Two of the highlights of Edwin Michel’s life happened in OCC’s Storer Auditorium. In April he was inducted into the College’s chapter of international honor society Phi Theta Kappa. A year-and-a-half earlier, in November of 2016, Michel became a United States citizen during a naturalization ceremony there. “It was amazing becoming a citizen. I love America, the freedoms it gives you and your rights. It’s a great country.”
Michel is from Autlan, Jalisco in Mexico, the same town legendary guitarist Carlos Santana hails from. Michel attended college after high school but wasn’t ready. “I did not like it and I did not do well. All of my grades were really bad.”
Michel joined the United States Army and did three tours of duty in Afghanistan. While a member of Fort Drum’s 10th Mountain Division he met the woman who would become his wife. After he completed his military service they married and settled in Central New York.
He took a job working construction but his mind was elsewhere. “My wife had come to school here and earned a Nursing degree. She told me OCC was a great school and I should try it.” His wife, Grace Michel, now works as a Nurse Practitioner.
He examined the list of majors OCC offered and decided to enroll in Computer Forensics in time for the spring 2017 semester. College went much better for him the second time around. “I had more discipline thanks to my time in the Army. When I came back to school I felt better about myself.” He was also aided by faculty members who were always willing to assist. “All of my teachers were amazing. If I asked for help they helped me out. Teachers actually encouraged us to ask questions.”
In the fall the 31-year-old Michel will be a student at Le Moyne College. He plans to major in Cyber Security and hopes to one day deter criminals from stealing information and shutting down websites.
Major at OCC: Business Administration with an Honors minor
High School: Faith Heritage, class of 2016
Michaela is a Business major whose decision to come to OCC was a business decision. “My senior year I applied to eight colleges. It came down to OCC and Le Moyne. On the day I graduated from high school I decided to come to OCC. I was hoping to get a little more money from Le Moyne.”
Her decision has worked out well. She successfully transitioned from a graduating class of 15 students to a college with an enrollment around 12,000. “In high school I saw the same people in every class. It was a huge change coming here and seeing different people in every class. I’m a very independent person. I felt comfortable fitting in pretty quickly.”
Michaela is a member of international honor society Phi Theta Kappa and an officer in the Student Association where she is Vice President of Entertainment and Programming. “As a business major I know business is all about networking and getting to know people. I thought being an officer would be a good opportunity to network and build a better relationship with the community. I wanted to get student input and help plan events on campus.” Besides being a full-time student and a student government representative Michaela also works part-time at the Broadway Valley Coffee Café, a wonderful eatery behind Arctic Island in the Valley section of Syracuse.
Michaela will finish at OCC next spring, then transfer to Le Moyne. By then she’ll know if she’ll pursue a degree in business or accounting. In the meantime she’s confident her decision to spend her first two years at OCC was the right call. “Coming here is a really smart choice. You save money earning credits and having them transfer with you. I’ve encouraged my family members to come to OCC too.” They’re taking her advice. A sister and cousin will be freshmen at OCC in the fall 2018 semester.
Morgan Chapman’s dream school was always Le Moyne College. It still is and thanks to OCC he will get there eventually. “In high school I cared more about sports than grades. My best friend wound up going to Le Moyne. He told me there was a community college nearby so I researched OCC and here I am.”
Coming to OCC turned out to be Chapman’s best move. “Once I got here my entire mindset about school changed completely. I started working very hard. Just getting perspective and positive reinforcement made such a difference. I’m locked in and focused on doing the best I can.”
Chapman’s hard work has earned him membership in international honor society Phi Theta Kappa. He’s found a home in the Electronic Media Communications (EMC) major. “I’ve met so many people in EMC who are so dedicated. The professors in my major are always willing to stay late. It’s great to know how much they care and how much they all want to see me succeed.
Chapman will earn his degree next May. He plans to transfer to Le Moyne and eventually enter a career related to sports broadcasting.
Onondaga Community College annually recognizes distinguished graduates by naming them ”Alumni Faces” for their accomplishments and contributions to the community. The 2016 class will be honored during a ceremony October 26 at 5:30 p.m. in the Recital Hall which is located in the Academic II building. One of the graduates we will honor that night is Michael Meath.
Communication is key for Michael Meath ’87. It’s been a constant throughout his professional life as he’s experienced a high level of success. “You can have all the skills and knowledge in the world but if you cannot effectively communicate with others, than you will never be able to get your ideas heard or supported.” He’s turned his outstanding communication skills into a nearly 40 year career that has spanned health care, energy, and education; and as a consultant sought by hundreds of organizations around the country dealing with sensitive or crisis situations.
