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MacGowan Honored for Leadership in Extension

Purdue Forestry and Natural Resources Extension coordinator Brian MacGowan has been honored by his peers with the Purdue Cooperative Extension Specialists’ Association (PUCESA) Leadership Award.

The Leadership Award recognizes an individual’s leadership and contribution to a specific and highly effective extension program.

“It is an honor to be recognized by your peers, but this award is really a reflection of the people I work with in FNR,” MacGowan, an Extension wildlife specialist, said.

MacGowan has been a leader in integrating graduate and undergraduate students into Purdue Extension through two innovative programs. First, he assisted the Purdue Forestry and Natural Resources (FNR) department in creating a policy to create a formal structure that brings graduate students into the world of engagement. Under the policy, graduate students develop a logic model, an extension plan and an extension deliverable through the FNR506 course titled Theory and Application of Natural Resources Extension Programming. This course helps students increase their familiarity with natural resource extension programs, assists them in creating a logic model based on their own research and extension interests, develop a plan that outlines extension goals and also teaches them to communicate technical information to non-scientific audiences.

FNR506 is one of only two required courses in the FNR graduate program and MacGowan has acted as a co-instructor for the course for nine years despite having no official teaching appointment. To date 206 students have completed the course and produced more than 336 extension deliverables. A recent academic review showed that “integration of extension training and activity into the graduate program has been a great success, helping students better understand the role of extension and outreach into the land grant mission.” Student interest in extension has increased 60 percent as a result of the class and 46 percent of students said they would consider a career in extension.

On the undergraduate front, MacGowan launched the Natural Resources Extension internship program in 2015. This program, which is funded through the Renewable Resources Extension Act (RREA), helps students develop leadership and decision-making skills, increase communication skills, build professional references, and clarify career goals while also enhancing the scope and capacity of the FNR Extension program. Proposals are submitted by students and advisors to a departmental committee, which selects up to three paid internships to be awarded each funding cycle.

The internship program has been recognized by Eric Norland, the RREA National Program leader, who described the program as “unique and innovative” and noted “how forward-looking and beneficial (this program is) to both the program and the intern.” Thus far, 14 students have participated in internships, producing 20 videos and 10 publications, helping organize 17 workshops, making 15 presentations, and hosting booths at 11 events and developing eight demonstration areas.

A survey following the internships showed a 64 percent increase in a student considering a career in extension and a 52 percent improvement in ability to speak with non-scientific audiences.

In addition to developing and implementing the internship program, MacGowan has sought and obtained additional funding for a housing stipend to assist participation and further expand opportunities for potential interns.

MacGowan’s leadership has extended beyond Purdue FNR as he has worked with the Dean of the College of Agriculture and the Director of Extension to develop surveys for all graduate students and faculty in the college to create future strategies on how to provide additional opportunities in extension.

Additionally, MacGowan serves as the Project Investigator for the RREA program in Indiana, helping determine what issues need addressed within the state and strategizing on how to meet those needs.

“Brian is a forward-thinking leader that has consistently embedded extension across land-grant mission areas,” professor of wildlife science Rod Williams said. “His innovative approaches to exposing both graduate and undergraduate students to extension are lauded by peers across the college and land-grant institutions across the country. Brian has helped FNR extension become a leader in this arena and I look forward to new and innovative initiatives he develops for FNR, the College of Agriculture, and beyond.”

MacGowan also plans and participates in multiple extension events throughout the year. In 2020, he was instrumental in producing the Woodland Stewardship for Landowners video series. He also shared his knowledge on several editions of FNR Ask An Expert and provided instructional assistance regarding protecting plants and shrubs from wildlife, deer fencing, hummingbirds and more.


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