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.

Amanda Tetro

Amanda Tetro
  • Major: Nuclear Technology
  • High School: Fulton, Class of 2012

The future is much clearer for Amanda Tetro now. Next May she’ll earn her degree in Nuclear Technology. During the summer she’ll begin working in the nuclear industry. It’s much different from the uncertain path she was on just a couple of years ago.

Tetro graduated from Fulton High School in 2012 and enrolled at Syracuse University. She earned a degree four years later but with no great job opportunities and college loans coming due, she went to work in the service industry.

Tetro had family contacts in the nuclear industry and one day got a call about coming to work at a nuclear plant during an outage, or scheduled refueling and maintenance. “The first time I did it I worked as a janitor. The second time I got to issue test equipment to people. I decided I wanted to stay there and keep working. The culture was so much different compared to anywhere I had ever worked. Nuclear is so much about safety and taking your time and doing it right.”

Tetro had heard about OCC’s Nuclear Technology program and decided to give it a try in the fall of 2017. She found the major to be even more than she hoped for. “I love that we have people who are from the industry who teach us. They’re so knowledgeable because they’ve lived it. They have a sense of the greater scheme of what we want to do. The effort they put in to get you opportunities in the plant gives you a sense of whether you want to be there. It’s an invaluable experience compared to what I had known from college previously.”

During this past summer, Tetro interned at Nine Mile nuclear plant and found it reinforced her career goals. “It was great. I was allowed to go so many places I couldn’t go when I was just a contractor there. It was a great experience. I went onto the refueling floor and into the control room. It went very smoothly.”

As one of the top students in the Nuclear Technology major Tetro is serving as the Student Representative for this academic year. She attends advisory meetings for the program and helps make decisions which will impact its future.

You can learn more about OCC’s Nuclear Technology major here.

Raeann Ouderkirk

  • Major: Nuclear Technology
  • High School: Mexico, class of 2016

Raeann Ouderkirk is on the brink of beginning a career in the nuclear industry. It’s a career which was recommended to her by an annual visitor to her family’s home in Oswego County. “We have a friend who is a contractor for nuclear plants who is always moving around. Every summer he would come and stay at our house while he was working at the local plants. He suggested I go into nuclear. We checked it out and I decided to try it out.”

Ouderkirk came to OCC in the fall of 2016 and has excelled in the Nuclear Technology major. Last summer she was selected for an internship at Nine Mile Point nuclear facility. During her two months there she spent time in electrical maintenance, mechanical maintenance, instrument and control maintenance, and operations.

Ouderkirk will earn her degree in May. She hopes to get a job at Nine Mile working in electrical maintenance or instrument and control maintenance. “I’m very satisfied with where I’m heading. I would tell anyone interested in Nuclear Technology to be prepared to study every minute of the day and ask questions when you’re confused.

You can learn more about the College’s Nuclear Technology program here.

Graduating into the Workforce

Professor Tab Cox (right) teaches students enrolled in the Nuclear Technology major.

It almost sounds too good to be true.

If you love algebra, Onondaga Community College has a two-year degree program which can help you qualify for a job with a starting salary of more than $50,000 a year.

It’s the Nuclear Technology major. The program was created five years ago in response to a workforce demand. Exelon, which operates the Nine Mile and Fitzpatrick nuclear plants, estimated approximately half of its workforce would be eligible to retire in the next 10 years.

The Nuclear Technology major can only accept 24 students a year. Each class contains students of all ages. “We’ve had students right out of high school and we’ve had students who already had bachelor’s degrees and couldn’t get jobs,” said Woody Everett, Coordinator of the Nuclear Technology major. “They took their nuclear classes and two years later were working.”