Meath is a Central New York native who graduated from Bishop Grimes High School in 1975. After two years at Le Moyne College and some volunteer work in the Gulf Coast, he took a job as a building manager for the Syracuse Diocese and then Loretto. While working at Loretto, he decided he should learn more about fire and life safety, especially with at-risk populations. That’s when he enrolled in OCC’s Fire Protection Technology program. After earning his degree he spent two years working as a loss control consultant for The Hartford insurance company, then director of health and safety for Agway, Inc. Each step up the career ladder came with more responsibilities. During the next few years, he began working with legislators and regulators on behalf of Agway, handling public relations as a spokesperson for the company, and responding to crisis situations. Along the way, he continued his education and picked up a SUNY bachelor’s degree in Business Management and Economics, and a master’s degree in Communications Management from Syracuse University.
Meath rose to the level of vice president at Agway Energy Products and led the development of a new company, which was ultimately sold along with other Agway businesses in 2003. It was the perfect time for him to strike out on his own. “My work in corporate communications, government relations, and new business development turned me on to a new business model that focused on crisis management and communications.” He started his own business, Strategic Communications, LLC, which he would quietly build into a highly sought after consulting firm for organizations trying to navigate sensitive and confidential situations. Meath would own and operate Strategic Communications for eleven years. In 2014 he sold the company as two separate businesses to two trusted employees in Syracuse and Washington, DC. Meath works as a senior adviser to both, and has a small handful of his own clients around the United States. For the past ten years, he’s been an active adjunct professor in ethics, strategic management and crisis communications at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communications, and an affiliated program at McMaster University in Hamilton, ON.
Meath says time spent on Onondaga’s campus in the 1980s built the foundation for his successful career. “Without a doubt, OCC helped me focus my career and further education – and helped shape my interest in dealing with crisis situation decision making. There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t utilize these teachings in what I am doing. To receive an Alumni Faces award is a tremendous honor. In addition, I feel a special connection with Onondaga each time I walk the bridge that stretches over the gorge. My father, who passed away more than 25 years ago, was president of the company that built that bridge, so I feel a closeness to him each time I am on campus.”
Storer Auditorium was filled with friends, family and well-wishers Wednesday night as December graduates were honored during a Recognition Ceremony.
Graduating student Amanda Guereschi addressed her classmates. She reflected on her journey both as a person and a student. She thanked her professors for the critical role they played in her development. “The faculty at Onondaga Community College has never disappointed me with their ability to be both teacher and student,” she said. “They have always been open to opinion, imagination, and good discussion, encouraging me to find my truth. So my answer to this life, my truth I found here has come organically with the aid of our teachers. They have guided me to challenge myself to explore which has brought me good grades and two wonderful transfer opportunities, and hopefully further degrees and a job that fills me with passion but success is left for us to define as individuals.” Guereschi is a 2003 alum of Chittenango High School who majored in Liberal Arts and Humanities with an Honors minor. She was a member of international honor society Phi Theta Kappa and the Politics Club. She will transfer to either Syracuse University or Le Moyne College for the spring 2016 semester.
The night also featured the presentation of a special award. James F. Holland, Executive Vice President of SRC, Incorporated received an honorary doctorate degree for his numerous contributions to the College. This is the highest form of recognition offered by the State University of New York to persons of exceptional distinction.
OCC’s signature Music program had a significant role in the ceremony. Associate Professor Music David J. Rudari, D.M.A. performed the National Anthem at the beginning of the event and the Alma Mater at the end. Also the OCC Guitar Ensemble performed Remembrance by Professor of Mathematics Joseph Browne.
Student newspaper “The Overview” was well represented at the Syracuse Press Club’s annual Professional Recognition Awards ceremony Saturday, May 2 at Drumlins in Dewitt. In the “Student contest” portion of the awards OCC earned four awards.
Best Print News Story:
First place – Jay Ciarpelli for “Food Prices Added, Food Prices Adjusted.” Ciarpelli is a 2009 Cicero-North Syracuse High School graduate who earned a Liberal Arts degree from OCC in May 2014. In the fall Ciarpelli will transfer to the University of South Florida where he will major in American Sign Language.
Second place – Nicole Moore for “College Sets Goal of Higher Graduation Rates for ’16.” Moore came to OCC from Fuquay-Varina High School in North Carolina. She earned a Communications degree from OCC in May 2014 and is currently majoring in Public Relations at SUNY Oswego.
