Following the $4.6 million grant awarded to National 4-H Council by the nation’s largest health philanthropy, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), Michelle Rodgers has been named the new National Project Director of RWJF’s partnership with National 4-H Council and Cooperative Extension System (CES).
The grant aims to improve the health of 1,000 communities across the nation over the next 10 years. This will involve engaging all the land-grant universities that serve every county and parish in the United States. The partnership will also include and empower young people to help local Health Councils implement action plans that ensure all community members can be healthier at every stage of life.
Rodgers explained that one of the unique aspects of Cooperative Extension’s partnership with RWJF is that it “taps into everything that the Cooperative Extension System has done well since we were formed over a century ago as the national education and community development program of the nation’s land-grant universities,” said Rodgers. “When we bring together Cooperative Extension and America’s philanthropy leader in health, it is amazing to envision the transformative impact we will have in communities throughout the country.”
As Associate Dean and Director, Rodgers provides overall leadership for programs, personnel and the organizational development of the University of Delaware Cooperative Extension. She is the immediate past chair of the Extension Committee on Organization and Policy (ECOP) and served as co-chair of the ECOP Health Task Force. Prior to joining UD, Rodgers spent five years as associate director at Michigan State University Extension. Rodgers also worked at Penn State University as an agent and regional director in Cooperative Extension.
“We are thrilled to have Dr. Rodgers in this role as our college, and many others across the nation, embrace the One Health and Healthy Communities concepts,” said Mark Rieger, Dean of UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR). “She has done an outstanding job of leading the nationwide effort for Cooperative Extension to partner with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation on these initiatives, and I know that the project is in very capable hands.”
The partnership will focus on three key elements to accomplish transformational change: (1) designing a sustainable network structure to promote health and well-being in communities across the nation; (2) creating and disseminating tools for healthier communities; and (3) launching a training curriculum for local community advocates. This approach will substantially increase the impact of the local Health Councils to drive impactful, sustainable outcomes.
Dan Rich, University Professor of Public Policy and Director, Community Engagement Initiative, the University of Delaware, noted that Rodgers’ national leadership role with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation will also “greatly strengthen UD’s new Partnership for Healthy Communities, in which Dr. Rodgers also has a lead role, and will be launched officially by President Dennis Assanis at a knowledge-based conference on Strengthening Partnerships in Health and Education: Delaware and the Nation, on October 30 at Clayton Hall.”