Zach Phillips

Each summer eight students are chosen for internships at Nine Mile nuclear plant. They are paid $17.51 an hour and spend time working in different areas including electrical maintenance, mechanical maintenance, instrument and control maintenance, and operations. Zach Phillips (Fulton H.S.), who will earn his degree this May, found the internship opportunity to be exactly what he was looking for. “While I was there I knew it was right for me. I asked a lot of questions and pestered people every day. I also met several former OCC students who are established there. I learned a lot from them and they are doing well there.”

The adjunct professors in the Nuclear Technology major are experts in the field. They are all currently employed at the nuclear plant. In some respects, the classes are an extended job interview. “The people who are going to be deciding whom gets hired already know our students before they apply,” said Everett.

When it’s time to hire, OCC’s students are extremely desirable. “They love our students because they’re local. They have family here, they know what the weather is like here and they want to be here. Often times when they hire someone from outside the area they leave after six months because they don’t like the winters,” said Everett.

Students majoring in Nuclear Technology also take several Electrical Technology courses. Their diverse skill set has led to job opportunities outside the nuclear industry at strong Central New York companies including Huhtamaki, Ingersoll Rand and Nucor.

You can learn more about the Nuclear Technology major here.

You can learn more about the Electrical Technology major here.

Henry Humiston

Henry Humiston
Henry Humiston
  • Hometown: Liverpool
  • Majors @ OCC: Nuclear Technology and Electrical Engineering Technology

Henry Humiston is a 46-year-old-student who will earn two degrees from OCC this May. It’s an accomplishment he never dreamed of until an injury forced him to stop working. “It’s really been unbelievable. Everything has been possible thanks to close loved ones and countless respected professors here.”

Humiston grew up in Liverpool where his parents raised him to have a strong work ethic. “My mother and father weren’t college educated but both were really hard workers. I did chores, I cut grass, I had a paper route. They were really a big influence.”

Despite Humiston’s desire to succeed he struggled in high school. He was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyper Disorder, chose to quit school and earned his GED.

Humiston became a professional drywall finisher. He loved working with his hands, turning sheetrock and plaster into finished walls. Everything changed when he injured his back. “I had to move in with my parents. Mom suggested I go back to OCC.” Humiston had attended OCC in 1990 for a semester but didn’t do well.

Humiston tried to return to work but his back wouldn’t let him. In the summer of 2012 he took his mother’s advice and returned to OCC. This time he brought a new approach with him. “I was a hard worker but I wasn’t a rocket scientist. I figured if I put my hard work into school I could do it.”

Humiston began by taking developmental classes. By his own admission he entered OCC with a 6th or 7th grade education. Humiston credits math professors Olin Stratton and Garth Tsyzka with playing significant roles in his success. “When I got into algebra Professor Stratton realized I didn’t know any geometry. He taught me geometry during his office hours. Professor Tyszka told me I needed to eat, drink and breathe my studies. He also told me I should try the Nuclear Technology major.”

Humiston tried Nuclear Technology and loved it. In May it will be one of the two degrees he receives along with Electrical Engineering Technology. During his final year on campus Humiston has also become a leader, serving as an officer in the Student Association and the student representative on the Onondaga Community College Association Board.

The future is bright for Humiston. He plans to work at a nuclear plant after earning his degrees and he’ll be getting married within the next year.  He credits the college with his successful journey. “OCC has been a life-changing experience for me. I’m so glad my mother suggested I come back here.”

Bill Quigley

TOP OF STORY Bill Quigley with Channel 9 021Bill Quigley has overcome more adversity than one person should have to deal with. He’s dealt with cancer, divorce and job loss. Those obstacles make today’s successes that much sweeter.

Quigley graduated from Clarkson University in 1990 with a degree in industrial distribution. He was laid off in 2011 and struggled to find a job. “I was behind the curve on technology changes and my experience as a sales engineer was too specialized,” he said.

A few years later Quigley’s life was unraveling. He was a father of five still looking for work and going through a divorce. That’s when he had lunch with an old roommate from Clarkson and things began to change. His friend worked at the Ginna Nuclear Power Plant in Ontario (near Rochester). “He talked about how great his job was, how challenging it was and how rewarding it was. It seemed very interesting.”

