Hoddenbagh takes reins as Cumberland College president

EAST CENTRAL — Cumberland College’s new president wants to see his post-secondary institution more embedded within the communities they serve.

“They used to be called community colleges,” said Dr. Mark Hoddenbagh. “They took the community out. I want to put the community back in.”

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Hoddenbagh was appointed as the president and CEO of both Cumberland College and Parkland College on July 1. He will be part of a two-year trial that will see both colleges operate separately but share the same president and board of directors.

He has been travelling through the region visiting campuses throughout the region.

“I’ve met a lot of great people so far. The colleges are filled with people who are passionate, professional and focused on what we can do to make our students successful. I’m learning what are some of the opportunities moving forward.”

Hoddenbagh said he wanted to join the colleges because he is passionate about education and wanted to be part of a college at the top level. He is also glad to be back in Saskatchewan.

“I think colleges are somewhat underrated in Canada, I don’t think people really appreciate what we do. I thought here was a great opportunity to work with communities to help them understand what these colleges can do and what we can become.”

Working as the president of Cumberland College and Parkland College, he said part of the challenge will be to work with two distinct organizational cultures while finding where common ground can be found to make both institutions more efficient.

“The challenge is how do you keep what’s distinctive about each institution, so that they can continue to operate in their areas in a way that resonates with people, but at the same what can you do on a common platform so that we’re more effective and efficient?”

Hoddenbagh has had a varied career, working with the Canadian Research Council and the Alberta Research Council, as a chemist at a pulp mill in Meadow Lake, Sask., working on pulp and paper research with a biotechnology company, a director of applied research at Algonquin College in Ottawa, Ont., and as vice president of strategic development at Red River College, before working as a consultant for two years. As a consultant, he worked with colleges to help improve their success rates.

“One of the things I’ve been really passionate about is improving the success rate of students. If 100 students come in, with one of the institutions I worked with only 48 graduated from their college programs, that’s just not acceptable. So I worked with them to find how they could deliver differently, and how they could help students prepare better.”

After two weeks, he’s not sure what specific the vision is for the two colleges, and he’s excited to work with the different campuses and the boards to work out where they want the colleges to go. The overall goal is the success of students, and he believes that will mean growing partnerships in the communities where the colleges operate.

“How can we change that equation, so we can get the right people, with the right skills, with the right jobs, here in east central Saskatchewan?”

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