Partners in Student Success

College President Casey Crabill speaks with local lawmakers and their representatives during brunch in the new student-run restaurant, “Stonewalls.”

Onondaga Community College President Casey Crabill welcomed local lawmakers and their staffs to campus to show off the latest capital projects and thank them for their support in making a difference in the lives of students.

The presentation began in Sidney B. Coulter Hall. The building which houses Coulter Library underwent a year-and-a-half long renovation. Library Chair Professor Pauline Shostack showed lawmakers striking before and after pictures. The new and improved library has more computers, study rooms and technology than before along with new cell phone charging lockers. Library use has increased 30% since the renovation.

“The amazing renovations here convey to students a very clear message about what you think of them,” Crabill told local lawmakers. “When we say to our students, ‘We want you to be well educated and have what you need so you can stay here and help us improve Central New York,’ they get that message from us. They didn’t get that from the old building.”

After receiving guided tours of Coulter by library staff, lawmakers were treated to brunch in the new student-run restaurant, “Stonewalls” in the Gordon Student Center. Chefs James Taylor and Deb Schneider, who are professors in the Hospitality Management major, spoke briefly about the great work students are doing and thanked officials for their support.  The Hospitality Management major has also seen a significant upgrade in its facilities including a new retail space, bakery kitchen, demo kitchen, student study area, locker room updates and a new faculty office suite.

“We have made academic leaps and bounds and we want to thank you,” said Crabill. “We know none of this could have happened without the incredible support we get from our partners with the State, the County and the Town of Onondaga.”

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4 Reasons Why You Have to Finish Your Education

College can seem stressful and overwhelming. It can often seem like giving up is your only option. We’ve got 4 reasons why you need to stick with your education and how we can help you do it. If you haven’t already registered for Fall 2017 at OCC you still have time.

1. You’re Not Alone

Maybe you failed a class or two last semester. Maybe you had to take a semester off due to financial or personal reasons. Academic struggles can make you feel like your education isn’t worth it. The silver lining is this: only 56 percent of students complete their degree in the first six years. That means there are still tons of students working towards their degrees beyond the “normal” time frame. So if you’re feeling alone, remember it’s not uncommon to take a little longer to earn your degree.

2. Support is Here for You

Last semester might have been tough for you. You may have struggled academically or personally. Whatever the case, we want to see you succeed. Register for Fall and we’ll be there to support you with tutoring, connecting you with resources to support your personal struggles, career advice, specialized support for veterans, and accessibility resources. Let us know your struggles and we’ll do our best to help.

3. Make More Money

On average, students that graduate with a college degree earn around $20,000 dollars more than people who graduate with no college degree according to a recent Pew Research Study. They make $10,000 dollars more on average than students who only complete some college. So, if you’re ever sitting there wondering, “Is continuing my education worth it?” know that financially speaking, it is.

4. We Believe in You, So You Should Too

We know that many of our students go on to other great schools or get a good job right after graduation. There is no reason that can’t be you. Come ready to tackle your education and we’ll help support you through the process. Believe in where you’re going, we certainly do!

Visit OCC’s website to register for Fall 2017 classes!

OCC’s Powerful Impact on the Region

Onondaga Community College is creating a significant positive impact on the business community while generating a return on investment to students, taxpayers and society. Those are among the findings in a study of the College’s impact completed in April 2017 by Economic Modeling Specialists International. Among the report’s highlights:

  • Impact on Business – During the analysis year OCC and its students added $496 million in income to Central New York’s economy, approximately equal to 1.3% of the region’s total gross regional product.
  • Alumni Impact – The accumulated contribution of former students currently employed in the regional work force amounted to $378.1 million in added income during the analysis year.
  • Impact on Students – Each dollar students invested in their education will result in a $5.80 increase in lifetime earnings. Students’ average annual return on investment is 18%.
  • Benefit to Taxpayers – Every dollar of taxpayer funding resulted in $6.70 in benefits, translating to a 19.1% return on investment.
  • Social Perspective – For each dollar spent on an OCC education during the analysis year, society will receive a cumulative value of $17.20 in benefits.

