2021 Annual Report Narrative

Last year we asked for a summary of your unit's DEI strategic plan. Please give us a progress report on the implementation of your unit’s plan and any next steps that are planned to accomplish near and long-term goals. Please note what, if any, support would be useful to your efforts. Your plan should address diversity and inclusion for populations of: a) tenure-track and RTE faculty, b) staff, and c) graduate students. For undergraduates, given that representational diversity is really the purview of admissions, please focus on a plan for partnering with admissions to support efforts in applications and yield, partnering with student services to support inclusion and mentoring, or working to build more inclusive pedagogy in your majors. Reports will be used by the college and Associate Dean of Diversity and Inclusion Chelsea Specht to prioritize efforts including training and support for departmental/unit Leads for Diversity and Inclusion (LDI).


An article discussing the SIPS commitment to diversity and inclusion can be found here

Vision - An inclusive SIPS community that flourishes because it values and supports diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice. We recognize that our institution was founded on and perpetuates various injustices, including settler colonialism, indigenous dispossession, slavery, racism, classism, sexism, transphobia, homophobia, antisemitism, and ableism. We seek to address and repair the harms caused by these intersecting forms of oppression.

Mission- The SIPS D&I Council will foster diversity and inclusion and specifically promote an anti-racist culture in SIPS. Specifically, the Council will:

  • Listen to and amplify voices, interests, and concerns of marginalized members of our community;
  • Identify barriers to diversity and inclusion;
  • Investigate best practices for recruiting and retaining members of under-represented groups; advise the Director and Executive Committee on policy and structural changes to remove barriers and promote diversity;
  • Identify and advertise educational opportunities and resources centering on diversity and inclusion;
  • Assist in implementing holistic admissions and recruitment best practices, and curate and communicate data on outcomes
  • And provide support and advocacy for meaningful grassroots initiatives.

Progress over the past year

For a more comprehensive list of activities please see the 2021 SIPS annual report appendices

SIPS Diversity and Inclusion Council created. In 2020, SIPS expanded its executive committee by adding a Leader in Diversity and Inclusion (SIPS D&I lead). Under the leadership of Hale Tufan, a mission and vision (above) were articulated for the D & I Council and 8 working groups established. The council sponsored a SIPS town hall for broad discussion of social injustice and has nucleated initiatives in many areas. Learn about our council here!

Cornell AgriTech Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committee created. DEI goals have been incorporated into the Cornell AgriTech strategic plan, a climate assessment conducted to guide priorities, and a DEI committee formed with leadership from SIPS faculty Awais Khan.

Curriculum and Instruction. Discussions around decolonization of curricula are ongoing within several SIPS graduate fields and curricular changes have been incorporated into multiple intro classes. Ensuring that our curricula, instruction methods, and classrooms foster belonging is a priority. A SIPS-wide seminar by Kurt Jordan (AIISP) was co-sponsored by Cornell AgriTech and SIPS, and section seminar series are allocating time to early career scientists from diverse backgrounds. Diversity related information has been added to the AgriTech and SIPS websites, and resources of particular relevance to DEI in biological research/academia/agriculture are prominently featured in the weekly SIPS News & Events email. There has been broad participation by the SIPS community in anti-racist reads and educational webinars.

Progress on broadening stakeholder inclusion. Multiple SIPS members are working on improving outreach to underserved stakeholders in New York, the Small Farms Program being particularly noteworthy for resource development/delivery for BIPOC farmers. SIPS faculty are creating educational seminars focused on black farmers, mapping diversity in the NY agricultural community to inform planning with educators and policy makers, and serving on the Governor’s Diversity in Agriculture Task Force. Ag worker training programs are now available in Spanish and faculty interested in nature engagement are increasingly focused on barriers faced by people of color.
SIPS faculty are working with local indigenous groups on hemp and maize production and have partnered with local indigenous community members to educate Cornell students on medicinal plant use and traditions.

Diversification of TT and RTE faculty. New and incoming SIPS faculty for 2020/2021 have significantly increased underrepresented groups (women, BIPOC, LGBTQ). SIPS faculty are leading, delivering, and participating in training and mentoring opportunities to enhance faculty engagement with diverse extension audiences, develop mentoring programs for BIPOC women at Cornell, and develop resources for Teaching & Learning in a Diverse Classroom. DEI discussion and education is routinely included in SIPS faculty meetings. SIPS has generated unified guidelines for new faculty mentoring committees including a member on the committee specifically for DEI to ensure the new faculty member feels a sense of belonging, and to help new faculty contribute to DEI in SIPS.

