Meet some of the people who are making a difference at Rutgers and contribute to our beloved community. Check back throughout the year as we share their stories.
Drive to Advance Equity Guides Anna Branch in Her New Role at Rutgers
Enobong (Anna) Branch can pinpoint the moment she decided to switch lanes from studying medicine to education.
She was a third-year biology major at Howard University with plans of becoming a doctor when she learned her old high school – a Christian school her father founded in the Bronx – was struggling.
“That school was a vehicle to show that children like us could succeed, despite the poor reputation of some public schools in the Bronx, where more kids went to jail than to college,” said Branch, whose father emigrated from Nigeria and mother was born in the Bronx but whose family hails from Antigua. “I realized I knew tons of Black people I could call on who were going to be fabulous doctors and lawyers. But I didn’t know as many who were going to be educators and would ensure kids like mine succeed.”
Nearly two decades later, that same sense of duty – to ensure others can access an equitable education similar to the one she received – drives Branch as Rutgers’ first senior vice president for equity.
Rutgers’ Academic Chief Makes His Mark Through Innovation
Prabhas Moghe believes in pushing boundaries and taking strategic risks.
If something isn’t working right, he wants to know why. His drive to unravel a problem, understand it and come up with a solution is the same whether he is researching ways to help prevent and treat disease or motivating students to come to class on time with a pushup challenge.
“My first thought is always how do we make it better?” says Moghe, recently appointed as the executive vice president of academic affairs at Rutgers. “It shouldn’t have to wait until you have everything settled because that might not ever happen.”
In a role that is second in rank to Rutgers President Jonathan Holloway, Moghe has been tasked with elevating the academic profile of the university and coordinating academic programs throughout the university along with the provosts and chancellors in New Brunswick, Newark and Camden. A self-described problem-fixer, Moghe also will help create new initiatives and be at the helm of reimagining what Rutgers will become in the next decade.
Rutgers Chief of Staff Shaped by Purposeful Approach
A proud Chicago Northsider with a deeper loyalty for the Cubs than deep dish pizza, Andrea Conklin Bueschel has ventured from her Midwest roots before, just never during a global pandemic. So, when the opportunity to traverse the Big Ten landscape presented itself in July, the decision to further grow in New Brunswick was not as difficult as one might expect.
“The farther along I get in my career, the more I care about the type of leader I work for,” said Bueschel. “It’s no longer about having the job, but rather the integrity and values of that person, their ambitions and aspirations.”
“That person” in this instance is Rutgers University president Jonathan Holloway. After working closely with him at Northwestern University for three years as associate provost for strategy and policy, Bueschel now serves as his chief of staff and senior vice president for administration. In the role, she oversees the operations of the President’s Office and the Office of the Secretary, while playing a critical role in the coordination of the universitywide offices.
Black Lives Matter Protests Spur Creation of Institute for the Study of Global Racial Justice
Michelle Stephens believes that society needs to redefine what it means to be human to finally begin to dismantle racism and enact policies that correct long-standing inequities.
That is the challenge she is ready to take on as the founding executive director of the new Institute for the Study of Global Racial Justice at Rutgers.
“It all comes back to how we are thinking about ourselves and others. The need to redefine the concept of being human and move toward global racial justice begins by understanding and addressing the ways we resist recognizing people who live under different circumstances than our own,” said Stephens, a professor of English and Latino and Caribbean studies in the School of Arts and Sciences at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. “The problems we are facing today from impoverishment to COVID-19 require a different way of thinking.”
Stephens is steering the work of the new institute, funded through a $15 million five-year grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, that will bring together scholars from across the university to use humanistic theories, methods and approaches to study global issues of race and social justice.
A Beloved Community
When he was a young adult making his way in the world, Jonathan Holloway would hear from his father calling from the family home in Maryland. A lobbyist for the Ford Motor Company following a career as a high-ranking officer in the U.S. Air Force, Wendell Holloway had convictions about what it took to build a successful career. It helped to come from the right family, he told his son, and to be in a solid marriage. You had to develop the “golden résumé,” a trove of one sterling achievement after another. And you had to look the part of a person out to make a mark. Being tall and having broad shoulders got you noticed, his father stressed. You stood out, literally, from the others. It was all part of assembling what he considered “the complete package.” Jonathan, certainly aware of his father’s love for him, realized that his dad saw him as a figure sent from Central Casting.
As Holloway walked onto the biggest stage of his life, the packed historic Scarlet Room in Winants Hall in New Brunswick on January 21 to be introduced as the 21st president of Rutgers, he personified everything his father had envisioned for him. Yes, he did come from a good family, which spanned five generations of professional achievement, and he was happily married with two children. He had burnished his résumé to a golden glow with degrees from Stanford and Yale, professorships at the University of California and Yale, and top leadership roles at Yale and Northwestern. Standing at the podium as he addressed the Rutgers University Board of Governors and Board of Trustees, Holloway indeed was a commanding presence: tall, broad shouldered, and brimming with confidence and gratitude as he delivered his remarks.
“It was a coming together of all my father’s narratives and all my training,” says Holloway, recalling the day. “My parents aren’t around anymore; I just wish they could know. As I was concluding my remarks, I got very emotional and I didn’t see it coming. In that way, it was a lovely moment, very special.”
Rutgers on His Mind: Meet the University’s New Chief Strategist
As the new senior vice president for strategy at Rutgers University, Brian Ballentine has a lot to think about.
On weekends Ballentine takes to the trails at the Rutgers ecological preserve for a long meditative run, stopping to tap out notes on his iPhone to capture any ideas that come to mind. Though he is careful not to identify himself as a runner (“I’m not enough of a runner to be called a ‘runner’ by real runners,” he insisted), Ballentine uses his time on the trail as an extension of his office, where he contemplates ways to move Rutgers toward its goals.
“On a run, it’s a type of meditation. You’re doing work, but it’s a different way of thinking about work,” said Ballentine, who served as the chief of staff to former president Robert Barchi before being selected for his new role by president Jonathan Holloway.
Meet Mary Flaherty: A Champion for Students
Mary Flaherty has helped a countless number of students through insurmountable challenges as an assistant dean at Rutgers University-Camden.
Since she took over the role in the Dean of Students Office in 2014, Flaherty has helped students facing loss, hunger and potential homelessness reach their academic goals -- counseling students going through treatment for cancer, waiting for organ transplants, facing severe and chronic health issues and coping with issues like their parents’ divorce.
“These students are not looking for any advantage,” Flaherty says. “They only want the opportunity to finish their degrees as best they can. They are inspiring.”
Mason Gross Dean Draws on Experience to Help Students Navigate Unprecedented Time
Jason Geary is a musician born into a family of athletes.
While his parents fully supported their son’s passion for piano, they had a limited understanding of what it took to prepare for a career in the arts. So it was largely up to Geary to figure out how to pursue his dream.
“That has colored my thinking to this day and helped spark my interest in administration,” said Geary, who started as dean at Mason Gross School of the Arts on July 1, 2020, and uses his experience navigating the arts to help him lead. “I realize looking back that I – like many of our students – didn’t have a lot of the networks and support systems that some of my peers had. Those are really important for getting a leg up in the arts because it is such a competitive field.”