Dean Nancy Cox

Nancy Cox
Vice President for Land-grant Engagement and Dean

Professional Profile

Nancy M. Cox became dean of the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment on Jan.1, 2014. Recognizing the significant footprint and statewide role of the college, Cox was appointed in August 2020 by UK President Eli Capilouto to join his leadership team with the additional role as vice president for land-grant engagement for the University of Kentucky. 

The College of Agriculture, Food and Environment is one of UK’s four largest undergraduate colleges, consistently ranks second among UK colleges in external funding, and is home to the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service, with offices in all 120 counties. Cox is a strong believer in the land-grant mission and works extensively with the college’s many partners to promote teaching, research and extension programs. 

Under her deanship, the college has seen tremendous growth in support of the state’s signature equine and distilled spirits industries. Most recently with creation of the Racetrack Safety Program and a landmark partnership with Beam Suntory to create the James B. Beam Institute for Kentucky Spirits, which will promote the welfare, prosperity and sustainability of Kentucky’s signature spirits industry. 

Partnerships have played a key role in Cox’s tenure. Working closely with key stakeholder groups, government officials and industry leaders resulted in the construction of the Grain and Forage Center of Excellence at the college’s Research and Education Center in Princeton. Multidisciplinary approaches with other colleges within the UK family provide students with degrees in several stem-related disciplines and undergraduate research opportunities with faculty across a broad spectrum of fields. 

She led a critical review of the college’s Cooperative Extension Service, building a new administrative model to bolster accountability, create a clear vision, develop additional support for county programming and agent mentoring, and strengthen Extension’s ability to leverage campus-to-community partnerships to support local development. She has also continued to foster the college’s relationship with Kentucky State University, the commonwealth’s 1890 land-grant institution. 

In the coming years, Cox will shepherd the college through a nearly $66 million partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service to build a state-of-the-art forage animal production research facility on campus. Supporting Kentucky’s role as a national livestock production leader, this modern facility is designed to advance research and development that support Kentucky’s forage and animal industries.  

Cox actively works with many community partners and organizations. In partnership with the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government, Kentucky Department of Agriculture and Alltech, she worked to develop a Food & Ag Tech ecosystem for mid-scale farming and processing. Additionally, her important collaborative efforts to support agriculture, youth and communities include but are not limited to organizations such as Kentucky Farm Bureau Federation, Kentucky State Fair Board, Kentucky Agricultural Development Board, Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association, Kentucky Thoroughbred Farm Managers’ Club, Kentucky Poultry Federation, Kentucky Soybean Association, Kentucky Corn and Small Grain Growers associations, and the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce’s Agriculture and Equine Policy Council.   

Prior to her tenure as dean, Cox served the college as associate dean for research and director of the Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station. As a renowned animal/equine physiologist and associate dean, she accelerated the college’s land-grant role as a research and engagement leader in Kentucky agriculture; prioritizing investments in veterinary diagnostics, equine health and safety, and animal and forage production—historic mainstays for the commonwealth’s flagship university. 

Cox began her career at Mississippi State University, where she taught and conducted research in animal physiology. She received a bachelor’s degree from Furman University, master’s degree from University of Georgia, and doctorate from North Carolina State University.