Kathryn A. Foster, 16th president of The College of New Jersey, announced today in a message emailed to the campus her decision to step down as president at the end of this academic year. Following a yearlong sabbatical, Foster, who holds a PhD in public and international affairs, will join the college’s political science faculty. She has led the institution since July 2018.
“After nearly 40 years in higher education, the last 11 of them as a president, I am motivated to return to the classroom,” wrote Foster. “There are few things I have enjoyed more in life than working with students and supporting their success,” she added.
Rebecca Ostrov, chair of TCNJ’s Board of Trustees, praised Foster for her service.
“We are so grateful for President Foster’s steadfast leadership over the past five years,” Ostrov said in a message that accompanied Foster’s. “The compassion and thoughtfulness she brought to every aspect of her job as president was felt by all members of our community and brought us together in ways which were critically important during the most challenging of times.”
Managing the pandemic-era pivot to remote work and instruction that began in March 2020 and lasted for most faculty, staff, and students through the spring of 2021 was a major focus of Foster’s presidency.
“We have weathered the COVID-era storms and emerged on the other side with greater resilience and insight into how to manage, teach, and persevere during times of crisis,” wrote Foster in her message. “We continue to embrace the lessons learned through this period to enhance our readiness and resolve for future disruptions.”
Foster has strengthened the institution in many other ways during her five years as president.
- Enrollment: Under her leadership, the college has actively communicated the distinctive nature of a TCNJ education, an effort that has helped the institution increase applications and yield despite challenging national enrollment trends. The college has also expanded its partnerships with community colleges, resulting in a streamlined transfer process and increases in the number of transfer students enrolling at TCNJ.
- Program Development: Foster’s tenure has seen the college diversify its offerings, adding an increasing array of accelerated bachelor’s to master’s programs, as well as new graduate and certificate programs. TCNJ piloted its first dual-enrollment programs for students at Central Jersey high schools, and it added dual degree programs with Thomas Jefferson University and Villanova University.
- Equity and Inclusion: In early 2019, Foster created a Division of Inclusive Excellence at the college to help build a more equitable and inclusive campus community. The formation of a Bias Education and Support Team; the development of an Intercultural Center led by students; and the implementation of an array of curricular, education, and advocacy programs soon followed. In spring 2022, the college’s Board of Trustees adopted the inaugural strategy for diversity, equity, and inclusion, We Are TCNJ: A Strategy for Inclusive Excellence.
- Fundraising: Foster’s focus on fundraising has paid dividends for the college, which has raised more funds from external partners than in any other five-year period in its history. In fiscal year 2021, despite the economic slowdown caused by the pandemic, TCNJ had its single biggest year in total dollars raised.
- Facilities and Infrastructure: Foster has made essential investment in facilities and infrastructure to ensure they continue to serve the needs of the community for generations to come. She championed the development of a new facilities master plan and the establishment of a Campus Enhancement Fund, which has allowed the college to improve campus curb appeal and usability. TCNJ’s student athletes have benefited from upgraded fields and facilities, and the legacy of varsity athletics is celebrated in a new Hall of Champions. Less visible but incredibly essential, Foster has begun an overhaul of the underground systems and utilities to sustain the campus for decades to come.
- Sustainability: Under Foster’s leadership, the college has made significant progress in efforts to achieve carbon neutrality. A major solar project will result in a reduction of 1.9 million tons of CO2 annually. Other notable efforts include the creation of Greener Going Forward, a sustainability master plan; the hiring of a sustainability and energy czar; the conversion to electric vehicles; and the adoption of green landscaping practices.
President Foster’s mark on the intellectual life of campus will continue to be felt through the Kathryn A. Foster Distinguished Visitor Series, which she established last December with a $250,000 gift to the college.
“This series will enhance the college’s reputation for being a nexus of broad-based and relevant dialogue on timely issues,” Foster said at the time. “Presenters will be ‘a person we need to hear from now,’ and I envision them engaging with members of our community on a range of cultural, artistic, scientific, and political topics.”
In her message, Ostrov indicated that the board will begin the search for interim leadership in the coming days. Foster, who looks forward to helping facilitate a successful transition, leaves her successor with a blueprint for the future — TCNJ 2027: Extending Our Excellence, a five-year strategy that positions the college for continued distinction, diversification, and financial sustainability.
“It has been an immense personal and professional privilege to serve The College of New Jersey as its president,” said Foster. “I have no doubt that TCNJ will continue to shine in public higher education, and I look forward to contributing in a new way to our shared good fortune.”