After four summits of Ramapo’s Future Series, students, faculty and staff gathered to discuss the present campus climate and ways in which tools learned from past programs can be implemented at the college.
The president’s staff led the event, Future of Ramapo: Readiness & Resolve, in the Alumni Lounges on April 8. Working from previous installments of the series, this rendition reviewed the institution’s prioritization of mentorship, ethical leadership and affording students the space to think both differently and critically.
“We should continue to build upon [the Ramapo degree’s] excellent value and make it even better,” President Cindy Jebb said. “So that people know we’ve talked about this, the importance not to be hidden, but to be out there in ways that we can do that because at the end of the day, it benefits our students.”
Each installment of the Future Series begins with a talk followed by a group activity, prompting all attendees to work collaboratively. This program asked participants to answer how Ramapo can strengthen its performance both academically and socially, with special emphasis on collective passions and resources.
Throughout the pandemic, Ramapo has been met with challenges as pedagogical conventions shifted twice. In a virtual classroom, students and faculty struggled with learning and social development deficits. The college moved fully in-person this spring, though the return was, at times, a cumbersome adjustment.
“I think we really have to understand as we think about the future where our students are struggling,” Chris Romano, vice president for enrollment management and student affairs, said. “Moving back to in-person is a challenge for them. Transitioning from remote to engagement is a real challenge and we’re finding students are struggling with interpersonal communication, how to deal with one another, how to deal with faculty, how to deal with staff.”
At the same time, however, Ramapo has improved its attractiveness to prospective first-year students. As a younger college, Ramapo benefits from growing their degree programs as it places them in fairer competition against older institutions that have long established the breadth of their disciplines and courses.
As of last year, enrollment levels have increased to 10% amongst graduate students, Romano cited. The college’s 4+1 programs are available for majors like accounting and business, where undergraduates can complete their master’s degree in their fifth year of study, and 25% of those currently in these fields indicated that they will finish the program.
“If we think about the future of Ramapo, we also think about who’s going to be coming to Ramapo and the demographics of the students that are applying and visiting and soon to be our students are significantly different than they were years ago,” Romano said.
Currently, Ramapo has been seeing an increase of first-generation students, and last year 50% of applicants identified as non-white. Though the student body is predominantly white, there has been an upward trend of more diverse enrollment over the past five years.
“We’re looking to build community, to foster inclusion… it’s really important, not just to our students, but to our faculty and staff,” Nicole Morgan Agard, Chief Equity and Diversity Officer, said. “We’re working hard on trying to get it in place and hopefully have a Multicultural Center to support our underrepresented students as of the fall semester.”
Equity and diversity training are compulsory for all incoming first-year and transfer students, as well as professional faculty and staff. In doing so, the college aims to curate a sense of belonging and group advocacy amongst students and employees.
“We talked about the importance of equipping and empowering. We talked about the importance of having a culture of dignity and respect. We need accountability,” Jebb said.
The work to bring Ramapo to its utmost potential is not one that can be done alone or in part. Rather, the success of the college’s future relies on a shared commitment to Ramapo’s values as an educational space and one that pushes for trust and social responsibility.
“This is all hands on deck. Everyone has a stake in the success of this institution because our mission really is important,” Jebb said. “Our students matter. In the way we invest in our future is investing in our students.”
Photo by Emily Melvin.