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  • Center of Excellence in Food and Agriculture
  • Cornell AgriTech
Melissa Hegarty joined the New York State Center of Excellence for Food and Agriculture in August 2023.

Melissa Hegarty joined the CoE team at the end of this summer as our administrative assistant, bringing with her years of experience in higher education and community organizations in Geneva, N.Y.  

Learn more about Melissa:

Describe your role at the Center of Excellence for Food and Agriculture:   

Much of my job revolves around helping our executive director and business development specialists stay connected with our clients, by setting meetings with our clients and coordinating with contacts outside of our office who may be able to assist our clients. I also handle ordering for the office and maintain expense reports for our department. 
What did you do professionally before coming to the Center of Excellence? 

My most recent employer was Hobart and William Smith Colleges (HWS), where I worked for 4 ½ years. I started as a Program Coordinator at the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning, in a unique position that shared funding with the Boys and Girls Club of Geneva, so I had responsibilities both at HWS and at the Boys and Girls Club. I then accepted an opportunity to work for the Hobart and William Smith athletics department, where I supported many talented and professional coaches across the department, in addition to working closely with the athletic directors. It was a lot of fun to get a close view of college athletics every day in my job. 
What excites you most about the work the Center of Excellence and Cornell AgriTech are doing to help grow the food and agriculture industries in New York?  

I am really enjoying getting a greater sense of the food, beverage, and agricultural economy in the Finger Lakes and across New York State. It has also been inspiring to attend the Center of Excellence-hosted Coffee, Coaching, and Connections events and to listen to panelists who are passionate about their business or highly distinguished scientists and to have the opportunity to learn from them in-person. 
What’s one piece of advice you’ve learned over the course of your career?

A former colleague of mine likes to say, “All firsts are messy.” I find that this mantra gives me the courage to learn and do new things, acknowledging that it probably won’t feel comfortable initially, but I can learn and strive to improve as I go. 
What inspired you to pursue the career you have today?   

I have always enjoyed working in an environment where I can learn -- that’s just in my nature. Working alongside experts in the food industry, the accomplished scientists on our campus, and colleagues and partners with vast experience in regional economic development has made this an exciting place to work for me.  
What do you like to do when you aren’t working? 

My husband Scott and I have 2 sons – Bernie, age 12 and Cole, age 10. They play hockey and lacrosse, so we spend a lot of time at ice rinks and playing fields throughout the year. I love watching them continuously pursue growth in their sports. Additionally, the four of us enjoy mountain biking, camping, and stand-up paddleboarding as a family. 

What's something most people don’t know about you?  

I’ve taken a winding path when it comes to my education. I spent two years at Syracuse University pursuing a dual major in English/Textual Studies and Secondary Education. I stepped away and worked for more than a decade with pre-teens and teens in residential treatment facilities, then returned to school as a student at SUNY Empire State College, where I completed a B.S. in Business, Management and Economics, with a certificate in Business and Environmental Sustainability.  

I’m grateful for the broad perspective I’ve developed along the way, and hope to continue learning and growing professionally, always!  

Jacob Pucci is the marketing and communications coordinator for the New York State Center of Excellence for Food and Agriculture at Cornell AgriTech.

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