By Faith Peppers
University of Georgia
"University of Georgia Cooperative Extension has made a tremendous positive impact on the environmental, social and economic development of Georgia over the years," Angle said. "The program is one of the leading Extension programs in the United States today, and Beverly Sparks is the right person at the right time to lead the organization."
Sparks has been with UGA Extension since 1989. She has served as an extension entomologist, district director for northeast Georgia and assistant dean for extension. Since April 1, 2006, she has served as interim associate dean for extension.
"I've been preparing for this position for a long time," Sparks said in an interview seminar last week. "I didn't consciously set out to become associate dean, but everything I've done in my career has led me here."
Sparks earned undergraduate degrees in horticulture and entomology from Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Tifton, Ga., and UGA. She earned a master's degree in entomology from UGA before getting a Ph.D. in entomology from Louisiana State University.
She began her extension career as an urban entomologist in Dallas, Tex. After six years, she moved back to Georgia to work for UGA Extension.
During the interview process, Sparks spoke of her vision for UGA Extension in meeting the needs of Georgians. "Our biggest challenges," she said, "will be helping the state address issues surrounding our tremendous growth. Those challenges include land use issues and environmental strains and natural resource management issues stemming from rapid growth."
Sparks said population shifts and major demographic changes in both rural and urban areas have brought a host of challenges to many Georgia counties. Innovative new programs like the Archway Partnership Project, a program partnering UGA Extension and UGA Public Service and Outreach, are helping communities find solutions to the growing pains including zoning, housing, health care, child care, education and infrastructure needs.
"UGA Extension has a long history of helping Georgia solve problems related to agriculture, environment, economic development, families and children," Sparks said. "We will continue to be a conduit for the research and education of the university to the people of the state to address these current challenges, too."
UGA Extension is the outreach arm of the UGA CAES and College of Family and Consumer Sciences. It administers the Georgia 4 H program, which provides education and life skills training for more than 183,000 Georgia youths in grades 5 12. UGA Extension has offices in 157 of Georgia's 159 counties.
"Dr. Sparks was known around the state for her entomology work, especially her work with red imported fire ants that proved to be a costly problem in Georgia," Angle said. "Over the past year, she has become equally well known for her outstanding leadership during this dynamic time for the organization."
(Faith Peppers is a news editor for the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)