The Graduate School Office of Inclusion and Student Engagement (OISE) and the Graduate and Professional Student Diversity Council presented the 2020 Distinguished Awards on June 12 at the Graduate Diversity and Inclusion Awards and Recognition Celebration, held over Zoom.
This annual event recognizes the excellence represented within the graduate community and celebrates students for their academic, leadership, and service accomplishments, and for reaching milestones toward degree completion.
Typically held as an in-person banquet in late April, this year’s celebration was moved online due to the university’s shift to remote operation. Though the date was initially chosen to not conflict with final exams and the original commencement dates, the timing was meaningful for other reasons. June 12 marked four years since many lost their lives at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando as well as the 53rd anniversary of Loving v. Virginia, which struck down a 16-state ban on interracial marriage.
Not only was the community able to gather in celebration during what many have called a very challenging and painful time, they were also called to action and solidarity by the president of the Black Graduate and Professional Student Association, Brianna Tate, a doctoral student in animal science, who provided opening remarks. Tate stated, “We need to push each other regardless of color, regardless of sex, regardless of sexual orientation; we need to come together and support one another.”
“Many in our community have been experiencing an increasingly challenging time, given the contemporary issues we are dealing with, which are rooted in a legacy of racism that exists at systemic and structural levels,” said Sara Xayarath Hernández, associate dean of inclusion and student engagement. “However, we’re grateful that this evening we are able to gather and to take a moment to be together and to celebrate one another.”
The awards presented at the celebration honor members of the Cornell graduate community who have demonstrated leadership and commitment to advancing efforts around diversity, inclusion, outreach, and student engagement. Faculty and staff were also recognized with awards for their unwavering commitment to diversity and inclusion and promotion of the personal and professional development of graduate and professional students, especially those from backgrounds historically underrepresented within the academy.
“This recognition celebration is one of my favorite events of the year because it’s one of the few opportunities we have to publicly celebrate and acknowledge the accomplishments, achievements, and groundbreaking work being done by members of our community, a community I’m especially proud to be a part of,” said Anitra Douglas-McCarthy, senior director of recruitment and recipient of an Unsung Hero Award.
The 2020 Award Winners are:
• Exemplary Service – Early Graduate Career Award: Trevor Donadt, chemical engineering doctoral student
• Exemplary Service – Advanced Graduate Career Award: Zoe Getman-Pickering, Ph.D., entomology; Aaron Joiner, biochemistry, molecular and cell biology doctoral candidate; and Marissa Rice, psychology doctoral candidate
• Excellence in Leadership Award: Lauren Genova, Ph.D., chemistry and chemical biology
• Social Justice Award: Stephen Kim, English doctoral candidate; and Chelsea Stephens, biomedical engineering doctoral student
• Community Outreach Award: Paige Priest, master of public health student; and Renee Sifri, chemistry doctoral candidate
• Unsung Hero Award: Anitra Douglas-McCarthy, senior director of recruitment in the Graduate School; Kara Peet, graduate field assistant in English; and Stephanie Westmiller, graduate field assistant in entomology
• Junior Faculty Champion Award: Ifeoma Ajunwa, associate professor of labor relations, law, and history; and Sabrina Karim, assistant professor of government
• Senior Faculty Champion Award: Monica Geber, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, director of graduate studies, and chair of the graduate admissions committee; and Jennifer Thaler, professor of entomology and director of graduate studies
• OISE Change Agent Award: The Building Allyship Series, led by Gwendolyn Beacham, biochemistry, molecular and cell biology doctoral candidate; Kara Guse, master of public administration student; Janani Hariharan, soil and crop sciences doctoral student; Alexander LaCrampe, biochemistry, molecular and cell biology doctoral student; Eugene Law, doctoral candidate in soil and crop sciences; and Chelsea Stephens, doctoral student in biomedical engineering
Also recognized at the ceremony were the 2020 Bouchet Graduate Honor Society inductees and members of the NextGen Professors and Dean’s Scholars Programs. After being acknowledged, many committed to continuing their work making academia and the broader society better and more inclusive for all and encouraged others to do the same.
Like Tate in her opening remarks, plant biology doctoral student and university Reopening Committee member Arielle Johnson urged attendees to get involved, whether it be through the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly, organizations in their fields, groups in Ithaca, or otherwise.
“Progress is happening, but I acknowledge there is much work to do,” said Kara Peet, graduate field assistant in English. “I challenge all of us to celebrate today but not get comfortable. This initiative requires all of us.”