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NIFA, APLU & Cooperative Extension Award Top Honors in Extension Excellence and Diversity

Recognizing visionary leadership and diversity in educational programming, USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) and Cooperative Extension announced the 2022 Top Honors in Extension Excellence and Diversity. USDA-NIFA, APLU and Cooperative Extension have sponsored the awards since 1991. 

“Congratulations to the outstanding Extension professionals who are honored on today,” said Dr. Beverly Durgan, Chair, Extension Committee on Organization and Policy and Dean of Extension at the University of Minnesota. “These leaders are making a difference by connecting community needs and university resources to address critical issues across the nation.” 

The Excellence in Extension for an Individual Award recognizes one Cooperative Extension professional who excels at science-based programming, provides visionary leadership, and makes a positive impact on their constituents. This year’s award winner is Alison F. Davis, Extension Professor of Agriculture Economics, and the Executive Director of the Community and Economic Development Initiative of Kentucky at the University of Kentucky (CEDIK). 

Dr. Davis leads a team of 15 engagement and research staff to support for CEDIK’s five priority areas: economic development, leadership development, community health, arts engagement and community design. Davis has attracted more than $15 million in funding from federal agencies including USDA, Appalachian Regional Commission, Health and Human Services and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. 

In 2020, Davis led a statewide Economic Recovery and Resiliency Program designed to support economic development professionals, small businesses and communities as they rebound from COVID-19. She facilitated the distribution of nearly $1 million in grants to Kentucky businesses and communities to support their recovery from the loss of revenues resulting from COVID-19. She now leads similar efforts supporting disaster relief and recovery for businesses and communities that have been destroyed by extreme weather events. 

Inaugural National Excellence in Extension Team Award recognizes excellence and leadership of an Extension team in performing the work of Extension research, technical assistance and outreach education. This year’s award winner is the Agricultural Experiment Station Multistate Research Group for its program titled, “Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program’s (EFNEP) Related Research, Program Evaluation and Outreach.” The team works to strengthen the evidence base of EFNEP, Extension’s flagship nutrition education program. 

The group is developing and testing critical and culturally relevant evaluation tools to assess EFNEP’s program effectiveness. Integrating the Land-grant mission of Extension, research and education, the team includes 23 university researchers, practitioners and graduate students representing 16 Land-grant Institutions. The team’s membership reflects the diversity of expertise needed to address research needs including nutrition, physical activity, education, economics, food safety, public health, sociology and statistics. The group engages 1862 and 1890 institutions in vital community-based participatory research. 

National Diversity in Extension Award recognizes significant contributions and accomplishments in achieving and sustaining diversity and pluralism. This year’s award winner is the Latinx Agricultural Network (LAN), a Community of Practice at Pennsylvania State University that was created to address an increasing regional and national issue involving a growing underserved population, the Latinx community. 

LAN brings together members from across the College of Agricultural Sciences and Extension, industry and Latinx community with the goal of ensuring Latinx operators, farmers, workers and their families in Pennsylvania and beyond receive the best Extension services that Penn State has to offer and their needs are met using comprehensive strategies and science-based information. 

A multidisciplinary team of more than 110 faculty, educators, administrators, students and grassroots advisors are working hand-to-hand to assess, evaluate, adapt and amplify future services, outreach and education efforts across disciplines spanning from plant science and farm safety to 4-H and family health and nutrition. 

Regional Individual Extension Professionals Awards recognizes individual professionals for their excellence. This year’s award winners are: 

  • 1890s Region: Angela R. Williams, 4-H Youth Development Specialist, Alabama A&M University, for exemplary leadership, community outreach, and positive impact on underserved youth. 

  • North Central Region: Christian E. Butzke, Extension Enologist and Professor, Purdue University, for exceptional national Extension leadership serving the wine industry. 

  • Northeast Region: Nila S. Cobb, Associate Professor, West Virginia University, for exemplary commitments to effective engagement of underserved youth and families to help them thrive. 

  • Southern Region: Paul R. Fisher, Professor and Extension Specialist, University of Florida, for excellence in providing science-based Extension education on controlled environment horticulture. 

Top image: Golden trophy on pile of books, against blackboard, with sun rays. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock. 

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