You can view the full report here.

New Name for Building’s New Look

The former Coulter Library building has been renamed Sidney B. Coulter Hall.

The building which houses Coulter Library has a new name. It is now known as Sidney B. Coulter Hall. The change reflects the transformation which happened inside the building during its year-and-a-half long renovation.

Coulter Library is in the back half of Sidney B. Coulter Hall.

The new design moved all of Coulter Library to the three floors in the back half of the building, turning the front half of Coulter Hall into the home of significant student support services including:

First Floor

  • Career Services
  • Office of Accessibility Resources
  • Testing Center
  • Café and lounge areas

Second Floor

  • Honors & Phi Theta Kappa
  • International Student Services
  • Library
  • Service Learning
  • Veterans’ Affairs
  • Academic Computing Center

Coulter had not been renovated since it opened in 1973.

Our Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence Winners


James Carey is presented his SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence by OCC President Dr. Casey Crabill.

Eleven OCC employees were presented SUNY Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence at commencement. The awards provide system-wide recognition for consistently superior professional achievement and to encourage the ongoing pursuit of excellence. These programs underscore SUNY’s commitment to sustaining intellectual vibrancy, advancing the boundaries of knowledge, providing the highest quality of instruction, and serving the public good. Through these awards, SUNY publicly proclaims its pride in the accomplishment and personal dedication of its instructional faculty, librarians and staff across its campuses. The 2016-17 recipients are:

  • Wendy Lynne Allen, Excellence in Professional Service
  • Laura Bailey, Excellence in Adjunct Teaching
  • James Carey, Excellence in Teaching
  • Sarah Collins, J.D., Excellence in Professional Service
  • Patrick DeFazio, Excellence in Teaching
  • Elizabeth Hauswirth, Excellence in Classified Service
  • Roger Mirabito, Excellence in Professional Service
  • John T. Ryan, Excellence in Faculty Service
  • Garth Tyszka, Excellence in Teaching
  • Denise Valdes, Excellence in Teaching
  • Larry Weiskirch, Ph.D., Excellence in Faculty Service

“The faculty and staff honored with the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence are the best of our best, having ensured student success as they educate and mentor students with innovative approaches to academic instruction, infuse curricula with applied learning opportunities, adapt best practices from throughout SUNY, and much more,” said SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher. “It is an honor to recognize their excellent work. Congratulations to all of this year’s recipients.”

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Statewide Award for Bunk-In Program


The East Syracuse Fire Department won a statewide award for working with OCC to create the Firefighter Bunk-In program more than twenty years ago.

OCC’s Fire Protection Technology students can claim a share of a prestigious, statewide award. The bunk-in program which began as a collaboration with the East Syracuse Fire Department has earned the village a first place award at the New York State Conference of Mayors (NYCOM).

OCC and East Syracuse teamed up to create the bunk-in program in 1995. It allowed Fire Protection Technology majors to live in the fire department free of charge in exchange for responding to emergency calls.

In commenting on the award NYCOM President Thomas Roach stated, “East Syracuse is to be commended for its desire to improve the village through innovation, partnerships and hard work. This program is of great benefit to East Syracuse and is just one example of how local officials continue to work diligently to enhance their communities and the quality of life for their residents. I would like to congratulate Mayor (Robert) Tackman on this tremendous accomplishment.”

Since the program’s inception it has expanded to several other fire departments throughout Onondaga County. It allows residents to receive enhanced fire protection, saves student’s a significant amount of money in housing costs and provides them the opportunity to work side-by-side with professionals while receiving valuable hands-on training 24 hours a day.

OCC’s Fire Protection Technology program is coordinated by retired Syracuse firefighter Doug Whittaker. He says the program produces students with a high level of academic and practical understanding of the fire protection field thanks in large part to the instructional staff. “All OCC Public Safety Training instructors are adjuncts and most teach only one course in their field of expertise,” said Whittaker. “Our instructional staff is chosen based on life experiences, knowledge and ability in the content area of the course work each teaches.”

