211 FLCC students named to Phi Theta Kappa honor society

Man at podium
Canandaigua City Manager speaks to the newest members of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society at FLCC.

The Finger Lakes Community College chapter of Phi Theta Kappa (PTK), the honor society for two-year colleges, inducted 211 members over the course of the last year.

Canandaigua City Manager John Goodwin, who joined PTK while a student at Jamestown Community College, was the keynote speaker at ceremony in May. He described his path to his current role in public administration, urging students to take advantage of opportunities as they arise.

Goodwin also shared his thoughts on leadership, explaining his personal emphasis on honesty, transparency and authenticity.  “There’s no limit what you can accomplish, or what can be accomplished, if it doesn’t matter who gets the credit,” he added.

Phi Theta Kappa promotes scholarship, leadership, service and fellowship. FLCC’s chapter, Alpha Epsilon Chi, was chartered in 1981 and provides leadership, service and scholarship opportunities for members. Membership requires completion of 15 hours of associate degree coursework and a GPA of 3.0. Phi Theta Kappa members also serve as campus ambassadors.

A photo album is on the FLCC Flickr site

Post photo of three people
Naomi Cromer, vice president of the FLCC chapter of Phi Theta Kappa; Sim Covington, FLCC chief diversity officer and advisor to the chapter; and John Goodwin, Canandaigua city manager, PTK member and keynote speaker at the induction ceremony.

New members are listed below by county and town:

Albany: Tiffany Williams

Andover: Alicia Persons

Endicott: Ceandra McCall

Jamestown: Denise Swezey

Erin: Abigail Loper
Horseheads: Rachel Difasi, Josiah Fewkes

Ellenburg Center: Nicholas Filion
Plattsburgh: Victoria Aguilar

Angola: Hanna Donovan
Cheektowaga: Nicolas Churchman
Clarence: Center Owen Probst
Lackawanna: Cody Paternostro, Nicholas West

Watertown: Cindy Gay

Conesus: Danielle Trescott
Dansville: Teah Arriaga, William Barrett, Logan Kanaval
Lima: Jake Williams
Livonia: Jared King, Elaina Palmeri
Nunda: Alexandra Hugi

Brockport: Amanda Meyer
East Rochester: Lydia Fanara
Fairport: Christopher Braun, Hannah Denigro, Justin Myers, Kai Vogt
Hamlin: Maxwell Jackson
Henrietta: Corrina Rosenfeld
Hilton: Gary Shadders
Honeoye Falls: Brianna Wise
North Chili: Carlos Torres
Penfield: Emily Muchard
Pittsford: Gem Sung
Rochester: Brittany Bland, Adam Callari, Naomi Cromer, Charles Domm, Russell Domm, Rene Garnica , Hanna Roman, Michael Solazzo
Webster: Michael Ditullio, Kayla Halstead, Sarah Hendrickson, Shane Thompson
West Henrietta: Nathan Muller

Elmont: Gary Diaz
Old Bethpage: Heather Lonic

Brooklyn: Andrew Bogovych

Baldwinsville: Matthew Rose
Liverpool: Edward Dumas
Syracuse: Jenna Horton, Joseph Suddaby

Bloomfield: Glory Gumaer, Catherine Molloy, Mackenzie Smith

Canandaigua: Timothy Atkins, Elizabeth Bentley, Griffin Bond, Rachel Boock, Nicholas Brunelli, Russell Cammarata, Mikayla Coleates, Shelby Debeer, Daniel Disalvo, Carley Ducar, Amber Ertel, Margaret Evarts, Elaina Flynn, Michael Flynn, Kirsten Ham, Samuel Healy, Benjamin Koeberle, Jaxson Marsh, Tyler Marsh, Mikayla Martineau, Morgan Mitchell, Matthew Neininger, Aynsley Rossmann, Erich Rudolph, Sarah Schmeer, Susan Schmeer, Keegan Trainor, Kara Veatch, Aidan Vitticore, Cassie Ward, Erik Winarski

Clifton Springs: Nita Schumacher, Meghann Devito, Olivia Fullerton, Perry Galens, Shae Morrow, Gabrielle Steingraber, Michele Williams

Farmington: Sophia Attardi, Jessica Avery, Emily Butcher, Matthew Butts, Matthew Cary, Haley Fisher, Roy Hibbert III, Delvy Koumba-Mouity, Grace Ledgerwood, Amber Maliborski, Roger Purcell, Marcus Smith

Geneva: Sofia Candidori, Andrew Chilbert, Lucas Cupelli, Janeika Delgado, Nicholas Mazzocchi, Amanda Owens, Kaitlyn Roach

Honeoye: Victoria Armstrong

Manchester: Timothy Baley, Jena Caramazza

Naples: Bruce Elwell, Brianna Faber, Ethan Friend, Theresa Hays, Cris Kenney, Kim Nelson, Ava Sheedy

Phelps: Hayley Peisher, Erik Verdehem

Port Gibson: Daria Algier, Amanda Klahn

Rushville: Madison Jackson

Shortsville: Evan Walker

Stanley: Brianna Demarco

Victor: Julia Baldwin, William Brady, John Davis, Samantha Farrelly, Jonah Grbic, Christine Miller, Delayne Reagan, Aliyah Sone, Nicholas Ward

