Weatherspoon and Lewis honored for their contributions to diversity


Hakim Weatherspoon, professor in the Department of Computer Science at Cornell Ann S. Bowers College of Computing and Information Science, and Neil Lewis, Jr. ’13, assistant professor in the Department of Communication at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, were named recipients of this year’s Faculty Award for Excellence in Research, Teaching and Service in Diversity.

President Martha E. Pollack and Provost Michael I. Kotlikoff announced the awards based on student, faculty, and staff nominations, and recommendations from a selection committee. The recognition comes with a $15,000 award to be used for research, scholarship, and other activities at Cornell.

“We are delighted to honor Professor Weatherspoon and Professor Lewis for the commitment, expertise and creativity they have invested in building a welcoming community at Cornell,” Pollack said. “They are dedicated advocates for diversity in their scholarship, mentorship, and service, and the impact of their work reverberates through and beyond the university.”

Colleagues praised Weatherspoon’s involvement with the Cornell Institute for Digital Agriculture; the CMD-IT/ACM Richard Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing, which hosts the most diverse gathering in computing; and the CSMore summer program for rising sophomores; and the role he played in encouraging undergraduate and graduate students from underrepresented groups in STEM to pursue computer science studies at Cornell.

Its reach has expanded beyond Cornell through the annual SoNIC Summer Research Workshop, which recruits nationwide and aims to encourage undergraduate students to pursue doctoral studies; and CodeAfrique, which encourages high school students in Ghana and Eswatini to pursue undergraduate studies in computer science.

“With each of these opportunities,” Weatherspoon said, “students first imagine themselves as a student or researcher in computer science before becoming one, and for students from underrepresented backgrounds, this can be the key.”

The students praised Weatherspoon for being a good listener and making them feel heard.

“My primary goal with these programs and opportunities has been to create spaces where students feel like they belong, giving them the confidence to succeed,” Weatherspoon said.

Weatherspoon promoted diversity at Cornell even before formal programs existed at Cornell Bowers CIS, colleagues said. He served as the college’s second Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion and led the search to hire the first Director of the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. He received the College of Engineering Zellman Warhaft Commitment to Diversity Award in 2014, was named Black Engineer of the Year by Modern Day Leader in 2009, and was elected a Fellow of the Society of Black Engineers in 1997.

“I started my research career at Cornell in 2006, and a long-standing goal has been to be an outstanding researcher who has also helped diversify student and faculty representation,” he said.

Lewis’ research examines how context and identity shape people’s perceptions of the world around them, and the implications for their motivation to pursue equity-enhancing goals. It also explores how these perceptions influence their willingness to form diverse coalitions to address pressing social issues and diversify the organizations that play an important role in these issues. This work has earned him three Early Career Awards from professional social science organizations.

His publications in peer-reviewed journals have been cited 1,956 times since 2016, according to Google Scholar. In addition to his academic work, Lewis also contributes to FiveThirtyEight and wrote the column “Letters to Young Scientists” in the journal Science.

“Writing academic journal articles is important, but it’s not what gets me out of bed in the morning,” Lewis said. “I engage in public scholarship because I believe it is important to get our work out from behind paywalls and share it with the world.”

Many students of color and first-generation students across the university look to Lewis for help.

“I was a first-generation undergraduate at Cornell not too long ago,” Lewis said. “I remember what it was like walking around this place feeling isolated and not knowing where to go or who to turn to for help. When I came back as a professor, I wanted to create spaces here where all students – not just the most advantaged – could come and be seen and heard and have the kind of wonderful college experiences that we often advertise on the website. university and social media. feeds itself.

Lewis also works with policy makers to design equitable interventions. For example, throughout the pandemic, he assisted the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene with equitable vaccination efforts. He was also asked to brief White House staff on an adaptive response approach for equitable vaccination.

Launched in 2019, the Faculty Award for Excellence in Research, Teaching and Service through Diversity recognizes tenured and tenure-track faculty for their sustained and transformational work in advancing diversity through research, teaching and service. Nominations for the 2023 award recipients will be solicited later this year.

Lori Sonken is the Communications and Program Manager for the Office of Faculty Development and Diversity.


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