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FMCC president retires; trustees eye administrative restructuring

FMCC president retires; trustees eye administrative restructuring

Swanger led college for 13 years
FMCC president retires; trustees eye administrative restructuring
FMCC President Dustin Swanger talks about a $2 million bequest in 2016.
Photographer: Gazette file photo

MOHAWK — Fulton-Montgomery Community College President Dustin Swanger announced his retirement at a Board of Trustees meeting Thursday, setting a final work day of July 31.

Swanger, 58, has served as president of the college for 13 years, leading the school through more than a decade of sliding enrollment, a financial downturn that strained budgets and an effort to refocus on programs most in demand by students and employers.

But Swanger’s replacement isn’t likely to be on the job come Aug. 1, as the college's trustees plan to evaluate the institution's administrative structure in light of smaller enrollment, potentially consolidating top leadership positions.

“We want to take our time and take a look at what the administration of the college should be,” Board of Trustees Chairman Ryan Weitz said on Friday. “Our administrative leadership team was structured when we were at peak enrollment … as that environment continues to change, we want to take a chance to see what administrative structure will best serve the college.”

Weitz said the college plans to conduct an internal study of its administrative team – which now consists of three vice presidents reporting to the president and a separate dean of academic affairs – over the coming months. He said the college would likely appoint an interim president to take over on Aug. 1, potentially choosing a current college administrator for that role. He said the restructuring study may last the calendar year, with a presidential search tentatively commencing at the start of 2020 and finishing in time to name a president for the start of the 2020-21 school year.

David Morrow, the college’s vice president for administration and finance, on Thursday, informed the trustees he planned to retire at the end of December, which could help as the board considers how to restructure the school’s leadership.

Reflecting on his years as president, Swanger on Friday said he was proud of the work the college has done to improve campus facilities, establish new community partnerships, develop new supports to retain students and consolidate academic programming. Swanger pointed out that when he started, the school had around 75 programs and is now down to about 40 programs.

“That doesn’t seem like progress, but it actually is,” he said. “We have focused ourselves on curriculum and programs students are seeking.”

He also highlighted efforts to coordinate with employers in the region to determine what kinds of programs would support the area's workforce needs, citing programs in nanotechnology.

Swanger said the college still has work to do to attract and retain a diverse student body, pointing out the large percentage of Hispanic students in Amsterdam and across the region as the kinds of students the college needs to do a better job of reaching.

“I think the way to get there is through more college-high school partnerships, where you start introducing college classes while students are still in high school,” Swanger said. “To show (students) you can do this, and it is important for you to consider college.”

Swanger said he planned to move to Tampa, Florida, with his partner, after finishing at FMCC. While he said he doesn’t have plans yet, he expects to continue working.

Weitz, the board chair, said Swanger has served as a strong community leader and helped FMCC take on the challenges of the past decade.

“As a community, we are greatly indebted to Dr. Swanger and the leadership and vision he has provided for the past 13 years,” Weitz said. “He is leaving Montgomery and Fulton counties, and FMCC, in a much better position than we were 13 years ago.”

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