2013 Opening Day Address

Watch President Farahi's Opening Day Speech video >>

(transcript and supporting videos provided below)


Thank you, Madam Chair and good morning everyone. Welcome to a new academic year at Kean University.

Let me begin by welcoming other members of the Board of Trustees, the Foundation Board and the Alumni Board. I would also like to welcome Ms. Anne Estabrook, a member of the Liberty Hall Museum Board of Trustees, and Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage, a good friend of the University, an alum and strong supporter of our efforts.

Thanks in large part to your support and the hard work of many of the people in this theatre, Kean University is stronger today than ever before.

We begin the new academic year proud of what we have accomplished and ready to tackle the challenges ahead with dedication and ingenuity.  

Fifty years ago this week, in his “I Have a Dream” speech, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said:

“We cannot walk alone.  And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall march ahead. We cannot turn back.”

When many of us walked together here at Kean University, look at how much we accomplished. Imagine, the heights we can reach if all of us march together—forward.  Today, we are in the best position to do things that are truly magnificent. And we will not turn back!

Here’s how you can help. You can start by telling your friends, your neighbors, your community and the world, your Kean story.   Word of mouth is a powerful tool, particularly when you have remarkable stories to tell.   And we do.

Kean today is:

•    Nationally recognized for our diversity and service

•    A leader in teacher education

•    A pioneer in applied sciences

•    An innovator in design and soon architectural studies

•    Breaking ground in environmental and sustainability sciences

•    Redefining global business programming

•    Enhancing the field of nursing; and,

•    Trailblazing in international education.

Yes, we are all those things. And WE ARE NOT DONE YET!


Dr. John Dobosiewicz

Before I go on, I want to take a moment to tell you a little about our friend and colleague John Dobosiewicz.  John’s untimely death was heartbreaking for his wonderful family and for the entire Kean community. John was a quiet and an effective leader on this campus. He loved Kean and was proud to tell people he graduated from Kean and worked at Kean.

John believed that the best way to capture our students’ attention was to get them engaged in a good story.  Today, I think all of us can pay tribute to John by following his lead and proudly telling our Kean story.

Let us take a moment of silence to honor this good and decent man!  Thank you.

Now let me begin by welcoming some new Kean faces and academic leaders.

This year we welcome three new Deans to Kean, Dr. Michael Cooper in the College of Business and Public Management; Dr. Jeff Beck in the Nathan Weiss Graduate College; and, Dr. Keith Bostian in the New Jersey Center for Science, Technology and Mathematics Education.

Dr. Cooper is developing an innovative new Global Business School for both undergraduate and graduate business programs. He also is creating an impressive Board of Advisors for the new school that includes corporate business leaders and distinguished business alumni who will help with curriculum, fundraising and job placement.

The Graduate College, under Dr. Beck’s leadership, continues to grow and define itself as a leader in critical applied health fields.

Dr. Bostian this fall brings us his extensive knowledge and experience in biotechnology, international business development, and research. His leadership of the STEM program will move Kean to the next level.

Please join me in welcoming all three new deans.

I want to publicly thank Dean Sue Bousquet for her tireless work this past year as chair of the University Planning Council.  The UPC has developed a comprehensive Strategic Plan for Kean University that will guide us through the year 2020.

I also want to recognize Dr. Susan Polirstok, Dean of our College of Education, which continues to outpace the competition in both quality and quantity.  The College will launch a new After School Center in Hillside starting in September to support students and their families. The college received a five-year, $1.75 million state grant for the project, so congratulations Dr. Polirstok.

In Natural, Applied and Health Sciences, Dean George Chang is leading what appears to be a healthy competition between faculty and student success stories. Three Kean graduates from the college begin their doctoral studies this fall in three of the nation’s most competitive programs—UPENN, Johns Hopkins and the University of Delaware.  Meanwhile, faculty members continue to earn grants from such prestigious and diverse institutions as the National Science Foundation and Google. Keep up the good work, George.

In Visual and Performing Arts, Dean George Arasimowicz is leading our efforts to build unique and superior programs in theatre, design and music, while filling the University’s world-class galleries and concert halls with artists that reflect our commitment to diversity, human rights and community-service. Thank you Dean Arasimowicz.

I also would like to recognize Vice President and Provost Dr. Jeff Toney for successfully steering the University’s academic efforts through the Middle States re-accreditation process, and for his ongoing commitment to mentoring both faculty and students alike. Many of you in this room worked very hard helping Jeff and the University.  THANK YOU.

There is another very important group I would like to welcome today—our new faculty.

