FLCC adds Waterloo Community Center to local education network

ON VIDEO: Rebecca Swift of FingerLakes1 recently spoke to Todd Sloane, FLCC’s director of workforce development, about the next session of no- or low-cost, short-term career training. Click here to find a convenient information session.

The Waterloo Community Center at 3 Oak St. will join the Macedon Public Library, Clifton Springs Library and other sites offering Finger Lakes Community College 14-week job training classes in manufacturing, residential electric and health care in January.

FLCC began building a network of community education sites a year ago as part of a national pilot project to overcome barriers to education in rural areas, such as lack of transportation and broadband.

Classes can be taken online at home or, for those who lack broadband or computer equipment, at seven community sites across Ontario, Seneca, Wayne, and Yates counties.

Grant funding is available for most participants because the courses prepare people for jobs currently in high demand.

“Grant funding is key because people can use these programs to upgrade their skills without debt,” said Todd Sloane, FLCC director of workforce development.

Anyone interested in more information should attend a career training information session listed in the FLCC events calendar at events.flcc.edu or call (585) 785-1670. Details are also available online at flcc.edu/grit.

Three courses begin in mid-January:

Foundations in Advanced Manufacturing covers core knowledge for those entering advanced manufacturing and uses virtual reality headsets for skills training. Successful graduates receive the nationally recognized Certified Production Technician credentials in safety and quality. The class runs Jan. 13 to April 20, Monday and Thursday, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.

The Certified Patient Care Technician course prepares students for the Level I certification exam. Successful graduates will qualify to support nurses, doctors, and other medical staff with less than a year of training. It runs Jan. 17 to April 26, Monday and Wednesday from 12:30 – 3:30 p.m. or Tuesday and Thursday from 12:30 – 3:30 p.m.

The Residential Electrician course teaches electrical theory, wiring and installation techniques, and safety procedures. It prepares students to start a career as an entry-level residential electrician or electrician apprentice. The course runs Jan. 17 to April 26 on Tuesday and Wednesday from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Classes are offered at the Bloomfield Central School District, Clifton Springs Library, FLCC Geneva Campus Center, Macedon Public Library, FLCC Newark Campus Center, Waterloo Community Center, and Yates County Workforce Development Office.

FLCC was one of five colleges across the country to receive funding from a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit, Education Design Lab, to develop and test models for delivering education and training in small towns and villages.

GRIT is the name of the outreach project and stands for Growing Rural Infrastructure Together. The program is meant to provide training for careers that require more than high school but less than a college degree. All students will have a coach to help them complete the program and apply for jobs or promotions. Community sites often provide convenient locations and additional services that can help students succeed.

Finger Lakes News Radio features FLCC esports leaders

Students playing video games in the FLCC lounge
Members of the FLCC esports team often use the College game design lab or the student lounge, shown above, for practice and competition. Photo by Rikki Van Camp

Michael Van Etten, assistant professor of modern language and coordinator of esports at FLCC, and Francesca “Frankie” Dean, a student leadership board member for esports, recently talked about the College’s varsity team with Finger Lakes News Radio host Paul Szmal.

FLCC is in its third year of esports with a team of 80 men and women. The College’s Board of Trustees approved it as a varsity team in February 2019, due to high student interest and a recognition that students who are more engaged in their college experience are more likely to graduate. FLCC was the first to offer a varsity esports team in Region III of the National Junior Collegiate Athletic Association.

Esports was one of three FLCC sports that were able to compete in fall 2020 before a COVID vaccine was available. Today, FLCC fields 14 teams across the platforms of Overwatch, Valorant, Rainbow Six Siege, Rocket League, Smash Ultimate, Hearthstone, and Mario Kart 8.

National Junior College Athletic Association Esports, the governing body for the sport, currently has over 607 teams representing 1,424 students from more than 80 member institutions.

Listen to the interview below.

Professor explains mixed reality on Finger Lakes News Radio

Teacher wearing VR headset in front of class
Christine Parker, associate professor of biology, leads a class in the holography lab on the main campus. Photo by Rikki Van Camp

Christine Parker, associate professor of biology, discussed her use of mixed reality to teach anatomy and physiology on Finger Lakes News Radio on Nov. 22 with host Paul Szmal.

