Researching Learning

One week before the start of the spring semester the campus is quiet and cold. Sub-zero wind chills greet those brave enough to go outside. If you don’t have to go outside why bother? It’s a perfect week for students to sleep in before classes resume.

The mindset is much different inside Ferrante Hall where 10 students are coming to a biology laboratory every morning at 9:00 and receiving day-long, hands-on training in microbiology research techniques. The students, part of the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) and the Collegiate Science and Technology Entry (CSTEP) Programs of OCC and the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), are participating in a weeklong “PowerLab,” a collaboration between OCC and RIT. “This is a great opportunity for the students who are really serious about knowing science,” said RIT Assistant Professor Dr. Robert Osgood who is running the program. “You have to LOVE science and want the opportunity to practice it to be willing to give up your winter break. Basically they are giving up sleeping-in to be here.”

Dr. Robert Osgood (right) works with student Jessica McCormack (left) during PowerLab.
Dr. Robert Osgood (right) works with student Jessica McCormack (left) during PowerLab.

The PowerLab is designed to expose students to concepts, techniques, benefits and advantages of research in a short timeframe requiring intense focus.  The assignment this week involves learning the laboratory, principles, procedures and protocols, then putting them to use while extracting DNA samples from saliva. The process is complex and involves multiple steps. The lab setting provides students the opportunity for hands-on learning. “To learn is to hear, to see and to do. That’s exactly what this PowerLab is about. It’s open-ended, hands-on stuff. When you get your hands involved in science it tends to stick in your mind,” said Osgood.

Students enjoyed the opportunity to work in a small group in a lab setting:

  • “It was great to be able to do something out of the ordinary. I’m much more of a hands-on student.” -Harrison Franklin (Jamesville-Dewitt), OCC Engineering Science major
  • “I loved the ability to work in small groups, have all of our questions answered and work hands-on in a lab. I’m a visual learner. The ability to see things being worked on and to work on them yourself was a huge help.” -Bria Cherebin (Nottingham), RIT Chemical Engineering major
  • “I like that it’s very hands-on. It allows us to get involved rather than sit in a classroom and listen to a lecture.” -Kaitlin Brockway (Saranac Lake), RIT Software Engineering major
  • “This is a great opportunity to actually touch materials and learn how to use them.” -Jessica McCormack (City-As High School in Manhattan), OCC Mathematics and Science major
DeWayne Garner Jr.
Student DeWayne Garner Jr. adds isopropyl to a saliva sample during the DNA extraction process.

Perhaps no student was more comfortable in the lab than OCC sophomore DeWayner Garner Jr. (Cicero-North Syracuse).  In February 2014 Garner was invited to participate in the Emerging Researchers National Conference in Washington, D.C. Garner gave a presentation on the immunomodulation of cystic fibrosis and won first place in the category of Microbiology, Immunology, and Virology. Garner enjoyed PowerLab and thinks students should strongly consider it in the future. “If you haven’t been introduced to research it’s a good primer. It helps you build certain skills. If you decide to go into research in the future this will put you ahead of the game.” Garner is a Mathematics and Science major on track to graduate in May. He plans to transfer to a four-year institution, major in biomedical engineering, and ultimately pursue a Ph.D.

“PowerLab is a great environment to ask questions in and to learn,” said Osgood. “Everyone who attends is like-minded and wants to learn about science. It offers students the opportunity to be taught or to practice and refine what they have learned. Regardless of their knowledge or skill level, the PowerLab approach leaves students encouraged, enlightened and confident as they engage their future in science. All of the advantages of having students from various scientific backgrounds learn from each other while they are learning together are realized with the PowerLab atmosphere.”

Drake Harrison is OCC’s CSTEP Director. He sees huge benefits coming from the weeklong event. “PowerLab and other opportunities like this one are fundamental to the education of students. They walk away with a heightened sense of awareness and confidence through what I call ‘community building.’ PowerLab allows students to build relationships with each other and develop support systems which can have a positive impact on performance.”