Port Jervis: Lynnlee Ennis

Springfield Center: Isabel Daley

Interlaken: Julia Diamond, Meghan Housem, Josh Maslyn
Ovid: Larinda Cordell, Carolyn Natale
Seneca Falls: Xavier Castellaneta, Kobe Laprade, Olivia Yancey
Waterloo: Nehemiah Williams

Cameron: Hannah Hoffman
Prattsburgh: Elijah Lenhard
Wayland: Audrianna Barnard, Mikayla Bernal

Deer Park: Maria Hearn
West Islip: Jake Squicciarini

Enfield: Jesse Rogers
Ithaca: Lindsey Reynolds

Clyde: Tabitha Elmer

Lyons: Riley DeCola, Danielle Pinckney, Tia Stowell

Macedon: Alea Javorowsky, Nicole Jerzak, Leah Lloyd

Marion: Dana Bergeron, Briana Chauncey

Newark: George Andrew, Robert Bacchetta, Amber Blanchette, Benjamin Cepulo, Destiny Rodriguez-Bellinger, Keith Rolenaitis, Sheridan Verstraete

North Rose
David Fantuzzo

Ontario: Tessa Edwards
Palmyra: Grace Boesel, Emma Brooks, Dylan Ellis, Danielle Englert, Devon Harmon, Jay Huddleston, Kalie Mitchell, Carissa O’Lena, Makayla Simmons, Samuel Wizeman

Sodus: Garret Anderson, Andrew Dietrich

Walworth: Jillian Angotti, Catherine Rainwater, Krystal Sippel

Williamson: Gavin Fernaays, Crystal Polak

Wolcott: Jenavieve Brown

Yonkers: Joseph Hofstede

Attica: Parker Remington

Dundee: Akiya Brewer, Harlan Nolt
Penn Yan: Elise Andersen, Mason Bishop, Jaina Doyle, Marilyn Hawley, Madison Hobbs, Jenna Kinner, Audrey Rodriguez
Rushville: Kristin Ireland

East Haven, Conn.: Angelica Lawler

SUNY recognizes FLCC employees, students for excellence

J. Naused at podium in regalia
Jeremiah Naused was recognized as a recipient of the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence at the Finger Lakes Community College commencement in May.
Autumn Dushnick seated, smiling in nursing uniform
Autumn Dushnick was recognized as a recipient of the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence at the Finger Lakes Community College commencement in May.

Five Finger Lakes Community College employees and two students were recognized during commencement in May as recipients of SUNY Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence.

Recipients were as follows:

Autumn E. Dushnick of West Sayville, Suffolk County, received the SUNY Chancellor’s Awards for Student Excellence. Dushnick is a 2022 nursing graduate who served as the director of the Student Corporation Activities Committee for 2021-22. In this role, she brought together students, faculty, and staff through social and educational events. In the fall 2021 semester alone, the Activities Committee hosted 40 events and made 1,623 connections with students. In addition, Dushnick raised funds at the start of the pandemic to provide food for health care workers.

Jeremiah Naused of Romulus, Seneca County, received the SUNY Chancellor’s Awards for Student Excellence. He is a 2022 FLCC graduate with a degree in liberal arts and sciences and plans to become a physician. Naused served as the Student Corporation president for 2021-22, helping to reactivate student organizations following the first year of the pandemic and promoting the rollout of the TimelyCare App among students. TimelyCare gives students 24/7 access to health services, including mental health services.

Head and shoulders image of K. Schwartz in regalia
Kathleen Schwartz received a SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Classified Service.


Kathleen Schwartz of Gorham, Ontario County, received the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Classified Service. Schwartz, who has served FLCC for three decades, recently retired as senior clerk for the Academic and Student Affairs division. Schwartz was nominated for her willingness to serve on college committees, mentor other employees and take on new tasks to help improve programs and processes.


J. Foust seated in regalia, smiling
John Foust received the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching.

John Foust of Stanley, Ontario County, professor of environmental conservation and horticulture, received the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. With 23 years of service to the college, Foust was nominated for his work in developing courses and learning opportunities for conservation students, in particular, in the field of fisheries. He has been a part of research collaborations with local and regional institutions, including a biological survey for invasive species in Loon Lake, Steuben County, and he uses data on student learning to drive improvements in his teaching practices.

President presenting award to M. Van Etten
FLCC President Robert Nye presents Michael Van Etten with the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching at commencement in May.

Michael Van Etten of Canandaigua, Ontario County, assistant professor and program coordinator of world languages, received the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. Van Etten is the author and designer of the Language Education Access Foundation, which provides a wealth of teaching resources for a variety of languages and a series of low-cost online textbooks. He is a pioneer in the use of technology to teach language, a strong proponent of experiential learning, and has served as a coach and mentor for the FLCC eSports program.

Lacey McKinney in regalia, smiling
Lacey McKinney, associate professor of art, received the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activities

Lacey McKinney of Liverpool, Onondaga County, associate professor of art, received the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activities. A faculty member since 2013, McKinney has exhibited her work at galleries in New York, North Carolina, and Washington. Her solo exhibition Reconfiguration was featured in 2020 – 2021 at the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse. Her art has been selected for publications that include The Post Standard in Syracuse, Artnet News and huffingtonpost.com. She has been instrumental in the launching of the ArtSpace36 gallery in downtown Canandaigua.

