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Graduate School dean’s scholars with Barbara Knuth, far left, dean of the Graduate School, and Sara Xayarath Hernández, far right, associate dean for inclusion and student engagement.

Grad students recognized at dean’s scholars pinning ceremony

The Graduate School Dean’s Scholars pinning ceremony Sept. 26 celebrated its inaugural year in 2017, but the 2018 ceremony was not without its firsts.

The pinning ceremony honors recipients of competitive diversity-focused fellowships, including the Dean’s Excellence Fellowship, Dean’s McNair Fellowship, State University of New York (SUNY) Graduate Diversity Fellowship, McNair SUNY Graduate Diversity Fellowship, Mellon Mays SUNY Graduate Diversity Fellowship, Provost Diversity Fellowship, Cornell Colman Fellowship, Cornell Sloan Fellowship and Cornell GEM Ph.D. Fellowship.

This year, the Graduate School welcomed more than 30 new and continuing Dean’s Scholars at the ceremony. Several were recipients of the first Graduate Dean’s Mellon Mays Fellowship and the new Cornell Initiative for Maximizing Student Development (IMSD) Fellowship, developed by Avery August, vice provost for academic affairs.

“[IMSD] is a very supportive program, with weekly meetings for us to encourage one another, exchange tips and insights, and give and receive feedback,” said Mariela Rivera De Jesus, a doctoral student in the field of biomedical engineering and one of the first Cornell IMSD Fellowship recipients.

Induction into the Dean’s Scholars program helps students network and establish connections across graduate fields by attending professional and community development events sponsored or co-sponsored by the Office of Inclusion and Student Engagement and its partners. These include Diversity Programs in Engineering and the Cornell University Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning.

Connor Rechtzigel, a doctoral student in the field of anthropology and the first Graduate Dean’s Mellon Mays Fellow, said he looks forward to the opportunities afforded by being part of the cohort.

“These spaces and conversations are so necessary, particularly for students who hold non-normative identities in a predominantly white, heterosexual academy,” he said. “On the one hand, then, the Dean’s Mellon Mays Fellowship commits me to continually exploring how queerness and power intersect with my own research; on the other hand, it commits me to continually question, listen and grow with my peers.”

Another first for the ceremony included the pinning itself. This year, the newest Dean’s Scholars received a pin from last year’s scholars to welcome them to the community.

“I was thrilled to be a pinner in the ceremony because it is incredibly encouraging to witness the power of such a simple gesture,” said Amanda Recupero, a doctoral student in the field of Romance studies and a Dean’s Scholar recognized at last year’s ceremony. “We welcome new people into a growing community, recognize the challenges they overcame to get here, and congratulate them on this achievement,” she said. “That this community continues to grow with intentional and valuable activities such as this one is inspiring and warming.”

Pinning by the previous year’s scholars is a tradition Sara Xayarath Hernández, associate dean for inclusion and student engagement, sees being carried forward into the future.

Each scholar receives a pin with a round, gold center containing the Cornell seal, representing the scholars’ achievement, surrounded by an outer ring of silver, representing their persistence.

“I’m quite honored to be a part of the cohort of so many talented and brilliant scholars in so many different disciplines,” Rivera de Jesus said, “and that my hard work and achievements have been recognized by being included as a scholar.”

Katya Hrichak is a communications assistant in the Graduate School.

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Lindsey Knewstub