Fall semester is the time of year when Cooperative Extension professionals across the Southern region, including Fort Valley State University (FVSU), gather to network, share resources, build partnerships and address emerging issues affecting our communities as a collective unit.
Members of the Southern Region Program Leadership Network (SR-PLN), Association of Extension Administrators (AEA) and the Association of Southern Region Extension Directors (ASRED) convened from Aug. 21-24 in Orlando, Florida, for the annual conference.
Cooperative Extension empowers farmers, ranchers and communities of all sizes to overcome their challenges, adapt to changing technology, improve nutrition and food safety, prepare for and respond to emergencies, and protect our environment. Extension educators and specialists help change lives in the communities they serve.
This year’s theme for the conference was Next Generation: Evolving the Extension Enterprise. Attendees heard from keynote speaker Mansfield (Pete) Key III, a leading growth development strategist and international motivational speaker. Also, Tom Davidson of Leadership Nature presented a two-part virtual session on Treating Your Employees Like Volunteers (and Your Volunteers Like Employees) for pre- and post-conferences.
This working meeting provides an opportunity for land-grant institutions in the Southern region to advance their mission of fostering and strengthening Extension education programming. The structure of SR-PLN allows multi-institutional communication within and among disciplinary and functional lines.
In addition, Extension professionals receive awards for their exceptional service in the land-grant system. AEA awarded Woodie Hughes Jr., assistant Extension administrator state 4-H program leader, and Dr. Cedric Ogden, assistant professor/Extension engineer specialist, at FVSU for their impact in their program areas. Hughes received the Excellence in Extension programming in 4-H award. Ogden received the Excellence in Extension programming in community resource development award. AEA leadership recognized both awardees at the joint meeting.
This is Hughes second time receiving the Excellence in Extension Award.
“To receive this award for a second time over my 20-plus-year career at FVSU is a humbling, inspiring and blessed feeling,” he beamed. “However, on my own accord, I could not have done this work. I am an instrument who God works through, along with many 4-H adult volunteers, youths and families that complete and sustain all the impactful 4-H positive youth development program work at the community stakeholders’ level.”
Hughes added this award reflects him being an innovative and adaptive leader, Food Systems Leadership Institute Fellow, underserved educator, National 4-H Trailblazer and military veteran. To be eligible to receive such a prestigious award, the awardee must be a Cooperative Extension 4-H Program professional exhibiting excellence with a minimum of five consecutive years of Extension programming responsibilities.
The FVSU 4-H Program strives to build strong and sustainable foundations through teaching and providing 4-H positive youth development outreach education, experiential learning activities and opportunities for support for the healthy growth of youths and families. As a result of the FVSU 4-H Program Walmart Foundation 4-H Healthy Habits grant project activities, more than 500 households have received free fresh produce from the 4-H Village Community Garden in Sylvester, Georgia, annually.
Ogden also echoed that it is honor to be recognized for his contributions and efforts.
“Receiving this award is a reminder of the responsibility that comes with it. This recognition fuels my determination to continue pushing boundaries, striving for excellence and making a positive impact on the world,” he said.
The FVSU engineer specialist added, “Technology and renewable energy outreach to underserved communities in Georgia are beneficial in increasing access to services, resources and opportunities to those who need it most. By providing education and training through Extension, a significant impact is made by bridging gaps and creating pathways from students and landowners to industry leaders and policymakers.”
Dr. Mark Latimore Jr., FVSU’s associate dean for Extension, congratulated both awardees.
“This special recognition by AEA exemplifies Mr. Hughes and Dr. Ogden’s dedication to their work and service for the purpose of providing educational and positive experiences that enrich lives,” he commended. “The Fort Valley family is thrilled by our colleagues’ accomplishments.”
Since 1989, the purpose of the joint meeting has been to promote multistate cooperation by identifying and addressing emerging issues. Extension professionals serve in eight key areas: Agriculture and Natural Resources, Community Development, Family and Consumer Sciences, 4-H Youth Development, Communications, Information Technology, Middle Management, and Program and Staff Development. These committees meet regularly throughout the year to complete multiple plans of work goals.
Accomplishments from this collaborative effort include a 2022 Southern Region Teen Leadership Conference in Crossville, Tennessee, data collection from a disaster loss assessment survey, organizing community resiliency webinars related to climate change, and communications curricula for institutional trainings.
A land-grant university is an institution that provides research-based programs and resources for residents in their state and has been designated by its state legislature or Congress to receive the benefits of the Morrill Acts of 1862, 1890 and 1994. There is one land-grant institution in every state and territory of the United States and the District of Columbia. Certain states have more than one land-grant institution as a result of the second Morrill Act, and some western and plains states have several because of 1994 land-grant tribal colleges.