The OCC Effect: Mike Carno, ’13

Mike Carno, ’13 visited the “machine shop classroom” in the Whitney Applied Technology Center recently.

Mike Carno has always enjoyed being a “hands on” kind of worker. After graduating from Bishop Ludden in 2011 he spent the summer working in a machine shop. He planned to attend OCC in the fall but wasn’t sure what he would major in. “A week before the semester started I got a tour of the machine shop (classroom in the Whitney Applied Technology Center) and became a Mechanical Technology major. I wound up loving it.”

While excelling in Mechanical Technology, Carno learned about the College’s Nuclear Technology program. He was intrigued by the career possibilities but stuck with Mechanical Technology, earning his associate degree in 2013 and a bachelor’s degree from SUNY IT two years later.

By the fall of 2015 Carno was back on the OCC campus pursuing degrees in both Nuclear Technology and Electrical Technology. “The cool thing about the nuclear program is that they get people who work at Nine Mile and Fitzpatrick (nuclear plants) to come and teach. They would tell us about the job market and when to apply.”

Carno was about three-quarters of the way through the programs when he applied for a job at Nine Mile and was hired almost instantly. His position in Operations pays extremely well and he’s found the work environment to be outstanding. “It’s a very controlled, very steady pace. Everything is controlled by nuclear procedures. Safety is very big. People are also very open to feedback, especially when you come in as a newer employee and look at things differently than others.”

Two years into his nuclear career Carno remains grateful to OCC and all of the professors who he learned from in the Mechanical Technology, Nuclear Technology and Electrical Technology majors. “The people who were teaching you had done these jobs before and knew what they were talking about. If you had a question that wasn’t straight out of a book, they could answer it. They were very open to helping you as long as you put the work in and definitely oveprepared you.”

You can learn more about OCC’s Mechanical Technology, Electrical Technology and Nuclear Technology majors here. Students who do well in these majors have the option of going directly into the workplace with outstanding starting salaries or transferring and pursuing bachelor’s degrees.

The OCC Effect: Nor Rizek

Nor Rizek (right) with her brother and current OCC student, Jamel Rizek (left).

Nor Rizek grew up in Onondaga Hill and attended Westhill High School until her junior year. Rather than enjoy summer in Central New York she packed up and moved to the West Bank in Palestine to live with family for the next two years. While there, she finished her high school degree and worked as an English teaching assistant at an all-girl’s secondary school.

Rizek returned to the area in 2011, took a phlebotomy course and became a certified technician. She enrolled at Onondaga Community College in the spring of 2012. “I knew I wanted to be a doctor, but didn’t know how to go about it, so OCC was very familiar and I knew I could get my start there while keeping cost to a minimum until I found my path.” During her time at the College she volunteered at a local fire department. She arranged her school schedule around rush hours at the family restaurant to make sure she would be there to assist her father. Whenever her community needed her, she would hurry to the firehouse, get her gear on and hop on a fire truck. Today she continues to serve the community as a volunteer at the Howlett Hill Fire Department.

Things took a turn in 2014, when Rizeks’ mother passed away during the second semester of her sophomore year. The grief was too much to bear and she left school. “It was a tough decision but at the time I needed to step back in order to eventually move forward.” Rizek moved to Hawaii and finished her associate degree. She kept the dream alive of becoming a doctor by enrolling at Harvard University where she is currently pursuing a degree in biology, psychology and legal studies.

Rizek plans to take the Medical College Admission Test next August and anticipates graduating in 2020 after she finishes her research study. Medical schools on her short list include Tulane, Louisiana State University and SUNY Upstate Medical University. Despite the rigors of traveling back and forth from Syracuse to Cambridge to take classes, her determination is unwavering largely because of the lessons she learned at OCC. “I was and remain inspired by all of the students there who are usually working, raising a family or overcome their own difficult situation all while taking classes in order to create a better life for themselves.”

This type of perseverance and faith is something she reinforces with her siblings, especially her brother, Jamel, who is a second year student at OCC. “I tell him every day that he is in a good place and if he ever needs help there is more courage in asking for it than waiting for things to get worse. OCC provides you with the confidence and foundation to advance yourself to accomplish whatever it is you set out to do.”

Grateful for “The OCC Effect”

Scenes from the OCC campus then (left) and now (right).

Your stories keep coming in! Since launching “The OCC Effect” we’ve heard from dozens and dozens of former students who were so positively impacted by their time on campus. Your success is a significant part of OCC’s story which began more than a half-century ago when we first opened our doors in 1961. We’re proud our middle name is “community” and we’d love to hear what OCC’s effect has been on you. If you would like to join in the conversation please visit our Alumni web site and tell us your story. In the meantime, here are a few more for you to enjoy.

