Bill Ehmann Sees Potential In Generation Z’s Strivings


Bill Ehmann Sees Potential

In Generation Z’s Strivings

Bill Ehmann, Hartwick College’s new provost, exits Bresee Hall, where his new office it located. (Ian Austin/

By JENNIFER HILL • Special to

ONEONTA – Bill Ehmann believes students will guide the school’s future as much as the faculty will guide theirs.

“Students are always changing because economic forces are always changing,” said Hartwick College’s new provost and vice president/academic affairs, who arrived on campus July 1.  “We have to keep adapting to them.”

To adapt quickly to change, Ehmann said, students need to have a liberal arts education, allowing them “to dive deep into a discipline and become an expert” and to acquire practical skills.

That combination makes students and Hartwick “agile, resilient, and empathetic.”

“With those softer skills, students can meet people where they’re at,” Ehmann said.  “And Hartwick gives them a safe haven for debate and discourse for seeking the truth, which enables them to connect to people.”

Ehmann has proven to be agile himself throughout his career, most of it teaching and administering liberal arts colleges, three in Upstate New York.

He began as a geologist for the U.S. Department of Interior.  After four years, he decided to pursue an academic career and earned a Ph.D. in Biology, with a focus on Ecology, at Utah State University.

He then taught at Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa, before joining Seattle University as associate provost, as well as teaching biology. He then served two tenures at Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry.

Beside Mercy, he served at Empire State College’s associate dean, and assistant to SUNY Plattsburgh’s to the provost & vice president/academic affairs, moving into that job at Marymount University in Arlington, Va., before accepting the Hartwick post.

In each of his administrative positions, Ehmann said, he developed curriculum or programs that reflected the changing needs of liberal arts’ undergraduates.  At Empire State, for instance, he developed new nursing programs, advanced graduate education, and helped assure quality in online courses,” according to Hartwick’s Dec. 17 announcement of his hiring.

At Marymount University, he implement measures that led to increasing freshman and graduate student enrollment.

Ehmann believes liberal arts are at a crucial “institutional moment” because the next generation of college students have different needs from previous ones.

“The incoming freshman class this fall will be members of Generation Z, who are similar to Baby Boomers,” he said.  “They realize they have to roll up their sleeves, that things won’t just be handed to them.  They want more practical skills, a toolkit, to pursue their futures.”

Generation Z members are also “very socialized and can talk easily about their experiences,” he said, “but they haven’t yet stitched all their experiences together.”

“They probably joined different clubs or did certain activities in high school because they knew that would help them get into college,” said Ehmann.  “But in college, we want to guide and mentor them in thoughtful ways, for them to learn it’s not just a grab-and-go experience.”

Faculty will guide Hartwick students to “outside-the-school” opportunities as well, such as internships, studying abroad, and honors programs.  Hartwick alumni have proven to be excellent role models as well, demonstrating to students how they have put their degrees to work.

As Hartwick’s provost, he sees his role as a facilitator, “to help provide conditions for faculty to teach and for students to learn, develop new programs, and hire excellent faculty.”

“I’m here to help Hartwick go where it wants to go,” Ehmann said.

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