UNCE Dean and Director Hinton retires
Her 14-year stint makes her the longest-serving female dean at UNR
By Jim Sloan
The longest-serving female dean of an academic unit at the University of Nevada, Reno has retired.
Karen Hinton, the dean and director of University of Nevada Cooperative Extension (UNCE) since 1998, retired in October. Jerry Buk, the director of Cooperative Extension’s Southern Area, was named interim dean and director by University President Marc Johnson.
Hinton was named the interim dean and director of Cooperative Extension in July 1998 after serving three years as the Western Area Director of Cooperative Extension. She was formally named to the dean and director post in December 1998. The resultant 14-year stint has made her the longest-serving top female administrator of an academic unit by more than three years, according to University records.
“It certainly hasn’t felt like 14 years,” Hinton said. “The time has flown by.”
All told, Hinton worked 31 years at Nevada. Prior to being named as dean and director of the Cooperative Extension, she was an extension home economist in Douglas County, an extension educator in Carson City and a western area extension director.
UNCE has experienced great changes under Hinton’s direction. The college—whose role is to bring university knowledge to citizens across the state—has expanded its programs, grant activities and collaborations with other University academic units, as well as other institutions within the Nevada System of Higher Education.
Cooperative Extension operates 18 offices serving every county in the state. Once primarily known for its exceptional agricultural-assistance programs, extension under Hinton has greatly expanded its efforts to bring educational programs to urban audiences as well. For example, its Lifelong Learning Center in Las Vegas—a building project completed under Hinton’s direction in 2006—offers health and nutrition classes; children, youth and family research and education; and programs for Nevadans from preschoolers to senior citizens.
“Karen has helped us adapt and adjust to the changing needs of Nevadans,” said Tom Baker, the chairman of Cooperative Extension’s Advisory Committee. “The vast majority of Nevada’s citizens live in an urban area and Karen has been instrumental in making sure we have the right programs for those citizens.
“People sometimes think of extension as primarily about gardens and farms. But it’s a lot more than that now,” Baker added.
One focus of Cooperative Extension under Hinton has been community and economic development. Extension forged a key partnership with USDA Rural Development to launch the Stronger Economies Together initiative in eight rural Nevada counties, and faculty in offices throughout Nevada have increased their efforts to deliver more jobs and economic stability to their communities. Job training programs, tourism enhancements, business mentoring, entrepreneur training—all these efforts have expanded under Hinton’s direction.
Another hallmark of Hinton’s time as dean and director has been her focus on innovations that help expand extension’s reach across Nevada and the country.
For example, she was instrumental in founding eXtension, a web-based community of extension educators that combines the knowledge and resources of educators across the country. Hinton helped create eXtension, and served as chair of the eXtension Governing Committee in 2009. She also served on the eXtension Foundation Board of Directors and was on the Director’s Council for eXtension.
Perhaps the best measure of Hinton’s influence has been the number of Nevadans reached by UNCE faculty. When Hinton took over Cooperative Extension in 1999, the college averaged about 300,000 face-to-face contacts a year. Since 2004, it’s been making about 800,000 face-to-face contacts annually.
Jim Sloan is the communications specialist for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension.