Dr. Joseph P. Zublena, director of the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service and associate dean for NC State University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, is retiring effective July 1. Zublena, who recently launched a major reorganization for the Extension Service to address ongoing funding reductions and a changing state population, has led the organization since 2010.
Zublena earned his doctorate in agronomy and soils from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, in 1979. He received his master’s degree in crop and soil science and his bachelor’s degree in botany, both from Rutgers.
Before coming to NC State, Zublena worked as an assistant professor and Extension agronomist at Clemson University. There, he specialized in corn and sorghum and achieved the rank of full professor. In 1988, a career that had to that point been focused on crop production took a turn. Hired as NC State’s Extension leader for the soil science department, he soon found himself leading programs in the area of waste management.
At the time, waste management was emerging as a key issue in North Carolina, and Zublena helped develop a comprehensive train-the-trainer program related to waste management on farms. He was also one of the first extension specialists nationwide to conduct a nutrient mapping effort to identify areas where waste production was most likely to push soil nutrient levels too high and thus create problems in the environment.
Zublena’s leadership skills factored into Extension’s success in helping North Carolina address waste management issues, and in 1995 he began putting those skills to use as Extension’s associate state program leader for natural resources and community and rural development. The next year, he was named assistant director of the Cooperative Extension Service at NC State and director of county operations.
Since 2010, Zublena has served as director of NC State’s Extension Service, providing veteran leadership to a dynamic organization with more than 1,100 employees spanning all 100 counties and the Eastern Band of Cherokee. During his tenure as director, he has ushered Extension, the largest non-formal educational outreach organization in the state’s university system, into its second century, having celebrated its centennial in 2014.
Zublena also spearheaded the effort to reorganize the Extension Service, and in doing so aims to set the organization on the path to positive transformation and long-term sustainability before he departs.
“Joe has made numerous important impacts on Extension, the college and the university, which will endure long after his career concludes,” said Dr. Rich Linton, CALS dean. “Within the CALS administration, Joe has been the consummate professional and has always brought the spirit of collaboration with his counterparts in research and academic programs. His ideas, leadership and professional friendship will be missed.”
Zublena and his wife Lisé have been married for 35 years. They have two married children and three grandchildren: two girls named Edy and Lila, and a new grandson named Jack.