Looking for ways to increase the impact of your research or to more directly connect it with community? Consider partnering with UGA’s Cooperative Extension! As both a land- and sea-grant institution, UGA is charged with serving the needs of Georgia and its citizens, and boasts one of the most robust Extension programs in the nation, with dedicated agents providing consultation and programming in every one of Georgia’s 159 counties. Extension’s stated purpose is “to translate the science of everyday living for farmers, families and communities to foster a healthy and prosperous Georgia.”
Enter research — “the science of everyday living” takes shape every day in research spaces all across the UGA enterprise. Our very identity compels us to make the benefits of our research available to Georgia citizens as best we can, working hand in hand with Extension and its 321 agents and 450-plus classified employees.
Extension agents are public service track faculty who develop and extend programming based on local needs and informed by research subject matter. Their education programs deliver unbiased, research-based education in three main areas: agriculture and natural resources (ANR), family and consumer sciences (FACS) and 4-H youth development.
In addition to agents, Extension specialists are tenure-track or public service-track faculty located in academic units: ANR and 4-H specialists in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, and FACS specialists in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences. The Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources also includes some Extension specialists among its faculty.
In partnership with advisory councils, citizens and local governments, Extension agents and their colleagues develop a plan of work every other year to strategically define the issues they will address in their community, leveraging their expertise with that of their local partners and the rest of the UGA community. Because of this grassroots needs assessment, programming in every Georgia county is unique and personalized.
Of course, every county has a certain level of base programming that is similar across the state, such as soil testing, pesticide safety training, home horticulture advice and 4-H programming. Extension has identified eight programming areas to help identify, aggregate and track impact of programming. These include:
- Animal production
- Food safety and quality
- Health and wellness
- Community, home & life skills
- Plant production
- Sustainability, conservation and the environment
- Urban agriculture
- Youth and family development
County agents routinely collaborate with specialists, as well as researchers from other UGA units and even other universities, to address local needs that may be outside their areas of expertise. Through Extension, the opportunity is ripe for connecting broader research activities to the state—as long as those activities serve the community’s needs. Recent examples include research in rural health, farmer mental health and suicide, and childhood obesity.
In summary, Extension programming is local and collaborative. It is science-based and results-driven, but it is also personal, even multi-generational. Indeed, to the residents of many parts of our state, Extension personnel are UGA. They are the face, voice and hands of the university. They build lasting relationships with the individuals and communities they serve. They work hard to establish trust—and just as hard to maintain that trust once it’s there.
This summer, the United States will celebrate the 161st anniversary of one of the most significant—yet underappreciated—pieces of legislation ever enacted regarding U.S. higher education. Passed on July 2, 1862, the Morrill Act paved the way for today’s “land-grant” universities, of which the University of Georgia is proudly one. The act made it possible for states to establish public colleges funded by the development or sale of associated federal land grants.
The new land-grant institutions, which emphasized agricultural and mechanical arts, opened opportunities to farmers, tradespeople and other working-class citizens to reap the benefits of a college education. Together with two subsequent acts, the Hatch Act of 1877 and the Smith-Lever Act of 1914, this new national approach to higher education carried with it a three-part charge to land-grant universities: teach, conduct research and provide service to the local (i.e., state) communities.
For more than 160 years, UGA researchers have stepped up to contribute to our university mission of teaching, research and service. It’s a responsibility—and a tradition—that will continue throughout the 21st century and beyond, for the benefit of the state we call home.
As Georgia’s land-grant university, UGA is ideally situated not just to conduct research with impact, but to apply that research through resources like Extension. If your research has potential application to a real challenge affecting everyday Georgians and you are not already working with Cooperative Extension, I urge you to connect and explore a potential collaboration with high societal impact. For more inspiration, please take a moment to view the Research Live webinar, “Turning Research into Impact: How UGA Cooperative Extension Works with Georgia Communities.” We all have a role to play in upholding and growing this rich tradition.
Karen J. L. Burg
Vice President for Research
Harbor Lights Chair in Biomedical Research