Mohawk College president eager for overhaul
April 09, 2009
The Hamilton Spectator
When Rob MacIsaac became president of Mohawk College two months ago, his friends said he wouldn’t waste much time.
They were correct.
At his official installation ceremony Thursday, MacIsaac, 47, laid out aggressive plans to modernize the college’s main campus with a major overhaul, reform the delivery of education, build new partnerships with universities and establish a separate Mohawk corporation to put its applied research to work.
After donning the president’s robes, he praised Mohawk’s traditions of serving students, building the community and establishing strong partnerships.
“But I want to say there is also so much more that we can do,” he said. “Looking ahead, there are so many exciting, interesting and valuable opportunities that Mohawk can explore and capitalize on.”
MacIsaac is planning an $80 million renovation to the Fennell campus — home to 7,000 of Mohawk's 10,000 full-time students — with applications to the federal and provincial governments for infrastructure funding that would pay for most of the work.
“This 40-year-old building we are sitting in is a tribute to mid-20th-century architectural sensibility,” he said. “We would like to bring the spaces and the architecture here firmly into the 21st century.”
Citing the college’s project in building a prototype for a national electronic health records system, he said Mohawk would expand on its “brilliant beginning” in applied research by advancing into clean energy and advanced materials.
While pure research will remain the province of universities, he said, Mohawk will find new ways to put research into practice by creating Mohawk College Enterprises, which will work with corporate partners in training and economic development.
“This company will help drive our economy by helping local companies create supercharged workforces,” he said.
The new president said it’s also time to overhaul the way Mohawk delivers education to students, casting off what he described as a manufacturing model based on Henry Ford’s ideas in favour of a “mass-customization model” closer to the lines of Dell Computers, where customers tell the company what they want and Dell builds it for them.
“Why can’t we do the same in education?” he asked. “Why can’t we provide student-centric post-secondary education that adapts itself to recognize that students have different backgrounds, different strengths and different personal circumstances?”
Building on its formal partnerships with McMaster University in nursing and technology, he said Mohawk is planning new links with Wilfrid Laurier University in Brantford, where both institutions have campuses, and with the Burlington campus of Australia-based Charles Sturt University, and Redeemer University College in Ancaster.
MacIsaac is the seventh president in Mohawk’s 42-year history. He is a lawyer who previously served three terms as Burlington mayor before deciding not to seek re-election, later becoming an architect of Ontario's Smart Growth strategy and its Greenbelt plan.
Before becoming president at Mohawk, he was the founding director of Metrolinx, the province’s transportation planning agency for the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area. He continues to serve as Metrolinx chair.
Among the audience of Mohawk students, graduates, faculty and supporters were MacIsaac’s wife Anne and two daughters Sarah and Catherine.
The formal installation ceremony was to be followed by a reception and a dinner, with the day ending in a performance by MacIsaac’s rock band, Slow Monday.