A retrospective of President Jebb’s inaugural semester

Photo courtesy of Ramapo College.

President Cindy R. Jebb has nearly completed her first semester as both Ramapo’s fifth president and a member of the college’s community. In an interview with The Ramapo News on Dec. 3, Jebb reflected on accomplishments and promises made this fall, as well as some long-term projects currently in progress.

Under former President Peter Mercer’s administration, Ramapo implemented its first Strategic Plan in 2007, which is a detailed list of goals to further advance the college as an institution. Each plan spans a four-year period, and the 2018 initiative, “Strategic Plan 2018-2021: Fulfilling Our Promise,” has been extended to June 30, 2022 as endorsed by the Ramapo College Board of Trustees on Sept. 27.

Jebb explained that her focus in strategizing for a “bold impact” will comprise of three elements: The Future Series, Needs Statement Process and Campus Master Planning. Its goals, as Jebb elaborated, are to develop a community of trust where all voices are heard and valued. After each invited speaker delivers a talk, the college’s faculty, staff and students will reconvene for a reflections session where ideas from the guest are discussed and localized to Ramapo.

“It's been interesting, because what I'm finding is that there's been consistency in terms of some of the themes that people are reporting now,” Jebb said. “The focus on student leader development, the focus on mentorship, the focus on experiential learning. And what I'm hearing from students is that Ramapo can really contribute in a very powerful way of graduating [as] ethical leaders who are agents of change.”

The set of the Future Series will continue throughout the spring term, concluding on “The Future of Ramapo: Readiness & Resolve.” Whether it will follow the same format as previous talks or be more student and staff driven is still to be determined.

The conversations held throughout these talks will act as data for the administration and thread together the strategic planning processes. Those records will, in part, curate the development and execution of the Needs Statement, a project that allows students, faculty and staff to coordinate a set of campus-related priorities. For instance, a specific center or program could be proposed as necessary additions to the college. Ideas issued will be forwarded to the Cabinet, and prioritized upon their discretion. 

Jebb admits, however, that these goals come at a cost. Finances and overall organization of these projects may impede or prolong any proposals and goals for the college’s wellbeing. Regardless, the ideas considered will come from “the ground up,” Jebb said, which lies at the root of campus communication for subsequent improvements, both internally and externally.

In working alongside Student Government Association (SGA), the conversation of owing the Ramapough-Lenape nation a land acknowledgement has resurfaced, and subsequently been brought to Jebb’s attention. She and Chief Perry recently discussed ways in which the two can partner together, explaining that the land first belongs to the state.

“We're working with the state right now to understand how we are able to do this in a way that's going to be meaningful and has authority,” she said before explaining that she will be meeting with SGA Secretary Danielle Bongiovanni and Sunrise President Miriam Sokolska this week to extend the conversation further.

Jebb’s priorities align with student concerns and overall wellness. Next semester will mark Ramapo’s return to all in-person instruction, with modes of hybrid and remote learning available to select classes. She explained that the provost is currently running a task force to find ways of integrating unexpected benefits of distance learning into in-person pedagogical tools.

The idea of learning acts as a running theme threaded throughout Jebb’s semester, as she had been given opportunities to engage in more vulnerable conversations with students. She cited her State of the College Address as one example, but others were held in more intimate spaces, such as classrooms, SGA meetings and personal phone calls with those in quarantine.

“There is a sense of what's very powerful for the mentoring relationships between students and faculty, between upper class and first-years,” Jebb said. “What I really love about the community [is] it's a caring community. And it's a community that always wants to continually learn and get better.”