Newly hired University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Dean Nick Place has had a passion for agricultural since his childhood. His parents raised him on a small dairy farm in Pennsylvania that dates back to the 1860s.
Both he and his parents were avidly involved in 4-H, and they worked with a land grand university.
“Land grant universities are about teaching and outreach in a way that benefits society,” he said. “I saw that as a youth and a farmer. I’ve come to really value that...and I still believe in those foundational principles.”
Place moved to Oconee County at the beginning of the year.
“We just loved the small-town feel, and it reminded us of where we grew up,” he said. “The people here are just very warm, friendly and encouraging...people have been very welcoming, and it’s refreshing.”
Following his formative farming days, he earned his bachelor’s degree in dairy husbandry from Delaware Valley College in Pennsylvania. He then earned his master’s degree in dairy and animal science from Penn State University and his doctorate in agricultural and extension education from that university.
After his time as an extension agent, Place served as the associate dean for the University of Maryland Extension. Then in 2012, he became the dean and director of the Florida Cooperative Extension Service and was also a professor in the University of Florida’s Department of Agricultural Education and Communication.
His research has focused on teaching and learning as well as American and international extension services and their roles in youth, community and economic development. Officials in the USDA selected him to work in Poland for six months to assist the Polish Ministry of Agriculture in restructuring and reorienting its agricultural extension system.
Through his earlier agricultural endeavors, Place learned to connect the research he was doing to the producers with whom he was working. He also learned the importance of getting younger generations excited about agriculture. He’s seen youths enter 4-H being fairly shy or afraid of public speaking and then thrive in that environment.
“I’ve seen them go into higher education in agricultural or natural sciences...and they’ve gotten into those fields because of the difference 4-H has made in their lives,” Place said. “It’s very fulfilling to see those kinds of things happen.”
Place has so far enjoyed working with his loyal colleagues in CAES.
“I believe in our college, what we do and our possibility to have an impact in our society,” he said. “It encourages me to be at my best as well.”