Students Return to NJIT for the First Day of Classes -- and Pancakes

President Joel Bloom (right) with a student at the annual pancake breakfast.

It’s the first day of classes at NJIT and many students are understandably nervous. So what better way to welcome them to campus than to serve a free breakfast? And the person serving them that breakfast is NJIT President Joel Bloom, who delights in feeding, and greeting, as many students as he can.

During the breakfast, served outside on the campus green, Bloom asks the students about their high schools, their hometowns and their academic majors. He eases their back-to-college butterflies a bit -- loosens them up -- and wishes them well. Many of the students Bloom meets are freshmen and he’s rightly proud of them: for it’s the largest (1,068) and smartest (the average composite SAT score in critical reading and math is 1,190) freshman class ever to enter NJIT.

The freshmen are from 16 states, though most live in New Jersey. Some also come from foreign countries such as India, Australia, Canada, China, Spain and Russia. The most popular majors chosen by the freshman class are mechanical engineering, computer science and civil engineering, followed by computer engineering, biomedical engineering and architecture.

They enter NJIT at a time when the university is stronger than ever. It’s consistently ranked as a top national university by U.S. News and World Report as well as an American Top College by Forbes.com. NJIT graduates are also recruited for the most promising and best-paying careers. Their achievements have led to NJIT’s ranking in the top 1 percent among public universities in the United States for alumni earning potential. The campus is also undergoing revitalization with the new Warren Street Village, which is home to fraternities and sororities as well as to the Albert Dorman Honors College.

NJIT is a demanding university but it’s also a close-knit campus with caring professors and administrators. The pancake breakfast is just one of the ways that the university shows solicitude for its students.

“It’s very nice to meet President Bloom,” says Katy Nyby, as she sits eating breakfast with a friend. “He’s very warm and welcoming.”

Nyby is a freshman majoring in information technology and also belongs to the women’s track team. She admitted to being a bit nervous and said her goal for the year is to simply stay focused. Along with studying and running, she’ll have a job on campus and she wants to have some semblance of a social life.

“Balancing all of that will be hard at first,” she says, “but I hope to make it work.”

Kamal Raghibi has a lofty goal for his freshman year. He wants to get a 4.0 GPA. He majors in mechanical engineering and belongs to NJIT’s Educational Opportunity Program, through which he spent the summer preparing for the onset of the fall semester. And now that it's here, he’s pumped. 

“I’m not just planning to get a 4.0 -- I’m going to do it,” says Kamal, as he takes a selfie of himself with Bloom.

And though he’s president, Bloom also has a goal for the 2014-2015 academic year: to focus on the success of the students. 

“This is an exceptional freshman class and I want to meet their expectations,” said Bloom. “Your college years can be the best years of your life, when you are learning and making friends and enjoying campus life. I want NJIT to be a great experience for these bright students.” 

By Robert Florida