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The selection of Dr. Mary Ellen Jukoski to serve as the next president of Three Rivers of Community College in Norwich is a solid choice. Dr. Jukoski will move from New London's Mitchell College, where she is ending nearly two decades as president, to take the new post. Dr. Jukoski announced in September her plans to retire from Mitchell.
Some similarities are apparent in the missions of the two colleges. Both have a record of working with non-traditional students, including adult learners, students who have struggled in their prior studies and are looking for a second chance, and, particularly in Mitchell's case, students with learning disabilities.
Under Dr. Jukoski's leadership Mitchell broadened its focus, adding a greater mix of traditional students while staying true to its prior focus. During Jukoski's time as president, Mitchell moved from a junior college to a four-year institution. There were building expansions, a broadening of curriculum choices and a growth in sports.
In choosing Dr. Jukoski, the Board of Regents for Higher Education have found someone with a proven record of guiding an educational institution through major changes. In accepting the position, Dr. Jukoski talked of working to "expand the mission of this vitally important community college."
The importance of community colleges- in providing students with an affordable start to their higher education as they work toward four-year and graduate degrees, and in retraining workers to match skills with areas of job growth - will only grow. These colleges are a vehicle to break the cycle of poverty and dependence on government support.
In moving to Three Rivers, Dr. Jukoski can focus on the educational mission free from the demands of constant fundraising that exist at private colleges, particularly a place such as Mitchell, which struggles on the fiscal margins.
Meanwhile, the Board of Regents avoided speculation of political favoritism in selecting Carlee Drummer, an administrator at Oakton Community College in Illinois, as president of Quinebaug Valley Community College in Danielson.
Among the finalists was Sen. Donald E. Williams, departing the General Assembly in January as the longest-serving president pro tempore of the Senate. Aside from his legislative experience, Sen. Williams has worked as a reporter and served as a first selectman, hardly the ideal background to direct a college.
Quinebaug Valley lies in Sen. Williams' 29th senatorial district and he has fought, admirably, for community college funding. Sen. Williams' appointment as president, however, would have carried the appearance of payback.