For Laura Waters of Cooperative Extension, service means understanding the needs of local clientele and using university expertise and resources to create programs to meet those needs. As a grant coordinator, Waters works to put resources in the hands of those people who provide direct service across the state.
Where did you earn your degrees and what are your current responsibilities at UGA?
I have a B.S. in Family and Consumer Sciences and a Masters of Public Administration from the University of Georgia. Currently, I am an Extension 4-H faculty member and serve as the grant coordinator for Cooperative Extension and the Georgia 4-H Foundation.
When did you come to UGA and what brought you here?
I first came to UGA as an undergraduate student. Because of my experience growing up in 4-H in Evans County, GA, I was always familiar with UGA and the opportunities available here. After obtaining my Master’s degree from the School of Public and International Affairs at UGA, I decided to join the Cooperative Extension staff in order to play a role in putting much-needed funding resources in the hands of so many of our Cooperative Extension agents.
What is the best part about your job?
I train county extension agents and work with them to research, write, edit and submit grants to support their programs. I appreciate seeing the direct impact of my work through the projects that are successfully funded and implemented. I enjoy working with so many passionate public service faculty and staff members across the state. So many of my co-workers across the state are continual inspirations to me.
Describe your current research or service projects.
The majority of the grants I work on impact youth audiences across a variety of Extension focus areas. To date, I have assisted other faculty and staff members successfully obtain $3,375,958. I served as the principal investigator for a major national service project related to building financial literacy in college-aged youth, and I currently serve as the principal investigator on a grant from National 4-H Council and the Office of Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention with the goal of implementing 4-H mentoring and family-strengthening programs in three counties in Georgia.
What does service mean to you?
Particularly from the perspective of Cooperative Extension, service means understanding the needs of local clientele, and using University expertise and resources to create programs to meet these needs.
Why do you serve?
I serve because I have always known that working in the public sector was my calling. I am I am able to use my skill-set and training in grant-writing to put resources in the hands of those people who provide direct service across the state.
What do you feel is UGA’s role as a land- and sea-grant university?
UGA’s role as a land-and sea-grant university is three-fold and is reflected in the University’s mission: to teach, to serve, and to inquire into the nature of things. University faculty and staff across all disciplines all have a role in connecting the people of the state of Georgia to the expertise and resources generated at the University in order to better their lives.
What does it mean to you to work at a land- and sea-grant university, both personally and professionally?
Personally, as a 4-H’er, the concept of the land-and-sea grant university was always a part of my life. 4-H was the major reason why I chose to attend UGA as a freshman. My experiences at UGA enabled me to meet and learn from people different from myself and broaden my horizons. I am thankful to be able to continue to be involved in the mission of UGA through my work with Cooperative Extension and public service.
Professionally, I have opportunities to collaborate with faculty members across campus on various grant programs which would be implemented with Cooperative Extension audiences if funded. I get to experience and become familiar with a wide variety of the projects and knowledge generated across campus, and I get to advocate for the strengths of public service and Cooperative Extension in delivering these programs. Cooperative Extension and public service also change our ways of understanding how we implement youth and adult education programs and add to the scholarship of engagement.
Why is public service an important aspect of higher education?
Faculty members at institutions of higher education, particularly land-and-sea-grant universities have a duty to serve the people of the state. Public service faculty members add to the scholarship by creating opportunities for engagement with community members. Communities have knowledge that informs the teaching and research of faculty in various academic disciplines.
What are the benefits of attending a land-grant university for students as opposed to the experience they would get at a non-land-grant university?
I think students attending land-and-sea-grant universities are able to, and are encouraged to, participate in important service projects that supplement and strengthen their educational experience. Faculty members at land-and-sea-grant universities also have experience in service, which enriches their perspective and enhances their ability to teach the subject matter in a more engaging way.
What are some of the service-learning and public service opportunities for students that you are involved with?
I currently serve as the advisor for the State of Georgia Collegiate 4-H Clubs. We have active chapters at UGA, Georgia College, North Georgia College, Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, Valdosta State University, and Georgia Southern University. College students involved in these clubs are 4-H alumni and want to continue to be involved in service, particularly to the local 4-H clubs in their college towns. In this role, I coordinated a national service project during which Collegiate 4-H’ers worked with a specialist in Family and Consumer Sciences to modify a six-lesson curriculum on financial literacy. We then trained Collegiate 4-H’ers from across the country at the National Collegiate 4-H Conference in 2011. These college students then taught the financial literacy lessons to audiences of middle school students across the country. We wanted to teach youth basic concepts in financial literacy, but we also wanted to drive home the concepts of financial responsibility with the college-aged students. This project was highly successful and has been implemented in 15 states.
What is the value or benefit of students engaging in service-learning and public service?
Engagement in public service and service-learning teaches students the value in giving to others, but it also deepens the academic experience for students. It enables them to take what they have learned in the classroom and put it into practice while affecting positive change.