Three USU Extension Salt Lake County Faculty Promoted to Full Professor

By Dennis Hinkamp | December 11, 2023


Inaugural Group

Utah State University Extension Vice President Ken White recently announced three promotions in the Salt Lake County Extension office. Katie Wagner, Melanie Jewkes, and Vernon Parent were all promoted to Extension full professor.

“Salt Lake County is fortunate to have this type of talent,” White said. “These amazing faculty members represent diverse areas of Extension education, including horticulture, nutrition/family finance, and 4-H.”

Wagner grew up in Lexington, Kentucky, and attended the University of Kentucky, where she received a bachelor’s degree in environmental science and policy and a master’s degree in plant and soil sciences. She moved to Utah in 2006 and completed a bachelor’s degree in ornamental horticulture from USU.

“I’m really thankful for the partners I’ve been able to work with over the years,” Wagner said. “We have some great folks and programs here, including the Salt Lake County Jail Horticulture Program as my first partner, as well as the Jordan Valley Conservation Garden Park and Red Butte Gardens.”

One of Wagner’s flagship programs is providing senior centers with fresh produce.

“These are people who aren’t necessarily in a financial bracket where they can afford fresh produce,” Wagner said. “A lot of them grew up with garden spaces, and they really enjoyed gardening, but they no longer have the space or the physical ability to do it anymore.”

Jewkes earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in family finance from USU. She has 16 years of experience in community education programs. She oversees Extension education programs in family finance, nutrition, and food preservation. She has successfully received more than $7.5 million in grants to help improve the lives of people in Utah.

“Since 2014, we have reached more than 50,000 people in classes alone and 67,000 indirectly through farmers markets or health fairs,” Jewkes said. “That’s pretty incredible! It’s amazing every year to be able to see the work being done in our community. One of our most impactful programs is the Family Mealtime Project, where parents come with their children, and we cook together and learn together.”

Parent grew up spending his high school months in Sunnyvale, California, in the heart of the Silicon Valley. He began his USU Extension career in Washington County, where he worked for 12 years. He then transferred to Salt Lake County to work with 42 new programs specializing in environmental education, STEM, and developing 4-H youth leadership opportunities.

“I think one of the greatest things about Extension is we promote the fact that change is going to happen,” he said. “And what are you going to do about it? Extension is here because that’s what we help with. We can help youth change and improve their lives!”