Ricard Receives Provost Award in Public Engagement

Bob Ricard(small)
Bob Ricard with Jonathan the Husky at UConn. Photo: Kevin Noonan.

UConn Extension is pleased to announce that Dr. Robert M. Ricard, Senior Extension Educator; has been selected by UConn for the Provost’s Award for Excellence in Public Engagement in the Non-Tenure Track Faculty category.

Bob has acquired a distinguished state, regional, and national reputation for his scholarship, teaching (formal and informal), and service. All three elements contribute to his excellence in public engagement.

One example of his public engagement is his Tree Warden Program. Bob began working for UConn Extension in 1991 and immediately conducted a statewide needs assessment of urban forestry that included all Connecticut cities and towns with tree wardens and chief elected officials as the specific target audience. Bob discovered that the vast majority of Connecticut communities were not prepared to deal with their responsibility of caring for their public trees. Such care includes protecting the public from high-risk trees. As a result of this, Bob initiated several programs to different target audiences. For example, his tree warden program was developed and incorporated as a 501(c)(3). A volunteer board of directors that Bob guides governs the Tree Wardens’ Association of Connecticut, Inc. The organization is approaching its 25th anniversary demonstrating it will survive past Bob’s professional career.

In collaboration with this organization, Bob created the Tree Wardens School and Certification Program. The 1991 needs assessment pointed out tree wardens had little to no qualifications for performing their duties. To date, 350 people have gone through this voluntary program, and in 2013, the Connecticut General Assembly passed a law requiring all 169 cities and towns to have a qualified tree warden (or deputy tree warden) by attending and passing this school program. Bob has published three refereed, peer-reviewed articles assessing the 25 years of his tree warden program outcomes and impacts. He is currently surveying tree wardens and deputy tree wardens to obtain 25-year data and comparing the state of Connecticut urban forestry since he started in 1991.

This is just one example of the work Bob has done with UConn Extension throughout his career. His work fits well UConn’s commitment to Public Engagement to provide for the needs of Connecticut citizens while meeting university needs to attain world-class standards. Award recipients will be recognized at the Excellence in Public Engagement Reception on Thursday, November 5th at the Jorgensen Center for Performing Arts on the UConn-Storrs campus.

For more information on UConn Extension, please visit http://extension.uconn.edu