Koppell, highly regarded Arizona St. dean with roots in area, is named next president at Montclair State

When you consider the long list of accomplishments Jonathan Koppell accumulated as the dean of the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions at Arizona State University, it isn’t hard to see why he quickly moved to the top of Montclair State University’s wish list for its next president.

During his decadelong tenure, Koppell:

  • More than doubled the enrollment of Watts, helping to make it the nation’s largest comprehensive public affairs college, serving more than 9,000 students in bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral programs;
  • Significantly improved the student retention and graduation rates at Watts through new and innovative counseling and student-support initiatives;
  • Improved the national rankings with numerous programs now rated in the Top 10 nationally;
  • Helped quadruple fundraising at the college, securing one of the largest gifts in the university’s 136-year history, while tripling research funding to exceed $30 million annually;
  • Led one of Arizona State’s most diverse colleges — one where the majority of its students are from underrepresented minority communities, and nearly two-thirds are from lower-income families;
  • Guided Watts through the addition of 20 new degree programs, greatly expand its online offerings and global programs while launching a unique joint college in Hainan, China.

Koppell was known as one of the most entrepreneurial leaders at Arizona State, a school that is widely regarded as one of the nation’s most innovative universities.

And then, there’s this: Koppell has strong roots in the area. He was born in New York City and is the son of a former dean and professor at Ramapo College.

They are all reasons why Koppell, a nationally regarded scholar of policy, organization and management, was named Montclair State’s ninth president, the board of trustees announced Tuesday. He will start Aug. 2.

“I could not be more excited about joining Montclair State University,” Koppell said. “At a pivotal moment in higher education, this university — with its deep commitment to serving the public interest and advancing student success — has an opportunity to define the future.

“I am so impressed by what the faculty and staff have accomplished with President (Susan) Cole, and I am confident we can build on this foundation in bold, imaginative ways that contribute to the prosperity, health and well-being of New Jersey and the nation.”

Koppell will lead one of New Jersey’s largest and most successfully diverse public research universities, one that serves more than 21,000 students enrolled in some 300 degree programs offered by 10 colleges and schools on a 252-acre campus.

Board of trustees Chairman Francis Cuss said the board is excited about the appointment and will act formally on it at the June 22 board meeting.

“Jonathan Koppell was the clear choice for all the trustees, who were impressed with his energy, his passion and his dedication to the ideals of public higher education,” Cuss said.

“He is an experienced and visionary leader with a very strong record of increasing service to students and communities, of supporting and advancing the work of the faculty, and engaging donors and alumni in the mission of his institution. He has created mutually beneficial partnerships with many external organizations and communities, and he is known on his campus as a fierce advocate for diversity, inclusion and equity.

“All of these qualities, coupled with his experience as a teacher, a scholar and an administrator, make him the ideal choice for Montclair State at this moment in our history.”

Koppell, who earned a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University, received master’s and doctoral degrees in political science from the University of California-Berkeley. At Montclair State, he will serve as a faculty member in political science.

Koppell began his academic career at Yale University, where he held faculty appointments in the School of Management and led the Milstein Center for Corporate Governance Performance.

He serves on the boards of several community and nonprofit organizations and has been a visiting scholar at the Brookings Institution, a Markle Fellow at the New America Foundation and a Fulbright Lecturer in Shanghai, China. He is the author of books and articles on global governance institutions, public-private hybrid organizations and corporate governance.

Koppell, 51, is married to Jennifer Steen, with whom he has two high-school-age children. He describes himself as a lifelong fan of the New York Yankees and the New York Jets.

He graduated from the Bronx High School of Science. His mother, Kathleen Sunshine, is a former dean and professor at Ramapo College. His father, G. Oliver Koppell, is a former New York state attorney general, state assemblyman and New York city council member.

Koppell will succeed Cole, who is retiring after 23 years of service. Under her leadership, the university nearly doubled its enrollment and rose from a well-respected regional master’s institution with an almost entirely commuter student population to become a doctoral research university with a sizable residential student population and a growing national reputation.

Cole recruited a highly diverse student body, hired hundreds of talented faculty members, opened four new schools and colleges, built some 4 million square feet of new academic space and modernized many teaching and research facilities, added housing for thousands of students, installed a highly efficient energy infrastructure that includes one of the few campus microgrids in the nation and added a train station providing direct access to Midtown Manhattan.

“Over the past two decades, Montclair State has evolved into a large, highly complex research university, expanded our service to New Jersey and the nation and built on the historical values of this institution to create a welcoming and supportive university dedicated to serving students who aspire to lives of accomplishment and contribution to society,” Cole said. “I am confident that Jonathan Koppell understands this university and will work with the campus community to continue to secure a meaningful future for Montclair State and the students and the state it serves.”