CALS to close Department of Education over next two years

The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) announced today (Oct. 26) that the Department of Education will gradually close over the next two years. Faculty and staff will be transferred to other academic homes within the college, while current education students will be able to complete their degrees.

The decision to disband the department was finalized after considering an extensive review of options, in the context of CALS efforts to achieve Cornell's and CALS long-term strategic planning objectives.

"The department's future has been debated in the college for several years. CALS has come to the difficult conclusion that we do not have the additional resources that would need to be invested in the program to ensure its pre-eminence as we move into the future," said Kathryn Boor, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of Agriculture and Life Sciences, noting that the department is relatively small compared with its peers nationally, most of which are full schools of education. "We are determined to make this transition with as little disruption to programs, faculty, staff and students as possible."

The exact closing date will be determined, in part, by the process of transferring the 11 faculty, eight administrative staff and six academic staff members over the next two years.

CALS will continue to support the research and outreach programs of education faculty, said Max Pfeffer, senior associate dean. Faculty will be relocated to academic departments that are as closely aligned as possible with their individual areas of expertise, such as various social science departments. Staff will be assisted in finding other jobs within the college. CALS expects no layoffs from the process, he added. The college has not yet decided where to relocate faculty or staff because administrators want to seek their input, said Pfeffer.

As for the future of the Graduate Field of Education, faculty members affiliated with the field, both in and outside of the Department of Education, will work with the Graduate School to determine how to best provide the administrative support and efforts needed to maintain it.

Pfeffer said the university and CALS are committed to retaining departmental programs that have historically been an important component of the land-grant university's educational offerings.

"Extension and outreach programs -- such as Cornell Agricultural Outreach and Education, NY Agriculture in the Classroom, NYS Future Farmers of America, the N.Y. Center for Rural Schools, and the Community Learning and Service Partnership -- will be incorporated into other departments and remain under the leadership of education faculty," he said.

CALS also will continue its commitment to agriculture science education, he said, adding that efforts are under way to explore possible State University of New York partnerships to expand opportunities for Cornell students to obtain teacher certification in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields as well as in agricultural science. CALS is also maintaining opportunities for students to obtain B.S. degrees in agricultural science, a popular program, particularly with double majors in education. Many students enter this program through articulation agreements with SUNY agriculture and technical colleges.

"This was a difficult decision," said Provost Kent Fuchs. "The CALS leadership is to be commended for the thoughtful way in which they approached the transition, which advances the strategic plans of the college and Cornell as a whole. The Department of Education has benefited from talented faculty, staff and students, who will continue to serve CALS in other departments."

Streamlining operations, strategic department realignments and targeting resources are core components of the college strategic plan, Reimagining CALS.

The college currently has 22 departments, down from 26 a year ago, as eight Ithaca and Geneva sister departments merged this past summer.

"We believe the departments that absorb the education faculty, staff and outreach programs will be strengthened by their presence," Boor said.

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Claudia Wheatley