Decade of progress: Farvardin is proud to have led Stevens to greater success

Nariman Farvardin. (Stevens Institute)

There are a lot of ways to quantify the growth of Stevens Institute of Technology in the 10 years since Nariman Farvardin took over as president:

  • Undergraduate enrollment is booming (the school has nearly 4,100 students this fall — up 68% from 10 years ago);
  • Graduate enrollment is up to more than 4,200 (40% higher than 2011);
  • Admissions applications are way up (more than 11,000 last year, which is 214% higher than 10 years ago);
  • Job placement among graduates is over 95% (even during COVID).

And the school is adding buildings throughout its Hoboken campus — including two residential high-rise towers that are connected by a state-of-the-art student center that will serve as the focal point of the nation’s leading STEM schools.

Stevens’ impact on New Jersey

Stevens Institute of Technology President Nariman Farvardin, a numbers guy, loves this statistic:

“About 63% of the students who graduate from Stevens stay in the state of New Jersey, either getting a job or going to graduate school,” he said. “If you add to it the state of New York, which basically means the New York metropolitan area, that percentage is 86%.”

Even Farvardin is blown away by that.

“Think about the economic impact that Stevens has on the state and on the region by way of developing technology-savvy human capital,” he said. “Because of the record that we have in educating students and placing them in great jobs, we are directly contributing to the economy of the state of New Jersey. We are attracting talented people and creating an environment for them where they can secure successful careers.”

Then there’s this: Farvardin, who still teaches, has a student from Idaho in his class.

“That’s a first for me,” he said.

A welcome first.

Stevens still draws a majority of its undergraduate students from New Jersey (more than 60%) — and a great majority from the Northeast and mid-Atlantic (more than 85%). But Farvardin said drawing students from across the country and around the world adds to the flavor of what the school always has aimed to be: One working and solving issues in the global community and on a global scale.

“I think Stevens is becoming a magnet for attracting talent from all over the United States,” he said.

And the world — especially when it comes to graduate programs.

“I personally think, for a private university like Stevens to thrive, we need to be known nationally and internationally,” he said. “I think having international students on our campus enhances the experience of domestic students. It opens up their horizons, and it makes them better people in a way that enables them to work much more effectively in teams where people are not necessarily from your neighborhood, but they come from all kinds of different walks of life.”

All of this success comes at a time when many universities are struggling to attract students — a fact that benefits Stevens.

For starters, the quality of students has never been higher. And the school’s financial profile has never been stronger, too — helping to elevate the quality of the academic programs.

That includes a business school, which already is ranked among the Top 75 graduate business schools in the country, despite being only 6 years old.

“We now offer programs in not just accounting, marketing and finance, but in quantitative finance and information systems and technology management,” he said. “We’ve added about 100 full-time faculty lines to the university.”

How they offer them is something else.

Stevens and N.J. businesses: Perfect together

Stevens Institute of Technology President Nariman Farvardin said the school constantly works on creating stronger partnerships with the New Jersey business community.

“It’s a priority for me,” he said.

And one that is open-ended.

“These partnerships could take different shapes or forms,” he said. “Some companies are intensely interested in recruiting our graduates. Some companies are interested in working with Stevens on research projects. Some companies are interested in getting help from events to develop their human capital, retooling their people.

“Some companies are recognizing the importance of artificial intelligence, and they come to us and say, ‘Can we send a cohort of 25 or our employees to go to an artificial intelligence master’s degree program?’”

Farvardin said he isn’t surprised. He always talks about the 50-mile zone around the campus, which has a large concentration of corporations in a relatively small region. He’s now created a position to handle the interactions: Greg Townsend serves as the director of corporate, government and community relations.

“We are trying to create an opportunity for companies to have a one-stop-shop opportunity if they want to work with Stevens,” he said. “They don’t want to work with four different offices, one for recruiting our students, one for continuing education, one for research and the like. So they go to Greg, who has liaisons in all of the necessary offices.

“So, if you’re a company and you want to build a multipronged partnership with Stevens, all you need to do is contact me or Greg, and everything else will be taken care of. It’s going to be the smoothest and friendliest relationship the company will have with any university.”

“Our business school is not your plain vanilla business school,” Farvardin said. “That’s a very important statement. The great majority of business schools in the world are very similar to each other. There is one important, distinctive characteristic in our business school, which I think is going to drive our program to higher levels of prominence and distinction: the focus on technology.”

Business students at Stevens are more likely to have taken computer science and data science courses — and know how to code. It makes them more desirable candidates for recruiters, Farvardin said.

“That’s our secret sauce,” he said.

The school also has become a leader in artificial intelligence and machine learning. It created the Stevens Institute for Artificial Intelligence. And, along with Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, it was awarded the first-ever National Science Foundation grant to create an industry-university cooperative research center devoted specifically to financial technology and science.

“We are going to become a go-to place in the nation for fintech,” he said. (Read complete story here.)

Of course, none of this will attract the top students and professors if there are not dorms and classrooms that have appeal.

Farvardin and Stevens have been on top of that, too.

The jewel is the University Center Complex on Castle Point, which features two towers (19 and 21 stories high) featuring dorms for approximately 1,000 students — connected by a state-of-the-art student center that has all the amenities desired by students.

The towers, which will open next fall, not only bring great views of Manhattan, they provide Manhattan with a reminder that Stevens is just across the river.

Farvardin said the University Center Complex will become the focal point of campus.

“This magnificent building will not only provide the type of facilities that materially enhance our capabilities and provide world-class space and views to our community, but it will be an architectural jewel that will make our beautiful campus even more so,” he said. “During the difficult times of the pandemic, this construction project has been a symbol of progress, hope and happiness.”

The towers aren’t the only update. Two years ago, the school opened its newest academic building, the Gateway Academic Center.

“And we’ve been renovating buildings like there is no tomorrow,” Farvardin said. “The physical plant of the university is totally different from where it was.”

Farvardin looks back on his time at Stevens with great pride.

“The past 10 years as president of Stevens has been the most exhilarating part of my professional life,” he said. “It has been exhilarating, but I don’t mean that it’s been easy, or that it’s been a smooth ride. It means that an unbelievable amount has been accomplished.

“For people who have been around the university long enough, its profile, its people, its accomplishments today are almost completely different from where we were 10 years ago.”