Last year I asked the Faculty Senate Chairman, Pat Ippolito, what change the faculty wanted to see most.  He said they wanted to see more full time faculty hired.

Today, we welcome 42 new faculty members to Kean University.  I’d like to ask those here today to stand so we can greet them with a warm round of applause.   Welcome to Kean. We expect big things from you!

Now let’s talk about what makes Kean world-class, and where Kean is headed.

Earlier this year, our Liberty Hall Museum welcomed six of New Jersey’s living governors to a special Governors’ Ball to benefit the museum. Governor Chris Christie lauded both the University and the Kean family for our shared commitment to preserving this piece of New Jersey and American history. This is a Kean story that truly separates us from the competition.  Take a look.

Watch the Governors' Ball video >>

I personally want to express special thanks to Liberty Hall Museum Trustee Anne Estabrook, and to Abby Kean who together led this record-breaking fundraiser. Anne, the university thanks you for your generosity and all of your efforts on our behalf.

Our work at Liberty Hall continues to uncover historic gems thanks to Kean archivist Erin Alghandoor.  Later this year, the Museum will tell another key story when it unveils a special collection of the Robert Winthrop Kean papers that Erin catalogued.  The RWK Collection covers his 20 years in Congress, from 1939 to 1959. They shed light on the country’s mobilization for World War II, the founding of the state of Israel, and the development of New Jersey after the war.

Both our History Department and the new Kean Center for History, Politics and Policy continue to get Kean stories featured in the state, national and international arena.

History Department faculty have been prolific and visible storytellers through op-eds, television commentary and public lectures.  The History Department this year brought more than 600 middle and high school students to campus earlier this year for National History Day.

Dr. Jonathan Mercantini is making sure Kean plays a lead role in the celebration of New Jersey’s 350th anniversary.  Kean will host the New Jersey Historical Commission’s key academic conference here in November 2014.

The Center, under the direction of Dr. Terry Golway, told its story this year through more than a dozen op-eds in newspapers and other venues.  The Center also led the effort to bring the Lt. Governors’ debate to Kean this fall. The debate will take place in this theatre and no doubt will garner attention now that our Governor may be considering a run for the presidency. Our own Dr. Frank Esposito will be on hand to give both candidates a few pointers this year, right Frank?

Not to be outdone by History, our School of Nursing is making its own play for statewide dominance. Under the guidance of Dr. Virginia Fitzsimmons, the Nursing School formed strategic partnerships with community colleges throughout New Jersey to position Kean as New Jersey’s top provider of nursing education.  Virginia tells this Kean story wherever she goes. And she didn’t stop there.  

Dr. Fitzsimmons also led the effort to create a unique PhD program in Nursing Leadership here at Kean, the only one of its kind in the state. I’m pleased to announce The State of New Jersey approved this new doctoral program and we will accept our first students in Spring 2014.  

And when our Nursing professors tell their Kean story, they no doubt will mention where New Jersey’s Nurse of the Year earned her degree. Congratulations to Elisaveta Zaharieva, the 2012 Nurse of the Year, and keep up the good work Virginia and your entire team!

In computer science, Dr. Patricia Morreale and her students are focused on getting the Kean story out.  Dr. Morreale has mentored 81 undergraduate students in the past 12 years. Together, they’ve told the Kean story through 14 published articles and presentations at more than 20 professional conferences. Nothing is more important than mentoring students for success.

This summer, Dr. Morreale and Dr. James Drylie, along with their students, made headlines in the Star Ledger for creating an iPhone “app” that could be used to easily report power disruptions to utility companies. The app also lets you find out when repairs are expected.

Drs. Drylie and Connie Hassett-Walker brought the Kean story abroad this year, introducing Kean’s criminal justice students to Scotland Yard and the British justice system.

Dr. Hassett-Walker also was awarded a $450,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health this year to undertake a unique study of teen violence. Congratulations Connie, we look forward to your findings.

Professor Jennifer Crupi continues to tell her Kean story in the international arena. This year, she brought her approach to fine arts to Prague, being featured at the prestigious DOX center for Contemporary Art .

In the Communication Department, Professor Brian Oakes hopes to tell his Kean story on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim. Brian recently served as a character designer and consultant on the animated pilot “Colonel Wallace.”

Dr. Barry Mascari will no doubt be telling the Kean story in his new role as a member of the accrediting body for Counselor Ed.  Barry also led the efforts this year to make Kean the north Jersey location for the training of disaster response counselors.

Dr. Juneau Gary is getting her Kean story out globally. Her research on violence against girls in developing countries recently appeared in Psychology International, a publication of the American Psychological Association.

