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By Erin Rodger
  • Cornell AgriTech
  • School of Integrative Plant Science
A core value of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) is that working across a wide range of backgrounds, talents and interests significantly strengthens and deepens the experiences of those in the CALS community.

At Cornell AgriTech, CALS’ preeminent center for agriculture and food research in Geneva, New York, the success of research and extension activities are also shaped by a diversity of faculty, staff and students. Their unique perspectives enable the Geneva campus to deliver impactful research and resources to New York state’s food and agriculture businesses and communities.

A new committee recently formed to foster additional diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts, enhancing both Cornell AgriTech’s DEI principles and practices.

“Promoting DEI is important to the success of current community members and will enable us to better convey to prospective students and employees that our campus is a place that values talent from all backgrounds,” said Jan Nyrop, Goichman Family Director of Cornell AgriTech. “We also believe it will enable us to reach and impact a larger proportion of the audiences we serve under our Land-Grant mission.”

DEI committee at Cornell AgriTech is made up of 16 faculty members, staff and students who represent a broad variety of perspectives, experiences, genders, sexual orientations, races, ethnicities, talents and interests.

“I believe that diversity is the key to success,” said Rey Cotto, a member of the committee and a graduate student in the field of entomology. “A diverse environment will bring new and different ideas and perspectives — from which everyone can learn from each other, allowing for a unique community in which everyone can thrive.”

When the committee launched in October 2020, the members conducted a comprehensive analysis of the DEI environment on the Geneva campus. They shared a survey with more than 350 faculty, staff and students to get a clearer understanding of the current climate and to identify strategic areas in which to implement change.

In December, at a virtual event for the Cornell AgriTech community, the DEI committee presented the survey’s findings and their recommendations for action. They also launched new DEI website to emphasize Cornell AgriTech’s continued commitment for supporting diversity by providing inclusive messaging, committee updates and links to important resources.

Highlights of the committee’s plan include identifying ways to effectively increase the recruitment and retention of a diversity of students, employees and stakeholders. In 2021, the committee is also planning to enhance campus-wide programming and messaging that will support broader recognition and adoption of DEI principles and practices.

“I’m gratified by the amount of work the committee completed in the last few months, and by the support we’re receiving from AgriTech leadership,” said Anna Katharine Mansfield, chair of the new DEI committee and associate professor of enology. “There’s a lot that we need to accomplish, but I think we have the momentum and energy to make Cornell AgriTech a more diverse, equitable and inclusive campus for the people that work there and the industries we work with.”

This article also appears in the Cornell Chronicle.

Header image: Graduate student David Strickland (left) and technician Mei-Wah Choi work in an orchard at Cornell AgriTech in Geneva, New York. Photo by Allison Usavage.

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