Mixed reality is the use of headsets to superimpose an image onto someone’s field of view. Students in Parker’s classes can see and hear the room and those around them. They also see holograms of the body or individual organs in a foundational class for nursing, kinesiology and other classes.

The professor explained how she learned about the technology developed by Case Western Reserve University and the Cleveland Clinic and piloted its use locally. FLCC is the only community college in the country working with Case Western Reserve University on the technology. Listen to the interview below.

Faculty to present research at conference in Spain

Two representatives of Finger Lakes Community College will present their research on the cultivation of mushroom sugars this week at an international conference in Spain.

Head and shoulders photo of James Hewlett
Professor James Hewlett

James Hewlett, professor of biology, and Jessica Halliley, an instructional specialist, were invited to share their work at the 8th International Conference on Bio-based and Biodegradable Polymers, or BIOPOL 2022, in Alicante, Spain, which runs from Nov. 14-16.

Hewlett and Halliley have been working with students since early 2021 on a research and development project for a Henrietta-based company, Empire Medicinals, which grows gourmet mushrooms under the brand Leep Foods.

Empire Medicinals is exploring a faster way to grow the mushroom fibers, or mycelia, via fermentation in tanks for its food business and the aspiration behind its name: the dietary supplement market.

Jessica Halliley, right, holding a petri dish and talking to a student in a lab
Jessica Halliley, right, instructional specialist for science and technology, shown with a high school student

The FLCC team is exploring the conditions that lead to the greatest production of the fibers and the sugars they produce, which are studied for their health effects. The project is a demonstration of how community colleges can support local companies with basic research.

Hewlett is also executive director of the Community College Undergraduate Research Initiative, a National Science Foundation-funded project based at FLCC. The goal of CCURI is to help two-year intuitions across the country teach science through research.

“This is an amazing recognition for the work that our students have been engaged in for the last one and a half years,” Hewlett said of the opportunity to present at BIOPOL. The conference is part of an NSF-funded European tour that also includes stops in Ireland and Belgium to encourage international research and educational collaborations in a variety of technology fields.


Beyond the classroom: Applied learning options for creative writing

Lauren Smith seating on a chair in the student lounge
Lauren Smith, who graduates in December with a degree in creative writing, spent three months as an intern with BOA Editions, a publisher in Rochester. Photo by Rikki Van Camp

It was just five days in Vermont, but second-year student Emma Perrone returned from her poetry retreat with Bianca Stone more devoted to her creative writing program.

“I’ve never felt more present in my life than in those few days,” she said. Perrone wrote and listened to poetry as part of a small group led by Stone, whose poems, poetry comics and essays have been published in The New Yorker, The Atlantic and other magazines.

Lauren Smith, who finishes her associate degree in creative writing in December, had a different experience but a similar response. Lauren interned for BOA Editions, a not-for-profit publisher of poetry and other literary works in Rochester.

“I learned how much there really is to the publishing process, and how much I love proofreading and editing,” she said.

Both found a renewed commitment to their field of study through what is generally known as applied learning, or learning by doing. Research shows applied learning can increase students’ engagement in their studies and even boost their later earnings. Jon Palzer, professor of English and coordinator of the creative writing program said he noticed a change in both students this fall.

Emma Perrone

Perrone discovered the poetry retreat by following Bianca Stone on social media, though the competitive application gave her pause. She reasoned “the worst someone can say is no,” sent in four poems, and admits to being “absolutely bonkers” when she got accepted.

A group of people seated in a farmhouse porch
Emma Perrone, far right, was accepted to attend a poetry retreat in Vermont in August.

The program made her feel accepted and challenged at the same time. “It felt safe to be stretched,” she explained. Perrone keeps in touch with those in her retreat group and looks forward to graduating in May.

She is considering applying to Hobart and William Smith Colleges for her bachelor’s degree with a long-term goal of getting a master’s in fine arts. She also has a piece in the new FLCC literary journal, isotrope.

“Emma returned enthralled by her experience at the writing retreat. Spending time with established poets not only further inspired her but also demonstrated that a life in letters is genuine and can be accomplished,” Palzer said.

Lauren Smith

Smith learned of the BOA internship in class with Palzer, and worked twice a week from mid-May through mid-August.

