It's been about a year since Cory Duckworth became the new president of Jamestown Community College, and he says he inherited a great foundation.
JCC is an integral part of the community in both Jamestown and Olean, with a solid financial base and enrollment figures that, while declining, are still higher than they were before the recession drove a new wave of students to community colleges. JCC had about 2,640 enrolled full-time students in fall 2013.
But Duckworth says he's also very aware that JCC is situated in economically stagnant communities, which simultaneously feed the college its student base and also rely on it for a well-trained workforce.
To that end, Duckworth has launched a series of meetings with business stakeholders in the Jamestown and Olean communities, convening more than 70 of them. The point is to forge even deeper connections with employers, high schools, politicians and nonprofit agencies.
"It's very clear we are a community college and we are here to meet the community's needs," Duckworth said.
The president is preparing to hire a new vice president for enrollment, marketing and communications who will be dedicating time at each of JCC's campuses (Olean and Jamestown) reaching out to various constituents. That person will be tasked with once again driving enrollment upward while establishing even firmer integration into the communities. The college will be interested in talking about the issue of poverty and how it affects the preparedness of the students that enter.
An institution like JCC has to strengthen its pipelines and promote itself to student populations, both traditional and among displaced homemakers and frustrated workers.
"I don't think we've ever exploited the market," he said. "There's plenty of people out here. The challenge is getting them to see higher education as a viable means for their own progress."
Duckworth said he's also spearheading a push into high-tech degrees, which aren't currently represented by jobs in the Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties. The idea is to educate a next-generation workforce, with the idea that they'll help local companies become more innovative and eventually drive the economy forward.
"Sometimes we try to just educate students for exactly what's here," he said. "This might be a case that we educate students for businesses and industry that aren't here."
JCC recently purchased 50 acres of property adjacent to the Jamestown campus which includes a house that is in good condition and will soon house JCC's alumni and foundation offices. The rest of the setting will remain pastoral for now, and could become class space for professors seeking a quiet outdoor getaway.
It is also embarking on a major expansion of its Manufacturing Institute in Jamestown, though Duckworth said that the budget and schematics are still being developed. The project will include "maker space," where manufacturers can work on prototypes or other projects with equipment the college owns.