The OCC Effect: Mark Wolicki ‘01

Mark Wolicki ’01 on the set of The Ellen Show.

During his senior year at Marcellus High School, Mark Wolicki took advantage of an exploratory program the school offered with Onondaga Community College that set him on a path to success. “My meeting with the high school guidance counselor took all of five minutes,” Wolicki said. “I told her I was going to go to OCC and then work in television at NewsChannel 9 (WSYR TV).” Upon his arrival, Wolicki began taking classes in Coulter Library where the old studio resided for the former Radio and Television program. The following year, Wolicki and his fellow students were the first class to try out a new studio and equipment as part of the new program to replace Radio and Television, called Electronic Media Communications.

The combination of state-of-the-art equipment and expert faculty guidance placed Wolicki on a course to receive the advanced training and experience he needed for the professional world. “From day one, (professor) Tony Vadala became my mentor and helped me not only learn the new equipment, but opened the door to opportunities that allowed me to get jobs outside of school.” He recalls his first paid job was working a camera his freshmen year at the OCC Commencement Ceremony.

True to his word, he started at Channel 9 shortly after graduation and worked part-time in production. He would find his true passion by taking advantage of the flexible time between evening newscasts to learn about another television component, graphic design. “I had no professional training in graphics, but would visit the station’s graphic artist who would show me how to work the software,” he said. “After she would leave, I would  teach myself the elements to the point that when she went out on maternity leave a few months later, I was placed in her position until she came back.”

From there, Wolicki’s career began to fast track as he grew more comfortable with television graphics. His work soon caught the attention of the Athletic Department at Syracuse University where they contracted with him to create and produce all of the content for the Carrier Dome video boards for all home football, basketball and lacrosse games which still continues today.

In 2012 Wolicki decided to take a leap of faith and packed up and moved out to Los Angeles where he was able to settle and land his first job at Studio City, the production home for many daytime network talk shows. “For me, Studio City was an L.A. boot camp because I was able to come in, learn a lot, make some mistakes, but ultimately prove my worth.” At Studio City, Wolicki went to work on The Dr. Oz and The Ellen DeGeneres Shows, which garnered him and his promotional team two Prime Time Emmy Award Nominations for their work on the latter.  From there, he began work on a new show, The FABLife starring Tyra Banks. The show was cancelled after one season in 2016. For the rest of the year, he had his work with SU to fall back on and tried to apply to at least five job openings a week. He scheduled a lot of coffee and lunch dates to network his way into another job.

Shortly thereafter he received an email out of the blue from a former employer, Studio City, asking if he had ever thought about writing. The next week he interviewed for his current position, Creative Director of Marketing for The Ellen DeGeneres Show. After some negotiation for the next season, Wolicki signed on in a permanent capacity with the show. During his tenure at Ellen, Wolicki and his team have been nominated for a total of four Daytime Emmy Awards including three in 2018 and one for this season. When they were shutout of last year’s awards Wolicki and his team went from the awards ceremony to a nearby TGI Friday’s while dressed in their tuxedos. They ate onion rings and drank beer which is exactly what they plan on doing after this year’s awards show on Sunday May 5. “The competition is very tough in our category, but just being nominated really is an honor and does open a few more doors. Win or lose, we’ll still end up at TGI Friday’s for beer and onion rings, but we hope to bring some hardware with us this year!”

Andrew Casler


Andrew Casler
  • Major: Humanities & Social Sciences
  • High School: Marcellus, Class of 1980

Andrew Casler has done a little bit of everything. He’s a Veteran who has worked as an elevator mechanic, a pilot and a flight instructor. Today he’s a 56 year old college student pursuing a new career. “I did the right thing coming back to school. I’m not looking towards retirement. I want to keep working.”

Casler graduated from Marcellus High School in 1980 and decided to go directly into the workforce. Six years later he joined the United States Army and served as a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. While stationed there he earned an associate degree in Business from Methodist University in Fayetteville, NC.

After being honorably discharged from the Army, Casler returned to Central New York and took classes at OCC. He focused on the prerequisites he would need while working toward a bachelor’s degree from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, FL.

