MARLA LUJAN: Dear family, friends, faculty, and the incomparable class of 2022, my name is Marla Lujan, Associate Professor of Nutritional Sciences. And as Director of Undergraduate Studies, it is my pleasure to welcome each of you to today's celebration. Please be seated.
I have a few safety considerations to share before we begin our ceremony. Cornell University requires all guests, students, faculty, and staff to wear high quality masks during all indoor gatherings. We thank you for your kind attention to this important consideration. Please take note of the nearest exit to you. They can be found along the perimeter of our venue. We kindly ask that you take photos from your seats to prevent safety hazards in the aisles. But please note that we have a professional photographer joining us today that will take high quality photos of each of your graduates.
It is with great excitement that I share in today's ceremony, alongside my colleagues-- Dr. Laura Bellows. Associate Professor and co-director of Graduate Studies and the Graduate Field of nutrition; Dr. Barbara Strupp, Professor and Co-Director of Graduate Studies in the Graduate Field of Nutrition; Dr. Martha Field, Assistant Professor of Nutritional Sciences; and Dr. Tashara Leak, Assistant Professor of Nutritional Sciences.
I am pleased to invite Dr. Patricia Cassano, the Alan D. Mathios Professor in the College of Human Ecology and the director of the Division of Nutritional Sciences to the podium.
PATRICIA CASSANO: Thank you so much, Marla. Thank you, everyone. It's so lovely to see you all here today on this important day, as we celebrate the class of 2022. Thank you for joining us.
On behalf of the faculty and the staff of the Division of Nutritional Sciences-- Dean Rachel Dunifon of the College of Human Ecology, Dean Ben Houlton of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Dean Ray Jayawardhana of the College of Arts and Sciences, it's my pleasure to welcome parents, grandparents, family members, friends, and, of course, you, the class of 2022 to celebrate your achievements at Cornell. Welcome, everyone.
I don't think I speak only for myself when I say it feels like only yesterday that we welcomed you to Cornell and spent those days with you at orientation. And time flies, and that is something that we're all keenly aware of, especially in these times that we've been through.
Throughout your time here, you've been trained to be curious, to be rigorous, to think critically, and to be creative in your scholarship. Through your courses, projects, research, and other experiences, you've learned the value and the importance of collaboration and teamwork. Your years at Cornell brought you unique challenges. You met those challenges with resilience and by caring for one another, which has been so important in these past few years. Thank you all so much for all of that all that you've done.
Some of you have experienced the thrill of discovery and the satisfaction of putting your knowledge to practice and to work. And that is through activities such as research and experiential learning. Many of you have organized charitable and other service events. Some of you have even organized thematic dinners that fed hundreds of Cornell students.
As faculty members, we are dazzled and humbled by your talents. We are proud of your unwavering commitment to broader ideals and your passion for learning. We are truly honored to have been part of your life's journey at Cornell. You have undoubtedly learned a lot at Cornell, but perhaps the most important lesson you've learned is that no one succeeds alone. This commencement weekend, we celebrate your accomplishments, which were made possible by not only through your own talent and hard work, but also by the support of others. Your families, your friends nurtured you in so many ways throughout your days at Cornell, and today is also a day to celebrate those people in your life who are there for you side by side every day. Please join me in extending a heartfelt thank you to your families and friends.
As you reflect on your time at Cornell, I'm sure that you will always remember that Cornell faculty member, graduate student, postdoc, or staff member who took a special interest in and who influenced your life in a meaningful way. Remember those special people always. Keep in touch with them. Share your successes in life with them. We really appreciate hearing from you.
Cornell, as we all know, is a beautiful place, and I hope you've all had a chance to enjoy some of your favorite places in the last few weeks, although the weather didn't really cooperate until just recently, did it? But I'm sure that you found that time.
Going forward, I hope you'll remember that you're forever a part of the Cornell community. Cornell exists because of what you have contributed over your time here. Your ideas, your talents and your efforts are what define Cornell. In the future, you will no doubt become leaders in your communities at the national and international level. Your successes and accomplishments will be the inspiration that motivates future generations of Cornell students. Cornell University is much more than a campus and its faculty. You are, and always will be, the heart of Cornell. So congratulations to you, the class of 2022.
It's my pleasure now to introduce the first speaker, Sravya Varanasi. Sravya is receiving her Bachelor of Science degree in Global and Public Health Sciences this weekend. Sravya, please join me on the stage.
SRAVYA VARANASI: So thank you Dr. Cassano for that introduction. Hi, everyone. Take this off. Force of habit.
Hi, everyone. My name is Sravya Varanasi, and I am so honored to be standing here before you today. Thank you for choosing me to somehow summarize the completely uneventful last four years within 3 minutes. As I was looking up ways to write a speech that people wouldn't fall asleep during, I came across a quote that really stuck with me. "I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have." Whether it was failing a chemistry prelim or lamenting a lost opportunity during the year that must not being named, I know I'm not the only one in this room today who's thought to myself, at least once in the past four years, if only I had a bit more luck.
But we did what Cornell students do. We kept working. We ignored the rejection emails, studied harder, and once in a while, cried at 2:00 AM. Shout out to my oma and nana for never once rejecting a FaceTime call, even when they knew I was crying on the other end about something I would definitely forget the very next day.
And when things started getting better, it felt like our luck was turning around. But it wasn't luck. It was our hard work that allowed us to interview public health advocates and create incredible honors theses. It was our hard work that got us in these seats today. The luck followed close behind. I feel so lucky to have gotten to know so many of you in DNS and worked alongside you and grown alongside you, and I can't wait to see what you all accomplish going forward.
At the start of the fall semester, I was asked to give some advice to new students who are about to embark on their own journeys within DNS. I'd been so excited to talk about the division that had some of the classes I'd enjoyed the most in my time at Cornell, but for some reason, I found myself at a loss for words. I didn't know what to say then, so I told them what I would have told my freshman self. And so I'll do the same now and leave you with the one piece of advice that I intend to follow and encourage you to embrace as well. "I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have." Keep learning, applying, trying new things, crying, and everything in between. All the pretty and the ugly-- it's what got us here today. So keep doing that. And, well, the luck will follow. Thank you all for an incredible four years, and congratulations, class of 2022!
PATRICIA CASSANO: Thank you so much, Sravya. It's now my pleasure to introduce the next speaker, Dr. Gargi Wable Grandner. Dr. Wable Grandner received her PhD in International Nutrition last year. Welcome to the stage, Gargi.
GARGI WABLE GRANDNER: Sorry, need a swig of water. Thanks, Pat, for that introduction. Good afternoon. My name is Gargi-- sorry, Dr. Gargi Wable Grandner.
I'm honored to be here today to speak on behalf of my fellow audience graduates and peers. This is the moment we have all been waiting for after going through moments of shared despair in the last two years due to racial injustice, violence, and of course, the coronavirus pandemic. And out of the two years, if we were to focus on a shared despair, just from today, I bet it was trouble finding a parking spot. But we are where we want to be now, figuratively and literally, so let's have a big round of applause, class of '22. We made it!
So as nutrition students, we are trained to think hard about our research question, which typically involves an outcome of interest, which we represent with the alphabet Y, and the factors that affect that outcome represented by the letter X. So that's the approach I took when I started thinking about my speech, the outcome of interest being graduating in a pandemic. I collected data from my fellow graduates sitting at the back over there, who were quick and kind to respond to my pre-speech survey. Thank you.
Once the data was in, I stared at it for a while, played with it for a little while and then figured out what my research question exactly was. Sounds familiar, doesn't it? I hypothesized that, pandemic or not, I would hear the three ingredients essential for any graduate student to succeed and graduate-- coffee, the love and encouragement from family and friends, and of course, the unwavering support from faculty and staff, who worked tirelessly since the day of orientation. Thank you.
All the proud and relieved parents and spouses, cheering friends and siblings, and the wonderful faculty, lab mates, and staff gathered here, I have good news. Over 90% of my sample attributed their success to you. In other words, you are the X factors that made the difference. And if you are wondering about the remaining 10%, let's just say I had missing data.
