FLCC grad’s bird sighting is a first for New York

Snowy plover
Jay McGowan, multimedia collections specialist at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, took this photo of the snowy plover on the shore of Lake Ontario after learning of Sarah Forestiere’s sighting.

It’s not a standard job title: piping plover technician.

For nearly a year, Sarah Forestiere, a 2018 graduate of Finger Lakes Community College, has monitored two nesting pairs of the federally endangered shorebird at Sandy Island Beach State Park on Lake Ontario, for the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Only 60 nesting pairs are known to be scattered throughout the Great Lakes.

She has kept records of the birds’ activity, taught park visitors about piping plovers, and set up snow fence around their nests to protect their eggs and the chicks, which she describes as “cotton balls that weigh the same as two pennies.”

All this made Forestiere qualified to recognize that a visitor to Sandy Island on Sept. 13 was a plover, but not a piping plover.

She checked guides and concluded it was a snowy plover, common to the southern and western U.S. and the Caribbean. She confirmed her find with an amateur birdwatcher, Matt Brown, who encouraged her to post it on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s eBird app.

Snowy Plover
Among those who confirmed Sarah Forestiere’s finding was Alison Kocek, a Ph.D. candidate and graduate research assistant at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, who took this photo.

It caused an immediate stir.

“The snowy plover observation was significant for birders and ornithologists as it represented the first record of the species for the state of New York and one of only a few dozen from the northeast and Great Lakes area in general,” said Jay McGowan, multimedia collections specialist at the Cornell Lab.

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Alumni Spotlight: The answers within us

Doyle Pruitt ’98 built a career helping people in traumatic circumstances find a way forward.

Woman smiling at her large brown dog
Doyle Pruitt ’98 works in private practice as a clinical social worker in Canandaigua. Her dog, Porter, sometimes helps out by putting clients at ease. Photo by Jan Regan

Right before her senior year in high school, Doyle Pruitt’s family moved to Canandaigua, a tight-knit community where many of the other teens had grown up together.

She felt like an outsider but only until she started classes at FLCC in fall 1996.

“I felt like here I did fit in,” she said. “The professors saw beyond what clique you belonged to. It allowed me to explore who I was and what I wanted without having to explain myself.”

At FLCC, Doyle began her deliberate pursuit of a career in clinical social work, starting with her associate degree in human services in 1998, followed by a bachelor’s in social work and psychology from Nazareth, then a master’s in social work at Syracuse University. She earned a Ph.D. from the University at Buffalo in 2013.

Now a licensed clinical social worker with a private practice in Canandaigua, she specializes in the assessment and treatment of trauma and sexually harmful behaviors in children. Her decision to devote her life to such weighty matters began in her teens.

“My whole career has focused on trauma, and it came from in high school, having friends disclose to me they had been sexually abused,” Doyle explained, noting two of those three friends were young men. “I couldn’t do much to help my friends. I didn’t want other kids to go through what they went through.” Continue reading “Alumni Spotlight: The answers within us”

What are mycelia and why is FLCC growing them?

The College is helping a company determine if there is a faster way to grow the nutrient-dense root-like parts of mushrooms.

Woman in science lab, inspecting vial
Demetrice Garcia ’21, who earned an A.S. in biotechnology, works as a research assistant on a project to determine the best conditions for growing mushroom mycelia in a liquid solution. FLCC is collaborating with a local company that would like to commercialize the process for the food and dietary supplement markets. Photo by Rikki Van Camp

Demetrice Garcia carefully positions a large flask of orange liquid in an autoclave, an oven-like device, to sterilize it for growing another batch of mushroom fibers.

Demetrice, or “Demi,” and her fellow research assistants, Philip Simmons and Matthew Brooks, are culturing mycelia, the white root-like filaments that, in the wild, extend from mushroom caps into rotting logs. 

They work in the lab at Finger Lakes Community College, trying to answer questions that could lead to a number of commercial products: What conditions promote the fastest growth of mycelia and the bioactive compounds these fibers produce? 

Their work is supported by the National Science Foundation, which funds a variety of programs to promote science education and opportunities for students to pursue careers in science. The exciting part is that this is not a lab exercise. Continue reading “What are mycelia and why is FLCC growing them?”

A graduate’s story: ‘I cannot just give up’

Ivan Castillo-Serrano ’20 defied the odds and the doubters to become an FLCC graduate and emergency room nurse.

Nurse standing outside hospital emergency entrance
Ivan Castillo-Serrano ’20, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Mexico, stopped working while attending FLCC’s nursing program to improve his English and learn course materials at the same time.

After high school, Ivan Castillo-Serrano planned to pay his way through a veterinarian program. He did not want to burden his dad, who already worked long hours. 

Since good jobs were hard to find in his hometown in the Mexican state of Puebla, the solution seemed simple: Go to the U.S., work for a year, and bank some cash.

“My mom was heartbroken,” he said. “My dad said, ‘OK, if you want to go, I support you, but it’s hard, it’s dangerous.’”

A year became two, then four, then six, and instead of going back, he met his wife, Erin, became a U.S. citizen and graduated from FLCC’s registered nursing program. Now an emergency room nurse at Newark-Wayne Community Hospital, he can tell you his plan turned out to be anything but simple.

Ivan remembers the day and time, Jan. 7, 2006, 8 p.m., when he arrived in Nogales, Mexico, hiding in a dump truck with nine others, his heart beating so fast he could barely breathe. Someone gave the signal and, “We jumped the wall and we ran,” he said. Ivan rode in cars, lying flat on the floor, until meeting up in Mesa, Ariz., with his uncle, who got him a construction job.  Continue reading “A graduate’s story: ‘I cannot just give up’”

FLCC graduates largest high school equivalency class


Grad fist bumps president
Latoya Spears of Rochester was among 133 students who completed requirements for a high school equivalency diploma over the last year at FLCC. Photo by Rikki Van Camp

Finger Lakes Community College celebrated 133 high school equivalency graduates recently, the largest class ever, in part due to the addition of distance learning during the pandemic.

About two dozen opted to participate in a ceremony in late August, held outdoors to reduce the risk of exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19.

Kathleen Guy, director of adult basic education for the college, said the state Education Department’s decision to add distance learning and to accept previous Regents credit made it possible for more people to complete the program.

College president in regalia at podium
FLCC President Robert Nye encouraged graduates to tell their stories of how they went back to school and succeeded. Photo by Rikki Van Camp

FLCC’s program allows people to work at their own pace with an instructor to prepare for the five exams necessary to earn a high school equivalency diploma.

FLCC President Robert Nye asked graduates to encourage others to enter the program.

“You should share your stories of where you come from and how you did it,” he said.

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FLCC welcomes new vice president

Finger Lakes Community College President Robert K. Nye has appointed Adam W. Rathbun as vice president of administration and finance.

Adam Rathbun
Adam Rathbun

As a member of the college’s senior leadership team, Rathbun is responsible for maintaining the college’s fiscal health and efficient administrative functions. This includes financial and business services, the operating budget, facilities and grounds, campus police, environmental health and safety and enterprise risk management.

Rathbun has more than 20 years in government and higher education operations, including roles with the National Security Agency (NSA) and Carnegie Mellon University. He most recently served as director of finance and business for Pennsylvania State University’s Beaver Campus, where he led the development and execution of a campus master plan.

Rathbun has a master of business administration (MBA) from the University of Baltimore and a master’s certificate in project management from the University of Pittsburgh. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps and the Maryland Air National Guard.

Rathbun is also a New York community college graduate, having earned an associate degree in computer information systems from Orange County Community College in Middletown.