Mark Ojakian selected as Board of Regents President
Anisa Jibrell – News Writer
When Mark Ojakian was waiting tables at the Carbone’s Restaurant to get by, it never occurred to him that he would soon be dedicating his life to careers in the public service sector. His four-year reign as Gov. Malloy’s chief-of-staff is now coming to an end as he takes on the new appointed role as the President of Board Regents.
“The governor and I have developed a very close, professional, but also personal relationship,” said Ojakian, in a phone interview. “I expect the personal relationship to continue.”
Although Ojakian and his husband are good friends with Malloy and his wife, he admits that he will miss the day-to-day interaction with the governor. Even though his departure is bittersweet, Ojakian said he is honored to hold this new position.
“It’s time to pass the torch to my successor and now I have another opportunity which is very challenging,” said Ojakian. “So it’s not like I’m going from 180 miles to zero. I will still be very busy and I have a tremendous opportunity but one that also needs a lot of attention.”
Born and raised in the suburb of West Hartford, Ojakian attended both public schools and a private catholic high school before receiving his bachelor’s in History at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire. He continued on to the heart of Washington D.C. to earn a graduate degree from American University in international relations, envisioning a career in Foreign Service.
“I moved back to Connecticut after I got my masters degree,” said Ojakian. “My father was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and I decided I wanted to come back and be closer to the family.”
Upon returning to his home state, Ojakian was waiting tables for a living before getting his first job at the Office of Legislative Research where got his first glimpse of the public service arena.
From 1988 to 1994, Ojakian worked for the Board of Governors of Higher Education as a senior advisor to the commissioner, where he said he helped develop policy, advocated those policies, and ran a federal grant programs.
“I’ve always allowed opportunities to come to me and I’ve assessed those opportunities very carefully and I always make the most thoughtful decisions for me personally and professionally,” said Ojakian. “So when this opportunity came to me it was very intriguing.”
President Mary A. Papazian said she is eager to have a chance to get to know Ojakian better and looks forward to the transition.
“We made some progress in these last few years,” said Papazian. “Now with president Ojakian coming on board, he’ll be in a unique position I think to really work to advocate for our system.”
Ojakian described himself as a problem solver, and someone who makes a diligent effort to involve everyone in the process.
“I like to bring people together early in the process so that everybody feels empowered by the process,” said Ojakian. “Ultimately the decision will be made, which everybody may or may not agree with, at least folks will have an opportunity to have their voices be heard.”
Ojakian said this selection could’ve had a lot of detractors, but doesn’t think it did because people understand his skill-set and what the system needs.
“I know how to run organizations, I know how to do strategic planning,” said Ojakian. “I’m not an academic, I don’t pretend to be an academic.”
Overall, Ojakian said he is very open and very accessible and looks forward to getting started and getting acquainted with stakeholders around the state.
“People call me Mr. Ojakian, Mr. President,” said Ojakian, laughing quietly, “and I tell people, call me Mark, that’s my name. I’m just a regular guy.”