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Sellew Family endows Excellence-in-Mentoring Fellowship for SIPS Graduate Students

Mark Sellew

The School of Integrative Plant Science is pleased to announce establishment of a current use fund of $50,000 annually payable for five years from Mark ‘78 and Lisa ‘79 Sellew to provide support for graduate students who are excelling at mentoring undergraduates.

One of the great opportunities available to CALS undergraduates is the chance to conduct independent research projects in world-leading labs, typically under the wing of a graduate student.  The Sellew Family Excellence-in-Mentoring Fellowship has been created with the mission of shining a light on valuable mentoring activities ongoing within SIPS. This fellowship will promote the professional advancement of graduate student awardees, advertise research opportunities and potential learning relationships to prospective undergrads, as well as provide incentives for systematically improving mentoring throughout the School.

Mark Sellew (Plant Breeding ’78) is the CEO of Prides Corner Farms in Lebanon, Conn. The Sellew family has extensive ties to Cornell with several alumni represented among the generations  including his wife Lisa (Agricultural Economics ’79, MBA ’82) and sons Benjamin (’13) and Jack (’15).  Mark is a current member of the CALS Dean’s Advisory Council and Lisa is a board member of Farm Credit East. Mark and Lisa have previously established an endowed fund in Horticulture at Cornell. The idea of the Excellence-in-Mentoring Fellowship was developed during Sellew’s April 2016 visit to Cornell during which he met with current SIPS graduate students and attended a graduate class in the Field of Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology. After subsequent discussions with Alan Collmer, then SIPS Director, the outlines of the fellowship were developed.

Recipients of the Sellew Family Excellence-in-Mentoring Fellowship will be chosen by their respective fields based on demonstrated excellence in mentoring one or more undergraduate students. The Fellowship will be awarded to a student in a different SIPS graduate field for each of five years, with the first award to begin in August 2017 and supporting a student in the Field of Horticulture.  In subsequent years the awardee will be selected (in order) from the Fields of Plant Pathology and Plant Microbe Biology, Plant Biology, Soil and Crop Sciences, and Plant Breeding and Genetics.

In conjunction with the fellowship award, SIPS is committed to raising the visibility of mentoring within the School and enhancing mentorship training. SIPS will sponsor an annual Graduate Student Excellence-in-Mentoring Forum to enable graduate students engaged in undergraduate mentoring activities to report highlights and discuss problems, best practices, and new ideas for maximizing mentor impact. The Fellowship awardee for the year will make a brief report emphasizing accomplishments of both the awardee and their undergraduate mentee(s).

Collmer comments that mentoring by graduate students in laboratory and field research projects represents one of the most valuable aspects of the Cornell undergraduate experience.  “Regardless of their specific career goals, students find that these experiences provide great practice in project management, goal-oriented creativity, and both independent and collaborative approaches to problem solving.  I think of these projects as a kind of ‘boot camp for the brain’.”  Collmer added, “I have seen many lifelong friendships and professional collaborations develop from such undergraduate/graduate student partnerships. These experiences are important in attracting the next generation of young people to plant sciences and to Cornell.”

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