After working as a pilot and flight instructor along with spending 20 years as an elevator mechanic, Casler became interested in Nursing while serving in a variety of positions at Syracuse’s VA Hospital. In August he began taking classes at the College. He’s a Humanities & Social Sciences major and is focused on co-requisites for the Nursing program which he will be admitted to next fall.

Earlier this semester Casler was inducted into the College’s chapter of international honor society Phi Theta Kappa. “Getting inducted was a huge deal. I was shocked. I was a ‘B’ student in high school. I wasn’t big on school then but I became the first person in my family to go to college.”

Casler hopes to earn his Nursing degree in May 2020. He plans to work as an RN while continuing his education. “I’m interested in Psychiatric Nursing or becoming a Family Nurse Practitioner. One of my ultimate goals is to work on foreign or domestic missions. I want to go to where there is a need. I know there is a lot out there.

Women’s Tennis Team Earns First Regional Title In 26 Years

OCC’s Women’s Tennis team proudly displays its first Regional Championship trophy since 1992. The team is (left to right): Head Coach Matt Stevenson, Katie Lesselroth, Kaitlynn Ryan, Micah Mixon, Kennedy Myers, Talitha Freeman, Jennifer Lapp, Jordan Cole and Assistant Coach Kathleen Grimm.

Onondaga Community College’s Women’s Tennis team made history over the weekend. The Lazers won their first NJCAA Region III Championship since 1992 and second in program history.

The victory was a total team effort. Each of the seven members of the team earned either First Team or Second Team All-Region honors by making it to a championship match in either singles or doubles.  The Lazers competed in 8 of the 9 championship flights over the weekend and crowned 6 individuals in 4 separate flights.

On Saturday, the doubles pairing of Katie Lesselroth (Westhill HS) and Jennifer Lapp (Pulaski HS) capped an undefeated season with a championship at second doubles. Kaitlynn Ryan (Fulton HS) and Talitha Freeman (Westhill HS) were winners at third doubles, overcoming a team that had beaten them during the regular season.

After scoring an upset victory over the #2 seed in the semifinals, Micah Mixon (Marcellus HS) was eventually beaten by the #1 seed and 1st singles champion.  Katie Lesselroth (Westhill HS), Jennifer Lapp (Pulaski HS) and Kaitlynn Ryan (Fulton HS) also lost in the finals at 2nd, 3rd and 4th singles respectively.

Kennedy Myers (Mexico) HS, 5th singles, and Jordan Cole (Phoenix HS), 6th singles, won their championship matches on Sunday morning and those wins clinched the Regional Title for the Lazers.

Onondaga’s Matt Stevenson was named Region III Coach of the Year.

The Lazers will now prepare for the NJCAA National Championships which will be held in Peachtree City, GA November 2-4. Last year OCC finished 5th in the national tournament.

The members of the 2018 Women’s Tennis team and their high schools are:

  • Jordan Cole           Phoenix HS
  • Talitha Freeman     Westhill HS
  • Jenny Lapp            Pulaski HS
  • Katie Lesselroth     Westhill HS
  • Micah Mixon         Marcellus HS
  • Kennedy Myers     Mexico HS
  • Kaitlynn Ryan        Fulton HS

Good luck in the national tournament Lazers!

Raising a Champion

Mary and Hy Bryant hold a 1998 photo of their daughter Cara, son Huyland and granddaughter Kayla. The Bryant’s raised their granddaughter after Cara was the victim of a homicide.

Mary Bryant remembers her granddaughter Kayla’s reaction after she learned she had been named Most Valuable Player of the 2017 Cara Bryant Memorial Volleyball Tournament. “She said to me, ‘I hope I didn’t get this because of who I am.’ I told her, ‘No. It’s because of how good you are.’”

Kayla Bryant

Cara Bryant was a standout volleyball player at OCC who was the victim of a homicide in 2002. Kayla Bryant is her daughter. She was 5-years-old when her mother was taken from her. Kayla has been raised by her grandparents, Mary and Hy Bryant whom she refers to as her parents. “She calls us mom and dad and that’s fine and dandy,” said Mary. “That’s the role we have in her life. We feel like neither one of us is trying to replace Cara but Cara isn’t here so we have to be what we are.”