“My tasks ranged anywhere from writing blog posts to mailing out books, but also included interviewing editors and utilizing BOA’s programs and software to organize reviewers, submit authors to contests and reply to any customer emails.

“I mainly worked in publicity but occasionally got to indulge in proofreading many manuscripts for books that were recently published this fall! BOA is not only a flexible and laid-back environment, but it is also incredibly inclusive and driven to bring light to POC (people of color) and LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer) authors. Each employee I worked with was enthusiastic and excited to teach me, and it created a healthy and comfortable work experience.”

Smith plans to resume her studies at a four-year college next fall. “I hope to work in publishing as well as write poetry and travel, maybe even be a book reviewer if I get the chance.”

“Lauren shows an inspired enthusiasm for the publishing field. It has clearly deepened her appreciation for the industry that supports creative writing,” Palzer said.”Moreover, she exhibits greater confidence in her ability to address works-in-progress in her creative writing classes.

FLCC has been sending students to BOA Editions for the last 15 years. Another local option for students is Writers and Books, a Rochester nonprofit that promotes reading and writing for personal and community enrichment. Perrone has just signed on to a new internship opportunity right at the college in which students assist program coordinators, the faculty members charged with keeping degree and certificate programs up-to-date. Next semester she will intern as an assistant to Palzer in the creative writing program.

Professor tips: How to make the most of an open house

John Foust, standing, talking to three people
John Foust, chair of the environmental conservation and horticulture department, talks to visitors at a previous open house. Photo by Rikki Van Camp

About 40 professors typically take part in open houses at FLCC so prospective students can meet the people who will teach them, and in some cases, become their advisor.

This includes Michael Van Etten, assistant professor of modern language and coordinator of the esports program, who will be at the next open house on Saturday, Nov. 5.  He encourages students to talk to everyone they meet.

“Ask the administration, faculty, staff, and students – directly – why they are at FLCC instead of working or studying somewhere else?”

Don’t skip the tours, he added.

Michael Van Etten, seated, talking to parent, student
Michael Van Etten teaches Spanish classes and coordinates the esports team. Photo by Rikki Van Camp

“Take a good look at where on campus you would spend the majority of your time for your major, program, or interests.”

For academics, ask faculty about learning modalities and class activities:

  • What percentage of courses in a program are offered online, face-to-face, or only in one modality or another?
  • How much time – per day – should be reserved for homework and coursework?
  • What kind of everyday work does the program require? Reading, essays, lectures, presentations, workbooks, productions, field journals?
Richard Walsh, standing talking to parent, student
Richard Walsh, who coordinates the sports studies program, speaks to a prospective student and parent. Photo by Rikki Van Camp

Richard Walsh, assistant professor of business and coordinator of the sports studies program, suggests students think about end goals.

“Go to every table. Ask what job skills are needed. Ask how many graduates have job offers before they graduate, or shortly after graduating.”

  • Another question he recommends: “Are there additional courses they could add to a program to boost hiring chances?”
  • Find out if a program requires an internship and whether a program or class offers opportunities for on-the-job experiences early in their studies.
  • With so many faculty in one area, he recommends finding out what their expectations might be. “What goals do you, as the instructor, have for this class? What’s your idea of being a successful student in your class?”

John Foust, chair of the environmental conservation and horticulture department, encourages students to share a little about themselves so faculty can provide the most relevant advice. Do they plan to transfer?  Are they transferring credits into FLCC?  Do they have military service?

“I would suggest that students visit all the tables and keep an open mind.  My advice would be to find something that makes sense to them as a vocation but also find something they’re truly passionate about,” he said, adding a few questions he recommends:

  • What is it like to be working as a professional in the field?
  • How do I get started in this field?
  • How do I advance in this field?

Click here to register for the Nov. 5 open house.

Mixed reality vs. virtual reality: What’s the difference?

Teacher wearing VR headset in front of class
Christine Parker, associate professor of biology, leads a class in the holography lab on the main campus. Photo by Rikki Van Camp

FLCC uses both virtual reality and mixed reality in educational programming. The technologies are similar with a few key differences. 

Mixed reality

In 2018, the College began using three-dimensional holography to enhance the teaching of human anatomy and physiology, a required class for several programs: nursing, kinesiology and human performance, health care studies, physical education and exercise science, and nutrition and dietetics.

