Rider president honored with award for role in COVID-19 pandemic

By Anthony Corbi

After a tumultuous year that brought unforeseen challenges to the university, Rider University President Gregory Dell’Omo was selected as a recipient of the 2021 NJBIZ Education Power 50 award on Sept. 20.

This award is presented each year to faculty of colleges and universities in the state of New Jersey who have had a substantial and positive impact on their respective college communities. NJBIZ, a business journal based in Franklin Township, nominated Dell’Omo due to his navigation of the university through its financial crisis over the past year as it saw a substantial decrease in enrollment and residency due to the pandemic.

“It’s an honor for me personally, but also for the university to be recognized [as] an institution that’s moving aggressively to deal with the challenges we face,” Dell’Omo said in an interview with The Rider News.

Associate Vice President Kristine Brown agreed that while the administration at Rider has faced some challenging times due to the pandemic, Dell’Omo’s leadership has been critical in helping the university move past this difficult era.

“I am grateful for the skillful way he navigated us through the many twists and turns of the pandemic as safely as possible,” Brown said. “We are fortunate that President Dell’Omo is a decisive leader who always puts what’s best for our students and the institution as a whole first. He is very deserving of being named as one of New Jersey’s top influential educational leaders for his dedicated stewardship of our university.”

During the pandemic, the number of students living on campus dropped by 27%, which resulted in a $60 million loss of revenue, according to Dell’Omo. As a result, the university was forced to find ways to recover some of this loss and began by creating a program called “Lifting Barriers,” which lowered tuition and placed a greater emphasis on career-based success.

“[Lifting Barriers] is part of a larger program that we call the ‘Rider Experience,’” said Dell’Omo. “The whole idea is to make it more affordable, let students graduate in four years, even when they fall behind, and make sure they’ve had a practicum experience, so they have a really high chance of graduating with a job.”

Later in the 2020-21 academic year, the administration also introduced the “Cranberry Investment” program, which aims to provide students with additional learning and experience if they have trouble finding a job after graduation.

“If, by some chance, a student does not have a job six months after graduation… then we’ll let that student come back, continue working with our Career Development office, find them a paid internship in their field…and, if they need additional courses or training, we’ll give them up to nine credits free of charge to help them get a job in the next six to 12 months,” Dell’Omo said.

​​ As president of Rider, Dell’Omo attends many events hosted by faculty on campus. Micah Rasmussen, director of the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics and a political science professor, has seen Dell’Omo in attendance for many functions the Institute has hosted and is grateful for the president’s support.

“I am always struck by how supportive [Dell’Omo] is of our students and the entire program, and am grateful for his continued belief in the importance of the work we do to connect our students with their state,” Rasmussen said. “Recognizing Dr. Dell’Omo means recognizing Rider and its many contributions to the state.”

While Dell’Omo is honored to have been a recipient of this award, he is also grateful for his staff in helping carry out the university’s objectives, especially as it has faced immense challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“[This] honor that was bestowed on me, to be recognized, is actually for the university, which makes me even more proud,” said Dell’Omo.

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