Nearly 1,700 students were eligible to take part in SUNY Oswego's May 13 Commencement ceremonies, with many already successfully charting paths into the days beyond.

Kenny Roffo will head to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California for a software engineer job -- a gig he owes at least in part to a Rubik’s Cube.

Shashi Kanbur, professor and chair of physics, had brought in a hiring manager from JPL, and Roffo met with her. "I wanted to show her I could put a lot of effort into something and achieve it," said Roffo, who studied physics, computer science and math at Oswego. He solved the puzzle in less than 30 seconds and that, along with his good grades and willingness to learn, secured him first an internship then a co-op experience at the prestigious NASA laboratory.

"On the first day of my co-op, they offered me a job after graduation," he added. His time at NASA so far has included working on software for the Deep Space Network, a satellite telecommunications system that communicates with space probes. Roffo also performed research abroad in Germany and India, stayed active as a tutor and served as president of the Math Club and treasurer of the Astronomy Club.

Charlene Assam, who will complete her MBA in May after also earning a bachelor's in accounting at Oswego, will start as a core assurance associate at PwC -- also known as PricewaterhouseCoopers -- in New York City after graduation.

Three internships with the top firm -- one in her native Cameroon, two in New York -- helped lead to this position, as did a lot of hands-on experience inside and outside the classroom. Assam has been an accounting lab instructor, secretary for the Beta Alpha Psi honor society, co-chair of the School of Business Student Advisory Council and African Student Organization treasurer.

Working as a graduate assistant for major and career exploration in Career Services provided additional client experience and satisfaction. "I have open discussions with students who are doing major exploration, provide assessments and share information," Assam said. "I love it. I love helping people and passing on knowledge. Giving back is important to me."

Professional preparation

Computer science major Lincoln Daniel will go to San Francisco to start "as a software engineer at my dream company,," he said. "Soon after that, I plan to take my family to Disney World to finally fulfill my mom's promises to my siblings and I when we were children. The goal is to build a billion-dollar software company that I am currently developing with a buddy."

Daniel earned leadership experience heading the local Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers' Google Glass Development team, as director of public relations for the African Student Organization and in group projects in his major courses.

"I had the chance to learn from the great Doug Lea how to build search engines and distributed network systems," Lincoln said of SUNY Oswego computer science professor. "I took advantage of fellowships like the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering (NACME) and Code2040 to help me secure interviews at IBM and Medium and ultimately convert both into internships with IBM Watson during my sophomore year and Medium during my junior year. It also probably helped to have a self-published book, which I wrote during the 2015-2016 winter break, on my record when it came to proving myself in my industry."

After graduation, journalism major Natalie Brophy will start as a city government reporter at the Auburn Citizen. She picked up plenty of experience as an editor at the Oswegonian student paper and by interning at the Bee Newspapers in Western New York and the college's Office of Communications and Marketing.

"Definitely the internships I had and my experience at the Oswegonian" were pivotal, she said. "I learned a lot in the classroom and it was good to take the knowledge my professors gave me and put it to work." Editing copy at the Oswegonian also helped, she said, because "I think the more you read others' writing, the better you can get as a writer."

Bridget Rooney will take on a summer position at an advertising firm in Manhattan. "I will be working in account management and I am excited to see how my degree has prepped me for a real-life job," she said.

"If it wasn't for all the opportunities that Oswego supplies their students with, I wouldn't have a lot of the confidence that I do today," said Rooney, adding that roles as a teaching assistant and working in Campus Recreation taught her about professionalism and interactions. "Last summer I studied abroad in Dublin, Ireland. I was on my own working and living. That is how I realized I wanted to be in a city for work. My majors, business administration and public relations, gave me the ability to do a lot of hands-on work in and out of the classroom."

Advanced degrees

Biochemistry major Iain Thompson has been accepted into the M.D. program at SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse. His resume includes a SUNY Chancellor's Award for Student Excellence, research projects, study abroad and a co-op role at the college's national-award-winning Agricultural Testing and Analysis Labs at the Port of Oswego and the Shineman Center.

"It was the helpful nature of my professors and mentors, and the amazing opportunities offered, that really set the stage for my acceptance to medical school," Thompson said. "It seemed like every day there was another email in my inbox with an amazing opportunity inside. My professors valued those of us who worked hard, even if some of us didn't get it on the first go around."

Chemistry major Gabriel Odugbesi earned a full fellowship to pursue a doctorate in chemistry at Iowa State University, with future plans to work at a pharmaceutical company.

In addition to research opportunities at Oswego, "joining clubs such as Chemistry Club and Go Green Team" as well as an on-campus job "helped me focus and stay organized," Odugbesi said. He advised students to "stay active on campus, always look to make contributions and take advantage of the many opportunities here at SUNY Oswego."

Collin Carr will attend the Syracuse University College of Law. His dual majors served him well, as "a combination of public justice and political science is, in my opinion, the perfect setup for someone who is interested in entering law school," he said.

"I have acted as a research assistant for Dr. Jaclyn Schildkraut (in public justice), and her guidance has helped me become a better researcher and writer," said Carr, who also served as president of the Public Justice Club. Among political science coursework, "Dr. Helen Knowles' classes, but more specifically constitutional law and civil liberties, exposed me to the kind of material I will be encountering while in law school. Her classes have seriously improved my writing and analytical thinking."

Leading classrooms

Technology education major Mark Milisci accepted a teaching position at North Rockland Middle School in Rockland County. "I received a number of job offers and have many other schools that were interested, so I knew I could be picky to choose the best possible option," he said, and this one offered him a guaranteed coaching option in wrestling.

"I think I have learned a lot while in college through taking technology classes," Milisci said. "The classes were rich in content that does not compare to other colleges in New York state. Oswego is an amazing choice for going into a highly demanded technology education career. I prepared myself for teaching by working at a day camp with children ages 3 to 15, and also being a student athlete for the past 10 years with leadership roles."

Fellow technology education major Nathan Taylor said he is still choosing among a few offers to become a middle-school technology teacher in New York state. He said a public speaking class, competing on Oswego's swimming and diving team and volunteering as a coach for Special Olympics all helped shape his skills and outlook.

"I think the best opportunity I have had to prepare myself for the technology education field is student teaching," Taylor said. "Student teaching changes your whole mindset on teaching and, instead of you being the student, you are now the teacher, but all these experiences at SUNY Oswego have prepared me for the technology education job I will be accepting here in the near future."

Jordan Heussler, completing his master's after also earning a bachelor's in elementary education from Oswego, "received some great offers from schools all over the country" and plans to teach fourth, fifth or sixth grade when he finalizes plans, he said.

"My student teaching experience helped prepare me very well for my future career in education," Heussler said. "I spent countless hours learning effective teaching strategies from my teachers here at Oswego and it was great to be in a classroom and apply these strategies. Also, being a part of Greek life allowed me to step out of my comfort zone and shaped me in to a leader. This experience will definitely benefit me as I am hoping to one day lead a school as a principal or administrator."