ENGAGEMENT THROUGH COOPERATIVE EXTENSION: TOWARDS UNDERSTANDING MEANING AND PRACTICE AMONG EDUCATORS IN TWO STATE EXTENSION SYSTEMS

Open Access
Author:
Vines, Karen Absher
Graduate Program:
Agricultural and Extension Education
Degree:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Dissertation
Date of Defense:
March 02, 2017
Committee Members:
  • Dr. Connie Baggett, Dissertation Advisor/Co-Advisor
  • Dr. Connie Baggett, Committee Chair/Co-Chair
  • Dr. Ed Yoder, Committee Member
  • Dr. Linda Caldwell, Committee Member
  • Dr. Ted Alter, Outside Member
  • Dr. Eric Kaufman, Special Member
Keywords:
  • Higher Education
  • Engagement
  • Community Development
  • Cooperative Extension
Abstract:
The Smith-Lever Act of 1914, which created Cooperative Extension, provided a connection between the land-grant universities and communities. Rural communities benefited from access to education and research that improved their lives, businesses, and communities. Cooperative Extension has changed as society has changed, increasing content that is provided and access to new audiences. The original model for program delivery for Cooperative Extension is the expert model, which is characterized as a top-down approach, where communication and expertise originate from the university and Extension relays resources determined to meet local needs. Cooperative Extension has been encouraged to adopt a more engaged model of program delivery since as early as the 1960’s. An engaged model of program delivery is characterized by shared expertise and learning as the community and Extension work together to identify problems and solutions to challenging, complex issues. The calls for greater engagement in Cooperative Extension are echoed in higher education as it is challenged to connect with local communities. This qualitative study explored the meaning of an engaged model in Cooperative Extension, including how and why Extension professionals apply the engaged model in their work. In addition, the study identified barriers that prevent and drivers that encourage the use of the engaged model in Extension, focusing particularly on two states. Findings from this study are intended to encourage greater adoption of the engaged model in Cooperative Extension. In addition, the study seeks to provide a mechanism through which Cooperative Extension can provide leadership in guiding higher education to greater engagement. The findings support use of both models in Cooperative Extension and in higher education, but suggest program development and implementation needs to be most closely aligned with the engaged model. Stronger relationships among professionals throughout higher education organizations, including those at local and campus locations will allow the higher education to build on the strong community connections maintained by Cooperative Extension. This will not only provide communities with increased access to resources that will help resolve the major challenges they are facing today but will also provide increased capacity in shaping their future. Engagement of higher education can successfully intertwine the three missions of the university: Extension, research and academic instruction.