Two New Jersey universities were honored recently by a national higher education council for their successful "transformations" over the last several years.
Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken and Saint Peter's University in Jersey City are the 2018 winners of the American Council on Education/Fidelity Investments Award for Institutional Transformation.
"Stevens Institute of Technology and Saint Peter's University both illustrate how addressing issues head-on plus a lot of hard work and collaboration can help transform an institution," ACE President Ted Mitchell said in a prepared statement.
Stevens is receiving the award in the category for institutions with at least 5,001 students while SPU is receiving the award in the category for institutions with up to 5,000 students.
According to ACE, the award, which comes with a $10,000 prize, was created to recognize institutions that have responded to higher education challenges in innovative ways that resulted in dramatic changes over a relatively brief span.
At Stevens, President Nariman Farvardin, who took office in July 2011, is being credited with putting the institute on the right track after inheriting unstable enrollment, retention and graduation rates; decreased research funding; disillusioned alumni, faculty and staff; and poor relations with the city of Hoboken.
In what ACE calls a dramatic turnaround, Stevens' undergraduate applications and enrollment are up 156 and 29 percent, respectively, and graduate applications and enrollment are up 128 and 24 percent. Graduation, retention and placement rates have increased to 95, 83, and 96 percent, respectively, representing all-time records for the university. Financials, fundraising and the institution's endowment have also all seen drastic improvements, and the university's credit rating has been upgraded.
"The demand for a Stevens education has never been higher," Farvardin said. "With the continued commitment of the university community, the potential of Stevens is limitless. On behalf of Stevens Institute of Technology, I am honored to accept the 2018 ACE/Fidelity Investments Award for Institutional Transformation during this catalytic period in our history."
Farvardin's approach was to spearhead an ambitious 10-year strategic plan that deliberately included many voices representing faculty, staff, students and alumni. Multiple opportunities for input and feedback from all stakeholders in the Stevens community were offered.
Saint Peter's is being recognized for its successful transition from a college to a university, a transformation that ACE called less dramatic than Stevens' turnaround but just as significant.
Since its March 2012 approval to become a university, the school has addressed challenges like a growing enrollment, changing student demographics, finances and the need to further build up campus pride, ACE said.
Positive results have included a 20 percent growth in enrollment, stable freshman classes averaging 600 students and increased freshman retention and four-year graduation rates. In addition, the school has expanded academic programs in cutting-edge fields; increased partnerships to "promote real world learning"; strengthened career support (more than 91 percent of the Class of 2017 landed job or enrolled in post-graduate study within six months of graduation); and improved state-of-the-art facilities such as the Mac Mahon Student Center and the new School of Business.
"This honor acknowledges Saint Peter's dedication to transforming the lives of its students as well as the university's unwavering commitment to transforming and improving the institution as a whole," SPU President Eugene J. Cornacchia said. "We take great pride in the outcomes of our efforts and that these results have been recognized by our peers on a national stage."
Fidelity Investments is honored to join ACE in recognizing innovation on the college level, vice president Debra Frey said.
"Stevens Institute of Technology and Saint Peter's University have proven that comprehensive strategic plans, combined with quantitative goals, can put an institution on a path to sustained success," she said.