Commencement 2015

Onondaga Community College held its 52nd Commencement ceremony Saturday, May 16 in the SRC Arena and Events Center. More than 1,500 students were eligible to walk across the stage and receive their degrees.

College President Dr. Casey Crabill addressed graduating students, telling them this accomplishment was just the beginning of their journey. “Earning your certificate or degree is not the end of your learning. You’ve achieved a significant milestone, but the most valuable thing you’ve achieved is you’ve learned how you learn. It’s something you will need to continue to do for the rest of your life in order to remain successful. You’ve learned to set a goal for yourself. You can manage your time and effort. You can bring resources together and you can get the job done.”

Dewayne Garner Jr.
Dewayne Garner Jr.

Graduating student Dewayne Garner Jr spoke to his classmates about his own journey from Cicero-North Syracuse High School to Onondaga. He admitted coming to OCC wasn’t his first choice but it wound up being his best. “I was an average student with an extraordinary dream of becoming a biomedical engineer. As time went by I saw that attending OCC was the best decision I have ever made. It has prepared me to achieve success.” Garner is a Mathematics and Science major who plans to transfer to a four-year institution, major in biomedical engineering, then advance to a Ph.D. program.

Members of OCC's first class of graduating students in the Nuclear Energy Technology major.
Members of OCC’s first class of graduating students in the Nuclear Energy Technology major.

The Class of 2015 included the College’s first-ever group of graduates in the Nuclear Technology major. The program was started in the fall 2013 semester in response to a workforce demand. Of the 13 graduating students, 11 have secured employment at local nuclear plants. The two other students are considering job offers and higher education opportunities. OCC is one of only 36 colleges in the nation to offer this degree program.

Gladys Thomas 014
Gladys Thomas

Other unique stories included Gladys Thomas, a 74-year-old cancer survivor who earned a degree in Professional Communication. “Miss Gladys,” as she is affectionately known, does volunteer work with women in her church and raises three adolescent grandchildren.

Shannon Houghton
Shannon Houghton

One of the youngest graduates was Shannon Houghton. In June 2014 she earned her high school diploma from Cicero-North Syracuse. Less than one year later she graduated from OCC with a degree in Humanities and an Honors Minor. Houghton came to OCC with 36 college credits which were earned through a combination of AP Classes and OCC’s College Credit Now program. During her one year on campus Houghton was inducted into international honor society Phi Theta Kappa. In the fall she will attend Binghamton University and pursue a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Her goal is to earn a master’s and become a psychologist.

Karim Abdel-Razek and his father, Osama Abdel-Razek check out Karim's poster at commencement.
Karim Abdel-Razek and his father, Osama Abdel-Razek check out Karim’s poster at commencement.

A colorful display of large posters which highlighted stories of graduating students greeted commencement attendees. The posters were placed around the second floor of the SRC Arena.

Retiring faculty members Ken Bobis and Sue Lamanna were co-Grand Marshal’s for commencement. Bobis was a professor in Architectural Technology and Interior Design who started at OCC in 1979. Lamanna was a professor in the Nursing major who began teaching at the College in 1998.

Honorary degrees were given to Timothy C. Penix, Vice President of the SUNY Syracuse Educational Opportunity Center (EOC) administered by Morrisville State College, located in Syracuse, and Deborah Stanley, President of SUNY Oswego.

Steve Einbinder

Steve Einbinder is a member of OCC’s initial graduating class of students in the Nuclear Energy Technology (NET) major. He first came to OCC in 1999 fresh out of Baker High School in Baldwinsville. He enrolled in Architectural Technology, but full-time work in the hotel industry pulled him away from his studies.

In 2011 Einbinder returned to OCC as a Mechanical Technology major. As he was nearing completion of his degree he learned OCC would be starting its NET program. “My father and brother both had nuclear backgrounds. My goal was to get into Nine Mile or one of the power plants. It’s very difficult to get into the industry. They are always looking for someone with a bachelor’s or master’s. To have a two-year program that gets you into the industry is a great thing.”

In May 2015 Einbinder will earn his second degree from OCC then go to work in the nuclear industry. As a 34-year-old father of three he’s proud of what he’s accomplished. “I thought when I was in college the first time and working full-time it was hard. It was even more difficult this time having to juggle work, college and family life.”

Matt Payne

Matt Payne will be a member of OCC’s first class of students graduating from the Nuclear Energy Technology degree program. The 44-year-old father of four saw the opportunity of a lifetime when the College started the program in the fall of 2013. Payne decided to return to school after 20 years in the workforce. “My biggest challenge was time management, having a family, and cutting back to working part-time. After the first couple weeks everything fell into place.”

During the summer of 2014 Payne completed a nine-week internship at Exelon Generation’s Nine Mile Point Nuclear Station in Scriba. He divided his time evenly among all three maintenance disciplines; instrument & controls, mechanical, and electrical and received hands-on experience working throughout the plant. “It was a great experience. I was surrounded by wonderful people in the safest environment I have ever worked in. It was confirmation I made the right choice pursuing this degree.”

Payne’s work toward his associate degree at OCC is just the beginning of his journey. “After I graduate and get a job in the nuclear industry I want to pursue a master’s in Electrical Engineering.”

Nuclear Energy Technology

Students enrolled in Onondaga’s Nuclear Energy Technology (NET) program received an extraordinary level of new financial and educational support.

In August 2014 the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) announced it would fund scholarships benefiting students in the NET major. The program will provide 10 first-year students with scholarships totaling 50% of in-county tuition and fees, and 12 returning students with funding which covers 100% of in-county tuition and fees.

Students in the NET program will also benefit from the contributions of Exelon Corporation, the nation’s leading competitive energy provider. Their generous contribution of $250,000 has provided student scholarships and a state-of-the-art Lab-Volt Process Workstation which brings nuclear plant operations into the classroom giving students the opportunity for hands-on learning.

During the summer eight Onondaga NET students completed a nine-week-long internship at Exelon Generation’s Nine Mile Point Nuclear Station in Scriba. Students divided their time evenly among all three maintenance disciplines; instrument & controls, mechanical, and electrical and received hands-on experience working throughout the plant. Three more Onondaga NET students interned at Nucor Steel of Auburn which has similar operational processes to a nuclear facility.

Onondaga’s NET program started in the fall 2013 semester in response to a workforce demand. The nuclear energy industry estimates approximately half of its workforce will be eligible to retire in the next 10 years. Students who successfully complete the two-year degree program will be eligible for a job at a nuclear facility with a starting salary of more than $50,000. Onondaga is one of only 36 colleges in the nation that offer the NET degree.