Alumni Reflections

Scenes from the OCC campus then (left) and now (right).

It’s great to keep hearing from our wonderful former students! Since we started “The OCC Effect” in 2017 we’ve heard from so many of you who were positively impacted by your time on campus. Your success is a significant part of OCC’s story which began more than a half-century ago when we first opened our doors in 1961. If you would like to join in the conversation please visit our Alumni web site and tell us your story. In the meantime, here are a few more for you to enjoy.

Joseph Nicoletti, ‘97

  • Major: Nursing
  • Occupation: Clinical Hospital Liaison
  • Resides in Syracuse

“I am a 1976 graduate from SUNY College of Health Professions at Upstate Medical University from the Respiratory Therapy Program. While working as Registered Respiratory Therapist at St. Joseph’s Hospital I elected to obtain my nursing degree from OCC. I graduated from the nursing program in 1997 and worked in the SICU-Open Heart Unit for a number of years. All totaled, I spent 20 years in the acute care arena at St. Joseph’s Hospital. I left the hospital and utilized my skills, experience, and contacts to work in the medical sales field for 10 successful years, at which time I was offered a position with Franciscan Health Support, a division of St. Joseph’s Health Network. I have been at Franciscan for the last 11 years of my active health career. While here at Franciscan I obtained my BSN in Nursing from SUNY Empire State College. While here at Franciscan Health I have been the Director of the Respiratory Therapy Dept., promoted to Executive Director of Clinical Services, and presently serve as the Clinical Liaison with St. Joseph’s Hospital Provider Outreach Network Team, Franciscan and their physician groups.”

“My nursing degree from OCC has helped to propel my professional career to a higher level. My basic nursing degree from OCC combined with my Respiratory Therapy degree made me a unique health care professional, in the hospital setting and in the business world.  Both of these degrees go hand in hand and carry a lot of weight when dealing with many patient health issues and co-morbidities. After receiving my nursing degree my scope of practice and marketability really opened up for me. I feel blessed at my personal and professional success. My experience with the College of Nursing was very rewarding. The College of Nursing really strives to prepare their students for the real working world and has them prepared to take their national nursing boards. That designed curriculum really gets you prepared, no question.”


Denise Hsu, ‘97

  • Major: Radio & TV
  • Occupation: Special Education Teacher

“I didn’t believe in myself but through the steps I took at OCC it helped me focused and live my dream. First I pursued acting in New York but quickly realized after making no money that providing an education to students with disabilities was my true calling. Thank you to my professors and the college for their selfless giving through a trying time in my life.”


Karen Harrison, ‘88

  • Major: Business Administration
  • Occupation: Professor of Communication Studies at OCC
  • Resides in Syracuse

“OCC is a great place for new beginnings! Moving to Syracuse from Atlanta and a career in corporate travel, I was more than ready for a career change. OCC was just the place to begin to explore new opportunities. I jumped right in and focused my attention on earning an associate degree in Business Administration. Before I knew it, I was on my way to Syracuse University where I earned Bachelors’ and Masters’ degrees in Communication. My dream of a new career became a reality when I was offered an opportunity to teach at OCC! I felt I had come full circle. From student to professor, OCC has been an environment where I’ve been able to thrive. A strong belief that “all things are possible,” coupled with a connection to the college’s mission and the students it serves, I have carved out a rewarding career at an institution that I deeply care about.”


Jay Lurie, ‘72

  • Major: General Studies
  • Occupation: Video Journalist and Documentary Producer
  • Resides in Buffalo

“Onondaga Community College had a profound impact on my life; particularly my last semester. During that time I had two professors, Kathy Stampalia and Doug Brode. From Stampalia’s Introduction to Broadcasting class I learned to bring a professional approach to my school work. With a semester of Doug Brode’s Poetics of the Film I discovered the artistry of film-making. I am thankful every day for the legacy of their influence on my career.”

