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New Waterbury director to focus on access

Susan Eisenhandler has been on the job only five days, but her watch as interim director of the Waterbury campus has already made history. Not only is she the first female director of the campus, but on her first full day on the job, Jonathan XI made his first appearance at a regional campus - hers.

Eisenhandler is proud of the fact that Jonathan - UConn's Husky dog mascot - participated in student orientation on Monday, but she is quick to note that bigger challenges lie ahead.

"One of the main missions of the regional campuses has always been, historically speaking, an access to excellence," Eisenhandler says. "We have to ensure that the doors are completely open for quality students in the Waterbury area to have this opportunity. The only way to do this is to establish in the public's mind that we're here - and this is what we're here for."

Eisenhandler believes she can improve access not only through outreach programs in the community, but through activities that encourage residents to visit the campus as well.

"Susan will accomplish this," says Fred Maryanski, vice chancellor for academic administration, "because she understands the students and is able to work collegially with her colleagues and the community."

Eisenhandler has been at the Waterbury campus for 12 years as an assistant professor of sociology. As director, she replaces Otha Brown, who has been named a special assistant to Maryanski.

Brown, who was director for three years, will assist Maryanski in a program to improve the academic connection between the regional campuses and Storrs.

"Given the new direction the University has established for the regional campuses," Maryanski says, "we felt that the best interests of the University could be served by Otha's assuming this new role."

With the implementation of the strategic plan in 1995, "we are hoping to develop academic programs that offer selected upper division and graduate programs that are responsive to the needs of the communities at the regional campuses," says Maryanski, who oversees all the regionals.

Faculty at Hartford, Waterbury and Torrington are now working on establishing four-year degree programs in liberal arts and the humanities.

"We have learned from the students who attend the regional campuses, particularly those who are unable to go to Storrs, that they would be very interested in completing degrees in liberal arts and humanities," he says, "so we need to provide those opportunities to them. A four-year program at the regional campuses provides more options in which students can in fact have access to the state's land grant, sea grant, public research university, by providing more venues at which they can receive a University of Connecticut education. It also gives us the opportunity to diversify our student population and to share our faculty resources among the campuses."

Based upon the strategic plan, Maryanski intends to have a proposal ready for the Department of Higher Education by the end of the fall. If it is approved, there is a good possibility that the branches could be offering four-year degrees by 2000, he says.

Susan Eisenhandler's "immediate challenge will be to work with Torrington and Hartford to craft this new relationship between the campuses so that we are able to combine faculty resources to offer four-year degree programs," Maryanski adds.

Eisenhandler's new role will not prevent her from teaching. "I think it is important for administrators in an academic setting to teach a course," she says, "because it gives you an opportunity to find out what the students are concerned about. One of our major missions is to transmit knowledge to the next generation and you cannot do it by sitting behind a desk in an office."

Luis Mocete