Ceremony marks official dedication of new home for Rohrer College of Business



January 18, 2017

As a capacity crowd of students, faculty, alumni, business leaders and supporters gathered on Jan. 18 to celebrate the opening of the new home of the William G. Rohrer College of Business (RCB), Rowan University President Ali A. Houshmand took the lectern and shared the reason he joined the University in 2006.

“I said I was looking for a challenge,” Houshmand said. “But what I was really looking for was a dream.”

Houshmand’s dream when he was appointed president was that Rowan would emerge as a major institution of higher learning and serve as an economic engine for South Jersey

Through the dedication of the Rowan community and through support from the State of New Jersey and through public-private partnerships, that dream is becoming a reality, he said.

And nowhere is that more apparent than in Business Hall, the $63.2 million, 98,300-square-foot building on Route 322, Houshmand said during a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the building.

Public support

The first academic building dedicated to business education, Business Hall was funded in part by nearly $40 million from the Building Our Future Bond Act. Passed by voters in 2012, the referendum was the first bond act to support construction at New Jersey higher education institutions in two decades. Rowan received $117 million–the second largest amount of funding in New Jersey.

The Building Our Future Bond Act, coupled with the 2012 Medical and Health Sciences Education Restructuring Act, which designated Rowan as a comprehensive research institution and gave the institution its second medical school in Rowan School of Osteopathic Medicine, have been absolute game changers for Rowan and, ultimately, South Jersey, Houshmand said.

The new building will allow RCB to double enrollment and to establish programs that will educate undergraduate and graduate business students who are laser-focused on turning ideas into viable solutions and on creating thriving businesses that will ultimately provide jobs and help our economy grow, the president noted.

Jobs are what South Jersey needs, State Senate President Steve Sweeney said at the ceremony.

“The reason southern New Jersey has a weaker economy than northern New Jersey is we don’t have the number of higher education degrees,” Sweeney said, adding that the region needs a more educated workforce to bring jobs to South Jersey, a role that Rowan is addressing.

“We’re expanding capacity for people to go to school in this region,” he continued. “We need a more educated work force to bring the jobs that we want here. This university is the future of our economic development in southern New Jersey. Rowan University is the lynchpin—the key for economic development in the region and the state.

“Rowan continues to lead the way when it comes to providing a state-of-the-art environment for students and research.”

The Building Our Future Bond Act also provided $46 million for the $71 million, three-story, 88,000-square-foot addition to Rowan’s College of Engineering. The ribbon-cutting ceremony for that building is set for Thursday, Jan. 26, at 1:30 p.m.

About Business Hall

Business Hall will allow Rowan to double enrollment to meet demand in the business school and expand programming. The building includes 14 classrooms, seven conference rooms, 10 specialty spaces, 15 administrative offices and 70 faculty offices.

Designed with RCB’s unique approach to business education in mind–one that is built upon collaboration, small class sizes, project-based learning, problem solving, teamwork and entrepreneurship–the building has common areas to encourage collaboration among students and business leaders. It also lounge areas and collaboration rooms.

The building serves as the home for RCB’s trading room with its ticker tracking the stock market in real time; for the Center for Professional Development, a valuable resource for students dedicated to providing career preparation skills designed to make them stand out in the job market; and for Hatch House, a business accelerator dedicated to supporting student entrepreneurism in all majors across campus.

In the fall, the new Center for Responsible Leadership will be housed in Business Hall. According to RCB Dean Sue Lehrman, the center will be focused on supporting “research and teaching that emphasizes the importance of the triple bottom line—people, planet and profit—with a focus on corporate social responsibility.”

Designed by KSS Architects of Princeton in partnership with Goody Clancy Architects of Boston, the L-shaped building’s west end includes a public art installation. Created by Oregon-based artist Ed Carpenter, the sculpture is made from dichroic glass and refers abstractly to gate imagery since the building serves as a gateway onto campus. By day it is a bright focal point. In the evening, the sculpture glows like a lantern, serving as a welcoming beacon both to the University and to the Rohrer College of Business.

