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LaDonna Hines serves as the OSU Extension county director in Oklahoma County. (Photo by Hannah McCoon)

Extending Her Hand

Friday, May 27, 2022

Media Contact: Jami Mattox | Agricultural Communications Services | 405-744-8061 |

When registered dietitian LaDonna Hines started her journey as an Oklahoma State University Extension staff member, she had little knowledge of what she was getting herself into.

In 2001, Hines accepted her first position in OSU Extension as the Community Nutrition Education Program area coordinator for the northwest district.

She then served as the Oklahoma County family and consumer sciences and 4-H youth development educator until 2009. She currently serves as Oklahoma County director.

“I was not familiar with the extent of OSU Extension when I started,” Hines said. “A friend of mine actually told me about the open position.”

As a youth, Hines heard of OSU Extension at the county level through agricultural agents. Growing up in Wayne, Oklahoma, playing basketball, Hines was not aware OSU Extension was in every county or was connected to 4-H youth development.

Hines also said her two sons grew up without knowledge of OSU Extension. The Hines boys made their hobbies wrestling and baseball.

“Most people hear of 4-H and think OSU Extension, but I guess I was pretty sheltered as I had not heard of any of it,” Hines said.

Now as county director, Hines manages urban agriculture, horticulture, 4-H youth development, and family and consumer sciences programs while working closely with county and city government to obtain funding for OSU Extension programming.

“Every county is different and has different needs,” Hines said. “We develop our programs based on our county’s needs and then deliver them to the communities.”

Urban agriculture in Oklahoma County includes backyard gardening, backyard poultry and horticulture, Hines said.

Through her time working with OSU Extension, Hines has noticed family and consumer sciences is the least recognized branch and one of the most important, she said.

“Although urban and rural areas are quite different in population and the needs, there are still the basic needs of the family no matter where you live,” Hines said.

After working in OSU Extension for 20 years, Hines said she most enjoys making a difference in the lives of the people in her community.

“It’s about the fulfillment in your heart that your career made a difference,” Hines said.

Hines cares about all educators and staff in Oklahoma County, said Claude Bess, OSU Extension director of the southeast district. She cares about each staff member individually as well as the team, Bess added.

“When you get in a position like LaDonna’s, your success becomes the success of the people you supervise,” Bess said.

Hines flourishes as county director and she sees the success of her staff as her own, Bess said.

“She sets the tone with her positive personality and takes time to talk to her staff,” Bess said. “She has an open-door policy, and anyone is always welcome in her office.”

Hines is respected by those in her office as well as those in the community, Bess said.

“She works extremely well with other educators and the OSU Extension finance staff,” Bess said. “They have a great respect for her because she is always on top of things.”

Since working with Hines, Bess said he has learned to not allow adversity to bring him down but rather to beat it head on. He now understands the importance of communicating freely with his staff, he added.

Hines’ efforts as county director have not gone unrecognized, Bess said. She has received many awards and was named the 2022 OSU Extension Distinguished Educator.

“I am very pleased to have LaDonna as a highly valued member of the Southeast District Extension team,” Bess said.

Julia Laughlin, Oklahoma County horticulture and 4-H educator, said she looks up to Hines.

“I retired from teaching horticulture at OSU-OKC and had started managing a vegetable farm,” Laughlin said. “One of the main reasons I came back to work for OSU was to work with LaDonna. She is an amazing person and an incredible leader.”

Laughlin said within their team of 18, Hines works to treat them all as equals whether a receptionist or an OSU Extension educator.

“She’s a role model for OSU Extension in the counties,” Laughlin said. “Especially with being in an urban county where we go in many different directions all of the time.”

Hines is a quick thinker and knows the best way to serve Oklahoma County partners and community members, Laughlin said. She is always contributing to all of our programming ideas with her views, she added.

“Over the last four years, we have been securing grants to provide extra programming,” Laughlin said. “We all have worked hard on writing grants along with managing them.”

Laughlin said a director must be driven and aggressive in the work they do and she is proud to work alongside Hines and her team.

“It is a really good work situation because of our leadership with LaDonna,” Laughlin said.

Story By: Hannah McCoon | Cowboy Journal

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