President shakes hands with J. Tiermini
FLCC President Robert Nye presents Jeremy Tiermini with the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Faculty Service at commencement in May.

Jeremy Tiermini of Canandaigua, Ontario County, professor of health science and human performance, received the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Faculty Service. Tiermini was recognized for his contribution to development of the online learning program at FLCC. He has served on several college committees that develop policy and programming and guide the overall direction of the institution. Tiermini also serves as co-chair of the college’s Guided Pathways program, designed to improve opportunities for student success.

FLCC trustees honor alumni, student researchers

Three students in science lab
From left, Philip Simmons, Matthew Brooks, and Demetrice Garcia, shown in a Finger Lakes Community College lab in March 2021, were the first to work on a project to determine the conditions that promote the fastest growth of mushroom fibers and the bioactive compounds these fibers produce. They have since been joined by current students Leila Doerrer and Chelsea Patterson.

The Finger Lakes Community College Board of Trustees recognized a group of five current and former students who were chosen to present their research on the cultivation of mushroom sugars for a national conference in April.

The research project is part of an 18-month collaboration between FLCC and Empire Medicinals, a Henrietta company that sells mushrooms and mushroom-blended meats. It sought the college’s help for basic research that could lead to the extraction and commercialization of mushroom sugars as a food supplement.

Three of the students, who have since graduated, and two current students represented FLCC at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR), an annual event that involves 3,200 students, faculty, and administrators.

Head and shoulders photo
James Hewlett

“NCUR is the largest showcase in the country of undergraduate research, so it’s all institution types,” James Hewlett of Webster, the professor leading the project, told the board at its May 4 meeting. ”It’s not a given. You have to apply, and the applications go through some pretty intense scientific review before you’re accepted to present at this conference. It’s a huge deal to actually get accepted, and it becomes a published abstract.”

Presenters were Matthew Brooks, a 2021 biotechnology graduate from Canandaigua, Demetrice Garcia, a 2021 biotechnology graduate from Newark, and Philip Simmons of Keuka Park, who has a 2021 associate degree in biotechnology and a 2020 associate degree in viticulture and wine technology.

Head and shoulders photo of Chelsea Patterson
Chelsea Patterson

Current students Leila Doerrer, a biotechnology major from Honeoye Falls, and Chelsea Patterson, an engineering science major from Farmington, also contributed to the development of a poster summarizing the research for the conference.

“It’s a very fascinating study, and I’m very happy to have been a part of it,” said Patterson. “It’s definitely opened my eyes to the detail that research takes, and I absolutely love everything about it.”

Head and shoulders photo of Leila Doerrer
Leila Doerrer

“I have to be honest. This is the most valuable experience I’ve probably ever had in my entire life,” said Doerrer. “I’ve learned so much. I can run a whole bunch of machines, like bioreactors. I’ve learned how to operate an autoclave.”

Hewlett, who has been recognized as a State University of New York distinguished service professor for his work promoting student research, directs the students with adjunct instructor Sarad Parekh of Pittsford and instructional specialist Jessica Halliley of Rochester.

The goal of the project is to determine the conditions that promote the fastest growth of mushroom fibers, called mycelia, and the bioactive compounds these fibers produce.

Mushrooms are well established as a health food; they are low in calories and high in fiber, protein and antioxidants. Sugars they produce, called beta-glucans, are studied for their potential to boost the immune system, lower cholesterol and fight cancer. Isolating the sugars requires growing the mycelia in a broth-like medium, separating the liquids and solids, then filtering the liquid.

The students grew two strains of mushrooms in two different broths – one with glucose and another with lactose. One of the strains produced the highest yield in lactose, a sugar found in milk.

Unlike a carefully controlled lab exercise, researchers can run into problems, Brooks noted.

“If something goes wrong, like one of our batches gets contaminated, it’s not like the professors know the answer right away. It’s a genuine mystery,” he said, adding that it takes collaboration to diagnose the problem.

Trustee George Cushman praised the research program for the range of skills it fosters.

“What I heard … was that you learned a lot of transferable skills, and it’s not necessarily the things that go on a resume all the time, but it’s really what the employers need,” he said. “I heard about working together as a team, solving problems – all these things don’t necessarily translate on a resume, but they really are essential skills.”

Hewlett said the college is seeking more research projects, particularly among small startups like Empire Medicinals that lack research and development capacity.  “They need help and we need projects,” he said.

State grant to fund additional lab in nursing expansion project


Professor watching nursing simulation
Nursing instructor Tiffani Leyden monitors a nursing simulation exercise from behind a one-way mirror in the renovated Finger Lakes Community College nursing wing. Leyden, who also recorded the session, later debriefed with students about their response to the symptoms a computerized manikin presented during the exercise.

Finger Lakes Community College has received a $1.5 million grant to add an additional science lab to the Sands Family Center for Allied Health now under construction at the main campus.

FLCC broke ground on the $7.2 million expansion and renovation project in June 2021. SUNY later notified FLCC that the College would receive $1.5 million through the SUNY Workforce Development Initiative, which funds projects designed to train people for high-demand jobs. The state has identified health care, and nursing in particular, as a top priority.

