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One woman and three men standing in front of a tree. All four are wearing medals on blue and gold ribbons.

SUNY Chancellor Award honorees, from left, Janine DeBaise, Dr. Brian Leydet, Dr. Timothy Volk, and Mark Hill. Not pictured, Jody Larabee.

SUNY Chancellor Honors ESF Faculty, Staff

Syracuse, N.Y. – May 10, 2024 – Five employees of the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) were honored by Chancellor John B. King, Jr. for outstanding service to the State University of New York.

Honorees are Janine DeBaise for Excellence in Teaching; Mark Hill for Excellence in Professional Service; Jody Larabee for Excellence in Classified Service; Dr. Brian Leydet for Excellence in Faculty Service; and Dr. Timothy Volk for Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activities.

“The Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence pay tribute to those who are role models for students and colleagues alike,” said ESF President Joanie Mahoney. “The dedication of this year’s honorees enriches the College, inspiring excellence, and progress for generations to come. We congratulate and celebrate their accomplishments.”

Excellence in Teaching – Janine DeBaise

DeBaise, instructor in the College’s Writing Program, joined the ESF faculty in 1992 and boasts a prolific career marked by over 100 publications spanning poetry, essays, and fiction in esteemed journals. Her influence extends beyond the written word; she has actively contributed to both community initiatives and editorial endeavors for decades. As an instructor, she is cherished by students for her engaging and inclusive teaching style, evident in both mandatory ESF courses and specialized electives focusing on environmental literature.

DeBaise's impact on students is profound, as evidenced by glowing evaluations praising her nurturing yet challenging teaching environment.

Said one student, “I was able to choose what I wanted to learn about (for the most part) and that made me more invested in what I was learning. I liked that we could write about what we wanted because I felt like the quality of writing was higher. It especially helped me learn to work with others better.” 

DeBaise's advocacy for the value of writing extends beyond the classroom, culminating in the establishment of student-centric writing centers within ESF’s Writing Program.

Her scholarly contributions in environmental writing are notable, with a distinct approach that intertwines feminist perspectives with environmental concerns. This unique blend has earned her recognition as a compassionate and innovative voice within public creative circles. DeBaise has played a pivotal role in reshaping the role of writing in scientific fields, a feat highlighted in her recent book of poems, "Body Language." Critics laud it as a powerful ode to women's bodies, transforming traditional narratives into celebratory expressions of empowerment.

As a dedicated member of various committees and governance structures, DeBaise's influence is felt at every level of the institution. Her commitment to student success is evident in her approachability and the overflowing attendance in her classes. Her reputation as an educator and scholar is firmly established, characterized by her unwavering dedication to nurturing creativity, critical thinking, and community engagement.

Excellence in Professional Service – Mark Hill

Mark Hill, director of the Office of Financial Aid, joined ESF in 2003 as a senior financial aid advisor and was promoted to director of Financial Aid in 2014. He champions financial aid as a crucial tool for access, viewing it as integral to recruitment and retention efforts. Hill adeptly navigates the intricate landscape of state and federal regulations governing financial aid, recognizing their role in ensuring fairness and consistency in the aid process.

Hill and his team serve as advocates for financial aid, bridging the gap between complex aid policies and the broader campus community. He demonstrates patience, confidence, and professionalism in delivering presentations and recommendations for institutional merit scholarships, carefully analyzing various scenarios and associated data.

Hill is committed to innovation, constantly seeking ways to streamline processes within the bounds of regulation. His expertise in information systems earned him recognition as a systems expert on campus, instrumental in the successful implementation of Ellucian Banner.

During the challenges posed by the pandemic, Hill assumed a leadership role in strategizing and implementing processes for distributing CARES Act funding, ensuring timely and compliant disbursement.

Hill collaborates across departments to ensure accurate information and a welcoming environment for students and their families.

Outside of ESF, Hill contributes to the broader community by volunteering as a presenter at local high school Financial Aid Nights, sharing his expertise and furthering access to financial aid resources.

Excellence in Classified Service – Jody Larabee

Jody Larabee, Maintenance Supervisor for ESF’s Archer and Anna Huntington Wildlife Forest in Newcomb, N.Y., oversees upkeep, repair, and construction across 42 buildings spanning over 55,000 square feet. Additionally, he manages a 22-mile forest road system, administers a small trust fund, and coordinates equipment and services procurement.

