Seph’s Survival Guide to College Living – Packing for Success

My name is Seph, and I’m a Computer Science geek living on-campus in Residence Hall B. This is my third semester at Onondaga Community College, and compared to how I was when I first enrolled here, I’ve figured out the dos and don’ts of living on campus. Let’s our series with the topic of packing!

While there is a packing list on the website, with suggested materials to bring to the residence halls on your first day, I prefer to use my own list. Having been in most of the halls over the semesters, I have a short list of the essentials that every student should own:

There’s no such thing as over-packing for college.

  • Personal food utensils. I’m talking plate and bowl here, fine china (or go cheap and get a set from the dollar store). While you can get away with plastic forks and spoons from the cafeteria, nothing beats having a sturdy plate for that leftover pizza in the fridge, or a bowl of cereal at midnight. Something easy to wash and dry, that can be shoved into a cupboard until needed. And if you’re a tea-drinker like me, a good mug is indispensable.
  • Pot. No, not the drug. A good, sturdy pot for boiling water is a great asset to a college student. Let me tell you, when midnight rolls around and the cafeteria is closed, but you have a mountain of homework to do and your stomach is grumbling, a bowl of ramen is a godsend. And remember, boiled water is perfect for a spot of tea!
  • Blankets and Pillows. Though you’ll get a mattress with the bed, that’s about it. And I doubt that a single, flimsy pillow will give your neck the proper support that it needs for a decent night’s rest. Be sure to throw in a few blankets. Better to have a nest of blankets than be shivering through the night during the Spring semester.
  • Clothing. No duh, Sherlock. What I’m talking about goes beyond the sweat pants and Uggs. If you didn’t know, this is New York. Expect constant snowfall during the winter and blazing sunshine at all other times. Pack to dress accordingly.

Residence Halls A, B, & C

  • Trashcan. Make sure to get trash bags as well. Nothing ruins the whole ‘college feel’ so much as a mountain of empty soda bottles and candy wrappers sitting on the kitchen counter. A wastebin for the bathroom also goes a long way towards keeping used Q-Tips off of the floors.
  • Toilet Brush. I have no words for this one. The bathrooms in my dorm have their own plungers for the occasional clog, but no brush for cleaning. Toilet cleaner is a must as well. And don’t forget the TP!

Shapiro Hall

  • Carpet/Mat. The floors in Shapiro are linoleum, and can get quite cold. A nice, large mat or small carpet works wonders on the cold winter nights. A set of slippers also helps for when you need to head to the bathroom.

Bug spray. It’s a sad fact, but Fall is Stink Bug season, and those little suckers manage to get into every locked room. Some Raid on hand helps to kill them off.

Bonding While Learning

Professor Kristen Costello leads students through her summer Microeconomics class in Whitney Commons.

Students get to know one another pretty quickly while taking summer classes at Onondaga Community College. Take for example Professor Kristen Costello’s Microeconomics (ECO 204) class. During the five-week session, class was held every Monday through Thursday from 8:10 to 10:10 a.m. Students worked hard while forming new friendships which sometimes extended outside the classroom. On one occasion students went from class to Panchito’s in Syracuse’s Valley section where fish tacos were the food of choice. “Everyone was invited,” said student Kristen DeFeo (Cazenovia HS). “We’re like a little family in this class.”

Summer classes on the OCC campus fulfill student’s needs for a variety of reasons. “I needed one more class to make my credit minimum for my scholarship. I had already had Professor Costello for Marketing and liked her,” said James Shea (Noble HS in North Berwick, Maine).

One student took the class because her schedule only allows her to go to school part-time. Another was trying to erase a bad grade from the first time he took a similar course at another college. Most were simply trying to get ahead and lighten their loads during the fall and spring semesters.

With a more concentrated schedule during the summer, coursework moves fast. “Classes are very intense. Because they’re smaller you get more personal attention which helps. You retain more,” said Jamison Adist (Liverpool HS).

If you are considering summer classes in future years but are concerned they will get in the way, Forrest Thompson (Living Word Academy) says that’s not the case. “I was able to take summer classes, do all of the schoolwork within the time of the class and still enjoy my summer. You aren’t going to miss out on anything taking summer classes. It’s just prioritizing your time, getting ahead of your schedule and going for it.”

