According to Carl Cornell’s surname, one would think he was destined for the university. However, his path to Cornell has been anything but traditional. In this episode of the Inclusive Excellence Podcast, he joins Erin Sember-Chase to discuss his background and identities and how they have empowered him to ignite change across the university.
Throughout Cornell’s personal and professional life, he has navigated his experiences through a unique lens – one that is divided into several different identities. Cornell is an Indigenous American raised in a single-parent, low-income household. He was a first-generation college student who approached higher education without any parental help. Cornell is neurodivergent and has been diagnosed with ADHD, dyslexia and depression. He is also a member of the LGBTQ+ community.
“All these identities have created some boundaries and have informed the ways I look at life and approach challenges,” Cornell said. “So, yes, they may have been challenges themselves, but I find it to be a superpower having to deal with this intersection of identities. Because it's really reformed the way I approach things and interact with people.”
Cornell is making the most of this superpower by working closely with students and ensuring they find success and satisfaction in their degree programs. As the assistant director of undergraduate advising at Cornell Ann S. Bowers College of Computing and Information Science, Cornell not only advocates for his students’ academic success but has prioritized finding the resources and support they need across campus to feel a sense of belonging while they're here. For Cornell, fostering connections across several communities is what led him to feel supported in his journey and is what he hopes to do for others.
To accomplish this, Cornell remains engaged in several committees outside of his formal work responsibilities. He currently serves on the Employee Assembly as the LGBTQ+ representative at large and sits on three internal committees: the EA Election Committee, the EA Welfare Committee and the EA Communications Committee. Cornell also serves as the EA Liaison for the University Assembly's Campus Welfare Committee and board member of the LGBTQ+ Colleague Network Group.
“What inspires me to take on these roles is really the connection with my community,” Cornell said. “I very much value my connections because a social network is important to feel like you belong and can thrive here at Cornell. I really love advocating for other people, and I've been fortunate to have some wonderfully kind and strong advocates for myself who taught me the importance of self advocation. And it's because of these role models that I found the drive to support other people. It’s important to create spaces and places that feel comfortable. And it's really great to have coworkers who can find a home here at Cornell.”
In his twelve years at the university, Cornell has made notable contributions, his most recent being an inaugural founder of the College of Engineering and Bower’s CIS Annual Pride event.
“We wanted to create a space that recognizes our LGBTQIA community members and honors who they are,” Cornell said. “We have succeeded in making this event designed to help solidify connections and create new ones within this community. Having events like these allow people to drop their masks in a space that is accepting.”
However, Cornell recognizes and is familiar with the vulnerability of doing so.
“It can still be terrifying to let that mask go,” he said. “But providing that opportunity, visibility and support is so important to our community members. It's just one more thing that says, “You're okay to be who you are here.”’
Tune in to hear more about Cornell’s unique journey and how he has become a leader at Cornell while advocating for himself and others along the way in Episode 78: Destined for Cornell Despite a Nontraditional Path. Visit https://diversity.cornell.edu/iepodcast to access the episode and transcript.