Name: Caroline E. Crocoll
Department: Office of Food, Agriculture, & Natural Resources
Title: Executive Director, Cooperative Extension System, Extension Committee on Organization and Policy
How did you end up working at APLU? I started my career with Cooperative Extension many years ago at Texas A&M. The Cooperative Extension System empowers farmers, ranchers, and communities of all sizes to meet the challenges they face, adapt to changing technology, improve nutrition and food safety, prepare for and respond to emergencies, and protect our environment. Cooperative Extension educators/agents throughout the nation translate science for the public, engage the public to act, prepare people for a better life. Extension operates through the nationwide land-grant university system and is a partnership among the federal government, primarily USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), and state and local governments. During the course of my Extension career, I spent 17 years at NIFA, advancing the agency’s research, education and Extension functions in a variety of leadership positions. When the position came available for the Executive Director of the Cooperative Extension System/Executive Committee on Organization and Policy (ECOP), which is housed at APLU, it presented a new and exciting way to advance Extension’s mission. I applied and was the successful candidate.
What current APLU project or initiative are you most excited about? Through ECOP, one of the most interesting and important initiatives I am supporting is the Coming Together for Racial Understanding (CTRU) program. Extension has been heavily involved in civil dialogue over the years, and ECOP provided seed funding for CTRU, which has a vision to grow a community of Extension professionals well prepared to foster meaningful community conversations around race, leading to positive change. Within the past two years, 26 states have joined the initiative.
What’s most rewarding about working with public research universities? The nation’s more than 100 land-grant colleges and universities have a critical mission — Extension. Through Extension, land-grant colleges and universities bring vital, practical information to agricultural producers, small business owners, consumers, families, and young people. Extension provides non-formal education and learning activities to people throughout the country. The Smith-Lever Act of 1914 created the Cooperative Extension Service as a partnership between USDA, the land-grant university (LGU) system and local governments. This unique federal-state-local partnership has worked effectively for more than 100 years. The 4-H youth development is an important part of the total Cooperative Extension System’s educational program. Being part of this historic work and making a difference for farmers, people and communities is incredibly rewarding for me.
Where is the best place you’ve traveled and why does it stand out? I spent 21 years as a military spouse and have traveled all over the world in the course of my personal and professional life. I discovered very quickly that all places are beautiful in their own unique way, but there is a particular beauty in developing nations where perspectives on life and living can be quite different from ours. Learning from these perspectives has given me a much broader view of the world, especially around the use of available resources. Seeing other cultures make use of every bit of their resources around basic human needs-food, clothing, shelter etc. made me realize how incredibly wasteful and privileged we are.
What is the best movie you’ve seen recently? The best movie I have seen recently is the musical The Greatest Showman, which was inspired by the true life story of the creator of the Barnum & Bailey Circus. I love good musicals, and I recall my mother talking about when she was a child and seeing the circus come to our small town by railroad. In the movie, there are many human themes about how all people should be treated and not be judged or marginalized because of their appearance or origins. Although the film had mixed reviews, I found the music and personal stories to be both beautiful and inspiring.
What’s the last book you read? The last book I read was The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo which is set in 19th-century Malacca, a British colony in what is now Malaysia. It is historical fiction and Chinese folklore about the concept of spirit marriages.
What’s the first thing you do when you look at your phone in the morning? After hitting the snooze button on my phone alarm, I open my Evening Observer app. This brings up my hometown paper from Dunkirk, NY, a small city on the shore of Lake Erie just south of Buffalo. I read about happenings there and see the names and faces of many people I knew growing up there. It’s a very grounding way to begin the day. After this, I open my Smart News app to see what happened in the world while I slept.
What was the last concert you attended? The last concert I attended was Handel’s Messiah at the Kennedy Center. I had never heard this music and experiencing it was on my bucket list. So beautiful and moving.