Corrections or additions?
This article by Melinda Sherwood was published
in U.S. 1 Newspaper on September 8, 1999. All rights reserved.
Barbara Gitenstein: New Kid on Campus
She arrived at an acrimonious time, just after the
had changed its name, and unrest among the faculty had spurred her
predecessor’s retirement. Achieving unity, she has said, is among
her first goals.
Barbara Gitenstein, the first woman president of the College
of New Jersey in its 144-year history, has a long to-do list that
includes strengthening the college’s curriculum, branching out into
the community, and earning keep on the college’s new name, an
some initially complained, on Princeton University’s formidable
Gitenstein, a former provost at Drake University in Iowa, sees things
differently. "The name makes very good sense to me," says
Gitenstein. "It’s an institution that speaks to the entire state
and has a statewide mission."
She already talks about revamping the core curriculum at TCNJ. "As
the faculty start looking at the curriculum," she says, "I
suspect they will think it needs to be changed."
Expect something different from TCNJ, that’s for sure. "I’m the
first woman president of the college and I think that you will see
that I’m somewhat different from the men who have held this
she says. Appropriately, "The Changing Face of Leadership"
is the subject of her address to the Mercer Chamber on Tuesday,
14, at 11:30 a.m. at the Trenton Country Club. Call: 609-393-4143.
Gitenstein may be the first woman president at TCNJ, but as a Jewish
woman who hails from Alabama, she has other unusual credentials. Her
father and mother were both born in New York City, but the family
moved to southern Alabama in 1930s in order to run the shirt factory
started by Gitenstein’s immigrant grandfather. The high school in
Gitenstein’s new hometown wasn’t even accredited by colleges, so it
was off to boarding school in Washington, D.C.
The girl from Alabama received an English degree from Duke University,
Class of 1970, and later a PhD from University of North Carolina,
Chapel Hill. "It was the most beautiful education," she
"I think it’s why I ended up working in higher education. I want
other people to have that same kind of experience."
Gitenstein went from assistant professor of English at Central
State to department chair, and was later appointed associate provost
at SUNY-Oswego. Having toured the college circuit, she can list her
favorite colleges without pause: Miami of Ohio, William & Mary,
and Truman State. Although plenty of public schools make it to her
in-list, she leans heavily toward the liberal arts curriculum typical
of private schools. "Private institutions have done wonderfully
imaginative planning," she says, "which asks the questions
how can you maintain rigor and excellence, and still respond to the
contemporary needs of the student."
Today’s students are in a kind of epistemological dilemma, says
"By the time the students graduate, whatever information they
learned in their freshman year will more than likely be out of
she says. "So what they have to learn is how to gather
have critical thinking skills and come up with their own solutions
to problems, to be able to understand difference, help create a
and all of these should be integrated into everything."
The changes to the curriculum need to come soon, says Gitenstein,
because the students are proving themselves more academically talented
than ever before. The graduating seniors of TCNJ scored in the 95th
percentile in the major field test in business, for example. "If
you have those kinds of students, you have to be sure that you have
the kinds of programs that let them move into a leadership
she says, "so they’re partners in accounting firms, not just in
lower level positions. As the students get better, you have to
your programs even more. I would hope that as we start maturing our
business program, that the business faculty would become more and
more of a resource to businesses in the community for incubator
in the same way that Princeton and Rutgers are home to R&D along the
Route 1 corridor.
Bringing the students to businesses is no problem (already the college
has developed strong internship and professional education programs),
but bringing people to TCNJ — that’s a different story. TCNJ has
never been to its own neighborhoods of Trenton and Ewing what Rutgers
and Princeton have been to their respective communities. That is a
trend Gitenstein hopes to reverse. Right now, she says, there are
just too many open seats at campus lectures. "Part of your
as an educated individual is to help the place where you live,"
she says. "I want to have people see us more as a resource
culturally, so that we’re seeing more and more of the Ewing and
people at our cultural and athletic events. They should feel it’s
A desire to go into the community is one thing she hopes to instill
in the students now. "That’s what makes a good leader — when
you care about something bigger than yourself."
— Melinda Sherwood
7718, Ewing 08628-0718. R. Barbara Gitenstein, president. 609-771-1855;
fax, 609-771-3067. Home page: http://www.tcnj.edu.
Bill Mate is leaving his post as director of Mercer County Chamber
of Commerce to be associate vice president for development and alumni
affairs at the College of New Jersey. "I accepted the job to help
make the college the `best public Ivy’ in the country," says Mate.
The phrase "public Ivy" is a new one and could be controversial.
"We are not bashful," says Mate.
The college’s new president, Barbara Gitenstein, elevated the development
job to executive level. "She wants to put an emphasis on community
involvement, alumni involvement, and fund raising," says Mate.
"The college lags behind others in fundraising by a large margin."
Mate went to the University of Delaware, Class of 1973, and worked
in both public and private jobs but has put in 18 years in government,
including being director of the Mercer County Improvement Authority.
He took the chamber job 21 months ago and will start at CNJ in October.
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