Joanna Papadakis '21, top row, second from right, displays her Cornell Campus-Community Leadership Award during a virtual ceremony April 23.

Joanna Papadakis ’21 honored for town-gown innovation

Joanna Papadakis ’21 has received the 2021 Cornell Campus-Community Leadership Award, an annual honor given by the Division of University Relations to a graduating senior who has shown exceptional town-gown leadership and innovation.

Papadakis, a senior in the College of Human Ecology, was joined by family, friends and Cornell staff and faculty at the award’s first virtual ceremony, hosted by Joel Malina, vice president for university relations.

“Over the last year, in concert with the Master of Public Health (MPH) program, Joanna has focused on development of a coordinated worst-case emergency plan for Tompkins County, in collaboration with the Tompkins County Health Department and Office of the Medical Examiner,” Malina said. “It’s not a happy topic, but basically needed ‘what if’ scenario-building that has been very much appreciated by off-campus professionals.”

The collaboration between graduate and undergraduate students was supported by the MPH program, an Office of Engagement Initiatives’ Engaged Opportunity Grant and the Cornell Community Work Study Program.

Papadakis’ faculty adviser, Elizabeth Fox, lecturer with the MPH program in the College of Veterinary Medicine, added, “Joanna’s commitment to health and community engagement is notable. She joined our team with significant experience collaborating with local partners, including the Tompkins County Mental Health Association. The potential for multiple deaths can be sensitive and emotionally charged, and in the context of COVID-19 has been particularly challenging.

“Joanna has approached this essential work with a level of cultural competence and problem-solving,” Fox said.

For instance, she said, Papadakis brought up key challenges related to mental health support for family members, as well as complications unique to Ithaca, such as a high number of international students, in conversations with the Red Cross about developing a family assistance center plan. Her work has been shared throughout the off-campus community, including with the Tompkins County Sheriff’s Department, Fox said.

Upon receipt of the award plaque, which highlighted Papadakis’ “studies in human development and global health and a commitment to public service,” she said:

“In my four years at Cornell, I have learned that serving those around you connects you to your community, but that it also teaches you about diverse life experiences, how to become passionate about issues that matter to you in the greater community, and how to develop strengths like empathy, listening and advocacy skills.

“I have involved myself in my service work at Cornell, especially as a patient advocate as a member of the Public Service Center’s Patient Advocacy Team, with the Tompkins County Mental Health Association, at the Cancer Resource Center of the Finger Lakes and as a member of the Emergency Preparedness Team.”

A recording of the award ceremony can be viewed here.

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Abby Butler