The School of Global Education and Innovation received a Startalk Grant from the US Department of Defense for the fourth year in a row, with a focus on the teaching of Hindi and Urdu. Kean’s Startalk program is now recognized as a national model, especially in the application of innovative pedagogies.  Nice work, Dr. Michael Searson.

Drs. Sharon McKenzie and Fran Stavola-Daly both named scholars in a national program focused on the aging and the resources needed to service this population.

The Department of Educational Leadership told a fantastic story this May when it graduated five doctoral candidates, each with their own unique story.  Dr. Leila Sadeghi and her colleagues also led this year’s planning and presentations for National Council of Professors of Educational Administration.

Faculty in the Masters of Social Work program earned accreditation from the Council of Social Work Education. It is now one of only four such programs accredited in the state.

Dr. Jennifer Chen brings her Kean story to Hong Kong this year. Dr. Chen was named a Fulbright Scholar and will spend the  year in Hong Kong conducting research with kindergarten children as an extension of her work on language development in young children.  Great work, Jennifer.

Many more faculty told their story this year in publications ranging from academic journals, to podcasts, to books and recording.  Congratulations to all of you and keep up the good work.

Our programming tells a great Kean story as well. It reflects the diversity of our campus experience, as well as our commitment to social justice. This year, Kean Galleries featured internationally diverse collections, including The Garden Statement, Quilt Art and the Remnin University of China School of Art Faculty Exhibit, which is currently on display in the Burger Gallery.

Our Premiere Stages program, under the direction of John Wooten, continues to earn rave reviews and grant support, including the play Clybourne Park, which played to sold out audiences throughout July. I hope all of you will come out to see its latest offering, The Beautiful Dark, which debuts on September 5.

Enlow Recital Hall launches its season on October 5th with a performance by legendary pianist and composer Herbie Hancock.  Tickets go fast…..   I’m just warning you.

But the best and greatest of all are our student’s stories.

Watch the STUDENT STORIES video >>

This year, seven students in the inaugural cohort of the PsyD program successfully defended their doctoral dissertation.

Kean’s PsyD students also entered the national clinical internship match system for the first time, and did so with a 100% success rate!  Every Kean doctoral student entered in the match obtained an internship. By the way, that compares to a national match rate of only 75%.

David Garcia, a student in the Chemistry program, brought  his Kean story to Brown University this summer. David did research at Brown as part of a program funded by the National Science Foundation.  The program is coordinated at Kean by Dr. Wolde Woubneh, who meanwhile brought his Kean story to the University of Gondar in Ethiopia this summer.

Our media students put Kean on the map this year, earning awards from the New Jersey Collegiate Press Association in a statewide competition.  Prizes went to Lee Burrell, editor in chief for opinion writing; Dasia Brown, for photography and Andrea Parr, for feature writing.

Hannah Byrom, a Kean student who specialized in radio, is now telling her story every day in North Carolina where she hosts her own morning show at Z107.5.

Jenn Hockenberry, a graphic design student, wants to tell her story at the 2014 SuperBowl.  She’s designing a “Kean-themed” football as part of a competition that will feature football sculptures in Newark around game time.

And while Jenn is sharing her Kean story with NFL champions, our STEM program is creating a new era of champions in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

As you know, Our STEM program at Kean is one of the most rigorous in the state – just as it should be. Now there was a time, not long ago, when conventional wisdom held that women and minorities just couldn’t compete in the sciences and mathematics. But at Kean we knew the conventional wisdom was wrong.  We gave our students the opportunity to prove it. And they delivered.

I am proud to tell you today, as the STEM program enters its 10th year, more than 50% of our STEM students are women and minorities. And, in this program, we have a four-year graduation rate second only to one institution in New Jersey, and that would be Princeton. Now that is another amazing story!

Our student athletes continue to excel both inside and outside the classroom. Their stories are a source of tremendous pride for our university.

Our Women’s Soccer Team posted one of its best seasons in history last year, winning the 2012 ECAC Metro Championship for the first time in history. Coach Dougherty, I’m expecting big things from you this year!

The Women’s Volleyball Team recorded its best season in more than a decade with a 28-11 record and advancing to the playoffs for the first time since 2006.  Junior Kaitlyn Hansen etched her name in the record books by setting numerous single-season and career blocking records.  And she’s back again this year for more, right Coach Perkins?

Our Women’s Softball Team advanced to the conference championship this year, and participated in the Division III NCAA Tournament for the third time in the last four seasons, thanks to Margie Aker’s leadership.  And, Women’s Lacrosse, under its new head coach Jordan Trautman, made it to the semifinals of the Skyline Tournament.

