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Jonathan Koppell


Join us in celebrating our 50th episode and meet President Jonathan Koppell, the transformative leader at the helm of Montclair State University.

He has brought to MSU his impressively diverse experience, which includes being from the Bronx, graduating from Harvard and Berkeley, teaching at Yale, and serving as the Dean of ASU’s Watts College of Public Service before coming to MSU.

In an era where Higher Education faces heightened scrutiny, discover the refreshing perspective of a dynamic leader who not only brings transparency to the forefront but also actively engages with students and the local community. This episode is filled with insights, inspiration, and a celebration of educational leadership.


Topics covered in this educational episode include

  • What is the job description of a University President?
  • What is the purpose of a university education?
  • Breaking down tuition for us
  • Why do NJ parents send their kids out of state?
  • Balancing student safety and free speech rights

MSU Accomplishments

NJ Episode Shout Outs

Some Key Takeaways

What is the job description for a President of a University?

  • CEO of a Large Complex Institution
    • Annual Budget of $540M, thousands of employees, unionized labor environment in NJ State,
    • Interact with State Government on budget and public policy
    • Intervened to stop Bloomfield College from closing
  • Public Relations
    • Talking to media, traveling nationally,
    • For fundraising for enrollment
    • International Travel, going to India in a month
  • Fundraising
    • Individuals
    • Foundations
    • <25% of budget comes from the state of NJ
  • Community Leader
    • Sets the tone of the atmosphere at MSU
    • Especially important recently
    • Probably have one of the largest Palestinian populations at MSU, Clifton and Patterson, large and dynamic and involved Palestinian community
    • Active member of the community of Montclair and in Patterson
  • Be an Intellectual Leader in the space
    • Post on Linked In, op-eds, speak out because otherwise people will project their own opinions on the university

    Acceptance vs. Rejection Rate?

    • The rejective brag is a strange pathology, “We reject 97% of the people that apply!”
    • Why is that a wonderful quality of a school that makes them seem great?
    • We think MSU is wonderful not because we reject most people but because the people that come here have a transformative experience”

    What is a University's Role?

    “A University exists to help everyone achieve their potential.”
    • Some ppl would measure that by the income after college and if it would have been higher with college than without.
    • “At the same time, reducing college and the value of college, both to the individual and to society, through this very narrow question of, Rachel got a job for $60k here but she could have gotten a job for $70k there had she majored in something else….” That’s not how people live their lives.
    • I don’t think you can reduce the value of a college education to a post-education salary.
    • It’s supposed to be more than that:
      • A growth experience
      • A time to explore different possibilities
      • A time to meet and engage with people you wouldn’t have otherwise met
      • Engage in new and different ideas
      • Develop skills and talents, discipline, the ability to learn
      • Ability to challenge yourself and take on difficult objectives that you wouldn’t have otherwise taken on
      • What’s the value of a college-educated population to the community?
      • A good portion of American wealth was generated after WW2 when the GI Bill sent a whole bunch of ppl to college.
      • NJ has a crisis right now b/c we don’t have enough educated people to fill the jobs that are available at the SAME time that we have a high unemployment rate.

    Tuition, Why So High?

    • Break it down
      • 80% of cost is Personnel
      • State Aid is flat, and the lowest of all NJ schools.
      • Mental Health assistance is necessary so there were more hires
      • Look to reduce costs with international full-pay students?
      • Offer other degree opportunities mix online and in-person
      • MSU cost per degree is the lowest in NJ
      • Lower Share being paid by the public, an increasing Personnel Cost, Inflation,

        Interview Summary

        Interview with MSU President, Jonathan Koppell

        In this milestone 50th episode of “Lost in Jersey,” we had the pleasure of sitting down with the president of Montclair State University (MSU), Jonathan Koppell. As residents of Montclair, we’ve always been curious about the impact and inner workings of the university that’s so close to home.

        Jonathan Koppell’s Educational and Professional Background

        Jonathan Koppell’s journey to Montclair State University is as impressive as it is diverse. He’s from the Bronx with a bachelor’s from Harvard, a PhD from Berkeley, and a stint as an associate professor at Yale School of Management, he brought a wealth of experience to his role. His time at Arizona State University particularly shaped his vision for MSU, emphasizing a mission of public service and community engagement.

        Innovative Educational Strategies at MSU

        During our conversation, Jonathan Koppell shed light on the innovative approaches Montclair State University is taking to address educational challenges. He highlighted the university’s apprenticeship program designed to help paraprofessionals become certified teachers, addressing the teacher shortage while recognizing the value of their current roles in education.

        Jonathan Koppell’s Connection to New Jersey and MSU

        Jonathan Koppell’s love for New Jersey shone through as he discussed his transition to Montclair. He finds the university’s values align closely with his own, focusing on inclusivity and excellence. He’s proud of MSU’s diverse student body that reflects New Jersey’s demographics and is committed to public service.

        The Challenges of University Administration

        We also delved into the complexities of university administration, from managing budgets and state relations to fundraising and community engagement. Jonathan Koppell emphasized the importance of universities being proactive in their public relations, something he feels Montclair State University needs to improve upon.

        Higher Education’s Broader Issues

        The conversation took a turn towards the broader issues facing higher education today, such as the cost of tuition and the return on investment of a college degree. Jonathan Koppell provided a candid look at the financial challenges universities face and the importance of balancing the budget while maintaining quality education and support services.

        Addressing Sensitive Issues on Campus

        Jonathan Koppell’s approach to handling sensitive issues like the Israel-Gaza conflict on campus was particularly noteworthy. He praised the maturity and respectfulness of MSU students, who managed to maintain a safe and inclusive environment despite deep personal connections to the conflict.

        Jonathan Koppell’s Favorite Spots in New Jersey

        As we wrapped up, Jonathan Koppell shared his favorite spots in New Jersey, including his preferred Garden State Parkway rest area, named after the iconic Jon Bon Jovi. It was a fitting end to a conversation that was as much about the local community as it was about the broader implications of higher education.

        In summary, this episode provided a rare and insightful look into the life and challenges of a university president, the innovative educational strategies being employed at Montclair State University, and the importance of community engagement in higher education. Jonathan Koppell’s passion for public service and his commitment to the university’s mission were evident throughout our discussion, leaving us with a deeper appreciation for the institution that’s such an integral part of our community.


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