BROOKINGS, S.D. – SDSU Extension Food and Families Program Director Suzanne Stluka is a recipient of the 2019 Dr. April Brooks Women of Distinction Award, recognizing her for leadership and service to South Dakotans throughout the state.
“Suzanne’s dedication to her profession, staff, SDSU and the people of South Dakota is unparalleled,” read a nomination letter. “Her passion for listening to and supporting traditionally marginalized populations and communities in South Dakota is perpetuated by her vision, diligence and desire to make a difference.”
Since 2011, Stluka has worked to build a strong, service-focused team. “I get to lead a wonderful team who is not afraid of change. They are flexible and willing to do what it takes to best serve South Dakotans and keep what we do relevant,” Stluka said.
The SDSU Extension Food & Families team has a diverse outreach focus, serving South Dakota’s families with research-based information on finance, nutrition, mental health, fitness and more. They work collaboratively with several stakeholders including South Dakota Department of Health and South Dakota Department of Social Services to leverage resources and expand program outreach.
“Suzanne demonstrates a commitment to professionalism that is appreciated by her fellow administrators, including characteristics of inclusion, attention to detail and teamwork,” said Karla Trautman, SDSU Extension interim director.
More about Suzanne Stluka
A native of Lake Andes, Stluka credits her mom, Mary Jo Parker, with instilling in her a heart for service.
“My mom was always out in the community volunteering – always trying to make her community a better place to live. And, she always took me and my brother along with her,” Stluka said.
A high school job working at the Lake Andes nursing home, as well as Mary Jo’s 35-year career as a Family and Consumer Science teacher, also influenced Stluka’s decision to major in family and consumer sciences education and dietetics at South Dakota State University. “I really wanted to be a classroom teacher, but then, while I was working at the nursing home, I fell in love with cooking and health and working with the residents. I also shadowed the dietitian and loved that part too,” Stluka said.
When Stluka began her career with SDSU Extension in 2006, she said it was the right fit because her work combined all her interests and passion for service. “Every day takes me to a different nook in South Dakota. I love that I get to serve South Dakotans in so many different ways because our program area is multidisciplinary. On any given day, our team may be working on food safety, developing a community garden, public health outreach or planning a farm stress workshop,” Stluka said. “I also appreciate the way we get to work with communities. We do not tell a community what we will do for them. We listen to their needs, help them identify the challenges and evaluate how we can use our resources to best serve them.”
Dr. April Brooks Woman of Distinction Award
April Brooks instituted the annual Women of Distinction Awards to recognize women leaders at SDSU. She was honored by her peers with this award herself in 2011.
In 1993, Brooks accepted a position as an assistant professor of history at SDSU, where she earned tenure and promotions to associate and full professor of History. From 2001-2009, she also served as coordinator of women’s studies, where she was responsible for curriculum and chairing the Women’s Studies Advisory Committee.
From 2008-2014, Brooks was head of the newly formed Department of History, Political Science, Philosophy and Religion, where she was instrumental in guiding new faculty, reshaping the curriculum, and mentoring countless students.
A consummate teacher, her friends liked to tease her that they could not go anywhere with her in South Dakota without former students coming up and telling her how she had impacted their lives. For several years, she was a reader for advanced placement tests in English history. She taught her final class in English renaissance history, her specialty, in fall semester of 2014. At the time of her death, Brooks was assistant to the dean for experiential learning and in anticipation of her pending retirement, the South Dakota Board of Regents honored Brooks with the distinction and title of faculty emerita of history.
Brooks was a member of the Brookings Master Gardeners and was a lay minister at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.