Staff graduates are an inspiration to others, president says

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Lindsey Hadlock
2017 staff graduates
Jason Koski/University Photography
Staff graduates are recognized at the 21st annual Staff Graduate Reception, May 23.

At the 21st annual Staff Graduate Reception May 23, President Martha E. Pollack recognized two staff members receiving a Ph.D., 23 receiving a master’s degree, and one a Bachelor of Science degree. Seventeen of these staff members earned their degrees at Cornell through the Employee Degree Program and nine at other accredited institutions through the Tuition Assistance Program.

“All of you – every graduate here – have reached an important personal goal, and you are an inspiration to your colleagues,” said Pollack, who noted the perseverance required to earn a degree while working full time. “Every day you contribute to the university’s mission, and now, with new knowledge and skills, and a new sense of accomplishment, your contributions will be even more valuable,” she added.

Pollack highlighted in particular the two Ph.D. recipients – Joe Druso, who earned a doctorate in pharmacology at the College of Veterinary Medicine, and Joan Paddock, who earned a doctorate in nutritional sciences from the Division of Nutritional Sciences – and the achievements of two other graduates, Michael Annunziata and Nancy Bell.

Joan Paddock
Jason Koski/University Photography
Joan Paddock, center, is recognized for earning her doctorate in nutritional sciences.

Annunziata, a Cornell senior investment analyst who earned an MBA at the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management, won the Cornell Venture Challenge last month with his business partner for their startup called Natural Cuts, and then won $10,000 in the New York State Business Competition. Bell, undergraduate minor coordinator in the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, earned a master’s degree in human resources and organizational behavior from the ILR School while furthering a nonprofit she founded that offers Cornell students experiential learning opportunities in her hometown in Honduras.

Mary Opperman, vice president and chief human resources officer, told staff graduates that Cornell “takes immense pride in your accomplishments” and noted their ability to balance work, home life and studies; to explore new avenues to advance their skills and further their careers; and to immerse themselves in a constantly changing learning environment.

staff graduation with Martha Pollack
Jason Koski/University Photography
From left, Ulysses Smith, lead diversity and inclusion strategist for the Department of Inclusion and Workforce Diversity, President Martha E. Pollack, graduate Nancy Bell and Mary Opperman, vice president and chief human resources officer, at the 21st annual Staff Graduation Reception.

“Your degree stands for so much more than the mastery of a field of study, although that in and of itself is very important,” Opperman said. “Your degree represents sacrifice, dedication, courage and a steadfast desire to shape your own destiny.”

Staff members receiving a Cornell degree were:

  • Michael Annunziata, MBA, senior investment analyst in the Investment Office;
  • Nancy Bell, MILR, undergraduate minor coordinator in the Dyson School;
  • Jamie Bellamore, M.M.H., assistant restaurant manager, Mac’s Café and Terrace Restaurant at the Statler Hotel;
  • Patrick Blankenship, MBA, instructor in physical education;
  • Jess Cisco, MBA, senior human resources consultant in Human Resources;
  • Joan Curtiss, M.P.S., project manager in Infrastructure Properties and Planning (IPP);
  • Marijke Monique de Jongh, M.P.A., visiting lecturer and student adviser in the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps;
  • Joseph Druso, Ph.D., technician in molecular medicine, College of Veterinary Medicine;
  • Wendi Hawkins, M.P.S., associate director of human resources in the Cornell S.C. Johnson College of Business;
  • Mark Howe, M.Eng., manager of utilities distribution and energy management in IPP;
  • Matthew Kozlowski, M.P.S., green building program manager in IPP;
  • Steve Mandl, B.S., software engineer in IPP;
  • Joan Paddock, Ph.D., senior extension associate in Nutritional Sciences;
  • Michael Roberts, M.P.S., natural areas management and safety in IPP;
  • Christopher Rogers, MBA, financial analyst in Budget and Planning;
  • William Searle, MBA, research and planning associate in Institutional Research and Planning; and
  • Jing Zhang, M.P.S., technician in Plant Biology.

Receiving a degree from another college or university were:

  • Bernard Amponsah, M.S. in hospitality management from Thomas Edison State University, electrician in IPP;
  • Becky Callan, MBA from the State University of New York at Oswego, data analyst and operations coordinator in the Animal Health Diagnostic Center;
  • Celeste Carmichael, M.S. from Quinnipiac University, program development and accountability specialist for Cornell Cooperative Extension;
  • Elizabeth Handler, M.S. from Indiana University, Pennsylvania, health and safety specialist in Environmental Health and Safety;
  • Lillian Isacks, MSISA from Norwich University, infrastructure security administrator and systems administrator, Cornell Information Technologies;
  • Megan Keene, M.S. from Southern New Hampshire University, accounts representative in Civil and Environmental Engineering;
  • Jinhee Roper, MBA from Columbia College, accounts representative, IPP;
  • Alida Smith, M.S. from Indiana Wesleyan University, human resources assistant in the Vet College human resources office; and
  • Heather Somers, M.S. from Elmira College, instructional technical specialist in Academic Technologies.

Biographies of the staff graduates were read by employee-elected trustee Chad Coates and Employee Assembly Chair Ulysses Smith ’14; Teddy Comora ’18 provided music for the event.

The reception was sponsored by the Employee Assembly and the Division of Human Resources.


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Nancy Doolittle