SUNY Jefferson

The Center for Community Studies Celebrates 20th Anniversary at Jefferson Community College

Published: October 25, 2019

Center for Community StudiesThe Center for Community Studies at Jefferson Community College (JCC) held a twentieth anniversary celebration October 24th in the Deans Collaborative Learning Center, located on the college campus. College faculty and staff, northern New York community members and Center for Community Studies board members, both past and present, gathered to reflect on the history and accomplishments of the Center.

In her welcome remarks, college president Dr. Ty A. Stone credited the visionaries who charted the course for the Center. “The Center is here - the Center exists - due to the foresight and initiative of President Emeritus Dr. John Deans, Professor Emeritus Dr. Richard Halpin and the many others who saw the value of creating a hub for community-building activities and conducting research on topics of importance to the North Country community,” said Dr. Stone. “Perhaps most importantly, Dr. Deans understood why and how Jefferson Community College could and should be the home of a Center for Community Studies.” 

Jefferson Community College President Emeritus, Dr. John Deans, reflected on the inception of the idea for the Center and his initial hopes for the benefits it would offer the local community. Dr. Deans referenced a speech he had given twenty years earlier, upon receiving the Citizenship Award at the annual Israel A. Shapiro dinner:

“As our community approached the 21st century, I asked those assembled a question: ‘Would we not profit from a Center where issues important to our community's future could be identified, where expertise could be assembled, where data could be gathered and analyzed and potential solutions explored?’ My comments concluded with a pledge that the College would work to find such a venture a home and with an invitation to all interested individuals and organizations to help make a Center for Community Studies a reality.”

Following Dr. Deans’ remarks, the Center’s first Executive Director, Professor Emeritus Dr. Richard Halpin, spoke on the efforts of the research team during the early days of the Center. Halpin noted how the world has changed over the last twenty years and how the Center for Community Studies has been able to examine those changes, to help community leaders make better, more informed decisions.  

“One consuming issue very early on was that we wanted to earn a reputation for accuracy. That required rigorous examination of each research design we put together, deliberate scrutiny of each question that we might ask. We wanted to rule out any unconscious, undeliberate bias. Our mission is to answer questions by providing unbiased reports,” Halpin stated.

Former Center for Community Studies Director, Denise Young, who is now the Chief Executive Officer of the YMCA of Watertown, commented on the impact the Center has had on the northern New York community. She noted how the research done by the Center has given local area leadership the data to make good decisions for the community.  “The Center makes sure, when we’re changing our world – here in this community – that we know what we’re doing. Each one of us make assumptions about what people think.  The Center makes sure that we know what all the people think.”

Young noted several studies conducted by the Center that had a significant impact to services eventually developed for the local community. The services mentioned included a successful Public Health Department program designed to reduce lung cancer rates, the advent of the Fort Drum Regional Health Planning Organization, and construction of the Hospice Residence and the YMCA daycare facility, both in Watertown.

JCC alumna Tracy Leonard spoke on the impact her time at the Center had on her professional career. She reflected on time spent at its call center, making calls to collect survey data.

“Never did I realize that the countless times of dialing the phone and repeating a [survey greeting] would prepare me as a professional and help me appreciate the richness of data collection. As a student research volunteer and eventually the student representative on the Center’s board of directors, I was empowered, trusted, respected and challenged. The Center encouraged me to pursue reliable, data driven, unbiased research. It helped me realize what happens in the classroom does matter and can lead to powerful and impactful changes in the community.” 

Research Director at the Center for Community Studies, Joel LaLone, concluded the celebration with a glimpse into the future of the Center:

“We at Jefferson Community College and the Center for Community Studies could not be more honored to have had the opportunity to collaborate with so many talented individuals and groups in the region, completing over two hundred research studies! We are excited for the continuance of these opportunities to simultaneously benefit the College, the community, our students, and our faculty as we proceed into a third decade of community-based research in the North Country.”

Mr. LaLone also spoke about the Center’s recent induction into the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR)and their “Transparency Initiative”, which is a group of organizations pledging to practice transparency in their reporting of survey-based research findings. The American Association for Public Opinion Research is the leading professional organization of public opinion and survey research professionals in the U.S., with members from academia, media, government, the non-profit sector and private industry.

Since 1999, the Center for Community Studies at Jefferson Community College has completed hundreds of research surveys for the northern New York community and for private organizations. The Center utilizes the professional knowledge and skills of faculty members to enhance student learning and experience in statistics and mathematics, to provide data to local decision-making leaders, community members, and organizations in the region to solve real-world problems. Jefferson Community College is the only SUNY community college to have such a survey research center. 

For more information contact jlalone@sunyjefferson.edu or call The Center for Community Studies at (315) 786-2488.

 Center for Community Studies board members, past and present.