board of regents President mark ojakian retires
Jose Vega – Contributor
After a five-year term that included shepherding programs such as U-Pass, the Transfer and Articulation Policy, and pushing the Students First initiative, outgoing Board of Regents President Mark Ojakian announced his retirement.
From his time as director of government relations for the Board of Governors for Higher Education and as chief of staff to former Governor Dannel Malloy, President Ojakian has tried to prioritize student success and bring stability to the CSCU system.
“I think that he brought what was needed at the time,” President Joe Bertolino said. “I think the advantage to having President Ojakian in that role is that he worked in the state house for decades, he knew everybody in the statehouse, not only did people know him they admired him they respected him and they knew what they were getting.”
The BOR often acknowledged President Ojakian for spearheading the efforts in advancing the CSCU system after being handed a difficult task; the consolidation of the two systems that made up the CSCU system into one.
“I think he was tasked with a difficult challenge,” Interim Associate Dean of Graduate Studies Jonathan Wharton said.
“Mark Ojakian was not an educator, but he was a talented and very connected politico. I think he was tasked with a difficult challenge, the consolidation effort was something that he took on and tried to help address it and it’s challenging for anyone, even for faculty or administrators.”
Throughout President Ojakian’s efforts to consolidate the CSCU system, he kept the goal of aiding student success front and center; making sure community college graduates can easily transfer credits to any Connecticut State university. Partnering with Connecticut Department of Transportation and implementing the U-Pass program, he worked to cut costs for commuter students.
English major Chloe Lecy, a senior, who commutes from Springfield, Mass. said without the U-Pass program she would have had to stay in-state.
“Round trip without the U-Pass would cost me roughly around $40 a day,” Lecy said. “My sophomore year I did the commute two to three times a week, the following year I came about every day. It helps save a lot of money and makes sure people who aren’t as financially well off as others are able to get an education.”
Throughout President Ojakians term, he has pioneered Student First policy implementations, such as the U-Pass and TAP, while also indirectly breaking stigmas pertaining to who can hold powerful leadership positions.
“I have a lot of respect for him on a variety of levels, not the least of which is that he and I come from similar generations in where we both came from a time that just the thought of an openly gay man being the leader of a university would’ve been unheard of,” President Bertolino said. “The doors that have been opened and the fact that nobody thinks twice about it, says a lot. So I am grateful to Mark for helping to open that door for folks like myself and others.”
After creating TAP, after creating U-Pass, after always prioritizing a Student’s First initiative throughout his tenure, President Ojakian said it is time for a change.
“After more than 40 years in state government, it’s time for me to move on,” President Ojakian said in a statement. “I am proud of the accomplishments our team made over the past five years. It has been a tremendous honor to lead this organization, and while it is hard to say goodbye, I’m confident that the team we have in place will continue to move important ongoing initiatives forward.”
Photo credit: Jose Vega