NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (CBS/AP) — Gov. Phil Murphy on Friday nominated an executive with the United Negro College Fund to become New Jersey’s next higher education secretary. In making the announcement, Murphy said Brian Bridges “has the vision and experience needed to put a college education within reach for more students.”

Bridges is vice president of research and member engagement at UNCF. He also leads the group’s initiative to improve job placement outcomes. Before joining UNCF, Bridges was vice provost for diversity, access and equity at Ohio University.

Bridges said he was humbled and looked forward to working with leaders across the state to “develop and refine policies and practices that further improve student success.”

“I am humbled but invigorated by the confidence of Governor Murphy to serve as the next Secretary of Higher Education for the great state of New Jersey,” Bridges said. “I have a deep and abiding faith in the power of colleges and universities to not only provide life-changing educational experiences but to also serve as economic engines and hubs of innovation and intellectual discovery. I look forward to working with leaders across the Garden State to develop and refine policies and practices that further improve student success, create efficiencies of scale, and strengthen the higher education enterprise.”

Bridges was born in Brooklyn, New York, and was raised in Beaufort, South Carolina.

If approved by the Democrat-led state Senate, Bridges would succeed Zakiya Smith-Ellis, who Murphy named as a top policy adviser in June.

Senate Higher Education Chair Sandra Bolden Cunningham said in a statement, “I look forward to working with Dr. Brian Bridges; he will bring incredible insight and experience to the job and I am confident he can be the strong leader we need during these unprecedented times. As we grapple with the economic impact of our current public health crisis, I am optimistic we can collaborate to enact the protections I have introduced for private loan borrowers and ensure our graduates do not fall victim to predatory lending practices. In addition, I am hopeful that together we can create more equitable, inclusive and diverse college campuses with student bodies, faculty and staff that better reflect our vibrant, colorful communities.”

(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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