Four faculty to receive Carpenter Advising Awards

Four Cornell faculty members have received Kendall S. Carpenter Memorial Advising Awards, which recognize sustained and distinguished contributions of professorial faculty and senior lecturers to undergraduate advising.

The awards were established by Stephen Ashley ’62, MBA ’64, in honor of his adviser, Kendall S. Carpenter, a professor of business management at Cornell from 1954 until his death in 1967, at age 50.

“When our alumni look back at their undergraduate careers, it is their relationships with faculty mentors who invested in their personal and intellectual growth that they remember,” said Lisa Nishii, vice provost for undergraduate education. “Students thrive when faculty go out of their way to show that they believe in their students’ ability to succeed and care about their well-being. I am thankful to this year’s awardees for being that person for their students.”

Michael Duncan, the Raymond G. Thorpe Teaching Professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering in the College of Engineering, has advised hundreds of students in 30-plus years at Cornell. He is known for an ability to help students identify an academic passion and carefully contemplate a related career path. One student praised his teaching style, which “encourages questions and discussions that help students arrive at their own conclusions.”

Karim-Aly Kassam, Ph.D. ’05, helps students learn fundamental academic skills that they carry with them into graduate school and their careers. Kassam, associate professor in the Department of Natural Resources in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS), is described by students as transparent and empathetic with an ability to make others feel comfortable. His chair, Patrick Sullivan, notes “sometimes, as advisers, we are called to go above and beyond to help a student who is in trouble, and Dr. Kassam has done just that.”

Sue Merkel, M.S. ’88, senior lecturer in the Department of Microbiology (CALS), has played a major role in supporting first-generation and transfer students, who often face unique challenges in higher education. “I owe my growth and success to what Sue set in motion in those advising sessions,” said her first advisee, who was the first in his family to attend a U.S. college. Said Beth Howland, director of advising and operations for the Office of Undergraduate Biology: “I have spent close to 25 years working in higher education in the areas of academic advising and student support. … Sue Merkel is one of the most invested faculty advisers with whom I have had the pleasure of working.”

John Tobin-de la Puente, professor of practice in the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, in the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business and CALS, has a background as a corporate attorney and sustainability officer in the financial services industry, which gives him a unique perspective in mentorship, recommenders said. Having been raised outside of the U.S., Tobin-de la Puente is able to offer extra support to international and minority students, they said. Students said they appreciate that he’s always willing to have an informal conversation in Spanish – which, one student said, “can serve as comfort food for a weary traveler’s soul.”

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Jeffrey Martin