Rutgers University-Newark Advisory Board Chair Reflects on Board’s Growing Role in Advancing University’s Mission

Rutgers University-Newark Advisory Board Chair Reflects on Board’s Growing Role in Advancing University’s Mission

Rutgers University-Newark Advisory Board Chair Oliver B. Quinn
Photo by Nick Romanenko
When the New Jersey legislature created the Rutgers University-Newark (RU-N) Advisory Board in 2013, it tasked the board with a crucial assignment: work with campus leadership to advance the mission of RU-N; engage the campus with its local community, its region, and the state; and support RU-N’s commitment to academic excellence, access, and diversity.  The board has been doing just that, meeting at least once a semester, receiving and analyzing updates on projects and activities addressing RU-N’s strategic plan priorities, and advising Chancellor Cantor and the RU-N leadership team.

Since its genesis in the legislation that integrated Rutgers University and portions of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, members of the board have chosen one person to lead them:Oliver B. Quinn, a distinguished member of the Rutgers Law School Class of 1975.  “It has been an honor to be an active part of this significant period in the evolution of Rutgers University-Newark under Chancellor Nancy Cantor’s leadership,” states Quinn, a Plainfield, New Jersey, resident. 

Quinn recently reflected on the board’s role to date and what lies ahead:

You’ve started your third year as chair. How has your role as chair evolved since you first took the position?  What, if any, change has there been in your responsibilities?

My first year as chair was the first year of the board’s existence, so much of that time was spent developing an understanding of our role and designing some operational guidelines to help us function effectively. Since then, we have engaged with the chancellor and her team around significant initiatives at RU-N. These include the development and implementation of the RU-N strategic plan; the renovations of the Hahnes building to create Express Newark; the development of the RU-N master plan; planning for improved transportation; enhanced campus safety measures; and the creation of the Honors Living-Learning Community.

What are the most important ways that the board serves/supports the chancellor?

Our board brings a wide variety of perspectives and experiences to our discussions with the chancellor at our meetings, and she can contact us individually between meetings if she wants additional advisory support. We also call special meetings or schedule conference calls if needed. 

What is the most important activity/challenge that RU-N has been engaged in since you joined the board?

The process for producing the strategic plan – the first ever for the institution – is significant. Before its public rollout, the chancellor presented the draft strategic plan to us. We asked questions and otherwise provided feedback to assist in the plan’s finalization. I, as board chair, spoke at the assembly that launched the rollout of the plan. The rollout included getting input from all levels, internal, external, creating a sense of ownership, etc.

You have advised leaders in the public, private, and non-profit sectors on matters of law, ethics, public affairs, and management for more than 30 years. You are senior counselor at Taft and Partners, a NJ-based communications and public affairs firm, and managing director of Taft’s new Newark office. You advise clients on compliance; ethics; dispute resolution; leadership development; and risk, diversity, and conflict management. How does your professional background and experience come into play in your role as chair of the board?

The board is composed of a diverse set of smart, dedicated individuals with differing views on matters.  I will use my professional experience to channel that intelligence so that it becomes a resource for the chancellor and the university.

Do you have any general reflections on the last couple of years on the board?

Many wonderful things are happening at RU-N.  Fulfilling our mission as an “anchor institution” is an inspiring challenge for all of us who care about our university and our communities. Stay tuned!

The other members of the board are:

  • Rutgers University – Newark Chancellor Nancy Cantor (ex officio, nonvoting)
  • Sherri-Ann Butterfield, senior advisor to the chancellor, senior associate dean of faculty/Faculty of Arts and Sciences, sociology professor, Rutgers University-Newark
  • Marge Derrick, Rutgers Board of Governors member and a 1971 graduate of the College of Arts and Sciences
  • Brynne DiMenichi, student, president of the Graduate Student Governing Association
  • Rahimah Faiq, student, president of the Student Governing Association
  • Roger Leon, assistant superintendent, Newark Public Schools;
  • Richard Roper, Rutgers Board of Governors member and College of Arts and Sciences Class of 1968;
  • John Schreiber, chief executive officer, New Jersey Performing Arts Center
  • Whitney Strub, associate professor, history, RU-N, American Association of University Professors representative
  • Sharon Taylor, senior vice president, Human Resources, Prudential Financial
  • Permelia Toney-Boss, Rutgers administrative staff and president of the Union of Rutgers Administrators/American Federation of Teachers
  • Miklos Vasarhelyi, Rutgers University Distinguished Professor, Rutgers Business School