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Benjamin Z. Houlton, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean, has announced appointments elevating two members of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences to leadership positions.

Sahara Byrne, professor of communication, has been promoted to senior associate dean at CALS, effective July 1. Her three-year term will run through June 2026. Byrne replaces Beth Ahner, professor of biological and environmental engineering, who served more than two terms in the position.

Currently senior associate dean for academic affairs and strategic programs, Byrne has been responsible for overseeing the Office of Academic Programs and cross-college majors since February 2021. Byrne also has served as director of undergraduate studies in the Department of Communication and has won multiple awards for her teaching and advising. In addition, she has been a member of the previous two CALS Strategic Planning Committees, served as chair of the CALS Curriculum Committee and was instrumental in transitioning the CALS Faculty Senate to the CALS Faculty Executive Committee.

At the university level, she has worked on several efforts to enrich the experience of students, faculty and staff across campus, including collaborations with the Office of the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education and roles on the Title IX Policy 6.4 Hearing Panel, North Campus Faculty-in-Residence, the Cornell Public Safety Advisory Committee and the Employee Care Development Fund. Her research on youth-targeted health messaging is built on NIH-funded collaborations with faculty across four colleges, providing unique research experiences for students.

In her new role, Byrne will oversee a portfolio of faculty affairs, department and program reviews, and the academic aspects of facilities and human resources for numerous academic units and centers and programs.

“I am excited to work closely with the department chairs and directors to realize the goals they have for their units,” Byrne said. “It’s an incredible time to be a leader in CALS, and I feel lucky to play a small part in it all.”

“Sahara has been a strong advocate for the CALS mission and has helped set the strategic direction of the college,” Houlton said. “I look forward to working with her in her new role on my leadership team as we pursue the many opportunities that lie ahead for CALS.”

Houlton also announced that Sarah Giroux ’03, M.S. ’06, Ph.D. ’11, associate professor of practice and director of undergraduate studies in the Department of Global Development, will join the college leadership team July 1 as associate dean of academic affairs and strategic programs at CALS, filling the position left vacant by Byrne’s promotion.

Throughout her career, Giroux has been recognized for her commitment to student success with several awards from the North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture and by being named a Stephen H. Weiss Provost Teaching Fellow at Cornell. At CALS, as chair of the Curriculum Committee, she has been instrumental in the development of the new curriculum requirements that will launch next year. Giroux also helped design and teach a range of new courses for the global development major, and she co-chaired the CALS Roadmap 2050 Committee on Academics. Her research focuses on how demographic changes underway in sub-Saharan Africa present both opportunities and challenges for development. Supported by several high-profile grants, she’s documenting how fertility transitions are fostering broad economic gains but also widening inequality, especially among children.

“I am thrilled and honored for the opportunity to serve the college in this position, and I look forward to collaborating with the exceptional faculty, dedicated staff and outstanding students who make up this vibrant community,” Giroux said. “Not only is CALS a pioneering hub of innovation in the life, agricultural, environmental and social sciences, but it also has a deep historical commitment to developing cutting-edge training for the next generation of change-makers.”

Citing the college’s annual teaching workshop – “CALS Teaching Experience” – which is celebrating its 34th year, and the Roadmap to 2050 strategic plan, Giroux sees CALS as a vanguard in its holistic approach to academic training. “I can’t think of a more exciting opportunity than this chance to be part of the team that is carrying on this inspirational legacy.”

“Sarah has served CALS as a remarkable teacher and colleague, especially with her efforts to support the academic success of our students,” Houlton said. “She will be a major asset to our team and a terrific leader for the Office of Academic Programs.”

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