Four honored for excellence in undergraduate advising
By Susan Kelley, Cornell Chronicle
Four Cornell faculty members have been recognized with a university award for their sustained and distinguished contributions to undergraduate advising.
The Kendall S. Carpenter Memorial Advising Awards honor professors and senior lecturers who have made sustained and distinguished contributions to undergraduate advising. Stephen Ashley ’62, MBA ’64, established the awards in honor of his adviser, Kendall S. Carpenter, a professor of business management at Cornell from 1954 until his death at the age of 50 in 1967.
The awardees were nominated by undergraduate students, faculty members and academic staff for their advising excellence in academic, extracurricular and programmatic areas.
“I love being able to read about the incredible ways our faculty inspire, nurture and stretch our students,” said Lisa Nishii, vice provost for undergraduate education, whose office oversees the nomination and selection of the award winners. “What’s clear is that faculty who have the biggest impact on students invest in advising, much of it occurring outside the traditional classroom. I am grateful to emeritus trustee Stephen Ashley for enabling us to properly recognize this important work.”
Shivaun Archer, the John and Janet Swanson Senior Lecturer in the Meinig School of Biomedical Engineering in Cornell Engineering, was cited by a nominator as a “key member” of the Meinig School. Archer helped develop guidelines for remote lab and studio operation during the COVID-19 pandemic and has played a lead role in implementing pedagogical changes and redesigning curriculum to promote active learning. Students characterize her as a warm and caring person who generously gives her time to listen to students’ concerns and provide them with guidance and resources. They describe her as sharing in the joy and relief when one of their experiments works as intended, and relishing when students experience an “aha” moment. Archer has also demonstrated a commitment to diversity and has taken part in recruitment and outreach efforts aimed at increasing the number of underrepresented minorities in the college. These efforts include a one-week residential program for rising underrepresented high school juniors and seniors.
Art DeGaetano, professor of earth and atmospheric science in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, was praised for his leadership as the department’s Director of Undergraduate Studies. In addition to advising, he played a pivotal role in transitions including a building relocation, a shift in curriculum and the COVID-19 pandemic. A colleague wrote: “Many times I have seen him step in and solve problems that the assigned adviser might be unable to solve.” Both colleagues and advisees describe him as caring deeply about students in their academic pursuits as well as their mental well-being. Known by his students as “Dr. D,” DeGaetano builds a sense of belonging in the department, nominators said. He advises the Cornell Chapter of the American Meteorological Society, a student club, coordinating student participation in national and regional meetings that connect students to internships, aid in their senior theses and inform their future career paths.
Tashara Leak, the Lois and Mel Tukman Assistant Professor in the Division of Nutritional Sciences in the College of Human Ecology, was cited for her ability to ignite passion in her students for public health equity, especially interventions that aim to improve health outcomes in urban areas. She does so by being a role model for students, nominators said. Leak not only teaches students valuable research skills and fundamental academic concepts, she also demonstrates how to be a change-maker and leader to improve communities through engaged learning. She offers students the opportunity to do research in New York City and learn fundamental research skills that they carry to graduate school. She also supports minority students and demystifies the college experience. One student noted: “She normalized that making mistakes as a student can be valuable learning opportunities.” And her “Coffee and Conversations” initiative offers an informal, safe space for students to feel empowered. “She consistently creates opportunities for students to gather outside of the classroom, and she deliberately uses this time to foster a sense of community and belonging,” a nominator wrote.
Chris Schaffer, professor in the Meinig School of Biomedical Engineering in Cornell Engineering, was praised for six years of service as a faculty-in-residence on North Campus, where he informally mentored incoming students. He has also served as a faculty fellow on West Campus and as an adviser for student clubs. Schaffer assisted in the creation of the biomedical engineering undergraduate major and served on committees shaping the Learning Where You Live Initiative. Nominators also noted his ability to create a welcoming, inclusive environment for students. For example, Schaffer recruits a diverse research team in his lab representing countries and groups underrepresented in science. As a teacher, he “designed his classes to ignite student’s curiosities and provide an environment to nurture and explore these interests,” a student nominator wrote. And he has had “a lasting impact” on students’ career trajectories by connecting undergraduates to conference and travel opportunities and offering guidance about next steps after graduation.