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February 17, 2006

4-H, FCS departments to merge July 1

In keeping with the spirit of Cooperative Extension’s change management and marketing initiative, the departments of 4-H Youth Development and Family and Consumer Sciences will become one department within N.C. State’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences on July 1.

The merger was announced Feb. 16 by Dr. Jon Ort, director of North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service. (Dr. Ort's message -- opens in PDF) Dr. Marshall Stewart, head of the 4-H Youth Development Department, and Dr. Sandy Zaslow, head of the Family and Consumer Sciences Department, announced the change to their staffs that morning. County agents in both programs received the announcement by email.

Stewart and Zaslow said their faculty and staff members had reacted well to the news. Stewart will head the new department, which will retain both department names. Zaslow, who also announced on Feb. 16 her intention of retiring from the university in October, will serve as Extension’s associate director of family and youth programs. When she retires, the title will be added to the title of department head and state program leader for the combined department.

“We began strategic dialogue about the future of CALS departments at the dean’s retreat in October 2005,” Ort said in his announcement to Extension. “When Dr. Sandy Zaslow notified me of her retirement this fall, it made sense strategically to think about how we might move ahead with bringing these two departments under one administrative umbrella.”

Stewart read Ort’s prepared statement to his faculty and staff. “They were positive,” he said. “This had been in some people’s minds for a number years and so seeing it was not a total surprise.”

Zaslow and Stewart praised Ort and Dean Johnny Wynne for their efforts to move the merger along and address concerns that employees would likely have, including leadership, department name and titles. Employees of both departments will retain their rank and titles. And both disciplines will continue to have their distinct identities on campus and in county centers.

Zaslow said the merger news, coupled with the news of her retirement, came as a double
surprize for campus and field faculty and staffs. She shared with them that “when they wake up on July 2, their world will seem very much like it was on July 1 – and that was the intent of both department heads.

“Marshall and I have a very strong commitment to making this a positive transition for all our employees. We are very aware of the strong program identities and brands that agents, their associations and their foundations have worked to develop. Each program has many assets and resources to bring to the table,” Zaslow said.

“We believe there will be a synergistic effect that will occur from new opportunities to collaborate and be advocates for youth and family issues,” she said.

Zaslow was pleased that an associate director’s position had been created for youth and family programs and that she will help set the direction for that position to benefit youth and family programs. In the Cooperative Extension Service at N.C. State, there has been an associate director’s position for agricultural programs.

“Adding an associate director’s position truly indicates the value that Dr. Ort and Dean Wynne place on youth and families and their relationship within agricultural programs,” Zaslow said.

She looks forward to working with Stewart in merging the two departments. “I really want Marshall to be successful and for the programs to be successful,” Zaslow said. “Our intent is to look for the best environment to support and sustain the programs.”

Both programs have traditionally shared some programming initiatives. The Expanded Foods and Nutrition Education Program includes youth and adult components and has faculty in both the 4-H and FCS departments. And with growing concern over the issue of child overweight/obesity, the two departments have discussed collaborating on the issue, bringing together their strengths in youth programming and nutrition education.

“This puts Extension, the college and the university in the strongest position to address families and youth,” Stewart said. “Statewide, no one has the network of paid staff and volunteers focused on these issues that Extension has.”

The combined department also will have a stronger academic component, Ort said in making the announcement. FCS and the Department of Human Environmental Science at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro are creating a master’s degree program in parenting education. Dr. Karen DeBord, FCS associate professor of child development, has been active in the initiative and serves as the department’s director of graduate programs.

In addition, 4-H Youth Development has created a youth development leadership specialization within N.C. State’s College of Education. Courses are taught by faculty in 4-H Youth Development.

“The degree programs that we bring to the table and the one that 4-H offers bring new opportunities for our agents to earn advanced degrees,” Zaslow said.

Stewart and Zaslow praised each other, as well as Extension and college administrators for creating a smooth plan for the merger. “Sandy has been a champion for this,” Stewart said. “She sold me on it. She wanted to create a structure that will endure, and this will endure.”

“Marshall is a perfect match, with his energy, enthusiasm and genuine commitment to both programs,” Zaslow said. “Our vision has been the same from the beginning.

“This is a very bold step forward, and I salute Dr. Ort’s leadership to support us and for the vision to create an associate director’s position for youth and families,” she added.

“I wanted to credit Jon (Ort) and administration for having the courage and foresight to put us in a stronger position,” Stewart said. “They led the charge, and I appreciate their vision.”

Questions or comments? Scroll down to post your response. Online News will work with Stewart and Zaslow to answer your questions.

--N. Hampton

Posted by Natalie at February 17, 2006 01:20 PM