COLE GILBERT: OK, welcome, graduates, families, faculty, and friends to the 2022 Biological Sciences Recognition Ceremony.
[APPLAUSE AND CHEERING]
To begin this evening's program, please join me in welcoming Cornell's award-winning a cappella group The Hangovers.
[APPLAUSE AND CHEERING]
THE HANGOVERS: One, two, three.
(SINGING) Strike up a song to Cornell and let the swelling chorus rise before us. Strike up a song to Cornell and set the campus ringing with our singing. Fill the glasses with the song and drink the magic music spell. We will sound the joy of life intense in a rousing toast to Cornell.
Strike up a song to Cornell and let the swelling chorus rise before us. Strike up a song to Cornell and set the campus ringing with our singing. Fill the glasses with the song and drink the magic music spell. We will sound the joy of life intense in a rousing toast to Cornell.
Strike up a song to Cornell. Come, let us strike up a song to Cornell. Strike up a song to Cornell.
Oh, I want to go back to the old days, those good old days on the hill, back to my Cornell, for that's where they all yell Cornell. I yell Cornell. Far above Cayuga's waters, I hear those chiming bells. I'm longing and yearning and always returning to my old Cornell.
I see the old chapel way up on the hill. I hear the bells ringing. They're calling me still. Four years are over. Diplomas are in. When will we all meet again?
Oh, I want to go back to the old days, those good old days on the hill, back to my Cornell, for that's where they all yell Cornell. I yell Cornell. Cornell. Far above Cayuga's waters, I hear those chiming bells. I'm longing and yearning and always returning to my old Cornell.
Give my regards to Davy. Remember me to Tee Fee Crane. Tell all the pikers on the hill that I'll be back again. Tell them just how I busted lapping up the high highball. We'll all have drinks at Theodore Zinck's when I get back next fall. [SCATTING]
Give my regards to Davy. Remember me to Tee Fee Crane. Tell all the pikers on the hill that I'll be back again. Glory, I'll be back. And tell them just how I busted lapping up the high highball. We'll all have drinks at Theodore Zinck's when I get back next fall, I get back next fall.
COLE GILBERT: All right, let's have one more hand for The Hangovers as they go.
All right. All right, folks, supporters, friends, family, especially seniors, welcome to the recognition ceremony for the Biological Sciences graduating class of 2022. For those of you that don't know me, my name is Cole Gilbert. I'm the faculty director of undergraduate biology.
For those of you seated down here on the floor, I've had a number of you in biology classes-- comparative physiology, evolutionary biology. I even got to know a couple of you in the insect biology class that I teach. It's nice to see you once again, actually to see your whole bodies, not just your face in a little rectangle on the screen the way it's been the last couple of years.
I've been asked to make a few remarks before we get into the awards and recognitions. Oh, and just let me get this out of the way-- in case you were wondering, I'm sorry, but I'm not going to be able to write a check to pay for your student loans. Unfortunately, the biology professor salary isn't as good as that of an investment banker. But I really do like what I do.
I usually say something here about how hard you've worked and how special you are. And that's really true for you this year in the graduating class. The past couple of years have really been hell. And you've persevered to get to this point.
Among Americans between the ages of 24 and 34, fewer than half have completed college. Among folks older than 55, the percentage is even lower. And I know that a number of you are the first person in your family to complete college. I'd like to honor those people.
Thank you. Among those college graduates, just under a third have degrees in science or engineering. And worldwide, the college completion rate is less than 10%. So you are special. And you've worked really hard to get here today. You should be proud of your accomplishments. The faculty and the staff in biology are proud of you and what you've done. And I'm sure your families and supporters are as well. So congratulations, seniors.
I want to spend a few minutes of my time here reflecting on what's coming next for you as you go out into the so-called "real world." Frankly, that designation bothers me a little bit. You are actually capital-E elites according to the statistics that I just mentioned.
But I know the diversity of backgrounds that you come from. Some of you grew up on farms. Some of you grew up in some pretty tough urban areas, others in fancy suburbs. The range goes from folks who are well off to some among you who've suffered food insecurity in the last year. Some of your families are multigenerational Cornellians. But actually, some of your families are refugees from war zones and oppressive regimes.
Just listen to the names as the graduates are announced, and you'll have some idea of the ethnic diversity we have in our major. Biological Sciences is the second-largest major at Cornell. And our diversity mirrors that of the entire university. On East Hill, we do live in a microcosm, but your diversity is reflective of much of the so-called real world. And I want to focus on that diversity for a few moments and why it matters.
First, about 50 of you are going to go to grad school in a variety of fields, mostly science-- biology, chemistry. But I met a young man yesterday who's going to go to Juilliard for a year to study voice. Many of you are going to be educators of sorts, whether it's environmental education, Teach for America, Peace Corps. Cornell ranks sixth among middle-sized schools for graduates who volunteer to go into the Peace Corps.
Perhaps 100 or so of you are going to go into health care, either med school, dental school, vet school, paramedic, scribes. In all these fields, the academic and health care, they're full of old white guys like me. We need more diversity among the ranks of researchers and professors, physicians, educators. And you graduates are just entering into that pipeline.
But why do we need your diversity? Well, first, to model what success looks like for the next generation so that when those students set off to go to college, and they hear about a cool scientific discovery or go to the hospital, they'll see people that look a lot more like them than look like me.
Another reason we need your diversity is because diverse people bring diverse perspectives. I mean, that's a tautology, right? A little circular argument. But it's important.
We like to think that science is seeking the truth about natural processes, and that there is one true truth. That may be so. But we all bring bias as we seek that truth.
My wife taught a class this semester on social behavior of animals. And we were reminiscing about a lecture that we heard in graduate school by Jeanne Altmann. She's a great primatologist who spent most of her career at the University of Chicago. She studied baboons in Kenya. And one of her papers from the early '70s has more than 10,000 citations, right?
So she remarked in that talk that through much of the 20th century, primatology was dominated by male scientists. And the primate social groups that they described were pretty much characterized as male-dominated groups. No surprise. It wasn't until the female scientists, such as Jane Goodall studying the chimps, and Dian Fossey working on gorillas, and Birute Galdikas with orangutans, Sarah Blaffer Hrdy with langurs, and Altmann herself-- not until they went in the field that primate societies got more properly characterized as matriarchies. So the guys goofed. Oops. All right?
We all bring bias in our search for truth. And the diversity of perspectives and demographics that you graduates will bring to your next phase will help your fields become more like the real world.
The second reason that I want to discuss your diversity has nothing to do with science. During your time here, in your dorms, your classes, your clubs, your kind of hangout groups, you've met and studied with and played with, maybe even fallen in love with-- at least for one night-- a more diverse group of people than you've been exposed to before coming to Cornell. This is the real world. And you're a stronger person for learning how to navigate through a world of people who are different from you even as you are defining yourself as a young adult.
Oh, that's all great, right? Kumbaya. But out there in the so-called real world that you're entering into, there's a growing intolerance of diversity, a demand for sameness, a hate of difference, whether it's difference based on nationality, ethnicity, race, religion, gender identity, any marker that distinguishes self from other.
It used to just be small pockets of hate tucked away in the shadows. But it's now out in the open. And yes, it's aided by the internet. But it's becoming pervasive, and again tragically became lethal two weeks ago just a few hours from here over in Buffalo. Alarmingly, this is the real world.
So how should you approach that world when you leave Ithaca in the next few days? Well, I hope you take with you some of the abilities that you've developed in the biology major-- the ability to work hard, to think abstractly, to analyze quantitatively, and to rely on evidence before making a judgment. Those habits will help you succeed in whatever field you go into in the so-called real world.
But more importantly, from my perspective, is that you take with you the attitude that people of all flavors can achieve. You know that because you've lived it here at Cornell. You've done it. You've seen it. Just because someone is different from you doesn't make them scary. You might even be a great team together because they bring different perspectives to the problem you're trying to solve.
I know that won't be easy for many of you, but I also know that some of you are glass ceiling breakers already. I've seen that. And we're going to enjoy watching you go out and change attitudes about differences and about what is possible simply by being a successful presence in the so-called real world.
So with that thought, will everyone please join me in congratulating the Cornell Biological Sciences graduating class of 2022?
[APPLAUSE AND CHEERING]
So to get on with the stuff that you really came here for, I'd like to call Megan Gallagher up to the podium. And she's going to talk about our great, spectacular student advisors.
MEGAN GALLAGHER: Good evening. Tonight I have the honor of recognizing our student advisors. These 38 student leaders have volunteered numerous hours to serve as peer advisors to nearly 350 first-year students. Some have served in this role for the past two years.
