The Department of Agricultural, Leadership and Community Education faculty explore a range of theories and practices that aim to enhance our understanding of the educational program planning and development process, community engagement mission, and the role of Extension and community-based educators as agents of change in the 21st century. We focus on critically identifying, developing, and implementing best practices and models that address the challenges faced by today’s communities, such as communities experiencing social, economic, and environmental transition. Examples of the department’s research efforts in these areas include the following:
Strategic Planning is a process by which an organization envisions its future and develops the necessary procedures and operations to achieve that future. The Virginia Cooperative Extension strategic planning process covers the period 2010-2015. The process began in 2009 with the creation of a 25-member steering committee charged to design and oversee the process. Between October and December 2009, the Strategic Plan Steering Committee worked with 93 members of Extension to host and/or facilitate 26 dialogue sessions with targeted audiences and external stakeholders and 22 with faculty and staff. More than 1100 individuals participated in these listening sessions and offered more than 12,000 comments related to Extension’s purpose, relevance, and future directions.
Research efforts in the Department of Agricultural, Leadership and Community Education associated with the 2010 strategic planning process has been led by Donna Westfall-Rudd. Westfall-Rudd and her ALCE research team worked with each of the facilitators and hosts to review the listening session transcripts and identify any gaps or potential errors in the transcripts. All comments were recorded and linked by key words, then printed and published for review by the steering committee.
The four steering committee groups reported the emergence of six focus areas that should receive greater emphases:
- Value-enhanced agriculture
- Sustainable natural resources and environment
- Healthy living for youth (obesity)
- Building capacity for communities (resiliency)
- Healthy families and communities
- Organizational excellence
These six focus areas align with the initiatives of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the central theme of the College of Natural Resources at Virginia Tech, and the goals of the School of Agriculture at Virginia State University and the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine. The six focus areas also link to the priorities outlined by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture of the United States Department of Agriculture. Writing teams will be developing specific long-range plans in each of the six focus areas.