The project is opening in stages. The renovated area on the third floor of the main campus, which features a new nursing simulation lab, opened in August 2021. The expansion includes more nursing lab and instructional spaces and a fourth floor lobby; it will open in summer 2022. 

Our students are already experiencing an enhanced educational experience in our newly renovated nursing space. The expansion, now nearly complete, and this additional science lab will provide even greater flexibility and capacity as we prepare students for health care careers,” FLCC President Robert Nye said.

The additional 1,800-square-foot science lab and instructional space will be built next to the new lobby and open in 2023. The lab will be equipped with HyFlex technology allowing for simultaneous in-person and remote instruction to support students in health care programs.

When complete, the Sands Family Center for Allied Health will allow FLCC to accept 50 percent more students in the two-year registered nursing program and launch a one-year licensed practical nursing program. 

With the new facilities, FLCC will be able to accept students into the registered nursing program in both the fall and spring. The application for the first spring class, in January 2023, will open in early May on the College website at flcc.edu. 

The College will also use the center to provide certificate training for nurse assistants, home health aides and phlebotomy technicians. A federal grant currently covers most or all of the tuition for these three short-term certificate programs. Anyone interested in enrolling can learn more at flcc.edu/reimagine or (585) 785-1670.

The Sands Family Center for Allied Health is named for the chief donor, the Sands Family Foundation, which contributed $3 million to the project. 

In addition to the Sands Family Foundation gift, the FLCC Student Corporation has pledged $250,000 while the FLCC Foundation and the FLCC Association will each contribute $200,000. These gifts were matched by New York State. The additional grant brings the project total to $8.7 million.

SUNY honors FLCC student for overcoming hardship

Headshot of Sarah Frost
Sarah Frost

Sarah Frost of Geneva, a graphic design major at Finger Lakes Community College, was among 45 State University of New York students honored in April with the Norman R. McConney Jr. Award for Student Excellence. 

The award recognizes students in the SUNY Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) for their academic merit and strength in overcoming significant personal obstacles.

Frost, 38, has struggled with learning disabilities, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and dyscalculia, which makes it harder to do tasks involving math. She has also coped with COVID isolation and a physically disabling illness.

“Slowly but surely, I have started to regain my strength. I am so grateful for my teachers, I have no words that can equal the amount of gratitude I feel for them,” she said. “The same goes for my EOP support. Having weekly meetings where I can touch base with my advisor, Nicole (Siegwarth), felt like having family care for you.”

Frost also found encouragement in joining the student organization AALANA, which stands for African American Latino/a, Asian and Native American. She plans to transfer to a four-year school and continue her studies in graphic design.

“Sarah is a shining example of what it means to be an EOP student and a Norman R. McConney Jr. Award recipient. Her will to succeed is a testament to her perseverance, grit, resilience and determination,” said Lisa Thomas, director of the EOP program at FLCC. “Even when things seemed impossible, Sarah dug deep, utilized her resources, and turned things around. She continues to rise above her circumstances, and we are excited to see her continue her journey.” 

Frost encourages other students struggling with illness and disability not to give up.

“It’s going to be hard at times, but remember to talk to your EOP advisors. They will never steer you wrong, and they will always be there when you need them. Just keep trying,” she added.

The Norman R. McConney Jr. Award for Student Excellence is named in memory of a graduate of the University at Albany and former assistant dean for special programs at SUNY. McConney (1946–2016) and former Assembly Deputy Speaker Arthur O. Eve helped create EOP as a statewide program.

Frost attended an award ceremony in Albany on April 14 with Thomas and Siegwarth, the EOP academic support outreach specialist.

“I can tell you this right now, if not for EOP, I would not have made it this far. When I was running low on food, they assisted me. When I needed new school supplies, they were there,” she said. “I think that every school needs people like Lisa and Nicole because without them a lot of underprivileged students would get lost in the shuffle.”

“I have had the great fortune of working with Sarah very closely in my role,” Siegwarth added. “She is warm, talented, funny, and spirited. Her inner strength and motivation to be successful in life despite the many personal, academic, and financial hurdles she has faced is inspirational. I wish it was something that I could bottle and share with all of our students. I am so proud of her and her determination and cannot wait to see what comes next. She knows I will always be there to offer support and to cheer on her success.”  

Since its inception in 1967, the EOP has provided access, academic support, and supplemental financial assistance to students from disadvantaged backgrounds, many of whom are the first in their families to attend college. In its 55-year history, the EOP has served more than 78,000 students and evolved into one of the country’s most successful college access programs.

 In the current academic year, SUNY has nearly 8,000 EOP students on 50 SUNY campuses. EOP students often outperform their peers, with 74 percent of them graduating with a baccalaureate degree within six years.

Frost credited several faculty and staff for contributing to her success.

“I would like to give a special thank-you to my teachers and staff: Margaret Pence, Barbara J. Senglaub, Lacey McKinney, Nicole Siegwarth, Lisa Thomas, Dorren Allen-Carr, Sim Covington, Amy McGowan, Andrea Cornett, Suzanne Marino, Jodi Merklinger, Melissa Soules, and Aaron Sullivan. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Without knowing it, you have helped make my dreams come true,” she said.

