The College’s Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) showed why it is one of the strongest in the state when the New Jersey EOF Program Professional Association (NJEOFPA) honored it with the annual Innovative Program Initiative Award last month.
NJEOFPA also recognized Robert Anderson, director of Liberal Learning, as an EOF Champion for his support of EOF, a program that provides financial and academic support to highly motivated students from disadvantaged families.
The College was chosen from the state’s 53 EOF programs for the Innovative Program Initiative Award, which recognized the creation of its EOF Promise Award, in March 2004.
The EOF Promise Award meets the full cost for EOF students to attend the College for their first two years.
With state and federal aid struggling to keep up with rising tuition costs, the College contributes the balance so deserving students still have access to the program.
James Boatwright, director of EOF, said the EOF Promise Award is the only initiative of its kind in the state and was made possible by team efforts at the College.
He gives R. Barbara Gitenstein, College president, the most credit though, saying she justified its importance toward diversifying the campus.
The collaborative efforts behind earning the Innovative Program Initiative Award makes it more than just another shiny plaque to hang on the wall of the EOF office.
“It’s more about the honor that goes with it, and the recognition,” Boatwright said. “Because the work of a lot of people can often go unappreciated.”
Race, Class and Gender is a course EOF students are required to take during the EOF Summer Program, which precedes a potential EOF student’s freshman year and, based on his or her academic performance there, determines whether he or she will officially be accepted to the College.
Anderson said he became involved with EOF in the 1990s because “it’s constant with my own sense of mission in the world. Softening the lines of privilege is constant with making the world a better place.”
Though Anderson’s contributions to the College’s EOF program have given those born with less privilege a chance to succeed, he still said he was surprised to receive the honor of EOF Champion.
His office attests to his modesty. Shelves are packed end to end with books, with no award or certificate in sight.
This isn’t because he hasn’t earned them, but rather because he feels awkward displaying them. Asked whether he would consider himself humble, Anderson said, “A humble man doesn’t say he’s humble.”
“I’m honored of course,” he said. “I felt like I had won a boxing match (when I heard I was named EOF Champion),” he joked.
Marcus White, sophomore business major, directly benefited from Anderson’s dedication to EOF, as he took the Race, Class and Gender course prior to his enrollment as an EOF student.
He said the course studied controversial issues faced both in the present and throughout American history.
“Race, Class and Gender was a course in which much knowledge was given and much knowledge received,” he said.
White is confident the EOF program will gear him toward success.
“Something I know I will take with me in my future is the realization of how significant it is to support others in their positive pursuits in life,” he said.
This value of support is exactly what drives Boatwright’s passion for the program.
He cleared away the papers on his desk and proudly displayed the photographs of former EOF students beneath. They’ve sent him pictures from their weddings and of their children.
“These young people (who graduated) are getting into various positions around the state and doing great things,” he said, mentioning that he had talked on the phone earlier with a 1992 alumnus who is now a school principal.
The alumnus told him that he’d recently interviewed another graduate of the College’s EOF program for a teaching position.
“That’s a tremendous feeling, an outstanding feeling,” Boatwright said.