For its work supporting international scholars whose work puts them at risk in their home countries, Cornell has been awarded the Institute of International Education’s Centennial Medal, which celebrates the achievements and leadership of individuals and institutions that have made important contributions to international education.
The award was presented to Provost Michael I. Kotlikoff on Oct. 30, and announced later in the day in the Biotechnology Building during a Global Cornell event, “Ethical International Engagement: The Role of the University,” featuring Allan Goodman, CEO of IIE.
“(This medal) is for the work you have done, not only with the Fulbright and Gilman and other programs that we administer on behalf of the Department of State,” Goodman said, “but the way in which, in crisis after crisis, this university has opened its doors to scholars, their families, through all the challenges, and made them feel that they belong. It was indeed a place where thinkers in distress and scholars needing rescue could come and be helped, and write the next chapter.”
Cornell was recognized in large part due to the work of Supporting Scholars Under Threat, a part of Global Cornell since 2016. The group spearheads campus and community support for international scholars, students and human rights defenders at risk. Currently, Goodman said, Cornell hosts more Scholars Under Threat fellows than any university in the world.
“Cornell’s longtime partnership with IIE is an extension of our commitment to global engagement and collaboratively seeking solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems,” said Wendy Wolford, vice provost for international affairs and the Robert A. and Ruth E. Polson Professor in the Department of Global Development, in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
“Our shared work to support scholars under threat is very close to our hearts in Global Cornell,” Wolford said. “It’s a practical way we can take action to help fellow academics at a perilous time in their lives and careers, while also protecting academic freedom and free speech.”
Both Wolford and Nishi Dhupa, executive director of the Einaudi Center and associate vice provost for international affairs, noted that Global Cornell’s virtual fellowships – introduced in 2022 with a Ukrainian renewable energy scholar, sheltering in Latvia – are another way the university supports scholars and human rights defenders at risk.
“Virtual fellowships are a promising strategy for getting help promptly to scholars in exile,” Dhupa said. “We are about to welcome our second virtual Ukrainian scholar, a literature scholar currently in Poland.”
Global Cornell works closely with the Institute of International Education’s Scholar Rescue Fund, (IIE-SRF) co-founded by retired Wall Street executive Thomas A. Russo, J.D./MBA ’69, to provide sanctuary for scholars at risk of persecution in their home countries. Cornell offers IIE-SRF scholars the opportunity to continue their research and teaching in a welcoming, safe and supportive scholarly community as they pursue a more permanent situation for themselves and their families.
A panelist at the event, Azat Gündoğan, was an IIE-SRF fellow, hosted in the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, in 2016 after he and his family fled Turkey. The resources and connections he found at Cornell helped him find a position as an assistant professor at Florida State University.
“Cornell helped me regain my confidence, helped me regain my voice,” Gündoğan said. “When scholars are at risk and end up in resourceful universities like Cornell, they are in a very vulnerable situation. They leave their homes, families and jobs behind. Their experiences have been traumatic and need to be addressed in an open and honest environment. I found this at Cornell.”
Founded in 1919, the IIE works to help people and organizations leverage the power of international education to thrive in an interconnected world. IIE focuses on three objectives: advancing scholarship, building economies and promoting access to opportunity.
The institute confers Centennial Medals to organizations and individuals who have contributed to the field of international education through: government service; academic exchange leadership; global mobility leadership; philanthropic excellence; and corporate support for the advancement of international education and relations.