New vice president for Extension and Outreach to come to campus


Jack McClellan

Jason Henderson pictured during his presentation at the public forum Iowa State held during the search for a new Vice President for Extension and Outreach.

Jason Henderson will begin as Iowa State’s new Vice President for Extension and Outreach on April 3, nine months after the announcement of the current Vice President for Extension and Outreach John Lawrence’s retirement.

Henderson comes to Iowa State from Purdue University in Indiana where he served as the Senior Associate Dean in the College of Agriculture and Director of Purdue Extension. Before Purdue, Henderson held various positions in the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City between 1998 and 2013.

Henderson said the ultimate value of extension and outreach programs manifests in positive impacts in the daily lives of people across the state and country.

“The progress that we’ve made in society and how we’ve made life better is by the ability to bring new technologies, new information and new insights to help farmers and families and businesses make better decisions for their lives,” Henderson said. “That’s the power of extension and how it brings out the land grant university to have impact in every community.”

Henderson said the overall quality of Iowa State’s Extension and Outreach influenced his decision to apply for the job.

“Iowa State has one of the premier extension systems in the country,” Henderson said. “An opportunity to lead a great organization that has tremendous impacts in communities all across the state, whether it’s helping farmers, to families, to businesses, I think that for me is just a great opportunity.”

Born in Arlington, Iowa, Henderson said one added benefit of starting at Iowa State is being closer to his hometown and re-engaging with his roots.

Another positive aspect of Iowa State’s extension system that Henderson pointed out is county-based delivery. Iowa State is said to be a 99-county campus because of its connections to communities across the state through the extension and outreach system.

“What also makes it unique is they have a network of regional specialists all across the state,” Henderson said. “So, these three layers of Iowa State Extension of having county delivery, campus specialists and this regional network of specialists out there, I think, really makes Iowa State University’s extension system unique and very strong.”

Henderson said the strength of extension systems depends entirely on the strength of relationships between every community. In order to ensure a positive impact from work in extension, Henderson said he would dedicate the beginning of his time at Iowa State to developing relationships with various community members and extension people.

“I think my first responsibility is to go out and meet people where they’re at, to relearn the state of Iowa,” Henderson said. “And just hearing from people, what are some stresses that they might be having in their families or farms or businesses, but also hearing about what are the opportunities and the needs that they have.”

Henderson is a seasoned extension professional with a background in agriculture and economics. According to an Inside Iowa State article, Henderson received his bachelor’s degree in economics from Central College in Pella, Iowa, and earned a master’s and Doctorate from Purdue University in agricultural economics.

Henderson also said his experience at the Federal Reserve Bank fits in closely with the work being done by extension systems at universities. While at the Federal Reserve, Henderson said he was mindful of how to strengthen local, rural and agricultural economies and how to deliver the information communities need to thrive.

“What I found was the biggest difference between those communities that thrive and those that struggle were they had amazing leaders and then had access to information and resources and insights to make better decisions, whether it’s for their families, whether it’s for their farms, or whether it was for a mainstream business,” Henderson said. “For me, that’s the job of extension.”

Henderson said he looks forward to working to bring new research and technologies to the agricultural sector, strengthening families through various programs and helping to develop communities and support small towns.

“I think a lot of this is society evolves, whether we like it or not, many different ways,” Henderson said. “So for us, our role in extension is how do we help people evolve with society, and how do we use those different tools that emerged to help improve our lives?”