Highlights from Announcements 4/12/21

Message from Dean Kathryn Boor

Dear Colleagues,

I am writing today to offer support to the graduate and professional student community in light of our collective loss of student Shawn West and in the context of an extraordinarily difficult year. In 2020-21, we continue to navigate challenges brought on by converging stressors related to the COVID pandemic, xenophobia, health disparities, national reckonings related to racial injustice, political upheaval, and economic downturn.

The toll on all of us been especially heavy, and the impact of these acute and cumulative stressors on our bodies has been profound. Prolonged periods of high stress release an increasing level of stress hormones that can interfere with concentration, memory, and sleep. It is normal and understandable to be experiencing difficulty managing our academic, research, and scholarly activities under these circumstances. We realized that many of you are exhausted, lonely, and overwhelmed and may need to pause to process your emotions and grieve.

Ask for help and support if you need it. If you are in need of course assistance, reach out directly to your instructors. We have asked faculty to provide expanded flexibility to students. Staff in Student Disability Services (SDS) are available at sds_cu@cornell.edu to provide assistance to faculty in thinking through ways to provide additional flexibility to students.

Turning to a person with whom you have a relationship of trust, respect, and acceptance is one of the most effective steps you can take toward coping. Support may come from loved ones, friends, faculty, mentors, community, the Graduate School, or Cornell Health Counseling and Psychological Services (607-255-5155). If you need someone to talk to, try Cornell Health’s Let’s Talk Program.

If you are a teaching assistant, we urge you to respond to students with as much compassion and flexibility as possible. Please consider students’ requests through the lens of trauma response.

We also recommend that you make an acknowledgement at the beginning of your class, lab, or discussion group and make space for students to voice their thoughts and feelings if that makes sense for your class. Sample language you might consider and modify as appropriate to your course and community:

Before we start today, I want to take a moment to acknowledge the loss of Shawn West and how hard it is to grieve this loss in our community on top of what has already been a rough year. The pandemic has disrupted so much, but in particular it has made it difficult to be in community to find comfort in being together in difficult moments. I invite you to take a moment of silence to honor our collective grief, for Shawn, and for all those we have lost this year.

I will move forward with our class today for those who are looking for a sense of structure and routine, but trust that each of you will participate as you are able and know that it’s okay to step back as you need in order to take care of yourself. If you need support or assistance, please reach out to me and I will do what I can to support you and help connect you to resources. (See resources, below.)

The Mental Health Review report of 2020 issues a call to action to foster a culture that supports student mental health and well-being. Cultivating a healthy academic environment and coming together as a campus community are critical, and even more so during times of crisis. Thank you very much for all that you have done, and continue to do, to care about our students and make it possible for us to operate successfully during this pandemic.


Kathryn Boor, Dean of the Graduate School and Vice Provost for Graduate Education

Community Resources

Individuals can have a diverse range of feelings, needs, and reactions when facing loss. This information about Grief and Loss may be helpful to you or a friend. The Ithaca-based Crisisline is available at 607-272-1616. A wide range of supportive resources is also available on the Caring Community website.
Students in need of professional mental health support can call Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) at 607-255-5155 and employees can call the Faculty and Staff Assistance Program (FSAP) at 607-255-2673. Please note, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all CAPS and FSAP services are currently being delivered via telehealth. Whenever these services are closed, calls are answered by Cornell Health’s on-call mental health provider.
The Skorton Center for Health Initiatives at Cornell Health has developed Notice & Respond: Assisting Students in Distress as a training resource to help prepare instructors to recognize and respond when a student is in distress.

$1M in Emergency Funds Released to Cornell Graduate and Professional Students, Some Still Unclaimed

Some graduate students offered an award of additional funds as part of the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund for disruptions they experienced during summer 2020 have not yet claimed their tax-free funds.

Eligible students include those who had borrowed during the previous academic year (2019-2020), typically at levels exceeding $20,000 per year. Most are students completing master’s and professional degrees, and not all students who fit this description were eligible.

If you think you might have been eligible, check your email for the last three weeks. The subject line of the email was: Action Required – Cornell HEERF/CARES Fund Eligibility Notification.

Students with offers must claim their funds by Friday, April 16, 2021.

Five Inducted into Bouchet Graduate Honor Society

Doctoral candidates Christopher Berardino, Houston Claure, Irma Fernandez, Robert Swanda, and Tibra Wheeler
From left to right: Doctoral candidates Christopher Berardino, Houston Claure, Irma Fernandez, Robert Swanda, and Tibra Wheeler

Five Cornell doctoral candidates have been selected for induction into the Cornell chapter of the Edward Alexander Bouchet Graduate Honor Society.

The Bouchet Society recognizes outstanding scholarly achievement and promotes diversity and excellence in doctoral education and the professoriate. Its network of scholars exemplifies academic and personal excellence, character, service, and advocacy for students who traditionally have been underrepresented in the academy.

Read the full story

Student Spotlight: Andrew Foley

Andrew FoleyAndrew Foley is a doctoral candidate in management from Medford, New Jersey. He chose to pursue graduate studies at Cornell because of the strength of the faculty at the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management.

Read the full student spotlight

Interested in what other students are doing both on and off campus?

Check out our student spotlights, Q&As with current students about their research, hobbies, and experiences at Cornell.