JoAnne Bakeman, ’73

  • Major: General Studies
  • Occupation: Adjunct Faculty at OCC
  • Resides in North Syracuse

“When I graduated from Onondaga Valley Academy, some of my classmates were starting at OCC, the brand new college in Midtown Plaza, where my mother had worked for the L.C. Smith Typewriter Company, but I was going away to Rosary Hill, a Catholic women’s college in Buffalo. I graduated from there, followed my husband to Army bases until he went to serve in Vietnam, and then started teaching in the Syracuse Inner City. When I went on maternity leave for my second child, I knew that health and wellness was going to be my focus, and as part of that, I wanted to begin the nursing program at OCC.  I started taking classes at Midtown Plaza, then at the County Home, then at the new campus in the Service and Maintenance Building. By the time I graduated from the nursing program and obtained my registered nurse license, I had also started a master’s degree program in Health Education at SUNY Cortland, determined to begin a professional career in health and wellness.  That led me to establish the Center for Holistic Living, where I learned about the effects of alcoholism and drug addiction.  I attended a brand new training program at Syracuse University leading to the credential in substance abuse counseling. I put that credential into use at Crouse Hospital Chemical Dependency Treatment Services, and found out that my registered nurse license allowed me to practice independently as a substance abuse therapist, which I have been doing now for over 30 years.  Imagine my thrill when I was hired to begin teaching in the HPER program at OCC in 1999, and in the Human Services program in 2002!  I still feel the joy in coming up that hill as I have been doing my entire life, and approaching the college that I have seen grow from the ground up. I consider the time I spent in attending OCC to  have been the basis of everything I have done subsequently.”


Richard Calagiovanni, ‘68

  • Major: General Studies
  • Occupation: Production Manager, WCNY-TV
  • Resides in Syracuse

“When I started at OCC I wasn’t sure if I would last a semester. I had some great professors and administrators who were truly interested in their students including Mary Stiles, Norma Foody, Margaret Tubbert, Dean Dorothy Kelly, College President Dr. Marvin Rapp and Student Government Advisor Bob Weathers. All of these people were supportive and instructional.

My sophomore year I served as student government vice president which was a great experience. I met some great kids who are still friends today.

Marvin Rapp used to take me to county Legislature meetings to talk to the representatives who would vote on moving the college forward to a new location on Onondaga Hill. In the summer of 1967 I participated in one of the two ground breaking ceremonies for the new campus. Little did I know that I would wind up married and living a mile for the campus.

I was impressed with the dedication of community leaders like Ephraim Shapero and Don Mawhinney who passionately supported the college.

I lasted not just one semester but four and completed my degree. I took one Radio and TV Course with Dr. Richard Cobb and became convinced that I had selected the right major at Syracuse University. I went on to spend 29 years in television production at WCNY TV. I never could have gotten into SU out of high school. OCC gave me the chance to turn my academic achievements around earn a four-year degree.

Many of us from the 60s often said that we didn’t know where we’d be without OCC and the opportunities it offered. And it all started in Midtown Plaza!”


John and Bea Ceilly

John Ceilly, ’90

  • Major: Physical Therapist Assistant
  • Retired
  • Resides in Fayetteville

“After researching a career change at age 45 I decided to get out of sales and go into the health field. I was able to do part time volunteer work at Syracuse Developmental Center for over two months.  I worked with a team of therapists covering Occupational, Physical and Speech Therapies. I decided to become a Physical Therapy Assistant and also met my future wife Bea, a Speach Therapist on the team. I graduated two years later and we married soon after. There were 20 students in that first PTA class whose ages ranged from 20 into the 50s.  A small group of us non-traditional older students formed a study group. We would meet outside of class to review difficult topics and study for tests. I was very fortunate to be part of this group. We all flourished in our studies and formed great  friendships. My experiences at OCC enriched my life and provided a very positive base for my new career.”


Jodi DeAugustine, ’89

  • Major: Business Administration
  • Occupation: Banking
  • Resides in Cicero

“OCC set the standard for my future education and for my professional career. The professors I had at OCC helped me believe that I could go on and further my education and did not have to settle for the narrative others had written about me. I had two professors at OCC and I recall my Business Law professor to be so encouraging.  She allowed me to explore the analytical side of my brain and I realized that I had a strong acumen and interest in law. After leaving OCC, I attended University College at Syracuse University and received my Paralegal Certification from the American Bar Association through that program. I recall having another professor see something in me and saying to me, ‘Jodi, you are a leader and I think you should pursue a further degree because I don’t ever see you truly being happy working for someone else.’  How insightful that comment turned out to be as well! I was so intrigued by this Economics Professor and what I had learned in those early classes that after becoming a Paralegal, I went after my Bachelor’s Degree. I chose SUNY Cortland were I majored in Economics and minored in Management. Many years have passed and regretfully I do not recall these Professors names, but to them both I am forever grateful because they had quite a bit to do with who I am and where I sit today.  Which is leading women with passion and entrepreneurial spirits to gather their confidence and meet their own drive for success!”


Megan Dorey, ‘14

  • Major: Human Services

“While I was a student at OCC, my mother was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. I would go to school from 8am to 3pm, then go to my mother’s house to cook her dinner, bathe her and do household chores. The semester I was graduating would also be the last one with my mother here.  She was so proud of me, a full time mom going back to school.  My mother did not want me to be a waitress forever.  While I was attending OCC I really had no idea what sector of human services I would like to go into.  Shortly after graduation, my mother passed away.  I took it really hard, I stopped caring about the world in which I lived.  During the summer of 2016 I began to process my feelings about my mother passing.  I had a moment where I swear I heard her say ” Make me proud, do something with your degree!! ” The next day I quit my job as a waitress and began to job search. I was lucky enough to find a job in supported employment. During the next year I grew emotionally and physically. I finally had found a job I loved. I love teaching people about the world of work and how they can become part of it. I can’t even begin to tell everyone how important my schooling at OCC was. I can’t put into words what OCC did for me because it really did give me the world.”


