Goddard College, the small, progressive liberal arts institution in Plainfield, welcomes its fourth president in 10 years this summer.
Dan Hocoy, who most recently worked as a campus president for Metropolitan Community College in Missouri, said he plans to move to Vermont and looks forward to revitalizing the struggling low-residency college. Until last year, Goddard was on probation with the New England Commission of Higher Education, its accrediting agency. The commission had cited concerns about the school’s finances and governance.
Although it is now accredited, the school’s enrollment has dipped to 360, and it is leasing some of its 75-acre campus to other organizations as it strives to shore up its financial position. It reported an endowment of about $1.3 million in 2018. According to the Small Business Association, the school received a Paycheck Protection Program loan of between $1 million and $2 million last year.
Hocoy said he’s confident he can help the school regain lost ground, sustainably. He added that the school came close to closing at one point.
“With 360 students, it’s still pretty close to the line; there’s not a whole lot of margin for error,” Hocoy said. He said enlarging the student body would provide economies of scale, but he "would want to maintain the transformative and progressive mission of the college in expanding or growing.”
Goddard, founded in 1938, describes itself as a pioneer of learner-driven education. It offers seven bachelor’s degree programs and eight master’s of arts programs. Its low-residency model allows students to stay on campus for a short initial period of study before continuing their work remotely. The school also has two campuses in Washington State.
Hocoy said that he thinks more people will consider the low-residency model after the COVID-19 pandemic.
A first-generation college student, Hocoy grew up in Toronto and has dual U.S. and Canadian citizenship. He has dedicated his life’s work — much of it spent internationally — to advancing social justice, the college said in a statement. His dissertation, which examined the impact of apartheid on Black people in South Africa, was used by that country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
He holds a bachelor of science degree from the University of Toronto, as well as an MA and PhD in psychology from Queen’s University in Canada. He is also a licensed clinical psychologist and has worked in psychiatric hospitals as well as private practice.
Courtesy of Dan Hocoy
"Throughout his career in academic administration, he has made ‘serving the underserved’ and addressing historic injustices a priority of the institutions he has led," the school said in a statement.
Hocoy succeeds Bernard Bull, who was Goddard's president for three years before leaving for an academic job in Nebraska.
He said he’s known of Goddard for years through his work with former Goddard president Mark Shulman at Saybrook University in Oakland, Calif. Goddard board members, some of whom he knows from other university jobs, encouraged him to apply, he said.
Small colleges are facing tough challenges these days. In just the last few years, Vermont’s Green Mountain College, Southern Vermont College, Marlboro College and the College of St. Joseph have all closed. The pandemic also upended the job market, and it’s not clear yet to academics or economists how a traditional college degree will be viewed in the future as employers and workers weigh their options in an unstable economy.
Goddard is far from the only college that has experienced high turnover among its top administrators. The college has 55 staff and 75 faculty between its three campuses, said Lisa Larivee, executive assistant in the president's office.
“My hope for the college is that Goddard provides academic offerings that are even more relevant to students and employers, and the needs of our society,” Hocoy said. He noted Goddard offers a master’s degree in counseling and certificates in bilingual education.
“Goddard plays a role in healing some of the wounds of our society,” he said. “And as we train teachers in the world, I can’t imagine a more practical or important role that we might serve as a college.”