The Journal of Extension -

August 2019 // Volume 57 // Number 4 // Tools of the Trade // 4TOT4

Awards of Excellence Inspire and Motivate Extension Professionals

Extension awards recognize programs that have achieved outstanding accomplishments, results, and impacts in addressing contemporary issues. Whether an individual or a team is recognized, the awardees gain inspiration and motivation and may attain promotion and/or tenure. The Western Region Program Leadership Committee oversees a special award process that recognizes individuals and teams whose program outcomes result in regional and multistate impacts that benefit communities across the West. We describe a rubric that allows for equitable scoring across Extension content areas. Additionally, we recommend that Extension awards programs be expanded and encouraged to promote personal and professional growth.

Sam Angima
Assistant Dean, Outreach and Engagement
College of Agricultural Sciences
Oregon State University
Corvallis, Oregon

Jan B. Carroll
Director, Civic and Federal Engagement
Colorado State University Extension
Fort Collins, Colorado

Scott Reed
Vice Provost, University Outreach and Engagement
Director of Extension Service
Oregon State University
Corvallis, Oregon


The Western Extension Directors Association (WEDA) Awards of Excellence program was created in 2005, with the first awards presented at the joint summer meeting that year. The purpose of the WEDA Awards of Excellence is to recognize Extension programming that has achieved outstanding accomplishments, results, and impacts in addressing contemporary issues in one or more of the states or Pacific Islands U.S. Territories that comprise Extension's Western Region. The processes used in the WEDA Awards of Excellence program can be adapted or replicated for use elsewhere within Extension.

Many Extension institutions in the Western Region provide faculty status to field- and campus-based Extension professionals. Promotion and tenure (P&T) is integral to employees' status and success within the university. Awards constitute one measure that can contribute to a successful P&T dossier. According to O'Neill (2008), "Extension personnel are periodically evaluated against performance and productivity measures for promotion and merit-based pay" (para. 1). In essence, awards provide powerful proof of program success. O'Neill (2008) further emphasized that "the more refereed publications, professional conference presentations, grants, and awards [one has], the better" ("6. Document Scholarship/Extension Practice" section), as these provide more evidence that a candidate for P&T has attained distinction and excellence.

Beyond their contribution to successful P&T dossiers or promotion packets, awards can contribute to collegial recognition (Carleo & Kluchinski, 2016) and personal satisfaction and professional respect (Shinn & Smith, 1999). Even awards without monetary incentives can motivate educators to acquire additional competencies (Lakai, Jayaratne, Moore, & Kistler, 2012). Nonmonetary awards may include certificates, plaques, pins, or commendations.

WEDA Awards of Excellence are conferred annually at the joint summer meetings to individuals or multidisciplinary teams, for single-state or multistate programs. The Western Region Program Leadership Committee (WRPLC), appointed by WEDA, administers the awards program as outlined at

The WRPLC, of which we are members, developed an extensive rubric to guide applicants on how scoring is conducted on the basis of needs assessments, outcomes, and long-term impacts. In this article, we examine the criteria and scoring used in the rubric and offer recommendations on how to stimulate productivity through awards.

The Scoring Rubric

The WEDA Awards of Excellence scoring rubric is organized in seven sections. Each section has a set of criteria and scoring that helps applicants communicate how their programs address critical issues important to WEDA.

Issue and Situation (10 Points)

Applicants must clearly define the needs as well as the issues or problems that were or are being addressed. Needs assessments in Extension provide a basis for gauging an existing situation as compared to desired outcomes or conditions (Angima, Etuk, & King, 2014). Issues must be directly associated with community problems, and the processes of engagement with those communities must be clearly identified and articulated.

Stakeholders and Input (10 Points)

Top scores are awarded for clearly identified audiences, customers, or stakeholders. Applicants must clearly state the processes used to obtain audience input for development, implementation, and dissemination of information or research results from the Extension program.

Extension Focus and Research Base (10 Points)

This requirement emphasizes the outreach education focus of Extension. Applicants must identify the key research and/or experiential learning foundation on which the program is based and the details of what was done. In addition, a brief bibliography citing key references used to guide the program or project must be included. This information directly contributes to the scholarly outcomes requirement of the award program.

Multidisciplinary and Collaborative Components (10 Points)

Most successful Extension programs are multidisciplinary and/or collaborative in nature (Jayaratne, Bradley, & Driscoll, 2009). Proposals should clearly present key multidisciplinary components, collaborations, and the nature of partnerships developed, including the role of each discipline within the program. Successful applicants showcase why or how each of the collaborations and multidisciplinary approaches helped strengthen the outcomes of the program.

Innovative Approaches (15 Points)

Applicants must be able to describe innovative approaches used to effectively address the issues identified. They must clearly explain and provide evidence on why the approach, method, or program is viewed as innovative.

Impacts Achieved (30 Points)

Documented impacts in Extension form the foundation of what sets Extension apart in terms of accountability to stakeholders and funders (Dietz, Clausen, Warner, & Filchak, 2002; Hachfeld, Bau, Holcomb, & Craig, 2013). Impacts are critical for advancing an award recommendation. Applicants must identify the evaluation methods used and clearly present the significant impacts, outcomes, and results achieved by the program in addressing the identified issues.

