2022 Annual Report Narrative

Please summarize progress toward implementation of your unit’s DEI strategic plan, including any next steps for the coming year. Please note any support that would be essential for your unit to realize its DEI goals. Your plan should address initiatives for Faculty (tenure-track and RTE), staff, and graduate students.  For undergraduates, provide an overview of how you are working to build a more inclusive environment and pedagogy in your courses and major/minors. Reports will be used by the college and Associate Dean of Diversity and Inclusion Chelsea Specht to prioritize training and support for departmental/unit Leads for Diversity and Inclusion (LDI). 



  • Two “Conversations that Connect us” events held on Ithaca and Geneva campuses- Fall 2021
  • Workshop for faculty on designing inclusive syllabi for courses, and reflections on developing inclusive pedagogy - January 2022
  • Engagement with Human Resources to review practices for recruitment and hiring of non-academic staff in CALS - Spring 2021
  • Update of SIPS website to include Accessibility resources on DEI page, including link to the Cornell Accessibility Resources page.
  • Allies for Indigenous Reconciliation has begun to develop connections with AIISP and their CU&ID project

Ongoing Projects/Goals for the Next Year

  • The Council recognizes the immediate need for better communication between the various SIPS communities, as well as education/training on inclusive mentoring practices between faculty and graduate students, post docs, and staff.  The Graduate Student, faculty, and Post doc working groups are engaging to review current practices and evaluate potential educational programs (on campus and off campus) for mentors and mentees.  Necessary funding for these programs is also being evaluated.
  • The Graduate Student working group is developing a climate survey for SIPS graduate Students
  • The Curriculum working group continues to evaluate the SIPS Curriculum to fulfill CALS and SIPS learning objectives on DEI, as well as develop workshops to develop Inclusive pedagogy in teaching.
  • The Allies for Indigenous Reconciliation working group continues to build connections and advocate with Indigenous groups and units on campus

Please include in your response to this question a copy of your unit’s DEI strategic plan as part of your annual report. If your unit has not yet completed a DEI strategic plan, provide a timetable for completion.  The included DEI plan does not count towards the 5-page limit to the narrative.

SIPS Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council Strategic Plan

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.

The Council will coordinate efforts with the Cornell College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Diversity and Inclusion Committee, the Graduate School Office of Inclusion and Student Engagement, and other relevant entities.

Council Composition and Structure

Appointment to Council

  • Those requesting appointment will submit a request for membership to the chair, including a statement of interest, reason(s) for joining the council, as well as which working group(s) they wish to join.
  • Requests will be reviewed by the chair and the council.
  • Appointment to the council is for a 1 year term, with possible reappointment. 
  • Council members are expected to be active participants in at least one working group.

Council Leadership

The council is chaired by the SIPS Chair of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. The chair will be appointed/elected within the council and approved by Director and serve a term of two years with possible reappointment. Chair of the council will be a member of the council for a minimum of one year prior to appointment as chair.  Alternatively, a new member of the council may serve as co-chair of the council during 1st year of membership.  The chair may be a graduate student, staff, faculty or postdoc.

The Chair will serve the following duties:

  • Serve as chair of the SIPS D&I Council
  • Represent the council on the SIPS Executive Committee (EC)
  • Serve as the CALS Lead for Diversity and Inclusion for SIPS, and join all required meetings and events required of this role
  • Be a primary point of contact for issues/concerns related to diversity and inclusion at SIPS, and bring those concerns to the council, Director and EC.
  • Maintain SIPS D&I council meeting minutes and agendas
  • Keep up to date on university-wide diversity and inclusion efforts to bring them to the council and Director for consideration and alignment

Working Groups

Working Groups will focus on specific action areas within SIPS. 

Each working group is expected to have regular meetings, and report progress/activity at monthly general council meetings.

Graduate Student Recruitment and Retention

This group focuses on Inclusive recruitment and mentoring of graduate students and issues affecting the Graduate student community in SIPS.

Faculty  (RTE and Tenure track) Recruitment, Promotion, and Support

This group focuses on inclusive mentoring, development, and retention of tenure-track and RTE faculty in SIPS.

Post Doc Recruitment, Promotion, and Support

This group focuses on Inclusive recruitment, career development and mentoring of post doc associates and issues affecting the Post doc community in SIPS.

Academic Support, Technical and Custodial Staff Recruitment, Promotion, and Support

This group focuses on Inclusive recruitment, development, education and mentoring of non-academic staff in SIPS.

Curriculum Development and Review

This group focuses on inclusive development of the SIPS curriculum, learning outcomes, and development of inclusive teaching practices.

Disability Awareness

This group focuses on accessibility issues for all members of SIPS, and advocating for an accessible, inclusive work environment.

Allies for Indigenous Reconciliation

This group is focused on developing connections between SIPS and indigenous communities, educating the SIPS community to issues in indigenous communities, and advocating for the recruitment of indigenous faculty, staff and students

Communications/ Educational Resources and Outreach

This group works with other working groups to provide technical assistance in developing communications and educational materials.

SIPS Strategic Plan and Governance

This group focuses on DEI issues pertaining to the SIPS strategic plan and SIPS governance.

    Is your unit facing any major challenges to meet the needs of undergraduate programs that you support (please include majors supported solely by your unit and shared majors)?  What challenges do you have with respect to supporting popular courses that draw students from outside your major? What are three classes that your faculty would like to teach but don't?

    Challenges to meet the needs of Plant Science (PS), Ag Science (AS), and OUB undergraduate programs


    • With faculty retirements, there are courses that are critical for PS and AS. These are listed as ‘highest priority’ courses below.
    • Finding undergraduate advisors has also been difficult with faculty retirements. We have a core group of faculty that advise – generally in one of the three majors. However, the needs are currently greater than our capacity (particularly for OUB).
    • TA support is critical for courses outside the Plant and Ag Sciences major. Adding additional TAs would be very beneficial.
    • Courses faculty would like to teach but don’t: we have six courses listed under ‘high priority’ at this link, three of which are: Spanish for Plant Scientists; Statistics for Plant Scientists; and Breeding Clonally/Asexually Propagated Crops

    Highest priority

    Field crop systems - A course for both plant and ag science majors. A comprehensive plant science major needs a field crop systems offering. (Result of Setter retirement)

    Landscape management - How to manage plantings in urban and managed landscapes. The type of things that Nina taught. Not sure who will pick it up going forward. If we don't get a position filled, this will be a huge hole in our curriculum.

    Restoration Ecology - A popular course that bridged many disciplines within the plant sciences and landscape architecture - very applied. Used to be taught by Tom Whitlow (retired) and Todd Bittner (too expensive since not on our payroll).

    Medicinal plants and microbes- Extremely popular subject, but have no 4000 level courses, nor sufficient numbers of courses in this domain to offer a legitimate concentration. Existing lower level courses are currently taught by a part-time Sr. Lecturer that does a great job, but we need more capacity.

    Geographic Information System (GIS) and Geospacial Applications  - These courses are in high demand from students across the University. Because of retirements, we currently have adjunct faculty teaching the courses, and need additional capacity

    High priority

    Field botany/Plant identification in various landscapes - We really don't have a course where students learn to identify plants in the field. Nina's class focused on ornamental plants, but we could use a course that focuses on plant ID in various types of landscapes (urban, old growth forests, agricultural fields, secondary growth forests).

    Breeding clonally/asexually-propagated crops - Given the outstanding expertise at Geneva, we ought to be offering our students an opportunity to learn how this is done.

    Cultivating the Small Farm Dream - Anu used to teach a course like this and it was quite popular. This course would help the Ag Science major as it could blend animal and plant sciences in a single course.

    Ethical issues related to plant science - Addresses a learning outcome we are supposed to provide our majors. Leah is planning to teach such a course.

    Spanish for Plant Scientists - Training in “applied” Spanish has been regularly requested by students traveling to Central and South America for research or classes. An instructor of record is needed and a curriculum needs to be developed, but the actual teaching/conversing can be done by a native-speaking graduate student with a teaching assistantship.

    Statistics for Plant Scientists - A statistics course that matches the needs and interests of the plant science major, directed towards experimental design, ANOVA and regression.

    CALS is currently experimenting with a college-wide cohort hire.  From the feedback collected thus far with the road-mapping project, it seems likely that the college will want to implement additional cluster hires. These future clusters would support topical areas identified as areas of strategic growth for CALS.  What are your thoughts on strategies for cohort and cluster hiring?

    The faculty renewal process in SIPS started in October 2021, coinciding with the completion of our strategic plan. As part of the SIPS process for identifying positions to request from CALS, we generated ideas for clusters within SIPS, and these could be extended to CALS. The process of identifying cluster-hire opportunities has enabled faculty to be innovative and forward-thinking, leading to exciting outcomes.

    1. Urban Systems Cluster. Positions in the Urban System Cluster address scientific questions of increasing societal importance. Specifically, innovations in research, teaching and extension will impact how urban ecosystems respond to climate change; these include stormwater management and flooding intensities, more pronounced urban heat island effects and the need for equitable tree shade and cooling in marginalized communities, habitat for urban wildlife and supporting biodiversity, and agroforestry developments that service local food justice needs. Positions include: Community Engaged Urban Forestry, Urban Plant Pathology, Urban Plant Breeding, Urban Soils, Ethnobotany.
    2. Plant-Microbe Health Innovations Cluster. Climate change is creating shifts in plant disease incidence and severity, as well as in the distribution and nature of beneficial plant-microbe associations. For crop productivity to keep pace with food security challenges, while also using fewer resources, creative collaborations and state-of-the-art approaches will be required. Future scientists will need to coordinate efforts and integrate molecular- through global ecosystem- level inquiries to develop innovative and robust strategies to enhance plant health and to deepen our understanding of plant-microbe interactions. New courses that will be taught include: 1) The plant microbiome; 2) Feeding the planet: Plants, microbes and climate change; 3) Lessons from microbes: Biotechnology, public policy & equity. Positions in this cluster include: 1) Principles of plant immunity in a changing climate; 2) Evolution and ecological consequences of microbes in agroecosystem health; 3) Plant-microbe synthetic biology and plant resilience. Each position was designed to fit within other SIPS-wide clusters. We must also include a plant scientist in the infection biology/immunity radical collaboration, and these positions fit that model
    3. Biodiversity Genomics Cluster. The biodiversity of our planet is under severe threat from the cumulative effects of multiple global issues, including overpopulation, human activity-induced habitat disturbance and climate change. The impact of this biodiversity loss is felt across different scales – from plant adaptive processes to ecosystem interactions. We envision a Plant Architecture and Environmental Adaptation cluster hire of new faculty positions that will address these challenges through innovative research, creative new courses, and extension /outreach. Positions include: 1) Genome evolution and phylogenomics; 2) Population genomics; 3) Experimental evolution of plant/microbe interactions; 4) Biodiversity of anthropogenic ecosystems.
    4. Plant Architecture and Environmental Adaptations Cluster. Natural ecosystems, our agricultural systems and our urban landscapes are all underpinned by plant architectures. The factors that underly these architectures are myriad, spanning molecular interactions, intercellular forces, signaling and control networks that are orchestrated by biomechanical and developmental variables, and dynamic changes in the abiotic environment and interactions with other organisms. Plant architectures, shapes and forms, across scales from subcellular to inter-organismal interactions, are critical determinants of cellular function, diversification and evolution, crop optimization in agricultural systems, the design and sustainability of urban landscapes and adaptive capacity in continuously challenging aerial and soil environments. Positions include: 1) Principles of plant architecture and adaptation to environmental stimuli; 2) Evolutionary shaping of plant form and function; 3) Designing plants for agricultural and urban ecosystems; 4) Synthetic plant systems and the 21st century bio-economy.

    During the SIPS Faculty Renewal Committee deliberations, we also discussed the idea of
    a CALS-wide cohort hire on modeling. In SIPS we have position descriptions for
    modeling that collectively span the cellular to the global scale. Our recent hire, Yiqi Luo,
    is an outstanding nucleus for this cluster, and there is a great need for additional diverse
    and complementary faculty in this conceptually broad area.

    2022 SIPS positions

    The two position descriptions that were ranked highest by the SIPS Faculty Renewal Committee were the following. These positions both fit soundly into the SIPS strategic plan and are critical to stakeholders in New York and beyond.

    These were followed closely by three other positions, two of which are key to our Urban Agriculture cluster. This is the perfect time to engage in a cluster hire for urban agriculture. There is interest, available funding opportunities, and lots of opportunities for student engagement. Additionally, these positions on the Ithaca campus will dovetail with positions at LIHREC and with CCE in NY City and across the state.

    Five other positions evaluated by the FRC are:

    Please list awards that your tenure track and research/teaching/extension (RTE) faculty have received this year, as well as nominations generated by your unit, including award status (pending/awarded/not received), if available. For shared units, kindly indicate the college affiliation of the faculty member. What is your process for identifying awardees (i.e., do you have a committee or a point person responsible for nominations)?

    [Note that awards listed include all for 2021 and those known for 2022. Nominations are included in the text document but are not listed on the website]

    Faculty Awards

    Margaret Frank FFAR New Innovator in Food and Agriculture 2021

    Terrence Robinson ASHS Fellow 2021

    Chelsea Specht OISE Faculty Champion – Senior Faculty Award 2021

    Adam Bogdanove Web of Science Highly Cited Researcher 2021

    Johannes Lehmann Web of Science Highly Cited Researcher 2021

    Mark Sorrells Web of Science Highly Cited Researcher 2021

    Marvin Pritts Weiss Teaching Award2021

    Mike Gore Cornell President’s Award for Employee Excellence "Culture of Belonging" 2021

    Juliet Carroll CALS Research and Extension Award 2021

    Joss Rose CALS Research and Extension Award 2021

    Greg Peck GPSA Teaching, Advising, & Mentoring Award 2021

    Sarah Evanega Borlaug CAST Communication Award 2021

    Dan Buckley American Society for Microbiology 2021

    Maureen Hanson Elected to the National Academy of Sciences 2021

    Maureen Hanson AAAS Fellow 2021

    Mark Sorrells top ten Outstanding Journal articles in Crop Breeding and Genetics 2021

    Mike Gore top ten outstanding journal articles in Crop Breeding and Genetics 2021 (2 articles)

    Mike Gore top outstanding Journal article in The Plant Genome 2021

    Adrienne Roeder American Society of Plant Biology’s Charles Albert Shull Award 2021

    Ale Gandolfo Donald Kaplan Memorial Lecture at Botany 2021 

    Ronnie Coffman  African Plant Breeders Association (APBA) Distinguished Award for Meritorious Service 2021

    Mark Fuchs APS Fellow 2021

    Staff Awards

    Chase Mayers Core Value Staff Award 2021

    Michele Blackmore Core Value Staff Award 2021

    Tami Payne Core Value Staff Award 2021

    Karin Jantz Core Value Staff Award 2021

    Eli Bloom  PPPMB USDA-NIFA postdoctoral fellowship 2021

    Scott Morris Musgrave Award 2021

    Graduate & Student Awards 

    Marina Mann PPPMB USDA-NIFA predoctoral fellowship 2021

    Liz Mahood PB USDA-NIFA predoctoral fellowship 2021

    Brennan Hyden Hort USDA-NIFA predoctoral fellowship 2021

    Evan Long PBG USDA-NIFA predoctoral fellowship 2021

    Cassandra Wattenburger SCS USDA-NIFA predoctoral fellowship 2021

    Rachelle LaCroix SCS USDA-NIFA predoctoral fellowship 2021

    Tetiana-Olena Zavodna SCS USDA-NIFA predoctoral fellowship 2021

    Aimee Schulz PBG NSF GRFP award 2021

    Michael Ortiz PPPMB NSF GRFP award 2021

    Stephanie Priesing PPPMB NSF GRFP honorable mention 2021

    Erin Farmer PBG NSF GRFP award 2021

    Marlie Lukash PBG NSF GRFP honorable mention 2021

    Annelise Viera PB NSF GRFP award 2021

    Michelle Heeney PB NSF GRFP award 2021

    Greg Vogel PPPMB Honorable Mention Awards for Best Graduate Student Paper Award of Phytopathology 2021

    Stephanie Priesing PPPMB Ford Foundation pre-doctoral fellowship honorable mention 2021

