Published on 05/05/16

New generation of UGA Cooperative Extension leaders graduate from ExTEND leadership program

By Whitney Dixon

More than a dozen University of Georgia Cooperative Extension leaders graduated from UGA’s ExTEND Advance Leadership Training Program on May 5.

The graduation of ExTEND’s second class marks UGA Extension’s commitment to ensuring effective, efficient and meaningful service to Georgians today and in the future.

“One of the challenges we have in UGA Extension right now is building capacity for leadership and succession planning,” said Laura Perry Johnson, associate dean for Extension in the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and director for UGA Extension. “Due to early retirements and budget cuts (during the recession), we have a very young work force, and we need people to be able to step into leadership roles earlier and earlier. We are investing in our people, and the ExTEND Academy is a great example of one of these opportunities.

“I have been so proud of this group as they have grown and expanded their horizons over the past 16 months,” she added. "I am excited about the great things they will do in our organization and beyond as they continue to grow and expand their leadership capacities.”

According to the U.S. Social Security Administration, 10,000 baby boomers retire each day in the United States, thinning the experienced leadership benches at many companies and institutions. In an effort to prevent this loss of skilled leadership inside UGA Extension, administrators developed the ExTend Advanced Leadership Training Program to develop new leaders who will be ready as veteran Extension agents and program managers retire.

The program was developed as a follow-up to Extension Academy in order to further adapt leaders to changes within UGA Extension and provide professional leadership development opportunities to those invested in the field.

Over the last 16 months, from December 2014 to May 2016, participants have attended six professional development training sessions throughout the state that focused on understanding UGA Extension as an organization, individual and team development, leading and managing change, crisis communication, interpersonal relationships, the power of project management, and funding and public policy.

Those graduating also devised a personal action plan, identifying goals, strategies and action steps for their personal professional development in the future. To conclude the program, participants traveled to Ecuador for a week this April to assist in expanding the Ecuadorian Extension system in 24 provinces.

ExTEND seeks to continually develop a pool of competent, prepared leaders within UGA Extension.

The following are graduates of ExTEND's 2016 class:

  • Ellen Bauske, program coordinator, Center for Urban Agriculture, Spalding County
  • Melanie Biersmith, Extension 4-H Youth Development specialist and environmental education coordinator, Putnam County
  • Sadie Brown, director of fiscal affairs, UGA CAES Business Office, Clarke County
  • Christa A. Campbell, county Extension coordinator and Extension Family and Consumer Sciences agent, Elbert and Lincoln counties
  • Tammy Cheely, county Extension coordinator and Agriculture and Natural Resources agent, Warren County
  • Shane Curry, Extension Agricultural and Natural Resources agent, Appling County
  • Kisha Faulk, Extension Family and Consumer Sciences program development coordinator, Northwest District, Spalding County
  • Susan Howington, county Extension Coordinator and Extension Family and Consumer Sciences agent, Henry County
  • Todd Hurt, program development specialist, Office of the Associate Dean for Extension, Clarke County
  • Sonya Jones, county Extension coordinator and 4-H Youth Development agent, Pulaski County
  • Sunshine Jordan, accountability and operations analyst, UGA CAES Business Office, Clarke County
  • Steve Morgan, county Extension coordinator and Agriculture and Natural Resources agent, Harris, Meriwether and Talbot counties
  • Cliff Riner, coordinator, UGA Vidalia Onion and Vegetable Research Center, and Vidalia onion area Extension specialist, Toombs County
  • Angela Rowell, director, CAES Office of Communications and Creative Services, Clarke County
  • Amanda Tedrow, county Extension coordinator and Agricultural and Natural Resources agent, Clarke County
  • Susan Yearwood, 4-H Youth Development agent, Stephens County

For more information about UGA Extension and the services it provides to Georgians visit

Whitney Dixon is a communications intern for UGA Cooperative Extension and a student at the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

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