EAST GREENSBORO (Oct. 20, 2020) – Sanjun Gu, Ph.D., horticulture specialist with Cooperative Extension at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, will be honored with this year’s 1890 Institutions Regional Excellence in Extension Award for expansion of horticulture science to all communities.
The award is one of five Regional Excellence in Extension Awards presented annually by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), Cooperative Extension, and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU).
Gu and other winners will be honored virtually on Oct. 28. In addition to five regional awards, NIFA, Cooperative Extension and the APLU will present a National Excellence in Extension Award to Jamie Ellis of the University of Florida and a National Extension Diversity Award to the University of Missouri’s 4-H Center for Youth Development.
Gu is an accomplished researcher, teacher and Extension professional who works with both interdisciplinary research teams and small-scale producers. He has authored or co-authored more than 40 peer-reviewed publications and abstracts, delivered more than 60 trainings for Extension agents and small farmers, developed and taught three graduate level courses, and secured nearly $3 million in grant funding.
In addition to his achievements as a teacher and researcher, Gu has a proven ability to recognize the changing realities of agriculture in North Carolina and to develop programs that fit the current needs of farmers. For example, when industrial hemp was reintroduced as a crop in North Carolina, he developed a program that combines cutting-edge research with hands-on education. In 2019 alone, Gu organized six hemp workshops, two hemp field days, a mini hemp conference, and three hemp in-service workshops that reached more than 800 farmers and 125 agriculture and natural resource Extension agents.
As Extension’s horticulture unit coordinator, Gu works collaboratively with a team of four Extension associates, two technicians and students. He has worked with more than a dozen undergraduate and graduate students, including serving as research advisor to five master’s students. Many of the students are hired through grant money and work on research projects at the N.C. A&T University Farm.
“I first met Dr. Gu as a graduate student at N.C. A&T,” said M. Alyssa McKim, community garden coordinator, who along with Randy Fulk, Extension associate in horticulture production, nominated Gu for the award. “His ability to juggle teaching and Extension work amazed me, but what impressed me more was his ability to challenge me in ways that most other professors could not. He became a mentor to me and continues to teach and support me now as a colleague.”
NIFA and Cooperative Extension have sponsored the awards since 1991.