TCNJ Magazine Fall 2018

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30 The College of New Jersey Magazine Kate Foster, TCNJ's 16th president, moves into her new home on the second floor of Green Hall. A former president of the University of Maine at Farmington with a background in urban planning and a wall of estimable diplomas, Foster lights up at the idea of leveraging a new president — namely, her — as a means to look at the college with fresh eyes and seize opportunities for the future. She sat down with us to talk TCNJ on her 16th day on campus. TCNJ Magazine: If we gave you a TCNJ Ambassador rugby jersey and asked you to lead a campus tour knowing what you know now, what would you talk up? Kate Foster: With a group of high school students, I would first find out about their aspirations. I would talk about the rigorous educational opportunities here and about the ambition and collaborative spirit, which is part of who we are. As I'm showing the beautiful campus, it would be my hope that other students would pass by, and I would greet them by name. And by the way, the orientation leaders are now wearing T-shirts that read "Roar" on the front. On the back, they read "Ask me why I love this place." They're great. I asked for one, which I now have. TM: What do you want the Class of 2022 to know its first semester? KF: That it is also my first semester and that there's a sense of displacement that comes at the beginning of any new chapter. I want them to know that I'm feeling some of that too. The first few weeks on a new mattress never feel quite right, after all. TM: How does it feel to become president at a school where applications are increasing, yet at the same time, the number of college-age Americans has dipped? KF: In New Jersey, we're looking at a decline of 18- to 25-year- olds over the next decade and beyond. That kind of landscape will favor a distinctive, high-quality college. In that light, I think that TCNJ is positioned just about as well as any college can be today, and I am feeling fortunate that we have such a strong foundation. This is a private experience in education at a public price point. We have one of the nation's highest graduation rates for public colleges and universities. We have financial health. We have a large in-state market to tap, including the New Jersey high school students who now go out of state for college. Also, the out-of-state market is largely untapped. TM: Is there a certain comfort level being back in your home state as you take on this busy presidency? KF: Yes, there is. I know the territory, which doesn't mean that I don't have a lot to learn and relearn about New Jersey. But there is something at the gut level about culture, about rhythm, about dynamics that feels familiar to me because I am of it. And, perhaps more significant, unlike other places I've been, I have a support system of people here who knew me long before I became a president. Having people who know your warts, understand who you are, and where you come from, they can bring you down a peg or two when you need it. TM: Danielle Silvia '19, a communication major and Verona, New Jersey, native, asks how your Verona roots might influence you and your impact on the college? KF: Verona was a great place in which to grow up. It's a small town, the kind of place where you walked to school. It offered many educational, recreational, and cultural opportunities. You felt safe and valued. We learned to play fair, be decent, and work hard. That seems like a good recipe for any community, including TCNJ, which may be why I feel so at home here. I will admit to Danielle that her question is something I never thought of before, which is shocking considering that I think a lot about how places shape people and how people shape places. To be asked that after many years away is exciting. I'm glad to reflect on it more in the months to come. TM: New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy set aside $25 million to provide a certain number of students with free community-college tuition in the current state budget but left funding flat for four-year colleges. How does that affect what you will be able to do at TCNJ? July 2, 2018

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