Montclair State University President Dr. Jonathan Koppell and Dr. Dawn Soufleris, vice president for student development and campus life, met with the university’s student media on Nov. 29 to discuss what students can expect in the near future.
A concern of many students has been the lack of transportation to New York City on weekends since a large part of the university’s appeal is its close proximity to the city. Koppell and Soufleris recognize this and are working on solutions for the problem.
“I’ve already, sort of, been digging around to figure out who do I go to to get the train schedule fixed,” Koppell said. “[Access to New York City is] part of the promise that the university offers to potential students. And so we’ve got to figure out a way to make it happen.”
Soufleris mentioned the past shuttles that took students to New York City from campus once a month which ended as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. While they are looking into bringing those back, she also discussed some alternative options the administration is looking into, such as offering transportation to Willowbrook Mall, which has a bus ride into the city.
“We are looking into [seeing if we could] get some shuttles that would take students to Willowbrook Mall to hop on [New] Jersey Transit to take into Penn Station,” Soufleris said. “I am hoping that we’re going to do that on a pilot basis in the spring. Probably in the February/March area.”
Soufleris said the bus ride from Willowbrook Mall into the city is approximately 25 minutes.
As a response to the reports of sexual harassment on campus, Soufleris is reorganizing the way in which orientation is run next year. In this restructuring, new students will come to campus five to six days before upperclassmen, where there will be a heavy concentration on discussing Title IX issues, relationships, adjusting to college life, communication, respect and community. According to Soufleris, the one-day orientations are not enough to cover the complicated issues that students have to face.
“It’s going to be this intense, some of it fun, but intense experience where students will learn a lot of things,” Soufleris said.
The last two years, graduation ceremonies were split into multiple different events held at Sprague Field, spanning over 12 days. As for the class of 2022, nothing is finalized yet regarding a graduation ceremony. However, Koppell said he is a big believer in having at least one big ceremony for all students and is willing to spend the money for it to be at a venue that can accommodate large families.
“That ceremony means something. That ‘walking across the stage’ means something, you know, [in terms of] hearing the music, having the robes [and] having the funny hats,” Koppell said. “You’ve had this picture in your head for a long time and you want to experience it for real, and I honor that and take that seriously. So, we’re going to do the best we can to offer that experience in a meaningful way.”
In terms of what they are most proud of accomplishing this semester, Soufleris said aside from the new orientation, she is proud of her ability to get out and connect with students, whether it be at sporting events or around campus.
“[I’m proud of] just being available to students as much as possible,” Soufleris said. “I’m very student-centered so for me that’s my greatest accomplishment so far, with tons more things to come.”
Koppell stated that Montclair State is right where he is supposed to be.
“I feel really good about the connection that’s been formed with the students and the faculty and the staff because it just underscores how distinctive and special a thing we have here at Montclair [State] and people value it and that’s really powerful,” Koppell said.