Published on 04/06/16

FACS associate dean receives Priester Award for exemplary leadership

By Haley Lacuesta

Debbie Murray, who has served as associate dean for extension and outreach at the University of Georgia’s College of Family and Consumer Sciences since 2012, has received the Jeanne M. Priester Award for exemplary, impactful leadership in the area of health and wellness.

Murray will be presented the award at the National Health Outreach Conference on Friday, April 8, in Roanoke, Va. The Priester Award is given in memory of Jeanne M. Priester, a leader in advancing health education within the Cooperative Extension system during her tenure at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Murray, who came to UGA following a successful career at the University of Kentucky, said working with community leaders from impoverished areas of eastern Kentucky early in her career in Extension made her realize the powerful impact access to the university’s expertise can have on families and communities.

“Tapping in to that knowledge and expertise can help solve community problems,” she said.

In her current role, Murray leads the college to fulfill the land-grant university mission of providing Georgia’s residents, businesses and communities access to quality outreach educational experiences and the institution’s knowledge base.

Known as an eager collaborator and supportive colleague, Murray helps lead the University of Georgia Obesity Initiative, working to assemble teams of specialists, agents and faculty from across campus to provide training, outreach and research to address the issue.

Murray, who calls herself an “issues-driven” educator, said the community engagement aspect and broad variety of Extension work remains her major motivator, even today.

“You have to have healthy families to have a healthy community, and because we are so engaged with the community, we require many different kinds of leadership,” she said.

Murray “exemplifies impactful leadership in our state, region and nationally in the area of health and wellness,” said FACS Dean Linda Kirk Fox. “Because of her positive attitude and ability to articulate the power of Extension, many individuals in the colleges and research units across campus want to work with her. She exhibits innovation and creative problem solving.”

Haley Lacuesta is a student worker with the University of Georgia College of Family and Consumer Sciences.

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