Under the guidance of Christine Parker, associate professor in biology, students wear Microsoft HoloLens visors in labs. The headset uses the HoloAnatomy Software Suite developed by Case Western Reserve University in conjunction with the Cleveland Clinic. This software enables students to view highly detailed, three-dimensional images of human organs individually and as part of body systems.

Image of human torso showing digestive organs
Holograms give the viewer a three-dimensional image while allowing them to see the rest of the room.

The university’s software allows the HoloLens to project a holographic image that everyone wearing the visors – students and their instructor – can see. The instructor can rotate the image, zoom in on a particular section or zoom out to show the class how structures function and interconnect.

In the labs, students work collaboratively in groups and view the same holographic image. Christine moves about the room, joining each group and pointing out features. Students can still see each other and the rest of the room behind the image. 

They cannot manipulate the image though they can walk closer to it and even poke their heads inside to get an internal view of a particular structure. This is helpful, for example, to understand how the flow of blood proceeds through the human heart and then out to the general circulation. This three-dimensional approach helps students visualize key physical relationships between body structures. Continue reading “Mixed reality vs. virtual reality: What’s the difference?”

Well-timed: Kevin Stottler’s story

An encounter with a professor leads to a career in the positioning, navigation and timing industry.

In the mid-2010s, Kevin Stottler ’20 was working for a company that made encoded plastic cards. Think hotel key cards, gift cards, ID cards.

Head and shoulders image of Kevin Stottler
Kevin Stottler ’20

He wanted something more engaging, but this was before the Great Resignation when job interviews were harder to come by. “I think without a degree I was having trouble getting traction with other employers,” he said.

Kevin decided to contact Sam Samanta, coordinator of the smart systems technologies program, whom he had met at a job fair at the Victor Campus Center about six months earlier.

“I was like OK, I need to get some more stuff on my resume here to have a leg up looking up for more challenging jobs.”

In less than two years Kevin had an internship, then a job with Orolia, a manufacturer of positioning, navigation and timing (PNT) systems in Rochester that serves a wide range of industries. “Anything that needs precise time to work,” he explained, “data centers, telecommunications systems, banks, broadcast networks, and there’s a bunch of defense applications.” Continue reading “Well-timed: Kevin Stottler’s story”

Cal-Mum grad finds dream job in HMI development

Justin Castronovo in front of NAVSEA building
Justin Castronovo ’19, shown at the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) shipyard in Philadelphia, works on the Aegis Ashore land-based missile defense system.

Naval personnel operating ballistic missile defenses need to know the status of those systems at a glance.

That means someone has to figure out how to collect, aggregate and present a range of data in an easy-to-understand visual format on a computer monitor or touch screen.

Such readouts are called human-machine interfaces, or HMIs. For Justin Castronovo ’19, building them is his dream job.

Justin is a graduate of the instrumentation and control technologies program, now known by a more straightforward name: smart systems technologies. He is a civilian contractor at the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) in Philadelphia where he works on the Aegis Ashore land-based missile defense system. 

“The human can’t just go to the chilled water system and get all the data from it,” he explained of the complex machinery. “There has to be some in-between way to get all that data in a reasonable format for a human to look at quickly and say, ‘Hey we’ve got a high-pressure alarm at the chilled water system.’” Continue reading “Cal-Mum grad finds dream job in HMI development”

IT alumni say keeping skills sharp is key in this ever-evolving industry

Adam Keuer ’13 is the assistant IT director at the Mozaic human service agency in Waterloo and a 2013 graduate of the networking and security associate degree program, now called networking and cybersecurity. Photo by Jan Regan

As assistant IT director for Mozaic in Waterloo, Adam Keuer ’13 enjoys designing the computer networks that help his colleagues at the human service agency get their work done. 

“I have always been a very logical thinker,” he said, referring to the tasks involved in getting computers to talk to each other efficiently and securely. “It feels like home for me.”

Home took a while to find. Adam logged a years-long trek through three majors at two other colleges and a detour into retail management before finding his way to FLCC’s networking and security program.

His story is not uncommon among the College’s IT alumni, some of whom found their niche in unexpected ways. Continue reading “IT alumni say keeping skills sharp is key in this ever-evolving industry”