The Secret To Her Success

Iga Szczepanik, ’16 is pictured in New York City where she works as a Project Manager and plans to pursue a Master’s degree.

Lessons learned outside the classroom at Onondaga Community College have provided the foundation for Iga Szczepanik’s success. “With the support of great professors and advisers at OCC, I stepped out of my comfort zone, took on roles that might have been overwhelming at a large university, and was recognized for my effort. It helped me know I was capable of so much more.”

Szczepanik is a native of Poland who moved to the United States when she was high school-aged. After graduating from Bishop Grimes in 2014, she came to OCC. Szczepanik majored in Business Administration, was president of the college’s chapter of international honor society Phi Theta Kappa (PTK), and worked as an Honors Ambassador promoting OCC’s Honors program at area high schools. She was named a SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence winner, the highest honor a SUNY student can receive.

After earning her associate degree, Szczepanik transferred to Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) where her OCC resume played a significant role in her success. “Because of my experiences I was able to apply for many scholarships and afford my education there. My involvement in clubs, PTK and the Honors program helped me distinguish myself from other applicants.” Szczepanik continued her spirit of involvement at RIT where she became president of her sorority, held down several jobs on campus and completed three paid internships. “Being a good student is important, but it is more necessary to show what makes you different. I was able to distinguish myself from other applicants and talk about so much more during my job interviews.”

While earning her bachelor’s degree in International Business with minors in New Media Marketing and Women & Gender Studies, Szczepanik turned her final internship into a position as a project manager with EffVision, a worldwide leader in IT and technical support solutions. She’s currently applying to graduate programs in the New York City area and plans to pursue a master’s degree in Business or Economics next year. She’s come a long way since her days on the OCC campus and is proud to share stories about her community college background with all who will listen. “OCC was essential for me to find out what I wanted to do and gain leadership experience. I proudly talk about it and recommend it to friends and family who are soon graduating high school. Sometimes people are surprised to learn I started at a community college, but I don’t feel ‘judged’ or ‘less.’ What speaks the loudest is your attitude and your work ethic.”

Nathan Burroughs

Nathan Burroughs works on a complex equation in the Phi Theta Kappa suite on the second floor of Coulter Hall.
  • High School: Homer, class of 2016
  • Major: Engineering Science

Nathan Burroughs learned his most valuable life lesson at a young age while working with his father on the family farm in Homer. “I was given a job which I was struggling with. When I finished I told my father I thought I had done ‘pretty good.’ He said, ‘anything worth doing is worth doing right so do it again.’ Those words have stuck with me in my academics, employment and even relationships. Anything I do I want to do it right.”

Burroughs has lived his father’s advice. He’s an Engineering Science major and member of the college’s chapter of international honor society Phi Theta Kappa. He’s one of only three OCC students to be named distinguished NASA Scholars. In the spring he’ll travel to NASA’s Langley Research Center to participate in the NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars onsite experience. “This is a really cool opportunity to learn more. I grew up watching Tom Hanks in Apollo 13. It’s the one VHS movie I remember watching tons and tons of time. I got a telescope when I was little with a night sky atlas. I liked going outside and looking up.”

During Burroughs’ first three semesters on campus he was a member of Student Patrol and an RA. When he signed up for more than 20 credit hours this semester he had to give up both roles. Burroughs only needed 14 credits to earn his degree but the Rochester Institute of Technology advised him to add a class which would transfer with him. He took their advice and added an Electrical Circuit Analysis class plus a Numerical Control Programming class and lab to widen his skillset.

When he’s not on campus Burroughs can be found volunteering at church, helping on the family farm or at Cazenovia Equipment Company, a tractor dealership where he began working in 2014. “I started off as a ‘wash boy’ detailing tractors, scrubbing all of the manure off and making everything nice and shiny. One day in February they pulled out four manure spreaders and said, ‘have fun.’ It was all outside. I had to wash them all. I came inside and my jacket was frozen solid.” Burroughs worked his way up and is now using a laser tape measure while creating floor plans for each of the buildings at Cazenovia Equipment Company’s nine locations.

