On Dec. 1, Montclair State University president Jonathan Koppell and vice president of student development and campus life Dawn Soufleris met with Montclair State’s media organizations to discuss various topics regarding campus. Those of which included the growth of students with the recent large acceptance of freshmen and the merger between Montclair State and Bloomfield College.
Koppell commented on the influx of students that have been accepted.
“So first of all, obviously in some ways it’s a good problem to have, right that we’re doing something right that people want to come here,” Koppell said. “But, we’re not blind to the idea that of course as you increase the number of students, you have to amplify the resources and the infrastructure.”
Koppell mentioned that with the increase in students, more faculty are being hired.
“So the first thing to know is obviously we’re adding faculty,” Koppell said. “So we hired 42 new tenured faculty this last year. We have another big group that we’re expecting to hire this year, we obviously won’t know the number until we go through the higher process and we’re continuing to add capacity to meet the needs of those students.”
The issue was raised regarding students being placed on a housing waitlist, as Montclair State reached housing capacity this semester. As a result, students were offered to live at Bloomfield College of Montclair State.
“We are at capacity from a housing point of view, I think people know that,” Koppell said. “One of the interesting ways in which the Bloomfield [College] merger benefited the university was we were able to offer some students who were on the housing waitlist the opportunity to live at Bloomfield, 61 students took advantage of that opportunity. I hear it’s going well.”
The housing option at Bloomfield’s campus will continue if necessary.
“For the foreseeable future, we would like to make that option available,” Koppell said. “Of course we think that the Bloomfield College enrollment is going to grow too, so that’s not there and we are thinking about you know, what is the next phase of expansion of housing opportunities on [Montclair State’s] campus, so that’s also in our minds.”
The thought of the future of Montclair State was discussed, as the student population will continue to grow and more will be needed to support the situation. The future may hold extra residential space, classrooms and more.
“But what we’re trying to do in all of these things as we map out the future of the university is to think about what will students need as resources, space, computing infrastructure [and] housing, not next year, but in 15 years,” Koppell said. “One of the things we’re investing in that has to do with the size of the campus population is we’re upgrading the wifi, we’ve done all the residential part of the campus, now we’re moving to the academic part of campus to have a wifi network that supports the fact that we’re all walking around with these connected devices all the time. So, we’re trying to think about how will students use the Student Center in 20 years, how will classes be taught in 20 years, what kinds of buildings do we need?”
The growth of housing may serve for more apartment-style buildings.
“The main thing that I think is that whatever we do from a housing point of view is going to respond to what we know the preference seems to be which is the more apartment-style living, that’s clearly where students are looking right now as opposed to traditional dorm without a cooking facility,” Koppell said.
The current infrastructure will cause issues if the Montclair State population continues to grow, but there are plans to manage it in different ways given the plans to expand.
“By the way, we also recognize that we can’t just add population indefinitely, given the limitations of the infrastructure and so figuring out well what is a population that we can manage at steady state and if we are going to grow, how do we grow intelligently so that it’s manageable, given the infrastructure that we have,” Koppell said.
When asked about the Bloomfield College merger, plans were discussed by Soufleris to bridge the two communities in an organic way.
“So on the student development and campus life side, we actually have 15 integration plans happening right now, whether it is our programs, our services, policies, clubs and organizations, Greek Life, you name it. There are 15 plans in progress right now to bring everything together,” Soufleris said. “‘Cause you think about it, there’s some things that you immediately go ‘Okay we have two Greek Life, right you have a set of greeks there, set of greeks here, there’s some crossover there’s some not, how are you going to work that?’ So, we’re going on a plan for that.”
Soufleris brought up some connections with Bloomfield that have already occurred, such as the housing situation and both campuses using Gourmet Dining Services.
“We’ve already had an integration with residence life and as you know because of Montclair [State] students living there so that’s already moved forward and some of the dining integrations already happened ’cause we both have gourmet and now with having Montclair [State] students there we’ve integrated the gourmet dining system so that’s already like check that box off,” Soufleris said. “But we have been working with the Bloomfield staff there and their student affairs [and] student life area for months and months and months now, putting together plan upon plan of how their students will come here, our students go there and at some point it not being us and them, but all of us and we’re really excited by that.”
Some programs including both campuses have happened this fall, such as Red Hawk Day. More are to come as the spring semester rolls around.
“We’ve pinpointed this year a couple of programs that we’ll be having the Bloomfield students come over as you know we did that for Red Hawk Day and we know we’re going to do that for World’s Fair Day and we’ll see how some other things go as the new semester starts,” Soufleris said. “But we want to get Montclair [State] students over to the Bloomfield campus too and so we have a couple of plans for the spring that we can bus some Montclair [State] students over to Bloomfield.”
With the 15 plans being mapped out, the behind the scenes details are working out to bring both communities together as one.
“So it’s very detailed, it’s a lot behind the scenes that’s happening, but we’re getting really excited by it, our student governments have met and talked with each other and they’re starting to talk about how that collaboration will happen and so I think there’s going to be some really good synergy,” Soufleris said.