AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala. – Laura Downey has been named assistant director of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System and associate dean in the Auburn University College of Human Sciences. Her appointment begins in July.
“Dr. Downey brings a very broad skillset in human sciences to us through her academic training, field-based experience and awareness of challenging issues we face in Alabama,” said Mike Phillips, director of Alabama Extension. “She has a can-do attitude with a strong desire to help people by improving their daily life.”
Downey will serve as a liaison between the College of Human Sciences and Alabama Extension. She will work to coordinate programs that reach from the Auburn campus to residents across the state, region and nation. Downey will serve as a mentor and work collaboratively with Extension specialists in human sciences programming. She will also directly supervise human sciences regional Extension agents.
“She will do an admirable job in the College of Human Sciences by serving to integrate research-based information into user-friendly educational outreach delivery,” Phillips said. “Her main role will be to work with faculty in the college to extend knowledge to the field by utilizing our network of regional agents and county coordinators as educational deliverers.”
Susan Hubbard, professor and dean of the Auburn University College of Human Sciences, agrees with Phillips.
“Laura is an accomplished administrator and scholar in human sciences Extension who brings a wealth of experience working with state, regional and federal agencies,” Hubbard said.
A Good Fit for Alabama
Hubbard said Downey will be a good fit for Alabama.
“Her understanding of the critical issues facing the residents of Alabama will provide a framework for working with Extension faculty and staff to advance the development and delivery of timely applied research and programmatic information to meet the opportunities and challenges facing our communities,” Hubbard said.
Phillips said Downey has the education and experience to address some of the most pressing problems in Alabama.
“Dr. Downey has the vision to represent Alabama Extension and improve the daily lives of Alabamians in human sciences,” Phillips said. “Today, Alabama ranks very high in the incidence of stroke and heart attack risk as well as obesity. In order to see improvements in these areas, it means we must educate the public on ways to make daily decisions in improving nutrition, work/life balance, physical activity and other areas of life.”
Building Strategic Relationships
Downey said human sciences in Alabama Extension has a long history. She said Alabama families continue to benefit from the high-quality programs that Extension delivers.
“These programs address issues that matter to families and communities, such as human nutrition, diet, health, family and child development, financial resource management and workforce development,” Downey said. “What excites me most about this position is building strategic relationships within Extension and beyond in response to the most pressing issues facing Alabama’s communities and opportunities to address those needs. I am eager to collaborate with county and campus-based Extension professionals and partners who serve our communities so well.”
The Road to Back to Alabama
Downey is a native of Mobile, Alabama and no stranger to Auburn University. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in anthropology and a Master of Science in rural sociology, both from Auburn University. She earned a Doctor of Public Health from the University of Kentucky.
Downey said her time as a student at Auburn University introduced her to opportunities to enhance the well-being of citizens in rural areas and influenced her decision to pursue research on rural public health.
“Extension and public health both use diverse strategies to reach clientele,” she said. “I have worked throughout my career to reach audiences in innovative ways, particularly rural residents, with programs to improve their health and quality of life.”
As an Extension human sciences professor at Mississippi State University, Downey has served in the Extension program development and evaluation capacity and guided the Extension Office of Nutrition Education’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education program (SNAP-Ed).
She served as a member of the National Program Team for Extension Collaboration on Immunization Teaching and Education (EXCITE) Initiative. Her career also includes leading the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences accreditation process for the School of Human Sciences at Mississippi State University. She has also led numerous federally-funded grants.
Alabama Extension is the primary outreach organization for the land grant mission of Alabama A&M and Auburn universities. Its educational programs grow from these two land grant university campuses to serve the people of Alabama. Science-based educational programs are delivered that enable people to improve their quality of life and economic well-being.
The Auburn University College of Human Sciences includes three departments.
- Consumer and Design Sciences
- Nutrition, Dietetics and Hospitality Management
- Human Development and Family Science
The college also has an Office of Global Education. These academic units offer seven undergraduate degrees, four minors, five master’s degree programs and three doctoral programs.