By Signal Editorial Staff
In an announcement sent over email today, President Kathryn Foster informed the campus community that she will step down on June 30.
“After nearly 40 years in higher education, the last 11 of them as a president, I am motivated to return to the classroom and rejoin the ranks of faculty,” Foster said in the email.
A message from Rebecca Ostrov, Chair of the Board of Trustees, said that a search to find a replacement would commence this fall, and information regarding a search for an interim leader would be shared with students “in the coming weeks.”
The president announced that after taking a year-long sabbatical, she will return to the College as a faculty member. According to her biography, Foster received her Ph.D. in public and international affairs from Princeton University. She will join the political science faculty upon her return from a one year sabbatical.
Foster joined the College in 2018 after serving as the president of the University of Maine at Farmington for six years. Her first year at the College was marked by controversy over her decision to overturn the suspension of a student at Farmington accused of rape just before she left the institution.
In her email, Foster reflects on her time at the College, including leading the College through the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We have weathered the Covid-era storms and emerged on the other side with greater resilience and insight into how to manage, teach, and persevere during times of crisis,” Foster wrote.
The College’s administration created many programs for students and faculty during the pandemic to support the campus community. This included summer classes for professors, on-campus testing, mask mandates and eventually opening the campus to returning students in spring 2021.
Foster also pointed to the emphasis on revitalizing campus infrastructure during her tenure.
“Our campus’s carbon footprint has been reduced by our solar power initiatives,” she wrote, “and planning is well underway to ensure our facilities and infrastructure remain functional and beautiful, and serve the needs of our community for generations to come.”
Some of this construction included the unearthing of pipes under Quimby’s Prairie. “Those pipes under that area are in the vicinity of 70 or 80 years old right now,” Foster told The Signal in Fall 2022, “and a 70 or 80 year old pipe just doesn’t make it anymore.
Former College President R. Barbara Gitenstein presided over the College for about nineteen years, a much longer tenure compared to Foster’s five. This seems more of the norm, however, with other former presidents staying for short periods of time. Former President Robert Heussler, for example, only headed the College for two years from 1968-1970.
Sophomore political science major Kristiana Kuras was surprised to learn Foster’s announcement to step down as president in less than two months.
“I was kind of shocked,” Kuras said. “It’s so last minute and kind of a weird time in the semester. That’s strange to me.”
Students like Kuras noted that several other important figures of the College have recently stepped down including Dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences Dr. Jane Wong and former Treasurer Lloyd Ricketts. The search committee for the College’s Treasurer is currently still looking for a replacement, following Ricketts leaving the position in September 2022.
Senior English and secondary education major Avina Sharma will be on campus for one more year as a graduate student and is curious to see what will happen next.
“I wonder if I am going to see any change on campus,” Sharma said. “She had such a strong presence on campus. I just hope there’s another woman president.”
While many students like Sharma are shocked to see Foster step down from her position, she was also very surprised to see that Foster plans to return as a professor.
“After having such a high position I would not expect her to want to go back to teaching,” Sharma said.
"Working with President Foster has been a fulfilling experience," said Dylan Chidick, Student Government Executive President and senior political science major. "Her positive energy and dedication to students have been a point of inspiration for all of us at TCNJ. Student Government wishes her all the best, and we are excited welcome her back with open arms in her new role."
Foster concluded her email by expressing her gratitude for the opportunity to serve as president of the College.
“It has been an immense personal and professional privilege to serve The College of New Jersey as your president,” Foster said. “I have no doubt that TCNJ will continue to shine in public higher education, and I look forward to contributing in a new way to our shared good fortune.”