PORTLAND, Ore. – Patrick Proden's jobs have taken him from one extreme to another: from the concrete jungle of Baltimore's rough inner city, to a tiny town in rugged Alaska with no indoor plumbing, to the hot and humid coast of Tanzania.
And now Oregon.
Proden, a former country director for the Peace Corps in Tanzania, is the new head of the Oregon State University Extension Service's operations in Multnomah and Washington counties. He is also the administrator for Extension's 4-H youth development program in both counties.
Proden, who took the helm in January, manages a staff of about two dozen people and hundreds of volunteers. His priorities include forming partnerships with other organizations, securing funding for Extension's programs, forming advisory groups of local citizens, and making sure that Extension is meeting the changing needs of the metro area. He's also looking for ways to increase internal collaboration among Extension's programs. For example, its volunteer Master Gardeners might be able to teach 4-H students about horticulture, he said.
In Washington County, the Extension Service works out of an office in Beaverton and oversees 4-H clubs for youths, provides classes and individual consultations for farmers and tree growers, and trains people to become Master Gardeners. It also staffs a gardening hotline, operates a nutrition education program for low-income people, and offers information to consumers about topics like food preservation, healthy aging and mold control.
In Multnomah County, Extension operates Master Gardener training, a nutrition education program, and 4-H activities that include the 4-H Wildlife Stewards program, which educates students about habitats on their school grounds.
Proden, who grew up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin, brings 15 years of professional experience to his new job. As the head of the Peace Corps in Tanzania, he was responsible for more than 100 volunteers and managed a staff of 32 and a $3 million annual budget that supported programs involving education, health, HIV/AIDS and the environment, he said. Early in his career, he worked for the Peace Corps in Niger where he advised communities on topics like erosion control, crops and animal husbandry.
He was also a teacher at two inner-city schools in Baltimore, Md., and at a school in Goodnews Bay, an Eskimo village in Alaska with a population of about 250 and no indoor plumbing at the time. He also worked as an adult education director for Ilisagvik College on Alaska's oil-rich North Slope.
Proden, who lives in Portland, has a bachelor's degree in anthropology from the University of Wisconsin and a master's degree in education from Towson University in Maryland.