UACES Facebook Cooperative Extension Service works to ensure research-based COVID-19 info isn’t lost in translation
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May 1, 2020

Cooperative Extension Service works to ensure research-based COVID-19 info isn’t lost in translation

By the U of A System Division of Agriculture

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LITTLE ROCK  — The Cooperative Extension Service wants to ensure credible, research-based information about the COVID-19 pandemic doesn’t get lost in translation.

WORD-FOR-WORD — Blanca Hernandez is a Pulaski County extension agent for the Division of Agriculture who works with the Spanish language community. She is an essential part of the Division of Agriculture's efforts to communicate accurate information about the COVID-19 pandemic to Spanish-speaking Arkansans. (Division of Agriculture photo.)

The extension service, the public outreach arm of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, has launched a site with Spanish-language information,

“There is a lot of information out there about COVID-19 and not all of it is based in sound science,” said Mark Cochran, vice president-agriculture for the University of Arkansas System. Cochran is bilingual. “Our goal is be sure that we provide credible, reliable information to help people stay safe during this pandemic.”

The effort was sparked by a request from Blanca Hernandez, a Pulaski County extension agent for the Division of Agriculture, who works with the Spanish language community.

As the extension service began its COVID-19 education outreach at the beginning of April, Hernandez said, ”I did not have anything to share.”

When the COVID-19 pandemic started, “the communication team jumped to provide research-based information to the community,” she said. “I was excited about the idea of all employees in extension having one voice, until I realized that I couldn't reach a big part of my audience, the Spanish community.

“I sent an email to Mary Hightower asking if it was possible to translate to Spanish some of the documents, so I could post them in Facebook,” Hernandez said. “She gladly started recruiting other employees inside Extension that could translate and now we have a page that hopefully would continue to grow. I am very happy to be part of this project." 

She, who has a Master of Science in home economics with an emphasis in dietetics and is a native of the Dominican Republic, began working with Hightower, the Division of Agriculture’s chief communications officer, on translating social media and other information. The next day, Keiddy Urrea Romero, a plant science Ph.D. who serves as a diagnostician at the Division of Agriculture’s Plant Health Clinic, came on board. She’s a native of Colombia. 

“When I heard they needed volunteers to help the translation of the COVID-19 information I jumped to help,” Urrea Romero said. “I have been translating newsletters for the Plant Health Clinic  for the past two years and I believe there is a  huge need in Arkansas for this type of information in Spanish.” 

Over the next week, several others joined the effort including Richard Hernandez, a graduate student at the University of Arkansas, Leo Espinoza, an extension soil scientist and certified translator and Alejandro Rojas, an assistant professor of plant pathology.

The team began to tackle the big job of translating materials collected by extension’s COVID-19 experts committee as well as social media materials to help direct people to the site.

“I’m grateful to Blanca, Keiddy and the rest of the team who are working above and beyond their usual duties to make this information available,” said Hightower. “Thanks to them, there are no facts lost in translation.”

To learn more about extension programs in Arkansas, contact your local Cooperative Extension Service agent or visit Follow us on Twitter at @UAEX_edu.

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 and services 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
Director of Communications
University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture