College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences; Public Service and Agriculture

New Clemson Extension initiative seeks to sustain leadership for future generations


CLEMSON — Aiming to sustain the guidance and vision necessary to fulfill its mission, Clemson Cooperative Extension has created a new professional development opportunity for personnel dedicated to doing just that.

logoAnd the inspiration for the leadership training program came from the very top of Clemson University.

After taking part in the President’s Leadership Institute, a nine-month leadership development program started by President James P. Clements, Midlands District Extension Director Deon Legette said she had the idea of creating a similar leadership program in Extension.

“We learned things from leadership styles to personality styles to just the ins and outs of things on campus, things that I probably would have never been introduced to because I work off campus,” Legette said. “The thing that really touched me the most was the fact that President Clements took time out of his schedule every single day of the class to be there. He was there at every single session and taught us something in a lot of the sessions, and I remember thinking, ‘Whoa, this man is something. He really demonstrates his principles of leadership.”

Commending Director of President’s Leadership and Strategic Initiatives Kyra Lobbins and her advisory council for creating such an outstanding program, Legette shared her experience with Cooperative Extension Director Tom Dobbins and the plan for the Extension Emerging Leadership Initiative was conceived.

“What we want to do through this initiative is ensure that we develop a core group of successful leaders for our organization who will provide the inspiration, vision and impact to move us forward to meet the Clemson Extension mission,” Dobbins said.

The objectives of the leadership initiative are to provide opportunities for personal growth and career development, enhance leaders’ roles at a higher level of excellence, bolster cohesion and team-building among leaders, promote and practice interpersonal skills, and provide tools and skills to enhance leadership.

The program selects up to 20 professionals at the county or state level with a minimum of three years of experience with Extension. They must have the highest ethical standards and have demonstrated potential as future leaders.

Research from the Journal of Extension indicates that during the past decade, most public and private organizations, including the Cooperative Extension Service, are facing an era of leadership scarcity that could impact the ability to execute its mission to improve the quality of life by providing unbiased, research-based information through its public outreach programs. Thousands of baby boomers retire each day, and to prevent loss of skilled leadership, this program is being implemented to equip future leaders as the veteran agents, specialists and administrators prepare for retirement.

“Succession is important, leadership is important, and we have to make sure that there is a plan in place for when people retire that leadership continues to be one of the priorities not only for Extension but for everybody in the university,” said Legette, who is the Extension Emerging Leadership Initiative program coordinator.

The 2018-19 inaugural class includes:

  • Will Culler, area Extension agent-agribusiness, Lexington;
  • Amy Dabbs, area Extension agent-horticulture, Charleston;
  • Jeff Fellers, area Extension agent-natural resources, Union;
  • Stanley Green, Extension associate-agribusiness, Sandhill Research and Education Center;
  • Chris Heintze, director, T. Ed Garrison Arena;
  • Faith Isreal, area Extension agent-food systems and safety, Richland;
  • Tarana Khan, state program coordinator, Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Programs (EFNEP), Sandhill REC;
  • Terasa Lott, state coordinator, S.C. Master Gardener Program, Florence;
  • Kim Morganello, county Extension agent-water resources, Charleston;
  • Christine Patrick, county Extension agent-food systems and safety/EFNEP, Bamberg;
  • Brittany Peacock, county Extension agent-livestock and forages, Aiken;
  • Derrick Phinney, natural resources program team leader, Dorchester;
  • Jaime Pohlman, county Extension agent-4-H, McCormick;
  • Jessica Simpson, county Extension agent-4-H, Anderson;
  • Zack Snipes, area horticulture agent, Charleston;
  • Terri Sumpter, county Extension agent-4-H, Sumter;
  • Richard Lee Van Vlake, area Extension agent-livestock and forages, Florence;
  • Marlyne Walker, county Extension agent, EFNEP specialist, Fairfield; and
  • Patricia Whitener, county Extension agent-4-H, Greenville.

The program is directed by a steering committee that, in addition to Legette and Lobbins, includes: Della Baker-Sprowl, assistant director of accountability and staff development, Cooperative Extension Service; Donna Bowen, communications, College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences/Public Service and Agriculture; Barry Garst, associate professor, Youth Development Leadership; Susan Guynn, director of assessment and accountability, Cooperative Extension Service; and Kendra Stewart-Tillman, director of diversity and inclusion, Gantt Multicultural Center.

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