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Mitchell College president tours Three Rivers as presidential candidate

By Claire Bessette

Publication: theday.com

Published May 06. 2014 11:50AM   Updated May 07. 2014 12:15AM

Norwich – Outgoing Mitchell College President Mary Ellen Jukoski would love to institute athletics if she were appointed the new president of Three Rivers Community College, she said, and she also would work to improve communications among administrators, faculty, staff and students there.

Jukoski, who will retire July 1 as the sixth president of Mitchell, met with students and staff at Three Rivers Tuesday morning. She is the second presidential candidate to tour campus and hold open sessions.

Dale Allen, vice president for community engagement at Quinsigamond Community College in Worcester, toured Three Rivers earlier this week and met with students and staff. The third candidate is expected to be named later this week and will visit the campus Monday.

Jukoski told those gathered at two morning forums that she always has been attracted to the community college mission of providing accessible, affordable education to non-traditional students and professionals. She said she welcomed the challenge of working with students returning to school or those who might have struggled through high school and now want to improve their career opportunities.

Jukoski answered questions both general and specific questions about issues on campus, including whether Three Rivers could add an athletics program, how she would improve faculty communication and what she would look for in hiring staff.

She said she is proud of the athletic success at Mitchell, which held its sports awards banquet Monday night, and would love to add athletics to Three Rivers. She said sports build student camaraderie and achievement, as well as support for the school. But she admitted the cost could be the barrier.

“If money was not an issue, there would be athletics (at Three Rivers),” she said.

Jukoski said she sees student activities of all sorts as critical to their experiences on campus. By becoming involved on campus, students have more motivation to stay in school and more chances to connect with fellow students.

To address dropout rates and lagging completion time, Jukoski said, the college needs to be sympathetic to students who struggle during the first semester and allow a “second opportunity semester.” Academic deans could work with students to ensure difficult classes offer tutoring and supplemental assignments.

The state’s community colleges also need to make sure that credits can be transferred smoothly to four-year colleges, so students don’t have to pay a higher tuition to repeat classes, she said.

The need to improve communication among faculty, staff, students and the administration was raised repeatedly Tuesday. Jukoski said she would meet with deans and faculty and would hold a “listening tour” to learn everyone’s concerns on campus. She said she believes in transparency in communication, but as president she would be the decision-maker.

She said that when it comes to hiring staff or appointing deans, she would look for people who are “passionate about the needs of the college.”

“The president and the deans should have an honest, open, transparent relationship,” she said.

Jukoski served as dean of Mitchell College from 1990 to 1995 and was appointed acting president on July 1, 1994. Following a national search, the board of trustees appointed her to the presidency on March 1, 1995.

c.bessette@theday.com

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