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ECC trustees set to recommend new president

Erie Community College trustees will make one of their biggest decisions in years Wednesday when they select one of four finalists to become the college's 11th president.

On-campus visits by the candidates concluded Tuesday.

The board will not announce its selection. Instead, the name will be forwarded to State University of New York Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher, who will then make a recommendation to the SUNY board of trustees. The SUNY board ultimately will decide who succeeds Jack F. Quinn Jr., who has been ECC president since 2008. The full SUNY board is scheduled to meet next in open session on June 21.

"Any of the four candidates have the credentials to take on this job," said Dennis A. Murphy, chairman of the ECC board of trustees and of the search committee. "The next step for us in the process is to align which one of them will be the best fit for the college."

Here is a look at the candidates, based on their presentations and resumes.

Janine E. Janosky

The only woman among the four finalists, Janine Janosky, if chosen, would become the first woman to lead ECC in its 71-year history. She's now dean of the College of Education, Health and Human Services at the University of Michigan-Dearborn.

Janosky for 15 years was on the faculty of the University of Pittsburgh, where she also served in leadership posts. From 2007 to 2009, she was vice provost for research at Central Michigan University. She has been dean at the University of Michigan-Dearborn since 2014.

Janosky emphasized her experience in handling a range of challenges as a longtime college administrator in making a case to become the next ECC president. As one example, she described having to revamp a teacher-preparation program after learning that more than half of its graduates were leaving the teaching profession within four years of starting out.

"We were preparing them to teach in a classroom that did not exist," Janosky said. "Do I have a responsibility for that? Absolutely. Because our teacher-preparation program was not relevant and it was not responsive to what our students needed."

Janosky asked local school districts to help with the revamp, and data since the overhaul showed that it is working, she said.

Community colleges like Erie Community College have a responsibility to make sure their curricula are relevant, Janosky said. Community colleges also are becoming much more diverse and need to respond appropriately to that diversity.

Dearborn, for example, has the nation's largest Arab-American population, and "within that community is a different cycle to life."

The Muslim holy month of Ramadan often includes families returning to their homelands in the Middle East.

"For them to enroll in the university or college during that time, with our current curriculum, is not a possibility," she said.

The college created self-pace classes that students can do over the summer at their own pace, using a modified online curriculum.

"That's a way to be relevant or responsive to a new culture or a new community of learners that come to our colleges," Janosky said. "As I look forward, I see more and more of those kinds of opportunities, one that are needed and two that are called for because of either lifestyle choices or in this instance a cultural difference."

Dan Hocoy

Dan Hocoy has an unusual track record of succeeding a former congressman as a college president. Hocoy took over as president of Antioch University Seattle in 2015 when Brian Baird stepped down after less than two years in the position. Like Quinn, Baird had served 12 years in Congress prior to being named president of Antioch University Seattle. Their congressional careers even overlapped for several years, although they were on opposite sides of the political fence. Quinn is a Republican, while Baird is a Democrat.

Hocoy pointed out another similarity between ECC now and Antioch Seattle at the time he assumed the presidency there: years of declining enrollment.

One way to bolster enrollment at ECC going forward is to recruit more students from abroad, Hocoy said.

"You already have international students, so you have an established infrastructure, as well as an international profile, so it would only mean scaling up from the existing structures. The reality is that there may be a ceiling in terms of local students, and we may have already reached that ceiling," he said.

In addition to economic benefits to the institution, having a robust international student program at ECC would provide many benefits for local student and "could be a market differentiator" for the college, Hocoy said.

"I truly believe that the development of global citizens is the key to any college education today," he said.

Hocoy, the son of a Malaysian mother and Chinese father, immigrated as a non-native English speaker to Canada from Trinidad and Tobago. He was the first person in his family to pursue higher education. He received a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of Toronto and a master's and doctorate in clinical psychology from Queen's University in Kingston, Ont. In 2016, he was named associate vice chancellor for advancement of the Antioch University System, comprised of five campuses in four states.

New York State's newly adopted Excelsior Scholarship program will eliminate ECC's price advantage over four-year State University of New York colleges and universities, possibly costing the college some students, Hocoy said.

But Hocoy also sees a potential opportunity in the program: advocacy for community colleges like ECC to be able to offer four-year degrees, as has happened in Washington and other states.

"This would help New York reach its degree attainment goal for 2025, as well as ensure community college enrollment," he said.

Hocoy described ECC as having an image problem, and he said the college is in need of a rebranding and reimagining.

