As president of Three Rivers Community College in Norwich, Connecticut, Mary Ellen Jukoski ’73, G’79 loves engaging with all types of external and internal stakeholders. Whether it’s meeting with college students, teaching a class to local retirees, or orchestrating outreach to area middle schools, Jukoski is happy to use her gifts as a teacher as well as an administrator.
What is a typical day like for you?
It varies. Some days, it can be a series of one meeting after another at the Three Rivers Campus with various groups, whether that be faculty, staff, or students, or it can be participating in meetings for one of the various boards in the community that I serve on, or it can be attending meetings at the System Office for the Connecticut College and University System.
This time of year is spent focused on projecting the year-end budget as well as budget preparations for the coming year.
I think the reason why I like my job as president is because it allows me to meet many different people from diverse backgrounds, experiences, and walks of life, whether they are students, faculty, or community members. We also hold a legislative breakfast at the college each year so that our legislators get to meet our students and learn from them the issues and concerns they are experiencing as college students.
I really like the diversity that this position offers. Not only is every day different, but there are days when what you planned for the day to accomplish is totally different due to a situation that arises.
This morning, for example, we had a meeting about a middle college that we have on our campus, where students in their junior and senior year of high school can take college courses and earn an associate’s degree. The funding they receive from the state is being reduced, which will affect the number of students that can enroll in college classes. So, we’re discussing some creative ways to provide students the opportunity to enroll in the college classes.
We also have the Adventures in Lifelong Learning, which is a group of retirees who come to the college for enrichment classes. Every semester, I teach a class for them. This semester, I’m teaching a class on how higher education developed in the USA, from its beginnings until now.
I’ve also taught classes on Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, Cape Town, South Africa, and other subjects. Last fall, I taught a class on the four temperaments and how that concept developed. I try to focus on topics that I think the group will find interesting.
Tell us about your career path.
I always wanted to be a teacher ever since I was a young child. Once I got into academic administration, I became very interested in the American college presidency. That was at a time when most college presidents across the country were male, and I said, “That’s a position that I’d really like to have some day.”
As I gained more academic and administrative experience, I had the opportunity to participate in the Harvard Institute for the Management of Lifelong Learning, as well as the seminar for new college presidents. I became the president at Mitchell College in New London, Connecticut, a position I held for 20 years. After several academic, athletic and campus renovations, and new buildings on the campus, I decided it was time to look for a new opportunity, a new adventure. So, I was selected as the president at Three Rivers Community College in Norwich, Connecticut.
I enjoy being able to be an administrator and a faculty member at the same time. I am an accomplished administrator, and I like the opportunity to impart knowledge and make a difference in the lives of students. Last year, I was selected by the ACE (American Council on Education) Connecticut for the Woman Administrator Award.
At the college this year, we are actively engaged in a three-year grant project, Achieving the Dream, in which we are examining equity and diversity in the classroom, reviewing data on how students are performing in the classroom, e.g. first-generation students, students by gender, and students of color. There is a great deal of faculty interest on helping students achieve academic success. Our professional development efforts this year focused on having a national speaker to make the community more knowledgeable about equity and diversity issues that students face in the classroom and how the classroom environment can be a place for active learning for all students.
What do you do for fun?
I love to read. I love to travel. I like to garden. I also love going to plays, visiting museums. Anything that involves the arts!
What did you like the most about Saint Rose?
I always found the environment to be very warm and welcoming, a place that was really caring about students. There was a sense of community provided by the faculty and staff. Both the Sisters of St. Joseph and the laypeople who worked at the college seemed to be very student-centered and concerned about making students academically successful. They were dedicated to providing a quality education that would lead to a successful career path.
I grew up in Massena, New York. My older brother had a friend who went to Saint Rose, and I always admired her. I thought I would like to go to Saint Rose. Our guidance counselor would take high school seniors to visit college campuses during the fall. When I visited the campus, I liked it because everyone was warm and friendly during the visit. I decided that the Capital Region seemed like a great place to go to college.
Why should alums be engaged with their alma mater?
There are a number of reasons why.
First, their alma mater gave them a foundation for becoming an educated person and choosing a career path.
Second, it was a place that exposed them to diverse ideas, helped them to formulate values and explore the meaning of life in order to develop a sense of purpose.
Third, you want to support your alma mater so it is sustainable over time and will be there for the next generation of students to educate. Given today’s challenges for colleges without large endowments, it’s important to support the College so it will be sustainable not only for today’s students but for the students it will educate in the future.
My alma mater made a difference in my life. It’s where I was able to begin a career in education that has been professionally rewarding and personally satisfying.
My life has been enriched in myriad ways by my Saint Rose experience, and I have fond memories of my time at the College, as well as living and exploring the Capital Region.