Dan Hocoy, embarking on his first semester as president of Erie Community College, called on faculty and staff to embrace change and join him in creating a new ECC.
"The new ECC for me is releasing ourselves, liberating ourselves from the learning of the past," Hocoy said in his first address to faculty and staff since taking over as 11th president on July 5. Hocoy, who succeeded former Congressman Jack Quinn Jr., also said he wanted ECC to be known "as the college that tries new things, that innovates."
A standing room only crowd of 350 people applauded Hocoy. His convocation remarks lasted about an hour inside a cafeteria at ECC's South Campus in Orchard Park.
Longtime ECC faculty member Michael Delaney introduced Hocoy as "just about the perfect hire for us."
Delaney noted that Hocoy learned English as a second language and was the first in his family to attend college.
"He is like so many of our students. He understands the needs of our students," Delaney said.
Classes for the fall semester begin Tuesday for the roughly 10,000 students at ECC's three campuses.
Hocoy, 50, painted a mostly optimistic picture of the possibilities for the college, although he did not mince words about its current inadequacies, including a logo that often prompts public denigration and a perception that the college operates incompetently.
The college, which is funded in part by Erie County and New York State, has struggled in recent years with enrollment declines and tight finances. Hocoy already has met with state and county elected officials to discuss future funding.
"They have explicitly told me that they wanted to give us more money, but it's their impression that we mismanage public funds," Hocoy said.
Hocoy said he planned to focus on renewing the college's image, with particular emphasis on touch points where people most often come in contact with ECC, such as the website and gathering spaces at the college's three campuses. He suggested a new logo for the college that focuses on the term ERIE, instead of ECC, as an acronym for efficiency, relevance, innovation and entrepreneurship.
He also said part of his mission early on in his presidency will be rebranding the college and sharing its many stories of success.
"We have wonderful stories about our faculty, staff and students, but we don't even know our own stories," he said.
Hocoy described the college's brand as the sum total of people's experience with ECC. While that brand image may be suffering now, it can be turned around through the work of faculty and staff, such as spending time helping a student revise a paper or correctly fill out a financial aid application.
"One positive act by you will help improve our brand," he said.
Hocoy's strategy to increase tuition revenue will emphasize retaining students by getting them connected to and committed to the institution. He wants the college's most committed faculty and staff engaged with students early and often.
"I want to align people's passions to students," he said. "I want you to be motivated, committed and inspired in what you're doing."
And for those who aren't motivated now in what they're doing, Hocoy said he will help them find a way to channel their passions into something else that benefits students.
"Unless we embrace change, we stay at an immature stage of our best selves and the college stays at an immature stage of its best self," he said.
"I want to hear from you. There will be multiple venues for that," he added. "I want to hear your best thinking on how we can mature and evolve together."