Twenty-five Receive Awards Recognizing Inclusive Excellence

A green teardrop shaped award sits on a table next to a bouquet of flowers

Photos by Roger William Photography

May 23, 2022

By Katya Hrichak

The Graduate School Office of Inclusion and Student Engagement and the Graduate and Professional Student Diversity Council presented the 2022 Distinguished Awards at the Graduate Diversity and Inclusion Awards and Recognition Celebration on May 12 in G10 Biotech.

This annual event recognizes the excellence represented within the graduate community and celebrates students for their accomplishments. The awards presented honor members of the community who have demonstrated leadership and commitment to advancing efforts around diversity, inclusion, outreach, and student engagement.

“We are proud to recognize and honor the members of our community who are working to make graduate education at Cornell more inclusive and accessible for all,” said Sara Xayarath Hernández, associate dean for inclusion and student engagement. “After two years of remote celebrations, it is even more meaningful to have been able to celebrate in person.”

Chinasa Okolo, a student from the Expanding Your Horizons organization, and Jumana Badar hold their plaques and bouquetsFaculty and staff were also recognized with awards for their unwavering commitment to diversity and inclusion and the promotion of the personal and professional development of graduate and professional students, especially those from backgrounds historically excluded from and underrepresented within the academy.

“I am very humbled and grateful to be lifted up as a ‘Change Agent’ by this award. It is so much bigger than me because change requires the hard work of many dedicated and driven members of the community,” said Linda Nicholson, professor of molecular biology and genetics and department leader for diversity and inclusion. “I am greatly honored to be a part of the important work being done at Cornell to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion within and beyond our academic village.”

2022 Award Winners:

  • Exemplary Service – Early Graduate Career Award: Hetvi Doshi, human development doctoral student; Breanna Green, information science doctoral student; Jesus Lopez Baltazar, chemical engineering doctoral student; and Andrea Robinson, nutrition doctoral student
  • Exemplary Service – Advanced Graduate Career Award: Jason Chang, biomedical engineering doctoral candidate; Jess Choi, plant pathology and plant-microbe biology doctoral candidate; Cheyenne Peltier, chemistry and chemical biology doctoral candidate; and Mikaela Spruill, psychology doctoral candidate
  • Excellence in Leadership Award: Karina Beras, anthropology doctoral student; Joshua Garcia, horticulture doctoral candidate; and Andrew Scheldorf, horticulture doctoral candidate
  • Social Justice Award: Zinab Attai, government doctoral student; Sabrina Li, materials science and engineering doctoral candidate; and Caitlin Miller, neurobiology doctoral candidate
  • Community Outreach Award: Jumana Badar, biochemistry, molecular and cell biology doctoral candidate; Chinasa T. Okolo, computer science doctoral candidate; and Expanding Your Horizons
  • Unsung Hero Award: Harmony Borchardt-Wier, natural resources and the environment lab manager; Monica Carpenter, astronomy graduate field assistant; and Casey Moore, graduate field assistant for biophysics; biochemistry, molecular and cell biology; and genetics, genomics, and development
  • Change Agent Award: Linda Nicholson, professor of molecular biology and genetics and department leader for diversity and inclusion
  • Faculty Champion – Junior Faculty Award: Elizabeth Fox, department of public and ecosystem health assistant professor of practice
  • Faculty Champion – Senior Faculty Award: Eve De Rosa, dean of faculty and associate professor of human development; Ian Hewson, professor of microbiology and department leader for diversity and inclusion; and Mariana Wolfner, professor and associate department chair of molecular biology and genetics

Breanna Green, Jesus Lopez Baltazar, Andrea Robinson, and Hetvi Doshi hold their plaques“I’m deeply grateful to be recognized by the Graduate School Office of Inclusion and Student Engagement and the Graduate and Professional Student Diversity Council with a Community Outreach Award,” said Okolo. “Being at Cornell has allowed me to explore many personal interests of mine while also making an impact on campus, nationally, and globally.”

While Baltazar and Scheldorf appreciate being recognized for their leadership and commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice, they view their respective awards as also belonging to their peers with whom they collaborate on many initiatives.

“I am a firm believer that leadership is not being at the top of the mountain receiving honors and praise, but instead being the person at the bottom helping people up,” Scheldorf said. “I am honored that other student leaders, colleagues, and friends thought I was deserving of this award. I appreciate the teams of people I have worked with and had the privilege to lead.”

Joshua Garcia, Andrew Scheldorf, and Karina Beras hold their plaques and bouquets

Students in attendance were also recognized for achievements in the areas of funding and academic achievement, service, and milestone completion. Members of the Graduate and Professional Student Diversity Council, Graduate School Dean’s Scholars, NextGen Professors Program, Graduate Student Ambassadors, and Bouchet Graduate Honor Society were also acknowledged.