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

Monday, September 24, 2018

APLU: Jeff Lieberson, (202) 478-6073
NIFA: William Hoffman, (202) 401-1112
Cooperative Extension: Sandy Ruble, (202) 478-6088

WASHINGTON, D.C.  Sept. 24, 2018 – 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 Lesia Oesterreich from Iowa State University will receive the 2018 Excellence in Extension Award and Ronald Cox, Jr., from Oklahoma State University will receive the National Extension Diversity Award. Both awards, along with Regional Excellence in Extension Awards, will be presented at a ceremony on Nov. 11 in New Orleans, Louisiana during APLU’s 131st Annual Meeting.

“NIFA is proud to support the national network of Extension experts and educators through our land-grant institution partnership, said NIFA Acting Director Tom Shanower. “This collaboration brings science-based knowledge to farmers, ranchers, and community members to help them grow their businesses, raise healthy families, and support their communities.”

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. NIFA, Cooperative Extension, and APLU will also present four regional awards for excellence this year. The National Diversity Award recognizes significant contributions and accomplishments in achieving and sustaining diversity and pluralism. NIFA and Cooperative Extension have sponsored the awards since 1991.

Oesterreich serves as a Family Life Extension State Specialist at Iowa State University where her educational programs help teachers and caregivers significantly increase understanding in child development, early learning, positive behavior reinforcement, nutrition, as well as health and safety practices. Her efforts have secured over $8 million in extramural funding to strengthen early childhood programs. These programs are accessed by over 36,000 early childhood educators each year who teach an estimated 165,000 children annually. When rural and urban Iowans drop their kids off at the school or daycare center, the adults that are taking care of them are better qualified to do so thanks to Oesterreich’s efforts.

Cox is an Associate Research Professor and Cooperative Extension Specialist at Oklahoma State University. Cox’s research focuses on how environment, family, and individual characteristics interact to create risk and resilience factors among Latino immigrant adolescents. This led to the development and evaluation of the ¡Unidos Se Puede! (United We Can!) program. ¡Unidos Se Puede! has impacted approximately 500 families and has been shown to increase areas such as parental involvement in school, youth academic achievement and self-efficacy, and reducing negative behaviors, including drug use. To further serve Latino families in Oklahoma, Cox has gathered or translated over 1,000 Spanish-language fact sheets and distributed them to social service agencies serving Latinos. He has launched a weekly Spanish-language radio program that reaches 20,000 listeners and started a health fair for Spanish speakers that provides health screenings and advice to approximately 600 families each year.

The 2018 Regional Excellence in Extension recipients include:

  • 1890 Institutions Region: Jason P. de Koff, Extension Associate Professor, Assistant Program Leader, Tennessee State University, for leadership in Tennessee and the nation to build capacity for biomass energy training and promotion.
  • North Central Region: Joe D. Luck, Associate Professor and Precision Agriculture Engineer, University of Nebraska, where he has led the Nebraska Extension Precision Agriculture Data Management workshops, which have provided hands-on training to over 600 producers and agriculture professionals, affecting more than 4.5 million acres of crops spanning four states.
  • Northeast Region: Molly E. Donovan, State Specialist in Community and Economic Development, University of New Hampshire, for engaging diverse audiences in community decision-making and actions that resulted in revitalized downtown areas, retained and growing business, and an enhanced quality of life for the communities she serves.
  • Southern Region: R. Dwayne Elmore, State Wildlife Specialist and Professor, Oklahoma State University, for assessing the needs of diverse stakeholders in the areas of wildlife habitat management, prescribed fire, endangered species conservation, wildlife damage management, range management, grouse conservation, and youth education in new impactful innovative ways.

About Cooperative Extension

Cooperative Extension translates science for practical applications; engages with the public by providing reliable information leading to positive action; and transforms individuals, families, communities, and businesses in rural and urban areas. Extension operates through the nationwide land-grant university system and is a partnership among the federal government (through NIFA) and state and local governments. At the national level, Extension is coordinated by the Extension Committee on Organization and Policy, which is the representative leadership and governing body of Extension nationwide and works in partnership with the APLU Commission on Food, Environment, and Natural Resources. See and for more information or follow us on Twitter @Ext100Years, #CoopExtAward

About the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities

APLU is a research, policy, and advocacy organization dedicated to strengthening and advancing the work of public universities in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. With a membership of 237 public research universities, land-grant institutions, state university systems, and affiliated organizations, APLU's agenda is built on the three pillars of increasing degree completion and academic success, advancing scientific research, and expanding engagement. Annually, member campuses enroll 4.8 million undergraduates and 1.3 million graduate students, award 1.3 million degrees, employ 1.3 million faculty and staff, and conduct $44.9 billion in university-based research.

About the National Institute of Food and Agriculture

NIFA’s mission is to invest in and advance agricultural research, education, and extension to solve societal challenges. NIFA’s investments in transformative science directly support the long-term prosperity and global preeminence of U.S. agriculture. To learn more about NIFA’s impact on agricultural sciences, visit, sign up for email updates, or follow us on Twitter @USDA_NIFA, #NIFAImpacts.

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