The new speaker has challenged New Jersey's institutions of higher education, high schools and industry leaders to direct their energy toward building a more robust culture of innovation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. We should accept this challenge and take it to the next level.
Let's promote a more robust culture of innovation and entrepreneurship on our campuses. Let's ask ourselves: How can we train STEM students at all levels to foster innovation? How do we challenge them to be scientifically rigorous and creative and entrepreneurial? My own research has shown that all students can be innovative - but how do we get them to realize this potential while mastering the STEM disciplines?
If we don't rise to the challenge, we are shirking our mission as public institutions of higher learning. Our fundamental charge is to apply our strengths as researchers and educators in service to the public good. The people of New Jersey need us to focus and redouble our efforts to make New Jersey a global leader not only in pharma, but in medicine, clean energy, nano-sciences and fabrication, cybersecurity and beyond. New Jerseyans need their universities and colleges to create the future; to be truly theirs.
Don't get me wrong. As the new chancellor of Rutgers University-New Brunswick, I am well aware of -- and always inspired by -- the innovative STEM research going on throughout our campus. As one of our nation's premier public research universities, innovations from Rutgers are credited with an array of benefits to the public at large, including the discovery of a tuberculosis cure last century to new drone technology that could help the U.S. Navy conduct more effective search and rescue missions.
Similar groundbreaking work, I am sure, is occurring at New Jersey's other universities and colleges. Our state has a great foundation - and that includes a great history of basic research (think: Bell Labs) and applied technology (think: Menlo Park). Innovation and entrepreneurship are in New Jersey's DNA, and they have played a vital role in building an economy that has offered exceptional opportunities to its citizens.
But New Jersey's public universities and colleges can and must do better. We must do more to drive the state's innovation ecosystem and economy, and prepare the next generation - our sons and daughters - for success in the new global economy.
It's time for us to take the innovation and entrepreneurship challenge. Let's think. Let's organize. Let's take risks to drive a better and brighter future for the citizens of New Jersey.
Deba Dutta is the chancellor of Rutgers University, New Brunswick.