    Ellie Taagen PBG Borlaug Global Rust Initiative Women in Triticum Award 2021

    Liang Cheng Hort 2021 ASHS Outstanding Graduate Horticulture Student 2021

    Maddie Flasco PPPMB Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant 2021

    Fernando Romero Galvan PPPMB NASA FINESST Graduate Research Fellowship 2021

    Breanne Kisselstein PPPMB SUNY Provost Diversity Fellowship 2021

    Samantha Bosco Hort Bouchet Graduate Honor Society 2021

    Kevin Ahern PBG Sellew Family Fellowship 2021

    Samantha Bosco Hort OISE Social Justice Award 2021

    Kavya Krishnan SCS OISE Excellence in Leadership Award 2021

    Kavya Krishnan SCS MacDonald Musgrave Graduate Student Award 2021

    Joshua Garcia Hort Bouchet Graduate Honor Society 2022

    Adriana Hernandez PB Bouchet Graduate Honor Society 2022

    Hannah Thomas PB Barbara McClintock Award 2022

    Jesus Martinez-Gomez PB Barbara McClintock Award 2022

    Shanthanu Krishna Kumar Hort Barbara McClintock Award 2022

    Jiaming Wen SCS Barbara McClintock Award 2022

    George Stack PBG Barbara McClintock Award 2022

    Jacob Toth PBG Barbara McClintock Award 2022

    Breanne Kisselstein PPPMB Create Change: Health Leadership Award 2022

    Andrew Scheldorf Hort George Washington Carver Scholar 2022

    Maria Gannett Hort Gerald O. Mott Award 2022

    Undergraduate Awards - Plant Science and Ag Science Majors

    Isabelle Amlicke Ring Memorial Award 2021

    Isabelle Amlicke Academic Excellence Award 2021

    Jessica Lee Academic Excellence Award 2021

    Shelby Haley ASHS Outstanding Undergraduate Horticulture Student 2021

    Elise Boisvert ASHS Collegiate Scholar 2021

    Lindsay Brown ASHS Collegiate Scholar 2021

    Grace Hageman ASHS Collegiate Scholar 2021

    Vanessa Lau ASHS Collegiate Scholar 2021

    Vanessa Lau Kenneth Post Award 2021

    Jonah Helmer Henry Schenkel Jr. Memorial Fund Award 2021


    Please list all ongoing activities in your unit related to the development or improvement of professional masters programs and activities with eCornell, and any new ideas about how your unit might engage in the future (e.g. certificate programs, online courses, online or blended MS programs, or conferences).   


    Ongoing activities related to professional masters programs and eCornell

    We continue to expand and enhance our MPS offerings. Dan Buckley has taken over from Marvin Pritts as DGS of the Integrative Plant Science graduate field – which exclusively houses our MPS programs. As you can see from our MPS website, there are many opportunities and concentrations within our graduate field. In May 2022, we will have a specific graduation event for the MPS graduate field to highlight their accomplishments. Moving forward, we want to increase the cohort-building activities as these students are only at Cornell for a year.

    SIPS now has several eCornell course offerings including Medicinal Plants, Hemp Breeding & Genetics, Urban Eden, and Wines & Vines. It would be nice to have an easier way to know if the courses are well-subscribed and if there is feedback. This year, we are hiring a lecturer to develop two additional courses; Hemp production, and Hemp Processing.

    Are there any other issues (particular joys and/or concerns) that we should be aware of?  Please include noteworthy research, teaching, and extension accomplishments.



    • New faculty that have joined over the past year are amazing.
    • Candidates from the CALS cohort hire are fantastic.
    • Plant Science building renovation is moving forward, and that is exciting.
    • Pleased that our new MPS programs have been successful.
    • Connections with stakeholders across NYS remain strong and vibrant. Extension faculty and staff are making use of many different technologies to connect with growers.


    • Faculty retirements, loss of expertise and capacity for research, teaching and extension.
    • Covid-related burnout and stress in students, faculty, and staff across SIPS.
    • We need to hire directors for our plant transformation facility (SIPS innovation hub), and plant/soil environmental analyses (CNAL/LEAA).
    • The Integrative Plant Science graduate field houses all our MPS students. The CALS return of $5K per MPS student is inadequate to fund salaries of lecturers teaching courses, faculty mentoring (supplies for projects), and cohort building activities.