Professional News

Stephenson Named Director of UK Cooperative Extension Service

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Laura Stephenson. Photo provided.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 14, 2019) Laura Stephenson has been named associate dean and director of the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service in the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment. She will begin her duties on Aug. 1.

“Dr. Stephenson’s appointment is one more step in the college’s ongoing efforts to provide the best leadership and fiscal management for a system that is indispensable to communities across Kentucky,” Dean Nancy Cox said. “We are happy to have her back home and excited about the wealth of knowledge and leadership she brings to the post.”

Stephenson currently serves as assistant dean of extension and department chair of family and consumer sciences at the University of Tennessee. However, much of her extension career has been in Kentucky.

She brings an abundance of experience to the system, having served the state as an extension agent, district director and assistant director for family and consumer sciences extension field programs. Stephenson is a strong advocate for county-based programming, building capacity of interdisciplinary faculty teams and engagement of local, regional and state stakeholders.

“The expertise and talents of the faculty, staff and volunteer leaders solidly positions us to build local skills to meet community challenges. Extension is the strong bridge between the university and the people across the state,” Stephenson said. “I am honored to lead the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service’s efforts to serve each of the 120 counties in the Commonwealth.”

A transition team will be named soon to assist Stephenson in the many initiatives that will be undertaken in the weeks and months ahead.

Stephenson holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Eastern Kentucky University and a doctorate in gerontology from UK. She began her career in Cooperative Extension in 1988 and transitioned into leadership roles at UK before leaving for Tennessee in 2013.

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion two years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. The Chronicle of Higher Education judged us a “Great College to Work for,”  and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for three straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.