Mapping A New Major

Professor Buffy Quinn is creating a new major at OCC. She is pictured on the 3rd floor of Ferrante Hall.

Professor Buffy Quinn plans to turn her passion into a new major which will be the first of its kind at any community college in the nation. She’s working on curriculum for the Geospatial Science & Technology, A.A.S. degree program. When approved, students will use drones to create geographic mapping and analysis of the earth and human societies. “Students won’t need to know chemistry or physics. They’ll just need to have a curiosity. If you are curious about the world around you, this will work for you. Everything will fall into place. I can teach the rest.”

Quinn stumbled upon her love of map making during her first year at the University of Southern Mississippi where she was enrolled in an architecture program. “I remember kind of floundering. I was never the smartest kid in class. I wanted to be excited about learning. One day I was flipping through course catalogs and I came upon geography. When I realized there was this thing called cartography where you made maps, I loved it. I loved the broad umbrella that geography gave and learning about other parts of the world. I found it and I just loved it.”

After earning her bachelor’s degree Quinn started her own engineering company and was its cartographer. She became interested in environmental work while making maps for landfill sites, solid waste masterplans and community development block grants. Her college education and professional success had lifted her out of the poverty she grew up in in Jackson, Mississippi. She was content with life until one conversation changed everything. “I met a man who said he was always going to be smarter than me because he was going to get a master’s degree. I just couldn’t have that. So I decided to go to graduate school.”

Quinn majored in Geography with a specialization in Climate Modeling at the University of Denver. One of her favorite topics was dendroclimatology where one constructs records of past climates and climatic events by analysis of tree growth characteristics. Quinn compared what she learned inside trees to journals and diaries kept by people traveling across the United States at that time. “I LOVED graduate school! It’s also when I started teaching. I never saw myself teaching. I thought I would always work in a dark room and make maps.” After earning her master’s Quinn went to work with the Environmental Protection Agency. She focused on Superfund sites and environmental justice initiatives, in the process gaining invaluable knowledge about environmental regulation.

In 2009 she started teaching Meteorology at OCC both in person and online. In her decade on campus she’s also taught classes focused on Sustainability, New York State Environmental Regulation, Natural Hazards and Disasters, and Geographic Information Systems. Her passion is the new degree program she’s creating, Geospatial Science & Technology. “We’re going to teach students how to turn data into something that tells a story with the end user in mind. They will learn how to manage data. We’ll teach them how to use images from drones and analyze them at the pixel level to look for patterns to detect vegetation loss, water quality and what type of pollution we have.”

OCCs Board of Trustees recently passed a resolution endorsing a feasibility study for the new major. Once it goes through the approval process both on campus and in Albany, Geospatial Science & Technology could be ready in time for the fall 2020 semester. “I want students to know this is a career they can that can take them to a new life. They can do it and I want to be that conduit. To be able to give that to somebody, that kind of stability and that kind of security, that’s why we’re here! I’m so excited at the prospect of this.”

Chef Of The Year!

Chef Deb Schneider is the 2019 Chef of the Year for the American Culinary Federation’s Syracuse Chapter. She is pictured here in the Hospitality Management major facilities on the first floor of the Gordon Student Center.

Onondaga Community College faculty member Chef Deb Schneider is the 2019 Chef of the Year for the American Culinary Federation’s Syracuse chapter. The award is handed out annually to a chef who demonstrates the highest standard of culinary skills, advances the cuisine of America and gives back to the profession through the development of future chefs. “I never expected this. It’s an overwhelming honor to be selected. It’s really amazing.”

Schneider’s love for cooking started while growing up on a dairy farm in the town of Skaneateles. “We had great gardens, beef cattle, lamb, chickens and all those kinds of things. On Sunday’s my mom would say ‘cook what you want.’ So my brother and me would make whatever we wanted.” At age 18 she started working at the Sherwood Inn as a prep cook. “I loved it. It was the deciding factor for which career I would choose.” She wound up attending the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park and coming home on the weekends to continue working at the Sherwood Inn.

Schneider received her Chef of the Year award earlier this week at the OnCenter. She is pictured with OCC President Dr. Casey Crabill (left) and Provost Dr. Daria Willis (right).

