USDA, APLU and Cooperative Extension Award Top Honors in Extension Excellence and Diversity

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UT Extension Specialist Served on Team Receiving National Excellence Award

KNOXVILLE, Tenn.– Karen Franck, an associate professor and evaluation specialist with University of Tennessee Extension Department of Family and Consumer Sciences, and collaborators from 16 land-grant institutions were recognized as among the national recipients of the 2022 top honors in Extension Excellence and Diversity.

Franck is on the team honored with the Inaugural National Excellence in Extension Team Award by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), and Cooperative Extension. USDA-NIFA, APLU, and Cooperative Extension have sponsored awards since 1991.

When making the announcement at the APLU’s recent annual meeting, Beverly Durgan, chair, Extension Committee on Organization and Policy and dean of Extension at the University of Minnesota, said, “These leaders are making a difference by connecting community needs and university resources to address critical issues across the nation.”

The inaugural award recognized the multistate team’s visionary leadership and diversity in educational programming for the program entitled “Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program’s (EFNEP) Related Research, Program Evaluation, and Outreach.” A federally funded program for low-income audiences, EFNEP is Extension’s national flagship nutrition education program. The team works to strengthen the evidence base of EFNEP.

The group developed and tested critical and culturally relevant evaluation tools to assess EFNEP’s program effectiveness. Integrating the land-grant mission of Extension, research, and education, the team includes 23 university researchers, practitioners, and graduate students and represents 16 land-grant institutions. Membership reflects the diversity of expertise needed to address research needs including nutrition, physical activity, education, economics, food safety, public health, sociology, and statistics. The group engages 1862 and 1890 institutions in vital community-based participatory research.

Franck has been one of the researchers working on the project since 2015. The goal of the group was to improve nutrition and health outcomes for adults and youth who participate in EFNEP. She coordinated efforts to effectively measure food safety behaviors for EFNEP adults, which resulted in a valid and reliable survey used across all 76 LGUs. 

“The work of this team is outstanding and has far-reaching, positive impacts,” says Ashley Stokes, dean of UT Extension. “This national recognition is well deserved, and we celebrate the excellence of Dr. Franck’s strong contributions to this work.”

APLU is a research, policy, and advocacy organization dedicated to strengthening and advancing the work of public universities in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. With a membership of more than 250 public research universities, land-grant institutions, state university systems, and affiliated organizations, APLU’s agenda is built on the three pillars of increasing degree completion and academic success, advancing scientific research, and expanding engagement. Annually, member campuses enroll 5.0 million undergraduates and 1.3 million graduate students, award 1.3 million degrees, employ 1.3 million faculty and staff, and conduct $49.5 billion in university-based research.

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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