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24 staff members graduate with higher ed degrees

Staff graduates with Rawlings
Jason Koski/University Photography
Top row, from left: Dhia Abed Waheed, Curtis Josey Jr., Aleksandra Perelman, Joe Williams, Interim President Hunter Rawlings III, Tyler Anderson, Tara Woodard, Sean Hayes, Thomas O’Toole and Mary Opperman, vice president and chief human resources officer. Bottom Row, from left: Carrie Baldwin-SoRelle, Deborah Paul, Fredrika Loew, Wendy Treat, Nicole O’Connell-Avery, Laurel Kiorpes Parker and Lauren Ryder.

Thomas O’Toole, executive director of the Cornell Institute for Public Affairs, and a Cornell staff member for the last dozen years, embodied the word grit by simultaneously working and earning a doctorate in the field of government from the Graduate School.

And Wendy Treat, administrative support coordinator for engaged learning and research for 28 years, persevered through her associate in applied science degree in business administration from Tompkins Cortland Community College while working full time as a single mom and taking 18 credits in her last semester.

In total this year, 24 Cornell staff members earned an associate, bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree through Cornell’s Employee Degree Program or the Tuition Aid Program.

Their accomplishments were celebrated at the 20th Annual Staff Graduate reception May 24 in the Robison Hall of Fame Room in Friends Hall.

Interim President Hunter Rawlings was on hand to congratulate the graduates and said it is incumbent on Cornell to provide the opportunity for staff members to continue their education.

“We’re an academic institution, and we should make sure our employees get some support in order to improve their education and in some cases achieve things they couldn’t achieve without a further degree,” he said.

Staff graduation reception
Jason Koski/University Photography
Lauren Ryder, assistant director of reunion giving for the Cornell Annual Fund, earned her master's of regional planning degree.

Mary Opperman, vice president and chief human resources officer, also lauded the graduates.

“We have degrees – from associate degrees through graduate degrees – represented here today, and it demonstrates what I’ve always known, which is that the staff at Cornell are a committed bunch. You have found time in your day to balance your families, your work, and your interest and passion in learning,” she said.

A total of 19 staff members earned Cornell degrees:

  • Tyler Anderson, M.Eng., research support specialist in Biological and Environmental Engineering;
  • Rebecca Brunner, M.S., former developmental editor and course developer at the Lab of Ornithology;
  • Matthew Cochran, M.M.H., assistant director of Cornell Catering;
  • Adam Davis, M.P.A., extension support specialist at the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research;
  • Sean Hayes, M.B.A., information technology project manager at Student Services Information Technology;
  • Kristen Holeck, M.S., a research support specialist in the Department of Natural Resources;
  • Curtis Josey Jr., M.Eng., research associate in the University Audit Office;
  • Corri Levine, M.S., technician in Clinical Sciences;
  • Fredrika Loew, M.A., collections assistant in the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections;
  • Nicole O’Connell-Avery, B.S., veterinary technician at the Cornell University Hospital for Animals;
  • Kyle Oliveira, M.Eng., systems administrator at Cornell Information Technologies;
  • Thomas O’Toole, Ph.D., executive director of the Cornell Institute for Public Affairs;
  • Laurel Kiorpes Parker, M.P.S., equal employment opportunity consultant in Human Resources Policy and Labor Relations;
  • Deborah Paul, B.S., administrative assistant in the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid;
  • Aleksandra Perelman, M.P.S., finance specialist in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Office of Academic Programs;
  • Lauren Ryder, M.R.P., assistant director of reunion giving for the Cornell Annual Fund;
  • Ruth Torres, B.S., financial aid associate in the Office of Financial Aid;
  • Dhia Abed Waheed, M.A., custodian in Infrastructure Properties and Planning; and
  • Joe Williams, M.P.S., web designer in the Yang-Tang Institute in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations.

Five staff members earned degrees from other colleges or universities:

  • Carrie Baldwin-SoRelle, M.S., Syracuse University, gift associate for Alumni Affairs and Development;
  • Samantha Miller, B.S., SUNY Empire State College, financial aid counselor in the Office of Financial Aid;
  • Wendy Treat, A.A.S., Tompkins Cortland Community College, administrative assistant for engaged learning and research;
  • Susan Whitaker, B.S., SUNY Empire State College, office manager for Cornell Dining Administration; and
  • Tara Woodard, A.A.S., Tompkins Cortland Community College, office manager in the School of Operations Research and Information Engineering.

Biographies of the staff graduates were read by employee-elected trustee Alan Mittman and Employee Assembly Chair BJ Siasoco; Fred Callaway ’16 provided keyboard music for the event.

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

Media Contact

Melissa Osgood