Graduate students: Diversifying applicant pools. SIPS Graduate Fields have made significant changes to admissions processes including dropping GRE requirements (formalized for 4/5 fields), expanding applications to capture non-traditional experiences, and more intentional recruitment of URMs at national conferences and Diversity Preview Weekend (co-led by SIPS graduate students). Early data for the 2021 graduate admissions indicates significant increase in recruit diversity. URM recruitment is prioritized for the NSF-NRT program in Digital Plant Science, led by SIPS faculty member Mike Scanlon, and in summer grad internship agreements with BASF and Corteva.

Graduate students: Fostering Inclusion. Discussions of DEI issues are included in weekly meetings by many SIPS research groups and multiple research programs have developed lab antiracism statements. SIPS sections have held or are currently holding general meetings focused on anti-racism, self-reflection, and avenues for change. The SIPS D & I Council has also held 2 listening sessions with graduate students to guide prioritization. The D & I Council graduate student work group has analyzed student recruitment and retention data for SIPS and individual sections, laying the foundation for specific interventions in this space. Through contributions of SIPS faculty, the Cornell MANNRS chapter is now re-activated and training opportunities in partnership with SACNAS are in development.

Diversification and mentoring of undergraduates. Several SIPS research programs have mentored underrepresented high school and undergraduate students as part of summer internship programs including the BTI summer intern program, Geneva Summer Scholars, SUMMIT, and NSURP, and SIPS graduate students have been laying groundwork for a SIPS URM REU program. An internship program is being created for students to work with black NY farmers (starting 2021). Our faculty also conduct science outreach to middle school age students through Expanding Your Horizons and other programs. SIPS faculty participate in the Undergraduate Enrollment sub-committee of the CALS D & I Committee.

Next Steps

SIPS D&I Council working groups are focusing on the following areas which include both near and long-term goals.

  • Curriculum development and review
  • Graduate Student Recruitment and Retention
  • Faculty recruitment, promotion, and support
  • RTE faculty and postdoc recruitment, promotion and support
  • Administrative & technical staff recruitment, promotion and support
  • Educational resources and outreach
  • Trainings, events, seminars

Help from CALS: we are actively working on developing REU programs for under-represented minorities across SIPS and it would be great to work with others interested departments to identify funding strategies. Also, a CALS DEI Program Director that could help guide us through implementation of some of these ideas. Chelsea is fantastic, but her role is higher-level than what a Program Director might do.

Please list awards that your tenure-track and research/teaching/extension (RTE) faculty have been awarded this year, as well as nominations generated by your unit. For shared units, kindly indicate the college affiliation of the faculty member, as well as award status (pending/awarded/not received), if available.

Faculty Awards

Mark Fuchs APS Fellow - 2021

Srdjan Acimovic Early Career Achievement Award - Northeast APS - 2021

Dan Buckley ASM Fellow - 2021

Nina Bassuk Louis & Edith Edgerton Career Teaching Award (Nominated) - 2021

Marvin Pritts Stephen H. Weiss Presidential Fellow Award (Nominated) - 2021

Maria Alejandra Gandolfo-Nixon Botanical Society of America Donald R. Kaplan Award in Comparative Morphology - 2021

Johannes Lehmann Humboldt Research Award - 2020

Mark Bridgen American Society for Horticultural Science's Outstanding Undergraduate Educator Award (nominated, not awarded) 2020

Coffman AAAS Fellow2020

Mark Sorrells Crop Science Society of America Board Representative - 2020

Sarah Evanega Planet of Plenty Educator Award - 2020

Don Rakow SHIFT (Shaping How We Invest in Tomorrow) Award from the Center for Jackson Hole - 2020

Neil Mattson CALS Rising Star Faculty Award from the CALS Alumni Association - 2020

Jonathan Russell-Anelli MacDonald Award - 2020

Matt Ryan SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching - 2020

David Gadoury Outstanding Volunteer Award from the American Phytopathological Society - 2020

Jeff Doyle Asa Gray Award by the American Society of Plant Taxonomists - 2020

Joyce Chery IW Bailey Award - 2020

Margaret Frank NSF Career Award - 2020

Anu Rangarajan CALS Outstanding Accomplishments in Extension/Outreach - 2020

Michelle Heck ARSX award from USDA ARS - 2020

Marcia Eames-Sheavly CALS Professor of Merit - 2020

Adam Bogdanove Clarivate Web of Science Highly Cited Researcher for 2020

Johannes Lehmann Clarivate Web of Science Highly Cited Researcher for 2020

Joss Rose Clarivate Web of Science Highly Cited Researcher for 2020

Mark Sorrells Clarivate Web of Science Highly Cited Researcher for 2020

Lisa Earle President of CAPE (Cornell Academics and Professors Emeriti) - 2020

Staff Awards

Leslie Larsen Musgrave Award

Chase Mayers Postdoc Achievement Award for Excellence in Mentoring Cornell Office of Postdoctoral Studies

