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Success Stories

We’re excited to share our alumni and students’ experiences whose passion and creativity inspire us every day!
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Share your story with us!

Let us know what you’ve been up to since graduating from SUNY Niagara. We’d love to feature your success story!

Dan Barto

Dan Barto ’15

Director of Visitor Services at the Niagara Falls USA Official Visitor Center

Millions of people visit Niagara Falls annually, and an estimated 125,000 of them from 88 countries around the world stop at the official visitor center to get the resources they need to make the most of their time in the area.  The waterfalls themselves provide the initial draw for tourists, and it is Dan Barto’s job to ensure guests of the region maximize their experience while visiting.  As a lifelong resident in the area, Dan saw firsthand the opportunities in tourism and hospitality in Niagara Falls and recognized the need for qualified individuals in those fields.  “Studying at NFCI prepared me for everything that came my way after completing my coursework in 2015.  The core curriculum is so integral to what you do in the future.”  While other schools may offer similar programs, none offer a world-renowned tourist destination as the classroom with the combined benefit of dedicated instructors providing tailored, hands-on experience for students.  “The instructors really took a role in shaping me as a person on an individual basis rather than just being a number in a classroom.”

Katie & Nick Graves ’06

Owners, Craft Coffee House

Owning and managing a business is no small feat, but taking classes at SUNY Niagara in conjunction with support provided by the Niagara Small Business Development Center (SBDC) can help to lay a solid foundation for success, as it did in the case of Katie and Nick Graves, owners of Craft Coffee House in Pendleton, NY. As a business major at SUNY Niagara, Katie took classes in accounting that assist her daily with the management of finances, and the communications classes she took gave her the background necessary to excel in customer relations and promotion of the business.

For those wondering if they can manage going back to school, Katie has the following advice, “I would recommend SUNY Niagara to people looking to restart their career or return to school as a non-traditional student. I think that the affordability of taking classes at SUNY Niagara is great if you are managing a family or trying to work part-time.” With online classes and easy access to resources geared towards your success, SUNY Niagara is the Smart Place to Restart!

Craft Coffee House
Shannon Roth

Shannon Roth ’14

Registered Nurse at Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center

After graduating from the Nursing program, Shannon returned to SUNY Niagara to become a nursing clinical instructor. In addition, Shannon works in the ICU for Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center helping to stop the spread of COVID-19. Her advice for current nursing students is to “stay strong and remember why you started this path to become a nurse. As healthcare providers, we are on the front-lines of this pandemic and it is us that the community is depending on.” Thank you to Shannon and all of our healthcare heroes.

Antonio LaBarbera ’19

Banquet Cook at “The Country Club”

Antonio LaBarbera is a Culinary Arts graduate from SUNY Niagara’s Niagara Falls Culinary Institute. Having competed in American Culinary Federation (ACF) competitions, Antonio was nominated for an American Culinary Federation Student of the Year Award in 2019 and took home the bronze medal. Antonio is currently working at “The Country Club,” America’s first country club established in 1882, just outside of Boston, Massachusetts. He is a banquet cook and works under the direction of Assistant Banquet Chef, Jesus Olmedo, a competitor on the American Culinary Federation Team USA 2020.

“The chefs and instructors at the Niagara Falls Culinary Institute were happy to help guide me along my culinary path. NFCI is a great place for culinary school because the program opens a lot of doors and offers tons of opportunities for students.”

Antonio LaBarbera
Taylor Richardson

Taylor Richardson ’20

Chef at the Bar Harbor Inn

Have a craving for the Culinary Arts? Taylor Richardson is a talented graduate of SUNY Niagara’s Culinary Arts program. Taylor’s food is whimsical, hearty, and delicious. She’s already living her best chef life at the Bar Harbor Inn on the coast of Maine. She’s cooking up beautiful dishes for travelers and showing the world the type of chefs that come out of the Niagara Falls Culinary Institute!

Pete Robinson - transferred in 1991

Training Sergeant for NYS Court Officers in Buffalo

Pete is the definition of a true Thunderwolf – from his SUNY Niagara pride to his involvement in the community. Pete studied Criminal Justice at SUNY Niagara and then transferred to UB to obtain his Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Government. While studying at SUNY Niagara, Pete became the first African American Student Trustee where he says “it felt empowering because they didn’t care about the color of my skin, they cared about supporting me.”

