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Letters From the Dean

Check back here every Sunday for Dean Rifkin’s timely message to the School of Humanities and Social Sciences!


This WeekMay 3, 2015

Dear Students:

When the spring semester started, the days were short and cold:  the end of the semester seemed as if it were years, not months away.  And yet, here we are at the end of the semester.  This week is the last week of classes and Wednesday is our College’s annual celebration of student achievement.  Next week we will have our final exams and then, before you know it, it’s Commencement.  So we have arrived at my final weekly message to our community.

I have so much to say to you:  It has been a privilege and an honor to serve this community.  You inspire me; I have learned so much from you.  You have made me a better leader and a better person.  I am profoundly grateful to all of you and very glad that we have been able to share our life journeys, if only for a little time.

I hope that you will be inspired by our time together to be more present in your lives, to seek out and embrace opportunities both to serve and to celebrate, to be both respectful and compassionate to others and to yourself.  I hope that you will ceaselessly engage in learning, both in and out of the classroom, both with and without a syllabus, both at TCNJ and beyond, your whole life long.  I hope that you will always be an agent of our College’s mission to sustain and advance our communities.  I wish you good health and happiness always.  May you always find meaning in your life, fulfillment in your work, and loving family and friends with whom to share your life journey.

Earlier this semester we observed the 50th anniversary of the March on Selma.  I happened to hear an interview with a woman who participated in that march, Linda Blackmon Lowery, who was 15 back in 1965.  She wrote a book about it and was interviewed last month on NPR.  At one point in that interview she said:

I would like for young people to know that each day of your life is a journey into history and that you’re making that history. And you have the ability to change something each day of your life. Believe it or not, people, it can’t happen without you. 

I agree: You have the ability to change something each day of your life.  And it can’t happen without you.

I will be stepping down from my position at TCNJ at the end of the day on May 21.  Although I will be working and living elsewhere, I will be leaving a piece of my heart right here on this campus and will remain, always, a proud lion.

I have been and will always be,

Your friendly neighborhood dean,

Ben Rifkin

PS to Seniors:  I will be sending you a message about commencement, a special time when we will share a celebration of the completion of our TCNJ journey.



Congratulations to Alexa Logush, who has won TCNJ’s 2015 Peter Wood Award for excellence in creative writing for her linked flash fiction stories.  Congratulations also to Kira DeSomma for honorable mention in the same competition.

Congratulations to Mi-Yeon Park and Margaret Beane-Fox who have both won Roebling Awards for research or internships on study abroad.  Mi-Yeon will be working with North Korean female refugees in South Korean this summer, while Margaret will be volunteering at an orphanage in Argentina.  You can learn more about the Roebling Scholarship at

Congratulations to Nupur Mital who has won a summer internship at the World Health Organization for this summer.

Congratulations to Sue Hua Aw Young, Benjamin Levine, Gordon Sayre, and Kristin Schnatter, and alumnus Christopher Ruppel (2014), who all presented their senior honors theses and MUSE projects at the 2015 meeting of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology in Philadelphia last week.

Congratulations to Dr. John Sisko who was interviewed for WAMC’s Roundtable, an award-winning, nationally recognized talk program, about TCNJ’s Exploring Economic Justice series. The interview is now available online:

Congratulations to Dr. Miriam Lowi, whose opinion essay on turmoil in North Africa was published recently here:

Congratulations to alumnus Bill Schindler (2000) who will be the co-star on National Geographic’s new series, The Great Human Race.  He left yesterday to start filming around the world.  The show will air in the 1st quarter of 2016:

Congratulations to Dr. John Sisko (Philosophy), who will serve as Interim Dean for the coming year, starting May 22, 2015.  Our entire community thanks him for his dedicated service.


Thank Yous 

Thank you, Jaryd Frankel, HSS photographer for the past two years.  He’s graduating now and off to medical school.  In the past two years he inspired us with moving photos of remarkable people in our community.

Thank you, Jack Meyers, HSS webmaster for the past two years.  He, too, is graduating now, and off to a job supervising elementary and junior high school students studying Spanish.  For the past two years he has filed numerous stories for the HSS website, Facebook page, Twitter feed, and Instagram and has worked with College staff to make sure that HSS media conform with College guidelines.

Thank you to Ms. Lynette Harris and Ms. Deb Kelly of TCNJ’s Career Center for their extraordinary engagement in building new programming for HSS students over the course of the past few years, especially HSS 201, the post-graduate planning class.

Thank you to Mr. Pat Donohue, Ms. Paula Figueroa-Vega, and the entire team at the Bonner Institute who have helped us realize our school-wide ambition to develop and implement advanced-community engaged learning classes in every HSS major.

Thank you to Dr. Jon Stauff, director of the Center for Global Engagement, for his tireless advocacy of study abroad for HSS students and his efforts, just as important, to advocate for the needs of international students on our campus.

Thank you to Dr. James Taylor, Academic Integrity Officer for HSS.  He does some of the most difficult work in our community year in and year out and our community is very grateful for his leadership in this area.

Thank you to Dr. Jason Dahling (Psychology) for leading our effort to administer an annual survey of HSS students which has allowed us to track increasing numbers of participants in our signature experiences over the past several years.

Thank you to Mrs. Diane Minger, who does everything for our community.  She checks in even on the weekends, during vacation, in the evenings, to make sure that everything is moving forward for all our community members and she always greets every visitor to the HSS dean’s office with a very friendly greeting.

Thank you to Dr. Rosa – the best assistant dean ever.  She has taken a lead role in advancing improvements for the advising system in HSS and our success in this area has been emulated elsewhere in the College.

Thank you to Dr. John Sisko, professor of Philosophy and faculty fellow in the dean’s office for the past 3.5 years.  He has tirelessly engaged in complex matters, working with students appealing decisions, students who need interventions of various kinds, developing new traditions for our community, analyzing data and writing reports, and representing HSS in a broad range of venues.  He is wise, thoughtful, tactful, and considerate.  He On May 22 he steps forward as our community’s Interim Dean so we know that the leadership of HSS will be in great hands.



Mon., May 4        Our annual Lanterns on the Lake event at 7:30 pm at Lake Ceva.  Come make your own lantern to release on the lake.  To create your lantern, join us at Armstrong 102 at 6 pm before heading to the lake at 7:30 pm.

Tues., May 5       Lecture by Dr. Ying Xiao on New Social Media and Chinese Identity in Bliss Annex 229 at 5:30 pm

Wed., May 6       Celebration of Student Achievement:  Come see presentations and posters of top students in all fields studied at the College.  See for the complete schedule of events.

Wed., May 6       Lyric Theater will be presenting scenes from Mozart’s Cosi fan Tutte, Die Zauberflöte, and Die Entführung aus dem Serail as well as scenes from Acts 1 and 2 of Die Fledermaus from 5 to 7 pm in Mayo Concert Hall. 

Sat., May 9         Annual Friends of Webster Doggie and Kittie Stress Relief Event:  If you’re stressed about final exams, come to Alumni Grove at 4 pm and enjoy the wagging tails of friendly faculty and staff dogs and cats who will gather at this time just for you.