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Soup & Hope Speaker Bios, 2023

January 12: Mark T. Vallely

Mark Vallely has been employed in the Cornell Utilities department for 28 years, the first year at the heating plant and the last 27 years as an operator in the water filtration plant. Mark will be sharing about his struggle with alcoholism and drug addiction and his 41 years of successful recovery. Mark was diagnosed with bone marrow cancer in 2020, and the tools he learned in Alcoholics Anonymous helped him deal with this new challenge.

January 26: Lauren Free

Lauren Free (she/her) is a project manager working in the Division of Human Resources at Cornell. Outside of Cornell, Lauren owns a coaching practice focused on survivors of coercive control, narcissistic abuse, and those coping with high-conflict divorce and child custody issues. Lauren is an activist, an advocate, and passionate about connecting and nurturing heart-led leaders who want to play with the status quo like silly putty. She is also a meditation guide through Cornell Health's Let's Meditate initiative and a Certified Executive Coach (XCC) at Cornell. Lauren will share her experience being falsely accused of child abuse and separated from one of her sons. She will talk about her own turning point when she feared she would not be believed and how she grew to trust that she was her own safest asset.

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February 9: Erin Sember-Chase

Erin Sember-Chase (she/her) is a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Learning Consultant in the Department of Inclusion and Belonging. With nearly 25 years professional experience, and a lifetime of personal disability experiences to draw from, she examines disability access and inclusion in all areas of life with a social justice lens. Throughout her time at Cornell and in Ithaca, Erin has actively engaged and consulted on many diversity, equity, and disability access and inclusion efforts on campus and locally.  She will talk about what navigating through life with a physical difference and hearing disability has shown and taught her, especially around overcoming the concept of “overcoming.” 

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February 23: Alex Nik Pasqualini

Nik Pasqualini (they/them) is a graduate student in Music & Sound Studies who moved to Ithaca from Southwestern Ontario in the Fall of 2019. Their research is focused on the intersections of popular music, activism, and queer community building. Nik’s passion for fostering queer belonging goes beyond their academic work, reflected in their role as Community Engagement Coordinator of Trans Empowerment Programming at the LGBT Resource Center, a graduate facilitator for the Intergroup Dialogue Project at Cornell, and as the event coordinator for the Music Graduate Association.

Click to watch recording.

    March 9: Julie Paige

    Julie Paige came to Cornell as a Residence Hall Director in 1987, moving here from Boston where she lived for 15 years. Julie never expected to stay in Ithaca and told people her first year that she planned to move back to Boston in two years.  Now 35 years at Cornell, Julie believes every choice she has made in her professional career brought her where she is today, including a recent trip to India to attend a friend’s wedding. In this Soup and Hope – entitled Will I ever learn not to say no? – Julie will share this professional and personal journey that led to that trip.  Currently Julie serves as the Director of Off-Campus, Cooperative and Graduate Living.  In Julie’s life outside of work, there is nothing she enjoys more that spending time with her friends and family both in Ithaca and around the Northeast. She also is an avid Boston sports fan of the Red Sox, Patriots and Celtics, and a fan of Broadway musicals. She has a wide pallet and loves trying foods from around the world.


    Click to watch the recording.


      March 23: Karim-Aly S. Kassam

      Karim-Aly Kassam is Professor of Environmental and Indigenous Studies in CALS. His research addresses indigenous ways of knowing, climate change, food systems, and sustainable livelihoods. He partners with Indigenous communities in the Circumpolar Arctic, Boreal Forest, as well as the Pamir Mountains of Central Asia. Through research and teaching, he strives to speak truth to power and embrace a pedagogy of hope. In his Soup & Hope talk entitled “Struggle: Sorrow and Hope,” Karim will share how a devastating personal loss as a result of senseless violence upended both his personal and professional beliefs. Through his grief and search for facts he has navigated the deceptive desire for vengeance and the illusory quest for justice in pursuit of a pathway to hopeful action.

      Enjoy this selection of music, selected by the speaker, to accompany his talk. (CU Net ID required)


      Click to watch the recording.


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