William Patton, ’02

  • Major: Business
  • Occupation: Chief Financial Officer
  • Resides in Liverpool

“I first attended OCC fresh out of high school. I had a lot of fun, but didn’t attend very many classes. I returned about 10 years later and despite working a full-time and a part-time job and having a new baby at home, I fully committed to my education and it paid off! Thank God for second chances. I was able to learn important business skills like accounting, supervision and economics, while becoming a better rounded person with classes in Western History, Poetry Writing and Chemistry. I also was able to glean some valuable leadership skills as the student government Treasurer. Looking back, I am still impressed at the level of knowledge, experience of the professors and even more so at the encouragement and support that the professors and staff gave, not only to me, but to anyone who was willing to try. My degree led me to a Supervisory position at Lanpher’s Transport, which has led to my becoming CFO. OCC taught me the importance of ongoing education, how to problem-solve and, most importantly, that I can achieve excellence if I strive for it. If I wasn’t allowed that second chance at Onondaga Community College, I cannot imagine where I would be now.”


Tom Rasley

Tom Rasely, ’71

  • Major: Music
  • Occupation: Musician

“I have been a musician practically my entire life. I come from a musical family, but I also received an excellent musical education that started in high school. After HS graduation I was accepted at OCC in the Dramatics curriculum, but transferred into the music department the next year; that was the year that the school started to move up to Onondaga Hill. The instruction and encouragement I received during those two years has carried me though a very long career as a guitarist and composer. The experience of working with Dr. Donald B. Miller in the choir and Professor Phil Klein on piano harmony and Horace Hall as a voice teacher were invaluable encounters for me. Over the nearly 5 decades since, I have taught privately, performed in a wide variety of large and small venues all over the country, including twice at the White House. As a composer, there are now nearly 700 titles in my catalog. I encourage as many young musicians as I can to consider starting their musical training at OCC.”


Michael Rendino, ‘13

  • Major: Business/Accounting
  • Occupation: Financial Analyst
  • Resides in Manlius

“I was 36, had spent more than a decade with the same company and was frustrated with the lack of advancement opportunities because I did not have a four-year college degree. I took a chance and decided it was time to go back to school and earn my bachelor’s degree.

OCC provided me with a clear pathway that was pivotal to my academic success and I cannot thank you enough for this experience. The professors and administrative staff were extremely friendly and understanding of my situation as a non-traditional student and it meant and still means so much to me that they were right there with me from my first day of class until graduation.

It had been over 19 years since the last time I was in a classroom setting and the prospect of going back to school terrified me because I did not know if I would have what it takes to succeed. Fortunately for me the professors and administrative staff were extremely patient and willing to work with me as often as they could. If not for their support my educational journey would have been more difficult than it was.

My two years at OCC laid the foundation for my present personal and career path. With only one semester left at OCC until graduation I applied and was excepted into the Le Moyne College Accounting program. I would graduate from Le Moyne with honors and a B.A. in Accounting with a concentration in Management Information Systems. The following year I was one of three graduates from Le Moyne’s new master’s program.

During the latter half of my senior year and my entire Master’s program studies at Le Moyne I became employed full time with a wonderful local company, ADMI. I am still employed there today. My boss is an amazing person both personally and professionally. My quality of life has improved by leaps and bounds. I would not have made to where I am today without the guidance and support of everyone at OCC.

I would like to give special thanks to the following people in the Accounting Department: Professor Jane Stam, Professor Michele Ley, Professor JT Ryan and Betty in the Accounting Office; in the English Department Stephanie and Sophie; all of the tutors in the Math Lab and finally my classmates Liz and Barb. I owe all of you a great debt of thanks and I will never forget you.”


Jane Slabowski

  • Occupation: Dietitian and Adjunct Instructor at OCC

“I had a dream to become a registered dietitian/nutritionist.  I was a first generation college student and second generation American with a strong family emphasis on the benefits of higher education along with good grades in school. Nutrition is a heavily science based program. I didn’t have the confidence to pursue this in my initial college career. Instead I majored in elementary education, then obtained a master’s in special education from Syracuse University.

I then began to attend OCC to take the undergraduate pre-requisite courses to enable me to apply to the Nutrition Science program at SU. I took general chemistry, organic chemistry, physiology, microbiology and two economics courses. Through an incredible amount of hard work, I managed decent grades and admission to SU. I finally obtained my masters, completed an internship and ultimately sat for and passed the RD exam.

My career has been circuitous and I’ve moved between education and nutrition positions while raising a family. My passion was always nutrition education. When Jillann Neeley offered me the position to teach basic nutrition as an adjunct, I felt that I’d come full circle.  For me, it was a proud moment.

I tell this story to my students each semester.  For me, OCC was the pathway toward accomplishing a personal vision.  Though I haven’t achieved riches or fame, when I look back, I have to say – OCC was the vehicle that allowed me to ‘achieve the dream.’”