Burroughs will earn his Engineering Science degree in May. He hopes to transfer to the Rochester Institute of Technology and pursue a master’s in either Mechanical Engineering or Engineering and Management. After he retires he plans to return to the family farm, Cold Brook Dairy.

Family Values

Hannah Robles (center) with her parents, Alvaro (left) and Sally (right) Robles. All five of the Robles’ children attended OCC. Hannah was named the top student in the Business Administration major during Wednesday’s annual Curriculum Honors ceremony.

One by one, all five children of Sally and Alvaro Robles have come to Onondaga Community College. Each has majored in something different including Humanities, Art, Mechanical Technology and Hospitality Management. Wednesday night their youngest, Hannah, was recognized as the top student in the Business Administration major during the annual Curriculum Honors ceremony. “I really enjoyed the Business program. All of the faculty helped me know I was in the right program and I knew I chose the right school,” she said. Hannah is the second family member to be named tops in their major. In 2013 her brother Chayanne earned Curriculum Honors for the Mechanical Technology major.

Chayanne Robles, ’13

All five of the Robles were homeschooled before coming to OCC. “It was nice to have this introduction to being in a classroom here as opposed to a big four-year school,” Hannah said. “We also saved a lot of money while getting the same education we could have gotten somewhere else. This way we only have to pay more expensive tuition for two years.”

Hannah made the most of her two years on the OCC campus. She maintained a 3.9 grade point average and earned membership in the College’s chapter of international honor society Phi Theta Kappa. She received the Diversity Honors Scholarship both years at OCC and was also the recipient of the Wegmans academic scholarship. She also never hesitated to challenge herself, taking difficult courses like Chinese I and Chinese II. “Everyone in my family took Spanish and I wanted to be different. I really liked Chinese and I enjoyed the language. I hope to do an internship in China when I transfer.”

In the fall Robles will enroll at the Rochester Institute of Technology where she will major in Marketing. “I hope to work as a Marketing executive for nonprofits. I love community service. I work in the food pantry at my church. I hope I can do marketing for them. Non-profits need marketers to help them get donations.”

Congratulations to Hannah and all of our Curriculum Honorees! You can view a slideshow of all of the curriculum honorees photographed with OCC President Dr. Casey Crabill and Provost Dr. Daria Willis. Below the slideshow is a list which includes each student’s name and the major for which they were honored.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Hospitality Management, A.A.S. – Culinary Management – Emre Simsek

