The 2022 Cornell Campus-Community Leadership Award winners pose with their plaques and Joel Malina, center, vice president for university relations. Students from left: Claire Deng ’22, Temilola (Lola) Adepoju ’22, Victor Rosas ’22, Zasu Scott ’22.

Students honored for local community impact

Four students have received the 2022 Cornell Campus-Community Leadership Award, an annual honor given by the Division of University Relations to graduating seniors who have shown exceptional town-gown leadership and innovation.

The four students were joined by family, friends and Cornell staff and faculty at the May 5 virtual ceremony, hosted by Joel Malina, vice president for university relations.

“You are each an inspiration,” Malina told the awardees. “You make me proud to be a part of this Cornell community and Tompkins County community, and, frankly, give me a renewed hope in the future of our world. Thank you for all that you have done and congratulations.”

Temilola (Lola) Adepoju ’22 (College of Arts and Sciences) was nominated by Charlie Trautmann, adjunct associate professor of psychology. Adepoju worked in Trautmann’s Environment and Community Relations Lab and conducted a “Community Listening Project” with the Discovery Trail of Tompkins County. The team collected data from interviews and surveys of more than 300 people; the results will inform a new program for middle school youth.

“Her impact has been enormous,” Trautmann said. “She’s laid the foundation for a countywide program that will enhance the educational experience of thousands of middle school students each year. I’m very proud to have had her as the go-to member of our lab team for the last couple of years. I’ve learned a huge amount from her.”

Claire Deng ’22 (A&S) was nominated by her supervisor at the History Center, Zoë Van Nostrand. While working at the center, Deng collaborated with the Ithaca Asian American Association in research on early Asian residents of Tompkins County, in an effort to challenge the local myth that the community’s Asian population and history is limited to more recent student attendance on campus.

With very little information to go on, she was able to categorize every resident of the Asian diaspora in Tompkins County Census records from 1900 to 1940. In doing so, she traced several families whose roots in the community go back decades, and found evidence of Asian businesses in Ithaca dating to the late 1800s.

“Names that had been forgotten or underrepresented in local memory… are now preserved and remembered,” Van Nostrand said, “ensuring that the history of Asian-heritage residents of Tompkins County will be included in future exhibits and programs and contributing greatly to our understanding of Tompkins County history, immigration and industry.”

Victor Rosas ’22 (ILR School) was nominated by Cathy Creighton ‘87 and Kristin Ksiazek, MPA ’13, of the ILR Buffalo Co-Lab. During his time at Cornell, he worked toward a more restorative criminal justice system, including interpreting for survivors of labor trafficking at Cornell Law School and building a research database on the psychological consequences of trauma on detained immigrant children for Project Lifeline.

As a 2021 High Road Fellow, Victor also worked with Partnership for the Public Good to make Erie County'’ budget more transparent, researching areas such as jails, housing and childcare.

“He is an extraordinarily sensitive human being,” Creighton said as she choked up. “He feels the pain of the multitudes around him, he has an enormous amount of empathy and it’s this quality of selflessness which makes me 100% sure, Victor, that you will use your standout qualities to go on and make this a better world.”

Zasu Scott ‘22 (Cornell Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy) was nominated by members of the Cornell Brooks School faculty. She worked with Climate Justice Cornell to develop a political action team and engaged with local Assemblywoman Anna Kelles (D-125th Dist.) to campaign for the New York State Climate and Community Investment Act.

Scott also worked as staff organizer at NY Renews, an organization that advocates for environmental justice, clean and renewable energy, and clean energy jobs in New York State. She helped organize events for climate campaigns, created and distributed educational materials on the details of climate and environmental justice legislation, and oversaw email communications to keep more than 10,000 members connected on campaign updates.

“These are all the big ways, that we’re hearing this afternoon, all the big ways people have led,” said Xaver Kandler, Scott’s supervisor at NY Renews. “But Zasu also really leads in the small ways. She picks up on the dynamics that are happening in a space that are not talked about and is always intentional to the interpersonal needs between folks, which is really how you continue to grow in the most equitable ways.”

Each award winner received a plaque inscribed with details of their service.

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Gillian Smith