After graduating from UB, Pete served in the U.S. Marshals Service, Niagara County Sheriff’s Office, Justice Court, and Auxiliary Police. Pete stated, “I always dreamed that one day I would be able to make a difference in my community which is why I went into this field.” Pete continues to make a difference in the community in more than one way, including the award-winning Peanut Butter and Jelly charity drive which feeds working poor families by distributing jars of peanut butter and jelly to local food pantries. As a result of his dedication to SUNY Niagara and influence within the community, Pete received the 2013 SUNY Niagara Distinguished Alumni Award.

Pete Robinson
Joe Russell Labushesky

Joe Russell Labushesky ’10

Assistant Editor at MTV Networks

Joe Russell Labushesky is a graduate of the SUNY Niagara Digital Media program as well as a graduate of the Buffalo State College Television & Film Arts program. Joe is currently employed as an Assistant Editor at MTV Networks and is working on shows such as “GirlCode,” “GuyCode,” “MTV Spring Break,” “Wild ‘N Out” and the “MTV Woodie Awards.” One of Joe’s latest projects was a short parody video of the popular MTV show “GirlCode” called “SquirrelCode,” which he co-wrote, produced and edited. “SquirrelCode” was featured on and can be viewed exclusively on MTV’s YouTube channel. In his free time Joe is also a magician, standup comic and comedy writer.

Curtis Cook ’16

Organist, Buffalo Sabres

A self-taught pianist and organist, Curtis Cook ’16 is a graduate of the SUNY Niagara Music program. Since July 2016, Curtis has been working for the Buffalo Sabres as their full-time game organist. In addition to his work for the Sabres, Curtis is an Adjunct Music Instructor at SUNY Niagara. “The advice I give my students is to take any opportunity that’s given to you because you don’t know where it can lead or who might be able to help in your career, your education, and all facets of life. Stay determined and strive to learn something new every day while continuing to pursue your goals. SUNY Niagara has so many opportunities to explore your dreams so take advantage of them while you’re there.”

Curtis Cook
Bonnie Guckin

Bonnie Guckin ’11

Owner, Bonnie's Barefoot Gardening Service, LLC

“I loved the small class sizes and getting to know my future colleagues. I chose SUNY Niagara because it was close to home and I could take classes at night, as I was employed full time when I began the program. I took the Introduction to Horticulture course just for fun, but the following semester enrolled in the program full time. Also, as a military veteran, I highly recommend the Veteran Services office on campus; SUNY Niagara is truly veteran friendly! Expose yourself to all aspects of horticulture, not just what you think the “cool job” will be. The broader your base knowledge, the more future opportunities for career growth! I went in set towards one concentration, but then took my advisor’s counsel and attended floral design- it was a surprising delight! Ten years later, I work with many program alumni in the green industry! I own a gardening service, manage photography, social media, and website for a local arboretum, and teach a class in the SUNY Niagara Horticulture, A.A.S. program!”

Michael J. Filicetti ’10

Sheriff, Niagara County

“I always knew I wanted to be a police officer and serve the community I grew up in. In my senior year of high school at Lewiston Porter it was time to select a college to attend. I knew that SUNY Niagara had a great reputation for their Criminal Justice program. Many local law enforcement officers attended SUNY Niagara and launched into careers with local police agencies. The professors were all very knowledgeable and worked with you until you understood the material. This program is a great foundation for whatever path you choose in the world of law and order. I originally attended SUNY Niagara from 1990-1992 and my college career was cut short with an opportunity to attend the Niagara County Law Enforcement Academy at SUNY Niagara. In 2009, I attended the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) National Academy and then returned to finish a few classes at SUNY Niagara. I received my Associate Degree in Criminal Justice in 2010.”

Michael J. Filicetti
Nina Brown

Nina Brown ’16

Guest Services / Front Office, Wingate by Wyndham Niagara Falls

“I knew that I wanted to work with people. I knew that I wanted to meet people from all over, so I thought what better field than the hospitality field. After graduating from NFCI I was able to apply at the Wingate by Wyndham Niagara Falls with leadership skills, management skills, and communication skills that got me the job.”

