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  • Cornell AgriTech

For over 25 years Gemma Osborne, conference coordinator for Cornell AgriTech, has played a vital role in organizing extension events for growers and producers across New York state. Below, she shares insights on how her role has evolved while working remotely during this year’s COVID-19 pandemic.

Can you describe your day-to-day experience at Cornell AgriTech before the pandemic?How did the pandemic change your work and why?

When the pandemic first hit, scheduled events needed to be cancelled, rescheduled or turned into  virtual events. Recognizing the need to convert our in-person events to virtual ones, I spent a lot of time researching the best platforms to use, watched a lot of YouTube videos, asked a lot of questions and reached out to my colleagues, friends and family to help me practice Zoom event sessions. With the assistance of Kim Paul, event assistant, I quickly learned how to transition events to a virtual world successfully.

What is the most exciting thing you’ve learned in your adapted role? What’s the most difficult thing you’ve learned?

I found learning the virtual event world very exciting and have enjoyed the challenge. The most difficult thing I have learned is that there are a lot of factors in the virtual world that are outside of my control. Zoom can be quirky and it doesn’t always perform in the manner I would like it to.

What is your favorite and least favorite part of working remotely?

I really like the flexibility in hours that working from home offers and it has really helped me have a healthy work-life balance. Not having to worry about having to rush home from work to let the dog out is a big benefit. I have to admit, it is nice to wear casual comfortable clothes all day as well. My least favorite part of working remotely is that I really miss all the running around and exercise I used to get when coordinating in-person events.

Knowing what you know now, what would you tell your pre-pandemic self?

I would tell my pre-pandemic self not to take things for granted, to appreciate the little things in life and look at the bright side.

What’s your funniest moment working remotely during the pandemic?

I learned that a Zoom meeting recording starts the minute you turn the meeting live. I jumped into a Zoom meeting workshop early to make sure everything was ready. After the meeting I watched the Zoom recording and was surprised to see the first five minutes of the recording was me playing with my labradoodle Mickey.

What do you miss most about working on-site at Cornell AgriTech events?

I miss being out and about at my work events and socializing with my colleagues.

More stories from Cornell AgriTech staff working remotely

Senior Financial Reporting Specialist

Kathy Cosentino

Adapting to remote work life
Adapting to remote work life has been a pretty smooth transition. In the beginning, things felt fast and furious, but fortunately I was able to have an at-home work space set up within one day. The only struggle I had was that my mother moved in with us and her living area and my office were back to back. So it was a bit of a challenge having the two of us in the same area. Then my husband was laid off from his work for eight weeks which meant there were three of us in one area. That lasted for about a month and then my sister took my mom to her house for a month to help out and my husband went back to work. Mom’s senior apartment finally opened up and she is now living there independently. I have now moved my office into a back bedroom and have the house and office to myself. To date, we have all stayed healthy which is a real plus!

Favorite remote work moment
We lost our pool this summer and purchased a spa back in June. It recently arrived while I was at home working remotely. Due to the pandemic and higher-than-normal demand for pools and spas, we had to wait three months for it to arrive. I was so excited when it finally arrived that thought I would stage “just another day at the office” in this photo.

Associate Director for Business Operations

Lorraine Barry

Adapting to remote work life
The biggest thing I've had to adapt to with remote work is getting adjusted to my dog's routine. Many people have seen her napping on Zoom but what they don't often see is how persistent and demanding she can be. Breakfast at 5 a.m., potty break, nap, belly rub, treat, walk and the cycle continues throughout the day like clockwork. If I miss a beat she quickly gets into some mischief around the house.    It's a stress-free life for my dog and I'm happy to be here for her while I can.  

I'm thankful to everyone who continues to support each other through these challenging times.

Finance Manager

Joanne Schessl

Adapting to remote work life
The transition from the office to home was certainly a whirlwind. One day we were in our campus offices and the very next, we were loading our vehicles and figuring out how to “set up shop” at home. I started out at my dining room table enjoying the beautiful snow out my back window which was wonderful. Fast forward two months and I faced challenges of having both my husband and me working from home (10 feet apart). Then my son came home because a new job he was supposed to start in Massachusetts but was put on hold. During the pandemic, I have often found him staring into the refrigerator waiting for something great to pop out (this was often the backdrop to my Zoom meetings).

I decided to relocate my office to a second-floor bedroom recently. It has worked out great, although I do miss the daily personal interactions with my Cornell AgriTech family.

Human Resources Assistant

Jessica Townley

Adapting to remote work life
Like many parents, my former semblance of work-life balance and separation had immediately become a conveyor belt of chaos initially when the lockdown began. Admittedly, I was gung-ho and told myself I could do it and that my kids were going to be amazing. That quickly went out the window. What I have learned and appreciated most since I began working remotely is that that everyone understands that life is different now, and I have felt supported by Cornell and my colleagues throughout this entire situation and for that I am grateful.

Funniest remote work moment
During an important Zoom meeting, all of a sudden I heard a big piece of furniture falling down. I immediately had to excuse myself from the meeting, place myself on mute, turn my video off and run downstairs. I found our free standing cabinet down on the floor, my kitchen table chairs thrown all over, both of my kids crying at the top of their lungs and one scared dog tangled underneath the mess. My kids had decided to pretend play with our dog Morgan. They hooked her leash on, attached her to the handle on the cabinet and proceeded to walk away and play. Needless to say, our dog tried to follow them and managed to pull the entire (completely full) cabinet forward. Our dog got very scared and proceeded to drag the cabinet she was still attached to underneath the kitchen table knocking all the chairs down as well. I took a deep breath, accessed the kids and dog, unleashed our dog from the cabinet, told the kids to go sit on the couch, calm down and not to move. I managed to go back upstairs to finish my meeting and pretended nothing had just happened. 

