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Accomplishments and concerns addressed at SIPS-wide faculty meeting

-Magdalen Lindeberg

A SIPS-wide faculty meeting was held on May 14 where SIPS Director Chris Smart discussed developments in the School during the last academic year.

Faculty renewal:
Positions currently open:

  • Grape Disease Ecology and Epidemiology search will be re-opened
  • Plant-Microbe Biology – an offer has been made
  • International Cropping Systems – interviews are complete

Candidate solicitation for a named professorship in ongoing  (Susan McCouch, committee chair)

Chris clarified that of 3 positions allowed for faculty lines next year, Alejandra Nixon’s promotion counted as one of those hires. SIPS will now search for 2 faculty members next year (tentative until approved by the Dean’s office which should be by mid-June).

Provost Radical Collaboration Task Force Representatives:

  • Alan Collmer – Infection Biology
  • Johannes Lehmann – Sustainability
    • Committee goal to target interdisciplinary scholars is challenging. Contact Chris or Johannes if interested in forming group to identify such individuals.
  • Adam Bogdanove – Genome Biology
    • Focus is on new infrastructure, seed grant programs, and faculty hires over next 5-10 years. Short list of candidates presented. Adam will share list with section chairs.
  • Michael Gore – Data Science
    • Whitepaper submitted; no further progress to report.

Job Positions submitted to Dean’s office for consideration for 2018-2019 faculty searches

  • Each section submitted 2 positions to the Faculty Renewal Committee (FRC) for ranking (total of 10 positions).
  • FRC rankings
    • #1 PPPMB – Genomics-empowered biology of plant pathogenic fungi
    • #2 SCS – Digital Agriculture
    • #3 PB – Computational Biology in Plant Biology
    • #4 PBG – Sustainable Biofuels and Forage

As FRC is advisory to the Director, Chris reviewed rankings and submitted all 10 positions to the Dean’s office (per Beth Ahner’s request) with the SCS – Digital Agriculture and PBG – Sustainable Biofuels and Forage positions ranked as #1 and #2 respectively. The Dean’s office will make final decision to be made public by mid-June.

Extension – town hall last week:

  • CALS administration values extension as an important synergism with teaching and research
  • CALS administration will be asking each unit to develop an extension hiring plan considering a 5-year horizon (SIPS has already begun this project before CALS Admin asked for it.)
  • CALS administration want an extension component to be a part of future hiring proposals.
  • Discussion of integrating extension and teaching; find synergies for collaboration.

Undergraduate Majors:

  • Number and quality of applicants in the Plant Sciences major is on the rise
  • Many SIPS faculty remain very active in Agricultural Sciences, Viticulture/Enology, ESS, and IARD
  • Undergraduate curriculum committee monitors current and future instructor needs. Important so as to keep quality of undergraduate program high which in turn attracts high quality students.
  • Marvin Pritts – Recent Senior Symposium demonstrated excellent quality of work.

Academic Program Review – April 2019

  • External program review of SIPS will occur in approximately one year, conducted by a 5-6 member review team
  • A SIPS self-study will be needed by year’s end
  • In conjunction with this, Chris is hoping to meet with all SIPS faculty by end of 2018. This is not intended to be a review but rather an opportunity to hear joys, concerns, and ideas in a one-on-one setting.


  • The report from our recent diversity audit should be complete soon and will provide an opportunity to discuss areas where bias is occurring and how best to reduce barriers experienced by current and prospective SIPS faculty, staff, and students
    • 15-20% of survey participants reported experiencing bias in SIPS.
    • 30% of survey participants reported experiencing bias at Cornell.
  • Chris working to make grievance process more transparent and clearly delineated. Working with HR to create various means of reporting grievances and bias.
  • Co-sponsorship of Diversity Preview Weekend

Graduate Majors:

  • Sellew Fellowship awarded to Michael Fulcher
  • Nine students receive Schmittau-Novak Small Grants
  • New MPS programs: Controlled Environmental Agriculture, Geospatial Sciences, Public Garden Leadership, Plant Biotechnology, Viticulture
    • Look for quality programs to be fully up and running by Fall 2019

Plant Science renovation:

  • Plant Science Building – 73 million dollar project
  • Planning stage – Town hall available on line
  • SIPS building committee; Chris Smart, Gary Bergstrom, Dan Buckley, Lailiang Cheng, Bill Crepet, Mike Gore, Johannes Lehmann, Andy Vail. Read more about where we are in this process
  • Payette (Boston firm hired to analyze space/design) – Looking at ALL SIPS spaces to gather an overall understanding of all of SIPS to better inform/generate, ideas/improvements in new building.
  • Begin project 2-3 years; projected completion 7-10 years.

New Initiatives and Events:

  • SIPS postdoctoral association


  • Please send news items to Magdalen Lindeberg (
  • How can we improve/enhance communication?

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