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Cornell University

Soup & Hope speaker series returns Jan. 12

Celebrating its 16th year at Cornell, the Soup & Hope speaker series returns to Sage Chapel on Jan. 12 with stories that connect to the university’s new commitment as a health-promoting campus – a theme that resonates with participants as dedicated work continues in support of mental health and wellness at Cornell.

The series is open to the public and features speakers and stories of hope. The six talks in the series will be held bi-weekly on Thursdays through March 23, all beginning at noon.

“Sharing stories and sharing food are both sacred in many traditions, and from the beginning, Soup & Hope has been about building community and promoting well-being through stories of resilience, overcoming obstacles, and personal development,” said Joel Harter, associate dean of students for spirituality and meaning-making. “It therefore made sense to connect this year’s series to Cornell’s new commitment as a health-promoting campus.”

Speakers this year come from a wide range of identities, experiences and perspectives, including overcoming addiction and illness; surviving abuse; engaging disability through a social justice lens; supporting trans identity and belonging; leaping into new and unexpected career challenges; and connecting sustainability to Indigenous ways of knowing.

The first speaker in the series is Mark T. Vallely, a Utilities team member in Facilities and Campus Services for 28 years. He will share his struggle with alcoholism and drug addiction and his 41 years of successful recovery. As a testament to his commitment to a healthier life, he completed four Ironman triathlons between the ages of 48 and 53.

Vallely, who was diagnosed with bone marrow cancer in 2020, will talk about how the tools he developed from his fellowship of recovery helped him deal with this new challenge.

“I believe that sharing my life story offers other people the opportunity to see what is possible when you’re open to change and finding a better way to live,” Vallely said. “I’m living proof.”

The rest of the series:

  • Jan. 26: Lauren Free, project manager in the Office of Human Resources;
  • Feb. 9: Erin Sember-Chase, DEI learning consultant, Department of Inclusion and Belonging;
  • Feb. 23: Nik Pasqualini, Ph.D. student in music and sound studies;
  • March 9: Julie Paige, director of off-campus and cooperative living in the Division of Student and Campus Life; and
  • March 23: Karim-Aly S. Kassam, International Professor of Environmental and Indigenous Studies in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Since the Soup & Hope series began in 2008, more than 60 speakers – encompassing Cornell staff, faculty, students, alumni and community members from the greater Ithaca area – have touched, inspired and motivated campus and community members who’ve attended the talks.

Soup & Hope is co-sponsored by the Office of Spirituality and Meaning-Making and Cornell United Religious Work; Cornell Dining; and Cornell Health.