Our Alumni and “The OCC Effect” on Our Podcast

OCC’s Director of Alumni Communications Russ Corbin (left) and 2017 Outstanding Alumni Award Winner Dr. Emad Rahim (right) are featured in this month’s edition of “Higher Ed News You Can Use from Onondaga Community College.”

On this month’s edition of “Higher Ed News You Can Use from Onondaga Community College” we’re highlighting our outstanding alumni. You’ll meet Dr. Emad Rahim, a former OCC student who is a 2017 winner of the Outstanding Alumni Award from the American Association of Community Colleges. Rahim is a survivor of genocide in the Killing Fields of Cambodia. While in a concentration camp his father was executed and his older brother died of starvation. Rahim’s life story is the subject of a documentary, “Against the Odds.”

You will also meet Russ Corbin, OCC’s Assistant Director of Alumni Communications. Russ will tell us about “The OCC Effect,” a new outreach program we’ve started. If you went to college here we want you to tell us how OCC impacted your life.

It’s all on this month’s edition of “Higher Ed News You Can Use from Onondaga Community College.” Listen to it here!

OCC’s Effect On You!

Scenes from the OCC campus then (left) and now (right).


We asked and you responded! Earlier this week we announced a new initiative, “The OCC Effect.” We wanted to hear from our former students about the ways in which OCC has impacted their lives. Below are a few of the stories we’ve heard so far!

If you would like to join in the conversation please visit our Alumni web site and tell us what your OCC experience has meant to you. Your success is a significant part of OCC’s story which began more than a half-century ago when we first opened our doors in 1961. We’re proud our middle name is “community” and we’d love to hear what OCC’s effect has been on you.


John Abbey, ’83 and ‘04

  • Majors: Radio & TV with a Journalism minor, Telecommunications
  • Resides in Carlisle, Pennsylvania
  • “I came to OCC directly out of Lafayette High School. I walked on the baseball team and got quality coaching I utilize to this day. OCC gave me an affordable, quality, accredited education. I joined the U.S. Navy in 1983 after obtaining my degree from OCC and entered as an E-3 instead of an E-1. I rose to an E-5 in just 1.9 years which could not have been done without my degree from OCC.  It has paid for itself not only in financial gains but it taught me how to budget my time, schoolwork, baseball and work, which are valuable lessons I use to this day. Thank you to you and your faculty at OCC. I feel you have done wonders for society and do not get the credit you deserve.”


Jessica Abbott, ’05

  • Major: Humanities
  • Occupation: Bookstore Manager
  • “I went to OCC and took advantage of the Fast Track program which allowed me to get my associate degree on an accelerated timeline. I had such a great experience that when the time came to transition out of my career in the mental health field I jumped at the chance to be the assistant manager at OCC’s bookstore. I am now the manager and have been for 3 years. Onondaga gave me a great education and a great place to work!”


Sean Baird, ’14

Sean Baird, ‘14

  • Major: Fire Protection Technology
  • Occupation: Fulton City Firefighter
  • Resides in Constantia
  • “I was part of the bunk-in program. I lived at the Baldwinsville Fire House while I attended school. It was by far the best experience of my life. I still look back and wish I could do it all over again. The classes were amazing. They were exactly what I wanted to learn and gave me the experience I needed. While I was attending school I made many friends who were firefighters and was able to ride with many other departments and gain the experience needed. I worked 2 years in EMS before I was hired in Fulton. The memories I made at OCC will stay with me for years to come.”


Jo Anne Bakeman, ‘73

  • Major: Nursing
  • Occupation: Substance Abuse Therapist and Adjunct Professor at OCC
  • Resides in North Syracuse
  • “I started taking classes at Midtown Plaza, then at the County Home, then at the new campus in the Service and Maintenance Building.  By the time I graduated from the nursing program and obtained my registered nurse license, I had also started a master’s degree program in Health Education at SUNY Cortland, determined to begin a professional career in health and wellness.  That led me to establish the Center for Holistic Living, where I learned about the effects of alcoholism and drug addiction.  I attended a brand new training program at Syracuse University leading to the credential in substance abuse counseling.  I put that credential to use at Crouse Hospital Chemical Dependency Treatment Services, and found out that my registered nurse license allowed me to practice independently as a substance abuse therapist, which I have been doing now for over 30 years.  Imagine my thrill when I was hired to begin teaching in the HPER program at OCC in 1999, and in the Human Services program in 2002!  I consider the time I spent attending OCC to have been the basis of everything I have done subsequently.”