Adia Jacobs ’00

Program Director (Bridging the Gap Youth Diversion Program) for The Salvation Army

Adia Jacobs graduated from SUNY Niagara with her degree in Criminal Justice. She went on to receive her Bachelor’s Degree in Criminology from Niagara University and Master’s Degree in Social Work from Daemen College. She is currently the Program Director (Bridging the Gap Youth Diversion Program) for The Salvation Army. During her time at SUNY Niagara, Adia served as the African American Student Union President.

Adia Jacobs
Corey Schaffer

Corey Schaffer ’06

Senior Engineer: System Integration & Test, Lockheed Martin Space

Corey Schaffer graduated from SUNY Niagara with his degree in Liberal Arts: Math & Science. He is currently the Senior Engineer: System Integration & Test at Lockheed Martin Space. He is testing batteries that will be integrated into various satellites and space probes, particularly GPS III which is the next generation of global positioning system satellites. He happily lives in the Denver area with his partner Justin and their dog Kingston.

Dan Jackson ’99

Director of Sales, WIVB/WNLO

Dan Jackson is a Liberal Arts: Humanities & Social Science graduate from SUNY Niagara. For over 20 years, Dan has worked as a leader in sales at WIVB/WNLO. He was recently promoted to Director of Sales overseeing the national, local, and digital sales teams. He is recognized in the community of business leaders as an innovator of advertising campaigns that deliver results.

Dan not only serves as a member of the SUNY Niagara Alumni Committee but also serves on the SUNY Niagara Distinguished Alumni Sub-Committee and volunteers his time helping with events such as the SUNY Niagara 5K Run/Walk and Commencement Ceremony. “SUNY Niagara is an incredible school that I will always support and value. I don’t know what would have happened if I attended SUNY Niagara and I am so thankful that I did. SUNY Niagara can get you on the right path to achieve your goals no matter what they are.”

Dan Jackson
Stephanie Haak

Stephanie Haak ’16

Owner, Haak’s Cakes

Baking & Pastry Arts graduate from the Niagara Falls Culinary Institute, Stephanie Haak, recently opened Haak’s Cakes in Hamburg, NY of March 2020. She is best known for her illusion cakes such as the beef on weck cake featured here. In addition, she also sells homemade cakes, cupcakes, cookies, cinnamon rolls, and other baked goods. Although she has only been open a short time, Hamburg already knows: Haak knows cake.

Alex Dispence ’13

Social media influencer, famous for his viral cooking videos on @tiktok !

When asked why he chose the Niagara Falls Culinary Institute, Alex states, “It was the opportunity to be around people that had a passion for cooking like myself. It was the experts that have become lifelong mentors. It was the quality food and the experiences that I had while training at NFCI.”

General Information

The SUNY Niagara Alumni Association exists to help you stay connected to SUNY Niagara and to each other wherever you are in life. Whatever you’re seeking, whether it is a SUNY Niagara event, benefit, or career opportunity, we’ve got you covered!

Since 1987 when the SUNY Niagara Alumni Association was first created, we have dedicated ourselves to connecting alumni, students, and friends of the College in lifelong support of SUNY Niagara and each other. SUNY Niagara has had over 40,000 attendees and graduates; all are considered alumni. No matter what, we strive to stay connected with everyone.

We invite you to now meet our current SUNY Niagara Alumni Association Committee Members below. These members have continued to dedicate themselves to the success of SUNY Niagara and our Alumni Association. Committee members not only donate their time and efforts throughout the year by volunteering and attending our events, but also help us stay connected to other alumni, provide consistent feedback during meetings, and help us secure donations and sponsorship for various events.

SUNY Niagara Alumni Association

Interested in Becoming a Member?

Any person who received a degree or certificate from SUNY Niagara or who earned 50 or more credit hours is considered an alum and can apply! Here’s how:

  • Submit a bio or resume highlighting your education, career, and personal achievements
  • Submit a letter telling us why you’re interested in serving on our committee

Documents can be sent via email to or in the mail to:

SUNY Niagara Foundation/Alumni Office A-265
3111 Saunders Settlement Rd
Sanborn, NY 14132


Barbara DeSimone, Assistant Vice President of Institutional Advancement
3111 Saunders Settlement Rd.
Sanborn, NY 14132
Phone: 716-614-5904

Julie Berrigan, Director of Development
3111 Saunders Settlement Rd.
Sanborn, NY 14132
Phone: 716-614-5911

Courtney Helinski, Assistant Director of Development
3111 Saunders Settlement Rd.
Sanborn, NY 14132
Phone: 716-614-6231