, but she and her K9 partner, Hemi, a chocolate lab, won first place for explosives detecting, earning them and Stockton national recognition.

“Stockton K9 team are members of the United States Police Canine Association. It provides us with training and net-working opportunities,” Stuart said. “Safety is the utmost concern. We believed that it would provide a positive out-come. The main crux is hosting this event provided a forum to showcase our university and Atlantic County. I wanted to help our organization set a high bar for this kind of competition and to have exceptional venues for lodging and eat-ing. Ninety-nine percent of events took place on campus. I took pride in the administration of the department and the school supporting us.”

Stuart likes to interact with people, allowing them to see Hemi.

“They can pet my lab. He is super social,” she said. “They miss their dogs. It is amazing the effect that my lab has on people. In today’s climate it is all about safety. … In today’s climate, our K9 is a deterrent for someone who is planning not necessarily a positive thing. Hemi is celebrity status. He is law enforcement you can rely on.”
Ramapo College

Sandra Suarez is director of Ramapo College’s Upward Bound Math-Science Program, a federal TRIO program funded by the U.S. Department of Education that assists low-income and first-generation college students from Paterson pub-lic high schools by providing them with skills necessary to pursue college education in science, technology, engineering and math.

Students spend six weeks living on the Ramapo campus taking courses in science, math, language arts, computer skills, foreign language and problem-solving skills.

“We are giving them information about college,” Suarez said. “They get one hour of tutoring every day. We are putting them in groups of like-minded students and push the pace to try to close the achievement gap. I am trying to expand their horizons and build their cultural capital.”

The students take field trips related to science, history and the arts.

“We are trying to push their work ethic so they know how college is going to be,” Suarez said. “We focus on character development paired with academic skills.”

Her goal, she said, is for students to earn a bachelor’s degree in a STEM field within six years of finishing the program.
Montclair State University

Amy Tuininga, the director of the PSEG Institute for Sustainability Studies at Montclair State University, oversees the Green Teams Program, a rapidly expanding initiative that gives students the opportunity to solve real-world sustaina-bility problems for New Jersey companies.

The Green Teams Program is a paid internship opportunity through which students learn about sustainability problems posed by a corporation, local business or governmental agency. The PSEG Institute for Sustainability Studies supports transdisciplinary research and community projects.

“Students – not just at Montclair State University, but from schools throughout New Jersey – gain relevant experience working on teams, serving corporations, municipalities and nonprofits while engaged in PSEG ISS Green Teams and other programs such as the Work to Succeed program,” Tuininga said. “When they graduate, they are then well posi-tioned to obtain gainful employment [and] as a result … they [can] apply the sustainability tools they now have in their toolkit.”

Tuininga makes sure these students are also better prepared and achieve success with their graduate and professional school applications. In this way, she is providing practical experience and building a bridge between classrooms and careers.
Rutgers University-New Brunswick

Liping Zhao, a Rutgers University-New Brunswick professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology, has formulated interventions integrating traditional Chinese medicine and medicinal foods into modern-day diets to mod-ulate the relationship between gut microbiota and humans for achieving preventive health care.

Gut microbiota is a complex community of micro-organisms that live in the digestive tracts of humans and other ani-mals.

“Microbes in the human gut provide many functions that are important for human health,” Zhao said. “A notable ex-ample is that some gut bacteria are able to ferment nondigestible carbohydrates in our diet, such as dietary fibers, to produce short-chain fatty acids.”

A deficiency of short-term fatty acids has been associated with several diseases, including type 2 diabetes.

“We published a study in science and reported the connection between gut microbiota changes and the effects on blood glucose and metabolic health of a high-fiber intervention in patients with type 2 diabetes,” Zhao said. “We ran-domized patients to treatment or control group. The control group received standard patient education and dietary recommendations. The intervention group was provided with a diet similar to the controls, plus a large amount of die-tary fibers with diverse structures and properties.”

The result: “Throughout the 12-week treatment, the intervention group experienced more significant and faster im-provement in blood glucose control, greater weight loss and better lipid profile, compared to the controls,” Zhao said.

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