Lincoln, Neb. —As the search continues for the next permanent director of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln Panhandle Research, Extension and Education Center at Scottsbluff, Mitchell Stephenson, University of Nebraska–Lincoln Department of Agronomy and Horticulture associate professor, and forage and range management specialist at the Panhandle Center, has been appointed interim director.
Stephenson’s appointment was announced by Archie Clutter, Dean and Director at the Agricultural Research Division of Nebraska’s Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
Stephenson has been on the Panhandle Center faculty since 2015 and had been interim associate director since mid-2020, when Panhandle Center emeriti director Jack Whittier retired. He replaces Jeff Bradshaw, associate professor of entomology, who had been interim director between Whittier’s departure and December 2021. Stephenson’s appointment will allow Bradshaw to return full-time to his entomology program at the Panhandle Center.
“I want to recognize the significant contributions of Dr. Jeff Bradshaw to leadership at the Center over the past four years, including as interim director, during uniquely challenging times in the past 18 months, and thank him sincerely for his service in these roles,” Clutter wrote in an email to Panhandle Center faculty and staff. “Jeff has indicated clearly his wishes to return a full focus to his faculty role as Extension Specialist, and I wish him well as he continues to build his program trajectory.”
Stephenson’s research has focused on areas with potential impact on managing grazing lands throughout central and western North America. His research in grazing livestock distribution, targeted grazing, social association dynamics within cattle herds, and rangeland resilience on private ranches is cutting-edge and has placed him in a leadership position in foraging ecology.
As an extension specialist, Stephenson is developing a highly visible extension program which already has a major impact on beef cattle production in Nebraska. He directs the UNL Range Short Course and contributes to the Nebraska Range Youth Camp, the High School Range Judging Competitions, the Gudmundsen Sandhills Open House, the Field Day at the Barta Brothers Ranch and workshops and fields days at numerous other locations.
Stephenson will continue his programs as Extension specialist. Meanwhile, review of candidates for the open director position is scheduled to begin May 2.
An overview of the director position can be found at https://ianr.unl.edu/panhandle-research-extension-and-education-center-director-search/overview-position.
This overview includes a concise description of the Panhandle Center director’s responsibility to stakeholders and citizens in western Nebraska: “The PREEC Director is IANR’s lead for engaging with farmers, ranchers, food processors, natural resource managers and regional economic development leaders, to ensure programs, initiatives, and accomplishments are highly responsive to the Panhandle’s surface and groundwater systems and the integrated, precision cropping and livestock systems they underpin.”
The director will serve a key role in collaborating with IANR academic unit leaders and administrators in Lincoln, as well as Nebraska Extension’s engagement zone coordinators in western Nebraska, who serve as liaisons with local leaders and elected officials throughout the state.