“Our students amaze me every day,” College president, Dr. Gregory DeCinque told a recent visitor to the Jamestown campus of Jamestown Community College, JCC.
According to research funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, as reported in 2011, JCC is the “Top Performing Public Two-Year College” in the entire state of New York. The college’s students outperformed the graduates of all 35 of the two-year, public colleges in the State University of New York (SUNY) and the City University of New York (CUNY) systems, on a list of important measures of success.
Jamestown Community College joined the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, and Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York, as the other top performing colleges in New York State in their categories.
“All indicators are that if you come here, you will succeed,” DeCinque said. “This report is a point of pride for both JCC and the communities that support the college.” DeCinque campaigned to increase the number of communities that support JCC, originally Jamestown’s responsibility alone, to now include all of Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties, with an additional campus in Warren, Pennsylvania. “We’re delivering on our promises and doing so with great efficiency. Our mission is to meet our community’s needs,” DeCinque added.
“If you question the impact of this campus on Jamestown,” DeCinque said, “just close your eyes and try to imagine our town without it.”
Dr. Gregory T. DeCinque, JCC’s seventh president, took his current post in 1994. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Montclair State College in New Jersey, his master’s degree from New York University, and his Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin. His home town, however, is now Jamestown, New York. “This is a wonderful community,” DeCinque said. “My wife and I never plan to leave.”
Among the top 20 percent of Jamestown High School’s graduating class of 2012—60 students—more than 30 have selected JCC to begin their college careers, according to Nelson Garifi, JCC’s Executive Director of Marketing. “We’re also unique in the number of valedictorians and salutatorians who come here to study,” Garifi said. “We’ve always attracted the best of students because our mission has never changed.”
Recently the college hosted a reunion of the JCC Class of ’62, which was only the 10th graduating class after the college’s 1950 founding with an original enrollment of 169 students. Classes at that time were held at Jamestown High School. By 1962, the campus had grown to a single building of its own. “But the ’62 alumni were so pleased,” Garifi said, “that we were still holding on to our original values of concern for each individual student.”
“You won’t find those impersonal, mega-classrooms here, with 150 or 200 mostly anonymous students the professor can hardly see and may never get to know,” Garifi said. “Our student to faculty ratio holds firm at about 18 to 1.”
The focus on the individual, however, did not mean the school would stay small. In 2012, between 14,000 and 15,000 students will be enrolled in JCC at its Jamestown, Dunkirk, Olean and Warren campuses.
About 4,000 students, mostly full-time, along with a smaller number of part-timers, are enrolled in credit-earning courses. An additional 1,500 students are enrolled in courses for credit while still in high school, and as many as 9,000 local residents are taking advantage of non-credit, certificate and other enrichment courses.
Where Are They Now?
Success after graduation is one important measure of a quality education.
Consider Rebekah Frost who earned her Associate of Science degree in Math/Science at JCC. Transfer to SUNY Fredonia then led to a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology and finally a Bachelor and Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine from the University of Illinois. Dr. Frost is now the proud and prosperous owner of the Dunkirk Animal Clinic.
Daniel Powers used his JCC Associate of Science Degree in Computer Science as a springboard to a BA Degree in that field from Rochester Institute of Technology and an MBA from the prestigious Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. JCC started Dan on his way to becoming the Vice President of Web Services Sales at Amazon.com.
A career in law began with an Associate of Arts Degree in Criminal Justice from JCC for Deneen Hernandez. She advanced to a Political Science Degree at SUNY Fredonia and an Master of Science Degree in Criminal Justice from Buffalo State College. Deneen is now a Forensic Examiner with the FBI specializing in gambling related crime and an on-line professor in Criminal Justice for her Alma Mater, JCC.
Students now attend JCC from across New York State and a number of foreign countries. Foreign students can also take advantage of English Emersion programs that take them out into the community to learn about the U.S. along with the language itself. New dormitory facilities now house more than 300 full time resident students.
A college education has become a standard of success in the United States. It can begin with a USA (Unified Student Assistance) Scholarship, provided by the Jamestown Community College Foundation. Any student ranked in the top 20% of his or her high school graduating class may be eligible. This program is designed to pay the portion of NY resident tuition at JCC not covered by any other federal or state sources. Conditions and eligibility may vary. Information is available by calling JCC. For many students, this has amounted to what some appreciatively call “the free ride” to college. Many other generous scholarships have also been established by local benefactors and alumni.
The Future Has Arrived
The newest degree programs created by JCC include the Biotechnology and Environmental Science degrees. The JCC Science Center, dedicated in 2011, is designed around innovative engineering concepts that make it cutting-edge technologically, energy and cost efficient and green environmentally. The Center serves as a living, working example of the principles taught in the new curricula. “The return on investment for this program is high,” DeCinque said. “It is a model of the Effective & Efficient goal we have set for all of our projects.”
Beyond The Community College
Under JCC President DeCinque, Jamestown Community College and five other regional institutions of higher education signed an agreement in August 2010 to establish the Communiversity at JCC. Communiversity is an alliance of regional colleges and universities which will make select associate, bachelor’s and master’s degrees accessible to individuals in Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties.
Five college presidents signed the Communiversity into existence and expended the scope of a Community College education, opening the doors to the full spectrum of world class higher education. Signatories included JCC president Gregory T. DeCinque, Alfred State College president John M. Anderson, Edinboro University of Pennsylvania president Jeremy D. Brown, Empire State College-Jamestown branch coordinator Gregory J. Edwards, Houghton College president Shirley A. Mullen, and Medaille College president Richard T. Jurasek.
Home Sweet Home
“Our prime mission is to meet our community’s needs,” DeCinque said. “You have to meet people at the level of their need, help them achieve goals important to them.” In service to that aim, expansion and outreach are key objectives. “If you don’t find ways to cooperate and collaborate with other institutions and industries, you won’t survive,” DeCinque warned. Expansion is designed to bring richer resources into the communities JCC serves.
More information about JCC’s programs, access to JCC’s resources and locations of the college’s campuses are available at www.sunyjcc.edu.