Learn more about famiy and consumer sciences leaders who have been very successful in their careers. Whether you are a student, new professional, or more established professional, we hope you gain knowledge to help you grow and accomplish more, both personally and professionally.
Assistant Director (Acting) - Institute of Youth, Family and Community
USDA, National Institute of Food and Agriculture
Did you have a mentor or someone who inspired you to work in the field of family and consumer sciences? If yes, please tell me more about that person.
In the early 1990s, I had just finished my master’s degree in counseling and human development and was excited about career opportunities. I was the spouse of a career Army Officer, and had moved a great deal—always pulling up stakes and trying to settle the family in some new and unfamiliar place. It was very difficult to have any kind of a career, because of the constant moves. People just did not want to hire someone who was so transient. That was the thinking at that time. We moved to Texas while my husband was working on his Ph.D. at Texas A&M University. After months of seeking viable employment related to my field, someone suggested I try the Extension Service. This was the first time I had heard of Extension. I applied for a position with Texas Extension to work on a military family program grant they had received, and this was my first introduction to Extension and to family and consumer sciences. Under the mentorship of Nancy Granovsky and Sarah Anderson, I learned about the rich history of the FCS field and of Extension and grew to love the idea of prevention education and outreach at the community level. Because of the support and guidance of these wonderful mentors, I have achieved so much in my career—going on after my time in Texas to earn a Ph.D. I will be forever grateful to these outstanding women for their willingness to take a chance on me.
What advice do you have for new professionals in family and consumer sciences?
I have read so much lately about how critical our sciences are to the challenges we face in society today. There are projected global shortages of FCS professionals well into the future and there is such a strong need for our knowledge and skills to help people navigate life. Regardless of where we do this work, as federal employees, in professional organizations, as teachers, or Extension educators we all promote essential living skills that are integral to our success as productive human beings. New professionals must recognize, promote, and inspire our field. This is a calling and can be such a rewarding life and career for new professionals.
Please tell me about your responsibilities as the assistant director for the Institute of Youth, Family and Community at USDA, NIFA.
In this position, I oversee the administration of the IYFC and work with the three divisions and directors that fall within the scope of the IYFC at the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) USDA-the Division of Family and Consumer Sciences, the Division of Youth and 4-H and the Division of Community and Education. My primary role is to provide administrative and budgetary oversight and leadership to the IYFC as a whole. I am also responsible for representing USDA NIFA in very high level partnerships and meetings providing human sciences expertise internally at USDA and externally with federal, national and international organizations.
Are there any special programs or projects you are working on that you’d like to share?
Under our current Presidential Administration, we are called upon to respond to big science or broad global challenges where we bring to bear our resources on issues related to energy, obesity, hunger and food security, food safety, and climate. FCS within the Cooperative Extension System and across our Land-Grant University partnership has responded in creative and innovative ways to these challenges and new opportunities. It is my strong opinion that no matter what challenges our global society faces in the future, FCS has the flexibility and ingenuity to respond in critical and meaningful ways. After all, everything we do really comes down to people and human behavior. If we can influence human behavior in healthy ways, we can create a better future.
What has been one of your most important accomplishments either at your current position or a previous position?
When I think about our field, I believe the most important accomplishment we have made in decades is coming together to develop and implement our new [Family & Consumer Sciences] branding and communications campaign. Under the leadership of AAFCS, the FCS Brand Steering Committee, which is comprised of most of the FCS Alliance organizations, has come together to develop this exciting new campaign. It is really the first time so many organizations have rallied around representing FCS in such a positive and unified way. We speak with one voice and we are being clearly heard and valued for what we contribute to our global world. I was so pleased and proud to be a part of this monumental effort and look forward to ingraining these messages into the LGU and Extension psyche.
What have been the keys to your success?
You cannot accomplish anything meaningful without supportive and loving people in your life. All the leaders and mentors who have fostered my growth have done so selflessly and openly. I will be forever grateful to each and every one of them. I have had people in my life who challenged me when they knew I needed it and others who have extended a caring hand when the situation called for it. Mostly I am indebted to my family—to Bill and my children Sara and Nicholas for their love, support, and sacrifice as my career advanced through the years.
What changes do you predict for the field of family and consumer sciences (or Extension) over the next five years?
Again I think about things in terms of the current federal focus. Federal employees carry out the policies and programs implemented through the legislative process, and in this there is both constraint and opportunity. For the FCS community, I am always looking for new opportunities to showcase our foundational strength—the ability to help people change or develop healthy behaviors. Whatever the current focus is in Washington, there will always be new opportunities for our field. We need only to be creative and innovative to see it.
Why are you a member of AAFCS?
In my early years in Texas, we were encouraged to join AAFCS, to attend the annual conference, and to present and learn from the best in the field. I enjoyed this growth and the foresight of my Texas mentors in guiding my professional life. They encouraged me as well to study and apply for the CFCS credential. Always the overachiever, I was very excited by this challenge and worked to become CFCS. This is always on my business cards and I proudly share this achievement wherever I can.
As a member of the Family & Consumer Sciences Brand Steering Committee, how is your organization using the brand to create awareness for FCS?
We have shared the process and resources with the entire Land-Grant University and Extension System—over 100 universities and thousands of county-level Extension educators. We will hold webinars for our partnership on branding and creating awareness, and I have been asked to speak at various venues on both process and resources. Also, I have a brand sticker on my car!
How do you like to spend your spare time outside of work (if you have any)?
I enjoy biking, reading (I love historical fiction), yoga, and having quality time with my family and my Pomeranian “Colby Jack!” I would like to build time into my schedule this year for more volunteer work with an animal rescue group.
What was the last book you read?
For professional development, How Remarkable Women Lead: The Breakthrough Model for Work and Life, by Barsh and Cranston. For personal enjoyment, excerpt from The Winter Palace: A Novel of Catherine the Great, by Eva Stachniak.
What might our members be surprised to know about you?
Readers might be surprised to know that I have traveled all over the world and have discovered that there is no place like home.