Sandra Baker, ’80

Sandra Baker, ‘80

  • Major: Business
  • Resides in Baldwinsville
  • Occupation: Senior Director of Corporate Strategy at Research & Marketing Strategies, former Onondaga County Legislator, distinguished OCC Alumni Face, chair of the OCC Foundation Board
  • “I love talking about OCC and hearing from so many others who have a connection to the school. OCC will always have a special place in my heart. I am so appreciative of the education I received and the flexibility it provided. I’m especially happy now for the opportunity to pay it forward in encouraging others to support and promote our beautiful college.”


John Chapman, ’78

  • Major: Business
  • Employer: JMC Advisory Services
  • Resides in Fairport
  • “OCC gave me a great affordable, education and provided me the foundation and structure with business knowledge to continue my education at Long Island University, C.W.Post College. OCC gave me the confidence to ask questions, explore new areas and expand my learning in advancing my career and additional education.”

Peter Cushing, ’72

  • Major: General Studies
  • Occupation: Attorney
  • Resides in Winter Park, FL
  • “OCC gave me my big chance and somehow it all worked out. I love OCC! I grew up on the south side of Syracuse on West Seneca Turnpike at the bottom of the hill. Mom raised 5 kids. I went to Corcoran High School and worked 5 years at Community General Hospital in the kitchen and then as a janitor. My only college option was OCC. I attended downtown at the old typewriter factory. My grades got me admitted to SUNY Albany, then University of Baltimore Law School, then Syracuse University Law. I met a Navy recruiter on the bus coming home from law school and joined Navy JAG. I traveled the world, stayed in for 7 years, 17 years in the Naval JAG reserves and have had a successful law practice here in Florida specializing in military family law.”


Loren Davies, ‘16

  • Major: Computer Science
  • Resides in Liverpool
  • “The Computer Science department at OCC more than prepared me for my transfer to the Rochester Institute of Technology. Professors like Scheemaker, Page, Reed and Stedman really had an impact on me.”


Kelly Donovan, ’12

Kelly Donovan, ‘12

  • Major: General Studies
  • Occupation: Enrollment Associate at OCC
  • Resides in Syracuse
  • “OCC was my starting point for my college career. I’m working full-time and pursuing my Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration through Columbia College.  When deciding my college path, I knew I wanted to stay close to home at a place where I could commute and still meet new friends along the way. As a student at OCC I worked in the Admissions Office as a Student Ambassador, presenting guided tours to perspective students and families along with new employees as well. I now work at OCC as an Enrollment Associate in Student Central.


Jeanine Eckenrode, ’92

Jeanine Eckenrode, ’92

  • Major: Humanities & Social Sciences
  • Occupation: Associate Vice President of Enrollment Management at OCC
  • “I began my educational journey at a four year private school downstate and quickly realized that it wasn’t a good fit for me. After a major health concern, I decided to return to the upstate region. I knew my goal was to get a degree and transfer; I just questioned my long term career goals. At OCC, I quickly found a community of people through playing a sport on campus and studying with classmates. My time at OCC allowed me to gain confidence, create connections and figure out the next steps on my educational journey. I was able to complete a four year degree in psychology and later in life a masters degree in art therapy. Returning to campus as an employee has provided an opportunity to give back to a community that helped me along the way. When I meet with students, I often say that education is a journey and not a race. I took the long path and stumbled on some stones along the way, but OCC was there to guide me through the path. I will forever be grateful for the opportunity to learn by ‘failing forward.'”