Summer Learners Take The Next Step

OCC students participating in the Bridges to Baccalaureate program this summer at SUNY Binghamton were (left to right): Jovan Diaz, Princess Figueroa, Ahmed Mohamed, Rebecca Agosto Matos, and Causwell Hyde.

Five students intent on attending four-year institutions spent part of their summer conducting research at SUNY Binghamton as part of the Bridges to Baccalaureate program. The students are all members of OCC’s Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (CSTEP) and Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) program. Bridges to Baccalaureate helps students make the transition from community colleges to four-year institutions while increasing the pool of community college students who go on to research careers in the biomedical sciences.

OCC’s students worked side-by-side in research laboratories with students from Monroe Community College and Westchester Community College. The program concluded with students presenting about their work during a poster session. OCC’s representatives and the focus of their work included:

  • Jovan Diaz – Cardiovascular Disease and Obesity in High Sugar-Fed Flies
  • Rebecca Agosto Matos – Using Kinetic Isotope Effect to Reveal Mechanism for Acid Amide Hydrolysis
  • Ahmed Mohamed – Does atrazine affect the metabolic rates of Drosophila melanogaster?
  • Causwell Hyde – Synthesis and Antimicrobial Studies of Flavonoid-derived Anisotropic Gold and Silver Nanoparticles
  • Princess Figueros – Investigating Endocrine Flexibility in Wood Frog (Lithobates sylvaticus) exposed to NaCl

“I enjoyed being in the Bridges program and would highly recommend it to anyone interested in the sciences,” said Rebecca Agosto Matos. “The research performed is a good introduction to individuals who have no laboratory experience. Throughout the summer I got the chance to work in the only Chemistry laboratory available monitored by Dr. Vetticatt. It was a fun experience in which I learned and applied methods that were previously studied in Organic Chemistry lecture, and laboratories at Onondaga Community College. At first, I thought that I wouldn’t be able to get used to working so closely with chemicals nor be able to get used to the smell of some chemicals such as ether. As time went on I started to notice how I didn’t mind certain smells and I became completely comfortable working with and creating new chemicals. I enjoyed the experience, the company of the individuals from the laboratory, and the little community that our laboratory shared with the surrounding laboratories.”

Congratulations to our students for their outstanding work! You can learn more about the CSTEP and LSAMP programs on our website.

Class of 2019 Times Two

Natalina Natoli received her Solvay High School diploma and OCC associate degree in June. Next month she’ll enter Syracuse University as a junior. She’s pictured on the OCC quad.

Natalina Natoli was a freshman at Solvay when she began considering the possibility of earning her associate degree by the time she received her high school diploma. “My guidance counselor said, ‘we can try this. You might be able to get all of the credits you need to earn your degree.’”

Fast forward four years to June 22, 2019. The auditorium at Solvay High School was filled for graduation when Natoli was unexpectedly called up to the stage. There to greet her was Onondaga Community College President Dr. Casey Crabill who presented Natoli with her associate degree in Liberal Arts & Sciences: Humanities & Social Sciences. “I felt a mix of embarrassment and pride. Embarassed because I was singled out but proud of what I had accomplished. The reaction from the whole community made me feel proud. I knew I had earned my degree but had no idea they were going to acknowledge it.”

How was Natoli able to earn both her high school diploma and associate degree simultaneously? “I learned how to balance my life. The workload wasn’t unbearable as long as I paced myself and balanced it all out.” Natoli earned 72 college credits in high school, 46 through OCC’s “College Credit Now” program which allows students to take college-level classes in their home high schools. She also took three classes on the OCC campus and three more online. “There were times I had to sacrifice sleepovers or things with my friends because I had papers due or classes to take. I was able to balance it all out and still have relationships.”

All of her hard work will pay off this fall when she enters Syracuse University as a junior majoring in Marketing with a minor in Environmental Sustainability Policy. “I don’t know if I could have gone to S.U. if I didn’t save so much money on the first two years of college. Doing this really let me go to the four-year school that I wanted.”

Natoli is grateful for that conversation she had with her guidance counselor four years ago and the opportunity it presented her with. “I’m fortunate we had this option through OCC. I became a full college student before I even left high school. There were some things I missed out on in high school but it was immensely worth the experience, time, and money saved. It was unbelievably worth it.”

The Secret To Her Success

Iga Szczepanik, ’16 is pictured in New York City where she works as a Project Manager and plans to pursue a Master’s degree.

