LaWanda Cook, an extension faculty member at the Yang Tan Institute, studies the social inclusion of people with disabilities.

CORNELL CLOSE-UPS | Extension Faculty Member LaWanda Cook Shares Rewards of Work in Disabilities

LaWanda Cook, an extension faculty member at the K. Lisa Yang and Hock E. Tan Institute on Employment and Disability, has dedicated her life to helping people with disabilities achieve their career goals. A certified rehabilitation counselor, Cook studies the work-life balance, access to worksite wellness programs and social inclusion of people with disabilities. Although Cook uses a wheelchair, she said her conversations are largely focused on her work rather than on her disability. “If you know me one-on-one, we’re not talking about the chair most of the time because that’s not who I am,” she said. Cook said her research was inspired by her experiences with summer employment programs. Working made her feel “powerful and capable,” she said.

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CORNELL CLOSE-UPS | Cornell Ecologist Linda Rayor Discovers Passion Studying Spiders

“Never in my wildest dreams did I envision myself with a couple thousand spiders in my lab,” said senior lecturer Dr. Linda Rayor, entomology. As a behavioral ecologist, Rayor focuses on the interactions of group-living animals — currently spiders — and teaches an array of classes ranging from insect behavior to scientific outreach. Rayor said she decided to become a scientist at a very young age, but never foresaw a future working with insects and arachnids. As a child, Rayor said she remembers frequenting the Denver Zoo in Colorado, which she said helped kindle her interest in science, natural investigation and animals. Despite this, she said she chose to pursue molecular biology as an undergraduate at University of Colorado Boulder.

CORNELL CLOSE-UPS | Professor Ross Brann is Passionate About Engaging Students in Intellectual Inquiry

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After he finished his undergraduate education at the University of California, Berkeley, Prof. Ross Brann, Near Eastern Studies, said he knew he wanted to remain on a college campus. “Although I didn’t realize it at the time, the incredible energy and the obvious significance of ideas in transforming public debate on issues of racial and socio-economic justice and war and peace was so much a part of being on a campus in the late 60s, a time of immense social and political change in the United States,” he said. “Campuses were alive with intellectual and political energy, and it was not a conscious choice but I just kept going to school. I never wanted to leave the university setting.”
This view of campuses has shaped Brann’s approach to teaching. “As an educator here at Cornell, my job is to engage students in inquiry about matters typically spoken about as if they are simple or straightforward,” Brann said.