Campus News

More than 400 attend Cooperative Extension conference at Rock Eagle

More than 400 UGA Cooperative Extension agents, specialists and researchers gathered at Rock Eagle 4-H Center in Eatonton Jan. 12-14 for a biennial UGA Extension tradition that provides equal doses of training and inspiration.

The Georgia Cooperative Extension Conference offers agents the chance to learn about the latest research and resources available.

In addition to new resources, this year’s conference also came with a call to think about outreach and service as scholarship.

UGA Extension agents offer Georgia’s farmers, families and homeowners a wealth of research-based, Georgia-specific training and information on topics ranging from child care to ­leadership development to agronomic weed control to home lawn ­management. During fiscal year 2015, agents provided more than 47,000 workshops, classes and camps in every county in Georgia.

Agents have to measure the impact of their work for public accountability, but it’s less common to find agents who publish scholarly articles about their programming in scholarly publications. That’s the next step, Laura Perry Johnson, associate dean for Extension, told the agents.

“We’ve always valued programming; that’s what we’re good at and that’s what we’ve rewarded and developed,” Johnson said. “But we need to close the circle. We need to ‘finish the drill’ as Mark Richt used to say.”

She asked agents to document their teaching and outreach methods and outcomes as well as the results of the on-farm experiments they’ve ­traditionally published.

Lorilee Sandmann, professor emerita of the UGA College of Education and the opening session speaker for this year’s conference, called on agents to merge the knowledge being created within their own communities with the knowledge being generated at the university to create the “scholarship of engagement.”

“We’re not just talking about research, we’re talking about scholarship in several different modes,” Sandmann said. “We need to broaden our conception of scholarship and … think about Extension as a scholarly act.

“You are a learner amongst learners,” she also said. “You are thinking through problems in that swampy lowland (of the real world). You are employing an engaged, scholarly approach within a culture of evidence.”