I also want to highlight some other things my peers shared that I think are unique for graduating in a pandemic, which we all know posed new challenges that went beyond mastering course content or writing our black books. For example, some peers talked about developing a routine in a pandemic that warped our sense of time or appreciating pets who accompanied us for work-from-home and Zoom classrooms. Others recognize the importance of taking a mental pause to enjoy the sunset, chill at the Slope on a warm day, or simply enjoy a podcast or virtual game nights. And my personal favorite-- [INAUDIBLE] support and empathy, cooperation from community partners, and commiseration sessions with friends and peers.
Encouraged by our family and sage advisors, we surely found these little things to make big discoveries in our labs or with local partners and international communities on diverse topics, such as the role of cytokines in adipocyte biology, impact of maternal choline supplementation on offspring response, video dining to improve nutrition among older adults in Tompkins County, or understanding how domestic violence impacts food security in Tanzania. This is the diversity that makes our Division of Nutritional Sciences so unique-- with its high caliber faculty, research support services, such as Cornell's statistical consulting unit, human metabolic research unit, Cooperative Extension, and Cornell's extensive library system.
Speaking for myself, I'm ever grateful to the Division of Nutritional Sciences and Cornell University for the endless opportunities for growth as a PhD student, student parent, and researcher. I cherish the strong support network with my academic mentors, my research colleagues, and my peers. You have left me with a strong sense of belonging and empowerment for which I'm grateful. To my loving husband and parents-in-law and my daughter, Mira, thank you for your helping hands when I needed them, for letting me turn your study or bedroom into a classroom, and for celebrating every academic victory with me.
Fellow graduate students, it has been an honor to embark on this journey, benefit from your constructive feedback, and learn from your tenacity, despite the insurmountable challenges in the past two years. Today we commence together and enter the real world, where new problems await us, be it the rising obesity levels, inequities in food access, or new threats posed by infectious diseases to our health and well-being.
I am reminded by the wise words of Mahatma Gandhi, who said, "Be the change you wish to see." As we all know, our family faculty and friends have been that X factor to help us achieve the outcome of interest over the culmination of the past five years that we are all celebrating here today. Now, empowered with our Cornell nutrition degree, it's time for us to be that X factor to bring about the change we wish to see. Congratulations, class of 2022.
MARLA LUJAN: Thank you, Gargi. It's my pleasure to begin our presentation of the graduating class of 2022. Great.
SPEAKER 2: All right, we got our last group of folks. Let's see.
Everybody needs their picture. This is for the parents. Too many tuition dollars for you not to get this photo.
We'll wait as long as we have to. You've been here for four years. You're getting this picture. All right, Melanie Valencia.
I'm going to wait for everyone to have their seat before-- and get your energy up. I want them to hear us out in Ithaca proper. All right, are you all ready? None of you all took 1,600 because you were no call and response. Are you all ready?
SPEAKER 2: Are you all ready?
Please stand. Please join me in congratulating class of 2020-- no, no, no, we're going to do that again. That was 2022. See, this is what happens when there's a pandemic. All right, you ready? And I need the parents to act like you paid some tuition dollars. You buy Target snacks. All right, class of 2022!
SPEAKER 3: All right, it's my pleasure to have again the presentation of the advanced degrees-- the Master's students and the doctoral students. I don't know if we can make it as much fun as the undergrads, but we'll try. We'll try.
We're going to start with the Master's students. So at this time, I'd like to ask the advisors-- the research advisors-- of the Master's students who are graduating to please come to the stage.
All righty, let's go. The first student is Allison [INAUDIBLE] Chang. Her chair-- her research advisor, Martha Field, and the title of her thesis is Maternal Alcohol Dehydrogenase 1 Heterozygosity Drives Offspring Resistance to Weight Gain.
Hi. Heather Falise. Her chair is Saurabh Mehta, and her thesis title is Selected Laboratory-Based Biomarkers for Assessing Vitamin A Deficiency in Infants and Children.
Yitong He. Her chair is David Levitsky And the title of her thesis is The Effect of Food Priming on Food Intake-- A Systematic Review and Meta Analysis.
[? Ga ?] [? Lee. ?] Her chair is Zhenglong Gu. And her thesis title is Examining the Role of Mitochondria in Immune Responses, Inflammation, and Macrophage Polarization.