So what were the guys doing all year?

Where are my football players? What have you guys been busy doing besides eating all my food?  Well, according to Coach Garrett, you guys are busy winning—is that right? For seven straight years now, the Football Team has had a winning season. Just make sure this year is no different Coach, you got it?

If you want some pointers on winning, maybe you should talk to our baseball Coach Neil Ioviero. Neil posted it 500th win in the Spring, and added 16 more. Congratulations Coach on a job well done.

In my mind, all of our student athletes are champions. They tell the Kean story on the field and on the court through sportsmanship and dedication.  Good luck to all of you this season.

This leads me to a story about another champion – Lauren Marrocco. You might be familiar with Lauren’s face—its about 15 feet tall on front of Hennings Hall right now.  Lauren earned both her undergraduate and graduate degrees in teaching at Kean University. Earlier this year, she was named Teacher of the Year for the entire state of New Jersey.  And everywhere Lauren goes, she thanks Kean University. Even when she met this guy in April  (photo of Lauren and President Obama), she made sure to tell him about Kean and urged him to visit us! Thanks for the plug Lauren, and our best wishes for another successful school year.

Now, as long as we’re talking about President Obama, I want you to take a look at what this Kean graduate is doing.

Watch the MANIK RATHKEE video >>

We are able, in large part, to present these incredible student success stories because of the hard work of the Kean Foundation and the generous support of friends, alumni and community members who embrace our mission of access and excellence.

This year, the Kean Foundation awarded more than $450,000 in scholarships to worthy students. Under the able leadership of Ms. Diane Schwartz, the Foundation is working to double that number.  Ms. Schwartz is also working with faculty and alumni to create high-level advisory boards in the arts, design and business, which will help guide future philanthropy for these programs and more at Kean. Diane, this year, the student-focused gala was spectacular.

Now….I want to talk to you about the future.

Let me begin by saying the investments we made in our campus and academic programs prepared Kean to compete in both the national and international arenas.


Our Wenzhou-Kean University project enters its second year this September, welcoming another 240 students to campus. The project earned the Middle States provisional approval as an additional location earlier this year. We are the only university in New Jersey, and one of only three in the country, approved to operate an additional location in China.

All 442 Wenzhou-Kean students this fall will move into the new Wenzhou-Kean University facilities constructed for this project. We now have 25 faculty assigned to Wenzhou Kean and a library director will begin this semester—all paid for by our Wenzhou partners.

It is difficult to capture the importance of this initiative in a speech, so I think I will just quote U.S. General Consul in Shanghai Robert Griffiths who said:

Wenzhou-Kean University  “...can have the same kind of life-changing impact on our bilateral relations for the next generation as the Nixon trip did for the generation that is leading our two countries today.”

Just one week ago, 112 students from Wenzhou-Kean University completed a six-week English immersion summer program here on the Kean campus. These pioneers arrived at Kean in July nervous, exhausted and yet excited.  They confronted a significant challenge—six weeks of ENGLISH ONLY, morning, day and night.  

For six weeks, these students worked in the classroom and traveled the region, immersing themselves in U.S. culture and embracing the English language.  Vice President Janice Murray-Laury and her staff in Residence Life and the Center for Leadership and Service,  and the academic team led by Drs. Sophie Howlett and Ruth Griffith, worked just about every hour of every day of those six weeks making sure these students had everything they needed to succeed.  When the students boarded the plane one week ago to return to Wenzhou, I can tell you each one of them said goodbye in perfect English.  Take a look.


None of this would have been possible without a special group—a very amazing group. Now, I want to introduce the Kean USA student mentors who helped make what you just saw possible.  These 10 students immersed themselves in the program, spending the full six weeks this summer on campus, on buses and in dining halls teaching our Chinese students to speak English even when they were just hanging out.  Stand up you guys. You made us very proud!!!

Now let me tell you one more thing about Wenzhou-Kean. What we are doing in China makes Kean USA





So far more than 70 students, faculty and administrators have travelled to Wenzhou Kean to participate in the academic and administrative development of this partnership. Each person who travels to Wenzhou Kean has his or her own unique story to tell—but every story has Kean as its focus.

Our programs in China are expanding to include business and design. The global experiences we now offer both students and faculty alike will make Kean University a top choice for generations of students to come.  What our student mentors learned this summer will distinguish them from the competition when they graduate. What our faculty learn with each semester in China will be the nexus of future research, publications and seminars.  This initiative is limited only by our imagination; it is a key component of the story of our future, and I urge all of you to become a part of it.


