Agricultural Leadership, Education, and Communication, Department of


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A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: Human Sciences (Leadership Studies), Under the Supervision of Professor James W. King. Lincoln, Nebraska: August, 2011

Copyright 2011 David Lee Varner


The purpose of this qualitative research study was to describe the experiences that contribute to the development of core competencies among Millennial Generation, county-based Extension educators in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension Division. Fourteen educators were randomly purposefully selected to participate in the study. Participants were born in 1977 or later as determined by Tapscott (2009). Educators’ tenure in Cooperative Extension ranged from two months to seven years. Three themes and associated sub-themes emerged from semi-structured interviews: (a) Blindfolded and Scared—educators were confused, overwhelmed and in need of support; (b) Developing the Big Skills: A Daunting Task—focused on discovering competencies and the various modes of learning them; and (c) Doing Something Meaningful: It’s Important to Me—Millennials discuss what is important to them in the workplace and beyond. It takes a family of mentors and a community of networks to meet the needs and fully realize the potential of our next generation of Extension educators. The essence of Millennial Extension educators’ core competency development journey was about finding pathways to success in the Extension organization, among colleagues and within their communities—it was about relationships.

Advisor: James W. King