The Bryant’s are part of the fabric that makes up Onondaga Community College. Mary has been a professor in the Computer Studies major for more than 30 years. Hy started OCC’s volleyball program in 1982 and was its first coach. He also served as OCC’s Athletic Director on three separate occasions. The constant grind of recruiting which required him to drive all over New York State led Hy to step away from his coaching responsibilities at OCC and become volleyball coach at Marcellus High School where he would coach Cara.

Cara played “setter” which is considered to be volleyball’s most important position. “The setter has to get ready, look at the other team, where the blockers are, who’s in the front row, who your dominant hitters are and know what plays you’re going to run,” said Hy. Cara would excel as Marcellus’ setter, graduate in 1994 and go on to play the same position at OCC.

Kayla Bryant

Thanks to Hy’s involvement with the Marcellus volleyball program the sport was a constant in Kayla’s life. “I would always go to the games,” Kayla said. “I was the ball girl and the players would always hang out with me.”

As Kayla got older she would play volleyball year round and develop into an outstanding player. Like Cara, she excelled at the position of setter. “I wanted to play through her and for her. I think being a setter was just kind of a given,” said Kayla.

Kayla graduated from Marcellus High School in 2016 and decided to attend Onondaga Community College. “We were so pleased Kayla decided to come to OCC,” Mary said. “She could have gone somewhere else and done well but she would have never been a part of the tournament named after her mother.”

The College started hosting an annual volleyball tournament in 1986. After Cara’s death in 2002, then Athletic Director Bob McKenney reached out to the Bryant’s with the idea of putting Cara’s name on the event.

Despite OCC being the home team every year, it hadn’t won its own tourney since 1999. That changed in October 2017 when Kayla Bryant led her team to the tournament championship and was named tournament MVP. “Kayla was steady, smart and very cool out there,” said Hy. “She was a very good court general or quarterback.”

Kayla Bryant’s MVP trophy from the tournament named after her mother.

Kayla’s performance in the Cara Bryant Memorial Tournament mirrored her sophomore season. She led the Lazers to the conference regular season and tournament titles, was named conference player of the year, conference tournament MVP and first team All-Region.

With her sophomore season behind her Kayla is looking to the future. She’s a General Studies major who plans to transfer to SUNY Alfred in the fall and continue her volleyball career. She also hopes to continue to incorporate the past into her future by wearing number 8, the same number her mother wore. “I’ve always worn 8. It’s a really valuable symbol to me. That’s our number. People say we share a lot of on-court qualities. It’s nice we had the chance to connect on the volleyball court.”

After Cara Bryant’s death a fund was started through the OCC Foundation in her memory. The fund recently became endowed and that money will be used each year to support the Women’s Volleyball program. If you would like to contribute to this fund or support OCC students in other ways, you can do so by donating online. You can also reach the OCC Foundation via email at

Dinyar Vania, ’99

  • Major at OCC: Music with a specialization in Voice
  • High School: Marcellus

Dinyar came to OCC with the dream of being a percussionist. OCC’s Music faculty discovered he had enormous potential as a vocalist and worked with him to enhance those skills. “Everyone was extremely supportive. There were many positive influences and that really went a long way in my development and growth. I received the best education of my life at OCC.” Vania is now an opera tenor and one of the most sought after talents throughout the United States and Europe. In 2015 he was named one of the College’s distinguished Alumni Faces. During the induction ceremony he joined Student Vocalist Brittany Montpetit, ’16 (Cicero-North Syracuse High School), the OCC Concert Choir and Pianist Katharine Ciarelli under the direction of Conductor David J. Rudari, D.M.A. in a performance of Brindisi from LA TRAVIATA. You can view the performance here.

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

Preparing for Takeoff

OCC Lazernaut team members use a chemical reaction to create a comet-like surface to test the anchoring device they have created.