Jack Trenchard, ‘72

  • Major: Music
  • Retired Music Teacher
  • Resides in West Seneca, NY

“I remember OCC as looking like a large parking garage or utility building. The staff was wonderful. I remember my voice teacher Mr. McCullough, my music theory teacher Mrs. Lyons and the great times that I had singing in the chorus.”


Mark Venesky

Mark Venesky, ‘76

  • Major: Humanities
  • Occupation: Cicero Town Supervisor
  • Resides in North Syracuse

“1975 and 1976 were focusing years for me. I buckled down and got serious about learning and OCC was the vehicle that allowed me to grow academically and socially. I will never forget the caring professors and staff who encouraged me and the friendships that I made, especially those with the returning Vietnam veterans. I went on to earn a bachelor’s degree at Syracuse University, enjoyed a 36-year career with UPS and am now in my second career as Supervisor of the Town of Cicero.

The OCC Effect (Part 2)

The OCC Effect Staff Shots 008 (1000px)

Earlier this month we launched, “The OCC Effect”. We wanted to hear from our former students about the ways in which OCC has impacted their lives. Below are a few of the stories we’ve heard so far!

If you would like to join in the conversation please visit our Alumni web site and tell us what your OCC experience has meant to you. Your success is a significant part of OCC’s story which began more than a half-century ago when we first opened our doors in 1961. We’re proud our middle name is “community” and we’d love to hear what OCC’s effect has been on you.

John M. Chapman, ’78

  • Major: Business
  • Occupation: JMC Advisory
  • Resides in Fairport, New York

I attended OCC for two years and graduated with a degree in business. This was a great affordable education and provided me the foundation to continue my education at Long Island University, C.W.Post College. My educational experience at OCC gave me the confidence to ask questions, explore new areas and expand my learning in advancing my career and additional education.

Julianna Clum, ’16

  • Major: Mathematics and Sciences


Julianna Clum
Julianna Clum, ’16

It is hard to put into how OCC impacted my life because it did in so many ways. I was lucky enough to spend two years at this institution and it was the most memorable years of my life. I played on the women’s soccer team and it showed me how to manage my time wisely but also gave me some unforgettable memories. I am lucky enough to still be close friends with some of my teammates today. I also worked as a math tutor in the Learning Center and it was the BEST. I could actually talk about everyone that works there for hours and about the amazing memories we all made with one another. When I graduated the entire staff signed a t-shirt and made a cake for me and I’ll cherish that forever. Finally, the biggest thing that made an impact on my life at occ was becoming an RA. I was an RA for 3 semesters and I wouldn’t take it back for anything. As an RA I learned responsibilities, time management but also went deeper and was able to experience training in things I never thought i would have. If I never became an RA I would not have the friends I have today. I would not be the person I am. It really shaped me and helped me realize the hardships college students actually face. But the greatest thing of all was the friendships. I met my best friends by working on programs, bulletin boards and being on one another’s staff. I will always be thankful for what res life has done for me and the opportunities OCC gave me.


Bruce Hahn, ’92

  • Major: Engineering Science
  • Occupation: Supply Chain Management
  • Resides in Syracuse, New York


Bruce Hahn, ’92

OCC has impacted life in more way than one!  In Spring, 1988, as a junior in high school, I signed up to take a calculus I course at night. The instructor, Ms. Marcellus, was inspirational with her counseling as well as teaching.  She kept telling me that even though the coursework came easy to me, I should take notes and work out every problem as if it didn’t come easy.  The following year, I took calculus II at night.  I was going to high school fulltime while also balancing a full-time job.  Professor Leonardo was motivating and the second excellent professor of many during my OCC career!


When I graduated from high school, my destiny was set with attending Onondaga Community College to pursue an A.S. degree in Engineering Science. In my first semester, I met the two best physics professors in all of my education, Professor Camerota and Professor Fleck.  I still remember the classes complaining how hard the courses were and how there seemed to be no relief in the grading.  Thirty years later, I can safely say these professors got it right.  When you moved on, you knew your physics!  (By the way, my daughter is presently taking physics at OCC, and the class appears to have the same comments so Professor Camerota doesn’t seem to have changed – excellent news!) By the time I graduated from OCC in Spring, 1992, I couldn’t thank the school enough for all that I had experienced:  Phi Theta Kappa, a faculty scholarship, solid math and science foundation, engineering fundamentals, lifetime friends, and a stepping stone to my four-year college experience.

Upon graduating from Binghamton University with my Bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, I came back to my roots in Syracuse to work at Welch Allyn, Data Collection Division.  In 1998, I obtained a master degree from Cornell.  OCC prepared me well for all of my education.  In Fall, 1999, I decided to explore getting my professional engineering license.  I self-studied before taking the test in Spring, 2000.  As I understood the statistics, I was part of the 2% that passed the test in taking it for the first time and only 11% that passed the exam that Spring.  I contribute this purely to the Engineering Science program from OCC.  Not a professional day goes by where I don’t reflect back to something I learned and still use today from my OCC experience.

During my adult life, I continue to have an excellent career, travel the world, meet many wonderful people, worked on several technical projects with peers, negotiated business deals, and raised three beautiful, smart children.  I honestly owe all of this to how my life was impacted positively by Onondaga Community College.

