Hired as ANR director on Nov. 1, 2020, Lewis has served as a locally based Extension specialist in Washington’s Columbia Basin for more than 30 years. She has led the WSU Tree Fruit Extension Team since 2015, working closely with Washington tree fruit growers, WSU outreach specialists, and scientists to share research-based discoveries and better practices.
“Well-designed, productive partnerships have been the key to my success, and that of Extension in Washington,” Lewis said.
“Professor Lewis is deeply versed in delivering the industry-supporting outreach and education that’s at the heart of the Extension experience,” said André-Denis Wright, Dean of the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences. “She is ideally skilled to lead the Agriculture and Natural Resources Program Unit, and to foster its land-grant heritage.”
“Karen’s successful leadership in improving and expanding outreach in Grant County, across the Basin, and to the tree fruit industry shows that she’s a great choice to direct this unit,” said Vicki McCracken, Extension Director and CAHNRS Associate Dean.
“She understands the complexities of Washington agriculture, and brings an appreciation for the natural resources of our state,” McCracken added. “Karen knows how to bring growers, community members, and scientists together to learn and succeed.”
Appointed for two years, Lewis will support a broad range of Washington industries and endeavors, including food and fuel crops, forestry, animal agriculture, water resources, environmental stewardship, farm and rangeland management, pest management, urban horticulture, local food systems, and regional food policy.
Operated by more than 100 faculty, affiliates, and staff, ANR encompasses multiple programs, including WSU Master Gardeners, the Extension-led Farmer Suicide Prevention program, and the Western Center for Risk Management, which educates western agricultural producers to lead stable operations. Faculty members teach and mentor WSU students, and publish guides and journal articles to educate the public.
“Faculty and staff in ANR and across all Extension programs work to fulfill WSU’s land-grant mission,” Lewis said. “ANR conducts important applied research and outreach that result in practice change and increased sustainability.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has created challenges and opportunities for ANR.
“Conducting research in the field and the lab and delivering field-based events have been challenging,” Lewis said. “The pandemic has exposed gaps in Extension programs, and at the same time has helped us identify new stakeholder groups.”
ANR faculty and staff have maintained the flow of timely information and industry and stakeholder engagement through increased online learning, webinars, web-based meetings, and video-on-demand programs.
As director, Lewis plans to grow partnerships with fellow Extension program units serving youth and families, and community and economic development.
“ANR is one of many departments in CAHNRS, and our faculty work and interact across all of them,” she said. “It’s our job to ensure the path to cross-program, cross-department, and multi-disciplinary collaboration is supported and clear of obstacles.”
Lewis holds a bachelor’s degree in plant science and a master’s degree in horticulture at the University of Arizona.
She replaces prior director Todd Murray, who was named to lead the WSU Puyallup Research and Extension Center earlier this year.
“WSU Extension thanks Professor Murray for five years of outstanding leadership to ANR, and congratulates him on his new role serving western Washington communities,” McCracken said.