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WVU Extension faculty member receives national honors for excellence and diversity

WVU Extension Service associate professor and STEM specialist, Jennifer Robertson-Honecker, has been recognized with the 2020 Regional Excellence in Extension award for her work to bring STEM education to West Virginia communities. The award is presented by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Cooperative Extension and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities.

Robertson-Honecker will receive the National Award of Excellence for the Northeast Region, which is presented to individuals who have strived throughout their careers through their local, state, regional or national responsibilities. The award recognizes excellence in Extension educational programming, including demonstration of high impact of programs; visionary leadership and anticipation of emerging issues for clientele and the system; commitment to diversity; and integration of programs in partnership with university colleagues and outside clientele.

In her role as STEM specialist for WVU Extension Service, Robertson-Honecker brings science programming to kids in rural communities through camp programs, community events and STEM curricula. She relies on experiential learning and real-world relevancy to keep youth engaged. She has created professional development for educators, curricula, and outreach activities that foster an appreciation for STEM in West Virginia youths and equip them with the skills they need to compete in the 21st Century. 

Each year, Robertson-Honecker directs unique STEM events with more than 1,500 youth and adult participants and oversees programs that reach another 25,000 youth annually. She has also authored state and national curricula, directed authentic research, and secured more than $6 million in grant funding to support statewide STEM literacy efforts. Nationally, Robertson-Honecker led the WVU Extension Service team that wrote the 2018 and 2019 National Youth Science Day challenges – Code Your World and Game Changers – that focused on computer science.

This summer when all in-person youth programming was canceled, Robertson-Honecker and her team quickly created a plan to distribute STEM activities for children enrolled in 4-H and WVU Extension’s Energy Express summer reading program. Through their efforts, more than 25,000 take-home STEM kits and 3,000 Engineering Is Elementary kits/books were distributed to West Virginia children. More than 350 young people also participated in summer virtual coding classes.  

“STEM education provides our young people with valuable tools and knowledge that prepare them for higher education, careers and problem solving,” Jorge Atiles, dean, WVU Extension and Engagement, said. “We are very fortunate to have Jennifer Robertson-Honecker leading our efforts to introduce young people to STEM programs. Her passion for her work and her commitment to education in West Virginia are extraordinary. She is beyond deserving of this national recognition.”

The STEM programs have a lasting effect on the kids. A parent whose daughter attended a summer STEM camp wrote, “She absolutely loved the camp. It was affordable and exciting. For the first time she is seeing herself as college-bound. This camp was a game changer.”

Robertson-Honecker has been recognized with numerous awards, including the 2013 WVU Foundation Outstanding Teaching Award and several regional and national awards from the National Association of Extension 4-H Youth Development Professionals. Most recently, she was one of 50 women to be named a WV Living 2020 Wonder Woman.

She will present her work during the Community of Scholars Celebrating Excellence: Cooperative Extension & Research Awards on October 28. 

For more information about WVU Extension Service visit or follow @WVUExtension on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  




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