Following a national search and recruitment process, Jacob DeDecker has been named director of Extension and associate dean for engagement with the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology & Natural Resources at the University of Nevada, Reno. His appointment of him begins July 1.
DeDecker comes to Nevada from Michigan State University, where he has spent the past 16 years building Extension and 4-H youth development programming, most recently serving as associate director of the Children & Youth Institute and the state leader of MSU Extension’s 4-H Youth Development Program. He earned a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and doctorate in animal sciences, as well as a certificate in business administration, from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Raised on his family’s livestock and grain farm in Illinois, DeDecker appreciates the importance knowledge and partnerships have on solving problems and helping people thrive.
“Extension has always been a part of my life,” DeDecker said. “My family utilized Extension programs and expertise to benefit our farming enterprise and home. I was an active 4-H member for 10 years, which helped shape the path I’m still on today. That experience and my passion for helping others inspired me to pursue a career in Extension. I have seen the land-grant mission and Extension programs impact youth, families, producers and businesses, firsthand. As a result, I want to help expand Extension’s reach, including to those underserved in both urban and rural settings.”
In his appointment as Extension director, DeDecker will have offices both on campus in Reno and at Extension’s Lifelong Learning Center in Las Vegas. As the statewide leader of Extension, he will also visit Extension’s many other offices across the state and will serve as a liaison for Extension with many organizations, including the Nevada Association of Counties and the USDA, Extension being a state-county-federal partnership.
DeDecker began his career with Extension at MSU as the 4-H Science, Engineering and Technology Program leader in 2006, and became the associate state leader of MSU’s 4-H programs in 2014, before assuming his current role in 2018. At the helm of MSU’s 4-H Youth Development Program, DeDecker has provided leadership, vision and direction to the program’s more than 150 faculty and staff, and 10,000 volunteers. The program typically serves over 200,000 youth annually across Michigan’s 83 counties.
“I am so pleased to be welcoming Jacob to our Extension team,” said Bill Payne, Dean of the College. “In his time at Michigan State, he was able to form partnerships and leverage Extension resources to enhance Extension’s impact in both urban centers and rural areas. He is an excellent match for our state’s needs.”
While at Michigan State, DeDecker also supported efforts that extended well beyond Michigan’s borders. His support of international collaborations and partnerships helped to bring knowledge and resources from MSU Extension directly to leaders and practitioners in Guatemala, Iran, New Zealand, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.
DeDecker serves on a number of national, regional and MSU committees, and has taken advantage of a host of special trainings and programs to broaden his knowledge and extend the reach of his work in Extension. He is a graduate of Coming Together for Racial Understanding, a national Extension program that helps participants develop competencies around multicultural communication and interaction, so that they can help organize, agree and lead efforts to bring people together for conversations around challenging issues.
“I believe in active listening, open and honest dialogue, and genuine relationship building to foster collaboration for solving complex problems,” he said. “Extension can serve as the vehicle for finding common interests and transforming them into productive solutions that benefit everyone. That’s what I want to do in Nevada. It’s a beautiful, diverse state, and I’m really excited to get the opportunity to contribute to the University’s work here.”