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Aerial view of Cornell University campus Bruce Yuanyue Bi/Getty Images
NEW DEAN IN TOWN: Benjamin Houlton comes to Cornell University (pictured) from the University of California, Davis, where he was director of the John Muir Institute of the Environment and professor of global environmental studies.

Cornell University announces new ag school dean

Benjamin Houlton’s five-year appointment as dean begins Oct. 1.

Benjamin Houlton, director of the John Muir Institute of the Environment and professor of global environmental studies at the University of California, Davis, has been named the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University.

Houlton’s five-year appointment, effective Oct. 1, has been approved by the Executive Committee of the Cornell University board of trustees and is pending ratification by the State University of New York board of trustees.

Houlton is recognized internationally for research collaborations into ecosystem processes, solutions to ameliorate climate change, and to improve carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus cycles for energy and food production.

Houlton succeeds Kathryn Boor, who will become dean of the graduate school and vice provost for graduate education on Oct. 1.

CALS is among the most comprehensive academic units in the world and is widely regarded for the quality of its programs, which are housed on the Ithaca campus and at Cornell AgriTech in Geneva, N.Y.

“My excitement to join Cornell is matched by a recognition of the real responsibility of leading the world’s greatest college of its kind,” Houlton says. “I will approach this with a core of principle values; humility, cooperation, collaboration and the ability to engage in deep listening. Leveraging these values as I work with faculty, students and staff, I want to make sure everyone feels they are completely a part of what the college is trying to achieve as an important, relevant global entity.”

CALS has 350 faculty members, 16 academic departments and two schools, matriculating more than 3,000 undergraduate students and nearly 900 graduate students. The college encompasses 22 majors and 40 minors, and it offers more than 1,500 courses. In 2019, its research budget exceeded $254 million.

“It’s important to build on the legacy and tradition of global excellence at Cornell,” he says, noting work being done to address some of the world’s biggest challenges such as reducing food insecurity, diminishing climate change, promoting environmental stewardship and maintaining human nutrition.

Houlton also considers diversity, equity and inclusion as central to advancing CALS’ mission and commitment to sustainability.

Houlton will share responsibility for leadership of Cornell Cooperative Extension with Rachel Dunifon, the Rebecca Q. and James C. Morgan Dean of Cornell’s College of Human Ecology. As dean, he will report to the provost and be a member of Cornell’s senior administrative team.

Switching coasts

As director of UC Davis’ John Muir Institute of the Environment since 2016, Houlton oversaw 300 faculty affiliates, plus 350 postdoctoral researchers, staff, and undergraduate and graduate students engaged in cross-disciplinary research aimed at solving the most challenging environmental, economic, human health and welfare problems.

At the institute Houlton launched the One Climate initiative and a strategic plan to bolster corporate, philanthropy and foundational giving.

Houlton has served on the UC Davis faculty since 2007, teaching global environmental studies. In 2017, he was appointed to the University of California Global Climate Leadership Council, charged with implementing greenhouse gas reduction plans for the university to achieve carbon neutrality systemwide by 2025.

Benjamin Z. Houlton, Ronald P. Lynch Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell“My excitement to join Cornell is matched by a recognition of the real responsibility of leading the world’s greatest college of its kind.” — Benjamin Houlton. Photo courtesy of Cornell University.

In 2018, Houlton served as founding co-chairman of the California Collaborative for Climate Change Solutions, a public-private partnership connecting leaders in academia, business, finance and philanthropy with policymakers.

Houlton has published more than 60 peer-reviewed scientific articles in such leading journals as Nature, Science and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

He earned his bachelor’s degree in water chemistry from the University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point; a master’s degree in environmental engineering from Syracuse University; and a Ph.D in ecology and evolutionary biology from Princeton University.

Houlton grew up in Wisconsin, where his family roots span a long line of Midwestern dairy and poultry farmers. He has a wife, Amanda, and two children, Sydney and Ashton.

Source: Cornell University, which is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.
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