Within this role, student advisors introduce and guide new students through the process of choosing classes, explaining the major, and connecting them to important resources on campus. But most importantly, they support and empower new students with guidance, competence, and skills that are necessary to be successful here at Cornell.
Each student advisor has already been presented with a red and white graduation cord acknowledging their many contributions. I could speak at length to the wonderful ways our student advisors assist the OUB staff, faculty, and students. But I will allow the students they mentored to speak for me. Here are a few words that were shared about our student advisors.
"My student advisor was one of the most supportive people I've ever come into contact with. She was there for me during one of the biggest transition periods of my life and helped integrate me into Cornell better than anyone else."
"Coming to Cornell and having a strong student advisor was critical for my adjustment to college."
"My SA was a key member of my support system and helped me get through understanding the requirements and so much more."
"The first person I was able to connect with on campus was my student advisor. By talking to him, I was able to figure out different studying methods, faster routes to classes, and even how heavy of a jacket I should have for these Ithaca winters. I remember leaving the first of our many meetings assured that eventually, Cornell would feel like a second home."
I will now invite our student advisors to please stand.
On behalf of the Office of Undergraduate Biology, I would like to thank each of you for your commitment and enthusiasm to Cornell and to the Biological Sciences community. It has been a great pleasure working with you and learning from you. We wish you luck as you move on to the next adventures of your life.
Though we are sad to see you go, we are excited about the opportunities that you will find in the future. And we hope that you will check in with us from time to time. We are forever grateful for the lasting impact that each of you have had on our community.
Will everyone please join me in recognizing our student advisors with a round of applause?
I would like to now introduce Dr. Laura Schoenle, assistant director of undergraduate research, to recognize our Biological Sciences honors graduates.
LAURA SCHOENLE: I'm excited to be here with all of you to celebrate our 2022 Biological Sciences graduates and to recognize the extraordinary accomplishments of our undergraduate researchers. Over 80% of our graduates have engaged in research. And each and every one of these early-career scientists have contributed to the creation of new knowledge.
Their efforts are critical in building a better world. Their research is advancing medicine, providing insights into human and animal behavior, creating strategies to conserve and protect the planet, and much, much more. Here are a few examples of the research projects that our graduates have worked on-- the effects of light pollution on wildlife, how viruses are influencing pollinator survival, understanding how the COVID-19 virus replicates, the genetics underlying the evolution of eggplant prickles, promoting women's health, and the relationships between the hormones and fungus-mediated endometriosis.
Success in research requires creativity, critical thinking and problem solving, the ability to communicate clearly and collaborate, and perhaps most importantly, resilience. As all you researchers know, you need strength and determination to keep going when your experiments fail, when no matter how many times you try to fix your R code, it keeps throwing errors-- and you probably just forgot a comma-- or hearing critical feedback from a mentor. The skills you developed as researchers will serve you no matter what you do next.
Let's celebrate the hard work and discoveries of all the researchers among our 2022 graduates with a round of applause.
A subset of these student researchers chose to complete an honors thesis. They proposed a research project, worked through study design, data collection, analysis, and ultimately created a written document, a thesis, in the format of a scientific journal article. That thesis was reviewed and approved by professional scientists and faculty at Cornell and the Honors Committee. All honors students were awarded a bronze medallion on a red and white ribbon in recognition of their accomplishment. Will all the honors graduates stand?
[APPLAUSE AND CHEERING]
Congratulations on behalf of the entire Biological Sciences community. Congratulations, and you may be seated.
And now I'm excited to introduce one of our 2022 graduates, [INAUDIBLE], who will present a spoken word poem.
SPEAKER 1: Good afternoon to the families, faculty, staff, mentors, parents, and peers that have gathered here today, and those that couldn't. I'm honored to be given this platform and to have the opportunity to share this authentic piece of myself through spoken word poetry with all of you this evening as we celebrate the accomplishments of these past four years. This short piece, titled "Legends," goes out to you, Cornell's esteemed graduating class of 2022.
Over these past few years, we as a community put the verse into diverse, spitting bars as we threw out our rehearsed approach to life. But we overcame, and we will continue to overcome. We can surpass any expectations, never to be confined by mediocrity. After all, doesn't making it here count for something?
Turning our tribulations and trials into these indisputable triumphs. Turning our afflictions into attestations that the admissions committee did not make a mistake in letting us in. Positively portraying perseverance that towers over the test of time, that counts the grains of sand.
