The OCC Effect: Darren Pikul ‘16

Darren Pikul, ’16 is pictured at Florida Atlantic University where he is a 4.0 student and is pursuing his master’s degree in Higher Education Leadership.

When Darren Pikul graduated from high school in the Poughkeepsie area, he chose Onondaga Community College because he was recruited to play on the Men’s Tennis team. Little did he know the school would open up doors he never thought possible. “Other than tennis, I really didn’t have a plan in place other than practice and going to class. The offerings at OCC allowed me to get involved as much as I wanted so what I walked away with went well beyond anything I dreamed of.”

Pikul with OCC Men’s Tennis Coach, John LaRose after receiving a SUNY Chancellor’s Award

Pikul became a leader on campus. He was an officer in student government and an RA in the residence halls. These responsibilities and experiences allowed him to develop relationships with a wide variety of students, administrators and faculty. It gave him a greater understanding of higher education outside the classroom. “OCC President Dr. Crabill played an incredible part in my success. She genuinely cares for students and on numerous occasions would provide time for me to talk about what I wanted to do next and where would be the best fit. I now know how unique and special it is for a college president to do something like that.”

After earning his associate degree Pikul transferred to SUNY Oneonta where he repeated his same successful formula. He became involved in student government, was named to the search committee for Oneonta’s next president, and continued his collegiate tennis career. Pikul now attends Florida Atlantic University (FAU) where he owns a 4.0 grade point average and is working toward a Master’s in Higher Education Leadership. He serves as the Director of the Graduate & Professional Student Association at FAU while also interning at the Center for Higher Education Innovation in the Office of the President at the University of Central Florida. 

Pikul credits his time at Onondaga with building the foundation he needed for his success. “OCC made me who I am today. Dr. Crabill, Coach LaRose and many others provided me with a great opportunity to succeed. Through those opportunities I found my passion in higher education.”

After graduating from FAU Pikul will begin his professional career in higher education while pursuing a doctorate. His focus will be policy and government. Pikul plans to bring fresh ideas and provide students with the same type of experience he had while giving them the freedom to learn, get exposed to new opportunities and identify their passions.

Culinary Champions Again!

OCC’s Hospitality Management team is champions of the Beef Farm Tour and Culinary Competition for the second consecutive year! Students brought home a first-place check worth $2,000. Each of the three student team members received $500 and the College’s Hospitality Management major was awarded the remaining $500.

The Champoions! OCC's Hospitality Management team includes (left to right) Angelo Lafata, Chris Pecone, Jessica Tobias and Chef Eric Rose.
The Champions! OCC’s Hospitality Management team includes (left to right) Angelo Lafata, Chris Pecone, Jessica Tobias and Chef Eric Rose.

OCC defeated teams from Erie Community College, Finger Lakes Community College, Tompkins Cortland Community College, SUNY Cobleskill, SUNY Oneonta and SUNY Sullivan. The event was held April 16 & 17 in Canandaigua, New York.

Chef Eric Rose once again led the students in competition. Joining him were Hospitality Management majors Angelo Lafata (Cicero-North Syracuse High School), Chris Pecone (Cuba Rushford High School) and Jessica Tobias (Cincinnatus High School).

Preparation for the event began weeks in advance. Students were required to create a restaurant theme, devise a menu with prices and food cost analysis, have menu items for customers with special needs (such as gluten free or low calorie) and develop a marketing plan which included social media. OCC’s team named its restaurant “Prospects Pub.”

Machaca Ribeye Sampler
The Machaca (ribeye) Sampler was prepared by OCC’s Hospitality Management team.

Students prepared a Machaca (Ribeye) Sampler which consisted of slow braised rib cap steak served with samplings of authentic regional accompaniments including guacamole, pico de gallo, Cotija cheese and fresh crisps.

The entree was Steak Pommes Frite which included seared aged beef rib-eye filet capped with fresh horseradish crisp, handmade truffled steak fries with Boursin cheese sauce and grilled micro Romaine wedge salad with Mission Fig and dried cherries. The winning entree is pictured at the top of this story.

Students created one beauty plate and five tasting plates for the judges, along with 12 servings of each recipe to divide and share with fellow contestants. The event was sponsored by the New York Beef Council.