Message from the Director

Dr. Deborah Silver headshot

"Be wise enough not to be reckless, but brave enough to take great risks" - Frank Warren.

Welcome to the summer semester at Rutgers Professional Science Master’s program (PSM)! After a fantastic spring term capped by our wonderful graduation celebration on May 13, we are excited to continue the momentum.

One thing I love about May—graduation season—is the opportunity to hear amazing speakers from commencement ceremonies nationwide.

In May 2020, commencement speakers universally—and virtually—acknowledged the massive disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic while celebrating students’ resilience, ingenuity, grit, and mental fortitude in completing their degrees during a global health crisis.

Last May, I decided to present a “Top 10” list: bits of advice shaped by my 30+ years at Rutgers. (Actually, it was a “Top 8” list, since “family” and “health” are always tied for first.) This was a radical departure from previous speeches, which tended to last two minutes or less (I’m an engineer. It’s efficiency.)  To my surprise, those eight categories were hard to narrow down! I realized that I actually had a lot to say—and so much I wanted to impart!  For someone who purposely abbreviated her speeches in years past—and with 2020 marking the tenth anniversary of our PSM program—I had way more than just eight things to share. So I added, “Number 11:” Bring a Parachute,” because I wanted to talk about the importance of taking risks to pursue something you love and believe in—a trait that is central to entrepreneurial DNA, and universal among successful entrepreneurs.

As the saying goes—you don’t need a parachute to skydive. You only need a parachute to skydive twice. As with skydiving—a risk that requires a literal leap of faith—you, too, may one day be faced with an exciting decision or opportunity that carries with it potential reward along with significant risk. Maybe it’s taking a new job or starting a new venture. Don’t ever, ever be afraid to take risks—or a leap of faith—to go after what you want. To pursue something that excites you. Just ensure you have the tools necessary to land on your feet (flexibility, resilience, grit, and mental fortitude are all helpful). Your MBS education has been designed to provide you with such tools—and the lessons you learned during your time here can serve as that metaphorical parachute. Don't be afraid to use them!”

At Rutgers’ May 2021 Commencement, speaker Natasha Trethewey beamed about the promise that lies ahead for Rutgers graduates. Trethewey, a two-time United States Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner, reminded students that with the excellence of their Rutgers education, they had not only "triumphed over great odds [of the COVID-19 pandemic] and gathered a great deal of existential knowledge along the way,” but are well-positioned for the future. "'Chance favors the prepared mind,” said Trethewey, quoting Louis Pasteur. “Take solace in that you have done much to prepare your mind for whatever comes."  

At Purdue University—our Big Ten peer—president Mitch Daniels spoke directly, meaningfully, and impactfully about the critical need to take risks. About how an education that emphasizes innovation is essential to this endeavor, and how leadership and the willingness to take calculated risks go hand in hand. But the main message of his speech? “The biggest risk of all is that we stop taking risks at all.

This year, I did not do a “Top 10” speech or talk about parachutes. Instead, I spoke about planning for and predicting the future—an ability that all MBS students possess. And my metaphor for that ability? A shield.

Since the onset of the pandemic, Rutgers PSM has continued to grow and thrive—remaining one of the largest and most diverse PSMs in the nation while also growing into one of the largest master’s programs at Rutgers University, expanding educational offerings all the while. How was such growth possible?

Because we planned for the future. How?

Through multidisciplinary integration: combining and connecting multiple disciplines like science and business, chemistry with regulatory, analytics with ethics, drug discovery with intellectual property, user experience design and marketing. This integration has been the hallmark of our program since its founding.

In learning different disciplines, students develop a protective shield of sorts—enabling them to quickly pivot in times of disruption. This integration trains us not only to look for what’s around us, but to understand how various parts work together to form a functional, successful whole—and how interconnection drives innovation.

“Creativity is just connecting things,” stated the late and brilliant Steve Jobs. Creativity and innovation allow us to take risks and even anticipate the future—much like Steve Jobs did during his lifetime. These terms are also appearing in an increasing number of job postings.

Charting a bold, successful future, concluded Trethewey, “requires a willingness to contend with truth, with facts, with evidence,” (like all true scientists). It also requires us to look for connectedness with others, she says, and how we can all work together to achieve success. “Realizing the world-changing potential of [our] ideas… designs…it is all poetry.” Particularly, she says, “when you perform your best as your best self…when you strive for connectedness.”

I am looking forward to another semester of watching MBS students realize the world-changing potential of their ideas—driving innovation while connecting with others, and charting bold futures while becoming their best selves.

Deborah Silver, Executive Director, Rutgers Professional Science Master's Program

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