"There is an impression, and speaking from the outside looking in, that the college is outdated, slow to change its ways, maybe close to retirement," he said. "It may not appear innovative, nimble, cutting edge. There's a sentiment that it's out of touch, no longer relevant and not a leader in Western New York."

ECC, he added, is "at a very critical point, a pivotal point, in that the new president will have an opportunity to address some of these challenges."

Hocoy said he helped lead a rebranding effort at Antioch that included the introduction of a new master's degree program in urban environmental education, which has become one of the most popular degree programs at the university. The rebranding resulted in national recognition for the university's environmental initiatives. It also coincided with a move into a new campus and a revamped website.

"We went from best-kept secret to next big thing in two years," he said.

Matthew Reed

The arc of the Eastman Kodak Co.'s fortunes proved formative in shaping Matthew Reed's perspective of higher education. Reed grew up in Monroe County outside of Rochester and experienced the days when Kodak's tens of thousands of employees shaped an entire economy as the world's leading manufacturer of film. Now, the company has 1,500 employees, is still shrinking, and is also bankrupt.

Kodak didn't stop being the best manufacturer of film in the world, said Reed, currently the vice president for learning at Brookdale Community College in Lincroft, N.J. "The problem is, who uses film anymore?" he said. "Kodak became obsolete. The tragedy of it is Kodak actually invented digital photography. A lot of people don't know that, but it's true. They invented it, and then they sat on it, because they were afraid. They were afraid of what it could do to their film business.

"That's the background I bring to higher ed. That's what I grew up with. I have seen what happens if you don't change," he added. "Film is a dead or dying industry, but photography has never been more common. Education has never been more important than it is now but the community college model as we currently do it is struggling. So that tells me what we need to do is not to give up. People still need education, there's no question about that. But we need to change what we're doing."

Brookdale has multiple campuses in Monmouth County, N.J., and enrolls about 13,000 students. Reed has been the college's chief academic officer since 2015. Prior to Brookdale, he was vice president for academic affairs at Holyoke Community College, a school of about 7,000 students in Holyoke, Mass. He also spent six years in various roles, including teaching, at the for-profit DeVry University in North Brunswick, N.J.

Some of the changes Reed said he would consider at ECC include:

  • Implement mandatory orientation for all new students at the college;
  • Move from a 15-week semester to seven or eight;
  • Expand the use of open educational resources, including open textbooks, and OpenCourseWare to improve teaching and learning and increase access to higher education;
  • Create a scholarship program for internships;
  • Prevent students from registering for classes after a semester already has started; and,
  • Re-examine ECC's relationship with Niagara County Community College, including investigating the possibility of merger.

"If I had to boil down my approach to two words it would be 'Try stuff.' I want us to try stuff to make things better and that means among other things, accepting that some things will fail,"  Reed said.

George W. Swan III

George Swan spent 28 years in a variety of upper administration roles at Wayne County Community College District, a five-campus system headquartered in Detroit. From 2002 to 2007, he was president of the system's Eastern Campus. He moved into the district office as vice chancellor in 2007 and at various times oversaw curriculum and planning, operations and external affairs for the district. He was interim chief academic officer for eight months in 2015.

Swan also has spent the past decade as a peer reviewer with the Higher Learning Commission, an accrediting agency for colleges and universities in the Midwest. He was one of three finalists in 2016 to become president of Finger Lakes Community College in Canandaigua.

Swan said he would try to reduce the percentage of the cost of operating ECC that falls on students.

"The reality of it is there are some costs that are being borne disproportionately to how the national average is at Erie, and we have to do something about that," he said.

Swan said the college appeared to be under some financial strain.

"From the outside looking in, looking at budgets, looking at all the processes, looking at programs, things have been very tight. They've been tight here, as well as at other places," he said.

But money constraints could push the college to explore new directions it might not otherwise have considered, he said.

"We have to be willing to look at how we do things differently," he said. "We have to do things differently, in order to have different results and so change is not just disruptive. It can be change that is strategic, is directed, that moves us towards greater opportunity and opportunities that offer leadership."

One way to change the downward trend in enrollment is for the college to become much more flexible in scheduling classes, Swan said.

The pool of people who are in the traditional college age bracket, 18 to 24, continues to shrink, but Shaw said there's room for growth among prospective students who are 25 to 40 years old.

"When do they have an opportunity to go to school? Are they coming to school during the day? Or are they working?" he said. "The challenge here at issue is: Are there times at which they can find the opportunity to in fact pursue their educational aspirations? We have to make that possible. We have to make that happen."

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