The bond between NJIT and Newark grows stronger every year. Since NJIT’s founding as Newark Technical School in 1881, NJIT has been a vital partner in education, economic growth and civic betterment in the city.
Today, as part of Newark’s University Heights district, NJIT is an institution with international stature in science and technology. Credit goes to NJIT for founding the state’s oldest and largest business incubator program, the Enterprise Development Center. Now in its 21st year, the Center incubates technology-based start-up businesses that have the potential for contributing to economic prosperity to Newark and beyond.
One of the most exciting programs between city and university is the continuing physical transformation of the NJIT campus. The big news last year was the completion of an agreement between the Newark and NJIT to purchase the former Central High School, which sits adjacent to NJIT, fronting MLK Blvd. The university community anticipates the availability of the building for use no later than 2012. Upon completion of renovation, the building will serve as a center for education in the STEM disciplines — science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Based at the center will be NJIT’s wide-ranging and popular initiatives to improve STEM education from kindergarten through 12th grade. The new center will build upon NJIT’s already strong pre-college education presence in these disciplines.
Since 1978, NJIT’s Center for Pre-College Programs has increased access to scientific and technological fields among traditionally underrepresented populations and improved the teaching of science and mathematics in secondary and elementary schools. Achievement is reflected in the accomplishments of the many pre-college alumni who become teachers, engineers, scientists and financiers who strive to keep the economy flourishing.
This remarkable program served more than 3,000 elementary and secondary students and their teachers last summer, many of whom were from Newark. Programs are solid links to the Newark school system and other school districts in New Jersey. Such involvement in pre-college science and engineering programs has convinced NJIT and its partners that intervention must begin in the elementary grades. Hence, NJIT has greatly increased its activities aimed at improving science teaching in the classroom and reforming the elementary science curriculum as early as kindergarten.
On broader fronts, NJIT is bringing Division I college sports to Newark and contributing to the revitalization of areas beyond its campus. In addition to being the venue for commencement, the Prudential Center is where NJIT’s men’s and women’s basketball teams play several home games, much as Highlanders’ baseball is played at Bears and Eagles Riverfront Stadium. Home ice for the New Jersey Devils hockey team, The Rock is the first major arena to be built in the New York Metropolitan area in more than 25 years. An architecturally dramatic setting for concerts as well as sports, The Rock is the cornerstone of Newark’s Downtown Core Redevelopment Project.
Under the heading of neighborhood redevelopment, this past April the Newark Municipal Council passed a resolution designating NJIT as the “sole and exclusive redeveloper” of properties specified in the Gateway Plan — which covers an area of some 18 acres north of campus extending along Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard to Orange Street. NJIT has responsibility for ensuring implementation in the best interests of all stakeholders.
NJIT’s Gateway project is a key effort to improve amenities available to the university and the surrounding community. Its founders have envisioned enhanced housing, new commercial space with shops and restaurants, and eventually the establishment of a “Greek Village” for fraternities and sororities. The latter would be located on campus property adjacent to Lock and Warren streets.
Coming up this spring, NJIT will once again hold commencement at ‘The Rock,’ which is appropriate given that NJIT is Newark’s hometown university and has had an association with the host city from the 19th century. Last year, NJIT was the first university to hold its commencement there. Last year honorary degree recipients included none other than Newark’s own living legend and longtime resident Elizabeth Del Tufo, who was awarded an honorary degree for community commitments that include helping to create the Newark Preservation and Landmarks Committee.
While NJIT’s presence in education and research has become global over the decades, the university is deeply mindful of its historic roots in Newark. It is an engagement that in 2009 will continue to expand with new commitments to the city’s social and economic well-being.