Challenges will lay ahead, tormenting, teasing, taunting us that our dreams are meant to stay shackled and our goals are Sisyphean tasks never meant to be fulfilled. These challenges will whisper to us that we are Icarus with wings broken and battered, made out of aspirations that should have never taken off. But these challenges have yet to stand toe to toe and win against our bodies pulsing with the Cornellian history as it became part of our story.
In the words of Amanda Gorman, "There are still hills and slopes we must climb." But regardless, in the words of Maya Angelou, "We will rise," our bodies forged by the people gathered with us here today, our bodies that braved the battlefields of Baker Lab 200, the trenches of genetics lecture, the etchings of the tree of life, very importantly, the weirdly rationed chicken nuggets in the dining halls, impossible early mornings preceded by never-ending late nights, 11:59 PM deadlines, 9:05 AM classes, Zoom University, and a global pandemic.
Our body is becoming poetry, you see, full of similes bringing us together, meters that measured our excellence and the diversity of our experiences, unchanged sonnets that refuse to follow the strict rhyme schemes that burden our generation. The lessons of these times are precisely inked on our hands and our backs for the next generation to see as we walk this future path.
All of this is to say we are decorated canvases, masterpieces in the making, each with individual and dinstinguishable streaks of paint, ready to bring change with these gifts we bear, the treasures we have to share. As we seek out to embark on this life beyond the hill, may we remember that in this audience, separated by time, lies the Bill Nyes, the Jim Blankenships, the Ruth Bader Ginsburgs, the Cole Gilberts, the Toni Morrisons, the Jack McCaffreys, the Barbara McClintocks. Like waterfalls that surround us, pouring out our souls with undeterred flow, dripping with these gifts and goals, we, too, are on our way to becoming these towering giants, the legends.
COLE GILBERT: Now that's how you satisfy your oral expression requirement.
All right. Well, moving along, this is a fun one. So every year, we do a senior survey. It's often difficult to get students who are thinking about graduating to respond to emails from the office. And so we kind of say, well, are you going to be coming to graduation? And how many people are you going to bring? And oh, by the way, would you nominate your favorite biology instructor or advisor?
And so we get nominations for the Harry T. Stinson Award for Outstanding Service to Biology Students, as voted by the senior class. And Harry Stinson was a plant geneticist who served on the Cornell faculty for 36 years until his retirement in 1998. And for 20 of those years, he was the associate director of what we used to have, the old Division of Biological Sciences. And he was instrumental in crafting the biology curriculum. No hissing from the crowd here.
But he advised an enormous number of students majoring in Biological Sciences, including all the transfer students. He passed away 14 years ago in 2008. To honor Harry's contribution, the year before his death, this Harry T. Stinson Award for Outstanding Service to Biology Students was created. And each year, the senior class nominates the faculty member who made a difference in their lives through his or her inspiration, leadership, support as an advisor, teacher, and/or mentor.
So here's what some students said about this year's recipient, slightly doctored so I'm going to keep the suspense going. "Professor X really cares a lot about their students, which is clear in both their teaching and their mentorship. Their work with their course made it the most well-run biology course I've taken at Cornell. Their passion for the field and belief in my abilities is why I've pursued my concentration and will enter graduate work in this field."
Another one said, "They made their course so interesting, easy to understand, and engaging. Working with them as a teaching assistant was one of the most rewarding experiences I've had at Cornell." And another one said, "Professor X inspired me to think critically and always prioritize effective collaboration, always showed appreciation for engaging more deeply with the material instead of solely trying to leave students with sufficient understanding merely to pass the exam."
And here's a more personal one. "As I've interacted with them more and more, I've learned so much about the great person that they are. I've been able to share my thoughts and tribulations with them in a way that I wouldn't be able to with other professors. Professor X is one of the professors that I'll definitely remember and reach out to post-graduation."
And finally, this. "She does not get nearly enough credit for the amount of effort and work she puts into her courses. And the door is always open to students." Well, tonight we're going to begin to rectify that. The winner of the 2022 Stinson Award for Outstanding Service to Biology Students is Dr. Kristina Blake-Hodek.
[CHEERING AND APPLAUSE]
She teaches our required genetics laboratory course. And a few years ago at this ceremony, I realized that that is the course that every student takes. Transfer students usually have not taken genetics. You can't take it at another college. You have to take it here. And the instructor in that course really knows all the biology students.
