Brighton School Promises a New Model for Higher Education

May 18, 2023

Portrait of Ian Mortimer, President

Ian Mortimer begins tenure as inaugural president of Golisano Institute for Business & Entrepreneurship

Ian Mortimer’s comfort with ambiguity is probably a good thing as he settles into his role as the inaugural president of the newly established Golisano Institute for Business & Entrepreneurship.

The Brighton-based school is backed by billionaire businessperson and philanthropist Tom Golisano and has gotten massive community support at the onset and yet, the model is new and untested, making it a project with all kinds of unknowns.

While there is plenty of excitement about the school — set to welcome its first class of students this fall — there is also an air of uncertainty around it.

Mortimer is aware of this and believes the time is right for such a venture.

My sense is that there is room in the market for an experience that has the time and cost benefits of an associate degree with the rigor and focus of an MBA,” Mortimer says. “That is what we are offering.”

Mortimer grew up in Canandaigua and attended Marcus Whitman High School. His mother was in the antique business and his dad was a social worker. He says both shaped his future career path.

Mortimer believes he gets his entrepreneurial mindset from being exposed to the antique business while growing up and seeing the importance of helping people and providing opportunity for others from his dad.

He is a double graduate of St. Bonaventure University with a BA in English and M.S.Ed. in Counseling Psychology. Additionally, Mortimer has an MBA from the Saunders College of Business at Rochester Institute of Technology and is completing his doctorate degree in business this month from Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business.

Mortimer spent his entire career working in higher education or for firms that serve it, which, in turn, allowed him to know the field well.

In some ways, he believes his new role is a culmination of that preparation.

Mortimer is widely regarded as a collaborative and innovative higher education leader who has worked with institutions to shape key initiatives over the past 30 years.

He comes to the Golisano Institute for Business & Entrepreneurship from RIT where he served as the vice president for enrollment management and associate provost.

In addition to serving at RIT, Mortimer held senior-level leadership positions at Nazareth College and Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont.

He believes that higher education plays a tremendous role in providing individuals with knowledge and experiences that generate better opportunities.

The one size fits all approach to education, however, has become inefficient and, in some ways, detrimental to many youths and adults.

To have the opportunity to construct a new model of education as an alternative to traditional college is unique, inspiring and should help improve lives,” Mortimer says.

The Golisano Business Institute — announced in November of 2022 — is a not-for-profit two-year certificate program comprised exclusively of business-related subject matter aimed at reducing the time and cost of a traditional business school education.

Its first cohort of students will begin the program this fall at 150 Sawgrass Dr., a former Paychex building that has undergone extensive renovation to create what leaders there describe as a state-of-the-art learning facility.

Golisano said his desire to start such an institute was driven by the high cost of traditional avenues of education. He fully funded and endowed the establishment of the institute, where tuition for the two-year certificate program is $8,900 per year, payable in two installments of $4,450. Tuition assistance and scholarships are available for eligible students.

Classes are scheduled to run in-person year-round at the Brighton location from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. four days a week, with an 11-week on and two weeks off cycle, allowing students time to hold employment while earning their certificate.

Admission applications for the first cohort — limited to 250 students — are now being accepted.

Mortimer is looking forward to the mix of students the institute will welcome, noting ages range from those who just graduated high school to those who are looking at a second career in midlife. There are also enrolled students who come from out-of-state.

Several things drew Mortimer to his new role. The first, he says, was being able to work with talented people who are committed to being bold and innovative.

Everyone that is working at the institute is committed to providing Rochester and the nation with a powerful new approach to education,” Mortimer says. “The energy and ingenuity that the team is offering is truly awe inspiring.”

He also looks forward to facilitating and helping to deliver opportunities to the students.

“I cannot wait until our first cohort graduates and each of them have specific post-institute paths that fulfill them emotionally and economically,” he says.

Being part of a group that can further Golisano’s legacy is also inspiring.

“Participating in history is unique, and I am appreciative,” he says.

Mortimer believes the school will be a success for many reasons, but largely because of the curriculum, which is distinctive because it is applied and experiential throughout all two years.

That curriculum, coupled with caring and supportive personnel, interactions with area employers and networking opportunities, as well as the competitively priced cost of tuition (due to Golisano’s investment of more than 60 percent of the total cost for each student) is a recipe for success, he says.

Mortimer says the time is right for the institute, noting that the educational system is under stress, largely from the COVID-19 pandemic which diluted the bond between families and school systems.

When there is uncertainty, many times people don’t evaluate alternatives; they just pause, Mortimer explained, adding that reality presents both an opportunity and a challenge for the institute.

There is probably no better time to put a novel and high-value alternative to traditional college in front of people,” Mortimer says. “I am confident when students and families fully take the time to learn about the institute, we will be viewed with enthusiasm.”

Daan Braveman, the former president of Nazareth College was Mortimer’s supervisor when he served for nearly five years as vice president of enrollment management at the college.

Braveman says Mortimer is an outstanding choice to lead the new institute, adding Mortimer brings many years of experience in the business world, as well as in higher education.

He describes Mortimer as a visionary leader who is innovative, entrepreneurial, open and friendly.

“Ian has a unique ability to motivate others to work toward common goals,” Braveman said.

Brian Zucker, president of Illinois-based Human Capital Research Corp., a research and analytics firm that works with colleges and universities, has known Mortimer for more than a decade and spent the last few years working with him when Mortimer was at RIT.

Zucker says Mortimer is a holistic, integrative thinker.

“He really is a cut above,” Zucker says.

Other attributes that Zucker believes will serve Mortimer well in his new role are his creativity and the ability to balance taking risks without being irresponsible.

Most people wouldn’t have left a secure job for such a new venture, Zucker says.

“That speaks to Ian’s courage, his curiosity and social intent,” he says.

Zucker says the Golisano Institute has the potential to impact the way higher education is delivered, noting the model appears to be in tune with today’s students.

“If ever there was a time for this, it’s now,” he says.

Andrea Deckert Reporter – Rochester Business Journal

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