Students interested in finding out more information about PowerLab or CSTEP can do so by contacting Harrison at (315) 498-2307 or

Meet the Faculty: Pauline Lynch Shostack

RESIZED Pauline Lynch Shostack, LibraryPauline Lynch Shostack

Professor, Library Department Chair

Hometown: Syracuse (Corcoran High School)

Education: B.S., Le Moyne College; M.L.S., Syracuse University

History at OCC: I was hired as the Electronic Resources Librarian in 2002. I managed Coulter Library’s media-reserve department, library website, and electronic resources until 2012. I am currently the Library Department Chair and I continue to manage the library website.

Favorite Student Story: I find it rewarding when we are successful at creating library experiences big and small that encourage life-long learning and community building outside the classroom that connects students, faculty, staff and local community members in ways they may not typically interact. One example of this is our Human Library event. Students have stated that they like “checking out” a person for a conversation about a particular topic. They find that they learn about the topic in a completely new and personal way.

Little-Known Fact: I love to play and create all kinds of games. I have created games for my neighborhood block parties, personal exercise-related games, and I even had the wonderful experience of creating a campus-wide game to celebrate our college’s 50th anniversary.

Meaningful Experiences Outside Education: I am the social media volunteer for the YMCA Folksmarch Walking Club. In this role I manage their Facebook and Twitter accounts. The part I enjoy most is helping members learn about and use social media.

The Communicator – Kim Colasanti, ’93

Communication is key. That’s the advice Kim Colasanti gives students every time she speaks with them. “You can have as many technical skills as you want but if you can’t communicate, negotiate and compromise it’s hard to go far. If you want to get ahead you need good communications skills.” She shared those words with students when she spoke to members of OCC’s Collegiate Science & Technology Entry Program in November 2014 in the Gordon Student Center.

Colasanti is a shining example of the power of OCC. She started her college education ten years after graduating from Syracuse’s Fowler High School. Colasanti worked full-time during the day and went to college full-time at night. “My life was very hectic but I loved my classes, I loved my teachers and I loved going to OCC. I worked very hard on my homework because I always wanted it to be perfect.”

During her time at OCC Colasanti discovered a love for numbers and formulas. “My favorite professors were all of the math professors. When I was in high school I struggled with math. It was a real deficiency. I found a real passion for teaching here. The professors were very involved with students and always helping, and it made a big difference in me.”

Faculty involvement coupled with Colasanti’s tireless work ethic made for the perfect student. She carried a 4.0 GPA while earning a degree in math and science in 1993. Colasanti would go on to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees in computer science from Syracuse University.

RESIZED Colasanti at computer
Colasanti works on a Welch Allyn computer program which allows hospitals to monitor patients vital signs from nurses stations.

In 2000 Colasanti was hired by Skaneateles based medical device maker Welch Allyn where today she is Manager of Quality Assurance for New Product Development. She is responsible for coordinating and harmonizing Welch Allyn’s global software process with national and international standards and regulations, functionally managing a team of quality engineers, and working with new product development teams to ensure that processes and standards are applied effectively and efficiently.

Colasanti is always willing to take time out of her busy work schedule to return to campus and let students know they are on the right path. “I tell them my story and it helps remind them why they are here and what they are working toward. I want them to know all of the hard work is worth it in the end.”

As she flourishes professionally Colasanti remains the College’s biggest cheerleader. “There are two reasons why I recommend OCC. You save a lot of money coming here, and the professors are focused on teaching and helping students. Why spend the money to go to a school where you are not going to get the help you need?”

Focus on Creating Jobs


Onondaga Community College has appointed Michael Metzgar to serve as Associate Vice President, Economic & Workforce Development. He was chosen from a field of candidates following a national search.

MikeMetzgarMetzgar has more than 15 years of experience in academics and workforce education. Since 2010 he has worked as the Executive Director of Workforce Development and Career Education at Raritan Valley Community College in New Jersey. Metzgar holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Lehigh University and a master’s degree in education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.


