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'Science' details an unconventional academic path

In extension, academics must communicate science effectively to the general public.
Throughout the United States, Cooperative Extension's 13,000 academics use new technologies to help solve problems faced by farmers, industries, natural resource managers and local communities, reported John Tibbetts in the AAAS publication Science

The article included the thoughts of two relatively new UC Cooperative Extension academics and outlined a new UC program to support graduate students interested in cooperative extension careers.

Distinct skills are needed to be an effective cooperative extension academic. The role requires the ability to know and understand how to work with and through people, how to bring about change in communities and how to engage buy-in at the grassroots level. 

"You should have good listening skills," added Lenya Quinn-Davidson, UC Cooperative Extension area fire advisor based in Humboldt County. 

Quinn-Davidson also said she likes the diversity of her job. “I can be out in the field and then do a radio interview, work on a grant application, or host an event, and I'm always building relationships," she said.

John Battles, forest ecology professor at UC Berkeley said Cooperative Extension can offer an alternative academic career track for many students, but they need a way to learn the skills needed for extension success. 

“In extension, you must communicate science effectively to the general public, and you don't have a 50-minute lecture to do it. You need to know how to facilitate a productive discussion in a public meeting, how to run that meeting so that everyone is heard,” he said. 

To prepare students for extension jobs, UC Berkeley launched the Graduate Students in Extension program. The internship offers up to a year of funding for graduate students to conduct applied research projects and learn the principles of outreach. 

Tapan Pathak, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in climate change adaptation in ag, also commented Tibbetts' article. He said extension specialists have the academic freedom to undertake research in their field as long as it addresses the needs of their clients.

Posted on Tuesday, May 17, 2016 at 9:26 AM

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