Staff Profile: Heather Furnas


Who she is: Heather Furnas, American Studies librarian.

What she does: I provide research assistance for undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty who need additional support. Since my expertise and academic background is in American History, I teach in those areas.

In particular, I really enjoy working with graduate students and teaching workshops. Since I also have a background in archival research, I like to help students who are preparing to do that kind of research and writing.

Why it’s important: People are engaged in really in-depth, complicated research questions and they have a lot of curiosity. They want to learn more and don’t always know how to go about it, so it’s really important to have a guide in that process. I think everyone assumes that information is readily available now, but it’s not always good information. Helping people to really maximize their time and find the right things makes all the difference.

Where she’s from: Lincoln, Nebraska.

Education: I did my undergraduate at the University of Nebraska and studied History, Latin American Studies and Spanish. Then I came to Cornell to get my PhD in American History.

Background: For my PhD I worked on the history of school nursing, so I considered 20th century women’s history and the history of healthcare to be my areas of expertise. But in general, it’s 20th century American history.

How long at Cornell: I’ve been at Cornell Library for five years (and at Cornell for an unmentionable number of years!).

Best part of her job: The best part of my job is that it changes every day. I have a general job description, but the details of it change according to the person that I meet, the class I’m working with, or the project I’m involved in. I get to constantly learn new things and meet new people.

What she’s most proud of: I feel like I know how to make people feel welcome. I let them know that everyone is struggling and that they don’t have to be afraid to ask for help. I constantly mention imposter syndrome, especially to graduate students. Everyone is always feeling that everyone else knows more than them, and I feel like I am able to really put people at ease.

In her spare time: I have a toddler and a teenager, so they take up a lot of my time! I also like to read fiction on my Kindle, and generally spend time with my family. I love living in downtown Ithaca—going outside, walking around, shopping locally and just being part of the community.