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Q & A: Brian M. Durant

President of Cayuga Community College talks about enrollment, the college’s Advanced Manufacturing Institute and explains what CCC is doing to prepare workforce for Micron

By Stefan Yablonski

Brian M. Durant became the ninth president of Cayuga Community College in 2015. He came to Cayuga after spending 4 ½ years as vice president for academic and student affairs at SUNY Adirondack,

Q: How are your enrollment figures — up or down?

A: Our 2022-23 academic year ends in August, but Cayuga has already exceeded our expected enrollment for the year. We anticipate that the final number will be a small percentage decrease of 1%-2% from the 2021-22 academic year.

Q: Are college enrollments down in general?

A: Over the past several years we’ve been successful in estimating our enrollment for the upcoming academic year, which is essential in forming a responsible budget that still allows us to provide high-quality services and instruction for students.

Community colleges primarily serve students from their immediate region, and in general enrollments at community colleges have decreased over the past five to 10 years due largely to the decrease in population across New York. As the population decreases, there is the same number of public and private institutions competing to serve a smaller number of potential students.

Q: What does CCC do to attract students?

A: Cayuga’s appeal to students is widespread, largely because our approach to education and training is student- and career-focused. We offer affordable pathways that place students in a position to succeed at what they want, whether that’s earning credits and transferring or accessing top-tier skills training to advance their career.

Q: Is it easy for a student to transfer to a four-year college?

A: Agreements with regional four-year institutions support our students who are interested in transferring after earning their associate’s degree. In terms of career training, particularly in manufacturing, we’ve developed strong partnerships with regional industrial leaders to ensure our trainings match the skills they need in an employee. When our students complete these programs, they’ve received the training they need to begin or advance their chosen career.

The other things we offer students are excellent support services and talented faculty who are committed to the success of their students. Everyone at Cayuga recognizes that we’re here to support our students and every effort is made to ensure their success.

Q: How are you preparing students for work at Micron?

A: We continue to work with educational and industrial partners on several initiatives, including identifying ways we can support Micron and its presence in the region. This is a long-term project that offers countless benefits to our region. We are pleased to play any role we can in welcoming Micron, supporting our partners and preparing the workforce for this excellent opportunity.

Q: What else does CCC prepare students for?

A: There’s no brief way to explain the careers we prepare students for. But I think the easiest way to put it is we prepare students to follow their chosen professional path. We do this through a variety of methods — diverse academic programs, tailored trainings, great faculty and dedicated support services. Any student who comes to Cayuga can access the courses, services and trainings they need to take the next steps toward their career or to transfer to a four-year institution where they can earn their next degree. We’re here to support our students’ goals and support them in any way possible as they progress toward their objective.

Q: How successful has your institute of manufacturing program been?

A: The Advanced Manufacturing Institute (AMI) on the Fulton Campus has been a success in its first year and we expect that will continue in the years ahead. The manufacturing industry in Central New York has continued the growth demonstrated in the past several years and we’ve dedicated ourselves to offering training opportunities that are career-oriented and emphasize the skills students need to succeed today and in the years ahead.

Q: What has made this so successful?

A: To a great extent this first year has been a success because of our partnerships with Novelis, Huhtamaki and countless manufacturing leaders in the region. Whether it was the AMI equipment, curriculum or instruction, they’ve supported us every step of the way. They had the foresight to recognize the value in how the AMI can ensure they have a skilled workforce in the years ahead and stepped forward to support us as we planned and constructed the AMI. We’re incredibly appreciative for their support.

Our local school districts have also partnered with us on several manufacturing-focused nights. The Auburn, Fulton and Hannibal school districts, as well as CiTi BOCES and Cayuga-Onondaga BOCES, have all joined us for events where we outline manufacturing careers for students and their families. By partnering with local districts, we can show students how manufacturing has grown over the past years and the excellent career options it provides.

Q: Might the program be expanded?

A: We’re always looking for ways to grow all our programs and the services at our AMI are no different. We’re exploring more short-term training options and we are currently working to bring manufacturing-focused degree options to the AMI as well. With each addition, we expect more students will recognize the potential of a career in manufacturing and more industry leaders in our region will join our efforts in ensuring the workforce is prepared for future career opportunities.