Jeramy Kruser, employee-elected trustee, Craig Wiggers, Employee Assembly chair, both far left, back row, and Mary Opperman, vice president and chief human resource officer, far right, celebrate with 2019 staff graduates, May 20.

VP Opperman: Staff graduates met their challenges with ‘gusto’

Thirty-three university staff members were recognized for earning academic degrees at the 23rd annual Staff Graduate Reception, May 20 in the Hall of Fame Room in Friends Hall.

Mary Opperman congratulates Nathan Laisure for earning his master's in applied psychology, while Jeramy Kruser looks on.

Two Cornell staff members are receiving bachelor’s degrees from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Nineteen are receiving Cornell master’s degrees, two are receiving doctorates, and 10 are receiving degrees in higher education from other colleges and universities.

Fifteen staff graduates have worked at Cornell for more than 10 years, including six with more than 20 years of service.

Addressing the graduates, Mary Opperman, vice president and chief human resource officer, said their degrees represent “sacrifice, dedication, courage and a steadfast desire to shape your own destiny.” Their learning experience was likely different from the ones they’d had in the past, she said, noting they’ve had to balance their studies with personal demands and stresses at home, along with deadlines and performance expectations at work.

But, Opperman said, “You have met the resulting challenges with gusto.”

Libby Eiholzer celebrates her master’s at the staff graduate reception.

Staff graduates, she said, also have experienced Cornell as both employees and students. “I hope that you will find ways to weave that new knowledge and experience into your work as we continue to support the educational mission of Cornell,” she said. 

Receiving undergraduate degrees from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences:

  • Mary Beth Martini-Lyons, project manager at Cornell University Library, Bachelor of Science in communication; 
  • Brad McFall, temporary service technician in the Department of Natural Resources, Bachelor of Science in computational biology.

Receiving advanced degrees from the Cornell Graduate School: 

  • Shawna Alling, who works in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Office of Student Services, Master of Industrial and Labor Relations;
  • Libby Eiholzer, extension support specialist on the Livestock and Field Crops Team at Cornell Cooperative Extension at the Northwest New York Dairy, Master of Professional Studies;
  • Matthew Einhorn, technician in the Department of Psychology, College of Arts and Sciences, Master of Engineering;
  • Rachel Evanowski, technician in the Department of Food Science, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Master of Science;
  • James Friedlander, visiting lecturer in naval science, Cornell Navy Reserve Officers Training Corps, master’s degree through the Cornell Institute for Public Affairs;
  • Tanya Grove, senior management consultant at Human Resources’ Organizational Development and Talent Management office, Executive Master in Human Resource Management; 
  • Levi Harmon, environmental health and safety and risk management manager, Executive Master of Business Administration; 
  • Jamie Kalousdian, who works in Marketing Communications in the SC Johnson College of Business, Master of Management in Hospitality;
  • Michele Lefebvre, director of nutrition management at Cornell Dining, Master of Management in Hospitality;
  • Vinh Nguyen, deputy director and associate professor of military science, Cornell Army Reserve Officers Training Corps, Master of Professional Studies;
  • Kate Nicholson, human resources assistant for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Master of Industrial and Labor Relations;
  • Kimberly Phoenix, lecturer for Fiber Science and Apparel Design, Master of Arts (Fall 2019);
  • Christine Potter, executive director of global operations for the Office of the Vice Provost for International Affairs, Executive Master of Business Administration;
  • Matthew Reiter, architectural and structural section leader for facilities engineering, Master of Engineering;
  • Mark Schneider, residence hall director for housing and residence life, Master of Arts in linguistics;
  • Marty Sullivan, DevOps cloud engineer for Cornell Information Technology, Master of Professional Sciences in information science;
  • Aaron Windsor, thin film engineer in the Cornell Nanoscale Science and Technology Facility, Master of Science in biomedical engineering; 
  • Maria Wolff, senior consultant in talent management for Organizational Development and Talent Management, Executive Master in Human Resource Management;
  • Aaron Zadalis, visiting lecturer in Aerospace Studies, Master of Business Administration.

Receiving Cornell Ph.D.s:

  • Rebecca Harman, research support specialist in the Baker Institute for Animal Health, College of Veterinary Medicine, Ph.D. in microbiology and immunology;
  • Pam Strausser, senior consultant for academic human resources, Ph.D. in industrial and labor relations. 

Receiving a degree from another college or university:

  • Tiffany Buckley, executive staff assistant for the vice provost for engagement and land-grant affairs and for the vice provost for academic innovation, Master of Business Administration in project management, Southern New Hampshire University;
  • Theoria Cason, training and education coordinator in the Office of the Title IX Coordinator, Ph.D. in education, University of Pittsburgh;
  • Cheryl Ann Cox, front office manager for the Statler Hotel, Master of Arts in deaconess studies, Concordia Theological Seminary;
  • Elizabeth Estabrook, associate director of the Office of Sponsored Research, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Master of Science in research administration, Johns Hopkins University;
  • Monica Gopaul, community educator, Cornell Cooperative Extension in New York City, associate degree, Queensboro Community College;
  • Erica Heim, senior program manager, School of Hotel Administration, Master of Science, State University of New York, Empire State College;
  • Kelli Hulslander, project coordinator for College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Capital Project and Facilities Services, associate degree in construction and environmental technology, Tompkins Cortland Community College;
  • Nathan Laisure, associate professor of military science, Master of Arts in applied psychology, Liberty University;
  • Dan Mueller, grant and contract officer, Office of Sponsored Programs, Master of Science in management, Emmanuel College;
  • Beth Underwood, accounts representative in the School of Continuing Education and Summer Sessions, associate degree in accounting, Tompkins Cortland Community College.

Biographies of the attending staff graduates were read by employee-elected trustee Jeramy Kruser and Employee Assembly Chair Craig Wiggers. Pianist Tom Nyul ’18 provided music.

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

Media Contact

Abby Butler