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Sydow grateful to be selected for CNYSME Crystal Ball Award

By Kevin Tampone


Honored for effectively marketing OCC’s strengths to the community

SYRACUSE  —  After spending years closing a perception gap entrenched around Onondaga Community College (OCC), Debbie L. Sydow says she is gratified to receive an award recognizing her contributions to the marketing profession.


Sydow, OCC’s president, has been named the recipient of the Central New York Sales and Marketing Executives (CNYSME) 2012 Crystal Ball Award. CNYSME gives the award annually to a local businessperson for contributions to the sales and marketing profession. The Crystal Ball Award also recognizes efforts in community development and support.


“In recent years, through a very focused, comprehensive strategic plan, we’ve been able to help the Central New York community get a very clear understanding of what Onondaga Community College has to offer,” Sydow says. “A lot of that has been through more effective communications.”


When Sydow arrived at OCC in 2000, the community viewed the institution inaccurately, Sydow contends.


“It was considered to be a college that for high-school students would be their last choice, not their first,” she says. “In general the college didn’t have the level of respect that everyone I talked with believed it deserved.”


In 2002, Sydow launched an identity project at OCC. The college conducted a two-year branding study, interviewing guidance counselors, prospective college students, high-school students, and alumni.


OCC used information from that study to try to show the Central New York community that it provides students with a high-quality education, according to Sydow.


“If a student needs counseling, academic tutoring, or any kind of additional support, we provide that,” Sydow says. “It’s our br

and, our promise.”


To help push that brand, the college unveiled a new crest in 2005, featuring the word “Onondaga.” Major upgrades to its campus have also helped, according to Sydow.


She has overseen a capital-improvements program that resulted in more than $100 million being invested in campus facilities. Improvements range from updated classrooms to new residence halls that opened in 2006 to the SRC Arena and Events Center, which opened in December. 


The college also receives a marketing boost from Syracuse Jazz Fest, Sydow says. The annual Jazz Fest brings thousands of people to campus every year, helping OCC showcase its facilities, she says.


“I’m trying to effect the kinds of changes that will elevate educational levels for the entire community,” Sydow says. “I want to stress that it’s an ongoing challenge not just for Onondaga Community College, but [also] for higher education to communicate with changing groups of students and changing markets.”


The college, which has about 12,700 students, can no longer simply rely on published materials to attract prospective students, Sydow says. It is now working to develop mobile applications and materials that can be viewed on mobile devices. 


It is also keeping an eye toward adults who are returning to school to upgrade their skills and qualifications for obtaining the jobs of tomorrow. They have a high potential to drive enrollment growth, according to Sydow.


“We selected Debbie Sydow because of her hard work and dedication to OCC and to the community,” says CNYSME President Katherine Rech. “She’s a great leader for the community and a great marketing person at OCC. She markets the college as a great institution for education.”


CNYSME, founded in 1935, provides training and development, networking, and other opportunities and resources to sales and marketing professionals in Central New York. The organization will present Sydow with the 2012 Crystal Ball Award at its 36th Annual Crystal Ball/Sales and Marketing Excellence Award Ceremony. That event is scheduled for March 8, 2012, at the Sheraton Syracuse University Hotel and Conference Center.      


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