Rachel Nelson. Her chair is Laura Bellows, and the title of her thesis is Measuring Diets of Young Children-- A Review of Diet Assessment Tools Used in the Home Environment.
Leslie Amanda Sawyer. Her chair is Laura Barre, and her thesis title is The Impact of Social Facilitation on Dietary Habits in Socially Isolated Older Adults.
Nidhi Shrestha. Her chair is Saurabh Mehta, and the title of her thesis is Correlates of Linear Growth and Animal-Sourced Food Consumption Among Infants and Young Children Living in Urban Slums of Mumbai, India.
And last but not least, surely, is [? Pagan ?] [? Sai. ?] Her chair is to Joeva Barrow, and the title of her thesis is Molecular Role of Taurine in Protecting Against Obesity and Metabolic Diseases.
SPEAKER 4: It is now my pleasure to announce the PhD graduates. I'd like to, at this time, ask the advisors for the PhD students to please come to the stage.
Dr. Kara Ashley Beckman. And her chair was Barbara Strupp, and her dissertation title was The Effects of Maternal Choline Supplementation on Offspring Self-Regulation-- Results of Two Randomized Control Trials.
Dr. Navika Gangrade. Her chair is Dr. Tashara Leak, and her dissertation title was Exploring Adolescent Snacking Behaviors and the Feasibility of a Youth Advocacy Program in New York City.
Dr. Jenna Marie Golan. Chair is Dr. John Hoddinott, and her dissertation title was The Validation of Novel Techniques to Evaluate Nutritional Status in Adult Females in Rural Highlands, Ethiopia.
Dr. Ibukun Owoputi. Her advisor was Dr. Kate Dickin and Exploring the Influences of Program Delivery and Household Gender Dynamics on Maternal and Child Health in Rural Tanzania.
Dr. Bonnie Kaufman Patchen. Her chair was Dr. Pat Cassano, and her dissertation title is Investigating the Causal Role of Vitamin D and Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Lung Health.
Dr. Benjamin Michael Steiner. His chair was Dan Berry, and his dissertation title was The Role of CXCL12-CXCR4 Signaling Axis in a [INAUDIBLE] Biology.
Dr. [? Wang ?] [? Zhang. ?] Her advisor's David Levitsky, and her dissertation title is The Effect of Self-Weighing on Weight Control and Food Purchasing Behavior.
And to end our names, our speaker, Dr. Gargi Wable Grandner, whose chair was Dr. John Hoddinott. And her dissertation title was New Methods To Improve Evidence on Old Problems-- A Multidisciplinary Approach to Assess Women's Dietary Deficits in Rural Bangladesh.
So we're going to wait just a moment, and we're going to give our master's and PhD students the same energy, round of applause that we gave our undergraduates to show our appreciation for the hard work that they've put in to getting their graduate degrees. So if the Master's and PhD students will please stand.
PATRICIA CASSANO: Well, that was a lot of excitement. Very, very wonderful. Congratulations to all of you.
Now we have the honor of joining in a tradition at Cornell to sing our Alma Mater. So if you graduates, who are just graduating-- I think you probably know the words, or maybe you don't yet. But we will have some assistance for you on the screen, and we'll all join together to sing Cornell's Alma Mater. Please all stand.
ALL: (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, all 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, all hail, Cornell.
MARLA LUJAN: Great. So in closing, I would like to thank you all for attending today's celebration and sharing in this joyous occasion. We, the faculty, are especially grateful to our administrative support team and on-site volunteers for all their efforts in coordinating today's festivities. Please join me in acknowledging their support.
I kindly ask that all guests wait in their seats for all students and faculty to process out of the hall before joining us for a reception. And so I've got a new note here that's telling me that we will not be using the tent, correct? So I'm excited to announce that, despite the threatening weather, our reception will go on. The reception will still take place right after the ceremony, but it will now be inside Trillium Dining Hall. I'm sure our students know where that is. Yes? Good? OK. Please join us. Students, volunteers will lead the way after the ceremony.
So do we have it in us to congratulate the class of 2022 one last time?
So I kindly ask, great class of '22, please stand.
I guess we should play the music then so we can head out to the reception. Thank you all, again. Congratulations.
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