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Boston Expert Urges CHEN Leaders To Tell Their Story Across the Nation

What will Newark look like ten years from now?  That provocative question and many more were asked of and answered by business, education and government leaders at the third annual summit of the Council For Higher Education in Newark (CHEN), held last Friday at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT).   The catalyst for this exciting two-hour discussion of the city past and present was Boston business and higher education guru Anne S. Habiby. 

Habiby, who travels around the nation advising urban leaders how to turn around decaying center cities, spent her morning in Newark at the summit urging leaders to spread the word better about the effectiveness of their work.   Originally billed as the keynote speaker for this annual meeting, she took the stage and in a whirlwind proceeded to elicit comments from throughout the room.  CHEN is composed of Newark’s four public institutions of higher learning-- Essex County College (ECC), New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), Rutgers University at Newark (RU-N) and the University of Medicine and Dentistry (UMDNJ.  “Destination Newark 2014” was the summit’s theme.

“I came here today with a prepared speech, but after I read the three-inch stack of materials I received about CHEN realized that I can’t use any of it,” she said.  “That’s because this group is unlike any others I speak to,” said Habiby. “I don’t need to tell you how to set up successful programs.  You are doing that already.  I don’t need to tell you how to help this local economy grow.  You are already doing that. But what I will tell you to do is to market yourselves better. 

“Because your work is one of the nation’s best kept secrets.”

Habiby told CHEN leaders and others to get themselves out in front nationally and let people know what they are all about and doing.  “Other universities in other cities have much less to market and boast about than you,” she said.  “But they have marketed themselves more effectively.  “Let people know that you are a model of collaboration, that you have created something with traction.”

To get the word out, she advised them to speak at conferences, create a brand and do the unexpected. Leaders listened and said they were setting up a committee to look into better ways to market themselves, the four institutions and the many initiatives in the CHEN array of projects and community services.

Habiby is a protégé of distinguished Harvard Business School Professor Michael Porter and co-directs the Cambridge-based Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC). 

The summit, open by invitation only, brought together leaders of business, education and industry in Newark.  Other conference speakers were leaders of each CHEN institution:  A. Zachary Yamba, president, ECC; Robert A. Altenkirch, president, NJIT; Steven J. Diner, provost, RU-N; Stuart D. Cook, president, UMDNJ. 

Following the keynote address, local panelists explored Habibi’s comments. They were Alfred C. Koeppe, president and CEO of the Newark Alliance; Brenda Hopper, the state director of the New Jersey Small Business Development Centers (RU-N); Richard Monteilh, the business administrator for Newark; Congressman Donald M. Payne (D-NJ);  Gloria Bonilla Santiago, distinguished professor of public policy and administration and director of the Center for Strategic Urban Community Leadership at Rutgers University at Camden, was invited but could not attend.

The Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC) is a national not-for-profit organization founded in 1994 by Harvard Business School Professor Michael E. Porter. The ICIC’s mission is to build healthy economies in America’s inner cities that create jobs, income, and wealth for local residents. ICIC acts to transform thinking, provide cities with a new vision of economic development, and engage the resources of the private sector to accelerate inner-city business growth.  ICIC is known for a distinctive market-based approach and for generating cutting-edge solutions.  ICIC also brings together community and business leaders to put ideas into practice.

CHEN is an association of four public institutions of higher learning dedicated to providing public service and educational opportunities throughout the greater Newark area.  ECC, NJIT, RU-N and UMDNJ founded CHEN in the 1970s and have forged a solid working relationships ever since. Together these four institutions constitute a major university center. CHEN continues to build the intellectual and research capacity of its students and faculty, the number and excellence of academic programs and the responsiveness of the four institutions to the needs of Essex County and beyond.  CHEN institutions are committed to advancing the interests of each institution by undertaking collaborative ventures that will benefit the residents of both the county and state.