Excellence in Extension Engagement Award

Excellence in Extension Engagement Award

This Excellence in Extension Engagement Award recognizes high quality, evidence-based Extension work that has documented outstanding outcomes and impacts with clientele and strengthens the Extension profession. The selection committee considers individual or team applicants that documents an engagement program that is local needs driven, grounded in scholarly practice, has adequate program evaluation, adoption beyond the initial audience, strengthens professionals within or across states, and shows innovation that brings something new to Extension professionals. First place receives: $750 award, must present presentation at ELC, and ELC registration is waived. Honorable mention receives: $250 award and ELC registration is waived. 

Application Guidelines are Linked Here. Applications are due May 31 and must  include the following. 

 Letter of application by the individual or nominator

 Two letters of support from a client, peer, supervisor, or director

 The application topic needs to have some currency, but is not limited to any recent timeframe and may have started many years in the past with recently documented successes, impacts, or culmination of the effort.


2024 Winner: Paul Hill, Ph.D.; Extension Professor & Program Director; Utah State University, Member of ESP, NACDEP, NAEPSDP.

2024 Honorable Mention: Jason de Koff, Ph.D., Professor/Extension Specialist, Tennessee State University. Member of NACAA. Bioenergy and Drone Technology

2024 Winner: Paul Hill, Ph.D.; Extension Professor & Program Director; Utah State

University, Member of ESP, NACDEP, NAEPSDP.


The Remote Online Initiative (ROI) was a response to the economic needs of rural Utah communities, characterized by high unemployment and limited job opportunities. From 2014-2017, the average unemployment rate for rural counties was 5.2%. For urban counties, the unemployment rate was 3.4%, demonstrating a wide gap. This rural unemployment rate played a role in the Utah Legislature's investment in the ROI program in 2018. Although the State added a total of 46,400 jobs in the last year, 42,000 Utahns are still unemployed. While job opportunities exist, rural communities have limited access as residents relocate to urban centers. 

The ROI began as a remote worker training program and expanded to other areas of remote work. There are three flagship courses - Certified Remote Work Professional (CRWP), Certified Remote Work Leader (CRWL), and Certified Tech Sales Professional (CTSP, is a partnership with MarketStar). These online, one-month certificate courses target upskilling for rural Utahns, remote leader best practices for companies in urban areas, and specialized job placements for graduates. If rural residents have the skills for remote work, and urban businesses support remote work, then rural residents can benefit from increased employment opportunities without leaving their communities. Rural communities prosper from employment opportunities and well-paying jobs. Companies benefit from a talent pool that is not location specific. 

Numerous ROI graduates have found remote work: 381 remote jobs created in 21 rural Utah counties and 30 remote jobs created in urban counties. Out of 643 Utah jobseekers actively looking for remote work, 411 Utah participants found remote work (64% job placement rate). 

From follow-up data for the CRWL course (N = 165; n = 40), 55% of respondents said their department created a remote work environment upon course completion, and hired on average, 19 remote workers. All respondents indicated that their departments planned to maintain a remote work environment. About 75% of respondents indicated that more than half of their employees currently work remotely, and 55% said their department currently hires remote workers from rural Utah. Additionally, MarketStar hired two CRWP graduates. 

The CRWP course prepares rural residents for remote employment. Participant awareness and interest in remote work opportunities increases with positive changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills, and aspirations. Participants shall actively seek and secure remote work employment which leads to an increase in the economic wellbeing of rural residents with a reduction in unemployment and rural-urban migration in rural Utah counties. 

The CRWL course educates leaders on the best practices for creating a successful remote work environment and managing remote and hybrid employees. As awareness of remote work best practices increase, participants may create a remote work environment in their organization which leads to job opportunities for rural Utah communities. 

The CTSP course follows a competency modeling framework outlining that CRWP graduates will develop the competencies to succeed as a tech sales professional and long-term job security. Upon successful course completion, graduates are eligible to interview for a tech sales position with MarketStar. 

While ROI’s mission is to serve rural Utah, the program has developed an affiliate program with other land grant universities (LGUs) stemming from the program’s positive impacts with remote work training and employment. The affiliate program continues to expand with active participation from nine states (Colorado, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Montana, North Dakota, and Washington). 

Through affiliate partnerships, a total of 401 non-Utah participants have enrolled in the CRWP course, with 381 successful completions (95% completion rate). A total of 334 graduates indicated they had intentions to pursue remote work opportunities after completing the course. In addition to the affiliate training program, the ROI produces content for outreach and distribution. These include marketing for the CRWP, CRWL, and CTSP Courses and social media (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter), daily announcements, newsletters, weekly emails, media stories, remote work radio, podcast, specialized job training, and quarterly webinars and virtual job fairs. Scholarly engagement includes peer-reviewed articles published in academic journals and participation in Extension conferences. The ROI program also publishes articles in USU Extension’s Outcomes and Impact Quarterly for USU Extension professionals.