Michael Filipski, ’74

  • “Onondaga Community College has has a profound impact on my life. I graduated in 1974 and was the first class to graduate attending both years at the Onondaga hill location. Throughout my life I received numerous degrees B.S., M.S. and C.A.S. from various colleges but I always looked back at Onondaga Community College positively. I felt the professors and the facility’s were exceptional. My career has paralleled the college closely. I was a Health Teacher and later Guidance Counselor in the Syracuse City School district. One of the years I was a Health Teacher I was named New York State Health Teacher of the year. In being a Guidance Counselor I took student interns from Onondaga Community College in the Human Service field. In taking on interns it was brought to my attention about becoming an adjunct professor at Onondaga Community College. I was honored to be able to perform that position. I am currently in my 25 year of being an adjunct professor in the HPER and Human Services department. Without a doubt the college has done so much for me and provided me the opportunity to give some of that back in teaching there. I have nothing but warmest regards for that institution.”


John Gould, ’15

John Gould, ‘15

  • Major: Human Services
  • Occupation: Mental Health
  • Resides in Ithaca
  • “I came to OCC to get my degree and go right to work. During my time there I was president of student government. Being a leader on campus prepared me for the job I hold today. OCC gave me the start in life I needed. I put in a lot of work and it paid off. I have OCC to thank for that.”


Ted Jewett, ’81

  • Major: Business Administration
  • Occupation: Materials Manager
  • Resides in Syracuse
  • “Before I went to OCC I remember a co-worker telling me I should continue my education. I said ‘Yes, but by the time I finish my associate degree I’ll be 32 years old.’ He said, ‘You’re going to be 32 anyway right?’ He was right and I got my degree in 3 years going nights and during the summers. My degree has opened doors for me with companies which wouldn’t have hired me without advanced education. It has been a  cornerstone in my career. I enjoyed my time at OCC and can’t believe it passed so quickly. I would encourage anyone to attend. Both of my children got their degrees there before continuing on to their bachelor’s degrees. It saved money and was a good start.”


Vernita King, ‘73

  • Major: General Studies
  • Retired
  • Resides in Jamesville
  • “I attended OCC when it was housed at Midtown Plaza and just receiving accreditation. It prepared me to advance my education and earn a Master’s degree. The professors truly believed in you and your education. They were always available to answer questions and clarify lectures. Students had to develop sound study habits. The atmosphere was non-threatening because classes were smaller which seemed important for freshmen and the transition from high school. Back then we had no internet access and had to spend hours in the library researching subjects to complete papers and projects. My fondest memories are of Candis Olgesby, Jim Dupree and the head of the General Studies Department at the time. I was among the first students to form the Black Student Union at OCC. We had no budget but we had a strong support group including the administration. During this time at OCC some of the students would join with SU students to protest the war among other things. I always say these were the good old days.”


Chris La Barbera, ‘83

  • Major: Radio & TV
  • Occupation: Assistant Director and Actor
  • Resides in Los Angeles, CA
  • “The Radio & TV Department along with my internship at the NBC TV affiliate served me well! Everything in my major was hands-on with abundance. Thank you all, especially to the late, great Vincent Spadafora.”


Joe Masterleo, ’68

  • Major: Humanities
  • Occupation: Clinical Social Worker
  • Resides in Jamesville
  • “I applied to OCC in 1965 as I was nearing high school graduation. I was turned down and took a series of remedial courses while working part-time as a grocery clerk. A year later I was accepted and started taking classes in the fall of ’66. I was unsure if I could handle college level work. That lingering fear slowly dissolved and I eventually mastered my studies thanks to small classes and individual instruction by very qualified professors who gave liberally of themselves. By the time I graduated in ’68 I was third in my class. For many like myself OCC was a very good welcome and a timely fit on my academic path. The best classroom teacher I ever had at any level was at OCC. Long-since deceased he still lives fondly in my character and person. Two years after leaving OCC, I graduated from Syracuse University. For the past 39 years I have been self-employed in the private practice of psychotherapy. It all began with OCC providing the guidance, sound advice and welcome second-chance to what then amounted to an undeserving, unqualified applicant. Or so I thought. Now at age 70 and nearing retirement, when I come to think about who I am and how I came to be that way, the OCC personnel and experiences are near the very top of my gratitude list.”


