Bloomfield College and Montclair State University Become OneCulturemusic
By Glenda Cadogan
When it came time to navigate and negotiate the recent merger of Bloomfield College and Montclair State University (MSU), Dr. Marcheta P. Evans, then President of Bloomfield College, needed “a little something extra” as a guiding light. A Bible verse—“Trust in the Lord, with all thy heart and lean not unto your own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy path.” And there was the angelic voice of her grandmother, Annie-Mae, reminding her that “To whom much is given, much is required and with privilege comes responsibility.” Together, these two pillars supported her through the pandemic and the merger.
“Sometimes we get stuff thrown at us and we know it’s a growth experience. Then there are days you need to rely on something a little deeper..” Dr. Evans described how growing up during the civil rights era and attending a tiny church school in her native Alabama, she was required to learn and recite a new Bible verse every Wednesday. “This one I never forgot.”
She came to New Jersey in 2019, to serve as president of Bloomfield College, the first female and first African American to hold that position. The college is reputed to be the only four-year institution in New Jersey designated as a predominantly Black, Hispanic and Minority Serving Institution.
For the past 10 years, Bloomfield’s enrollment was on the decline. According to Dr. Evans, the college saw a significant decrease in enrollment post COVID-19 and it was clear the institution was at the risk of closing. The merger meant she would have to step back from being president. “It was difficult for me,” she said candidly, adding, “Because it has always been my dream to be MSU Chancellor Dr. Marcheta P. Evans: The Mergera college president. However, I had to let go… it was not about me. Rather, it’s about the success and continuation of the institution and the benefits for students, faculty, and staff.” She now serves as chancellor of the blended institutions.
On the road to the merger, 30 institutions initially expressed interest in the partnership; eight submitted formal proposals. Dr. Evans pointed to the leadership of then-incoming President of MSU, Dr. Jonathan Koppell. She believes he is committed to the community. It’s what made the difference in MSU being the best choice. Additionally, MSU is a public institution, so Bloomfield’s students can complete their education without interruption while benefiting from their partner’s lower tuition and the support of the second largest public research university in New Jersey.
The decision became easier as she grew to know and trust the leadership of Dr. Koppell and his team. “If you have to give your baby over to someone you want to know they are a good parent,” she said. “I had the opportunity to see President Koppell and his team in action and felt confident this was not a real estate grab, but that he really is bent on preserving the mission and identity of the institution.”
President Koppell said of the merger, “This is a transformative moment for our students and generations of students to come. The future of higher education is collaboration, not competition; and we hope this will serve as an example of what is possible when institutions of all shapes and sizes work together.”
As the merger progressed, Dr. Evans thought, “They can take your house, your car, and the clothes off your back but once you are educated no one can take it away from you. Throughout this merger, I could hear my grandmother’s voice, ‘with privilege comes responsibility.’ So, helping put people on educational pathways is my responsibility, it’s who I am.”
Dr. Evans remains committed to her vision, which she says focuses on helping students who probably would not have thought about a post-secondary education, but are now on the campus of Bloomfield College of Montclair State. “My vision also includes getting African American males into higher education,” she said. “In addition to teaching and graduating them, it is getting them into positions that pay significantly and as they grow, they will lift others up behind them.”
Excited for the future, Dr. Evans, who now serves as Chancellor of Bloomfield College of Montclair State University under President Koppell, praises the government and people of New Jersey. “This happened because of the collective endeavor of everyone from the office of the governor, the legislators who voted unanimously for the merger, to people on the streets who were invested in the continuation of Bloomfield College,” she said. “Every dollar helped to place us where we are today. I am just as grateful to the church member who contributed $10 as I am for the $12.5 million investment. It all made a difference. I have the deepest and sincerest appreciation for all of the prayers and for every single dollar.”
The merger became official on July 1, 2023 after two years of negotiations. All reports indicate the students of Bloomfield College will now benefit from lower tuition and fees, expanded student life and academic opportunities at MSU.