Dawn Dailey O'Brien Distinguished Arborist Award at the New York State Arborists Conference

Chad Nihranz USDA-NIFA postdoctoral fellowship

Graduate Student Awards

Eric Branch PPPMB NSF GRFP award

Clarice Guan PB NSF GRFP award

Gordon Younkin PB NSF GRFP award

Morgan Irons SCS NSF GRFP award

Brandon Roy PPPMB NSF GRFP honorable mention


Hannah Thomas PB USDA-NIFA

Jenna Hershberger PBG Borlaug Graduate Scholars

Ellie Taagen PBG Borlaug Graduate Scholars

Eugene Law SCS Bouchet Graduate Honor Society

Anya Osatuke Hort UP Hedrick Award for her manuscript from American Pomological Society

Brandon Miller Hort CALS Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award

Clarice Guan PB CALS Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award

Kyle LaPlant PBG CALS Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award

Zoe Dubrow PPPMB CALS Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award

Jiaming Wen SCS CALS Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award

Olenka Zavodna SCS Sellew Family Excellence-in-Mentoring Fellowship

Taylor Cyle  SCS MacDonald & Musgrave Award

Chase Crowell PPPMB Barbara McClintock Award

Daniel Sweeney PBG Barbara McClintock Award

Jack Satterlee PB Barbara McClintock Award

Brandon Miller Hort Barbara McClintock Award

Sarah Jensen PBG Barbara McClintock Award

Jenna Hershberger PBG Barbara McClintock Award

Anna Sophia Westbrook SCS Denison Graduate Student Fellowship

Anna Sophia Westbrook  SCS Sustainable Biodiversity Fund Award from the Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability

Shanthanu Krishna Kumar Hort Best Student Oral Presentation from the Northeast Weed Science Society of America (NEASHS)

Brandon Miller Hort Gilmer Award

Jenna Hershberger SCS Presidential Life Sciences Fellow

Undergraduate Awards - Plant Science and Ag Science Majors

Rosy Glos SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence

Rosy Glos Merrill Scholar

Rosy Glos CALS Class of 2020 Banner Bearers

Chang Chen CALS Class of 2020 Banner Bearers

Lingwei Wan CALS Academic Excellence

Yehao Zhang CALS Academic Excellence

Rosemary Glos CALS Academic Excellence

Elizabeth De Meyer Academic Excellence in a Double Major

Chang Chen Richard A. Church Senior Service Award, from Alumni Affairs

Christian Kanlian WSSA John Jachetta Undergraduate Research Award

Emma Kubinksi WSSA Poster competition - 3rd place



List up to three new areas or hot topics that have emerged recently in your fields or in general.  These may be relevant to our academic research and/or teaching programs.  We will use your suggestions to begin framing our upcoming strategic planning.  A bulleted list is fine but provide enough detail so that we understand how your ideas can intersect with our strategic goals.


i) Digital agriculture for climate change mitigation encompassing:

  • Plant genetics and synthetic biology coupled to high throughput lab/field phenotyping for rapid precision breeding
  • Environmental sensing and data management
  • Microbiome optimization for plant and soil health

ii) Biodiversity: Inspiring and driving discovery, security and sustainability

  • Increasingly crucial issue fundamentally linked to global climate change, population growth and environmental degradation, and is arguably at the nexus of all the life sciences
  • Cornell’s world-renowned plant and microbial biological collections and associated expertise are being leveraged with emerging genetic and data management tools for trait discovery and modeling evolution and climate impacts
  • Strong linkages to cultural heritage, BIPOC and public engagement

iii) Controlled environment and urban agriculture

  • Breeding, propagation methods, and environmental management for plant production in controlled and built environments including; greenhouses, high tunnels, indoor hydroponic, aeroponic and vertical production.
  • Environmental restoration, parks and green spaces
  • Food access and human health
  • Roof-top ecosystems
  • Synergies with Botanic Gardens and museums for science communication

Please list all ongoing activities in your unit with eCornell and any new ideas about how your unit might engage in the future based on our experiences over the last year (e.g. certificate programs, online courses, online or blended MS programs, or conferences). 


  • Jacob Toth and Larry Smart have been working on developing a new eCornell certificate in Hemp Breeding and Genetics – it will consist of three courses CALS115, 116, and 117. It should be launched early summer.
  • Giulia Friso has developed an eCornell course on Medicinal Plants
  • Mark Bridgen is currently in discussion with eCornell about developing a class in Plant Propagation.
  • eCornell programs coming online for ornamental horticulture (Nina Bassuk), viticulture (Russ Moss).  Possible certificate programs in turf (Frank Rossi) and micropropagation (Mark Bridgen).  Lots of opportunities to expand program in hemp, gardening, and hydroponics.
  • Sarah Pethybridge is thinking of developing a plant disease epidemiology eCornell course.
  • There is clearly a demand for geospatial content, and Diana Sinton has been thinking about how to enable this.

Are there any other issues (particular joys and/or concerns) that we should be aware of? 


SIPS has many joys and a few concerns that do not fit the 5-page limit of this document. For a complete list of joys and concerns submitted by SIPS faculty look at our annual report appendices.


  • New faculty that have joined over the past year are amazing.
  • Thrilled to be moving forward with the $85.6 M renovation of the Plant Science Building!
  • Thankful to students, staff and faculty who have helped SIPS handle the many issues that arose during the pandemic.
  • Our custodial staff and CIT personnel at all locations have been amazing over the past 13 months.
  • Graduate recruitment in SIPS is up this year, and our school-wide recruitment efforts including DPW are increasing the number, diversity and quality of candidates


  • Faculty retirements, loss of expertise and capacity for research, teaching and extension.
  • Covid-related burnout and stress in students, faculty and staff across SIPS.
  • Lack of capacity for plant transformation, plant biotechnology, and plant/soil environmental analyses. We are developing a plan for this which will be included in our new strategic plan (hope to complete by July, 2021).

2021 Annual Report Appendices

SIPS Diversity and Inclusion Council

In 2020, SIPS expanded its executive committee by adding a Leader in Diversity and Inclusion (SIPS D&I lead). Under the leadership of Hale Tufan, a mission and vision were articulated for the D & I Council and 8 working groups established. The council sponsored a SIPS town hall for broad discussion of social injustice and has nucleated initiatives in many areas including:

  • SIPS members are urged to join the full "Teaching & Learning in a Diverse Classroom" course organized by CTI in June
  • Programming developed by Intergroup Dialogue Process and Office of Faculty Development & Diversity on departmental climate was brought to the attention of the SIPS EC and chairs encouraged to submit a request form for each section
  • DGSs were encouraged to submit a request for for their fields to engage with the Office of Inclusion & Student Engagement on programming on curriculum review and admissions
  • Analysis of student recruitment and retention data for SIPS and individual sections by the graduate student working group, is laying the foundation for specific interventions in this space
  • SIPS EC was urged to include DEI work in evaluation criteria for faculty tenure and promotion

Diversity related information has been added to the AgriTech and SIPS websites, and resources of particular relevance to DEI in biological research/academia/agriculture are prominently featured in the weekly SIPS News & Events email (Magdalen Lindeberg)

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion related activities in SIPS

The following list is derived from Section reports for the 2021 Annual Review. If there is anything you would like added please contact ML16 [at] cornell.edu

Cornell AgriTech Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) committee

DEI goals have been incorporated into the Cornell AgriTech strategic plan, a climate assessment conducted to guide priorities, and a DEI committee formed with leadership from SIPS faculty Awais Khan.

Faculty Recruitment and Development

Invited to guide the development of a mentoring program for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) professional women at Cornell (Marcia Eames-Sheavly)

Invited to serve on a white ally committee identified as important by our BIPOC caucuses for university professionals (Marcia Eames-Sheavly)

As part of our senior faculty searches for the radical collaborations and in SIPS, we went through great lengths to try to attract underrepresented minorities to Cornell (Johannes Lehmann).

Chair of the CALS Diversity and Inclusion Committee (Carlyn Buckler)

    Multiple SIPS research programs have developed antiracism statements. Examples: Ryan lab  Frank lab  Roeder Lab

    Multiple SIPS research programs incorporate DEI discussion into regular lab meetings or host dedicated meetings for this purpose Example:

    • The JSGroup (the combined Jannink and Sorrells lab groups) holds biweekly antiracism meetings open to all lab members that are regularly attended by faculty, graduate students, postdocs, and staff. Meeting participation is not mandatory; about half of JSGroup members have attended. The goals of these meetings have been self-education about antiracism as well as identification of, and participation in, activities to promote diversity, equity and inclusion in plant breeding. Meetings focused on self-education have been structured by discussion of readings on general topics (e.g., white privilege), and topics specific to the university setting (e.g., equity in graduate school admissions) and our field (e.g., racial disparities in farmland access, fieldwork safety). More recently, meetings have focused on actionable items such as brainstorming ideas of how to incorporate antiracism ideas into core plant breeding curriculum (PLGBR 4030), writing a lab DEI statement, and lab-member initiatives to learn more about specific topics (e.g., how to continue this work beyond the JSGroup). Overall, these meetings have improved understanding of, and increased involvement in, issues related to diversity, equity and inclusion.

    DEI discussion incorporated into Section Faculty meetings:

    • The PBG  'DEI moment' has led to 10-30 min discussions each month that have covered how to make the Section a more welcoming and affirming place, the legacy of racism in our profession, land acknowledgement, and improvement of the faculty and recruitment process. The discussion has been frank and open, allowing us to better recognize our biases.

