Carpenter Advising Awards presented to four faculty members

Four Cornell faculty members have received Kendall S. Carpenter Memorial Advising Awards, which recognize sustained and distinguished contributions of professorial faculty and senior lecturers to undergraduate advising. The awards were established by Stephen Ashley ’62, MBA ’64, in honor of his adviser, Kendall S. Carpenter, a professor of business management at Cornell from 1954 until his death at the age of 50 in 1967.

Lisa Nishii, vice provost for undergraduate education, presented the awards May 26 at the Trustee Dinner with newly tenured faculty and faculty award winners.

Abigail Cohn, professor in the Department of Linguistics, College of Arts and Sciences, is described by her colleagues as an “endless source of wisdom and advice.” She was cited for her warmth and altruism. A Class of 2016 graduate wrote: “The strong personal bond she fostered did not fade with graduation. Even now as I am overseas, she has continued to advise me on all facets of the graduate school application process.” Another student recalled, “In our last meeting that summer, Abby (the only professor to allow me to use her first name) wrote a personal email to my mom, thanking her for the work I had done, saying such kind words about my character that my own mother nearly came to tears.”

In his nomination endorsement for Jamila Michener, assistant professor in the Department of Government, College of Arts and Sciences, the department chair wrote that he has “rarely, if ever” had a colleague “so deeply and openly committed to her students and advisees. [She] clearly sees advising in particular as a central part of her broader vocation as a scholar and an intellectual, and treats this dedication with great care and seriousness.” Colleagues described daily long lines of students eager to meet with Michener, who extends advising hours to accommodate them. Students cited Michener’s profound influence on them in their daily lives and in helping them to make scholarly, professional and civic contributions of their own. One student wrote: “Professor Michener has been an incredible source of encouragement to me, and has taught me to believe in myself even when I fail to see my own progress.”

Linda Nicholson, professor in the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, College of Arts and Sciences, is revered by her students, many of whom credit the completion of their undergraduate studies to her. One wrote: “She always sees potential in people and encourages them to pursue their true dreams regardless of obstacles and current circumstances.” Another student advised by Nicholson 2000-03 wrote: “I am now tenure-track faculty in biochemistry at a liberal arts college. I would never have obtained this position nor would I ever have even realized that it was my dream job without the guidance and support I have received from Linda Nicholson over the years. I begin advising my own students this coming fall semester, and know very well on whose example I will be modeling my own efforts, and can only hope to succeed fractionally as well.” Her department chair wrote: “The most dedicated mentor that I have known in my 30-plus years at Cornell. I can think of no individual who cares more, puts in more time or who has had such wonderful successes with her students.”

Christopher “Kit” Umbach, senior lecturer in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, College of Engineering, is described in his nomination letter as “an exemplary adviser and mentor of students at all levels.” He has served as a freshman adviser in the College of Engineering and in 2015 received the McCormick Award for first-year advising, an award based on student comments about their experience with their adviser. As a faculty in residence in Clara Dickson Hall, he informally advises freshmen and upperclassmen who live in the Multicultural Living Learning Unit.

“I am awed by these extraordinary academic mentors who have had such a profound impact on their students, and feel grateful to trustee Stephen Ashley for enabling us to properly recognize them for their incredible service to the university,” said Nishii.

This story also appeared in the Cornell Chronicle.

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