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.

“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.

Starting College In The Summer

Ali Thabet graduated from Westhill High School in June. He started his first year of college early, spending his summer on the OCC campus taking a Pre-Calculus class. He is pictured in the Mechanical Technology lab which is located in the Whitney Applied Technology Center on the OCC campus.

Ali Thabet has a head start on his freshman year of college. Shortly after receiving his high school diploma at Westhill, Thabet took advantage of Onondaga Community College’s robust list of summer offerings and began taking a Pre-Calculus class on the OCC campus. “I wanted to jump into my major this fall. I wanted to get started as soon as I can and graduate in two years.”

When the fall semester begins Thabet plans to enroll in an engineering related major. He’ll return having successfully completed coursework and with a familiarity with campus. “It will be an advantage to know where things are and already have a difficult class behind me. I got used to the campus very quickly.”

Thabet’s father, Nagib, persuaded him to come to OCC based on his own positive experience. Nagib earned his associate degree here in Mathematics & Sceince in 2002, transferred to Le Moyne College and today works as a Physician’s Assistant. “He said OCC would be a good start for me. He paid less but still got a great education. It’s exactly what I plan on doing.”

Ali Thabet’s goal is to earn his degree in two years and continue his education at Syracuse University.

Here Comes The Army!

Boeheim’s Army is marching up the hill! The team comprised mostly of former Syracuse University basketball players begins play this Friday in the air conditioned SRC Arena and Events Center. Onondaga Community College is one of eight regional sites across the country in the $2 million dollar winner-take-all The Basketball Tournament. All games played on the OCC campus will be broadcast on the ESPN family of networks. Below is a schedule of the games:

Friday, July 26 – Round 1

  • Game 1                 1pm                       (3) Brotherly Love vs (6) Jimmy V                                     ESPN3
  • Game 2                 3pm                       (2) Armored Athlete vs (7) Team Draddy (Manhattan)     ESPN3
  • Game 3                 5pm                       (4) Team Fancy vs (5) Gael Nation (Iona)                          ESPN3
  • Game 4                 7pm                       (1) Boeheim’s Army (Syracuse) vs (8) We Are D3             ESPN2

Saturday, July 27 – Round 2

  • Game 5                 12pm                     Game 3 winner vs Game 4 winner                                   ESPN
  • Game 6                 2pm                       Game 1 winner vs Game 2 winner                                   ESPN3

Sunday, July 28

  • Game 7                 2pm                       Game 5 winner vs Game 6 winner                                   ESPN

Tickets can be purchased at The Basketball Tournament website.

“Syracuse is a basketball city and we are honored to host the TBT Tournament this weekend,” said OCC President Dr. Casey Crabill. “The SRC Arena is one of the region’s premier facilities for intercollegiate and scholastic athletic competitions, graduation ceremonies, and countless community-focused events. We are so excited to have teams and fans in our air-conditioned arena to watch hotly contested basketball, a hallmark of the TBT Tournament.”

Common Read Inspires Art

This photograph, which was taken by OCC students during the fall 2017 semester, is now part of New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo’s personal art collection in Washington, DC.

There’s a photograph hanging in the Washington, DC office of New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo which is the centerpiece of his personal art collection. The picture is of an OCC student who was photographed by fellow students. “The feeling of knowing that photograph is there is unreal,” said Ben Coupe. “While shooting this project we had no idea how far it would go.”

John Dau, ’05

The inspiration for the photography project was “God Grew Tired of Us,” a memoir written by John Dau, ’05 which was OCC’s common read during the 2017-18 academic year. The book chronicled Dau’s journey from the brutal war horrors of life in the Sudan to life in the United States. “We wanted to celebrate diversity. We wanted to capture and highlight our community here.”

Coupe and classmates Jennifer Bazdaric and Dah Lehr imagined a canvas of multiculturalism, rich in texture, promoting an aware culture of respect, thoughtfulness and dignity. “We spent more time planning our shoots than actually shooting. Once we got going it took us less than a week to find our subjects and shoot the photos,” said Coupe. “We needed a couple of days for edits and a day or two to select the print, paper and frame.

The series of 20 images proudly displayed the cultural heritage found within the OCC campus during the fall 2017 campus. It was entered into a SUNY campus where it was spotted by Governor Cuomo. The central image of the series now hangs in Washington, DC.

The students worked under the leadership of Assistant Professor Robert Kent who has dozens of years of professional commercial photography experience. The exhibition quality prints were created by the students under the careful and expert eye of Technical Specialist Rick Boyson of OCC’s Photography Department.

King+King Architects Believe In Better

King+King Architects presents the OCC Foundation’s “Believe In Better” campaign a check for $10,000. Pictured (left to right) are Lisa Moore of the OCC Foundation, King+King Architect’s Jim King, Kirk Narburgh, Peter King, and Jason Benedict, and Kelly Venturini of the OCC Foundation.


Onondaga Community College’s “Believe In Better” fundraising campaign received a generous boost recently from King+King Architects. New York State’s oldest architectural firm presented the OCC Foundation with a $10,000 check. The donation will be used to provide a quality, affordable education to students.

“Having been a part of the OCC Foundation Board for many years, I am humbled by the work the college is doing,” said Peter King, Partner, King+King Architects and Honorary Co-Chair of the Believe in Better fundraising campaign. “Students, many of whom come from challenged backgrounds, are getting a chance at a better future through education. We believe that this investment will help improve the Central New York economy.”

“King+King Architects, as a business leader, is proud to make this investment in OCC and our community,” said Kirk Narbaugh, CEO and Managing Partner, King+King Architects. “This is an investment we truly believe will foster the growth and development of a talented workforce for all of Central New York and beyond.”

