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.
“What I do is support the number one agricultural industry in New York state [Cornell Dairy],” Ralyea said. “I try to keep New York state on the map with dairy. I’d like to have New York kick Wisconsin’s ass in cheese production.”
“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.
Duff’s mother was a preschool and elementary school teacher, and his father was an army doctor who also taught medical students. Still, it took him some time to realize that his love for learning would lead him down the same road as his parents.
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.
“I always liked historical fiction when I was a kid,” recounted Prof. Sara Pritchard, science and technology studies. “I liked reading stories set in the past. I will confess, I was a big fan of Laura Ingalls Wilder and the Little House on the Prairie series.”
Despite her early interest in history, Pritchard said her ambitions were not particularly lofty growing up as a child — and most certainly not academic. “I never wanted to be an astronaut as a child,” Pritchard said. “I’ll admit that I had very gendered ideas about my future.
“As scientists, we need to think about how our work impacts society. We need to be able to engage with society more,” said Prof. Avery August, immunology, chair of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology in the College of Veterinary Sciences. A Belizean-born scientist, August immigrated to the United States and obtained a B.S. in medical technology from the California State University at Los Angeles. He then acquired his Ph.D. in immunology from Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences. Outside of Cornell, August has also been a department director at Pennsylvania State University and a postdoctoral research fellow at Rockefeller University.