‘A first-class education’

Rowan Board of Trustees Chairman Linda Rohrer, a trustee of the William G. Rohrer Charitable Foundation and a member of the RCB Executive Advisory Council, Business Hall “reflects a first-class education for this College.

“I just toured this building. I’m breathless and speechless,” said Rohrer. “This building stands as a gateway to our campus. And it stands as a gateway to our future.”

The Rohrer College of Business is named for Rohrer’s father, William G. Rohrer, a distinguished businessman, community leader, government official, and philanthropist. In 2004, the William G. Rohrer Charitable Foundation presented the University with a $10 million gift to expand the University’s business curriculum.

Lehrman said the reviews on the new building, which opened for business on Jan. 17, the first day of the spring semester, have been overwhelmingly positive from students and faculty alike. And while faculty and students will spend the most time there, the building is not just for them, she added.

“We expect South Jersey business leaders to call this building their home as well,” Lehrman said. “We want you—those business leaders here today—on campus regularly to collaborate with students on projects and internships, to serve as mentors, to share your talents with our students and to share your big ideas for the betterment of our region.”

The building’s unique design by KSS Architects encourages collaboration, Pamela Lucas Rew, partner with KSS Architects, said.

“Designing meaningful and lasting spaces is a foundation of all KSS work. Higher education, at its core, creates opportunity and possibility. This new Rohrer College of Business building serves as the pivotal gateway to the University. It is a beacon, literally and symbolically expressing Rowan’s commitment to academic excellence and its investment in the region’s future. The spaces we have crafted nurture strong skills as well as the judgment, vision, and integrity that the leaders of the future will apply to advance society and the business profession.”

Business Hall already feels like home, said Rowan senior Celina McFarland, a marketing and management information systems major. President of the Bureau of Business Associations, the umbrella organization for student business clubs at Rowan, McFarland helped cut the ribbon for the new building.

“Business Hall provides students with a second home…a place to network, to study, to develop, to learn, and, most importantly, to grow into the entrepreneurs and business leaders we all aspire to be,” McFarland said.

Inspira land purchase promises new opportunities for Rowan medical schools

February 17, 2016

The Rowan University Board of Trustees authorized the University’s administration on Tuesday, Feb. 16 to negotiate a letter of intent that will lead to the sale of 100 acres of land to Inspira Health Network for the construction of a new medical center on Rowan’s West Campus in Harrison Township, Gloucester County, across from the South Jersey Technology Park.

Full article


Rowan researchers aim high to target lower back pain

Lower-back pain causes distress for millions of people, but this enormous problem often can be traced to a tiny piece of tissue — a cushioning disc between the vertebrae in the spine.

As a person ages, intervertebral discs frequently degenerate, causing the vertebrae to rub together, resulting in chronic pain that can disrupt almost every facet of everyday life, ranging from work tasks to sleep.

To help relieve this suffering, researchers in Rowan University’s College of Engineering and College of Science and Mathematics are zeroing in on these worn discs, developing a new material that may someday help rebuild damaged tissues.

Research has shown that new cells infused into the disc can help develop new tissues, but it is difficult to keep the cells in place. “The problem is there are many materials that work, but if you try to implant them into a disc, research has shown they most likely will be expelled,” said Dr. Jennifer Vernengo, Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering.

Therefore, Rowan researchers are exploring ways to develop a three-dimensional hydrogel scaffold containing these cells that begins as a liquid and will become more solid after it is injected into a damaged intervertebral disc and reaches body temperature.

New Solutions

Vernengo, along with Dr. Cristina Iftode, Associate Professor of Biological Sciences, and Dr. Jennifer Kadlowec, Professor of Mechanical Engineering, are working to develop a material that will adhere to surrounding tissue, remain in place and enable cells to regenerate healthy tissue. However, such a material must enable the new cells to survive. “Existing adhesive polymers are very toxic to cells,” Vernengo said.

As Vernengo works with her team of engineering students to develop the polymer, Kadlowec performs mechanical tests on the material.