Finance Specialist

Kimberly Moyer

Adapting to remote work life
Working remotely certainly has been a whole new experience. I’ve created a home work space that is comfortable and has everything I need. Zoom and Skype have been great tools for keeping us connected through these crazy times!

Cornell AgriTech's team of

Administrative Assistants

Sarah Lincoln
Administrative Assistant of Food Science

Kate Keagle
Administrative Assistant of Plant Pathology

Amy Andersen
dministrative Assistant of Horticulture

Holly King
Administrative Assistant of Entomology

Group response on adapting to remote work life
Cornell AgriTech’s four department administrative assistants have utilized Zoom to meet biweekly during their remote work assignments to collaborate, interact and share ideas. Working together to discuss challenges and support each other throughout the pandemic has been a great way to stay connected and help each other adapt to the ever changing work demands.


Finance Specialist

Donna Loeb

Adapting to remote work life
I have to say that I have adapted well to working at home.  I have been running non-stop working full-time for 35 years and also teaching group exercise classes four evenings per week. I can never seem to get enough time in my home to relax and enjoy it. Working at home for me has been a wonderful break from the normal rat race – and an experience that I have thoroughly enjoyed.  I really don’t think that my efficiency and work ethic have suffered at all. My job tends to be pretty isolated in that I am the only one who does what I do at work. So, there is not much difference for me between working in my office in Hedrick and working from my home office.  I have thoroughly enjoyed the 30-second “commute” up to my second floor office and I have gained wonderful assistance from my new colleagues: my cats. 

Funniest remote work moment
As you probably realize, work attire is much more relaxed these days. One morning a couple months ago, I was putting on some workout capris and my husband Greg asked, “what are you going to do?” because he thought that I was headed to do a workout of some sort. I said “I’m getting dressed for work!” Apparently he is not used to seeing me in that type of “work attire.” 

Finance Reporting Specialist

Jennifer Scaglia

Adapting to remote work life
Transitioning from the office to working from home has been pretty smooth. We moved some things around and I was able to get set up and ready for work the very next day. My family and I are NASCAR fans and we turned our spare room into a “NASCAR Room” and that is where I set up my office. I get a lot of comments about my background in zoom meetings. If only they could see the entire room!

Funniest remote work moment
We came home on a Monday and my son had come home from work that Friday telling us he had just gotten laid off. We were home together for about a month and a half before he got called back to work. During that time I would tell him when I was going to be on a call or had to do a Zoom meeting just to keep him in the loop. One day he was playing a video game on the PlayStation with his friends and after one of my meetings, he came in and said, “Mom, how many of these Zoom things are you going to be doing because it makes my games freeze?” Oh the life of a teenager!

Accounts Representative

Kate Kisner

Adapting to remote work life
Adapting to remote work life has been a constant change from setting up office in the dining room to moving to a spare room when we learned we would be working remotely until the end of the year. 

I have adapted well to working remotely and it has provided a better work life balance. Change is inevitable so it is best to adapt to your situation and make the best out of it. 

Administrative Assistant

Renee Jakaub

Adapting to remote work life
In addition to my position in the administrative service center, I am helping out the Greenhouse and Grounds  crew by weeding on campus. Did you know we have a monument on campus? Now I do!  One day when I asked where they needed me to go next, they asked me to weed there. Indeed, there is a monument on the corner of the property by Castle Street and County Road 6. The most surprising thing has been that I haven't seen any critters or creepy crawlies anywhere I have been, and I have been under trees, bushes and on the ground right up to the foundations of many buildings.  

Event assistant

Kim Paul

Adapting to remote work
My “office” is in my daughter’s bedroom. I have all my files and equipment at home with me so work continues as is, just a different location. I miss seeing my colleagues in person. I help coordinate online events and there is a lot to learn in the virtual events world.  I have never used Zoom until I started working at Cornell. Gemma Osborne, conference coordinator, has been a great motivator through this whole thing. down.

Financial Reporting Specialist

Christine Dean

Adapting to remote work life

I’ve adapted well to remote work life, although it took me some time to get settled.  I’ve actually moved my office space to four different locations at my house (not including the patio table).

I think my favorite part of working remotely is being able to attend zoom meetings while being outside.  

Accounts Representative

Michele Kaufman

Adapting to remote work life
There was an adjustment period at first to working remotely, but work is going well.   I have stayed with my normal schedule and focus on the things I can control.

Administrative Assistant

Kate Robinson

Adapting to remote work life
My favorite part about working from home has been spending my breaks with my dog, Bear. On days that I get busy zoom meetings, he gets particularly lonely and begs me to go on break. I know that he will suffer from withdrawal once I go back to the office, but I am looking forward to it regardless. I'm grateful for my team loving Bear too!

Kathy Cosentina working from her hot tub
Lorraine Barry with her dog
Joanne Schessl in her home office
Jessica Townley's kitchen, where the furniture fell over
Kimberly Moyer in her home office
Cornell AgriTech's four administrative assistants
Donna Loeb's cat, sitting on her home office desk
Jennifer Scaglia in a NASCAR-themed home office
Woman works in front of computers.
Woman working in garden.
Woman works in home office.
Woman works outside.
Woman works in home office.
Dog puts paws on owner's legs.

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