University Leader Named New Extension Health Director

By National 4-H Council October 21, 2019

Former Associate Dean and Director of Ohio State University Extension to also lead Well Connected Communities Initiative in building a culture of health nationwide

Washington, D.C. (October 21, 2019) – During a meeting of the Well Connected Communities (WCC) National Advisory Committee today, Dr. Roger Rennekamp was introduced as the new Extension Health Director for the Cooperative Extension System. In his role supporting the Extension Committee on Organization and Policy, Rennekamp will explore strategies that scale communities through the WCC initiative into system-wide opportunities for policy and health equity change and enhance the leadership of Cooperative Extension in the field of health. He will start in this position on November 1.

In his new role, Rennekamp will develop, implement and drive the sustainability of the important work, as it moves to advance systems change in increasing health equity by responding to the diverse needs of children, youth and families, particularly among vulnerable populations. In doing so, Rennekamp will also increase understanding and visibility of the Cooperative Extension System as a national leader in health, as well as enhance leadership and professional development among Extension System personnel.

“At the center of our work is the belief that our nation’s public and land-grant universities can be important partners in community-based efforts to improve the health and well-being of all people,” said Rennekamp. “Improving health outcomes will involve working in new ways that extend beyond health education to changing the environments in which people live, learn, work and play.”

The nation’s land-grant university and Cooperative Extension System, in partnership with National 4-H Council, created the Well Connected Communities initiative in 2017 with the aim of empowering communities to come together to help their residents be healthier at every stage of life. With the support of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), the nation’s largest philanthropy dedicated solely to health, Extension leaders and educators, volunteers and young people are currently cultivating wellness through this public/private partnership in 39 communities across 12 states.

As Extension Health Director, Rennekamp will be responsible for building on the achievements of the WCC’s inaugural leader, University of Delaware Extension Director Dr. Michelle Rodgers, who played a critical role in the initial development of the initiative. Rodgers was recently honored by ECOP leaders for her contributions in shepherding WCC through its start-up phase. In addition, Rodgers will continue to support WCC’s growth and impact as the new chair of an ECOP innovation committee.

“Cooperative Extension is very grateful for the efforts of National 4-H Council and our Extension Health Educator colleagues in working with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to secure funding for this position,” said ECOP Chairman Mark Latimore, Extension Administrator, Fort Valley State University. “We look forward to the contributions that Dr. Rennekamp can add to these efforts in continuing to leverage federal, state and local investments in Cooperative Extension.”

Rennekamp’s first university position was as a county Extension agent in Kentucky, after which he became a specialist in program and staff development at the University of Kentucky. Prior to his most recent leadership role as Associate Dean and Director of Ohio State University Extension, Rennekamp served as the Associate Dean for Outreach and Engagement at Oregon State’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences.

In his position at Ohio State University Extension, Rennekamp played a key role in heightening awareness of Extension’s mission, including creating new partnerships. He was also responsible for establishing the Extension Endowment Initiative, which resulted in record-breaking philanthropic support for OSU Extension.

About Cooperative Extension

Cooperative Extension (Extension) translates science with innovative educational programs and information applications; engages with the public by providing reliable information leading to positive action; and transforms individuals’ lives, families, communities and economies in both rural and urban locations. Extension operates through the land-grant university system in the USA and is supported by federal (mainly USDA-NIFA), state and local governments. Extension is coordinated by the Extension Committee on Organization and Policy (ECOP), the representative governing board of the 76 state, territory, land-grant university Extension programs. ECOP works in alliance with the Association of Public and Land-grant University’s Board of Agriculture Assembly, Board on Human Sciences, and several regional and national non-government organizations with common vision and mission. See and for more information or follow us on Twitter @Ext100Years

About 4-H

4-H, the nation’s largest youth development organization, grows confident young people who are empowered for life today and prepared for career tomorrow. 4-H programs empower nearly six million young people across the U.S. through experiences that develop critical life skills. 4-H is the youth development program of our nation’s Cooperative Extension System and USDA and serves every county and parish in the U.S. through a network of 110 public universities and more than 3,000 local Extension offices. Globally, 4-H collaborates with independent programs to empower one million youth in 50 countries. The research-backed 4-H experience grows young people who are four times more likely to contribute to their communities; two times more likely to make healthier choices; two times more likely to be civically active; and two times more likely to participate in STEM programs.

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