On July 11, 2023, Larabee demonstrated exceptional dedication during a severe rainstorm that caused extensive damage to the Huntington Campus. Significant infrastructure, including a major bridge and over 100 culverts, was washed away. Larabee and his team worked tirelessly through the night to repair the roads and assist 26 stranded faculty, researchers, and paid guests.

Following the flood, Larabee played a crucial role in assessing the damage and coordinating repair efforts with the Office of General Services and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, securing over $3.5 million in reimbursement. Temporary solutions were implemented, allowing research activities to resume by the following summer.

Throughout this challenging period, Larabee maintained his usual duties with a positive attitude and determination. His efforts ensured the safety of individuals and the swift restoration of essential infrastructure, enabling continued operations at the Huntington Forest.

Excellence in Faculty Service – Dr. Brian Leydet

Leydet, associate professor in the Department of Environmental Biology, was honored for outstanding achievement and skill in providing leadership, service and assistance to the university, community and profession that exceeds expectations.

Leydet is an expert in vector-borne diseases. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, He demonstrated his expertise in epidemiology and disease ecology. He selflessly paused his own research for over a year to ensure the safety of the ESF community while minimizing the pandemic's impact on teaching and research. Behind the scenes, he provided invaluable guidance to campus leadership, shaping ESF's response. He coordinated a team of student volunteers, facilitated testing procedures, and handled student notifications and support.

As a scientific advisor, Leydet played a pivotal role in developing testing strategies, modifying them as needed, and administering thousands of COVID tests on campus. He took charge of notifying students about positive COVID tests, guiding them to off-campus clinics for confirmation tests, and identifying their close contacts. He reached out to these contacts, informing them of possible exposure and had the authority to issue legal quarantine and isolation orders, deputized by the Onondaga County Department of Health. Throughout a 14-month period, he spoke with around 400 ESF students, addressing their concerns, providing quarantine guidelines, and aiding them with necessary contact details. He worked closely with SUNY, Syracuse University, LeMoyne College, and the Onondaga Department of Health, providing expertise, support, and frequent updates.

Leydet is committed to his research and advocacy in tick-borne diseases. He co-founded the CNY Lyme and Tick-Borne Disease Alliance, organizing educational summits and engaging with medical professionals and policymakers. His dedication extends to public education, with numerous talks and engagements at local, regional, and national levels. His efforts have significantly contributed to public service, education, and advancing knowledge in his field.

Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activities— Dr. Timothy Volk

Volk, professor in the Department of Sustainable Resources Management, brings over 30 years of expertise in forestry and related fields to his role at ESF. His work spans the United States and West Africa, focusing on areas such as forestry, agroforestry, and bioenergy. He leads projects aimed at understanding and improving the carbon impact of forest management practices. He is also involved in developing systems for producing biomass from shrub willow for various bio-based products and energy.

His research team explores various applications of willow, from phytoremediation to ecological buffers. He has also contributed to sustainable harvesting methods for woody crops and assessing the sustainability of bioenergy systems.

As a professor, Volk has pioneered interdisciplinary programs in climate and energy sustainability and expanded into the emerging field of the bioeconomy. His leadership at ESF led to the establishment of bioeconomy-focused teaching and research initiatives, attracting new faculty.

Volk’s research and mentoring have resulted in 135 peer-reviewed publications, as well as numerous other reports, extension articles, and fact sheets. He has secured over $42 million in research grants, collaborating on more than 100 research awards with colleagues in each of the ESF’s seven academic departments, making significant contributions to the field of forestry and bioenergy. Volk’s papers have been cited over 9,732 times and over 3,727 times since 2018. His H-index over his career is 48; 34 since 2018.

Volk’s research team has supported and mentored 27 graduate students (11 Ph.D., 14 MS, two MPS) and two full-time post-doctoral students. The team has also included 11 research scientists or technicians.

Volk is a co-inventor on eight patents for shrub willow cultivars that have superior biomass production characteristics. These patented cultivars along with several others have been licensed by the Research Foundation of SUNY to commercial nurseries in western NY and Quebec.                                                                 


The SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) is dedicated to the study of the environment, developing renewable technologies, and building a sustainable and resilient future through design, policy, and management of the environment and natural resources. Members of the College community share a passion for protecting the health of the planet and a deep commitment to the rigorous application of science to improve the way humans interact with the world. The College offers academic programs ranging from the associate of applied science to the Doctor of Philosophy. ESF students live, study and do research on the main campus in Syracuse, N.Y., and on 25,000 acres of field stations in a variety of ecosystems across the state.