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Morrisville State College Student Pioneers Into Diesel Technology Field

MORRISVILLE, N.Y.—After she graduated from college with a degree in sociology, it seemed likely that Sarah Pyndus would find a job working in the field.

But something was unresolved in that plan for Pyndus, whose enterprising spirit often navigated her in a different direction.

So the New Jersey native put her career plans on hold, taking a summer job “for fun” working on a tourist fishing boat—a decision that would take her beyond studying human social structures and relationships—to the field of diesel technology.

Today, Pyndus, of Marcellus, N.Y., is making plans to graduate with an associate degree in diesel equipment technology from Morrisville State College. She will be among students participating in the 96th commencement ceremony which will be held May 19 at 1 p.m. on Drake Field. She is the only female graduating from the program.

Although diesel technology is still considered a male-dominated industry and one of the frontiers few women venture into, pioneering into trades bereft of women has never intimidated Pyndus.

She was the only woman onboard when she took the summer job helping tourists fish in New Jersey.

“I took it because I loved the water and thought it would be fun,” Pyndus, who spent her first two weeks sea sick, said.

The job changed the course of her life and was just the beginning of firsts for the woman who gleams fortitude.

Pyndus became a skilled mariner, later venturing into commercial fishing on a lobster boat then gill net fishing in the Atlantic Ocean. And she would become one of the youngest fisherman to obtain the rank of captain.

Adept on the water and with laborious tasks on deck, Pyndus, 29, didn’t mind the physical demands and long hours associated with commercial fishing, but being at the mercy of adverse weather conditions and commercial fishing restrictions did pose some challenges.

On one trip, a storm raged so quickly Pyndus’s boat sank.

Throughout her daily activities as a fisherman, Pyndus started to take an interest in new things on the boat—the diesel engines that powered them and other mechanical mechanisms. She had another curiosity—the engine room.

Treated like an equal on deck, she could steer the boat and handle rough waters, but no one would let her work in the engine room when problems were encountered there.

“If someone tells me I can’t do something, it’s the first thing I want to do,” Pyndus said. “And there isn’t a diesel shop on the average corner, so you have to have some knowledge of the boat’s components.”

As she became more interested in the diesel technology field, Pyndus decided after nine years of nautical undertakings to pursue a new venture.

She went home to Marcellus to research colleges with diesel technology programs and enrolled at Morrisville State College.

“I chose Morrisville because the diesel program has an outstanding reputation and it was fairly close to home,” she said.

In the classroom and in labs, Pyndus is comfortably in her element surrounded by computer diagnostic machines, diesel engines and the challenge of troubleshooting their electrical problems.

“Working in the diesel technology field is a different kind of intelligence to me and it is something that I enjoy,” she said.

Professors are impressed by her work ethic and professionalism.

“Her drive and determination are exemplary,” Fred Bach, professor of agricultural engineering technology and diesel technology, said. “Her focus is motivating and her willingness to overcome things, especially the unknown, is too.”

Conquering the unknown was one of the greatest challenges for Pyndus who, growing up on the New Jersey shore, had only seen a cow once in her life and didn’t know the first thing about industrial or agricultural equipment, valve replacements or hydraulic circuits.

“I noticed whenever the going got tough, she got tougher,” Bach said. “She wasn’t afraid to ask questions, to get her hands into projects or learn something new.”

Pyndus doubled up on courses to graduate in three semesters instead of the usual four semesters it takes to complete the program.

“I would not be graduating had it not been for some of my fellow classmates who helped and encouraged me,” she said. They also formed study groups to tackle difficult materials like hydraulics.

Professors also coached her journey.

“If you go the extra mile, they go there with you,” she said. “Whenever I had a question, they were always there to answer it.”

Among the highlights of Pyndus’s education is the hands-on experience she has gained.

“The great thing about Morrisville is that it provides theory and hands-on experience, an important combination. I was able to understand the fundamentals of why things are the way they are while tearing down and putting a tractor back together,” she explained.

Another prominent memory in her educational experience is the internship she completed at Stadium International Trucks in Liverpool.

“It was a great experience,” she said. “This type of opportunity instills an important confidence in students.”

After she graduates, Pyndus plans to move to North Carolina where she already has a job lined up at an international truck dealership.

“Nothing compares to the educational experience I received at Morrisville,” Pyndus said. “I went there without any experience inside a truck and now I can repair and even drive a tractor trailer,” she said.

Morrisville State College offers more than 70 bachelor and associate degrees and options. Considered to be one of the most technologically advanced colleges in the nation for its ThinkPad University program and wireless technology initiative, the college recently became the first in the nation to comprehensively replace landlines in residence halls with individual cellular phones. Morrisville State College was also chosen as one of the top five colleges in the nation for campus activities by Campus Activities magazine.

The Morrisville State College Norwich Campus offers programs in business, computer technology, office administration, liberal arts/education transfer, nursing and early childhood to Chenango County area residents and employers. Students may also apply coursework to other associate or bachelor degrees at the main campus.