In 1990, Schneider opened her own business. “Framboise,” which was located on East Genesee Street in Skaneateles, started out as a bakery and catering business and kept getting bigger and bigger. “A couple of years after we opened, I added on a small café. A couple of years after that I bought the building next door. I had the catering business, a 65-seat restaurant, a 100-seat banquet area and a full-service bar. We would go in at 4:30 in the morning and serve dinner until 10 at night. We had catering vans and 34 employees. At some point I said ‘something’s gotta give here.’” Schneider would scale back, open a breakfast place called “Fast Eddie’s,” sell it, then open the “Red Rooster Pub” in Skaneateles Falls. In 2008 she sold that business and took some time to decide what was next.

Schneider began working with students in OCC’s Hospitality Management major in 2010. Because she had been teaching employees in the industry for most of the previous two decades, working with students was a natural fit. “I was always really good at training people. I had trained every position from dishwasher to morning baker. I felt if I could train employees, I teach students.”

The transition to the classroom was a seamless one. She loved teaching students, especially in the cooking labs. As television cooking shows grew in popularity Schneider would see the occasional student who was more interested in what is perceived to be the celebrity side of the business. “We let students know how much work being a chef is. On the first day of class I’ll pull out measuring cups and tell students ‘there is a lot of math involved. You have to do recipe conversions. You have to follow formulas. If you think this is all glamour, if you think you’re going to come in here and say ‘BAM,’ that’s not what this is.’”

Since coming to OCC Schneider has earned the prestigious designation of Certified Executive Pastry Chef. She’s a perfectionist in the kitchen who is always ready to experience a new restaurant. “People will say to me, ‘you must be horrible to go out to dinner with.’ I’m not critical! I love to eat! I’ll go anywhere and try places.”

Her favorite food may surprise you because of how simple it sounds. “There’s nothing better than bread, butter, bacon and chocolate. Those are the best.”

Congratulations to Chef Deb Schneider, the 2019 American Culinary Federation Syracuse Chapter Chef of the Year!

OCC’s Newest American Citizen

Carlos Roldan in the office of the Collegiate Science & Technology Entry Program in Coulter Hall.

Carlos Roldan is one of Central New York’s newest American citizens. He was sworn-in February 4 during a naturalization ceremony at Fowler High School.

Roldan works at OCC as a Technical Assistant in the office of the Collegiate Science & Technology Entry Program, known as C-STEP. He’s a native of Ecuador. His wife, Lydia is from Central New York. They met in 2012 while she was in Ecuador teaching English as a Second Language. They married in 2013 and moved to the Syracuse area one year later.

Perhaps Roldan’s biggest transition has been adjusting to the weather. In Ecuador, which straddles the equator, the temper fluctuates very little throughout the course of an entire year. “It’s much different here. The weather can be very extreme. I learned here in Syracuse good boots, good jacket, you’re good to go.”

Roldan’s hobbies include mountain climbing (he’s climbed several of the Andes Mountains), mountain biking and soccer. At age 43 he still plays soccer regularly both indoors and outdoors. The Roldan’s have a 3 ½ year old son Gabriel who is learning the game. “The first word he said was ‘ball.’” Soon they’ll have another child to teach the game to. Son number two is due in mid-March.

It will be a busy year for the Roldan’s. Carlos has been accepted into SUNY Oswego’s Business Administration program and will begin pursuing a master’s degree this summer. He previously earned a bachelor’s in Hotel & Tourism Management.

Congratulations Carlos on becoming a U.S. citizen!

Hispanic Leadership Institute Fellow

Onondaga Community College Professor Denise Valdes is a member of a very exclusive group. She is one of just 14 people statewide selected for SUNY’s Hispanic Leadership Institute. The goal is to develop and support the next generation of Executive-level Hispanic/LatinX leaders across the SUNY system. “It’s such an honor to be chosen. I think the work we are doing paves the way for progress,” she said.

Valdes was nominated for the Hispanic Leadership Institute by OCC President Dr. Casey Crabill and Provost Dr. Daria Willis. The six-month program began in January with a retreat. Two more are scheduled for April and June. In between, Fellows communicate regularly through online meetings. Each Fellow is working on a project which he or she will present in June. Valdes’ topic is “Latina Leadership in the SUNY System.”