    Organization and hosting of workshops/seminars:

    • Graduate students lead three Biodiversify workshops aimed at bolstering accurate and inclusive teaching and representation in the biological sciences (Arielle Johnson, Eugene Law, Breanne Kisselstein, Andrew Scheldorf)
    • The Plant Biology seminar series has a new format to enhance diversity and inclusiveness. One prominent theme is to feature early career scientists from diverse background and two such speakers have been invited to give seminars this semester (Jian Hua)
    • Hosted one of the Cooperative Extension community anti-racist reads, on the book My Grandmother's Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies, by Resmaa Manakem.  At the participants’ request, extended the conversations by three months, into March, meeting every three weeks.(Marcia Eames-Sheavly)
    • Hosted and provided funds for Soul Fire Farm in November 2020, to provide a workshop on racism in the food system for 33 Horticulture section students and professionals.  Continue to facilitate discussions to follow among a group of students and professional, focused on furthering equity in the Horticulture section, while communicating with SIPS leadership. (Marcia Eames-Sheavly)
    • Provided support for Valarie Kaur to offer a Cornell keynote, and intimate fireside chat with a small group of students. (Marcia Eames-Sheavly)
    • Hosting the speaker Rhonda Magee, author of the Inner Work of Racial Justice, this coming October, for a university wide keynote, along with two ‘healing and transformation’ workshops. (Marcia Eames-Sheavly)
    • Co-hosted community seminar for 20 black farmers on the Underground Railroad, with Gerard Aching, from Africana. (Anu Rangarajan)

    Undergraduate Education & Research Experience

    Member, CALS Diversity and Inclusion Committee; Undergraduate Enrollment sub-committee (Don Rakow)

    Supporting Black Farmer Fund as a student project- resulted in over $10,000 in donations flowing into the Fund on Giving Tuesday (Anu Rangarajan)

    Through contributions of SIPS faculty, the Cornell MANNRS chapter is now re-activated (reported by SIPS D & I Council)


    • Graduate students Josh Garcia and Kavya Krishanan organized an inclusive teaching workshop for SIPS TAs
    • Integrated new lecture focused on racism in agriculture into PLSCS 1900 (Matt Ryan)
    • In the introductory GIS course, we have been steadily integrating examples, data sets, and problems that relate to human geography and to human-environment relations. This means having students work on labs in which they answer questions and analyze patterns using social and cultural data. (Diana Sinton)
    • Indigenous knowledge incorporated into ethnobotany instruction. Listen to the podcast speaking Language  on Teaching & Learning in the Diverse Classroom, with Giulia Friso, Plant Biology, Melina Ivanchikova and Matt Ouellett, Center for Teaching Innovation
    • Centered diversity, equity and inclusion in the Seed to Supper PLHRT 4270 and 4271 course sequence, which includes reading equity and anti-racism texts and articles; learning about diversity, equity and inclusion in Extension. (Marcia Eames-Sheavly)
    • Developing a Spanish Translation and ADA approved versions of our Seed to Supper PPT’s together with supporting Seed to Supper Workshops and Student Course on topics related to expanding our reach in communities of color (Ashley Helmholdt)
    • Co-teaching seminar called Rural Black Lives, with Gerard Aching in Spring 2021. (Anu Rangarajan)
    • Began process of modifying classes to include DEI issues.  For example, re-vamped the Cannabis course to better reflect the history of inequity for people of color and the laws regarding incarceration rates (Carlyn Buckler)

    Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Development & Participation

    Many SIPS research programs have hosted under-represented minority students both within and outside of established REU programs including the BTI summer intern program, Geneva Scholars, SUMMIT, and NSURP. Examples:

    • Undergraduate summer interns through the Boyce Thompson Institute-Cornell University REU program are mentored by graduate students and postdocs in our program. We have trained two interns and one high-school student through this summer program. One student (Jason Chobirko) is already an author on one pre-print manuscript (Kruse et al, 2020), and another (Elena Lazarus) is also a co-author on another manuscript to be submitted this month. Several students accepted into the program belong to under-represented minority groups, and have a high rate of continuing to graduate school. (Moghe Lab)
    • Operates a mini-REU called the Science Undergraduate Minority Mentoring Internship and Training (SUMMIT) program.  We train 3 – 5 students a year, all come from groups historically underrepresented at large research universities, including underrepresented racial and ethnic groups and first-generation college students (Wojtek Pawlowski)
    • Leading a partnership between the BTI/Cornell REU program and the Cornell SACNAS chapter, to provide summer internships in Plant Genome Research for Cornell Undergraduates in SACNAS (Margaret Frank)
    • Building internship program for CU students to work with black farmers around NY in 2021 (Anu Rangarajan)
    • SIPS graduate student Adriana Hernandez engaged in discussions to lay the groundwork for a SIPS URM REU program
    • Developed and ran a Computational Image Processing outreach workshop for 7th grade girls entitled “What size is a cell?” through the Explore Your Opportunities program at Mount St. Vincent College in the Bronx, New York (Adrienne Roeder)
    • Graduate students & postdocs mentor BIPOC undergraduates interested in the microbial sciences (Zoe Dubrow, Tyler Helmann, Breanne Kisselstein, Greg Vogel)