Architectural Technology, A.A.S. – Joshua Bates

Interior Design, A.A.S. – Lydia Giordano

Art, A.A.S. – Rachel Dibble

Photography, A.S. – Andrea Bodah

Electronic Media Communications, A.A.S. – Nolan Barth

Music, A.A.S. – Kylie Tomaselli

Automotive Technology, A.O.S. – Ryan Pike

Electrical Technology, A.A.S. – Aaron Davis

Mechanical Technology, A.A.S. – Maynard Bland

Nuclear Technology, A.A.S. – Zachary Heagerty-Phillips

Computer Information Systems, A.A.S. – Jon Minnberg

Computer Science, A.S. – Leanna Wolf

Accounting, A.A.S. – Carie-Anne Denny

Business Administration, A.S. – Hannah Robles

Business Technology, A.A.S. – Samantha Stetson

Engineering Science, A.S. – Nicholas Wilson

Liberal Arts & Sciences: Mathematics and Science, A.S. – Rosa Geremia

American Sign Language, A.S. – Elijah Southwick

Communication Studies, A.A. – Maia Dotson

Liberal Arts & Sciences: General Studies, A.A. – Tekahentake Regis

Liberal Arts & Sciences: Humanities and Social Sciences, A.A. – Joshua Miller

Alcohol and Substance Abuse Counseling, A.A.S. – Michael Marshall

Criminal Justice, A.S. – Geoffrey Hawthorne

Early Child Care Certificate – Janice Corsette

Early Childhood Education, A.A.S. – Farhiya Mohamed

Health Information Technology/Medical Records, A. A.S. – Robert LaFramboise

Human Services, A.S. – Kathleen Boccio

Liberal Arts & Sciences: Adolescence Education, A.A. – Zachary Smith

Liberal Arts & Sciences: Childhood Education, A.A. – Colin Talty

Nursing, A.A.S. – Bahar Zaker-Shahrak

Physical Therapy Assistant, A.A.S. – Deborah Newman

Surgical Technology Certificate – John Rieger

Mikayla Banack

  • Major: Biology
  • High School: Central Square, class of 2016

It took Mikayla Banack less than a semester to realize she should have come to Onondaga Community College first. Banack graduated from Central Square High School in June of 2016. Two months later she was enrolled in a four-year college. “Around Thanksgiving I was thinking, ‘I’m wasting so much time and money here not knowing what I want to do.’”

Banack finished the semester, then came to OCC in January 2017. “I took random classes to try to figure out what I wanted to do. I was in a gen ed (general education) class where we explored careers and our strengths and weaknesses. After a lot of tests, I saw the medical field was the direction I would go in.”

Banack explored different options and realized anesthesia interested her the most. She took her first Biology and Anatomy classes and everything clicked. “I loved them both. I realized I loved learning and how the human body works.” Finding subject matter she was passionate about motivated her to become an excellent student. “I applied myself more than I ever did. I realized I could do it and really started to push myself.”

Banack did so well in class she was inducted into the College’s chapter of international honor society Phi Theta Kappa (PTK). This semester she is the PTK Vice President of Service. Every week she volunteers somewhere in the community and enjoys the satisfaction she gets from helping others. “I feel like both parties benefit from community service. There’s nothing that makes me feel as fulfilled as community service. It gets me so excited. I enjoy meeting people and making connections. Afterwards I feel like I made a difference.”

Between the community service and other PTK responsibilities, Banack has seen herself grow as a person. “I’ve learned leadership and communication skills. This kind of leadership requires all of us to do things together, to have fun and to make a difference in campus and community life. I only have classes two days a week but I come to campus every day because I love being here with PTK.”

This is Banack’s final semester on the OCC campus. In the fall she’ll be majoring in Biomedicine at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). As a PTK member she qualified for extra scholarship money which helped make attending RIT a reality. She’s looking forward to her time at RIT but will miss those she will be saying goodbye to. “I’ve met so many awesome people here. There were wonderful people who were always ready to help me with whatever I needed.”

There’s An App For That!

The idea was hatched a few years ago during the college basketball tournament known as “March Madness.” Matt Catalfamo was watching the tourney on television when his mind drifted. He started thinking about creating an app which anyone could use to manage their own tournaments. That’s when he contacted his neighborhood friend, Dan Quackenbush, a classmate at Cicero-North Syracuse (C-NS) High School whom he had worked with on other projects. “We worked together for about a decade,” said Quackenbush. “He knew of my design and development experience.”

Dan Quackenbush, ’16

Catalfamo and Quackenbush began working on the project. Quackenbush would graduate from C-NS in 2014 and come to OCC where he would major in Electronic Media Communications and Computer Information Systems. Catalfamo would head to Clarkson University. They stayed in constant contact and continued to work on their app. In 2016 they brought their idea to the North Country Regional Business Plan Competition and were awarded second place and a $1,000 prize.

Throughout the process Quackenbush was excelling at OCC, earning degrees in Computer Information Systems (CIS) and Electronic Media Communications. He was inducted into honor society Phi Theta Kappa and named a SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence winner. The CIS classes played a significant role in his development along with classes outside his major. “I learned technical writing in English. It helped me drastically improve my language skills to the point where I can speak with several business leaders and communicate the message and goal of our platform.”

