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  • Cornell AgriTech

Anna Katharine Mansfield, associate director of the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station, known as Cornell AgriTech, and co-chair of its DEI Council, has been nationally recognized for her commitment to broadening the Geneva campus’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts across all stakeholdersfrom field crews to students, and farmers to food entrepreneurs.

Mansfield will receive the individual 2022 National Experiment Station Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Award on Sept. 27 at the Experiment Station Section (ESS)/Cooperative Extension Section-National Administrators Annual Meeting in Baltimore.

The annual award, which launched in 2018, was created by the ESS and its Diversity Catalyst Committee to recognize excellence in DEI efforts that go beyond meeting equal employment opportunity laws to promote diversity, equity, pluralism and inclusion in the nation’s agricultural experiment stations.

“What the committee found so compelling about Dr. Mansfield’s nomination was the intentionality of her efforts,” said Richard Rhoades III, executive vice chair of the Diversity Catalyst Committee and executive director of the Northeastern Regional Association of State Agricultural Experiment Station Directors. “She has provided an excellent set of action steps for experiment station directors across the nation.”

Mansfield was nominated by Jan Nyrop, the Goichman Family Director of Cornell AgriTech, and Erin Rodger, interim director of communications for Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and member of Cornell AgriTech’s DEI Council.

“Anna Katharine’s recognition by experiment stations nationally is a testament to her leadership and to the work done by all who help advance DEI at Cornell AgriTech and Cornell,” said Nyrop, who noted that the campus’s formal DEI initiative was launched only two years ago by a committee that has since transitioned into the council.

In October 2020, the committee surveyed more than 350 faculty, office and field staff, and students to assess the cultural climate on the Geneva campus. Armed with data, the team then developed a strategy for advancing diversity and inclusion within Cornell AgriTech and the stakeholders it serves, as well as identified what Mansfield described as “blind spots.” In 2021, she worked with other campus leaders and DEI committee members to start addressing these by conducting internal trainings, creating a DEI website for Cornell AgriTech, curating a list of Geneva-area DEI resources and bringing in outside speakers.

For Cornell AgriTech’s DEI strategy, the next step is already underway, thanks to a recent innovation grant from Belonging at Cornell and the Presidential Advisors on Diversity and Equity. Funds will be used for a series of four workshops and discussions so the Cornell AgriTech community can delve into difficult DEI topics to better understand barriers to inclusive outreach programming. The hope, said Mansfield, is to create a cohort of trained cultural ambassadors who can network across units, provide representation and gather feedback from different corners of Cornell AgriTech’s community.

“Anna Katharine consistently frames DEI efforts in terms of accessibility, which I think helps demystify the concept,” said Amara Dunn, Cornell Cooperative Extension associate and co-chair of the campus’s DEI Council. “Since most of us at Cornell AgriTech are involved in outreach, we intuitively understand the importance of making sure the research-based knowledge we generate is accessible to our stakeholders.”

Dunn also said she deeply appreciates Mansfield’s approach to DEI work—her humility and eagerness to learn, grow and consider doing things differently. The feeling, Mansfield said, is mutual.

“I couldn’t have done any of this without Amara, Jan’s approval and support, and the hard work of both the committee and the council,” she said. “There’s a lot of willingness here to learn. These people are showing up and doing the work.”

Sarah Thompson is a writer for Cornell AgriTech.

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