Grant provides $523K in funding for short-term career training

Instructor with student using virtual reality headset
Rick Hill, instructor for the Finger Lakes Community College Certified Production Technician program, works with student Sean O’Rourke as he views a simulation using a virtual reality headset on April 23 at the Bloomfield Central School Operations Center. The college has received $523,700 to cover student costs for CPT and 10 other programs.

Finger Lakes Community College has received $523,700 in federal funding designed to cover most or all of the cost for individuals who want to train for careers in manufacturing, construction, information technology and health care.

The funding comes from the Reimagine Workforce Preparation Training program, meant to encourage people to switch to careers in high demand fields without taking on debt. The lengths of the training programs range from six weeks to nine months.

FLCC has launched a website with full details at flcc.edu/reimagine.

“We live at a time when people need to switch careers more often to keep up with economic change. This grant eliminates a major hurdle for most people to switch careers for greater pay, advancement potential and job satisfaction,” said Todd Sloane, FLCC’s director of workforce development.

Courses offer training in the following areas:

  • Health care: enhanced phlebotomy, certified clinical medical assistant, certified nurse aide, home health aide, pharmacy technician, patient care technician
  • Construction: residential electrician, HVAC technician
  • Information Technology: CompTIA A+
  • Manufacturing: certified production technician, foundations in advanced manufacturing

Training is offered at several locations and work for some programs can be completed online. The certified production technician program, for example, is currently offered simultaneously in Bloomfield and Penn Yan two evenings per week with the instructor conducting in-person labs on certain Saturdays. Students in the class learn manufacturing techniques using virtual reality headsets, in addition to learning how to use hand-tools.

The College offers a regular series of information sessions at flcc.edu/workforce.

FLCC staff can provide coaching in selecting and succeeding in a program, along with assistance in finding a job upon completion.

For more information, visit flcc.edu/reimagine or call (585) 785-1670.

Muller interns know they’re part of something bigger

Two women examining tubs of aquatic plants
Amy Slentz of Geneva, an environmental studies major, examines aquatic plants with Maura Sullivan, associate professor of environmental conservation, after gathering them via canoe on the Honeoye Lake Inlet at Muller Field Station in Canadice. Photo by Jan Regan.

About two dozen interns have tackled 13 conservation projects over the last year at the College’s Muller Field Station at the south end of Honeoye Lake.

The projects involve monitoring the state of the animal and plant life at the field station and surrounding areas to generate data that can be used by a broader community of scientists and educators.

For example, student Amy Slentz gathered aquatic plants from the Honeoye Lake Inlet in summer 2021 to look for invasive species under the guidance of Maura Sullivan, associate professor of environmental conservation and coordinator of the internship program. 

FLCC is participating in iMapInvasives, a citizen science program in which residents can submit information about suspected invasive species for confirmation by experts. The College is also part of the aquatic invasive species monitoring program of Finger Lakes PRISM, which stands for partnership for regional invasive species management.

“The good news is that we did not find any of the new and emerging, especially problematic invasive species in the inlet channel during our summer sampling,” Maura said. They were looking for hydrilla, water chestnut and starry stonewort.

Magazine cover featuring bakery owner Sabrina MIller
The Muller intern program is featured in the spring edition of the Laker magazine. Click here to view the electronic version.

Amy also took part in a partnership project with the Bergen Swamp Preservation Society monitoring grassland birds at Taylor Marsh, 600 acres north of Honeoye Lake.

Some projects last for a few months, others continue over years with new groups of students stepping in as others graduate or transfer. Professor John Van Niel, director of the station, and a rotating group of students have been examining the stomach contents of fishers that have been caught by fur trappers to provide the state Department of Environmental Conservation with data on what the weasel-like mammals eat. (Read about it in the FLCC blog at forward.csc.flcc.edu.)

Students also monitored reptiles and amphibians (herptiles) on the station property, gypsy moths at the field station and Onanda Park in the town of Canandaigua, prothonatory warbler nest boxes at the station, and camera traps set up at the station and the East Hill Campus in Naples to catch images of animal life when humans are not around.

The students are learning scientific methods for collecting information about the natural world that can have policy consequences. For example, when invasive species are detected, local governments have to decide whether to spend public funds to limit or remove the species. 

This scenario played out last year as the city of Canandaigua debated whether to use an herbicide to combat European buckthorn in Lagoon Park, which runs along Lakeshore Drive behind Wegmans. FLCC faculty and students have assisted with projects to plant native species at the park and monitor progress.

“Students relish this opportunity to get hands-on experience, connect with the natural world, and contribute to a greater understanding of phenomena they study,” Maura said. “Although students might be working on individual projects, this helps cement the reality that they are definitely part of something bigger.”  

At the end of their internships, students have been sharing their findings and reflections with other students and faculty, and that may expand to public presentations, she added.

Amy said she values the professional setting that the internships create. “My internship and work within the Conservation Department has helped to nourish my innate passion for the natural world as well as cultivate a deeper enthusiasm around environmental work,” she said.

The Florence M. Muller Foundation has provided funding for the internships for the last three years. The foundation is the legacy of the late Florence Muller, who donated the field station land and buildings to FLCC in 1999 and set up funds for the improvement and operation of the 48-acre property as an education and research center. It had once served as a summer retreat for Florence and her husband, Emil.

