Aug. 7, 2019: Update on Campus Transition
Dear Rider University Community,
I hope this message finds you well and enjoying the summer with friends and family. It has been a busy summer at Rider as we gear up for the new academic year, and I wanted to share some information with you related to our campus transition.
As you know, on July 1 the Rider University Board of Trustees announced a plan to integrate Westminster Choir College into the University’s existing Lawrenceville campus beginning in September 2020. Rider will continue to operate Westminster Choir College, the Westminster Conservatory and the Westminster Continuing Education programs in Princeton during the upcoming 2019-20 academic year.
Many steps have already been taken to prepare and plan for the historic move of Westminster Choir College to Lawrenceville. To lead this process, we have established a Campus Transition Team, chaired by Dr. DonnaJean Fredeen, provost and vice president of academic affairs. Dr. Fredeen and the Campus Transition Team have already met several times this summer to organize and prioritize their work related to the transition from Princeton to Lawrenceville.
To start, several Working Groups have been established within the Campus Transition Team, each chaired by a senior level administrator of the University. The Working Groups include: Facilities (with several sub-groups for each of the major construction projects related to the transition); Enrollment/Identity; Advancement; Student Affairs; Institutional Culture and Traditions; Finance; Conservatory/Continuing Education; Communications; and Kaiwen Collaboration.
Early next week, the chairs of each Working Group will be sending invitations to faculty, staff and students from both campuses to be members of these important teams. We have put much care and thought into the make-up of these groups to assure cross-campus collaboration and transparency. In total, almost 130 members of our community will be invited to serve on one or more Working Groups responsible for all facets of the transition. Soon we will post information related to the Campus Transition Team, the Working Groups, and chairpersons and members, as well as the defined charge of each team on rider.edu/wccupdate. Please continue to check the website for more information.
Moving forward, Dr. Fredeen will continually keep all of our University stakeholders apprised of the campus transition progress through various communication channels. Our goal is to ensure transparency and information every step of the way.
Among the many reasons the Board chose to ultimately transition Westminster Choir College to Lawrenceville, instead of other options that were considered, is the opportunity to establish a new vision for Rider University’s Westminster College of the Arts. This move from one campus to another is not just simply a logistical change in geography but rather a starting point for something new and very exciting.
With the launch of the Westminster College of the Arts in December 2007, Rider embarked on a plan to achieve the desired synergy between the two campuses through the arts. The hope was that the integration of students, faculty and programs would finally yield the increased collaboration, visibility and reputation envisioned back to the original merger in 1991. Efforts to bring this to reality included the creation of the School of Fine and Performing Arts, WCA faculty teaching on both campuses, and the initiation of an intercampus shuttle. While there have been several important successes, the simple truth is that the geographic and programmatic separation proved too strong to result in the desired connections. By moving Westminster Choir College programs to Lawrenceville, and a renewed focus on the branding and promotion of Westminster College of the Arts as a whole, we believe that the long-desired collaboration and outcomes finally will be achieved.
This fall we will be launching a new branding strategy for Rider, and much work is already underway to plan for the promotion and marketing of the Westminster College of the Arts as part of that new strategy. This is more than just an advertising campaign, but rather an entire new approach to the way in which we position and brand ourselves both internally and externally. I’m looking forward to sharing more information with you in the coming months.
We would be naïve to think this transition will be simple, or not without problems and challenges both big and small that we must overcome together. Blending two important components of our University will take patience, cooperation and a shared commitment to ultimate success. Together we can make Rider University stronger and positioned for long term success not just in the arts, but university-wide.
Rider University is transforming itself into a new institution both inside and out. Major construction projects are currently underway or in the planning stages to significantly enhance our campus facilities. New academic programs are helping to grow enrollment both at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Successful substantial fundraising initiatives are being realized to benefit student scholarship and affordability. And our new brand will raise Rider’s profile in a way we have never seen in our 154-year history.
The Westminster campus transition is as important as these and many other countless initiatives and priorities underway at Rider. I hope you are excited to see what’s next for our University, as every one of us is an integral component to our ongoing success.
