IANR names finalists for dean and director of Nebraska Extension

· 6 min read

IANR names finalists for dean and director of Nebraska Extension

(From left) Brad Gaolach, Charles Stoltenow and David Varner
(From left) Brad Gaolach, Charles Stoltenow and David Varner

The Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln has selected three finalists in its search for dean and director of Nebraska Extension. The candidates will visit Nebraska and participate in public presentations Sept. 30 to Oct. 8.

The candidates, selected through a national search, will spend time with university administrators and interact with the Nebraska Extension leadership team, faculty and staff. Stakeholders, county extension boards and the university community are invited to attend public presentations and provide feedback.

“The dean and director of Nebraska Extension will play a pivotal role for Nebraska’s communities,” said Tiffany Heng-Moss, dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources. “Through a partnership with an exceptional team of extension specialists, educators and assistants provide a vision and dynamic leadership that will ensure Nebraska Extension is collaboratively addressing the evolving critical issues affecting Nebraskans, enhancing the lives of youth and families, and continuing to grow the economic vitality of our 531 rural and urban communities.”

“That is why we are so enthusiastic about these candidates,” said Sherri Jones, dean of the College of Education and Human Sciences. “Each of these finalists are highly qualified. They all come to the table with established track records of success within their states, not to mention the ideas for future improvement and vitality they will bring to Nebraska.”

The finalists, listed by public presentation date, are:

Charles Stoltenow, assistant director, North Dakota State University Extension Service

  • Sept. 30, 10:30 a.m. to noon, public presentation, Nebraska East Union, streamed live
  • Oct. 1, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., meet and greet, Raising Nebraska, Grand Island
  • Stoltenow is an assistant director of North Dakota State University Extension in Fargo and also serves as the Agriculture and Natural Resources Program Leader. This is his 25th year with NDSU Extension. He grew up on a diversified farm in southeastern North Dakota near the village of Great Bend, population 76. He received his Bachelor of Science in Animal Science from North Dakota State University and his DVM from Iowa State University. Upon graduation, he started his own solo equine practice in Des Moines, Iowa. He was in private equine practice for four years, including the Ak-Sar-Ben race course at Omaha and the Detroit Race Course at Livonia, Michigan. After private practice, he joined the U.S. Department of Agriculture as a federal veterinarian. During his time with USDA, he was ‘”loaned” out to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and was a member of the CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service, where he investigated and studied human epidemiology at the Nebraska Department of Health in Lincoln. He finished his federal career as an analytical epidemiologist for the USDA’s Centers for Epidemiology and Animal Health in Fort Collins, Colorado. He was the food safety training coordinator for two USDA agencies, concurrently.

Stoltenow left USDA to become the extension veterinarian for NDSU. He is tenured within the Animal Sciences Department and holds the rank of professor. In addition to his current position and responsibilities, he served as the interim director of NDSU’s four-year veterinary technology program. Other positions he has held while at NDSU include North Dakota horse racing commissioner, consulting veterinarian for the North Dakota Board of Animal Health, Board of Pharmacy, Department of Emergency Services and Department of Health. He has held leadership positions within the North Dakota Veterinary Medical Association and the American Veterinary Medical Association. At the international level, he holds the rank of adjunct professor at the Mongolia State University School of Veterinary Medicine. He has visited 15 countries and has served as a consultant to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in Brussels, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation in Bern and U.S. State Department. He is considered one of the world’s leading authorities in anthrax, a zoonotic disease present in six continents.

David Varner, interim dean and director, Nebraska Extension

  • Oct. 5, 10:30 a.m. to noon, public presentation, Nebraska East Union, streamed live
  • Oct. 6, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., meet and greet, Raising Nebraska, Grand Island
  • Varner has served as an extension professional for 35 years, beginning as a student intern in 1986. He served as a cropping systems extension educator in Lancaster and Dodge counties for 22 years, focused on helping agriculturists identify, evaluate and implement production practices and technologies that led to profitable and sustainable farming operations. He provided leadership for several impactful extension programs that focused on producers’ adoption of innovative agricultural technologies as the precision agriculture era emerged. In 2001, he co-founded the Nebraska Agricultural Technologies Association. Varner co-led the state’s largest producer-driven extension on-farm research network for more than two decades. He is an ardent champion of next-generation extension.

In 2011, Varner transitioned to the Nebraska Extension Leadership Team. He has served as the associate director and interim director for the Southeast Research and Extension District, interim director for the Eastern Nebraska Research and Extension Center and associate dean and director for Nebraska Extension. Varner currently serves as interim program leader for Rural Prosperity Nebraska and interim dean and director for Nebraska Extension.

Varner has earned a Bachelor of Science in agricultural education and mechanized agriculture, a Master of Science in mechanized agriculture and a Doctor of Philosophy in leadership studies from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. His doctorate work focused on the lived journeys of millennial generation educators as they assimilated into the Nebraska Extension system.

Brad Gaolach, director, Washington State University Metropolitan Center for Applied Research and Extension; director, Western Center for Metropolitan Extension and Research

  • Oct. 7, 10:30 a.m. to noon, public presentation, Nebraska East Union, streamed live
  • Oct. 8, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., meet and greet, Raising Nebraska, Grand Island
  • Gaolach serves as the founding director for both the Washington State University Metropolitan Center for Applied Research and Extension (Metro Center) and the Western Center for Metropolitan Extension and Research and is a tenured professor in WSU Extension’s Community and Economic Development Unit. He is trained as a community and population ecologist; his dissertation studied the complex agroecological systems of diversified, direct-marketing farms in the Puget Sound region. His 20-plus-year extension career started with WSU as the agriculture and natural resources agent for King County Extension. Prior to his current appointment, he served over a decade as the county director for the two most populous counties in Washington state.

Gaolach utilizes his training as a research scientist and ecologist to bridge the world of academia with community-based applications. He is recognized for his systems-based approach to problem solving and his ability to build collaborative partnerships. Collaborating with faculty expertise from across WSU and other land-grant universities, he has developed and led multi-organization and multi-university research and extension projects ranging from food-systems, water quality and quantity, school gardens and nutrition, and economic development. He has been principal investigator or co-principal investigator on projects totaling more than $20 million in extramural funding and has published on subject matter topics, as well as innovations in extension.

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