CAMDEN, NJ — As of Wednesday, Phoebe Haddon’s time as Rutgers-University Camden’s chancellor will conclude after six years.
Her tenure has included a growth in enrollment and a more diverse student body — partly due to the Bridging the Gap tuition reduction program making college attainable to more students.
Since the fall of 2014, the number of Rutgers-Camden students to graduate has also doubled.
Academically, the school has made strides by adding graduate programs like New Jersey’s first master’s program in forensic science, and others that touch on nursing practice, business analytics, investments and private wealth management, as well as digital marketing.
In reflecting on how the university has evolved, Haddon says whereas before Rutgers-Camden was seen as mostly an arts and sciences university, the advent of its nursing and business schools have allowed it to be research-oriented in a wider capacity.
Haddon recently spoke about that and more with TAPinto Camden.
The following interview was edited for brevity:
In announcing you would be stepping down as chancellor in April, you also said you would be returning to the university as a law professor. How does it feel returning to the classroom?
Well, I won’t be teaching the first year I return, as I’ll be taking a sabbatical leave to do research.
I’m very much looking forward to that. Usually, my focus would be equal protection law and other civil rights issues, so I probably will be doing some writing related to that...over how we can better resolve those issues through law or other types of meditation.
What is something you would have wished you worked more on as chancellor?
It would have been to build more buildings.
Part of the challenge of having so much growth is then having enough space. We’ve renovated a lot of buildings and been smart about how we used space on campus but we have outgrown many of the facilities too.
What I continue to like about the campus is the inward courtyard look, with most buildings facing both in and outward. When you walk into the middle of the campus you feel it and I hope we maintain [that in the future].
What have you been most proud of during your tenure?
That’s easy to answer, it would be dramatically increasing enrollment.
But I’m especially proud that we’ve not just increased numbers and graduate programs, but also the diversity of the student body. We have been really focused on access.
Rutgers-Camden has been in the news recently over obscuring a mosaic frieze and a petition to remove the Christopher Columbus statue - symbols that like elsewhere in the country communities are asking to be removed or reconsidered. What is your response?
I believe these conversations are very important to have. I think we have to fully appreciate where we have come from, as well as where we are going.
We did start this conversation while obscuring part of the frieze. We felt the frieze was offensive enough for people that don’t know the history, who would be surprised to see that kind of thing, [to cover part of it]...and we have made a commitment to have deeper conversations on the matter.
We all have both conscious and unconscious bias. My own family was victimized by outright bias demonstrated by some law officers in South Jersey [recently], so we’re seeing a continuation of some of these issues and how in some instances we can be victims of our past even today.
Projects in the city of Camden, such as the upcoming “Rutgers Field,” but others in the past as well involve community input. Do you feel residents have had the right amount of say regarding university expanding its footprint or launching initiatives that impact them?
Again, I’d say it's a work in progress.
Through Cooper’s Ferry and other organizations in Camden, we've been able to come together and talk about those kinds of things. So, you know, particularly because our population is commuter, it's important to have fields, but we also understand that we're part of a city that doesn't necessarily have the same sort of feel that other cities do.
Overall, I believe that sitting down around the table is the best process..looking at something and saying, ‘Ok, let's talk this through.’
Margaret Marsh will be taking over as interim chancellor once you step down, a role she previously occupied from 2007 to 2009. Have you had conversations with her as she transitions over?
We have and have had many opportunities to. I would say she’s already in tune with what’s been happening to a great extent and will be able to more so [once she begins as chancellor]. She continued to teach after her last interim period and is already so knowledgeable on the university.