Lessons learned outside the classroom at Onondaga Community College have provided the foundation for Iga Szczepanik’s success. “With the support of great professors and advisers at OCC, I stepped out of my comfort zone, took on roles that might have been overwhelming at a large university, and was recognized for my effort. It helped me know I was capable of so much more.”

Szczepanik is a native of Poland who moved to the United States when she was high school-aged. After graduating from Bishop Grimes in 2014, she came to OCC. Szczepanik majored in Business Administration, was president of the college’s chapter of international honor society Phi Theta Kappa (PTK), and worked as an Honors Ambassador promoting OCC’s Honors program at area high schools. She was named a SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence winner, the highest honor a SUNY student can receive.

After earning her associate degree, Szczepanik transferred to Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) where her OCC resume played a significant role in her success. “Because of my experiences I was able to apply for many scholarships and afford my education there. My involvement in clubs, PTK and the Honors program helped me distinguish myself from other applicants.” Szczepanik continued her spirit of involvement at RIT where she became president of her sorority, held down several jobs on campus and completed three paid internships. “Being a good student is important, but it is more necessary to show what makes you different. I was able to distinguish myself from other applicants and talk about so much more during my job interviews.”

While earning her bachelor’s degree in International Business with minors in New Media Marketing and Women & Gender Studies, Szczepanik turned her final internship into a position as a project manager with EffVision, a worldwide leader in IT and technical support solutions. She’s currently applying to graduate programs in the New York City area and plans to pursue a master’s degree in Business or Economics next year. She’s come a long way since her days on the OCC campus and is proud to share stories about her community college background with all who will listen. “OCC was essential for me to find out what I wanted to do and gain leadership experience. I proudly talk about it and recommend it to friends and family who are soon graduating high school. Sometimes people are surprised to learn I started at a community college, but I don’t feel ‘judged’ or ‘less.’ What speaks the loudest is your attitude and your work ethic.”

Impacting The Region

Onondaga Community College is creating a significant positive impact on the business community while generating a return on investment to its major stakeholder groups – students, taxpayers and society. Those are the findings of a study conducted during Fiscal Year 2017-18 by Economic Modeling Specialists International. Among the report’s highlights:

  • Impact on Business – OCC added $619.3 million in income to Central New York’s economy, approximately equal to 1.4% of the region’s total gross regional product.
  • Alumni Impact – The net impact of OCC’s former students currently employed in the regional workforce amounted to $496.6 million in added income.
  • Impact on Students – Each dollar students invested in their education will result in a return of $6.70 in higher future earnings. Students’ average annual rate of return is 21.7%.
  • Benefit to Taxpayers – For every dollar of public money invested in OCC, taxpayers received $3.90, translating to a 9.3% return on investment.
  • Benefit to Society – For every dollar invested in an OCC education, society received a cumulative value of $14.10 in return.

The results of this study demonstrate that OCC creates value from multiple perspectives. The college benefits regional businesses by increasing consumer spending in the region and supplying a steady flow of qualified, trained workers to the workforce. OCC enriches the lives of students by raising their lifetime earnings and helping them achieve their individual potential. The college benefits state and local taxpayers through increased tax receipts and a reduced demand for government supported social services. Finally, OCC benefits society as a whole in New York by creating a more prosperous economy and generating a variety of savings through the improved lifestyles of students.

Springboard to Success

Todd Williams was a star baseball pitcher at Onondaga Community College who played professionally and won an Olympic Gold Medal in 2000.

  • High School: East Syracuse Minoa
  • Attended OCC 1989 – 1991

Todd Williams has played in thousands of baseball games at every level, from little league to the big leagues. He played professionally for 18 years alongside future Hall of Famers in the world’s most famous stadiums and won an Olympic Gold medal. His time at OCC proved to be his launching pad to success.

Williams’ Los Angeles Dodgers baseball card.

During his senior year at East Syracuse Minoa High School Williams began being recognized for his talent on the baseball diamond. Professional teams were showing interest. Major League Baseball’s Minnesota Twins offered him a contract. But Williams decided it was best to come to Onondaga Community College where he could focus on being a student and an athlete. “In high school I did not apply myself. At OCC I knew fewer people and commuted so I focused more on the classwork.” In 1990 he was named OCC’s Student-Athlete of the Year. “That accomplishment ranks right up there with the gold medal and my professional accomplishments. People laugh but it was special because academics did not come easy for me like baseball did.”

