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By Hillary Creedon
  • Cornell AgriTech
  • Agriculture Sciences Major
  • Animal Science
  • Department of Communication
  • Food Science
  • Department of Global Development
  • School of Integrative Plant Science
With the end of another academic year in sight, we’d like to recognize the CALS undergraduate and graduate classes of 2023.

During their time at Cornell, members of these exceptional classes have explored the corners of purpose-driven science, made lifelong connections, and adopted Ithaca and Geneva, New York, as their home. Navigating significant obstacles and uncharted territory in remote and hybrid learning environments, these students have exhibited incredible resilience, intellectual growth, determination and flexibility. We are extremely proud to celebrate and honor their achievements, and look forward to all they will accomplish in the future.

In the snapshots below of this year’s graduating classes, meet a dozen of our seniors, master’s and Ph.D. students, and hear about their most memorable research experiences, what surprised them most during their time in CALS, where are they headed after graduation and more.

CALS Undergraduate Class of 2023

CALS Class of 2023

Akeem Cooper-Smith

Hometown: Hastings-on-Hudson, New York

Major: International agriculture and rural development

What advice would you give to CALS students? Question everything. Take advantage of CALS resources. Have challenging conversations with those outside of your field. Join MANRRS [Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences]! Study abroad with a bunch of strangers! Read Kimmerer’s “Braiding Sweetgrass” and Butler’s “Parable of The Sower”!!!

CALS Class of 2023

Albert Charles

Hometown: Miami, Florida

Major: Food science

Minor: Business

What are your post-grad plans? I’m excited to return to Cornell as a Johnson MBA candidate! After exploring many facets of the food industry during my undergraduate experience, I was drawn toward entrepreneurship. I am excited to learn business fundamentals and leverage the Cornell entrepreneurship ecosystem to pursue my own venture.

CALS Class of 2023

Amanda Wilson

Hometown: Kokomo, Indiana 

Major: Plant sciences

Minor: Entomology, soil science, field crop management

What surprised you the most about your Cornell CALS experience? I was so surprised to discover my interest in entomology! Growing up, I had always disliked insects. However, when I started learning about their amazing diversity and interactions with plants, I was immediately hooked!

CALS Class of 2023

Brianna Green

Hometown: Homestead, Florida

Major: Animal science

What surprised you the most about your Cornell CALS experience? How connected my education felt. My courses connected to each other. They then were connected to what I did in my research labs. Those labs gave me skills and knowledge that once again proved themselves useful in the extracurriculars I participated in. The interdisciplinary nature of learning is very much emphasized in CALS. There were so many opportunities to see the same discipline, lesson or phenomenon from multiple angles and solidify your understanding of it.

CALS Class of 2023

Dane Allen

Hometown: Queens, New York

Major: Food science

To be a Cornellian means: I’m a part of the community that exists for everybody. As a member of the Cornell community, I feel a sense of belonging and inclusivity that extends beyond the boundaries of the campus. I’m grateful to be part of the best food science community in the world, where the faculty, staff and fellow students are instrumental in helping each other learn and grow as professionals. I feel fortunate and proud to be a part of such an exceptional community.

CALS Class of 2023

Ke Wu

Hometown: China

Major: Communication

What does being a Cornellian mean to you? A home far away with a big family! Before I came to Cornell, I never realized that life has so many different possibilities.

CALS Class of 2023

Perry MacKinnon

Hometown: Coaticook, Québec

Major: Agricultural sciences

Minor: Business

What will you miss the most about Cornell? The sense of community I’ve felt as a student-athlete. As an athlete on the track and field team, I have been able to experience and grow so much more beyond the classroom. Competing for something bigger than myself is something I will never forget. As a student, I will miss my morning walks to class on our beautiful campus with my friends with the clock tower bells chiming in the background. Cornell has allowed me to pursue my athletic and academic goals without compromise.

CALS Class of 2023

Winfield Mac

Hometown: Las Vegas, Nevada

Major: Information science

What was your most memorable undergraduate research moment? Publishing a paper about AI governance from a project I worked on with a group in one of my classes!

Akeem Cooper-Smith with a cat
Albert Charles standing next to a statue
Amanda Wilson standing in a library
Brianna Green
Dane Allen with a sunset behind him
Ke Wu
Perry MacKinnon running at an indoor track meet
Winfield Mac standing outside

CALS Graduate Class of 2023

CALS Graduate Class of 2023

David Strickland

Hometown: Penn Yan, New York

Field: Plant pathology and plant-microbe biology

Your most memorable research moment: Part of my doctoral work involved scouting dozens of apple orchards in every production region in New York state. Getting to meet growers of all backgrounds was a true highlight of those summers on the road. Whether they produced organic or conventional, for cider or commercial production, on 200 acres or two, these growers shared their knowledge and wisdom. I’m grateful for that opportunity, and to have helped in what little way I could diagnosing disease problems during those on-farm visits.

CALS Graduate Class of 2023

Maddie Flasco

Hometown: Copley, Ohio

Field: Plant pathology and plant-microbe biology

What does being a Cornellian mean to you? Being a Cornellian means having a voice and value. I have always felt that my voice and opinion mattered and that I was able to express it. The respectful and welcoming environment that was created is one I hope to replicate in future endeavors.

CALS Graduate Class of 2023

George Stack

Hometown: Ballston Spa, New York

Field: Plant breeding and genetics

What is your most memorable graduate research moment and why? As part of my dissertation I helped to identify a new source of powdery mildew resistance in hemp. Doing the research and seeing the results was exciting, but the most memorable part was being able to present the work to growers and seeing them get excited about what we found. 

CALS Graduate Class of 2023

Juan Luis Gonzalez Giron

Hometown: Cali, Colombia

Field: Plant pathology and plant-microbe biology

What does being a Cornellian mean to you? Being a Cornellian implies carrying the responsibility of pursuing cutting-edge agricultural research that reaches the community and fosters food security. But, beyond academic excellence, Cornell is more than a place where anyone can major in any discipline. Everything about the community of outstanding people makes it the nurturing environment it is. Being a Cornellian means carrying the love, care and academic contributions I was offered here deep within myself.

CALS Graduate Class of 2023

Rey Cotto Rivera

Hometown: Gurabo, Puerto Rico

Field: Entomology

What does being a Cornellian mean to you? I feel very honored to have had the opportunity to study what I wanted in the place I wanted. I often doubted this was possible for a person like me, but I truly lived our founder’s principle of any person, any study. I feel very proud of my accomplishments and personal growth throughout these years at Cornell. 

CALS Graduate Class of 2023

Ashley Jernigan

Hometown: Dunn, North Carolina

Field: Entomology

What will you miss most about Cornell? I will miss the welcoming community at Cornell and all of the wonderful people I have been able to work with over the years. The AgriTech community in Geneva is so special because everyone here is focused on agricultural research, so you have something in common with everyone you meet. 

David Strickland examines apples in a research orchard.
Maddie Flasco smiles in a California vineyard where she performed research.
George Stack gives an extension talk to hemp growers.
Juan Luis Gonzalez Giron works in a research field with another student.
Rey Cotto Rivera shows an insect to a child.
Ashley Jernigan poses with a soil extraction tool.

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