OCC’s NASA Team is on the brink of the trip of a lifetime. In May six students will travel to NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Lab at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. They’ll bring with them a device they’ve created which astronauts will use in an underwater experiment. “As we work on this project we’re experiencing what a real work environment is like,” said team co-leader Natalia Montilla. “We’re all playing important roles, making sure we’re hitting deadlines and everything is working. We’re really excited to go.”

Planning began last October when OCC was selected to be one of more than two dozen teams which would submit designs for tools or devices which astronauts would use during explorations. Most of the schools selected were prestigious four-year college and universities with large budgets. Only three community colleges were selected.

OCC’s six-person team named itself the “Lazernauts.” They began working on an anchoring device that would hold packages on the surface of a comet, asteroid or small moon. Team co-leader Brian Richardson used a computer program to design a hand-powered auger. It needed to meet specific size, weight and strength specifications.

The Lazernauts used a 3-D printer to create an auger made out of Acrylonitrile-Butadiene-Styrene, or ABS plastic. It’s the type of material used to make Lego’s. Each design was thoroughly tested and analyzed. Throughout the process the team stayed in touch with a NASA Astronaut who served as their team mentor. The astronaut gave advice and made sure they were staying on schedule.

The Lazernauts also created a hard substance for the auger to drill into which would simulate the surface of a comet or small planet. The process included the mixing of dry ice with hot water, creating the type of fog show you might see at a concert.

Throughout the next month-and-a-half OCC’s team will continue to test and tweak their design. They are also doing public outreach, making presentations to clubs and libraries about their efforts. In April WSYR-TV Newschannel 9 came to campus and did a story on OCC’s NASA Team for that evenings 6pm newscast. You can view the story here.

When they travel to Houston the Lazernauts will watch an astronaut dive into a 40-foot-deep pool and attempt to use their auger in wet sand. The astronaut will wear a GoPro camera. The OCC students will be in a control room, communicating with the astronaut.

OCC’s Lazernauts are:

  • Natalia Montilla, team co-leader               Nottingham High School
  • Brian Richardson, team co-leader             Liverpool High School
  • Nathan Johnson                                            Homeschooled
  • Allan O’Mara                                                  Homeschooled
  • Neil Minet                                                       Marcellus High School
  • Doug Weaver                                                  Chittenango High School

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Sandy Klinzman

Sandy Klinzman
Sandy Klinzman
  • High School: Marcellus
  • Major at OCC: Criminal Justice

Sandy Klinzman has a simple message for all students at OCC. “Get involved! Everything you do on campus can impact your life. There are so many opportunities. If you want something changed, change it!” Klinzman is leading by example. She’s President of the Student Association which provides programming and services to students across campus. Being a student leader is something which seemed unimaginable to her not long ago.

In 1997 Klinzman dropped out of Marcellus High School. She chose to earn her GED rather than keep attending school. By her own admission she was going through a selfish phase which would set her back many years.

Two years later Klinzman became a mom. As her daughter became school-aged Klinzman started considering her own education. “I started to think, ‘I should probably set a good example for her. I wanted her to know if you decide not to go to college right after high school it’s not the end of the world. It’s never too late to go back and make something of yourself.”

Klinzman began taking classes at OCC in 2013. She was a Humanities major focused on getting her education and little else. “When I first started here I had tunnel vision. I didn’t make any friends. I didn’t interact with many people. I took my classes and I left.”

Her love of crime-related television shows would ultimately change everything. Klinzman took a Criminal Justice class, enjoyed it and decided to join the Criminal Justice Club on campus. Thanks to the encouragement of Professors Jessica Field and Peter Patnode she took a leadership position in the organization. “I started interacting with people and doing more things on campus.”

It was Patnode who ultimately convinced Klinzman to pursue the position of Student Association President. His confidence in her is something she will be eternally grateful for.  “He told me I would be a great fit and I really appreciate that. He and Professor Field made me feel comfortable and made me feel the Criminal Justice major would be right for me. They are so ‘all about the students.’”