Lynn Dailey, ’72

  • Major: Music
  • Occupation: Retired Music Teacher

I had a great education as a music major at OCC.  I was able to transfer to the Crane School of Music and graduate with a Bachelor of Music degree 2 years after OCC.  I taught Elementary and Middle School Band as well as K-8 general music and chorus.  The knowledge I gained in every music class I took at OCC was used in my successful career!  I am now retired, but still am very active in music.  I play in 4 community bands and teach private lessons.

Even more important than my education, was how I was able to grow as a person and become self-assured and confident while a student at OCC.  I met my future husband, who was also an OCC student.  We have shared 41 years of marriage!  Thank you OCC!

Thomas Carello, ’74

  • Major: Bussiness
  • Occupation: VP Business Development
  • Resides in Syracuse, New York

In the 70’s in Syracuse, you usually went to work for one of the many manufacturing plants in the area. A lot of my friends did. Not knowing what I wanted to really do and being a solid C student I applied and was accepted to OCC at Mid Town Plaza.  To be honest that was where I started growing up a bit.  I volunteered to be on the student paper as an assistant editor. They were desperate and eventually I ended up the business manager.  When I graduated I went to work in a commercial communication store called Nu-Tronics. It is still there today in Eastwood.  I used a lot of what I learned at OCC in my business endeavors there.  I eventually wanted to expand myself and went to work as a road salesman again and my OCC education helped.  I liked the road and in 1983 went to work for a Japanese Company called Uniden America Corp.  They had a two-way radio division and, because I had a college degree and two-way radio experience, was offered the job as Regional Manager for the North East.  I worked there eventually getting promotions to Vice President of Sales.  I worked for a few foreign companies until finally coming back to Syracuse for personal reasons in 2000. My jobs have taken me all over the world meeting all kinds of different businesses and people and it was all because I had a two-year degree from OCC.   I have had a great career and I found out that 2 years is better and more affordable than 4 and if you have the desire, it can be all you need.

Nancy Shepard, ’96

  • Major: Office Technology
  • Retired

I attended OCC when I was 50 years old and our youngest child was 12 years old.  I began my studies intending to be a social worker because I was interested in Social Justice issues and had volunteered with the Fresh Air Fund and in the classroom at the Beard School in Syracuse.  After one semester I decided that administration was more suited to my abilities and switched to office technology.  My most difficult course was typing/keyboarding.  Training these fingers to touch type was a struggle that I am so glad I conquered with perseverance. The communications class taught by James MacKillop gave me the confidence to speak before a group.

After graduation, I worked at Syracuse University for a communications law professor at Newhouse for one year before moving to the Maxwell School of Public Administration as coordinator of two undergraduate courses, Global Community and Critical Issues for the U.S.  Part of my job was to attend the professors’ lectures with the students.

Our youngest child’s tuition was free because I had worked at S.U. long enough by the time he was a college freshman.  I retired in 2005 to spend more time volunteering with Catholic Charities refugee resettlement.  I am on the Social Justice committee of Immaculate Conception Parish and joined Fayetteville-Manlius Neighbors and Newcomers, a social organization that has lots of fun activities for empty-nesters and retirees.

OCC’s Effect On You!

Scenes from the OCC campus then (left) and now (right).


We asked and you responded! Earlier this week we announced a new initiative, “The OCC Effect.” We wanted to hear from our former students about the ways in which OCC has impacted their lives. Below are a few of the stories we’ve heard so far!

If you would like to join in the conversation please visit our Alumni web site and tell us what your OCC experience has meant to you. Your success is a significant part of OCC’s story which began more than a half-century ago when we first opened our doors in 1961. We’re proud our middle name is “community” and we’d love to hear what OCC’s effect has been on you.


John Abbey, ’83 and ‘04

  • Majors: Radio & TV with a Journalism minor, Telecommunications
  • Resides in Carlisle, Pennsylvania
  • “I came to OCC directly out of Lafayette High School. I walked on the baseball team and got quality coaching I utilize to this day. OCC gave me an affordable, quality, accredited education. I joined the U.S. Navy in 1983 after obtaining my degree from OCC and entered as an E-3 instead of an E-1. I rose to an E-5 in just 1.9 years which could not have been done without my degree from OCC.  It has paid for itself not only in financial gains but it taught me how to budget my time, schoolwork, baseball and work, which are valuable lessons I use to this day. Thank you to you and your faculty at OCC. I feel you have done wonders for society and do not get the credit you deserve.”


Jessica Abbott, ’05

  • Major: Humanities
  • Occupation: Bookstore Manager
  • “I went to OCC and took advantage of the Fast Track program which allowed me to get my associate degree on an accelerated timeline. I had such a great experience that when the time came to transition out of my career in the mental health field I jumped at the chance to be the assistant manager at OCC’s bookstore. I am now the manager and have been for 3 years. Onondaga gave me a great education and a great place to work!”


Sean Baird, ’14

Sean Baird, ‘14

  • Major: Fire Protection Technology
  • Occupation: Fulton City Firefighter
  • Resides in Constantia
  • “I was part of the bunk-in program. I lived at the Baldwinsville Fire House while I attended school. It was by far the best experience of my life. I still look back and wish I could do it all over again. The classes were amazing. They were exactly what I wanted to learn and gave me the experience I needed. While I was attending school I made many friends who were firefighters and was able to ride with many other departments and gain the experience needed. I worked 2 years in EMS before I was hired in Fulton. The memories I made at OCC will stay with me for years to come.”


