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Photo: Mary Ellen Blackburn

Personnel Profiles

Mary Ellen Blackburn

Mary Ellen Blackburn's role with UGA Cooperative Extension has changed over the years. But her goal has remained the same: improve the quality of life for individuals and communities throughout the state.

"It's often said that Extension is the arm of the university reaching into every community," Blackburn said. "By having Extension in every county, UGA resources are made available to every citizen of the state to improve the quality of life for individuals and communities."

As coordinator of Extension Organizational Development, she organizes crucial training and professional development for Extension agents, faculty and staff.  This includes winter school, program planning week, ExTend and other Extension programs.

"I love working with all our Extension family statewide. I also have great friendships with counterparts throughout the Southern Region and the nation," she said.

In 1980, Blackburn was recruited by Clemson University to be their Extension interior design specialist. "That was a great opportunity for me to learn about the Extension system," she recalls.

She returned to Georgia two years later and began working with UGA Cooperative Extension as a home furnishings specialist. Her role with Extension has changed quite a bit since 1982.

She later volunteered as an instructor for Extension's community leadership program. Part of her doctorate focused on community leadership, and the program allowed her to apply that aspect of her training and broaden her involvement in Extension.

Blackburn enjoyed training so much that when the position of leadership specialist became available, she applied for it and was hired. One of her favorite parts of her job is getting to meet people in communities all across the state.

"Georgia Extension's faculty are among the best in the nation and we need to support them with training they need," she said. "It's very rewarding to play a role in their development."

She also began coordinating the orientation of new agents, which developed into the foundations program for new county Extension agents.

"Working with great people in an organization that is so highly regarded throughout the state and nation is very rewarding," she said. "It's also rewarding to see the growth of new agents who I first met in the foundations program and who now have very successful careers in Extension."

Blackburn also serves on the national Epsilon Sigma Phi board and enjoys seeing the common bond Extension professionals across the country have to build on. She believes a strong professional development program is essential to maintaining quality programming.

"Right now, even though we are going through a particularly difficult time with limited funds, because of the integrity and commitment of our leadership, and with the finest Extension faculty and staff in the nation, we can't help but have a great future ahead," she said.

Blackburn's current plans include retiring at the end of the year. She will continue her work with ExTend for a few months. Her retirement plans include traveling and working on personal projects and keeping her eyes open for new opportunities.

(Written by Allie Byrd, a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

Released June 2010.