Best Print Feature Story:
First place – Maeve Byrne for “When a Loved One Dies, Share Feeling and Concerns, Counselor Says.” Byrne is a 2013 graduate of Westhill High School. After attending OCC she transferred to Le Moyne where she is scheduled to graduate in December 2016 with a communications major and a creative writing minor.
Second place – Kevin Putnam for “Bartending Class Teaches More Than Mixing Drinks.” Putnam is a 2011 graduate of Fayetteville-Manlius High School who graduated from OCC in May 2014 with a Liberal Arts degree. He’s presently a junior at Le Moyne majoring in accounting.
Faculty advisors to The Overview are Professors Laurel Saiz and Tom Boll, both of whom had successful tenures at Syracuse’s Post Standard. Saiz was a reporter there and Boll was an editor.
Rick Shirtz has climbed to the top of his profession. He’s a Regional President at NBT Bank overseeing commercial banking for 20 branches in Oswego, Onondaga and Madison counties. NBT, an $8 billion dollar institution, is headquartered in Norwich and has branches in six states. “I’m very fortunate to be where I am. I’ve had opportunities to go elsewhere but am very happy here,” said Shirtz.
Shirtz was the youngest of six children. He graduated from Bishop Ludden high school in 1975 and enrolled in OCC’s Criminal Justice major with dreams of becoming a New York State Trooper. As he examined career options he made the decision to change majors. “The education at OCC was very good and extremely flexible. I transitioned to Business Administration but was still able to graduate in two years.”
Shirtz transferred to Le Moyne College and pursued his four-year degree. In between going to class and studying he worked part-time as a loan adjustor at Key Bank. After graduating he went into Key Bank’s management training program and went to Syracuse University part time. Six years later he earned his master’s in business.
In the late 1980s Shirtz taught a couple of general banking courses at OCC, enjoyed the experience and hopes he can do it again some day. “I’d love the opportunity to return to OCC, teach again and do some career counseling when things slow down and I retire.”
Throughout Shirtz’s lengthy career he’s worked for all different types of managers and come up with own style. “I believe in leading by example. People need to see I’m working hard and getting things done on time.” He also favors an open door policy. “You have to be accessible to employees. If you aren’t you won’t be successful.”
Shirtz has advice for anyone considering a career in finance, and its transferrable to practically any career:
• Maintain flexibility
• Maintain contacts
• Be well rounded
Nearly 40 years after graduating from OCC, Shirtz remains a big believer in all of the opportunities at the College and offers a story from his own family as proof. “My oldest daughter transferred into OCC mid-year after her first semester at an out-of-town school that wasn’t a great “fit”. A year-and-a-half later she graduated, transferred to (SUNY) Cortland, got her master’s and is now a teacher in the Westhill School District. Everything she needed to start her college education was right here. She just had to go away to figure it out.”
Education: B.S., Le Moyne College; M.L.S., Syracuse University
History at OCC: I was hired as the Electronic Resources Librarian in 2002. I managed Coulter Library’s media-reserve department, library website, and electronic resources until 2012. I am currently the Library Department Chair and I continue to manage the library website.
Favorite Student Story: I find it rewarding when we are successful at creating library experiences big and small that encourage life-long learning and community building outside the classroom that connects students, faculty, staff and local community members in ways they may not typically interact. One example of this is our Human Library event. Students have stated that they like “checking out” a person for a conversation about a particular topic. They find that they learn about the topic in a completely new and personal way.
Little-Known Fact: I love to play and create all kinds of games. I have created games for my neighborhood block parties, personal exercise-related games, and I even had the wonderful experience of creating a campus-wide game to celebrate our college’s 50th anniversary.
Meaningful Experiences Outside Education: I am the social media volunteer for the YMCA Folksmarch Walking Club. In this role I manage their Facebook and Twitter accounts. The part I enjoy most is helping members learn about and use social media.
Lindsey Markell has turned a valuable internship into a job. Markell is a 2010 graduate of Cicero-North Syracuse High School and a Business Administration major at OCC.
Markell interned at the AmeriCU financial center on the Onondaga campus. She impressed her supervisor and earned a job at AmeriCU’s Cicero financial center. “My experience interning with AmeriCU was very successful. I want to become an accountant. OCC is the most feasible way to get from an associate to a bachelor’s to a master’s,” said Markell.
She’s on schedule to graduate in December 2014, then take advantage of the College’s “2+2 partnership agreement” and transfer to Le Moyne College.
When you support Onondaga Community College, you are making a statement that you believe in the importance of quality affordable education for everyone. You are creating new opportunities and new beginnings for students and our greater community.