Jo Anne Bakeman, ‘73

  • Major: Nursing
  • Occupation: Substance Abuse Therapist and Adjunct Professor at OCC
  • Resides in North Syracuse
  • “I started taking classes at Midtown Plaza, then at the County Home, then at the new campus in the Service and Maintenance Building.  By the time I graduated from the nursing program and obtained my registered nurse license, I had also started a master’s degree program in Health Education at SUNY Cortland, determined to begin a professional career in health and wellness.  That led me to establish the Center for Holistic Living, where I learned about the effects of alcoholism and drug addiction.  I attended a brand new training program at Syracuse University leading to the credential in substance abuse counseling.  I put that credential to use at Crouse Hospital Chemical Dependency Treatment Services, and found out that my registered nurse license allowed me to practice independently as a substance abuse therapist, which I have been doing now for over 30 years.  Imagine my thrill when I was hired to begin teaching in the HPER program at OCC in 1999, and in the Human Services program in 2002!  I consider the time I spent attending OCC to have been the basis of everything I have done subsequently.”


Sandra Baker, ’80

Sandra Baker, ‘80

  • Major: Business
  • Resides in Baldwinsville
  • Occupation: Senior Director of Corporate Strategy at Research & Marketing Strategies, former Onondaga County Legislator, distinguished OCC Alumni Face, chair of the OCC Foundation Board
  • “I love talking about OCC and hearing from so many others who have a connection to the school. OCC will always have a special place in my heart. I am so appreciative of the education I received and the flexibility it provided. I’m especially happy now for the opportunity to pay it forward in encouraging others to support and promote our beautiful college.”


John Chapman, ’78

  • Major: Business
  • Employer: JMC Advisory Services
  • Resides in Fairport
  • “OCC gave me a great affordable, education and provided me the foundation and structure with business knowledge to continue my education at Long Island University, C.W.Post College. OCC gave me the confidence to ask questions, explore new areas and expand my learning in advancing my career and additional education.”

Peter Cushing, ’72

  • Major: General Studies
  • Occupation: Attorney
  • Resides in Winter Park, FL
  • “OCC gave me my big chance and somehow it all worked out. I love OCC! I grew up on the south side of Syracuse on West Seneca Turnpike at the bottom of the hill. Mom raised 5 kids. I went to Corcoran High School and worked 5 years at Community General Hospital in the kitchen and then as a janitor. My only college option was OCC. I attended downtown at the old typewriter factory. My grades got me admitted to SUNY Albany, then University of Baltimore Law School, then Syracuse University Law. I met a Navy recruiter on the bus coming home from law school and joined Navy JAG. I traveled the world, stayed in for 7 years, 17 years in the Naval JAG reserves and have had a successful law practice here in Florida specializing in military family law.”


Loren Davies, ‘16

  • Major: Computer Science
  • Resides in Liverpool
  • “The Computer Science department at OCC more than prepared me for my transfer to the Rochester Institute of Technology. Professors like Scheemaker, Page, Reed and Stedman really had an impact on me.”


Kelly Donovan, ’12

Kelly Donovan, ‘12

  • Major: General Studies
  • Occupation: Enrollment Associate at OCC
  • Resides in Syracuse
  • “OCC was my starting point for my college career. I’m working full-time and pursuing my Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration through Columbia College.  When deciding my college path, I knew I wanted to stay close to home at a place where I could commute and still meet new friends along the way. As a student at OCC I worked in the Admissions Office as a Student Ambassador, presenting guided tours to perspective students and families along with new employees as well. I now work at OCC as an Enrollment Associate in Student Central.


Jeanine Eckenrode, ’92

Jeanine Eckenrode, ’92

  • Major: Humanities & Social Sciences
  • Occupation: Associate Vice President of Enrollment Management at OCC
  • “I began my educational journey at a four year private school downstate and quickly realized that it wasn’t a good fit for me. After a major health concern, I decided to return to the upstate region. I knew my goal was to get a degree and transfer; I just questioned my long term career goals. At OCC, I quickly found a community of people through playing a sport on campus and studying with classmates. My time at OCC allowed me to gain confidence, create connections and figure out the next steps on my educational journey. I was able to complete a four year degree in psychology and later in life a masters degree in art therapy. Returning to campus as an employee has provided an opportunity to give back to a community that helped me along the way. When I meet with students, I often say that education is a journey and not a race. I took the long path and stumbled on some stones along the way, but OCC was there to guide me through the path. I will forever be grateful for the opportunity to learn by ‘failing forward.'”


