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

October 13, 2015

Washington, DC — Cooperative Extension and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) today announced that Dr. Joe Outlaw of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension will receive the 2015 Excellence in Extension Award for his commitment to community engagement and his visionary leadership as Extension educator. A second honor, the National Extension Diversity Award, goes to a program called Texas Grow! Eat! Go! aimed at improving community health through exercise and nutrition education, also from Texas A&M AgriLife Extension. Both awards will be presented at the 128th Annual Meeting of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) in Indianapolis, Indiana, November 15-17, 2015.

The Excellence in Extension Award is a national award given annually to one Cooperative Extension professional in recognition of their visionary leadership, excellence in programming, and positive impact on their community. The National Diversity Award recognizes an Extension program exhibiting significant contributions and accomplishments in achieving and sustaining diversity and pluralism. In addition to the national recognition, one Extension educator from each of the five Cooperative Extension regions (northeast, north central, south, west, and 1890 universities), will be recognized for excellence at the APLU Annual Meeting. USDA-NIFA and Cooperative Extension have sponsored the Excellence in Extension and National Diversity awards since 1991.

“Programs like these demonstrate the incredible impact that Extension has on Americans all across the country. Their success is a testament to how Extension work nationwide has helped many individuals, families, producers and communities apply science-based knowledge to solve many vexing problems facing our nation,” said Sonny Ramaswamy, USDA-NIFA director. “I applaud all our award recipients for their sustained ability to extend knowledge and change lives.”

“Cooperative Extension is proud to recognize those in our network who excel at using the extension of knowledge to transform Americans’ lives,” said Delbert Foster, executive director of 1890 Programs, South Carolina State University, and chair of the Extension Committee on Organization and Policy, the representative leadership and governing body of Cooperative Extension nationwide. “Their work of translating research for practical application, engaging learners to take positive action, and improving lives, businesses, and communities through education provides a shining example of Cooperative Extension’s relevance and impact.”

Dr. Outlaw serves as professor and Extension economist. His applied research and outreach programs are highly regarded, particularly on the subjects of alternative technologies, renewable fuels, and various agricultural and environmental policies. Dr. Outlaw made critical contributions to the 2014 Farm Bill, as he had done in previous instances of agriculture legislation. By mobilizing policy educators, collaborating on curricula, developing a web-based decision aid, and conducting training to support producers nationwide, he made vital contributions to the formulation of the Farm Bill. Dr. Outlaw often conducts analyses, prepares reports, and presents research results for the United States House and Senate Agriculture Committees.  He has also garnered more than $23.5 million in grants and contracts, has more than 350 research and Extension publications, and has 600-plus invited presentations.  

The Texas Go! Eat! Grow! program is an effective, replicable initiative to reverse unhealthy weight trends and prevent unhealthy weight gain in young children. The problem is particularly acute in Texas where one in three children and nearly half of Hispanic children are overweight or obese. Texas Grow! Eat! Go was launched to combat endemic obesity. The Texas Go! Eat! Grow! initiative is a culturally sensitive, school-based intervention that harnessed Extension assets in garden, nutrition and physical activity education, most notably from Texas A&M AgriLife Extension’s award-winning, bilingual Junior Master Gardener and Walk Across Texas programs. Conducted primarily in urban Title 1 elementary schools, TGEG youth enrollment was 44 percent Hispanic and 18 percent African American, with 44 percent indicating family food insecurity.

Evaluation of the pilot program showed significant change in children trying, consuming, and preferring vegetables; increased moderate to vigorous physical activity; decreased screen time; and significant increases in water consumption and availability of fresh fruits and vegetables in the home. Obesity rates fell from 57 percent before intervention to 39 percent post-intervention. Now the program is being introduced across Texas and nationwide through train-the-trainer workshops and an English/ Spanish curriculum called “Learn! Grow! Eat! Go!” available through the international Junior Master Gardener network (http://jmgkids.us/LGEG).

Awards also are presented in each of five regions. The 2015 Regional Excellence in Extension recipients are:

  • 1890 Institutions Region: Virginie Zoumenou, Associate Professor/State Extension Nutrition Specialist, 1890 FCS Program /EFNEP Director, University of Maryland Eastern Shore
  • North Central Region: Julie Garden-Robinson, Professor and Food and Nutrition Specialist, North Dakota State University Extension Service
  • Northeast Region: Changlu Wang, Associate Extension Specialist, Department of Entomology, Rutgers - The State University of New Jersey
  • Southern Region: Derrell S. Peel, Charles Breedlove Professor of Agribusiness, Agricultural Economics Department, Oklahoma State University
  • Western Region: Dana Martin, Extension Regional Administrator, Oregon State University Extension Service 

Through federal funding and leadership for research, education and Extension programs, USDA-NIFA focuses on investing in science and solving critical issues impacting people's daily lives and the nation's future. For more information, visit www.nifa.usda.gov.

Cooperative Extension (Extension) translates science for practical applications; engages with the public by providing reliable information leading to positive action; and transforms individuals, families, communities and businesses in rural and urban areas. Extension operates through the nationwide land-grant university system and is a partnership among the federal government (through USDA-0NIFA) and state and local governments. At the national level, Extension is coordinated by the Extension Committee on Organization and Policy (ECOP), which is the representative leadership and governing body of Extension nationwide and works in partnership with the APLU Commission on Food, Environment and Natural Resources.

APLU is a research, policy, and advocacy organization representing 237 public research universities, land-grant institutions, state university systems, and affiliated organizations.  The association’s membership includes 75 U.S. land-grant institutions, including 18 historically black universities. In addition, APLU represents the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC), which serves the interests of the nation’s 33 American Indian land-grant colleges.

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