The Garden State. For most people who have never been to NJ, this state is often the butt of many jokes. I have heard it termed The Armpit of America and The Petrochemical State. For those of us who live and work here NJ is beautiful. To our students, NJ is home. The majority of NJ schools cater to predominantly New Jersey residents. The diversity of the state of NJ brings a wide variety of issues our students will face.
NJ has the 3rd highest population density of all 50 states in the country. With this large amount of people, NJ has diversity in every aspect of the state. NJ has towns that have multi-million dollar homes with executives, doctors, and lawyers. On the contrary, NJ has cities that boast some of the highest poverty rates in the country. Our students bring with them a wealth of different home lives, family structures, and life experiences when they walk down our hallowed halls. Some have lived in homogenous communities and know nothing outside of that bubble. Others have worked with various populations and diversity in their high schools. It is often our job to meet our students where they are and provide them with opportunities and situations that will help them develop into more global and socially just citizens.
Another unique trait about NJ is that it is sandwiched between two major cities, New York City and Philadelphia. For our little state to have an identity has been tough. Most travelers only know NJ from the Turnpike or the Parkway, and those views are not the NJ I have grown to love. Being a native of this state and an alumnus of a The College of New Jersey, I also know how much pride comes with being from north, south, or central (if you believe it exists) NJ. Paramount to asking about a new friend’s major, it is also customary to ask about his/her NJ ID. What exit off the Turnpike? How close to the Shore? These are questions I often here during freshmen orientation or move-in. Our students have pride in this great state. Also, access to Philadelphia and NYC make our students able to experience culture, arts, and metropolitan life much easier than students from other states and other schools.
Our state’s identity is important to students, and therefore should be important to us. Working to debunk the myths that MTV’s Jersey Shore or the media places on NJ will help our students feel pride in their state and their schools. This pride in their school will lead to involvement, engagement, and ultimately personal development and academic growth. NJ can and does provide great education for all of its students, and pride in this state and its institutions can only benefit its students. Subsequently, we will benefit with easier recruitment of students and faculty/staff to our wonderful institutions.
Coordinator for Student Support