Quackenbush transferred to the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) and majored in Computer and Information Technologies. As a student at RIT he continued working on the app. In March 2017, the app known as Tournament Mgr went live in Apple’s App Store. It gives users the ability to create, manage and run a tournament online or offline. “This is a big accomplishment for us,” said Quackenbush. “It has more than one hundred downloads and the number grows every day. It’s fun to see people are using the app and how they are using it.” Their goal is to expand Tournament Mgr to the web and continue to grow it into a platform.

Dan Quackenbush

TOP OF STORY Dan QuackenbushDan Quackenbush came to OCC with a passion for films and computers and wound up earning degrees in both. Quackenbush graduated from Cicero-North Syracuse high school in 2014 and entered the College as an Electronic Media Communications (EMC) major. While earning a perfect 4.0 grade point average in EMC he also chose to pursue a degree in Computer Information Systems. “I enjoy doing film work but decided to shift focus. I’ll keep doing film work on the side but my priority is computer networking,” Quackenbush said.

While earning two degrees in two years Quackenbush achieved membership in international honor society Phi Theta Kappa and was named one of the College’s five recipients of the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence. He also earned the Faculty Award for Academic Excellence, was Vice President of the Politics Club and received the Civic Engagement Recognition award in recognition of his more than 500 hours of volunteering during his time on campus.

In the fall Quackenbush will transfer to the Rochester Institute of Technology (R.I.T.) where he will major in Computer and Information Technologies. He’ll leave OCC with an appreciation for how the College helped him advance to R.I.T. “I can really see how what I learned here is going to help me tremendously in the future, not only at four-year schools but the basic knowledge I have picked picked up. It’s helped me with jobs and will continue to do so.”

Awards for Student Excellence

 

OCC's five SUNY Chancellor's Awards for Student Excellence winners are (left to right) Iga Szczepanik, Jade Lewis, Leighann Bulich, Toni Jones and Dan Quackenbush.
OCC’s five SUNY Chancellor’s Awards for Student Excellence winners are (left to right) Iga Szczepanik, Jade Lewis, Leighann Bulich, Toni Jones and Dan Quackenbush.

Five OCC students received SUNY Chancellor’s Awards for Student Excellence April 5 in Albany. The awards were presented by SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher at a ceremony at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center. Honorees demonstrated the ability to combine academic excellence with other accomplishments which may include leadership, campus involvement, athletics, career achievement, community service, or creative and performing arts. OCC’s five honorees were:

Leighann Bulich

  • High School: Lake George Jr.-Sr., 2014
  • Major at OCC: Emergency Management
  • Leighann took more than 20 credits each semester, was an RA, an officer in international honor society Phi Theta Kappa and a certified emergency medical technician. She earned her degree in December 2015 and is now attending the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

Toni Jones

  • High School: Corcoran, 1998
  • Majors at OCC: Communication Studies, Humanities and Social Sciences with an Honors minor
  • Toni is a member of international honor society Phi Theta Kappa and a member of the History Club who went on several study abroad trips. Toni is 36-years-old and will graduate this May along with her mother, 58-year-old Sharon Hill.

Jade Lewis

  • High School: Silver Creek, 2014
  • Majors at OCC: Electronic Media Communications and Humanities with an Honors minor
  • Jade was a member of international honor society Phi Theta Kappa, played on the Women’s Soccer team, was an RA and a member of the Politics Club. She will graduate in May and transfer to Syracuse University.

Daniel Quackenbush

  • High School: Cicero-North Syracuse, 2014
  • Major at OCC: Electronic Media Communications and Computer Information Science
  • Daniel achieved a perfect 4.0 grade point average, was a member of international honor society Phi Theta Kappa and the Politics Club. He will graduate in May and transfer to Rochester Institute of Technology.

