Jonathan Koppell will be Montclair State University’s ninth president starting August 2, 2021. Koppell appeared at a special event on campus open to all faculty, staff and students.
The new president of Montclair State was announced by the board of trustees on June 8. Koppell will be taking over for former President Susan Cole, who is now retiring. Cole says that although she did not have any role in the search process, she could not be happier with the results.
“[Koppell] is going to bring considerable intelligence and ability to the next stage of the institution,” Cole said. “I could not be happier with the choice. I am thrilled that Jonathan Koppell will be the next president of Montclair State.”
Before coming to Montclair State, Koppell was the dean of Arizona State University’s Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions and the vice provost for public service and social impact.
Board of trustees Chair Francis M. Cuss said Koppell’s work at Arizona State showed a commitment to promoting diversity.
“He’s known on his campus as a fierce, strong advocate for diversity, inclusion and equality,” Cuss said. “All of these qualities, we considered very important and coupled with his excellent academic credentials, and of course his experience as a teacher, a scholar and an administrator make him, we believe, an ideal choice for Montclair State at this moment in our history.”
However, some criticized the presidential selection process for not promoting diversity. The African American Caucus, Asian Pacific Islander Caucus, Disability Caucus and Latinx/a/o Caucus released a joint statement expressing their disappointment with the lack of transparency during the process.
“[Montclair State] has repeatedly expressed its commitment to promoting our shared values of equity, diversity and inclusion,” the statement said. “However, we must express publicly our disappointment that the search process for this crucial leadership position played out with so little public engagement with the larger university community. Our caucuses regret the missed opportunity by university leadership to build trust by prioritizing transparency and dialogue with the community.”
Koppell shared a few of the goals he hopes to accomplish during his tenure as president, including building an inclusive and welcoming community.
“I don’t know how a university can call itself excellent if it is not diverse, if it is not seen as welcoming and, not just welcoming, but owned by all of these different constituencies,” Koppell said.
Koppell wants to turn Montclair State into a university that other schools look up to.
“I think we can make this into one of the leading universities in the country and an example that others would look to, to say this is what a 21st-century public university looks like,” Koppell said.
This is not the first time Koppell has applied to be a university president. He was a finalist for the presidency at the University of Nevada in Reno and Portland State University.
“I wasn’t interested in just going to any university,” Koppell said. “I was interested in going to a place that aligned with my values and my purpose in doing this, and so over the years I’ve looked at other universities and said that’s really not the place for me.”
Koppell is familiar with the area not only because he grew up in the Bronx, but also because his mother was a Ramapo College professor and his father was a New York politician. Koppell is a fan of the New York Yankees and Jets.
Koppell is also married to Jennifer Steen, a former associate professor at Arizona State University, and is a father of two high school students. Koppell said his family has been supportive of his career change.
“The reason they have been so positive is that they see what I see, which is in Montclair State University, an almost perfect fit for my passions about higher education,” Koppell said.
President of the Student Government Association (SGA) Ashon Lanada, a senior business administration major, says he looks forward to working with Koppell.
“I am excited for what he has to offer and what he has to bring,” Lanada said. “There’s a lot of energy that comes from him, and I can tell that his enthusiasm is going to bring a whole new vibe and a new style to Montclair State.”