Twenty years after dropping out high school Klinzman will earn her associate degree this May. Her daughter, Sklyer Thorpe is now a junior at Marcellus who studies Cosmetology at OCM BOCES. She plans to attend OCC and pursue a Business degree. Her mother’s decision to go to college and get involved has made a difference. “If I hadn’t taken that one Criminal Justice class I would have never gotten into the field I’m interested in getting into now. It’s so important to interact with people. This is your college experience. Make the most of it because this experience doesn’t come to everybody. It’s an opportunity not to be wasted.”

Our NASA Team

OCC's NASA Team is (standing left to right): Doug Weaver, Brian Richardson, Natalia Montilla, Nathan Johnson, Neil Minet and Allan O'Mara. Seated is Dr. Fred Jaquin, Faculty Mentor.
OCC’s NASA Team is (standing left to right): Doug Weaver, Brian Richardson, Natalia Montilla, Allan O’Mara, Neil Minet and Nathan Johnson. Seated is Dr. Fred Jaquin, Faculty Mentor.

NASA needed ideas. The organization sent out a nationwide request asking college students to submit designs for tools or devices which astronauts would use during exploration. Proposals were due by November 1. NASA reviewed the ideas and selected more than two dozen colleges and universities to participate in the project.

The list included prestigious four-year schools like Cornell University, Columbia University and Rochester Institute of Technology. There were also three two-year schools chosen including Onondaga Community College. “We’re all pretty proud of this,” said OCC team co-leader Brian Richardson. “Sometimes there can be a stigma towards community colleges. This shows that stigma has no validity.”

Richardson played a key role in the selection process. In the spring 2016 semester he was one of five OCC students chosen to participate in NASA’s Community College Aerospace Scholars Program. Richardson took part in special courses and traveled to a NASA facility where he worked side-by-side with engineers.

During the fall semester he was contacted about another opportunity. “I received an email from NASA about this project asking if we’d like to try it out.” Richardson asked Chemistry and Physical Science Chair Dr. Fred Jaquin if he would be the faculty mentor. “I agreed to do it. Brian said he would work on putting a team of students together and creating a proposal,” said Jaquin.

NASA’s project was called Micro-g NExT. The term “Micro-g” represented a very low gravity environment. “NExT” stood for Neutral buoyancy Experiment design Teams. NASA needed student teams to submit designs for one of three things:

  • An anchoring device that would hold packages on the surface of a comet, asteroid or small moon.
  • A surface sampling tool astronauts would use to scoop up surface soil samples from the aforementioned bodies.
  • A sub-surface sampling device that would maintain the stratigraphy of the cored sample.

Richardson assembled a team of six students. They submitted a proposal for an anchoring device which would hold packages on the surface of a comet, asteroid or small moon. “It will be a manually operated auger-like device which comes with very specific design requirements,” said Jaquin. For example, the device must fit in a 10-inch by 10-inch by 18-inch box. It cannot have any sharp edges protruding which could damage an astronaut’s suit. It also must be neutrally buoyant so if the astronaut lets go of it underwater it won’t sink or float to the top.

The proposal also required a community outreach plan and a budget which would cover manufacturing costs. In early December OCC’s team got the news it was hoping for. Its proposal had been selected. “It was very exciting,” said Jaquin.

Being selected means OCC’s team will be traveling to Texas in May. Students will spend four days at NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Lab at the Johnson Space Center in Houston where they will see astronauts use what they have designed. Team members will stand side-by-side with NASA Engineers and students from colleges across the country. Between now and then students will be working on designing and testing their device. NASA has given all of the participating colleges and universities a strict timeline to follow throughout the process.

Natalia Montilla is also the OCC team’s co-leader. She’s ready for the challenge that lies ahead. “This is a great opportunity for us to show what we can do coming from a community college in upstate New York. We see all of the top universities taking part in it. We’re excited to meet new people, meet NASA Engineers and learn what they do. We’re excited to go out there and use our minds.”

Below is a slideshow with each of the team members photos. Beneath that is a list of the colleges and universities selected to participate in NASA’s Micro-g NExT program.