Iga Szczepanik

  • High School: Bishop Grimes, 2014
  • Major at OCC: Business Administration with minors in Women’s Studies and Honors
  • Iga is an international student from Poland. She’s president of international honor society Phi Theta Kappa and a student ambassador. She will graduate in May and transfer to Rochester Institute of Technology.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

All-State Students

OCC student Iga Szczepanik receives her PTK All-State honors from (left) OCC President Dr. Casey Crabill and (right) SUNY Senior Vice Chancellor for Community Colleges and the Education Pipeline Dr. Johanna Duncan-Poitier.
OCC student Iga Szczepanik receives her PTK All-State honors from (left) OCC President Dr. Casey Crabill and (right) SUNY Senior Vice Chancellor for Community Colleges and the Education Pipeline Dr. Johanna Duncan-Poitier.

Tuesday, March 8 was a big day for Onondaga Community College in the state capitol. The annual USA Today Phi Theta Kappa All-New York Academic Team Recognition Ceremony at the New York State Museum in Albany had an OCC feel to it.

Leighann Bulich
Leighann Bulich

Students Leighann Bulich and Iga Szczepanik were among those honored for their academic excellence and community service. Another OCC student, Music major Brittany Montpetit wowed the crowd with a stirring rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. College President Dr. Casey Crabill also played an important role in the celebration by introducing student honorees.

Bulich came to OCC from Lake George Jr.-Sr. High School (60 miles north of Albany) where she was a member of the class of 2014. Bulich served her community as a member of the West Glens Falls Emergency Squad and an emergency medical technician. She graduated from OCC in December 2015 after just three semesters on campus. She took more than 20 credits each semester, worked as an RA and was Vice President for Service in the College’s chapter of international honor society Phi Theta Kappa. Bulich earned a degree in Emergency Management with an Honors minor. She is now attending the University of Nebraska at Omaha where she is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Emergency Management. Her career goals include becoming an Emergency Manager at a V-A Hospital and a management position with FEMA. Bulich was unable to attend the event.

Iga Szczepanik
Iga Szczepanik

Szczepanik is an International Student from Swidnica, Poland. She started learning English when she was in preschool and today speaks the language fluently. Szczepanik came to the U.S. when she was high school aged and graduated from Bishop Grimes in 2014. She’s majoring in Business with minors in both Women’s Studies and Honors. She’s also a member of international honor society Phi Theta Kappa and is President of OCC’s chapter. Szczepanik also works as a student ambassador, going to area high schools and promoting the Honors Minor program. After earning her degree in May Szczepanik plans to Rochester Institute of Technology and pursue a degree in international business.

Montpetit is a Music major with a specialization in Voice who will earn her degree in May 2016. She’s also a member of international honor society Phi Theta Kappa and a 2014 graduate of Cicero-North Syracuse high school.

Assemblymen Al Stirpe (D, 127th District) and Gary Finch (R, C, I, 126th District) were also part of the OCC contingent. They brought with them New York State Assembly Certificates of Recognition for Sczezpanik and Bulich.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Best in Class

 

TOP OF STORY PTK All-New York Academic Awards and State Assembly Appearance 002

Leighann Bulich
Leighann Bulich

Two OCC students will receive statewide honors for their academic excellence and community service. Leighann Bulich and Iga Szczepanik will represent the College at the USA Today Phi Theta Kappa All-New York Academic Team Recognition Ceremony Tuesday, March 8 at the New York State Museum in Albany.

Bulich came to OCC from Lake George Jr.-Sr. High School (60 miles north of Albany) where she was a member of the class of 2014. Bulich served her community as a member of the West Glens Falls Emergency Squad and an emergency medical technician. She graduated from OCC in December 2015 after just three semesters on campus. She took more than 20 credits each semester, worked as an RA and was Vice President for Service in the College’s chapter of international honor society Phi Theta Kappa. Bulich earned a degree in Emergency Management with an Honors minor. She is now attending the University of Nebraska at Omaha where she is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Emergency Management. Her career goals include becoming an Emergency Manager at a V-A Hospital and a management position with FEMA.