    Extension & Outreach

    Mapping diverse farmers in NY to guide discussions with educators and policy makers (Anu Rangarajan)

    Preparing and leading workshops for county educators and volunteers to prepare them to engage with diverse audiences. (Marcia Eames-Sheavly)

    Several Horticulture Update Newsletters and Resources Shared focused on DEI issues, like Seed to Supper Annual Report, Indigenous Land Practices, Health & Equity Disparities in the Food System (Ashley Helmholdt)

    Leading the year-long Inner Life of Extension Education cohort which centers diversity, equity and inclusion through conversations based on the habits of the heart outlined in Healing the Heart of Democracy: the Courage to Create a Politics of the Human Spirit, by Parker J. Palmer (Marcia Eames-Sheavly)

    Focused on: Spanish speaking/Latinx

    The Ag Workforce program added programs that appeal to a more diverse audience. In 2020 they adapted their Onboarding new employee training skills workshop to deliver it fully in Spanish for the many farm managers and supervisors on NY farms who are native Spanish speakers. (Richard Stup)

    The Agricultural Supervisory Leadership Certificate program has launched. They have a multi-cultural group of participants in the program this year, but participants all need to have a command of English to participate. We also teach culture, diversity and inclusion in agriculture and the awareness and reduction of bias in the workplace as part of ASL101, the first course. Future plans for this certificate series include a full conversion and delivery of the program in Spanish. 30 participants in section 1 of ASL101 and are starting a section 2 with 32 participants this month. (Richard Stup)

    Focused on: Black/POC

    Become a key CU contact for numerous black leaders in agriculture. I am working hard to build trust with this community who have felt disenfranchised from Cornell. (Anu Rangarajan)

    Finding and interviewing black farmers, in collaboration with Black Farmers United as well as CCE executive directors and NYS farmers market federation (Ashley Helmholdt)

    Developing Advanced Training Modules on Moodle for the MGV Program on topics like: Seed to Supper and Community Gardens, and Food Forest Trial Garden Program (with a focus on food access issues in urban environments). (Ashley Helmholdt)

    Serving on Governor Cuomo’s Diversity in Agriculture Task Force, which is currently focused on supporting more black farmers in NY (Anu Rangarajan)

    Offering free online classes to all farmers (Anu Rangarajan)

    Awarded Hatch Multi-State Research grant, ‘Barriers to Greater Use of Parks and Green Spaces by Young People of Color’ (Don Rakow)

    Anti-racism in the Outdoors: Resources related to inclusion, diversity, equity and access of black, indigenous and people of color in parks and greenspaces. (Don Rakow)

    Focused on: Indigenous/Native American

    Working to help the Seneca Nation of Indians develop their regulations as they roll out their hemp program (Larry Smart)

    Working with local indigenous groups on maize production (Rebecca Nelson)

    Graduate Program Development

    SIPS-wide activities coordinated by the Chair of the SIPS Directors of Graduate Studies (reported by Mike Scanlon):

    • organization of graduate student Town Hall meetings to discuss student experiences and identify issues where attention is needed.
    • Identification and development of strategies to fund students to attend the SACNAS and MANNRS meeting focused on URM participation in STEM research.
    • Creation or recreation of partnerships with faculty at MSIs and HBCUs to bring faculty and students to Cornell for summer visits
    • Promotion of active participation in Diversity Preview Weekend events

    Field of Horticulture

    Aggressively recruiting for the incoming graduate class, and updated admissions process to better identify top diversity candidates. We received two diversity fellowships for our top two candidates. A third doctoral recruit is a McNair scholar. Overall, our anticipated domestic incoming class is 4 female, 1 male, 1 nonbinary;  plus four international. (reported by Hort DGS Thomas Bjorkman)

    Dropped the requirement for GREs (Horticulture Grad Field)

    Field of Plant Biology

    Time was dedicated for discussion of issues related to the experiences of URMs in our program, with including topics including tokenism, opportunity disparity and inclusion (Mike Scanlon)

    The Field is associated with the NRT program in Digital Plant Science which emphasizes the recruitment of URM students: 4 of the 6 NRT Fellows are URM students. Discussions on relevant topics within the program have been enabled at lunchtime meetings, including a paper on invisible racism in academia. In addition, summer internship agreements with BASF and Corteva were negotiated, through the support of Marius Weigert, in affiliation with the NRT grant that will also leverage the recruitment of URM students.