Why the Finger Lakes is a great place to learn winemaking

Elizabeth Keyser raising a glass of wine
Liz Keyser became the new winemaker at a West Coast winery in February.

At FLCC, Liz Keyser discovered her intellectual curiosity and the kind of community a wine region could be.

Liz Keyser has harvested grapes on the southern coast of Australia and the Willamette Valley region of Oregon and worked as an assistant winemaker in Napa Valley.

Now, as the new winemaker at Rocky Pond Winery in Washington, she feels she has returned, in a sense, to her roots in the Finger Lakes some 2,500 miles away.

Amid the vineyards rising from the Columbia River, Liz, 34, has found the same mix of wine-making potential and community she enjoyed while enrolled in FLCC’s viticulture and wine technology program.

“That was always one of the things that really resonated with me about the Finger Lakes. There is that sense of community and a free-flow of knowledge from winery to winery,” she said, explaining that she found Napa Valley to be as competitive, but more secretive. “In the Finger Lakes, you’re pushing each other to get to the better spot, and it’s done with an open source mentality.”

Students, in particular, benefit from the region’s healthy mix of collaboration and competition, she added. Liz felt free to strike up conversations with adjunct instructors who had day jobs at local wineries and fellow students interning across the region.

Gina Lee, coordinator of the viticulture and wine technology degree program, agreed with Liz’s assessment of the Finger Lakes wine community.

Magazine cover featuring bakery owner Sabrina MIller
Liz’s story is featured in the spring edition of the Laker magazine. Click here to read the online version.

“It amazed me after starting this program how much knowledge, equipment, and help that industry members give each other throughout the year,” she said. “The industry is so supportive of us here on the academic side also. It truly makes me proud to be a part of it.” 

Liz’s interest in wine began after she graduated in 2010 with a marketing and communications degree from Miami University. She went back to Westchester County, where she grew up, and found work with a wine retailer. The job led to an invitation to join a California wine harvest in 2013.

“I just had a phenomenal time,” Liz said. “I was fully intending on returning to New York and continuing on with my cush wine-buying job, but I fell in love with wine production and knew that I had to stay on this side of the wine industry.”

She did some research and made a big decision.

“I think I shocked everybody in my family by saying, ‘Hey, I’m gonna go to this random community college in upstate New York,’” she laughed.

Liz felt some apprehension returning to school in her late 20s without a strong math and science background. She was relieved to find, as with many applied programs, the math and science skills are woven into their application.

“It was done in a way where everything was so supportive. Teachers really expect you to be honest about your background and what your base understanding is. But they really bring you through it to where your coursework is digestible,” Liz said.

“For the first time, everything was: ‘I want to learn more, I want to dig deeper.’ It was the first time I felt any real intellectual curiosity, and I knew that was the right choice for me,” she added. “Rob Wink’s plant physiology course, that is some of the most intense studying of my life and some of the most rewarding as well. It was the first time I had to sit down and throw myself at studying.”

While a student, she worked at Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard & Winery in Dundee and developed a curiosity about other wine regions from Paul Brock and other faculty. After completing core classes, she went “harvest hopping” with classmates Greg Taylor ’16 and Bruce Stebbins ’17 to Hardys Tintara in McLaren Vale, Australia, and A to Z Wineworks in Newberg, Ore. These experiences only made her more committed to vineyard management and wine production.

“No harvest is ever the same, you always can do something a little bit different, a little bit better. It’s such a beautiful process, working with a natural product. It’s going to humble you year over year, and it’s going to make you want to come back,” she said.

Her first permanent, full-time winemaking job was as assistant winemaker at HALL Family Wines in St. Helena, Calif. She spent five years there before her friend and mentor Steve Leveque, an established winemaker on the West Coast, told her about Rocky Pond.

Liz was ready to take ownership of the winemaking process and drawn to this particular region in Washington state.

“The land itself is absolutely inspiring,” she said. “The vines themselves look so perfect and there’s so much potential wrapped up in these vineyards. Rocky Pond has a vision for the Columbia Valley becoming a wine region. In a way, it kind of reminded me of the Finger Lakes.”

Liz particularly likes the idea that she can be part of creating an identity for an up-and-coming wine region and re-create some of the experiences she had at FLCC. 

“It was a really special time in my life,” she said. “I am thankful for it every day.”

Note: Alumni, please share your news with us, including new jobs, promotions, awards, marriages, children or an amazing life experience. Use our form to stay in touch.

From the Laker: Recipes for balance

Gary Parmelee roasting a marshmellow dessert with torch
Gary Parmelee ’14 experiments with a dessert at FLX Hospitality.

In the spring alumni magazine, three culinary alumni talk about building careers in a creative, demanding field while finding time for friends and family.

What does Gary Parmelee like to cook?

“Anything that I don’t know how to cook,” says Gary, a 2014 culinary arts graduate and the production manager for FLX Hospitality. “I like to fully immerse myself. Right now, I am really, really big into baking bread, so I’ve got every one of my bread-baking books out. I’m learning about sourdough, and I’ve got bagels proofing right now.”

