GAINESVILLE — Andra Johnson, associate director of Penn State Extension, will be the next dean of UF/IFAS Extension and director of the Florida Cooperative Extension Service, the University of Florida announced on Tuesday. Johnson will assume the role on Nov. 1.
Johnson will lead UF/IFAS’ statewide network of more than 650 faculty educators and scientists, whose programs and expertise support economic, environmental and community health. These programs range from field days for new crops to youth leadership experiences.
“Dr. Johnson brings energy and vitality to raising the profile of Extension. Our goal is to make an even greater impact on the millions of Floridians served by UF/IFAS outreach every year,” said J. Scott Angle, UF vice president for agriculture and natural resources and leader of UF/IFAS.
“His experience in administration, Extension, teaching, research and service, at both large land-grant and historically Black universities, his upbringing on a farm and his engagement in so many national coalitions have contributed to his development as an emerging national leader who will take UF/IFAS Extension to the next level,” Angle said.
Elaine Turner, dean of the UF/IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, led the nationwide search for the next dean of Extension.
“Dr. Johnson’s career has woven the three components of the land-grant mission — teaching, research and Extension — together. He brings a collaborative spirit and passion for service to UF/IFAS and our stakeholders across Florida,” Turner said. “In the college, we are especially excited about his ideas for engaging more undergraduate and graduate students in Extension and working together to meet the talent needs of Florida’s agriculture and natural resource industries.”
Johnson grew up on a farm in rural Louisiana. His family raised cattle and grew cotton, corn and wheat, and his aunt has worked for the USDA Forest Service for more than 30 years. Those early experiences motivated him to pursue a career in Extension where he could bring the knowledge of the land-grant university to families like his who produce our food, fuel and fiber.
“I’m extremely excited and humbled about the opportunity to work with the amazing faculty, staff and administrators here at UF/IFAS. This position is really about what we can do together to help improve the lives of all Floridians,” Johnson said.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in urban forest management from Southern University and A&M College, and a master’s degree and doctorate in forest resources from The Pennsylvania State University, Johnson worked his way up the ranks in academia to a tenured associate professor of urban forestry at Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where he conducted research and taught classes in urban forestry and natural resource management.
After more than a decade at Southern University, Johnson took on roles in university leadership, first as the assistant director of research and graduate research at Alcorn State University, then as Southern University’s vice chancellor for research and technology development, and finally at Penn State as the associate director of Extension.
Johnson succeeds Nick Place, who served as UF/IFAS Extension dean from 2012 through 2020. Thomas Obreza has acted as interim dean and will return to his role as senior associate dean and associate director.
Nationwide, Extension is a partnership between state, federal and county governments to extend the scientific knowledge and expertise of land-grant universities to the public. The University of Florida, together with Florida A&M University, administers the Florida Cooperative Extension Service.
At UF, Extension is housed in the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS), along with the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and the Florida Agricultural Experiment Station.