Bonanno has served as interim director of the WVU Extension Service since July 2011. He has spent his career working for Extension, beginning as a faculty Extension agent in Pleasants County in 1982 and as a member of the Extension Service administration since 2005.
“Following an extensive nationwide search, which included significant input from faculty, staff and constituents, it is clear that Steve is the leader with the strongest vision, broadest knowledge of our state and its needs, and passion for the outreach and engagement mission,” McConnell said. “I am impressed with and grateful for how he has kept Extension moving forward during the time of his interim appointment. I look forward to working with Steve and his team to achieve both immediate and long-term successes for our University and our state.”
Bonanno’s first goal as dean and director is to address the leadership structure in Extension, and he has filled two key leadership positions to create a team that will hit the ground running.
“I am humbled and honored with the confidence the Provost and Extension constituents have placed in me,” Bonanno said. “We have much work to do. In my interviews for this role I outlined several strategies for moving Extension and West Virginia forward, and that work begins today.”
Bonanno has appointed Dr. Cindy Fitch, currently program unit director for WVU Extension’s Families and Health Programs, to be associate dean for Programming and Research in the new administration. WVU Extension program unit directors will report through her and she will lead the promotion and tenure process, in collaboration with Bonanno.
Jennifer Ours Williams, currently the program unit director for Agriculture and Natural Resources programs, will be the associate dean for Partnerships and Initiatives. Williams’ work will include a strong focus on collaborations with state agencies and organizations and WVU colleges, as well as helping to establish a stronger Extension presence at WVU’s regional campuses and with WVU’s Mountain State University initiative.
A third new position, the associate dean for Administration and Finance, will be filled via a University search, as will the positions vacated by Fitch and Williams.
President Gordon Gee applauded the new appointment and Bonanno’s plan for leadership and action.
“We have one of the most effective, vibrant and relevant Extension services in the nation, and that is in large measure due to the incredibly gifted people at West Virginia University’s Extension Service,” he said. “During my travels to every county last year, it was clear that our Extension Service is the heartbeat of the University in every county, with great potential for growth. I am excited to work with Steve and his team to strengthen and expand their reach throughout the state.”
The WVU Extension Service is the third largest academic unit at WVU, with more than 450 faculty and staff across the state. Extension has a $50 million-plus annual budget, which includes funding from the United States Department of Agriculture, the state of West Virginia, county commissions and boards of education, as well as and grants and private funding. Extension programs fall into the categories of 4-H Youth Development; Agriculture and Natural Resources; Community, Economic and Workforce Development; and Families and Health. The WVU Extension Service also operates WVU Jackson’s Mill State 4-H Camp, located near Weston.
“We are at such a critical moment for our University and for West Virginia,” McConnell said. “With financial pressures on our legislature and concerns about the health and economic stability of our citizens mounting, Steve and his team in Extension are already so engaged, and now they will have the permanent structure in place to do even more.”
McConnell also expressed her appreciation to Extension faculty and staff, as well as the many statewide volunteers and supporters of Extension programs.
“I am proud of the way we have been able to continue to meet the needs of our citizens through Extension programs,” she said. “I know this process has been unusually long – but I’m pleased that now we have a strong leader and a talented team to move forward and do even more good work in West Virginia.”
In addition to his role as dean and director, Bonanno is secretary and chair-elect of the Northeast Extension Directors Association and a member of the National 4-H Leadership Committee, assisting in developing national-level policy for the 4-H youth program. He also serves on the Northeast Rural Development Center Board of Directors.
Bonanno is a graduate of Potomac State College and received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in agriculture education from the WVU Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design.
“I am a proud product of the Extension Service,” Bonanno said. “I am one of hundreds in our organization who embrace a real vocation and a passion to help our community and our state. I can’t wait to show the state—and the nation—what we can do together.”
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