Valdes brings her bubbly personality and passion to work every day on the OCC campus. She teaches English, coordinates the English as Second Language (ESL) program, participates in Faculty Senate and is regularly selected to be on search committees. “I love OCC, I love working here, I love the students, I love my colleagues. This (English) is the best department ever!”

Her path to college professor started later in life. Valdes is a first generation college graduate who began working toward her first degree when she was 36 years old. She was raising her children, working full-time and taking classes full-time. “It was hard. I had a binder I kept with me with my kids pictures inside. Whenever I thought I wasn’t going to make it I looked at their pictures and said ‘I’m going to do it. I have to do it for them. I have to provide them with an example.’” Her self-motivation worked. Valdes earned a bachelor’s degree from Utica College and a master’s degree from Syracuse University. Her daughters learned from her example as well. All three of them went on to earn college degrees.

Valdes has a message for anyone who is in the situation she was once in. No matter your circumstances, you can do it. “I think it’s important for women of color to understand you can go back to school. You don’t have to be young. I went back to school at 36. All of my accomplishments happened after the age of 36. It was tough but it can be done. If you have a good support system of people who are willing to help you and professors who are willing to help you, you can do it.”

Meet the EOP Staff

EOP Staff (1000px)
EOP Staff (From Left to Right) Larry Goodman, Academic Coach; Amanda Trainham, Academic Coach; Tara Taylor, Counselor; Lynda Liberatore, Program Assistant; Halston Canty, Student Navigator; Marcus Watts, Director

The Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) staff wants you to know they are here to help. If you have been accepted into the EOP program, the staff is here to help you with academic advising & counseling, transfer assistance, tutoring and more!

Their office is located in Coulter Hall Room 222 and you can call them at 315-498-2428 for assistance. Not a part of the EOP program? See if you qualify and apply today!

OCC’s Honor Student

Nancy Carr, Director of OCC’s Office of Accessibility Resources, was inducted into honor society Phi Theta Kappa last week.

One of OCC’s most beloved employees is also a new member of the college’s honor society. Nancy Carr was sworn-in to Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) during the fall induction ceremony in Storer Auditorium. “It was such an honor. I loved the diversity of the people who became PTK members along with me. They were all ages and from all backgrounds. It’s so remarkable to be a part of that group.”

Carr serves the campus community as Director of the Office of Accessibility Resources. She already has a Master’s degree in Counseling but for four years has been taking one class each semester in pursuit of an associate degree in Substance Abuse Counseling. “With the recent surge in heroin and opiate addiction it seems like it’s reaching epidemic proportions. There’s a need for people to understand the stigma and that just being a person in recovery is a great accomplishment. With addiction impacting more seniors I’ve often thought if and when I retire from OCC I might do more in this area.”

Greg Guevara

Carr is taking advantage of OCC’s new Weekend College program as she works toward her degree, taking a weekend class this semester and another in the spring. She hopes to complete work toward her degree by next May. “We’re so lucky we can continue our education. You never have to stop learning. It keeps me fresh.”

By earning membership in PTK Carr is following in the footsteps of her son, Greg Guevara. He was president of the College’s chapter and also earned curriculum honors in the Liberal Arts & Sciences – General Studies major in 2015. “I was thinking instead of ‘like mother, like son’ in this case it’s ‘like son, like mother,’” Carr said.

Guevara now works as a nurse at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester and has been keeping up with his mother’s progress in college. “Last week I had a midterm in a science class and it’s proving harder than I thought. Greg got an ‘A’ in it and I’ll be lucky if I get a ‘B.’ Greg’s like, ‘c’mon mom!’”

Congratulations to Nancy Carr and all of our new PTK inductees!

Words To Learn From

Pat Kenny, Ph. D., is a Philosophy Professor who helped kickoff the academic year with a meaningful address at convocation.

