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

October 2, 2020

Washington, DC – Recognizing visionary leadership and diversity in educational programming, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), Cooperative Extension, and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) today announced that Jamie Ellis of the University of Florida will receive the 2020 Excellence in Extension Award and the University of Missouri’s 4-H Center for Youth Development will receive the National Extension Diversity Award. USDA-NIFA and Cooperative Extension have sponsored the awards since 1991. The awards will be presented virtually on October 28.

“Each year, these awards showcase the fundamental, transformative difference Cooperative Extension continues to make in our society,” said NIFA Acting Director Parag Chitnis. “Excellent programs like these are a testament to the true value of Cooperative Extension capacity funds more than a century after the Smith-Lever Act created this unparalleled system of outreach and education that enriches every community across the nation.”

“This year’s National Cooperative Extension Award winners demonstrate educational excellence,” said Mark Latimore, Jr., Associate Dean and Administrator for Extension, Fort Valley State University, and Chair of the Extension Committee on Organization and Policy. “They stand as a powerful example of the impact of Cooperative Extension to address real-world problems in communities across the country.”

National Excellence in Extension Award

The Excellence in Extension Award is given annually to one Cooperative Extension professional who excels at programming, provides visionary leadership and makes a positive impact on constituents served.

Jamie Ellis is a Professor and Extension Specialist in Agriculture in the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences at the University of Florida, where he directs the Honey Bee Research and Extension Laboratory.

The laboratory’s mission is to advance the understanding of honeybees in Florida, the U.S., and globally, with the goal of improving the health and productivity of honeybee colonies everywhere. Dr. Ellis advances this mission through basic and applied research with managed and wild honeybees, communicating his findings to assorted clientele groups through diverse Extension programming, and training future generations of bee educators, researchers, and conservationists. His work has contributed to a four-fold increase in the number of managed honeybee colonies and a five-fold increase in the number of beekeepers in Florida.

National Diversity in Extension Award

The National Diversity Award recognizes significant contributions and accomplishments in achieving and sustaining diversity and pluralism.

The University of Missouri’s 4-H Center for Youth Development promotes college as an attainable goal for high school youth who typically are not encouraged to attend, such as first-generation, underrepresented, and/or vulnerable college students. In 2002, the University of Missouri and Lincoln University Extension educators recognized the need to develop an extensive college orientation program that included ongoing local mentoring and a college orientation conference.

Urban 4-H sites on both sides of state, Kansas City and St. Louis, recognized the need to create and provide a specialized program to meet the needs of their participants, focusing on helping youth prepare, enroll, experience college success, and graduate from college. Since its inception, more than 41 percent of participants have graduated from college and more than 25 percent are presently college sophomores, juniors, and seniors. The overall college retention rate is 67 percent. The effort continues to grow throughout the state of Missouri and is being introduced in other states through the National 4-H Mentoring program grant.

Regional Awards

NIFA, Cooperative Extension, and APLU will also present five regional awards for excellence this year. The 2020 Regional Excellence in Extension recipients are:

  • 1890 Institutions Region: Sanjun Gu, Horticulture Specialist, North Carolina A&T State University, for expansion of horticulture science to all communities.
  • North Central Region: Lisa A. Bottomley, Senior Extension Specialist and Manager of Volunteer Services, Michigan State University, for leadership in best practices in volunteer and youth engagement.
  • Northeast Region: Jennifer Robertson-Honecker, STEM Specialist, 4-H Youth Development Program, West Virginia University, for innovative programming to educate youth in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
  • Southern Region: Hailin Zhang, Nutrient Management Extension Specialist, Oklahoma State University, for using agricultural science to advance public understanding of effective agricultural practices.
  • Western Region: Paul Allen Hill, Extension Professor, Applied Sciences and Technical Education, Utah State University, for innovative economic development program empowering rural communities through remote work.

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