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By Jake Zajkowski ’26
  • Agriculture Sciences Major
  • School of Integrative Plant Science
  • Horticulture Section
  • Soil and Crop Sciences Section

Nearly 20 years ago, a group of Cornell University agricultural scientists felt a need for a broader understanding of the complex issues in the food system.

More than 370 graduates later, the Agricultural Sciences Undergraduate Major celebrates its family-like culture, student leadership, and advancements in food and agriculture.

This diverse program caters to broad academic interests, from animal science and education to policy and sustainable plant systems, shaping graduates into critical thinkers. Today, 110 students, over 370 alumni, and 16 faculty advisors from five departments actively contribute to improving our food system.

At the 1st Annual Agriculture Science Recognition Dinner, all classes gathered to celebrate graduating seniors and recognize achievements in research, industry contributions, and the community created for agriculture at Cornell.

“The major brings students and faculty of varied interests in agriculture and the food system together,” says Frank Rossi, the Richard C. Call Director of Agricultural Sciences  and Associate Professor in the Horticulture Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science (SIPS).

“Our program serves as the home to many students from New York farm families and as a part of the Land Grant mission, educating the next generation of agricultural professionals. Our work is at the core of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ mission,” says Rossi.

The major also creates community for global learners and students from a robust undergraduate transfer program.

Throughout the year, undergraduates take advantage of the peer mentor program and friendly first-name-basis faculty advisors, and pursue independent industry involvement around the world.

The program's impact extends far beyond New York and the farm. This past year, students represented their respective interests at industry conferences such as CattleCon and Commodity Classic. They participated in entrepreneurial ventures like the Digital Ag Hackathon and engaged nationally in competitions like the North American Intercollegiate Dairy Challenge.

Undergraduates like Franz O’Hanna and Lainey Koval published in The Plant Cell Journal and Cornell PRO-DAIRY ELeader Journal. In addition, many were recognized as recipients of the American FFA Degree and induction into the Pi Alpha Xi National Academic Honor Society for Horticulture.

Engaged learning in and out of the classroom is one of the major’s foundations. “My agricultural degree has given me perspective of the world that I would not have gotten from another major,” says Kiersten Louie ‘25. “More than anything, the major taught me how to learn and study – putting practical science to use.”

Two decades of student success owe much to key visionaries. Antonio DiTommaso, Professor and Section Head of the School of Integrative Plant Science Soil and Crop Sciences Section, and Kari Richards, Undergraduate Major Coordinator, were honored at the recognition dinner for their foundational roles and enduring commitment to students and faculty. 

DiTommaso, the original director of the Agricultural Sciences Major, and Richards, who guided the major through its formative years and led initiatives like career exploration curriculum development, were pivotal to the program's success. 

The Agricultural Sciences Major is an undergraduate program within Cornell University's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Learn more about the major.

Jake Zajkowski ’26 is an Agricultural Sciences Major.

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