JCC President Stone looking to tailor higher education to individual needs

WATERTOWN — Jefferson Community College President Ty A. Stone is all too familiar with being a nontraditional student.

“I was a nontraditional student in every sense of the word,” Ms. Stone said in a Watertown Daily Times editorial board meeting Thursday. “It took me 20 years to get my first degree. I went to five institutions — 20 years. I knew that there was something I wanted to do. I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I didn’t find out what I wanted to be until about five years ago. But I knew that education was a part of it.”

Through those 20 years, Ms. Stone said she never gave up the relationships with those institutions to eventually discover her calling and earn her degree.

Now, as the newly-appointed sixth president of JCC, Ms. Stone is hoping to couple nearly a decade of education administration experience with her years as a student. She said she wants to advocate a new approach to higher education with that nontraditional-student mindset.

“We, as educators, have to think about higher education differently,” she said. “It doesn’t necessarily mean you get a degree. It may mean that you get some sort of short-term certificate so that you can be employed to have your basic needs met. But I don’t think we stop there, either. I think we continue throughout the continuum of their careers to keep educating them, keeping them current, keeping them marketable and hopefully, at some point, getting them a degree.”

Before coming to Watertown, Ms. Stone was vice president for strategic initiatives at Sinclair Community College in Dayton, Ohio. She had worked at Sinclair Community College since 2010 and previously served as its vice president for business operations and director of business services. Prior to joining Sinclair, Ms. Stone was chief financial officer/director of business operations for the YWCA in Dayton and was assistant professor of business studies at Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio.

She is also a veteran of the United States Air Force, having served as an air traffic controller prior to her education career.

Ms. Stone began her new job as JCC president July 1, succeeding 10-year President Carole A. McCoy. Ms. Stone said she wants to keep up the momentum started during Mrs. McCoy’s tenure.

“I think I’ll be able to come in and do things and not have to deal with urgent issues,” she said. “We are pretty solid financially, our enrollment has been relatively stable, and we have a great reputation.”

Based on feedback she has already gathered from her time in the community, Ms. Stone said one of the first issues she wants to tackle is improving workforce development initiatives.

Additionally, she wants to keep up the college’s programs for helping soldiers transition into the civilian workforce. Last year, JCC partnered with Fort Drum, the Midwest Energy Association, the Center for Energy Workforce Development, National Grid and Con­Edison to begin its Gas Utility Bootcamp, a certification program for ex-soldiers to become gas mechanics following military service.

“Now we’re doing even more with that and building relationships across the country, so if (veterans) don’t wish to stay in this area, they could go anywhere in the country and work for energy companies,” Ms. Stone said.

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