Statement to the NJIT Community on the Report of the Governor's Commission on Health Science, Education, and Training - Roberty A. Altenkirch

Much will be said in the coming months about the Governor’s Commission on Health Science, Education and Training. The release of the Commission’s report today marks only the first step in what will be a long and involved process. But I believe that process will reinforce the importance of NJIT’s role in the future of public higher education in this state.

The Commission envisions a New Jersey state research university system with geographically distinct campuses with particular focus in Newark, Camden/Stratford and New Brunswick/Piscataway, joined together under one umbrella in what I would call a coherent system of “managed autonomy.” The approach is thoughtful and so worth consideration. It is based on successful structures for public research universities as they have evolved in other states, including California and Texas, to address unique needs. The Commission’s report begins a dialogue of what an appropriate structure for New Jersey might be.

While much of the Commission’s report is an analysis of UMDNJ and Rutgers, it is the existence and presence of NJIT that could help forge emerging synergies among the applied physical, mathematical, computing, and engineering sciences with the biological and biomedical sciences and medicine here in Newark. These synergies are at the foundation of NJIT’s mission to provide for job creation through technology innovation, and they will accelerate scientific and technological progress in biology and its applications to parallel those in the physical sciences and its applications of the past century. Coupling this with existing strength in the liberal arts and social sciences in Newark-based programs sets the stage for establishing a major, comprehensive, academic setting of national stature.

Today there is logic in leveraging existing strengths to develop a major center of academic and research excellence in Newark that complements and supports the state’s health-related industries, and will have the potential to grow to be a national leader in the applied physical, biological and biomedical sciences and new technology development, impacting the economy and the built environment. A major component of realizing this potential is the “transfer of technology” from the physical, mathematical, and computing sciences and engineering to the biological sciences. (See, e.g., National Research Council Report: Future R&D Environments: A Report for the National Institute of Standards and Technology, 2002).

Further discussion is warranted as to whether the Commission’s proposed structure best fits the needs of Newark and New Jersey. Leveraging the convergence of engineering and the biological sciences could prove a catalyst for extraordinary progress and growth for the existing medical and technological resources in Newark. The opportunity exists to ignite innovation, drive economic development, and improve the quality of life for New Jerseyans.

The right technological vision, leadership -- primarily one established in science and technology -- and structure would have the potential to preserve and strengthen public higher education and its human resource assets in Newark. There are strong opportunities for New Jersey to take a lead role in accelerating the convergence mentioned above and for NJIT to provide leadership in the establishment of a forward-oriented, comprehensive center of academic and research excellence in Newark. I will remain vigilant in my advocacy for NJIT and its culture as this process continues.