OCC’s Fire Protection Technology program is uniquely qualified to educate the next generation of firefighters. It is the only accredited institution in New York State to offer certification for students who want to be internationally certified as firefighters, fire officers or fire service instructors. The certification is overseen by the International Fire Service Accreditation Congress. One institution in each of the 50 states is awarded this accreditation. In New York State that college is OCC.

Mission Accomplished

The NASA Lazer-Nauts at the Johnson Space Center include (left to right): Nathan Johnson, Brian Richardson (kneeling), Natalia Montilla, Doug Weaver, Allan O’Mara and Neil Minet. Also pictured (green shirt) is Tamra George of NASA.

Six months of planning prepared OCC’s NASA Team for its “Houston we have a problem” moment. The “Lazer-Nauts” worked through the crisis and capped off a spectacular journey to Texas. Ultimately the device they designed worked. NASA will store information about it in its digital archives for future consideration. “We’re so excited. This was a huge opportunity for us,” said team co-leader Natalia Montilla (Nottingham High School). “If what we designed was ever implemented it would be a huge honor for the school and for us.”

OCC team members explain how their anchoring device works during a poolside meeting with astronauts.

The Lazer-Nauts journey to the Johnson Space Center in Houston began in October when team co-leader Brian Richardson (Liverpool High School) received an email from NASA. OCC was being invited to submit a design for a tool or device which would be used during exploration. A team was formed under the leadership of Chemistry and Physical Science Chair Dr. Fred Jaquin. They submitted a proposal for a manually operated anchoring device, along with a community outreach plan and a budget which would cover manufacturing costs. In December the Lazer-Nauts learned their plan had been approved. They were one of nearly three dozen schools chosen to participate in the intellectual design competition and one of only three community colleges. The rest were prestigious four-year institutions like Cornell, Purdue and Columbia.

During the semester break and throughout the spring semester the Lazer-Nauts held regular team meetings, worked on their anchoring device which they built using a 3-D printer and did presentations in the community about their upcoming trip. In late May they packed up, boarded a plane a flew to Houston. “It was so exciting to get there. We said, ‘we’re here. We finally made it,’” said Montilla. “After all this work we’re finally here at the Johnson Space Center,” added Richardson.

The view from Mission Control where OCC’s Lazernauts give instructions to astronauts working underwater.

Before the Lazer-Nauts anchoring device would be tested underwater in the Neutral Buoyancy Lab, the team was required to go through the Test Readiness Review process. “We went up in front of a room filled with engineers and they grilled us,” said Richardson. “They asked, ‘have you thought of this, have you thought of this, have you thought of this?’ We got a lot of constructive criticism and feedback.”

The Lazer-Nauts learned they needed to make modifications to their anchoring device and they found what they needed during a late-night trip to a Home Depot. They bought rolls of duct tape, mesh and material they would use to attach handles to the device.

With their newly improved device in hand the Lazer-Nauts headed to the Johnson Space Center’s Neutral Buoyancy Lab, home of a six-million-gallon, 40-foot deep pool where astronauts train for space missions in a weightless environment. OCC’s team had exactly five minutes to speak with astronauts at the edge of the pool about how their device worked. Then the astronauts dove into the water and OCC’s team went upstairs to the control room. “We said, ‘we’re ready to test as we spoke with divers in the pool,” said Richardson. The Lazernauts gave step-by-step instructions while keeping their eyes on monitors showing them live, underwater pictures of what was happening.

Astronauts test OCC’s anchoring device underwater.

OCC’s anchoring device was supposed to drill down into sand but initially things didn’t go well. “Our auger was straight up and down and it wasn’t working,” said Richardson. The Lazer-Nauts quickly regrouped and suggested the astronauts try the auger at a 45-degree angle. It worked! “We learned how well we worked in a stressed environment,” Montilla said. “Even though we’d been working together for the last seven months, working together on the testing was a whole different story. We worked so well as a team in that environment, we were very proud.”

