Nicole Agaronnik, 2019 HEAA Outstanding Senior Awardee
Nicole Agaronnik ’19 graduated from Nutritional Sciences with honors and high distinction. She is a former professional ballroom dancer with several national and world titles. These include being ranked Top 5 in the country at the United States National Amateur Dance Sport Championships and Top 5 at the Embassy Ballroom World Championships. After leaving her competitive ballroom dance career, she became a certified wheelchair ballroom dance instructor with the American Dance Wheels Foundation (ADF), and launched their disability advocacy initiative. Through lectures and performances, she uses this art form to engage in advocacy for people with disabilities. She has showcased this art form across the country and internationally including at academic medical centers, hospitals and rehabilitation centers, the Pan American Games Closing Ceremony, the US National Dance Sport Championships, and Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in NYC.
Nicole has extensive research experience on the topic of disability and healthcare, with multiple lead-author publications in medical journals including the Journal of the American Medical Association. These publications address factors contributing to healthcare disparities for people with disabilities, including a gap in physicians’ knowledge of legal obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and accessibility barriers to equitable healthcare. At Cornell, she explored her interest in nutritional science through an honors thesis on the behavioral regulation of eating behavior under the mentorship of Professor David Levitsky. Her thesis scored in the Top 5 Abstracts in the Bio-Behavioral Section at the international conference organized by The Obesity Society in 2018.
On campus, Nicole has been involved in disability advocacy through her roles as the Co-President of the Cornell Union for Disability Awareness (CUDA), the Editor in Chief of the Cornell Undergraduate Disability Studies Journal, and as a student representative on the Presidential Task Force for Campus Climate. She is also a chapter leader in the Curvy Girls Scoliosis International Support Group and has volunteered with the Foundation of Orthopedics and Complex Spine (FOCOS), allowing her to use her personal experience to raise scoliosis awareness.
Nicole has been recognized for her service and leadership as a Meinig Family Cornell National Scholar, Truman Finalist, and a recipient of the SUNY Chancellor Award for Student Excellence. She is extremely grateful to her mentors, family, and friends for their steadfast support and for molding her into a passionate advocate.