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Dean's Message

Reflections on a Decade of Service

The experience of being the dean of this great College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) has been a remarkable and enriching experience for me. Since arriving at Cornell in 2000, I have learned so much about the history of CALS and the remarkable diversity of work our faculty, students, staff, and alumni have accomplished in so many different arenas. The college has had many, many proud moments, from our founding as the New York State College of Agriculture in 1904, under the leadership of Dean Liberty Hyde Bailey, to our engagement in international work, beginning in China in the 1920s, to the cutting-edge contributions we are making throughout New York and the world today in applied social sciences; environmental sciences; life sciences; and agriculture, food, and energy systems.

I am honored to be part of the great CALS tradition of public service.

In this issue of CALS News, we share a sampling of where this tradition is today—at home and abroad—under the theme, “Where in the world is CALS?” Although, as dean, I have come to ask the more pertinent question: “Where in the world isn’t CALS?” (Explore a selection of recent CALS research and outreach programs taking place around the globe in our Web Exclusives section.)

Dean Henry

Of particular significance to me during my tenure as dean have been my interactions with the many alumni and other CALS constituents whom I have met and come to know so well. My husband, Peter, and I have experienced such great warmth, hospitality, and friendship from the CALS community, starting from the beginning, when we first traveled throughout New York state, and later, as we traveled nationally and internationally during the college’s centennial in 2004–2005, visiting the many places across the country and around the world where so many CALS alumni live and work.

Over the years, Peter and I have come to consider ourselves part of the Cornell and CALS family. We plan to stay right here, in Ithaca, and look forward to the next chapter of our campus life together. In particular, we are eager to continue interacting and engaging with the many friends that we have made during the past 10 years. I look forward in particular to returning to full-time service as a member of the faculty.

Before returning to the classroom, however, I will enjoy a one-year administrative leave, when I expect to work more closely with my scientific collaborators, as well as devote some quality time to my garden and dote on my first grandchild! I will continue to conduct research in my molecular genetics lab in my home department of molecular biology and genetics. My research focuses on the regulation of membrane lipid metabolism in yeast and its coordination with membrane trafficking and signal transduction. During my leave, I will also start developing lesson plans in preparation for my return to teaching undergraduate genetics courses in the newly revised biology curriculum. I very much look forward to once again interacting with undergraduates in a classroom setting.

The decade I have spent as dean of CALS has been an extremely challenging period from an economic perspective. If nothing else, these challenges have instilled in me an unwavering conviction in the resiliency of our college and of its faculty, students, staff, and alumni. CALS has weathered many critical challenges in the past and has always come out stronger. I am convinced it will be the same this time.

Despite the many budget challenges we face, we will complete this academic year with our books balanced and with our academic programs intact and on track to be even better than before. The entire college leadership, including the associate deans, the department chairs, and I, have engaged in significant strategic planning. You can read about “Reimagining CALS” in the End Note. Under the direction of President David Skorton and Provost Kent Fuchs, Cornell will emerge more effective and relevant than ever before. And I know that CALS will continue its great tradition of making contributions to Cornell, to students, and to constituents, wherever they are, in New York and the world at large.

I will miss many of the functions and ceremonial occasions I have had the honor to be involved in while dean. Please join me at the graduation of the Class of 2010 in May and at the 2010 Reunion in June—my final commencement and reunion as dean. I always enjoy seeing the members of the many multi-generational CALS families as well as the parents and alumni that I have come to know in the course of my time here.

In closing, I want to express my sincerest, most heartfelt thanks to all of our alumni and the many constituents, stakeholders, and friends who have supported this great college through times of growth and times of retrenchment. Along with the members of the faculty, the students, and the staff, your ongoing support, engagement, and hard work on behalf of the college remain ever critical to our success.

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