Durant: Cayuga remains focused on students, communities

Cayuga Community President Dr. Brian Durant

Before I discuss how Cayuga Community College is responding to the coronavirus (COVID-19), I want to thank the medical personnel, police and fire departments, EMTs and all other community-wide essential employees for their incredible service during this difficult time. All of you are doing incredible work to keep us safe and care for those who are ill.

Like everyone in our community, Cayuga is saddened by the current health crisis. To see the virus reach our state, and then our community, with such rapidity was disconcerting. Fortunately, our local and state leaders and public health officials have led a strong response.

At Cayuga, the short explanation of our response to COVID-19 is that our classes continue even as access to our campuses is restricted.

Although it pains us not to see our students each day, restricting campus access was ultimately an easy decision. While we care deeply for our students’ academic journeys, we care more about their health and safety and that of our faculty and staff. This decision allows us to best ensure the well-being of everyone in our college community while continuing our mission of providing a high-quality education.

Courses for our spring semester have shifted to a distance learning environment that allows students to practice social distancing while continuing their studies. Support services are also all available remotely. It is important to everyone at Cayuga that our students know that even during this time of social distancing and online learning, they are not alone. We remain here to help them, whether it is online, over the phone or through email instead of in-person.

Preparing for this transition created an immense workload for our faculty and staff, and they ensured academic and service continuity with incredible dedication. Our students have handled these changes just as well. Their commitment to their academic progress and future careers is unchanged, and they made the jump to distance learning with admirable determination. Our entire college community came together to implement these changes, and I believe we are stronger as a result of that effort. Our ultimate focus at this time is supporting our students toward a successful completion of their semester.  

As we adjust to these changes in the short-term, our long-term plans and operations are not derailed in any way. Course registrations can be completed remotely. Our registration for summer courses is open, with expanded online options for that term. Registration for our Fall 2020 semester is also open for current students, and will open to everyone on April 13.

We are determined that the health crisis will not deter our plans to grow opportunities for students and community partnerships in Cayuga and Oswego counties. Working remotely has changed how we conduct these efforts, but these plans continue.

In Oswego County, we are researching the formation of an Advanced Manufacturing Institute at our Fulton Campus. This initiative, developed with local business leaders, would train the current and future workforces for careers in the ever-changing field of manufacturing. Our local industrial partners have been an excellent source of support and ideas as we explore this initiative, and we greatly value their insight.

In Cayuga County, our efforts to establish a Workforce Development Center continue. This is an essential development to help our local communities, one that unites 10 partners in one location with a single focus: Helping our workforce prepare for and find employment. We’re fortunate to have strong partners in this endeavor who recognize the value the creation of a one-stop workforce center offers for our communities.

In both counties we are building greater partnership programs with school districts to create opportunities for high school students to earn college credit. Students have greatly benefitted from these programs, which offer a chance to not only earn credit but also experience a college atmosphere and understand the expectations of college courses.

Our academic team continues researching new programs dedicated to high-quality education and preparing students for careers in growing industries. Over the past two years we launched several new programs and concentrations, and we will continue to do so. The Fall 2020 semester will mark the first semester of our Culinary Arts Program. This program, offered primarily at our new Culinary Center in downtown Auburn, will prepare students for careers in the hospitality industry. It’s an exciting new offering that has already drawn strong interest from students and the community.

Even as we are committed to these long-term plans, our eyes remain focused on serving our students and making sure their needs are met. This transition presented unique challenges for them in a time fraught with outside stress from the health crisis. We take pride in helping them overcome these challenges, and in prioritizing their health and safety. Our every decision is made with their well-being in mind.

I know these are uncertain times that rapidly change, but I feel our community has responded with an amazing sense of unity. I’m proud that our college can support communities in Cayuga and Oswego counties in any way we can, particularly right now. On behalf of myself and all of Cayuga Community College, please take care of yourselves and your families.

Dr. Brian Durant has served as president of Cayuga Community College since 2015.

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