After just missing out on the National Junior College Athletic Association World Series in 1989 and ’90, Williams was selected by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 54th round of the draft. He signed his first professional contract May 21, 1991 and was assigned to their minor league system. After two full years he was promoted to AAA, the highest level of minor league baseball.

Williams with the Baltimore Orioles.

Four years later, on April 29, 1995, Williams got his first shot at the majors by breaking camp with the Los Angeles Dodgers. His first game in uniform was also the first time he had ever been in a major league stadium. The opponent was the Atlanta Braves. “I remember, I struck out Javy Lopez to end the inning. I was excited but not overwhelmed in the moment because I always thought I deserved to be at that level.” Later in the season he would experience another moment he still remembers to this day. “In my first professional at bat I got a hit. Right after that there was a pitching change. While play was stopped I took my helmet off, looked around had the opportunity to take it all in. That moment is still with me to this day.”

Williams would also play professionally with Cincinnati and Seattle before being selected to play in the Pan Am Games in 1999 for Team USA. Even though they lost to Cuba in the Gold Medal game, the memories remain vivid two decades later. “The competition during that tournament remains the most intense because it marked the first time professional players were being used. We had the added pressure of finishing in the top two in order to qualify for the Olympic Games the following year in Australia.” Team USA would finish second to Cuba in those games and would go on to avenge their loss the following year by beating Cuba at the 2000 Olympic Games and win the gold medal.

Todd Williams (right) is pictured with his children: Trevor (in front), Trey (rear left) and Ally-Reese (center).

In 2001 Williams joined the New York Yankees and played for Hall of Fame Manager Joe Torre. He was even more excited to learn from Yankees bench coach and former player Willie Randolph who was his childhood hero. “Playing for the Yankees every day and putting on their pinstripe uniform was a dream come true. It was so surreal and something I will cherish forever, the old ballpark, the fans, the history – it was pretty incredible.”

Williams finished his career with the Baltimore Orioles in 2007. While serving time in AAA he became the all-time saves leader with 223. He admits it’s not glamorous but is still something to be proud of. “I look at that accomplishment and just say I was doing my job to the best of my ability and focused on what I could control.”

Despite traveling the world while playing the game that he loved, Syracuse and Central New York still remain close to his heart. “The people there treat me as ‘Todd,’ and not ‘baseball Todd.’ That was refreshing and provided me with an adrenaline boost and pushed me to compete at higher level not just for myself, but all of my supporters back home. I’ll never forget where I came from.” Today Williams resides in Florida and is busy with his three children who all excel as athletes.

Students Moving In

What to Bring & What not to Bring in the Residence Halls (Updated for 2019)

Students Moving In

Move-in Day is less than a month away. If you haven’t gotten some of the things you need for your college dorm, the next couple of weeks would be a good time to get that together. For a full list broken down by dorm, visit our What to Bring vs. What not to bring page. Each building has a little bit different rules so it’s important to check out the full list!

Here are a few major things you should bring:

  • Laptop computer
  • Surge protector
  • Bedding for XL twin bed
  • Dishes & silverware
  • Shower caddy & shoes
  • Laundry detergent & bag/basket
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Towels
  • Bathroom supplies (Toilet paper, 

And here’s what you shouldn’t bring:

  • Animals of any kind (unless an APPROVED Emotional Support Animal or Service Animal through the Office of Accessibility Resources)
  • Alcohol or other drugs and any AOD paraphernalia (including hookas)
  • Hoverboards
  • Dartboards with metal tips
  • Drums or DJ equipment
  • Extension cords or multi-plug outlets
  • Neon signs and any kind of string lights
  • Personal modems
  • Federal, state, college, local or other signs
  • Halogen lamps, lava lamps, torchiere lamps, octopus lamps, or other high-intensity lamps
  • Firearms, weapons or other dangerous instruments (paintball guns, BB guns, paintball guns, airsoft guns, knives, archery equipment, etc.)
  • Curtains, drapes, or tapestries (unless flame resistant with proof on tag)
  • Appliances with exposed coils (George Foreman Grills, Panini Grills, hotplates, etc.)
  • Candles, fireworks, explosives, charcoal/gas grills, oil lamps, incense, any combustible device, electric blankets, etc.
  • Indoor use of any athletic equipment (pull up bars, workout bench, etc.)
  • Air Conditioners and Space Heaters
  • Live-cut Christmas trees and any flammable decorations

“One Team” Serving New Students

Ryan Nellenback (left), OCC’s Director of Student Onboarding, is helping lead the One Team effort. He’s pictured with student Nathan Abdo in the Gordon Student Center Team Room.

