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Apr 18, 2019

Board of Regents Appoints Regional Presidents

The Board of Regents voted unanimously to name Dr. Rob Steinmetz, Dr. James P. Lombella, and Dr. Thomas G. Coley as the three regional community college presidents

The Board of Regents for Higher Education (BOR) today voted unanimously to name Dr. Rob Steinmetz, Dr. James P. Lombella, and Dr. Thomas G. Coley as the three regional community college presidents. The BOR is moving forward with the Students First initiative, with plans to consolidate the 12 independently administered community colleges into a singly accredited institution by 2023. The naming of the regional presidents is a major milestone in that process.

The new single community college structure will have three regions, each of which will be led by a regional president. The presidents-designate were selected following an exhaustive nationwide search and in-person meetings with regional leaders, community and foundation members, students, faculty, staff, and members of the BOR.

“We are fortunate to have three highly-respected, exceptional leaders to serve as regional presidents and oversee the complex transition to a singly-accredited community college,” BOR Chair Matt Fleury said.

“Throughout the search process, each candidate made clear that they understand the importance not only of leveraging resources and implementing best practices at scale, but also of preserving and expanding critical community and business connections,” said BOR Vice Chair Merle Harris, who chaired the Region 3 search committee. “Further, they all have a demonstrated commitment to utilizing cutting-edge, data-driven approaches to improving student success.”

Dr. Rob Steinmetz will become president of Region One, Capital-East, which consists of Capital Community College, Manchester Community College, Middlesex Community College, Three Rivers Community College, and Quinebaug Valley Community College. He currently serves as vice president for student affairs at Portland Community College in Oregon. He comes to the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities (CSCU) with more than 10 years of educational and administrative experience. He holds Bachelor of Science, a Master of Public Administration degrees from the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga, and a Doctorate of Education from the University of Alabama. He began his collegiate career at Chattanooga State Community College, where he earned an Associate of Science degree.

"I am humbled and excited to have been selected for the position,” Dr. Steinmetz said. “The future is bright for Connecticut community colleges, and I look forward to being a part of the team to support the important work ahead of us. I am particularly excited to work with the five colleges in the Capital-East region. Each college's passion for student success has already shined through to me, and I will work hard to support their efforts."

Dr. James Lombella will become president of Region Two, North-West, which consists of Asnuntuck Community College, Naugatuck Valley Community College, Northwestern Community College, and Tunxis Community College. He currently serves as president of both Asnuntuck Community College and Tunxis Community College. He assumes the position with more than a decade of experience within the CSCU system.  He holds a Master of Management degree from Cambridge College and a Doctor of Education degree from Nova Southeastern University. He began his collegiate career at Holyoke Community College, where he earned an Associate of Science degree.

“I am honored to be appointed President of the North-West Region of the CSCU Community College System.  I am excited to partner with faculty, staff, and students of Asnuntuck, Naugatuck Valley, Northwestern Connecticut and Tunxis Community Colleges”, said Dr. Lombella.  “I look forward to fostering a culture of collaboration as we embark on the task of forging a vibrant community college region that meets the needs of our students, local communities, and statewide workforce.  I would like to thank President Ojakian and the Board of Regents for this incredible opportunity.”

Dr. Thomas Coley will become president of Region Three, Shoreline-West, which consists of Gateway Community College, Housatonic Community College, and Norwalk Community College. He currently serves as chancellor of the South Bend-Elkhart campus of Ivy Tech Community College in Indiana. He comes to CSCU with more than 30 years of educational and administrative experience. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Moorehead State University, and a Master of Arts and a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin.

“I welcome this tremendous leadership opportunity to join the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system as president for the Shoreline-West region,” Dr. Coley said. “I was particularly drawn to the region due to each college’s long and strong history of contributing to student access and success in their service areas. I look forward to working with faculty, staff, students and community constituents to help achieve the goals for the college.”

The hiring of the three regional presidents is a key component of the planning for the single college and puts in place a new structure that provides strategic leadership and centralized services at the system and regional level with implementation activities at the campus level. Regional presidents are charged with leading the change process with the campuses in their jurisdiction. They will help to find ways to bring the campuses together around strategic goals, identify areas in need of support, and promote accountability for engagement in the planning process and implementation of new ways of doing our work. 

In 2018, the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), New England’s higher education accrediting body, informed CSCU that before receiving accreditation as a single college, the system must first look and act like a single institution. The announcement of regional presidents by April 2019 is consistent with the timeline outlined in the Students First plan. The goal is to receive single accreditation of Connecticut’s community colleges by 2023.

“This is a major milestone in the implementation of Students First,” CSCU President Mark Ojakian said. “Under the new structure, we will be able to streamline our organizational structure, spending less on administration and more on critical initiatives to help our students succeed academically and complete their degree in a timely manner. I am more confident than ever that – thanks to the hundreds of faculty, staff, and students engaged in this open and transparent process – Students First will put our community colleges on firmer financial footing while improving student outcomes.”

The three regional presidents will start this summer.  The regional presidents are Management/Confidential Executive 3 positions with CSCU.  Their bi-weekly salary will be $8,429.12 ($220,000 annualized). 


Rob Steinmetz

Rob Steinmetz Vice President for Student Affairs, Portland Community College, Portland, OR
Curriculum Vitae (pdf)


James P. Lombella

James P. Lombella President Asnuntuck and Tunxis Community Colleges, CT Curriculum Vitae (pdf)


Thomas G. Coley

Thomas G. Coley Chancellor, Ivy Tech Community College, South Bend-Elkhart, IN
Curriculum Vitae (pdf)