From establishing relationship policies to facilitating Intergroup Dialogue Project, seven Cornell community members were awarded at the 20th Cook Awards on March 12 for their efforts in women’s empowerment on campus.
The biennial award — named after Constance E. Cook, Cornell’s first female vice president and the late Prof. Emerita Alice H. Cook, founding member of Cornell’s Committee on the Status of Women — “honors men and women whose dedication to women’s issues at Cornell significantly exceeds expected job responsibilities,” according to the award’s website.
Among the award recipients is Tisha Bohr, a postdoctoral associate in the Department of Molecular Medicine. She was recognized for helping develop Cornell Policy 6.3, which forbids people in positions of authority from having sexual relationships with students and postgraduates if the relationships could interfere with an individual’s academic or professional interests.
“This frees students to really focus on what students came to Cornell to do — to study, learn, get their degrees,” Bohr told The Sun. “For me, it’s really about giving not only women but all the students academic freedom.”
Natalie Hofmeister grad was recognized for her active involvement with the Intergroup Dialogue Project, a peer-facilitated course that teaches students to communicate across social differences.
“I want to bring [Intergroup Dialogue Project] to the scientific community, especially my peers in graduate school,” Hofmeister told The Sun. “I felt empowered by it and thought other people that I work with may also want to learn more about how our interactions and conversations shape our behavior.”
Prof. Abigail C. Cohn, linguistics, who serves as the director of the Southeast Asia Program, was also one of the seven women honored at the luncheon. As the co-founder of the College of Arts and Sciences Women Faculty Network, she created a supportive platform for women faculty to meet other women professors through events like luncheons.
“When I first joined the South East Asian program, I was the only woman faculty member at that time. I started to realize that for many women faculty, they were isolated in their department,” Cohn said. “We are also providing cross-departmental faculty mentoring because it’s useful to get a perspective outside your department.”
Among the other recipients was Elizabeth Chang grad, who helped initiate an annual luncheon speaker series focused on women personal and professional development. Another recipient, Prof. Cynthia Grant Bowman, law, previously served on the Faculty Senate and as an adviser to the Title IX Complainant Advocates.
Michelle Artibee, the associate director of work/life in Human Resources, was awarded for addressing domestic violence on campus. In collaboration with the Advocacy Center for Tompkins County and various campus representatives, Artibee examined how domestic violence is being responded to in the workplace and came up with ways to better support employees on campus.
Prof. Hale Ann Tufan, plant breeding and genetics, who spearheads various initiatives to help enhance the campus atmosphere for women, was also honored at the luncheon. As the co-director of AWARE, an initiative that empowers women in agriculture, Tufan provides resources and opportunities to students researching topics related to gender in agriculture.
While these individuals have made great efforts, President Martha E. Pollack said at the celebration that there is still more to do.
“The reality that we’re striving for is one where everyone — despite gender and race and religion and gender identity and national origin and immigration status — has the same opportunity to learn and advance, whether it’s as a faculty member or student at Cornell,” Pollack said at the luncheon.