October 3, 2023


It's Your Education

Progressive scholar and chief Max Pfeffer retires

Max Pfeffer, a distinguished researcher of rural and urban communities and a leader who assisted reshape the Higher education of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) for the 21st century, has introduced his retirement. He is now emeritus professor of world enhancement, efficient July 1.

Pfeffer joined Cornell in 1993 at a time when globalization and environmental degradation had been rising as crucial issues on the international stage. As an assistant professor of rural sociology, he swiftly made an energetic exploration method funded by main aggressive grants from the National Science Foundation, Nationwide Institutes of Health and fitness, the USDA Fund for Rural The united states, the USDA National Analysis Initiative and the Environmental Safety Company (EPA). His investigate in key plan regions — like land use and environmental preparing, rural and agricultural labor marketplaces, and rural-to-urban and international migration — helped Cornell produce a standing with coverage makers for providing revolutionary options to major social problems.

In the 1990s Pfeffer performed a leading function on a Countrywide Study Council Committee that developed an internationally recognized evaluation of water source defense. That evaluation served as the decisive enter in the EPA’s Filtration Avoidance Dedication for New York City.

In collaboration with Pilar Parra, Pfeffer conducted 1 of the to start with systematic assessments of unprecedented immigration to rural spots of New York. This get the job done not only discovered immigration traits but also assessed the impacts on rural communities all through New York state. Their conclusions knowledgeable point out and nationwide plan discussions about the financial, political and social outcomes of skyrocketing immigrant settlement in the 1990s and 2000s. 

Max Pfeffer, correct, on a discipline go to to Cerro Azul Meámbar National Park in Honduras in the 1990s.

Sergio Chávez M.S. ’02, Ph.D. ’07 was a new graduate scholar at Cornell when Pfeffer begun conducting his immigration research in New York. Chávez claimed the complexity of the data collection influenced him to emphasis on sampling hard-to-discover populations in his own study.

But it was Pfeffer’s get the job done as a teacher that most captivated Chávez. On campus Pfeffer was a popular teacher known for his engaging teaching, with his program Setting and Culture a beloved of undergraduates. Pfeffer’s graduate course in classical sociological idea attracted numerous graduate learners from a wide range of social science fields, which include Chávez.

“Max often emphasised the studying system and the pleasure of knowing complex principles and theories. His passion for teaching rubbed off on me,” mentioned Chávez, now an associate professor who teaches sociological theory to undergraduates at Rice University.

Chávez, a initial-generation university student who grew up in California, claimed he originally lacked self esteem that he belonged when he arrived at Cornell. But just one minute that he recalled assisting him sense approved was when Pfeffer and his wife, Pilar Parra, invited the young graduate university student to their house for evening meal. 

“Max experienced that way about him,” Chávez mentioned. “His warmth helped me come to feel built-in and part of the university. He assisted instill the self-confidence that I belonged listed here and could prosper.”

Chávez is a person of a lot of graduate pupils encouraged by Pfeffer who went on to successful careers in academia and with multinational enhancement businesses.   

Max Pfeffer, third from ideal, visits Hainan, China as element of a delegation assembly with intercontinental counterparts.

By the early 2000s Pfeffer assumed management roles across the university, like in the Division of Growth Sociology, the Cornell Middle for the Ecosystem and the Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station. In 2010 he was named senior affiliate dean at CALS by Dean Kathryn J. Boor ‘80, and he later on grew to become the very first executive dean of the university.

“Max has an incredible blend of characteristics that make him remarkably prosperous as a chief. In addition to his fantastic sense of humor, he is brilliant, persistent, patient — and relentless,” stated Boor, now dean of the Graduate University and vice provost for graduate education.

“When the CALS strategic planning procedure discovered a selection of bold chances for the higher education, it was obvious that Max was the man or woman most effective suited to transforming people goals into actuality.”

Appointed government dean by Boor in Could 2017, Pfeffer concentrated on exclusive initiatives and the implementation of strategic priorities, such as numerous global initiatives. Pfeffer frequently traveled tens of 1000’s of miles each and every yr on behalf of the university. He negotiated a amount of agreements such as an ground breaking undergraduate twin degree plan in Food items Science with China Agricultural University. He also oversaw the formation of the Section of World Advancement.

Launched in 2020, the Office of World-wide Progress brings a multidisciplinary concentration to important worldwide concerns, together with those people in New York condition. The genesis for the section emerged from a 2016 CALS School Activity Drive that identified core strengths distribute across the faculty. Pfeffer led initiatives to consolidate abilities throughout numerous disciplines — among them agriculture, sociology, rural enhancement, economics, dietary sciences, community development and natural resources — into a unified department.

“We are empowering faculty to perform with each other on a widespread set of sensible study issues that connects science to the requires of persons,” Pfeffer explained in October 2019 when asserting the new section. “This instinct for instruction with affect goes ideal to the heart of the CALS mission and our legacy of championing agriculture and advancement all over the world for extra than a century.”

Pfeffer guided the early development of the department as chair of the executive and management committees in its first yr. Preliminary strategies ended up upended as COVID-19 shuttered campus places of work significantly less than 3 months into the commence of the department’s functions. Pfeffer was instrumental at the two the school and department stages in immediately pivoting instructing, exploration and outreach attempts all through the pandemic.

“Max labored tirelessly more than a time period of many years to make the Division of World wide Progress,” said Lori Leonard, professor of international division and the department’s inaugural chair. “Through his utilized scholarship, he remaining a mark on communities all over the point out and the world, and we hope the division he founded will honor that legacy and make him proud.” 

Pfeffer talking to congressional lawmakers.

A scholar of rural and urban community growth, Pfeffer has motivated international policy problems from New York, Mexico and Central America to China and throughout Asia. Pfeffer has revealed a huge vary of scholarly articles and has written or co-edited four textbooks.  In “Saving Forests, Protecting People today?: Environmental Conservation in Central America” published with co-creator John Schelhas, Pfeffer explores forest conservation efforts and the cultural, environmental and social plan impacts across a assortment of destinations in Central America.

Ronnie Coffman, intercontinental professor of international development with a joint appointment in the University of Integrative Plant Science’s Plant Breeding and Genetics Portion, lauded Pfeffer’s achievements as a chief and scholar.

“The track record CALS has produced as a generator of progressive methods to pressing social difficulties is in no smaller measure many thanks to Max and his endeavours as both equally an administrator and a world-course researcher,” Coffman explained.