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2023 Summer Success Symposium

August 15, 2023 @ 10:00 am - 3:30 pm

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The Summer Success Symposium is a professional and community development event for new and continuing doctoral students from across all graduate fields. The symposium has a particular focus on bringing together recipients of graduate fellowships in support of diversity as well as all other doctoral students from backgrounds historically excluded from and underrepresented in the academy. This includes, but is not limited to students who identify as Black, Indigenous, Hispanic/Latina/o/x, and/or Southeast Asian, and/or those that identify as first-generation college (FGC) students, LGBTQQ+ identified students, veterans, students with disabilities, women in STEM, students with DACA status, and others. Master’s degree students interested in pursuing doctoral studies are also welcome to this event.

Through this symposium, participants have the opportunity to form connections and establish community. This symposium also provides participants with the opportunity to engage with successful alumni, faculty, and professionals with shared experiences and identities. Summer Success Symposium keynote and workshop content focus on providing participants with access to knowledge and insights that will help them navigate their successful transition into and progression through their graduate studies.

Registration Required

Symposium Agenda

10:00-10:15am            Registration – Biotech Atrium *Coffee, tea, and juice service


10:15-10:30am            Welcome Remarks


Speaker: Sara Xayarath Hernández, Associate Dean for Inclusion & Student Engagement, Graduate School


10:30-12:00pm           Plenary Workshop: 


Session Summary:

 Speaker: Steve Desir, Ph.D., Director of Professional Learning & Organizational Development, Consortium for Equity in Graduate Education, and Assistant Professor of Research, Rossier School of Education, University of Southern California

Speaker Bio: Dr. Steve Desir is an Assistant Research Professor in the Pullias Center for Higher Education at the University of Southern California Rossier School of Education. His research interests include racial equity in college admissions, organizational change, and the use of theory-based psychological interventions to facilitate behavioral change. More specifically, Dr. Desir is interested in whether insights from social psychology, sociology, and behavioral economics can be used to improve educational experiences for minoritized groups. Dr. Desir earned his doctoral degree in Higher Education from USC, and a master’s degree in Education Policy and Management from Harvard. Prior to his studies at USC and HGSE, Dr. Desir completed his master’s degree in secondary education from NYU, and earned his bachelor’s degree in Economics and Political Science at Penn State. Dr. Desir is a native New Yorker, and in his spare time enjoys running, Muay-Thai kickboxing, and attending concerts.


12:00-12:30pm           Lunch Break: Boxed Lunches Available


12:30pm-2:00pm        Alumni Keynote Address:

Session Summary:

Speaker: Coalton Bennett, Ph.D., Patent Agent, McCarter & Fish

Speaker Bio: Dr. Coalton Bennett is a patent agent, assisting in the preparation and prosecution of patent applications filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

Dr. Bennett has a significant technical background in a wide range of areas including computer networks, Internet applications and software, audio signal processing, speech processing, image processing, wireless communications standards including IEEE 802.11, IEEE 802.15.4, cellular data service (knowledge of various standards including GSM, CDMA, GPRS, 3G, UMTS, etc.), mobile advertising, software, mobile payments, mapping software, retail advertising, machine learning, genetic algorithms, artificial intelligence, optical communications, blockchain, and cryptocurrency.  In addition, he has experience with data security and privacy.

Prior to becoming a patent agent, Dr. Bennett was a member of the technical staff at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Lincoln Laboratory, where he developed networking protocols for wireless handsets. Dr. Bennet earned his Ph.D. and M.S. in Electrical Engineering in 2010 from Cornell University and his B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Howard University.


2:00-2:15pm               Break


2:15-3:30pm               Panel Discussion: Mastering Your Transition Into & Progression Through Graduate School                         

Session Summary: During this panel discussion with current doctoral students from across the disciplines, panelists candidly discussed their experiences and strategies for making a successful transition into graduate school. They also shared insights on their experiences navigating their ongoing progression through their graduate studies, and their exploration and preparation for various postgraduate career pathways.


  • Drea Darby, Ph.D. Candidate, Entomology 


  • Kaitlin Diggins, Ph.D. Student, Plant Pathology & Plant-Microbe Biology
  • Helen Stec, PhD Student, NBB 
  • Dante King, PhD Student, Classics 
  • Alex Pasqualini, PhD Candidate, Music 
  • Alan Mata, PhD Student, Entomology 

EVENT SPONSORS: Graduate School Office of Inclusion & Student Engagement, Diversity Programs in Engineering, and the Cornell Chapter of the Bouchet Graduate Honor Society.

*This program was modeled in part after PROMISE: Maryland’s AGEP Summer Success Institute.


August 15, 2023
10:00 am - 3:30 pm
Event Category:


Careers - Academic, Careers - Non-Academic, Diversity & Inclusion, Graduate Student Life
Focus Area
Navigate Academia
Transferable Skills
Balance & Resilience, Communications, Community Engagement
Graduate Office of Inclusion and Student Engagement


G10 Biotechnology Building
526 Campus Road
Ithaca, NY 14853 United States
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