    Future activities, issues of concern and priorities: Of the incoming cohort in 2020, 3 of the 6 students were URM (50%) and of the 25 current grad students, 7 (28%) are URM and all received Fellowships. However, there has been a disproportionately high attrition rate among the URM student population.  Student retention, in addition to recruitment is a high priority and will be subject to close scrutiny and discussion going forward (Mike Scanlon)

    Advocacy for and mentoring of Latina students, with particular focus on those from Argentina. I have mentored four Argentinean graduate students and supported students, postdocs, and researchers' short visits to my lab from Argentina (Maria Gandolfo)

    Field of Plant Breeding & Genetics

    Our admissions process changed radically for Fall 2021 relative to previous cycles. In October, prior to the application deadline, we revamped our application webpage giving information on how applications would be evaluated, how to improve an application, what evaluation and review timelines would be, and how to apply for a fee waiver. We are still committed to improving that page, but it already makes our process quite transparent. In the past, each faculty member reviewed applications separately and was free to nominate any applicant to our recruitment event. Now, we have an Admissions Committee with five faculty (including the DGS), two postdocs, and one graduate student. In consultation with the DGSs of other fields in the School of Integrative Plant Science (SIPS), we developed a holistic review rubric evaluation. We described High, Medium, and Low scores for each rubric: Academic Preparation; Research Potential; Alignment with Faculty; Contribution to Diversity; Contribution to Community; Maturity and Resilience. Each applicant was evaluated by four faculty and two non-faculty, giving written justification for each rubric score. We short-listed 21 applicants (out of 45), weighting each rubric equally and devoting committee discussion time to applicants close to the cutoff or for whom evaluators disagreed. This process led all six of our applicants interested in a Diversity Fellowship to be short-listed. Each short-listed applicant underwent a structured interview with four participating committee members. The Field faculty received an interview report and recommendation from the committee as to whether to invite the candidate to our recruitment event. We believe that our new process both gives diversity its proper place within excellence and enables our committee members to confront their unconscious biases by giving them time and seeking justification for scores (reported by Jean-Luc Jannink, PBG DGS)

    Additionally, a faculty member has served on the Cornell Presidential Fellowship committee, one of whose objectives is to increase diversity in the pool of postdocs at Cornell (Wojtek Pawlowski)

    Field of Soil & Crop Science

    The SCS graduate field is striving to diversify our graduate program with the following measures (reported by Olena Vatamaniuk, SCS DGS)

    • implemented optional GRA for admitting new students;
    • incorporated the following prompts into the academic statement of purpose to hear from student from disadvantaged and underrepresented backgrounds in STEM:  (1) How your personal background and experiences influenced your decision to pursue a graduate degree. (2) How your personal, academic, and/or professional experiences demonstrate your ability to be both persistent and resilient especially when navigating challenging circumstances. (3) If applicable, provide additional context around any perceived gaps or weaknesses in your academic record
    • Reaching out to students through different outlets (e.g. diversity pre-view weekends; national conferences; BTI REU program)
    • Nominating deserving graduate applicants for Graduate School Fellowships in Support of Diversity
    • As DGS, I meet with students and host Town Hall meetings to nurture culture of inclusion and feeling at home in our graduate field.

    Mentorship of undergraduate and graduate students from under-represented groups (Enid Martinez, Tim Setter, Ying Sun, David Rossiter)



    • An increasingly critical societal issue that is fundamentally linked to global climate change, population growth and environmental degradation, and is arguably at the nexus of all the life sciences, as well as links to many physical science disciplines.
    • Clear associations with all the grand challenges and priorities of SIPS
    • Leverage and enhance the world-renowned Cornell plant and microbial biological collections, living and preserved, and associated expertise affiliated with resources such as the New York Botanical Garden.
    • Linkages to cultural heritage, BIPOC and public engagement
    • A focal point for philanthropic activity, programmatic development, recruitment and teaching
    • Opportunity or collaboration among taxonomists, phylogeneticists, and molecular analyses. Potential for SIPS unique resource campus (Bailey Hortorium plus the CUP Herbarium) - with connections to collections in entomology, lab of O, botanic gardens, etc
    • Biodiversity theme also fits with plant microbiomes and their complex interactions: plant-microbe, microbe-microbe, plant-insect, and multipartite interactions

    Controlled environment agriculture & urban agriculture

    • Hydroponics, cannabis production, engineering breakthroughs in lighting, student and industry interest.
    • Interest in local production, food deserts, and social impacts (racism, poverty, education, nutrition, climate change) of production is driving new efforts in city landscapes

    Plant micropropagation

    • Commercially, interest in plant micropropagation is growing in New York for the commercial production of hemp, hops, and disease-free plants. Student interest is high, and we are starting a new class in Plant Micropropagation for spring semesters.

