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Women's Caucus

The ESF Women's Caucus is both an affinity group for employees and a student interest group. The Women's Caucus coordinates informal interdisciplinary networking opportunities, annual career exploration days for middle and high school participants, a spring semester speaker series, and a one-credit formal pipeline seminar, supported by a budget line through the Office of the Provost. 

The ESF Women's Caucus was formed by a small group of ESF employees who wanted the opportunity to work, socialize and network with colleagues, and to learn from one another. The first meeting convened November 17, 1994 as a faculty/staff brown-bag lunch discussion, and one of the first orders of business was the decision to include students as well.

This particular Caucus is non-partisan. It aims to raise consciousness about "women's" concerns, to work for change to improve the climate for minoritized individuals at ESF, to foster community, and to serve as a respectful forum for diverse ideas.

In general, the Women's Caucus is non-hierarchical. There are no officers and decisions are often made by consensus. There is a Program Coordinator (Heather Engelman, 5-10% FTE), guided by an active steering committee comprised of faculty and staff across the tenure/continuing appointment spectrum. Others are accessible for fresh insight through a periodically convened Advisory Committee.

Membership is open to full- and part-time students, staff and faculty, current and past. In addition, please not that we use the term “women” for brevity, and not to gatekeep identity.   We unequivocally welcome cis- and trans- women, inclusive of all gender-oppressed individuals.

Our Goals

  • To increase  recruitment and retention of women (and other minoritized) students and faculty at ESF
  • To sponsor activities that benefit those underrepresented in STE(A)M
  • To improve service for all ESF families

What We Do

We advocate for

  • better mentoring and equitable evaluation
  • safer, respectful, inclusive and collaborative work spaces
  • family friendly policies for all that work and study at ESF

Wise Professions & Programs Blog


History (Her story?)

ESF began as an all male college in 1911; there were few women students during the early decades. There was only one woman enrolled, for one academic year (Hazel Clere, general forestry curriculum, 1915-16) until 1938, when another began (but did not complete) a graduate program. It was not until the late 1940s until the first 3 women graduated: Ruth Worret (Landscape Architecture) and Barbara Jane Hennessey (Pulp and Paper) were the very first women graduates in 1947; Mildred Kocic (Pulp and Paper) followed in 1948. Records on further marginalized gender identities are quite slim. We do not know who might have checked a binary gender box that didn't fully match their identity. We do know that:

"By 1969, women numbered only 73 out of 1300 the College's work expanded in research fields such as biology, biochemistry and paper fiber technology, so did its appeal to a wider student base. Job opportunities in related industries also began to expand for women by the late 1960s. In 1967, the first female completed the timberland management curriculum, and the phrase 'lumberjills' appeared in the press. Traditions were beginning to fall, but it would take a few more years for true gender equality to spread throughout the college.

"The early 1970s saw the first female trustees appointed to the board [very first was alumna Barbara Hennessey, 1972].  The first woman [Hilda Webb] graduated from the Ranger School in 1974. ... A woman's [Woodman] team was begun in 1973 and won an international competition in 1975. And by 1974, an affirmative action program was underway at ESF to increase minority recruitment. In 2011, 40% of the 2,200 enrolled students are female." (transcribed 12 Sept 2011 from Centennial signage posted in Moon Library). Also of note, it wasn't until 1986 until a woman chaired Faculty Governance (Betsy Elkins) or GSA (Ann Moore).

Even through the early 1990s, there were few women professors:

