Sarah Keenan Receives the G. L. Carter Jr. Outstanding 4-H Youth Development Agent Award

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UT Institute of Agriculture Presents Top Faculty and Staff Awards for 2023 

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture recognized some of its top faculty, staff, researchers and Extension experts at UTIA’s annual awards and promotions luncheon on the UTIA campus in Knoxville on August 15, 2023. Many of the awards are gifts made possible by faculty, alumni and friends of the Institute.  

UT Institute of Agriculture Senior Vice Chancellor and Senior Vice President Keith Carver hosted the award winners and celebrated their work. “I’m excited to celebrate the amazing work of our UTIA faculty and staff,” says Carver. “These awards are well-deserved and represent our employees’ steadfast dedication to their work, the Institute and the people of Tennessee. The impact of their accomplishments and passion will be felt for generations to come.” 

Sarah Keenan, Extension agent in Maury County, is the recipient of the G. L. Carter Jr. Outstanding 4-H Youth Development Agent Award. This award was established by the late Dr. G.L. Carter Jr., whose Extension career began in 1949 in Greene County where he served as a 4-H agent. He was also a Hamblen County 4-H member. Dr. Carter was the first in his family to graduate from college, later earning master’s and doctorate degrees from the University of Wisconsin. His 44-year career included working as the youth editor of a farm and ranch magazine; serving as a state 4-H staff member in both Tennessee and North Carolina; and helping to create the Journal of Extension, a professional publication for Extension agents and specialists. Dr. Carter has provided the funding through an endowment to recognize an Outstanding 4-H Youth Development Agent. 

“I am honored and excited to be receiving the G. L. Carter Jr. Outstanding 4-H Youth Development Agent award,” says Keenan. “Watching young people learn about specific topics and then put that information and those skills into practice is a truly rewarding experience for me. I celebrate this recognition with the many 4-H members, volunteers, staff and community partners who have helped make the Maury County 4-H program a success.” 

Keenan has been with UT Extension 11 years, starting her career in Sumner County, and then moving to Columbia in 2016. Today, she leads 1,500 4-Hers in more than 60 clubs. Among her many accomplishments, Keenan has coached eight 4-H Horse Bowl and Horse Judging teams that have competed at the Southern Regional 4-H Horse Championships, coached three Horse Bowl and Horse Judging teams that have competed at the Eastern National 4-H Horse Roundup, and co-coached an FCS Skillathon Team that competed at 4-H Western National Roundup in Denver. Her 2022 Horse Bowl team finished eighth in the country. 

During COVID-19, Keenan worked to ensure her 4-Hers received valuable learning opportunities. In collaboration with an Arapahoe County, Colorado agent, she organized a virtual exchange program between students in each state where they played online games, asked each other questions and shared about their 4-H projects. This program has since been replicated in 15 other states. She also formed a partnership with the Maury County Sheriff’s Department to have school resource officers attend Jr Camp. This model has been duplicated in numerous counties across Tennessee. 

Keenan earned a master’s degree in agriculture from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville; a bachelor’s degree in agriculture from UT Knoxville, and a bachelor’s degree in animal sciences from Middle Tennessee State University. She received the Vernon and Ida Darter Award in 2022, the National Association of Extension 4-H Youth Development Professionals Distinguished Service Award in 2020, and the National Association of Extension 4-H Youth Development Professionals Achievement in Service Award in 2018. 

Through its land-grant mission of research, teaching and extension, the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture touches lives and provides Real. Life. Solutions.

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Brittany Decker

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