It was the ultimate “Mission Accomplished” moment. Seven months of hard work had paid off. “It was such a great experience,” said Montilla. “At NASA we got to meet so many engineers, scientists and mathematicians. It was an awesome environment to be in. We were told by NASA to treat it as a job interview. We were the first team there every day. We are so proud of what we accomplished for ourselves and the college.”

Congratulations to our Lazer-Nauts!

  • Natalia Montilla, team co-leader
  • Brian Richardson, team co-leader
  • Nathan Johnson
  • Neil Minet
  • Allan O’Mara
  • Doug Weaver

The Podcast: How to Apply for a Tuition-Free College Education

The application for the Excelsior Scholarship is available at the website (pictured above) of the New York State Higher Education Services Corporation.

The time to apply for New York State’s Excelsior Scholarship has arrived! The application is now available for the new program which provides the opportunity to attend a college in the SUNY system tuition-free. You can learn more about how the process will work in the latest edition of our podcast, “Higher Ed News You Can Use from Onondaga Community College.” Our guest is Becky Rose, OCC’s Financial Aid Director.

Listen to the podcast here!


What You Need to Know

Paul Ososkalo

Paul Ososkalo
  • High School: Liverpool, Class of 2015
  • Major: Business Administration

Paul Ososkalo seemed to have a handle on what he wanted to do with his life. During his junior and senior years at Liverpool High School he attended BOCES with the intention of going into a skilled trade. Ososkalo’s parents had immigrated to the United States from the former Soviet Union in 1990. The thought of a career in a skilled trade seemed like more than he could ever dream of. Ososkalo passed the exam to become an electrician but the wait for a union position was going to be a long one with no guarantees. That’s when OCC happened. “My life could have been completely different if I didn’t come to OCC. I was a B-, C+ student in high school. When I came to OCC there was this capacity unlocked inside me that I didn’t know I had. That’s when everything happened. I’m so thankful.”

Ososkalo arrived on campus in the fall of 2015 and discovered his new career goal quickly. “My first Accounting professor, Joseph Adamo helped me find the passion inside me for accounting. Ever since then I knew I wanted to do accounting.” His success in Accounting gave him the confidence to do well in other classes. Ososkalo went from an average student to a high achieving one and was inducted into international honor society Phi Theta Kappa.

During his sophomore year Ososkalo researched job opportunities, sent out resumes but struggled to even get a reply from potential employers. Then he decided to visit the Career Services office in Coulter Library. “They helped me tremendously. I sat down with (Career Services Coordinator) Michele Carey. She was great. She tore through my whole resume, compiled everything in a way that made everything stand out. I had no idea my resume was that lacking!”

Michele Carey, Career Services Coordinator

During his visit at the Career Center Ososkalo also learned about Purple Briefcase, OCC’s online career portal and job board. It’s where students go to learn more about jobs, internships and volunteer opportunities. He visited the site and saw a posting for a paid internship as a loan processor with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). “I used the resume she had helped me with and applied right away. The following week I got a call back. More than 200 people had applied for this position. I was one of 25 chosen for an interview. I was one of two hired.”

Ososkalo started a paid internship 20 hours a week as a Loan Processor with the USDA’s Single Family Housing program. He helped people with low to moderate incomes who couldn’t qualify for loans through banks acquire homes in rural areas. “I like this internship because I’m helping people and I’m immersed in the finance industry. I’m so thankful I found this job.”

Ososkalo’s final semester as an OCC student was a busy one. Besides his paid internship he also took six classes and led worship at his church, Community Tabernacle on West Genesee Street in Syracuse. In the fall he’ll transfer to SUNY Oswego where he will pursue a bachelor’s in Accounting, then enter their Master of Business Administration program. “I’m tremendously fortunate. One of the greatest motivations in my life is that God has a plan and a destiny for me. I had a good plan but God had a perfect plan. I’m so thankful, I’m blessed.”

Students interested in improving their resumes and learning more about employment and volunteer opportunities can do so by contacting Career Services at (315) 498-2585 or