Campus expansion and safety lead discussion at University Assembled

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On Wednesday, April 3, students, faculty, and staff made the trip to Eynon Ballroom despite the elements for University Assembled. President Dr. Ali Houshmand and his team discussed the rapid growth of the university, the university’s ambitious goals regarding online learning, and new developments regarding the facilities here at Rowan.

Houshmand started off the assembly by certifying the graduates for our spring semester, with over 5,500 students set to graduate next month.

When President Houshmand first arrived at Rowan in 2006, the enrollment was about 9,000 students. There has been immense growth since, with enrollment almost tripling over the past 18 years, leaving the university currently at 22,795 students, including undergraduate, graduate, and professional students. This growth is only going to continue, with estimated enrollment by 2028 being 29,000 and by 2033, 38,500. 

Some students already believe that the current enrollment on campus has caused an urgency for expansion that won’t be coming until after they graduate.

“It’s definitely crowded here on campus, you see the streets. There are points during the day where it’s absolute anarchy when most classes are out,” said Max McDaniel, a freshman student.

President Houshmand has a goal of creating one of the most advanced technological and overall top universities in the nation, so it’s necessary to continue expansion on campus for the sake of complementing the growing rate of enrollment.

Delays can occur in the expansion of the campus, as the Chamberlain Student Centers expansion is finally set to be completed and opened this September after multiple delays arose during the process. 

“We want to build everything that we do, whether its infrastructure, buildings, facilities, classrooms. We really need to invest in this so we do not fall behind because the rate of change can be beyond our predictions,” said Houshmand.

Expansion beyond the campus in Glassboro is on the way, including a $75 million fossil park and museum, the $125 million new school of veterinary medicine, $50 million for the adjoining Virtua Health College Research Center on the West Campus, and a $9 million building for Rowan Medicine Center-Cumberland in Vineland.

Beyond the prioritization of improving the campus’s infrastructure, the relevance of keeping the campus safe and students safer is also an important topic, especially for President Houshmand.

Some students feel they are safe on campus, while others feel otherwise.

“I can say confidently that I feel safe on campus. You can go to any university in the state and there’s always some potential risk, that’s always how it’s going to be,” said freshman Cross McMahon.

Some students feel however as if the attention from the police tends to go to the wrong places.

“I think our campus is pretty safe. However, I feel that the police department is sometimes focused on the wrong issues such as busting frat parties, they’re always happening and students deserve to have fun on the weekends,” said sophomore Ricky Axelsson.

Houshmand intends to make public safety a top priority, in any expansion on and off campus. 

“Public safety is truly number one, every student is my priority, there is no worry about budget compared to protecting our students as we build infrastructure,” said Houshmand. 

Incorporating Direct to Employer and Direct to Learner necessities for students that will better equip them during their time on campus and beyond is also an important concept, which will lead to helping students shift from college into the workforce more efficiently. Houshmand’s goals are to “build the engine that works with employers to train and educate into the workforce.” 

“I think there’s something for anyone’s aspirations here at Rowan, so stuff like this will be very beneficial in the long run for all kinds of kids,” Axelsson said.

Vice President of Division DEI Penny McPherson also spoke on some of the changes that are coming for DEI, Rowan’s Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. 

Some changes include the filling of some of their important positions going forward, along with the ongoing search for individuals to fill positions for the Office of Social Justice, Inclusion, and Conflict Resolution. Earlier this year, DEI was in a state of transition as three managers had moved on to new opportunities. With the support from President Houshmand, a task force was requested to be put together to further set goals on where DEI wants to improve.

“We are in a stage of rebuilding and reimagining who we are as DEI,” McPherson said. 

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