Each year at convocation a member of the faculty helps start the academic year by sharing advice with students. This year’s faculty speaker was Philosophy Professor Pat Kenny. He let students know it was okay to feel a little out of place initially and they were surrounded by people who wanted to help them. He stressed the importance of having the humility to admit what they didn’t know and the courage to learn.

Kenny knows what it’s like to feel out of place. He’s a native of Galway, Ireland who came to the United States in 2001. Seven years later he started teaching classes full-time at OCC. Earlier this year he became a United States citizen.

You can hear Kenny’s brief and meaningful message here. After convocation, we brought him into the recording studios in the Electronic Media Communications major where he read his speech while we recorded it.

Patty Zabel

Patty Zabel, Mathematics Professor

Have you ever visited somewhere and said, “It would be nice to live here someday?” Patty Zabel said it and did it. “I grew up in West Texas which is straight, flat desert. I went on vacation to Hawaii and said, ‘I just have to live here.’” So she did.

Zabel moved to Hawaii without a job. She started working in restaurants with the goal of becoming a teacher. She applied for teaching jobs and shortly after the school year started got a call from a local high school. She interviewed on a Friday and by Monday was teaching math.

She would spend eight years in Hawaii. During that time, she met the man who would become her husband and they started a family. In 2008 they moved to Central New York where her husband was from.

Zabel began substitute teaching in area high schools as she and her husband added two more children to their family. In 2010, Zabel became an adjunct math professor at OCC. A couple of years later she started taking her masters in math online from Emporia State University, working late into the night once her house was quiet. By 2016 she was an assistant professor at OCC.

The subject matter Zabel teaches each semester changes. This semester it’s algebra and calculus. Outside class she serves the campus community as a member of the Academic Technology Coordinating Committee, the Open Educational Resources Committee and the Scholastic Standards Committee.

Zabel is making contributions to her profession on both statewide and national levels. She’s a board member with the New York State Math Association of Two Year Colleges (known in the higher education community as “NYSMATYC”). She is also working with the American Mathematical Association of Two-Year Colleges (AMATYC) on Project ACCCESS, a mentoring and professional development initiative for faculty. The project’s goal is to provide experiences that will help new faculty become more effective teachers and active members of the broader mathematical community.

Why is she so involved outside of class, especially when one considers the demands of raising four children? “It’s important to be part of the larger community and see how the whole college works. I also think it’s important to get to know your students and learn how you can help them.”

Regional Award Winner

Julie Hart (right) presents donated supplies to Hassina Adams, ’17 (left) at the Northside Learning Center. Hart is being honored with the Association of Community College Trustees’ 2018 Northeast Regional Professional Board Staff Member Award.

Julie Hart will receive the Association of Community College Trustees’ (ACCT) prestigious 2018 Northeast Regional Professional Board Staff Member Award. She will be presented the award in October in New York City. As the winner of the northeast region award she is also a candidate for the organization’s national Association Professional Board Staff Member Award. Hart serves Onondaga Community College as the Executive Assistant to the President and Secretary to the Board of Trustees.

Hart was nominated for the award by OCC Board of Trustees officers including; Chair Allen J. Naples, Vice Chair Melanie Littlejohn and Secretary John P. Sindoni, Esq. In the submission to the ACCT Chairman Naples wrote:

“As Chairman of the OCC Board of Trustees, I can personally say that Ms. Hart and her commitment to the Board is the glue that keeps our Board together and working smoothly. She seamlessly coordinates all of the meetings; ensures that all of the materials are confirmed and up to date for each meeting; develops board agendas and drafts resolutions for the myriad of issues and programs on which the Board votes; and manages all related Board roles, activities, retreats and schedules. Ms. Hart ensures that each Board member is informed of new college events for participation.”

Hart was also recognized for her willingness to take on leadership roles which extend beyond her specific duties and the assistance she constantly provides students. “She excels at making students feel they have been heard and are valued. She cares about the human spirit, understands the value of offering a kind word or a snack to a hungry student, is always willing to call Advising to work out an issue on a student’s behalf and is capable of helping a student understand a financial aid memo. All of these caring and wonderful gestures to all of our students makes her an invaluable member of our campus community,” wrote Chairman Naples.

Congratulations to Julie Hart, recipient of the ACCT’s 2018 Northeast Regional Professional Board Staff Member Award!

