Two decades working with youth provides background for new interim 4-H director

Mark Heitstuman has spent over 20 years in Washington State University Extension, helping youths with livestock education, STEM programs, organizing youth camps, and more. He’s worked directly with 4-H students and volunteers as part of his job.

Formal portrait of Mark Heitstuman
Mark Heitstuman

That experience will help Heitstuman as he steps into a new role as interim director of Washington State 4-H starting June 1.

“4-H is really welcoming to all youth. We can and do make a difference in the lives of young people,” Heitstuman said. “That starts with strong leaders that provide mentorship and help develop skills for students.”

The WSU alum wears many hats in WSU Extension: livestock and community development regional extension specialist, director of Extension for Asotin and Garfield counties, and interim director of Whitman County. He’ll give up the last position as he steps into the statewide 4-H role.

“Mark has a great deal of leadership experience and has worked with 4-H as part of WSU Extension for his entire career here,” said Vicki McCracken, associate dean and director of WSU Extension. “I’m looking forward to working more closely with him over the next year as he leads and guides our dedicated 4-H students, volunteers, faculty, and staff.”

4-H is delivered in Washington by WSU Extension. It’s part of a network of hundreds of land-grant universities serving more than 6 million children through 4-H, nationwide.

Heitstuman has three primary goals for the next year in 4-H:

  • Stabilize student enrollment in the organization and increase the number of volunteer leaders for programs around the state.
  • Work with 4-H faculty and staff to see what they’re working on and how the state-level organization can help and support them.
  • Recruit and retain quality 4-H coordinators, who do much of the day-to-day work with parents and youth in the organization.

“4-H is a powerful force for good around Washington, and there are numerous studies that show the value in 4-H programming,” Heitstuman said. “But to continue the impactful programs we have, we need stability in faculty, staff, and volunteers. That’s how we help and support as many youths as we possibly can.”

A native and resident of Uniontown, Wash., Heitstuman said the call from McCracken asking to take on the interim 4-H director role took him by surprise. But he’s confident he’ll make positive progress on his goals for leading the state organization.

“I can work with a variety of different types of people and have broad experience in programs, especially for youths,” Heitstuman said. “I understand and value the role 4-H plays in helping young people around the state and the nation. I’m looking forward to the challenge of helping this vital organization succeed.”

Heitstuman takes over as interim director from Nancy Deringer, who is currently serving as interim associate dean for Student Success and Academic Programming for WSU’s College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences.