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Discovery that Connects

From fundamental insights to better plants, sustainably grown, serving the world

Students explore strategies for community engagement

Chris Smart with PLSCI3940 students
Chris Smart with PLSCI3940 students

A new course in the Plant Sciences curriculum is providing students with skills to communicate their knowledge and enthusiasm to diverse community partners.  The brainchild of extension leaders in the School of Integrative Plant Science, PLSCI3940 Skills for Public Engagement provides students with outreach skills they’ll need as professionals and introduces them to a network of experts and mentors.

Instructor Chris Smart (SIPS Section of Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology) is experienced in community outreach through her extension program on vegetable diseases and long involvement in K-12 outreach. With assistance from Cornell Cooperative Extension, Smart has brought in guest speakers like Jennifer Tiffany (Executive Director of CCE New York City), Rebecca Nelson (SIPS Section of PPPMB faculty and Scientific Director for The McKnight Foundation’s Collaborative Crop Research Program), and Rick Bonney (Outreach Coordinator for the Cornell Lab of Ornithology). Smart comments that the diverse guests have emphasized many common themes including the importance of establishing a trust-based partnership, the value of two-way communication, and commitment to excellence.

Students in PLSCI3940 range from first year undergraduates to graduate students and draw from students in the plant sciences, biology, environment/sustainability sciences, international agriculture, and applied economics and management.

Students conduct interviews, write news stories for a general audience, and create short videos. Class members commented enthusiastically about being introduced to so many different outreach activities, the opportunity for open-ended discussions with guest speakers, and the chance to practice their communication skills. Graduate student Mike Fulcher said the class had been a very positive experience, encouraging him to seek out future opportunities for engagement.

Selected videos and articles by PLSCI 3940 students:

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