Cotton to retire after 25 years with Nebraska Extension

Dan Cotton
Following a 37-year career working for land-grant universities and the national Cooperative Extension system, including 25 years with the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, Dan Cotton will retire June 30.
June 22, 2021

Lincoln, Neb. —Following a 37-year career working for land-grant universities and the national Cooperative Extension system, including 25 years with the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, Dan Cotton will retire June 30. 

Cotton currently serves as the director of integrated technologies for the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources and coordinator of extended education for the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.  

Cotton works to provide leadership and vision for advanced teaching and learning technologies in support of Nebraska Extension, including major strategic planning, and upgrading the organization via systems development, technology and software. Cotton also coordinates the Master of Applied Science degree program, and helps coordinate the Great Plains Interactive Distance Education Alliance (IDEA) for CASNR.  

Before taking his first job at Nebraska, Cotton spent seven years at the University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences as computer coordinator for Cooperative Extension and five years with the University of Missouri Extension in microcomputer support and training services. 

Cotton joined UNL in 1996, serving as director of IANR’s Communications and Information Technology unit, known today as IANR Media. The unit was known for having created the DEAL (Distributed Environments for Active Learning) Laboratory, creating internet environments in support of active learning. CIT was responsible for building countless IANR websites, provided technical support, wrote software and posted publications to the web, worked in news writing, produced magazines and produced radio and television shows, such as Backyard Farmer and Market Journal. 

His work with UNL faculty, Extension professionals, students and Nebraskans left a big impression.  

“We are tied to the land, we are tied to the people, and we honor that relationship,” Cotton said. “I know I’ve worked for one of the strongest land grant institutions and one of the best Extension programs in the country.”  

Later, Cotton worked as Executive Director of the National eXtension Initiative, a national internet-based educational network of the Cooperative Extension System. Cotton also established the eXtension Foundation and served as its first executive director.  

 “You don’t get anywhere in life without the help of others. I’ve been blessed in that I’ve worked with a lot of wonderful people, many of them from Nebraska. There’s too many people to name.” 

According to Cotton, the availability of personal computing and the internet has completely revolutionized not only Extension, but all of society in the way we work and engage learners. 

“The most rewarding part of my career has been taking advantage of technology to deliver agricultural education and research programs to enable learning, engagement, relationships and extension in new ways,” said Cotton. 

Reflecting on the past 25 years as a Husker, Cotton plans to enjoy his retirement by spending time with his wife, three children, four grandchildren and enjoying the arts.  

A virtual retirement celebration for Cotton will be held June 29th at 3 p.m. 

Natalie Jones | IANR Media