A couple of days later Quigley saw a news story on Channel 9 (WSYR TV) about the Nuclear Technology program at OCC. A few positions were still available for the fall semester. “Everything just came together from there! I called OCC, they sped me through the enrollment process and in August 2014 I began taking classes. It was the direction I was looking for.”

Bill Quigley receives a plaque from OCC President Dr. Casey Crabill as he is named the top student in the Nuclear Technology major in April 2016.
Bill Quigley receives a plaque from OCC President Dr. Casey Crabill as he is named the top student in the Nuclear Technology major in April 2016.

In his first year on campus Quigley earned a perfect 4.0 grade point average. At age 45 he was the oldest student in the Nuclear Technology major but he never felt out of place. “It was great to be back in school. Our program is so intense we all work together all of the time. We form study groups, we help each other and get to know each other. It’s like a little family.”

Quigley’s outstanding first year earned him an internship at Exelon’s Nine Mile Nuclear plant in Scriba. He was loving life until life presented him with another obstacle. “I was diagnosed with stage three esophageal cancer. I had to cut my internship at the plant short so I could have surgery.”

Quigley’s surgeon advised him to quit school but he couldn’t. “This was something I needed to do. I needed to get through this program.” Quigley had surgery and returned to college in time for the start of the fall 2015 semester. “September and October were a real challenge. I didn’t have my strength back yet. I had to take naps during the day to get through school.”

Quigley never missed class and maintained his perfect grade point average on the way to being named the top student in his major and earning his degree in May 2016. As he looks back he realizes the critical role coming to class everyday played in his recovery. “It was the determination to get through the program and the routine of school that really helped me get through it.”

In May Quigley was profiled in a television news story by Channel 9 (WSYR TV) reporter Jeff Kulikowsky. You can watch the story here.

Ashley Haskins

TOP OF STORY Ashley Haskins

Ashley Haskins has been on a remarkable journey since graduating from Sandy Creek High School in 2008. She attended Syracuse University, fell in love with politics and education policy and earned a degree in policy studies in just three years. Her desire to experience teaching first-hand led her to join “Teach For America,” a national teacher corps of recent college graduates who commit two years to teach and to effect change in under-resourced and rural public schools.

Haskins wound up on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. “It was really amazing. There are a lot of challenges on the reservation you have to deal with every day. I gained a lot of resilience and grit as a result of being there.” Haskins taught 7th grade math her first year, then taught a combined class of 2nd and 3rd grades. Despite the numerous challenges she treasured the experience so much she stayed an extra year. “I really enjoyed teaching math. As I was teaching it I really started loving it.”

At the end of her third year Haskins returned home and become a special aide in the Sandy Creek school district. She began studying other career options, learned about OCC’s Nuclear Technology program and decided to enroll.

In August 2015 Haskins began taking classes as a dual major in Nuclear Technology and Electrical Engineering Technology. Her outstanding academic background earned her scholarships from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the College’s STEM Scholars program which covered her entire tuition costs.

Despite being a few years older than traditional students Haskins found a home on campus right away. “Everyone here in both majors has been great. We naturally formed study groups and they’ve been great for everyone. I see my teaching background shining through because I enjoy helping other students.” Aside from helping students within her major, Haskins has also worked as a math tutor in the College’s Learning Center.

Haskins perfect 4.0 grade point average earned her induction into international honor society Phi Theta Kappa in April. She’s on track to graduate with two degrees in May 2017.

In her hometown of Sandy Creek she’s committed to making a difference. Haskins is a member of the library’s board of trustees. She’s also a volunteer firefighter and EMT with the Lacona Fire Department. “Eight years ago my involvement in education was about trying to do good in the world. I’ve realized my job doesn’t have to revolve around that. I can do it through volunteering.”