“We’re honored to have King+King Architects as one of our partners in education. Their support of our students is invaluable both in their generosity to our Believe In Better campaign and the amazing work they’ve done with buildings on our campus. Onondaga Community College is a better place because of King+King Architects,” said Lisa Moore, Vice President, Development and Executive Director, Onondaga Community College Foundation.

You can learn more about supporting students through our Believe In Better fundraising campaign here.

Mapping A New Major

Professor Buffy Quinn is creating a new major at OCC. She is pictured on the 3rd floor of Ferrante Hall.

Professor Buffy Quinn plans to turn her passion into a new major which will be the first of its kind at any community college in the nation. She’s working on curriculum for the Geospatial Science & Technology, A.A.S. degree program. When approved, students will use drones to create geographic mapping and analysis of the earth and human societies. “Students won’t need to know chemistry or physics. They’ll just need to have a curiosity. If you are curious about the world around you, this will work for you. Everything will fall into place. I can teach the rest.”

Quinn stumbled upon her love of map making during her first year at the University of Southern Mississippi where she was enrolled in an architecture program. “I remember kind of floundering. I was never the smartest kid in class. I wanted to be excited about learning. One day I was flipping through course catalogs and I came upon geography. When I realized there was this thing called cartography where you made maps, I loved it. I loved the broad umbrella that geography gave and learning about other parts of the world. I found it and I just loved it.”

After earning her bachelor’s degree Quinn started her own engineering company and was its cartographer. She became interested in environmental work while making maps for landfill sites, solid waste masterplans and community development block grants. Her college education and professional success had lifted her out of the poverty she grew up in in Jackson, Mississippi. She was content with life until one conversation changed everything. “I met a man who said he was always going to be smarter than me because he was going to get a master’s degree. I just couldn’t have that. So I decided to go to graduate school.”

Quinn majored in Geography with a specialization in Climate Modeling at the University of Denver. One of her favorite topics was dendroclimatology where one constructs records of past climates and climatic events by analysis of tree growth characteristics. Quinn compared what she learned inside trees to journals and diaries kept by people traveling across the United States at that time. “I LOVED graduate school! It’s also when I started teaching. I never saw myself teaching. I thought I would always work in a dark room and make maps.” After earning her master’s Quinn went to work with the Environmental Protection Agency. She focused on Superfund sites and environmental justice initiatives, in the process gaining invaluable knowledge about environmental regulation.

In 2009 she started teaching Meteorology at OCC both in person and online. In her decade on campus she’s also taught classes focused on Sustainability, New York State Environmental Regulation, Natural Hazards and Disasters, and Geographic Information Systems. Her passion is the new degree program she’s creating, Geospatial Science & Technology. “We’re going to teach students how to turn data into something that tells a story with the end user in mind. They will learn how to manage data. We’ll teach them how to use images from drones and analyze them at the pixel level to look for patterns to detect vegetation loss, water quality and what type of pollution we have.”

OCCs Board of Trustees recently passed a resolution endorsing a feasibility study for the new major. Once it goes through the approval process both on campus and in Albany, Geospatial Science & Technology could be ready in time for the fall 2020 semester. “I want students to know this is a career they can that can take them to a new life. They can do it and I want to be that conduit. To be able to give that to somebody, that kind of stability and that kind of security, that’s why we’re here! I’m so excited at the prospect of this.”

Degrees of Success

Mackenzie Eck (left) is a member of Jordan-Elbridge High School’s and Onondaga Community College’s class of 2019. On June 22 she will receive both her J-E diploma and her OCC associate degree. Eck is pictured with J-E High School Principal Mark Schermerhorn. They are seated in front of a display which pays tribute to J-E’s graduates of distinction.

Mackenzie Eck planned to graduate from high school one year ago. She had powered through her freshman, sophomore and junior years at Jordan-Elbridge and earned enough credits to receive her diploma after just three years. She had also amassed 30 college credits, 23 of those through Onondaga Community College’s “College Credit Now” program which allows students to take college-level classes in their home high schools. Her plans changed after a conversation with her school counselor. “Miss (Jamie) Susino told me ‘there’s this program that could save you some money. You could get college credits. Go to OCC, get ahead and do great things.’”

Eck took her counselor’s advice. During her senior year of high school, she took Physical Education at J-E and attended OCC full time. She earned a total of 33 credits while majoring in Mathematics & Science. Her course load included demanding classes such as Calculus, Physics, Chemistry, and Biology. “At first my parents told me it would be really hard. I finished my first semester and got all A’s and B’s. That’s when I got really excited and wanted to do more.”

On Saturday, June 22 Eck will be rewarded… twice. During J-E’s graduation ceremony she will receive her high school diploma and her associate degree from OCC. College President Dr. Casey Crabill will be on the stage to personally congratulate her. “It will be a great moment, but I didn’t do this to get attention. I just wanted to get ahead.”

Eck found her OCC experience to be very enjoyable, from the class registration process to the classroom. “I was amazed with all of the support I received. I worked with Jenna Alexander in Advising most of the time. She was great. Even though I was the youngest person in class the professors didn’t treat me any different. I’m really glad I got this opportunity.”

In the fall Eck and all of her 63 college credits will transfer seamlessly to the Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. She believes her OCC experience has given her the confidence she needs to experience success at a four-year college. “I know a lot of people can be nervous about the transition from high school to college. The OCC program was a really smooth transition. If you take classes in high school and you take classes at OCC, you get the best of both worlds. You can smoothly transition into college.”