Scholarly Products (15 Points)

Programs that do not result in scholarly outputs usually do not have sustained impacts (Culp, 2009). Programs with strong scholarly outcomes are impactful and visible beyond local boundaries. Scholarly products may include, but are not limited to, journal articles, magazine articles, education manuals, fact sheets, new curricula, new websites, news articles, digital technology (including social media), and other methods of disseminating outputs and outcomes.

Implications for Extension

Significant effort is devoted to the award process, including application development, review, and recognition. So it is important to answer this question: Do awards make a difference? We asked WEDA Awards of Excellence recipients from 2014 to 2017 whether the awards enhanced program success at the individual or team level. Results are shown in Figure 1. Prominent observations (in order of level of importance indicated by awardees) suggested that the awards contributed to

  1. recognition for performance reviews, merit-based pay, and P&T considerations;
  2. sustainability of the program beyond the award recognition period;
  3. gain of professional respect in the educator's discipline; and
  4. colleague and peer recognition.

To a lesser extent, other benefits included acquisition of additional competencies and personal satisfaction. Abstracts of WEDA Awards of Excellence winners are available at

Figure 1.
Importance of Influences of Western Extension Directors Association Award on Personal and Team Success

Looking Forward

Extension must heed the call to transform from individual expertise and knowledge transfer to a more collaborative approach in which educators work together, and with communities, to generate new knowledge, collectively known as engagement (Holland, 2016). With regard to future evolution of Extension award programs, we recommend the following approaches:

  • Consider community engagement (that is, involvement of cooperators or community members) as an award criterion.
  • Insist on innovation. Innovation is the cornerstone of Extension programming (McGrath, Conway, & Johnson, 2007); therefore, innovation must be a criterion considered in any Extension award program.
  • Maintain a suitable number of awards to guard against real or perceived loss of value as stipulated in the law of diminishing marginal utility (Beattie & LaFrance, 2005).
  • Recognize and market winning programs to enhance the reputation of the respective university and Extension service.


We recognize and acknowledge contributions of the following WEDA award recipients to informing our overall understanding of how awards help shape Extension programs throughout the West:

2017, Jeanne Gleason, New Mexico State University

2017, Clive Kaiser, Oregon State University

2017, Silvia Rondon, Oregon State University

2016, Adrian Card, Colorado State University

2016, Edmund Gomez, New Mexico State University

2015, Maggi Kelley, University of California, Berkeley

2015, Terry Messmer, Utah State University

2014, Kelly Kopp, Utah State University

2014, Irene Shonle, Colorado State University


Angima, S., Etuk, L., & King, D. (2014). Using needs assessment as a tool to strengthen funding proposals. Journal of Extension, 52(6), Article 6TOT1. Available at:

Beattie, B. R., & LaFrance, J. T. (2005). The law of demand versus diminishing marginal utility (University of California, Berkeley, CUDARE Working Papers, Paper 959R). Retrieved from

Carleo, J., & Kluchinski, D. (2016). Awards: Why you want them and how to get them. Journal of Extension, 54(5), Article 5TOT2. Available at

Culp, K., III. (2009). The scholarship of Extension: Practical ways for Extension professionals to share impact. Journal of Extension, 47(6), Article 6COM1. Available at:

Dietz, M. E., Clausen, J. C., Warner, G. S., & Filchak, K. K. (2002). Impacts of Extension education on improving residential stormwater quality: Monitoring results. Journal of Extension, 40(6), Article 6RIB5. Available at:

Hachfeld, G. A., Bau, D. B., Holcomb, C. R., & Craig, J. W. (2013). Multiple-year Extension program outcomes and impacts through evaluation. Journal of Extension, 51(1), Article 1FEA2. Available at:

Holland, A. B. (2016). Factors influencing faculty engagement—Then, now, and future. Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement, 20(1), 73–82. Retrieved from

Jayaratne, K., Bradley, L., & Driscoll, E. (2009). Impact evaluation of integrated Extension programs: Lessons learned from the community gardening program. Journal of Extension, 47(3), Article 3TOT3. Available at:

Lakai, D., Jayaratne, K. S. U., Moore, G. E., & Kistler, M. J. (2012). Barriers and effective educational strategies to develop Extension agents' professional competencies. Journal of Extension, 50(4), Article 4RIB1. Available at:

McGrath, D. M., Conway, F. D. L., & Johnson, S. (2007). The Extension hedgehog. Journal of Extension, 45(2), Article 2FEA1. Available at:

O'Neill, B. (2008). Promotion, tenure, and merit-based pay: 15 keys to success. Journal of Extension, 46(2), Article 4TOT2. Available at:

Shinn, G., & Smith, K. (1999). Anticipating roles of the Cooperative Extension Service in 2010: A Delphi technique involving agricultural and natural resource agents and family and consumer science agents in Texas. Proceedings of the 26th Annual National Agricultural Education Research Conference, pp. 392–401. Retrieved from