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  • Alabama
  • Alaska-Anchorage
  • Arizona State
  • Art Institute of Seattle
  • University of Buffalo
  • UCLA
  • UC-Riverside
  • Coastal Bend College
  • Columbia
  • Cornell
  • Embry-Riddle
  • Grand Valley State
  • Illinois
  • Kapiolano CC
  • Maryland
  • Nebraska
  • Ohio State
  • Old Dominion
  • Onondaga Community College
  • Purdue
  • Rochester Institute of Technology
  • Salt Lake CC
  • Texas A&M
  • Univ of Texas at Dallas
  • Univ of Texas at El Paso
  • Univ of Texas at Rio Grande Valley
  • Virginia Tech
  • Wentworth Institute of Technology

SUNY Oswego in Syracuse


OCC Alumna Leea Sinay is pursuing her bachelor's degree at SUNY Oswego's Metro Center in downtown Syracuse.
OCC Alumna Leea Sinay is pursuing her bachelor’s degree at SUNY Oswego’s Metro Center in downtown Syracuse.

Leea Sinay always wanted to earn a bachelor’s degree. Her challenge was figuring out how to do so close to her Onondaga County roots. SUNY Oswego’s Metro Center, located in downtown Syracuse, turned out to be exactly what she was looking for. “I have a very busy schedule. This is great because it accommodates my schedule and everything I have going on.”

Sinay was an outstanding scholastic athlete who graduated from Marcellus High School in 2010 and chose to attend Wagner University to play lacrosse. After one year she decided to return to Central New York. Sinay transferred to Onondaga Community College, was named a first team All-American in lacrosse and was a key member of the 2012 National Championship team. She earned a degree in Humanities in May 2012, considered an offer to play Division I lacrosse but decided to stay in the area.

Sinay remained with OCC’s Women’s Lacrosse program, working as an assistant coach under Tom MacDonald. Their conversations regularly included a reminder from MacDonald she needed to pursue a bachelor’s degree. “He always stayed on me about getting my education knowing that if I wanted to be a head coach somewhere I would need my four-year degree. I always wanted to continue going to school but I needed to find the right situation.”

The right situation turned out to be SUNY Oswego’s Metro Center, located in the Atrium Building at 2 Clinton Square in downtown Syracuse. Sinay transferred there and her life schedule fell into place. She’s working part-time nearby at National Grid, taking two classes at the Metro Center and taking two more classes online, all while continuing to coach women’s lacrosse at OCC. “It’s so great. I can work most of the day, walk right over from National Grid for class then head up to OCC to coach lacrosse. It’s perfect. I don’t have to travel a lot and I’m getting my four-year degree.” Sinay is a Business Administration major who will graduate in the spring of 2018.

The SUNY Oswego Metro Center is home to 14 bachelor’s, master’s and advanced certificate programs. For more information on Metro Center higher education options which may fit your schedule call (315) 399-4100, email and visit the Metro Center website.

Neil Minet

Neil Minet
Neil Minet
  • High School: Marcellus, Class of 2016
  • Major at OCC: Mathematics & Science with a Physics specialization and an Honors minor

Neil Minet will earn a degree from OCC less than a year after graduating from high school. How will he do it? Like many students Minet took classes in high school which qualified for college credit. He also took courses on the OCC campus each of the last three summers. By the time the fall 2016 semester started Minet had already accumulated more than 40 college credits.

Minet is interested in a career in physics. His goal was reaffirmed October 1 when he attended a TED Talk on campus and listened to a presentation by Sal Khan on reinventing education. “It was very inspirational. I want to teach and do research. You can see two people teach the same course. One may seem very meaningful and one may not. It’s about making education meaningful.”

Minet has found OCC’s professors to be outstanding. “They’re great here. They really really know their stuff.” As does Minet who will be inducted into international honor society Phi Theta Kappa November 1.

Minet is taking 23 credits this semester. In his “spare time” he loves to pick up a guitar and play the blues. During the summer he was awarded the KJ James Memorial Scholarship and performed at the New York State Blues Festival in downtown Syracuse. James is considered to be the father of Syracuse’s blues scene. “The whole weekend was really cool! I got to play on the main stage and at Dinosaur both Friday and Saturday night’s. I’ve always said if a career playing guitar is possible I’m going for it.” You can watch video of Minet playing guitar here. He’s incredibly talented!