Enjoy the rest of your summer, and I look forward to seeing faculty, staff, students, alumni and others back on campus soon.
Gregory G. Dell’Omo, Ph.D. President
July 1, 2019: Rider announces future plans for Westminster Choir College
Dear Rider University Community,
Today the Rider University Board of Trustees and Kaiwen Education announced that the two parties have mutually agreed not to extend the Purchase and Sale Agreement (PSA) for Westminster Choir College with Kaiwen Education and instead explore an alternate relationship between the two entities. This decision ends a lengthy and comprehensive process that sought a buyer to operate Westminster on its campus in Princeton.
The Rider Board also approved a plan to integrate Westminster Choir College into the University’s existing Lawrenceville campus beginning in September 2020. Rider will continue to operate Westminster Choir College, the Westminster Conservatory and the Westminster Continuing Education programs in Princeton during the upcoming 2019-20 academic year.
With this board decision, the notices that were issued to AAUP members last October as part of our obligation to provide an extended notice of the possibility of layoff are hereby rescinded.
Throughout this process, the Board has continually sought to preserve and enhance Westminster’s legacy as a world-class institution, and has made every effort to maintain the College in Princeton. Given the enormous complexity of the transaction, it became increasingly clear that partnering with an outside entity, even one as well-intentioned as Kaiwen, was not feasible on a viable timeline.
Although the PSA expired effective June 30, 2019, Rider has already begun conversations to develop ways in which we can continue our relationship with Kaiwen, albeit in a different way. The University has formalized an agreement with Kaiwen to work together over the next three years on academic and artistic initiatives.
Rider’s Board and administration appreciate the special connection that Westminster has to Princeton, which is why they went to extraordinary lengths to seek a future based in that community. Now that it is clear that transferring Westminster Choir College to an external partner is not possible, it is the University’s continuing responsibility to enact a plan that serves the best interests of the entire institution, as it is not financially feasible to allow Westminster to continue on its present course as a separate, fully operational campus seven miles apart from Rider’s Lawrenceville campus.
The new plan envisions a more fully integrated campus and robust Westminster College of the Arts that goes beyond the consolidation option proposed in 2016. The Westminster College of the Arts encompasses Westminster Choir College in Princeton and the School of Fine and Performing Arts in Lawrenceville, as well as the Westminster Conservatory, which will continue to operate in multiple locations. The plan also proposes that Rider/Westminster explore the possibility of retaining a footprint on the Princeton campus — dedicated in part to the activities of the Conservatory, with possible academic and artistic opportunities for students.
Implementation of a new vision for the Westminster College of the Arts has strong potential for producing robust enrollments, enhanced visibility and branding, and financial stability for Rider’s arts programs and the University as a whole. This plan will sustain Westminster Choir College’s historical legacy and reputation, and ensure the continuation and growth of the Westminster Conservatory. The integration of the Westminster Choir College brand with the growing reputation of the School of Fine and Performing Arts also will result in a vibrant arts community on the Lawrenceville campus as well as potential new synergies with many of Rider’s other academic programs.
We believe this plan will realize the goal of a strong and thriving Westminster College of the Arts that builds on both existing and proposed programs and facilities and most effectively serves 21st-century students. It is our hope that students, faculty, staff, and alumni will unite around this opportunity and participate in creating a new chapter in Westminster Choir College's storied history.
Rider has never wavered from its commitment to supporting and sustaining Westminster Choir College since the initial merger in 1992. The new plan to integrate the two campuses represents another investment in the future of the College intended to accelerate reinvestment in Rider and create a very strong, resilient and cohesive University.
In the coming weeks, administrators, faculty and staff will begin working on the specific tasks that will culminate in the movement of Westminster Choir College to the Lawrenceville campus for the fall 2020 semester.
We will provide additional updates to our community in the coming months.
Gregory G. Dell’Omo, Ph.D., President
Robert S. Schimek, Chairman, Board of Trustees