New Jersey Monthly magazine this month named NJIT President Robert A. Altenkirch one of New Jersey’s most important people to watch in 2009. The magazine cited Altenkirch’s efforts to revitalize parts of Newark and his high visibility as a figure on the Newark political scene.
Since 2006, Altenkirch has served as chair of the Newark Downtown Core Redevelopment Corporation. The new Prudential Center, better known as The Rock, numbers among the key undertakings of the redevelopment corporation. More recently, Altenkirch has taken a leading role in the Gateway Project, an effort to improve amenities available to the university and the surrounding community in 18-acres north of the campus. Proposed changes include enhanced housing and new commercial space with shops and restaurants. Jones Lang LaSalle, one of the world’s largest real estate services firms and an experienced leader in assisting many universities with their neighborhood development plans, has been selected as “master developer,” while Elkus Manfredi Architects has been appointed master planner.
Since Altenkirch’s arrival in 2002, NJIT’s campus has undergone its own transformative change. Gone are the construction fences and dumpsters. The new NJIT sports a modern Campus Center and first-class academic building both designed by internationally-known, New York-based architects Gwathmey-Siegel. The center and building work as a composite uniting the campus green with the campus. A third-floor pedestrian bridge connects the two buildings physically and creates an exciting visual terminus. The multi-story Campus Center is especially notable with its two-story circular glass atrium. Colorful red signage, part of the university branding initiative, strikes another cheerful chord.
Academically things are changing too. During Altenkirch’s tenure, the department of biomedical engineering, founded only in 2002, has become exceedingly popular, particularly with women who account for 40 percent of its nearly 400 undergraduate and graduate students. The department has annual grant support of $2.5 million. Three young faculty members have received National Science Foundation CAREER awards, including interim chair Treena Livingston Arinzeh, whose adult stem cell work earned the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists, Engineers.
More accomplishments include a successful Middle States review and national ranking affirming NJIT as not only a top national university but among the nation’s most diverse campuses. Other kudos include a rise in research expenditures from $69 million to $90 million in five years plus enormous growth in intellectual property commercialization. NJIT gained 12 new U.S. patents, totaling 95, enabling 123 license agreements in 2008.
To sports aficionados, there’s yet another new look for NJIT. Altenkirch’s ambitious efforts are in the process of moving NJIT’s teams from NCAA’s Division II to Division I, capturing increasing visibility and competing athletically with those national universities with which it competes academically.