Unfortunately, Kristina couldn't be here tonight. She's attending her daughter's dance recital. But accepting the award-- yeah, she's a good mom, too-- accepting the award on her behalf is Professor Linda Nicholson from Kristina's Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics. And Linda will also take over my role as faculty director in undergraduate biology this summer.
She's going to say a few words.
LINDA NICHOLSON: There we go. It is truly an honor for me to be here to accept this award on Professor Blake-Hodek's behalf. She is an amazing colleague.
Even though I am one of her official mentors, she mentored me when I had to teach biochemistry for the very first time, and then it-- like, COVID, and it was all online. She really was a lifesaver for me. She had already done that in the spring semester, mid-semester, going completely online. So she had it all figured out. And she's an amazing instructor, for sure.
So I'm not Kristina Blake-Hodek, but I'm going to try to channel her. She sent a statement. Pretend I'm Kristina, Professor Blake-Hodek.
I'm very thankful to receive this award and sorry that I could not be here due to a family commitment, my daughter's dance recital. It would have been great to see you each walk across the stage. It's amazing to be awarded for something that is the best part of my job. I love speaking with students, hearing about their lives, their career aspirations, the goals for the future.
You should each be proud of your accomplishments here at Cornell. Congratulations, and please keep in touch. Thank you.
COLE GILBERT: Jeff McCaffrey and I surprised Kristina yesterday in the lab under the guise of needing to talk with her about a student problem. And of course, she was very concerned. And then out came the award. And I wouldn't say that she started crying, but she was clearly, clearly moved that you all thought that much of her. So thank you for recognizing her.
All right. At this point, we're going to start doing the individual recognition. And I think you've been instructed into how you're going to move across the stage. We've got two people that are going to be reading the names. Linda Nicholson is going to be reading the names, but alternating with another person, Jim Blankenship, that I want to just say a few things about.
Jim teaches a biochemistry class, one of them. And Jim was one of the first people that I met here in the early '90s when I came here. And he has been reading names here-- he's an expert linguist and reading names for several decades. This is going to be his last year of reading names. But thank you for participating in the ceremony for so many years, Jim.
And I will turn it over to you guys.
JIM BLANKENSHIP: It's an honor spending this evening with you tonight. Congratulations, graduates.
And now I'd like to introduce Professor Linda Nicholson.
LINDA NICHOLSON: It is an honor to read names. Thank you.
COLE GILBERT: All right, and there weren't anymore. Let's have a round for the graduates of the 2022.
[APPLAUSE AND CHEERING]
All right, we've got a special treat coming up. Some of the seniors-- you've heard their names as they crossed the stage. You already heard [INAUDIBLE] with his spoken word reading. But before we do that, we'd be remiss-- there's one other group that needs to be thanked. And you know that you all wouldn't be here without the support of your parents and your friends. So let's give a round of applause to the families and friends.
[APPLAUSE AND CHEERING]
All right. So at this time, I'd like to call up the-- I don't know what we're going to call them. The Impromptu Singers? I don't know where you're all sitting if you're scattered out. But [INAUDIBLE], Jacob [? Gados, ?] Diego Hernandez, [INAUDIBLE], Felicia [? Lee, ?] Allison K. McClellan, Lanie [? Zhang, ?] come on up. And they're going to lead us in the alma mater.
SPEAKER 2: [INAUDIBLE] altos? Aren't you guys altos?
SPEAKER 3: Yeah, all the alto parts on this side, and all the sopranos on that side. So [INAUDIBLE], you're going to be on that side. Yes, so you're going to stand next to me. This is perfect.
SPEAKER 4: Let's do this.
SPEAKER 3: All right, are we ready? Are we ready?
SPEAKER 4: 1, 2, 3, 4.
CHORUS: (SINGING) Far above Cayuga's waters, with its waves of blue, stands our noble alma mater, glorious to view. Lift the chorus, speed it onward. Loud her praises tell. Hail to thee, our alma mater. Hail, oh hail Cornell.
Far above the busy humming of the bustling town, reared against the arch of heaven, looks she proudly down. Lift the chorus, speed it onward. Loud her praises tell. Hail to thee, our alma mater. Hail, oh hail Cornell.
COLE GILBERT: Let's go, Red.
[CHEERING AND APPLAUSE]
All right, well, that wraps up our ceremony for this evening. Thank you all for coming, families and seniors, to help celebrate the great class graduating in 2022. We'll see you tomorrow in the stadium.
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CALS Biological Sciences Recognition Ceremony 2022.