2023 Annual Report Narrative

Over the last few years all academic units and programs in CALS have been proactive around Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion activities.  Many have already created or are in the process of creating a DEI strategic plan. Please summarize your progress on these efforts, specifically noting who has been actively engaged in this work in your unit or program, what information and data you have gathered (belonging surveys, demographic data, etc.). Please share how have these data and information guided your unit or program goals and strategies and how specifically you are implementing your DEI strategic plan. Finally, please share any progress you have already seen as a result of your DEI strategic plan and activities.

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:

Implementation: The SIPS DEI Council continues to work implementing the DEI strategic plan and have engagement across the School. The chair of the DEI council is a member of the SIPS Executive Committee and provides updates to the group at our bi-weekly meetings. To ensure that we have initiatives for Faculty (tenure-track and RTE), staff, and graduate students as well as to build a more inclusive environment and pedagogy in our courses, we have developed nine working groups listed below. Each group meets at least once per month.

  • 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 TT) 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 The Allies for Indigenous Reconciliation working group has developed a vision statement for a Tenure-Track Position in Indigenous Plant Science, inclusive of potential research topics and synergies with existing programs. This working group continues to build connections and advocate with Indigenous groups and units on campus.
  • 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.


  • The Graduate Student group organized a “Connecting in SIPS: Graduate Student Peer Support” event at the Big Red Barn, attended by 70 SIPS graduate students. Discussion topics included work/life balance, navigating advising relationships, and imposter syndrome. Students generated ideas for how SIPS can better support students and how students can better support each other.
  • The Graduate Student Group organized the Eloy Rodriguez Diversity Equity and Inclusion Travel Award, which funded four graduate students and one postdoc to attend diversity-related conferences (including SACNAS, Out in STEM, and MANRRS) and represent Cornell graduate programs.
  • The Graduate Student Group coordinated SIPS DI Council representation at the SIPS recruitment weekend graduate student panel.
  • The Graduate Student Group consulted with Sara Hernández and several external organizations about conducting a SIPS climate survey to assess DEI issues in the school and create an action plan. This was temporarily tabled in favor of using existing data, including published studies and the Cornell Doctoral Experience Survey, though planning a SIPS-specific survey in the future is a goal.
  • Carmen Enid Martínez was appointed as the new LDI representative for SIPS.

Ongoing Projects/Goals for the Next Year

  • Summarizing feedback on the SIPS recruitment process from admissions committees and graduate students in each section.
  • Planning faculty mentorship training workshops in collaboration with the Office of Faculty Development and Diversity.
  • Hosting future “Connecting in SIPS” events, expanding to include Faculty and Post-doc events.
  • 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 promote inclusive pedagogy in teaching.
  • The Allies for Indigenous Reconciliation working group has developed a vision statement for a Tenure-Track Position in Indigenous Plant Science, inclusive of potential research topics and synergies with existing programs. This working group continues to build connections and advocate with Indigenous groups and units on campus.
  • The Council is currently reviewing the organization of working groups, to streamline efforts and increase productivity.

Do you currently have, or do you anticipate, needing access to servers or an equivalent computational resource specifically for faculty to teach computation-based courses to students? Please provide an indication of current and future needs, including, if possible, course name and number, instructor name, and enrollment. For each course, please write a few words about the needs.

PLBIO 4000/6000: Concepts and techniques in computational biology 

Spring every year (4 credits). Instructor: Gaurav Moghe. Enrollment: 24. 

This course is geared towards graduate students and advanced biology undergraduates seeking a better understanding of computational biology. Lectures will be a combination of presentations, paper discussions and hands-on sessions, all of which will have a significant component of plant science, but students from non-plant fields are also encouraged to register. Students will learn to work in a Unix environment, code using Python/R, and deploy tools for genome assembly, RNA-seq data analysis, local and global sequence alignment, protein domain searching using Hidden Markov Models, phylogenetic reconstruction, metabolomic analysis, and machine learning. Lectures will cover the algorithmic concepts underlying popular tools. The students will also learn practical aspects of implementing these tools in their own research using Cornell facilities. 

PLBRG 7170: Quantitative Genetics in Plant Breeding 

Spring every year (4 credits). Instructor: Kelly Robbins, Jean-Luc Jannink. Enrollment: 10.

This course will provide students with a solid foundation in quantitative genetics theory, as applied to the field of plant and animal breeding, introduce students to modern-day modeling approaches, simulation tools and applications of genomic selection. While the methodologies of plant and animal breeding are distinct in many ways, the core principles are the same, and this course will cover topics in a way that is inclusive of animal breeding applications. 

PLSCS/NTRES 6200: Spatial Modeling and Analysis 

Spring every year (4 credits). Instructor: David Rossiter Enrollment: 13 

Theory and practice of applying geo-spatial data for resource inventory and analysis, biophysical process modeling, and land surveys. Emphasizes use and evaluation of spatial analytical methods applied to agronomic and environmental systems and processes. Laboratory section is used to process, analyze, and visualize geo-spatial data, ending in a comprehensive student project. 