  • Renata Marton came to the US-and the College of Forestry at SU (which later became ESF)-- and served as a Research Associate in Pulp and Paper Technology 1957-1959; Assistant Professor 59-61, Associate Professor 1961-68, both in Pulp and Paper Research; and Professor, Paper Science and Engineering, 1968-80. Beginning in 1971, she was also a Senior Research Associate, Empire State Paper Research Institute, continuing both research and advising graduate students until retiring 1990. Dr. Marton passed away in 1992. To learn more about Dr. Marton's work, visit ESFKidsDay.
  • Chun-Juan "June" Wang, who was hired as a non-tenure track Research Associate, Environmental and Forest Biology, in 1959. She advanced through various grades to become one of ESF's first women Professors in 1972 and earn the SUNY Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Teaching in 1990. She "retired" in 1998, but maintained an active research program.
  • Mildred Faust served as adjunct professor from 1970-1988. Dr. Faust was the first woman biologist to receive tenure at Syracuse University where she taught botany, ecology, and palynology from 1926-1965. The Mildred E. Faust Herbarium, her lifelong collection of plant specimens, is among the specimens housed in Illick Hall. As a renowned botanist and authority on the flora of New York State and Onondaga County. The Mildred Faust Trail(Clark Reservation) and the MIldred Faust Wildflower Garden at Baltimore Woods Nature Center are named in her honor.
  • Deborah Hill, School of Forestry 1979. Dr. Hill wasn't at ESF long. She has since been a Fulbright Scholar, and is now Extension Faculty Emeritus, University of Kentucky Forestry.
  • Prof Kathy Stribley joined the School of Landscape Architecture in 1981, and retired as Professor at the end of 2010
  • Maggie Shannon, Department of Forestry, 1986-92
  • Cheryl Doble joined LA in 1987; she retired as an Associate Professor in 2011
  • Prof Sally Webster taught computing classes as part of the Faculty of Environmental Studies from 1990-2000. She retired as an Associate Professor.
  • In 1993, Dr. Brenda Nordenstam (currently on medical leave) and Dr. Sue Senecah (now retired) joined Environmental Studies; Dr. Robin Kimmerer EFB.
  • In 1994, Dr. Parto (Partow) Pakdel joined Paper Science Engineering (until 1996; she's now with SINTEF, in Oslow, researching thin film and membrane technology) and Drs. Ruth Yanai and Valerie Luzadis joined the Faculty of Forestry.
    • Luzadis and Yanai eventually became full Professors in the renamed Department of Forest and Natural Resources Management.
    • Luzadis went on to chair the Department of Environmental Studies (interim in 2010; on a substantive basis 2011-2015), and serve as Interim Provost and Executive VP (2015-2017), Senior Advisor to the President (2017-2018). She is now Interim Associate Provost and Dean of the Graduate School, 2022.
    • Yanai directed the Graduate Program in Environmental Science 2011-2015, but remained in FNRM.
  • ESF welcomed its first female department head in 2008--Susan Anagnost, in the since dissolved Department of Sustainable Construction Management and Engineering. Dr. Anagnost was promoted from within the campus community. After SCME's dissolution (2015), joined the Department of Paper and Bioprocess Engineering. After PBE was restructured in 2020, she and another SCME colleague moved to SRM. Dr. Anagnost also directs the NC Center for Ultrastructure Studies, and took over direction of the Tropical Timber Information Center in 2020.  Though she retired from teaching in 2022, she continues part-time directing both Centers and in research.
  • There were women faculty in every academic department in 2008.
  • In September 2020, Drs. Melissa Fierke (EFB), Mariann Johnston (SRM-Ranger School), and Huiting Mao (Chemistry) promotions to Professor pushed ESF Women in that title into double digits! They followed in the footsteps of: Dr. Chun Wang (EFB, promoted in 1972; retired,1998); Prof. Kathleen Stribley (LA, 2012; retired, 2004), Dr. Robin Kimmerer (EFB, 2004; Distinguished Teaching Professor, 2010); Dr. Ruth Yanai (FNRM, now SRM, 2007; Distinquished Professor, 2022); Dr. Valerie Luzadis (ES, 2010; FNRM at the time of promotion); Dr. Karin Limburg (EFB, 2011; Distinguished Professor, 2020); Dr. Sue Anagnost (SRM, Prof 2013; Anagnost was in SCME at time of her promotion); Dr. Lindi Quackenbush (ERE, 2018); Dr. Teresa Selfa (ES, 2018); and Dr. Jacqui Frair (EFB, 2019).  On the flipside, with Dr. Anagnost’s move and Dr. Biljana Bujanovic’s retirement that same semester, the newly renamed Chemical Engineering department dropped to 0 women in any faculty title.  
  • In 2021,  women chaired  ~⅓ of ESF’s academic departments: Environmental Biology (Dr. Melissa Fierke), ESF Environmental Resources Engineering (Dr. Lindi Quackenbush), and Environmental Studies (Dr. Benette Whitmore) and directed both Open Academy (Tondelaya George) and the SUNY-ESF Ranger School (Dr. Mariann Garrison-Johnston). And, of course, this academic year also marked the first with College President Joanie Mahoney.

Sincere thanks to College Archivist Emerita Flora Nyland,  former Directors of Human Resources Marcia Barber and Tim Blehar, Heather Engelman, and Dr. Melissa Fierke for compiling names and dates.