UACES Facebook Balis joins Arkansas extension as new health specialist
skip to main content

Balis joins Arkansas extension as new health specialist

By Mary Hightower
U of A System Division of Agriculture
June 13, 2019 

(370 words)
(Download this story in MS Word format here.)

LITTLE ROCK – The Cooperative Extension Service is making important changes in people’s health and its new health specialist wants to demonstrate the impact it’s making in Arkansas.    

Laura Balis

Laura Balis, a Michigan native, comes to Arkansas with a Ph.D. in human nutrition, foods, and exercise from Virginia Tech. She also has four years of working as an extension educator in Wyoming – a position similar to Arkansas’ extension agents. 

“My broad goal is to help extension prove that it’s a credible health promotion delivery system,” she said. “I want to improve our evaluation of our extension program so we can show we are making changes in peoples’ health. I want to work with agents and staff here to improve some of these evaluations, to get better data and publish our results – to really disseminate what extension is doing.” 

Extension wasn’t always on Balis’ radar. 

“The first time I heard about it was after my master’s degree,” she said. Balis was working at Early Head Start in Missoula, Montana, and had a parent point out a plant in the playground as poisonous. “My job was to take it in to extension and get it identified.” 

Balis worked in health promotion for about five years before discovering extension and its powerful reach. 

“I just wish that I had known about it earlier in my career,” she said.  “Once I started my Ph.D. program at Virginia Tech, I connected with the extension exercise specialist and started exploring extension jobs.” 

As part of her work, she’ll take over two high-profile projects, one dealing with opioids and the other a multi-county project to drop obesity rates. She’ll also be managing Walk Across Arkansas, one of the largest public health initiatives in state. Among her other goals will be working across state lines to share resources so each state is not reinventing the wheel where curriculum is concerned. 

When she’s not in the office, Balis said she’ll be outside exploring Arkansas’s trails.  

“We are thrilled to have Dr. Balis join our Family and Consumer Science team!” said Debie Head, associate department head for FCS. “Her experience as a health and physical activity  educator along with her advocacy for implementation science is a great addition to our state staff.” 

For more information about extension health programs, contact your county extension office or visit


About the Division of Agriculture

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work within the nation’s historic land grant education system.  

The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses.   

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs to all eligible persons without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.

# # #


Media Contact: Mary Hightower
Dir. of Communication Services
U of A System Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
(501) 671-2126