Onondaga Community College’s new “One Team” initiative is giving incoming students personalized assistance as they navigate the registration process. Each new student is assigned a College employee who is a One Team member. That person becomes the student’s point of contact for anything he or she needs related to:

Sarah Gaffney

  • Financial Aid – Federal and State
  • Immunization Records
  • Certificate of Residence
  • Advisement

One Team members are constantly reaching out to their assigned students, making sure their questions are being answered and assisting them as needed. Our new One Team approach is the subject of this month’s edition of our podcast, “Higher Ed News You Can Use From Onondaga Community College.” Our guest is Sarah Gaffney, OCC’s Vice President of Finance and leader of One Team. You can listen to the podcast by clicking on this link. Enjoy the podcast!

Home Court Advantage

Fourteen of the 24 members of the crew which produced The Basketball Tournament telecasts for the ESPN family of networks were OCC alumni and/or faculty members. Most of them are pictured (above) at center court in the SRC Arena before the start of the tournament.

Onondaga Community College didn’t have a team competing in The Basketball Tournament, but thanks to a team of OCC Alumni and Faculty, all of the games were broadcast on the ESPN family of networks. When the $2 million dollar winner-take-all competition was held in OCC’s SRC Arena on the last weekend of July, 14 of the 24 television production crew members were affiliated with the College. “It was great national exposure for the campus and our Electronic Media Communications (EMC) program,” said class of 1983 and faculty member Tony Vadala. “We had graduates from 1971 to 2019 working together during the tournament.”

Dan Roach, ’79 operated a camera during the The Basketball Tournament.

The on-court headliner in the tournament was “Boeheim’s Army,” a team comprised mostly of former Syracuse University basketball players. Several team members play professionally abroad and enjoyed the opportunity to return to Central New York and reunite with former teammates. “It’s unique to have the basketball players coming back to their city where they went to college and a group of people returning to their alma mater to televise that very event,” said Mark Ballard, an OCC faculty member who works as a director on broadcasts across the region.

One of the crew members who returned home was Dan Roach (Liverpool HS), a 1979 graduate of OCC who operated a camera throughout the tournament. Roach still lives in Central New York but travels most often when he works for the Golf Channel and ESPN. “We all appreciate that we came from OCC and had the same learning experience. OCC was always about being hands-on which is how we learned the business so well. It wasn’t theory based, it was hands-on.”

Tommy Valentine, ’19 worked as a statistician during The Basketball Tournament.

Tommy Valentine was the youngest crew member to excel in OCC’s hands-on EMC program. The Chittenango High School graduate earned his OCC degree in May of this year. He was also named the top student in the EMC major. Valentine developed his skills quickly at OCC. “The first time you walked into the TV studio it was daunting. You had all of these lights and buttons and everything going on. They brought us right in, got us familiar with everything and our comfort with the equipment grew exponentially as we went on in the first semester. Before long it was, ‘okay I know how to do everything because we’ve gotten this practice right out of the gate.’ They let us make mistakes and learn what we needed to learn.”

Throughout Valentine’s two years on campus he took every opportunity to work on sports broadcasts. He was a behind-the-scenes regular at Syracuse University Football and Basketball games. He also worked at the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame inductions in Cooperstown the weekend before the TBT Tournament. He always found himself on live broadcasts with OCC faculty members which added to their credibility in the classroom. “To be able to listen to my professors in class and watch them execute it, to practice what they’re teaching, I knew if I followed their advice I could get to where they are. I knew what they were teaching was legitimate.”

Next month Valentine will transfer to St. Bonaventure University and major in Broadcast Journalism. He’s looking forward to new opportunities there, and to crossing paths with former Lazers while working at future sporting events. “OCC alumni are the best in the business. Every production I’ve worked on has included OCC alumni. The fact I get to be part of that prestigious culture means a lot to me. Professor Tony Vadala always says, ‘coast to coast, border to border, the OCC alumni are all over the country.’ To be part of that family means a lot to me.”

In the days leading up to the TBT Tournament, Valentine was a guest on a special iPhone edition of our podcast, “Higher Ed News You Can Use from Onondaga Community College.” You can listen to the podcast here.