Empire State provides real-world degree pathways

From left: Debra Federation, Kevin Mooney and Carmelo Melice pose with Empire State College rerpesentative Carolyn Headlam

Staff members interested in pursuing a degree through SUNY Empire State College (ESC) are invited to attend a lunchtime networking event with Cornell employees who are ESC alumni, Feb. 9 at 12:30 p.m., at the East Hill Office Building, room 140.

ESC is a regionally accredited college granting bachelor, associate and master’s degrees that also offers mentoring services and individualized academic instruction. The college has partnered with Cornell to provide a partial deferment of tuition for Cornell staff members, greatly reducing their cost to attend ESC.

Many Cornell staff members have received degrees from ESC while continuing to work at Cornell.

Kevin Mooney is an ESC bachelor degree candidate who works in Cornell’s Office of the Treasurer as cash management representative, a role he has excelled in for the past two years. Mooney chose to pursue a degree from ESC because of the flexibility Empire offers in taking courses. He also notes that his pursuit of further education would not have been possible without the flexibility Cornell offers as an employer.

Mooney is grateful to his supervisor, Debra Federation, director of cash management, for that flexibility. “All throughout my career here at Cornell, my supervisors have been incredibly supportive of my efforts to get my accounting degree,” he says. “Debra has allowed me to rework my schedule whenever possible in order for me to meet a course-related deadline.”

Federation takes a pay-it-forward approach to her leadership, noting, “In my time at Cornell, my supervisors have always encouraged me to continue to learn and grow in my own job and beyond. This should be the goal of any supervisor – to better their workplace and those who are part of it.” She believes that continued training is the key to personal growth and to promotion within the university.

Mooney also credits his ESC mentor for his success: “Thanks to [him], I have saved considerable time and expense while pursuing my degree. [He] has really placed an emphasis on helping me get my degree as efficiently as possible.” Mooney has supplemented his ESC coursework with prior learning assessments (PLAs), or the experience he has already had at the treasurer’s office, in past accounting roles at the Statler Hotel, and in training he took through the Division of Financial Affairs.

ESC student Carmelo Melice has taken a similar path, supplementing his SUNY Empire education with transfer credits and new experiences. Melice is a custodian S02 and, through Cornell’s rotational assignment program, has gained experience in finance and accounting. 

Although he is pursuing a B.S. in business, management and economics at ESC, Melice has taken the past two semesters off to pursue emergency medical technician training.  Melice enjoys attending a school that allows him to “pursue higher education and still maintain a balance – on your own time, at your own pace.”

A full-time employee, parent, and active member of the community, Melice has found ESC staff and faculty, “a tremendous resource, ready to answer questions and point me in the right direction when in need.”

He continues, “I urge everyone, no matter their background or profession, to give ESC the opportunity to impress you!”

Michele Cowen ESC ’16, human resources assistant, has certainly been impressed by her time at ESC. Cowen received her B.S. in business, management and economics, concentrating in management.  She says, “I had a goal to complete my degree in one year and I was able to do that! “

Cowen accelerated her degree completion by drawing on her professional and life experience, noting that she was able to earn 23 PLA credits in her degree plan. “My positions at Cornell as well as professional development activities [served] as the foundation for my PLAs,” she said.

Cowen appreciates the supportive culture of the ESC community. “My mentor was phenomenal,” says Cowen. “He was available through phone and email and responded to me within a day.”

She looks forward to sharing more of her experiences at the upcoming SUNY Empire networking event and panel discussion, Feb. 9 at 12:30 p.m., in the East Hill Office Building, Room 140. For details, contact Carolyn.Headlam@esc.edu, 607-273-4536.