Bank On ItFebruary 29, 2012
For a long time, the grand old bank building at the corner of Cooper and Broadway was a great place to earn dividends.
Soon it will be a great place to earn your degree.
Investing more than $10 million, about half from state economic development funds, Rowan purchased the 1920s-era First Camden National Bank & Trust building in 2009. Since then, it has set about restoring the magnificent 40,000 square-foot structure and five-story annex for classrooms, lounge areas, offices and meeting space.
Renovations are continuing in phases but students, faculty and staff will begin using the restored annex space this spring.
"It's a very exciting time not just for our students, faculty and staff, but for the city of Camden," said Dr. Tyrone McCombs, Assistant Provost and Dean of the Camden campus.
The grand old bank, renamed the Rowan at Camden Academic Building, is directly across from the Barnes & Noble University District Bookstore, a modern glass-walled structure that serves Rowan, Rutgers Camden and Camden County College students.
On either side of the new academic building, construction crews are fast at work restoring other architectural landmarks along Cooper Street, the city's University District.
Dr. McCombs said the first construction phase of the new academic building focused on office and seminar space on the second floor of the annex. Full renovation of the annex, including a new computer lab and construction of classrooms on the third and fifth floors, will be followed by systems and other updates to the cavernous former bank building.
The former lobby area still looks very much like the old-style bank it was – 30-foot high ceiling, solid stone walls and floors, leaded glass, even classic sculptures.
Dr. McCombs said the lobby area will serve as the main entrance to the new academic space and feature an open student lounge area that could also be used for special events. He said it's not clear what the massive steel vault on the lower level would be used for but could, quite possibly, become a unique student dining space.
“It’s our plan to preserve the history as well as the beauty of the building,” Dr. McCombs said.
Founded in 1969, Rowan at Camden has more than doubled its educational footprint in the past three years alone. The campus offers a wide range of certificate and degree programs including baccalaureates in sociology, law and justice and exploratory studies, a certificate of graduate study in English as a Second Language and a doctoral degree in Educational Leadership.
Located at 200 North Broadway, the existing campus is a shared facility between Rowan and Camden County College, which Rowan will continue to occupy even after the new facilities open. Dr. McCombs believes the new facilities will enable the campus to expand from about 800 students to 1,500 students or more, even better fulfilling its mission in Camden.
"It will allow us to offer more day and evening classes," he said during a recent tour. "This new space will help define who we are."
Rowan's mission in Camden is that of urban development. It involves working with neighborhoods and not just teaching college age students but reaching students as early as middle school and steering them toward higher education.
As a major partner in the development of a Promise Neighborhood based on the work of Geoffrey Canada’s Harlem Children’s Zone, in the Lanning Square community, Rowan at Camden, in collaboration with other Camden City anchor institutions, sponsor a wide range of events that include back-to-school book bag drives, coat and toy drives, planting community gardens, even hosting community baby showers, said Lorraine Ricchezza, Director of External Affairs and Campus Development.
"Part of our mission is encouraging students to be civic-minded," said Dr. Donavan McCargo, Director of Student Services and the Equal Opportunity Fund.
Winona Wigfall, Director of Pre-College programs, said educators on campus target hundreds of city students on average each year who show promise for college success and do all they can to make it happen.
"This year we're working with 435 students," Wigfall said. "Most of our students start with us in the sixth grade and we follow them to college."
The campus offers a popular Certificate of Graduate Studies in English as a Second Language, a program designed to impact education in not only urban areas like Camden and Vineland but all over the state.
"The fastest growing segment in K-12 education is English language learners," explained Jackie McCafferty, Director of English Language Programs. "The idea with this program is for teachers or prospective teachers to gain ESL certification in New Jersey. Once students complete this program – and they can do it in one year – they can teach in New Jersey but also overseas."
The Doctoral program in Educational Leadership, which began here just three years ago as an academic collaboration between the College of Education and Rowan at Camden, now has three cohorts of 15-20 students each, many of them teachers or administrators in the Camden City school system, and even the doctoral program has a civic minded emphasis. A project of one doctoral cohort is to fund a $1,000 scholarship for a Camden high school student who comes to Rowan and pursues an education degree.
Rowan keeps growing in Glassboro and Camden
Since the 1990s, Rowan has enjoyed a tremendous growth spurt triggered initially by Henry Rowan's transformative $100 million endowment – then the largest gift ever to a public college or university.
"The Gift," as it came to be known on campus, fostered tremendous growth in both structure and status as the institution developed from Glassboro State College into Rowan University. While the endowment continues to reshape the university, it has already enabled Rowan to:
- create a nationally recognized College of Engineering;
- build new science and education buildings and a new library;
- construct new student townhouses;
- acquire some 600 acres for Rowan's West Campus;
- develop a High Technology Park;
- partner in the historic Rowan Boulevard project, a $300 million development now underway linking the university's main Glassboro campus with the historic downtown.
This fall, the university proudly welcomes the inaugural class to Cooper Medical School of Rowan University, a unique partnership between Rowan and Cooper University Hospital in Camden, South Jersey's only trauma center. Construction is almost complete on an all-new $139 million Medical Education Building on S. Broadway between Benson and Washington streets in Camden.
In addition, Governor Chris Christie in January endorsed a plan to merge Rowan and the campus of Rutgers Camden into a major southern New Jersey research university. The Governor's announcement endorsed a proposal by a blue ribbon panel charged with studying the distribution of state education resources.
"This, truly, is a historic time for Rowan University, both in Glassboro and Camden," said Interim President Dr. Ali A. Houshmand. "It's a very proud time for everyone at this already-proud university."