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Dean's Message

Facing Our Future Together

We are in the middle of one of the most challenging economic periods in recent history. The ongoing recession is marked by unsettled global markets, job loss, and plunges in consumer confidence, home values, and other important fiscal measures. No doubt many in the CALS community have been touched by the upheaval and forced to make difficult financial decisions.

Dean Henry

Cornell and CALS are not immune to the economic downturn. President David Skorton announced in January that the university has a mid-year shortfall of approximately $200 million in its annual budget. Deep losses on Wall Street have hurt the university’s investments. A steep decline in tax revenues has diminished the New York State budget, shrinking allocations to SUNY and Cornell. Federal stimulus funds will help the state cover this gap but not completely. Thus, we are girding for more reductions in state funding. We have already trimmed $2.8 million from the CALS current year budget, with plans to save another five percent in FY2010 to meet our target of $6.8 million.

To maintain our focus on college priorities in these uncertain times, the CALS’ financial team, with the aid of department chairs and unit directors, has developed a set of budget management principles. We are also calling on the wisdom of the CALS community to help the college. I invite you to suggest ways to generate revenue or control costs at

Despite the economic strain, we continue to invest in the future. As tuition costs escalate nationwide, Cornell is committed to maintaining access to higher education for all students, regardless of need. Students represent our greatest asset, a chance to build human capital by graduating leaders for economic development in New York and beyond. Also, our researchers require resources and tools to make important discoveries to solve global problems. The college’s efforts to improve food safety and sustain water resources are two examples featured in this issue, as is our commitment to preserving our landgrant mission of improving lives and growing communities the world over.

Even in these lean times, we have reasons to celebrate. In January, CALS opened the Biofuels Research Laboratory, a $6-million, 11,000-square-foot facility to develop the next generation of fuels to power cars, factories, and farms. There, Professor Larry Walker and other researchers are studying all aspects of biofuel production—from single-molecule analyses of enzymes at the nanoscale level to converting raw materials into ethanol in 150-liter fermentation vats. They are focused on creating efficient and economical alternative fuels derived from non-food crops like switchgrass, sorghum, willow, and other perennial grasses and woody biomass. This research holds great promise for our economic prosperity, national security, and environmental sustainability.

Not far from the Biofuels Research Laboratory, CALS’ new Teaching Winery opened its doors this month at the Cornell Orchards. The 1,800-square-foot lab is the Ithaca hub of our burgeoning undergraduate major in Viticulture and Enology, a program that trains students to oversee vineyards and make world-class wines.

Research and education at the winery—with an emphasis on addressing the challenges of cool climates—will be a boon to New York State, home to the nation’s third largest wine and grape industry. It will complement the many vital grape-growing studies completed and underway at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva. Both of these facilities exemplify CALS’ commitment to teaching, research, and extension. They act as models for all that we can achieve—even in the face of a difficult economy.

Susan A. Henry, PhD,
The Ronald P. Lynch Dean of Agriculture and Life Sciences