Holloway, during formal inauguration, issues call for greater access, research and service

Rutgers University President Jonathan Holloway, who was formally inaugurated in a ceremony delayed more than a year because of the pandemic, said the global health crisis and national recognition of social inequities drive one universal truth: Greater access — combined with research and public service — can drive change.

“Our daily news cycles have left us with a national rhetoric about politics, knowledge, citizenship and service that seems to take delight in mocking efforts to shore up institutions, to pursue ideas, to disagree civilly, to serve the common good and to share in our wealth,” he said Friday. “I despair at this state of affairs, but instead of seeing colleges and universities as a manifestation of all that is wrong in our society, I see them as all that can be right.”

Holloway said he has been working to that end since he started at Rutgers on July 1, 2020.

Part of Holloway’s plan for focusing on access to education includes raising $50 million to support the Scarlet Promise Grants, a student need-based aid program that he said will build a pathway to a better world. The program — which provides undergraduate scholarships and emergency, temporary relief to those facing unexpected hardship — has been a focus of Holloway’s since his first day as university president, when he announced a $10 million campaign for the program that is now complete.

“I have seen the great work that it can do, I have seen your enthusiasm for it and, now, together, we are going to make a powerful statement to our students about how much we believe in them and their ability to change the world,” he said.

Holloway also announced the creation of the Rutgers Summer Service initiative, administered by the Eagleton Institute of Politics and Rutgers Career Exploration and Success, which will offer up to 150 second- and third-year students paid summer public service internships working for nonprofit organizations.

“Students will work for nonprofits, serve the broader community and gain the opportunity to learn about people who are unlike themselves — who face different struggles and come from different backgrounds, countries, races or religions,” he said. “Participating in this program will make our students better citizens and our world a better place.”

Holloway on the Hub

Rutgers University President Jonathan Holloway had great praise for the Hub, a $665 million investment by the state in innovation, translational research and medical education in downtown New Brunswick — an investment that includes the relocation of Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School to the site.

“Today, it’s a hole across from the New Brunswick train station,” Holloway said during his long-delayed inauguration Friday. “Soon it will be an epicenter of innovation: a new site for Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School; home to cutting-edge laboratories; space for collaborations with our colleagues at Princeton (University) and with business partners including the two largest hospital systems in the state; and an incubator for the next generation of scientific advances in New Jersey.”

Research “in service to the common good” is also an initiative that Holloway has put at the top of Rutgers’ priorities. The $900 million that researchers at Rutgers received last year from the federal and state government, corporate partners, foundations and associations provided access to COVID-19 testing for underserved and vulnerable communities, a research hub for large-scale coastlines science, grants to help students and teachers improve STEM learning, robotics research, a new Institute for the Study of Global Racial Justice and, most recently, the New Brunswick Innovation and Technology Hub.

Holloway highlighted his belief in the excellence that exists at Rutgers — excellence that will be reached through increased access, research and service.

“When I look at Rutgers, I want to see a place that aspires boldly to be both a leading engine of world-changing research and a vehicle for social mobility for students across the socioeconomic spectrum,” he said. “This is what excellence looks like.”

He acknowledges that achieving that aim will not be easy.

“I know that there are skeptics who take delight in pointing out all the ways in which Rutgers doesn’t execute perfectly,” he said. “I wish I could say that the skeptics are always wrong, but they aren’t. Rutgers remains a work in progress, and, like any cathedral, is never truly finished.

“But, in my administration, I will continue to call upon our better spirits and present a new narrative about this university, one that points to the abundant excellence that is already here and the excellence that it can attain if we find ways to believe in ourselves. Yes, we may not complete the cathedral, but we will be steadfast in attending to the work that will ensure that Rutgers is and will continue to be a sight to behold, a beacon that others will admire and to which others will look as they engage in their efforts to build a better world.”