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Photo: Nick Fuhrman

Personnel Profiles

Nick Fuhrman

"So what?"

That's the question assistant professor Nick Fuhrman wants Extension to ask.

In addition to teaching undergraduate and graduate courses, Fuhrman is the "evaluation guy" for the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension.

"Now more than ever we have to be able to answer the question 'so what?'" he said. "What difference have we made in Extension? How have we solved the problems of everyday people?"

That's where Fuhrman's expertise in evaluation comes in. He recently worked with the county review process committee to determine how to get input and ideas from Extension personnel, and how to measure and make decisions based on the results. Together, they developed an evaluation that included a questionnaire and open-ended questions.

Fuhrman was blown away by the participation.

"Evaluations take time, but we really cared about getting their feed back, expertise and ideas," Fuhrman said. "People in Extension have the answers we need to know. Their commitment to sharing and being up front in the process helped us know where to go from here."

Fuhrman also coordinates the master evaluator program. He teaches agents how to evaluate programs and learn the tools to determine their value and effectiveness. If you evaluate small pieces at a time, you'll have evidence of the impact of what you've been doing, he said.

"People think that evaluation is stats and data, and that you have to be good at math," he said. "I like the idea that people don't get excited about evaluation because it's an opportunity to change their minds."

Fuhrman uses his passion for animals as part of his programs and teaching. Also known as "Ranger Nick," he relates the animals to what he teaches, whether it be evaluation or environmental education. Birds, turtles, salamanders and snakes frequently accompany him to his class.

"My passion is teaching," he said. "I love getting creative and using animals to engage people."

Fuhrman recently traveled to Costa Rica with other CAES teaching faculty and staff to develop "reusable learning objects" to bring the world to their classrooms. They visited local farms, food producers and educational institutions. His wife Roslynn, an environmental educator at Rock Eagle, shares his passion for animals. The couple volunteers at Bear Hollow Wildlife Trail in Athens. Fuhrman especially enjoys working with birds of prey, like owls and hawks. At home, the Fuhrmans have two snakes, a turtle and a cat.

Fuhrman studied forestry at Virginia Tech during his graduate and undergraduate programs. Although his real passion is in environmental education and teaching, he never knew if he was making an impact.

"After a program, I always wondered if anyone remembered what I said or did anything different because of it, but had never asked," he said. "I wanted to know if the information made a difference and figure out the impact of the environmental education programs."

After receiving his PhD in agricultural education and communication at the University of Florida, Fuhrman combined his love of teaching and evaluating. He enjoys helping show UGA Extension's impact and value. It's important for Extension to evaluate their programs because it shows the way Extension changes conditions, the environment and people's lives in a really positive way, Fuhrman said.

"The greatest thing about Extension is that it makes the university accessible to every person in every county in the state," he said. "Agents have local presence and know the people in their communities. They have such a positive attitude towards evaluation and they want to know how to help people."

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

Released July 2010.