President Repollet Welcomes University Back on Opening Day
After a year marked by the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, Kean University President Lamont O. Repollet, Ed.D., today welcomed the Kean community back to campus, telling a live audience at his Opening Day Address at Wilkins Theatre that Kean is “bigger and better than we left it.”
“This is the moment I have been waiting for,” Repollet said, receiving a standing ovation from a full audience of faculty, staff and students.
It was Repollet’s second Opening Day speech, but his first before a live audience. This year’s address was also livestreamed on Kean’s website as it was last year.
“We used our ‘remote’ time to build for our comeback to be bigger and better than when we left. We didn’t allow the pandemic to stunt our growth. Our team remained steadfast in its commitment to our students every step of the way,” he said. “We invested in our students, staff and faculty and have outlined an academic course to elevate our University.”
On Wednesday, September 1, classes will resume fully in-person at Kean for the first time since the pandemic. Kean transitioned to remote learning in March 2020. While the campus may have been quiet during the last academic year, Repollet said hard work was underway to make the reopened University stronger, safer and more inclusive for all.
From creating the University’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, to creating Kean’s artist-in-residence program, renovating sports venues and building new recreation facilities at Miron Student Center to better engage students, Kean has worked to build a better University.
“Honestly, I couldn’t be any more proud of the work we have done to positively impact our community,” Repollet said. He urged Kean students, faculty and staff to become increasingly involved as the University forges ahead.
“I need you to be engaged so we can put our plans into action,” he said. “Leadership doesn’t start with your title…. It starts with your action. Engaged leaders are a crucial part of our continuous improvement model.”
Major changes and new programs at Kean include:
- Kean worked actively to increase equity and enhance diversity on campus. The Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion was created, and the first six recipients of the Equity in Action Presidential Postdoctoral Fellowship were selected. In addition, 50 diverse new faculty members were hired.
- New University divisions were created to focus on student success and retention, and on building and strengthening Kean’s connection to the Pre-K to 12 education world.
- The University distributed $33 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds directly to students as cash payments and not restricted for use to pay tuition or fees. In the midst of a global pandemic, Kean recognized that students have all kinds of extraordinary needs.
- Numerous measures made the campus safe in light of COVID-19, including hosting Union County COVID testing and vaccination sites, creating a federally certified laboratory that processes COVID tests, and requiring vaccinations for students, faculty and staff.
- Attention was paid to student wellness. Outside of Miron Student Center, new basketball courts, an improved volleyball court and a brand-new turf field just opened to increase student engagement and fitness. Volleyballs, basketballs, soccer balls and more are available at Miron for student groups to borrow.
- Other wellness spaces were added around campus, including cardio rooms and computer labs in residence halls.
- The University welcomed the John S. Watson Institute for Public Policy and Research, a critical component of the University’s focus on urban research. Kean is also striving to receive Carnegie classification as an R2 research institution.
- The University has also been selected for the U.S. Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration University Center award, establishing a new center for workforce development and innovation.
- Contemporary artist Knowledge Bennett was named Kean’s first artist-in-residence. An Asbury Park native, Bennett debuts his new collection of work “Pieces of a Man” at Kean beginning in September.
Repollet touted many accomplishments of Kean students and alumni, as well as the University’s status as a Military Friendly school and a First-Gen Forward Institution.
“Kean is truly the place to be, a place where successful careers are launched,” he said. “We may have been a hidden gem before, but word is getting out that we are on the rise.”
For three Kean students who attended the speech, the opportunity to be there and be back on campus was “amazing.”
“It feels really good to be back,” said Richard LaSalle II, a senior music education major from Roselle Park, who is a student ambassador along with junior Ryen Hagg, a STEM education major from Piscataway, and Abigail Fabe, a junior music education major from Carteret.
The three also said they found the president’s words inspirational. “It’s always an inspiring experience to be in Dr. Repollet’s presence,” Fabe said.
Repollet, in concluding his remarks, noted that he has “witnessed greatness” at Kean from all vantage points: first as a student, then as a trustee and now “leading the charge as the 18th leader of this great University.
“Every time I return to this campus, I fall in love all over again,” he said. “I love the dedication and commitment of our faculty and staff. I love the curiosity and determination to succeed from our students. I love the endless potential, right in front of us, to take this University we love so deeply and climb to a new level of excellence.
“Quite frankly, I love being a Cougar,” Repollet said.