A Conversation with
Acting President Martha Asselin, Ph.D.
Martha Asselin, Ph.D., assumed her role as Acting President in March 2014, following approval by the SUNY Board of Trustees. She is the first woman to hold the top leadership position at SCCC.
Dr. Asselin has worked in the Student Affairs area at SCCC for 24 years. She was first hired in 1990 as the Director of Student Activities. She was later promoted to Coordinator for Student Development Services, followed by appointments as the Associate Dean for Student Services and Dean of Student Affairs. Most recently she was Vice President of Student Affairs.
Dr. Asselin holds both a Ph.D. and a master's degree in Educational Administration and Policy Studies with a Higher Education focus from the University at Albany. She earned her B.S. in Psychology and Sociology from SUNY Oswego. She is a graduate of Schalmont High School and is a graduate of SUNY's Executive Leadership Institute and Training.
Among her other accolades, Dr. Asselin received the SUNY Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Professional Service. She has positively impacted the lives of hundreds of SCCC students and her commitment to shaping lives through education extends to high school students as she was responsible for successfully writing a grant that resulted in the Smart Scholars Early College High School program for Schenectady High School students. Well-known in the community, Dr. Asselin currently serves on the State Education Advisory Board for Smart Scholars ECHS and the School Board for Notre Dame – Bishop Gibbons High School.
Q. You have been with the College through many initiatives and changes; what is the most exciting initiative that you have been a part of?
A. I have been at SCCC for 24 years; some may think that is a long time – though for me it seems short and fast. When you love the job you do, the people you work with, the community you are working in and the institution you work for, then the days go by quickly. Sometimes too quickly. I have seen many major changes at the College and each one is so exciting.
The first major change I was privileged to be a part of was in the early 1990s when the "rose garden" evolved into what is now our three-story-high Student Center/Commons and classroom space. To see such a magnificent construction project unfold early on in my tenure, I knew for sure the campus was destined for a wonderful future. Seeing the "Tempo Building" (a temporary trailer that was used for Financial Aid and Admissions) be removed from campus about 10 years past its prime to make room for our Stockade Building was also monumental. We just continued to expand and to increase enrollment. We were recognized as one of the top "fastest growing community colleges" in our nation. And now, to be a part of an institution that has grand connections in downtown Schenectady and at three sites in Albany is truly amazing. We are alive and vibrant. It all is exciting.
SCCC will be celebrating 45 years of service and commitment to our students and community in Fall 2014. Knowing I have been a part of this amazing history for 24 years makes me really proud. We have done, and continue to do, incredible work at SCCC.
Q. As the Acting President, what is your vision for the College?
A. I am deeply honored to have this incredible opportunity. I am fully committed to SCCC, to the wonderful people who make this institution all that it is and all that it will become, and, most importantly, to our students who have, do and will experience our dynamic learning community. I love SCCC. The campus community is family to me. I have the wonderful opportunity to lead our institution through collaborative partnerships while designing new and innovative approaches for fulfillment of our institutional vision.
The current vision statement reads: "Schenectady County Community College is committed to being a premier community college that empowers individuals to reach their greatest potential through exceptional and innovative education and training." In doing so, we can further open access into higher learning and address the workforce needs of our surrounding communities.
Our campus is in an excellent position. We have celebrated several years of increased enrollment, expansion of academic programs and facilities, established new campus sites in downtown Schenectady and downtown Albany, and have the best teaching faculty and staff. Our students energize me. We are in the midst of much positive momentum and I am looking forward to keeping that momentum going forward and growing stronger. This is a wonderful time for SCCC and I am truly blessed to be serving the institution in this capacity during this period.
In addition, I am proud to be the first female acting president in the history of the College. It is truly my greatest honor to dedicate my service to the students, the faculty and staff, and to the community at large.
Q. As a veteran member of the Faculty/Staff you know that SCCC has strong ties to our community. As Acting President, what are your plans to keep the College's strong connection to our community as well as promote new community relationships?
A. What makes SCCC strong is our community. Community colleges are designed to be institutions that are flexible and adaptable to the needs of the communities around them. We need to keep all channels of communication open so as to understand the gifts SCCC can bring to our community to address ever-changing needs for workforce development, education and training. Together we work to strengthen collaborative partnerships and cooperative relationships. As corny as it may sound, community is our middle name and we hold true to that in all we do.
Q. SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher has announced many new initiatives for both SUNY Community Colleges, four-year institutions, and University Centers. Her initiatives include Open SUNY, SUNY Smart-Track, and seamless transfers, to name a few. What are your plans to ensure SCCC remains on the forefront of these initiatives and to help our campus achieve the Chancellor's goal of "systemness?"
A. In January 2012, The Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government at the State University of New York at Albany published an explanation of Zimpher's application of the term to the SUNY system: "Acting alone, each of our 64 campuses can and has made great achievements. But think of what can be accomplished when we leverage all of our individual strengths and act as one formidable force armed with an ambitious yet disciplined set of goals that promise to create not just a stronger public university system but also a better way of life for all of New York."
Simply put, "systemness" is a term used to highlight the value of all 64 campuses within the entire State University of New York. Individual campuses bring forth unique qualities and gifts that make the collective package grander for all. Working together brings greater possibilities and unleashes amazing potential. I see my role as Acting President as supporting this vision of SUNY "systemness" through cost-saving approaches that increase access and product (such as increased graduates, economic development, new jobs and opportunities, etc.). SCCC cannot do it all alone; we must be strong partners making a greater impact on the future for all.
In August 2012, I was blessed with an opportunity to participate in a weeklong SUNY Leadership Development Program. The work we did at this training was done collaboratively and with a commitment to further assist SUNY in its systemness. As a leadership group, we viewed systemness as guided by the following five principles which, in part, owe themselves to Collins and Hanson (2011): vision, discipline, empirical creativity, risk taking and return on luck. The training provided me with a deeper understanding – an understanding that I will carry with me as I serve our institution as Acting President.
Q. Lastly, as someone who has pursued higher education at the baccalaureate level, graduate level, and doctoral level, what is your advice to our students in regard to achieving their educational and career goals?
A. Never forget that education is an ongoing process. We are always learning. I truly view learning as "any time, anywhere and for anyone." I encourage all to obtain advanced education. Know when you are ready to leap into your higher education experience and rise to the occasion. There is no better time than the present. Education opens new opportunities for individuals, for communities, and for our nation. Education is the best defense against poverty, crime, racism and other such evils. When one person completes his or her degree, our community comes that much closer to building a kinder world.
Read All About It!
Read more about how community colleges are working to help educate students. (PDF)
Reclaiming the American Dream: Community Colleges and the Nation's Future