Future Shock: Spotlight on Jamestown Community College

How President Daniel DeMarte’s vision is boosting enrollment, local workforce in western New York
James E. Samels is president and CEO of The Education Alliance and Senior Partner in the law firm of Samels Associates.
James E. Samels is president and CEO of The Education Alliance and senior partner in the law firm of Samels Associates.

This time, our journey brings us to Jamestown Community College. Founded in 1950, Jamestown was the first community college in the State University of New York system. With venerable roots in the early history of community colleges, it has its eyes on the future of science, engineering and technology, while balancing a rich tradition in the liberal arts, humanities and social sciences.

Jamestown ranks in the top 25% of community colleges. Located near the shores of picturesque Lake Chautauqua, JCC draws a wide and diverse student population from across the nation and overseas. 

In 2018, JCC recruited its new president, Daniel DeMarte, a contemporary president with a broad vision for the transformation of the college, a history of innovation, and a commitment to affordability. DeMarte created the first textbook-free degree, the Z-degree, to help lower student costs. In fact, DeMarte’s educational initiatives cross international borders, reaching as far as South Africa, where he served as a Center for Open Leadership Fellow in Cape Town and where he created an Open Educational Resource Policy Development Tool.

A presidents vision

When a higher ed institution president is a practical visionary, enrollments go up. Only a year after assuming the presidency of JCC, DeMarte turned the tide from decreasing to increasing enrollments—an impressive feat given the changing demographics and the national trend in the other direction. In announcing his appointment, SUNY Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson commented: “Dr. DeMarte is well-qualified to assume the role of Jamestown Community College’s president given his vast experience in academic policy and strategic initiatives, as well as his focus in working with faculty and staff to develop open educational resource tools.”

“If we can be smart and sophisticated and partner with some of the agencies in the region, we may have the ability to reverse the brain drain to a brain gain.” —Daniel DeMarte

DeMarte recently shared several critical visions to guide and inform Jamestown’s future growth and development: “First, create a Center for Robotics and Automation encompassing advanced, lean and additive; second, organic growth of JCC Artworks by expanding the connection with art, design, music, digital media, and even ceramics; and third, create a Southern Tier Agribusiness and Agritourism Incubator deploying aquaponics, hydroponics, microbrewery, hemp production, and farm-to-table culinary arts.”

Commitment to the arts

Jamestown’s commitment to the arts is reflected in its fine arts, musical theater and art for art’s sake programs. Music groups range from choir and concert band to jazz and rock ensemble. The JCC music horizon ranges from audio, video and multimedia production to music technology. 

The JCC Weeks Gallery on the Jamestown Campus and the Center Gallery on the Cattaraugus County Campus feature visiting artist programs, artwork and residencies. JCC art classes include studio arts, photography, digital media and graphic design.

JCC’s theatrical group, The JCC Uncommoners, produces wonderful shows each year in the Scharmann Theatre. The founder of the JCC theater, Robert Lee Scharmann, came to Jamestown in 1956 to teach English and drama, and intended to stay for only a year—yet remained for the rest of his life. This speaks volumes about the lure of the JCC community.

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Students also take advantage of the Reg Lenna Center for the Arts, the community’s cultural hub; the National Comedy Center; and the Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Museum located in Jamestown. Driven by the powerful vision of Jamestown native Lucille Ball, the National Comedy Center showcases comedy’s great minds and voices, uses state-of-the-art technology to create a true 21st-century museum environment, and has been named by TIME magazine as one of the “World’s Greatest Places.”

Focus on regional tech

Impressively, Jamestown balances the arts with Workforce Readiness and the Manufacturing Technology Institute.   

The Manufacturing Technology Institute provides students with highly skilled training and industry equipment to prepare them for advanced manufacturing careers. This strategy leverages manufacturing as one of western New York’s strongest industry sectors.

Workforce Readiness links multidisciplinary academic, technical, vocational and employability skills. JCC students can connect their education with workforce preparation to focus on specialized industry-sector, smart-worker skills.

Students who qualify for the Workforce Readiness Scholarship receive a tuition-free education at JCC. The scholarship can be used for programs offered at JCC’s Manufacturing Technology Institute, including certificate programs in industrial equipment technology, machine tool technology and CAD/CNC; the associate degree program in mechanical technology; and a certificate or associate degree in welding technology. 

JCC is linking its students with the needs of local manufacturers through the Workforce Readiness Scholarship program. “It is an example of how we can partner in smarter and better ways with the manufacturers of the southern tier—finding better and smarter ways to build that pipeline from high school to the vacancies they have right now and will have in the future,” DeMarte said.

Jamestown is also welcoming to international students and provides an international student scholarship. 

In closing, DeMarte put it this way: Jamestown Community College has a long-standing history of building partnerships designed to meet the educational enrichment and economic development needs in western New York. If we can be smart and sophisticated and partner with some of the agencies in the region, we may have the ability to reverse the brain drain to a brain gain.”

James E. Samels is president and CEO of The Education Alliance and senior partner in the law firm of Samels Associates.

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