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Education Everywhere for Everyone: New Frontiers campaign to benefit OSU Extension programs

Thursday, April 27, 2023

Media Contact: Mack Burke | Associate Director of Media Relations | 405-744-5540 |

For more than a century, Oklahoma State University Extension has provided research-based information to all 77 Oklahoma counties. Education in areas such as agriculture, youth leadership, and family and consumer sciences improves the lives of Oklahomans and is critical to the state’s economy.

OSU Extension will soon benefit from a new, cutting-edge facility that will help equip faculty, staff and students with the skills, knowledge and ability to work together to advance teaching, research and outreach efforts.

State-of-the-art research labs in the New Frontiers Agricultural Hall will allow for better collaboration with OSU Extension.
State-of-the-art research labs in the New Frontiers Agricultural Hall will allow for better collaboration with OSU Extension.

“From state-of-the-art research laboratories to interactive teaching classrooms, the New Frontiers Agricultural Hall will provide a useful space to encourage innovation and collaboration,” said Dr. Damona Doye, associate vice president of OSU Extension. “This interaction will help develop more Extension programs that will benefit all of Oklahoma.”

The new building will address the two key challenges of attracting and retaining scientific leaders and students as well as equipping collaborative teams with teaching laboratories and field facilities, modernizing the three land-grant mission areas.

With educators stationed across the state, OSU Extension provides educational programs, services and resources to solve problems Oklahomans face with information backed by the latest scientific research.

One OSU Extension program that has gained momentum recently is the disaster assistance recovery program.

Living in Oklahoma means dealing with natural disasters, Doye said. This could be drought, earthquakes, flooding, tornados, wildfires, winter weather and more.

“The disaster assistance recovery program is a priority for me,” she said. “When I was a state specialist, as wildfires and other disasters happened, county educators would call me and ask, ‘What can we do?’”

In Doye’s current role, she strives for OSU Extension to be better prepared for disasters and support each other in the recovery process.

As a result, the Disaster Assistance Response Team, or DART, was formed as an integrated Extension team to enhance preparedness, provide support during an emergency or disaster response and work alongside OSU Extension educators during recovery.

“OSU Extension educators in county and area offices are deeply rooted in their communities and often find themselves immediately thrust into a response support role when a weather disaster occurs,” said Dr. Amy Hagerman, DART leader and OSU Extension specialist for agriculture and food policy. “We have three specific roles.”

First, the team proactively prepares OSU Extension educators before an incident occurs through in-service training and online resources. DART leverages the wealth of knowledge and experience in Extension to assist in local emergency plan preparation, provide practical hands-on training, and participate in statewide and multi-state emergency response exercises.

One example of DART preparation was comprehensive live animal handling training for the U.S. Army Reserves 486th Civil Affairs Battalion in 2022. The training focused on identifying characteristics in animals, assessing health or disease concerns that would be reported to veterinarians, gauging animal behavior to adjust handling accordingly and participating in live, hands-on activities moving cattle and horses.

“Many of the battalions have little to no experience with large animals,” Hagerman said. “This was an opportunity to engage entirely new audiences with OSU Extension while providing a critical service to the battalion.”

Construction of the New Frontiers Agricultural Hall is well underway, with the building still planned to open in fall 2024.
Construction of the New Frontiers Agricultural Hall is well underway, with the building still planned to open in fall 2024.

The second role is to develop disaster-ready offices, farms and ranches, households and communities by providing resources and consulting. Established relationships with local agricultural producers, youth and households, and local organizations allow educators to connect local resources with the people who need them.

“DART offers a sounding board for challenging issues and ideas, connection to resources they simply don’t have time to identify or a boots-on-the-ground helping hand,” Hagerman said. “Perhaps most critically, DART members check in on our Cowboy family during the crisis and make sure Extension personnel know they are not alone. Help is always at their fingertips.”

Finally, DART provides short- and long-term support to county and area Extension offices and state agencies for faster, more effective responses.

“Each of these efforts works from the bottom up — starting with local needs since every disaster begins locally — and laterally by building relationships across organizations and agencies,” Hagerman said.

DART has evolved during the past three years through disaster response experiences. It also serves as a central hub for sharing ideas and concerns during or after an incident. The members facilitate conversations to bring change when needed.

For example, during the recent drought, Extension personnel brought forward the idea of reduced-cost forage, livestock water and nitrate toxicity testing to complement other drought programs being implemented by state and federal agencies.

DART worked with Extension leadership and the OSU Department of Plant and Soil Science’s Soil, Water and Forage Analytics Laboratory to make the cost reduction a reality, saving Oklahoma agricultural producers more than $17,000 in just three months.

The New Frontiers Agricultural Hall will include multidisciplinary research labs to support these kinds of efforts and meet the ever-changing needs of OSU Agriculture specialists.

The state-of-the-art flex labs will provide a transformative environment, which encourages collaboration, team-based research and engagement among peers with diverse research interests.

“Many of our state Extension specialists in various departments have joint appointments in research, so the new facility will help support the applied research that informs their programming,” Doye said. “Many of our impactful programs are also interdisciplinary in nature, so even if a faculty member doesn’t have a lab, their teammates may, so new facilities and equipment benefit the team, projects and programs.”

Hagerman is eager to see what the future holds for DART and other Extension programs as the New Frontiers Agricultural Hall opens in the fall of 2024.

The building will help attract and support students and researchers, which in turn creates great resources that can be used by Extension, she said. In addition, the laboratories will assist in Extension efforts and responding to stakeholders.

“DART continues to evolve to meet the needs of OSU Extension and Oklahomans,” she said. “The New Frontiers Agricultural Hall will create opportunities for research, outreach and resource development to aid in the core functions of DART and Extension programming in general.”

The New Frontiers campaign to help build a new home for OSU Agriculture reached its $50 million fundraising goal in record time.

Recognized as one of the fastest capital campaigns at OSU and the first academic capital campaign of this magnitude to reach its fundraising goal prior to the building opening, Dr. Thomas G. Coon, vice president and dean of OSU Agriculture, said there is more work to be done.

“Although we have surpassed our New Frontiers fundraising goal, we continue to raise support for the project due to increased construction costs and additional features of the building that will enhance our efforts,” he said. “The remaining naming opportunities for research laboratories and teaching classrooms are a great way to honor a mentor or loved one, and some additional features and laboratory needs will only be possible through additional donor support.”

Photos By: Todd Johnson and Alyssa Hardaway

Story By: Mandy Gross | STATE Magazine

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