Michael Filipski, ’74

  • “Onondaga Community College has has a profound impact on my life. I graduated in 1974 and was the first class to graduate attending both years at the Onondaga hill location. Throughout my life I received numerous degrees B.S., M.S. and C.A.S. from various colleges but I always looked back at Onondaga Community College positively. I felt the professors and the facility’s were exceptional. My career has paralleled the college closely. I was a Health Teacher and later Guidance Counselor in the Syracuse City School district. One of the years I was a Health Teacher I was named New York State Health Teacher of the year. In being a Guidance Counselor I took student interns from Onondaga Community College in the Human Service field. In taking on interns it was brought to my attention about becoming an adjunct professor at Onondaga Community College. I was honored to be able to perform that position. I am currently in my 25 year of being an adjunct professor in the HPER and Human Services department. Without a doubt the college has done so much for me and provided me the opportunity to give some of that back in teaching there. I have nothing but warmest regards for that institution.”


John Gould, ’15

John Gould, ‘15

  • Major: Human Services
  • Occupation: Mental Health
  • Resides in Ithaca
  • “I came to OCC to get my degree and go right to work. During my time there I was president of student government. Being a leader on campus prepared me for the job I hold today. OCC gave me the start in life I needed. I put in a lot of work and it paid off. I have OCC to thank for that.”


Ted Jewett, ’81

  • Major: Business Administration
  • Occupation: Materials Manager
  • Resides in Syracuse
  • “Before I went to OCC I remember a co-worker telling me I should continue my education. I said ‘Yes, but by the time I finish my associate degree I’ll be 32 years old.’ He said, ‘You’re going to be 32 anyway right?’ He was right and I got my degree in 3 years going nights and during the summers. My degree has opened doors for me with companies which wouldn’t have hired me without advanced education. It has been a  cornerstone in my career. I enjoyed my time at OCC and can’t believe it passed so quickly. I would encourage anyone to attend. Both of my children got their degrees there before continuing on to their bachelor’s degrees. It saved money and was a good start.”


Vernita King, ‘73

  • Major: General Studies
  • Retired
  • Resides in Jamesville
  • “I attended OCC when it was housed at Midtown Plaza and just receiving accreditation. It prepared me to advance my education and earn a Master’s degree. The professors truly believed in you and your education. They were always available to answer questions and clarify lectures. Students had to develop sound study habits. The atmosphere was non-threatening because classes were smaller which seemed important for freshmen and the transition from high school. Back then we had no internet access and had to spend hours in the library researching subjects to complete papers and projects. My fondest memories are of Candis Olgesby, Jim Dupree and the head of the General Studies Department at the time. I was among the first students to form the Black Student Union at OCC. We had no budget but we had a strong support group including the administration. During this time at OCC some of the students would join with SU students to protest the war among other things. I always say these were the good old days.”


Chris La Barbera, ‘83

  • Major: Radio & TV
  • Occupation: Assistant Director and Actor
  • Resides in Los Angeles, CA
  • “The Radio & TV Department along with my internship at the NBC TV affiliate served me well! Everything in my major was hands-on with abundance. Thank you all, especially to the late, great Vincent Spadafora.”


Joe Masterleo, ’68

  • Major: Humanities
  • Occupation: Clinical Social Worker
  • Resides in Jamesville
  • “I applied to OCC in 1965 as I was nearing high school graduation. I was turned down and took a series of remedial courses while working part-time as a grocery clerk. A year later I was accepted and started taking classes in the fall of ’66. I was unsure if I could handle college level work. That lingering fear slowly dissolved and I eventually mastered my studies thanks to small classes and individual instruction by very qualified professors who gave liberally of themselves. By the time I graduated in ’68 I was third in my class. For many like myself OCC was a very good welcome and a timely fit on my academic path. The best classroom teacher I ever had at any level was at OCC. Long-since deceased he still lives fondly in my character and person. Two years after leaving OCC, I graduated from Syracuse University. For the past 39 years I have been self-employed in the private practice of psychotherapy. It all began with OCC providing the guidance, sound advice and welcome second-chance to what then amounted to an undeserving, unqualified applicant. Or so I thought. Now at age 70 and nearing retirement, when I come to think about who I am and how I came to be that way, the OCC personnel and experiences are near the very top of my gratitude list.”


Robert Neumann, ‘76

  • Major: Radio & TV
  • Occupation: Senior Vice President of Programming, iHeart Media
  • Resides in Hilton Head Island, SC
  • “Professor Rob Ganier was an amazing inspiration and mentor. The Radio & TV program put me on a path for success and I have had a great career. I’ve programmed radio stations in major markets like Washington, Houston, Tampa and Cleveland. As I near the end of my working career I decided to take a position as Senior Vice President of Programming with iHeart Media in Savannah, Georgia to be close to family.  I have never forgotten the people I met, the experiences I had or the institution that gave me a great start.”


Dom Nuon, ‘00

  • Major: Business Administration
  • Occupation: Assistant Vice President
  • “I wouldn’t be where I am now had I not gone to OCC.”


Kyndall Pritchard, ’95

Kyndall Pritchard, ‘95

  • Major: Nursing
  • Occupation: Nursing Education
  • Resides in Sunrise, FL
  • “Before I enrolled at OCC, I had been a student at several different universities and colleges. I had no idea where I was headed, nor what I wanted to do with my life. At the time of my enrollment at OCC, I was working as a nursing assistant in a local nursing home. Nursing is a daunting educational program, and definitely not for the uncommitted; however, I was supported in all aspects of my studies at OCC.  In my general education courses, I had faculty who were committed to my success, even when I was not. I was able to receive tutoring services to assist in helping me study more effectively. Once I entered the nursing program, the nursing faculty were supportive, but firm. I needed this discipline. I often struggled to balance school, work, and family, but my advisors kept me on track. I reflect fondly on my time at OCC, even as I recall the difficulty and struggle of being a working single parent and full-time nursing student. You see, I found my passion at OCC! I continued my education and earned a BSN and MSN in Nursing Education. I am now the Dean of Nursing in an associate degree nursing program in Florida and I am currently in the candidacy phase of my doctoral program. I want to thank OCC for providing me with a strong foundation and passion for life-long learning, as well as role models of caring and professional faculty!”