Professor’s Song Honors Service

OCC Music Professor Emeritus Donald Miller wrote “Here Rests In Honored Glory” as a tribute to Veterans who paid the ultimate price and their surviving families.

Don Miller’s lasting tribute to the military is the result of service he narrowly missed out on. Miller was growing up in southwestern Ohio when the Vietnam War started. He expected to be drafted and was prepared to serve his country but  was never selected. “I felt guilty. I wanted to make some sort of contribution because I wasn’t called,” said Miller.

He would go to college, earn multiple degrees and become a Music professor at Onondaga Community College in 1971. OCC had just moved to its new campus on Onondaga Hill and initially, the Music department was located in the Service & Maintenance Building. That’s where Miller would begin his 30-year career teaching students Chorus, Music History, Music Appreciation and Classical & Jazz Guitar.

Despite his professional success, the feeling of guilt never left him. Two decades after not being drafted, Miller created his own way of contributing. In 1986 he composed “Here Rests In Honored Glory,” a song based on the inscription on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery. Miller used two hymn tunes within his composition, “All Glory Laud and Honor” along with “Hail to the Lord’s Anointed” as a tribute to multiple religions. “The Unknown Soldier is representative of all religions or persons of no religious belief,” he said. “An unknown soldier can be a non-believer, a Muslim or whichever religion he or she observes.”

Miller with medals he was awarded for Here Rests In Honored Glory. On the left is the George Washington Medal of Honor from the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge. On the right is a D-Day Medal from the Memorial Museum of the Battle of Normandy in France.

In the more than three decades since Miller composed the song it has been gaining prominence in and around the military community. Here Rests In Honored Glory was adopted as the Official Hymn of Mourning by two organizations; the Paralyzed Veterans of America and Vietnam Veterans of America. All of Miller’s composer royalties were split evenly between the two organizations. He has not and will not profit from the song.

In 2006 the work was recorded by the North Carolina Master Chorale in Raleigh as a CD. You can listen to it here. All proceeds from the sales went to raise money for Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS). TAPS is a national non-profit organization made up of, and providing services to all those who have lost a loved one on active duty with the Armed Forces.

In 2009 Miller’s composition won the George Washington Medal of Honor from the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge. The Watauga County Community Band and choral group in Boone, NC will perform the arrangement this fall for the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Armistice. At the Memorial Museum of the Battle of Normandy in France, the CD is played each June 6th in commemoration of D-Day which was the beginning of the end of World War II in Europe.

During the 2018 legislative session, the New York State Assembly and Senate both approved designating Miller’s song as the Official State Hymn of Remembrance in Honor of All American Veterans. Its passage was spearheaded by Assemblyman Bill Magnarelli and Senator John DeFrancisco. The bill now waits for the signature of Governor Andrew Cuomo. “I thank our lawmakers for everything they’ve done,” said Miller. “If it helps our Veterans and recognizes Veterans and their families, it is wonderful.”

Most rewarding for Miller and his wife Mary are the stories they have heard from those impacted by the song. “Through TAPS we got to know a lot of families. One of our friends from their lost their son 14 years ago. They listen to the song regularly and it brings them relief,” said Mary Miller. “We know a family that plays the song at the grave of their loved one in Arlington,” added Don Miller. “It comforts them. It’s how they celebrate.”

Recently the Miller’s were contacted by leaders of the United States Army Band in Washington DC, informing them the band is considering performing Here Rests In Honored Glory. It’s another level of recognition which would expose the song to a larger audience. “All of this is very humbling. I’m so grateful and want to thank those who gave the ultimate for their country,” said Don Miller.


  • Here Rests In Honored Glory is published by Mark Foster Music, a division of Shawnee Press, Inc. and exclusively distributed by Hal Leonard Corporation.
  • The Miller’s wish to thank OCC’s Susan Tormey, Music Professor Dr. David Rudari and OCC President Dr. Casey Crabill for their continued assistance and support.
  • OCC would like to thank Donald Miller for his 31 years of service to the College. He and his wife Mary raised five children. Three of them along with a son-in-law are all Veterans.