Corning Incorporated Foundation Grant Strengthens Optics Pipeline

In an effort initiated by the RRPC, Corning Incorporated Foundation is collaborating with MCC to help build educational opportunities in optics technologies for area students – and, at the same time, provide a pipeline of skilled workers for optics companies.

Over the next five years, Corning Incorporated Foundation will provide a $500,000 grant to MCC as it builds and serves more students in its optical systems technology degree and certificate programs.

MCC, which established its optics degree program in 1971, plans to upgrade equipment in its optics labs and bolster the curriculum to keep pace with current needs in the manufacturing sector. It also plans a comprehensive awareness campaign to encourage more students to consider a career path in optics. Scholarships for students pursuing a degree in optics are also available.

Karen C. Martin, president of Corning Incorporated Foundation, said the grant is part of the Foundation’s strategy to support selected science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education programs.

“The United States now ranks 27th among 29 developed countries for the production of STEM degrees,” she said. “More and more, our country needs skilled workers who can step into today’s high-tech manufacturing jobs, particularly at the technician level.

“From its beginning 60 years ago, the Foundation has supported higher education, particularly science and technology-based curricula which results in a more highly-skilled workforce,” she added. “We’re proud to be collaborating with Monroe Community College and working toward our mutual goals.”

Rochester long has been the home of such iconic optics firms as Eastman Kodak Company, Xerox Corporation, and Bausch & Lomb. Over the decades, numerous operations have joined the community, focused on the design and manufacture of optical components and systems for applications ranging from aerospace, defense, semiconductor and a host of other industries requiring optics.  Among them is Corning Fairport (also known as Corning Tropel Corporation) which is part of the Corning Specialty Materials – Advanced Optics Division.  This location is known around the world for its sophisticated precision optics and metrology systems used in a wide array of advanced applications.

“I came to MCC because I knew its optics program was one of the best in the area. My education has paid off because it got me a job while I was still in school,” said David DiPonzio, who expects to graduate with a degree in December. Currently he is working full time as a laser technician at the University of Rochester’s Laboratory for Laser Energetics. “I chose the optics field because I have the opportunity to use cutting-edge technology to improve the way of life for mankind and because of the many job opportunities available in the Greater Rochester area– from defense to medical to fusion science.”

“This extraordinary financial commitment by the Corning Incorporated Foundation comes at the right time to help satisfy growing employer demand for skilled workers in the optics field,” said Diane L. Shoger, executive director of the Monroe Community College Foundation. “With optics companies expanding in our region, this investment will help MCC guide more students into career paths that will lead them to quality jobs available today.”

“The Foundation grant reinforces the core importance of career technical education in our region, particularly with respect to the optics industry that has been a foundation of the Rochester economy for over a century,” said Damon W. Diehl, Ph.D., assistant professor of engineering technologies at MCC. “This funding will support MCC’s outreach to regional high schools, and it will allow us to update laboratory equipment so that our graduates exit the program with hands-on skills that are immediately relevant in industry.”

MCC offers summer optics camps for students in Monroe County and job-readiness programs for students in the Greater Rochester region to help them gain an appreciation for career opportunities in optics. Rochester companies like Sydor Optics, Optimax Systems, Inc. and Advanced Glass Industries are owned and operated by graduates of the MCC program.

The presentation that got the ball rolling is here: corning_mccabe

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New York Photonics is a not-for-profit organization founded to promote and enhance the New York State optics, photonics and imaging industry by fostering the cooperation of business, academia and government.


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