Metzgar’s expertise in workforce development will be utilized while overseeing the College’s implementation of a $2.5 million dollar Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grant from the U.S. Department of Labor. The focus of the grant is an agribusiness and food-processing program which will encompass food science and safety, production and processing, distribution and logistics, supervisory training and hospitality. The College will partner with numerous local businesses. OCC was the only college in New York State selected to participate in the nationwide $2 billion fund for job training programs at colleges.


As the leader of the Economic & Workforce Development department Metzgar will also oversee non-credit programs, business workforce courses, corporate training, and the Small Business Development Center.

Israa Khaleel


Israa Khaleel feels right at home at OCC. Khaleel and her family left Syria for Iraq and eventually came to Syracuse. In 2013 she graduated from Henninger high school. Today she is a member of OCC’s student honor society, Phi Theta Kappa. Khaleel has excelled as a Mathematics and Science major and plans to graduate either in December 2015 or May 2016. “There are a lot of opportunities here. The teachers are very good and very helpful. The Learning Center is wonderful. Everything is excellent.”

Khaleel says majoring in math and science gives her a lot of career options. “Here in America there are so many opportunities, so many programs in the medical field. I will finish OCC then decide what direction I want to go in.” Khaleel plans to follow other family members into a medical-related profession.

Message from the OCC Foundation Chair


As Chair of the Onondaga Community College Foundation board of directors, I have the opportunity to witness the incredible impact that financial support has on our students.  Young learners whose parents are doing their best to help with college expenses, adult learners juggling the responsibilities of family, employment and school, first-generation students, refugee students – for these students and so many more, the dream of a college education would not be possible without the scholarship support made possible through our generous donors.

In the last few years alone, the foundation has experienced incredible support from area businesses and community supporters, not to mention College alumni, faculty and staff. Your philanthropic spirit and commitment to our students is evidenced by tremendous growth in the foundation endowment and most importantly, the record amount of scholarship funds being providing to deserving students.

To our donors I offer my sincere gratitude. THANK YOU, for allowing our students to realize their dreams and to transform their lives through the power of an Onondaga education.


Jim Holland

OCC Foundation Chair



Global Educator – Antonio Herrera, ’97

Antonio Herrera is loyal to those who have given him an opportunity to succeed. That’s why he’s proud to be an administrator in the Syracuse City School District, and equally proud of his association with OCC and the impact it has had on his life. “Even though I got my master’s at SU I always tell people I also went to OCC. You can not forget where you started.”

Herrera is a native of Port of Coquimbo, Chile. His first exposure to the United States came at the recommendation of his father. “He told me ‘if I can give you one tool for life it would be learning another language.’ He felt that language needed to be English.” Herrera took part in the Rotary’s Youth Exchange program, spent a year attending high school in Reno, Nevada and became more proficient in English.

Herrera returned to Chile and attended college for two-and-a-half years but didn’t like it. He began working in the family business and found it unfulfilling as well. “I realized I needed college to achieve other goals,” he said. While he was working Herrera met and began dating Nancy Hayman, a Syracuse native who Herrera was introduced to through a mutual friend in the Rotary program. Eventually they would marry and move to Syracuse.

Herrera’s renewed quest for higher education brought him to OCC in the mid-1990’s. He was working full-time during the day and attending classes at night. Herrera recalls his first year of college in the United States as his most difficult. “There were times I felt like dropping out but I kept persevering. I knew I had to work through it.”

Herrera recalls a class at OCC as perhaps the most important he ever took. “It was called ‘career exploration’ and was an orientation to life. It helped me with everything from learning organizational skills to how to prioritize to scheduling classes. It made all the difference for me.”

OCC also provided Herrera with a valuable opportunity which convinced him a career in education was perfect for him. Through the College he volunteered at the Delaware School in the Syracuse City School District. “It’s always good to volunteer because you find out what you really want to do. I went in wanting to be an inner-city teacher and came out feeling the same way.” After earning his degree from OCC in 1997 Herrera became a Teacher’s Assistant at Fowler High School.

