At first, Martha Asselin wasn’t aware of the distinction between an acting president and an interim president. Now she knows.
“Originally I didn’t know the difference, and I think at first I was asked to be interim president,” said Asselin, who is officially in her fourth month as Schenectady County Community College’s acting president.
“Acting means you’re applying for the position. They have a committee that is working on building the job description right now, so when the time comes I will put my name in the hat. But there are people out there doing that research, and I’m doing my best right now to stay out of the way.”
Asselin became interim president on Dec. 16 after the departure of Quintin Bullock, and was named acting president on March 5. Bulluck, who moved to western Pennsylvania to become president of the Community College of Allegheny County, had been at SCCC since July of 2009.
Asselin started at SCCC 24 years ago as director of student activities, and was most recently vice president of student affairs.
“I landed a great job when I got here, and every few years I’ve been given some added responsibilities,” she said. “When they asked me if I would be interested in serving as president I said, ‘by all means.’ SCCC has really become my home, and I am totally invested in this community.”
Ann Fleming Brown, who became president of the board at SCCC just last month, said Asselin was an easy choice to fill the role.
“There were three vice presidents who were asked about serving, and the other two demurred,” said Brown.
“Martha rose to the front, and she has been an incredible member of the SCCC community. She kind of grew up here professionally and has worked with all of our student groups. She’s been involved in many different parts of the college community.”
The director of admissions at Union College, Brown said Asselin’s buoyant personality is a strong trait in her favor.
“She brings a real warmth, kindness and enthusiasm that is very meaningful at a community college,” Brown said. “She knows a lot of students, she’s worked with them closely and she rejoices in their success and their progress.”
Bill Levering, pastor of the First Reformed Church of Schenectady and a recent addition to the SCCC board, said Asselin was a solid choice to fill the gap left by Bullock’s departure.
“She’s got a lot of experience in our community and she knows the college quite well,” he said. “She’s charming and very enthusiastic in her work. She’s a very good administrator, and I’m looking forward to working with her in the future.”
Asselin, 51, moved with her family to Rotterdam when she was 15 and spent her junior and senior years of high school at Schalmont. She headed off to Oswego for her four-year degree, got a master’s at the University at Albany and then spent eight years at the University of Delaware, getting a doctorate in higher education administration. Her dissertation was titled “Social Networking in Times of Crisis.”
“Originally I wanted to get into child psychology,” she said. “But I was an RA [resident assistant] at Oswego, and that helped me understand how individuals think and why groups think the way they do. It was about team building and I thought, ‘this was pretty neat.’ It was a way to open your eyes to diverse issues and new challenges.”
In her current post, that means planning for the future, which includes helping students prepare for a career in the casino industry.
“If we get a casino right here in Schenectady that will be great, but anywhere in the Capital Region they will be looking for workers that we can train,” she said.
“We need to collaborate more with the business community as well as other colleges in the area, and figure out how we can best meet the needs of tomorrow’s workforce.”
Asselin landed her first job when she was 16, working as an instructor at the YMCA’s Camp Chingachgook on Lake George.
“I remember walking into the YMCA building right across the street and applying for a job,” she said. “It’s amazing that’s where I started, and now I’m here in what was the Hotel Van Curler with all its history. I love this college, and I really feel connected to this spot.”
Reach Gazette reporter Bill Buell at 395-3190 or firstname.lastname@example.org.