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Dr. Cynthia Leifer receives Constance E. Cook and Alice H. Cook Award

Dr. Cynthia Leifer, associate professor of immunology, was one of several honored with the Constance E. Cook and Alice H. Cook Award on March 9th. Cook Awards honor Cornell students, faculty and staff members for their commitment to women’s issues and for improving the climate for women at Cornell. The Cook Award Committee and the University Diversity Council select winners from nominations made by members of the Cornell community. “I am so honored that the service I do for women at the College was recognized for making such a difference,” says Leifer. “To me an award is not the end result—I plan to continue my efforts to improve the climate for women and promote their success here at the College.”

Leifer has worked on and chaired the College’s Committee for the Status of Faculty Women. This important committee assess the climate for women at the College and develops initiatives to support their professional development, promotion, and success. “The committee was instrumental in establishing formal mentoring for early career faculty, and sponsors workshops on topics such as negotiation, work-life balance, and promoting your research in the media,” says Leifer. “We also collect data on numbers of women faculty and their promotion. We use these data to raise awareness and make the case that we still have a long way to go to reach equality.” 

Leifer was also awarded a grant from the President’s Council for Cornell Women entitled “Empowering Women at Cornell’s College of Veterinary Medicine,” in collaboration with Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs Dr. Susie Fubini. “This grant will allow us to bring high-profile speakers to the College and open our programs up to all women,” Leifer says.   

While grants such as these represent progress, women in academia still face an uphill battle. “Even with strong and supportive partners, raising a family and rising through the faculty ranks is still a challenge,” Leifer explains. “We have come a long way at Cornell by establishing an on campus daycare and enacting automatic extensions to the tenure timeline following the birth or adoption of a child. However, we still have a long way to go. The perception that work and life are not possible to balance, especially in veterinary academia, scares away a lot of talented women. We need more dynamic and supportive role models for these women, and we need policies that enable us to attract the best researchers and clinicians to academic research and medicine, and especially to Cornell.”

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