“Mechanical tests mimicking loading conditions in the body are performed as well as tests to determine adhesive strength,” Kadlowec said.  “We want to be sure that the polymer behaves like native tissue and is not expelled if implanted.”

Meanwhile, Iftode and her team collaborate with Vernengo and her students to test the polymer to determine whether cells can survive within the material and how long it will take them to regenerate and develop new tissue.

Strength in Collaboration

The researchers’ diverse backgrounds are strengthening this research. “Cristina’s expertise in biology is very complementary to my expertise in materials,” Vernengo said.

“Collaboration is really very powerful because a different perspective on a common goal is always beneficial,” Iftode said.

This partnership not only fortifies their work, but it offers students majoring in different disciplines the opportunity to interact with each other and share their data. “The chemical engineering students would not be exposed to that in a traditional chemical engineering curriculum,” Vernengo said. “This gives them a more competitive edge and strengthens their background and professional development, making them more marketable for jobs in the biomedical engineering field.”

Collaborations also expose students to new opportunities. “It opens their eyes to the possibilities of doing interdisciplinary work, and they may not have been aware of that before,” Iftode said. “My students often sought more traditional types of Ph.D.s, and now some are talking about pursuing specializations in the areas of regenerative medicine and bioengineering.”

Ongoing Plans

The researchers have applied for a National Institutes of Health grant for their continuing work. Their preliminary research was published in the January 2013 issue of the Journal of Materials Science: Materials in Medicine.

After the teams optimize their hydrogel formulation with control cell lines, they will switch to using adult stem cells. Control cell lines are well established and characterized cell lines that are easy to manipulate, generate highly reproducible data and are cheaper to maintain; thus, they are preferred in preliminary testing. But tissue regeneration is possible only with stem cells. In this sense, the adult stem cells are almost as potent as the embryonic stem cells for disc tissue reconstruction, without the controversial ethical implications of the latter.

As their next step, they hope to collaborate with researchers at Cooper Medical School of Rowan University to obtain fat (adipose) stem cells derived from liposuction tissue. “Surplus body fat is a really good source of adult stem cells, which can be isolated, proliferated and then used to populate the scaffold we develop,” Iftode said. “Then these scaffold-embedded stem cells will be exposed to a cocktail of growth factors that will induce them to differentiate into the type of cells that mimic the cells in the intervertebral disc.”

New Potential

Although research is still in preliminary stages, it may ultimately go a long way in solving a widespread problem. “It addresses a real need in terms of being able to translate tissue engineering and regenerative medicine into actually helping people with lower back pain, which is one of the most common medical problems,” Vernengo said. “I think it will make an important impact down the road.”

The project is one of numerous studies conducted by teams at Rowan, which continues to grow its research initiatives, many of which are funded by such organizations as the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health and Fortune 500 companies.

“This work is a wonderful example of students and faculty collaborating on practical research that provides solutions to real problems. This has the potential to change the lives of our neighbors who suffer from chronic back pain,” said Dr. Anthony Lowman, dean of the College of Engineering.

Beautifully bald

This was nervousness. Hardcore nervousness.

“It wasn’t even butterflies in my stomach,” Rowan junior Courtney VanLeuvan says. “It was jumping monkeys.”

Publicly shaving your head—especially when you are a female with long, beautiful locks—is no joke.

But when VanLeuvan walked onto the stage of Rowan’s Chamberlain Student Center with three other fearless females, when she saw the love and support from classmates and family members who had squeezed into every inch of floor and balcony space in the Pit to cheer them on, when the barber’s cape was secured ceremoniously around her neck, her nervousness gave way to pride…and a true sense of purpose.

After all, Rowan’s third annual St. Baldrick’s Day event, which included 54 students—49 men, five women—publicly shaving their heads, had raised a phenomenal $20,500 for pediatric cancer research.

To view the 2013 St. Baldrick’s Day video, visit the Rowan YouTube page.

So what’s a few bald heads between Rowan friends?

