Department Head Letter 2018
What a year 2018 has been! So much has happened in the department, it’s a challenge to recap what we’ve been up to! But for me the highlights include the launch of our new plant pathology podcast, Breaking Protocol, and the new CFANS High Throughput Plant Phenotyping Initiative through the Stakman-Borlaug Center. I’m beaming with pride for our students, staff and faculty whose accomplishments earned them competitive awards. [OK, I’ve got to brag just a little! Our award winners in 2018 include graduate students Andrew Sathoff (Torske Klubben Fellowship) and Feng Li (Charles and Dorothy Andrew Bird Award from Sigma Xi), USDA-ARS scientist and Adjunct Associate Professor Matt Rouse (2018 Borlaug Field Award), Assistant Professor Melania Figueroa (APS Syngenta Award), Professor Brian Steffenson (University of Minnesota Award for Global Engagement), and Professor Carol Ishimaru (AAAS Fellow)! And this isn’t even a complete list!] I’m also proud of our alumni who have had out-sized impacts in our field in 2018 including Kira Bowen (M.S. 1983), who replaced Mary Palm (M.S. 1979; Ph.D. 1983) as President of the American Phytopathological Society in August. We were honored to welcome to campus Cornell University Professor Adam Bogdanove, recipient of the E.C. Stakman Award, and the Lieberman and Okinow families, recipients of the Friends of the Department Award. I still gaze with admiration on new department-focused artwork added to our historic seminar room, including a commissioned art collage honoring Louise Dosdall. And we fondly remembered Professor Howard Bissonnette and staff scientist Alan Pierce, both of whom passed in 2018.
For me, 2018 was also a time to recognize and celebrate the tremendous generosity of our donors, friends, and alumni. I’m grateful (and overwhelmed) by the success of our first-ever Give To The Max Day campaign. In a single day, 22 different donors (including 6 first time donors!) gave nearly $3,500 to support student professional development through the Elwin L. Stewart Graduate Student Travel Fund. Also for the first time, with thanks to the generosity of donors, we sent new graduate students and their advisors to the World Food Prize in Des Moines, Iowa where they interacted with government leaders, policymakers, economists, and scientists collectively working towards food security. Again with thanks to donors, we also celebrated the accomplishments of 26 students, staff, and faculty who collectively received $15,910 in student fellowships and awards! We are grateful to our donors, friends, and alumni--you make great things happen.
Yep, 2018 was a busy year and 2019 promises to be as productive as ever! We will soon welcome a cohort of potential graduate students, who will visit campus in February. This visit is part of a renewed approach to graduate student recruitment we’ve developed to ensure we attract and train the very best students. The Stakman-Borlaug Center will launch a Global Agriculture Seminar Series and conduct reviews of USDA-FAS projects in Guatemala, Benin, and Sri Lanka, providing graduate students, research staff, and faculty with in-country experiences. And of course, we will continue our tradition of excellence in training tomorrow’s plant pathology leaders; leading ground-breaking research that builds knowledge and solves real-world problems; and “taking it to the farmer” (in the words of alumnus Norman Borlaug) through innovative extension and outreach programming.
I hope you enjoy this issue of the Aurora Sporealis. And from all of us in the Department of Plant Pathology: Happy 2019.