PLBIO 4400: Phylogenetic Systematics 

Spring, odd years (3 credits). Instructor: Jacob Landis. Enrollment: 10 

Basic and advanced theory and methods of phylogenetic analysis. Introduces students to cladistic analysis using parsimony and gain experience with computer-aided analysis of taxonomic data, including both morphological and molecular data sources. Topics include applications of phylogenetic methods to biogeography and evolutionary studies. 

In addition, there are courses offered by the USAID-funded Innovation Lab for Crop Improvement catering to 1890 Minority Serving Institutions and global innovation centers in Malawi, Costa Rica, Uganda and Senegal on their Learning Hub, which could benefit from a permanent position on a server. A new faculty hire (Yu Jiang, Horticulture) works on machine learning of remote sensing and drone data and will be interested in using the server for teaching high-dimensional data analyses.  

  • For hiring tenure-track faculty, CALS engaged in a college-wide inclusive excellence cohort search in 2021-22 and expanded on this framework for the targeted moonshot initiatives with those searches beginning later this year. The cohort-based hiring initiatives are designed to complement other more traditional hiring mechanisms in units.  Please reflect on how you see your program interfacing with our recently completed cohort search and any of the recently announced moonshot hiring plans.

The hiring processes around the DEI cohort and the Moonshots brought people together around ‘big ideas’ and stimulated the coalescence of several working groups.  Even Moonshot ideas that were not chosen for cohort recruitment efforts have inspired their members and led to on-going interaction.  For example, the ‘Green Cities’ team has expanded and has plans to convene and collaborate.  The ‘Agroecology’ team has also remained active and keen to continue the conversations that were initiated by the Moonshot process. Some of the positions envisaged by these teams will be proposed for other recruitments. More broadly, the engagement of faculty from across the five sections of SIPS around the four SIPs Grand Challenges and our strategic plan has catalyzed their integration into a more cohesive community, and paved the way for a new SIPS-wide process for identifying faculty positions. This has been a great success! We suggest that CALS develop a set of guidelines and expectations for the Moonshot hires. Important questions to be addressed include whether representatives from each of the participating units for a Moonshot should be included in the search for each position; how promotion and tenure should be assessed when faculty hires truly straddle disciplines; and how continuity of a cohort will be maintained and assessed across a multi-year hiring span.

SIPS awardees are often identified by discipline, as many awards are coordinated through scientific societies. For CALS or University awards, these are discussed at the Executive committee to ensure strength of the nomination. In addition to the TT/RTE faculty awards below, you can find the full list of SIPS awards here. Plans are underway to form a SIPS Nominations Committee to improve the effectiveness and scope of the awards nominations process.


  • Kerik Cox - Lee M. Hutchins Award (2022), American Phytopathological Society
  • Alan Lakso - International Society for Horticultural Science Fellow
  • Kerik Cox - GPSA Faculty Teaching, Advising, and Mentorship Award
  • Mark Sorrells - Clarivate Web of Science Highly Cited Researcher for 2022
  • Susan McCouch - Clarivate Web of Science Highly Cited Researcher for 2022
  • Johannes Lehmann - Clarivate Web of Science Highly Cited Researcher for 2022
  • Yiqi Luo - Clarivate Web of Science Highly Cited Researcher for 2022
  • Katie Gold - Affinito-Stewart research grant from President’s Council of Cornell Women (PCCW)
  • Joyce Onyenedum - NSF CAREER Award
  • Mike Gore - 2022 cotton genetics research award
  • Tom Silva - SUNY Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Teaching
  • Kathie Hodge - Weiss Award for Teaching and Mentoring
  • Gary Bergstrom - CALS Career Accomplishment Award
  • Ale Gandolfo - Women's Leadership Initiative Leading Ladies Award
  • Maureen Hanson - Innovation Award from the International Society of Photosynthesis Research
  • Dan Buckley - SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching
  • Gary Bergstrom - Northeast Division-APS Award of Merit
  • Greg Martin - National Academy of Science
  • Mike Gore - Crop Science Society of America Fellow
  • Mike Gore - AAAS Fellow
  • Bill Miller - ASHS Fellow
  • Lailiang Cheng - ASHS Fellow
  • Karen Snover-Clift - National Plant Diagnostic Network Lifetime Achievement Award
  • Karen Snover-Clift - NIFA Partnership Award to Boxwood Blight Insight Group (BBIG) for Program Improvement Through Global Engagement
  • Mark Bridgen - Elected national president of Pi Alpha Xi
  • Bruce Reisch - Outstanding Achievement Award - American Society for Enology and Viticulture”
  • Margery Daughtrey - NIFA Partnership Award to Boxwood Blight Insight Group (BBIG) for Program Improvement Through Global Engagement


  • Craig Cramer - SUNY Chancellor Awards for Excellence in Classified Service
  • Tara Reed - Mission Possible President's Award
  • Sandra Wayman - MacDonald-Musgrave Staff Award
  • Cindy Twardokus - MacDonald-Musgrave Faculty/Staff Award
  • Star Gao - Community Builder Award from Johnson School of Management


  • Joshua Garcia - Bouchet Graduate Honor Society
  • Adriana Hernandez - Bouchet Graduate Honor Society
  • Hannah Thomas - Barbara McClintock Award
  • Jesus Martinez-Gomez - Barbara McClintock Award
  • Shanthanu Krishna Kumar - Barbara McClintock Award
  • Jiaming Wen - Barbara McClintock Award
  • George Stack - Barbara McClintock Award
  • Jacob Toth - Barbara McClintock Award
  • Breanne Kisselstein - Create Change: Health Leadership Award
  • Andrew Scheldorf - George Washington Carver Scholar
  • Maria Gannett - Gerald O. Mott Award
  • George Stack - ASHS Outstanding grad award
  • Stephen Stresow - ASHS Outstanding Undergraduate Horticulture Student
  • Jess Choi - Exemplary Service Award- Advanced Career Student
  • Joshua Garcia - Excellence in Leadership
  • Andrew Scheldorf - Excellence in Leadership
  • Madeleine Dumas - Thressa & Earl Stadtman Fellowship
  • Seren Villwock - Schmittau-Novak Small Grants
  • Morgan Irons - Schmittau-Novak Small Grants
  • Mariana Devault - Schmittau-Novak Small Grants
  • Maylin Murdock - Schmittau-Novak Small Grants
  • Shivranjani Baruah - Schmittau-Novak Small Grants
  • Anna Hermanns - Schmittau-Novak Small Grants
  • Hongrui Wang - Schmittau-Novak Small Grants
  • Ilexis Chu-Jacoby - Schmittau-Novak Small Grants
  • Elise Boisvert - Merrill Presidential Scholars Award (undergraduate)
  • Elise Boisvert - CALS Academic Excellence Award (undergraduate)
  • Alice Gevorgyan - CALS Academic Excellence Award (undergraduate)
  • Martin Alani - NSF-GRFP
  • Ilexis Chu-Jacoby - NSF-GRFP
  • Samuel Herr - NSF-GRFP
  • Seren Villwock - NSF-GRFP honorable mention
  • Maylin Murdock - NSF-NRT Digital Plant Science Fellowship
  • David Hickok - NSF-NRT Digital Plant Science Fellowship
  • Bryce Askey  - NSF-NRT Digital Plant Science Fellowship
  • Cesar Galan - 2022 BOTANY Conference as a Preparing Leaders and Nurturing Tomorrow’s Scientists (PLANTS) Undergraduate Scholar
  • Jonah Helmer - ASHS Scholars’ Undergraduate Scholarship Award ($1500)
  • George Stack - ASHS Award
  • Stephen Stresow - ASHS Undergraduate Award
  • Avery MacLean - Robinson-Appel Humanitarian Award for undergraduates
  • Shitaye Megerssa - Women in Triticum Early Career Award
  • Quinn Johnson - Cornell Graduate School Dean's Scholar
  • Hana Barrett - Cornell Graduate School Dean's Scholar
  • Alexander Yore - Cornell Graduate School Dean's Scholar
  • Anthony Holmes - Cornell Graduate School Dean's Scholar
  • Luna Natoli - Cornell Graduate School Dean's Scholar
  • Zafer Bestas - 1st place presentation ASA meeting
  • Urial Menalled - 1st place presentation ASA meeting
  • Urial Menalled - Crop Science Graduate Student Scholarship
  • Jake Allen - 2nd place presentation ASA meeting
  • Annika Rowland - 3rd place presentation ASA meeting
  • Urial Menalled - MacDOnald-Musgrave student award
  • Zafer Bestas - MacDOnald-Musgrave student award
  • Jiaming WenHsien - Wu and Daisy Yen Wu Scholarship

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


  • SIPS community members are thinking broadly beyond their home sections, as the school adopts a new organizational structure.
  • The Moonshot initiative and alignment with the SIPS Grand Challenges has inspired new transdisciplinary collaborations and partnerships within the school and across the college.
  • Discussions are ongoing about several new centers (e. g. Cornell Crop Improvement Center) that will provide frameworks to coordinate and highlight SIPS research and engagement with the enormous range of current and potential external stakeholders.
  • Phase 1 of the Plant Science Building renovation is imminent: great excitement!
  • Engagement with the many and diverse SIPS stakeholders across NYS, nationally, and internationally, is bridging foundational and applied research and realizing our ‘global to local and back’ extension vision.
  • We have welcomed new members of our outstanding cadre of faculty over the last year.
  • Our students and staff are resilient and creative and regrouping after the pandemic.


  • Insufficient graduate student fellowship support is a major concern.
  • Faculty retirements and associated capacity for research, teaching and extension.
  • Aging growth chamber, greenhouse, and core seed technology infrastructure.
  • The Integrative Plant Science graduate field houses all our MPS students. The CALS return per MPS student is inadequate to fund salaries of lecturers teaching courses, faculty mentoring, and cohort building activities.