Garrett Smith, ’13

  • Major: Interior Design
  • Resides in Tempe, AZ
  • “OCC was a great platform for me to begin my education and work toward becoming a professional interior designer. The Interior Design program was extremely thorough and the faculty was helpful and passionate about the work being completed. I felt that the courses delivered and required for graduation left me with a broad knowledge and understanding of the field that I was one day going to be working in. When comparing to other schools and internship opportunities I had completed I felt that I was extremely prepared and knew more about the industry than other individuals pursuing the same career elsewhere. The campus and the Whitney building the Interior Design program is located in is refreshing to learn in and is a bright and motivating environment for a young designer and was one of the reasons why I chose OCC. After being inspired by what I learned at OCC I attended and graduated from the Savannah College of Art and Design with my Bachelor’s degree in Interior Design. Two weeks after graduation I began working at Gensler, the best firm in the nation.”


Tell Us Your Story!

Scenes from the OCC campus then (left) and now (right).

We’re proud to announce a new initiative, “The OCC Effect.” If you are one of the tens of thousands of former OCC students, we would love to hear your story. Please take a moment, visit our Alumni web site and tell us how OCC impacted your life. Your success is a significant part of OCC’s story which began more than a half-century ago when we first opened our doors in 1961. We’re proud our middle name is “community” and we’d love to hear what OCC’s effect has been on you. We’ve assembled a few stories about successful alumni which we hope will inspire you to share your story with us.

Thank you for making Onondaga Community College the outstanding institution it is today!

Dr. Emad Rahim

  • High School: Fowler, Class of 1997

Dr. Emad Rahim’s life story is the subject of a documentary titled, “Against The Odds.” He’s a survivor of genocide in the Killing Fields of Cambodia who took advantage of the opportunities he found in the United States. “My experience at Onondaga Community College not only provided me with the academic foundation I needed to find my footing in higher education, but also helped me develop the skills I needed for career advancement.” Rahim is an Endowed Chair and Director of the Project Center of Excellence at Bellevue University in Omaha, Nebraska. In 2017 he received the Outstanding Alumni Award from the American Association of Community Colleges.

Please take a moment, visit our Alumni web site and tell us how OCC impacted your life.

Laurie Halse Anderson, ’81

  • Major at OCC: Humanities
  • High School: Fayetteville-Manlius High School, Class of 1979

Laurie is a novelist whose books have become required reading for young adults, providing them with an outlet as they undergo transformations in their lives. She underwent her own transformation as a college student. “OCC is where I found my mind. I needed to grow up and get disciplined. The quality of the professors made a huge difference in my life. There was something about the attention I got from them that has never left me. It meant a great deal toward guiding me on the path to more education and more self-discovery.” Laurie is one of OCC’s distinguished Alumni Faces honorees and a recipient of the Outstanding Alumni Award from the American Association of Community Colleges.

Please take a moment, visit our Alumni web site and tell us how OCC impacted your life.

John Dau, ’05


  • Major at OCC: Humanities
  • Home country: South Sudan

John is a “Lost Boy,” one of tens of thousands of refugees displaced or orphaned by war in the Sudan. He came to the United States in 2001 and began taking classes at OCC along with approximately 80 refugees. “OCC was like a family to us. The teachers helped with school work and life lessons. It created a strong bond with me and all of the refugees.” Today he is President of the John Dau Foundation which provides healthcare and nutrition programs to the citizens of South Sudan. John is one of OCC’s distinguished Alumni Faces honorees. In 2014 he received the Outstanding Alumni Award from the American Association of Community Colleges.

Please take a moment, visit our Alumni web site and tell us how OCC impacted your life.

Carolyn Carbone, ’93 and Sarah Hassett, ’13

Syracuse Police Department Officer Carolyn Carbone, ’93 (left) and her daughter Officer Sarah Hassett, ’13 (right).
  • High School: Carbone – Fowler High School, Hassett – Solvay High School
  • Major at OCC: Criminal Justice

Carolyn Carbone and Sarah Hassett are the first mother and daughter duo in the history of the Syracuse Police Department. Before they became police officers, they earned Criminal Justice degrees from OCC. Carbone gave birth to Hassett while a student at OCC and utilized the on-campus day care, the Children’s Learning Center while she went to class. “I appreciate my mom more and more each day for working as hard as she did to get through school and provide for my brothers and me so we could have a better life,” Hassett said. Carbone shares a similar sentiment about her only daughter. “She makes me proud every day. I’m grateful we went to OCC and can share this experience of being police officers. It’s a bond that will be with us forever.”

Please take a moment, visit our Alumni web site and tell us how OCC impacted your life.