    Digital Agriculture

    • Knowledge guided machine learning in agriculture and Earth system science
    • AI detection and quantification of soil plant pathogens and organisms
    • Vision technology and robotics in weed management
    • Use of digital tools for plant disease management and intersection of hyperspectral sensing to aid detection of infection and disease development.
    • new data sources such as drones/UAVs and biosensors, integration of and use of GeoAI and machine learning techniques, increasing integration of statistical languages, and open GIS

    Soil chemistry and microbiology

    • Role of micronutrients (Cu) in carbon/nitrogen balance, relationship to plant phenotypes, impact of climate change and nutrient deficiency signaling
    • Soil microbiome analysis as indicator for soil ecological function (i.e. soil health)
    • Biogeochemistry of organic molecules in soils and relation to climate change, agricultural sustainability, food security, and environmental contamination
    • Soil pollution and the soil and climate/hydrosphere
    • Manipulation of microbiome to improve weed management

    Climate change

    • Carbon cycling as it relates to carbon sequestration and energy
    • heat stress and its effects on water requirements of crops, and impacts of drought and flood
    • modeling of various crop production possibilities in the area of climate change
    • Climate change effects on range expansion of agronomic weeds and invasive plants
    • inorganic carbon sequestration using hybrid engineered-natural systems


    Appreciation for the remarkable support, dedication and empathy shown through the breadth of the SIPS community over the last year.


    • Support staff dedication & leadership
    • SIPS staff initiate and lead CALS Chairs Assistants group: This new organization - focused on communication, support, and sharing of best practices - was initiated by SIPS administrative manager Tami Payne and is co-led by SIPS Director’s Assistant Cindy Twardokus


    • Virginia Moore joined as SIPS faculty.
    • New faculty in PPPMB, long overdue
    • New faculty community- wonderful cohort of recently hired junior faculty in SIPS
    • Promotion dossiers submitted for Taryn Bauerle, Neil Mattson, Greg Peck
    • Response of faculty to pandemic restrictions in both teaching and extension, showing true commitment to students and stakeholders


    • Graduate recruitment up with the strong efforts of our DGSs
    • Coordination of activities among graduate fields


    • Number of programs and workshops organized by SIPS focused on DEI
    • This spring a 7-week 1 cr module PLSCI5030 Hemp Breeding and Genetics was taught for the first time
    • PPPMB: Return of 4020 thanks to Sarah and Maricelis!
    • Continued growth of the MPS program
    • SIPS plenary seminars


    • Successfully released Cornell’s first spring two row malting barley variety, Excelsior Gold, in record time.  4 years from the first cross to the production of Foundation seed.
    • $2mil grant from the USDA OREI program funded to develop Value Added Grains for Local and Regional food systems
    • Cornell will virtually host the 2021 National Association of Plant Breeders Annual Meeting from August 15-19, 2021.
    • Breeding insight had several team members, Moira Sheehan included, participate in the National Douglas Day 2021 Transcribe-a-thon in which we helped curate and transcribe newspaper articles of Mary Church Terrell live as a women's right advocate, particularly for women of color.  This even inspired several of us to donate additional time transcribing newspaper ads for runaway slaves for the Library of Congress. Transcription is a joy because it revisits historical documents in today's world and reinforces again and again how bad situations were for oppressed people.  It can be heart-wrenching for the same reason.
    • Efforts are underway to initiate a hop breeding program at Cornell AgriTech
    • New Assistant Professor, K. Gold was able to attract funding from NASA to explore pathogen dissemination between continents.
    • Critical research plans were able to enable many of the PPPMB programs to continue throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Facilities & equipment

    • Long overdue renovation of Plant Science
    • Ithaca –AgriTech coordination
    • Equipment funds were able to purchase a bioanalyzer
    • HTP funds were able to support two imaging spectroscopy units (K. Gold’s program).


    • Cornell needs a functional plant transformation facility
    • Academic burnout and stress among all levels of SIPS. The unequal effects of COVID-related stress on different demographics and subsets of the academic community are evident and public recognition of such issues is important.
    • COVID related stress, especially on graduate students
    • Ongoing: quality of water available in the Barton Lab Glasshouse Range (to be rectified in 2021).
    • Delay of the Cornell AgriTech summer scholars program may decrease graduate student applicants in the next few years.
    • Retirements and loss of faculty expertise.  In the next five years, nearly half of all Horticulture faculty will likely retire
    • Balancing new programs in urban ag with traditional horticulture stakeholders