“These ladies,” Graduate Coordinator of Student Activities Lauren Thompson gushed as the razors began buzzing, “have raised more than $6,000—just among themselves—to fight childhood cancer. Let them feel the love.”

That was no problem for the St. Baldrick’s Day crowd. The women who took the stage for the final, emotional, public shaving of the evening were clearly rock stars in the eyes of their supporters. Van Leuvan, Rebekah Russell, Katie Cesario and Janille Olivo all watched their long locks flurry to the ground. Theater arts major Christina Higgins, the other female shavee, had her head shaved earlier in the evening.

“You’re beautiful!” male and female students shouted as the women gathered up their pony tails, all of which were donated to Locks of Love, an organization that provides hairpieces to children who have lost their hair due to medical problems.

Making a statement

Many of the St. Baldrick’s participants shaved their heads in tribute to family members or friends who have battled cancer. The female shavees had those goals—and a few more.

They wanted to make a public statement about beauty, about confidence, about courage. Kids with cancer, they note, don’t have any choice when they lose their hair due to treatments.

“I’m trying to make a statement and illustrate the point that hair is not beauty. It doesn’t define who we are and it certainly doesn’t define our beauty,” says Russell, an art major whose family traveled from Cary, N.C. to watch her shave her mane of red ringlets.

“As women, we’re so attached to our hair. We think that makes us who we are. But it doesn’t,” says VanLeuvan.

Russell raised $2,300 for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, while Cesario, a sophomore history and education major, raised $1,000. Olivo, a junior liberal studies major, raised $2,070 and Van Leuvan raised more than $800.

Clinical mental health counseling student James “Bubba” Castorina was the top male fundraiser at $1,070. He asked his barber to carve out “$20K” in the back of his head in celebration of Rowan students reaching their goal. As they have for the past three years, barbers from Glassboro’s Hair To There volunteered their services for the evening.

Rowan’s Student University Programmers (SUP) was the event sponsor. Cesario serves as director of signature events for SUP and spent the evening coordinating the event before taking her turn in the barber’s chair.

Remarkably, since 2011, Rowan students have raised more than $50,500 for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation.

The support from the St. Baldrick’s Day crowd was exhilarating, Van Leuvan says.

“Until I got onto the stage, I didn’t realize how many people were there. We had students from all majors at the university standing together, side by side.

“This event gave us a chance to sit back and see that we’re a community and a family at Rowan. It was so great—so emotional—to see the support, especially from students,” says Van Leuvan.

“I will be talking about this experience for the rest of my life.”

Robots make a splash at Rowan University

Twenty-four teams of middle and high school students and their robots will compete on Saturday, April 13, when Rowan University and the Naval Air Systems Command, Lakehurst, N.J., sponsor the first New Jersey Regional SeaPerch competition from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. in Rowan’s Esbjornson Gym and College of Engineering building, Glassboro, N.J.

SeaPerch, an underwater robotics program, integrates science, technology, engineering and mathematics curricula by providing students the resources needed to construct an underwater Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV), according to its site.

Competitors will bring their ROVs to Rowan’s Esbjornson pool, where they will compete in teams of three to four. They’ll be judged on speed, navigating an obstacle course and a Q&A session. The winner will receive the opportunity to compete at the National SeaPerch competition in Indianapolis, Ind.

“Students learn basic engineering and science concepts while being introduced to ship and submarine design and have fun in the process,” said Dr. Steven Chin, Rowan University’s College of Engineering associate dean. “It’s exciting to see the competition and see kids succeed, especially when they’re learning something in the process.”

Students also will have the opportunity to learn about Rowan’s College of Engineering, touring the Rowan Hall engineering building and meeting current engineering students.

The competition is free and open to the public.

(Participating teams are: Cape May County 4H, Burlington School District, U.S. Sea Cadet Lakehurst Squadron, Fort Dix Warriors 4H, Manchester School District, Harrington SeaPerch Club in Mt. Laurel, Marine Academy of Technology and Environmental Science {MATES} in Ocean County, St. Raphael School in Hamilton, Lacey School District, Colts Neck Cadets and Millville School District.)