High-Tech Mentoring

High-Tech Mentoring

Years from now, when you’re using your cell phone to monitor stock quotes, activate the thermostat in your home from the car, or send e-mail from a chaise lounge on a tropical beach, you’ll have Dr. Kevin T. Kornegay and his team of research assistants to thank.
As director of the Cornell Broadband Communications Research Lab, Kornegay’s research is helping to revolutionize wireless communications. Last year, he was recognized by Career Communications Group as Black Engineer of the Year, in the higher education category. But, when Black Issues asked the associate professor what he hopes his legacy will be, he didn’t mention the multimillion dollar research he oversees. Neither did he cite the years he spent at Bell Labs and IBM, nor the growing mass of awards he is collecting. No, the legacy that concerns Kornegay most involves his students.
“I want to have a multiplicative effect,” he says. As a graduate student at the University of California at Berkeley, Kornegay recalls being one of only two or three African Americans in the entire nation awarded the doctorate in his field in 1992. Now, he manages 15 graduate students in one of the more diverse research teams at Cornell’s engineering school. He will graduate his first African American doctoral candidate this fall, and he has several others working their way through the pipeline.
But producing Black doctorates is only the beginning of Kornegay’s ambition. He also hopes his example will inspire his Asian, Latino and White students to receive other African Americans with an open mind.
“The problem is complicated,” Kornegay says about widening the engineering pipeline for African Americans. “You have to educate other folks.”
Mentorship is Kornegay’s way of giving back to those who inspired him. Included in this group are his parents — who imbued him with a respect for education and a strong work ethic — and his uncles Bob and Wade Kornegay, whose achievements as doctorates in engineering and chemistry respectively are noteworthy. Together with his wife, Felicia, the Cornell professor now serves as a role model to his own two sons — Kevin, 9, and Justin, 5 — and to his students.
“I feel that one of my missions is to help dispel these negative images (of African Americans). The way I do that is through my actions, through my level of performance (and) through my accomplishments.” 
—  By Cheryl D. Fields



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