Cooperative Extension Service honors excellence, innovation among peers
By TRACY COURAGE | U of A System Division of Agriculture
LITTLE ROCK — Faculty and staff at the Cooperative Extension Service tackled tough issues affecting Arkansans this year, including providing immunization education and vaccine clinics in the Arkansas Delta, finding advanced technology to better control feral hogs statewide and repurposing neglected property into a learning center that serves Poinsett County residents.
Extension, part of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture recognized employees for these innovations and other examples of excellence. Winners were announced Dec. 5 during the service’s annual employee conference at the state office in Little Rock.
Bob Scott, extension director, commended this year’s winners for their “innovative spirit, their dedication and commitment” to the Division of Agriculture’s mission of strengthening agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption of best practices.
This year’s winners, who were nominated and selected by their peers, include the following:
Employee of the Year – Mike McClintock
McClintock, the agriculture agent and staff chair for Boone County, is also serving as staff chair for Searcy County and is temporarily filling in as the agriculture agent in Carroll County. He hosts foraging meetings in multiple counties and is working on a homesteading series. McClintock said extension work is “a brotherhood and sisterhood that you can’t compare to anything else.”
“We work for the people of this state, and the personal satisfaction you get is unbelievable,” he said.
Early Career Award for Classified Employee — Shauna McPherson
McPherson has worked for three years as a printer in Print Services where she assists with the printing, delivery and billing for the print shop. She also assisted with the implementation of a new publications ordering system.
Early Career Award for County Extension Faculty — Caramie Edwards
Edwards is the 4-H program manager in Madison County. Since she was hired in 2018, 4-H membership in the county has more than doubled from 90 to 215 members. Edwards also works with SNAP-ED efforts and oversees one of the most unique and successful school garden programs in the state. The program exposes all K-5 students in Huntsville to onsite gardening experience, nutrition lessons, and science-related curriculum throughout the school year.
Early Career Award for Program Technician/Associate — Heather Wingo
Wingo, a program associate in Family and Consumer Sciences, works on numerous programs that help Arkansans live healthier lives, including Walk Across Arkansas, Extension Get Fit, Move with Ease and the Immunity in AR community program.
“I love working with the health team and found my passion for helping Arkansans improve their health,” Wingo said.
County Team Award — Main Street Learning Park
The Poinsett County Extension staff dreamed of turning neglected property adjacent to their property into a “Learning Park” that would provide space for educational programming for youth and adults. They petitioned their Quorum Court and community members for support, which led to the creation of the Main Street Learning Park. The park now provides a safe and attractive venue with a pavilion, wooden privacy fence, enhanced entry and parking space, and an expansive, sodded lot to conduct youth and adult programs. More than 230 students from Poinsett County attended Ag Day at the park in October.
The Poinsett County team includes Craig Allen, staff chair; Jeffrey Works, extension agent-agriculture; Brenda Cox, extension agent-FCS agent; Pam Pugh, administrative specialist; and Debbie DeRossitte, retired.
State Team Award — Advancing New Technologies for Feral Hog Control
Feral hogs cause extensive damage to crops, pastures, livestock and land. For the past few years, an extension team has been investigating commercially available technologies for advancing feral hog control and conducting field demonstrations.
The team includes Becky McPeake, professor and extension wildlife specialist; Megan Billson, forest resources specialist; Jennifer Caraway, Miller County extension agent-agriculture; Shawn Clark, Pine Tree Research Station director; Jason Davis, extension application technologist; Michael Paskewitz, Izard County extension staff chair; Kenny Simon, animal science instructor; Amy Simpson, Clark County extension staff chair; and Rachel Lipsey, forest resources project/program specialist.
“Our county agents were early leaders in demonstrating best practices for farmers and private landowners to control feral hogs, and extension continues to be at the forefront in advancing new technologies and educating the public,” Scott said.
Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility Team Award — Immunity in AR Communities
Arkansas’ Delta residents were hard-hit during the pandemic, especially Spanish-speaking populations, people with low health literacy and difficult-to-reach populations who were receiving vaccines at lower rates than the state’s more urban, populated areas.
Extension collaborated with ARcare to organize and establish vaccine clinics in six counties: Cross, Independence, Jackson, Monroe, Prairie and Woodruff counties. The clinics administered more than 2,500 vaccines with 53 percent going to our targeted, minority populations.
The grant-funded project — Immunity in AR Communities — helped remove barriers to ensure all Arkansans have an equitable chance of attaining and maintaining their health.
The Immunity in AR Communities team includes:
Bryan Mader, assistant professor of health; Heather Wingo, FCS program associate; Leigh Ann Bullington, FCS educator; Joy West, Jackson County extension agent-FCS; Millie Collins, Cross County extension agent-FCS; Julian Carpenter, Independence County agent-FCS; Valerie Turner, Monroe County FCS agent and staff chair; Emilee Moody, Prairie County agent-FCS.
Three extension employees received scholarships to further their education and professional skills.
The Lynn R. Russell Endowed Award of Professional Excellence was awarded to Valerie Turner, Monroe County agent.
The Mildred and Liz Childs Professional Development FundScholarship was awarded to two agents this year: Alta Lockley, Arkansas County agent- 4-H/FCS; and Katie Cullum, White County extension agent-FCS.
Extension also recognized employees for service milestones for five years of service and higher. Three employees were recognized for 45 years of service:
- Diane Cunningham – Monroe County administrative specialist III
- Onita Watson — Arkansas County, administrative support supervisor
- Sherry Funderburg — Ozark District administrative assistant
To learn about extension programs in Arkansas, contact your local Cooperative Extension Service agent or visit www.uaex.uada.edu. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram at @AR_Extension. To learn more about Division of Agriculture research, visit the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station website: https://aaes.uada.edu. Follow on Twitter at @ArkAgResearch. To learn more about the Division of Agriculture, visit https://uada.edu/. Follow us on Twitter at @AgInArk.