Kean’s future also received a great boost this year from the Building our Future Bond Act.  Kean University secured more than $53 million in state funding for four strategic initiatives, ALL designed to support our academic programming.  This funding moves key components of our Vision 2020 plan forward, and provides the academic space needed to grow existing programs and launch new ones.

I could tell you stories about how great these new facilities and clinics are going to be.  Instead, I asked our faculty and students to tell the story of what these investments mean to them, their programs and their future.

First, let’s hear from Dr. Laurie Knis-Matthews and the entire Occupational Therapy department.  Kean got $2 million to build a state of the art clinic and classroom space for the program, which is one of the best in the nation.  

Watch the OT CLINIC video >>

In the performing arts, we’re investing in a scene shop and theatre training center with the $4.4 million in bond funding awarded by the state. Take a look.

Watch the ARTS video >>

Our largest project to win state support is a new multi-purpose academic building at the gateway corner of North and Morris Avenues.  This facility received $36.9 million in bond funding from the state, and will add more than 20 classrooms and 2,000 seats to campus. It also will anchor the North Avenue entrance to the campus and serve as the western gateway to the future University Boulevard. I think Dr. Chang is going to tell you about it.

Watch the NORTH AVE BUILDING video >>

I asked some of our students and Dr. Sylvio Codella to talk about the Highlands Environmental Center, a key component of our Vision 2020 strategic plan for growth. This project received $10.3 million in state funding. Just take a look at what it means to our students.

Watch the HIGHLANDS video >>

Two other strategic investments will reap rewards this year.   The Gateway Building at Kean Ocean opens this fall.  Thousands of students are now taking advantage of the convenience of earning their degrees at Kean Ocean. Take a look.

Watch the KEAN OCEAN video >>

And, I was wondering if you noticed the new facility on the corner of Green Lane?  Well guess who’s got their eye on that space?  

Yup, Rose Gonnella.

Built to support the creative process, the new building will provide the Robert Busch School of Design with the space and the resources needed to launch critical new initiatives in architectural design both here and abroad.  Let’s hear what Linda O’Shea and Rose think about it.

Watch the GREEN LANE video >>

But they have to share, like it or not.  The new facility will house an extensive Barnes & Noble Bookstore and Café on its first floor open to the campus and the community alike. There is no doubt in my mind where we will be celebrating the 2014 Kean Gala.

Other elements of our Vision 2020 continue to make progress.  Construction of our first faculty housing units on the East Campus has begun.

And, thanks to leadership and lobbying from Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage, a two-time Kean alum, NJ Transit will invest $50 million in the revitalization of the Historic Midtown Elizabeth Train Station.

This project is a critical element of our University Boulevard initiative, anchoring the eastern end of Morris Avenue where we hope to create a revitalized campus community stretching the mile from Kean at North Avenue to the train station at Broad Street. Thank you, Mayor Bollwage, for your leadership for this project and keep it going.

Colleagues and Friends:

A few years back we re-imagined ourselves as a good institution that could become great. We changed our look and feel, built world-class structures and facilities, focused on our areas of strength and created several programs of excellence. Above all, we placed our students at the center of all our attention. We have become the envy of our peers.

During the next five years higher education will face challenges like never before. Cost control, student outcomes and graduation rates are now on the national agenda, as President Obama unveiled in a speech at Syracuse University.  The pressures from community colleges and on-line organizations is immense and will continue to grow; state aid will continue its decline, and competition for full-time students, our future, will become very intense.

The future of Kean lies in regional growth and globalization, in programmatic and service excellence, in applied research and scholarship and above all in coming together to realize of our mission of access and quality. We can do it; and we must.

In the region we now have locations in the mountains of the Highlands and the shores of Barnegat Bay. In the world, from Union, New Jersey to Zheijang, China. Several of our programs in Education, Allied Health, Design and Humanities are among the best in the nation. We will continue our climb to the mountaintop by completing our master plan and putting in place programs of distinction. Global Business in 2014, Architecture in 2015, Physical Therapy in 2016, Physician Assistant in 2017, and the list goes on. We all know what we need to do. We can do it, and we WILL do it.

I’m going to close here by encouraging all of you to tell your Kean story whenever and wherever you can.

Everyone in this room can show pride in their place of work by telling people that Kean provides a world-class education, superior programs and total dedication to our students.

I hope every one of you makes this year another great chapter in YOUR Kean story!

Thank you!

Watch the Kean University Branding video >>

Kean University - 1000 Morris Avenue, Union, New Jersey 07083 - 908-737-KEAN (5326) - Campus Map - Directions - Directory