By Austin McGuigan, Contributing Writer
The search is over. The next dean and director of the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension has been found, and he’s a fellow Wildcat.
Kenneth LaValley ‘93 recently undertook the position after the former dean, John Pike, retired after 40 years of service. Effective Monday, Dec. 1, LaValley is settling into his new office in Taylor Hall.
The UNH Cooperative Extension program consists of roughly 70 state and field specialists committed to delivering education and information to New Hampshire. Their offices are set up in all 10 of New Hampshire’s counties and employ close to 140 people along with 4,000 volunteers.
Focusing on areas of food and agriculture, community and economic development, natural resources and 4-H youth and families, the program’s mission is to inform and educate the community on these areas, while tailoring to regional needs and strengthening the surrounding economy.
It has been a long road to becoming dean for LaValley, starting in 2004 when he first joined the Cooperative Extension as an extension educator. From there he won awards such as the UNH Presidential Award of Excellence and the National Sea Grant Outstanding Extension Achievement Award. Promoted to assistant director of extension programs in 2011, LaValley has held the position since.
So when LaValley heard of the new opening for dean, he couldn’t pass it up.
“I’m very passionate in making a difference in people’s lives and the Cooperative Extension, that’s really what we’re in the business to do,” LaValley said.
He’s only been in office for a few days, but it’s clear his passion for the job and making a difference is important.
“I think what I find most fulfilling about this job so far is to be able to actively help the staff of Cooperative Extension do their job and be successful.”
For LaValley, UNH is a familiar home. Having graduated in ‘93 with a Bachelor of Science in Honors Zoology, he speaks fondly of his memories here.
“I lived in Christensen Hall. Two of my sisters went to UNH and they both lived in Christensen, and now my daughter’s a freshman at UNH and she lives in Christensen Hall,” LaValley said.
“I love UNH, and it still feels close to me. It’s so unbelievable to me that I was able to kind of go full circle and have my undergraduate education here, which was phenomenal, and then to be able to come back in a leadership role within the organization has been amazing,” he said.
The Cooperative Extension is not only providing opportunities for surrounding communities, but also for students. Close to 100 undergraduates work closely with the program every year, utilizing their skills and education learned within their majors.
“They’re either out in the field doing research with our faculty members, or working on farms or even journalism. Students help us write and communicate and translate the science being done at UNH.
LaValley wants to help the students, too.
“We work really hard to provide internships and volunteer opportunities for students to apply what they’re learning,“ LaValley said.