It is a winter afternoon and he has time to experiment. Gary is a culinary arts professional on vacation, which runs counter to the industry stereotype of never-ending hours, hot kitchens and irritable chefs. The Finger Lakes food and beverage landscape is in flux, expanding to serve the demand for local, artisanal foods and contracting with pandemic restrictions and labor shortages. Amid it all, three culinary alumni have achieved greater work-life balance, and they hope it becomes a long-term trend. 

These days, Gary works mostly 9 to 5, coordinating prep for the FLX Hospitality family of businesses. This includes the farm-to-table restaurant FLX Table and FLX Fry Bird, serving specialty fried chicken. Another alumna, Sabrina Miller ’15, owns Sabrina’s Bake Shoppe, a short walk from her three children’s school in Penn Yan. 

Kurt Hass ’19 of Cohocton, says his job as resident director for AVI Food Systems, the dining vendor for Genesee Community College, leaves time for family. Drawn to culinary arts for its creativity and community, all three put in the hours and endured COVID disruptions to arrive at a place where they can combine their passion and personal lives.

Discovering culinary

Kurt Hass cooking over a commercial indoor grill
Kurt Hass ’19 is now the resident manager for the food service vendor at Genesee Community College.

Gary grew up in Geneva around food. His mother worked in food service and his grandma whipped up everything from pasta to tenderloin to homemade chicken soup. After high school, he went to SUNY Alfred for architecture but found it tedious.

Then, he started cooking for his lacrosse team. 

“I thought, ‘I really enjoy this and all these people are pitching in money and want me to cook a meal, and they’re really thrilled about it and want me to do it often.’”  

Gary switched gears and transferred to FLCC.

Kurt discovered his penchant for cooking later in life. After serving with the Marines, he worked in CNC (computer numerical control) machining for the aerospace industry and took an interest in barbecuing. 

“I had a smoker in the backyard, and some friends and I started doing some barbecuing, and I found out that I have somewhat of a knack for doing this,” he says. He entered Kansas City Barbecuing Society (KCBS) competitions and started winning.

“My wife, Sharon, is basically the one who pushed me to go to culinary school at 41 years old. She’s the one that saw the passion, saw the desire, saw the drive and encouraged me to pursue it.”

Sabrina had been making elaborate pastries for family and friends for years. Her shop’s Facebook account features photos of sugar-cookie cutouts shaped like Keuka Lake and a Harry Potter-inspired birthday cake (Slytherin house). 

By 2013, she was 28 and a divorced mom with twin boys and a baby girl. Sabrina felt she needed to do something for herself and discovered the culinary arts program, which had opened two years earlier. “When I saw culinary, I thought it was the best of both worlds. I could go ahead and prove to myself that I could manage college while doing something I love.”

Going to school

Still, college could not be all passion without practicality. Gary was working full-time, and Kurt and Sabrina had children.

“I was able to take full-time classes and still be able to navigate my kids’ school schedule,” Sabrina says. “Having the night classes helped. You can jam a lot of credit hours into a little bit of time.”

Sabrina Miller holding plate of cookies
Sabrina Miller ’15 owns and operates Sabrina’s Bake Shoppe in Penn Yan.

One of Sabrina’s twins was diagnosed with cancer at age 5. He was 18 months into his treatment when she enrolled. 

“I was working part-time four days a week, and then had the cakes, and I cleaned houses on the side while dealing with CJ’s treatment,” she explains. “There would be weeks when he was immunocompromised, and he needed me at home. Chef (Associate Professor Jamie Rotter) would let me make up assignments as much as possible and do things online.”

CJ, now 15 and in remission, joins brother Logan and sister Bella, 11, at the bakery after school.

Gary, too, says night classes were integral to his success because they allowed him to hold down a job. The program also requires 600 internship hours, and Gary’s assignment at the New York Wine and Culinary Center led directly to full-time work.

“I was there on Saturday nights and working the line and putting out banquets … the requirement to do an internship and fully dive into a Saturday night in a restaurant is probably why I am where I am today,” he says.

The culinary center hired Gary even before graduation, and he spent six years as a chef there before moving on to be the chef at FLX Table in 2018. 

“What I loved most about being a chef is the ability to engage with the guests. Ninety-eight percent of the time you are chatting with guests that are having a really nice time, and they want to know more about you,” he says. “It opens the conversation up to you learning about them.”

Looking back, Gary also appreciates the ServSafe food safety certification he earned as part of the program. “An unbelievable amount of knowledge comes from being able to take ServSafe,” he adds.

Kurt interned at Bully Hill Winery and the Waterfront Restaurant in Hammondsport. “The internship was critical. It gives culinary students a taste of the real world. In a restaurant you’ve got a customer waiting on you versus a lab where you have the rest of your teammates helping you,” he notes. 

“The other big part was the business classes, how to basically run a successful business out of culinary versus just how to cook. Jamie and Patrick (Rae) have put just as much information into that two-year program as they possibly can.”

Thriving, then surviving

By the close of the 2010s, the Finger Lakes food and beverage business was humming. Craft brewing was well-established and distilleries were opening. Real Eats, maker of vacuum packed, prepared meals, opened in 2017 in the Geneva Enterprise Development Center.

In 2018, Wine Spectator magazine recommended FLX Table, where Gary was preparing meals, as a stop between tastings in the Finger Lakes, and Wine Enthusiast podcaster Jameson Fink praised the growing family of FLX businesses.

