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Benjamin Houlton, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of CALS, announced today that Ann LaFave ’90, MPS ’12 is being promoted to assistant dean of academic programs and student success, effective July 15.

In this newly created position, she’ll oversee operations in the Offices of CALS Undergraduate Admissions and CALS Student Services, including new student recruitment, the registrar, career development and co-curricular opportunities, international education and support for students seeking professional degrees. LaFave has served for the past 10 years as senior director of the CALS Office of Student Services. A search for a new director of student services will take place this fall.

Sahara Byrne, senior associate dean for academic affairs and strategic programs, praised LaFave’s vision, adaptability and dedication to CALS.

“From the moment students are identified as prospective members of our CALS community to years after they graduate, students benefit from the many systems Ann has initiated to support their well-being, inclusion, and academic success,” Byrne said. “Her deep dedication to the mission of CALS and cutting-edge vision for the future of Academic Programs are lock-step with an exciting time for our college. Ann is also an inspiring manager who brings the very best out of those who are lucky enough to be mentored by her, a huge benefit to our students as they interact with the Office of Academic Programs.”

In addition to holding two degrees from CALS, LaFave has devoted her career to the university: beginning as a cooperative extension 4-H youth development educator, then as assistant director and eventually director of the CALS Admissions Office, and most recently, as senior director of student services.

Ann LaFave
Ann LaFave. Photo provided.

While in the CALS Office of Student Services, Ann has focused on developing and leveraging technology to improve the student experience. She has spearheaded dozens of innovations to support student success, including partnering with international studies to enhance opportunities for studies abroad, the creation of a system for faculty to report academic concerns, enhancing resources for students on probation, and advocating for a new course to aid academic performance of high-risk students, among many others.

Ann also supported development of an advising platform tool that originated in CALS and is now used across campus as part of the Cornell Student Experience Initiative – where she has served as chair of the initiative’s working group in the past and now serves on its executive committee.

In the spring of 2020, when in-person instruction abruptly ended because of the COVID-19 pandemic, LaFave oversaw the team that quickly shifted critical student services to a remote office – implementing new features like LiveChat and virtual advising – and ensuring that student requests were logged and completed using e-dashboards. She also served as a member of the CALS Incident Management Team from March until Oct. 2020, where she participated in daily meetings with CALS leadership to address the many concerns that arose from remote learning, and to study the transition to various learning modalities for the fall 2020 semester.

LaFave tackled a host of emergency needs during this difficult time, including assisting students who needed to unexpectedly return to home countries, collaborating with Cornell Library to loan laptops to CALS students in need and communicating with students, faculty and staff about ongoing changes in policy and enrollment procedures.

“My passion is to provide the greatest possible educational experience and support to CALS students, LaFave said. “We’ve made tremendous progress in recent years using collaboration and technology to enhance the student experience in CALS and at Cornell. My new role in CALS will allow a continuation of this interconnected work across admissions, student services and professional programs. I’m excited to partner with CALS leadership and the talented staff from the Office of Academic programs toward meeting the academic, personal and social needs of CALS students with a deep focus on well-being and inclusion.”

Krisy Gashler is a writer for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

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