Robert Neumann, ‘76

  • Major: Radio & TV
  • Occupation: Senior Vice President of Programming, iHeart Media
  • Resides in Hilton Head Island, SC
  • “Professor Rob Ganier was an amazing inspiration and mentor. The Radio & TV program put me on a path for success and I have had a great career. I’ve programmed radio stations in major markets like Washington, Houston, Tampa and Cleveland. As I near the end of my working career I decided to take a position as Senior Vice President of Programming with iHeart Media in Savannah, Georgia to be close to family.  I have never forgotten the people I met, the experiences I had or the institution that gave me a great start.”


Dom Nuon, ‘00

  • Major: Business Administration
  • Occupation: Assistant Vice President
  • “I wouldn’t be where I am now had I not gone to OCC.”


Kyndall Pritchard, ’95

Kyndall Pritchard, ‘95

  • Major: Nursing
  • Occupation: Nursing Education
  • Resides in Sunrise, FL
  • “Before I enrolled at OCC, I had been a student at several different universities and colleges. I had no idea where I was headed, nor what I wanted to do with my life. At the time of my enrollment at OCC, I was working as a nursing assistant in a local nursing home. Nursing is a daunting educational program, and definitely not for the uncommitted; however, I was supported in all aspects of my studies at OCC.  In my general education courses, I had faculty who were committed to my success, even when I was not. I was able to receive tutoring services to assist in helping me study more effectively. Once I entered the nursing program, the nursing faculty were supportive, but firm. I needed this discipline. I often struggled to balance school, work, and family, but my advisors kept me on track. I reflect fondly on my time at OCC, even as I recall the difficulty and struggle of being a working single parent and full-time nursing student. You see, I found my passion at OCC! I continued my education and earned a BSN and MSN in Nursing Education. I am now the Dean of Nursing in an associate degree nursing program in Florida and I am currently in the candidacy phase of my doctoral program. I want to thank OCC for providing me with a strong foundation and passion for life-long learning, as well as role models of caring and professional faculty!”


Garrett Smith, ’13

  • Major: Interior Design
  • Resides in Tempe, AZ
  • “OCC was a great platform for me to begin my education and work toward becoming a professional interior designer. The Interior Design program was extremely thorough and the faculty was helpful and passionate about the work being completed. I felt that the courses delivered and required for graduation left me with a broad knowledge and understanding of the field that I was one day going to be working in. When comparing to other schools and internship opportunities I had completed I felt that I was extremely prepared and knew more about the industry than other individuals pursuing the same career elsewhere. The campus and the Whitney building the Interior Design program is located in is refreshing to learn in and is a bright and motivating environment for a young designer and was one of the reasons why I chose OCC. After being inspired by what I learned at OCC I attended and graduated from the Savannah College of Art and Design with my Bachelor’s degree in Interior Design. Two weeks after graduation I began working at Gensler, the best firm in the nation.”


Tell Us Your Story!

Scenes from the OCC campus then (left) and now (right).

We’re proud to announce a new initiative, “The OCC Effect.” If you are one of the tens of thousands of former OCC students, we would love to hear your story. Please take a moment, visit our Alumni web site and tell us how OCC impacted your life. Your success is a significant part of OCC’s story which began more than a half-century ago when we first opened our doors in 1961. We’re proud our middle name is “community” and we’d love to hear what OCC’s effect has been on you. We’ve assembled a few stories about successful alumni which we hope will inspire you to share your story with us.

Thank you for making Onondaga Community College the outstanding institution it is today!