Sabrina opened her bakery in April 2019 following a serendipitous visit to her chiropractor, who had just bought the Arcade building with a vacant storefront in Penn Yan.

After graduation in 2019, Kurt helped friends open Station 26 bar and restaurant in Cohocton then jumped at the chance to serve as executive chef for AVI at the FLCC main campus.

Then came March 2020 and everything changed.

Gary was furloughed during FLX Table’s temporary closure. FLCC shut down its cafe, prompting AVI to move Kurt to Alfred University. Sabrina scrambled to adjust by setting up times when people could window shop for baked goods and pay using a touchless card reader.

After getting through 2021 in what she called “survival mode,” Sabrina is considering expanding her menu, perhaps adding breakfast sandwiches.

Magazine cover featuring bakery owner Sabrina MIller
The cover of the spring 2022 Laker magazine. Click here to view the electronic version.

Kurt feels fortunate to be part of a company that kept him working. From Alfred, he spent a few months at Keuka College before landing at GCC. He still sees restaurants struggling with COVID protocols and labor shortages. Workers with more choices are opting for jobs with better hours or benefits. 

“I think if restaurants want to continue to succeed they’re going to have to change the way that they do business,” he says. “The 70-hour work weeks are going to end up being a thing of the past.”

“A lot of people are starting to set boundaries and ask for a little more work-life balance,” Gary adds. “People are begging for a normal life with something they love.”

Jamie agrees balance is possible, but both employees and employers will have to work at it.

“Balancing a career in any facet of the culinary arts industry takes dedication and discipline. If you don’t gain that balance, the work can burn you out. Many employers are more cognizant of this potential for employee burnout as well as its toll on the bottom line,” he says. 

“It’s tougher for chefs; they can’t just walk away and take the time when things get rough. Employers are starting to figure this out, and slowly but surely many are beginning to adjust the way that they do business.”

Changes ahead

Underneath the current turmoil, the food and beverage industry holds promise for people to make a living and have a life. Jamie, the culinary arts program coordinator, stressed the range of opportunities with high school counselors at an event at New York Kitchen in December 2021.

“When you think of culinary arts, the first career that comes to mind is restaurant chef. It’s a good career choice … but that is really just the beginning. Our message to students is that culinary offers a wide range of careers and lifestyles. You can be a chef without having to work every Saturday night,” he told the room.

“Culinary is a great gig, and you have to really love it to do it, but there are outlets to express your creative ability through food,” Gary agrees. “You can work in a commissary space, you can sell food to kitchens. Or you can do food production for a place like Real Eats.”

That said, he adds, the culinary field is demanding and the hours can be long.

“Everyone can tell you, ‘Oh you don’t want to be a chef. You’re not going to be here for Christmas,’” he begins. “I proved them wrong. I went in and I did it and, granted, they were right and I was right. 

“There are definitely things I missed out on, but I am able to enjoy those things now because I put the work in, formulated my own opinion and decided this is what I want to do. You do have to pay your dues, but the more you learn, the easier you make your life.”

Sabrina strives to find a balance between building her business and remembering the reason she got into it.

“Don’t be scared of long hours. They will pay off. If it’s something that you enjoy doing, it doesn’t become a job,” she says. “Make sure you leave time to be your own creative self. Filling orders for other people all the time pays the bills, but it doesn’t necessarily help with the creative part of it.”

Kurt, who has a managerial role in food service, still fires up a grill or smoker any chance he gets.

“My favorite days are the days I get to put on the white chef’s coat and actually cook again. Every chance I get, when the weather is nice, I like to barbecue at home or at a friend’s house. That’s definitely where my love comes from.”

Note: Alumni, please share your news with us, including new jobs, promotions, awards, marriages, children or an amazing life experience. Use our form to stay in touch.

FLCC recognized as a Military Friendly School

For the eighth consecutive year, Finger Lakes Community College has received the Military Friendly School designation from VIQTORY, a veteran-owned media company that recognizes employers and colleges showing strong recruitment and retention rates among military veterans.

This is the College’s first year achieving gold status. Of the 1,800 schools that applied for the Military Friendly designation for 2022-23, 282 earned gold awards for their leading practices, outcomes, and effective programs.Military Friendly badge

“The process established for the Military Friendly designation is rigorous and guided by an advisory council of higher education professionals who oversee veteran services. I am very proud of the gradual improvements our dedicated faculty and staff have made to our comprehensive veteran services to reach gold status this year,” said FLCC President Robert Nye.

FLCC scores highest in standards for culture and commitment to veterans and standards for graduation and career outcomes. The College assists students in obtaining the maximum number of credits for their military service, based on training, coursework and occupational specialty. It also helps veterans secure benefits for themselves and their families and provides opportunities to connect with other student veterans and local veterans’ services.

VIQTORY uses public data sources and information from a survey completed by the school and personal data from surveys of veterans to establish its scores. It measures a school’s ability to meet thresholds for retention, graduation, job placement, repayment, persistence, and loan default rates for all students and specifically for student veterans.

FLCC is one of nine New York community colleges that received the designation and one of four to achieve gold award status. More information about FLCC’s veteran services is available at flcc.edu/veterans.