Iga Szczepanik
Iga Szczepanik

Szczepanik is an International Student from Swidnica, Poland. She started learning English when she was in preschool and today speaks the language fluently. Szczepanik came to the U.S. when she was high school aged and graduated from Bishop Grimes in 2014. She’s majoring in Business with minors in both Women’s Studies and Honors. She’s also a member of international honor society Phi Theta Kappa and is President of OCC’s chapter. Szczepanik also works as a student ambassador, going to area high schools and promoting the Honors Minor program. After earning her degree in May Szczepanik plans to transfer to Rochester Institute of Technology and pursue a degree in international business.

 

Chayanne Robles ’13

Chayanne Robles '13
Chayanne Robles ’13 poses in the machine shop in the Whitney Applied Technology Center at OCC.

 

Before coming to Onondaga Community College (OCC) Chayanne Robles ’13 grew up just outside the village of Liverpool with his two brothers and two sisters. In all, three of his other siblings attended or graduated from OCC, with his youngest sister arriving in the fall. His father was from Aruba and his mother, who homeschooled all five children, was from Watertown. “All through our childhood, because we were homeschooled, my parents encouraged us to get involved and get out there,” Robles said. At 15 he got a job with Wegmans, so that when he graduated high school he was able to obtain a 4-year scholarship through the company. In addition to his work at Wegmans, Robles volunteered at a local food pantry and tutored math on the south side of Syracuse.

Like many students, when he graduated from high school Robles did not have a clear direction of what he wanted to pursue in college. By chance, he scheduled an information session with an advisor at OCC and during their talk they discussed the Mechanical Technology Program (MET), which he had never heard of before but thought the opportunity was worth exploring. “After the meeting, I worked with Professor Bob Latham and he got me into all the necessary courses and from there it was history,” Robles said. From that point on, Robles found the work came natural to him, which impressed his instructors since they were well aware of his homeschool background. However, there was another element at play that went beyond the textbook. “Growing up in a multi-cultural family was awesome,” Robles said, “this coupled with the work I had done at Wegmans and in the community was the perfect combination that allowed me to excel with my fellow classmates.”

Robles with Professor Robert Tanchak
Robles with Professor Robert Tanchak

Another benefit, he would not realize until later, was the diverse mix of traditional and non-traditional students that were comprised in the MET program. “We were like a family,” he said, “it was a great experience because the older students would assist us with machine work which they were familiar with, while we could help them with some of the math involved in the course work.” This type of support went beyond the students as Robles soon found out the “family” atmosphere was something instilled in them by the instructors. When he was approaching the end of the second year, Robles met with Professor Robert Tanchak who proved to be the driving force behind him bypassing initial employment and to pursue his Bachelor’s degree at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). “The professors in the program did not want me to sell myself short,” Robles said, “with their help I was able to get accepted (to RIT), have all my credits transfer and receive an additional transfer scholarship to cover additional costs of attending private school.”

When he arrived at RIT in 2013, Robles found he was competitive in the classroom and slightly ahead when it came time to work with the machines because, unlike typical 4-year students there, he had already done this at OCC. Last fall, he just finished a six-month internship with GE and was based out of Cincinnati, Ohio. The team he got assigned to was implementing a new system for production so he was learning right alongside with other employees which made it more like a job than an internship. In fact, he picked up on it so fast he found himself leading training sessions in front of GE employees who had been there 20-30 years. Due to his educational background Robles was not only able to understand the manufacturing part of the system, but the technology end of it as well, so he was able to communicate between the two departments, which was a tremendous asset to the company. At the end of his internship he also interviewed and was accepted into their prestigious Operations Management Leadership Program, so when he finishes RIT this spring, he will start a two-year program within GE where he will explore the many facets of the company before he has to decide which one he will pursue as part of his career.

With so many options in front of him, Robles just wants to finish strong in his last semester and take some much needed time off before starting up with GE. “I feel blessed in that I always want to continue to learn, and to be able to work for a company who encourages something like that means so much to me” he said. Despite all of this recent good fortune, Robles recognizes where it all started. “Going to OCC was the best decision I made and I am very grateful to my professors and the services,” he said, “it was important for me not to just punch the clock, but to have a plan for the next step.”