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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 WeekApril 26, 2015

Dear Students: 

I hope you enjoyed at least some of the festivities yesterday during our alumni reunion and, especially, the launching of TCNJ’s first comprehensive campaign. I enjoyed chatting with some of our alumni, learning about their lives and careers since graduation.  One recent alumnus I spoke with is working in the office of a NJ state senator, another in a law firm, and a third completed a master’s degree and landed a new job with the Securities & Exchange Commission.  I also had the pleasure of talking with alumni who graduated 10 or more years ago, including one woman back for her 65th reunion!  Everyone had beautiful stories to tell about the impact of their TCNJ education.  In short, HSS alumni continue to be happy and super smart after graduation!

As a public institution, The College of New Jersey, of course, depends on the support of the people of the great state of New Jersey.  Unfortunately, New Jersey, like many other states, has been reducing its financial support of public higher education.  The most recent information on the budget proposed for the next fiscal year, as reported in The Signal last week, would suggest a reduction of over 8% in state support of our college. 

The comprehensive campaign is designed to help TCNJ be more resilient to reductions in state support.  With the support of donors, TCNJ can build its endowment and, thereby, sustain and perhaps even increase financial aid for students who face increased costs of attendance when the state reduces its contribution.  Increased financial support for the College from donors also means more money for students traveling to conferences to present their research and more money for student scholarships for study abroad, for example.  Indeed, the theme of our comprehensive campaign is “innovate, inspire, engage” because the additional financial support the College is seeking will help us continue to innovate in the design and delivery of the educational opportunities that change our students’ lives, inspire our students to attain the highest levels of achievement, and engage our students not only in the classroom, but all over campus and in the communities beyond Metzger Drive.   

The other theme of our comprehensive campaign is “all in.”  This means that all of us who are members of this community should be “in” in demonstrating our commitment to the College we love. 

As your dean, I ask you, too, to be “all in” by making a donation to the College, no matter how small, every year.  By giving even just a few dollars, you add your name to the list of donors.  This increases the percentage of students who are contributing which helps the College make the argument to other prospective donors:  if 80% of our current students and 90% of our alumni are contributing to the campaign (no matter the size of their gifts), we will be more successful in bringing in gifts from other donors who see that rate of participation as compelling evidence of our community’s belief in the value of a TCNJ education. 

So, please, make a gift – and you will make a difference.  The cost of your education exceeds the amount of tuition charged to you, even if you pay the non-resident tuition.  By contributing to the College, even just a few dollars, you are saying to prospective donors everywhere that they should be “all in,” too.  When we increase the percentage of students (and alumni) contributing to the College, our rankings rise.  This makes your diploma more valuable, while allowing the College to attract the best qualified students, faculty, and staff.  Again, it’s not the size of the gift you make, but rather the fact that you made one at all.

I also ask you to ask your parents or other family members as well as any friends who are alumni to make a gift as well, again, no matter what size.  It’s not the dollar amount that matters for this aspect of our campaign: it’s the rate of participation for these groups – students, family members, and alumni – that makes a difference in our College’s rankings.  Faculty and staff are also making contributions for the same reason. 

It’s easy to give: just go to and click on the button marked “donate.”

And, yes, I’m “all in” myself:  I contribute to TCNJ every month with an automatic payroll deduction and I make additional periodic contributions as well.


Your friendly neighborhood dean,


PS Next week I will be sending out my last weekly message.



Congratulations to the following students who were among those inducted last week into Phi Kappa Phi, the nation’s oldest comprehensive honors society (not just the liberal arts): 

Aleisa Campbell, Albert Cavallaro, Amy Chen, Jennifer Dyer, Nicole Fasano, Derek Giannone, Heba Jahama, Brianna Malinowski, Lillian Panitch, Matt Sandor, Jennie Sekanics, Jennifer Sharo, Adrienne Stewart, Timothy Szatkowski, Katie Tencza, Michael Tobass, and Gerard Tyrrell

Congratulations to Mi-Yeon Park who has won a Boren National Security Scholarship to study in China next year.

Congratulations to Rebecca Flores who just returned from “Research on the Hill,” sponsored by the national Council on Undergraduate Research.  Congratulations to her also for landing a great job as an account executive at UPS.

Congratulations to all our student authors whose research is published in the latest issue of TCNJ’s Journal of Student Scholarship: .  Congratulations also to Dr. David Venturo, editor of the journal, for his critically important work on this project.

Congratulations to Dr. Sisko and Dr. Toloudis, co-directors of the grant that produced our year-long series of events focusing on economic justice.  We have enjoyed the many events associated with this project, including talks by Matt Taibbi, Charles Blow, Jelani Cobb, Suzanne Mettler, and Dorian Warren, as well as the screening of many interesting films.



Mon., Apr. 27               Screening of Va’ Pensiero, Itinerant Stories, a documentary film about racist attacks in Italy and the attempts of victims to put their lives back together, at 5 pm in the Library Auditorium.

Tues., Apr. 28              Ink: Student Reading Series, at 8:30 pm in the Library Auditorium

Wed., Apr. 29              A Potpourri of Brass, featuring TCNJ’s brassquintent, brass and horn ensembles, at 4 pm in Mayo Concert Hall.

Sun., May 3                 TEDxTCNJ:  TCNJ’s first TEDx conference, from 12 pm to 5 pm in Mayo Concert Hall, with the theme “Light the Flame.”  For more information, see