Eventually Herrera left Fowler so he could attend SUNY Cortland full-time. He earned a degree in elementary education with a concentration in Spanish. During his senior year Herrera attended a job fair and found his diverse background made him an attractive candidate for school districts across the state. “I received multiple job offers because of my skills and being bilingual. I preferred to stay in Central New York, interview with the Syracuse School District and was hired.”

Herrera returned to the Delaware School, this time as a bi-lingual teacher. In between working and raising a family he earned a master’s in education and a certificate in educational leadership, both from Syracuse University.

Today Herrera is vice-principal at Syracuse’s M. L. King, Jr. Elementary School on East Raynor Avenue. He enjoys helping children and knows his success makes him a role model. “It’s important for kids to see a person who resembles their background or looks like them. You will see an increase in African American or Latino children experiencing success if they have people in key positions sending positive messages.”

Herrara's OCC degree hangs on the wall behind his desk at Syracuse's Martin Luther King School.

Herrera’s OCC degree hangs on the wall behind his desk and he loves to talk about his alma mater. “In our community everyone knows OCC because of all of the great things that are happening there. I don’t want kids to think the only place they can go is Syracuse University because it’s so unreachable for many of our kids. But if you start at OCC you can get to Syracuse University if that’s where you want to end up.”

Herrera has a simple message about college which he shares with students and it’s a message his father shared with him. He would tell me, “College doesn’t determine what you are going to do in life but college will open many doors for you.” Those words have also been recited numerous times to his three daughters; Alisa (age 23), Izidora (age 14) and Gabriela (age 10).

Herrera has dreams of more career moves. He wants to continue to serve as an instructional leader while exploring opportunities to impact more students. “I have ideas and passion. I couldn’t implement them as a volunteer or teacher’s assistant. I did make an impact as a teacher. I know I’m making a bigger impact as an administrator.”

OCC Professor Joins Syracuse School Board

One of OCC’s most engaging and inspirational voices is lending his services to the Syracuse City School District. Mark Muhammad, an Assistant Professor of Communication at the College, has been appointed to the Syracuse School Board. Muhammad was appointed by Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner. His appointment is effective immediately.

Muhammad is a Syracuse native and a graduate of Henninger High School. In 2006 he graduated from OCC with a degree in Business Technology. Muhammad has also earned degrees from Cornell University and Syracuse University.

“I am honored to serve the citizens of the city of Syracuse in this role and look forward to working with others who are dedicated to improving achievement for all students. I thank Mayor Miner for this opportunity,” Muhammad said.

Mark Muhammad (left) is sworn-in as a Syracuse City School District Board Member by Mayor Stephanie Miner (left) at Syracuse City Hall.
Mark Muhammad (left) is sworn-in as a Syracuse City School District Board Member by Mayor Stephanie Miner (right) at Syracuse City Hall. Next to Muhammad is his wife, Sharon. Next to Mayor Miner is Muhammad’s mother, Donnie Herring.

Prize Pack Winner!

Russ Corbin, OCC's Assistant Director of Alumni Communications, presents Kari Quinn, '14 with an OCC  sweatshirt and NOOK she won on the College's Alumni web site.
Russ Corbin, OCC’s Assistant Director of Alumni Communications, presents Kari Quinn, ’14 with an OCC sweatshirt and NOOK she won on the College’s Alumni web site.

Kari Quinn is proud to be an OCC alumna and she has the gifts to prove it! Quinn visited the alumni web site, filled out an alumni profile form which simultaneously entered her into a drawing for an OCC Prize Pack, and was surprised to find out she had won. “When I got the call I couldn’t believe it. I never win anything!”

Quinn came to the College and collected her winnings which included a NOOK e-reader, a sweatshirt, OCC pens and a water bottle. All of the prizes are sold at OCC’s Barnes & Noble Bookstore.

Quinn graduated from OCC in May 2014 with a degree in Criminal Justice. If you are a former OCC student we would love to hear from you. Visit our alumni web site, update your profile and perhaps you will be our next big winner!