Susan Jakes

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Award Year

The Southern Rural Development Center is proud to honor Dr. Susan Jakes as the 2015 recipient of the Bonnie Teater Community Development Early Career Achievement Award. Jakes is a member of the Department of Psychology at North Carolina State University.

Dr. Jakes is the Associate State Program Leader of Community and Rural Development for the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service at North Carolina State University. In this capacity, she provides the strategic direction for community and economic programming for Extension and is the university’s point person for integration of economic development programming with Extension’s flagship initiatives of Agriculture, Local Foods, and Youth Development. Mary Tschirhart, Professor with the John Glenn School of Public Affairs at Ohio State University stated, “Dr. Jakes is truly inspirational. She shaped my understanding of community development and my commitment to it. I am sure I and many others will continue to benefit from the knowledge, skills, and inspiration she shares.”

In under five years, during a period of shrinking budgets and with a vision to impact positively as many communities and stakeholders as possible, Dr. Jakes has grown the CRD program to include two full time and one ¾ time staff in addition to herself. Dr. Thomas Melton, Deputy Director of NC Cooperative Extension Service noted, “These staff develop valuable training material for our agents statewide as well as provide direct technical assistance to on-the- ground projects under the direction of our county directors.”

Dr. Jakes has shown prominent examples of engaged CRD programming. She has strengthened the university’s connection with USDA Rural Development, the Southern Rural Development Center, as well as six NC County economic development offices through the Stronger Economies Together planning process. Specifically in the Eastern Triangle Region, CRD staff continue to provide assistance on the plan’s implementation, including securing a grant for over $1 million. Jakes has also strengthened the university’s connection with the NC Tobacco Trust Fund and farmers in 10 counties through the development of NC Ag Ventures. In the first year, this mini-grant program resulted in over $200,000 being distributed directly to agricultural producers and communities seeking to diversify agricultural production beyond tobacco. Dr. Mary Emery, Department Head of Sociology and Rural Studies at South Dakota State University noted that, “Dr. Jakes brings a unique insight to the field of community development; her academic training is in a field not often associated with Extension, yet with great potential to contribute to our work in communities.”

On behalf of Jakes’ nomination, Dr. Edwin Jones, Associate Dean and Director of Virginia Cooperation Extension stated, “It has been my pleasure to have known and worked with Susan for several years. While I was at North Carolina State University, Susan became more engaged in Community Development programs. In fact, she became an invaluable asset in this area, taking on new responsibilities and demonstrating incredible energy and professionalism in helping to build the CRD program in North Carolina.“

Clearly, Dr. Jakes’ impressive portfolio of contributions in economic development position her as very deserving of this prestigious awards. Thus, it is most fitting that Dr. Susan Jakes be honored as the Southern Rural Development Center 2015 recipient of the Bonnie Teater Community Development Early Career Achievement Award.

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