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Accomplishments and concerns addressed at SIPS-wide faculty meeting

A SIPS-wide faculty meeting was held on May 12 where SIPS Interim Director Chris Smart discussed developments in the School during the last academic year.  Attendees asked questions and voiced concerns related to the impact of new immigration policies on SIPS graduate students and specifics of upcoming renovations to Bradfield Hall.   Developments related to the SIPS Director Search were also discussed; specifically, that both Gail Taylor and Rob Last have declined offers of the position and that Interim Director Chris Smart will be formally interviewed for directorship on June 14-15.

Faculty renewal:

  • New positions filled: Awais Khan (Disease Resistance in Rosaceous Crops) and Ying Sun (Geospatial Land Processes)
  • New hires John Wallace (Specialty Crop Systems), Gaurav Moghe (Plant Metabolic Biochemistry), Kelly Robbins (Quantitative Genetics), and Chelsea Specht (Plant Biodiversity/Phylodiversity) will be starting faculty positions in SIPS this summer
  • Strategic, coordinated position identification has resulting in submission of 5 positions to the Senior Associate Dean. Areas of focus for these positions are Digital Agriculture, International Agriculture, Plant-Microbe Interactions, Plant Systems, and Grape Pathology. Decisions about position approval will be made in early June.

Undergraduate Majors:

  • Following completion of a 5-year teaching plan, funding was secured for lecturers to teach key courses until new faculty are available
  • The inaugural Undergrad Research Symposium is being held May 15th as part of the experiential learning requirement of the Plant Sciences undergraduate major
  • A joint commencement event will be held for undergraduate majors in Plant Sciences, Agricultural Sciences, and graduate students in the five SIPS graduate fields. A certificate ceremony will be held at 8:00 in Call Auditorium, with lunch at Trillium following the official graduation ceremony.

MPS Degrees

  • Specific programs in development include Plant Biotechnology, Controlled Environment Agriculture, Geospatial Processes, and Golf & Environmental Management
  • Viticulture & Enology and Public Garden Leadership MPS programs are already in place

Graduate Student Resources:

We are very excited about new funding sources for graduate student support:

  • Dennison Fellowship. This is a recruitment fellowship that is being used in Fall 2017 for an incoming student in Plant Breeding and Genetics
  • Sellew Family Excellence-in-Mentoring Fellowship. This fellowship is supported by current use funds from the Sellew Family and is awarded to a student who has made significant contributions to undergraduate mentoring.  The inaugral awardee is a student in Horticulture. Awards in subsequent years will be made to students in the remaining five sections.
  • Schmittau-Novak Small Grants Program. This fellowship is supported by a current use alumni bequest and supports a small grants program for SIPS graduate students.  An request for proposals  was recently issued, with proposals for Year 1 due on August 1, 2017

A policy for coordinated TA-ship distribution has been piloted and a student survey of its outcomes is currently being conducted

Graduate students have also formed a SIPS-wide graduate student council with plans for regular interactions with the SIPS Executive Committee.

Communication and Outreach:

  • The inaugural SIPS BioBlitz is planned for September 2017
  • New web resources recently or soon to come online include: Organics at Cornell, Hemp, Malting Barley
  • SIPS post-docs and research associates have formed an organization focused on sponsorship of professional development related events
  • Social media users are encouraged to use the hashtag #CornellSIPS and share with Magdalen Lindeberg ( and Chris Smart ( any ideas for more effective outreach to our various stakeholders.

New Initiatives:

  • Digital Agriculture (CUAES): A series of digital agriculture discussions were held this past spring that included participants from CALS, College of Engineering, and Computer Science. Awards from an associated grants program will be announced by the end of May
  • Next Generation Plant Phenotyping: A mini-symposium organized by Olena Vatamaniuk and Mike Gore is being held on May 16.
  • Plant Innovation and Data Analytics Center (potential outcome of Southern Tier Regional Economic Development Council funding)

SIPS Summer Picnic – Wednesday, June 21, 11:30 – 4:00 pm, Cornell CRC Park on Hanshaw Road in Ithaca

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