October 30, 2020

Gitenstein wins esteemed higher education award

By Emmy Liederman
Opinions Editor

Throughout R. Barbara Gitenstein’s presidency, the College has raised more than 47 million dollars, increasing its endowment by over 1,200 percent.

This fundraising has allowed the College to offer more scholarships, hire additional professors and improve its facilities. These improvements have likely contributed to the College’s impressive graduation rate, which is the fifth highest among public institutions in the nation.

If that isn’t enough, she is also the first woman ever to serve as president of the College.

Gitenstein works to make the College affordable for all students. (tcnj.edu)

These accomplishments have allowed Gitenstein to secure The CASE District Chief Executive Achievement Award for District II — the largest district in the country — making the award especially competitive.

“Winning this award was absolutely wonderful,” Gitenstein said. “This is partly because I was able to thank the people that were the backbone of this campaign. The president can come in as the closer, but if somebody hasn’t developed the relationship with a donor earlier, I can’t just say ‘Hello, my name is Barbara Gitenstein I’m the president of TCNJ. I’ve never met you before, but can you give me one million dollars?’”

Gitenstein’s advancement team is comprised of public relations professionals who are responsible for explaining the College’s vision and forming relationships with donors.

According to Gitenstein, what makes the College deserving of donations is its ability to offer a private school feel for a public school price.

“The College has a private school feel not in an elitist sense, but in the fact that there is an individualized relationship between the professor and the student,” she said. “Professors aren’t just here to complete their six hour obligation and go home.”

This environment can only be achieved with the help of donors, as money from the state of New Jersey is scarce.

“The state is not going to give us additional resources — it doesn’t have the money,” she said. “As the College has started having bigger aspirations, we had to develop a bigger bench for people who would be raising money. How do we find additional money to support students for scholarships and for faculty to do their work?”

Gitenstein cites the College’s ability to cater to low-income students as the most important use of donations.

“I would like us to have enough resources so that no student who has the capacity to come to The College of New Jersey ever turns us down because they can’t afford it,” she said. “We’re not there yet, but people should never be forced to make that decision.”

Under Gitenstein’s leadership, 60 percent of the College’s current staff has been hired, and through the help of donors, she has been able to recruit professors who are genuinely interested in each of their students.

Donations have also allowed the College to expand its curriculum to foster individualized learning.

“At TCNJ, students are given credit for a fourth hour of instruction, which is not based on time sitting in a classroom,” she said. “It’s based on faculty-student research and an individual relationship.”

Although the College does have some debt, Gitenstein is proud that money has always been spent for academic purposes — projects that do not directly relate to academics are funded through partners. According to Gitenstein, Sodexo invested $31 million in the renovated Brower Student Center, and Campus Town is entirely supported by developers.

“A lot of criticism for higher education these days is that students are coming for lazy rivers and climbing walls,” she said. “That’s not true for our students. The students love Campus Town, but they’re coming here because they want to study here.”

Although Gitenstein recognizes the award as a collective achievement, her advancement team is quick to praise her for her individual contributions in making these improvements possible.

“I think Gitenstein’s willingness to listen and hear all sides of any discussion is really to her credit,” said Head Media Relations Officer Luke Sacks. “She always willing to hear new ideas and has earned the respect and admiration of everyone that has come in contact with her.”

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